Monday, 24 April 2017


lion king cat falling off sofa funnySchool. Everybody's got to do it. So we had tests with Lego bricks as the reward for each correct answer with special blocks such as doors for 2-markers or 3-markers. It was still a test, however you dress it up.
And we got forewarning of a topic project - The Lion King. I have, of course, met the Lion King before, both on screen and onstage.
canoe lake southsea toilet stopWe are invited to audition for roles of varying sizes and I'm hungry for lines - I want to be the Line King, aha.
So I was very happy right up until I discovered that my doorkey was missing. No, I didn't check my bag this morning, not my job.
scout group badge for performanceClearly I have only 1 man to blame for this and sent 2 angry texts and 2 missed calls and then Bensmum picked us up and took us to Jabba the Beach Hutt where I had cheesy chips and we played Manhunt in the forest of unforgiveness and the toilets are miles away and I had lots of retribution to think about.
Yes, it does look like the swan is sitting on a bench. And then Bud picked me up and had found the keys in Jof's second handbag and all was forgiven and I went to Scouts. We played shooting-each-other-with-lava-balls and 2 Chief Scout Gold Award badges (the one I want) were handed out. I got the Scouts Entertainer badge for doing the 50 hours or so it took to complete the Wind in the Willows.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cube Luck

mystery cube magma blocks mojang minecraftI have had a busy old holiday. And it's only going to get worse at school with the 11+ exams coming up, and the trauma of moving to a new school after only 6 weeks of summer holidays.
So today I started a proper last-day-off with 11 hours of sleep, and a full English breakfast at the supermarket café with Jof. OK, so I don't like baked beans but you can swap for an extra hash brown if you ask nicely. And while Jof was doing complicated extra shopping after the main shopping event had finished, I got myself a genuine Mojang Minecraft Mystery Cube (£4). I love a bit of Minecraft merchandise and know in my heart that geeks the world over buy up all of this stuff and sell completed collections for oodles of cash. Personally, I wanted the Villager With Anvil figurine (who wouldn't?) but got the Pyramid of 3 Lava Blocks. Or are they Magma. Look how big it is, nearly as big as me. Not bad for £4, in my mind.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Last Night at the Toads

groundlings theatre stage productionAt last, my final performance in Wind in the Willows. While mine is not a great big speaking part, I had a few lines and was required in many other scenes to dance (look at me song), object vociferously (courtroom scene) and otherwise sing, prance and generally be seen to be believed.
The nice booking office lady said I was the best Portly Otter and certainly the best behaved. I was chosen to hold the begging-bucket on the staircase and also hand out leaflets.
Last night Child B was locked in his dressing room for running around the building but I was always good. The last performance is tonight but I signed off Red Groups' daytime show with a flourish and the audience was in rows, not on round tables like on previous events. This made photography even more challenging.
So, I left the theatre for the last time this term with face paint still applied, and a whole production under my belt. This comprised at least 30 hours' rehearsals and 7 performances on top of the auditions, so a good 50 hours the lot. And afterwards I said I wanted to be in the christmas Panto which is Aladdin.
Portsmouth Footing-ball club went up to the next division last week so the roads home were filled with blue people waving flags and the pub garden was full of Pompey fans singing the special songs which were we are going up hroogh hroogh and 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet for some reason. It made parking difficult so I walked the last 600 yards home brightening everyone's day by still being in baby otter stage make-up.
groundlings theatre portsmouth drama school
When we tried to buy a flag for the garage pub, they'd run out. Saturday-night-is-film-night, so my choice was 'Twins' in which Arnie still flexes while trying to act emotional with the help of Kuato (Total Recall) and Cousin Sam Klane (Killian's bodyguard in Running Man). As I went to bed, Pompey fans various were still singing the special songs from the nearby pub garden.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Invasion of the Killer Jellyfish

