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Mary's Boy Child
by Jester Hairston
Originally sung by Harry Belafonte and a number of others
The version in the link below is the quirkiest, oddest and yet most joyful version I have ever heard!

Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible say
Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas day
Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new King born today
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day
Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen what they say
That Man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day

While shepherds watched their flock by night
Them see a bright new shining star
Them heard a choir sing
The music seemed to come from afar

Now, Joseph and his wife, Mary
Come to Bethlehem that night
Them find no place to born she child
Not a single room was in sight

Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new King born today
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day
Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen what they say
That Man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day

By and by, they find a little nook
In a stable all forlorn
And in a manger cold and dark
Mary's little Boy was born

Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible say
Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas day
Hark, now hear the angels sing
A new King born today
And man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day
Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen what they say
That Man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day

Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen what they say
That Man will live for evermore
Because of Christmas day

De Nattergale is a Danish comedy band/act. They have made several CDs and three TV advent calendars on TV2, of which the most famous is The Julekalender. The group consists of Viggo Sommer, Carsten Knudsen and Uffe Rørbæk Madsen. "Nattergale" could be a pun - "Nattergale" could mean either "nightingale", as the group sing, but also "night-crazy" - "lunatics".


December 9

Dec. 9th, 2009 04:14 pm
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I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

Words: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864;
Original title from the poem "Christmas Bells"

(The music in the link is a wonderful, lesser-known tune by Johnny Marks...who is perhaps best known for writing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I love Harry Belafonte's rendition of this.)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.'

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.


December 8

Dec. 8th, 2009 11:41 am
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"Bless Us All"
from the Muppet's Christmas Carol
(I absolutely love this song...)

Life is full of sweet surprises
Everyday's a gift
The sun comes up and i can feel it lift my spirit
Fills me up with laughter, fills me up with song
I look into the eyes of love and know that i belong

Bless us all, who gather here
The loving family i hold dear
No place on earth, compares with home
And every path will bring me back from where i rome
Bless us all, that as we live
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much, that we can share
With those in need we see around us everywhere

Let us always love each other
Lead us to the light
Let us hear the voice of reason, singing in the night
Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please
Bless us one and all

Bless us all with playful years
With noisy games and joyful tears
We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams
We ask you bless us all

We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams we ask you
Bless us all



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Silver Bells by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

City sidewalks busy sidewalks .
Dressed in holiday style
In the air
There's a feeling
of Christmas
Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev'ry street corner you'll hear

Silver bells silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring a ling hear them sing
Soon it will be Christmas day

Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush
home with their treasures

Hear the snow crunch
See the kids bunch
This is Santa's big scene
And above all this bustle
You'll hear
Silver bells, silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them sing
Soon it will be Christmas day

Song trivia: "Silver Bells" started out as the questionable "Tinkle Bells." Said Evans, "We never thought that tinkle had a double meaning until Jay went home and his wife said, 'Are you out of your mind? Do you know what the word tinkle is?'"

The song was inspired by the imagery of Salvation Army bellringers standing outside department stores during the Christmas season.


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Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle
Un flambeau, courons au berceau.
C’est Jésus, bonnes gens du hameau,
Le Christ est né, Marie appelle
Ah! Ah! Ah! que la mère est belle
Ah! Ah! Ah! que l’Enfant est beau.

Qui vient là frappant de la sorte
Qui vient là frappant comme ça.
Ouvrez donc j’ai posé sur un plat
De bons gâteaux qu’ici j’apporte.
Toc! Toc! Ouvrez-nous la porte
Toc! Toc! Faisons grand gala

3. C’est un tort quand l’Enfant sommeille
C’est un tort de crier si fort.
Taisez-vous l’un et l’autre d’abord,
Au moindre bruit Jésus s’éveille
Chut! Chut! Chut! Il dort à merveille
Chut! Chut! Chut! voyez comme Il dort.

