Posts tagged: London

Destination London

Some movies you anticipate for over a year, sometimes longer. Triple ‘A’ grade movies, such as The Dark Knight Rises, The Man Of Steel and even the finale to Hangover. However, there are also the second tier of movies, Grade B if you will, which you try and catch at the multiplex but if you do not, you are not that disappointed. It is not the end of the world. You will always catch on blu-ray a few months later or subsequently when they appear on television several years later. The Fast & Furious franchise is one very much close to my heart as a petrol head but I can take it or leave it. This was only the third movie of the now six movie franchise that I had actually watched on the big screen. I recall watching the first movie while at University and being blown away. This was the first time that I could recall Hollywood producing a worthy racing car movie. Japan (in particular) but other nations had a long history of race car movies. Sure it was not perfect by any means but it was a start and I had enjoyed the ride. If you had told me then, that I would have seen sequels five and six at the cinema, over ten years later I would not have believed you!

As agreed after watching the last installment back in April 2011, (we had stayed for the post-credits scene which set up the plot for the sequel) I was going to watch Fast Six and all further sequels with my bestie Pav. I originally had thought he would want to catch the afternoon showing at 2pm but instead he opted (once cleared with Emily) to come along to the 8:30pm showing in our second home (screen four). The auditorium was at 60% capacity when I booked tickets on Sunday evening just before dinner. I was really looking forward to the movie. It has been a while since I visited a cinema at peak time on a weekend, rather than the cheaper saver Tuesday. It was worth paying full price in my opinion for what would be a great action movie. Sometimes, you just want to be entertained and escape away from life’s troubles. You can leave your brain outside and have a few hours to be taken on an epic adventure.

Fast & Furious 6

I happened to watch Kermode on BBC News briefly on Friday evening before I headed to the gym. He reviewed Fast Six, explaining if you had seen the full trailer, you had seen all the best parts from the movie and you could spare yourself the time and money of watching the rest of the movie. I have to disagree with Mark (I usually do). This is an action movie, the set pieces are always completely ridiculous, stretching the believable to the limit and on this occasion most of the action takes place in London. The film delivered pretty much what I expected and maybe a little bit more. The comedy value was turned up a level with even Hobbs having some classic lines. It was great fun and I will catch it again when released on home media. In fact, I really want to watch Fast Five again! Good fun and the great news is that the next movie will be part of a new trilogy – 7-8-9…

Since joining Tumblr, I stumbled across The FastCast blog. Mainly because I entered cars as one of my hobbies and I believed I was linked through by a Tumblr car photography blog. One of the first entries was a podcast, previewing the sixth installment in the franchise. If you are a fan and want a recap before you have seen the movie, I highly recommend you listen to this episode, it is just under an hour and various aspects of the entire franchise are discussed including what to expect in the upcoming movie. I listened to the episode while in the gym the other day and hope to listen to the review episode in the coming week. The movie was released a week later in the States to make the most of a long weekend for Memorial Day. A special dedication therefore to the podcasters themselves, Creighton DeSimone and Chris Ziegler.

Howay The Lads

Probably with hindsight, I should not have gone to the gym on Thursday night and instead focused on packing for my weekend away with the boys in Newcastle. Being the keen gym bunny that I am now, I decided I would pack straight after dinner on Thursday evening. Say around 8:30 – 8:45pm. During the course of eating, I noticed a slight headache start and decided the best course of action was to lie in bed for a few minutes, let the headache pass and then crack on with the packing. The next moment I woke up and looked across at my alarm clock, it was 00:35. I swore, a rather pathetic way to release the tension. I would now have to pack at 4am in the morning in a rush.

