Thursday, 29 November 2007

Mr G is feeling nostalgic

Mr G confesses to a moment of wistful reflection as he browses through his HB's old family photos.

This shot was taken in the early 1950s in Sidmouth, a seaside town in east Devon. A middle-aged man, a latecomer to parenthood, looks fondly at his three small boys.

He's pausing during the construction of what is to become their family home: a fine house perched on the sea wall, overlooking the pebble beach and the English Channel.

Click goes the camera, and on goes life.

The proud father died in 1959.

The boys are now aged 60, 59 and 57.

One of them is a grandfather.

The two older brothers have now outlived their father.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Mr Gnome scrubs up

On drab winter days Mr G cheers himself up with memories of his summer ramblings, which this year included an August outing to the Glyndebourne opera festival.

He relished the tea room (top notch), the restaurant (spiffing), and the glorious gardens with their artful air of laid-back carelessness that belies year-round labour.

In fact he enjoyed every aspect apart from the music.

The opera was Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, in a production that had the reviewers salivating as they dished up the superlatives.

In the past, Mr G has throughly enjoyed the epic, surprisingly tuneful journey of Herr W's Ring Cycle (sounds like something from Hotpoint?), which comprises buckets of human interest and quite a few laughs along the way.

Tristan is, by contrast, a chuckle-free zone - and a massively long sit-down. The few passages of gorgeous music are separated by hours of doomy musings by the desperately un-engaging eponymous lovers. 'Oh, get on with it!' Mr G was tempted to mutter.

Worst of all for cheery, positive thinker Mr Gnome, the show is saturated in negativity: death, doom and desperation are its key themes.

Mr G hopes to return to Glyndebourne one day - possibly for an invigorating dose of Puccini....

For Mr G's video experiment, go to archive and check his very first post....

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Mr Gnome is illuminated

Mr G's sense of himself as a mini-celebrity was boosted today by an invitation to switch on the Christmas lights at a prestigious midlands address....

The splendid Banbury family will be standing by on the evening of Sunday 2 December as Mr Gnome flicks the switch that will transform their four-bedroomed detached home into a twinkletastic beacon of Christmas luminosity.


Mr Gnome comments: 'Magic and sparkle? I adore them with a passion bordering on the extreme. Let's celebrate the extraordinary importance of this festival with a sequin-encrusted dazzlement of joyful, big-hearted generosity.'

Separated at birth?

One is a revered leader, deep of voice and noble of bearing. The other is the Archbishop of Canterbury....

As a matter of fact Mr Gnome is flattered to have been - occasionally - mistaken for Archbishop Rowan.

Mr G says: 'The Archbishop's mitre could do with being a wee bit more pointy. That said, I have nothing but admiration for this fine man. He's doing a difficult job with grace and wisdom. Hurrah for Rowan Williams.'

Mr G's art is in the right place

Mr Gnome likes to think he has an 'eye' for talent. So when a young artist sends him samples of his or her work, Mr G becomes very excited.

He says: 'Here I am admiring some delightful drawings by Paddy from Cheshire. Paddy has chosen a tip-top subject for his work: ME!

'I feel very honoured to have been captured on paper with such energy and confidence. Hurrah for Paddy!'

Mr Gnome rather likes the idea of being a 'muse' for artists - and is open to all offers.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Alan Bennett's The Old Country

Mr Gnome likes few things more than an evening at the theatre. His most recent outing has been to see Alan Bennett's intriguing play The Old Country.

Performed by the gutsy players of the Kineton Amateur Dramatic Society, the play went down a storm with the first-night audience in the cosy village hall of this lively Warwickshire community.

Three cheers for the KADS for picking a piece that's very definitely not standard am-dram fare.

And extra hurrahs for director Alison Hunt and the six-strong cast for presenting this very 'nuanced' play with subtlety, energy and a splendid mixture of melancholy and robust humour.

Plot summary? Er, Mr Gnome feels it's better not to give too many details. Enough to say that espionage plays a part - but this is Bennett, not Bond., so no fights or chases. But quite a few surprises as elegant surfaces crumble to reveal murkier truths beneath....

Finally: tip-top front-of-house team, offering a cheery welcome, informative programme and splendid refreshments.

What's not to like?

Black bikes can be green...

A fan of all things 'green', Mr G is particularly keen on the splendid bicycles created by the firm of Pashley.

Sturdy, elegant and retro-tastically chic, a Pashley offers a comfortable, clean alternative to the 'boy racer' models of today.

And, don't get him started, Mr G could rhapsodize at length on the benefits of the Brookes leather saddle that is standard issue with each Pash.


Check 'Links' for, er, links!

Fissure king....

