Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rolan Bolan at The Half Moon Putney

Sunday 29-June-2014.

From the stage version on Saturday to the real thing on Sunday: Rolan Feld Bolan at The Half Moon Putney. Having seen the last night of the London run of 20th Century Boy on the Saturday it was a serendipitous coincidence that Marc's son, Rolan Bolan, was playing the Half Moon at Putney on the Sunday.

We had friends round for Sunday lunch for a five and a half hour, leisurely and boozy lunch with many fine wines. I was in two minds whether to go or not as the thought of a siesta was very appealing but, as Mary pointed out, when would I next to able to get to see Rolan. It was not quite "a once in a lifetime" opportunity as I am sure he will have a successful musical career but Putney is only a 20 minute bus ride away. A quick call confirmed there were tickets available on the door so off I went.

Arrived there in good time, got a beer and a front row seat. I would have expected it to be packed with fans of his dad wishing the son well. There were a couple of T.Rex / Bolan t-shirts on display and I ended up moving back a row to chat to a couple of fans behind me.

It can be a two-edged sword to be the offspring of famous parents. He is writing and composing his own material but he did include three Marc songs in the set. He did them well and it is good that he feels able to honour his dad's legacy.

The Half Moon is a small venue so I was able to have a quick word with Rolan up at the bar afterwards. Thanked him for an enjoyable set and asked if he had seen the musical; he had not.

Then off home having completed a Bolan double bill weekend.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

20th Century Boy at The New Wimbledon Theatre

Saturday 28-June-2014

Strange to tell but Mary didn't want to go to this so I went with friend Ros. The three of us went for a Italian meal beforehand then Mary toddled off home and Ros and I joined what looked like a sell out show.

The musical took a basically linear biographical approach to Marc's life but used Marc's son Rolan as the "narrator" discovering his father's story through Marc's family.

A review from Gordon of Tyrannosaurus Rex tribute band Strange Orchestra:

"On Saturday night I was lucky enough to see the 20th Century Boy musical with a great group of friends at the New Wimbledon Theatre. I saw it 4 times in Ipswich and like everyone else I got caught up in the euphoria and excitement.

I saw it twice in Coventry and was very lukewarm with the changes to the storyline and felt it had lost a lot of it's original momentum and freshness and to be honest I thought it was going nowhere fast. Saturday night was an incredibly huge step up, from everything I'd seen before.

I thought George McQuire did an ok job but Warren Sollars nailed it as good as anyone's ever going to. The new Rolan actor is as good as the original which says something as he had a lot to live up to. The two girls who play June and Gloria are superb, the Gloria actress has been with the show from the start and June's actress is doing her 2nd run after Coventry.

All the actors now seem better and more professional as well as the additional cast who's dancing and singing was spot on and they looked gorgeous to boot!

This show, which has had more than it's fair share of critics, me included, is now something special and the whole theatre rocked its socks off. By Jove I do think it's ready and good enough for the West End. Just sort the fecking shoes out!! It'll shut everyone up and it's not rocket science. So much work has gone into the show it's a shame something so simple still causes so much negative response when it's so bloody easy to correct!!"

Obviously you cannot really end on Marc's death so the coda to his story was an extended encore of several of the best loved tracks to get them dancing in the aisles and send the audience home on a high.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

George Benson at Hampton Court Palace

Monday 23-June-2014

Only a week after seeing Van Morrison we find ourselves back at Hampton Court to see George Benson, this time with our friend Andrea.

Mary and I did have tickets to see George at Ronnie Scott's but strictly limited to two per member much to Andrea's disappointment. So when this concert came up we bought three tickets and cashed in our RS tickets for them to sell to someone on the waiting list - doubtless making for a couple of happy bunnies somewhere.

This time we went for the champagne picnic from the caterers. Since they are for two we supplemented it with a bottle of white wine, homemade, and very delicious, gazpacho plus some other nibbles.

This time it rained and, like hardened Brits most just put up the brollies and carried on.

This time I did discretely sneak a couple of shots of the stage but there were many others openly snapping way. I do wish they would turn off the flash though; at that distance it is of no use at all and the flashes are a distraction.

I found the music all a bit smooth. It is old school music to seduce by, you know the thing: glass of wine, dim the lights, put on George Benson and snuggle up on the sofa.

The crowd were clearly devotees and several of the tracks were obligatory crowd-pleasers that had the entire audience on their feet. The Times reckons five stars but the full review is behind their subscription firewall. It was all good stuff. So a good time was had by all.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Van Morrison at Hampton Court Palace

Mon 16-June-2014

Now the seventh time we have seen Van the Man and the second time at the Hampton Court Jazz Festival. I still find it very special that the gig is in the courtyard of a 500 year old palace.

