Saturday, 31 October 2015

Concert: U2, O2 London (#4)

So, I ended the week with another U2 concert! I swung by home first - I wanted to shop on the way home, for the weekend, and certainly couldn't take it to the concert with me. But from experience, I knew I had plenty of time.

So I headed out at about 6.40. Got the District Line to Earl's Court, where I had to change.. but when I alighted on the platform, I noticed something odd. All the Eastbound trains on the indicator board were predicted to arrive at the same platform, whereas there are two platforms. And none but the next to go had a definite destination. Uh-oh, I thought, there's a problem. Unable to get internet access on my phone to check - Earl's Court is bad for it - I said sod this, and bolted for the Piccadilly Line, to reprise the journey of the night before.

I managed to get a seat for the journey to Green Park. Again, that long hike to the Jubilee Line - in stifling heat, just like the day before. I passed a couple of people who were complaining about the same thing. Hottest station in London? Anyway, I got there eventually, and crammed into the sardine can of a Jubilee Line train. I was so glad when we finally got there - I was feeling quite travel sick, with the cramped conditions and stuffiness; there is air conditioning, but try breathing it when every way you turn, there's another body pressed up against you.

On the previous occasions I've taken this line, I've taken it from Westminster, which is handy for getting on at the front of the train. Which means you disembark right by the up escalator to the exit. Unfortunately, I hadn't managed that on this occasion, which means I was taking the stairs. Ah well.. made my way through the crowds, heading for Water Margin again - the Chinese buffet. I was determined to get something to eat this time! and I left the Tube station at about 7:15, which meant I should have time.

Arriving there, I gave my drink order and went to get some food. My drink hadn't arrived by the time I got back, which is unusual for here, where the service is generally pretty quick. But the place was pretty busy, and they didn't take too long. I had a second helping, as usual, and plenty of their delicious prawn crackers. The lights went out at about 8 for a minute or so.. anyway, by the time I finished my second course I was becoming conscious of the time, and wasn't really that interested in dessert, so I paid and left.

For this concert, I'd booked my ticket with the official O2 ticketing website, AXS, which meant they gave me the option of Print at Home - generally the handiest, with less worry about losing the ticket. Careful though, you do have to remember to print them out - they don't take phone copies. A cursory bag check (my mints were well hidden under my wallet), my ticket was scanned and I was in - no queues, this late (it was about 8.15). The now underworked ushers were keen for something to do, so I got more directions than I needed to my seat.

I was in Row L this time.. lots of steps to climb down. But OMG it was worth it! AXS had a much better selection of tickets, and I was so much closer to the stage than I had been at any previous show, this tour! Lovely.. I'd have taken a shot to make you jealous, but my phone battery had died again. Anyway, they decided to start just a teensy bit earlier, this time -  I'd only got properly settled in my seat when People Have the Power blared out: helluva dramatic start, I must say! I think it was about 8:25..

It was funny to see the confusion on the faces of the people sat beside me, as I both jumped to my feet for this song, and pointed my gaze fixedly on the REAR of the room. Take the hint guys.. anyway, it didn't take too long for Bono to appear and the whole audience to jump up. And I have to hand it to them - this was far and away the most active audience yet this tour. Not only good singers, but extremely.. bouncy! The people on the floor positively looked like they were on a trampoline..





The girl pulled onstage for Mysterious Ways was Claire. Bono made a thing about asking her whether she was from Co. Clare, and saying she must come there with them sometime. Funnily enough, that's where I'm from. And funnier still, the guy behind me gave a big whoop at this point - I didn't pick up an Irish accent though, and I don't think he was from there. Anyway, Claire - from Gloucester - did the filming of the next song (a bit shakily, she couldn't stop hopping up and down), but I'm not entirely sure it went on Meerkat, as for once, no comments were displayed onscreen. Actually, checking the website today, I see it seems to have technical problems - maybe that was it.
A European first followed - All I Want Is You, dedicated to Bono's wife in an emotional prologue, where he described her as an incredible wife, sister, mother.. He even took off his glasses for this one, in an evident show of intimacy. I think the emotion carried into the next song, because he fluffed the lines for Every Breaking Wave. Ah, Bono.. irritated, he restarted. Lucky he now has the weekend to recover - he must be getting as tired as I have been!

