Wednesday 28 February 2018


Today 28 February is RARE DISEASES DAY - in the couple of hours remaining and over the next few days - please spare a thought for the countless families who know that everything isn’t as it should be with the health or development of a child or siblings or a parent or parent and children - but they are fobbed off by supposed professionals with meaningless reassurances - and when they fight for proper diagnosis or services or SEN support in school they are accused of causing or imagining or fabricating the difficulties. 
This practice is becoming more and more common. Instead of getting vital referrals or support, vast numbers are dragged into erroneous and damaging child protection procedures and investigations. 
There was no money to sanction a referral for hospital investigations or for a laptop with special software or for a high tech wheelchair or for a part time classroom support worker or for a place in a specialist school or unit - but suddenly there’s endless money for solicitors and barristers and expert witnesses and court process and foster care placements. 
Families are being temporarily or permanently separated on the flimsiest of untested evidence which wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny by a jury in a criminal court. Adoptive placements break down when the new parents realise that there’s something unusual and difficult to cope with about this child.
There’s increasing evidence that very many of these tragic stories begin with failed diagnosis of a rare illness or neurological condition in one or more generation of the family. 
When it’s parents as well as children who are affected - then it’s even more likely that social workers, teachers, ancillary workers, lawyers and judges will get it wrong. 

There’s a petition online to ask Jeremy Hunt to stop restricting referrals for hospital investigations - you might like to sign it but also you might like to write to him personally to explain how vital this is when a child or family may have an undiagnosed rare illness or neurological condition. 

Thursday 22 February 2018

Learning Disability Parents - Mia (stage production)

"when you are pregnant you want to do everything to be ready for your baby - but we were afraid to decorate the room because we didn't know if we'd be allowed to keep her"
I saw Mia - Daughters of Fortune - by Mind the Gap Theatre Company - last night at artsdepot Finchley - do try to see it in Waterloo or Deptford or somewhere. 
As Shakespeare said in Hamlet "The plays the thing wherein to catch the conscience of the king" - this should be on prime time TV and it should be compulsory viewing on every training course for government ministers, family court judges, barristers & solicitors and for every social worker in the land. 
In the show the cast ask the audience - if a learning disabled person is having a baby who is the most important person?
A GP receptionist
B social worker
C midwife
D mother to be
The audience at artsdepot voted D but they were wrong - I'll bet readers of my Parents Protecting Children UK page could get the right answer! 
There's a lot of use of film within the show - in one clip a very capable learning disabled mother said - "when you are pregnant you want to do everything to be ready for your baby - but we were afraid to decorate the room because we didn't know if we'd be allowed to keep her"
They use the clever device of an onstage video camera, feeding back to the audience, to expose the gruelling agony of the 135 question parenting assessment - so many questions are irrelevant or class and income based and would never be asked of a 'nice middle class family' or to which a 'nice middle class family' would answer 'we have insurance or a policy with British Gas to cover that' - and yet not being able to do lots of difficult household things (which I'd personally never attempt) are recorded as failures for a poor or learning disabled family. By packing the assessment with ridiculous questions the social workers ensure that the percentage score for the poor or learning disabled family is kept low.
When asked if she knows how to sterilise bottles, the young pregnant woman says 'yes I remember from the last time' and you suddenly realise she already had a child, but it was taken away.
One of the characters, in a very low key way, tells that one day she got a phone call - to tell her not to pick her child up from school -because social services had already collected the child and placed him with a foster family. She hadn't even been given the opportunity to say goodbye, she'd delivered her son to school and would never see him again.
The free programme and accompanying written material - points out the extent to which advocacy groups believe that children being taken from learning disabled parents is under-reported.
Mia is coming up again at Waterloo on 1&2 March and in Deptford on 14 March - I don't know about non london showings - they are from Bradford and already took it to the Edinburgh festival.
Daughters of Fortune - Mind the Gap

Saturday 3 February 2018

To catch the conscience of the king.