Doucement, dans l’étable close
Doucement, venez un moment
Approchez! Que Jésus est charmant,
Comme Il est blanc, comme Il est rose
Do! Do! Do! Que l’Enfant repose
Do! Do! Do! Qu’il rie en dormant.

Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella
Bring a torch, to the cradle run!
It is Jesus, good folk of the village;
Christ is born and Mary's calling;
Ah! ah! beautiful is the Mother
Ah! ah! beautiful is her Son!

It is wrong when the Child is sleeping
It is wrong to talk so loud;
Silence, all, as you gather around.
Lest your noise should waken Jesus.
Hush! hush! see how fast He slumbers!
Hush! hush! see how fast He sleeps!

Hasten now, good folk of the village;
Hasten now the Christ Child to see.
You will find Him asleep in the manger;
Quietly come and whisper softly,
Hush! hush! Peacefully now He slumbers.
Hush! hush! Peacefully now He sleeps.

Softly to the little stable.
Softly for a moment come;
Look and see how charming is Jesus
How He is white, His cheeks are rosy!
Hush! hush! see how the Child is sleeping;
Hush! hush! see how He smiles in his dreams.


December 2

Dec. 2nd, 2009 04:20 pm
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One of my favorite carols...

Ihr Kinderlein kommet

Melodie: Johann Abraham Peter Schulz (ca. 1770)
Text: Christoph von Schmid (1768-1854)


DEUTSCH
Text: Christoph von Schmid

Ihr Kinderlein, kommet,
O kommet doch all!
Zur Krippe her kommet
In Bethlehems Stall.
Und seht was in dieser
Hochheiligen Nacht
Der Vater im Himmel
Für Freude uns macht.

O seht in der Krippe
Im nächtlichen Stall,
Seht hier bei des Lichtes
Hellglänzendem Strahl,
In reinliche Windeln
Das himmlische Kind,
Viel schöner und holder,
Als Engelein sind.

Da liegt es, ihr Kinder,
Auf Heu und auf Stroh,
Maria und Josef
Betrachten es froh;
Die redlichen Hirten
Knien betend davor,
Hoch oben schwebt jubelnd
Der Engelein Chor.

Literal English Translation (and video) )
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...focuses on Jesus the Shepherd.

Here is a story about a shepherd. (Luke 15: 1 - 7)

One day, some men who thought they were always good were watching Jesus closely. They saw that he often spent time with people they thought were bad. Jesus heard them grumbling about this. He needed to show them that he loved and cared for everyone, so he made up a 'teaching story' to help them understand. We call these stories 'parables'.

Once there was a shepherd who looked after one hundred fine sheep. He was very proud of them and took great care of them all. Every day he led them to places where they could find fresh green grass and clear water.

He kept watch over them in case wild animals attacked the smaller, weaker ones. He never left them alone. He ate his meals with them and probably passed the time by making music or talking to other shepherds. Each evening he led them back to the safety of the sheep fold. Here he would fasten the gate securely so that they were safe for the night.

Because the shepherd spent so much time with his sheep he got to know them all really well - he could tell which was which easily, he knew them and they knew him. If they got mixed up with another flock of sheep, all the shepherd needed to do was to call and his own sheep came to him - they each knew his voice, then he could lead them away.

One day - after a long day on the hillsides, moving slowly from green patch to green patch of grass, the shepherd saw the sun was setting and it was time to reach the safety of the sheepfold. As usual he counted the sheep into the fold -

1,2,3,4,5, ... and so on until 97, 98, 99 ...

But where was the hundredth?

The shepherd thought a bit, then realised exactly which sheep was missing... It was that little one who never seemed to listen and follow the flock. More than once before the shepherd had needed to use his crook to bring it from a rocky place. Now what had it done?

Did the shepherd think "Oh well, I've got 99, that's quite a lot - it will do!" ?

NO! He left the 99 safely penned and went searching and calling in the darkening evening for the lost sheep. He went back along all the paths he had been on that day - stopping to call and be still, listening for the smallest bleat.

