Tag Archives: london

65,000 people sing Bohemian Rhapsody before Green Day gig

This has been around for a week or so but thought I would share as it makes me smile and if I want to see it again, I can just come here. With all the shite going on in the world this is just uplifting.

This was in Hyde Park in a city I have spent half my life in – London. A city that knows how to have fun. The clip was filmed as the crowd waited to see Green Day at a sell out gig of 65,000+. Mrs Word of Ward and I would have been there if we had been in London and in previous summers have seen the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and so on. The vibe is superb as you can probably tell in the clip.

In this case the drummer’s camera was on and the speakers played Bohemian Rhapsody. Londoners love a sing a long and everyone loves Queen. It’s not often you hear 65,000 people sing. Enjoy:

Map of musicians from each London borough

I saw this the other day and thought I would share. It is a map of top selling London musicians from each London borough created by a redditor called wittybrits. There are a few problems with it, such as why is Zeppelin where it is, but it is fun. This map of musicians is based on where an artist was born, or where the band formed, or where they were discovered, or something more tenuous. I’d love to live in David Bowie-land, but Brixton – not so much. My own part of London is Coldplay and Rod Stewart. Not sure how I feel about that. Happier about the latter, certainly. Anyway, here you go:

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 10.49.23 AM

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Goodbye London!

goodbye_londonWell, the time has come to move on once more. I feel like Bruce Banner, always on the move but without the rage and government agencies after me. (He was the Incredible Hulk in case you missed the reference.) Or the Littlest Hobo but without being a dog. Or – whatever. I get restless and need to move occasionally.

While it is fun to change scene/city/country/continent there is always an element of melancholy as you are leaving friends and possibly even family behind. When I was younger and moving to Australia or Hong Kong or wherever, it was a bit worse as flights were longer and there was no internet and people are shite at writing letters. Now it isn’t quite so bad. Thanks Facebook, you are keeping me in touch everyone (and in return here is all my personal data). Also email and Skype and all that stuff. The modern world is bloody marvel.

It is with sadness that I leave but also some excitement. Working in TV with a bit of freelance writing on the side was great and it paid for a degree and a shiny new pair of lasered eyes. But I find writing full time more satisfying and London is too goddamned expensive. So I am returning to a life of journalism, while focusing on my legendary websites. I will also be working on more kindle books, which is ridiculously good fun and is already making me an increasing amount of money.

So I bid you farewell London and all my wonderful friends and family. I will only be 12 hours away by plane or a few seconds by a click of a mouse. I will visit lots. If all goes well maybe I will spend half my time there and the other half in the tropics. (Now is a good moment to buy one of my books, by the way.) It all depends on numerous factors and most importantly, what Mrs Word of Ward wants to do. She is in charge after all.

So cheers, London and farewell Blighty! I will see you soon but for now – mine’s a Beer Chang.

 

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Deadly snakes that could kill babies at large in North London!

NatureLittle did I know that I, as a North Londoner, have been living with the threat of DEADLY KILLER probably EVIL, RABID snakes for years. These things are 8 foot long and can kill babies and may or may not be able to fly. Apparently it has gotten to the point  where my own borough of Camden is talking about culling the slithering menace and I am only just hearing about it now.

Panic damn you!

Ok, I am being slightly alarmist here but that is because I have just read a load of news reports that are being massive dicks about the whole thing. Here is one such headline:

“Deadly eight-foot snakes that can kill cats and dogs invade London.” (http://travel.aol.co.uk/2014/05/10/deadly-eight-foot-snakes-found-london-regents-canal/)

Here is another one:

“Snakes capable of crushing small children to death at large in London” (http://www.independent.ie/world-news/snakes-capable-of-crushing-small-children-to-death-at-large-in-london-30262994.html)

A few points need to be made here.

– Yes the snakes (Aesculpian snakes to be precise) are DEADLY – but to rats and birds and so on. All carnivores are deadly in that they make other animals die. So you should also be afraid of DEADLY pussy cats and DEADLY little birdies and DEADLY moles, etc. (Especially moles, they just look weird.)

– They have invaded in the sense that they are not native to the UK. According to the newspaper reports, they originate from Yugoslavia which is no longer even a place. So they have been living here a while just getting on with things, although I am sure that still infuriates Daily Mail snake lovers.

– They live mostly on rats and small birds. Technically they can strangle small animals but as London is chock full of rats, why bother eating Mr Tiddles? As one paper pointed out – large snakes have been known to attack small dogs or babies but as this has never happened in London and after decades of them lurking around, I feel ok. Birds and rats have been known to attack kids too, so maybe this will balance out.

