Monday, September 28, 2009

All Quiet on the Northern Front

Nothing to report this weekend. It was a write-off, because I went out clubbing with my former flatmates from Ireland.

It was quite successful, though. We got 4 Protestants.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue

This week I went to another show. You probably don't know it, but it's pretty legendary over here. It's a radio show that's been playing for 38 years called "I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue". I assume the name is deliberately similar to it's predecessor "I'm Sorry, I'll Read that Again". Is this starting to sound familiar? ISIRTA was also a predecessor of Monty Python and the Goodies.

"I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue" is a parady game show. It was created by Graeme Garden of the Goodies as a project that wouldn't require so much preparation, but since the whole thing is extremely scripted, I'm not sure how it would've helped. Until recently, the host was the awesome Humphrey Lyttelton, but he passed away last year. This year they've done a tribute tour with guest hosts including Stephen Fry and Victoria Wood. We had Jack Dee, who is one of the most popular standups here at the moment. The 3 regular players are Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Barry Cryer.

Their most famous game is called "Mornington Crescent", which is a game where the contestants compete by naming tube stations until one can get to Mornington Crescent. The gag is that while they argue over which arcane rule book they'll follow, there are no actual rules. They're just randomly naming stations and squabbling.

Anyway, it was pretty funny, but they mostly repeated material that I've heard them do before. And some of it wasn't all that topical any more. But it was funny, and I got to see a couple of comedians who were the funniest people in the world when I was 8 years old. Ironically, I was sitting so far from the stage that I could see into Tori Amos's back garden.

On a different note, I had 2 emails today asking if I'm sick of England and heading home soon. I'm rather surprised at that - I didn't know I had that many readers. The answer to both parts would be emphatically "No".

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wapping Big ARRRdventure

Unfortunately, it was another weekend of missed opportunities. The original plan was to go to Portsmouth to see the hull of the Mary Rose before they take it off display until 2012. On Saturday, I put it off until Sunday, and then on Sunday I checked the website and couldn't work out if it had already closed or not. And it's not worth doing a 7 hour round trip to not achieve your goal. (See Bristol and Bournemouth).

In case you weren't aware, Saturday was "International talk like a pirate day". Yes, that's an actual thing - I Kidd you not. It started me wondering about piracy in English history. So I did some reading, and headed for Wapping in East London to salvage my day.


I quite like Wapping. In older times it was the dock area of London, but more recently it was refurbished under Thatcher, and it seems quite pretty now. It uses the waterways to good effect.

You may recall that last year, I went to the site of the Tyburn Tree, where London executions used to take place. Pirates, however, were not executed there. They were hanged at Execution Dock, which was a gibbet on the low tide mark of the Thames. This was because the admiralty had jurisdiction over the sea. The tide would then be allowed to rise and fall 3 times over the victim before they were removed, tarred, and hung up as a warning to others.

The exact location of Execution Dock on the Wapping waterfront is a point of contention. Here's Wapping New Steps, which is one suggested location:

And Wapping Old Steps:

You get the point - there's nothing much to see now. But down the road is the Prospect of Whitby, which is a pub that has been there since 1520, and where smugglers and pirates used to meet. I find that pretty cool.

By London standards Wapping is pretty central, but it takes a while to walk there, I can tell you. It didn't help that this weekend was Skyride, where the roads were closed down for cyclists to take over the city.

Besides missing seeing the Mary Rose, when I got to London I found that I was also missing Open House London - the weekend when normally-closed architecture all across the city is open for exploration. I missed it last year too, because I had just arrived in Cambridge and needed to hunt for a flat. Damnit.

If I was a pirate, I wouldn't have to wait for the official weekend to enter these buildings...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Showing Up

Okay, I haven't been doing much recently. But I've been to see a couple of shows.

A few weeks ago I went to the "Corot to Monet" exhibition at the National Gallery in London. It traced the development of naturalism into Impressionism in the 19th century. It was pretty good.

Tonight, I went to the big exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum for this year "Darwin: Endless Forms". It's celebrating 200 years since Darwin's birth, and I thought it might be some of his personal effects, but it was better than that. It covered the impact that evolution had on culture at the time. First, with the changing views on nature, and then the Victorians hijacking it to argue that lowerclass people should be left to die because it was natural selection, the development of strong female characters in art and novels based on Darwin's theory that the female of the species controls sexual selectivity (as can be seen from the peacock's tail display), and the influence he had on the Impressionists. Really well done. The Telegraph called it "the show of the year", and I would agree with that.

Friday night I went to see Tori Amos in London. "From the Choirgirl Hotel" is one of my favourite albums. Her music was excellent, but I was up the back of a huge theatre, and I could only see her as a small gold dot in the distance. Those of you in New Zealand may have been closer to the stage than I was. She's pretty impressive, though. There's none of that wasting time speaking to the audience - she just rolls from one song into the next with hardly a pause. She's a bit of musical phenom: When she was 5 years old, she won a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory of Music. At one point in the concert, she sat facing the audience with both arms stretched out to the sides, and played the grand piano on the left and an organ on the right. It would've been better if there was a screen, but I'm glad I went.

That's all I've got. The weather's turning bad really fast now. It's all downhill from here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I've Been Drinking

Having been here over a year now, I'm getting nostalgic.

Take drinks for instance: I've had Sissi, and Fristi, and quite a few Swedish pear ciders (Kopparberg - that's good stuff). I've had a cookie-dough flavoured bottle of milk, that I won't be revisiting except in my nightmares or if I burp really deeply. I had a sauvignon blanc from a small antipodean country in the South Pacific that was revolting. I've had Orangina and Dr Pepper, both of which I think could do well in NZ. In the Netherlands, I drank a 2L bottle of some luridly green monstrosity called "Green Punch". I've had more than my share of Lipton's Iced Tea. The iced tea and peach one is better than it sounds. In Italy, I had a thimble-full of Lemoncello, that turned out to be far more than I wanted. In Ireland, I had Jameson whisky and cranberry juice.

I've been to Cambridge's milkshake shop, proudly boasting 160 flavours of milkshake, where I had the following conversation:

Me: Hi. Can I have an orange milkshake, please?
Her: We don't do orange.
Me: Okay, I'll have a lime one.
Her: We don't do that either.

It was Monty Python's "Cheese Shop" sketch, brought to life.

But this one rates as possibly the oddest: For your vicarious pleasure, I present "Sonda Frutti Carrotti", which as you can see is a blend of carrots and apricot juice.

I was bored, and it was for sale at my local co-op. It's probably Polish. Apparently, in Poland they assume that foods go together if they're similar colours. I look forward to their upcoming strawberry and pig's blood juice.

The first mouthful was great: It was all apricot. The second mouthful was extensively carroty. The third mouthful was back to apricot. I don't think I want to go back for the 4th.