There’s a massive recent increase in the number of families falsely accused of MSbP / FII - methinks “The devil hath power t’assume a pleasing shape.”

The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2 William Shakespeare. 

Having over the past four weeks been gripped by the Chanel 4 TV Series Kiri, starring Sarah Lancashire as Social Worker Miriam Grayson; I thought I’d explore some erroneous Child Protection stories from the angles of the various participants, hoping that seeing the ideas and actions of people portrayed here might catch the conscience of everyone involved in children’s work policy and practice today.

The adoptive mother in Kiri reminded me of someone who I wish I’d never known. I wanted to write this whilst I’d got the characterisation from the Kiri story in my head. The story is basically true, although in some instances time and events have been conflated. Additional characters, all conversations and thoughts are imagined.

The Peripatetic Music Teacher’s Story.

Woman : I was hoping you’d be here, I need somebody to talk to. 

Man : Sorry I’m just going out again. I got off work early and just popped in to get my things to go to the gym.

Woman : Do you have to? 

Man : I’m sure I’ve got time for a cuppa, shall I put the kettle on? 

Woman : I was rather fancying sharing a nice soothing bottle of red wine.  But if you’d rather not..

Man : Oh hang it, I’ll go to the gym in the morning, let’s open the vino and do a bit of catching up.

Woman : Are you sure that’s okay?

Man : Yes, I wouldn’t have said so if it wasn’t.

Woman : Thanks then.

Man : What’s spooked you? 

Woman : It was on the radio in the car. A new piece of organ music, surprisingly good. The organist knows what he’s doing, plays for some big occasions in the Abbey and St Paul’s, but it was who wrote the piece which gave me a shock.

Man : Come on then spill the beans. 

Woman : His name won’t mean anything to you, it was before I knew you.

Man : OK you don’t have to keep reminding me that I’m not your first love, but I know I’m the best.

Woman : Yes of course you’re the best. The music was written by someone who I taught when he was a little boy. 

Man : What’s so surprising about that? You’ve taught some very good young musicians and helped them on their way. Quite a few seem to have got into the Conservatoires or Oxbridge. You deserve recognition for all your work. Maybe he’ll put his thanks in a programme note when his music gets played in the Albert Hall or on the Southbank. Hey, we should be celebrating your success, not drowning our sorrows. 

Woman : That won’t happen. This one wasn’t any good at all and he had an idiotic mother who didn’t like me. I really don’t understand how he’s now writing music as good as that. Maybe someone is helping him. 

Man : Come off it, nobody would allow someone else to pass their work off as their own. If it’s got his name attached, you can bet your last dollar that he wrote it. 

Woman : He must have been seven or eight, but very small and looked younger. Apparently he told the headteacher that he’d been listening to jazz on the seashore at a festival in France. It sounded as if his parents had let him stay up all hours. He wasn’t often enthusiastic about anything but came back dreaming of playing the saxophone. The headteacher didn’t want to be the one who discouraged him, so she said he could have a test to see if he could manage. We didn’t expect anything to come of it as he was asthmatic, the school had to look after his inhalers, he was unlikely to be able to blow hard enough. 

Man : It sounds from what you said earlier, as if he passed the test after all. 

Woman : Yes, it was strange really. He wouldn’t look directly at me and wasn’t very talkative, but to my amazement he could blow well and sustain it and even made quite a nice sound. To the headteacher’s regret I couldn’t refuse him a place. “You’re making trouble for yourself” she warned. 

Man : So what was the problem? 

Woman : Where do I start? The class teacher said “you’re going to have trouble teaching that one. He’s quite bright but he can’t read, so I’ve no idea how he’ll cope with music.”

Man : That sounds difficult, what did you do? 

Woman : Well the first few weeks he was just leaning the notes and got on quite well, if I said G he could play a G and if I asked for a B or a D he could play that too. 

Man : Promising.

