Friday, August 11, 2006

Arlo still has it...

To Manchester, to see Arlo Guthrie perform. Arlo is a girlhood hero of 'er indoors, and a favourite of mine. He rarely makes it to these shores - the last time we saw him was 1988- so this was a must-see for us.
He was great. Backed by son Abe and grandson (!) plus an excellent pedal steel player, he ran through some of his most well-known songs, and some of his dad's, in fine style. His between song - and sometimes in-song - chat is brilliant. He's wry, clever, witty and self-deprecating; actually, quite a considerable orator. We sang along to the inevitable "Alice's Restaurant" and "This Land is Your Land." We also listened to a newly discovered wire recording of Woody, and were moved by an encore which showcased a new song, lyrics by Woody - apparently there are thousands of songs he never recorded. Two hours without a break - not bad for an old-timer!

The Devine Harriet

One of the pleasures of being a toiler in the groves of academe is that you get to work alongside some truly remarkable people. One such is my colleague Harriet Devine. Harriet's academic reputation rests on her work on eighteenth and nineteenth century authors. She is a highly respected academic in her field, but has also led a remarkable life. Her latest publication is an autobiographical piece, which is a joy to read. As the daughter of George Devine, founder and leading light of the Royal Court Theatre, she had an unusual girlhood, punctuated by visits from Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft and other leading actors of the day. The book is full of fascinating anecdotes about some very well-known people, illustrated with some very evocative photographs from Harriet's collection.
Harriet writes beautifully, in a clear and entertaining style. She is very honest about herself and the people she encountered. The result is a fascinating book, which should be read by anybody with an interest in British post-war theatre and culture. I'm already looking forward to the second volume.

Celeb mania

Our local paper, The Lytham St Annes Express - and I'm not providing a link because it's such a useless publication - recently saw fit to splash a large photo of Abi Titmuss on the front page. The reason was, apparently, that she might - note the conditional - make a visit to Lytham. The article then goes on about the burgeoning celebrity culture in Lytham, brought about by its trendy bars and restaurants. The list of celebrities is awe-inspiring: apart from La Titmuss, there's Phil Vickery, Andrew Ridgeley, Britt Ekland...and, er, that's it. Just run that by me again, will you? So that's a man who's married to a fat lady on the telly, the uncreative half of a pop duo that broke up twenty years ago, and a woman whose main claim to fame is that she used to be married to Peter Sellers. I'm all agog. Truly, Lytham is the new St Tropez...