Earlier in the year, I applied for a England fan guide for Euro 2012. As it never arrived in time for the tournament and I never had any serious intentions to head over to Ukraine or Poland it was not a major loss. In fact, I had totally forgotten about the guide but somebody somewhere had not. It finally fell through the postbox yesterday. Over six months later, what a complete waste of time! I recall a discussion about my headmaster at secondary school many many years ago. The comment made by my class teacher, was that the headmaster regarded punctually with the utmost importance. In his case, it was always “Better Never Than Late!”
There are daily rituals, weekly tasks and monthly chores. One of those for me is to read the fantastic ArseBlog every morning. I started reading many years ago and even listened to the first editions of the ArseBlog podcast (affectionately called the ArseCast). After the move into double-digits I gave up as I just did not have the time to listen. Now working in Reading and with over two hours of commuting each day, I look forward to the ArseCast every Friday. I start listening at 4:30pm sharp as I wait for the TVP bus which takes me to Reading station. Once your blog becomes popular to a point of having millions of readers, the commercial opportunities open up. Sponsporship and prizes. I have entered over a dozen of the competitions run by the Arsenal fan Andrew from Dublin over the years but never won. Until this Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, I entered a competition on-line via e-mail, to win tickets for the next Arsenal home match at the Emirates. The question was rather straight forward and the answer connected to the opponents, promoted as runners up in The Championship last term, Southampton. I was shocked to receive a mail on Wednesday morning to confirm I had won! I pondered on who to take with me but in the end (after persuasion from my wife Michelle) decided to take my Dad. I know for sure he will enjoy the day out and the atmosphere at Ashburton Grove. This will be my first visit to my beloved football club since December 2008. It has been one hundred and ninety five weeks since I was last at a home game and I have to admit I have missed the experience of actually going to see some live football. Plus with all the new signings and the fact we have made a good start to the season (compared to this time last year) I am generally feeling quite positive. Bring it on! Plus a chance to finally wear the Arsenal shirt that my mate Dave got me almost two years ago for my 29th birthday.
Received a completely unexpected e-mail in my inbox this afternoon. An offer of a season ticket at my beloved Arsenal Football Club. This was a complete contradiction to my previous communications (from mid February 2008) that I would become eligible for a season ticket on 1st June 2054.
I would love to take up the offer, but the cost of a season ticket has gone up dramatically. I remember talking to a chap at an evening game at Emirates in 2006 (the club’s inaugural season at the new venue) and he paid about £850. Now I would have to pay between £1,300 to £1,500 for the privilege and honour of watching the North London side in about thirty matches over the course of a campaign. I wish I could afford this but the reality is, I cannot. You also need to remember to factor in the travel, programme, pie and beverages. These all add up to make this a circa £2,000 past time, excluding purchasing any further merchandise from The Armoury. Football is big business!
Will I regret this moment? Of course. Will I feel hard done by, in respect that I will now lose the £30 place in the queue I paid for way back in 2005. At that point in time I was around 14,000 in the queue (I have a certificate signed by Mr. Arsène Wenger OBE to prove it). Not sure how in six years I suddenly found myself at the front. Just forty three years earlier than I had expected. I have until Monday 11th July to make my decision and make the appointment with the virtual receptionist, to help me pick my seat and give examples of the view I can expect. Just a shame, that I do not actually know the next time I will go to a game. My last match was way back in December 2008. A great deal has changed since then!
Stop the clock, there are now just a mere 31, 536, 000 seconds left of my twenties. The big 30 is fast approaching and there is very little I can do stop this collision course. I just guess I have to hang on and enjoy the ride!
Before I get bogged down with writing up my India holiday blog posts, I thought it would good and refreshing to give a quick catch up post on everything I have been up to since I returned from the subcontinent.
My Dad recommended I did not go straight to sleep when I got back to the house around 1pm on Saturday 24th July. I therefore spent the time online, catching up with things and watching two episodes of The IT Crowd back to back while having some food. I was glad to be back at home with my Dad and sisters was looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. The following day was going to be very busy, no rest for the wicked as the saying goes.
Driving home on Thursday 24th June (exactly a month before my flight back home) from work, Michelle had called me to let me know that Toy Story 3 was booking at IMAX. I explained that I would book tickets when I got home after the gym (around 7pm). However, by the time I got home and check my e-mail, Michelle had already booked tickets. (Actually within twenty minutes of firstly sending me an e-mail to book tickets, she sent a second e-mail, a forward of the booking confirmation.) Excellent! I was really looking forward to the movie. Toy Story has to be my favourite animated franchice of all time (with the sequel being my favourite). To this day, I still believe the intro (to TS2) is the best intro to any animated movie, ever! I challenge anyone to offer something better!