Friday, woohoo. If it wasn't for my generosity in offering to replace the absent 'Riley' for tonight's dazzling production of 'Wind in the Willows', I'd have had an empty day. Well, as you may know, I'm not allowed any empty days because I only fill them up with Minecraft.
cockle pond walpole park gosport
So I crafted awhile as housework went on around me until noon when he said off we go then. Normally I cannot stand secrets and demand to know everything even if it ruins the surprise, but this time we'd practically reached the Gosport Ferry terminal before I realised that we weren't going to the local park.
gosport sumbarine museum fortificationsIt's always nice to cross the water (it's shorter by water) and we saw HMS Iron Duke in harbour and some Police launches and barges and on the Other Side, walked along to Haslar Marina and saw some yachts being painted.
Just over the promenade from there we met some listless teenagers and Bastion #1. This old disused fort is overgrown and covered with trees and its tunnels are pretty small and mostly blocked off. But we climbed it and met some Scouts camping at the top, with decent tents and a fire.
Just the other side is Cockle Pond (part of Walpole Park) which was experiencing heavy yacht use: some old geezers were having a toy yacht race - although these toys were about 5 feet tall and very techy and advanced.
lakeside cafe bar cockle pond gosportHaving used the roundabout and climbing frame and zipline and rowing machine, we crossed the Queen's Causeway to the café on stilts (well, the one with the balcony visible in the yacht race picture). And half way across, he said what's that in the water, then.
Now I may not have travelled the world and met interesting creatures and killed them, but I know a jellyfish when I see one, even though I've only ever seen them on TV. And there seemed to be several in this isolated lake with only yachts and swans for company.
So we just had to visit the café (because one must) where I had a fortifying slice of 'Fridge Lumpy Bumpy Cake' and then we went hunting. Over the other side of the lake we found a veritable swarm, nay, a cloud of throbbing jellied invaders. We surmise that a few jellyfish larvae entered the pond by way of the overflow pipe which is open to the sea at high tide, and survived the winter in the protective environment, and started breeding.
Now, they have bred quite a lot and there are millions of them, although they must be quite inbred, which is normal for Gosport. At first, I was afeared of the globular alien entities, because they are known to haunt the tropical seas and kill sharks and humans with their stinging tentacles. Hmmm. Singing tentacles. That gives me a fancy-dress idea.
jellyfish cockle pond walpole park gosportAnd once Bud had picked a few out of the water to show me, I came to believe that they were not in fact deadly Portuguese men'o'war, but some harmless undulating transparent blobs of gucky mostly-water that just sat there going woing woing and getting stuck in the seaweed. And before long I had got over my tentaclophobia and was pulling them out of the water myself and hunting for the biggest specimen and teaching a passing kid to do the same and in no time we were practically having a jellyfish fight with blobs of whiffy goo flying through the air with added laughter.
No jellyfish were harmed in the making of this afternoon's entertainment, but I insist that it was a bizarre experience, especially when Bud was trying to take a picture and I put a jellyfish on his head. Then I did it again, for I am not a messiah, I am a very naughty boy. Sometimes we go searching for Bizarre, sometimes Bizarre-osity finds us. Apparently, jellyfish are pointless and devoid of nutritional value and have infinite lifespans, ie they don't die unless they're killed, either by being chomped up in a ship's propellers or air-drowned when they wash up onto a beach, for they are even more stupid than me. And all the way home I loudly called him Slime-Scalp and Jelly-Head, for I am a lovable and loving #1 son that is hardly going to get spanked to kingdom come at all.
jellyfish invasion walpole park gosport tidal lagoon
sketch pad prize for design competitionLater I had luxury fish pie for late lunch and I am assured that no added marine monstrosities of any type found their way into the meal, very fishy, mmm.
This, and Minecraft, gave me the strength to play Portly, the Youngest Otter for the second last time, and a welcome chance to act onstage with Sydney for the only time in this run of performances. I stood near her for many scenes and we exchanged smiles. At the end, I got my own bow.
So, nobody will remember, but there was a competition to draw a design for Toad's car. He is the star of the show and as a convicted neophile, obsessively desires anything new and interesting. I came second in the competition and won a chunky design notepad with added Packet'o'30 coloured pencils!
My car 'Toadiacar' has a cowcatcher and rear spoiler.
And because this is a smaller, local theatre, it needs to post cute kids at the door with collecting buckets for the theatre restoration fund (entirely unlike churches, the biggest landowners in the country), we had an unofficial competition between blue, purple, red, green and yellow groups, and Blue won! As I am a Red, but subbing for Blue because of covering for Riley, I got an extra bag of sweets. And tonight's performance had the biggest audience yet, over 100, so the lucky viewers could hardly move without infringing on somebody's personal space. All in all, a compete victory! The clapping went on long after we had left the building. Life: I recommend it.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Hide'n'seek in the Urination Rooms

white line painting on country road failFor a while there it looked like the only friends I'd spend the Easter break with were the ones posting Youtube videos about their Minecrafting experiences. But yesterday I crabbed with Sydney and today, Ben invited me over for a day of exploration.
They had recently explored one of the old forts which now houses the miniature village and rose garden, and I got to join in. We batted croquet balls at each other with giant wooden mallets where the heads kept falling off, and I got a flying croquet ball right in the leg. We explored thoroughly and hardly met anyone else apart from some teenagers rolling their own cigarettes and we discovered many hidden crannies, nooks, dens, bases and hidey-holes where you could quite easily have a wee and nobody would know, so we called them P-rooms and Urination Rooms.
I went home after 5 hours because my cheeks were pink and my hands were scratched and my Youtubers were lonely. Later I performed again onstage. The audience was tiny, and they were mostly parents. But I've only got 2 performances left, and one of them's with Syd, and the other is the Last Night, always well attended.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Flagpoling and Crabpoling