Woman : When I asked him how he’d got such big lungs to blow so hard, he told me that he could swim underwater, more than half way down the pool. That struck me as very dangerous for an asthmatic child, I wondered what his mother was thinking of? 

Man : Hang on a minute, you might be wrong there. In 2012 when we had the Olympics, I read about several of the British Olympic Swimmers having been asthmatic children. Apparently those were the ones who’d spent sufficient time in the water to develop the lungs you need for competitive sport. I thought that was fascinating. Some people think that swimming is the best way to overcome childhood asthma.

Woman : Are you questioning my teaching ability ? 

Man : No I’m just wondering if that’s something you’d thought of? He’s probably about the same age as some of our medal winning swimmers and his mum might have heard it somewhere. 

Woman : I don’t expect his mother would have known that. She was just interested in making a fuss, not in doing the right thing by her children.

Man : If you say so. This is getting interesting, what happened next.

Woman : I thought that despite everything, it was all going to be alright, so after a few weeks I found a book of easy tunes for saxophone and laboriously wrote out the letters, to make it easy for him.

Man : I don’t understand.

Woman : Pass me that bit of paper and I’ll show you.  


Man : What’s on earth is that supposed to be? 

Woman : Can’t you see? It’s something you know well, everybody knows it and I thought he’d soon pick it up.

Man : Did he?

Woman : No he didn’t. As I said, I’d taught him all the notes, well most of them, he wasn’t ready for the top A. 

Man : Top A, I can’t see a top A. 

Woman : It’s the third one, there where there are three As together. I thought it best for him to play it as another A natural. 

Man : So what happened? 

Woman : Nothing really, he stood there stupefied and then asked me if there was any music with lines? I told him he could progress to music when he’d leaned to read, but that for now I’d help him by writing the letters out. It was time to send him back to class, but I told him to practise at home. He looked really upset.

Man : More wine?

Woman : Yes thanks. The next week he’d got a piece of paper on which his mother had drawn a giant stave with a ruler and she’d marked all the notes I’d given him as crotchets with their tails going up, even if they were right at the top of the stave. There were no bar lines, so when he tried to play it there was no form or rhythm. It was ridiculous. I screwed the piece of paper into a ball and threw it in the direction of the bin. His face puckered as if he was going to cry, so I gave him another tune that I’d carefully written out in letters and sent him back to class. I told him to practice both tunes for next week. 

Man : This is becoming a very long story.

Woman : Sorry, I’ll try to hurry up. He was off school the next week. The headteacher thought he was faking and showed me the note his mum had sent, saying he’d got cold on a school swimming trip and it had made him unwell. I told her that I thought he was supposed to be a good swimmer. When he came back she asked him about swimming and he said his mum takes him to a warm pool, but the school took him to a very cold pool and it upset his asthma and made him feel poorly. 

Man : It was probably private. Some kids are just plain spoiled, when I was at Sherborne we had to play rugger in all weathers. 

Woman : Anyway whilst he was off sick I got an envelope from his mother. It had a poorly printed booklet from the British Dyslexia Association about Music and Dyslexia and a letter from his mum, which she’d printed on her home computer in her attempt to look important.

Man : What did she have to say? 

Woman : She wanted us to read the booklet as it might help us understand why her son could read music when he couldn’t read words. I was furious and dashed off to the headteacher, she’d got the same booklet and a copy of the letter. We were both flabbergasted. Did this boy’s mum think she could teach us our jobs?  The headteacher was a concert standard pianist and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. She could have had a glittering career as a musician, but had given it up because of her passion to teach children in school. I’d trained at the Royal College of Music and graduated with distinction. How dare this boy’s mother send us instructions on how to teach music.

Man : But it sounded like she was trying to tell you about her son’s Dyslexia.

Woman : He had no formal diagnosis! He was just lazy and manipulative and had been over indulged by his mother, so he’d never learned to read. She got him books on tape to listen to, instead of making him get on with it. 