Nobody famous came onstage last night, but a few were namechecked as being in the audience (mentioned by virtue of being Red campaigners, as we were told). Damien Hirst, Javier Bardem, Matt Damon. Well, Javier did a cracking turn onstage in Barcelona, so his duty is done - I guess the others weren't so inclined. ;-)
After another incredible show, with another incredible audience, we actually finished a bit earlier: still after the scheduled time, but before 11, at about 5 to. Which was nice, given that I was coming out of Exit H, at the far side. Again, it took me about half an hour to get to the Tube from here.. where we ran into merry Hallowe'en revellers..  and again, I practiced my usual trick of, when I come down the stairs to the platform, turning back on myself - the section of platform in that direction is deserted in comparison. More people seem to be cottoning on to this now, and there were quite a few in that direction last night, but I still had no trouble getting a seat, near the front of the train. I did muse how unusual it is, finding the journey home from a concert easier than the journey there!
There was a Wimbledon train waiting when I arrived on the platform at Westminster, and I dashed on. And made for an end seat, until I saw someone had been sick all over it, and it had splashed onto the seat beside. Luckily, I could safely sit on the seat beside that, and I did - it didn't really smell, and my paper blocked the view. Still, I was glad to get off. Too tired to blog though.. it was 12:05am by the time I got in.

This morning, I was supposed to have a flat viewing, but the guy never got back to me with the address, and when I asked him again for it yesterday, he texted back "Myp". WTF?! Answers on a postcard please if you can figure that out. Anyway, no tragedy - I did get a lie-in as a result.

This being Hallowe'en, I wanted something scary.. ooh, it's nice to have a weekend in London for a change! So I'm headed on a ghost walk this evening. First time I'll have been with Ken's Events since I joined. It's the second of the night - the first was already full when I looked. Oddly, although the event page says there's a maximum of 25 per group, there are 33 places on each - maybe they're running simultaneous ones.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Concert: U2, O2 London (#3)

Last night's U2 concert clashed with leaving drinks for the latest of our number to jump ship. Well, I went for two in the end - left at abt 7.20, and was in my seat in the O2 by 8.15. It was surreal, walking in past merchandising stalls with no queues whatsoever! By the time I got to the foyer, they were making announcements about being about to start, and would people take their seats. I needed to go to the loo, but couldn't see any nearby, and with those announcements, I got a bit spooked.. so I decided I'd live, and went straight to my seat. Of course, I'd easily have had time - I wasn't wearing my watch by the time they came on, as I can injure myself while fist-pumping, but they can't have started before 8.30. Again.





Bono's wife was in the house, as usual, and namechecked at Song for Someone, which was of course written for her.. The girl pulled up for Mysterious Ways was chosen for her glittery cats-ears - afterwards, Bono realised he'd pulled her out before! It was Anna, from Sarajevo. Which prompted him to reveal to us that both he and his wife have Bosnian passports..! He didn't explain why.
New Year's Day was a pleasant surprise! I hadn't seen it this year before, and I don't think they'd played it this year yet, either - Bono remarked that this would be interesting, it'd been a while! I also never noticed before how complicated it is for The Edge to play - he has to switch multiple times between guitar and piano, so there he was, sat at the piano with a guitar strapped across him for easy access, and Bono leaning on the piano, admiring his dexterity..
Of all songs, Where the Streets Have No Name had to be the one where Bono fluffed the lines! He sang the very first line wrong. The one song - as I'd just remarked to myself - that they've played at every one of the concerts I've seen them at (last night marked my 50th!). He shook his head in irritation - never mind, we all knew the correct words. :-)
Beautiful Day was dedicated to Paul McGuinness, also apparently in the house. Bad was a lovely surprise, again - so far this year, when I've seen it has only been at the last show in any given city. But there was more to come - for my money, and that of many others, the best moment of the night was the very last song. Bono comes on to People Have the Power, by Patti Smith - well, you know, they've developed a habit of bringing people on for the last song in London, and last night.. Patti Smith came on, to perform that same song live! Awesome end! How they're going to top it, I don't know.. Anyway, blatantly ignoring official finish times, last night they finished at 11.10..
There hadn't been a busker at the station when I arrived. The regular one was back when I was leaving - he must've booked out the full week! I might give him something, one of these nights. Anyway, he was playing U2 again. As for the crowds on the Tube, they're still not clued-in as to where to go to get on the trains comfortably! I think what happens is they come down the stairs, and even if they don't congregate right there, they move straight ahead. All of them. Without, apparently, realising that there's a whole stretch of platform in the other direction! Which stays pretty empty, although a few more had cottoned on to the secret last night. Moral of the story - when you come down the stairs, TURN BACK!