Let me first fill you in on events throughout the week. Firstly Geoff had pulled on late on Tuesday evening, so we left with just six travelers by car for Friday morning. Too many for one car, too few for two cars. Pav looked at renting a seven seater for the weekend and split the cost of rental and fuel. However trying to rent a large vehicle just prior to a Bank Holiday Weekend was just a no no! If a vehicle was available nearby, the costs were just astronomical. A decision had to be made and somebody had to take the hit. I decided to take the train up which would be funded by my friends. While it perhaps would have made sense to get the direct service from Reading to Newcastle, I opted to get a ticket from Slough via London’s Kings Cross. The reason for this was cost, travelling into London was cheaper and gave me a more realistic arrival time of just before 6pm. Originally when planning this holiday, I was going to take the Friday off to get a four day mini break but as Pav was working half day, I opted to just take the afternoon off (more on this later). It made sense, I would be in Reading at the office anyway and just be able to catch the TVP bus back into town, jump in the car with Pav and boys (the Fox brothers) and hit the road.

I had reset my alarm (ancient smartphone) for 4am and reluctantly got out of bed to pack. I had quite a deal to do but thankfully had made a list earlier in the week. Using this as a reference point, I quickly and more importantly quietly, as to not to wake up Michelle, grabbed my travel bag and clothes from the bedroom and packed everything in the lounge. I put on the laptop to transfer over The Big Bang Theory episode from my server over to my Nexus 7 for the journey. I rushed through my list and then grabbed a quick bite to eat before jumping in the shower. As I was packing away my toiletries, Michelle woke up and kindly made me some sandwiches for the train journey into work, to fuel me for my three hundred mile and almost six hour (including waiting time) trek up to the North East.

I got to work at the usual time but was planning on leaving at midday sharp. Our Director sent out an e-mail to the entire department, giving everybody the afternoon off! Fantastic news but I was slightly annoyed as I had already booked the time off and would have to reverse my holiday to get the time back when I got back in the office on Tuesday. I charged up my gadgets in preparation for my adventure. It was going to be a very long afternoon but at least the sun was shining and I could put on my sunglasses. This among many other simple pleasures in my life. I said goodbye to Harps who was leaving and the rest of my colleagues were off to Frankie & Benny’s up the road for lunch and drinks. I was missing out for a change but cared little. The party tonight was going to be in Newcastle.

It did feel rather strange to be leaving work so early on a Friday afternoon. I was all set as I waited for TVP bus to take me into Reading town centre. From here I planned to catch a direct service to London Paddington. Strictly speaking I should have used a service which stopped at Slough (as per the terms and conditions of my permit to travel i.e. my train ticket). I had plenty of time on my hands. As I made my way up the escalator I got a call from Kevin. He had just landed at Heathrow airport and wanted to know the cost of a ticket up to Newcastle. When I checked earlier in the morning, the price had gone up to £120. Kevin had been delayed by six hours at Dubai airport after his connecting flight from Thailand had disappeared off the radar. It was always going to be tight for him to arrive early on Friday morning prior to us getting on the road. I had received a text message from both Pav and Kevin while I had been sound asleep of these additional obstacles. Kevin had asked if the car group could swing by Terminal 3 to pick him up at 2pm. This was unlikely now, as the road trip gang had decided to get onto the motorway by 11am, if not earlier. Kevin would have to make his own plans, however with all his luggage to carry around, he would have quite a struggle on the train to Newcastle, even if he caught a direct service. The price had rocketed to £160 (on the day tickets are notoriously expensive in this country for our Victorian infrastructure). He would go home, rest and catch the train up in the morning with an ETA of around 2:30pm. My train journey into London was uneventful and the service ran on time. From Paddington I caught the tube to Kings Cross via the District Line. This was the first time I had been at the redeveloped Kings Cross station. Last time I was here was in my final year at University when I caught the train from Leicester to London and then train from Marylebone back to Wycombe. I had some time on my hands, so grabbed a sandwich from Boots and then waited by a screen for my train to be called. I was yards away from Platform 9 and 3/4. The marketing people will never miss a trick to create a tourist attraction within a busy train station concourse. Want to know more, check out the full disclosure from London blogger extraordinaireDiamond Geezer

