Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Poetic Christmas Greetings Tom!

So when it was Tom Burke's birthday, his fans got together to make a birthday book and posted messages in it. Don't think I've written about that on here, so this is the poem I wrote and illustrated for his birthday.


The idea was so successful that we're now doing a Christmas one, and the deadline for it was set at 30th October. I can't even begin to think of Christmas until after Bonfire Night, but never mind, I have done my best, and because I'm not one to do anything by halves, I have glammed the poem up by putting the poem on a scroll, with a faint picture of Tom dressed up as Santa Clause in the background. Sadly I left everything until close to the last minute, so there was no time to illustrate it by my own fair hand, but on a positive note I have learnt how to use Photoshop...sort of!!!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Feed Me! Seymour!!

Went to watch Little Shop of Horrors at Clwyd Theatr Cymru tonight.

I remember watching the film back in the 1980's where Rick Moranis played the meek and mild botanist/florist assistant and Steve Martin put me off dentist's for life!! I have never watched the stage version, and to be honest I wasn't sure whether a theatre that doesn't have the same budget as London or the major cities would be able to pull it off. I wasn't worried about the ability of the actors, I was worried whether Audrey II, the bloodthirsty plant, would be a showstopper or not!

The play revolves around a florists shop on skid row, and is a story based on unrequited love, a mad and abusive dentist, and an ever growing carnivorous talking plant! It is a very easy storyline to follow, so it's best just to sit back, relax, and enjoy some belting show tunes!

Seymour, played by Daniel Boys (who has been in the West End production of Spamalot, and currently sings the theme tune to the Australian soap Neighbours) is in love with Audrey, an assistant in the flower shop. Audrey, is dating a psychopathic dentist who treats her badly.

Seymour creates Audrey II, a plant the size of an orchid and he accidentally finds out that the plant has a taste for blood! As the plant grows and grows, it needs more than just a few drops of blood to keep it alive! I must admit the various Audrey IIs were brilliant, and the animator Michael Humpreys (War Horse) should be credited for complimenting the rest of the cast rather than upstaging them which could so easily be done, especially when Audrey II reached the size of the shop!

Whilst it was only a small and mainly inexperienced cast, it kept me entertained for the duration of the show, all the singers were impressive belting out song after song. I imagine it won't be the last we see of any of the performers on the stage that night.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru should be proud of itself putting on such a big and entertaining production. The sets and costumes were impressive, especially at the end when the main cast are dressed as giant flowers singing Don't Feed the Plants! By the finale it is clear that although it is a rather eccentric production, people who watched it were leaving with smiles on their faces, thoroughly entertained!

Friday, 16 October 2015


Went to watch Hamlet last night. It was a NTlive screening of Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet, and this is the first time that I have been to one of these type of screenings.

I have watched Hamlet a few times, and I have always enjoyed the performances, but sometimes they have been a bit over acted. A bit like, this is the most important role I am going to play, and therefore I shall overdo everything. Everything will be shouted, movements will be over exaggerated. I didn't know what to expect, people had be raving about it, but I like to judge things for myself!

Apart from a few sound issues, I really enjoyed the NTlive experience. I had booked a "posh" seat at the cinema (extra leg room really!) and a shiver of excitement went down my spine as the performance started.

Now I am not a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch in the traditional sense of the word. I have watched him in Sherlock, which I enjoyed (although I wasn't as captivated by the last series I must admit), and I found his portrayal of James in Third Star soul breaking. I also thought he played Alan Turing brilliantly in The Imitation Game, and felt somewhat upset that he was pitched against Eddie Redmayne in the awards, because both parties were so deserved in their portrayal of important "historical" figures. But I have to admit, from start to finish I was blown away by his portrayal of Hamlet.

The role was so physical, I'm not surprised that he said by the end of the performance he would be starving! Aside from Benedict the rest of the casting was superb. I hadn't realised that Karl Johnson was in the production. I've said in an earlier post that he had a great cameo in Third Star, well in tonight's performance he made the role of the Ghost of Hamlet, and the gravedigger his own. He also added some much needed humour as the gravedigger, to lift us a little before transcending again to the despair and madness of Hamlet.

Sian Brooke who played Ophelia should also be given a mention. I have only seen her in a comedy with Rik Mayall called All About George before, although I note from some of the plays I've been reading she has performed opposite Tom Burke (Reasons to be Pretty). She was amazing as Ophelia showing her decline into madness/grief once her father, Polonius, has been killed, the scene of her bending over a trunk was particularly moving.