– The main concern about the babies being attacked comes from one quote from one person that I have seen repeated in several papers and online magazines (including the two above). They all use the exact same wording as if simply copied and pasted by some lazy bastard who can’t be arsed to do better research. Here is the copied and pasted quote:

Mum-of-three Sylvia Taylor, 33, told the Daily Star: “If they are capable of killing small animals then surely they could constrict small children?”‘

Great stuff. I have a degree in English and one part of my studies involved linguistic analysis. So having skilfully dissected the above statement I can reveal it is slightly misleading. She is actually asking a question not telling them something. Her hypothetical question is not answered but that doesn’t stop the question turning into an implication that is consequently used as a chilling headline.

I grew up in Asia and snakes are fine. Especially non-aggressive non-poisonous ones that eat rats. Leave them alone.

On the other hand I could be wrong! Be afraid! Think of the children! Next article: ‘Moody Geese from France are here to break your children’s legs.’

Regent's Canal, Camden. Right now! (Allegedly)

Regent’s Canal, Camden. Right now! (Allegedly)

 

 

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LLSB – Long Live Southbank

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

This is primarily about the LLSB, Long Live Southbank campaign but it also rambles charmingly on about London in general. So if you aren’t a Londoner but one day hope to visit, consider this an incentive. Alternatively, if you are into skateboarding, check out the video at the end.

southbank human statueOne of the joys of being a Londoner is just the sheer amount of stuff that is going on all the time. Truly if you are bored of London, you are a boring bastard indeed. There is not just so much going on that you feel guilty every time you browse an issue of Time Out, there is also a ridiculous variety of things all around. I love all the book readings by famous authors, comedy nights, world famous bands playing live, the greatest selection of theatres on the planet, the markets, the pubs, parks, and random events like boat races/fireworks/pageants/random art happenings/street performances, etc. There are also things I don’t really give a shit about – opera, human statues, invigorating swims outside in the winter, performance art, vegetarian restaurants, chessboxing, religion, skateboarding, and so on.

But just because I don’t give a shit about these latter examples doesn’t mean I don’t want them around. They add something to the city.

Southbank-bookstallFor example, a place I love is the Southbank. This stretch on the south side of the Thames holds pretty much everything I have mentioned in both lists (not sure about chessboxing but I wouldn’t be surprised). It has Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (which must be experienced), the British Film Institute, the London Eye, Tate Modern, second hand books stalls, bars, restaurants, theatres and art galleries. It even has a beach!

It has also a place for skateboarders which has been there since I was a kid. As I said, I don’t really care much about skateboarding but the Southbank skateboard park is something I would be very sad to see disappear. It adds to London’s diversity. It seems a fun place for all the young youth-types to hang around. It’s always a laugh watching someone trying to show off and falling flat on their face. Besides, the area has been dedicated to the skateboarders for 40 years. Everyone likes it, including tourists.

LFA-south-bank-skateboarding_jpg_573x380_crop_q85The problem, no matter what the council’s argument claims to be, is that the skateboarders don’t make any money for Lambeth whereas a Starbucks/Wagamamas/Nandos/whatever will.

If the Southbank skateboard park is shut and replaced with chain shops/restaurants, it can only be a bad thing for a city trying to stay one of the top places for art,creativity, and diversity. I think it will be a massive shame to lose this. So do lots of others. Consequently, the LLSB or Long Live Southbank was set up.

I wrote most of this because they have now made a short video that they want to try and go viral. It’s actually really interesting, even if you aren’t into skateboarding. (Their website is here and is worth a look: http://www.llsb.com/)

At least watch the video and make your mind up. I learned some new things.

 

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London in the 20s. Colour video!

I saw this on Facebook and felt the need to share. It’s pretty amazing to see colour video from the 20s and this is even more amazing if you happen to be a Londoner. It’s mad to think that my teenage grandad might be in one of these shots, taken almost 100 years ago. It was certainly a glorious time if you like to wear hats. Enjoy.

Ansel Adams – Photography from the mountains to the sea

I saw this exhibition yesterday at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (London). It was downright awe inspiring. Alongside Cartier Bresson, Adams is probably my favorite photographer in equal first place. I guess I’m a sucker for black and white photos.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams is best known for his stunningly detailed photographs of American landscapes. In particular Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, and the Californian coast. He does do smaller more intimate pictures but my favorites are his huge and epic pieces. You can see a few at the the bottom of this post but quite frankly, the only way to do justice to his work is to see it on a larger scale. Which means you should go and see this exhibition if you happen to be in London. I have been a fan of Ansel Adams since I was a kid and this is a worthwhile exhibition with a variety of examples of his work – from the small and intimate to the large and epic. There are also a couple of interesting documentaries.

ANSEL ADAMS Photography from the Mountains to the Sea is on at the National Maritime Museum (which is fascinating anyway) from 9th November 2012 to 28th April 2013.

As promised here are some bigger pictures. Imagine them even bigger.

Ansel Adams

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The Olympics are here

The Olympics are currently in full swing here in London town. Lots of Londoners, myself included, were originally against them. We weren’t asked if we wanted the games but we were expected to pay for them. It felt a bit like being mugged but without getting the chance to run for it or telling the culprit to piss off. Not only that, but getting around our own city to do (admittedly pointless stupid) things like work, was predicted to be a nightmare. Then there were the security problems, the missiles on roofs, anger over Olympic lanes, and sponsors behaving mean and spiteful to pretty much everyone.