Man : Well at least she got him to listen to stories, one of my dyslexic friends says she taught herself to read by playing the same taped story over and over again and following it on the page. Maybe that’s what this boy’s mum was hoping for? 

Woman : I’m beginning to wonder who’s side you are on? Her letter was totally out of order. She said that although her son couldn’t read words on a page, he could read notes on a stave and had been able to do so for some considerable time. She said that when she transcribed my capital letters into a string of crotchets, he wasn’t happy because there were no time signatures or bar lines and because he thought that maybe some of the notes should be quavers or minims. She asked me to supply him with photocopies of the sheet music, or to tell her which book it was from so she could buy it.

Man : I’m on your side of course, but her request seems fairly reasonable to me, I couldn’t understand your AABADCA either. 

Woman : You haven’t even tried to figure the notes out.

Man : Please put me out of my misery.

Woman : DIY! And NO it wasn’t reasonable! It was an over fussy mother trying to interfere with her son’s education. The headteacher said she’d put her foot down and make sure nothing like this ever happened again. We put both of the leaflets about Dyslexia in the bin where they belonged. 

Man : Wasn’t his mother paying for your lessons? 

Woman : Yes, but what’s that got to do with it. 

Man : Well I just wondered if she thought she’d got a right to ask you to do it her way, if she was paying? You know the old English saying “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. 

Woman : I’m getting fed up of your siding with the mother. 

Man : Sorry I’ll try to keep quiet, here have a top up.

Woman : Thanks, it’s quite a nice wine. The headteacher wouldn’t have parents interfering in her school. Anyway we struggled on for another few weeks, getting nowhere. Then one day, before his lesson, I was in the cloakroom and through the window I overheard him in the playground. He was telling one of the lunchtime supervisors that someone had come to his house and taught him to play the “Pink Panther” on the saxophone. She said that she was a fan of Peter Sellers and asked if he’d play it for her. He asked her to hold the book for him and launched into it. I could hear other children singing along bedum, bedum, bedum bedum bedum...bedum..beduuuuum... they were probably dancing about, 

Man : (Laughing) That must have been quite a shock. What did you do?

Woman : Stop! It wasn’t funny at all! When he came in for his lesson I asked if he’d got a book of saxophone music? He said it was in the classroom, so I sent him to fetch it. I opened it at the “Pink Panther” and asked him to play. He looked a bit startled, but as soon as he started up his confidence came and he played it. I closed the book and put it in his bag and said there would be no more saxophone lessons in school. This was goodbye.

Man : How did he react? 

Woman : He just scurried away as quickly as he could. 

Man : This is the last dregs of the wine.

Woman : His mum wrote to the headteacher saying that learning the “Pink Panther” had been to boost his confidence and to show that, if he was given sheet music rather than a string of letters, he could actually play the saxophone. She asked if he could continue with school based lessons, so he could play in school concerts, as she was sure that he was now good enough and it would boost his confidence. (Getting cross) That was all she wanted, attention attention attention, “please let my son play in your school concert”. As if!  The headteacher showed me the letter and then it followed the sheet of crotchets and the Dyslexia booklets into the bin. 

Man : So that was the end of that?

Woman : Not really. A year or two later I heard he was in hospital with pneumonia. I ask you what mother doesn’t take her child to get antibiotics before an infection develops into pneumonia? She said she’d tried but the doctors wouldn’t listen to her, who’d believe that?  After the pneumonia his school attendance was even poorer and his mother said he’d developed ME / CFS, but of course we didn’t believe her.

Man : Poor kid. 

Woman : What for having such a ridiculous mother? Anyway, we were due an OFSTED inspection and the headteacher was concerned about his poor attendance.  It might affect our statistics and our place in the league table. We were a small school, so it wasn’t possible to hide anyone in the returns. She was worried and sent the Education Welfare Officer to try to counsel him back to school, but his mum blocked that by insisting that he was ill. The EWO found that he’d got a little sister, hiding away in a different school. He contacted the other headteacher, the GP and Social Services and they had a full blown Child Protection Conference. 

