Sunday, December 30, 2012

Madness at the the O2

O2 Arena, London. Saturday 22-December-12.

From one extreme venue to another: from the hyper-intimate Green Note cafe to the stadium rock of the O2 Arena.

These Madness tickets were bought a while ago before Mary knew she had another bunion screw loose and would need it removed. She had the screw removed the evening before so public transport was not a good idea. She did not want to risk the jostling throngs stepping on her toe nor could she walk far. We did consider taxi both ways but that was getting expensive.

Instead I drove and we used the valet parking which I can highly recommend. You get to drive right up to the arena VIP entrance so minimal walking for Mary. They park your car close by and you walk in the VIP entrance - no jostling crowds here. A short stroll brings you right to the main internal gate. Money well spent in the circumstances.

Going inside, our seats were in the middle of a row so we lurked at the end of the row opposite to postpone taking our seats till the last minute. When the occupants of those seats arrived we relocated to a wheelchair platform which had a reasonable view. Given the peril to Mary's foot I spoke to customer services about staying where we were. Initially they said no, space reserved, but just before the concert started they came and swapped our tickets for a "limited mobility" allocation. Well done O2 customer service!

It Must Be Love

The concert was the expected collection of greatest hits which got the crowds dancing in the aisles. See reviews in The Standard (4 stars) and The Independent.

Reversing our route through the VIP exit we made good time as we get a head start on the normal parking getting home in under an hour. And so to bed.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Marcus Bonfanti at Green Note cafe

Camden, London. Thursday 20-December-12.

We went to see Marcus Bonfanti perform a brilliant acoustic set at the Green Note cafe-bar.

Sometimes venues are described as intimate; the Green Note is beyond intimate, it is about the size of our living room and dining room combined. I would guess it couldn't hold more than 40 people. It is like having friends round to hear Marcus play in your own front room.

The cafe does a very tasty vegetarian tapas which we had while waiting for Marcus to perform. We were joined by our friend Nigel and he had encouraged two of his friends to come along and join us so we had a good chat.

This is the fourth time we've seen Marcus and have all his albums so this time *we* were the faithful in the crowd who knew all the words. It was great to hear songs we know played acoustic style. He did two excellent sets not ten foot from where we were sitting. It was a real privilege to see someone that good, that close up in such congenial surroundings. I even got to have a quick chat to him. A fantastic evening :-)

More tour dates...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reigate Potlatch 2012

Reigate, Surrey, UK. Sunday 16-December-12.

As every year for decades past the McLellan / Hutchinson tribe gather for the annual pre-Christmas potlatch (exchange of presents). This year at Jane and Pete's in Reigate. Keeping it simple - cream tea including a discussion about the relative merits of jam or cream first.

We took a 5 L can of our 2012 olive oil and refilled everyone's bottles from last year that we asked them to save and recycle. The oil was a lovely dark green colour with floaters as it is unfiltered. Believe it or not the bottles cost more than the oil.


Presents duly exchanged and tea consumed we returned home for a quiet, relaxing evening in.

Full set of photos on Flickr:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Daffodil at Roux at Parliament Square

Parliament Square, London. Saturday 15-Dec-12.

Once again the Daffodil Dining Club Christmas meal is nominated as the M&M Enterprises works christmas party. That is where the directors (that's us) treat the staff (that's us) to a function costing up to £150 per head under the HMRC rules concerning Annual parties or similar functions, page 9.

I think you'll agree that a meal at Roux at Parliament Square makes a damned fine annual party.


Amanda and Pete
Friends Pete and Amanda

Amuse Bouche
Amuse bouche

Citrus cured Organic salmon, Dill pickled cucumber
Citrus cured Organic salmon, Dill pickled cucumber

Goats' cheese alternative for Amanda
Goats cheese alternative for Amanda

Mosaic of game, spiced pear chutney and salad
Mosaic of game, spiced pear chutney and salad

Ravioli of Native Lobster, celeriac remoulade and hazelnuts
Ravioli of Native Lobster, celeriac remoulade and hazelnuts

Fish alternative to Ravioli for Amanda
Fish alternative for Amanda

Roast turkey, fricassee of Brussel sprouts, redcurrants & almonds
Roast turkey, fricassee of Brussel sprouts, redcurrants & almonds

Christmas pudding parfait, griottines, brandy and hazelnut crumb
Christmas pudding parfait, griottines, brandy and hazelnut crumb

Vanishing mince pies
Coffee and petits fours - vanishing mince pies!

