Brighton Festival 2013 part 2

Well, it's not quite over yet - the Fringe runs until 2 June - but my ticketed events are at an end, and so is the Open Houses. This is what I've seen since the last posting:

Monday 13 May
Tony Haase in The day the fairy dust landed, at the Old Market, Hove. Totally bonkers psychedelic semi-animation ('stillmation'?) Yellow Submarine style and a restless monologue that got more surreal by the second. Could have done with more songs in my humble opinion.

Thursday 16 May
Seven studies in salesmanship at the Lord Nelson Inn. I love the plays of Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon, so here we get seven sketches over two hours in a pub serving the best beer in the world. And it's only a fiver to get in. Four actors, including Dave Mounfield, doing funny but thought-provoking stuff.

Friday 17 May
Emma Critchley installation in a container by the beach. Part of House festival. Underwater swimming video. Some amusing street drinkers nearby enjoying the music!
Bullet Catch in the Spiegeltent, written and performed by Rob Drummond. I got my ale from the beer tent first this time then joined the long queue, but Sarah Chrisp and family had kindly saved me a seat in one of the alcoves. This was a big disappointment - the tricks were pretty ordinary and there was too much clutter on stage. OK, he's an actor really, playing William Wonder, but he wasn't at all convincing as a magician, and the character he referred to in the spiel was made up - why didn't he use the real magician, Chung Ling Soo, who'd died doing the famous trick, instead? What's more the gun jammed the night I was there and the stage manager had to go on stage to fix it!

Saturday 18 May Invigilating at Stuff, 46 Clyde Road. Then later:
Trumpton comes alive at the Lord Nelson Inn. This is the third time I've seen this wonderful production. Tonight Stephen Wrigley was in the sidelines doing sound effects as his broken heel meant he couldn't play classical guitar. So, who do we get as substitute? The amazing Richard Durrant. Pure bliss, and Harvey's beer. Another triumph for the Five Pound Fringe.

Sunday 19 May
Invigilating at 17 Clyde Road Open House.

Wednesday 22 May
A tricky night this as it was the Brighton Illustrators Group pub quiz (hosted by Harry Venning) upstairs at the Caxton Arms, while The Spud Guns (Andy Roberts, Jerry Rulf & Laurie Hilton-Ash) were playing downstairs! Luckily, the quiz ended just before the second set started! Our team (Four sheets to the wind) came second! Part of the Five Pound Fringe, but only £3!

Saturday 25 May
Invigilating at Stuff, 46 Clyde Road.
Pete Howells 60th birthday at the Battle of Trafalgar after, where many Brighton musos - including Adrian Oxaal - were playing Dylan and the blues.

Sunday 26 May
Invigilating at 17 Clyde Road. The final day! Three of my paintings received bids!

Tuesday 28 May
At 12.30 Van Buren & Gandey's Victorian Wonders Carnival in a tent by the Ladyboys on Victoria Gardens. Only a half an hour for £5 - a series of three tableaux, Freak Show style: the disembodied head of Scherazade, the headless lady - and the Time Machine, where unlucky Bob disappeared into the future! All good fun.
At 7.45. Jo Neary and George Egg at the marvellous if intimate Bom-Banes. An all-new show: sketches in the first half and a radio play in the second, starring Celia and Fred's adventures in a Dudley supermarket. Great Nuts in May Open House goer sketch in the first half - and we even got a comic to take home. Post-modern comedy at its most mirthful!


Brighton Festival 2013

Things I've been to so far:

Friday 3 May (Festival eve): Brighton Beach Boys at the Lord Nelson, part of the Five Pound Fringe so terrific value and great Harvey's beer.

Sunday 5 May invigilating at 17 Clyde Road, part of the Artists' Open Houses, Beyond the Level trail.
PVs at the Dragonfly House and 30 Gerard Street.

Monday 6 May: PV at the Sundial House.

Tuesday 7 May: Horlicks and Armageddon, in the creepy Police cells under the Town Hall. Talk by Sarah Angliss and Colin Uttley about the Cold War, fallout shelters and radioactivity, interspersed by Sarah and the robots singing electronic songs.

Wednesday 8 May: PV at 17 Clyde Road, with entertainments by Foster and Gilvan, Curtis Tappenden and others.

