Being the Count

Am having great fun revisiting the character of Count Almaviva in Mozart's majestically brilliant Marriage of Figaro. 

I'm doing it mid-January with @tessitoura (, an extremely talented and energetic group of singers. Rehearsals have been a riot, and the characters are forming quickly. With two performances in two different spaces we'll have to adapt quickly, and with a small orchestra we'll have to project well, but I think this traditional-dress production is going to a cracker!

Thanks to the fact that I bought Ursula the complete box set for her birthday, we've been watching a lot of Frasier recently. And I had a revelation - Niles Crane is the perfect model for the Count. I've always loved watching the Niles character so I am vastly enjoying mapping his mannerisms onto the Count's music. Slapstick, double-take, confusion over what he thinks he wants to be and what he REALLY wants to be - great!

We're performing on Tuesday 15th January in Bristol Grammar School, and Saturday 19th in St Mary's, Stoke Bishop. Do come along - it'll be a rollercoaster of laughs!


Done it! A crossword year

With the ending of 2018 comes the end of my year's attempt at doing a crossword every day. 

The crossword of choice was the Guardian, and (with the exception of Christmas Day, when no crossword was published) I filled the grid for the cryptic crossword each and every day of the year. That means that on Saturdays I completed the Prize crossword and on Sundays I did the Everyman. 

I can't claim that I completed them without help - sometimes I didn't need any help, sometimes I used online dictionaries and sometimes a bit more. Occasionally people have looked over my shoulder and helped. That's why I say I "filled the grid" rather than "solved". 

Note that some of the grids were filled out on paper, some on apps on mobile devices and some on the PC. 

And now we're into 2019 - and I don't want to stop doing crosswords, so we'll keep going and see how we get on. 

I think that doing crosswords has got easier through the year; I hope that'll keep going this year. 

Standing among the graves

Last week I was standing among the graves in a War Cemetery in northern France. It was only one of the smaller ones, but I was surrounded by rows and rows of grave stones. 

The day before we'd been to the "In Flanders Field" museum in Ypres, a town which was an important part of the front line landscape. It was a reminder of how harsh the trench warfare environment was. How it played on the body and the mind. The house in which we were staying, although several miles back from the front, was still surrounded by the sort of countryside which the front occupied. 

It was a salutary reminder of how important that was in bringing home the horror of conflict; the individuality of the fighting. That each death was the end of a person. A proper, real person. 

All this is now very much in my mind as I learn Claire's words and Mark's notes for Home at Last. Sergeant-Major Adams had seen all this; he'd suffered the loss of men and had endured the hardship of the trenches. I hope to be able to bring just a little insight back from France with me, too.