And then at last, he heard the tiniest noise - he listened again - there it was - a weak bleat. The shepherd searched amongst the rocks and saw where the little sheep had wandered and then slipped down a steep rock face.

It had tried to scramble up and was so tired. The shepherd leaned over and used his crook to catch hold of his little sheep and pull it up. He placed it round his shoulders and, feeling warm and safe, the little sheep slept. Soon the shepherd was home and the little sheep was safe in the fold. The sheep was pleased to be home and the shepherd was so joyful that he had found it that he called out his friends and neighbours and had a celebration party!
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...I have no Christmas decorations, but I am certainly feeling in the spirit.

During Advent, I will try to post some reflections, songs, poems and thoughts about the season.

Alfred Burt, the son of an Episcopal minister, was a young jazz musician, who composed fifteen now famous Christmas Carols between 1942 and 1955. Only one of the carols was performed in public outside his immediate family circle during his lifetime, but thanks to exposure, the "Alfred Burt carols," as they are collectively known, have become a part of the modern Christmas music canon.

This is one of my favorites - written in 1954, the year I was born! The words are by Wilha Hutson, a family friend.


We'll dress the house with holly bright and sprigs of mistletoe
We'll trim the Christmas tree tonight and set the lights aglow
We'll wrap our gifts with ribbons gay
And give them out on Christmas Day
By everything we do and say, our gladness we will show

We'll dress the table daintily, our finest treasures use
That all a-sparkle it may be and bright with lovely hews
Then for the feasting we'll prepare
A kitchen full of wondrous fare
That each from all the dishes rare, his fav'rite one may choose

And ye who would the Christ child greet, your heart also adorn
That it may be a dwelling meet for Him who now is born
Let all unlovely things give place
To souls bedecked with heavenly grace,
That ye may view His holy face with joy on Christmas morn
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As you might have gathered from the pics in my previous post, I took a day trip up to Liverpool with [livejournal.com profile] democritusnz and we had a terrific time.  Gave me a new appreciation for the Beatles and their music and I have discovered a wonderful series by Howard Goodall about music, including the Beatles influence on pop music.  Excellent for use with my 7th and 8th graders!

My archery class ended and I was awarded a "Beginner's Certificate" even though my shooting was complete rubbish the last class.  However, I really enjoyed myself and now hope to get up to the range at least once or twice a week.  Fencing fell by the wayside due to scheduling - but I may go back again in the spring.

The school where I work has a beautiful gym, complete with a 25-metre pool, but since it is only open for laps early morning and evening, I have not been able to take advantage of it.  However, I have now bribed  cajoled  convinced a colleague who lives near the train station to leave a tiny bit earlier and give me a ride on the days I don't have a class first block, which means I can get a 30-minute swim in (about 50 lengths if I swim steadily) and still get myself dressed, combed and presentable for work!  Swimming is one of the few aerobic exercises I feel competent at doing and so I hope I can keep it up.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a day hike up Box Hill with a group called Minty Trips. Advertised as an "easy-to-moderate" hike with "gentle slopes" I was a bit - um - surprised when the very first bit consisted of a very long, very steep and very uneven set of stairs up the hill.  Because the steps were uneven, it was impossible to walk in any kind of rhythm and I was not the only one stopping to catch my breath as we struggled up the slope.  But the view at the top was breathtaking and I felt very accomplished once I had completed it.  I liked the group, too...and want to do more hiking, with an eye towards a week-long hike of the Levada Trails in Madeira.  ( I think this is the group that [personal profile] loreley_se  went with!)

Must train for that, though!  So to that end, I have purchased new water-resistant boots, proper hiking trousers and socks, a Camelbak pack that has a water reservoir and a set of hiking poles (although one will suffice.)  I did a short hike/walk last Sunday and have another, longer on booked later  in November.  I have also tried to make it a point to take the stairs whenever possible - especially in those tube stations that have lifts.  Go, me.

