Yes, folks, it’s that time of year when big money is lavished on those big-budget Yuletide TV ads with a social conscience – ads to make you smile, make you cry and make you think. I know it’s all about the relentless commercialisation of Christmas and a crude attempt by big business to convince us all that they’re the good guys really. But, if they’re well done and have a laser-sharp message then they can strike the perfect note and, hopefully, make a difference. Every little helps, as they say at Tesco. Here are my personal favourites from the UK, Germany and Spain.
At the tender age of 12, Rob put on a full-blown Disney parade for his giggly Grandma. In dodgy wigs and improvised costumes, he gave her Ariel, Belle, Mary Poppins and Mickey Mouse while doting Dad acted as stagehand, sound technician and general props-body. It didn’t go well.
As much as I dislike the whole ‘we’re all queer, now’ thing, I jumped at the chance to see My Son’s a Queer, written and performed by Rob Madge at Norwich’s trendy Playhouse Theatre. It’s received some spectacular reviews, selling out at London’s off-West End Turbine Theatre in 2021 and taking the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe by storm. It’s currently on national tour before heading to yer actual West End this October. We saw the single-handed touring version and it was glorious – a fabulous autobiographical tale of Rob’s upbringing as a Disney-obsessed, uber-flamboyant child delivered in words, music and old family videos.
Just an everyday ordinary family with an everyday extra-ordinary child; the love – and sometimes the exasperation – shone brightly through those old movies. Despite the teachers, the bullies and the rejection, Rob stuck by his sequins and, thanks to Rob’s courage and loving family, proved beyond doubt that home is where the heart is. This isn’t always the case for the child who’s just a little bit different. We laughed a lot, we cried a bit, we jumped to our feet at the end. The simple answer to the question but what can you do? to parents everywhere is just roll with it; it will bring you endless joy.
Over the past decade Norwich has seen an invasion of psychedelic mountain gorillas, a parade of glittery elephants, the flight of the camp dragons, a husk of vivid hares, a swarm of big bugs and a hungry group of dazzling dinosaurs. This year, the T-Rexes are back with a vengeance to sink their claws and jaws into a herd of steppe mammoths – all in aid of Break, a charity supporting children in care. A round of applause, please. Let’s not worry too much that the hunters and the hunted roamed the Earth at entirely different times, separated by millions of years. It’s just a bit of fun for the bored kiddies during the summer holidays.
Most of the proto-jumbos with their oversized tusks are more county than town, dotted about various corners of Norfolk, so I thought I’d never spot one grazing in Norwich. I made do with snapping a small selection of the dapper dinos in their flashy finery instead.
But then I spotted this handsome beast clad in metal nuts at the entrance to St Mary’s Works. The old shoe factory is now the venue for Norwich’s uber-trendy Junkyard Market serving up street grub and fruity cocktails to a youthful crowd of beards and tattoos. We were there to celebrate a village boy’s 40th.
The sun was setting on a scorching day, and Metal Mammoth was glowing in the twilight, hot and sticky to the touch.
I reached the grand old age of sixty last year. This year was Liam’s turn and I’d planned a succession of treats – for me as well as for him – in old London Town. First up was a dinner date and gossipy catch up with an old pal in a fancy French restaurant in Chelsea, the trendy part of town where I gladly misspent much of my youth – ‘Days on the tills and nights on the tiles,’ I call it. The King’s Road is my memory lane and Liam joined me on my trip down it.
Next day I whisked Liam off to Covent Garden for a full English followed by a stroll. Once London’s main fruit and veg market with an opera house attached – think Audrey Hepburn as the cockney sparrow flower girl lip-syncing to ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly?’ in My Fair Lady – Covent Garden has long since evolved into a major magnet for tourists. And there were tourists aplenty, finally returning from home and abroad after lockdown.
Here’s the queue for Burberry. All that fuss just for a posh handbag.
We decided to take in some street opera and pavement art instead.
Our Covent Garden jolly continued with a ride around the London Transport Museum. In many ways, the story of London Transport is the story of London itself. The city couldn’t have spread like it has without the constant innovation needed to enable Londoners to go about their business. If trains, tubes, trams and trolley buses are your thing, it’s an Aladdin’s cave. We loved it.
After a brief power nap back at the hotel, we jumped on the Tube for a real indulgence – a performance of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. The musical tells of the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the (to me) lesser known American ‘Founding Fathers’, delivered in song and rap. The deliberately delicious twist is that most of the cast – including Alexander himself – is black or mixed heritage. Adorned with every gong going, the show is slick, brilliantly staged and tuneful. The rap is used as dialogue and is lyrical and clever. It’s a masterpiece, a work of genius.
The evening concluded with more posh nosh and a final snifter in our favourite dive bar in busy, buzzy Soho. The long weekend was a whirlwind with the perfect ending. We finally got to meet Fred, our newest great-nephew.
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.