Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cleaning the Wandle October 2014

King George's Park, Wandsworth, London. Sunday 12-October-2014

This was the first outing for my birthday present from Mary - a pair of size 9 safety waders complete with steel toecaps and steel shank in the sole.

The Wandle Trust provide a goodly pile of waders - they have plenty of 10's and 11's, plenty of 6's and 7's, but only one pair of size 8 and not a single pair of size 9. Hence getting my very own pair.

It is not so long since we were here last but there was still plenty of fresh rubbish to pull out of the river.


Duvets are particularly weighty and unwieldy so we use rope and grapple to drag them up the bank.


As well as invasive flora there are also alien fauna. Chinese mitten crabs are officially listed as one of the World's 100 worst invasive species [http://mittencrabs.org.uk/].


The half-barrel, floating trugs quickly filled with the usual suspects including wheels and tyres. We always check the latter for eels as the eel count gives a measure of river water quality


The usual lunch break for tea and cake. The tea was particularly welcome to warm the fingers as the water was colder than I was expecting, given the air temperature.


It it not uncommon to find car parts beyond just tyres. This time I pulled a steering wheel and a car seat out of the ooze.


This clean-up we were joined by volunteers from local estate agents Seymour Green who helped swell the ranks of volunteers - well done guys.

Wandle Trust logo
The Wandle Trust is an environmental charity dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of the River Wandle and its catchment. They hold community river cleanups on the second Sunday of every month, up and down this unique urban chalkstream – pulling out everything from shopping trolleys to shotguns, and improving the environment for birds, fish, insects and local people. For more visit: http://www.wandletrust.org/.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Kate Bush at The Eventim Apollo - Before The Dawn

London, England. Saturday 20-September-2014.

I was online at one second past nine to get tickets to see this icon from my youth. I was chuffed to bits to get four top price tickets in the stalls on my actual birthday. Who to invite? Well it had to be Mary and my brother and sister.

I respected Kate's request not to takes photos during the performance but did allow myself one before and one during the interval.

When she walked on stage the welcome was astounding. I have been to a number of gigs where the audience cheered enthusiastically at the entrance of the band but this reception was qualitatively different in timbre - it was real love and devotion from her fans.

Before the Dawn

This was not a concert - it was musical theatre with two complete song cycles. Before the interval it was The Ninth Wave, the second side of Hounds of Love, and after it was A Sky of Honey, the second CD of Aerial; the whole lot topped and tailed with a number of other songs [Set List on Wikipedia].

Her voice is no longer the little girl warbling of her early years; her range seemed deeper and richer.

She talked very little as befits theatre rather than concert. Mostly she said "Thank you, thank you" after every song and seemed genuinely moved and grateful by her reception. The only other thing she said, and it seemed incongruous, was to thank her "shit hot band" and her "shit hot singers".

Ian, Mark (me), Jane

I had not realised that The Ninth Wave was a coherent collection because I don't really pay enough attention to lyrics. Seeing it acted out was a real a-ha! moment. So, not only did I get the music I gained insight and understanding which added to the enjoyment.

Poetic confetti fired at the audience

This is not a review, there are plenty of extensive reviews out there from the broadsheets - Google for Kate Bush Review. What I can say is it was a rare treat, a once in a lifetime event, which I am very happy to be able to say "I was there".

Friday, October 03, 2014

Cleaning the Wandle September 2014

Ravensbury Park, Merton. Sunday 14-September-2014.

This was a massive clear up. Instead of the usual 40 or so volunteers there were over 70! The regulars were supplemented by Friends of Ravensbury Park, the Richmond, The American International University in London and young volunteers from The Challenge Network.


Every clean up starts with a safety briefing. I've heard it so many times I think I could recite it verbatim. Then it was into the waders and into the river.


We started at a bridge, always a "good" place for rubbish and work our way upstream. That way you are working into clean water without stirred up silt obscuring your view of the river bottom.

In a quiet spot under a tree I found this old helmet. I couldn't tell you its age but I would assume second world war.


There is also a lake which was badly overrun with floating pennywort - an invasive species from North America. Huge floating mats of the stuff were pushed along to an edge where it could be lifted out.


