Theatre Review: ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’, Dorfman Theatre 29th November 2016


‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’
Book by Bryony Kimmings & Brian Lobel, music by Tom Parkinson and lyrics by Bryony Kimmings.

I recently caught the last performance of Bryony Kimmings’s A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre.

During the first act, we’re introduced to people with various cancers at various stages of their diagnoses through Amanda (played by the wonderful Amanda Hadingue), a single mum facing the prospect of her four-month-old son having cancer. The musical numbers are moving, haunting and surreal as each character deals with the reality of cancer. Some of the most moving moments came from Laura (masterfully and movingly played by Golda Rosheuvel) in the final stages of ovarian cancer and not ready to face her end and the young man (Gary Wood) trying to deal with testicular cancer on his own.

The twist came in the second act when Amanda stops to ask the writer (the ever present voice of Bryony Kimmings) a question and it’s revealed that the characters are real people with real stories met when Bryony was navigating the NHS with her four-month-old son. Laura, the woman facing a terminal diagnosis was an actress and singer who stopped singing but found her voice in her final weeks. The cast as themselves invited two of the people whose stories we were witnessing onto the stage to give their hopes for the future and invited the audience to name the people they wanted to remember who had been affected by cancer.

Needless to say, it was very affecting and probably one of the few times as a theatre goer I’ve been asked to face the truth. I can see why the reviews have been mixed but I found it a profoundly moving and challenging piece of true theatre


To Boldly Go…

When I was about 4 or 5, I caught an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series on early morning TV (in the early 90s). I don’t remember what episode it was and there’s a good chance it was one of the sillier ones but a bit like when I picked up the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the first time I was hooked. Star Trek would go on to be a very significant presence in my life but there was one thing I’d never done and never even entertained the thought of doing, going to a convention.

Until now.

On Sunday, I ventured to the NEC in Birmingham to attend ‘Destination Star Trek’. This being my first convention I didn’t really know what to expect, sadly a lack of funds meant that I was unable to purchase a bridge photo shoot or photographs with my favourites but I did buy tickets to hear William Shatner enthuse about the mysteries of the universe and to hear George Takei and Walter Koenig talk about their memories of working with DeForest Kelley. Money definitely well spent, especially in the case of latter. There were several free talks, the highlight for me being the look at the upcoming Roddenberry Vault release (which I have pre-ordered…) but at first I was a bit dismayed about the lack of things to do outside of talks.

There were a few vendors selling various Star Trek themed things but nothing that really stood out and there were only a few costumes and props on display. I don’t know what it’s like at other conventions but it all seemed a bit lacking…then I saw someone dressed in an utterly amazing Luxwana Troi costume (who turned out to be Misty Chance, a UK based drag artist who is utterly fabulous). After psyching myself up (social situations are difficult for me), I started asking the amazing cosplayers if I could take their photos I soon I was having a great amount of fun.

Yes it would have been amazing if there had been a ‘gaming zone’ (particularly as I have a several decks of the Star Trek Customisable Card Game and absolutely no idea how to play) and themed food & drink rather than just the bog standard burgers & beer but after a spectacularly long day (I had to leave my flat at 5am) I came to the conclusion that it was seeing several hundred people coming together to celebrate fifty years of a science fiction series which really made my day.

I look forward to attending more conventions in the future.


(If you want to see the photos I took, they’re up on my Instagram :))

Holmesian Speculation: John *Heron* Watson?

(Originally posted on my rarely updated Holmesian blog)

At the Royal Society of Medicine there is small collection of items from the Royal College of Surgeons’s exhibition on ‘The Real Sherlock Holmes‘. It’s a fascinating collection, great to read more about ACD as a medical student and take a look at the people who inspired him.

An interesting thing I discovered whilst there was that the president of RCS from 1878 called Sir Patrick Heron Watson (1832 – 1907); his surgical career carries a certain resemblance to Watson’s. I tried finding an online resource, and all I could really find was this article (PDF) titled ‘An Edinburgh surgeon of the Crimean war–Patrick Heron Watson (1832-1907)’ by WB Watson, published in the Medical History journal v.10 (2) in April 1966.

Basically, after his training and whatnot, Sir Patrick Heron Watson decided to become an army surgeon and headed out to help in the Crimean War. Initially he was posted to Koolalee Hospital in Turkey, where he caught typhus and after a short convalescence was posted to the Crimea with the Royal Artillery – where unfortunately he contracted dysentery. He was put back on a boat going to Scutari (ships doctor said he wouldn’t last the night) and spent the next four weeks in the hospital there, where he became ill with mercury poisoning before finally being sent back to England and spent further recovery in a hotel in London.

Given that ACD used so much from his own experiences and life as influence for Holmes, it wouldn’t surprise me if Sir Patrick Heron Watson’s early army career was inspiration for John Watson’s career and that the ‘H’ is for Heron.


