I was suited, wearing a polka dot mod shirt beloved by Bob Dylan and Lennon in 1966 and ready for a day bombing around town making full use of freedom to do as I damned well please with a day off work.
My first stop was the Museum Of Childhood in Bethnal Green, a wing of the V&A but most importantly it was the penultimate day that lads n lasses of all ages could getup close and personal to Smallfilms creations. If that name doesn’t give you an existential shiver then baby, you already dead. or too young / old to have had your life shaped as a nipper by the work of Peter Firmin & Oliver Postgate. I was fortunate enough to see them give a long lecture on their work at the NFT a few years back but never got close to their creations. In a single glass case was Madeline The Doll, Gabriel The Toad, Professor Yaffle, The Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ with Charlie Mouse, Jennie Mouse and Lizzie Mouse and Bagpuss himself. I was genuinely a bit choked up to be confronted by the actual characters from my kiddie TV screen. Alongside them were the Clangers, the Iron Chicken and the Soup Dragon – and I’m sorry if none of this means anything to you. There was also an exhibition of board games through history as well as a Raleigh Chopper but the day had already reached its climax with Yaffle.
After a visit to Fopp (Blu-Rays of Invasion of The Body Snatchers & The Day The Earth Caught Fire plus some weird 1994 Eels semi legal KRCW radio session on CD) I was down St Martin’s Lane to Duke Of York’s Theatre for Ronald Harwood’s play ‘The Dresser’ with Reece Shearsmith in the title role and Ken Stott as ‘Sir’. I hadn’t seen the BBC adaptation at Christmas with Patrick Stewart & Sir Ian McKellan (who were in another play up the road) or the 1983 film but wanted to see Reece & Ken act up a storm. The film is dominated by their relationship, Reece as Norman, an over attentive dresser to ‘Sir’ an increasingly dilapidated Shakespearean actor during WWII in London as he is cajoled into a performance of King Lear. It’s funny as it is tragic and of course with parallel’s to Lear as three women compete for his attention and Norman very much plays the Fool. I would not be surprised if awards are in the offing for this production.
And so the evening wends its way to Walthamstow, a room above Ye Olde Rose & Crown pub where author, songwriter and indie misanthrope Luke Haines performed a set celebrating his new album ‘Smash The System’. Its was billed as an acoustic show but when he reached for his electric guitar halfway through the evening , shouts of ‘Judas!!’ filled the air which made Luke laugh, no doubt pleased to have such a musically literate audience. The kind that would laugh at lyrics like “The Incredible String Band were an unholy cat Sang like a couple of weasels trapped in a sack”, & would enjoy the ‘Yewtree Medley’ of ‘Bad Reputation’ (Glitter) and ‘Leeds United’ (Savile) that caused Ricky Gervais’ audience to tell him to fuck off as one voice. Mr Haines’ many projects and bands were all covered tonight with ‘New French Girlfriend’ and ‘Child Brides’ from the Auteurs, his tribute to 70’s wrestling greats, Baader Meinhof and Stanley Spencer. You want songs about using menstrual blood to make your garden grow, buying a bomber jacket, marauding gangs of Morris Men & Alphabetti Spaghetti? Then you really should been here tonight – we had a ball.
Home before midnight to avoid turning into Billy Corgan – a quite tired but very happy young pup.
I’d never want to actually live in London but at striking distance for a £15 Travelcard its hard to top for a grand day out if you are footless and fancy free. That and days off work are great and to be used for more than slumping on the sofa