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|Monday, April 24th, 2017|
|The Acton Depot (again)
Back in 2001 I supported one of my service users on a holiday in Eurodisney. I remember very clearly assessing the place with a view to returning one day when they were the right age. (I gauged this to be around 7 years of age so they were young enough to see magic rather than plastic yet old enough to deal with things like queuing - and my guess was just about right). In 2007 (when the girls were of the right age I took them on that trip and again I clearly remember having the thought 'I will never have to do this again.'
On a similar (but much smaller scale) I remember thinking when I finally got around to visisting the Transport Museum Warehouse in Acton, 'I could probably bring my god-daughters here one day - and their grandfather(s) would probably love it - I wonder if I could get them along too?' At the weekend I managed to do just that. (Once we finished I likewise thought to myself, @I never have to do this again.'
Terry, the maternal grandfather to my goddaughters had had a tough couple of years. He was the main carer for his wife in her long battle against cancer and he sadly lost her earlier this year. His own health isn't exactly brilliant either. Following the funeral last month I invited Terry to the event this weekend thinking (correctly) that it would give hime something positive to ook forward to. His son (a long time friend and former LJ user) I also invited and finally my friend Kate and her children (my god-daughters) also got an invite.
Logistics being what they are the girls were unable to attend but Kate made the trip with her ex-partner (who drives) to collect her dad (who benefited from the use of a wheelchair) and her brother (who came for the hell of it) and they joined me and the missus for a day out in the museum warehouse.
Its difficult to describe the warehouse in any way which makes it sound fun and interesting as it is basically a giant warehouse full of old tube trains, buses, trams and a bunch of stuff related to London public transport (station furniture, signage etc). If you are the right type of geek, this is a form of Nirvana. If you are just looking for something to do (and generally like museums) then its not a bad day out and the good will generated by the full on geeks is a little contagious. Our group was a bit of a mix of both types. The big winner on the day was Kate's dad who had his first proper day out in years, thanks to a huge amount of logistical effort by Kate.
Hopefully this will lead to a bit more of the same for him and I have a few ideas (almost equally geeky) but I will see how the dust settles on this one first before I open my mouth again.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: American Power by Noam Chomsky Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, April 20th, 2017|
|The Camera Museum.
I always take a degree of pleasure from visiting small very specialist museums. Today I discovered and visited one that specialized in cameras. Located near the British museum (and just around the corner from the Comic Museum) the free to enter camera museum is part cafe/part museum. The main room on the ground floor is mostly cafe with the museum part housed in the main room downstairs in the basement. While I do enjoy photography, cameras in themselves do not much interest me so my visit was pointedly brief, but I am glad that places like this exist. Current Mood: awake
|Judge Dredd At The Comic Museum
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of legendary British comic '2000AD' the comic museum in London held a commemorative exhibition. I finally managed to cross town to catch it earlier today just days before the exhibition closes.
While I greatly approve of both 2000AD and the museum's choice to honour it's anniversary I found the exhibition itself to be quite lackluster. There were features on many of the significant characters, a selection of artwork and an attempt to locate the title in the history of British comics but there wasn't a great deal of depth. I left thinking that the exhibition might go down very well as an introduction to someone not familiar with the comic but there was not a lot there to please genuine fans - even pretty casual ones like myself. Can't win them all. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 19th, 2017|
On Thursday of last week I visited a special exhibition of art work by one of my service users. The exhibition had been arranged by his art therapist who (I think quite rightly) sees a lot of value in the man's work. The exhibition was held in the gallery space of Westminster Reference Library (my first time in the building and I immediately fell in love!) and quite a few people came to see it, mostly family, friends and people from his church but also some other service users from where he lives.
The look of pride on his face was totally priceless - and a similar look on his father's face equally so. Current Mood: awake
|Kew Easter 2017
I only realized as I prepared to write this entry - but this year is not the first Easter I have spent in Kew Gardens but it is the first I have spent there with my girlfriend and it is a place special to us both as it played a big part in bringing us together. The visit made for a pretty perfect day. The weather was lovely, Spring blossoms were everywhere and the bluebells were out in force. I couldn't really ask for more than that.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: World Orders Old & New by Noam Chomsky Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, April 12th, 2017|
|The Model Village
On a rare double day off for me and the missus on Monday we took a trip to Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire to see the model village. For the missus this is an important place as it was a favourite trip for her and her daughter when she was a young girl. It was my first visit and while I wouldn't describe it as white knuckle excitement it is quite good fun. A lot of work has clearly gone into it and its a pleasant place to walk about in the Spring sunshine.
