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I'm feeling a bit of disquiet with Strictly at the moment. I'm feeling a level of artificiality on two fronts.

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Am I watching a pantomime?
I have auditioned for a role in a one-act play.

The play is the Rose and Crown, a JB Priestley short set in post-war 1940's London (although any large British city would do). It's set in a pub, where a bunch of depressed post-war Britons gather for a drink and to complain about their lot in life. Like other JB Priestley plays there is a touch of magical realism and metaphysics.

The play is probably the first bespoke piece of drama writen for British television. This rather shows in the structure of the play. Each of the seven or eight characters enters one after another, the play is set around a bar and you can just see the single, static, heavy camera being used as Point of View of the barman as he slilently serves the speaking characters their beer.

I think the play is going to be difficult to pull off. It's a play about depressing people being depressed in each other's company and then suffering a reverse. It's also naturally quite static. Largely people sitting round a bar. So to work the banter between the characters needs to be funny, both to amuse and to build sympathy for and empathy with the characters.Otherwise it's a brown play about brown people.

The play will appear in the Scottish Community Drama Association One Act Play Festival and Competition in February. If I'm appearing in it I shall let people know.
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A busy but enjoyable weekend.

On Saturday a trip to London to the Unlock Democracy AGM. It's always right to get a feel for the tempreture of the members on certain topics and good to meet up with other activists from around the country. Something I don't think happens enough.

On Sunday MLW was musically engaged with a "performance" with the church choir that she deps in to and attending a concert in the evening. The Captain and I had errands of mercy to run. The Captain and I set about our tasks with gusto. First to my drama group's lock up to help with moving set and props for this week's show. The usual standing around waiting for a van and the plan to turn up. In the end not a lot to move but a smaller van than usual. The Captain was incredibly good. He carried things, picked up things that had been knocked over, kept out of the way when dangerous things were being moved.

He loved the costume store and we played hide and seek there whilst waiting for the van to complete a round trip. He checked all the swords, daggers, pikes, spears, haberds He was charming and well mannered, if a little taciturn.

Pal (to the Captain): Hello, what is your Name?

Captain: Captain.

Pal: and how are you today Captain?

Captain: Good.

Pal: How old are you?

Captain: Five

Pal: Would you like to know my name?

Captain: No. Thank you.

He wants to come and see the show. It is an Alan Aykbourne play about failing marriages and Dungeons and Dragons and starts after his bed time.

After this we strolled across the Meadows to help my dad assemble a bed in his new flat. Again, the Captain lifted and carried. He's very strong. He even had a go with a screwdriver. I honestly thought he'd be slow and ineffective but he was actually better with getting in the screws than his grandad.

Home before the rain came back. We finished some constuction work on a marble run and listened to some music before we settling down on the sofa with a movie for an early tea of pizza and Indian snacks before MLW went to her concert. She got back just in time for the Strictly results show.

I was a bit surprised by the result. I thought Carol probably had another week in her before her warm public support met her lack of finesse as a dancer and she ended up in the dance off. More suprised to see Kelli and Kevin there but it's an aspect of the voting system that in the middle stages of the competition that votes can be spread thinly and catch out a few good contestants.

In a straight contest between a couple I think will be in the final and Carol it was a foregone conclusion (and nice to see the judges not pretend it was a difficult decision when it clearly wasn't). Farewell Carol.

The Captain, staying up past his bedtime to watch the results, managed to get himself sent summarily to bed during the last two minutes of the programme. He'd been warned several times about throwing things around in the family room, what with glasses and plates and hot food and so on. Just as Carol was eliminated he found a rubber ball in his pocket.

Captain: What would happen if I threw this?

Me: Just like the koala or the frog or the other ball and all the other stuff you've been warned about, you'd be straight to bed.

Captain: Just straight to bed? No second chances?

Me: No, immediately to bed.

Captain: *throws ball*

Me: *picks up Captain* Good night.

