Archive for category 2010

Show Film First

Finally after many years of being unable to coordinate my social life to fit around last minute film suprises I managed to get hold of a couple of tickets for the Show Film First preview screening at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square.

We’d all guessed that one of the films may almost definitely turn out to be Tron, but when the announcement was made a thunderous roll of aproval rippled across the audience.

But more was to come.

The first film to be shown was The Next Three Days, an interesting though somewhat contrived caper. Sadly I felt that it was around twenty-minutes too long, and now having found it is a remake of a French film called Pour Elle (For Her) I am considering getting my subtitle reading brain out of storage to see if the original is better.

By now most people who were going to have seen it will have seen Tron. Its shiny, and as our showing had the producer in situ the four projectors and the sound system were tweaked to perfection over a couple of hours and cranked to the max.

And I liked it.
I liked it enough to see it again at the IMAX.

Yeah it could have been better, yes Jeff Bridges 2.0 has a weird dead eye thing going on (but seriously how close are they getting to “real”?),

But most of all I was happy with the eye-popping-candy brain-chewing-gum fun of watching grown adults running around in shiny skin tight onesies. Haha!

As for the event as a whole, I enjoyed it very much. As an internet-junkie and a lover of films and the art of performance it was good to find out about the people behind the Usernames we see on the screen advising us or deterring us from films taking part in debate and question and answer sessions interdispersed between trailers for the next year.

So my tips for this year:

The Kings Speech
Black Swan
Morning Glory

Oh and See Film First & Show Film First…. More Please!

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You Do What With a Tractor?

If you find yourself in Somerset on cool dark autumnal night and fancy experiencing a slice of pure West Country eccentricity then this is the thing for you.

Its a tradition I have known all my life: grab oneself, apply warm clothing, grab one’s children (if available) place them in warm clothes too, take at least one bag of small change, collect friends and family en route and stand on the pavement for two hours laughing until your sides split and cheering until your voice goes hoarse. Responsible drinking is encouraged.

The Illuminated Carnival circuit takes in around twenty towns across the West of England, from September through to November, however my place of choice is Taunton, known affectionately as Toytown and this takes place around the third weekend in October.

I have been making it my life’s work to make a pilgrimage from the hustle bustle of the Big Smoke that it London, grab friends who are brave enough and head to the Shire of Somerset as I it would be unforgiveable if this unique fun and fundraising spectacular disappeared.

Be prepared this event is utterly mad, and when I say that I mean right out on the far end of the bonkers spectrum.

When I grew up being late for school or late home because your bus got stuck behind a tractor was the norm, so when I warn people that there will be “a lot of tractors” I guess that I should be saying: there are going to be more tractors than you have ever seen, unless you too are a bumpkin, or you live next to a Massey-Ferguson factory.

The Carnival is an opportunity for all of the local community groups, such as scouts, majorettes, marching bands, St John’s ambulance cadets etc. to work together to raise money and laughs alongside local businesses and the big carnival clubs which put on some of the most impressive floats you are likely to see in the world .

And it starts with a huge procession of the Harley Owners Group, with chapter members from all over blazing through revving their engines that have been polished to perfection. You see they are going to be Hogging the Bridge.

So what is it with all the tractors?

The tractors are used to haul the large, enormous and the gargantuan floats that make their way through the town during the course of the carnival.

Here’s a float to give you an idea:

and another:

and here:

Yup, spotted the light-bulbs?

There are thousands of light-bulbs covering the floats which often integrate the tractors into their design. These floats are amazing feats of engineering with moving and rotating rigs carrying the carnival performers decked out in their finest blaring out music and heat with generators the size of houses attached to them, and they still elicit a gasp from carnival old timers when they come into view. There are also the Tableaux floats where the performers stand completely frozen, can you imagine not being able to scratch your nose or you let a team of hundreds down?

We had been worried last year that with the new European laws on energy efficiency that there may be a black market in incandescent bulbs springing up, or at worst they would have to use the energy saving ones, but all was well.

The humour is definitely West Country, don’t take anything to seriously, enjoy the atmosphere grab a drink, maybe a helium balloon, a fluorescent fluffy bug on a stick, something that glows maybe or some good old fashioned funfair grub. This is the night is for laughter.