Mr G recently visited the Shibboleth 'installation' at the Tate Modern gallery in London.

Not usually a fan of the arty 'i-word' (to Mr G, 'installation' means a new back boiler), he found himself hugely enjoying this zig-zagging fissure in the floor of the vast turbine hall.

He says: 'The brochure spoke of deep meanings connected to notions of boundaries, exclusion, imperialism and goodness-knows-what.

' Whatever! I simply relished the way it broke down barriers between complete strangers - everyone was talking. Good crack.'

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Sing out!

Mr Gnome urges Midlands-based music lovers to head for the Songlines Winter Concert on Saturday 15 December.

Led by the inspirational and extremely tall Bruce Knight (above), two enthusiastic a capella choirs will join forces to perform songs from the USA, Africa, New Zealand, Bulgaria, France and Scotland.
  • Where? All Saints Parish Church, Leamington Spa
  • When? 8.00pm / Saturday 15 December
  • How much? £5 (adults), £3 (children)
  • In aid of WaterAid
Bruce's groups are community choirs. The singers learn by listening and repeating: no printed music, no tickings-off, massive amounts of energizing fun.

E-mail Mr Gnome for more info....

Monday, 19 November 2007

Mr G admires vicars with vim...

Outgoing Mr Gnome relishes encounters with HBs (Human Beings) of all types and backgrounds - even Anglican clergypersons.

One of his favourites from that (occasionally) exotic fraternity/sorority is the Rev Steve Tilley.

Original, thoughtful and kind, Mr Tilley offers something rare in today's church: platitude-free ministry.

Mr G is quietly in awe of the Rev Steve, who is an experienced and often inspired (well, he should be, shouldn't he?) blogger. More than that, he's a tip-top writer.

Enter the wholly splendid world of this remarkable gentleman via Mustard Seed Shavings.

Be warned, Mr T occasionally provokes.

But as Mr Gnome remarks: 'And why not? Beige is so, so No...."

Mr G says: 'Hurrah for Oxfam!'

Mr G's resident HB (Human Being) lives in a trendy block of flats with a communal area for garbage dumping.

The HB popped down to the rubbish store recently to deposit some, er, rubbish.

A glance into one of the bins revealed this treasure trove of nearly-new belts, bags and shoes.

They are now on sale at the nearby Oxfam Shop.

How smug did the HB feel to receive the gratitude of the assembled Oxfam shop ladies?


'Hurrah for re-cycling,' says Mr G.

Adding a crisp 'Tsk!' in the general direction of a shoe-shedding fashionista with more money than sense.

Nosebag for an Oxonian gnome

While Mr G's academic achievements are a closely guarded secret, his love for the ancient city of Oxford is not.

He's a frequent visitor and usually finds that he has time to ascend to his favourite local cafe, The Nosebag, tucked away up a steep flight of stairs on St Michael's Street.

Mr G likes the informal cafeteria-style servery. The healthy salads and substantial main dishes remind him of his heyday in the 1970s - as do the chunky crockery and no-nonsense decor.

Pictured is his absolute fave: the lemon cheesecake. Generous portions, or what?

Mr G is NOT a fan of the minimalist slice on the large plate with the arty swirl of coulis.

'Oh, please....' he murmurs, eyes rolling heavenwards.

The cafe is popular with students and dons, affording splendid opportunities to 'listen in' as one munches. Mr G has turned a discreetly sympathetic ear to many anguished outpourings re the state of Phyllida's PhD or Giles's overdue essay on metaphysical poetry....

Three rumbustious cheers for The Nosebag.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Gnome Modern

Having relished the Betjeman extravaganza, Mr G nipped to one of his favourite London eateries: Café 2 at the Tate Modern art gallery.

This is a tip-top, moderately priced place to meet for lunch. Super menu. Friendly, speedy service and a busy, buzzy atmosphere. Totally family friendly.

Knockout views over the river, of course.

Naturally, if you're Mr G you have to put up with a wee bit of papparazzo attention.

Actually, we spotted a literary celeb-ette during the short wait for our first course: Nick High Fidelity Hornby.

You can't beat a good celeb-spot when you're out in the capital.

Mr G gives this splendid venue three loud Hurrahs.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

St P and Sir John B impress Mr G

On a flying visit to the capital today Mr G took a detour to view the renewed, restored St Pancras station - and to view the newly unveiled statue of Sir John Betjeman, the work of Martin Jennings.

Smashing marriage of sculpture to place, creating a thrilling sense of wonder and delight as we are invited to share Betjeman's joy at this amazing, glorious space.

Sentimental? Possibly. Theatrical? Definitely.

But nothing wrong with that.

Mr G is a big fan of the bold, generous gesture.

He gives ten out of ten.