Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Santana at Wembley Arena

London, England. Friday 19-July-2013

Another musical legend ticked off the bucket list. My sister had a copy of Abraxas so Santana has been part of the soundtrack of my life since 1970.

Wembley Arena - waiting to see Santana

Andrea, Mary

Nearly two and a half hours of non stop classic tunes.
Set list:

Quasar intro
1. Toussaint l’ouverture
2. Sunshine of your love
3. Black magic woman / gypsy queen
4. Oye como va
5. Maria maria
6. Foo foo
7. Corazon espinado
8. Incident at Neshabur
9. Batuka/ no one to depend on
10.taboo/ hope your feeling better
11. Jingo
12. She’s not there
13. Evil ways/ a love supreme
14. Smooth/ dame tu amor

Woodstock chant
15. Soul sacrifice
16. Saideira

Photo by ZumbaGirl123 via

For me the highlight was Santana playing Cream's Sunshine of your Love. Two classics from my teen years collide - epic! My eyes may have leaked. For Mary the highlight was a riff from While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Picture courtesy of Marshtowers

A somewhat sycophantic review at the official site

"... they opened with a rendition of “Toussaint L’Overture” that threatened to rock Wembley off its foundation. There was a moment’s hesitation after the band concluded-almost as if the crowd was asking, “did that really happen?”- and then absolute pandemonium ensued as a tidal wave of sheer delight and approval erupted. [...] no one could remember a UK audience that behaved with such abandon and fervor. It was truly fantastic!"

More measured words and more pictures at Marshtowers - Santana at Wembley Arena

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CSC alumni at The Crusting Pipe 2013

I was prompted to organise a cscalumni gathering by a couple of LinkedIn requests from ex-CSC colleagues. I arranged meet up with Roy and Anne and sent out an APB in the hope that some others might be free to join us.

It is several years since the last gathering (June 2010) and, despite many apologies, only a hard core turned up. But that was fine: we drank, we ate, we chatted, we went home.

Anne Carter, Farrakh Siddiqui

A special mention, and commiserations, go to Valter Johansson (formerly of Index) who came but could not find us hidden in a booth thanks to the poor cellular coverage.

Roy Thompson, Mark McLellan (me)

One of the apologies was from Nalin Goonewardene who will be visiting the UK in September and October so I'll propose another gathering then - and not on a Thursday so Simon Hargrave can attend. Let's see who can make it next time with a little more notice.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Race for Life Hyde Park 2013

London, England. Sunday 14-July-2013

Ten thousand women dressed in pink is an awe inspiring sight. It is heartening amongst all the bad news headlines to be reminded how many people with big hearts there are out there.

Four of those women were "Team MACE" - Mary, Andrea, Christine, Elaine.

Andrea, Elaine, Mary, Christine

We made a bit of a weekend of it: Andrea and Elaine came over on Saturday afternoon for an evening of barbeque, drink and talk. It was great to be able to dine al fresco and sit out in shorts and T-shirt till it was time for bed.

Sunday I was chauffeur so we could take the makings of a picnic for after the race. We were joined by Andrea's son, Daniel, and his girlfriend. A beautiful sunny day - great for a picnic.


After we all dispersed I drove home and Mary and I enjoyed another barbeque and balmy evening and fell weary into bed after a most successful weekend.

More photos on Flickr:

PS This was Mary's second Race for Life this year. The earlier was in Battersea Park (12-June-13).

Not so sunny that first Race for Life, but it's not about the weather it's about awareness and fund raising and the human spirit.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Walk in the Surrey Hills 2

Surrey, England. Saturday 13-July-2013

"We need more hills!" was Mary's verdict after our previous Walk in the Surrey Hills. So we consulted the Time Out book of walks and picked Box Hill to Leatherhead. What we got was some wonderful woodland walking.

The walks are all designed to be doable by train, often walking from a farther station to a nearer station, allowing for a cheap day return ticket - this one started from Box Hill and Westhumble.


The hottest day of the year was the forecast so we dressed lightly and packed plenty of fluids in the day pack.

The view from half way up Box Hill

Fantasic views from the top and then wending our way back down to our lunch stop.

St Michael and All Angels churchyard, Mickleham

Lunch was a sandwich and a pint of Ringwood Best at The Running Horse, Mickleham.


Towards the end we had choices of route so we chose the longer option and, instead of walking on to Leatherhead, we circled back round to return to Box Hill and Westhumble station.

In addition to the 7.7 miles you have to add an extra two miles for the walk to Clapham Junction station and back to home. Not as scenic but still it's walking.

13167 13049

Full set of photos on Flickr:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cassandra Wilson at Ronnie Scott's

London, England. Thursday 11-July-2013

We had booked ourselves some premier seating tickets to see Cassandra when Mary got sent off to Jo'berg on business so we co-opted our friend Ros to take her ticket. Ros is an old friend of brother-in-law Pete since way back, which how we got to know her. As luck would have it my sister Jane and Pete had tickets for the same gig. They upgraded their tickets so we could all sit together which worked out well.