pope vestments blown by wind funnyWas awoken at 9 which seemed early until I found my stage door call was at 10, then it didn't seem early enough. But still, we got there dead on time and I had a good show with a medium-sized audience (all the taller people come to the evening shows) and several players coming on stage well before or after their cues, and this is not because I wasn't stage manager this time.
5th portsmouth scout group milton st jamesI had been promised an easy afternoon off and it's so easy to promise, less easy to deliver. The Scout Leader had asked for a new inside flagpole for the church hall and over the last few weeks, we have obtained, cleaned, and painted one. Today was installation day and I held the 12 foot pole steady in the car and Father Paul, the actually quite groovy Priest in Charge, came out and told us exactly where we could shove it.
Because they use the church hall all the time for old people and brats alike, it had to be hidden in a corner behind the wheelchairs and trestle tables. All we have to do now is sort out a buffer to stop over-eager Scouts slamming it back against the radiator pipes or taking out the overhead lamps. Even I can move it on my own because it has wheels.
And we were just doing the installation while arranging a playdate with Ben, when Sydney rang in and said come crab-hunting with me, for they hadn't had much luck at Canoe Lake and Langstone is much better. I have been crabbing at Langstone twice: once we could pull crabs out of the water with our fingers, the other time I borrowed a reel of baited string off an unknown fellow bystander, threw it in without remembering to hang on to the actual reel, and lost it (beating a hasty and embarrassed retreat).
This real-human contact proved of more interest than yet more Minecraft Youtube videos and I got a better coat and went.
crabbing off brick built bridgeThere was an old culvert with brick-built bridge that was too high at lower tide for even Sydney's long-poled net to reach. We tried and tried but caught no prey, although I reckon that one of her cast attempts was so accurate it gave a crab concussion. But you know, 3 hours of honest messing around with girls in a secluded environment and not catching crabs was OK with me because of the sunshine and real-world activity. I did get my MineWorld time and double-upgrade pasta surprise so no complaints from me.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Planes, Trains and Watermobiles

flybe propeller planeThis being my one true free day where everyone else is back at work, we decided to make it Grandad day. So, as ever, we sought to contrive the busiest day possible for the 87 year-old, as he has less than 2 decades left.
Amazingly the motorway was empty and we got there in only 34 minutes. But this was still sufficient for me to write a report on the Scout Camp to enter into the get-published-in-the-district-magazine competition. I can't quite write as quickly as the torrent of ideas provided by my fellow passengers but got most of it down.
hythe pier from ferry gangplankGrandad was visible in his front room so we picked him up and sped off to little-known coastal town 'Hythe'. We've been there before and witnessed a cricket match in which all the outfield players had to put their pint glasses down when the bowler started running.
But it was clearly market day (with added bunting and old people) in the buzzing metropolis and traffic wardens were patrolling the Waitrose car park so Bud hid the car miles away and we met up at the ferry. The Hythe ferry is very proud of its historical origins and longest pier with the oldest continuously running electric train and you can sponsor a deckboard on the pier and have your name carved into it.
hythe ferry view of container ships loading sothampton docksAnd we walked the length of the very long pier with 4 minutes to spare before the ferry was due to leave and it sat there attached to the dilapidated pontoon for another eternity waiting for the train, like in all the best old blues songs. It was lucky I had a coat because it's quite windy out on the water, but Jof had bought a sunhat. Look, you can see the pier train coming.
Various container ships (such as Wallenius Wilhelmsen and CMA CGM and Hoegh Autoliners) wandered past and they are all curiously square and tall. The journey is only 15 minutes or so but we saw lots of big ships and ferries and planes flying over from Majorca and Jersey.
3.7 inch anti aircraft gun When a bigger ferry goes past, you rock'n'roll most amusingly on their wash. The Hythe ferry lands at Town Quay next to the international ferry terminal where Bud first set foot in England and only a couple of hundred yards away was the old Jewish Ghetto where we walked with Grandad last year.
From there we strolled past the 15th century old god tower (now Maritime Museum) and many splendid edifices and vast impressive monuments to the former wealth and importance of this port town. But an awful lot of it is now labelled 'For Sale' or 'No Entry' or '270 prime waterside flats coming soon'.
And there was a single-track railway with derelict sidings that crossed the road on its way into the port, not sure if it's still used but the tops of the rails were still shiny. We got to the Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis (with dental practice upstairs) which is a Wetherspoons. I get on well with Wetherspoons because I like the food and they're usually in nice big buildings in the middle of town.
rolls royce merlin engine from spitfireThis one had a huge bar with many unknown beers and a big line in historical photos and Southampton Football Club memorabilia. So we all independently decided on the corner table with the big windows in the sun and all got hot again. One of the beers was 'Stonehenge' and you've just got to try it for the name, so 2 of us had pints. What was not known before that decision was that Stonehenge Beer is green. And not just a little bit. So Jof and I laughed at the men with their green beers and we all got stuffed on the burger/scampi/lasagne/gammon meals and didn't need pudding.
From there it is only a hundred yards to Ocean Village which is like Gunwharf Quays but with more sleek expensive yachts and motor boats so we stood there choosing which ones we wanted.
solent sky flying boat southamptonAnd just round the corner was our main target which was 'Solent Sky', a museum of local aviation with a distinct slant on flying boats. Of course the Spitfire was born here so that figured strongly but they boast the only flying boat of its class where you can go in the flight deck and look out of the roof.
This purpose-built warehouse space has a special nook where the tailplane of the biggest plane can fit and there are planes and helicopters of all sizes hanging from the rafters and filling up the view with rotors and propellers and engines and wings and wing-floats and it's all rather fun. None of us knew it was here.
The nice man at the desk gave me the young persons' quiz and promised me a prize if I got 10/10 and you had to look for the caricature faces and note down the names of the planes or their engines depending.
solent sky aviation museum southampton
This may not be Jof's thing but she climbed into 'Beachcomber' the flying boat like the rest of us and sat in the seats and it was built in 1947 with guns but then converted into a passenger plane when we ran out of wars. There is a 3.7" anti-aircraft gun and loads of planes and models and medals and a whole section upstairs for the Police and fire brigades and jets and hang-gliders and quite a few things with sticky-tape on saying don't touch, it's broken.
And they've got maps of where all the German bombs fell and maps the Germans used when they planned the invasion and photos of buildings before and after air raids. And they have a Guinness Book of World Records certificate signed by Norris McWhirter himself about Squadron Commander Rose who flew 54 different types of military aircraft for 11,539 hours over 47 years without a break in service.
flying boat
At the end I got 10/10 so won a small balsa wood model that was on sale in the shop for 50p and so I got a Concorde model as well and gave them some coins because it was only £17 for all of us and it was all rather good and most worthy.
electric train hythe pier ferryThe ferry back to Hythe seemed quicker but our legs were getting tired so we got on the train back along the pier and it was rattly and trundly and funny. Hythe was still having market day so we bought 2 identical man-bags for the adults who have very definite ideas about what bag you need and ice creams too. On the trek back to the car we passed over another disused railway, the one to Fawley which I hear is going to be redeveloped so they might need the railway again.
At Grandad's place he taught me about graphs and gave us chocolate and lo, it was a good day.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Bouncing Back to Bikini-Busting Corner

