We were planning to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the new Freddie Mercury biopic. But the reviews have been decidedly mixed, despite Rami Malek’s astonishing portrayal as the Queen of Queen. It’s been said that, as producers of the film, the surviving members of the band all come across as a bit too saintly. Of course, they’re not saints. Nobody is. And Freddie’s sexuality has been sanitised, presumably to appeal to the widest international audience possible. Freddie’s excesses are well-documented. His AIDS-related death was awful and, for me, profoundly affecting. I remember it all too well. I once saw Freddie at a gay club back in the day, surrounded by his acolytes. There was nothing ambiguous about Freddie. So we decided to give the film a miss to avoid the disappointment. Instead, we lunched at Bishop’s, one of Norwich best indie restaurants. The meal was courtesy of the staff at the village surgery where Liam earns an honest crust. We’d already had our joint birthday treat at the newly opened Ivy Brasserie. But you can never have too many birthday treats, can you?
Fewer and fewer people can be bothered to go to an actual shop, buy an actual card, write an actual greeting, slip it into an actual envelope, write an actual address, stick on an actual stamp and pop it into an actual post box. When I say it like that it does like a bit of a palaver, doesn’t it? Instant messages, instantly sent on instant social media is the modern way. I’m fine with that. I do it too. I’m a thoroughly modern Millie. But who would deny the pleasure of a dull slap on the mat when the postie’s been?
It was my birthday recently; nothing special – just another year closer to the edge. A few of my nearest and dearest did bother to go to an actual shop, buy an actual card, write an actual greeting, slip it into an actual envelope, write an actual address, stick on an actual stamp and pop it into an actual post box. And what actual theme emerged? Wine, willies and my golden years. As the old nursery rhyme goes…
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
That’ll be me, then.
A family ‘do’ took us cross country to Hertford, north of London – three trains there, three trains back. On the way, we changed at Cambridge – ‘the City of Perspiring Dreams’ as it’s known to the top-notch scholars who tread the hallowed precincts. Last year we took the same route and stopped off for a look around. This time we didn’t pop in – too many perspiring tourists for my liking. On the return leg, we changed at Ely, a tiny city with a vast cathedral dominating the flatlands. God’s house can be seen for miles around, demonstrating just how important He used to be to the prince, the pauper and everyone else in between. The city sits on a small patch of highish ground at the heart of the Fens, a once expansive marsh long-since tamed by dykes and ditches and drained for agriculture.
A sign at Ely station caught my eye.
I’ve had a bit of bother with my own Office package of late so it amused me. My picture-taking caught the eye of a ragged local with a lumpy face.
‘Take my picture,’ he insisted. ‘I’m famous, you know. I’ve been on the telly.’
As for teeny-weeny Ely with its oversized church, calmed waters and bobbing boats, it’s on the bucket list for next year.
‘I’m going to see A Star is Born,’ said a colleague of Liam’s. ‘It’s supposed to be brilliant,’ she gushed. ‘Have you seen the original, you know, the one with Barbra Streisand?’
‘That’s not the original’ he replied.
Liam was right. Ms Streisand and her dodgy seventies curly perm was not the first. That honour goes to the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. Then there was the more famous remake – the 1954 musical with Judy Garland and England’s very own James Mason. And who could forget the 2013 Bollywood incarnation? No, I didn’t see it either.
Image courtesy of The Atlantic
Now it’s been rolled out again, this time with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the leads. Reviews have been star-bright and Liam’s a sucker for a gay icon – Garland, Streisand, Gaga (though I’m not sure about Gaynor, unless it’s Gloria, of course). Naturally, we couldn’t resist.
It’s a well-trodden plot – a maelstrom of passion and torment as girl on the way up mates with boy on the way down – so no need to recount it here. But was it worth the ticket price?
Well, sort of. Both leads are excellent and Lady Gaga lets it go with both barrels but the film is way too long, the dialogue way too mumbly and the script way too sweary. I’m no prude and I’ve been known to utter the odd profanity myself but, really, there’s no need to say f*ck with every other word. It dulls the effect, especially for a weepy. It left me unmoved. What would Judy say?
Liam’s birthday is only a couple of weeks after mine so we tend to celebrate our birthday’s together. When I say ‘celebrate’ I don’t mean razzmatazz, wild parties, clubbing or jetting over to Paris for a romantic city break. We’ve neither the energy nor the readies these days. No, a nice meal and good conversation washed down by a bottle or two is now the order of the day. Recently, an Ivy Brasserie opened here in old Norwich town. The original Ivy Restaurant is in Covent Garden in Central London and has been serving up posh nosh to the rich and infamous for a hundred years. Back in the day, I was lucky enough to have the readies to lunch there a few times. Although pricey, the food was (and probably still is) amazing. Keen to cash in on the brand, Ivy Brasseries have started popping up all over the best places. The classic has become a chain.
So we decided to treat ourselves and give it a whirl. Was it worth it? Absolutely – lavish decor, relaxed atmosphere, exemplary service, flirtatious waiter, great food. And autumnal skies gave way to bright, warm sunshine – no jacket required. What’s not to like?
Image courtesy of The Ivy, Norwich
I’ve always said that a meal without good company is just food. And with Liam, I’m always in the best company whether it’s at a fancy bistro or sharing a bag of chips on the way home from the pub.
Long-suffering readers may remember that during our last days in Turkey I developed peripheral arterial disease which affects the blood flow to my legs. My blocked tubes meant that taking a stroll for more than a short distance was a bit of a pain. Back in Britain, I went under the knife for an arterial bypass to my nether regions. The op worked well but was only designed to fix one limb so, rather than hop to the shops for the rest of my days, the quack suggested the best long-term therapy was to walk, walk and walk again. He told me that the body, when pushed, has a remarkable ability to create new channels to pump blood. Me? Walk? I’ve promenaded many times down the years but I’ve always been more talk, talk than walk, walk. The trauma of compulsory cross-country running as a spotty schoolboy left me scarred for life. I don’t hike, roam, ramble, trek or yomp.
But I heeded the good doctor’s advice by joining a local gym, called simply, ‘The Gym’. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s got all the instruments of torture anyone could possibly wish for – a masochist’s wet dream. That was in 2014. I’ve been going ever since.
Here’s the torture chamber:
Has it worked? Well, yes, it has. It’s still a gruelling work in progress but I reckon I can now mince triple the distance without having to rest. And the view from the exercise bike of the sweaty gym-bunnies strutting and straining provides some distraction from my labours.
The final leg of our great north run saw us in England’s ‘second’ capital – variously called Eboracum by the Romans, Eoforwic by the Saxons, Yorvik by the Vikings, Everwic by the Normans, then on to Yerk, Yourke, Yarke and finally – York. The city has an ancient pedigree, medieval city walls to march round, a higgledy-piggledy heart and a gigantic Gothic minster dominating the skyline.
York has fascination around every corner – who knew that Constantine the Great was proclaimed Roman Emperor there in 306 AD? But, unsurprisingly, it’s also packed with tourists from just about everywhere. After an hour or two weaving through the international swarm, we were relieved to find a traditional Italian to fill our bellies and rest our tired old hides. Of course, the over-indulgence of the previous three days in Knaresborough might have had something to do with it.
The pasta was delicious as was the hair of the dog that washed it down.
Oops. The naughty little gremlins ran amok this morning and so this post didn’t get shared properly and I’m publishing it again. If you get it twice, then that’s two for the price of one. Cheers!