Aside from the acting, the staging was done incredibly well, and as Act 1 finished and a wind howled across the stage littering it with dirt, another shudder went down my spine and I was glad of the interval! The use of music, and the manner of the staging contributed enormously to the success of the production. The music stirred emotions, and I was almost in tears as Ophelia was singing and handing out herbs before her dramatic exit.

All in all, a wonderful night, and I must look to book some more NTlive productions. I can't afford to watch the shows down in London, so I'm glad that London can come visit me!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Time to go home...

So I'm sitting at the airport in Prague waiting for my plane home. I love the flights out here. I get the earliest possible out on a Friday, and the last one home on a Thursday, which means I get 7 days of ambling, and only pay for 6 nights accommodation!

It was another rainy day today, so bag dumped with the porter at the flat, I decided to have once last amble around the town. I ended up near the Jewish Synagogue, and there was a couple of exhibitions so I went for a look. I think because I have been round so many places now, it made reading up about the history of the Jews in Prague more interesting. I understood which areas people were talking about, some I thought "I've been there". I think if I'd gone around that exhibition last year it would just have been a jumble of words to me, informative, but not as interesting as I found it with the accumulated knowledge I have gleaned over time.

As I left I saw a sign... Čajovna, so I went and tried another teahouse! Čajový klub Cha Dao Orijin Tea on Jeruzalémská. This was the most formal yet, and I'm glad I was there on my own! I was served tea, and then finally left to myself, but it was like a proper tea ceremony. There is a large drip tray in the middle of the table, and no thermos this time, no I had my own kettle! I sat, I read, I drank as much tea as my bladder could cope with and then I left to grab a sandwich from M&S and a wander up to Charles Square as the rain had abated.

I then had time to wander around Wenceslas Square and went into some of the bookshops there and some quirkier shops! Funny, in the last few visits, because I didn't want to buy anything, I didn't go around the shops. This time, because I wasn't desperate to do anything, I was happy to wander in and out of shops, exhibitions, churches, pretty much anything. Was this a waste of time, or just an acceptance that I finally felt comfortable here, I didn't need an excuse anymore, and I didn't need the "I'm a tourist tag", I could finally just do my own thing as if I was back home!

Hmmm, shame I've just worked this out as I'm about to leave!

Jewish Synagogue

Posh tea!

Last tea at Dobra Čajovna until next year!

At the airport, kind of sums up the week!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Upto the Castle

So last night I had finished my drawing of Aramis, nearly finished Tom, started Tom as Athos, nearly finished Tom as Lt Race, started a colour version of Tom, and scribble something in pencil that might resemble Tom and his horse from the show. Very pleased with myself that I seem to have got somewhere. During the week I have also "artified" my scrabble boards so I feeling somewhat smug. I also only have one play left to read in my Tom play challenge, and that is in a Shakespeare compendium at home! Speaking of which, starting the book Pronouncing Shakespeare, all about an experiment to perform Romeo & Juliet at The Globe theatre in Original Pronunciation instead of RP (and yes, Tom was playing Romeo!)


Tom Burke

See I said I get more done here than at home. I'm ignoring the fact I still haven't done any writing, but Rome wasn't built in a day and all that!

Well it is raining today, and I mean raining. This is new to me. I wanted to go to the castle to buy Christmas decorations (they have a lovely shop up there, but I always felt wrong buying in the summer so I've left it, October isn't too bad though is it?!) Oh sod the rain, I've find a route through Letna Park and the Royal Garden which might be ok. There is a hood on my jacket and I can dry off later. I have never been this route to the castle before, and I've not been through the gardens. It's a much nicer way up to the castle, must remember this for the future, I bet in the summer with all the flowers in bloom it is a delight. Got my Christmas baubles, 2 are like swans, 2 eggs, and a bauble. A bauble for each visit, plus 1 extra!!!! I also decided to buy another umbrella. My one at home is a little worn, so it will always come in useful!

Once I had done the castle I walked through the Strahov Modesty complex and down through Perrin park to go and have lunch and try out another teahouse I have heard good things about. Today's teahouse is Čajovna Bílý jeřáb on Štefánikova. The set up is more like a café, but the tea and food is amazing. The smells and ambience is great and welcoming and the person who served me handed me the daily special menu (in Czech) and translated it for me. Tea was Boa Zhong Top Grade, a type of Oolong Tea, and lunch was Japanese Fried Noodles with Smoked Tofu. Incredibly tasty... both items!!

Royal Gardens
Royal Gardens

Royal Gardens

Royal Gardens
Royal Gardens



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Settling into the city!

Today is not a spectacularly beautiful day! It's dry but a bit grey, so the perfect day for finding a tea shop and sitting and reading. When I was in Barcelona, I had been told to go to a teahouse called Tea Mountain in the Karlin district. So in the summer I had skirted Karlin, today I would go into this mainly residential area.