fast food operative in hairnetOne of those days when you actually have to make something up to do. During a game of golf yesterday, we'd discovered that Jof's trousers had a big hole in them so instead of simply laughing at her bum we told her, which meant she had to go into town and buy trousers and tops and a skirt and crispy prawns for supper and luxury dark chocolate presentation assortiment and say they were for Grandad and eat them anyway.
This is why ladies' lives are so complicated, better them than us, for we don't have the brain-power.
And she had to revise for her job interview and so politely asked us to be quiet, and the only way to do that is if we are outside the house, perhaps at the cinema. I chose the Pyramids swimming complex and we got there for 230.
Then we got 2 and a half hours of wet play. First, there was aqueous battling and watery fighting. I lost the aqua-flume (waterslide) race because I have inherited a curious inability to slide downhill at speed in a lubricated plastic tunnel. I mean seriously, I get stuck.
And then I met Green Charlie. He is in Blue Group at the theatre and when I was watching Blue Sydney's performance I said hello to him but it was his identical non-acting older brother who was not green or blue, but addicted to online gaming and had been forced out of the house to get him off the PS2. Follow? We did extensive water-karate at each other.
And we ganged up on a certain common foe and fought over floats and had 2 standard wave alerts and right at the end, it was Super-Duper Wave Alert. We don't get this very often. Standard wave alert gets a siren sound and that tells you that the wave machine will provide gentle waves for junior swimmers for 3 minutes and you can see bright-eyed babies going woo for the period of that restrained wave action, then you all run to the waterslide queue because it will be shorter.
pyramids centre southsea seafront portsmouth
Super-Duper Wave Alert gets a loud Pang-Pang siren and 30 minutes of slanted waves of significantly greater amplitude. The entire massed ranks of lifeguards gathers poolside with whistles in mouth and all smaller people are told to vacate the Kill-Zone and it begins.
Received knowledge is that the hand-rail visible below that central white column is the place to hang on if you are a girl, and the dark corner under where the blue waterslide finishes is the place to stand if you are a teenager showing off. That is where the waves gather in a tidal bore of fury and you can jump several feet off the ground, get seriously pummelled by Tsunamis of Terror for 30 minutes, and are well-known for blowing the bikini tops off more generously proportioned teen lady-swimmers. I jumped with the rest but was forced out by teenagers 2 feet taller than me and by the time it was all-out-of-the-pool time I had been battered, bounced and blended like Jell-O by Scylla (and Charybdis), hence my world-weary expression and thousand-yard stare in this image taken after the event. You know when you've been bounced.
At home I had a 2 hour Minecraft + Skype meeting with Blue Sydney, who was much kinder than the waves.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