The deal is have a picnic in the grounds beforehand and many hundreds available themselves of the lawn behind the palace.

You can order a picnic from the caterers or bring your own. We have a natty little picnic backpack with a two place setting and took our own; catering by Sainsburys.

I respected the "no photography" rule (this time) so all you get is the stage. Last time we saw Van there was a mystery woman on stage. This time we found out it was his daughter, Shana. She did a 15 minute warm-up set comprising three or four songs then stayed on stage to join her dad. She provided some backing vocals and joined Van for a couple of duets.

I am sure he did a more jazz biased set appropriate to the festival. The Telegragh seems to agree and gave it 5 stars.

"Van Morrison played with both sensitivity and commitment at his gig at Hampton Court Palace", writes Andrew Perry.

"Moondance, as the evening light started to fade, was so jazzy, it actually morphed into Miles Davis’s “So What”. [...] Throughout, though, this was music as salubrious and classy as the setting, characterized by the band’s deft, delicate playing and their leader’s rare generosity of spirit. With the rain holding off, and a raucous send-off of “Gloria”, it was a marvellous night, indeed – truly fit for a king." Read the full review...

We have never seen the grumpy side of Van Morrison. Seventh time lucky. Every time he has been on top form and every concert subtly different. We reckon we've done Van, we might not bother again, let's not push our luck. There are other artists to see.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

West Highland Way

Scotland. Sunday/Saturday 08/14-June-2014

After last year's successful completion of Coast to Coast we decided to have a go at another long distance trail - the West Highland Way.

8 June WHW Day 1
Milngavie to Drymen 12.8 miles, already in beautiful countryside and more sun than rain! Enjoying a pint of West Highland Way at the end.

It took a while to get started as there were lots of walkers doing the photo opportunity at the starting obelisk as we took snaps of each other.

Much of the first day was through my favourite type of countryside - deciduous woodland with ferns underfoot.

Note: The Garmin cannot agree with itself - the first mileage is what the trip meter shows, the second is the track manager mileage. Generally we go with the lesser figure; don't want to brag or overstate our achievement.

Total odo. 12.9 miles (12.8)
Moving time 3:54 hr
Moving av. 3.3 mph
Stopped time 33:09 min
Overall av.  2.9 mph
Running total 12.9 (12.8)

9 June WHW Day 2
15.9 miles, up and down times n ( where n is a large number). Great morning and wet afternoon. overnight stop at Rowardennan Hotel.

A high point, the view from Conic Hill.

Total odo. 16.2 miles (15.9)
Moving time 5:36 hr
Moving av. 2.9 mph
Stopped time 1:28 min
Overall av.  2.3 mph
Running total 29.1 (28.7)

10 June WHW Day 3
Another 16 miles, beautiful scenery, hard going and tiring. Mixture of sun and showers. Overnight stay at the characterful Drovers Inn, Inverarnan. Lots of men in skirts serving in the cosy bar where they served huge portions of haggis, neeps and tatties.

The banks of Loch Lomond were not so bonny. The trees meant you cannot see much of the Loch and the path is miles of switchback rockiness.

Farewell view of Loch Lomond.

Total odo. 16.2 miles (15.9)
Moving time 5:55 hr
Moving av. 2.7 mph
Stopped time 1:50 min
Overall av.  2.1 mph
Running total 35.3 (34.6)

11 June WHW Day 4
Loch Lomond left behind and now heading into the hills. Mixture of sun and showers, lovely scenery when we could see it. Overnight stay at Glengarry House.

Lunch at a confluence of path, road and railway. Lynn had gone for the fetching midge net.

The trail took us past the site of St Fillan from which my surname, McLellan, is supposed to be derived so I have visited my spiritual homeland.

Total odo. 13.2 miles (12.9)
Moving time 4:31 hr
Moving av. 2.9 mph
Stopped time 1:17 min
Overall av.  2.3 mph
Running total 48.5 (47.5)

12 June WHW Day 5
20 miles over hills and moors. Great walking weather with only one short shower. Overnight at the only accommodation in sight - Kings House Hotel, Glencoe.

This was the longest day's walk.

Lunch stop was by an archetypical burn.

In the local pub the PA was playing a traditional Scottish humorous song:

Oh ye cannae fling pieces oot a twenty story flat,
Seven hundred hungry weans will testify to that.
If it's butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid is plain or pan,
The odds against it reaching earth are ninety-nine tae wan.

Total odo. 20.5 miles (20.1)
Moving time 6:35 hr
Moving av. 3.1 mph
Stopped time 1:22 min
Overall av.  2.6 mph
Running total 79.0 (77.6)

13 June WHW Day 6 (already??).
Shortish day but steep, a 9 mile climb over the Devil's Staircase (1800 ft). Limited views because we were walking in clouds / mist / rain. Overnight stay at Allt na Leven Guest house.

