Travels: London: Sunday 10th December 2000

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Thunderbirds FAB


At least this time I had uninterrupted sleep and ventured out to Covent Garden Market after 11. There was a special Christmas market in operation with many temporary wooden huts as stalls on the east and north sides - all with a pine smell. There was some exotic stuff, such as Bavarian noodles and a Dutch or German glassblower with intricate objects, but all under the heading of nick-nack presents rather than every-day stuff. There was a huge crowd browsing through these and the permanent shops.

At noon is strolled along the Stand to Somerset House hoping to see the first Hermitage display [more of this later] but the queue was two hours' long, even in the heavy rain. I resolved to buy tickets online for another time. A temporary skating rink was being erected in the courtyard for the Christmas period.

Instead I went back to Porters and had a lamb and apricot pie (with a big head of puff pastry) and claret, followed by steamed syrup sponge pud and several cups of coffee (17.75). There were only a few others in this early - it seemed to get busy around 13:00.

To pass the time I went around the corner to the Porterhouse for some Red Ale and read for a while. The place was only about a third full till about 13:30. The side alley, Exchange Court, runs down to the Strand and I went this way to the Playhouse Theatre.

Thunderbirds FAB

Again people had to wait just outside the doors to the auditiorioum for no discernable reason. My seat was at the extreme right of the Dress Circle. As background, NASA ground <-> astronaut chatter was playing - possibly one of the recently-released CDs. The audience was definitely an all-ages one this time! Kids of all ages in the audience had paper International Rescue hats on - some were in full kit.

The first part, Space Panorama, consisted of a part-monologue, part-mime piece about the Apollo 11 mission, part serious, part poetic, part gentle satire on NASA. It was very evocative.

The main part, Thunderbirds FAB, had me puzzling for the previous two months. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I'd seen it c1985 at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, though I eventually remembered it as Thunderbirds Are FAB (rightly or wrongly). The programme notes confirmed that the show was there then.

The "story" was a mix of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, with International Rescue versus the Mysterons. The two performers rushed about madly, with quick costume changes and especially changes of hats to indicate which Thunderbird they were. The hats were made by the bloke who made the original models for Gerry Anderson.

It all made hilarious sense, in a confused way! It poked fun at all things Gerry Anderson and the encore of Stingray was particularly well received.

For most people the highlight is the Thunderbird 2 take-off, especially the trees - it has to be seen! The programme included cut-out pieces for doing it at home.

***

After the show (approx. 15:10 - 16:50, with 20-minute interval) I went to the nearby Sherlock Holmes pub. As advertised, there's loads of memorabilia around the walls and the decor included what looked like recycled snob screens and parts from gas lights. On going round to the far side of the U-shaped bar, I sat at the only free table, which was near a bucket on the floor catching drips of what looked like beer rather than water. Apparently there's a function room upstairs, which is where the Sherlock Holmes Society of London meets. The beer selection was all too familiar: London Pride, 6X, Fullers IPA, Boddi, OSH. I settled for a 6X but too late realised that it was probably the end of a barrel - it was certainly odd.

Next I went via tube and foot to High Holborn, hoping to find Red Lion Square and the Dolphin Tavern but failed. I went to the Pizza Express by the NT. I'd been feeling increasingly iffy since the pint of 6X but began to feel better afterwards and went back to the Strand. I had hoped to go to the Coal Hole there but it was closed, so I went to the Porterhouse again for an Oyster Stout, in the hope it would further settle me.


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