On Sunday, I headed into London to have a light lunch with Michelle at The Fire Station restaurant, just down the road from Waterloo station before we went to catch the Pixar animation on the biggest screen in the country at 4pm. This was my 2nd time at the South London cinema since October 2007. Thankfully they have had quite a refurbishment in the three years since my last visit. There are now seating areas and more movie posters, I recall we were just standing around waiting last time. When we were finally allowed in and given our 3D Glasses, Michelle could not resist taking a quick snap on her camera phone before the movie began!
I have to admit that these glasses were much more comfortable on the face than the ones that are used in other multiplexes (is their brand name Real 3D). My eyes were not being crushed, which generally tends to happen, as I already wear spectacles. We settled down for some trailers and then a funny computer animated short before the main feature.
I love Toy Story! So this review will be unashamededly biased! My favourite character is Buzz Lightyear, as from my own childhood, I was fascinated by the idea of space, aliens, Star Wars and droids. The mystery of the unknown and as I grew older, gaining an understanding that space is undefinable, inifinite. Whereas everything else in life (even life itself) has a very defined, prescribed shelf life. I had been waiting for this movie since 1999. I recall the Friday night I dashed over to Reading. To the rather new Oracle Shopping centre and Warner Village cinema as it was then. This was the time before allocated seating and by the time we got into the screen (I think it was screen four but I could be wrong). We got in quite late (traffic and not really being able to really put my foot down in a 998c Mini Mayfair) and took up the final seats in the middle of the auditorium. This meant having to lean up a little at the screen, I did not mind. Then the film began and it was Buzz flying through space to an unknown planet. Amazing! Awe inspiring stuff!
In the intervening eleven years, I may have grown older on the outside, but inside the young child remains pretty much alive. Toy Story remains my favourite of the Pixar franchises, although The Incredibles comes extremely close to top spot. Here was the new adventure, but I had tried my best to avoid any of the stories published online, such as details of new characters and any revelations regarding the plot. The only spot I had seen was during The Movie Awards on ITV. The scene was screened in 3D for those in the auditorium (including Tom Cruise) but for the television audience, only in 2D of course! It showed Buzz escaping from the playgroup room, with the help of a group of toys. It was a great and I just could not wait for the movie to be released.
It was great fun as always and is able to appeal to both adults and children in a way, not found in other movie genres. I would happy bet, that most of the parents had come to the IMAX with the excuse of their children, but the reality was they were really looking forward to the animated movie themselves. Although, talking as a non-parent (at the time of typing) I do not believe this is a movie suitable for the under fives. I am sure there are some that would disagree (and those that did, brought their young nipper to the IMAX). Thankfully they did not ruin my experience. It was a rollercoaster of fun from start to finish! I loved every millisecond. I would highly recommend you go and see it! My particular favourite scenes were Buzz being switched into Spanish mode for the Hispanic customers. The Space Ranger is extremely light on his feet and can move!
On my return back home from Waterloo, I had a lazy Sunday evening planned before I headed to bed early before returning to the reality of work on Monday morning. I watched Top Gear, which featured Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. This was fantastic and I did not realise how much of a bloke’s girl Cameron Diaz is! (Michelle would pitch in here and say, she is a grown woman Teg!). Jeremy Clarkson just could not contain himself, he was like the cat that had got the cream! It was a really good episode, particularly as I am a big fan of Tom! I thought he had blown his chances when he went on two wheels going around the corner of the track, but no chance. This is a Hollywood A-List who does a great of his own stunts (hate to see those insurance premiums) and flew to the top of the leader board. The man is a living legend and I really need to go and catch Knight & Day at some stage before it disappears from the big screen for good.
Michelle had seen Inception while I was out in India. Around 4pm (BST) on my last day (Friday 23rd July) I had rudely called her during the performance. I had heard so many positive reviews about the movie that I thought it would be worth going to check it out. This would mean another trip to the cinema within six days but we wanted to keep it local this time. Michelle was keen to watch the movie again, as she had lots of unanswered questions. I had told my colleague Rich, to remain tight lipped until I had seen the movie. I booked tickets for the Luxury 11 Screen at Empire Slough. Just to set you straight, the last time I had been to this multiplex was in November 1994. I sent a text update to Twitter. It brought back some memories for my dearest friend Dave, who had accompanied me on this trip to the Virgin Cinema, as it was then with my other friend Waheed. It was a funny experience, because a guy had complained about a group of Asian guys making noise and throwing popcorn in the back row and they had been ejected soon afterwards (after an intial warning). This was one of three reasons I had avoided the multiplex for sixteen years! The other two? Well there latest showings (even at weekends) are around 8:30pm. Secondly the advertising chain is not Pearl & Dean.
We got to the cinema early, had our parking ticket validated (okay a minor victory) heading up the escaltors. This cinema, had changed a great deal, as you would expect but it was rather a maze. After two escalators, you walk around the food area to a set of stairs and then make your way down to a level to the bulk of the screens. I entertained myself, by dancing around in my Lee Cooper brown leather shoes, much to the bemusement of Michelle. Eventually we got to our screen (11) but there was nobody around. The only employee I had spotted was at the front desk and the food tills. In fact the lights were off behind the bar, no luxury refreshments for us this evening. We headed into the auditorium and found our seats. Now this was sold as leather sofa seats (even the images on the Empire website) but they were actually just well padded leather seats, but only loosely linked. I thought the whole idea of these seats were that you could re-create the atmosphere of watching movies at home. Put your feet up, relax but this was not really possible. They were in fact standard joined together but still with seperate springs, so you could lead back independently of the person you were sitting with. Not great! The screen slowly filled up, but it was hardly packed. A couple behind us, had been seated seperately (about three seats apart) so disappeared back downstairs to complain. I wondered how long it would take for them to appear. Then, as the screen lit up, I was surprised to hear a very familar theme. Asteroid! Yes, since Pearl & Dean was sold for the princely sum of £1 to Image Ltd. (Yes I did tweet to P&D and they responded a few days later). Cool, so now I have the option of going to Vue or Empire cinemas in my desperate need to hear the P&D theme before the main feature.
Inception was great, but not ground breaking in terms of special effects. We have grown accustomed to the level of epic diaster in movies for years. On this occasion, it was the story that was king and the fact that if you like to engage the grey matter when at the multiplex, rather than dump it outside, this was a movie for you. Hence why my colleague Rich liked it so much and actually forfeit Toy Story 3. (Not sure if that was a great decision). I really enjoyed the movie, it was not an easy plot to follow but if you pay attention you should be fine. Nolan is a great British director, although I felt it was a shame they had to use the whole “Director of The Dark Knight” to tice the paying public in. I am quite sure that this was not the doing of Nolan himself but more likely the Studio Markerting Department, but surely the film can sell itself based on the trailer along, regardless of the name on the credits. Sure, it would have looked awesome on the IMAX screen (it was screened straight after Toy Story 3, the Sunday we were in Waterloo). It was very clever and in Caprio you have a highly talented actor, beginning the peak of his second phase of his acting phase, after several years of being a baby face teen idol. The movie kept making you question yourself, is this real or not? In the end we are still left wondering, if it is reality or fantasy but it is so well done, we do not mind such an open question and the final scene, so small, so miniscule from the gigantic set pieces at the start. Well worth going to see! Little did I know that my next cinema trip would be within the next twenty hours or so.
On Saturday, I had originally planned to go into Wycombe, to pick up a few things but having a pre-arranged appointment in Slough for 1:30pm, I decided to head there and go shopping in the town before heading over to East London. More on that shall be revealed later. I drove to Michelle’s and we went in her Focus into town, parking at the Queensmere Shopping Centre. We then split up, she had places to go, so did I before meet up at Starbucks around 12:50pm. Michelle got me a Starbucks (Red) card over a month ago and I used it for the first time. I had always been anti-coffee shops, because I generally only drink tea and hate the concept of all these different varieties of coffee with their all rather over exaggerate names. For the record though, I ordered a Lemon Frappucino. (Which I know technically is a cold coffee drink!)
After our appointment, it was almost 2pm and we jumped in the Focus to head to East London. This was the first time I was venturing to this part of the capital since May 2004. That trip had been to Manor Park to see my friend Tazza and buy some work clothes for my impending job interviews. Once again, over six years later my objective was the purchase clothing related (although an accessory rather than the outfit itself). We parked up on a side street from Green Street, Upton Park around 5pm. About five minutes later we had purchased the red and gold chuni (scarf) for Div’s wedding from a shop called Bobby’s. It was actually all down to Michelle’s persistance. I had not been happy with the two or three scarfs shown and was about to head downstairs, out the door to another shop. Michelle went through the scrafs hanging up by the desk. Hidden behind, was a perfect gold and red number. Mission accomplished and in record time! I think we had been in East London for less than fifteen minutes in total. We were making our way back to the car by 17:10. Now, the plan was were to go for food in the evening and would there be time to fit in The A-Team.
