Thursday, 24 September 2015

Victory Fanfare! A weekend in London

First of all, I would like to apologise for not being as regular as I want to be.  You see, my keyboard stopped working entirely, which made it difficult to post on Facebook, let alone a blog, plus being in Rome made this a little difficult as well.  So, sorry about that!

Moving on, it has been a while since I've had to type on my tablet rather than a PC, though this isn't due to a broken keyboard (which has now been replaced).  Nope, instead, I am sitting on a bus heading to Stansted airport after an amazing weekend in London, and I do not use the word amazing lightly (though I know I often do).

After flying down on Friday night, and having avoided multiple attempts to make me miss the bus, I met up with Michael and Cara and headed to their flat (whilst munching on some of the best chips that I've had in a while).  After a couple of beers, and some catching up, it was time for a not-so-early night.

After getting up, eating a delicious breakfast (Thank you both!) and getting ready, we all headed into Camden Market for a quick wander round, where we saw a group of violinists playing and dancing the can-can, and were I bought Alison some nice chocolates (aaaaawwwwww...I'm only gruff on the outside).  Sadly I only saw a quick glimpse of the can-can but we did stay for more of the show which was really good.  

Having had our fill of violins, it was time for our fill of sushi at a nearby restaurant called 'Wasabi'.  Wasabi was great little place, a typical Japanese style fast-food venue with fresh sushi, Onigiri and warm dishes as well.  As I always do when I eating sushi, I decided that I don't eat enough sushi and vowed to do so more often.

After lunch, Michael and I headed to the main reason for me being in London: Final Symphony II.  Now, Final Symphony II (if you don't know) is a video game concert that is performed by the London Symphonic Orchestra and was influenced by music from Final Fantasy 5, 8, 9 and 13. 

Now then, you may have clocked onto the fact we were just heading there after lunch and you might be thinking to yourself that it was a little bit early.  Well, as it turned out, Michael had entered an essay competition and won it, which meant that could actually attend the rehearsal for the show!!  This was a fantastic opportunity for us both, and we were highly excited.  

After arriving at the Barbican, and having rather easily entering what should have been a secure artist's entrance, we were found by a member of the band and escorted backstage.  Here we waited for a while before actually getting into the hall to watch the Orchestra perform the first two songs of the evenings show (fantastic, by the way) with Nobou Uematsu, the composer, just in front of us!!  Now, if you don't know who Nobuo is, that's fair enough but he is one of, if not the, best known video game composers ever.  He has worked on over a 100 different projects, ranging from video games (including most of the Final Fantasies) to anime to CDs!  His music has also been played in over 500 different concerts as well (he is now a record holder due to this as well).  And there he was, just sitting quietly watching his music be played.  

Oh, and did I mention that Michael and I got to meet him, and got our photographs with him?  This was just a fantastic moment for the both of us!   Here are some pictures from it.

After this once-in-a-lifetime moment, Michael and I headed for a pint to discuss the aforementioned meeting, and grabbed a sandwich after wandering around the City of London for a bit including past the London Stock Exchange and the St Bartholomew Hospital, where Sherlock leapt to his 'death' (which has a lot of Sherlock related comments written in the dusty windows).  And oddly, despite it being such an important centre, there is very little open on a Saturday, forcing us to have a sandwich from the Co-op. 

Now, the reason we were actually waiting around the area was for Derek, who was joining us for the show.  After waiting for a while, we had actually just decided to head back to the Barbican when he arrived, so we were able to meet him and get to the pre-concert talk just in time.  The pre-concert talk was an enlightening experience that interviewed Nobuo Uematsu, the arranger for the show and the person who had planned the show, allowing some insight into the whole event.  Plus I can now say that I've seen Nobuo Uematsu whistle the Chocobo theme tune as well!

Finally, and after another beer with Derek and Michael, it was time for the show itself and it was absolutely fantastic!  Although we had seen the first half, it was a great experience to see it again in a packed hall, and the second half was a complete mystery, which was as good as, if not better than the first half.  The show even contained various injections of humour into it, which worked well and it became clear very quickly that a lot of love had went into the symphony, with no-one leaving disappointed.  Plus a load of rather mediocre world records were handed out at the end...including 'First Conductor to play a video game concert outside of Japan'.  Not sure that will be added to your CV...

This fantastic day/night then ended after we headed back to Michaels flat for some lovely cake baked by Cara (thank you Cara!) and some homemade Bacon infused Bourbon, infused by Michael (thank you Michael)!  Lovely end to a lovely day,

Sunday quickly came around again and it was time for a little bit of sightseeing after breakfast!  First of all, Cara, Michael and I headed off to the Emirates Air Line, which is a short cable car that goes right across the Thames, giving a great view of the river and beyond.