Then a chain of volunteers transported it to an ever growing compost heap.


Also present at this clean up was Luke from the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership. This is a Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) Project, which aims to deliver a series of improvement projects along the whole length of the River Wandle. One of these is to narrow and diversify the channel through the park - not unlike the works done on the Hogsmill.


Another well spent eco-Sunday.

Wandle Trust logo
The Wandle Trust is an environmental charity dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of the River Wandle and its catchment. They hold community river cleanups on the second Sunday of every month, up and down this unique urban chalkstream – pulling out everything from shopping trolleys to shotguns, and improving the environment for birds, fish, insects and local people. For more visit: http://www.wandletrust.org/.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Puglia August 2014 - Pizza Oven

The highlight of our last visit to Trullo Azzurro was having a pizza chef come round and cook at our place. We invited a number of friends round - we were eleven in total - and hired Angelo to fire up the oven.  He came with all the ingredients and balls of dough ready to go.


It is a proper forno a legno - it took a couple of hours for the oven to get up to full white heat. You know the oven is ready when the roof is glowing white - like with barbecue charcoal. Then the embers are spread over the floor of the oven to warm that. They are then pushed to one side when the floor is warmed - and thereafter the heat is topped up by burning logs off to one side.


Of course part of the entertainment is having a go at making our own pizzas. It is definitely not as easy as Angelo made it look. First Elaine and Andrea had a go, then some of the other guests.


Naturally we had a go as well although ours were not as circular nor as even in thickness as the professional's.


And in they go.


The assembled article in the oven.


Angelo soon had a steady stream of hot pizzas coming out of the oven over the next hour or so. He allows one and a half pizza per person so, even with these thin crust pizzas, we did not go hungry.


At the end of the evening, as it cooled down, some sat in the warmth of the antechamber to extend the evening.


A great evening's entertainment, definitely to be repeated next year.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blues brothers at Ronnie Scott's

Ronnie Scott's, London. Friday 22-August-2014.

We are greatly enamoured of The Blues Brothers movie and, many years ago, went to a "Heroes and Villains" fancy dress party as Jake and Elwood although we leave it to you to decide which category they fell under.



Waiting in the Members Only queue at Ronnie Scotts I couldn't but help feeling a little smug. We had tickets and, looking at the long queue of hopefuls awaiting for returns, I consider us very lucky get be at Ronnie's yet again and watching another classic band.


The London Jazz Review writes, "... the current crew showcases two original and significant members: guitarist Steve “The Colonel” Cropper and tenor saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini." It made many positive comments about many of the songs but seemed lukewarm overall, "It was a perfectly respectable show by any standards, but one could have wished for a few rougher edges, a slightly less sanitised portrayal of the seamier side of life." Full review...


Personally we had a great time. They had a couple of guys (Tommy McDonnell and Rob “The Honeydripper” Paparozzi) come in dressed as Jake and Elwood to do the vocals for all the old favourites. That's what we came for and that's what we got. A rollicking good time.

Friday, September 26, 2014

BBC Prom 45, Laura Mvula

Royal Albert Hall, London. Tuesday 19-August-2014.

Our first late night Prom and a fine concert it was too. Having heard absolutely nothing of Laura's music I had no choice but to go with an open mind. It was brilliant.


Picture from Laura Mvula on FB.

I was particularly taken by Sing to the Moon.


BachTrack gives it 5 stars:
"This was a concert truly like no other. Mvula has a very honest approach to performing - it all comes from the heart, and, for all her glamorous exterior, she remains thoroughly grounded as she sings. Someone once described her songs as a 'sonic breath'; they were absolutely right. The orchestrations worked in a most unique way, and I hope that Laura Mvula pens many more orchestratable songs." Full review...

Really wonderful, a very special concert.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Battersea Foodies' Festival 2014

Battersea Park, London. Sunday 17-August-2014.

What better way to recover from our annual BBQ the day before than a wander round the Battersea Foodies Festival in the sunshine thanks to a complementary tickets from those nice people at South West London TV.