King's Cross

The station was busy with crowds of people making an early get away for the Bank Holiday Weekend. Plus those heading to business meetings in the afternoon, school kids, college students heading either home for the long weekend or off away with friends for the long weekend. I checked my mobile phone to get updates from Twitter and Facebook and my Yahoo! mail account to kill some time after eating my sandwiches. Shortly before my train was due to depart, an announcement was made. Platform 8, so I headed along with a group of other passengers to the platform. The ticket barrier was up, so I put my ticket away while making my way down the platform to my carriage. It was a long walk towards the front of the train to my carriage. I was near the door at least but found other people in my seat, so sat in an adjacent seat, after putting my luggage on the rack. Once we finally got going, I put on the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory on my tablet to enjoy. Episode 22 from Series 6, imaginatively entitled as always, The Proton Resurgence. However that only killed 24 odd minutes of my journey, I still had over five hours of travel (including one train change) before I reached my final destination. I opted to listen to my mp3 player and switch my tablet of. I needed to conserve power until I reached the hotel as that would be my first opportunity to charge. I was tweeting on a regular basis with updates on my current location and progress on my estimated time of arrival for Newcastle. I was also texting Foxy, to get updates on their progress in Pav’s M3. Bear in mind they left Reading around 10:30am and were north of Oxford an hour and ten minutes after this time. I meanwhile had not even left my office. They were taking a good lead and even my journey to London was a detour of sorts. I believe the cost of a direct train from Reading would have been far too expensive at this time in proceedings. So by the time I was waiting for my train at Kings Cross they were already 166 miles ahead which in journey time was ten minutes within the three hour mark. I was hoping to catch them up but it was going to be tight and if my service had been direct, perhaps I would have been beaten them to the hotel. By the time I got to Doncaster to change, they were within an hour of the city. They checked in around 5pm and I would not make it to hotel until almost an hour later. It was great to see everyone waiting in the lobby. Now the weekend could truly begin in earnest. It was time to switch off the mobile (after I had checked into my room and spoken to the wife and my family back in Wycombe briefly). A break from the online world and social media in general. Time to see if the nightlife in Newcastle really is as good as I have been let to believe.

All Creatures Great and Small

Guy & TegPenguinGiraffe

Supply & Demand

As expected, additional dates were added for the Mrs Carter Show World Tour starring Beyoncé. Therefore it was a case of deja vu for myself and colleague Priyam on Friday morning. I was keen to make sure I secured tickets on this second priority sale, even if that meant skipping breakfast all together. I knew the process now, so made sure I logged in early and waiting impatiently in the Virtual Waiting Room. All my details were already in-putted (although surprised they could not save my information from the previous day) At 9:30am sharp, I was through and booked tickets almost immediately for six people. Priyam had logged into the site, a minute after me, but was left waiting in the waiting room. The opportunity to purchase tickets never materialised. I, on the other hand, spent almost six hundred pounds in a world record twenty seconds. My colleagues were shocked at how quickly I navigated the site and took the best tickets available in my price category. Seating may not be perfect, but I would rather be there at the O2 Arena, than be watching on television.

My dilemma now is that I find myself some four hundred miles on Tyneside on the day of the concert and will need to make my way back down South, rather sharp-ish. I cannot rely on my friends, so may have to book a flight back. This may sound drastic but the reality is that a weekend with the lads, will never go according to plan. It would be unfair of me to force the rest of the group to leave the city early around 1pm sharp to ensure I make it to London in time for Beyoncé. I thought I was getting too old for these ultimate adventure weekends. Perhaps not, perhaps this is one last through of the dice. I do enjoy the thrill of trying to fit too much into a weekend. Thankfully, there is a Bank Holiday Monday to cushion the bump back to reality that would have been Monday morning.