I made my way to Westminster, and up all those escalators to the District Line. As I was walking along the platform, it was announced that, due to an earlier signal failure, there were severe delays on the District and Circle Lines, and people were advised.. to take the Jubilee Line! Damnation, I could just have stayed on, had I known. All the way back down again, and one more stop to Green Park.. where there's a helluva hike to the Piccadilly Line.. which I had to wait five minutes for. When I finally got to Earl's Court, there was a Wimbledon-bound train on the platform - joy! And I'd just got on when the driver informed us that the train on the other platform was also headed there, and would be leaving first. Yippee, a considerate driver! I finally got home at 12.20am. And went straight to the toilet.

And I'm doing it all again tonight. Might get there a bit earlier.. grabbing something to eat would be nice, dinner last night was a handful of peanuts..

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Film: Sicario

Actually, I'd have liked to go to the Crick Crack Club tonight - they had an evening about the grimmer tales of the Brothers Grimm, which sounded terrific! Not only to me, it seems - they were sold out. Film it was, then - and staying in last night helped with the film list, which was also mercifully short this week. Top of the list was still The Martian - but damned if it wasn't showing at 9pm, at the earliest, in every single convenient cinema! So I couldn't have been back by midnight. Anywhere it was showing a bit earlier was too far out, so I either couldn't have been there in time, or again, I'd have been coming back after midnight. Moving down the list, Sicario and Spectre tied for second place..

Until I checked again today, to find that Spectre had slipped slightly. Fine, I booked for Sicario - playing in Cineworld Fulham, it was cheaper to book than just to show up. With only a 6:10 showing, I left straight from the office - it wasn't too long a walk.

I was really glad I'd printed out my confirmation, with scannable code - the queue for the automatic ticket machines was horrendous. There was some confusion at the ticket check desk, as she tried to figure out what I'd given her - my phone battery was dead, so that wasn't an option - but she eventually let me through. It was in Screen 5 - handily, on ground level - and I made my way to my chosen seat. I tend to pick an aisle seat in one of the side blocks, and I was to be proved right, with such a crowd in the centre block..

Sicario is a crime drama, with Emily Blunt as an FBI agent, noted for her field work, who gets picked for an inter-agency operation involving the big cartels that control the crime she generally deals with. Along the way, she meets a couple of shady characters - Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro - who seem to be big-shots in this operation, but whose actual role is unclear. The title, we're informed before anything else gets underway, is the Mexican term for "hitman".

I get the impression that whoever made the trailer isn't the same person that made the film - the trailer doesn't do the film justice at all. This is simply, far and away, the best film I've seen in an age. It LOOKS beautiful - sweeping, wide-angle shots giving a sense of place. It SOUNDS fantastic, with a terrific soundtrack that pulses like a heartbeat through the most tense sequences. Scarier than most horror films, for sure. It's not a film for the delicate of stomach - and indeed, one audience member left quite early; from the very opening sequence, we're plunged right into uber-violence. This is life lived to the extreme, and all throughout you're wondering who the sicario  of the title is.. because no-one is as they initially seem.

I can't recommend this highly enough - this is a film made by people who know what they're doing. I felt like applauding. This is destined to be a cult classic. Seriously, it's a travesty that Spectre is being given more screens than this - which do you want to see? A clichéd parody of espionage, or something new, dramatic and frighteningly believable..? Not that it'll do much for Mexico's tourist industry, I imagine..

The walk home was pretty cold - it's getting that way, certainly. Well, tomorrow evening there are leaving drinks for someone who's decided not to be forced into moving out of London - fair play to him, he's better off for sure. I can't stay all night though - that's the first of my next two nights in the company of U2..!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Play: Something Unspoken

I had booked for Something Unspoken, a Tennesse Williams play, tonight. But you know, I'm exhausted after the last couple of nights.. and it's in Hampstead, which is a terrible journey - and when you get there, it's all hilly.. and it started to rain on my way home.. and I was feeling cosy.. so I didn't go out at all. What they hey, the ticket was cheaper than the journey there would've been!