We were in for the early show with support band The Ronnie Scott's "International" All Stars; they added the "international" for the evening because they had guesting musicians from Belgium and New Jersey (or should that be "Noo Joisey"). Pete was impressed by the way the All Stars bassist was playing some bee-bop licks on the double bass - no mean feat apparently.

The Guardian liked it "Wilson doesn't always open a window on her soul quite as far as her technique and remarkable sound imply she might, but that reserve is often part of the attraction" (4 stars).

The Telegraph was less convinced "seductively smooth performance lacking in feeling" (3 stars).

I was nodding away to the music and when I looked round there were only a few of us who were visibly grooving to the music. Maybe some were nodding inside their skull, just not on the outside, maybe some were tapping their toes under the table, and maybe some were music tourists - there for the famous music venue rather than the specific artists. Who knows?

Afterwards it was back round the corner to Jane and Pete's flat for a quick night cap then home - it was a school night after all.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Coventry Central Baths Fine Municipal Achievement

By H. A. N. BROCKMAN, Our Architectural Correspondent

Fine scale, lightness and elegance typify this cheerful building. It presents an outstanding example of the architecture of physical recreation.

Placed within 100 yards of the Cathedral, it shares the eastern precinct with the new buildings of the Lanchester College of Technology. Together with the square and the shopping precinct to the west, the centre of the life of Coventry will before long be protected from traffic disturbance by the completion of the ring roads which are slowly linking up around the central area, thus forming a unique and compact civic entity.

Even when I saw the new building in its near finished state, with the usual final ferment of the finishing trades still very much in evidence, it was easy to visualise the main bath ball when filled with over 1,000 spectators seated against a calm background of white, grey-brown and shining steel and the blue water of the pool.

The building is in two main sections; the first contains the main pool and the other the teaching and the minor pools. The three pools are end-on to each other, with the teaching pool in the centre. This arrangement has been conveniently exploited to place the restaurant above the teaching pool so that each of the pools can be seen from the restaurant windows.

The building is entered on the north side at the centre. The entrance hall, perhaps on the small side in its depth, serves all public who use the building: swimmers, spectators or diners. The hall has a glass front two storeys high and the free-standing columns inside the hall, supporting the roof and the galleried staircase landing at the rear, give the first hint of scale to the interior. All columns and structural surfaces are faced with white mosaic; all staircase handrails and railings are in polished aluminium; walls are faced with vertically-laid brown-grey glazed tiling.

A plan of the baths. The legend reads: (1) Main entrance foyer; (2) service lift; (3) girls' changing room (teaching pool); (4) girls' precleansing (teaching pool); (5) teaching pool; (6) women's hanger collection (small pool); (7) women's changing room (small pool); (8) women's clothes storage (small pool); (9) women's precleansing (small pool); (10) men's precleansing (small pool); (11) small pool; (12) staircase to restaurant; (13) upper sun terrace; (14) lower sun terrace; (15) women's hanger collection (main pool); (16) women's changing room (main pool); (17) women's clothes storage (main pool); (18) women's precleansing (main pool); (19) men's precleansing (main pool); (20) main pool; (21) mail staircase; (22) women's wasting facilities (main pool); (23) ventilation duct to main roof; (24) escape staircase; (25) fresh air intake duct;, (26) equipment room.

Invisible Supports

Within the main bath hall the four corner stanchions are almost invisible behind their mosaic surfaces and the roof, with the strongly emphasised troughs of the transverse lattice girder construction, lightly covers the hall in one uninterrupted span. The huge water area, about one quarter of an acre, is surrounded to south and east by the high glass walls. To the west is the children's pool and restaurant over it; to the north is the wide rake of the spectators' gallery, with upholstered seating and a gentle down draught of air, mechanically contrived, to dispel humidity.

The white and brown-grey backgrounds are here intensified by the acoustically designed white enamelled aluminium facing to window mullions and the whole roof above. Within the bath areas all railings and bath steps are of stainless steel. The beautifully designed and simple diving boards, platforms, steel ladders and rails on each side of the diving pool are each grouped around a tall rectangular pier of plain pinkish-brown brickwork. It forms a remarkably effective and sensitively thought-out contrast to the translucent atmosphere of the high spaces around.

Similar brickwork is also used as a panel wall behind the diving boards of the smaller pool at the other end of the building and elsewhere as walling, in positions which are always appropriate and effective.