As with all things Holmesian, there are more resources out there talking about Sir Patrick Heron Watson being the source for both Watson’s middle name and surname.

An article in the Baker Street Journal titled ‘Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Bea (sic)‘ (PDF) by S. E. Dahlinger reveals that in 1949 Jay Finley Christ wrote an article called “John H. Watson Never Went to China” which challenged John Dickson Carr’s belief that John Watson was based on ACDs friend James Watson, as ACD didn’t met him until after he wrote STUD. The case was then followed up in the 1980s by Jon L. Lellenberg and W. O. G. Lofts who published “John H(eron) Watson, M.D.” in vol. 30, No.2 of the Baker Street Journal (pages 83 – 85 if you want to look it up).

Learning the truth behind “there may be some discomfort”

I’m back from spending four days being cared for by the lovely staff at University College London Hospital. Every step of the way the staff have been professional, caring and just plain lovely. Even though I don’t have a definite answer to what happened, they have an idea and I’m in a position where I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

So what happened?

Continue reading

Dates with Harry Potter

31st December, 1997.

This is the day I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

You might be wondering how I can be so specific. Easily. At midnight on 31st December, 1997 the final Morse Code message was sent to British ships (Happy New Year). I was standing on board the bridge of an RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) ship in Portsmouth Harbour having spent the day in ‘my’ cabin reading.

My brother (who is 4yrs younger than me), had been given the book as a Christmas present but for whatever reason it had ended up in my cabin. I was bored and started reading. I finished it one sitting and promptly forced it everyone else in my family. From that point, Harry Potter became important in my life, not quite as important as Sherlock Holmes but up there.

On 20th July, 2007 I waited in line at Waterstone’s Covent Garden for the midnight release of the final book. I pre-ordered the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play text and JK Rowling confirmed that, that’s the end of Harry Potter.

The first book came out when I was 11yrs old. I’m 30yr now 0_0

Operation Get Off My Fat Arse Monthly Report #3

The weather has improved and my knee is feeling stronger, so I recently got back onto the Thames Path. I’m cycling to Greenwich, then catching the Thames Clipper to Embankment. It’s awesome. I highly, highly recommend commuting by boat. I had a week off work, I wasn’t hugely lazy but I wasn’t that active during my week off.


Total Distance Cycled: 159.46km
That’s 140km more than last report. Loving being back on the Thames Path.

Total Steps: 270,070
I have stopped walking from Barnehurst for the moment as I’ve increased my time on the bike, I’m using my non-bike days as recovery and to do all the little jobs I need to do on the way home…like buy food.

No swimming or gym. Will definitely get back on that ASAP! Badminton is going well and I’m giving serious consideration to booking myself a squash court. I’ve always wanted to play squash but finding someone to play with and more importantly, find the time to play is difficult so I’m thinking about having a solo session.

Keeping Safe on my Bike

I go out of my way to make myself highly visible to cars, especially at night. I only ride with my funky jersey on during sunny/bright days, then to go home I switch to my bright yellow high-vis jersey and reflective gillet. My rucksack has a high-vis cover and I’ve added a red light to it.

Where possible, I stick to the bike lanes. Sometimes this isn’t possible (road conditions, obstructions on the bike lane, that sort of thing), or when the cycle lane is a shared footpath with pedestrians and I’m cycling at 30mph (speed limit on that stretch of road) – I don’t think it’s hugely safe to be flying down a shared pavement (incidentally, this doesn’t happen very often).

My rear & front lights are very bright LEDs, I put them on flash mode during wet weather but otherwise they’re static. I also have some ‘brainy bike lights‘ but currently don’t have space to put them on my road bike so they’re living on my mountain bike for now.

I want to get some lights on my forks and wheels to add to my visibility as I deal with a lot of small roundabouts at night but I’m already highly visible.

As a defence, I also ride with a Garmin VIRB camera on my helmet. I know something will happen to me, cycling in London it’s inevitable. Whatever happens to me, whether it’s my fault or not I want a record. Luckily so far, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a few squeaky bum moments, like this one

but nothing horrific. Recently, I’ve had a few close moments with drivers making risky moves.

The driver in this clip was ridiculously close to my back wheel and as a result I’ve bough a Cycliq Fly6 rear light & camera combo – if I’d have touched my brakes, or if I reacted to someone stepping out in front of me then this guy wouldn’t have had time to react he was that close. That said, I think the oncoming driver in the red car had a much closer encounter than I did!

This one was a definite squeaky bum moment. The road is wet, the visibility isn’t fantastic so I’m around 23/24mph (on a 30mph road), going down hill (I can easily get up 30mph on the down hill but when the road is wet I don’t risk it). The first car is fine, plenty of space at the traffic island, the second one however…!

All the second driver needed to do was wait a moment for me to clear the island and they had plenty of space. The roads are wide enough there that I’m safely away from the curb and parked cars without having to take primary position, although I think in the future I’m going to have to when it’s wet.