Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mort, the Musical!

picture from YMT website

Terry Pratchett would be proud of the young actors who put on Jennifer Toksvig and Dominic Haslam’s adaptation of his Discworld novel, Mort. The company was the Youth Music Theatre and we were hugely entertained by their performance. All 35 young actors were stars along with the three members of the orchestra. We were lucky to catch this performance as it was the last night of what has been several weeks of hard work, culminating in a great show.
Jos Slovick made a great Mort and Marcus Dobson, the Writer, guided us through the plot with consummate ease. But Death was impressive – a huge caped skeleton operated by Daniel Hall. He visited Guildford Castle earlier in the week, with some bewildered reactions from the other visitors.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sauna at the Proms

Last weekend the World Sauna Championships took place in Finland. The winners came from Finland and Belarus, with the Brits nowhere in sight. They had obviously not looked for competitors among the stalwarts of the Proms Season now on at the Royal Albert Hall. Last night we attended Prom 40, a concert made up wholly of Janacek’s music; played by the BBC Symphony orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez. We also sampled the delights of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet playing the left handed piano concerto known as Defiance; the organist Simon Preston and four world class soloists in the Glagolitic Mass. Why, you may ask do promenaders qualify for the Sauna Championships? Well, a couple of hours in the circle of the RAH is a pretty hot and sweaty experience on a warm summer night. The Champion Sauna Sitter lasted 16 mins and 15 sec at 110oC, whereas we were in the RAH for a couple of hours – at an unknown temperature!
The concert was very exciting despite the nodding head of the woman sitting next to me. It all began with the Sinfonietta; a piece in five movements that requires ten extra trumpets. The fanfares they play are so typical of Janacek’s music. Apparently the flute theme in the last movement is famous for being the signature tune to Radio Free Czechoslavakia in the Second World War. The stage was then set for the Capriccio for piano (left hand) and wind instruments, Defiance. This piece was written for Otakar Hollman who lost his arm in the First World War. It was to have been a solo work, but Janacek decided to have an accompanying ensemble. This is made up of two trumpets, a euphonium, three trombones and a flute/ piccolo. The pianist worked really hard playing with only his left hand – but we did notice that at some points during the performance, he was holding on to the side of the piano with his right hand!
After the interval we settled down to hear the final piece, the Glagolitic Mass. The name refers to the obscure Church Slavonic text that the mass is written in. The BBC Symphony Chorus and the London Symphony Chorus performed wonderfully, along with the soloists: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet soprano, Anna Stéphany mezzo-soprano, Simon O'Neill tenor, and Peter Fried bass. Simon Preston, the celebrated organist, played his solo with great gusto.
What a very enjoyable evening, but we were glad to be out in the fresh air again, heading for the tube to Waterloo and the train home. Two more proms to go, then the summer is over – where has it gone?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dinner at The Farriers

Last night we decided to have a break and eat out. Our choice of restaurant was the Farriers at the top of the High Street. Upstairs they have a great restaurant, under the care of head chef Remi Remeau, who trained at the Ivy.

We ordered a bottle of Louis Jadot Fleurie (2006) to savour with our meal and our tap water was well presented in a glass carafe with ice and lemon. Our starters were potted shrimps with toast, and figs and parma hamwith lambs lettuce and a balsamic reduction. I thought the butter with the shrimps was a bit lemony, but that's a personal thing as I remember potted shrimps from a very early age and they didn't have a lemon near them then!

It wasn't long before our main course plates arrived - a braised ham hock served with broad beans, new potatoes and mustard sauce; and pork tenderloin on celeriac rosti with braised fennel and calvados jus. Alan couldn't finish his ham hock, but said it was delicious. My pork tenderloin was also excellent, although the rosti was slightly overtanned and I could have done with some more jus!

After a little break, we decided on dessert - a caramel, walnut and chocolate tart served with creme fraiche; and iced berries in a white chocolate vanilla sauce. These were extremely tasty and a scrumptious end to our meal. Not wishing to stay awake all night we opted for their tea selection - chosen from the special tea box of the Mighty Leaf company. This box contains several glass vials with corks. Inside are the different teas, which you can uncork and sniff, to help you choose. In the end I had Ginger Twist and Alan, African Nectar. These were served in tall tea glasses - silken pouches of herbs in hot water and totally different colours - a bit like comparing single malts!

We enjoyed our meal at the Farriers; the pleasant staff and ambiance - we will be going again!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Sunday visitor

The Zantedeschias are looking fabulous. When I went out to photograph them I found this wonderful shield beetle visiting these deep pink flowers. It was very interested in the camera, which was quite close to it, and sat up waggling its front legs in the air.

Growing peppers

I've always wanted to grow chillies since seeing some amazing plants in the glasshouses at West Dean. Each year they have a chilli festival where some amazing chilli plants are on display, as well as suitable dancing and food. This is a picture of my first attempts at the incredible black chilli. I don't know how hot it is, but maybe we will try it out - - - sparingly!