What else?  I have gotten serious about watching what I eat and that, combined with the uptick in physical activity, has resulted in 10+ pounds gone in the past couple of months...so I am encouraged.  Still 25+ to go if I want to weigh what I'd like.

Vacation coming up next week!  I have a 3-day trip to Cornwall planned with [livejournal.com profile] pearlette  (hopefully more hiking!) and then a weekend in Dublin with [livejournal.com profile] democritusnz - both excellent traveling companions and two very different trips!

Oh.  And tonight I have a date.  An actual date.  With a guy who seems intelligent, funny, interesting and somewhat normal.  I'll keep you all posted... (*snort*)





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The illustrious and enigmatic A of whom you have heard tell right here in this very LJ has finally gotten himself an LJ of his very own!

You can find him (and friend him) at [livejournal.com profile] democritusnz

;-)

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So, in no particular order...

Started "back to school" in August and classes have been in full swing for a month now.  This is my 4th year at the school and likely my last, as my working plan is to go back to the states permanently next summer.  I love what I do here and I love the kids but I never intended to live here forever.  I alternate between feeling wistful about what I will miss, living in London and feeling anxious to get "home" to my kids and condo and life in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

Went traveling up to the Cotswolds with[livejournal.com profile] pearlette over the Bank Holiday weekend and had a lovely time.  We stayed at The Old Stationhouse B & B  in Broadway the "gateway to the Cotswolds."  It's run by a former colleague of mine and her partner and they are doing a bang-up job of it.  Cosy, comfortable rooms, a home-cooked breakfast to die for and a great location for everything.  Pearl and I took the time to sleep in, wander around the village, made a trip up to Stratford-upon-Avon (where we saw a fantastic production of "Julius Ceasar") visited a most unusual "Domestic Fowl Trust" where they have over 100 varieties of chicken (no, I am not kidding!) including a number of rare breeds and also goats, sheep, horses and the most enormous pig I have ever seen.  Visited Snowshill Manor, a national trust site with an incredibly eclectic collection of unusual items and beautifully laid out gardens.  I do have pictures and possibly will post them later!

Did a day-trip to Cambridge with [personal profile] lea_ysaye and enjoyed a walking tour which we had downloaded onto our mp3 players.  We had nice weather which made it even better.  I was a bit disappointed that there was no scheduled service in King's Chapel, but the interior was very beautiful, even without the singing! 

Saw a couple of movies with A, my best guide to movies I might not ever see otherwise!  "The Hurt Locker" and also "District 9" - both very good.  Still waiting for "Up" to be released...my daughter tells me it is excellent and that I will cry.  (Doesn't take much to make me cry, though!)

On the personal front, I have given up on the idea of "dating" (which was basically a distaster anyway) and decided to focus simply on Stuff I Like to Do.  I also decided that it was time to take stock of my own health and well-being.  To that end, I have started a class in archery and another one in fencing.  Both are great fun and fencing, in particular, is quite a work-out - all of us in the class are drenched in sweat after about 20 minutes.  I am not particularly good at either, but I like them...and that may be the key to continuing.  I also want to find a yoga class, as I know that helps a great deal with posture and the all-important core muscle group.  I've been watching what I eat and walking a great deal - and I do think I'm losing some weight.  Yay.

Next week is my birthday and I start my "birthday week celebrations" tomorrow, with a visit to the Porchester Spa!  Going with a lovely group of ladies through one of my Meet-Up groups.  (By the way, these "meet-up groups" are a fantastic idea and a great way to get out and do stuff and meet new people in a relaxed atmosphere!)

Time to get going on my Saturday!  My room, as usual, is a disaster!  ;-)



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My beautiful and compassionate daughter graduated from college last May and landed her first "real" job a week later.  She is a Service Coordinator for a large human services agency near Albany NY.  She has a case load of 25 people, all of whom are developmentally disabled and in need of assistance.  It obviously is not the best-paid job in the world, but she loves her work and she loves the people she helps.  