Captain: But I don't want to go to bed. I want to see the dancing programme...

There followed an evening of Sunday night television including an exciting episode of Downton Abbey. It really is the most searing political satire of our age.
The last episode of Doctor Who featured a Bootstrap Paradox. It was a pretty good two-parter and I enjoyed it.

But I can never forget that there lurks, deep in space and time and unimaginable evil. Well, a prosaic script-writer who's gotten a little over excited.

Fuelled by Moff-hate I've got a bootstrap paradox for you.

In the near future humanity invents a time machine. A secret society of disgruntled fans, calling themselves The Daughters of Romana, discover the location of the time machine and steal it with hilarious consequences.

Lost in time they eventually find themselves in the early sixties where they meet Sydney Newman. He's in a pub near Television Centre mulling over how to fulfil the BBC's aims of bringing entertainment and education to the masses. The Daughters of Romana bumble in the pub, full of their own excitement and legacy rightous indignation. The spill Newman's pint. Buying him another they fall into conversation and tell of their adventures. Fascinated but disbelieving Newman buys them all pint after pint in a determined effort to keep the unbelievable stories of their rambling through space-time from the dawn of their Moff-hate to the current day coming.

Now drunk and enraged by the fresh memory of what Moffat has done they take their time machine to the 2003 British Comedy Awards. Coupling, perhaps the best thing Moffat has done receives an award. Moffat has been quaffing the celebratory champers. He's already a little tipsy before the award. By the end of the awards ceremony he's fully cut and singing. The Daughters of Romana confront a drunk Moffat. Demanding an apology for a crime he has not yet committed they confuse Moffat who become beligerant. The beligerant Moffat hits every hot button of our Time Travelling Whovian Ultras. Moffat knows and he's not even sorry. Fear turns to Hate. Hate Turns to Anger. Anger leads to a Five Star Kicking. Punctuating each outrage with a kick or a punch or slap they give vent to their fury with a full list of EVERYTHING he has done.

Moffat, already drunk and now badly beaten slips into unconsciousness. Horrified by what they have done the Daughters of Romana load take their time machine into an ambulance and set of to The Borders Royal Infirmary A&E UNIT with a semi-conscious Moffat.

Moffat comes too in the recovery room with nothing but a vague, drug fuelled but utterly incomprehensible memory of a box with a siren and a very very very important list of timey-wimey wibbley- wobbley, Daleks in every episode, impossible girl astronauts, sonic Sunglasses, Galashiels Burning, nymphomaniac space archaeologists.

That's a bootstrap paradox.
Three things make a post and a welcome break from some dull balance sheet analytics.

The Rugby.

MLW, the Captain and I to Newcastle Saturday last to see Scotland play Samoa in the last game of the group stages of the Rugby World Cup.

Rugby is the family sport and we've been following the world cup pretty closely. I haven't seen all of the matches but I know who's played who and what the result was. Those of you kind enough to pay any attention to me on Facebook will have experienced my bafflement at the orang utan and my dismay at the quality and the partiality of the ITV commentary team.

But that is by the by - most of family go to Newcastle's St James' Park to watch the game. Scotland, the favourites, need to win to ensure they qualify for the quarter-finals. Samoa need to win to have any chance of third place and automatic qualification for the next world cup in Japan in 2019.

We travelled by train. A train so filled with Scotland supporters that it felt like the bar at Teucthars. So many Scotland tops, past and preseent it felt like a montage of Murrayfield Past, Present and Yet to Come. Not a seat unbooked on the train. We left at 11.00, arrived at 12.25, in time for a short walk to China Town for an all you can eat buffet at Lau's (a well made recommendation of f3f4 of this parish - both digitally and IRL).

This is not the first rugby match in Newcastle I've been to. I am a Falcons' fan of many decades standing. (FAAALC-ons. Who's Gus?) but it was my first trip inside St James - which is a magnificent stadium. The main stand is tall, highly raked and has a fabulous clear roof, making it both snug and a cauldron of atmosphere. With a capacity of about 50,000 and I'd estimate 30,000 travelling support it felt more like home match than many games at Murrayfield i've been too.

The game was tense. Samoa were clearly trying to pack a whole World Cups worth of skills and tries in to the first half. They scored. We scored. They scored again. So did we. Not since the cavalry revolution of the 5th Century AD has offence proven so dominant over defence. MLW, who had a several pints of beer, was swearing at the Scotland defence, the Samoan backs, the match officials, people in the crowd, me like a Valkyrie who had stubbed her toe, once again, on the corner of the door. In one of the highest scoring matches of the World Cup Scotland and Samoa traded scores with Scotland just doing enough to keep in touch during the first half.

During the second half Scotland had gathered their wits and sussed out a way of playing the Samoan team who had arrived rather than the earlier Samoan team who had lost to South Africa and Japan. This didn't stop them kicking to the corner a few times. This is a practise of which I disapprove, ranking it with incest and English country dancing. The score crept upwards with Scotland gradually gaining a slight advantage, Towards the end of the game I thought they'd won it when Laidlaw scored a try to take Scotland 10 points ahead with five minutes to go. Then I thougt they'd lost it when Samoa immediately hit back with a try of their own. A draw would be uncomfortable.

Scotland hold on for the win.

We then headed to the fanzone to hang out, get some food, watch a bit of the Australia vs Wales game and ride on the dodgems. We stayed a little too long and had to run for our train home catching it with only a minute to spare.

Home by 7.30 we watched the rest of Strictly and then to bed after an emotionally tense day at the World Cup.

The New Flat of My Father

*singing* Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

My dad has bought a flat. It is on the same park as my flat and about an eight minute walk door to door. Ground floor, main door He becomes the owner on Friday but as a courtesy the vendor has let him have the keys early. So on Sunday MLW, the Captain and I went round to help him do some thinking and planning. The flat is very recently refurbished so needs almost nothing doing to it but the furniture needs planning out.

Gloriously, the flat has a small private courtyard on the south side of the buillding. I've been recruited to do some garden design. I'm thinking fruit trees and birds and comfy sofas. I shall look forward to sitting out there on sunny afternoons in the years to come.

It's nice to have the old boy in the same suburb. I think, with three of his grandchildren in Australia, and one not living with her dad he might as well be as close as possible to one of them. The Captain will be able to walk down to see his grandad on his own within a year or so.

I help him move in a load of furniture this weekend and he'll move in properly over the coming weeks before giving up the rental flat soon.

Iron Sky.

I watched Iron Sky - the movie about Nazis on the Moon. It had it's moments but perhaps the kindest thing that could be said about it is that it is better fantasy movie about cartoon Nazis than Inglorious Bastards by Quentin Tarantino.

I'm glad to have seen it but mostly so I can now divide my life in to a period in which I may be tempted to watch Iron Sky (now, blessedly the past,) and a period in which I will not be tempted to watch Iron Sky (the future).
It's September.

The Ashes are over. Corbyn has been elected by the Labour Party to lead them in to opposition. Doctor Who is about to start infuriating me again. So, it's time for Strictly Come Dancing.

And here, in response to the literally requests, is my opening assesment of the runners and riders in Strictly Come Dancing 2015.

In this post I'll be giving a paragraph or two on each couple, consulting Wikipedia for biographical information and considering how what I've seen of them in the Partner Matching Programme and what I know of their professional partner and considering how I think they'll do in general.  I don't have ready access to Twitter at the moment so an analysis of their Twitter reach and a final predicition will have to wait until later in the week.

In the order in which they are mentioned in the Strictly Come Dancing blog.

Ainsley Harriot and Natalie Lowe. Celebrity celebrity chef Harriot is paired up with the Lovely Natalie Lowe.  Natalie is one of my favourite pro-dancers and is good at training up celebrities and getting the best out of them.  Ainsley has some natural affinity for dancing judging by the way he bops around the kitchen. He's a likeable and enthusiastic guy.  This bodes well. If Lowe can get him some decent technical proficiency early on and steer him through the early rounds I think he's in with a good chance of doing well.

Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilana.  Jay is a member of boy band The Wanted. Aliona is a past winner with Harry Judd, a former member of boy band McFly. In recent years Aliona hasn't prospered on Strictly, going out in the first two rounds with Tony Jackin and Greg "the Pudding" Wallace.  Boy band members tend to do well. They are used to moving to music and usually have a decent native support.  I didn't catch Jay's dancing ability during the group dances.  Boy band membership says he'll get through the first few rounds easily.

Jeremy Vine and Karen Clifton. I like Karen Clifton as a pro-dancer. She did well to steer Scott Mills as far as she did last year. However, her track record is limited. Vine appears to be able to move in time to the music. He's an engaging character but I'm not sure there is a huge cross over between his natural constituency and those who vote in Strictly Come Dancing votes. I can see him doing well in ballroom. For me a bit of an unknown quantity.

EDITED TO ADD: Clearly an unknown quantity as I've mistaken Karen and Joanne Clifton.  Karen Clifton has a bit more of a track record than her sister-in-law Joanne with some decent places in previous years.  She's quite a determined and driven pro. I'm not sure the change in personnel changes my assesment.

Iwan Thomas, and Ola Jordan.  Ola Jordan is a past winner, and a past winner with an outsider. She's good at making her celebrity dance partners train and her choreography is of a high standard and gets the best out of her partners.  Her Charlston with  Chris Hollins was game changing. Iwan, in turn is an Olympic athelete. They are fit and they know how to train. He's also got a bit of a deeper constitutency through appearing in light hearted panel shows.  The question is, is he a Louis Smith or a Victoria Pendleton. Will he love the dance and will the dance love him.  If he can move then he's a good candidate for finalist.

Jamelia and Tristan MacManus.  Jamelia is a musician which a somewhat checkered media profile. Tristan MacManus was partnered with Jennifer Gibney (not Grey) last year.  Jamelia should be able to dance but I'm not sure how popular she is. Tristan is an unknown quanity.  I don't know.

Kirsty Gallacher and Brendon Cole.  Housewives' Favourite Cole is teamed up with For the Dad's Gallacher in a combination sure to re-kindle many flagging middle-aged marriages.  Cole, a past winner, has a decent track record in the show but in recent years he's failed to convert good field position in to wins. His tendency to stridently support his partner is both a strength and a weakness. Gallacher has long career in sports journalism on Sky. She's an undoubted beauty.  How popular this makes her in with Strictly voters I'm not sure. A wild card here is her public support for the Union in IndyRef.  She may well find that the state of Scottish politics is such that an anyone but Kirsty campaign takes off. Or not.  As usual, the key factor here is whether she can dance. If she can move well and has chemistry with Cole she should do well. If not, I'm not sure he native constituency will carry her very far.

Kellie Bright and Kevin Clifton. I think Clifton, Kevin (one of three Cliftons on the show) is a superb dancer and coach.  Bright, of popular Continuing Drama Eastenders,  is an alumni of the Sylvia Young school. This has finalist written all over it.

George May Foote and Gionvanni Pernice. May Foote irritates the living heck out of me. It's a Skinstead thing. An irrational dislike (unlike my dislike of Steven Moffat, which is perfectly rational). Pernice has no Wikipedia entry.  I'm sure they will do well but I don't care to think about them.

Helen George and Alijaz Skorjanec - always a hard one to judge, where you have a popular actor who is popular for being in a popular programme you, yourself, didn't much care for.  Helen George has name recognition. Alijaz is a previous winner. Probably strong contenders to do well.

Daniel O'Donnell as the old school joke goes is not a famous Irish revolutionary. Famous enough to be a cultural icon he certainly has a powerful name recognition factor. He works in the music industry which I feel ought to help with some moveing to music. However, he's in his 50's, so I'm not sure how well his body will stand up to the training schedule.  He's paired with the Kristina of  Troy. Kristina has a mixed record in Strictly. Her best place is runner up in 2014 with Simon "from Blue" Webbe. Can he dance?  Does your mum like him? Will she vote for him?  Daniel O'Donnell is the Jeremy Corbyn of this year's Strictly.  A psephological nightmare.

Peter Andre. Peter Andre. Peter Bloody Andre.  Known for Mysterious Girl in more ways then one.  My own view of Andre is that he's a decent bloke trying to do his best and that this comes through when he talks.  Which should make him a sympathetic figure.  He's very well known. Janet Manrara, his partner is less well known. She worked well with Jake Wood last series, going out late in the series.  Given Andre's personably personality, his name recognition, his musical career and Manrara's coaching ability Andre would be my pick for finalist and probably winner.

Anthony Ogogo is an Olympian and a boxer.  Olympians ususually do well. Boxers do not. Personally, I'd never heard of him, but then Olympian Boxers are not my bag baby.  He's partnered with new professional Oti Mabuse. She is so unknown that she doesn't even have her own wikipedia page.  I'm not hopeful. I expect Olympian grit will take them about half way and then boxer stiffness and Mabuse newness will trip them up.

Katie Derham.  Is partnered with Anton du Beke. So she's not going to win.

My personal favourite, BBC weather present Carol Kirkwood is partnered with current champion Pasah Kovalev. At 53 Kirkwood might suffer from not being as physically fit as some of the younger, sportier contestants.  She's affable and has the full might of the BBC Breakfast mafia on her side. She's good mates with former winner and BBC Breakfaster Chris Hollins. Not sure that's enough to take her further than half way.

Anita Rani and Gleb Savchenko I know nothing about, not being a watcher of what my brother in law refers to as CitydwellerFile I can't speak to either it's appeal or hers. She's paired with new boy Gleb Savchenko. When I search for him in wikipedia wikipedia coyly suggests that I might like to create a page for Glen Shevchinko.  This does not bode well.  Dancing will be the key here. If she's rubbish, out early. If she's good, she'll survive the early rounds clear out.

And that concludes this year's Strictly opening review.

I'll try to keep up to date with weekly reviews and some psephological analysis as work and health allows.
I have not been successful in my bid to be elected to the Electoral Reform Society Council.

Once again I managed a respectable mid-table exit from the STV election. I expect I shall stand again next time round.

I picked up a decent number of first preferences. It's always gratifying, humbling and surprising to be someone's first choice for something. Thank you to those of you who gave me a high preference.
I am quite excited about the latest referendum in New Zealand. They are considering changing their flag from the Australian Flag the current design adopted in 1902 to another design, which it is hoped would better represent the New Zealand of the 21st and 22nd Centuries.

They have canvassed designs in an open competition, reduced the 10,000 suggestions to a long list, and further reduced that to a short list.

New Zealanders will vote on the top candidate from the 4 entries on the short list using the Alternative Vote and then the winner of that referendum will go (mast) head to (mast) head, pole to pole, flago i flago against the Australian Flag the current New Zealand Flag.

Which seems to me to be a reasonable and democratic way of deciding on whether to replace a current incumbent and with what. It's the system I advocate for deciding on electoral reform, or house of lords reform.

More details below.



I wonder what designs we would be offered in Scotland if we ran the same process
To London last weekend for the second part of my four part birthday celebration, a trip to the Oval with my dad and his mate Dave to watch England play Australia.

The three of us often go to the cricket together. We have a well worn routine. This weekend was not much different.

Dad and Dave had tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday with me joining for Saturday and Sunday - days 3 and 4 of the Test.

I flew down on Friday night and met up with Dad and Dave for our traditional Friday night dinner in a Greek Cypriut restaurant. Dave has a mate who goes there every week and we've been going there with him, regularly, for twenty years. We're welcomed and the portions are significant. One meze and kleftico later we collapsed on the sofas at Dave's to watch the highlights of the days play from the Oval. In reply to Australia's 481 all out England were 100 and something for 8.

The plans for Saturday were to make our way to the Oval, watch the cricket then join one of Dad and Dave's old school chums and his wife for dinner.

In many ways the cricket went as expected. England's last batsmen put up a bit of spirited resistance, scoring 36 in a few overs from boundaries. Moheen Ali is fine stricker of the ball. I can see the arguement for him opening. I could see it all the more quickly a few moments later.

Johnson dismissed Wood and Ali in consequtive balls to dismiss England for 149.

Uniquely, Clark enforced the follow on. It's a great shame he's only really discovered himself as a Captain in his last test.

Just time for me to purchase myself an Australia Green and Gold polo shirt and cap.

So after a short break we sat down to watch England's second innings. It was better but not good. Cook looked tenacious and prudent yet aggressive and I could see him standing out there for two days like Atherton but late in the day a Captaincy Combo of Clarke and Smith undid him a little short of a well deserved hundred and a heafty Australian victory looked enevitable. Much consulting of weather forecasts. Rain on Sunday, but probably not until 2. That would give Australia a whole session to take 4 wickets.

We broke for dinner in a Sardinian restaurant. Lively chat, largely about Corbyn and holidays. Lovely food and wine. I had calamari stuffed with calamari, fillet of lamb and a creme catalana. Very lovely. Home, to watch the highlights of the cricket on the sofa.

Between the cricket I'd managed a good few hours of conversation with my dad. It was lovely to spend the day with him.

On Sunday Dave opted out of the cricket. I could see his point. He's likely to travel half way across London and watch 8 overs of cricket and his team badly beaten and then travel home in the rain. Dad manfully agreed to chum me down to watch Australia win.

As it happened the rain came early and heavier than forecast and caused a little bit of anxiety. Light showers at 2 became heavy shower at noon. Australia had only taken two of the necessary four wickets with Ali and Butler looking in decent nick. Advantage still with Australia but you'd always want to finish off the match rather than be sitting about in the damp wondering if it might rain for weeks.

By chance Widgetfox, her husband and father-in-law were at the Oval too. So, Dad and I met up with them and had a chat. Somehow I got myself in to a discussion about electoral systems with WidgetFox's father-in-law, the key motif of which seemed to be Me: the thing you thing FPTP does, it doesn't do. Him: But I like the thing that FPTP does. Dad opted out of the rest of the day, instead chosing to head back to Ealing to watch the Grand Prix and some football. I rebased myself from my seats to the spare seats next to WF.

After an hour and half of rain play resumed. As advertised it didn't take long for the final two wickets to fall.

Australia win the fifth test but lose the series 2-3 and the Ashes are placed in the temporary custodianship of England.

Widgetfox and I didn't stick around for the presentation but instead went for a walk in Green Park and St James park and talked hither and thither. It was lovely although neither of were really as cheerful as we usually are.

Home afterwards via the Docklands Light Railway (there's more of it than you think) and London City airport (there's less of it than you think).

Home fairly late. A lovely bottle of whisky from some friends as a birthday present. Still tired. Fell asleep on the sofa on Monday night after MLW went to bed, the wrong move as it wasn't great sleep and the Captain decided to wake up at 4.45.

My thoughts on the cricket.

It's been a funny old series. Both sides have looked brittle - in particular the batting, but the bowling has at times also failed to make an impact. All the matches have been very lopsided and increasingly so. It's not provided much entertainment. A 2-3 loss probably seems fair but the whole thing appears to have largely been a crapshoot rather than a test of cricketing ability. I look forward to better cricket and a better result in 2017 and 2018.