Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cleaning the Wandle October 2013

Earslfield, London. Sunday 13-October-2013.

It had been raining and then really started tipping it down as I cycled to the clean-up site. I found Theo peering at the Wandle in full spate with all manner of detritus being swept along - pallets, logs weeds, and about a dozen plastic footballs.

Theo inspects while Erica photographs - Oh bugger my gloves and glasses are in the way.

The water level was rising and the flow rate increasing. It was decided reluctantly to abandon the clean-up on safety grounds.

I have to second that. Back in February the water level was high and then I was thinking, as I stood on tip-toe, "This is a bad idea". In these conditions it was double-plus-bad.

This stretch is in a concrete culvert so there was not even much in the way of bank side litter picking to do. For the second time ever the event was abandoned before it started.

Instead we ate the cakes that were intended for lunch.

Jo who baked the cakes is leaving for a year abroad and was presented by Erica with a leaving present of a framed poem.

After cake and tea we all went home.

More at The Wandle Trust Community Cleanups.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Lulu at Under The Bridge

Friday 04-October-2013.

Another icon ticked off my musical bucket list. Lulu at UTB, one of our favorite venues. Not much seating unless you get there very early but you can get right up close to these musical legends.

She announced that she was going to sing a set comprised of the songs that influenced her and a couple of favourites from her own back catalogue. She then proceeded to have a good time belting out some classics.

The press were there behind the silken rope sipping PR champagne and they liked the show.

Telegraph: Almost inevitably, her latest career turn is, as she announces tonight, "songs from my roots": the soul and blues that hooked her as a Glasgow teenager. [...] Performing with a band of top-notch blues and soul session players, Lulu delivered a heartfelt, groovy, uplifting masterclass in emotionally nuanced singing, peppered with chatty anecdotes about the music she has always loved.


Independant: Lulu seems to honestly love tonight's songs, earnestly lecturing us on them, and her own time on the great soul label Atlantic's roster [...] And though her band are technically excellent, she's so much better when they ease off and you can hear her sing.


The band were top notch. When you are that well known and have been in the business as long as Lulu you can pick the best.

The "no photography" rule is erratically applied - perhaps it depends on the artist. On previous visits security have asked people to desist and one time made me delete my crappy iPhone pictures; the quality is so bad they are no threat to anyone. This time there were several members of the audience visibly holding up iPhones and recording entire tracks. At the Thin Lizzy gig one guy even recorded most of the show on a proper camera from right in front of the stage. As the Americans say "go figure".

Update: Official photos of the gig from UTB now on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/utblondon/sets/72157636289908034/

No encore but you kinda knew that when she finished with "Shout".

Another fine evening. Now I'm trying to work out who else should be on the bucket list.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Sotto Le Stelle 14 - Kitchen Fitting

This whole purpose of this visit was to oversee the kitchen installation and it was a good job we were there in person.

This is what the kitchen looked like earlier in the year after the initial stripping off of the plaster and before the removal of the dividing wall and replastering.

Kitchen Before

A key feature of the layout was that the sink unit be exactly aligned to the central niche. Most of the sequencing of rest of the units and appliances followed on from that.

At one point the workmen said the end spacers meant the whole thing had to move three centimetres sideways. No! Plus it would have blocked one of the electrical sockets.

A good job we were there or that is what they would have done. Instead they bashed off the infill end pieces and installed them at the opposite ends where they fitted perfectly.

We have a suspicion that the guys at the factory screwed up and pre-assembled the pieces the wrong way round - they fitted the end gaps so well.

Once it was in place it was clear that the splash back should not run the full width of the worktop. Instead it will be cut to run only where there is plaster and leave the stone and niches exposed.

As you can see the colour scheme is white. The original hob had grey pan rests but was discontinued and we were able to make the switch to all white SMEG hob and oven.

Mary has declared herself extremely pleased with the end result.

After we leave the electrician and plumber come in to connect up the appliances. The builder will infill the niches with marble to make them level with the worktop.

The mains gas will be connected once Italian bureaucracy has processed the paperwork to approve the installation.

All should, hopefully, be working by our next visit in the first week of November.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Trullo Azzurro - September 2013

A flying visit to supervise the kitchen fitting at Sotto le Stelle allowed us to try two new restaurants and two different salt cod dishes.

We arrived late Saturday and went straight from the airport to Cisternino to meet with Kath and Richard and their friend, another Mary, at restaurant Mezzofanti. Only opened this year the restaurant rambles through several interconnected rooms and multiple entrances. This was our first time of dining there. I had ravioli filled with salt cod on a bed of puréed potatoe. Very flavoursome.

Sunday we met up with the same plus Chris and John to try another new-to-us restaurant Osteria le Valle on via San Quirico. Our end of the table shared an antipasti della casa supplemented by a dish of deep fried battered salt cod.

For secondi (main course) I had roast king prawn which I amused the others by eating with a knife and fork instead of my fingers; it's not so hard to do and makes for a leisurely lunch.

That evening Mary decided to make fig jam as the figs were at optimum ripeness.

They are fiddly things to peel when they are that ripe.

Two kilos of figs into the pan with zest of four lemons, 300g of sugar and a splash of water. Half an hour later we had goo that plopped like volcanic mud making a real mess of the work top and six jars of jam.

Tried it the next morning on toast and very tasty it was too.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 8-10. For more information visit http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/trulloazzurro

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Kirsty McGee and Myshkin at The Green Note Cafe

Camden Town, London. Thursday 26-September-2013.

We first saw Myshkin (http://www.myshkin.co) back in 2001 at  the jazz fest in New Orleans and then again when she toured the UK some years later with her ex, Mike West. If she's toured the UK since we missed it but having discovered the Green Note Cafe (http://www.greennote.co.uk/) we were pleased to discover she was doing a date there.

The first set was from Kirsty McGee (http://www.kirstymcgee.com/) with Mat Martin on guitar and Myshkin joining in on a couple of songs. Kirsty reminded me of Michelle Shocked but that may have been the hat. File under "alternative folk"

After the break the roles were reversed - Myshkin and Mat performing with Kirsty joining in on a couple of songs.

After the show we bought not one but three Myshkin CD's thus catching up on several missed years of listening.

In the excitement of chatting to Myshkin and buying the albums I forgot to settle my tab behind the bar and had to go back the next day to retrieve my credit card.