As we strolled about I kept thinking of three things:
1) The movie, 'Hot Fuzz' which climaxes in a model village. The Missus hadn't seen it at that point but we watched it later when we got back to mine. (She is now two-thirds of the way through the Corneto trilogy, but that's another story).
2) What I wanted to do in a big way was dress up in a Godzilla suit and smash the place up.
3) I hit upon the idea of making an entire model village based on famous horror movies (which I later mentally titled 'Model Village Of The Damned'. Of the top of my head I came up with the Overlook Hotel (from The Shining) the church (from The Omen) with impaled priest, the Summer Camp (from Friday 13th), Amity Beach (from Jaws) Elm Street with Freddy (Obviously), The Amityville House, Dracula's castle, Thousands Of Zombies (possibly with a shopping mall), Cameo appearances from Christine, The Car, Cujo, Leatherface and the truck from Duel, a giant Wickerman (with animatronic policeman), the mortuary from Phantasm, a pitchfork wielding mob, and any number of grizzly hospitals, high schools etc. And that's without even trying!
If I was ever going to make my own model village (I'M NOT!) that would be what I would like to do. Inspiring, huh? Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, April 8th, 2017|
|Holland Park - Spring 2017
I think that it might be starting to be a habit but I went out with my missus again on Thursday night after work to a nice scenic part of town. Thursday is the one day of the week where we often are finishing work about the same time so we travel home together. Recent changes (later sunsets and decent weather) have encouraged us to hang around a bit before we head home so that we can enjoy the early evening (while also dodging the worst of the rush hour). Last week it was Ruislip Lido, this week it was the Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park. Again this was a place that I have been two once or twice before (once as part of my 365L project) but my missus has been a much more regular visitor. I managed to grap some nice photos for my long neglected Sunset project and the Japanese Garden looked even more spectacular than when I first saw it, partially because of the magic-hour sunshine and partly because of the cherry blossom which is now in full bloom. Perfect. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, April 7th, 2017|
|Colin Hay At The Union Chapel
Sometimes serendipity has its way. I was sat in my girlfriends car one day last week and we were listening to a Colin Hay song on her cd player. We were both enjoying the song (new to her but a favourite of mine) and I started reminiscing about when I saw him live at Dingwalls in Camden a few years ago - to this dy one of my three favourite gigs ever. Barely a day later I get a regular email shot from the Union Chapel containing an update of their upcoming events. Pretty much at the top of the list was a Colin Hay gig a few days later (Tuesday of this week). I confirmed our availablity, booked a couple of tickets and Bob's your middle brother we were at a Colin Hay gig.
Once you get passed the fact that its a gig in a church The Union Chapel is a really nice venue. Its atmospheric, fairly intimate, great acoustics and there is both a bar and a cafe serving tea, coffee, snacks etc. Hay was on great form, cracking wry jokes and performing up a storm of old hits and new material. Probably more than any other artist I have ever seen his new material is (almost) as welcome as the old favourites. The amazing blend of his distinctive voice and phrasing with the simple sound of a well played acoustic guitar and it really doesnt take long for his new material to become welcome and loved too.
I had a brilliant time and it turns out that this was the first gig my missus had ever attended so that's a bonus - but the bar is now set pretty high for any future gigs!
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Vietnam, The American War by Jonathan Neale Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, April 2nd, 2017|
I was getting a lift home from work from my missus the other night and we decided to divert to Ruislip Lido on the way home to make the most of the decent weather and B.S.T. lighter evenings. This is a little haven in West London that I have only properly visited one time previously (as part of my 365L project) whereas for her it has been an often visited favourite. It is basically a lake with an artificial beach surrounded by woodland - and it also has a pub with a half decent carvery. It was nice to be able to share it and it certainly made the journey home feel significantly more civilised.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: A People's History Of The World by Chris Harman Current Mood: awake
|Monday, March 27th, 2017|
|America & Russia at the Royal Academy
I lucked out this weekend as the Roayal Academy Of Arts is staying open late on selected Saturdays suring the Spring. They are currently hosting two exhibitions I have been wanting to see for a while but have struggled to find the time. This late weekend opening enabled me to catch the shows at the weekend - and even take the missus (who works even crapper shifts than I do).
The first exhibition was of American art called 'After The Fall' (so was mostly depression era stuff). Star of the show was supposed to be the famous 'American Gothic' painting (you know it, the old couple holding a pitch fork). Having seen so many representations of this picture it was lovely to see the real thing face to face (kind of). Even better than that for me was the exhibition also included some paintings by Edward Hopper - who I only just realised I have never seen in a proper exhibition yet.
