Monthly Archives: April 2012

British Celebrity Spotlight | Stephen Fry

Stephen John Fry (born 24 August 1957) is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter, film director, and a director of Norwich City Football Club.

After a troubled childhood and adolescence, during which he was expelled from a number of schools and eventually spent three months in prison for credit card fraud, he was able to secure a place at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he studied English Literature.

He first came to public attention in the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue presentation “The Cellar Tapes”, which also included Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. With Hugh Laurie, as the comedy double act Fry and Laurie, he co-wrote and co-starred in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and took the role of Jeeves (with Laurie playing Wooster) in Jeeves and Wooster.

As an actor, Fry played the lead in the film Wilde, was Melchett in the BBC television series Blackadder, starred as the title character Peter Kingdom in the ITV series Kingdom, has a recurring guest role as Dr. Gordon Wyatt on the Fox crime series Bones and appeared as rogue TV host Gordon Deitrich in the dystopian thriller V For Vendetta. He has also written and presented several documentary series including the 2008 television series Stephen Fry in America, which saw him travelling across all 50 U.S. states. Since 2003 he has been the host of the quiz show QI.

As well as his work in television, Fry has contributed columns and articles for newspapers and magazines, and has written four novels and two volumes of autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. He also appears frequently on BBC Radio 4, starring in the comedy series Absolute Power, being a frequent guest on panel games such as Just a Minute, and acting as chairman for I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, where he was one of a trio of hosts who succeeded the late Humphrey Lyttelton. Fry is also known in the UK for his audiobook recordings, particularly as reader for all seven Harry Potter novels.

Discover London | The West End

The West End of London (more commonly referred to as simply the West End) is an area of central London containing many of the city’s major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings, and entertainment venues (including the commercial West End theatres). Use of the term began in the early 19th century to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross.

Located to the west of the historic Roman and Mediaeval City of London, the West End was long favoured by the rich elite as a place of residence because it was usually upwind of the smoke drifting from the crowded City. It was also located close to the royal seat of power at Westminster, and is largely contained within the City of Westminster (one of the 32 London boroughs). Developed in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was originally built as a series of palaces, expensive town houses, fashionable shops and places of entertainment. The areas closest to the City around Holborn, Seven Dials and Covent Garden historically contained poorer communities that were cleared and redeveloped in the nineteenth century.

The name “West End” is a flexible term with different meanings in different contexts. It may refer to the entertainment district around Leicester Square and Covent Garden; to the shopping district centred on Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Bond Street; or, less commonly, to the whole of that part of central London (itself an area with no generally agreed boundaries) which lies to the west of the City of London.

Taking a fairly broad definition of the West End, the area contains the main concentrations of most of London’s metropolitan activities apart from financial services, which are concentrated primarily in the City of London. There are major concentrations of the following buildings and activities in the West End:

  • Art galleries and museums
  • Company headquarters outside the financial services sector (although London’s many hedge funds are based mainly in the West End)
  • Educational institutions
  • Embassies
  • Government buildings (mainly around Whitehall)
  • Hotels
  • Institutes, learned societies and think tanks
  • Legal institutions
  • Media establishments
  • Places of entertainment: theatres; cinemas; nightclubs; bars and restaurants
  • Shops

The annual New Year’s Day Parade takes place on the streets of the West End.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_End_of_London

 

Trendy Nail Colours! [BarryM Colours]

As you all know, corals, pastels and neon colours are in this season – why not get some of that brighteness on your nails while you’re at it? Mix and match your nails with different outfits, show your love for Spring and Bob’s your uncle!

I don’t own the rights to these pictures. Just scroll through the images to see the shade and who took the picture.

Etsy Finds for Anglophiles!

Anyone got any chocolate?

Random | David Tennant Olympics 2012 Petition!

http://www.petitiononline.com/Drwh2012/petition.html

Brilliant British Top Models

Telly for Anglophiles | Downton Abbey

Lord Crawley sees his family heritage, especially the grand country home Downton Abbey, as his mission in life. The death of his heir aboard the Titanic means distant cousin Matthew Crawley, a Manchester lawyer, suddenly is next in line and accepts moving onto the vast estate with his even more modernist, socially engaged mother, who clashes with his lordship’s domineering, conservative ma the dowager. Marrying off the daughters is another concern. Meanwile the butler presides over a staff which serves the family but also lead most of their entire lives in the servants quarters, intriguing amongst themselves.

 

Music for Anglophiles | ‘Let Them Talk’, by Hugh Laurie

“Let Them Talk” is the first album to be recorded by Hugh Laurie after signing to Warner Bros Records in 2010. Produced by Joe Henry and recorded in Los Angeles and New Orleans, the album is a celebration of New Orleans blues, a genre that drives Hugh’s musical raison d’être.

Spiritually inspired by similar genre albums like Ry Cooder’s ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ and T-Bone Burnett’s ‘O’ Brother Where Art Thou’ soundtrack, Hugh’s ‘Let Them Talk’ recordings bring together an extraordinary selection of heritage tracks, renowned musicians and vocal legends to champion this much neglected body of work.