Lots of food stalls, obviously, featuring everything from one person entrepreneurs to large corporations and all manner of food and drinks.

One woman tied to tempt us to into buying extra virgin olive oil by declaring that it was organic and that they pick and press the olives themselves - "So do we!" rejoined Mary.


Live music...


... and a novel mobile bar.


South West London TV is an internet only TV channel and here is their report on the day:



Definitely worth a repeat visit next year.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Annual BBQ 2014

Wandsworth, London. Saturday 16-August-2014.

Our seventh annual BBQ and wine cellar emptying event was back after a year's gap.

All set up ready for influx of hungry and thirsty guests...


Around forty people turned up over the course of the afternoon. We were ably assisted by our burger flipper Zoe which freed us up to mingle with our guests.

Some turned up late afternoon so we lit another barbecue bag and started a second tranche of cooking. We started at one in the afternoon and finished at one in the morning when the last visitors toddled off.


The next morning it was a trip to the recycling bank at the local tip to dispose of the evidence of a most successful party.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

BBC Prom 38, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Royal Albert Hall, London. Wednesday, 06-August-2104

Picnic in a box - doing classical music in style.

A team outing to the RAH; we booked a box and smuggled a picnic in. One ticket had already gone when Mary booked the remaining seven tickets in the box. We had two spare tickets which nearly went to waste but a colleague and partner stepped in at the very last minute.

We set up the impromptu buffet and were just sipping our first glass of wine when the bloke in seat number one arrived. I felt a bit sorry for the him; the usherette showed him into the box with a cheery "these are your new friends" - he looked a bit startled, declined our offer of a drink and scuttled off to his seat.


Mixed reviews from the broadsheets but they all liked Sibelius 2. We also all agreed Sib 2 was much the better half of the programme. Another great night out.

The Guardian gave it 3 stars:
"John Storgårds delivers a thrilling finale to compatriot Sibelius's Second Symphony, rounding out his Proms appearance with solid performances of Peter Maxwell Davies and Frank Bridge [...] John Storgårds's Prom with the BBC Philharmonic flanked two lesser-known British works (Peter Maxwell Davies's Fifth Symphony, Frank Bridge's Oration) with two of Sibelius's most popular pieces, Finlandia and the Second Symphony. Sibelius is often regarded as Storgårds's calling card, though his interpretations of his Finnish compatriot's music divide opinion and there are times when you can see why. Full review…

The Telegraph was more enthused and gave it 5 stars:
'truly overwhelming' This was an amazingly energised performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's chamber pieces, says Ivan Hewett  [...] The other was Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony. It’s a piece where every beguiling or puzzling move is part of a long journey, which leads with iron logic to the final triumphal blaze of D major at the end. It’s easy to lose sight of that final destination, but conductor John Storgards never did. That vision, combined with the impassioned playing of the BBC Philharmonic, made for something truly overwhelming. Full review…

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Open Air Cinema at Battersea Power Station

Sunday 10-August-2014

A chance to see classic cinema in the grounds of a cultural icon courtesy of Everyman Cinema's Summer of Power.

We only discovered this series because a colleague of Mary's had been. We booked to see Breathless - a French New wave classic - on a Sunday afternoon.


We wasted half hour circumnavigating Battersea Power Station looking for the entrance. Some signage would have been good FFS. The nice security guard at Gate 1 had a stack of pre-printed google map directions to the entrance right at the other end by Chelsea Bridge - clearly we were not the first.


Once inside there were usual sort of food stalls and bars. We thought we would treat ourselves to a Perrier-Jouet at the champagne tent but they sold out so we went down scale to prosecco. And then when in our seats we ordered red wine and they'd sold out of that so we had to drink rose.


We went for a 'pod' which was like our own private box with comfy seats and a roof in case it rained. We had headphones and waiter service for food and drinks.


The film itself, Breathless (1960) was entertaining and a classic - so I read later - of French New Wave cinema. Read more on IMDB...