E-Ticket

Racking my brain and my blog archives, I have discovered that there is a precedent for such an event. Way back in July 2007, I was in Wrexham, visiting my dear friend David Jones and had to rush back on Sunday morning to ensure I got home to Wycombe, so I could take my sisters to Wembley Stadium for Concert for Diana. Six years ago, I believe I had the energy for a two hundred mile drive and then train trip to Wembley. Unsure of how I will cope with a flight, after a heavy weekend with the boys and travelling into Greenwich. Oh well, time will tell people!

Heroine Worship

I would never consider myself a big Beyoncé Knowles Carter fan, but generally I enjoy her output. I have seen her perform live, almost seven years ago at Earls Court, for the World Music Awards (she even performed my favourite song at the time, Irreplaceable from her second studio album, B Day). It was perhaps her performance at Glastonbury a few years ago, which made me think, I need to see this woman perform live at her own concert (not just an awards show) where she is fully in control of the entire experience. Soon after I made this statement, she fell pregnant and it would be at least two years before I would be able to see her perform, if she ever embarked on a world tour again. It is not like she really needs the money, married to a multimillionaire hip-hop artist in his own right.

Only recently did I discover that my colleague and friend Harps Virk is probably the biggest Beyoncé Knowles fan this side of the pond. In fact, we were both at the World Music Awards almost seven years ago! Harps was towards the end of the catwalk part of the stage, whereas I had been standing quite close to the front of the stage at the start of the catwalk. Such a small world we live in, that I would not only be working with this guy, but he also happens to live in the same town as me (Slough for the uninitiated).

How do you prove your worthiness as a fan? People do this in many different ways, some set up fan sites, as shrines to their beloved movie star or musician. Others convert their bedrooms or even living rooms to a living museum to their idol. Having been a fan of MJ for many years, I know fans whom have gone to such extremes and beyond. Harps is no exception, having a high quality mug made of the former Destiny’s Child singer (can I still say former when they are making a comeback, unsure of the group’s current status).

Beyoncé

He says, he also has a life size card board cut out in his bedroom. I have yet to see photographic evidence of this, but surely that would put in him a league of his own in Beyoncé fandom. I mean, he even goes to the extreme of only pausing a Destiny’s Child music video (playing via YouTube application on my Nexus 7) when B is on the screen! (I do not want to have Kelly on my screen, was the remark made). So here we are on Thursday morning at 8:46am, waiting impatiently to get our hands on my some tickets for the Miss Carter World Tour. Breakfast can wait for a change but I do look forward to my victory cup of tea shortly! Talk amongst yourselves, I could be a while!

Beyonce at the O2

After almost two hours of waiting, I end up with nothing. Watching as other fans across the UK bag their tickets and proclaim their joy on the social network that is Twitter. I used the hashtag mrscarterworldtour and many of the tweets I have retweeted into my time line, if you are so inclined. My colleague Priyam got into the site but was only able to purchase a single ticket. Nobody wants to see Beyoncé on their own. She closed her Internet Explorer window and I did pretty much the same a few minutes later after received this error message, multiple times.

Computer Says No

The Greatest Show On Earth Arrives Home

The fact I have rarely mentioned the Olympics on my blog for the past seven years, would perhaps be a clear indication of my lack of interest in the sporting event arriving on these shores I call home. Although I was not even in the Kingdom during the last opening ceremony! However, with the Opening Ceremony having just taken place and myself having secured tickets for the football at Old Trafford. I feel extremely proud to be British but also extremely lucky to be attending the once in a lifetime event. Something my wife and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.