But lets not forget the small change you should have in bags with you; this is for hurling at designated coin collection trucks. Yup they encourage small children and adults to throw metal objects across the street to raise money for good causes.

How awesome is that?

It has to be seen to be believed, so if you find yourself at this end of the country go along and join in with the crazy fun.

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Night at the Design Museum

Last Friday we went to the Design Museum Ball, and at just £5.00 a ticket it has to be one of the best cheap nights out you can have in central London.

As always didn’t get around to everything but we did experience the following:

An opportunity to see all of the exhibits in the museum, a mixture of very clever and very thought provoking, and I was pleased that there was some interactive fun to be had. Yes I am a big kid at heart.

Very gentle beginners waltzing lessons with a very nice instructor and a string quintet being conducted by a gentleman with a very fetching textile chicken on his head.

Everyone togged-up in their finest chomping on grapes from the huge vines strewn across the centre of the tables whilst using a combination safety scissors and, at least in my case, an endless supply of wax crayons to make fabulous and interesting masks.

The following pictures are the result of our very different artistic approaches to exactly the same basic template we were kindly provided with at the start of the evening. As mentioned above mine is the everso slightly colourful one:

I love the textures that were made by moulding the paper by hand, very effective.

Crayon tastic!

This onsite arts and crafts approach coupled with some very creative and elegant masks pre-prepared by attendees made for a very sociable and colourful night.

We also spent a very looong time going “oooh, look look!!” at amazing and fun and clever things in the Little Shop* and then going “ah, right” when seeing the price tag. One day all the shiny will be mine, muhaha… ahem…

There was also a Routemaster Bus parked outside which apparently was full of posh frocks and the like for those who had turned up unprepared. Having made the effort in advance we didn’t jump on to have a look, though I think we will have to sneak in for a nose around next time.

*If you thought Doctor Who when you read that get +2 Awesome Geek points. 🙂

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Old Westminster by Gaslight

Its seven o’clock on a Monday night and people begin to gather around Exit 4 of Westminster Tube Station, who will be our guide?

No big signs, no fanfare, our guide appears holding a London Walks leaflet up just enough to draw attention, and off we go on a very pleasant two hour amble about Westminster.

Now I’ve been on many a tour, from the plain ridiculousness which is the Ghost Bus, to the endurance challenge of an open-top Thames Tour boat in a rain storm, to the amphibious fun of the Duck Tours, however it is the walking tours that give you a real feel for this amazing city and this was no exception.

This tour centres around the City of Westminster which is the bit of central London where you find Big Ben, the bell of the infamous Bongs and the Houses of Parliament. Like many areas of this enormous city, Westminster has a fascinating history and is lucky to be blessed with beautiful, ancient and imposing architecture. This coupled with a well spoken and informed guide whose information and delivery were perfectly tailored to the crowd without sounding the least bit tired made for a delightfully atmospheric walk.

Thinking I already knew it all, having been quite attentive in my studies of law making and porevious tours of the city, I was most impressed to be shown the house of T E Lawrence, yup good ole Lawrence of Arabia, and slightly shocked to learn that there are Division Bells installed in not just the Parliamentary buildings but all of the local pubs which give the MPs 8 minutes to rush in and cast their votes!

And the gaslight was beautiful, the milky glow giving the streets a clean hazy feel, though the smell of gas along the embankment did make me glad I have given up smoking… the fear of going kaboom seemed quite justified!

Unfortunately as Parliament is not in session I didn’t get the opportunity to see the MPs yawning and shouting at one another, I do however intend to get there sometime.

Well you have to really don’t you?

I would definitely recommend this to people who would like an introduction to the centre of government and the history of Westminster in a gentle and interesting way. If you aren’t really into the history and want mad crazy japes around town, you’d probably be better jumping onto something with a motor.

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Shhhh… We have to be sneaky! *nom*

First of all, just so that there are no misunderstandings, I am not a “foodie”; I am however a certifiable Fun Connoisseur 😉 so I reckon its still worth having a gander about my experience of “guerrilla-fooding” at the Second UK Underground Farmers & Craft Market.