Instead, I finished my film list (round of applause, please!). Top of the list - again - is The Martian, and this is what I would've gone to, had I got the last list done in time. Guess what's happened this time? The sodding thing is only playing (in 2D) at 9pm, anywhere convenient! Turns out it's quite a long film, and by the time I'd got back, it'd be after midnight. Anwhere it's playing earlier than that, the cinema is so far out that I still wouldn't be back till after midnight. Does it seem as though there's a conspiracy to prevent me from seeing this film?!

Top of the remaining list, currently, are Sicario and Spectre - both, mercifully, playing in Cineworld Fulham, walking distance from home. And from the office - an early show is probably a good idea. I was supposed to view a flat straight after work, but I've cancelled - I probably wouldn't have taken it anyway. As for which film.. we'll see how the ratings hold tomorrow, and how I feel.

The following two days, of course, are devoted to the U2 marathon again..!


Concert: U2, O2 London (#2)

The U2 show rolls on.. Second night in London last night, and Helen and I (and her husband) were there. Along with a few others..

We left in good time - the restaurants and bars at the O2 open before the main arena. Changed from a fairly crowded District Line to an even more crowded Jubilee Line - no major departure of passengers at London Bridge this time, which meant we had to stand all the way. It was a relief to get off. A busker was performing - not the same one, and again, not U2..

The queues for merchandising weren't bad, this early, and she got her purchasing done quickly. We met her husband inside, and made our way straight to Water Margin - the Chinese buffet. I really think this is a great option before a show - as the guy standing at the door advertised, "No waiting! No queue!" Unlike all the others. Also, there's a good selection, a fixed price - so you can have as many helpings as you want - and the quality is good. Drinks orders are taken at the table - drinks are priced separately.

We had a good selection, among the three of us - chicken szechuan, which was quite spicy: chicken satay (less so): crispy chicken: two different types of noodles: hash browns: seaweed. I had a whole heap of prawn crackers, which were excellent.. and we went to town on dessert, with lots of tiny helpings of different things. I got the last slice of chocolate cake. :-)  I can also recommend the chocolate fudge slices and the lemon cheesecake..

We finished at about 7:20. Now, the scheduled start time for the weekday shows is 7:30.. yeah, right. As mentioned previously, when they were supposed to start at 7, they didn't come on till 7:50. So, we sauntered off in the direction of our entrance, and took our seats. They weren't seated with me, but a few sections away (in the same row, as it happened). They had bought "restricted view" tickets - which meant they were behind the i stage. As I reassured them, for people who are side-on to the vidiwall and can't see it properly, there are smaller screens that give a good close-up of the action - I had a view of one myself, seated at the corner in Barcelona. It's interesting to note, though, that this is the first venue I've been in this year that has been played completely in the round.

Spending £70 more, I had quite an excellent seat.. still, from the moment I came in, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I could tell there was something different about the crowd last night. Which had nothing to do with my seat. There was a new electricity. Maybe more than me had been to the show the night before - I don't know. But the anticipation as we waited.. and waited.. for the show to start was practically unbearable. It was fun actually when the three guys beside me finally got there, and were on tenterhooks trying to figure out where the band would come on. I didn't give the game away - but, at about 8:20, when People Have the Power blared out, and I shot to my feet, directing my gaze pointedly at the e stage - where Bono appears - gee, you'd think that would've given them a hint. Nope, they were still staring at the i stage as he made his grand entrance, between lines of baying fans, phones held aloft for shots.

Some photos here. Setlist as follows:

  1. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  2. Out Of Control
  3. Vertigo
  4. I Will Follow
  5. Iris (Hold Me Close)
  6. Cedarwood Road
  7. Song For Someone
  8. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  9. Raised By Wolves / Psalm 23 (snippet)
  10. Until The End Of The World / Love And Peace Or Else (snippet) / Words (snippet)
  11. (Intermission - The Fly)
  12. Invisible
  13. Even Better Than The Real Thing
  14. Mysterious Ways / Burning Down The House (snippet)
  15. Desire / Love Me Do (snippet)
  16. Angel Of Harlem / Into The Mystic (snippet)
  17. Every Breaking Wave
  18. October
  19. Bullet The Blue Sky / Ode To Joy (snippet) / 19 (snippet)
  20. Zooropa
  21. Where The Streets Have No Name / California (There Is No End To Love) (snippet)
  22. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
  23. With Or Without You