Fickle bastard that I am, I’m alright with it all now. If you didn’t enjoy Danny Boyle’s superb opening ceremony you must be a pretty joyless individual. Sure some bits were better than others (the weird music text story for example wasn’t my thing), but generally speaking it was all fun, rousing stuff. Quirky is probably the word. It had Bond, Bean, and the Queen. Surely you must like one of them.

I’m not normally into sport, but the brief glimpses I’ve had of the games (between pointless work and epic train trips) have been great. The joy of the Olympics is that alongside main sports like tennis and football, you might find yourself inexplicably absorbed by something random – women’s archery or  women’s pole vaulting or women’s beach volleyball or something. (They were just random examples you understand.) I’m sure these sports are on at other times but because it is the Olympics, it now has some kind of meaning or purpose to it all. If you live in London you are frequently bumping into events and can have a quick cheer. It makes life here about 10% more exciting.

It would be nice if the sponsors chilled out a bit though. Stop patrolling the streets looking for anyone heinously supporting the games with five round objects suspiciously overlapping, and just let people have fun. I’m a bit nervous just talking about them, they might burn down my website.

Transport has been a bit worse but it is so awful usually, most Londoners are coping quite well. The trains have all worked at the weekends which actually makes for an improvement.

I guess we shall see if the Olympics actually does make a profit. The organisers (or possibly the government, I wasn’t paying attention) reckon we might make a profit of £2 billion. Hopefully this will mean the mascots knocking on doors and giving everyone in London a couple of hundred quid each. Or at least a 6 pack. Most of us are easily bribed.

So go Olympics! We’ve paid and sufferend already, so we might as well enjoy it. To celebrate this, here is a funny sketch about the Olympics. It’s funny, quirky, a bit weird, and British. Go Monty Python!
http://youtu.be/dmyz_f8Sx14

 

Drenched Britain struggles through drought

I’m currently in the middle of two 80 hour weeks of mostly nightshifts. Normally this would suck as I have to pass lots of happy people drinking outside pubs on my way to work and when I arrive I am filled with envy and hatred for my fellow man. (I pass seven pubs between my house and the station, my area is awesome.) But recently it has been pissing it down every day so I might as well get to my office and get paid to watch TV while drinking free coffee.

In case you didn’t know Britain is currently soaked and damp. It’s pretty famous for the rain at the best of times and the country is truly living up to its reputation. It has apparently been the wettest April on record. There have been well over 100 flood warnings and the news is gleefully full of images of cars driving through deep puddles and people huddled under umbrellas. According to this report there has been a month’s rain in four days:
http://youtu.be/OzZz1frzEsQ
So far you are probably thinking, ‘So what. You’re British. You chose to live there. Wet weather is hardly news.’ Well you are right. A bit smug and I probably wouldn’t want to hang around with you, but yes, good point.

The reason I am writing this is because we are also officially in a drought. Which I find weird. I like weird so thought I would write/pointlessly complain about it. There have been excuses and tedious people blathering on about reservoirs and thirsty plants but it all seems like bollocks to me. I read that there is a massive problem with the pipes. Apparently they are leaking and lose 1000s of litres of water every day. This seems more plausible than a thirsty tree. If I had waterproofed my house and removed the ceiling I could easily fill it up so why aren’t our reservoirs doing the same? (It’s possible that wasn’t a scientifically accurate comparison.)

What is my point? Do I have a journalist angle? Nope. I’m British (mostly-ish) and we love to bitch about the weather. Consequently it was hard to resist a whinge about the worst drought in decades while having one of the wettest Aprils on record. It’s a genetic thing. Bloody weather.

 

 

John Martin: Apocalypse at Tate Britain

Apocalypse by John Martin

 

Everyone loves a good Apocalypse and everyone seems to love John Martin’s work. I certainly did.

John Martin was hugely popular in the 19th Century and toured the world with his spectacular paintings of the end of the world and scenes from the bible of God smiting the shit out of everything. Obviously most of the paintings come from the Old Testament when God was going through his ‘angry phase’ and regularly destroyed cities and drowned the whole planet. Fortunately he chilled out a bit after that and started banging on about being meek and merciful as if all the mass destruction had never even happened.

Martin’s work focuses on these more exciting bits of the bible along with other scenes such as debauched feasts and epic battles. Man, the bible went downhill in the second half (apart from the epic destructive end scenes, but it was too little too late to save the book in my opinion).

At the time, plebeian Victorians flocked in their thousands to see the huge and exciting pieces of work. They were the blockbuster cinema equivalent of the time (it was boring back then, hence all the warfare and Empire building). Of course the intelligensia of the day slagged off Martin’s work as being distasteful and dubbed him the ‘people’s painter’. Intellectuals hate stuff that gets too popular and John Martin was the Michael Bay of his time. The main difference is that Martin is now seen as being ahead of his time, whereas I suspect Bay won’t be.