On the exterior the butterfly roof over the south side of the main hall oversails the glazed wall below which comes forward in the centre as a huge bay- window around the diving pit. The winged shape of the roof truss is faced with white mosaic, as are all roof fascias elsewhere. A sunken and grassed sun-bathing area runs along the whole south front, and this is spanned by a pedestrian bridge-approach connecting the roadway with a circular stair, enclosed within a tower of brickwork and leading to the main restaurant. A wide flight of steps provides access between a sun deck outside the main bath and the grassed area below. The steps are cunningly utilised in connection with ventilation, all the risers being formed as air-intake grilles.

Something must be said of the consistency of this admirable building; in design, in the restriction to a very few materials and in its simple colours and tones. It was conceived 10 years ago under the leadership of the then City Architect, Arthur Ling, now Professor of Architecture and Civic Planning at Nottingham University, and was carried through to the finish by his successor, T. W. Gregory. The project architect, J. M. McLellan, who was largely responsible for its original conception, has been closely concerned with it throughout the whole period, with the result that it conveys an impression of consistency not always apparent in local authority work which so often suffers frequent changes in staff and control during a long or substantial contract.

The south flank of the building. The great bay window immediately below the butterfly roof marks the diving bay of the main pool. The brick tower on the left encloses a stair case to and from the restaurant. The approach is across the bridge seen at the foot of the tower.

Butterfly Roof

One major criticism is perhaps justified in relation to the ends of the butterfly roof. The shape is elegant enough as a transparent truss, but when clothed, as it must be the functionally formed surface suffers from the awkward contrast between the parallel edges of the central members and an awkward drop to the wing-like form at the extremities. When form follows function so literally the result can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, and it may be that here architect and engineer have failed to co-operate, although generally speaking the teamwork between the two has clearly been close and fruitful.

The planning problems of swimming baths have introduced a further aspect of the architect's organisational function in the years since the war. Before 1939 a swimming bath was a pool, covered or uncovered, with a growing, but still minimal, amount of ancillary accommodation around it. It hardly occurred to local authorities, or their architects, to do more than provide a tank with a fringe of bases, often with an expensive though completely illogical exterior.

Social Centre

After 1945 a substantial burst enthusiasm among swimmers and clubs demanded much more than this minimal provision and local authorities found themselves faced with an unparalleled demand for separate bathing accommodation for swimmers, divers and learners. As a result, the swimming bath expanded from a "public bath and wash- house" to the social centre which it has now become.

The former description derived from the age in which few homes had a bath. Bathing and laundry facilities were therefore provided by the more enterprising authorities, or those who were socially more hardly pressed, for their sadly deprived populations. The laundry facilities are now being superseded by the domestic washing machine, or by the local launderette. But the bathing facility has vastly expanded and has become not only a diverse sporting amenity, amateur and professional, but a social provision of great popularity. Hence there has occurred a growing segregation of its various aspects: the swimming pool for competitions of championship standards and for galas; the diving pool for the chaps who can really dive; the minor pool for the amateur swimmer; and the learner's pool for the school parties who spend an occasional morning learning, or just splashing around. In addition, changing facilities have to be organised into the wet and dry departments and the spectator has now to be accommodated in similar seating comfort to that enjoyed by the cinema or theatre-goer, for occasions which rival those of the sports ground and the race-course.

The Coventry Central Baths are a fine example of planning and organisation. To start with, they do not possess the deadly municipal appearance of the public baths of the past, and even some of those of the present. The internal arrangements are enlivened by the glazed south walls to the pools, which look over a sun bathing terrace and yet-to-be landscaped garden; by the restaurant, overlooking the pool; and by the games deck, provided for "dry- land" training also for social events and club training. More important still is the consistency shown in the few calm colours employed and economy in the number of materials.

The largest pool is 165 feet in length and 56 feet wide, it has a deep-water diving bay projecting from one side. It has thus been possible to arrange the pool with two shallow ends, thus preventing the normal congestion where there is only one point of entry for the less experienced swimmers. The main swimming area is of a suitable depth for water polo. The spectators' gallery seats over 1,000 people. The smaller pool is 110 feet long and between the two and below the restaurant, the shallow learners' pool for children and school parties has its long side arranged as a flight of steps leading down into the water.

The main pool and diving pit. Brick pylons support the diving stages and ladder approaches. The roof and window mullions are sheathed in acoustically treated white enamelled aluminium. The teaching pool and restaurant above are at the right of the picture.

Changing Areas

Changing areas are based on the "hanger" system, in which bathers enter on a dry, corridor, choose a cubicle, change and put their clothes into a basket hanger, emerge from the opposite side of the cubicle into the wet corridor and deposit their clothes at a counter from whence they pass through the cleansing area to the bath -side. The changing cubicles-are ingeniously designed, with a slatted wooden tip-up seat which, when both doors are closed, turns down and locks them. On exit from the bath the process is reversed.

There are two special cubicles for the disabled. Wash and brush-up facilities, with hair-cream dispensers, make-up counters and hair dryers are provided on the way out. . Slipper baths are also provided.