The second exhibition (running simultaneously) is on Russian Revolutionary art. This being the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution it is timely in its own way. I actually found it quite thrilling to see the art of the period immediately after (and during) the revolution. Some of it managed to capture something of the optimism and great liberating energy of the period. The later stuff from under Stalin's regime was suitably stifling.
Both of these exhibitions would have been great on their own. Seeing them both on the same visit was brilliant and the best thing about this Saturday evening opening (which was not widely publicized at all is that the galleries remained un-crowded throughout - something that would not have happened during normal daytime hours. I enjoy seeing stuff like this after work because it helps me feel much more human than the usual work/home/work/home routine. Catcing it after a (relatively) late shift was a real bonus. It was also nice to share the experience with the missus. We visited the gallery together at the end of last year but were not particularly impressed by the exhibitions we saw. This was something we both enjoyed a lot more. Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, March 25th, 2017|
|Yamoto In London
A few years ago I went with friends to see the Japanese Yamoto Drummers when they played in Northampton. (there is an entry in this LJ somewhere). I had learned that they were on tour again and while I was unable to share it with those friends again I was able to take the missus to see them while they currently enjoy a short residency at the Peacock theatre in London.
The show was every bit as fun as I remember it - exhilarating is not a word I use often but perfectly describes the show. (It was the first time for the missus but she was thrilled by it even more than I). There are plenty of people with whom I would love to share this show. I really must keep an eye out for when they tour again.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Invention Of Tradition - edited by Eric Hobsbawm & Terence Ranger Current Mood: awake
|Friday, March 24th, 2017|
|London Terror (?)
I was at work this week when the news broke about a 'terrorist attack' on Westminster bridge & Parliament. It was a while before the details emerged (they are still bubbling to the service now) and I don't really want to talk about the incident itself here, but a few thoughts have sprung to my mind.
* Family and friends from around the country (and one in Australia) called/texted/emailed to see if I was okay when they heard the news. This was very sweet of them and I am touched by their concern. None of my London friends thought to do so and I must confess it never crossed my mind to call them either. I do not think that this is a failure of compassion at all but the difference in perspective is interesting. I think for those who do not live in the city anything bad enough to make the news is maybe reason enough to be concerned. For those of us who do live here it seemed such a localized event (and in a part of town anybody I know would be unlikely to be near on a working day) there did not seem to be any need for concern - sympathy for the victims & their loved ones is a different matter.
The London bombings back in 2005 was a slightly different matter both in terms of scale and the fact that it mostly hit people travelling around town in the morning which could have been any of us.
* Should I be surprised that the incident was quickly labelled 'Terrorist Attack' before almost any of the facts were in. The fact that it was a lone attacker could suggest that a man with mental illness went badly off the rails (for instance). The impact on the victims would have been much the same but the headlines would not have been so sexy. Maybe the man's motives were deeply political (I don't know) but the rush to jump to the conclusion alarms me a little. It's not that long ago that a man did start attacking people in Leytonstone, this too was initially branded a 'terrorist attack' but was later proved to be something quite different.
* The tendency of right wing shit bags to immediately jump on the incident as a reason to spout their filth saddens me. Norman Tebbit on Martin McGuiness' death earlier this week was bad enough. Who gives a shit what twitter hatemongers think about it? There is a particularly nasty woman who has seemed to make a career of verbal excrement that I will not name here because she already gets too much attention. I'm sad that I even know that woman's name. The only reason why I do is that journalist's keep reporting what she has said and the 'outrage' it has caused. It's bad enough having to live with Tory/Daily Mail/Fascist rantings on any subject on any day, why is she given a platform?
* The vigil in Trafalgar Square the following day looked quite impressive though the politics (or potential politics) makes me slightly uneasy. Its brilliant that Londoner's of all faiths and none can come together and show that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. I just worry a little that this might contribute to an 'us vs them' culture that will be used to legitimize further nasty policies from an already nasty government.
* There were brilliant responses from the people who rushed to the scene to help, and those who have shown care and compassion since. This is the only good thing to have come from this awful story. Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, March 23rd, 2017|
|V is for Vietnamese
While I was in Northampton for the weekend (with friends and the missus) we took in a film at the cinema (Beauty And The Beast, the live action one which is very pretty and I was able to enjoy a series of pleasant naps) and we also went for a meal thatcontributed towards our 'Eat The World' challenge.
