Saturday, April 28, 2018

Nubya Garcia at Ronnie Scott's

London. Saturday 28-April-2018.

One of the (many) good things about Ronnie Scott’s is that we get to discover new musicians that we might otherwise not hear. With the larger venues you know already who you are going to see, that’s why you’ve booked. With Ronnie’s we look at the programme and think “they sound interesting, we’ll go see them”. For the weekend, early shows you get a double dose of discovery as there is a support act as well.

This time the support act was a classical string quartet called String Ting, part of Tomorrow’s Warriors initiative aiming to encourage diversity in jazz. It made for a very interesting and intriguing listen; "St James's Infirmary" given a new twist.

Nubya Garcia fell into the category of new-to-us musicians so we went with an open mind. Mind you, you can’t go far wrong with a quartet led by a saxophonist. Apparently she is winner of The JazzFM Award “Breakthrough Act of the Year”.

I can do no better than quote from Jazz in Europe’s review:

“With an incredible line up, the young saxophonist delivered a sound show.”

“Performing some pieces from her last album [...] Nubya Garcia demonstrated what a major talent she is. The chemistry between her and her fellow musicians was superb.”

“This thing we call jazz is definitely alive and well and Nubya Garcia is one musician we need to thank for this!” Full review... 

Another good thing about Ronnie Scott’s is that the artists usually come out from the green room to have a drink at the bar afterwards so you can mingle and thank them in person for an excellent set. Here we have three members of String Ting chatting to Nubya right next to our table; you don’t get that at the O2 Arena!

Yet another excellent evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Toyah Willcox at the 229 Club

229 Great Portland Street, London. Thursday 26-April-2018.

The "Acoustic, Up Close and Personal" tour.

This is the third time I have seen Toyah. The first was way back in 1983 when she appeared at the Young Vic in the play Trafford Tanzi. The second time was in 2003 in the musical Calamity Jane which got an indifferent review from The Guardian. This time we were here for her own music.

Alerted by SongKick to this gig, we ordered our tickets. When they arrived there were no seat numbers and we were a bit concerned that it was standing room only. As it turned out we needn’t have worried. There was seating it was just unnumbered, first come first served. We were able to get reasonable seats not too far back.

Toyah earlier posted a picture of the dress she was going to wear and indeed that is what she did wear. The static picture does not do her figure nor decolletage justice she is in great shape and looking lovely.

In the lights the outfit was a very sparkly rainbow affair.

The line up was:

  • Toyah Willcox: vocals
  • Chris Wong: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Colin Hinds: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Mike Nichols: double bass

One thing I like about live gigs is when the artist chats a bit about each song and gives you some background about how they came to write it or some context about the time when it was written. Toyah did this with every song which made it a much more interesting concert.

Unsurprisingly she did the well-known hit singles as well as a number of other tracks from her back catalogue which as usual you could just tell that many of the loyal audience members knew off by heart. She also did a couple of surprising covers. The first was “These boots were made for walking” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, one of my dad’s favourite songs. The other was “Echo Beach” better known in the version by Martha and the Muffins which was very pleasant listen.

One thing I noticed about some of audiences, maybe it is the older demographic, is it they are much more respectful of the artist and pay greater attention. There was no sea of iPhones, everybody was actually focused on the music and enjoying the live atmosphere. The one exception was when Toyah invited us to come up to the stage and take selfies with her she came up to the front of the stage and posed for pictures.

An excellent concert from an iconic artiste.

Monday, April 23, 2018

London Marathon 2018

London, England. Sunday 22-April-2018.

The story can now be told...

I entered this year's London Marathon under a cloak of invisibility! I had said to all my friends that the Brighton Marathon 2017 was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to sponsor me. When I did not *run* the entire Brighton Marathon I was so disappointed (extreme British understatement). I *only* ran 22 miles, walked the rest and jogged across the finish line. How can I now go back to my friends and ask them for sponsorship for a second marathon?

This time I took the approach of "under-promise, over-deliver". The plan was that only after I ran over that finish line would I send out that begging email. And, heaven forfend, I failed to run the entire distance or fail to hit the money target I would make up the balance myself. Beforehand I had told no-one other than those who explicitly asked if I would do another marathon - I cannot tell a lie. Unfortunately I did not deliver.

I failed to complete the London Marathon basically because I made the beginners' mistake of starting off too fast. I went with the 5:00 pace runner to prevent this but she set off too fast. I made an error of judgement and kept up with her instead of dropping back and running my own pace. I burned too much energy too soon, went wobbly at the 18 mile mark and was steered to the nearest St John's Ambulance so I could collapse and throw up. Not fit to walk the remainder, I took the sensible option and retired.

I cannot ask for sponsorship for something I didn't do but if people would care to make a donation to Blue Cross that would be very much appreciated. Blue Cross animal hospitals and pet care clinics provide free veterinary treatment to sick and injured pets when their owners can’t afford private veterinary fees.

You can do so via my Virgin Money Giving page.

Thank you to all my friends for their support and encouragement.

The full story:

Before last year’s Brighton marathon I did 35 training runs totalling 259 miles. This time I did 61 training runs totalling 454 miles! Practiced taking in isotonic gels every 5km. Practiced a slower, consistent pace. Best fit time prediction: 4:54:42.

Best fit graph of all 61 training runs

This year I went with the 5:00 pace runner instead of last year's 4:30 pace runner. Still not enough. Again caught out by the heat and the pace at the start (the latter an error of judgement on my part).

My last two experiences of pace runners was that they were metronomic and a great way to keep the right pace. The London Marathon pace runner set off too fast. She did the first 5 km at 6:41min/km, equivalent to a 4:42 marathon time. Eighteen minutes faster than the target. Same again for the second 5 km that included a couple of individual 6:16 minute kilometres which is a 4:25 marathon - way too fast for me and the heat of the day.

The third 5 km she did at 6:49 min/km, equivalent to 4:48 marathon. As I said before, my mistake was keeping up with her. After the first couple of km I should have said to myself, "Sod this for a game of soldiers. It's too fast. I'll drop back and plod at my own pace". Emotionally though, the pace runner was my lifeline, to drop back I felt I would be all on my own, no support.

This is me in the yellow baseball cap just behind the pace runner at 7 miles, near to the Cutty Sark.

People say how great the London Marathon is, what a wonderful day, how much they enjoy running it, a fantastic event. For me it was a horrible day. All I saw was the heels of the pace runner, all I felt was discomfort as I ran too fast. I was mostly oblivious to the crowds, I did a few high fives but mostly didn't have the energy to spare to acknowledge the shouts of encouragement from the crowds.

The organisation of the marathon is fantastic however not so good if you have to drop out. It took ages for Mary to find me and a nightmare to retrieve my bag of belongings.

At the end of the day my sentiment was "If today were a fish I would have thrown it back".

So what are the positives?
  • Money is being raised for a worthy cause.
  • I suppose I must be fitter (but I don't feel any different). 
  • I now know the answer to the question I posed three years ago, "How hard can it be to run a marathon?".