Our little party, against the odds of illness and fatigue, and via one of the most convoluted Transport for London (TFL) line-closure-avoidance routes possible within the realms of reality, finally arrived in the early afternoon at a large North West London flat packed to the gunwales with a large bunch ever-so-nice creators of all things domestic and yummy.

Though inspired by our cousins across the pond this was an example of British eccentricity at its best; a welcoming and passionate group of people sharing their knowledge, and very little space, successfully creating a delightfully different experience. Think WI event crossed with a farmers market crossed with a very convivial game of sardines.

Unfortunately for me nearly all of the savoury goodness involved the use of wheat, and after last weeks extravagance I felt it only right to be as good as possible, so I tried some other offerings: I must say I was sorely tempted though, some of the exciting bread on offer looked amazing.

Two mentions:

Happy Kitchen – I descovered a selection of gluten-free muffins and cakes tucked around the door in the hostess’s bedroom, a blueberry muffin helped me on my way and has inspired plans for future forays into the world of wheat-free cooking.

inSpiral Lounge – I tried the Dried Kale with “vegan cheese“ coating Crisps and I would now like a prize for eating them; as a raw food newbie I found it takes a more robust palate than mine to cope with the strong and lingering flavour. My companion who would not balk at trying many things, jellyfish, insects you name it, possibly quite wisely refused to try it! However, the gluten-free raw chocolate cake was absolutely amazing; akin to being hit in the face with a slab of chocolate. A real wow moment. 🙂

There was coffee, and Panamanian snacks, and chutneys and jams and cordials and wines, and soup and build-your-own toasties, and vintage kitchenware and jewellery and slow roasted pork and Caribbean jerk chicken and even cooking demonstrations in the kitchen.

There was cheese. Lots of cheese. Fresh Halloumi from Ellie (whom I hazard to guess is a sheep) was the clear winner for food traceability and cuteness factor.

And a band! A damn fine, damn loud, mad band at that. Ms MarmiteLover has the most understanding and tolerant of neighbours. 🙂

In better circumstances we would have stayed longer quaffing drinks and making new friends. Instead it turned into a whirlwind tour of what can be done with a little bit of inspiration and a whole lotta passion.

If everyone did a little something like this now and then the world would be a happier friendlier place.

Many thanks to our hostess:

MsMarmiteLover

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London to Paris to Rome and back again without the aid of an aeroplane

I would do a complete disservice to the memory of this holiday, and bore you dear reader senseless, if I were to even try to recount each moment of this epic trip to Rome. All the touristy stuff you can read a million times on other blogs if that’s what you want.

So instead a few of the more surreal and unusual aspects:

Waiting for The Kick.
For those who have seen Inception picture sitting outside a Parisian café relaxing and drinking tea on one of the islands on the Seine surrounded by the classic grey roofed buildings watching giant bubbles soar over the connecting bridge as clouds begin to roll into the city and “Je ne regrette rien” suddenly begins emanating from the cafe…

Voulez vous dormir dans une coucette avec nous sur le train?

The opportunity to see the French and Italian countryside should not be missed, however If you decide to go for the cheaper six-berth carriages on the sleeper train from Paris to Rome it is advisable to bring snacks and drinks and books and to have experienced and survived the last day of a large festival. Lets just say that there are a lot of people on this 17 hour train journey (expect a delay of at least two hours each way) which in itself makes for quite an unforgettable experience.

Oh, and for those new to multi-lingual environments, remember that whilst you may not speak the languages of your cabin mates, a smile and a bit of pantomime go a long way…. and don’t forget whilst many people may not express themselves in English chances are they understand at least some of what you are jabbering on about. In other words, be nice.

And then I found myself inside a painting.
One of the most bizarre experiences I have ever had, which had me double checking with my travelling partner and staring like a rabbit in headlights trying to solve a cryptic crossword puzzle. “What is this witchcraft of which you speak?” I hear you ask. “Villa Borghese” I reply, “I assure you I jest not”

So what was going on? Well the stone pines, exceedingly tall trees that look like up-turned hands holding aloft green clouds, can be found all about the undulating bright green gardens and in front of a gorgeous building of peach coloured stucco and white stone. This array of colours and lines mixed with the Mediterranean sunshine somehow conspires to flatten and slightly blur the perspective from the middle distance onward and everything looks exactly like an impressionist painting, as the photo from my camera phone can attest:

Oh and there is a full sized working replica of the full sized working replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre tucked away behind the trees just to the side.

