Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Wow.  Yesterday.  Hmmm.  

I did some stuff.


OK, I woke up.  And, um, then the stuff happened.  That's it, yeah.

I recall a tuna sandwich.  And going to a theatre to try to buy a ticket for a matinee today.  (Which failed.  So, after I got home late last night this morning, I bought a ticket for something else on the internet.)  And it rained, but wasn't windy, so my umbrella was sufficient.  But once it stopped raining, I realized that everyone else was wearing nice warm hats, and I didn't have one.  (This is not to be confused with my good rain hat, which I'd left at home.  I had a whole box full of warm hats -- most bought when I was on vacation someplace and my head was cold -- but I intentionally didn't pack any of them.  I have no explanation for this other than stupidity.)  I went to a department store to try to buy a nice hat -- ideally one that was both warm and waterproof.  This failed; they didn't have such a beast.  Later in the day, I had an hour to kill around Covent Garden market -- I picked up a nice warm knit cap for five pounds.  I fought it for a time, because every hat I tried on was ugly, but once I accepted that none of them would look good, I just went for warmth and was pleased with the result.

There were a few other failures yesterday, too.  I went to a cute, retro clothing place I usually visit, tried on some stuff, but left without buying anything.  Boo.

Saw a matinee.  It was the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical called Stephen Ward.  It was about a dude called Stephen Ward.  Famous for his involvement in a British government/sex scandal back in, like, 1963.  I'd had no idea of the man or the scandal (because in 1963 I was both: (a) not British; and (b) not born), so the story was new to me.  Even so, what disappointed me most about the musical was that it took a very clear position that Ward was a totally innocent individual railroaded by everyone involved.  It was pretty heavy-handed about it.  And -- even having had no idea about the whole scandal, this felt a teensy bit wrong to me.  Maybe because I actually work in the American legal system and all, but I was particularly struck how they handled the dude's trial on stage.  Basically, the judge presiding over the whole thing was in cahoots with the prosecutor, and, at one point, told him that the police should have done a better job coercing the witnesses to lie against Ward.  This struck me as potentially, y'know, untrue, as that type of thing would take down not only the folks involved in the sex scandal, but would result in a major overhaul of the justice system as well.  (I have since looked at Wikipedia on this, and there's no discussion at all that this sort of thing actually went down.)  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that, on occasion, law enforcement might get a little, shall we say, overzealous in an attempt to get a conviction.  But the idea that not only was the prosecutor in on that, but the judge was as well -- and that they were both so in on it that they casually discussed it during the progress of the trial -- is just all kinds of offensive.  Especially if that didn't actually happen.  The musical can easily get its point across without having a prosecutor and judge be more corrupt that the cabinet minister who was involved in the sex scandal in the first place.  Seriously.

Yeah ... the above paragraph is what happens when you get a theatre critic who is also a lawyer.  

Theatre critic-y, if you overlook the parts of the show that were just hitting you over the head with their position, it actually wasn't bad.  It starred an actor whose work I've enjoyed for, like, twenty years, and he was, as per usual, really good.  Music was pretty good; lyrics were often sharp.  

And the show was a perfect, perfect example of the rule about how the person you see naked in a show is never the person you'd like to see naked.  Although, to be fair here, they were somewhat restricted given the historical personalities involved.  Still, you had a sex party scene, in which there was a whole room of people in their underwear (and one in somewhat less than that) -- and the participants therein consisted largely of a bunch of young attractive women in sexy lingerie, and older unattractive men in underwear and undershirts (which did not cover nearly enough).  I shall look forward to my nightmares about the guy wearing nothing but a leather facemask and a white frilly apron (with strategically-placed apron tie, hanging right over his butt-crack).  :::shudder:::  Am seeing From Here to Eternity this afternoon; should be better eye candy.

New Year's Eve plans involved dumping a load of money at one of those Medieval Banquet places.  It promised food, entertainment, and -- what was rather key for me -- sitting you at a large table full of lots of other people.  Seemed like a good idea -- I'd be with a bunch of other people, whip out some sparkling dinner conversation, and ring in the new year with them.

Here is where the plan kind of massively failed:  They seated me at a table set for 14, at which there were actually only 7 of us.  Initially, there's a couple to my left, then me, then a lot of empty table to my right.  I went off to get a drink, and came back to find a couple to my right.  (These are long tables with people seated on either side.  So the couple on my left is sitting opposite each other; I'm opposite an empty chair; and the couple on my right is sitting opposite each other.)  I sit down in my assigned seat, and the two couples are having a very animated conversation over me.  I have little opportunity to put my social skills on display as the conversation is taking place entirely in Russian.  That's right, kids, I'm at the Russian table.

Turns out to have been a fluke.  The two couples do not know each other, but have become fast friends due to a common language.  I ask the guy to my right (in a combination of English and charades) if he wants to switch seats with me -- as I can see no fun in spending the next five hours surrounded by a conversation in a language I don't understand -- so the four of them sit together and now I'm on the right, waiting to see who else is seated at our table of 14.  There is one dude who has been seated at the far end of the table.  I wave politely in his direction, but, at this point, I'm guessing he's probably Austrian or something, so don't push it.

The waiter then brings the next solo individual to my table, plops him down next to me, and he immediately introduces himself.  In heavily-accented English.  He, too, is Russian.  [headdesk]  Timor been learning English for a whole month.  (This is his first trip outside Russia!)  I'm actually pretty impressed by his English, and do my bestest to make conversation with him, but there are, y'know, limits.

