Thursday, 30 March 2017

Learning Lines 2

Well last night went well enough thankyou. However my diagnosis of yesterday (that my brain has space enough only for all but two lines of the text) was proven correct. I didn't so much go blank as jump a couple of lines altogether in order to accommodate my handicap. Others managed to work around the defect so it will have looked to the unknowing as if I had a good night.

Which lines will get the old heave-ho tonight I wonder. After a good first night, the second night is always the most dangerous as over-confidence works its evil ways.

Break another leg Big Fat Pig.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Learning Lines

It will be the first performance tonight of The Erdington Players production of The Winslow Boy. This is a seriously wordy but seriously good play. Now don't laugh but I have been cast as the arrogant, Tory barrister Sir Robert Morton. How do they make these decisions?

As old age creeps noisily upon me I have a theory about the learning of lines which has been borne out by two dress rehearsals. The theory goes like this: my head has room enough for all but two of the lines I have to learn. The problem is that there is no telling which two lines will have vacated the mental space at  any given juncture. All I can do is take to the stage in dread fear of that moment when the mind goes blank and you await the bloody prompt. There is no cure for this and it is too late to back out now. So it goes.

As a humbling example of the herculean rote learning of the professionals I note that in 1935 Olivier and Gielgud alternated nightly as Romeo and Mercutio. I'm not sure of the artistic purpose but hellish impressive nonetheless.

Break a leg Big Fat Pig.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

6N17: Week 5

All over for another year. Not a bad championship. All bar Italy can make some noise on the world stage and a fresh Italy side are nowhere near as inept as some patronisingly paint them - by the end of the tournament their resources (physical and mental) had been stretched tissue thin and they lost easily to a decent Scots side who gave their departing coach the send-off he deserved.

The France v Wales fixture came to a demeaning ending with a superfluity of added time and some dodgy looking behaviour from the French doctor. Had France yet mastered the art of scoring points they would have been clear before the comical denouement. Those criticising the performance of referee Wayne Barnes are miles wide of the mark - he is a prisoner of the laws and the directives and the botched application of video reviews.

And what of England? Eddie Jones was sane and generous in defeat. Ireland were both disciplined and ferocious - the game's hardest trick to master. Well done.

What do I draw from all we have seen over the past couple of months? This: France remain a generous 16/1 to win the next World Cup. They have made their first baby steps to recovery and if they can ally precision to their gargantuanism that is an interesting betting proposition.

Oh and amidst all the ballyhoo, don't forget - England won the championship. That counts. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Search Party On Look Out For That Twin Impostor

Triumph never did turn up at Cheltenham, or rather he did but he wasn't talking to the Overgraduate. It wasn't all despair but I do seem to have developed an unhealthy knack for backing horses that come second. A couple of reversed photo-finish results would have made a world of difference to the now unpopulated wallet. But, did we have fun? Of course we bloody did, notwithstanding the mildly troubling arrival of slut dropping in the marquee in the Best Mate enclosure. Why do these people bother coming racing? Mind you, the sporting view from the cheap end of the course, if positioned on the crown of the bend, makes you wonder at the wisdom of paying more than twice the price to be in the posh end.

slut dropping optional
And now I am settling down to enjoy the final afternoon of the Six Nations in the company of a bottle of rioja. I can always learn my lines tomorrow.

Oh by the way, as atonement I did pick the winner of the Gold Cup yesterday, an event I imbibed by radio whilst sitting in traffic on the M6. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Where's The Other Impostor?

Those twin impostors - triumph and disaster. Trouble is, in Festival betting terms, triumph seems to have gone awol. My run of losers goes right back to the first race of Cheltenham 2016 when Altior obliged. Since then the only relief has been a few each way pick-ups. It can't be my lack of skill and insight so what can the problem be? Oh well, tomorrow is another day. In fact tomorrow is the best day of the sporting year - the Wednesday of the Festival. This is the day on which our beguilement by the Festival started all those years ago. Deep Sensation at 12/1. Bill and I were on it. Days of wine and roses indeed.

I partook televisually today, ITV's first day of Festival coverage. They made a pretty good fist of it. Ed Chamberlin is a fine anchor and A.P. McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald add modest expertise. Not quite so good is that dreadful oik Matt Chapman. He clearly knows his stuff but has as much class as a bag of spanners. Nor does Victoria Pendleton add anything to the mix. But today was worth it, if only for the charming interview given by J.P. McManus. Being rich and unassuming is a difficult trick to pull. More power to his elbow.

I'll have £400k on the favourite please
I mention that my last Cheltenham winner was Altior. He won again today but at prohibitve odds on. Perhaps I should develop the cajones of the punter who risked £400k to win £100k. Or even the balls of the bookie who laid it.

You know what, in the warm glow of expectation I think I can feel my luck turning. Bring it on!

Monday, 13 March 2017

How Tiresome

Isn't politics just wearying at the moment? This was brought solidly to mind as I listened to the sound of a man drowning live on air this morning. It was of course the feeble Jeremy Corbyn. He must be the world's best-known nonentity. After the complete botch that 'Spreadsheet' Phil Hammond made of his Budget last week, savaging the government ought to be like shooting fish in a barrel, instead of which Jezza meekly climbs into the barrel himself.