Hugh drives the whole album on piano and vocals and is joined in the studio by the ‘Queen of New Orleans’ herself, Irma Thomas, blues piano and horns supremo Allen Toussaint, vocal legend Sir Tom Jones and in an especially momentous collaboration on ‘After You’ve Gone’ by his lifelong hero Dr. John.

Released on May 9th in Europe, the album launch will be supported by live shows in London, Paris and Berlin and a television special following Hugh’s musical journey to New Orleans and featuring the performances of much of the album filmed at Kingsway Studios in the French Quarter along with Hugh’s band and his incredible collaborators.

But the album is best explained by Hugh himself……..

I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. You may as well know this now. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman said anything to my mother when I was born and there’s no hellhound on my trail, as far as I can judge. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.

If that weren’t bad enough, I’m also an actor: one of those pampered ninnies who hasn’t bought a loaf of bread in a decade and can’t find his way through an airport without a babysitter. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’ve got some Chinese characters tattooed on my arse. Or elbow. Same thing.

Worst of all, I’ve broken a cardinal rule of art, music, and career paths: actors are supposed to act, and musicians are supposed to music. That’s how it works. You don’t buy fish from a dentist, or ask a plumber for financial advice, so why listen to an actor’s music?

The answer is – there is no answer. If you care about provenance and genealogy, then you should try elsewhere, because I have nothing in your size.

I started piano lessons at the age of 6 with Mrs Hare. She was a nice woman, probably; but in my twisted childhood memory I have cast her as a warty thug who bullied me across the hot coals of do-re-mi. I stuck it for about three months, grinding through Elementary Piano Book One until we reached Swanee River by Stephen Foster. (Foster, as it happens, was also a trespasser. Born in Pennsylvania, he never saw the actual Suwannee River – nor did he set foot in Florida, which adopted the song as its state anthem in 1935. I’m just saying.)

Now you could hardly call Swanee River a blues song – in one of its earliest editions, the score was sold as “An Ethiopian Melody” – but it’s a lot closer than the French lullabys and comical Polish dances that made up the rest of that hellish book.

The day arrived, and Mrs Hare turned the page: “Swanee River”, she read, peering through the pince-nez that I have imagined for her, 45 years later. And then, with a curl of her hairy lip, she read the subtitle: “ ‘Negro Spiritual – Slightly Syncopated.’ Oh dear me no.….”. With that, she flicked the page to Le Tigre Et L’Elephant, or some other unholy nightmare, and my relationship with formal music instruction ended.

And then one day a song came on the radio – I’m pretty sure it was I Can’t Quit You Baby by Willie Dixon – and my whole life changed. A wormhole opened between the minor and major third, and I stepped through into Wonderland. Since then, the blues have made me laugh, weep, dance… well, this is a family record, and I can’t tell you all the things the blues can make me do.

At the centre of this magical new kingdom, high on a hill (which shows you how little I knew back then), stood the golden city of New Orleans. In my imagination, it just straight hummed with music, romance, joy, despair; its rhythms got into my gawky English frame and, at times, made me so happy, and sad, I just didn’t know what to do with myself. New Orleans was my Jerusalem. (The question of why a soft-handed English schoolboy should be touched by music born of slavery and oppression in another city, on another continent, in another century, is for a thousand others to answer before me: from Korner to Clapton, the Rolling Stones to the Joolsing Hollands. Let’s just say it happens.)

Over the next decade, I consumed all the guitarists I could find: Charley Patton and Lead Belly, who was a genius, as was Skip James, Scrapper Blackwell, all the Blinds (Lemon Jefferson, Blake, Willie Johnson, Willie McTell), Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and so many more that we’d be here all night just naming a tenth of them.

And then there were the towering piano players: Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Roosevelt Sykes, Leroy Carr, Jelly Roll Morton, Champion Jack Dupree, Tuts Washington, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Otis Spann, Memphis Slim, Pinetop Perkins, Professor Longhair, James Booker, Allen Toussaint and Dr John.

I tended to favour the piano over the guitar because it stays in one place, which is what I like to do. Guitars appeal to the footloose, the  the restless. I like sitting a lot.

As for singers, that’s a huge list, with only two names on it: Ray Charles and Bessie Smith.

These great and beautiful artists lived it as they played it: all of them knew the price of a loaf of bread and most had times in their lives when they couldn’t scrape it together. They had credentials, in other words, and I respect those as much as the next man, possibly more.

But at the same time, I could never bear to see this music confined to a glass cabinet, under the heading Culture: Only To Be Handled By Elderly Black Men. That way lies the grave, for the blues and just about everything else; Shakespeare only performed at The Globe, Bach only played by Germans in tights. It’s formaldehyde, and I pray that Lead Belly will never be dead enough to warrant that.

So that’s my only credential – my one dog-eared ID card that I hope will get me through the velvet ropes and into your heart. I love this music, as authentically as I know how, and I want you to love it too. And if you get a thousandth of the pleasure from it that I’ve had, we’re all ahead of the game.

HUGH LAURIE
JANUARY 2011

Baker Street 221b