Sodom and Gomorrah after God gets pissed off

John Martin: Apocalypse
is well worth seeing. I loved it. There’s an added bonus near the end where a load of arty actors have done a voice over for a sort of mock up of the sensationalism that surrounded his tours. This consists of a triptych of pictures (three paintings in case you’re an oik) with lights and cool effects.  The left picture is of heaven and has cherubs lolling around fatly and pointlessly. The centre has Jesus being judgemental and condemning half the population to eternal torture. The painting on the right is of hell and collapse and general coolness. This is accompanied by the actors recreating the sort of cinematic voice-over sensationalism that was used to publicise his work. ‘SEE THE DAMNED CONDEMNED TO THE FIERY PITS OF HELL’ sort of thing. It was brilliant.

As I said, I loved it and so did everyone I was with. It’s on at Tate Britain until mid-January, so you have plenty of time.

Bizarrely, here’s a trailer:


 

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England set to freeze

An entire week ago, I wrote how warm and pleasant England was. It’s now back to its standard grey drizzle. Ahh, normality. In fact, two days after the warmest October day ever, it snowed in Scotland.  Again, normality.

London for the next six months...

Apparently, though, this winter is going to be one of the coldest winters ever. From November onwards, for months and months, brass monkey will shedding extremities with abandon. Which sucks. I’m taking solace in the fact that the same people predicted that the summer was going to be a ‘scorcher’, when it was in fact ‘shite’.

In fact, I read somewhere (probably on the infallible internet), that if you predict that the weather tomorrow will be pretty much like the weather today, you will be correct about 70% of the time. Professional weather people get it right about 80% of the time. Which isn’t that much of an improvement. If you are thinking of going into meteorology it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re looking for a cushy number, it seems a winner. Plus you might get to be on the TV. Just saying “Yeah, more of the same…” for loads of cash.

I’m partly writing this as a warning in case you are planning a holiday to this soon to be blighted isle – or are lucky enough to live here. But mostly because I’m British and we are curiously obsessed with the weather. If you are a meteorologist and have been offended then I apologise. Feel free to point out my hypocrisy – my last blog entry could easily have ended: next entry, “more of the same…”

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England in the grip of nice weather

Brighton on the 1st October

The weather here in London is currently sunny, warm and pleasant. That’s an unlikely thing to write at the best of times, but it’s even more mental in October. The last week has been in the high 20s Celsius with the last three days hitting 29C every day. It was 22C in Algeria for comparison and Algeria has a desert for fuck’s sake. If it carries on like this, it definitely heralds the apocalypse. 

We all seem to be at a loss of what to do. Normally throughout the summer everyone skives of work and gets drunk in parks and beer gardens and are friendly and nice to each other. Right now is the time of year where we normally get mildly depressed by the prospect of approaching winter and the TV tries to distract us by pretending it’s almost Christmas. We stop all the happy friendliness of July and August and return to being aggressive and cold and starting fights in chip shops.

On my way to work last night I saw: a drunk couple arguing in the street, a guy shouting at a Starbucks employee for giving him an incorrect cake, some hoodies on a bench spitting, and a train carriage full of people desperately ignoring each other. This is all correct and as it should be for London at this time of year. Except: the drunk couple were arguing in front of a crowded beer garden full of wasted people already thinking up excuses for pulling a sickie, the Starbucks guy was in a vest and drinking a frappuccino, the hoodies looked hilariously hot, and the train still had attractive half clad women in it (they disappear for winter).

Thankfully by the end of this week, we will apparently skip Autumn and launch straight into Winter. Then we can return to normal. If there is one thing the British excel it, it’s bitching about the weather. Now it’s just confusing.

Just to end on a high note, here’s a random picture of Britishness taken from yesterday’s Metro newspaper. Enjoy. Next entry: Bloody Weather.

All British women look like this for two months a year.

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Chain gangs in Britain

Awesome outfits

Apparently there is going to be a scheme where people convicted of certain crimes, say looting or graffiti, are forced to work five days a week if they are unemployed. It will consist of four days of community service, cleaning stuff for example, and one day looking for work. I assume this means chain gangs of hoodies being forced to scrub walls down, hopefully in humiliating outfits. No one seems quite sure yet how this will work as it will have to be enforced somehow. I get the impression that the government wants to pander to people demanding that criminals pay back something to their communities – but without it actually costing anything.

I have to admit I am all for this. Like most people, I find myself getting more right wing as I get older. I think it is due to the fact that when you are young you want to go to illegal raves, take drugs, get drunk in parks, and generally embrace things you might think are cool. Like graffiti or skateboarding or just general loafing about pissing of the police and authority. When you are younger there seem to be more people telling you what to do all the time and you naturally want to rebel. As you get older to tend to have your own property, you possess more nice things, you want your neighborhood to be safer and look nicer.

