Common, National Theatre, Olivier Stage 31/05/17

I went into this on the strength of the poster, Anne-Marie Duff’s casting and the vague promise of the examination of a period of history and setting that we don’t normally get to see. I hadn’t even looked at the projected running time. Good lord that was a mistake.

It started with Anne-Marie Duff’s self-described rogue directly addressing the audience, promising tall tales and bawdy jokes that couldn’t be relied upon for veracity, for she always lies. Well, that prologue certainly lied about the rest of the play. Fairly soon, a funny, promising start of a woman going back home to confront her past in horrendously poor rural England at the time of the fencing off of common land (see title) settled into a general tangled, ill-thought out and badly expressed turgidity. The stage was covered in earth, with occasional holes dug in it to bury things or uncover graves, while people droned on in an attempt to talk about a plot of revenge and violence, attempted murder and lying about the past and old lovers. Sometimes we got a funny aside to the audience, but these were buried in the overwhelming oppressive weight of dank soil and a blasted heath of an echoing stage. Even the habitual appearances of burning torches and peasants in Wicker Man masks that I think were meant to add to the general atmosphere of rural deprivation and buried past sins you couldn’t escape from didn’t liven it up for more than a few minutes at a time, because the second they left the stage, we were back with the sweary incomprehensible droning. After what seemed a fairly final note of violence after an hour and a half, the lights went up and the audience blinked, looked around in confusion and then winced on realising that was only the first half. ‘How long does this thing go on for?’ echoed around.

In the second half, the plot went on, transferring most of the action to the local lord’s house, but nothing more was said. Nothing was added that cast any light or consequence to the mood and actions of the first half. You could see the audience looking around to notice that nearly a third of their peers had escaped at the interval, and really wishing they’d joined them, because it was just dragging on with no hope of a resolution or any sort of respite in sight.

I think the only members of the production that could really escape with any dignity were the production and lighting designers for so successfully conjuring up a barren oppressive heath of flickering shadows and torchlight. The actors did their best, but were clearly struggling with the script they’d been lumbered with, and I don’t understand how no-one noticed in rehearsals and development that the running time and script needed attacking with a scythe.

(ETA:  this was 2nd preview, apparently it got severely cut after)


writing scientific discoveries in historical fiction

Was reading a historical romance where a scientist was working on one of the early versions of a telegraph system. A lot of historical fiction with inventors makes the mistake of ‘x inventing this years before history officially said it was but it got burnt/ never recognised’.

Which… no. Scientists didn’t work in a vacuum. They were constantly corresponding with each other and publishing in journals, and a lot of them worked on similar ideas as the technology and understanding of processes advanced. Oftentimes, the ‘inventor’ whose name goes down in history is the one who made the breakthrough and got it patented/ recognised (leaving aside serial patenter Thomas Edison). F’r instance, there were a LOT of telegraph systems already around in the 1830s, and the credit for the invention is split between the UK and the US – William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in the UK and Samuel Morse, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail in the US. The UK team’s telegraph system was being used for railway signalling, and was based on a system of five magnetic needles that could be pointed around a panel of letters and numbers by using an electric current. Samuel Morse developed morse code and was the first to do a sentence & get the infrastructure down. He had the science ready in the late 1830s but US was cash strapped so no-one had the money for extensive pipe works so delayed to 1844.

Back to the book: satisfying as a portrayal of someone working on telegraph science and making some breakthroughs in sending electrical impulses over wires for messages but not the same ones as Morse and Cooke and Wheatstone (one important stumbling block observed in the book was that a lot of the shorting out was being caused by having too many wires, one for each letter). Most importantly it was very clear on how breakthroughs aren’t made in isolation – correspondence, applying others’ work in an unexpected way, etc.  Not to mention believed in the scientific method of repeating the experiment to see if you get the same result.

keep seeing these ‘couch to 5k’ things and they seem… way too complex.

This is the British Army get fit leaflet version I used :

Get a pair of trainers you can run in.  Not fashion trainers, actual trainers. Grab an old tee and some shorts or tracksuit bottoms. if you’re a girl over an A cup, get a sports bra.

grab your phone or a cheap digital watch. Something with a timer of some sort.  There’s a lot of free running apps too that will track your distance, but we don’t give a shit about that until week three.

go out your front door.  jog as far as you can and then walk the rest of it for four minutes non-stop.  Stop for breath. walk back.  (you’ll be tomato faced and wheezing and want to die.  this is normal.)