  24. City Of Blinding Lights
  25. Beautiful Day
  26. Mother And Child Reunion (snippet) / I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / All You Need Is Love (snippet)
It's a terrific lineup, y'know. After coming on to an awesome rock song, they treat us to four manic songs.. then there's a complex, video-based sequence. From Song 15 on, we're treated to a parade of iconic hits. And it has always astounded me to be in the same room as the people who wrote them, performing them at full blast.. by the look of it, the rest of the crowd felt the same, and it was great to see the sheer insanity of the people on the floor.

The girl pulled on for Mysterious Ways was Tammy, from Belgium, with the funky hair. And not one, but two, guys were brought on to play guitar for Angel of Harlem - brothers, who'd had a sign up pleading for the band to take them both! Final audience-on-stage moment of the night went to the guy that Bono pulled on for City of Blinding Lights. Again, he gave him his glasses and jacket and waved him into the dark. This time, he took the young lad's jacket - but it didn't fit. And eventually, he got his own things back, explaining that he couldn't keep giving things away - the wardrobe lady had complained she couldn't replace them. Not the cost - she simply couldn't get them!

Famous people in the house included Bono's wife, for the second night in a row, and Bob Geldof. Oh, and Noel Gallagher, who joined them onstage for the last two songs. Best concert yet. Best crowd yet. Go London! I'm expecting great things, later in the week..

They adhered neither to start nor finish time.. when I looked at my watch at the end, it was about 11. Mind you, exiting at Gate B is a terrific advantage - where it had taken me 30 mins the night before, coming from the other side, to get back to the Tube, last night I made it in under 5 minutes. I do believe the busker, by this time, was the same as last night - he'd rehearsed his U2 this time! Again, the crowds clumped near the bottom of the stairs, mainly, leaving the front end of the platform deserted. And when the train arrived, the couple I was waiting with graciously let me on first - the more graciously because I could see they had wristbands; they'd had floor tickets. Well, we all did get seats on the train - and with a direct train home arriving almost immediately at Westminster, I was home in no time! Still too late to blog, mind.

Tonight, all Meetup had to offer was comedy I wasn't interested in. But I did manage a cheap ticket to a Tennessee Williams play, Something Unspoken - a one-act play showing in Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Concert: U2, O2 London (#1)

Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town! U2 finally rolled into their home time zone, if not yet quite home. Well, Adam does live in Westminster these days. Wonder whether they're all crashing at his gaff..

I was in Ireland for my mother's birthday, and flew back early yesterday - the evening flight wouldn't have got me here in time to get all the way across town to the O2 before concert time. I might've had a flat viewing, but only had a small window of time in which to do that, and the landlady said she'd ask the other tenant whether she was available to show me around.. and then never got back to me.. which worked out well for my afternoon. I was peckish, didn't want to wait, and ate at home instead.

On the Tube to Westminster, I encountered my first fellow concertgoers - a group of Italians, talking about how they had to get off at Westminster, and passing around an envelope that probably contained their tickets. Westminster was the first place where the crowds became heavy, with a marshal to the side, making sure we were all ok on the escalator. It was 6pm by this stage. The Jubilee Line was crammed enough that, at the next station - Waterloo - not everyone could squeeze on. Right beside me, at the last minute, hopped a group who were obviously in town for the day. They just managed it before the doors closed. The 16-year-old Darren didn't though, and was left standing sheepishly on the platform while they debated whether to get off at the next stop and go back for him. "Nah," they decided, "he can find his own way home!"

Most of the crowd disembarked at London Bridge, and I got a seat. And duly got off at North Greenwich, the stop for the O2. The busker at the door was playing non-U2 music. Tsk.. You can't miss the arena - it's that large white dome to the left. Currently located behind the Moscow State Circus tent. So, don't bother with that box office to the left as you exit the Tube - I do believe that's for the circus. Keep going straight ahead, past the billboards, which curve around to the entrance to the O2.