Today that awful Nichola Sturgeon has piped up about having another independence referendum. I'm afraid I'm very much of the 'let them have their freedom' school of thinking. Just see what  a complete basket case SNP Scotland would become - such a scenario is the major hope for the renaissance of Scottish conservatism. And please don't start me on Northern Ireland - I love the place and the people but when it comes to politics, well, a plague on both your houses.

Big Fat Pig's pension plan
Only one day until Cheltenham starts. Get on! I see they're predicting a Scoop 6 pool of £600k on the first day which I'm pretty sure I should be able to win, so that will be nice.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

6N17: Week 4

And lo it came to pass - two weeks later than scheduled England gave someone an honest to goodness shellacking at Twickenham. Rather than the hapless Italians, it was the, well, hapless Scots who copped it - 61 of your European points to 21. Who saw that coming? Well not this commentator - I spent last week telling anyone who engaged me on the topic (plus a few who didn't) that I gave Scotland a puncher's chance against an England team that had been finding ways to win without playing a full eighty minutes.

Why did this happen? The stars were aligned: Scotland were down to fourteen men for an early spell, (indeed should have been reduced for the duration - that was a red card tackle in the modern book - still I'm glad he dodged the permanent banishment); Farrell (allegedly injured - I wish I could be that hurt) kicked near as matters perfectly; Scotland lost men to injuries in the face of the barrage and thereby exposed their lack of depth; Jonathan Joseph played with the coruscating elegance of Jeremy Guscott; Lawes and Itoje imposed a dominance over the lineout that ingeniously sucked in the scavenging Scots back row. All in all pretty bloody impressive. Miles from perfect (I think one can justify churlishness about the three tries conceded) and not yet in the orbit of the All Blacks but, like I say, pretty bloody impressive. Will they win in Dublin next weekend? Too close to call. Notwithstanding their defeat in a blood curdling (in rugby's best sense) encounter with Wales on Friday night, I like this Irish team and they will be steaming next week. They ended New Zealand's run of victories at eighteen and will be more than a tad keen to do the same to England. These things are not meant to be easy.

coruscating elegance
The 6N Championship as a whole looks healthy - the French and their mojo seem on the cusp of reunification; the Welsh (as I keep explaining) have very good players (welcome back George North); Ireland have the best coach of the lot; Italy also have a savvy coach (and for now the matchless Parisse); Scotland are brave and intelligent if light in numbers; England are as England it seems must be - there to be shot at and mildly despised. Anglophobia remains the acceptable face of racism - one only has to listen to the rather sad Gavin Hastings for proof - didn't they learn you nothing at Cambridge mate? Let it go.

What a glorious week in prospect. Cheltenham looms large - I'm there for the middle two days. And at week's end there hoves into view the Anglesey coast and the joy of watching that Ireland v England encounter on the telly box. What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this? Name that tune in...?

Oooh, while I've got you, is anyone else watching Fortitude on Sky Atlantic? Bloody weird or what - Twin Peaks on Ice. I like it.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Arrivederci Bologna

Now on the train back to Brum at the end of our Bologna excursion - inspired by Rick Stein's televisual exploits and definitely worth the effort and moderate expense.

We finished on a high before we flew out yesterday evening by having a superb lunch at Va Mo La. The lesson is to listen to your host, in this case the diminutive Anna whose sister's apartment we had rented. We tried two of the restaurants she had recommended and each was superb. Which sums up Bologna nicely. Known as Italy's red city both because of its red buildings and because of its left politics; known also as The Fat due to its love of food - they're not wrong there.

So now it will be back to the grindstone of the thesis and the terror of learning my lines for The Winslow Boy at the end of the month. I will be playing Sir Robert Morton, the arrogant barrister - how do I get these parts?

Friday, 3 March 2017

498 Steps To Heaven

long before Manhattan
Bologna is a terrific place. We meandered around the colonnaded streets yesterday, having first climbed the 498 steps to the top of Torre degli Asinelli. This is a tilting medieval status symbol that rises 318 feet above the city. You ascend up worn wooden flights in conditions that would give a British Health and Safety Officer kittens. Particularly on a day as blameless as yesterday the views are stunning.

We rounded out the day with a fine meal at a recommended trattoria, La Montanara. Some days it's good to be alive.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Refreshingly Barmy

The production of top grade balsamic vinegar that is. The process takes years (decades even) and the output is exquisite but expensive. We inspected the batteria (the rows of barrels used in the process) at Villa San Donnino yesterday as part of a guided food tour and tasted the produce with ice cream of all things - it's fabulous. We had preceded this with a visit to a parmesan factory and followed it with a turn round a prosciutto factory where thay let me have a go on the slicing machine. A great day out courtesy of Italian Days . Highy recommended if you're in the area.

A process untouched by automation

The weather here in Bologna has been a blessing - clear blue Spring skies. We have been joined by Daughters Numbered 1 & 2 - I say that as if there are more than that, which there definitely are not. The Two Man Idiot Show (as the Groupie christened them in their youth) flew in last night and will be leading today's wanderings in the old city. There will be more food - this city creaks under the weight of its epicurean delights.