Kinky Boots


A glitter bomb of drag queens in outrageous slap and the highest heels sashayed onto the stage at Norwich’s Theatre Royal to add a little glamour to the naughty but nice musical Kinky Boots, the very latest thing from the class act that is the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society. The show is based on a 2005 British comedy* of the same name, which itself is loosely based around the true story of a Northampton cobbler struggling to save his family-run factory from closure by producing fetish footwear for men.

With songs by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the show is a glorious celebration of diversity and acceptance. Despite being set against the grim reality of deindustrialised Britain, it’s a heart-warming tale of hope and salvation, and strangely resonant given Norwich’s own long history of shoe-making. The dazzling cast did Cyndi proud, and dowager drag queen Lola was simply fabulous. The show ended with a well-deserved standing ovation.

I’ll leave the last words to that camp old crooner Barry Manilow and aptly named sixties supergroup The Kinks.

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl

With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there.

Copacabana‘ by Barry Manilow

Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand

Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man

‘Lola’ by Ray Davis

*A film directed by Norwich’s very own Julian Jarrold. The Jarrold family are big round here.

A Man Called Otto

A feel-good flick is the surest way to chase away those midwinter blues and they don’t come more feel-good than A Man Called Otto, with an unusually brittle Tom Hanks in the title role as the eponymous grumpy old fart living life on a short fuse. A remake of an earlier Swedish film and adapted from a best-selling novel, check your cynicism at the door before you take your seat.

Newly widowed Otto likes things done right and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Surrounded by idiots and utterly consumed by grief, he sees little to live for. And yet his meticulously planned attempts to re-join his dearly departed are constantly thwarted by do-gooders and doing good, proving that his number isn’t up.

Liam sees a lot of Otto in me. I can’t think why. All I can say is I loved it. But then, who doesn’t like a Tom Hanks film? Here’s the trailer…

Then and Now

Back in 2008, the eccentric old fella next door bought my London Victorian terrace in Walthamstow. One fateful evening he popped round with his chequebook and asked, “How much?” And just like that the deal was done and we were on our way to Turkey for a new life in a foreign field. I wrote about it in that book. Cue the shameless plug.

I’ve been pretty lucky with buyers. My gaff before Walthamstow was also flogged off to a neighbour. Both sales saved me a king’s ransom in estate agent fees.

Last year, my old Walthamstow house came back onto the market for the first time since I sold it. Despite being in a very sorry state, it went for more than double the 2008 price tag. London prices really are crazy. I don’t know what happened to the eccentric old fella next door but it was really sad to see my pretty Victorian terrace with all the vivid memories of good times past looking so unloved and unlived in. I really hope whoever’s got it now will sprinkle a little fairy dust to bring it back to life. Because it’s a cracking little place for the right person.

Then and Now…

Empire of Light

Our first film of 2023 was ‘Empire of Light’ written and directed by Sam Mendes and set around a grand old art deco cinema in a forlorn English seaside resort during the early nineties. We were expecting a gentle love affair between two social misfits – a single white woman of a certain age and a handsome young black fella – an evocative period piece to warm the heart on a damp afternoon, set against the decline in traditional bucket and spade holidays. What we got was much more: a beautifully filmed, visually absorbing in-yer-face exposé of depression, repression and racism – and a little hope too – during rapidly changing times.

Opening to mixed reviews, the film stars the superb Olivia Coleman and easy-on-the-eye Micheal Ward as the star-crossed lovers with an excellent supporting cast, including Colin Firth as the sleazy cinema manager and Toby Jones as the geeky projectionist. Some critics thought the screenplay was a bit thin, whereas we saw the actors speak volumes with just a glance. We loved it, though I can’t quite get over Colin Firth demanding to be sucked off – quite the departure from Mr Darcy and his magnificent britches in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Here’s the trailer…

Snotty Jack

According to those in the know, as most of us took precautions during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic – social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and all that jazz – we didn’t build up enough immunity from all the usual respiratory viruses that spread like the Black Death at this time of year. When Liam and I did finally succumb to COVID, we were vaxed to the max, so the result was a very mild affliction. And being the wrong side of 50, seasonal flu is kept at arm’s length by annual jabs.

But then came the worst of winter colds to shatter our complacency and bring us to our knees. Starting late Christmas Day and lasting well into January, we coughed, sneezed and spluttered our way through the festivities. Days of snot were coupled with nights of hacking. It was tiring and tiresome. It got so loud, you could hear us in the next village. For days I sounded like I was on forty a day and at one point I completely lost my voice. Many would see my involuntary vow of silence as a blessing. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, apparently. We drank through it.