There's a merchandising stand as you approach the O2. There's also one just inside the door. If the crowds are too much for you, you could wait until you're past security - at least when I arrived last night, the crowds were lesser there. As you enter the covered area, if you have Entrance B on your ticket, you're in luck - it's right there. Otherwise, carry on along the long, long corridor, past the eateries - most had queues. Last time I was there, I ate in the Chinese, primarily because there was no queue! Last night, of course, I wasn't hungry, and carried on.

The queue for Entrance H started far, far back along the corridor. Luckily, I didn't realise at first that this was my queue, and followed the stream of people moving past them on the inside. I thought the queue couldn't conceivably start so soon! By the time the entrance loomed, the queue had merged with the stream of people on the inside, so I managed a sizeable bit of queue-jumping, quite by accident!

It took about 15 minutes to walk to the queue - only about 5 minutes to get to the end of it, though. At the end, on the table of confiscated items, along with all the bottles of water was a lonely-looking packet of crisps. Be warned - visible food not allowed. I did manage to smuggle in a packet of mints, though.. A sign on the table states the rules, quite clearly, about what can and can't be brought in. Of course, by that stage it's a bit late..

As I say, the merchandising stalls past this were less busy. But I wasn't concerned with them, and just went straight in and took my seat - way too early. I arrived at 6:40. The concert was scheduled to start at 7-  well, I never did believe that. Still, I did wonder at how empty the place was. In the event, the entire floor space, as well as the entire seating, did fill up, and the concert finally started at 7:50.

Cosier feel here than in the Palau Sant Jordi, despite being slightly bigger. Anyway, from the beginning, it was apparent that this crowd were in fine voice - of the concerts I've been to so far this year, they had the best singers. Setlist:




I had one of those enormous guys beside me - I came up nearly to his shoulder. Bless, he was all thrilled to be there and ready to rock, and his wife (I'm supposing) was a bit glum, sat in her seat for most of it. Might have had something to do with the fact that she was pregnant. She brightened up mightily towards the end! For his part, I was just glad he restrained himself - I'm sick of getting elbows in the face at these events. There was also an enthusiastic Italian in front of him, who found a soulmate in the enthusiastic lady in front of her. Not that we all weren't - but these were exceptionally so. Not so much the babe in arms that was over the other side - honestly, this is the second U2 concert this year that I've seen a baby at. I know childcare can be difficult to organise, but really..! It's a bit loud..
The girl pulled up to dance during Mysterious Ways was dubbed "Trish the Dish" on Meerkat, and her camerawork was praised. On Sweetest Thing, we had the rare sight of Bono on piano - playing with three fingers, as he said, the nerves still damaged after his accident. Sounded fine, though. The concert did finish on the dot, as scheduled, at 10:15.
Welcome back boys, keep up the good work! I'd been thinking of taking a boat back, to avoid the queues on the Tube, but there was some confusion over the timetable, and no indication of people going that way. So, after spending 15 minutes walking back to the entrance, I was in the queue for the Tube for another 15 minutes. The busker, bless him, was trying out his U2 repertoire by now, despite admitting to not knowing the words. Now, you'd think he'd have swotted up on it.. never mind, there were several snatches of song among this most vocal of crowds as we inched along, culminating in a tuneless chorus by two girls on the escalator down to the station, belting out With or Without You at the top of their voices. They got a round of applause.
On the platform, you could tell there were a lot of out-of-towners. Everybody clustered at the bottom of the stairs, around where the middle of the train would be. A vast expanse of empty platform stretched away to the side. I couldn't understand it - kept looking for "Do Not Enter" signs. Anyway, I headed up that way, got a seat while I was waiting for the train (in pretty complete isolation), easily got a seat on the train when it arrived. As we waited to depart, the exasperated driver appealed for people to move to the (empty) front of the train if they wanted to get on.. Frankly, I've never had it so easy, leaving a concert! Not so the guy who tried to get on, further down the line, with a bike. The driver made an announcement asking him to get off again - bicycles are apparently not allowed on that line. As the guy across from me remarked - so, what's he supposed to do now? Cycle home, I suppose.
Back a bit late to blog, of course. Completely zonked today, and doing it all again tonight. With Helen, although she'll be sat a few sections away. And we'll probably head to the Chinese beforehand.. Gee, but I'm glad these shows only run in pairs - it's all a bit much! Tomorrow (on a day off from U2-ing), I got a cheap ticket to a Tennessee Williams play. Well, they're always good! Something Unspoken is showing in Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Concert: Soundscapes

With nothing interesting on Meetup last night, I hunted around and found cheap tickets to Soundscapes, at the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre. A programme that included Ravel and Wagner tempted me, and I booked - it's been a while.

