Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Barnum and sausages

Hilary came to stay with us last night and we took ourselves on a charming walk up to Ally Pally and back home, via Marks and Spencer where I discovered quite how awful their range of veggie sausages are. I know they like their own brands and things, but no one wants sausages which look like blocks of Edinburgh rock!

So we trolled off to Planet Organic organic instead, where I had a very strong allergic reaction to the shoppers inside. They were all posh women dragging children called Tarquin around, saying things like “shall we get you some trail mix, darling?” Everything in that shop is deeply overpriced, largely, one assumes so that those inside can Lord it over the rest of us: “look at me affording all the best quality, organic products for my children. I’ve banned sugar from my house, you know, and we have a goji berry shake for breakfast every morning.” It all made me feel incredibly angry. Privilege like this is the red rag to my particular bull. And I guess I feel more strongly about this particular issue as I was brought up on whole foods when eating them wasn’t a status symbol. In fact, everyone thought my Mum was crazy for feeding them to us. She didn’t take us to Daily Bread in Northampton to show off. She took us there because buying in bulk was cheap and because it sold really healthy food at very low prices.

In the end we bought veggie sausages at our local Sainsbury’s and had them, swimming in gravy, with mashed potato and peas in giant Yorkshire puddings.

After tea, we walked down the Holloway Road to the Odeon at Nag’s Head to see The Greatest Showman. It’s a wonderful film, which loosely tells the story of the famous 19th Century American circus entrepreneur, Barnum. It’s a strange choice for a musical film. The stage musical, Barnum was, after all, about the life of the very same man! I kept wanting Barnum’s wife to burst into a rendition of The Colours of my Life. (Do you remember when Torvill and Dean did Barnum on Ice?) They made the very brave decision to keep the music feeling highly contemporary, which, bizarrely, worked.

They opted to play Barnum himself as a relentlessly fabulous individual and papered over some of the less reputable aspects of his character. I’m not sure his Circus freaks were meant to have been treated hugely well and he had some pretty hard-core views. After going into politics, he actually became the legislative sponsor of the 1879 Connecticut anti-contraception law. That said, he was also an anti-slavery campaigner. The merging of fact and fiction led to a fairly confusing end card which said something along the lines of: “these characters are based on real people, but any similarity to individuals living or dead is purely coincidental.”

But it’s a fabulous film. It’s everything a musical film ought to be. Escapist. Great music. Energetic. Magical. It lacked a bit of an emotional core for me. I like to weep like a baby when I watch a film and would like to have cared more, and learned more about the assortment of oddballs he hired to work as performers. I think they missed a slight trick there. But ultimately that didn’t matter. I had a wonderful night.

The only trouble is that the cinema smelt of urine. Odeon cinemas always feel so uncared for, when compared to the somewhat fabulous Everyman Cinemas which are replacing them.

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