A Nice Walk Ruined

Staggered down naked at 10 something, because, holidays. After a decent fry-up with black pudding and everything, I was just settling down to another day of Minecraft when I had to go out.
I put a brave face on these things because I know I can return to the World Of Blocks later. We cycled down to the seafront and I chose the large pitch'n'putt game near the D-Day museum because the crazy golf is a bit passé.
pitch and putt golf course portsmouthLike a Stig 'O the Dump, the Southsea Minigolf has a man who lives there. He only lives there from April to September, during the winter he has a bunker underneath the hut where he hibernates, having collected sufficient Spanish Oak acorns from just outside his perimeter fence to sustain him through the winter. We know this, because it is the same guy year after year handing out Golf rackets and ice creams.
And he handed us six Golf bats because on the pitch and putt, you get a sandy wedge with an angled frontispiece to hit the ball right up into a tree, and a flat-fronted putter to wipe the ball along the ground if you are ever lucky enough to get onto a green, which is the flatter area with a flag and only slightly fewer scattered twigs on the ground.
I am of course in charge so started. Then Jof hit her first shot straight out of the ground onto the path and we all laughed, for she is crap and had to have another go. On the next hole we gave one of the armful of Golf sticks back because you can share, and I hit my ball into a tree that was blatantly right there, well over to the side of the fairway I was supposed to be aiming down. Luckily, the ball ricocheted gracefully off the innocent and unrelated tree and scared away a Magpie.
lock stock 2 smoking barrels vinnie jones poseAnd Bud hit his ball hard up into a tree whose trunk wasn't even on the course and it binged around in the branches and fell onto the Ladies' Mile footpath and almost hit a human. Another human gave it back, and we all laughed at Bud, for he is crap.
And I got it into a bush and she got it into a tree and he hit the fence twice and I hit a tree and people hit my ball twice and I knocked Bud's ball into the hole and we all threw our bats around a bit and ended up trying to bat twigs, because there were more twigs than balls. And it is obvious that we had been given malfunctioning bats that can't aim properly, or those errant balls that go sideways a lot.
After an ice cream, I set up a Skype call on Minecraft with Sydney and her friend Bunny and we were doing some really epic Parkour apart from one problem. Like the brash idiot who shouts self-importantly into his cellphone in a public place, I just cannot speak quietly. And after the 4th time I was told to stop screaming or disconnect, he made me disconnect! I couldn't believe it. What a waste of some promising 1M 2F action.
Jof slaved over a hot stove for hours and made us a roast turkey dinner including pigs in blankets. Some of the bacons had come off the sausages, making them naked stripper pigs and I went back for so many potatoes and vegetables there was nothing left.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Script Reader-Controller

groundlings theatre portsmouth stage school costume hireSaturday. Didn't fancy breakfast because it just gets in the way. My only real appointment of the day was the 3pm performance at the theatre so at 1pm I was presented with a plate of pasta which is all I ever wanted anyway.
I'd just been dropped off at work when I noticed that my drinks bottle had leaked all over my bag again. This makes everything sticky and 'orrible and I was not best pleased. I summoned Bud back from shopping and told him off. Here I am, partially in costume (I play Portly, a baby Otter - see the way I'm cute, slightly round and a really good swimmer) but without stage make-up: this is important for later.
Once that had been dealt with, the show could go on and I did my main scene and that's when we noticed a glaring absence. The lady who sits downstairs, listens to the performance on the baby monitor and reads through the script wasn't there. Of course her task is to follow where the players have got up to, and send up the next actors in time for their cues and scenes.
Without a competent manager doing this, it could all fall apart rapido so I stepped in and saved the day. I'm not needed for large parts of the play so I just stayed there, calmly took control, and told everyone when to go on and they listened to me and it all worked out fine! Not that I like telling people what to do, or anything. My selfless action enabled the whole shebang to go off without a hitch, Hurrah for Me!
sherman tank southsea portsmouth d-day museumThe house was a bit smaller today, 40 or so in the audience. Didn't stop them enjoying it.
Afterwards, I climbed up one of the tanks outside the D-Day museum for the next in the series of 'Otters Abroad'. So this time, I've got my stage make-up on, but no costume, the opposite of the first picture. To see the glorious ensemble, you'll have to come to the next performance!
Later there was chocolate aforethought and Harry Potter + Poisoner of Azkhaban. My honking great batch of duplicate coins (10 kg) sold for over £80 on a well-known auction site so I might get a few more with the credit. Bed slightly this side of the International Date Line, who's counting.