Supposedly the day with the most spectacular views but the Scottish weather had other ideas.

The Scots have a special word for this kind of weather - dreich.

Total odo. 9.9 miles (9.6)
Moving time 3:41 hr
Moving av. 2.7 mph
Stopped time 30:08 min
Overall av.  2.4 mph
Running total 88.9 (87.2)

14 June WHW Day 7
Enjoying a beer after 16 miles up and down. Couple of climbs in sticky conditions but no rain!!!! A celebratory beer at The Grog Gruel, Traditional Alehouse & Restaurant, Fort William.

Midge net - it's the Scottish burka!  Having a whiskey back at the B&B.

The end of walk team photo.

Total odo. 16.3 miles (16.1)
Moving time 5:27 hr
Moving av. 3.0 mph
Stopped time 1:10 min
Overall av.  2.5 mph
Running total 105.2 (103.3)

West Highland Way summary: 103 miles in 7 days (96 "official" miles plus to and from B&Bs) Ups and downs all along the way with some steep bits and high points at Conic Hill (360m) and the Devil's Staircase (600m). Hardest walking: Loch Lomond side and cut stone old military road across Rannoch Moor. More dry than rain, no blisters, Mary had only 3 midge bites and we all had many beers :-))

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rye to Hastings

Saturday 01-June-2014

Time Out Country Walks volume 1: Walk 25 - Rye to Hastings. 15 miles, rated 9 out of 10 for toughness.

The final training walk before our West Highland Way long distance trail. We drove down to Hastings and took the train to Rye in order to walk back to the car.  The walk was originally 12 miles however trains rarely stop at the original start so the walk is extended by 3 miles.

Typical local architecture and countryside.

A politically incorrect street name - presumably a silent woman not an unintelligent one.

The first part of the walk was very level along a flat flood plain marked on one side by a cliff from when the coastline was further inland.

We then passed through my favourite kind of countryside - deciduous woodland with ferns.

Most lambs ran away but this one must have been hand reared. It trotted towards us presumably in expectation of food.

The second half of the walk was seriously up and down along the cliff tops. This was the reason this walk was chosen; it was the toughest rated walk in the book.

Job done.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Seasick Steve at Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall, London. Friday 23-May-2014.

Love this man's music and attitude. We first saw Seasick Steve back in 2009 at Hyde Park which caused us to go to Cropredy in 2011 to see him again. Now the opportunity to see him in the comfort of the RAH was too good to miss.

Supper was in the Cloudy Bay Bar where all the wines were from, you guessed it, Cloudy Bay.

A fine concert in aid of the Dogs Trust from the ole dog hisself. What came across was his humility and how chuffed he was to be in the iconic Royal Albert Hall.

Excellent gig, excellent atmosphere, bus home - gotta love a decent, big city transport infrastructure.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Coopers and Lybrand (MCS) Old Hacks

Dover Castle Pub, London. Thursday 15-May-2014

Meeting up with ex-colleagues I hadn't seen for 32 years. Talk about a blast from the past this was networking* with a vengeance.

*drinking with colleagues is "team-building", drinking with ex-colleagues is "networking".

I met up with the director of the agency through whom I got my current contract. I looked at his LinkedIn profile and it turned out we were both at Coopers and Lybrand (Management Consultancy Services) - C&L (MCS) - at the same time, '80 to '82, and had many acquaintances in common.

Some colleagues from that era still meet up twice a year for a beer and luckily one such meeting was imminent so I went long and met up with, amongst others, Ed Breen and Andy Preston.

As luck would have it I had just scanned in my old C&L pass for Throw Back Thursday which I was able to show them otherwise they might not have recognised me.

We drank, we reminisced, we went for a meal.

The early eighties was a halcyon period for me. I had just moved to London, doubled my salary in two years, had a hectic social life both with work colleagues and outside of work with the group code named "the Birmingham crowd". It was great to reconnect with those days. Happy memories.

If you were part of C&L (MCS) do drop me a line via Contact. spider food Alison J Bond - went to Oz Andy King Angela Jepson Bernie (Bernadette) McManus Bill Haygarth – I met him 10+ years ago when I was Hon Sec. He wasn’t interested in attending and retired in Yorkshire several years ago Bron Ciezarek – Now a member Bruce Davis – A member Chris La Niece Danny McNichol – A member Dave A Dixon - beard, quite senior Duncan Pinkerton Gary Phillips George Laurie Graham Smith Janet Fowler - Vanuatu Jean Brass Jerry Chapman John Rycroft Lynda Pyle Mark McLellan - Now a member Mark X - Fortran programmer Mike Tinsley Murial Nelson – Retired many, many years ago and very doubtful interest in Hacks Nigel Griffiths – Living in Oz Nigel Ratcliffe – Sadly passed away c 20 years ago Nikki Birkett – Living in Oz Nolan Phillips – Occasionally mentioned in dispatches at meetings. I think Jill is in contact Pamela X Paul Cooke - Claudius / Vanuatu – Did he ever return from the Southern Hemisphere? Ray Ryan Sandy X Simon Coles - A member and the previous Hon Sec Steve Thorne - Sondek & Naim fan Sue Judd Sue Stubenvoll (sp?) Tony Winter Wayne Stinton - Occasionally mentioned in dispatches at meetings. I think Jill may be in contact Wojtek Adamek