Thursday 9 May: 50 shades of suit, a situationist film of Dave Suit's birthday by Claire Raftery, Caxton Arms, also part of the Five Pound Fringe.

Friday 10 May: Felix's Machines at the Brighton Uni Gallery, free. Heath Robinson percussion instruments controlled by computer, a bit monotonous after a while, was hoping they'd break into a tune!
Major Tom by Victoria Melody at The Basement. A beauty queen and a real live Basset hound - what more could you wish for?

Saturday 11 May: Invigilating at Stuff, 46 Clyde Road.
Tony Benn, Brighthelm Centre, with Ellie Mae O'Hagan (John McDonnell MP was taken ill), organised by Brighton LRC  - a legend!
High in the Saddle with Hank Wangford and Brad Breath aka Andy Roberts - together with Dusty Evski (Jerry Rulf) on bass and special guest - pedal steel maestro BJ Cole. A hour was not enough, and beer (Heineken!) £ 4.20 a pint, but a highlight of the festival without a doubt.

Sunday 12 May: Invigilating at 17 Clyde Road.
The Angina Monologue by Doug Devaney, at brand new venue Emporium (formerly the Methodist Church on London Road). My first proper play, albeit autobiographical... with added ukulele.

Tonight is Tony Haase in The day the fairy dust landed, at the Old Market, Hove.


East Grinstead by bus

U-class 1638 at Sheffield Park

Over Easter, the Bluebell Railway celebrated rejoining to the main line at East Grinstead. Back in the 1960s the council had used the cuttings between there and Kingscote as landfill tips and over the past few years, at great expense, the volunteers have been digging it all out! The Bluebell is notoriously difficult to get to from Brighton by public transport - in previous years I've been making use of the free vintage bus days to travel there via Lewes. This time I thought I'd try out the Metrobus route 270, via Haywards Heath. So, armed with a shareholder's voucher for a free round trip, I caught the bus from Preston Circus at 10.29.

Water tower progress

The bus ride would take an hour and half and was scheduled to get in to East Grinstead at 12.02. The trouble was there was only one train on and it was timetabled to leave East Grinstead at 12. Not to worry, heritage railways are always a little behind... but not this time! The bus journey was very pleasant, visiting lovely Sussex villages such as Lindfield with its picturesque pond, and Forest Row, even passing the National Cat Centre at Ashdown Forest! Indeed it passes through Horsted Keynes, a station on the Bluebell line, but only visits the way-out-of-town station on Saturdays!

Predictably I'd missed the train, so I popped into the Travel Centre to get my ticket (disappointingly, a hand-written paper one - I hadn't spotted the proper ticket office which would have the proper cardboard ones). The poor wee Edinburgh woman in the travel centre was contending with the world's most boring old man, so I went next door to the splendid Grinsteade Buffet in an old coach for a cup of tea and a sandwich (egg mayo and cress). When I heard the boring man had followed me in and was interrogating the cafe woman, it was time to leave.

Buffet at East Grinstead

The plan was to get a bus back up the hill to the olde worlde High Street and kill time until the next train at  2.15. But the buses were few and far between, so I ended up hanging round the travel centre portacabin reading tourist brochures until the alloted time when I braved the howling wind to get a place on the platform. However, the train was delayed by half an hour, due to a failed brake in a carriage (grrr), so that meant more waiting, out of the wind.

Evacuees at Sheffield Park

Eventually Maunsell U-class 2-6-0 No. 1638, built in 1931, rolled into the station. I took some photos - it was windy but sunny - and got on board. Theoretically the round trip would bring me back to East Grinstead for 4.11 and my last bus to Brighton was 4.15. Hmmm, ah well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. At the travel centre I'd checked that there were no buses going anywhere nearby from any of the other stations during the week. I'd chosen to come on a weekday because I thought it'd be quieter - wrong! Weekdays are taken up by coach trips wanting cream teas, so the train (minus one coach) was crowded. At Sheffield Park I should have had half an hour to look round the shed, but when we got there, the platform was crammed with millions of hungry pensioners, and with a party of 'evacuees' that got on at Horsted Keynes, it was going to be crowded going back. I did mange a whirlwind tour of the new museum, where I saw London Jack, died 1931, who used to be on Woking station (I think) collecting for the Southern Railway Orphanage.