Kamikazi Eating.

Unsurprisingly there are some awesome places to eat, and boy did we do our fair share to keep the local economy ticking over! Cul de Sac in the centre of the city and CIAK in the Trastevere district are the two honorable mentions that I would definitely head back to in the future; both were informal and completely delicious.

Having a wheat intolerance, one may find Italy with all its pastas and crusty breads to be a somewhat strange choice of holiday destination, but I would not have missed it for the world. Possibly unwisely, I decided to throw caution to the wind, dose up on a concoction of anti-spasmodics, digestive enzymes, probiotics and analgesics and decided to see what happened. Thankfully I managed to eat everything going and get by with only three notable episodes of ouchy bodily retaliation during the four day trip.

However for those with much more severe reactions, with a lower tolerance to pain, or more sensible than I, it is not impossible to avoid wheat for the duration: think salad, cheese, meat and icecream as you main food groups and you’ll do fine. Quite delightfully we did discover that the dinky supermarket just around the corner of the piazza where you find the Spanish Steps does a small selection of gluten- free items, tasty even if they do disintegrate in your hands.

The word of the holiday will forever be “Prego!”

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The Laughing Cow

Some of this summer was spent inside a giant upside-down purple cow lying next to a field of astroturf.

Anyone outside London is probably thinking I have lost the plot, and many inside London who didn’t take a wander along the South Bank of the Thames in the summer are also likely to assume that I have lost it in quite a serious manner, but please bear with me.

May I introduce the Udderbelly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UdderBELLY
There, see, its in Wikipedia! (hopes link continues to work)

Anyways, inside this cavernous bovine monstrosity were found a large number of seats and a performance space in which I saw:

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
This played for a number of evenings, each one different to the last as the audience was invited to provide storyline and characters for the show. The one I went to ended up as a story about a Chinese wannabe astronaut who starts as a guy that runs a firework factory (the firework factory was actually my rather obvious suggestion, I am sorry to admit).

The performers worked excellently together; bouncing off each other and making it that little bit challenging here and there. The seamless introduction of props and unexpected plot elements such as the monkey sanctuary were dropped into the proceedings to hilarious effect. By the end of the show everyone was rooting for the hero of the piece. A definite win.

Freakshow can only be described as a very alternative cabaret evening. Its definitely not a family show and not advisable for the more delicate amongst us or those who find body-shock magic and humour distasteful.

Honorable mentions:

Miss Behave – Like a fetish Davina McCall, but quicker off the mark and shinier, who almost made me want a tongue piecing… almost. She can swallow a sword and goodness does she have an enormous forehead licking tongue. No not her own forehead – are you mad?

Kalki Hula – Astoundingly skilled and hilarious hula hooping star, who had the crowd completely mesmerised with her drunken hula act. This girl is beyond fit, and despite watching very closely I am still not sure how anyone can manage 7 hula hoops; I’ll be happy to watch again.

Lady Carol (of the Moon)– Unusual yet alluring ukulele player with extraordinarily long legs and a voice that could shatter earthenware.

Frank Sanazi – Yes, a crooning, lounge lizard Hitler pastiche – very clever and undeniably creepy. You wouldn’t want this guy in your neighbourhood.

Beardyman
If you haven’t seen this guy before I demand that you go directly to YouTube and watch. This beatbox star can do things with his larynx, lips, tongue, teeth and god knows what else with his head which will leave you wondering why you didn’t stick to making the crazy noises you did as a kid instead of getting a proper job! Oh and he can show you in stereo detail why you shouldn’t like Indie music. LOL

Maxwell’s Fullmooners
Lunatics* all of them. *insert groan here. Okay, it was a rag tag bunch of folk providing random laughs with the howls of approval emanating from the audience making a newbie such as I feel like I had walked into very welcoming members’ club.

The unexpected moment of near tree-arson due to an ill-advised attempt to send a flying Chinese lantern over the South Bank, and the subsequent attempts to knock it down before disaster struck finished off a night of (mostly) polite anarchy in a way that had me giggling for days. Antique Vuvuzela anyone?