When you are younger you might think that people living on the edge of the law are cool and sticking it to the system and exposing the flaws of our decadent consumer society that embraces greed and possessions. When you get older, you just want the prick who stole your phone to be beaten with sticks. I remember when I was 25 and worked my ass off to save up for a playstation. Then some wanker broke into my bedsit and stole it. I would still like his feet broken.

People sometimes bleat on that education is the key. Even given the fact that you can lead an illiterate twat to a desk but can’t make him learn, the education aspect doesn’t seem to be working. A level results have been improving every year for 29 years implying that we are ever more a nation of geniuses. Or that the exams are getting easier. Either way people seem to be learning things.

Forehead tattoos

Nope, call me a fascist but I think amusing punishment is the key for low level criminals. Not prison where the more violent actually have a better time than the less violent, but more unusual and funny punishments. I think embarrassing chain gangs would be a good start. Make them dress up like morons while they do it. If a criminal smashes a window, make them wash the neighborhood’s shop windows. While dressed as a ballerina. If they are caught doing graffiti get one of those temporary tattoos that last a month and write ‘Twat’ or ‘Loser’ on their forehead. If someone loots JD Sports (one of the hardest hit by the rioters), make them do sport – 8 hours of hopscotch or something.

 

I do worry that my increasing hatred of crime and scummery will lead me to inevitably read the Daily Mail but thankfully I am all for immigrants or anyone that contributes to society. My wife is an immigrant for a start and she’s out working a 12 hour shift while I write this on the couch.

If you are a liberal type who thinks that Britain can be fixed with counselling and hugs then fine. You are probably a nicer person than me generally. Kudos to you. You’re going to hate it when I’m in charge though.

 

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England – it’s a riot!

A load of twats in hats tried to burn London down. And because London leads the way, there were then riots all over England. It was like the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes out there – except that the apes in the movie are literate and you can understand their motives and empathize.

It seems to have calmed down now and people are analysing the aftermath. Londoners are a fairly resilient group and it’s business as normal.

I’m a bit annoyed with all this rioting shenanigans. They trashed a sushi place and a Dominos about 10 minutes from my flat. Some are saying that it is because they are poor and feeling frustrated and boo and hoo. In case you haven’t been to England, please don’t think that our poor are all under 25 and in hoods. Our poor actually come from all walks of life. Some are even old and quite a few are now homeless as their houses have been burnt down. The poor desperado looters are apparently angry at a consumer society where others get things that they don’t. Curiously though, these tracksuit wearing thugs used mobile phones to organise this attack which has largely specialised in looting sports clothing shops and mobile phone stores. Some even arrived in cars to maximise their looting efficiency and correct this imbalance.

Kids in tracksuits stealing tracksuits in protest against not being able to have as many tracksuits as others

This is just opportunism and fun for an underclass in society that doesn’t have much future, knows there will be no real comeback, and doesn’t really care about others. The people I feel sorry for most are those who are equally broke but have just lost their shops and homes. Because the looters don’t travel. They just trash their own underprivileged neighborhoods. It could be argued that the looters are so distanced from society and a sense of belonging that they no longer care. The fact that a lot of the crime was caused by local gangs somewhat negates that separation from their neighborhoods.

There have also been some tragic deaths because of this. A guy called Richard Bowes from Ealing died last night after he remonstrated with looters near his house on Monday. He was beaten so badly that it killed him. Also, in Birmingham three guys were protecting their business when a group of the poor disaffected types, who had a car, drove into them and killed them. Quite frankly, I’m surprised there wasn’t more loss of life but these tales are tragic enough.

Someone sent me a link to a Telegraph article which pointed out that this lack of ethics and morality are prevalent on high and well as down low. MPs are lamenting the poor morals of the young and broke and some are getting positively indignant about the lowlifes. Their hypocrisy is pointed out as several of these MPs were found guilty of claiming thousands in expenses. This is ethically on par if you are just talking about theft and barefaced greed. The difference is that after the expenses scandal, a lot of MPs paid the money back. An even bigger difference is that genuinely poor working people didn’t have their houses burnt down or were killed because of the greed.

People are worried that this sort of thing might affect the Olympics. It won’t. There are shopping malls in that part of town and these ‘disaffected’ dicks aren’t protesting or making a statement in order to get heard. They only attack shops.

What has been touching about all this are people getting together to clean things up. Groups formed on twitter which led to armies of people armed with brooms sweeping up all the smashed glass and discarded playstation boxes. That Malaysian student who got mugged by hoodies pretending to help has had a mini charity set up so that his parents can fly over from Malaysia to visit him in hospital. My local Budgens has pledged to feed the 100 or so people from Tottenham who were made homeless. These acts of kindness show that the English aren’t all bad, no matter what the rest of the world may be thinking given the images they have been receiving.