Man : That sounds like a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Woman : You are so predictable. I knew you’d say that. 

Man : So I’ve obliged.

Woman : In her evidence our headteacher said how difficult the boy’s mother was and how she’d upset me by questioning my professional judgement and sending me information about how to teach music to students with dyslexia. This had been insulting and attention seeking and there were big questions to be asked about the mother’s parenting style and ability. 

Man : So what happened? 

Woman : They couidnt find any evidence of wrongdoing but they put both children on the Child Protection register.  They thought that the mother was likely to inflict future emotional harm to them.

Man : Wow! Did you ever see him and his mother again? 

Woman : As a matter of fact I did. One of my colleagues in the music service started up a small saxophone ensemble. They sometimes did a couple of numbers before a concert by our flagship Wind Orchestra. They actually got quite good and played some gigs at places like the Garden Museum during the London Jazz Festival. One day I realised, to my great amazement, that this same boy was one of their most important members. He could play not only the alto that I’d taught him, but also the soprano and the baritone. He ended up playing baritone sax in the Wind Orchestra. Quite amazing. 

Man : Was his mother at any of the concerts.

Woman : Yes, but she always pointedly avoided me.

Man : This boy sounds intriguing. Give me his name and let’s Google him. 

Woman : (Name given)

Man : Oh my goodness, he’s got his own website. Not only has he had his stuff played on the radio, but also in lots of Cathedrals and important churches. 

Woman : Really?

Man : Yes and I just looked at his CV. I thought you said he had learning difficulties?

Woman : His mum said he was dyslexic, but some dyslexic people can be quite clever. 

Man : He must be one of those. He got a First class degree and the Dean’s prize for an outstanding contribution to the performance arts. So I guess he must have learned to read and write words as well as music. 

Woman : Yes I guess so. Pass me the newspaper, lets see what’s on the television.

(C) Jan Loxley Blount 04/02/18

Kiri Channel 4


I’ve taken me some time to think about and digest the ending of the Channel 4 Drama KIRI, which finished on Wednesday. 

I’m wondering if they are going to run it for a second series to include the trial, but doubt that as there wouldn’t be a sufficiently central role for Sarah Lancashire. 

Interestingly my daughter hadn’t seen episodes 1,2 or 3 but sat with me to watch episode 4. Shortly after it began, she remarked that on the basis of what they’d have had to pay the actors (and as it clearly wasn’t Sarah Lancashire or Sue Johnston - Miriam or Celia Grayson), it must be either the adoptive dad or the natural grandad, Steve Mackintosh or Lucian Msamati - Jim Warner or Tobi Akindele. In her view they wouldn’t dare go for a ‘blame the blacks’ outcome, so it had to be the white adoptive father - she was of course correct. 

I think the ending was quite clever. Society needs to realise that the rush to fostering and adoption isn’t always the best answer and is frequently the wrong answer. The reasons why people become  foster or adoptive parents isn’t always altruism, it’s frequently financial because the remuneration can make a big difference to family income or even replace a salary. It’s also for other reasons, such as to fill an empty nest or as in this story to meet the need for a common love object (in order to cement cracked or broken family relationships) - maybe these people should be advised to get a pet, rather than jumped on to plug a gap created by the rush to remove vast numbers of children from their birth families. 

So the series ended with the finger of blame pointing to the black birth family, the innocent birth father about to go through a trial and probably a long jail sentence if not killed by other prisoners, prison guards or at his own hand. The white son of the adoptive family, having lost the sister he cared for, starting a sentence in a boarding school away from the mother he loves and bearing the secret knowledge that his father, semi accidentally, killed Kiri because she wanted to stop the adoption and return to her birth family - and he couldn’t face his wife’s reaction to that.