Friday, 14 April 2017

May all your coins be Gold

fat nerd fail taser unconsciousA good Friday indeed. I wasn't scheduled to start work till 1pm so I relaxed. Poor old Jof had the big splurgy cold so she required bacon, and Bud had to do all the hard work carrying home that heavy £20 note somebody had dropped on the pavement. My bank account will give the sad abandoned £20 note recognition and a new place to live.
gunwharf portsmouth historic ships emirates towerOn the way in to the theatre it was immediately obvious that it was Football Day. It used to mean more when we lived on the same street as the football stadium because of all the policepersons in the roadway but we still saw lots of police wagons and police horses and police strongmen, and our opponents were Plymouth so there were some songs about ooo-arrs and cider and tractors.
The performance went off beautifully. We played to a packed house and all the tables were full and the astroturf lawn in front of the tables was full and most of the audience wasn't drunk but they certainly enjoyed themselves.
canoe lake southseaThe Judge (also plays the part of Fox) got Toad's sentence wrong again (12 years instead of 12 months) and Rat definitely said that Mole wasn't a bad chap instead of Toad and I got onstage late because I have to hold 2 doors open for Toad when he drives off.
But I was epic and the production was epic and if you don't believe me, buy tickets. Here follows another in the series of "It 'aint a bad place to live" with a view of the Spinnaker Tower and one in a new series called "Portly the Otter abroad" where I shall appear in person and stage make-up in a variety of local places. Today: Canoe Lake, just the right place for a junior Otter.
Saturday Night is Film Night (even if it's Friday) so we watched the real-life exploits of Mr Frank Abagnale Jnr as he blagged himself around the world to a permanent job consulting for the FBI.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Flagged: a Spy in the Midst

basketball hoop stand used as flagpole for scouts groupno worries australian boat sunk funny failAt last, a day off. For somebody who is reputedly on holiday, I have been working suspiciously hard, not sure when that tax bill will arrive. So I took full advantage and woke up at 11, very slightly under the 12 hours' sleep barrier that I just can't overcome.
Little tasks keep being finished around me such as the mobile indoor flagpole for the Scouts, formerly known as a basketball hoop and stand for teenagers. Even on this stepladder I can't reach the top so waved a flag anyway.
In the afternoon he unfairly made me go to the park to unstiffen our legs and boy, was that painful with the hobbling and the staggering and no acting at all. We met some known faces and did chin-ups. Well, one of us did.
And later, just as Jof got back home to a long weekend off before her job interview for the position of Chief Operating Officer (East Coast Division), we pigged pizza and totally abandoned her to go to the theatre. For someone who may sometimes complain about how much time I spend there, going in on my day off may seem unusual. But I wanted to see the performance for myself, and particularly, to see Sydney. So we arrived nice and early and loitered with distinct intent because I'd scoped what I considered to be the best seats in the house and I was first up the stairs and bagged them.
groundlings theatre easter play badger mole rat
Now, being an insider, I knew that the stage extensions on either side were full of players waiting for their cues, including Sydney. First, rabbits and other underground creatures emerged stage left and we could see Sydney's flashlight under stage right and it began with a bang, a song and several major characters. It was incandescent! Ebullient! And more than Sooty's Magic Wonder Show, had humanoids galore, all of whom I knew. For some reason I concentrated on the mistakes made by my fellow Thespians and Bud concentrated on how newcomer Harry had a bigger part than me but we jigged along to the songs and I knew all the words and in the interval I bought ice cream.
At the beginning of the second half, several small actors sing 'Silent Night' to denote that it's Christmas time as Toad of Toad Hall languishes in Jail. I knew this so approached the group to say hello and Sydney was pleased to see me.
In the audience, loads of very little people sat transfixed by the ongoing spectacle and a bodacious spectacle it is, with laughs and running around and some inventive costume changes where shoes don't quite fit and it took the horse a long time to help Toad into his cross-dressing escape suit. Cyril Proudbottom the horse is one of the best characters and has a lot in common with Marvin the Paranoid Android with his world-weary attitude and series of menial jobs. Badger has 3 different accents, some running concurrently and the dancers may not add much to the plotline itself but boy, they're good.
groundlings theatre drama school production
All in all, a triumph of set construction, colourful costumery and able performances from people of all heights and ages, 10/10, would go again. Could benefit from a larger, drunker audience less concerned with their cellphones and more concerned with joining in with the fist-waving and the clapping and the woo-ooing, like the little 4 year-old ginger kid at the front, who was the clear winner in my opinion with the running on stage and dancing strangely at half-time, even though I told him to get off. You could be part of that drunken audience. Buy tickets now. It's totally worth it.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Opening Night

korean boy riding on child seat bikeI was looking forward to a short day with only a 5 hour rehearsal. Later, Skype and Minecraft Murder Mystery was on the cards with Sydney. But just as we were looking at the acting schedule, we noticed that it was opening night and I was doing the first performance. Nice!
The play itself is 2 hours long including the 20 minute intermission so technically actually, performance days will be shorter than rehearsal days. I'm in 7 performances (including an extra one where I'm covering for an absentee): what a way to earn a Scout Badge.
Getting to the theatre at noon, we asked when the lunch break was, and it was right now. So we walked to the Co-Op and I found some melon and sandwiches and soss rolls and I sat with 1000 twittering girls on the bleachers outside the theatre, in the sun.
For the first session we discovered who hadn't learnt their cue lines and dances and who had to be prodded from offstage when they forgot to move or speak or smile or do anything at all. A lot of it was Child B (it's always Child B).
But the relatively short Final Dress Rehearsal was over at 5 and I walked to the Hard and sat blinking in the sun watching ferries ferrying and pigeons trying to nick my sandwiches and Japanese tourists with cameras bigger than their heads and had a welcome break in different surroundings, it's not a bad old place sometimes. Some people tried to get me to go paintballing, but you know, busy.
picnic on steps hms warrior spinnaker tower
nikon b700 zoom shot of moongroundlings theatre portsmouth drama schoolAnd I wasn't nervous because I know all my lines and cues and songs and dances and my costume fits and I'm a veteran and old pro, really, so I insisted on going back early and buying some lottery tickets.
The performance was great and I was epic of course and we saw Badger for the first time because all along he's been the director. We listen for our cues downstairs on a baby monitor and one of the rabbits was shouting much louder than the rest, nobody fell off stage and we all got out a bit early because we were quicker. There were about 60 in the audience and tomorrow, I'll be one of them! I was pooped. So I sang the poop song (highlight of the show) and hit the sack at 11.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Hard Sloggi