It’s all pretty ugly and unpleasant no matter what you think of the motives behind it. Are they mindless, looting, murdering pricks or has society let these morally void cherubs down? At least the press and bloggers and news sites can slag them off. The chances of anyone involved sitting down and reading anything are nil. I saw a funny tweet from Sky News welcoming all their ‘new viewers in Tottenham watching themselves loot on their new Hi-def TVs’.

Looting is pretty unpleasant anywhere as it tends to punish local communities of equally poor people who are just trying to get ahead in life. The only people who have benefited from this are the looters who got away with it and those involved in the phone hacking scandal and are no longer in the media’s spotlight. A sad consequence of this switch of focus is that other news is being pushed back a few pages. Syria is getting increasingly violent and in Somalia a human tragedy on a colossal scale continues to unfold. Kind of puts things in perspective a bit.

 

 

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Ghost Stories review

Ghost Stories at the Duke of York

We decided to see this the other day as we had an evening free and happened to walk past the Duke of York theatre where it was playing. If you are a Londoner this can be a recommended way of going to see a play as you can get massive discounts at the box office a few hours before the play starts. We got premium seats and instead of of paying £70, we both got in for £45. Bargain. I just mention this to gloat and be helpful.

Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman

So, the play. ‘Ghost Stories’ was written by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson. Nyman is best known as Derren Brown’s co-conspirator and he helps write a lot of his tricks and stage acts. He was also superb as a sweary TV producer in Charlie Brooker’s genius zombie series Dead Set. Dyson is best known for writing The League of Gentlemen, a genuinely creepy and darkly funny show. So both are good writers and no strangers to a decent foreboding atmosphere.

The tension starts the moment you walk into the theatre. The walls are covered with cobwebs, police tape, and ominous chalk numbers. The whole place, inside and out, is lit by flickering lightbulbs. Even the voice telling you to make sure your mobile is off is pretty damn creepy.

The play begins with the superb Andy Nyman giving us the audience a lecture on Parapsychology. Specifically ghosts. He then introduces us to three chilling ghost tales – ones that he thinks deserve further investigation. He links these stories as part of his lecture. I can’t say much more without giving things away.

I have to say, I loved this. It was great fun and once you have seen the whole thing and think about it, you appreciate how brilliantly crafted the experience is. Everything is linked and builds to the ‘shock’ ending. I watch a lot of horror films, often on my own at 3am to maximize the scare factor, and am pretty immune to genuine fear induced by entertainment. God bless desensitisation! I do feel tension, suspense, shock and enjoyment, however, and these are present in abundance.

If you are easily scared, and want to be again, go and see it. If you are a hardened horror fanatic and enjoy the genre, go and see it. It’s damn good fun.

Below is the trailer and you can see audience reaction. I can guarantee that these aren’t faked reactions. There are some real jump out of your seat moments and they could get footage like this any night. I almost spilled my gin and tonic at one point.

http://youtu.be/ZQ0Yhq_v4b0

 

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The Wimbledon Weather effect

It’s the first day of summer and the longest day of the year today. Shame it’s so shite outside. As I look out the window of my flat at all the poor saps huddled against the wind and drizzle, it’s mildly depressing to think that it is usually a lot worse for the rest of the year. I blame Wimbledon. I read somewhere, (in a SCIENCE magazine so you can’t dispute it – or maybe it was on QI), that weather patterns are affected by the mass movements of people. Vast amounts of people commuting during the week somehow affects the weather with the result that there’s an increased chance of rain at the weekend.

Glorious WimbledonIgnoring the fact that it is a Tuesday and has just rained, this seems pretty convincing. Maybe Wimbledon causes a similar effect. For two weeks, slightly demented people descend on Wimbledon and act slightly zany in hats and face paint and so on. Or maybe the weather is influenced by all the hopes and dreams of Britain willing that this year a British player will win. (Ten years ago we were hoping an Englishman would win, but now it’s a Scot we are all British. Hurrah for Britain!) Our hopes get up due to initial success and this collective intake of breath sucks in cloud from the Atlantic. Then, when the British player is knocked out near the end the weather clears up allowing some Europeans to fight for the title. The same happens with the World Cup every year.

It’s a tradition that nearly always occurs. Champagne, strawberries, rain interruptions and disappointment. Enjoy.

 

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Riots in London

Two days ago I narrowly missed a load of riots in good old London. In the morning I had to get a visa for my upcoming trip to Thailand. I then got the tube to Leicester Square and wandered into Soho for a bit of lunch at Wahaca (which was awesome if you are interested). I then meandered around Soho before going to my eye laser people on Tottenham Court road to have a check up on my eyes (which are also awesome). I then walked down Charing Cross road to look at books then down Bond street where I had a coffee and met my wife for a bit of shoe shopping (not quite so awesome). From there we walked around the area before having a quick pint at Green Park where I got on the tube to go to work. I even saw Bob Geldoff out for a bit of Christmas shopping. A very pleasant day. Except for the work bit at the end. 