The failure of Miriam, the caring but over stressed, drinking to cope, social worker with a dog to compensate for her dead son, played by Sarah Lancashire, maybe wasn’t in allowing a fateful unsupervised visit to Kiri's birth grandparents. Maybe her fault was in the very beginning, by not placing Kiri with her birth grandparents in a kinship care arrangement and instead creating the unrealistic dream of a black child playing permanent happy families with a nice middle class white family. 

Thursday 1 February 2018

January 2018 films events etc

Who with & venue 
Director etc Date
Lead Actors
Thoughts and story etc 
All 4 family Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate.
Paid normal prices
Top Hat *****

Songs Irving Berlin
John Plews
Ovation Productions
Joanne Clifton dancer from strictly & Joshua lay 
As usual John Plews Christmas production was fast, slick and exciting. Silly story of a tap dancing man from America who falls for the singer/dancer in the room below him in London - there’s a whole lot of stuff about mistaken identity and they all end up in Paris where it all comes right in the end. Wonderful songs. Top Hat, Puttin on the Ritz, Cheek to Cheek, Let’s face the Music & Dance. 
Malcolm & me Phoenix Cinema

Free screening 
King Creole ***
Elvis Presley 
Danny (Elvis) is trying to support his family by working before and after school - he discovers he has a real talent as a singer but gets dragged into criminality and falls for two women simultaneously- one innocent & one manipulative- it inevitably comes right in the end but there are some hairy moments - I hadn’t realised that Presley could act so well
Phoenix Cinema N2

Free screening 
The Young Ones ***

Sidney J Furie - shot at Elstree 1961
Cliff Richard, Carol Grey, Robert Morley, the Shadows. 
I thought I must have seen this, but didn’t remember it at all. Cliff Richard plays Nicky Black who is a member of the youth club but also the son of a wealthy property tycoon. Not knowing that his son attends the youth club the father buys the site for redevelopment. The youth club mobilise to save their club by putting on a show to raise £1500 for a five year lease. Dad played by Robert Morley frustrates them at every point. Eventually of course father and son are reconciled, Nicky gets both the girl and a recording contract and the youth club is rebuilt. I remember huge rows with my parents when I wanted to listen to it’s music with my friend Joy Smith, but it really is surprisingly tame and I really can’t understand what all the fuss and anguish was about. 
Malcolm & me Phoenix Cinema N2

Paid senior prices 
Darkest Hour ****
Joe Wright 
Filmed at Wentworth Woodhouse, Manchester University Library, Westminster, Greenwich etc. 
Gary Oldman Lily James Kristen Scott Thomas 
Churchill in WW2. Chamberlain has been hoping for a negotiated peace but Attlee has had enough and calls for a government of National Unity without Chamberlain. Some want Lord Halifax but there’s doubt that the people would accept a non elected leader, so it falls to Churchill supported by his wife and his secretary. There’s distrust of Churchill because of Gallipoli and King George is not pleased. However more by oratory than tactical ability, Churchill builds a movement in favour of fighting for our island. 4000 men are sacrificed at Calais, to create a diversion whilst the evacuation of Dunkirk takes place. Churchill wins over the king and parliament, Halifax comments that he’s taken the English language into battle. 

