SAM_4623I’m ludicrously impressed with myself for not only going to the five cultural/entertainment events I’d set myself as a target for May but going to five different genres.

I had a mid-month panic that, three trips in, I was surely never going to find time to go to two more. But I did it, enjoyed it and have even been to the theatre and a small museum since May. Living in London, I could easily go to more events, many of which are free, and I would be happy to think this one-month challenge has reopened my eyes to a lot more of what London has to offer.

  1. Radical Book Fair, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross.

I thought I might not be radical enough for this and it was slightly out of my comfort zone of familiarity. Guess what? I really enjoyed it. The event was busy and suitably informal, with a delightful mix of people, including punks, hippies, academics and regular students and passers-by. I bought two books, talked to some small publishers and very much enjoyed seeing stall holders, mostly publishers, working hard to keep things in print, spread the word about certain issues and causes and keeping alive less mainstream politics, ideologies, etc.

  1. While walking home from the book fair, I passed The Art House on Lewisham Way and saw it was open and hosting a small exhibition. I would normally have walked past and merely wondered about it. I went in and ended up staying for about 20 minutes and having the artist explain to me the 20 photos/artworks. It was entitled Movenze: London Fragments of a Journey by Maurizio Trentin, an Italian artist experimenting with photography as art.

I am very much drawn to colour and, while his pictures didn’t initially appear to be about colour, his explanation made me realise they were. He took photos from London buses at night time, deliberately moving the camera during slow shutter speed so most images were, at least on first inspection, unidentifiable/blurred. The photos became more about the colours emitted from lights, whether TV screens, street and car lights or shop signs. He then sampled the colours and made geometric shapes from those colours over the top. It wasn’t the kind of art I’d have on my wall but I liked that I could distinguish shapes (oddly, mainly animals of the “oh, look, there’s a lion in that cloud” variety) amidst the blur, colours and geometric patterns and I really liked the idea of trying to identify where the colours could have come from. He said that for him it was about not just seeing night time as dark with nothing to see but really looking and seeing lots of different colours in the lights. Lovely concept and way of looking at things.

  1. Florence Foster Jenkins at the cinema in Hull, after work one evening. I knew a bit about Florence Foster Jenkins, mainly that David Bowie cited her record as one of his favourites (perhaps most influential? She really was a dreadful “singer”) and that she played a huge role in keeping the people of New York entertained with music during WWII, thanks to her financial support, providing public platforms and audiences for new singers and musicians and very much keeping a spirit of bon viveur alive in the city.

As for the film, it actually made me feel really miserable by the end. The thing that really got me is how her husband paid critics and her voice coach to declare her brilliant (listen to a real recording; Meryl Streep’s portrayal did not exaggerate her awfulness as much as you might expect) and hid any rogue bad reviews from her. For decades. I find that a really sad concept. On the positive side of things, she really did a lot for the music industry and morale.

  1. How the Other Half Loves, an Alan Ayckbourn play at Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, starring quite a few people I vaguely recognised from TV (good TV not reality TV). A friend and I met in Leicester Square to buy tickets for that evening, something I assumed I’d often do, living in London – yeah, right; this was the second time in 14 years. I fear I may have slightly railroaded him to see this (he was more for Mousetrap). I was drawn to it being a comedy and I naively expected to be laughing out loud throughout.

I enjoyed it more than my friend, who I think was being polite when he said during the interval, “I don’t like it”. Hey ho. It is set in 1969 about three couples who are connected through work and an affair. Confusion, misinformed allegations and meltdowns ensue and there is a suitable ending. I just didn’t find it funny or sharp enough. I did, however, like how two of the households were mixed within each of the two sets. For example, a long dinner table was half the working class type couple and the other half the more middle class couple, delineated by table cloth and table decoration style. Two key dinner parties on two consecutive nights with the third couple as guests at each were made into one scene … confusing? It was actually clever and well-orchestrated.

Disappointing as a comedy but it kept me entertained, if frustrated by the sense it could have been better. My friend would probably downgrade this review.

  1. Marilyn Monroe: The Legacy of a Legend exhibition, Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, London. This exhibition (25th May to 20th June 2016) is part of a small tour of Marilyn memorabilia that will be sold at auction in LA in November. It was free to view and in what is essentially the central area of the Design Centre, which is a very fancy shopping centre. I reiterate it was free and not in a venue designed to host exhibitions.

The dresses were not displayed on mannequins the size of Marilyn Monroe so they kind of hung off the mannequins. The information about the dresses was displayed in such a way you had to lean perilously over a barrier to stand a chance of reading the small print. The information was appropriate, with a few interesting anecdotes.

Jewellery, shoes, etc, were in glass display cases and letters duplicated and hanging so you could touch and read them. It was all lovely to see and has renewed my interest in Marilyn Monroe but it was a little disappointing for the reasons mentioned above.

So there it is, a break-down of my five cultural/entertainment outings for May, proof I really did complete my May challenge.


As for June, I feel a need to test my memory so I have decided to learn the capitals of the world’s countries. I have settled on 199 countries, with the odd territory and disputed country in there, but I’m not going to include, for example, Guernsey or French Guiana (though I know St Peter Port and Cayenne already!).

Initial testing proved I hadn’t even heard of more than half the capitals, couldn’t spell quite a few and am fully aware my pronunciation leans heavily towards how it looks rather than an attempt to adopt accuracy. One week in, I’m making progress and can even spell Tegucigalpa and know which country it’s the capital of.



et cetera