London Jack in the museum

I did get a seat on the way back, opposite a moaning life member and wife who thought they should have used more carriages, despite the waitresses frantically putting Reserved signs on every available table for the cream teas, and I got back to East Grinstead in time for the 5.15 270 bus, which only goes as far as Burgess Hill. I alighted at Haywards Heath and got the train back to Brighton (bumped into Ross Gurney-Randall), grabbing a cheese and mushroom pasty at the station and a pint of Revelation at the Evening Star, ready for Dave Suit's situationist film '50 shades of suit' in the 5 pound fringe at the Caxton Arms. Then it was back to the station and because of a potentially long wait for a London Road train, I hopped on to a 7 to North Street and then a long wait (grrr) for a no. 5 home to nod off to Question Time.

And yes, I did see some bluebells (and deer and pheasants), but they were better from the bus!


Norfolk isn't flat

The Clarion Cycling Club spring weekend outing this year was to Norfolk, staying at Sheringham, which I last visited in March last year for the steam gala. Ah-ha, I thought, East Anglia is perfectly flat - it'll be a doodle. Hmm, how wrong I was. You can read a full account of the rides on the Clarion website. I travelled up on Friday the 19th April with Jim, who had meticulously recced the rides and the journey up there. First hurdle was getting across London with the bikes, but before that we had to wait at Brighton station for our delayed train (someone had been run over at South Croydon). Behind schedule we travelled to Farringdon, then via several lifts and a tube train, to Liverpool Street, where we'd just missed our named train. Fortunately the conductor on the following train to Norwich took pity on me, after he'd clocked Jim's magic ticket (a perk of working on the railways). After a coffee at Norwich, we boarded the train to Sheringham, where we parted: he to go to the YHA, me to schlep up the hill to Camberley House B&B, where I was staying.

On the day boat

No steam trains on the Saturday (though we saw the narrow gauge Bure Valley train chuffing away in the distance as we approached Wroxham station), but we did get an hour on a day boat, on Hickling Broad, with Mick driving. This was after lunch at the Pleasure Boat Inn, where I was attracted to the veggie 'suet' pudding on the menu. It was however a disappointment - pastry hard as a pork pie crust, with an iffy filling of spinach, cherry tomatoes and goats cheese. With the help of a pint of Woodforde's Nelson's Revenge, I managed to finish it off though.

  'Suet' pudding

The ride that day was 27 miles, and with the 'undulations' between the stretches of water, felt a lot longer, especially the long drag back to North Walsham and the train back to base. It was a football special, but most of the supporters got off, so we were ok and went to The Lobster Inn hoping for a Cromer crab sandwich, but it was apparently too cold for them to come out. There was also no Wherry, on the beer front.

On Sunday, after another hearty veggie fry-up breakfast at Camberley House with Angela, Mick and Anne, we did get to go by steam, on the North Norfolk Railway along with Amanda, Angela, David and Helen to the end of the line Holt, with our special £1 Dog | Bicycle tickets. We were pulled by No.7560, an 0-6-0 J15, built at Stratford in 1912, sporting black LNER livery.

  7564 at Sheringham

At Holt station we cycled the mile or so to the village, where we met the others, who'd cycled all the way from Sheringham (including a hill!). After a coffee at the historic Byfords Cafe, we set off to the coast, through Cley next the sea, along Old Womans Lane, to Newgate Green, where we had lunch at the Three Swallows, where I did get a Cromer crab sandwich!

  Lunch at the Three Swallows, Newgate Green

After about 13 miles, just Amanda and I set off back to Holt station, where we just caught the last steam train back (the stoker was a rather attractive retro woman); the others cycled the extra 5 miles or so back to base. The remaining cyclists ate at the YHA (three of us, the only ones in there), where Jim had his second lasagne of the day.

  Retro firewoman

On Monday morning, I met Jim at the Coffee House cafe and we travelled back the way we'd come, with an hour or so to have a quick cycle round Norwich (which isn't flat either) to see the cathedral, castle, market and Royal Arcade. Back at Liverpool Street there were some steps to negotiate, but not too bad at all, and it was the tube again back to Farringdon, and home. It was tiring on the rides, but very enjoyable nevertheless, and the weather was glorious.

Holt milestone