I left in time, but not too early - so it phased me slightly when I arrived at Embankment to find the eastern walkway of the bridge, the one I take for the Southbank Centre, closed! Again, it's been a while since I needed it, and I'd forgotten they were doing work on it. Well, it didn't take me too long to nip under the bridge and find the stairway to the other walkway. It's a shame though - I love the view from the eastern walkway, looking towards the City and St. Paul's. I know the other side has the London Eye and the Palace of Westminster, with Big Ben - but it just isn't the same.

I had about five minutes to spare when I entered the building. An efficient usher directed me straight to a member of staff who didn't seem to have anything to do; I handed her my confirmation, and got my ticket. Now, this hall has entrances from two colour-coded sides: blue and green. Your ticket tells you which to go to. I was blue, which is to the left as you enter the building from the riverside. As I trotted over there, I thought - "Yippee, the singing lift!"

Regular readers will remember the singing lift. At the blue side of the Royal Festival Hall, there is a glass lift. And it sings. It's the coolest thing.. I did wonder whether it still sang, but I needn't have worried. As the lift rose, a voice sang with rising pitch, and as I arrived at my level, the lift sang out, "You have arrived at.. Level Four!" As my boss remarked upon hearing about this phenomenon - "Makes you wonder why they don't all do that.."

Handily, my entrance door was directly opposite the lift. And, as it turned out, I was second row from the front of the rear stalls - right near the door. Could hardly have been more convenient. I took my comfy seat and settled down with my printout of the webpage, so I could see what was on. Why, there wasn't even anyone in front of me - excellent seat.

Now, it so happens that the purpose of this concert was to promote a new work. The other pieces were fillers. I'm afraid to say, I found that new work frightfully weird. As indeed the Stravinsky piece - Fireworks - that they chose to play with it. Had these been the only pieces, I'd have left at the interval.

But no, the second half started with an extract from Tristan and Isolde, by Wagner, that exploded into the hall. The Prelude was spectacular - a piece of music that I've always loved, since hearing it on the soundtrack of Excalibur. They also played the Liebestod, with crashing instrumental music that quite drowned out the singer. Stirring stuff, as ever with Wagner.

After another piece of weirdness, we were back to more soaring music, with Daphnis et Chloé, Suite #2, by Ravel. I'd been drowsing a bit - too many late nights - but that certainly woke me up! Thanks folks - you always do find something to keep us entertained.

Some entertainment was also provided on the Tube home, by a mob of noisy young lads in evening dress. And I did actually get home quite early, but then got caught up with doing things related to flat-hunting, and didn't get around to blogging last night.

Back to Ireland this evening, for my mother's birthday tomorrow - must look for a card today! Well, it's been hectic.. Then I fly back at lunchtime on Sunday. Because, you know, U2 is playing at the O2 that night. And the next. And they're expecting me.. ;-)

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Opera: Carmen

Another night, another opera. Set in Seville. Attended with the Meetup group Let's Do London - for less! Hey, if it ain't broke..! All sounded great, so I booked it. They actually had two sets of tickets - one for the amphiteatre proper, one for the side slip seats. As I recall, they only had the slip seats left by the time I got around to it - but I've sat there before, and knew they're fine. So I happily booked; this time, it was Carmen, in the Royal Opera House.

Annoyingly, the show started at 7. I know they want to get finished in time for people to get home, but it does make it really hard for those of us travelling a distance to get there in time. I left work promptly, knowing I had to shop on the way. Quick pit-stop at home, and dashed onto the Tube. Our organiser had said he'd be at the box office till 6.50, and I knew it'd be tight, but I might just make it for then. Ran into a colleague waiting for the same train - chatting to him on the journey gave me something to do other than worry about how fast the train was going! Mind you, at least there were no stops "to regulate the service" this time.