Today I got this email from her:

Mom,
I work with a nine year old girl named Colbie with terminal
mitochondrial disease.  She was diagnosed earlier this year and given
6 months to 2 years to live, but she has a very complex case of it and
all of her bodily functions are shutting down quicker than expected.
She has absolutely no use of her stomach and hasn't eaten food in
months (she's fed through a tube).  Her family is very poor and they
are having a lot of trouble getting the help they need.  She has to go
to Boston in September and October to see doctors at Children's
Hospital and the family's car won't make it. Since you  know six
million people and you're good at networking, I thought I'd send you
some of her information and maybe you can get the word out there to
your LOTR and other friends...

I've gotten the family the majority of Colbie's supplies through
Medicaid and I'm working on getting them a stroller for Colbie, but
they still need help getting to Boston...so if you can do anything,
just get her information out there, that would be amazing.



"Your LOTR and other friends." she wrote.

My daughter believes in us! 
She believes that we can help get Colbie to Boston.

Can we?  If everyone just gave a little bit, maybe it would be enough to help this family rent a car.

Donations can be made through PayPal using the email address: PrincessColbieFund@msn.com

You can read more about Colbie at her site at Caring Bridge: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/colbie  (Note: if you donate through the Caring Bridge site, make sure you are donating specifically to Colbie and not to the general work of Caring Bridge.)

Thanks, everybody...
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9. "Up" - backtowork Productions
Darkly compelling story of a young man battling his demons while in a psychiatric ward. You are left not sure what was real and what was in the patient's own troubled mind...and what really happens at the end.  The play was a bit uneven, buit the actor was engaging and quite dramatic.

10. Etty - etty play inc
Based on the war-time writings of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew and a lawyer who was living in Amsterdam and studying Slavic languages during WWII.  This was a very intense one-woman show, done mostly from center stage, with only a wooden chair as a prop.  Throughout it all, Etty tries to keep a cheerful outlok as she carries on a running conversation with God.  Seen by some as an "adult Anne Frank. "  At the end, as she is boarding the transport for Auschwitz, Etty asks us - pleads with us - to remember her and her life.

11.  A One Way Street - Two Birds, One Stone Productions
A little slice of life in suburban Britain. Wonderful little sketches about the lives of 7 different women living on the same street. Everything seems nice and polite - until you manage to scratch the surface. Funny - and sometimes a little too close to home! Excellent timing and characterizations.

12. Tempest in a Tea-Cup - Side by Side Company
A unique version of "The Tempest" by a unique company.  First started as a way to help developmentally disabled people acquire skills in social interaction, the company has become a truly professional troupe, touring all over Great Britain.  The shows take almost a year to put up, and the cast creates much of their own dialgue, dance and staging.  As the company has become more experienced, they need less and less help from their non-disabled colleagues.  This was a wonderful production, full of energy and passion and some very, very fine actors!

13. Beast - Bookshelf Productions
A very different kind of love story, told through poems, prose, moving images and interaction. Tells the tale of an aging artist and a streetwise "model" who fall in love despite their best efforts not to...and leads to a bittersweet ending. Evocative and poignant.

14. Comedy Show - Mark Restuccia and Toby Brown: Undiluted
Spectacularly un-funny!  This was two "comedians" who seriously need to review their material. Mark's routine consisted of 30 minutes of blow-job jokes with a final knee-slapper about having sex with a person with Down Syndrome..and he wondered why the room was so quiet. Toby was slightly better, but this kind of stuff might be better saved for a late-night crowd who'd been drinking steadily...glad I didn't pay for it!

15. The Timekeepers
Beautiful little play about 2 men in Sachsenhausen concentration camp (working in the watch-repair factory.)  One man is a conservative, elderly Jew and the other is a very camp homosexual.  Wary at first, a friendship develops as they use humor and a common love of opera to find a way past the horror (and the sadistic guard.)  Very moving and well-done.