The restauant called. 'Saigon' in Northampton is a place we have eaten before. The food is lovely (and not too pricey) the staff are friendly and its in a really convenient location. Now that we have eaten there again though we can add it to our list of credits. These are now: C=Cuba, S=Spain, I=Italy and V=Vietnam.
There is a small part of me that would have rather taken this challenge exclusively in London (which is not short of Vietnamese Restaurants. Once you remove the limits on Geography it becomes that much less of a challenge. The point is though to have fun and (sometimes) to try new things, or at least things we do not normally do. This still ticks the boxes.
This week I have been mostly readig: The Meaning Of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017|
I enjoyed a weekend break with the Missus on the weekend just past. We called it a 'mucky weekend' because we are both kind of old (and that is what they would have called it back in our respected youths). Northampton was the setting (which isn't normally associated with mucky weekends) but it was my goddaughter's 16th birthday so we were up to see Cirque Berserk (a kind of edgy circus for modern audiences, but still basically acrobats and clowns) at the Derngate theatre.
The show was very good. The girls were all impressed (most importantly the birthday girl). We also managed the social milestone of the girlfriend meeting the friend (and goddaughters) for the first time and they all seemed to hit it off. I never doubted it for a second but I am glad it all worked out. Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, March 21st, 2017|
|The Other Portrait Prize
In the wake of the enormously successful 'Bake Off' tv series there has been an increasing amount of attempts to copy the format in other areas of life (other hobbies/professions turned into televised competition) some more successfully than others. Painting is one of the few spin offs that has caught my eye and at the moment there are two series running on this ubject. The BBC have one on painting generally, very much along the lines of Bake Off with a different challenge/style/ subject each week. Sky Arts also have one but with the focus exclusively on portraiture.
All of this rambling preamble is just to put this post into context. At the end of last week I popped to The Wallace Collection as they are currently hosting an exhibition of the artists from the show (the show is actually recorded there so it makes sense. I cannot say that I regularly watch either the BBC or the Sky programmes but I do catch them now and again when I am channel surfing and I am always totally drawn in (no pun intended). Its not earth shattering stuff but it was nice to see the work 'In The Flesh' as it were (the way all art should be viewed). There really are some talented people hitting the spotlight through both of these shows.
I still have no plans to watch Bake off though whatever channel it will be on but I do now have more sympathy for the format.
This week I have been mostly reading: Twelve Doctors Of Christmas (Anthology) by Various Authors Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, March 14th, 2017|
|Four Seasons And One Day
I have been at it again with the compilation cd's. This time I have raided my music collection to come up with a set of four cd's, one for each season of the year and a separate single cd that traces the course of a single day. (Selected friends better watch out! You know who you are!)
What I learned from doing this was the following:
For Winter there are plenty of evocative songs on this theme and for Summer there are tons more. Autumn is fairly well represented in song but Autumn and more especially Spring themed songs seem to rely so very much more on the state of the actual weather as a metaphor.
The Day in The Life cd could have easily run to two disks but that didn't feel right. There are loads of songs about dawn and mornings and plenty more about late evenings, sunsets and the time on or after midnight.
By comparison there are fewer songs about the daytime (after breakfast and before dinner) and with the exception of Dolly Parton's '9 to 5' the few I found seemed to be mostly to be about having sex in the afternoon. Is that a big deal? It seems to be 'a thing'. Who would have guessed.
I have to further themes planned at this time but I am sure I will come back to it. It keeps me out of trouble. Current Mood: awake
|Monday, March 13th, 2017|
|Madame Tussauds - Now with Super Heroes and Star Wars!
On Sunday I supported one of my service users to visit Madame Tussauds - 'waxworks museum' would be the old fashioned term. I haven't been for years and I had forgotten how boring it is since they dropped the planetarium aspect of the attraction.
Firstly and most importantly the service user had a great time. He doesn't get as much one-to-one time as he would like and he got a real kick out of the place (it was his choice to visit) especially with the new added sections on Marvel Super Heroes and Star Wars. Very little of his joy is reflected in the photos I took of his visit. The guy only really has one pose when you take a picture and that is to stand really still with downcast eyes and look a bit sad & awkward. As a collection the photos I took of his visit make it look like I spent the day making him stand next to a bunch of different stuff against his will!
As a place to visit it is a ridiculous and expensive tourist trap. It costs £45 for one adult ticket. For that you get to wander around a bunch of wax statues - some of which look a lot like the celebrities they are based on and some you have to guess quite hard. Large queues form around the most popular models while tourists take turns to have their photos taken with them. Sometimes the groups are so large that you have to stand and queue just to get passed never mind to take a turn posing.