My secondary school History teacher at the start of our GCSE course made a statement. You cannot be considered a true citizen of your country, unless you know the history, in essence your history. I wholeheartedly agree with this view. History is an extremely important subject to grasp, understand and truly appreciate. Particularly as it forever has an impact on the present and future. My wife was asking me several questions during the opening segment of the ceremony. The industrial revolution was a major milestone in the history of Great Britain and this led to the country becoming the engine room of Europe. I enjoyed the performances and believe Boyle got the tone, colour, music, dancing perfect – set to a narrative telling the world the history of this great green and pleasant land and some of the fantastic contributions to everyday life. (The WWW is for everybody!) Boyle captured the essence of being British, with our quirky humour and at times stuffy outward appearance and attitude. The forging of the Olympic Rings were one of the many highlights. The clip of James Bond collecting Her Majesty The Queen from Buckingham Palace and escorting her via helicopter to the Olympic Park was pure genius and proves that our monarch, even while approaching her ninetieth birthday, still has a fantastic sense of humour. There were some great touches and I quite liked the modern day love story with all the text messages being flashing on screen. Jasmine Breinburg captured the limelight and mood of the nation, as the girl who had lost her iPhone on the tube. Then we had a montage of music from the fifties to the present day! I am sure I heard the noise of the TARDIS during Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Did you hear it too?

There are standard elements that need to be incorporated into every opening ceremony. The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron which will burn over the course of the sixteen days of competition. First though, we have all the athletes and support teams enter the stadium for an international parade. Michelle found this part boring, but I found it interesting to discover so many countries I have never heard of, many making their first or second appearance at the Games. I had been regularly checking Twitter throughout the ceremony to keep my finger on the pulse of national and international response to Boyle’s spectacular spectacular. A follower had mentioned that India would be following The Independent Athletes into the arena. Sure enough they arrived in their bright splendour of sparklingly yellow saris and turbans. I noticed a woman looking out of place, asking Michelle why she was not wearing the same outfit as the rest of the delegation. Something seemed wrong but I thought little more of the matter, as thirty seconds later we were onto the next country. I have to confess that I was not impressed with Trevor Nelson’s commentary throughout, he seemed in awe of BBC big hitters like Huw Edwards and Hazel Irvine. The reason he was chosen? As the local born across the road in Hackney? Sorry but even as a big fan of Nelson as a DJ, he was out of depth here and should have been tested on minor sporting events in the build up to 2012. (The mystery of the rogue woman walking with the Indian delegation was resolved a few hours later.)

My personal choice for lighting the cauldron would have been Daley Thompson. However, I enjoyed the build up of David Beckham driving (is that the right adjective?) a speed boat down the Thames to the Olympic Park. Sir Steve Redgrave then picked up the Torch but the ending was to be different and rightly so. A group of youngsters were hand picked by Olympic Legends to light the cauldron and in what fashion! Fitting for an event that was always sold to Inspire A Generation. Maybe, just maybe after the next two weeks (and subsequent Paralympic Games) the organisers will have succeeded in their dream. Their legacy will be how many Olympic Champions of tomorrow start their victory speeches, with “Back in 2012, I watched the Games in East London…”

London Olympics Opening Ceremony

Being British

You never truly appreciate being British until you are away from these shores in lands (and galaxies) far far away. While in India in 1997, a special year for the young republic, I was able to observe at close quarters a relatively old country celebrating a major milestone of freedom, self rule and self determination. What did my extended family do celebrate such a momentous event? Nothing at all. This was a great disappointment to me as both a British tourist but an Indian by heritage but it did underline that while I was always envious of countries with their own Independence Day, I love the country that I call home. India is a greatly patriotic country, (just look at the appetite for cricket against arch rivals Pakistan) just a shame such sentiments did not transcend with my family. Where is Mr Bharat when you need him? In a twist of fate, Princess Diana tragically passed while I was still in the sub-continent and that single news event made a greater impact than the 50th anniversary.

I should be more patriotic than I am, I mean the feeling should run deeper than just the national football team. I always feel British rather than purely English although at times the lines are blurred making the distinction quite difficult. I do feel part of a kingdom, although doubt it will be in existence as a United Kingdom for much longer. Time will tell. I recall one of my first ever blog entries on this blog (which is months away from being a decade old) I mention briefly the Golden Jubilee, I had been watching on television.