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trullo Azzurro - May 2014

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. Sat/Sun 10/11-May-2014

An extra visit to Puglia to air Trullo Azzurro and talk to the gardener about taking on the local management.

Our previous visit at Easter was the usual start-of-season, open up visit. We had aired all the bedding, dragged the mattresses into the courtyard and opened all the doors to let some fresh air waft through.

Since then Puglia had some terrible wet weather and we felt more airing might be required. In addition we want to discuss an above ground pool and possible transfer of management to a different agent who is currently looking after the garden.

It was a flying visit. The cheapest way to maximise the time there was to split the outbound flight at Rome on Friday and use up Mary's Hilton HHonors points on an overnight stay and catch the early morning flight on Saturday.

Of course we had to meet up with the usual suspects and go out for a meal. If you are going out for a pizza it might as well be in Italy :-)

Popping down to the local supermarket I stumbled up the XIII Vespa national convention hosted by the Vespa Club Valle D'Itria. An amazing sight to see so many Vespa in one place. For non-Italian speakers "Vespa" means "Wasp" after the buzzing noise they make.

It being spring there were lots of wild flowers in bloom in our garden. Call them weeds if you like but I call them wild flowers.

The olive trees have all been pruned and so I am hoping for a bumper crop this year after last year's mini-harvest. Such is the alternating habit of many fruit trees including, so far, our olive trees.

It was a gloriously sunny weekend so we hung out all the duvets and pillows and gave them a good toasting in the courtyard. We had a long chat with Graham about the services he could offer and the work in progress investigations by his tame geometra about pool possibilities.

Then it was back to the UK on the late Sunday flight - mission accomplished.

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

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson at G Live, Guildford

Guildford Thursday 08-May-2014

Another music icon from the past. Not able to make the London gig we booked the next nearest event in Guildford.

We arrived late and snuck in halfway through a performance in its entirety of his latest album, Homo Erracticus. An peripatetic ramble through the last century and before. It was a full blown, gold plated, prog rock concept album complete with backing visuals; an exemplar of the genre.

At the end he cheerfully said that after the break he would play the greatest hits that we had come to hear. During the interval I bought a programme, the album on vinyl and got a free mug.

Picture courtesy of

The second half opened with Living in the Past - a track to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Here was the original man playing one of the all time classic tracks.

Happy and I'm smiling,
walk a mile to drink your water.
You know I'd love to love you,
and above you there's no other.

He then proceeded to romp through all the old favourites. This is what we came to hear!

Picture courtesy of

A young man sounding uncannily like Ian provided vocal support. So sound-alike I was convinced it must be his son. The programme said otherwise, it was in fact one Ryan O'Donnell. Not the frst time we have been to see a more mature artist who wisely chose a backing singer to add some oomph to the mix. And beside it meant Ian could get on with playing the flute and standing on one leg.

Ian seemed like a jolly nice chap, the sort you could chat to over a beer. There were hints of cynicism, or was it just dry wit? Certainly he didn't take himself too seriously but in a good way.

A damned fine concert.

PS. Loads more photos from the Shepherd's Bush concert.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Thames Path 11 - Clifton Hampden to Oxford

Dorchester-on-Thames. Tuesday 06-May-14 (part)

After a quick breakfast we popped into Dorchester Cathedral while waiting for the taxi to take us back to the previous evening's end point.

We saw a good number of traditional narrow boats which got me all nostalgic for the several canal holidays we did in the '90s.

This boat house is, according out guide book, the largest timber-framed building in Europe.

It may look like a compost heap but the sign reads "Wildlife Sanctuary. No Rubbish Please."

Our lunch rest spot.

The final stretch into Oxford took us up over Folly Bridge and this wonderfully eccentric building.

Then past where I used to live on Osney Island just across the road from the rail station. Not long to wait for a fast train back to Paddington and home.

The next, and final four, stages are less well served by trains. Mary is talking of a four-day, long weekend to polish the walk off in one go.


Distance this leg 25.1 km
Previous legs 233.7 km
Total so far 258.8 km