Stating the bloody obvious


Simon and I hadn’t banked on there being quite as many queues at the recently opened O2 on the Greenwich Peninsula. We’d visited the former Millenium Dome a few weeks when we both had time to kill during the day. It was open but deserted then.

Contrary to what we were wondering the crowds hadn’t turned out for either of us nor the Simpsons movie we’d booked tickets for. It turned out the people were queuing outside the many restaurants there to get fed and watered before they took their seat alongside 30,000 others at the Scissor Sisters gig on tonight.

“Prince is playing 15 gigs here next week,” said the effecient lady ushering people to their tables at Inc Brasserie where we ate, “he’s doing one in the arena and then an extra gig outside afterwards.”

“Do you like Prince?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied, “but it doesn’t matter, that arena is sound-proofed.”

It seems an incredible turn-around for the much maligned Dome *. There were people everywhere, wandering around taking in the sight of what is little more than a row of restaurants, a groovy looking indoor beach, some cinema screens and a massive venue. I’d liked the place before, but now with the buzzy atmosphere this place certainly seems like a real pull. There was a good atmosphere outside although to be honest the only way to get there is by public transport. They do still need to sort out the car parking signage.

If you’re wondering what we made of the Simpson’s movie then I hope you won’t mind me pointing out that I’d some kind of idiot if I thought I could review. Unlike one or two miserable so and sos who have referred to it as nothing more than three Simpson’s episodes back to back, this was the one film I’ve genuinely looked forward to going to see in a long time. It didn’t disappoint.

The most touching moment, without doubt, was seeing hoards of people come to a halt as they descended the steps looking for the exit, stopped in their tracks by a number of extra scenes thrown into the credits. That is a measure of just how much of a global phenomenom Groening’s creation really is.

(There are two great things about the Vue Cinema at the 02. The first is these – they’re powerful and effective and not in anyway unpleasant to use. The second is the fact that you can buy your ticket at any retail outlet within the cinema itself. None of this “we’d better queue up at the box office to get the ticket before we get the popcorn. You can now get your tickets from the same place you get your popcorn.)

* It was always be the Dome to me. It might have been saved because of mobile comms company O2 and named thus, but still it’s the Dome.

Chris Langham : Some counts dropped

Regular readers of the Thoroughly Good Blog may possibly have read the posting about comedy writer Chris Langham earlier in the week.

News has emerged that four counts of indecent assault on a girl under 16 between 1996 and 1998.

Today’s proceedings reveal more detail about the case including a moment in January 2005 when Chris Langham says he discovered child pornography on the internet something he explained had “shaken” him. Earlier he had admitted that he had been abused as a child.

The trial continues. Read more about events here.

Prom 16: Inside the Royal Albert Hall

Inside the Royal Albert Hall at Prom 16

By the time the first violins began scurrying around the fingerboards of their instruments at the beginning of Prom 16, I had already concluded that the smell of body odour was indeed coming from me and not from the older looking man with the unnaturally large earlobes who sat in the seat directly in front of me.

I had also worked out where exactly the 5 Euro note I found in my wallet earlier which had made me all hot and sweaty in the first place had originated from. I made a note in my internal diary to pay a visit to the canteen at work and confront the lady who had issued me with it.

By the time the applause had finished ringing around the auditorium at the end of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture, the sweat had stopped pouring down my face and arms. I now felt as near human as I could do given the near hysterical panic which had ensued shortly before I had taken my seat inside the Royal Albert Hall.

It was only now I felt able to relax. Only now was I able to fully take in the sight before me. In my panic to buy any ticket just to get inside the Royal Albert Hall, the man behind at the box office had sold me a ticket at the back of the circle. Right at the back of the circle. A plush, padded seat high, high up in the Royal Albert Hall, quite literally within spitting distance of the gallery ticket holders the level above me who’d paid half the price I had for my last minute purchase.

It was up here I was able to stop for the first time in this Proms season and take in what I’ve seen in front of me for nearly seventeen years but never thought to share with anyone.

An orchestra sits on stage bathed in white light. If you didn’t have a programme you’d be unaware it was the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Crammed into nearly every available space in front of them from the bottom to the top of the Albert Hall are 5000 other people. Some standing, some sitting. All of them, like me, waiting expectantly to indulge themselves with the experience of hearing 150 musicians give a concert broadcast live on the internet and on radio.

When the music starts the effect on my senses takes me by surprise. Suddenly I’m aware of the distance the orchestra is away from me. From where I’m sitting I can hear a beautifully sonorous sound. A rounded and balanced sound. A perfect sound. The kind of sound I had forgotten existed.  It’s almost like I’d forgotten that the orchestral sound is one arrived at by the combined forces of real people. Real people who’ve spent years training and even more years working. And here they are in exactly the right setting. A barn in the middle of London, where everyone has come for the same reason: because of their love of music.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with or even averse to classical music, come to the Albert Hall to savour those rare moments when 5000 people listen to an orchestra erupt in fortissimos. Hold your breath when, perhaps out of nowhere, the entire band suddenly plays incredibly quiet. Watch as the heads of the people in the same row as you suddenly move forward as if craning their necks will help them hear better. Then, just as you’re getting used to the levels, a smartly dressed percussionist surrepticiously steps forward and strikes his tenor drum, catching everyone in the hall by surprise. 

All of this going on way, way down on the stage below. All of it an electrifying experience.

I can’t guarantee every Prom concert will deliver this kind of experience although I suspect it might to a greater or lesser degree.

What I’m describing here is my experience of listening to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra introduce me to the dramatic scoring of Aaron Copland’s Symphony No.3. Under the direction of it’s small but perfectly formed conductor Marin Alsop, it’s difficult not to see and listen to this band living and breathing as one being.

And, as I write, out of nothing, comes a melody I never expected to hear. It’s a melody known the world over. It is inextricably linked with Aaron Copland. It epitomises America and yet, as the gorgeous lady who sat next to me shouted to when the cheers went up at the end, Copland’s music is totally democractic. It’s a melody for everyone in the world. It’s instantly recognisable. It brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye when the woodwind slip it under the radar as they did this evening.

If you’re to stand a chance of experiencing half of what I did listening to Aaron Copland’s Symphony No.3 then to tell you what that melody was would ruin everything. So, find a way of listening to the work yourself from beginning to end. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 

And if you’re ever in London over the next few months, for God’s sake corroborate my posting by going to the Proms yourself.

Random thought for the day

I had to visit today to remind myself how to spell the word philistine. Fortunately I had spelt the word correctly so there was no shame experienced at all.

However, the internet trip reminded of a similar occasion when I wanted to double-check the spelling of disappointed.

I typed the URL into the address bar and waited for the site to load up. Then clicked on the right hand box and typed what I thought was the word wanted spelling. I clicked on the button and waited with baited breath to see whether it came up with a description or whether I faced the shame of “No results for dissappointed”.

A far more considerable error had occured, however. The results page loaded up providing me with an explanation as to the word I had typed in. The word in question was, bizarrely, dictionary.

Given that the word features in both the website address and the highly visible logo on the left hand side I had to stop have myself a small “moment” to recover. After a great deal of fist clenching and some gnashing of teeth I did begin to wonder about something.

How many people actually visit and make a request for the word dictionary. Of those people how many people are asking because they need the spelling confirm or, rather more worryingly, how many of them are looking for the word’s definition?