Michelle recommended the Leisure Park in Dagenham as there were some restaurants as well as a Vue cinema. Could we have it all? We had been listening to Radio 1 on the majority of the drive (although I had switched over to Kiss occassionally). Reggie Yates was presenting his All Request Show from Alton Towers, as it was the first weekend of the school holidays. A young boy requested Smooth Criminal, it was great to listen to in the car! It had just ticked over 6pm. Our original plan had been to book tickets for around 8pm or 9pm, go grab some food and then catch the movie. When we got into the cinema, there were still plenty of seats available for the 18:10 showing, so we went for it. The service is what I expected in Essex. A teenage girl, with long hair and glasses with the customer services skills of a tortoise, but at least she booked us the tickets quickly. We ordered some popcorn and a drink, even though we had had a light snack at Tesco superstore on the drive over to Green Street. We headed to the screen (6, if I remember correctly). My childhood was about to be broken or rekindled in the next few hours. I had been waiting for this movie for almost twenty years, would it live up to the hype?
The reality is, that a movie will never ever live up to a popular television show that at it’s peak was perhaps the best entertainment show for the entire family to watch ever! I am so grateful to be born when I was, so I was able to appreciate the show in my youth. The kids of today are bought up on a strict diet of US imports and very trashy television in comparison. Sure, the invasion had started as I was leaving Nickelodeon behind (we only got Sky in our household in 1997, I was 15 years old!) I even had a Murdoch action figure, although I craved Mr. T. I think one of my friends had Mr. T and some of the other figures and we used to play make-believe at school. (You remember those days when it was mufty and you were also allowed to bring in your favourite toy into school).
It was always going to be a difficult act to follow. I know the Hollywood marketing machine would prefer to consider this as a re-imagining, re-telling, rather than the a remake. It was good fun, entertainment aimed at the male population. Big explosions, car chases, helicopter chases, burly men making things, more explosions, a bit of Jessica Biel, a few fist fights, some elaborate set pieces (two or three, some told retrospectively) and of course the standard affair of a plan coming together! I enjoyed it for what it was! This was not Inception but you would be doing both movies a disservice by comparing them. It would be like comparing chalk and cheese! Liam Neeson was exceptional as Hannibal, Bradley Cooper had a ball playing face. Murdoch was great, but then having a South African play the role was a moment of casting genius! The poor link in the chain was Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as BA Baracus. Now, I fully appreciate these are big shoes to fill. In the original series, the whole show centred around BA and even the legend George Peppard was able to take playing second fiddle. Quinton tries too hard to be like Mr. T. He should instead have put more of himself into the character. Plus, being a bloke I would have appreciated BA smashing in a bar or club. There was not the angry mindless violence you tend to get from BA in the series, instead it was more about the laughs, “Man up and get on the plane!” are the words of Face in the movie. I knew that the original Face and Murdoch had cameos in this movie and was looking out for them like a hawk. I expected them to be well decorated generals at the hearing but their actual appearance is left until after the credits. Michelle and I were grabbing some food by that point. I will hunt it out on YouTube or catch the DVD when it comes out at Christmas.
I am trying to wonder what else of importance has happened this week. The best reference for me these days is Twitter. Using Tweetake I can get a CSV file of all my tweets and then search for important slash relevant tweets that could be the basis of a blog post in their own right.
On Sunday 1st August, I had a bit of a lazy day planned. I got down the gym around 9am and noticed on Sky Sports News they were showing highlights of pre-season friendlies. The red team looked familiar, oh yes, my beloved Arsenal. My Dad had wondered why I had not bothered to go to The Emirates Cup this year. I went to the inaugural tournament back in 2007. That weekend itself turned out to be very rock and roll (I went to Global Gathering dance festival on the Saturday and the football on the Sunday!) I was happy to sit at home and watch the matches from the comfort of my sofa, so caught Arsenal second and final match against Celtic in the afternoon after collecting my sister from work. While some would say football fans have already had a feast of football (international wannabes England aside) already in the middle of August, the domestic season kicks off again. As much as I love watching England and as much I love international football and the World Cup, the feeling of watching your club team just has that extra spice! I was looking forward to the start of the new EPL season next weekend!