I find this very depressing

I somehow missed all the riots just a few minutes down the road. I knew there were protests that day but the police usually surround them. If things kick off or the rioters smash stuff then the cops either club them and get accused of being heavy handed, or let them smash a few things and get accused of not being prepared. All fairly normal. 

I knew things might not be going to plan when vans of police kept belting around every corner. If I looked south, I could see helicopters. In shops I could hear the radio warning that rioters were heading our way. On twitter and the internet there were reports that they had burnt the Christmas tree in Trafalgar square (a few minutes walk from Leicester square). They then smashed shops on Oxford street where I had just been then shouted their way up Regent street and attacked Prince Charles’s car – a road I had just crossed. 

I wasn’t particularly worried about the rioters as I haven’t cut my hair in a while and was unshaven and scruffy, so would probably be mistaken for one of their own. I was mildly concerned about being ‘kettled’ by the police and trapped for hours but not that bothered really. London has a lot of alleys and twisty back streets and I know a lot of them as they tend to have late night bars on them so I was confident I could escape. I was mostly concerned that the tube station I needed to get to would be shut and I would be late for work because of some dickhead rioters or overzealous plod. I am freelance and charge by the hour after all. 

At first I was all for the protests. How does making a student take out a massive loan, that will eventually be paid back decades later, help our economy right now? Will this mean even bigger rises for foreign students? They pay almost triple the fees of local students – apparently so that fees for locals can be kept low. Cameron said last month: “foreign students will still pay a significant amount of money – but we should be able to keep that growth under control”. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11724431) Well that’s ok then. We are already one of the most expensive places to study outside of the US but as Cameron should be able to keep things under control then they probably won’t all go somewhere else and lose universities pots of cash from people who pay a lot in advance. 

Of course there millions of arguments, some very good, for both sides. I can’t be bothered to go on any more about it. The point was that I was all for the supposedly peaceful protest. My image of students remained a mixture of: 

Students protest!

and: 

and just a bit of: 

i know it's gratuitous but it's my site

Unfortunately, the protest got hijacked by a load of twats. As usual. This has caused a lot of people to think less ‘Yeah! Stick it to the establishment’ and more ‘you pointless bunch of pricks, why smash windows on Oxford street during the shopping season and burn down the Christmas tree’. It was as if they were attacking Christmas, the joyless scum. 

Is this man a student protester, or a dick?

Most of the rioters (as opposed to the protesters) looked suspiciously like the sort of non-student who just like a fight and hates capitalism and the royal family and blah blah blah. In fact they look a lot like the sort of people who hang out around the bridge in Camden down the hill from my flat. 

Quite frankly it’s all very sad. The next time the students protest, they should casually ask others in the crowd if they are up for smashing a few shops. If they answer is yes, they should beat them up with truncheons in a powerful ironic statement of some kind. Then they can still have a protest, people will like them, and I can shop in peace. 

It won’t change anything anyway. I can say that because I’m a cynical grown up well versed in the frustrations and pointlessness of real life. The only way they could really get stuff done is through spreading embarrassing secrets about the government on the internet then hacking into websites and stuff. They’ll have to wait their turn though.

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Planned Engineering Work

If you live in London and have to be travel by tube at the weekend ‘Planned Engineering Work’ is a phrase you will have heard about a billion times. Probably more. I’m only writing about it now because I heard it all evening on my way in to work and the words have become an angry mantra in my brain that I can’t seem to dislodge.

The Underground, when it’s not on strike, seems to think it is ok to shut half the transport system every weekend if they just tack these words on the end. You will hear announcements like: ‘London Underground is currently operating a good service across the entire network. The following lines are shut due to planned engineering work…’ There then follows a list that takes about 5 minutes to read out. Apparently this is because they are ‘transforming your tube’. This is being done in ways that are sadly invisible to users, so we just have to take their word for it.

Am I being cynical in remembering that the increase in weekend closures happened around the same time as the tube staff protests over no longer being paid overtime for working weekends? Boohoo. It is currently 4am on Saturday night and I’m at work being paid the same as if it was a Monday day. All I have to look forward to is a lengthy series of bus journeys in the morning because the District, Overland, and Piccadilly lines are all shut. So is the circle line, but that is closed so often it has almost attained mythical status. Are the closures occurring to do a tiny amount of work while cutting back on costs?

Sorry if this sounds like a huge whinge but I work in West London and every weekend it is like a Krypton Factor test just working out how I can cross the city. I assumed that it was all a rush to be ready for the Olympics. It makes sense that they are panicking as the system can barely cope now, let alone with lots of extra tourists. If you look at their website though, it says this is going to continue for the next ten years.

All right I’ll stop bitching. It just feels very cathartic. By the way, apologies for not having written for a while. My brain was down for planned engineering work.