As we left the old derricks silhouetted against the sky were an atmospheric reminder of the power station's coal burning past.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Average White Band at Ronnie Scott's

Thursday 31-Jul-2014

AWB are part of the soundtrack to Mary's life. Not so for me - or so I thought until I heard them play - so many incredibly familiar songs.

To quote Frith Street Post:
"When a band opens with the classic “Pick Up The Pieces” and closes with “Let’s Go Round Again” then you know you’re in the presence of greatness. [...] I had arrived at the gig hoping to see a legendary band deliver a workmanlike performance – after a poor Ginger Baker outing last year, I have been a little wary – but was mesmerised by the energy, tight professionalism and deep, deep catalogue."
Full review...

Photo courtesy of Frith Street  Post

So many people consider themselves lucky to go to Ronnie Scott's even once (see Trip Advisor reviews) but we get to go regularly (Gullible's Travels - Ronnie Scott's). And this was a brilliant evening with friends Grant and Helen, and some of the best music going - epic!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Tipsy Night at The Alma

The Alma, Wandsworth Town, London. Thursday 23-July-2014

An entertaining variation on matching food and wine - a quiz to guess the alcoholic ingredients: four courses each of which had two boozy ingredients that we had to guess.


We were given clues (typically country and style) and a heap of possible answers on slips of paper. So it was part taste buds and part informed guesswork.


Each course also had a matching wine which was introduced by the Alma's wine supplier, she also announced the answers. Sad to report we got a several wrong so were not amongst the winning team.


Even without a win, it was an entertaining evening, well done to the staff, chefs and organisers. I would do that again.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Monty Python Live (Mostly) at the O2 Arena

Saturday 19-July-2014.

The first time I saw the Pythons live was w-a-a-y back on Sunday 31-Jan-1971 at the Lanchester Polytechnic Arts Festival in Coventry.

I went to the "Mixed Media" show to see Ivor Cutler, Adrian Henri and Curved Air feat. Sonja Kristina. Then, en masse, the audience decamped down the road to the Belgrade Theatre for the midnight show by Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The crowd were chanting "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey-ey Goodbye" as we made the short journey between venues. Many wore knotted handkerchiefs on their head declaiming "My brain hurts". The Pythons did all the classics including the dead parrot - always a favourite.

I can tell you today's O2 Arena tickets cost a deal more than 12 shillings (that is 50p in your new fangled decimal money).


When this event came up we just had to go. There was a massive dead parrot in the concourse and I had to wait my turn for this photo opportunity with many others doing the same.


A suitably Gilliam-esque proscenium arch.


When the members of the cast appeared there was a surge of photo taking drolly anticipated by "Photo Opportunity" captions.


The show was a mix of live performance, vintage TV clips and song and dance routines from a much younger troupe. The photo below is Bruces sketch if I recall correctly.

I think the Telegraph summed it up best: "Poignant and predictable, but tremendous fun." [Three stars]

"If the best parts were predictable they were tremendous fun too. The arrival of the Spanish Inquisition showcased Python's gift for high-strung irascibility; Dead Parrot blurred the divide between end-of-pier and Beckett-esque existentialism (Palin briefly floundered, blindsided by what felt like an impromptu swipe by Cleese against the Daily Mail). Four Yorkshiremen, arguably their cleverest, least over-egged routine, was reprised beat for beat – ironic considering it skewers the same impulse to mythologize the past Python were now party to." Full review...


The Guardian gave it three stars as well.

"This was always going to be a parade of the greatest hits; everyone expected the Spanish Inquisition, not to mention the Lumberjack Song, Cheese Shop, Dead Parrot and Spam. These are all duly delivered, often ingeniously segued into one another. But there are some less familiar gems too. It was a joy to be reminded of the Exploding Penguin sketch, as well as Anne Elk's Theory on Brontosauruses, performed with such glorious deadpan by John Cleese that Idle fights to keep a straight face throughout." Full review...



So many people with knotted handkerchiefs on their head declaiming "My brain hurts". They did all the classics including the dead parrot - always a favourite.When we got home Team Fluffy were standing by their food bowls awaiting, nay demanding, a midnight snack. It was indeed the stroke of midnight as this was taken.

A fine evening's entertainment.