Eventually, food comes, and I realize that's it for the table.  I make the decision to ask potentially-Austrian guy to come down to our end of the table -- because, really, even if he's incapable of adding to the conversation, he shouldn't be all by himself like that.

(Behind me, I note, an absolutely full table of English-speakers getting happily revelrous.)

Potentially-Austrian guy is actual Finnish, by way of Norway, and while he does speak English, his accent is so indecipherable, I'm actually having better luck understanding Timor.  Still, conversation is limited...

Timor is from Sochi.  "Olympic Games."  He helpfully adds.

I try to add some current events to the conversation and ask if he is "worried about suicide bombers."

He understands "worried," but not the rest of what I said.  I repeat "suicide bombers," as though saying it slowly will help.  I then look for a synonym and come up with "terrorism."  Is he worried about terrorism?

Ohhh.  Yes, he understands.  But he does not know enough English to explain what he thinks about that.  

Topic ends.

Meantime, our friendly Finn, having happily joined us, does not seem to be aware of Timor's limited English, and is now rambling on a mile a minute about English football, international flight prices, and what he thinks of Putin and Obama.  (Timor says he doesn't know enough English to talk about politics.  At this point, the Finn says something so remarkably offensive -- he quotes someone using the "n-word" about Obama -- I think that maybe Tim has the right idea and we should all just shut the fuck up about politics.)

Somewhere in here, the Russian foursome to my left has obtained a bottle of vodka, and they're getting pretty sloshed.  Sasha, the one of the four who knows a little English, offers vodka to the rest of us.  Around this point, Timor realizes that they, too, are Russian ("Russki?"  "Russki!") and he spends some time happily engaged in a conversation that he can understand, leaving me with the Finn rambling on with an accent I still haven't gotten a handle on.

As the evening goes on, Sasha gets more wasted, and when trying to pour vodka for Tim behind my back, spills vodka down the back of my sweater.  Eventually, the foursome bail around 11:15.  Timor, who remains, explains (he is now my translator) that they were leaving on the pretense of seeing the fireworks, but Mrs. Sasha was really just going to get Sasha home, because he was kind of plastered, and she was not amused.

In the meantime, food keeps coming, and jugglers, acrobats and contortionists come by to entertain.  (There is also singing, too, which purports to be in English, but the amplification is such that I don't understand what they're saying any more than Timor does.)  The entertainment ends with a couple of knights beating the crap out of each other for our amusement, and they were actually pretty good.  The fight choreography was solid; it was well-executed; and we were all drunk enough to really cheer for our knight to kick that other guy's ass for our honor.

After that, the serving wench leaves a tip dish on our table (which is offensive not only because of the massive amount of money we had to pay in the first place, but because the serving wench didn't do much more than drop platters of food in front of us and let us serve ourselves).  It contains a note saying "Thank you" in ten languages (not including Finnish, so the Finn figures he does not have to tip).

The entertainment now turns into a "disco."  Music is playing and people are dancing.  It briefly crosses my mind to take Timor for a spin, but since this would require: (a) asking the Finn to watch my purse; and potentially (b) asking him to dance as well, I figure it's best to just sit here and chat with these two until midnight.  There are forty-five minutes left.  I pour myself another drink.

The Finn (I never caught his name) is rambling on about football.  Timor says he does not like football.  The Finn asks him if he likes any other sports.  No, not really.  (I say he has to like sports for Olympic games; he admits a certain affection for biathlon.)  The Finn says, ok, forget sport.  Do you like... and here, I'm pretty sure he says "sex."

Seriously.  Are you seriously asking Timor if he likes sex?  I'm not sitting here if this is a challenge to Timor's manhood or something, but I can sort of see how the question may follow when the dude says he doesn't like sports.  But maybe there's a failure to communicate here -- I've had trouble understanding the Finn's accent all night.

"Sex.  Sex.  Do you like sex?" he asks.  Timor looks at me for interpretation assistance, but I've got nothing.  The Finn takes out a pencil and starts writing on a napkin.  I'm wondering if he's drawing a picture.

He isn't.  He's writing a word on the napkin.  Shows it to Timor.  It reads:

C  H  E  S  S

Ohhhhh!  Do you like chess.  Different question.  I am secretly relieved.  I think Timor is too.  

The Finn is totally into chess.  Shows us a picture of his case of chess trophies.  Timor comments that he's done a chess competition or two himself.  I'm now listening to two men discuss the virtues of chess.  This conversation has definitely taken an unexpected turn.

"Five minutes to midnight!" they tell us.  The un-tipped wench passes out champagne.  We have our countdown and the three of us -- an admittedly odd threesome -- cheerfully toast the new year.  We sit around chatting for another half hour and I figure it's about time to hit the road.  Timor bails as well, and walks me to the underground station.

The underground is trying to gets hundreds of thousands of people home safely as fast as possible.  All the turnstile gates are open -- there is no charge -- and there is security everywhere.  Trains are coming fast and furious, like, every minute.  I'm heading East and Timor is heading West.  (I chortle at the wrongness of this.)  Before we go to our opposing platforms, he works very hard to put together a sentence wishing me a new year full of only good things.  I wish him the same, give him a happy new year hug, and head home.

No comments: