Trees, ‘Taches and Terriers

I’ve been off work for the last three days with what my friend Scott would call NSM (“non-specific malaise”). Achey joints, tiredness, wheezing, sneezing, itching – it would seem that I’m allergic to something. Some sort of exotic tree pollen, perhaps, seeing as lots of trees are in blossom at the moment? It would certainly serve me right for being a hay fever sufferer who lives within breathing distance of Kew Gardens and Richmond Park. Then again, in all likelihood it’s probably just a bug. One that could also be a wee bit contagious, seeing as there are four others off sick from my office at the moment. At least I didn’t suffer alone!

Anyway, I’m feeling better today (typical, seeing as it’s a Saturday) and even managed to go for a walk to Richmond and back. I actually intended to get the bus home, but if you’ve ever tried catching a bus from Richmond towards Twickenham on a rugby day you’ll understand why I walked. I can see Twickenham Rugby Ground from my living room window and I love it on match days, all lit up and roaring: but it’s best to stay inside if you want to avoid being steamrollered by hundreds of fans. It’s amazing how many of them dress up – today England played Ireland and I’ve never seen so many hats in the shape of a pint of Guinness in my life! Strange lot, sports fans. And the media take the piss out of people who dress up at SF conventions… sheesh!

Because I haven’t been updating this journal as regularly as I’d like due to overwork, illness and generally being-sick-and-tired-of-looking-at-a-computer-screen, quite a few things have happened recently. So, in no particular order, here’s a list:

One: I came home from work on Monday and discovered one of the poorly-looking trees in my front garden had completely vanished. Gone. *Pffut!* Not even a stump or a pile of sawdust. Either the tree surgeons who disposed of it were the cleanest tree surgeons in the world, or the tree was an Ent who decided to uproot itself and track down some Entwives. I do like the idea of a large fir tree plodding down the A316 muttering, “Hrum! Hoom! Now, where can they be?” Tolkien, I’m sure, would chuckle too.

Two: I went to see Bic Runga play at Dingwalls in Camden Lock. Bic is an Antipodean singer who gets rapturous acclaim from the critics any time she releases an album over here but, sadly, not much attention from the record-buying public. She’s wonderful: moody, soulful and enchanting. She supported Neil and Tim Finn on their tour last year – but for this performance Neil supported her, playing piano on stage at a venue so small you could practically count his nose hairs.

Bic was (as Neil pointed out) “very springy” and has a lovely new ‘do, making her look like a sultry pixie styled by Mary Quant. However, live on stage she was all elbows and knees; and although her voice was magnificent, she looked rather overawed by the crowd. Funny, really, for a professional singer, and especially at such a small venue! But it was such a beautiful, mellow night I could’ve fallen asleep on the way home. And it’s always lovely to see Neil, even if he didn’t sing (other than backing vocals). At the risk of sounding a little strange and obsessive, I’m also happy he has his 1996 Together Alone hairstyle back, too…

Three: I spent a day at the Imperial War Museum attending a TE Lawrence symposium. Yes, really. There were seven hours of lectures and discussions about Lawrence, covering everything from his life story to a scene-by-scene analysis of Lawrence Of Arabia and how none of it is true. Fascinating stuff – and they gave us free sarnies and chocolate brownies, too. Bonus!

It was very surreal arriving at the museum early in the morning, before the public were allowed in, to sup tea with other Lawrence enthusiasts under the fighter planes and rockets suspended from the ceiling. My companions included a gentleman with a moustache that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Rajah’s palace in India during colonial times – stiff with wax and very pointy. He seemed frightfully posh and terribly fascinating, so I joined in a conversation with him about how he was trying to arrange a trip to Jordan and Syria to retrace Lawrence’s footsteps.

“I know someone who has an ‘in’ with the King of Jordan,” he declared, not boasting at all. “I’m hoping that can get me into the country and make the soldiers leave me alone.”

All I could think was, “Your moustache will really wilt in the desert.”

The men chairing the symposium were great, lifelong experts who knew so much about Lawrence that my knowledge shrank into insignificance next to theirs. A mixture of Oxford dons, professors and filmmakers, they were (thankfully) full of life and very amusing. Funnily enough, though, the points I made earlier in this blog about Lawrence’s homosexuality, the reality of his rape at Dera’a and his masochism weren’t mentioned at all; and when one audience member asked if all the events in Lawrence’s book, Seven Pillars Of Wisdom, were true, the panel looked very affronted. I decided not to ask any of my questions – it would’ve been like going to an Elvis convention and asking if he really did die having a poo. Ouch!

There were attendees from all over the world, including relatives of people who’d actually known Lawrence, a nice girl who’d flown in from Germany for the day (“Really? I live 30 minutes away,” I said brightly, and probably rather annoyingly) and a talkative American woman who didn’t seem to want to chat about Lawrence at all once she found out I was a film journalist. I’m really not sure the Imperial War Museum was the best place to talk about the Cannes Film Festival.

Oh, and the best bit of the day: filmmaker James Hawes (who, by some amazing coincedence, directed several episodes of the recent series of Doctor Who – worlds colliding again!) discussing how he went to the desert to film Lawrence Of Arabia: Battle For The Arab World.

“Do you speak English?” he asked one local.

“Yes, I speak English!” came the excitable reply. “David Beck-ham!”

Priceless. And a little scary.

Four: I watched Crufts. I don’t really like dogs – I’m a cat person – but I love Crufts and never miss it. My favourite comment from this year’s show?

“Haircuts are very important to terriers. If you leave them to their own devices they can soon look like burst couches.”

And I can’t really follow that, so goodnight.

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