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The Pope is in the UK and is worried about our holidays

The pope is finally here! God bless us every one! As you may have guessed from reading this site, I’m not particularly religious. I have nothing against those who are (although I think you’re wrong), I just don’t like it when I have to pay for other’s beliefs (As I have written elsewhere.). Officially the pope’s visit is a state visit but this is hardly like a visit from the a foreign president. The Vatican is a city state and to be a citizen you have to work for the church. 74% of the citizenship is clergy, the rest are Swiss guards and so on. It’s not a normal country we can hopefully increase trade with or anything beneficial like that.

But he’s here, I’ve paid and it’s done. Traffic disruptions aside, why should I care anymore? Once he’s gone past on his popemobile, and things return to normal, the impact on me will be none.

All that will be left will be my memory of finding some of the comments and opinions both humerous and worrying. This is a man who speaks to third world countries and tells them using condoms is a sin. Mind you, one of his minions thought Britain was a third world country, so he must be pleased that we have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe. It’s a shame most aren’t married, but it’s a start. This and all the kid-fiddling that has been covered up are the worrying bits.

The funnier aspects of his pronunciations are his alarm over things like the marginalisation of religion. People still believe in all sorts of ridiculous things – healing crystals, ghosts, moon landing conspiracies, mediums, homeopathy, UFOs, alien abduction, psychics, the loch ness monster, and tons more. There are also lots more religions that are relatively new to the West. What he means is the reduction in his particular branch of those who worship the one true god. The same god that’s worshipped by Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rest but in slightly different ways.

He has specifically mentioned those who have voiced opinions about not celebrating Christian holidays. ‘I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity,’ he has said. (http://www.metro.co.uk/news/841305-pope-fears-religion-is-being-marginalised). He skirts around the fact that this has largely been because people don’t want to offend other religions, as opposed to an increase in atheism. I have to agree with him on this though. People should be able to celebrate what they want. I love Santa and the Easter Bunny. It just feels a bit weird to have the Church speak against suppressing other religions.

I think it is too late. When most people think of Christmas, they think of this:

Traditional Christmas

Or in my case this:

Sexy Santa

Now let me just state that I have nothing against religion. I have lived in a lot of places and have numerous friends from various faiths. We all respect each other’s views. To some extent anyway. I just don’t like it when religions behave in dumb ways or say stupid things and I consequently read about it. I like living in multi-cultural societies just as long as no one clings to ideas that are massively outdated and are actually harmful.

Basically my point is this Mr Pope your worshipfulness. Say what you like about God and angels and harps and demons and pitchforks and singed pubic hair and so on – that’s fine with me. Tell a country that is in the middle of an AIDS epidemic not to wear condoms, then I am forced to disagree. Converting people and then persuading them to breed is not the answer any more. Just be sensible. I know that the majority of Catholics agree with me, they’ve said so in the papers and on forums. Use the internet and advertising and viral videos to reach new converts – they are much more effective and millions needn’t catch STDs.

As for Christmas and Easter holidays. I’m afraid the pagans have taken them back.

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War Horse Play review

War Horse

War Horse

I saw this the other night and was blown away. I knew it had puppet horses in it but little else.

War Horse is about a horse called Joey and a farm lad from Devon called Albert. Albert’s drunken dad buys Joey when he is wasted and feeling competitive at an auction. He makes Albert look after the horse and a touching bond soon forms between them. When Joey is then sold by his drunken dad to the army and sent to Belgium as a cavalry horse, Albert gets a little pissed off. He runs away from home and decides to enlist to fight in World War One. In order to find his horse.

The story is ok and provides a backdrop to the main events and effects of the play. As I mentioned, all I knew about War Horse was that it had puppet horses. Life size puppet horses with people riding around on them galloping over fields or charging at the Hun. They are pretty astounding and the puppeteers do a genius job of bringing them to life. They even have realistically moving ears. There are three people for each horse. Two inside (think pantomime horse) and one moving the head. It’s brilliantly done and you really start to feel affection for the horses, which is doubly well done as I don’t like horses all that much in real life.

Cavalry horse puppets!

There are a couple of other animals too, most notably a humorous goose.

At the back of the theatre is a screen that has animated pencil sketches of backgrounds and animated horses and barbed wire. It is quite simple but it is effective in setting the scene. There are also loud explosions and tweeting birds that help with this too.

The actors were all pretty good but it is the West End of London and tickets were £50, so you kind of expect that. I went with a non-native English speaker and she found it hard to follow some of the accents. It doesn’t really matter all that much though, it’s pretty obvious what is going on.

The story is simple but to be fair it is from a kid’s book, so is hardly going to be like ‘Inception’. It can be a little slow at times but I thought it added to the emotional connection between audience and story, so I’ll let it off.

I loved War Horse. It was so well done. Apparently Spielberg is going to turn it into a movie but as the most impressive parts of the play were the set and puppets and stuff, I’m not sure how good it will be. He seems fairly competent, maybe it will be like ‘Saving Private Ryan – the equine version.’

If you like spectacular theatre and want to see some amazing puppets, you should definitely give this a go. Here’s a bit about it from channel 4 news to wet your appetite:

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