With our feet back on land again, we then headed further into Greenwich to the Old Royal Navy College for three reasons.  The first was the market there that had some delicious food stalls (we shared some onion bhajis and mixed samosas - lovely).  The second was that we could walk up to the Observatory where the Meridian was located, which we did and got a great view of London.  It was here we also got  a great show of people deciding to try and take a shortcut down the hill (by not taking the path) before realising that it was fenced off 3/4s of the way down, then trying to work out how to get round the fence (so few people thought to climb over it).  The third reason, and perhaps the most important reason, was because this was the area which Thor destroyed in 'Thor 2: the Dark World'.  This was particularly fitting for the theme of the weekend.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Michael and Cara, and part-ways on the underground.  Thank you both for putting me up and coming round London with me, again!  And that leads me to I guess it's time for Pick of the Week!

Pick of the Week

Final Symphony - How could it not be??  Not only did the show blow me away, but the music is fantastic as well.  If you like video games or classical music, check it out online and you will see how good it really is.  If you're just looking for something a little different, I would recommend just listening to it.  It will really brighten up whatever task you're doing!

Music of the Week

I think you've guessed that I will be posting a Final Symphony song today, so here it is.  It is 14 minutes long, so enjoy!

See you all next week!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Life is a whirlwind

Gooooooooooooooooooddd evening everyone!  How are you?  I'm quite well, thanks for asking.  It has been a disjointed couple of weeks, filled with boxes of stuff, Fringe shows and emergency sewing.  So, rather than bore you with several articles on each item, I thought I would write one article with a snapshot of each incident…and potentially bore you, of course.  Plus I get to make a list!!  I do like lists...Let us dive right into this shallow pool of my life:

1.       I have lots of stuff, with more to come.
Due to several reasons out with my control, I had to look on in horror as pile upon pile of boxes of my stuff were delivered to my house (no, I've not been disowned), as Alison silently wondered when she started dating a hoarder and where we would now live, now that the house had been turned into storage space for boxes.  Thankfully, I've managed to get rid of a lot of it but with the dark knowledge that more is to come...

2.       I’m a dab hand at making skirts under pressure
Ok, so I didn't actually make a skirt at all but I did do a lot of pinning and measuring, to help Alison cut out the material for said skirts.  I didn't even stab myself with the pins!  I must be a natural tailor.

3.       Ed Byrnes
Is funny.  It’s true.  So, I went to see him at the Fringe the other day and he was brilliant.  In fits from start to finish.  Just thought you had to know.

4.       Get off the roads!
Public service announcement: stay off the roads (and millions of roundabouts) in Livingston, for I am driving again!  EVERY.  SINGLE.  DAY.  Totally not sick of yet…Again, thank you to Alison for her patience and daredevilry for getting into the car with me, as I build up my confidence again!

5.       Being drunk does not necessarily constitute being funny
Nor does saying that you look like ‘X with Y happened to it’ several times for ten minutes (e.g. Rod Stewart after being in the microwave)…I’m looking at you, first comedian at ‘Pick of the Fringe’.  Yes, Alison and I went to see some of Scotland’s top picks of Fringe performers…and one was not good.  The rest were hilarious though, so don’t feel too bad!

6.       Gin in so many ways
Not going to lie…until recently, I thought a cocktail with gin involved mixing it with tonic.  How wrong I was.  Alison and I decided to visit a rather unusual Fringe show that was actually put on by Hendricks Gin: Hendrick's Emporium of Sensorial Submersion.  I'm not quite sure how to describe this but I will give it a go…Imagine you were sent to ‘ye olde colonial health spa’ where you were being treated to improve your senses…but with gin and oddness.  It was awesome, and eclectic.  The show itself lasts about two hours and consists of five rooms:
a.       The Welcome Room – where you are greeted with a gin and tonic, and some rather eccentric measurements to see if you’re ok.  I was an 8.1 sadly.
b.      The Quietest Bar on Earth – In a completely white room, you’re served a Dry Martini in complete silence.
c.       The Classroom – It’s back to school, as you are asked to test 3 drinks and record their flavours, while listening to some music.
d.      The machine – Enter a room draped in red, where each time you touch your glass (filled with Corpse Reviver No. 2), a musical note is produced.  
e.      The yoga room -  Here you can relax and let the gong waves wash over you, before drinking a non-alcoholic cucumber drink, whilst giggling a little about the piping coming from outside.  I do like gin...