stop sign snowdrift failWell, after yesterday I was a bit tired (not enough Minecraft) and had convinced myself that I was only going to have a 4 hour rehearsal today.
So when I discovered that my schedule was 12 noon till 8pm, that was ... difficult. So I made sure I mentioned 4 times that it would be a tough lengthy day and if it was to happen again, I would quit acting forever because nobody in their right mind would ever work for 8 hours a day, 2 days a week.
scout group quartermaster tent repairSo my slave presented me with a mixed continental fruit and protein breakfast and I Youtubed happily until Theatre time.
Additional: being in the Scouts means you really ought to co-opt your parent(s) into Scout Helpy-activities. So mine does procurement and acquisition and getting things, including in this case, fixing some Vango Alpha tents with broken tent poles. For a man who has never put up a tent, it's amazing how far you can get by reading the instructions.
groundlings theatre portsmouth schoolStandard lunchtime was reduced to 1/2 an hour and Bud met me with a picnic medley of easy-chomp foodstuffs on the decking in the sun. We did a few run-throughs of the performance and when Sydney got there after childcare it all got a bit better, not something I always admit.
On the way home we were most 1) aggressive 2) interactive 3) physical and 4) disruptive to the taxi driver but who's counting. So a game of who-can-molest-each-other-the-most turned into an invite to Skype and Minecraft on Murder-craft and Holy Poodles but within 5 minutes of getting back, we were talking to each other on Skype and playing with each other on Mine-murder-craft.
Now that's what I call peer-group teamwork. It had to be cut short due to supper and Matrix Revolutionary Film Night but now we have reached out to each other in cyber-space, I see the potential for so much more.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Groovy Channel 7

russian vodka fiend drunk failWoken at 9 something when my curtains mysteriously opened. While I am generally a happy soul, sometimes a dark cloud lurks in the background, and today had that cloud, in the form of a 10 1/2 hour rehearsal at the theatre. I like to tread the boards as much as anyone, but isn't this supposed to be a holiday?
So I demanded scrambled eggs with less butter but more cheese and we got to the theatre for 11. It was supposed to be 12, but they lengthened it. We discovered why, when the cameras from 'That's Solent' TV set up and filmed us doing our rehearsal. I have been on the BBC twice already so this is not new. I texted Bud and said watch Freeview Channel 7 tonight. Slight problem is, we don't get Freeview as part of our broadband and home entertainment package.
ship leopard bar restaurant boutique hotel the hard portsmouthI suppose to want something free when you spend however many hundred pounds a month on the service is asking too much. So we will have to harvest their Yourtube, Fartbook and Tweetle feeds to see my gorgeous face brightening the airwaves. Apparently it's like an American radio station beginning with KW, in that its transmitters beam the programmes as far as 30 miles, if you have a clifftop receiver.
So then it was lunchtime and we tried the Ship Leopard Boutique Hotel foodery and watched the diggers digging up the new bus station. They'd run out of tuna/mayo for the jacket potato so I had pepperoni pizza which was very cheesy and filled me up for the main afternoon session. The afternoon session was marred by Child B (it's always the same Child B) who dropped Maltesers all over the floor so that everybody crunched them into the gaps in the floorboards, happy rodents there. Downstairs there was a 2 hour meditation class - downstairs from 90 kids practising musical dance theatre. Just saying.
In the end us slightly younger actors were allowed to go home after only 9 hours instead of the original 10 1/2, giving me time to seek out Sydney on Skype. There were 2, one in South Dakota. I wonder which she is.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Hunting for Alien Artefacts