16.  A Respectable Wedding - OnO Theatre.
Modern re-working of a play by Brecht...every single thing that can happen at a wedding party when you invite your relatives that you normally wouldn't speak to otherwise!  A very clever set design and outlandish make-up...some great physical comedic moments and an excellent cast!

17. Look Back in Anger - Flying Yak Productions.
This is a famous play by John Osborne which was written in 1956 and gave rise to the term "Angry young man." This production set it in the 70s and took out many of the political references...but the play still had some punch. The first half was a bit choppy, but the second part really held together. The main character, Jimmy, was played with just the right balance of nastiness and pathos. A friend of mine was in this play, so I was glad I finally got to see it!

18.  One Man Lord of the Rings - Charlie Ross
Hysterically funny, spot-on "interpretation" of the movies.  The actor had the voices down perfectly and gave us 70 minutes of non-stop action.  All the characters, all the scenes, even sang the music...for those of us (like[info]telcontarian, who came with me!) who know the movies practically by heart, this was just pure gold. 

And

now...it's time to go home.  My train leaves in an hour and I wish I was staying another week!  Tomorrow, it's back to work at ACS!
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(I want to get these impressions down now, before I forget!)

1.  Sound Journey - Adriano Adewale
This was a musical presentation with a Brazilian percussionist.  He had several dozen hand-made and traditional percussion instruments set up around the performance space and he them to make a kind of... well, a "sound journey."  It was very different and really enjoyable.  My favorite was the way he made a simple tambourine sound like an entire drum set - and danced at the same time!

2. Vary Tales - ShellShock Theatre
This was a young company who did what are known as "theatre sports" (think of "Whose Line is It, Anyway?"  They used suggestions from the audience and created various scenes and skits, and then invented an entire "fairy tale" using elements from the show.  Quite funny, very entertaining, lots of good energy.

3. Oleanna - Pumpkin Pie Productions
A darkly disturbing play by David Mamet about power, sexual harassment, and responsibility.  Performed by two to-notch Zimbabwean actors with great intensity.  I would like to check out the film, which has William H Macy as the male lead.

4. Company - Northumbria Univerisity Musical Theatre Society
This is one of my favorite musicals by Sondheim, so I was greatly disappointed when the production I saw was wooden and lacking in any kind of understanding of the play's themes.  A youngish company, with a terriblly mis-cast Bobby, there were no clear lead voices and no real characterizations of the different roles.  A glance at the company's roster told me that their leads were all played by their officers.  The chorus parts were strong and with an unbiased casting director, they might have ahd a chance.

5. The Love Shop - BigVillage Theatre Company
A wonderful little one-act "slice-of-life" play about two women (one youngish, one older) trying to find a little love while running a charity shop in the 1960s.  A magic teapot, two batty old biddies and a couple of unlikely blokes make it happen.  Very funny and even a little bit poignant.  Much enjoyed!

6. East - Castle Theatre Company
Fantastic multi-media production of a play depicting the lives of two Eastend hoodlums.  Dressed in white-face and clownish features the two protagonists take us through a few weeks with their girlfriends, mates and families.  Honky-tonk piano, mime, silent movie clips, song, dance and dialogue.  Loved it!

7.  Dragged, Kicked and Screaming - Mr Meredith
A kind of "life-story" cabaret about coming to terms with and (eventually) loving) being gay.  A very small audience made it difficult for the performer to interact as easily as he might have, but he gave it his best.  Some crude humor and a bit self-serving, but a couple of very good original songs (loved the one called "I'm Falling in Love With a Dalek") some thought-provoking commentary about religion and an over-the-top strip-tease at the end.


8. One Touch of Venus - Metal Monkey Theatre Company
A wonderfully off-beat,  comic  musical, with songs by Kurt Weill (including "Speak Low" and "I'm a Stranger Here Myself."  Features a 3,000 year old statue of Venus which comes to life to entice and wreak havoc on a self-absorbed art collector and a lowly, mild-mannered barber.  Had a live 3-piece ensemble and excellent singing and acting from the cast!