Southgate Beaumont 

Rambling with Rothenstein 

Dr Mark Banting

Georgian age stimulated a renaissance in British culture and creativity. Most of our art had been coming from Europe because those who could afford went on the Great European tour, bringing back art treasures. During the 1700s this changed. Fashion moved towards grand paintings on walls & ceilings - mimicking Italian baroque eg Greenwich eg Lanscroon in Southgate both Broomfield and Arnos.
This time saw the rise of Thomas Hudson from Devon, William Hogarth, Joseph Wright of Derby and George Stubbs - leading to Gainsborough and Reynolds. 
There were moves by Thornhill and others towards an art academy in London, the first was Hogarth's enterprise - St Martins lane academy in a former chapel - sitting in the round painting nude models and retiring to old slaughters coffee house - social commentary in painting is new Rothenstein - picks out a painting of a polling station - 
Life was flourishing in Georgian England - 18th century mid 1750s - French and Germans looking to England as new enlightenment- coffee houses bohemian democracy- factories theatres showrooms - art and ideas 
Joseph Wright of Derby born to professional family - trained under Hudson in London and returned to Derby where he was  painting the wealthy eg Joseph Arkwright factory owner - spinning frame in the portrait Other pictures showed the wealth and fabrics from industry rather than inheritance - moving into the gentry  eg Joseph wright portrait of Joseph Arkwright jnr and family -Joseph wright also paints industrial scenes  Iron forge in Derbyshire has references back to roman times there was money to be made in forging iron and a pride in making money to support the family 
18th century culture- John Locke thinking of mind as dark space - eyes letting in information Science coming to the fore - age of discovery Masonic idea of divine architect Joseph wright becomes social historian of the time 
Sir George Stubbs was a self taught painter - he disappeared in 1750s to Lincolnshire village with Mary Spencer - over 18 months dissected a succession of horses painting in great detail - taught himself art of engraving in order to self publish the anatomy of the horse - practical book for artists After which he starts being commissioned to paint society figures with their horses and dogs. Charles 3rd duke of Richmond invited him to goodwood to paint horses - 1760 picture of Charlton Hunt - every dog is a portrait - also Gimcrack with John Pratt in Newmarket heath Whistlejacket for Wentworth Woodhouse. Stubbs dogs not human whereas Gainsborough dogs look lovingly at master Stubbs went on to paint zebras and rhinos 

With Helen 

Intimate Theatre Palmers Green 

Paid normal prices 
The Little Mermaid 

St Monica’s Players 

Helen & I met in horrid weather to see the annual Panto at the Intimate - we’ve gone there most years for the last 10 years or more, it’s part of our annual cycle. The Intimate has a fascinating history, it was used for early live theatre transmissions by the embryonic BBC, initially based at the nearby Alexandra Palace. The Latin sign above the stage charges us not to give way to evil. That’s a good motto for the BBC and any drama group. NE CEDE MALIS. 
St Monica’s Players always put on a good show and keep the tradition of pantomime alive. Dozens of corny fish jokes - mostly by an excellent crab who was last years snowman in Frozen / Frosted. I loved the Dame - they always do good dames - but I wasn’t thrilled with Mariel or her prince. They’d used the Disney story of the Little Mermaid rather than the one by Hans Christian Anderson and it’s all just a bit too easy. I got some lovely photos of Helen proving that our children never get too old for a good Panto. Next year they are going back to Panto roots with Snow White. 
With David 
Phoenix Cinema N2

Reduced price as members.
The Post *****

Steven Spielberg 
Meryl Streep 
Tom Hanks et al 
This is based on the true story of the publishing of the Pentagon Papers which demonstrated duplicity by the Washington administration about the Vietnam war, extending over several generations and presidents. 
It is a testament to press freedom and the role of a woman owner/editor, who was expected to do what the male financial protectors wanted, but stood up for what she believed in and was proved right. Brilliant film! 
This film relates closely to All the Presidents Men and Watergate. 
“I am honored beyond measure by this nomination for a film I love, a film that stands in defense of press freedom, and inclusion of women’s voices in the movement of history,” she said in a statement. “Proud of the film, and all her filmmakers. Thank you from a full heart.” Meryl Streep nominated for an Oscar. 