So this has been my life for the past couple of weeks!  Now, if you excuse me, I have to go drive.  AGAIN.  As an added bonus, here are some random pictures of the Fringe!

Pick of the Week

Stitcher – If you’re like me, you will listen to podcasts from time to time.  If you do, then check out Stitcher, a site dedicated to streaming podcasts.  There are thousands to choose from and you can listen to them from your computer or your phone!  Great for when you’re out or about.

Music of the Week

Sometimes I think I should get Michael to do Music of the Week, the amount of times he has influenced what I choose.  Thanks to him, the song of the week is Snog – Everything is Under Control.  Enjoy.

See you all next week!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Live when you're alive and sleep when you're dead




Oh excuse me!  It has been a hectic week or so and I must have dozed off.  You see, in the duration of a week, I have:
  •          Hosted two 2 dinner parties (one where my mum was seeing my new house for the first time -eep!)
  •          The cooking and cleaning for said dinner parties
  •          2 Fringe shows
  •          And a hillwalk
  •          All on top of my regular life and work

Now, that may not seem like masses to you but to a grumpy and reclusive guy like me, it’s pretty tiring!  Don’t worry…although there are photographs, I can promise no food shots!  This isn't Masterchef!

Thankfully, the dinner parties went well enough!  The first one was so Alison could have a catch-up with her two friends, Claire and Stuart (and presumably so they could meet me a little bit as well).  With bowls of home-made chilli, home-made tortilla chips and banana and white chocolate muffins, I like to to think I've won them over.  Regardless, it was a nice night and I think everyone enjoyed it!

Next up was the second dinner party, with my parents.  This took some planning as it was a three 
course meal, made up from:
  •  Chorizo and onions in cider
  • Pork Fillet with home-made apple sauce, rosemary apple slices, and sweet potato and turnip wedges
  • Home-made Madeira cake with lemon cream cheese frosting
Thankfully, I decided to plan out the cooking (which really helped out) and it all went fairly well, especially as I had to impress!  As usual, this was a great night with my parents and really nice to catch-up with them, as it had been a while.  Plus, cuddles from Ollie are always enjoyed!

After a somewhat sleepless night, thanks to Ollie hogging the couch (how such a small beagle can take up so much room, I’ll never know), we said goodbye to my parents, and Alison and I headed into Edinburgh, to visit the Fringe for the first time this year.  After picking up our tickets, we headed to our first show: Japan Marvellous Drummers.  What followed was an hour of blistering drums, mixed with some Japanese flutes and harps, and sprinkled with a little humour.  With a variety of different drums, from small to mammoth, the show was a good mix of styles that really showcased what you can do with one group of instruments.  An added bonus was being talked though the different songs they were playing, and what they meant, as well as there translated names.

Once our eyes adjusted to the light and our ears stopped ringing, we headed for lunch at the original Mosque Kitchen (thank you Michael and Cara) for an absolutely stunning curry for £12 (for both of us), including drinks.  Bargain!

No rest for the wicked, so we headed onto our final show which really turned out to be the highlight of the night!  This was a free show, by a duo called Jolly Boat: Nerd Play who came out with nothing but a guitar and a laptop, but managed to keep the crowd in stitches all night.  And it is worth noting, the place was packed…people were sitting in the aisle to see these guys.  And I can see why! They were fantastic…with songs ranging from a love song made from keyboard shortcuts to a rather adult song about Disney princesses to a song about the worst Dungeon and Dragon monsters.  To finish the show off, they used a mix of props (Star War puppets, anyone?) and a hilarious slideshow.  Really, if you ever get the chance to see these guys, do it without hesitation.  It will leave you in tears (the good kind).  And it was free, though I did pay £5 for a cd.

Fiiiiiinaaaallllly and before I collapsed into an exhausted ball, it was time for a hill walk with my dad around the Pentlands near Edinburgh.  And I must say, I think we got the one day of summer that it seems we are being allowed!  A beautiful day, with beautiful Scottish scenery, along with spending time my dad was a picturesque ending to a great week.  And as promised, here are the photographs!!

 Pick of the Week

Jolly Boats – Who else!  I told you about them in the main part of the blog, so I will just say this: go find a show you can attend.  Hilarious.  Website is linked!

Music of the Week

Thank you to Michael for this week’s pick (as of a link I got from him about 3 minutes ago): Marilyn Manson with Rammstein.

See you all next week, as I'm going to nap!