Pushed the envelope today. OK, I don't even have an envelope, but I watched so many Youtube videos my tablet ran out of charge. Shopping was completed so early we were able to get the bikes out and cycle down to the swimming pool end of the seafront to meet some Scouts.
southsea beach clean team surfers against sewageOne of the components of the Community Challenge badge (which you need in order to get the Chief Scouts' Gold Award badge) is volunteering some time doing good works in the community, charity work or helping out on some organized community-friendly event. So a few months ago we all spent a couple of hours cleaning up the seashore with the Southsea Beach Clean team (available on Facebook) and filled a few binbags with stuff that doesn't belong on the beach. That time, I was the only Scout to show up.
southsea beach clean activityLast week, I helped Jofs' work friends clean out and fix up the cricket club on the seafront, making it all nice for the new season. And this week it was beach cleaning again. Rapidly it became obvious we were in the wrong place and we cycled up to the pier where the official Beach Cleaners (including a delegation from Surfers against Sewage - imagine hanging ten in a sea of floaters) had a table and we signed ourselves in and got protective gloves. I also got a dragon grabber (it does not grab dragons, it is a grabber cunningly coloured to look like a dragon) and I refused to hold a binbag of my own because that would cramp my style, which is to march up and down not grabbing dragons, telling everybody what to do, basically to pick up all artefacts that are alien to a littoral zone.
Flynn and Cosmo and Alfie and Matt and OtherMax joined our motley crew of pickers and we set off in an easterly direction. I grabbed litter and transferred it to the binbags held by my minions, and we proceeded sedately past the millions of happy people on the beach. It was definitely Skimpy Summer Skirt Sunday.
We ignored the tomatoes. They are biodegradable. We ignored the rocks, for they are a natural part of the beach and very numerous. We ignored the hundreds of flip-flops, brightly coloured plastic buckets and spades, because they still being used by toddlers, and that would be unfair. But we did pick up the laughing gas canisters, the energy or cider drinks cans (when not still in use), blue string, coffee cups, wet wipes, random bits of plastic and fishing string. The air was thick with the smog of barbecues and nameless cigarettes but the onshore breeze took it away.
I got a fag lighter and plastic Supermans' cape and Jof got a purple Thomas the Tank Engine. She also kept saying to people "I hope you're going to put that in the bin" and I picked up a dead fish and threw it back. Then I found a fish head and found that if you squeezed the grabber you could make the fish head open its mouth. Jof ran away screaming, girls. In the end we got all the way to Coffee Cup (which is where we started the last Beach Clean) and wandered back. I got lots of sun (red arms, and I'm an official redneck) and another 2 hours towards my badge and a chocolate chip ice cream. Cycled home with chocolate all up my face and played Minecraft until Film Night which was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Icy Dead People

Saturday! And not a normal one - this is the start of 2 weeks off. But typically, I awoke with a 7 in it and read quietly in bed like the good boy I hope to one day become. Breakfast was buttery and cheesy and that was just the scrambled eggs, the rest of the morning being devoted to Youtube, not sure if it counts as an addiction or a religion.
duplicate coin collection for ebayMeanwhile, a minion boxed up my duplicate coins and yea, they weighed 10 kilogrammes and were difficult to hold up for long. They shall hit the online auction facilitator tonight to provide much-needed funds for, I don't know, coins or something. Then we waited slightly too long for Sydney and she'd been a little like me with the not getting up when told to and the lying around and the pretending not to hear.
But once she'd brushed her hair all over the car she perked up and we had a splendid 4 1/2 hour rehearsal in which the set grew and grew until it took up half the auditorium. We bequeathed my old wartime suitcase from the Evacuee school project to the theatre as a prop, waste not, damn right.
'Wind in the Willows' is a sedate story from gentler times, but not the way we've done it. Hedgehogs and rabbits and weasels and other forest fauna have to pop up here and there so in the absence of portal technology at knockdown prices, tunnels have been built alongside the audience crucible so that we can scurry around unseen and unheard (but probably not unsmelt) and emerge elsewhere.
Viewing holes have been cunningly incorporated into the megastructure so that we can see our cues and spy on the audience. Apparently it's a bit interactive as well as musical and some of them will be playing the part of picnickers so expect some creaky legs at intermission. But it's all hilarious fun and everybody should attend and fill the auditorium and have a good time.
groundlings theatre portsmouth drama schoolOf course all these tunnels get a bit sawdusty and we'll be going down in full costume so I went down Sydney's tunnel to give it a good spring clean. The we distributed masks around the room, maybe for some kind of German speciality film where they only wear masks.
Now, being as I was unjustly unplugged from my Youtube Cyber-teat and had a 4 1/2 hour rehearsal full of dances and songs with only Jaffa Cakes as nutriment, my mood at the end can be a little unpredictable. One of the girls spent the whole time crying and asking when Mummy was coming to pick her up, and even one of the adult volunteers fell down the stairs and banged her leg. But at the end Poppy and Riley and Sydney and Alfie and anybody else ending in -ee absolutely insisted on an emergency 45 minute game of hide and seek with me in the sunshine.
Much later, because I failed to get off my butt and choose a Saturday-Night-Is-Film-Night video, 'Sixth Sense' was chosen for me. I watched, absorbed, understood, hid behind a pillow, and finally witnessed the underpinning denouement of the entire film and got the prescribed surprise. Then I sang a medley of Willows-related songs in the shower because I do not see dead people, only stupid ones.