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My day out in London

"Well, it's better than working," as Poll rightly said as we tramped around the snowy capital yesterday. And didn't we fit a lot in...

First stop was a recording session at the wonderful Balcony TV London. I am biased, of course, but just look at the product. Daughter Harriet has a fine crew assembled who do the business in a purposeful and friendly way that the visiting musicians seem really to respond to.

First up were The Volitains, with singer Candice finding a big voice to top electric guitar and drums. Look out for their session. 

Then the main event for me, Stephanie Finch and the great Chuck Prophet.

Fine musicians and lovely people, putting up with a wait in the cold and with my burbling about seeing Green on Red in Brighton in the early nineties. It was also good to meet their friend Kathleen Haskard, who I think is going to be another serendipitous discovery for me via BTV. I've ordered her CD, so watch this space. Meanwhile fans of musical dogs should check out her video here.

Rounding off the morning Allie Moss sang a sweet song in a splendid hat before backing Thomas J Speight on a striking "Girl of Halloween" (which Ivan briefly tried to persuade him to rewrite as "Girl of Christmas Eve" to match the increasingly heavy snow...).

In the evening it was daughter Jessica's turn to boost our cultural quotient with the production of A Christmas Carol, which I have been trailing here. What I would now like to say is:


As with BTV, this is not the site to find an objective review, but on the strength of yesterday's preview performance, I'm sure the reviews are going to be very strong. Tonight is press night, so fingers and all else crossed...

Its world is a beautifully conceived vision of an alternate timeline where Victoriana coexists with glitchy computers and surveillance technology. The staging and technical realisation is simply superb, and Jess has drawn some strong performances from a talented cast - particular mentions for Tom Daplyn's Scrooge and Liz Richardson's Rose, but there are no weak links - and a coherent combination of the scary, touching and funny from the (ahem) script.

My camera couldn't cope with the gloom, but you may just make out Scrooge sleeping through the interval and the bank of monitors in his office.

Anyway, that was not all in the cultural cornucopia that was our 30 November...We called in at Tate Modern in the afternoon to see Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds. I had been a little sceptical and was further put off by the nannying notices about keeping your distance, not touching, the danger of dust, etc, etc. And yet...the more you look at it the more effective the contrast of scale between the individual porcelain seeds and their total spread and volume seems to become. I even started to think that the fencing and guarding and controls made a neat metaphor for the way we still engage, less than fully, with the Chinese state and Chinese culture. Worth seeing and making up your own mind.

And that was our day, apart from some inadvertent performance art on a snow-delayed train home from a loud and repetitive drunk who regaled the carriage with the same stories for about an hour before keeling over on the floor when he tried to find the toilet at Haywards Heath. But that's another story...

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