The entrance hall serves as a central control for all users, and only one paydesk is provided, although the restaurant can be separately approached by way of the bridge.

The scheme will undoubtedly attract swimmers and spectators from a wide regional area. At a cost of £1.3m. it will have to do much to justify itself. But with low maintenance costs (good quality in external and internal materials has been invoked to ensure this) and reasonable charges, a centre of this quality, and calibre should be able to make its way in the long run. It provides a social amenity of the greatest importance.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION Architect: Design team headed by the former City Architect, Arthur Ling, and his successor, Terence W. Gregory. Main Contractor: Lavender, McMillan.

The Financial Times Saturday April 23 1966

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Thames Path 09 - Lower Shiplake to Goring

Lower Shiplake, England. Sunday 30-May-2103

A full-on walk this: nineteen and a half miles at an average speed of 3.5 miles per hour! (second part) (first part)

We drove to Goring and Streatley rail station, our end point, the afternoon before and took the train to Lower Shiplake where we stayed at The Baskerville Arms - highly recommended. A beer, an excellent meal and an early night.

Away at 09:25 Sunday morning after a full English breakfast with the obligatory team photo, albeit the core team:

Team photo - Mark and Mary

We have been using "The Thames Path" by Leigh Hatts as our guide in conjunction with a laminated map.

Shiplake lock - checking the book
Mary consults the guide

It was a beautiful day for walking, sunshine and loads of meadows. No pub lunch - shock, horror! Instead we dined on a packed lunch prepared for us by The Baskerville Arms.

Thames meadow

Much of the walk was bucolic in the extreme.

Cow and calf

Hardwick House was the original for Toad Hall as its occupant, Sir Charles Rose, was the role model for Toad.

Toad Hall aka Hardwick House

I failed to correctly zeroise the Gamin, fortunately Mary's iPhone (with booster battery) and MapMyRide came to the rescue. The map says 18.23 but the stats say 19.63. The latter accords with the section I did manage to record.

Map my Ride route

Map my Ride stats

Full set of photos on Flickr:

Distance this leg 31.6 km
Previous legs 176.8 km
Total so far 208.4 km

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Sotto Le Stelle 11 - Underfloor heating

Since our last visit the main, visible change has been the floor. The underfloor heating has been laid, the covering cement poured on top and the tiling been mostly completed using recycled tiles.


It is nice to see that builder's bottom is an international phenomenon.

Franco the tiler and side-kick

There were not enough reclaimed tiles to re-lay the entire floor. We always planned two rectangles of plain tile - one at each end of the long room. This meant a trip to the nearby quarry to select the right shade of limestone for the infill tiles. As luck would have it we all agreed on the same slab.

Colour matching in the quarry

One of the big hassles has been that the kitchen company would not commit to measuring until the floor, tiles and wall were done. Since the lead time is a couple of months, and nothing happens in August, that means that, likely, everything else will be done and then we wait for the fitters to install our simple, linear kitchen range.

Kitchen measurers dither and cavil

Other progress included:
  • a mock-up of the bathroom handbasin base - Saverio will be re-using some of the dividing wall stones rather than make a cement cube
  • choosing the colour for the resin-concrete mix that will be used to plaster the walls and floors in the bathroom
  • ordering a dining table - we eventually went for the the original preferred table after having looked at, and eliminated, many alternatives. But we did lay sheets of brown paper on the floor to confirm the correct size
  • a simple top to the stub wall - it makes such a difference

Plus the usual eating and drinking with our friends and an unexpected bonus: a refurbished ant!

We inherited this boot jack back in 1994 when we bought Avon Cottage. It moved with us to London and then onward to Italy where it does duty as a door stop. It lost one of its antennae and we left it with Chris and John to take to the local blacksmith. He was at first uncertain if he could repair cast iron but in the end it came back not only repaired but also freshly enamelled and looking spiffing.


Full set on pictures on Flickr:

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Apollo Theatre

We both loved the book - but how on earth do you translate that to a theatrical performance:

Meal beforehand was at the 2 Michelin-starred L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. The food and service were exemplary. Reading the reviews on TripAdvisor it seems like there is more variability in service and food than one would expect from 2* but we were luckily in the majority.

As for the play, deservedly the winner of a record breaking 7 Olivier Awards 2013 - including Best Play.

The Londonist review: Original star Luke Treadaway is [...] spellbinding as the young wannabe detective with “behavioural problems”.

Lyn Garner at The Grauniad gives it 4 stars: The novel gets you inside Christopher's head, but the stage version does more, giving Christopher's internal response to the world an external manifestation. That world is often a surreal and scary place, but oddly beautiful and bizarre, too: I'll never look at a Battenberg cake in the same way again.

Great book well adapted for the stage: theatrical in a good way. Not just delivering the book but adding that magic that only live theatre can deliver.

Another grand night out.