The purple cow can be found travelling around the UK at various times of year and I would recommend giving it a go, you never know you might see something you like, and it always makes for a good story.

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Secret Cinema September 2010

Secret Cinema has been on my radar for years, however due to unforeseen circumstances I had never had the opportunity to attend one of their mysterious events, that was until this weekend.

Excuse me whilst I pick my not-so-easily-awestruck chin off of the tarmac and try to explain what happened:

A couple of months back tickets for a Secret Cinema event went on sale, previous reviews of Secret Cinema have been almost evangelical, so we snapped them up and the anticipation began to build.

What was it to be, where was it to be?

There was talk of tribes and many people, given the increasingly blatant clues cottoned onto what the main attraction was going to be, you couldn’t help feeling sorry for those who had avoided all rumours and guessed we were to see Life of Brian.

I, not being on top form and not comfortable dressing as a Bedouin and walking through North London, went for what I thought would be a subtle jeans and jumper combo.

Boy did I look out of place.

Arriving at Alexandra Palace station, in their hundreds, was what must have looked like the largest nativity play in the world. En masse we set off across the railway bridge following rags of material tied to the fence.

And so it began.

To the uninitiated Secret Cinema is mind-blowing event, for attendees, and possibly one of the most confusing sights for bystanders, if you go by the semi-hysterical but smiling faces of the picnicking party at Alexandra Park who were suddenly surrounded by around 400 people dressed in “tribal” outfits being herded by mounted tribesmen:

Yes there were tribesmen on horses in the park, in full regalia, with rallying high pitched shreiks. Oh, and there were real goats and sheep being walked by peasants, and there were camels and donkeys and the very British army circa WW1 keeping the rabble in order.

We were at Alexandra Palace to see Lawrence of Arabia!

In we went, walking past the British Army offices where frightfully important business is being carried out in frightfully proper surroundings. Now and then they attempt to recruit a Brit they have seen in the crowd. Grabbing drinks at the bar we expresse our genuine chuffedness that they have gone to such effort; little do we know what lays behind the mirrored doorways.

A souk

As crazy as this may sound, there was a souk right there smack-bang in the middle of Alexandra Palace:

Its full of stalls of curiosities and clothing and food and an en suite mini-desert for those wishing to get the full arrgh-I-have-sand-in-my-socks experience.

By this point we are wondering can this get any better? As a day when apparently anything is possible, and in order to find out it seems prudent to follow the signs to The Palace.

And lo, there is a belly dancer, with a snake unintentionally, but quite determinedly caught up in her hair, dancing in front of a full band. Oh, and there, another three ladies dancing for our entertainment.

This.Is.Awesome

The final leg is to step through the huge doors to the main hall.

Initiate jaw drop sequence alpha.

About us hang the standards of all the tribes, there is drumming and the smell of food wafts from the chilli lamb and falafel stalls as a gentleman cycles about with an icecream cart, the thousands begin to enter the hall.

Its a long wait, the floor is cold and hard and few people make new friends, but the spectacle continues as the tribesmen meet and make proclamations, as belly dancers continue to jiggle across the hall.

Much is drunk and many pillows and inflatable objects are brought forward to be sat upon, and we wait.

We wait on the floor, we wait in huge queues for food, and still the drums bang and the tribesmen and army chaps wander amongst us:

Finally it starts.

Its astounding.

Its loud. (A bit too loud, but the acoustics are a bit odd)

Its epic.

Its been an amazing day.

We leave at the intermission, tired, happy and enjoying the sight of London lit beneath us.

If you ever get the chance, go, go to a Secret Cinema and embrace the experience, go the whole hog and savour every moment. Its magical.

No it wasn’t perfect, but if the film had started sooner it would have come damn close.

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Start Here

Herin lies the story of the ongoing adventures of Bimblelina; an unusual breed of British female who enjoys nothing better than exploring the more eclectic side of life.

As an optimistic cynic this is my attempt to chronicle the good, the mediocre and the unintentionally down-right dire moments that the world I inhabit has to offer.

As with all blogs some will agree with me and some will not; I welcome constructive criticism and reasoned argument and most of all I hope that we can all raise a smile in one another now and then.

Please bear with me as I get the blog up to standard.

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