By the end of the week, try to increase this to 8 minutes.  Stop.  Get your breath back and stretch a bit. Try and jog bits of the walk back, but keep moving, even if it’s at snails pace.  (it’s normally add one minute or one block per run). Don’t do it every day.  If you only increased it by two minutes, that’s fine.  You’re still making good progress.  A really good way? Pick a marker not too far in the distance like the next tree or lamppost, grit your teeth and get to it.

Week two. Try and make it to 12 minutes.  Jog more of the way back.  By this time, the blisters *will* be appearing. Sorry.  You may want to start carrying water, especially if it’s warm.

Week three, sixteen minutes.  By this point it starts to get easier and you’ll find yourself cruising past the old eight minute marker without thinking.

Week four, twenty minutes.

Week five, still twenty minutes, but increase the portion you jog of the way back.

Week six, jog to your twenty minute mark, hit it with your hand and turn, running as much of the way back as you can before stopping for breath.

You’ll hit 5k.

And remember:  you may be slow but you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.


after work food places

Once a week we go for tea and cake.  With occasional side trips for more food and cocktails.  Last week it was a new indian small plates place (where we stunningly only did one cocktail and kept going ‘nom’), the week before hawaiian poke.  Which was… a bit odd.  like big-bowl sushi.  I’d heard about poke for a while but didn’t know it was exactly this.  Would def have it again, but wouldn’t mind trying another place just so I can get a bit of variation.  With a bit of variation in drinks/desserts, because this place went hard for the matcha powder.

worldview and disconnect in names


See that? That’s a fairly standard view of the Thames valley for me, and has been for a lot of my life.  Thames in the middle, steep hills either side of the river climbing up after about anything from 50m to 3/4 mile of flat floodplain.  (no crops, few houses.  Clue’s in the name – it floods most winters. The metal thing is a set of railway lights – the railway’s set halfway up the hill on our side.)  It’s what the valley looks like round here – an actual valley.  Not a very big one, either.  4 miles as the crow flies from top point of the hills on either side of the river, 30-40min to walk from the top of the hill on my side down to a wideish river. The hills are steeper on the other side.

Hence why I always blink a lot when I hear the name of the massive half flat half rolling hills bit of the South East of England described as ‘the Thames Valley’.  (a more accurate term would be Thames River Basin)  I come from the narrowest, steepest sided part of the Thames Valley where it’s recognisably a valley.

Vaccinate your fucking kids


This is one of those things that never fails to make me giggle whilst at the same time narrowing my eyes at those who don’t, or spread that absolute fucking poison that you shouldn’t vaccinate people because it causes autism (unproven, studies faked, person doing the study in the pay of a company who had an alternate vaccine they wanted to push) or, hey, my kid displayed the extremely common and warned for minor side
effects that they tell you about when you walk in the door and last for a week tops.

Herd immunity : it works.

It’s why we don’t have polio, or tuberculosis on a vast scale, tetanus, or hey – smallpox. You know, all those nasty diseases that no longer kill people in vast swathes and so pass out of memory from idiots with no medical qualifications (who also believe in shit like homeopathy).

Smallpox is interesting; it’s one of the first vaccinations – people lining up to have cowpox cells put in their arms because you’d get a bit sick and a get a few pockmarks but you wouldn’t go blind, deaf or die like you would with smallpox. These days we don’t use a vaccination like we think of them normally – injection or fluid – instead relying on chickenpox in children (miserable for a week) and thus getting herd immunity from smallpox. And so you regularly see little pox marks on peoples’ faces.

Maybe one day there won’t be anyone with chickenpox scars. And then I wonder if smallpox will fade so totally from memory.

So I was looking for that picture of pomegranate seed heart-shaped ice cubes


You know, the one with ‘HADES, NO’ on it?

And I found plenty using heart shaped ice cubes.  As ‘a cute idea for valentines day!’

Most of them said ‘use 3-4, but if you’re careful you can get three in and it makes this nice star image inside the heart’.

*facepalm* I… I’m going to hide from this world that doesn’t know what the significance of three pomegranate seeds means.

My *mother* knows.