It is said that if you hang around Piccadilly Circus for long enough, the entire world will pass you by. In my day, working the Dilly was popular with rent boys, so hanging around could get you arrested. When we passed by it was a convenient place to convene for those taking part in the Extinction Rebellion demonstration that coincided with our visit. At the time, the circus was ringed by brightly painted lions. This animal trail malarky has really got out of hand. Apparently the King of the Jungle on his Tusk Lion Trail can be spotted all over town.
Our last night in London was a Soho pub crawl reminiscent of the good old days. Thank God we were staying local so we only needed to stagger back to our pit. Next day, headache’d and hungover, we rode the bus to Liverpool Street Station for our train back to Norwich. The Tube would have been quicker, but nothing can beat the top deck of a London bus for a bit of sightseeing. We got to the station early, so it was a spot of overpriced lunch and a hair of the dog in nearby Spitalfields. The area is graced with a series of bronze statues, mostly of cutesy baby elephants – the Herd of Hope – to highlight the plight of orphaned calves in the wild.
But the most evocative sculpture on display is of a boatload of refugees. It’s intended to reflect the history of Spitalfields as a haven for migrants down the centuries. Ironic really. These days the area is mostly given over to plush offices and fancy eateries – not a damp slum, cold-water tenement or raggéd refugee in sight. Any remaining housing is some of the most expensive on the planet.
No trip to old London Town is complete without taking in a show. At last the curtain has gone up all over the West End after a very tough time. Our musical treat was Come From Away at the aptly named Phoenix Theatre. The show tells the remarkable true story of what happened when, following 9/11, thirty-eight civilian planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small Newfoundland town of Gander. With North American airspace cleared, 7,000 ‘plane people’ were stranded for the duration. The residents of Gander and surrounding towns rose to the considerable challenge, freely providing board and lodgings and a warm welcome. Funny, inventive and moving, it’s a show for our times. Here’s a taste.
To be able to take our seats we had to show our NHS app and prove we were double jabbed. For the moment, so-called ‘COVID passports’ won’t be mandatory in England and I know some fools think they are an affront to their civil liberties. Tough. Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. It’s called civilisation. Stopping at a red light, wearing a seat belt and smoking restrictions are there to protect us all, including the foolish.
It’s been a pretty dismal summer, weather-wise. The shortest of heatwaves in June, a washed-out July and a blanket of low cloud for most of August. Still, we didn’t suffer the death and devastation of flash floods, wilting temperatures and rampant wildfires that afflicted Turkey and much of continental Europe so I guess we should count our lucky stars. And who needs the sun anyway when the streets of Norwich are lit up by brightly coloured dinosaurs?
Over the last few years we’ve had an invasion of psychedelic gorillas, a parade of glittery elephants, the flight of the camp dragons, a husk of vivid hares and a swarm of big bugs. Now it’s the turn of dazzling dinosaurs on the Go Go Discover T Rex Trail inspired by the arrival in Norwich Cathedral of Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s iconic Diplodocus cast. It’s the final gig of his nationwide tour.
Twenty-one individually designed T Rex sculptures meander through the centre of the city as a guided route to the Cathedral – just in time for school’s out for Summer. If God can’t tempt the kids into church come Sunday, Dippy surely will.
Here’s a small sample. I guess my favourite ought to be the rainbow T Rex stomping all over Millennium Plain but actually it’s Sherlock on Cathedral Close that gets my vote.
As usual, the trail is all in aid of Break, a charity providing support to young people in care. They’ve also covered Cambridge in a herd of colourful cows. That’s a lot of painted udders.
Hot on the heels of Teutonic comic Henning Wehn came a comedy night courtesy of Shaft of Wit and hosted by our very own village watering hole, the White Horse. It’s a regular gig but we were comedy night virgins, drawn by another big name off the telly box – Arthur Smith, the original grumpy old man, a tribe I’ve recently joined. He was top billing for a quartet of stand-ups – him, John Mann, Pam Ford and Earl Okin. They were funny and original – more a pit of wit than a shaft of laughs. But, for me, the stand out stand-up was Aussie Pam (or rather Brit-Aussie-Brit Pam). Comedy-wise, I tend to go for the female of the species and Pam Ford is right up there.
Change channels now if you’re easily offended by the lewd and the rude!
It’s been a comedy season of fun and laughter, despite the COVID blues and the hit and miss weather. After drag gags from the extraordinary La Voix a couple of weeks ago, we were back at Interlude in the Close for another comic treat – Henning Wehn, the self-styled ‘German Comedy Ambassador for Teutonic jolliness’.
A regular on many a TV panel show, Henning has been living and working in Britain for twenty years and provides a ballsy view of the life on these islands from a continental perspective, always delivered with wit, insight and affection.
His was a show in preview called Das Neuen Materialen Nachten (The New Materials Night) – a brand new routine, testing the water before a big tour. And there was plenty of water to go round – our bottom halves were soaked through as we rushed along Cathedral Close and squelched across the sodden playing fields of the lower school. Liam was wearing trainers – well you can imagine.
What Henning ambitiously called a masterpiece under construction was more a work in progress but there was plenty of witty banter, and the jokes old and new made sure the angry clouds didn’t dampen our spirits. The wine helped, of course.