Friday, 29 March 2013

The Odd Life of Timothy Green - Released Nationwide April 5th



We went to the preview of the new Disney film The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the other day at the Everyman Cinema in Maida Vale (a gorgeous cinema, with sofa style chairs and food delivered to your seat.) It's the story of a happily married couple, Jennifer Garner  -who is like a younger version of Julia Roberts and Joel Edgerton. They are desperate for a child, but have been told there is no way they will have one. At the beginning of the movie they are seen earnestly putting their case forward to adopt a child at an agency and as they begin to tell their story, we flashback to the day Timothy came into their lives.

Back to the night the couple have been told they will never have children. They are drinking and we see them quite inappropriately dreaming up what their ideal child would be like - a scene that just didn't ring true. Their boy would be: honest to a fault, Picasso with a pencil, the boy who scores the winning goal etc. They then bury the bits of paper in the garden and...hey presto there is a terrible storm and Timothy appears at their door covered in mud with leaves growing on his shins. Despite this improbable start and the slightly too-sweet tone of this movie, it made me smile and indeed cry and there are a few twists and turns that are genuinely unexpected. The boy who plays Timothy is adorable, known only as CJ Adams.  The film is directed by Peter Hedges who directed one of my favourite films of all time, What's  Eating Gilbert Grape.
This is a sweet family film, that we all need after a bitterly cold and depressing winter. I defy you not to be just a little bit moved.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Audience

A few weeks ago I went to see the dress rehearsal of the The Audience, a new play at the Gielgud Theatre starring Helen Mirren as the Queen. I meant to write about it straight away, but now it's out and has been reviewed extensively, but my draft is still here, so I'll go ahead. I was lucky enough to go the  very first performance in front of  alive audience, because I know  two of the three producers - Robert Fox and Andy Harries. I also used to go out with the writer Peter Morgan, who also scripted the film, The Queen.

The Audience is directed by Stephen Daldry who made a short appearance before the curtains went up to inform the real audience that the play was still a work in progress -the only sign of that being that Robert Hardy who played Churchill forgot his lines a couple of times, but he has since been replaced by Edward Fox because he fell ill. Apparently one of the Queens Corgis has been sacked for running off the wrong way every night!

The play imagines the weekly meetings between Queen and her Primeministers' over her 60 year reign, an extraordinary length of time to be in the same job. In the recent ITV documentary I was extremely impressed to discover that the Queen goes through her red box every single day of the year, except Christmas Day and occasionally (her private secretary added) on her birthday. She was also very involved in all aspects of her duties. Once scene showed her walking around the table before a state banquet (with a posse of four fawning courtiers)  to check that everything was in the right place and deciding that the pineapples had been placed too near the place mats.

Both the Queen and her primeminister are sworn to secrecy during the weekly meetings - so Morgan did a very good job imagining what goes on. 'The Queen' kept reminding us that her job is to support her Primeminister's, even when she doesn't agree with them. This  came across most vividly in the meeting between her and Margaret Thatcher over imposing sanctions to South Africa. The Queen was all for sanctions as she wanted to help her commonwealth subjects end apartheid.

Helen Mirren will win top prizes for her performance, quite frankly she is the Queen.  She ages and becomes young again in the most uncanny way, changing seamlessly on stage between the scenes which are not in chronological order. Wilson was played sympathetically by Richard McCabe, who according to the script was the Queen's favourite Primeminister, and the only one apart from Churchill who dined privately with the Queen. He was both funny in the role and particularly poignant when he steps down at the outset of alziehmers. The play is interspersed with scenes of the Queen as a young girl -played brilliantly by  Helen Baxendale's daughter the night we saw it - complete with highly posh 1940's accent -riding her bicycle through the set depicting Buck Palace with the use of clever perspective, making it look vast. The-Queen-as-a-young-girl-scenes  remind us that the Queen was born with her destiny already mapped out, and she has a much harder job than I had ever imagined. Definitely worth booking, if tickets are still available.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Walking Around



We've had trouble with our car in the last six months, and recently we were without a car, for nearly two weeks while it languished in the garage, having it's automatic gearbox investigated. We had already spent over £2000 having a new one installed, but still the car was juddering.  It was an interesting experiment, because as a person who is relatively lazy about walking short distances, we were literally forced to walk. We also used trains and buses and tubes. Once I had got into the idea of walking everywhere, it suddenly seemed scandalous, to drive the 0.6 miles to school, which we sometimes do if it's raining or we are running late.  I am not into bicycling in London. I tried using a bike one summer, but don't feel that bikes and London traffic is a good combination. In fact as a motorist I hate bicyclists and a bicyclist I hate motorists.

There were good points and not so good about not having a car in London:  I immediately noticed how expensive it is getting around day-to-day on public transport. Tubes and buses ate up my travel card, and instead of putting £30 on it, every two weeks, £30 would last me four days. And travelling on trains is time consuming and expensive too. Instead of taking an hour to get to my father's house near Newbury, the journey took two and a half hours and both ways the connection between two trains was either delayed or cancelled and involved rushing up platforms and over bridges and down again, lugging heavy cases.

But walking to the cinema with the kids through the park, instead of driving or taking the bus was great, and when we left them in the kids am movie (don't worry my son had his mobile) we walked all the way down the river to Chiswick House, stopped for a coffee the cafe, and then walked back to the cinema. It was a perfect morning. We walked as much as we could, which I enjoyed and was convinced that any superfluous wobbly parts were ebbing away with all the new exercise, but when  I stepped on the scales, nothing had changed.

We  considered making do without a car forever, which I would definitely go through with if we didn't have children. I looked into the idea of car clubs, but there are no cars situated near enough to me, to make sense. Maybe if the Boris Bike enterprise extended to cars more people would take up the option, to ditch the car, and join a car scheme. I never did get to the point of adding up the cost involved in keeping a car  - petrol, car insurance, servicing, parking permit, etc.) as opposed to renting one when it is needed, but someone else told my husband that it worked out cheaper for his family to ditch the car and rent on an ad hoc basis. London is over car populated, that is for sure, so let's make car club options easier to use.

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Friday, 8 March 2013

My Name is Kate and I'm an Internet Addict



Last night, around midnight, my husband came to bed to find me browsing on my laptop. He accused me of being addicted to my ‘screen/internet. It’s not the first time he’s said it. We had a row because I was reading an article, which somehow did not feel like browsing the internet in a random manner, but he has a point. The truth is that since writing these last four sentences, I have already been on facebook, and then checked my emails. Facebook was to ostensibly check a post about another author who is addicted to the internet and checking email is just force of habit - I am expecting a reply from son’s school – well that is the excuse, that is what I believe.

Apparently some authors including, Nick Hornby and Sadie Smith use programmes such as Freedom to restrict their internet use while they are writing. I imagined cutting off my internet and shuddered with horror. What about all the research I need to do? The author of The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen once said, “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” I remember at the time it struck a cord, and it still does.

The fact is I finished my last novel in January, and have done nothing really about starting anything else – I do waste a considerable amount of time browsing - sometimes an hour passes and I’m not sure where the time has gone. I don’t want to go cold turkey but I must. Or I need the discipline to have a set time in the day to check emails and go online rather than cruising randomly  throughout the day.

 I have just downloaded the software to start this experiment. Perhaps I will at last be able to start my fourth novel. My new software is now installed (see I couldn’t wait to finish this writing before googling Freedom and installing it) It's installed for one hour (small steps). This feels rather liberating, although I had already planned to go out in fifteen minutes!