Amanda had forgotten to forewarn them of her food intolerances but the chef whipped up some superb alternatives at a moment's notice - customer service, indeed.

Pinot Blanc 2009 Leon Beyer
"Fridge Chilled" Moulin A Vent 2009 Henry Fesse
Le Gavroche Viognier 'Cuvee Michel Michel' "Biodynamic" Michel Chapoutier
Croze Hermitage 2010 Domaine des Remizieres
Maury Grenache Noir 2009 Jean-Marc Lafage

And after all that we got a tour of the kitchen with Head Chef Toby Stuart

Tour of the kitchen with Toby Stuart, Head Chef

Another year celebrated in style!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ali Campbell at IndigO2

IndigO2, London. Friday 07-December-12.

Mary was delayed in South Africa on business so my friend Bill stepped in at the last minute to avoid the ticket going to waste (or me having to stand around outside the O2 like a ticket tout).
Alistair Ian "Ali" Campbell is a British singer, solo artist and songwriter who was the lead singer and founding member of UB40. As part of UB40, Campbell sold over 70 million records world wide and toured the globe for 30 years. Wikipedia
It was a concert that delivered exactly what you would expect: reggae inna UB40 stylee. A professional bunch of musicians delivered what they do best: a good smattering of UB40 songs for the faithful and, what I was not expecting, a couple of cover versions. Odd to hear "Paint It Black" and "Purple Rain" in a reggae arrangement - not in a bad way and interesting take on such familiar tracks.

I have to agree with most of the other reviews: Brilliant concert, DJ beforehand was on too long, Ali could have been on longer (hour and a half from 9pm). His final encore was, not unexpectedly, "Red, Red Wine".

Another fine evening out.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weekend in Scotland - December 2012

The weekend before last we went up to Scotland for the usual visit to Mary's mum to see how she is, run a few errands and "go for the messages" - Doric for go shopping. It was lovely insofar as winter weather can be lovely - sunny and dry but cold.

Sunday morning we set off early and I to scrape the ice off the windscreen as it was -4°C. I was going to use a credit card but then remembered seeing this scraper in the door pocket. You do *not* get these in Puglian hire cars (because you don't need them) which is another reason to spend more and more time in Italy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Alanis Morissette at The O2

The O2 Arena, London. Wednesday 28-November-12.

Mary was delayed in Poland on business so my sister Jane stepped in at the last minute to avoid the ticket going to waste (or me having to stand around outside the O2 like a ticket tout).

The main act was not due until 9pm so we skipped the support acts and went for a meal at Las Iguanas and a good old natter. I had the Incredible Xinxim which did not live up to its name. The first time I had it, it was delicious – this time not quite so. They were very busy and I am not convinced the kitchen was up to the volume. I would go back but I’d pick something different next time.

Then we went into the VIP O2 Lounge. Only for O2 customers and you have to text UPGRADE 2 (or the number in your group, max 6) to 60202 on the day for the limited availability access. It gets you into a quiet bar and your own private lift to the venue.

It used to be that venues said “No recording” and “No photography” but all you could see in the standing area was a sea of glow-worms as people held up their smart phones to capture the moment. Perhaps it got too hard to police or maybe they decided that the quality is so poor that they had nothing to fear or realised that many are destined to generate positive word-of-mouth or some social media goodness. Certainly from our vantage point the images are indicative only.

As at any gig there are the faithful who know all the songs and all the words and were singing along to whatever she sings. I am not so familiar with her works and so, not being able to make out the words, had to listen to her voice as the sixth instrument in the band, that is until we got to the hits.

Catherine Gee of the Telegraph gave the concert Three Stars:
"[...] It was the two-song acoustic section towards the end which best showcased her remarkable vocal talent. Sat atop a tall chair, ankle resting on her knee, she belted out Hand in My Pocket and the enchanting a cappella track Your House, bringing the huge crowd to near silence.

Mellow she may be these days, but Morissette can still command the attention of thousands with nothing but the power of her voice."
The Telegraph - Live Music Reviews