Atrium Royal Free Hospital Hampstead 

Free and with refreshments 
Symposium to recognise the career and achievements of Dr A David Webster immunologist who died last year.
Various immunologists from Royal Free Hospital, GOSH, Northwick Park etc and from Europe 
I went to a symposium on immunology at the Royal Free Hospital last night - I’m not really sure how I got invited - it was a tribute to their wondrous Dr David Webster who died last year.
Dr Webster saw my son in about 1998/9, this appointment followed a series of investigations by Dr Webster’s colleagues and assistants. It was the most profound and useful appointment of my son’s entire life.
What became apparent in last nights symposium was how far and how quickly immunology has moved on since its infancy in the 1940s & 1950s, through major developments in the 1970s and especially the links between immune dysfunction and genetic make up were first recognised in the 1990s. It’s a very different science today. 
One of the early slides in the symposium was of Dr Richard Asher in the early 1950s, ridiculing the idea of doctors sending patients for multiple tests (fishing exercises) when Asher appeared to be saying that he could work out what was wrong just by talking to the patient. The person showing the slide was demonstrating just how far science and the testing process has moved on.
And yet - I thought - we are still stuck with overarching definitions and diagnoses by people such as Asher, which with the efflux of time and the advancement of science may just be plain wrong. They were based on ideas which are or maybe no longer recognised as true. 
U3A HGS at Alyth Synagogue 


Free included in membership 
The Failure of Modern Art 
Colin Lomas 

Colin wasn’t at his best - I’ve heard most of it before from him and heard him put it over better. Turner and the impressionists broke the long established rules - especially Van Gogh. He’s not a fan of Duchamp and Emin but suggests that some things intended as comments or jokes were taken too seriously and accorded a worth beyond their intention.
He follows and relies heavily on the book by Will Gompertz : ‘what are You looking at’. 
Vue Cinema North Finchley

Alone using a free ticket voucher given to David. 
The Greatest Showman ***

(P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus)

Micheal Gracey, Laurence Mark et al
Screenplay Jenny Biggs

Filmed in studios in New York 2016
Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams et al 
A romanticised variation based on the story of the birth of the first circus - Barnum & Bailey in New York which closed whilst the film was being made.
Barnum was a poor tailor’s boy who fell in love with the daughter of one of the big houses which he served. He wooed and married her and spent his life driven to provide her with what she’d given up for him and more. He sets up a museum which becomes a popular theatre or circus. They gain respectability through an audience with Queen Victoria. Inevitably he goes too far and looses everything - his wife through jealousy of the manipulative singer Jenny Lind and his museum through a fire. He forms a partnership with Bailey and they set up a huge tent in the New York docklands, where all the artists with strange body aspects can be happy amidst trapeze artists and animals. I’d thought they shouldn’t go there on the ‘freak show’ aspect but they got away with it through sensitivity and spectacle. Not great but enjoyable and worth seeing. 
Phoenix Cinema N2 
Free screening 
Brigadoon ***

Filmed in New York by Vicente  MineIli 

Screenplay & Music by 
Lerner & Lowe 
Gene Kelly et al
Brigadoon. I remember my mum being very emotional about this story of a ‘risk all’, seemingly impossible love affair. I understood from her that it’s story related to her decision to marry my dad - so when The Phoenix offered it as part of their fortnightly programme of free films for vulnerable people, I was desperate to see it. It’s very dated, with lots of very obvious green screen usage. Some of the songs are beautiful. I was very surprised to see that the film was 1954, which is after my parents were married and I was born - I’d assumed, from her emotional response to an am dram production in my teenage years, that my mum had seen it before she married. However it was apparently only performed at that time on stage in New York and the London stage version was the month of her 1949 wedding. Maybe there was a book associated with the New York stage play? 
Synopsis from IMDb: Americans Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, on a hunting vacation in Scotland, discover a quaint and beautiful village, Brigadoon. Strangely, the village is not on any map, and soon Tommy and Jeff find out why: Brigadoon is an enchanted place. It appears once every hundred years for one day, then disappears back into the mists of time, to wake up to its next day a century hence. When Tommy falls in love with Fiona, a girl of the village, he realizes that she can never be part of his life back in America. Can he be part of hers in Brigadoon?