Trying to reflect on my achievements over the last ten years is rather simple. I could list them much like a shopping list but the reality is I would much prefer to note how I have grown as an individual. I have changed so much that I am perhaps completely unrecognisable from the person that was typing up this blog in raw HTML all those years ago. Friends have come and go, as have many family members but as wife to be, would say to me many years later, “the only constant in life is change…” Sometimes it is indeed these powerful constants that should be celebrated!

Sea Containers House

I take some pride in being a monarchist. The republican movement does not really have a worthwhile argument or following in any significant number to, in their current form be considered a credible threat. What they fail to understand is that you miss anything once it is gone and do you just replace years of history and regalia with an elected official, replaced once their term (of four years) is completed? Surely the most important part of the Monarchy is their longevity.

The Diamond Jubilee Concert

Anti-Establishment

With Michelle’s 29th Birthday yesterday, she wanted to spend some time with her friends at the weekend. We had a romantic evening in Windsor, but on Saturday morning we got up early to head off into London and make the most of the beautiful blue skies. My wife had booked us on a sight seeing tour with a difference for Saturday lunchtime. Originally the guest list had been as many eight but this was whittled down (for various reasons) to just five (Michelle, Andy, Ruby, Steve and Magda). I was rather apprehensive to be honest, particularly as this was a “pay as you like” tour. However, it was rated number one out of two hundred and eighteen tours of London registered on Trip Advisor. Surely we could put faith in the crowd (or is that cloud) reviews from the previous attendees. I am sure they do not just give away Certificates of Excellence! We got the train to Ealing Broadway, caught the Central Line all the way to Liverpool Street. Here we met up with Steve and Magda before heading out into the glorious sunshine. This was not a day to be spent indoors or wasting away on domestic chores. A beautiful day and I had already packed the special medicine in my rucksack, although my wife and dearest friends did not quiet feel it was PIMMS O’ Clock at 11:40am.

We headed to Spitalfields, by the RBS head office building and met underneath the bright white goat statue. The details on the tour confirmation detailed a maximum tour group of six but were placed in a group of perhaps twice as much. We were assigned to guy Ben, of the three guides there. Head guide, and main organiser Gary (with an silver Asus tablet that seemed to have died, so he had switched to pen and paper – provided by tourists.) I believe we hit the jackpot with Ben, a very personable chap. We would learn more about him over the course of the tour.

Goat

We headed off on our tour of the area, which would take us full circle just outside the City Walls through Brick Lane, the old Truman Brewery, over across to Shoreditch High Street, before finally coming full circle back into Spitalfields. It was a great tour and it was only half an hour into the tour that our guide revealed he was not only a graduate in fine art but a street artist on his own right. We saw one of his pieces (legally with permission from the building owner, a Mr. Hussein) just off curry house epicentre Brick Lane. Mr. Hussein arrived promptly on queue in his white transit to thank Ben in person and usher us into his back yard to take some photos at close range.

The Extremists

We learnt a great deal about urban art but also a brief history of the area, the three waves of immigration to London from the 1600s to the 1950s. The two hour tour opened my eyes up to a world, which I had rarely considered. There is more to urban art than media darling Banksy. Even if his work is of a political thought provoking nature, a great deal of the artwork on display on the streets of London is purely creative.

Like many people, we were inspired by the recent episode of The Apprentice (Week Eight) where the candidates had to hold an urban art exhibition and sell work on behalf of two artists they had chosen. We saw work by Nathan Bowen, who featured on the show but I believe most of the show focused on artwork in Bristol rather than London. Although they did visit some art gallery in the capital.

Now late on Saturday evening, I have been reading up about Urban Art online and discovered that our guide Ben Slow has his own Tumblr and FlickR account. I have uploaded all my photos over to a fresh FlickR set but I need to spend some time relabelling all the photographs. My personal favourites were the hoodie wearing thug from the August summer riots and the man in the cowboy hat (particularly interesting if you understand the delicate technique used)

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