Tonight - four more shows!
 

Berlin

Aug. 7th, 2009 06:19 pm
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Very early arrival - our flight out of Stockholm was at 6:30, which meant we had to leave the hostel at 3:30, as the airport was 100 km away! So I was a bit, well...tired and cranky.

First impression of Berlin was that it was broad, big and a bit stand-offish.  This impression did not change.  Lots of impressive and oppressive buildings, lots of history...again, impressive and oppressive.  

Went to the history museum while waiting to check into hotel.  Lots of history, from very early times to present.  Was especially interested in the Roman heritage.  Crashed back at hotel in afternoon (very nice hotel – nicest  place we stayed on the jaunt.  And the included breakfast was fantastic!)  Ventured out a bit later and walked down Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate and the Riechstag. Visited memorial to Murdered Jews which looked like a giant graveyard.  Lots of buildings.  Lots of big, imposing buildings.  Lots of rushing people.  Lots of sculptures and edifices.  Fountains.

Unter den Linden means “Under the Linden Trees” and the boulevard is lined with these trees. They were first planted in 1647 and the street gradually became the grandest street in Berlin.  After WWII, the trees were all gone – having been destroyed or cut down for firewood.  They were re-planted in the 1950s.

Next day did a walking tour of Sachenchusen...the “model” concentration camp for all the rest.  Very intense and moving.  I don't think I could go to Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen.  Our guide was very good, clear and knowledgeable and informative without being sensationalist – which made what she was saying all the more horrifying.

Found an excellent jazz concert that evening with two sets of fairly traditional jazz by two different ensembles – both were really tight and a pleasure to listen to. One had an amplified jazz violin, sounding like it was put through a filter to mimic a horn, but I think it was just the way he played...he was fantastic.  Had half pint of German dark beer, which is sweeter than the Irish stout.   Funny because getting to the place was really quite sketchy – down a couple of alleys and seemingly in the back of a building – then all of a sudden, you go down the stairs into this really classy bar for really classy jazz.

Third day...I investigated the old city which is what I find most interesting.  Small golden pavers, embedded into the sidewalk with names of the people who had lived in houses long gone, along with the name of the camp they had been taken to, were scattered here and there as testament to a neighborhood and a people destroyed.  I found this very moving.  Also found a museum dedicated to the memory of Otto Weidt...a man who had employed deaf and blind workers to make brushes and brooms.  He managed to convince the Nazis that this work was essential to the war effort and so was able to save, hide and smuggle out several dozen Jews. Sometimes called “Little Schindler,” his efforts were little known until recently, when this exhibit opened.  http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,2482023,00.html

This moving exhibit was free, and the curator – although he spoke little English – was very congenial and sported an impressive mustache of which he was justly proud.  He allowed me to take a photo of him!

Wandered down to this funky artist's installation which featured a courtyard of sculptures and other things made primary from junk.  A number of artists were represented and it would have been a cool place to hang out and have a coffee...but it had started to pour.

Ended up at a mediocre but convenient sushi place where I had noodle soup and sushi and a pot of hot green tea.

Back to the hotel to crash for a bit and then out to the Charlottenburg Castle for a bite to eat and a lovely concert of classical music done in period costume in the Orangery of the Palace.  This was truly a treat – the setting was lovely, the musicians were fabulous and the well-attired, stunningly be-wigged Master of Ceremonies (I am sure he had some official name) was engaging and funny...even if I couldn't understand anything he said (speaking in German, of course!)  There was an small orchestra and two singers – a tenor and a soprano – who all seemed to be enjoying themselves greatly, in spite of wearing such restrictive costumes and wigs!  Lovely grounds and I wished I had gotten there a bit earlier to wander them – but my feet were very sore by then and the thought of more walking was making me a bit apoplectic.

And the next day  was the train trip to Amsterdam!

Stockholm!