The Marvel Heroes section does a little better - but the waxworks are often of characters whose faces require less detail (Hulk was pretty generic and Spiderman wears a full face mask for example. I noted that popular characters like Spiderman, Hulk & Wolverine all has queues of people forming around them whereas the 'Invisible Woman' from Fantastic Four went entirely ignored. I wonder if an empty plinth marked 'The Invisible Woman' would have saved some time, maybe even a transparent model rather than the bland waxwork they attempted. The section climaxes with a '4-D' movie - which a pretty poor 3-D animated short with added effects (seats that spray a mist of water at you to enhance the special effects, interaction, etc.) I'm glad I didnt pay my own money to see this.
The movie auditorium (this used to be the planetarium section) then empties out its entire audience into the Star Wars section. This is something of a design floor. Throughout the rest of the attraction the crown kind of moves around and mingles as a crowd at its own pace. This section dumps about 400 people down a single staircase and when the first people hit the Star Wars section they start to pause for photographs - leaving everybody else to bottle neck into a huge queue behind them. The waxworks in this section are among the best in the whole attraction, I think. They are mostly pretty well made and include realistic settings from the films and some are set up to pose with pretty nicely. The problem is that there are hundreds of people all arriving together so it is one of the most difficult sections to enjoy. After this there only remains the MASSIVELY overpriced gift shop before you emerge blinking into the outside world and begin to wonder what the hell you just saw that was worth that amount of money. They guy I took had a really good time (which is the important thing) but he is quite easily amused and has little understanding of the value of money. Personally I do not plan on doing that again any time soon.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: We Refuse To Starve In Silence - A History Of The National Unemployed Workers Movement (1920-46) by Richard Croucher Current Mood: blah
|Tuesday, March 7th, 2017|
I made a trip to Kent today for the funeral of Kay, my friends mum and grandmother to my Goddaughters. She had a lovely send off. The humanist service had her thumbprint all over it and truly reflected (I think) her life, loves and achievement. There was even a little smile at the end which is hard to pull off at this kind of event and for that alone is should be considered a worthy reflection of the remarkable woman she was. The wake was nice too and I was glad to be in the company of the remaining family. Current Mood: contemplative
|Monday, March 6th, 2017|
|On The Weald
A compromise with my missus at the weekend led us to exploring the joys of Harrow-Weald. The compromise was I couldn't be arsed to go into central London on my weekend off, she wanted to be outdoors for a bit to clear her head after her shift and the weather featured both cold and drizzle. She drove us to a local beauty spot (which is only just qualifies as that on a good weather day which on Saturday it was not) and from there to an enjoyable mooch around my local garden center. The plants did little for me but the fish in the pet store were amazing - and the kept massing and following me (we tested this, its not just my paranoia!) which meant either that the fish were hungry and mistook me for whoever feeds them or without knowing it I am some sort of fish messiah. From there it was a take away and movies at mine. Luckily I am still new enough at this couple thing to have actually had a relly nice day with that.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Deer Hunting With Jesus - Guns, Votes, Debt and Delusion in Redneck America by Joe Bageant Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, March 5th, 2017|
|St David's Day & Charity Event
Wednesday and Thursday this week saw me spending my evenings in an unusual way for me. Wednesday was St David's Day, the 'patron saint of Wales. Being neither religious nor particularly interested in nationalism this isn't an event I have ever previously celebrated (except at primary school where they made us). It was however a chance to make the day at work more interesting - so (given the success we enjoyed with Australia day recently) we decorated the lounge, enjoyed some Welsh music (weirdly, Tom Jones & Shirley Bassey
went down significantly better that Catatonia & The Stereophonics
- though Goldie Looking Chain
was a surprise hit!) and some Welsh cooking. This isn't exactly cutting edge stuff I realize but the alternative would have been to just let it be another Wednesday.
On Thursday I went with my missus to a charity event she attends with some of her work colleagues. I got to meet some of her friends so that was a significant step for us socially. The event itself was fairly low key and was designed to raise funds for a school this charity is sponsoring in Guyana. It was drinks and nibbles with a raffle so nothing terribly arduous. The weirdest thing was that it was held in the building of the Guyana High Commission - a wonderfully faded relic of British imperialism and possibly best described now as shabby-chic. It's all for a good cause and it went pretty smoothly in the end.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Wrench by Primo Levi Current Mood: awake