Monthly Archives: March 2008

One, two, three, knock on the door

“Oh, there’s a bit in it that’ll really make you jump,” said the Picturehouse barman as he handed Chris five tickets for The Orphanage (along with the more traditional bar fare, a bottle of wine). A comment like that sets you on edge before the film even begins, albeit an edge dulled by half a bottle of Pinot. But the unspoken implication of such a statement is that there is only one spring-loaded moment.

That’s not a bad thing (nor, in fact, was it strictly true in any case). Too many random shocks and you’re either laughing from the ridiculousness or shrieking in a self-made puddle and being led out by the St John’s Ambulance, depending on temperament. The scary moments are the ones you’re waiting for, the ones in plain sight: it’s all anticipation, of course. (The scariest parts of BBC classic Ghostwatch are the scenes where you happen to spot Pipes subtly inserted into the background.)

The Orphanage scores quite highly on the anticipation scale. The orphanage of the title is now owned by a small family; the mother used to be housed there. She and her husband have an adopted child, who has several imaginary friends. But just how imaginary are they? Who is the woman with the thick glasses? And why do they all speak Spanish?

Well, it’s a Spanish film, produced by Guillermo Del Toro. There’s a pointless American remake in production for people unable to cope with subtitles or without casual violence.

We saw it with a talkative audience, but in a good way: the odd “oh no!” heightens the tension.

Without giving anything away, it’s a film about loss. It contains no haunted videotapes or rabid emos climbing out of TVs, but it does contain the creepiest children’s game you’ll see this year.

Avaragado’s rating: five blueberry muffins



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It wasn’t me

Third message.

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I’ve had a cold most of the week. Had I not been in the Cone of Infection of a group of escapees from a TB hospital last Saturday in Equus, I’d have blamed it on the equinox to annoy people.

Hmm… Equus, equinox…

To be on the safe side I shall be avoiding any and all equations for the next few days, and resolve not to watch any episodes of 80s E-waa-woo-waa vehicle The Equaliser. Equilateral triangles are right out.

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You could have someone’s eye out with that

Occasionally we like to inject a little high culture into our lives: move out of our comfort zones and do grown-up things. Like the theatre, for instance: a hard-hitting play, dark and modern, tackling a controversial subject.

And with nudity.

It was Louise’s idea to see Equus when the touring version hit the Cambridge Arts Theatre. She, Chris, Chef and I went along to Saturday night’s performance, Chris with customary Oasis bottle full of red wine. Chef chose to stay overnight at the University Arms, celebrating his new job and huge pay rise by splurging on a posh room.

We ate before the show at the Fountain, which does a decent range of pies’n’mash these days. Naturally Chris was already giggly on cider before he’d even touched his fake Oasis (mirage?).

The rain was starting to fall as we migrated from pub to theatre and took our seats. An older audience than I was expecting; no Harry Potter, I suppose. But we did have a great cast, led by Simon Callow as the psychiatrist Martin Dysart. The role of Alan Strang, Daniel Radcliffe’s in the West End, was taken by Alfie Allen – son of Keith, brother of Lily. I didn’t recognise any of the other actors.

Equus is about Alan Strang’s, uh, passion for horses and the circumstances that led him to blind six of them. The psychiatrist gradually draws out the story, which we see in flashback (no hand-waving diddly-doo-diddly-doos from the cast, it’s all in the dialogue). There are no Rentaghost panto horses, just men (and a woman) in brown skin-tight clothing with silver horse-heads and huge silver horseshod feet adding several inches to their height. It works astonishingly well.

The play is famous, neigh (do you see?) infamous for its nudity. It contains both flavours: Alan Strang plus Jill, a girl from the stables where he worked. In truth it does seem a little gratuitous, an early 70s anti-establishment right-on get-em-off hippy thing, but it was nonetheless not unwelcome. It certainly stopped the seemingly interminable coughing and spluttering from audience members who should have been at home with the Lemsip rather than drowning out the dialogue with their noisy phlegm.

Alfie Allen does well as Alan Strang. I was going to say that I’d like to see more of him, but there’s little else left to see, frankly. Simon Callow naturally steals the show, playing Simon Callow as usual (funny how the best thesps are like that). The actors playing Alan’s parents Frank and Dora were also excellent.

Enjoyed it tremendously.

Avaragado’s rating: four Milky bars

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A visit from the Shires

It’s been a few months since we’ve seen Andy and Lisa – they now live in Winchester, possibly because they’ve talked to everyone in Cambridge. They returned to visit friends for a couple of days, and Bov organised a night out. Most of the usual suspects attended the Live and Let Live, joined by special guests Toby (having already sampled the drink), Tim and Bob.

Food was scheduled for 8.30 at Al Casbah. At the appointed hour we were turned away at the door, our table still occupied, and retired to the Six Bells for another thirty minutes.

We were consequently well-watered but starving by the time we finally took our seats. Al Casbah hasn’t changed: the ceiling is still draped with someone’s discarded bedsheets. I remember idly wondering whether they’ve ever been taken down to be washed.

As you’d expect there was plenty of chat, of progressively lower coherence, as we caught up with each other’s doings. We left somewhere north of 11.30, clutching virtual invitations to Winchester whenever we fancy, and only Toby (surprise) choosing to move on to another pub. Via a conversation with some homeless, apparently.

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Short Cambridge person syndrome

Search for ‘Cambridge’.

I didn’t post it. But I know who it’s about (there are three definitive indicators), and can confirm its accuracy. It’s made it to cam.misc. I wonder whether anyone will follow up?

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Keep Calm and Carry On

If you are easily shocked or surprised, have a medical condition or are otherwise under the doctor, are below the age of legal responsibility, or are less than 5’2 tall, please take a moment to find and occupy a comfortable chair or other bum-park.




Chris and Melanie are getting married.


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Topical maths humour

Apparently one in four adults has difficulty with mental arithmetic.

I’d have said more than that… say one in five or one in six.

Note: that was a joke.


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