I had been warned the teahouse was more formal than what I was used to, but that the tea was from many of the farmers that were bought in Barcelona and so it should be good. It was a lovely, it not long walk, from my apartment, but it gave me a chance to see some other areas of Prague, and revisit an Indian restaurant I had been to last September!

The teahouse was beautiful, but empty. I said hello, that the place had been recommended to me, and instead of handing me a menu, I was asked what type of tea I liked. I then got into a conversation, and was promptly handed a canister of tea to sniff. Then another, an another! After about 15 teas, and discussing each of them I called a halt of matters and picked one and sat down on a formal bench table combo. I chose a Taiwan tea called Black Ruby. I was then served, and unlike the other two teahouses, tea was not served in a huge bowl, but a small pot, a jug and a tasting cup. All very sophisticated. The tea was beautiful, I had made an excellent choice, and as I settled down, the now familiar thermos was brought to me so I could make as many cuppa as I wanted. Great, I opened my new book, the play Gertrude the Cry, and settled down to read it. The door went, and I wryly smiled as the lady who had served me in Dobra Čajovna last night walked in and ordered tea for herself!

Tea drunk I wandered back into town and met my friend and we wandered to the bookshops and library of Prague. I had not entertained the idea of going in the bookshops because I thought there would only be Czech books in them, but no. In Prague the bookshops have English sections, even the second hand stores. It was a revelation, no longer would I need to bring a bag of books. Just the one I was reading, and I could buy as and when I needed any others. This was great news indeed, and made me feel even less of a tourist!

Tea Mountain

Monday, 5 October 2015

Going to Pinon

Meeting up with my friend this afternoon. We have heard that the set that one of the episodes of Musketeers was shot at is a short metro ride away. So we are going to see it! The episode that I call Athos' episode was shot at a former tourist attraction. Apparently it was a medieval village with blacksmith, and old traditional crafts. Sadly it appeared to have closed down and was only used by film crews now.

But first, as it is such a beautiful day I am going to the park for a wander, a beer and a bit of drawing. I fancied a beer in the park yesterday, but it was so busy with the runners I decided against it. I love sitting in Letna Park with a beer. Not only is it a bout 70p for a pint, but it's in a plastic cup, so you can take it round the park with you. So I headed off to Bakeshop first for a sandwich and cake, then made my way to the park for a quiet morning. Today I shall finish Aramis, and start a drawing of Tom Burke. There is a lovely photo of him taken when he was doing a radio recording of Cyrano de Bergerac. Gorgeous. Hoping I can recreate something that looks ok in black and white.

So drawings almost finished, I headed out of the park to meet my friend from work. We got off the metro and walked down to where it was. It was a strangely deserted place, bar for a rather dodge looking character who was lurking about. Oh well, forget about him, I was going in. My friend didn't come in with me, and I so I had a little wander around taking photo after photo of the various buildings trying to remember which scenes had been filmed in which buildings etc. It was so exciting, I couldn't believe my friend was not experiencing this excitement with me. I then looked at my phone and she had texted me to say on her travels she had found a sign saying private property keep out (written in Czech of course). Oops I thought. Well in my defence, the way I had gone in there were no signs saying anything, but I thought better get out of there. It was so good though to see an entire set that the majority of a whole episode had been filmed at. Normally it is buildings that a bit here, and a bit there, has been filmed at. This was Athos' village, and my feet had trodden where his has too!

Had a lovely walk through a few neighbourhoods before finally getting the metro back into town. Well after all of that excitement, there was only one thing left to do... go and have a restorative pot of tea!

The Pub at Pinon

Inside Pinon!

Trees Athos lent against!

A last look at the village before saying goodbye

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sunday, time for church

So I don't go to church normally. I am probably the worst (5 times over) Godmother ever! I go for weddings/funerals/christenings. So, here in Prague, my friend who sings in a choir has invited me to church. I checked out where it was, and it's a residential area I haven't been to. So it was an opportunity to see somewhere new, and to experience a Czech church service. It's not like I have lots to do today! So off I went.

It was a lovely morning, sun shining, and I made my way through Letna Park, which seems to be setting up for some sort of race. The church was magnificent, and I positioned myself in a pew towards the back of the church, not the very back, but I thought enough for me to be able to slip out if it gets too stressful for me. Please bear in mind I don't speak Czech, and I don't know the normal etiquette , so I was pretty much like a fish out of water!

The service was fine, I stood up when everyone else did, sat down when everyone else did, and the choral singing was exquisite. Only one problem. The church was packed, and I was hemmed in by people to both the left and right of me!  The priest then said something, and all of a sudden everyone around me started shaking each others hands, me included. I think this was the point that my cover was blown and everyone suddenly realised someone who doesn't speak a word of Czech was trying to involve herself in their church service. They all smiled at me, so I guess it showed I was welcome!!