Aug. 7th, 2009 05:48 pm
jewelsong: (Default)

We arrived very late and took a cab to our hostel.  The hostel not right in town, but impeccable – more like a hotel than a usual hostel.  The next day, we found a pick-up point for the bus-tour, which was limited (it only ran until 4pm!) and over-priced, but got us downtown and near the Old Town (Gamla Stan.)  We grabbed some lunch (a hot dog on the street!) and walked over to the Palace, thinking we’d perhaps do a tour.  We came into the main courtyard and found that we had happened upon the changing of the guards! This was an hour-long ceremony with much marching and a brass band on horseback, including ceremonial trumpets, euphoniums, tubas, valved trombones and a set of timpani.  The band members held heir instruments with one hand and the horses’ reins with the other.  All except the timpani player, who rode a very large and beautiful Shire horse – he sat magnificently upon his steed and played the drums with many flourishes with hismallets.  I assume the horse just knew where to go and when! Very impressive!

Gamla Stan was very charming.  We wandered around the streets and had snack at a little shop in the square.  Then more tour bus – this time to City Hall (http://international.stockholm.se/cityhall), famous for its architecture.  We had a very nice and informative tour…I loved the Golden Hall.  (I forgot my camer this day, so will have to wait for [livejournal.com profile] nerdanel  to post her pics!) Weather was perfect.  We walked from the City Hall  across to other island, found main shopping district and strolled along a bustling street.  We had this thought of sushi and looked for a particular sushi place noted in the guide - but alas! It wasn't open – found another sushi place     instead!

How I wished for more time in this city!
I went back to the hostel for an early night while my traveling companion explored a bit of the nightlife.

Next day, walked to Vasa Museum.  Big 17th century ship that had been raised nearly intact and preserved through some chemical magic.  Quite fascinating...most of my pictures were way too dark, but you can see lots of them at the museum’s website here: http://www.vasamuseet.se/InEnglish/about.aspx

I was not interested in the roller coaster at Grona Lund amusement park (although [livejournal.com profile] nerdanel  was!  However, I then took myself to to Skansen (http://www.skansen.se/) the largest “outdoor museum” in the world.  It has many exhibits and reenactments of life in Sweden . Sort of like  Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts but with lots more class.  And reindeer!  

They had reindeer who seemed mildly curious about you and would come to the edge of the fence in search of a tidbit and let you pet them and scratch their necks. I was very taken with the reindeer and spent an inordinate amount of time with them.  They smelled bad, but that wasn't their fault and I got used to it after a while.  And they were quite tame!

Facts about reindeer:
They have very broad hooves and little extra bits on each hoof that cause a clicking sound with every step.  It is believed that they used the sound to keep track of the herd in foggy or inclement weather.
Both male and female reindeer have antlers.  The antlers on the deer I saw were fuzzy!
There are no more wild reindeer...only domesticated ones.  The Sami tribe (indigenous to the area) used them for farming, fur and meat.

I then walked along river back to old town to meet up with Bethany, who had gone off on her own.  Again – the restaurant we planned to go to was closed, so ended up at very nice Tapas place instead.  Had excellent tapas, pasta and another very fine bottle of wine.  We proceeded ambling through city ending up at very touristy “Absolut Ice Bar”.  This is a bar all made out of ice – they give you parkas and gloves and you are let in through insulated doors…to drink out of glass made of ice and sit on blocks of ice.  

We then topped off our  evening with fancy drinks in NON-ice bar in hotel lobby.

I was surprised at how much written Swedish I could decipher.  Of course “Gamla” means “old” which anyone who read LOTR could tell you (since we all know that “Gamling” meant, literally, “old man”)  but there were other words than had a familiar sense – for instance “barn” means “child”  - which seems related to the Scottish “bairn.”  And in context, many of signs made sense after a bit of deciphering!

I loved Stockholm and again, want to return –perhaps not mid-summer when so many things seem closed, but maybe in late Spring!  It’s a very walkable city and I’d like to take a trip out to one of the outer islands.


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