I had a quick hello with my friend, then I wandered back through Letna Park and to the flat. Grabbed a bit of lunch and then because it was a beautiful day, headed back out again, to the other side of Prague, to Vyšehrad. Went into the Church of St Peter and St Paul. Beautiful ornate paintings on all walls and ceilings. Couldn't make my mind up if I wanted beer or tea, after having an immense debate with myself I decided it was time to head to a teahouse, and not my usual haunt!

Now, each time I go to Prague, I have wanted to visit a specific tea room, which I always went past in the morning, and it doesn't open until 2 in the afternoon. Today I have put matters right and visited
Čajovna U zlatého kohouta on Michalská. I am glad I made the effort. This is going to become a favourite because they have some very nice saggy chairs I can read in. Plus it is hidden down a corner so not going to be too busy. Had a nice pot of white tea, and read one of Tom's plays. Have I said I have made it my mission to read all of his plays? I started to do a couple of reviews on Facebook, and someone said I do a review for each play, so I've set up a new page just concentrating on his plays!

Muskeeters all around

It's dark, it's 4am and I'm making the now familiar trip to Manchester airport. To think how much I used to hate flying and the amount of drugs I needed in my system to get from a to b. I can't say I enjoy flying, to me it is just a means to an end, but I am proud that not only am I functioning enough to get on a plane, I'm doing it on my own. No moral support anywhere, just me and an overwhelming desire to get to my destination!

Got the bus/metro from the airport and got off at Staromestska and made the short walk to my apartment. My apartment! I normally stay in hotels, so this is going to be interesting! It's gone 11:00 and check in is not until 2, but I've been told I can drop my bag off which is fantastic news. Bag dumped (I travel lightly) the first call has to be to my favourite tea shop, Dobra Čajovna. I've been up for 7 hours now, I need a really strong cuppa, and that's what I picked,  a pot of Zhu Ye Pu Er Cha, don't think it's the strongest, but it will do! It's like treacle as it pours out of the pot. Just what is needed!

Time to wander up to M&S and treat myself to some nice food and then wander back to the flats to stock of my surroundings for the week. The flat is lovely, huge doors to an entrance hall, bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and spacious lounge/dining room. Oh this will be nice for the week, only unlike a small hotel room, I realise that all this space had suddenly made me feel quite lonely. How bizarre! I didn't notice that feeling last time, but then I was either out and about, or stuck in a hotel room. Not sure if the idea of an apartment is so good now, I am here on my own.

Time to get a grip of myself and do what I do best. Go for a walk, get my bearings back. I have a map with me, but I'm pleasantly surprised that very quickly I know where I am, I know where I'm heading, and I don't need my map out. With my confidence restored, it was time to take a few snaps around town and get back to enjoying the city before embarking on anything more exciting!

Even abroad rail works let you down!

Well today I was going to try travelling by train to a chateau, however, there is work on the train-line and a bus will be taking over at some point and it sounds chaotic. I'm bad enough in the UK when there's a bus replacement, I'm not going to be able to do this on my own, at least I can admit this. I need someone with me who can either speak the language, or be there for moral support/back up when I (inevitably) get lost.

So, zámek Ploskovice is going to make it to the top of the list when I come back next year. Hopefully I can take someone with me next time, and we can do some trips outside of Prague for a change, plus this time of year the chateaus are only open on weekends when it's busy!

So the idea of this trip was to write and draw. I love the city, and don't see the point of staying in the flat, so I have my art pad and a play in my bag. Do some work whilst wandering round the city!

Wandered down Husova street and I came across the Clam-Gallas Palace. I went inside and recognised this as a place that has been used for filming The Musketeers. After a little look around I carried on down Husova and noticed a church I hadn't been inside before, Church of St Giles. It seems that is also another filming place of The Musketeers! It took me back to the first series and I could imagine M'lady storming out of the church, looking for her revenge rather than absolution!!!

As I was on a Musketeer role, I popped down to Liliova and looked for Aramis' window. I thought I had it last time I visited, but when I got home and compared photo with episode I was wrong. This time though I spotted it immediately. Nice one!

Back to Dobra Čajovna and a nice pot of Dian Hong Cha. Got the sketch book out and started an ink sketch of the character Aramis as played by Santiago Cabrera whilst drinking my tea. So glad it's quiet in here today!

Clam-Gallas Palace

Clam-Gallas Palace

Clam-Gallas Palace

Clam-Gallas Palace

Church of St Giles
Church of St Giles