He thought I should get off at Leicester Square, to avoid having to queue for a lift at Covent Garden, the next stop. Nonsense - the time I spent queuing for a lift would never be as long as the time to walk between the stops, although it's not far. And during that time queuing (only about a minute), I checked my watch and determined that I was unlikely to get there for 6.50. So I fired off a quick text to said organiser, to tell him to go ahead and leave my ticket at the box office. It didn't send immediately - what with me being 15 stories underground - but by the time I got a chance to check it, I saw it must've, because he'd replied to say he would.

Isn't it annoying how people keep getting in your way when you're trying to hurry? Anyway, I made it out of the station, and did my best on the cobblestones leading down to the piazza (my shoes weren't ideal for this purpose). More crowds at the entrance to the Opera House. When I finally made it through the door, it was just after 6.50. I scanned the wall opposite the box office, where the Man with the Hat had said he'd wait. Nobody, bummer. I made my way straight to the box office. The Man with the Hat was sorting tickets at the counter! Cool - I dashed up to him, announcing my presence, and as I reached him, he tore me off a ticket, and bade me go. Much like in a war film - "Go! Save yourself..!"

Now, he needn't have worried so much. I know the place well, and knew roughly how long it was gonna take to get where I was seated. I've also cut it quite fine, quite a few times here, and if there are still crowds of people making their way upwards, I know you're in no danger of being late. There are several sections, but they're all well signposted. So, first was to get to the amphitheatre - you can take the lift, but I find the stairs quicker in general, given the crowds. By stairs, next step is the escalator to the amphiteatre bar - then just follow the signs.

I was on the right (it says on the ticket), which meant I had to go right around. My seat was in the front row of the upper slips..

The bench seating was comfortable enough - and we had a fantastic view of the theatre as a whole! There's an advantage to sitting at the side, y'know. The view of the stage was slightly compromised, and we did miss whatever was happening to the very right of the stage: but there was hardly any of that. Now, at the interval, people in our group who had seats in the front row (Row A) of the amphiteatre complained that they had to lean forward to see properly, and people behind them were complaining that they couldn't see past them when they did that. We in the slips didn't have any of that, which might be due to the fact that the row behind us was so much higher than we were - our heads were at about the same level as their feet. And that might have been designed like that because people in the slips are expected to lean forward! Anyway, it worked out perfectly fine.

When the curtain was raised, another advantage of the slips became apparent - you're closer to the stage than anyone else but the stalls! Albeit with a side view. Leaning can be done at various different angles, what with this very handy filigree rail, that you can stick arms/feet/hands out of to support yourself, as well as leaning on the ledge proper.

And the show..? Is it a good measure of a production, when it reminds you why you loved the show so much in the first place? Firstly, I'd forgotten Carmen was so damn catchy! And for all the times I've seen it, I do not believe I've seen a better production. They praised the singing, when we met at the interval - they were right. The staging was spot-on, evocative of the heat of Seville. Yes, it is set in Seville guys - in fact, if you find yourself there, go on a sightseeing bus tour; they go past the cigarette factory, and make a point of the fact that it was mentioned in the opera. And I've been in the bullring too (not for a fight). But anyway.. speaking of the heat of Seville, that gives them full reign to stage a raunchy production. Lots of provocative costumes, lots of provocative moves, some splashing of water. Perfectly believable in the heat - it gets up to the high 40s there in summer. Even the colour of the sets, a reddish-orange, was reminiscent of the heat..

At the interval, I set off in search of the others - I don't know whether anyone from the group was seated near me, but I didn't get talking to those who were. Stopped off at the ice cream stall to buy dinner - and a very good chocolate ice cream it was. Noted the bin right beside - Coliseum, please take note! We'd arranged to meet on the balcony if it was fine, and it was - if a bit chilly. And we chatted, and praised the show, and they complained about Row A. And I ate my ice cream, and dumped it in the bin on my way back. And noted how you can actually reserve tables in the bar.. I hadn't known you could do that, but sure enough! I dunno, must be a bit weird, sat there right in the middle of the heaving crowd.

The second half, as someone remarked, was darker. But it had flamenco, so I was happy! Oh, and it had a horse.. the toreador rode in on a beautiful, black creature, all gaily adorned, and very placid. Later on, there was also a donkey. No expense spared at the Opera House! The horse made a second appearance, but as someone later remarked, neither four-legged extra came on to take their bows at the end. Sadly.

By the time the denouement came, I was truly impressed - and not to give the plot away, but this was an unusually believable and absorbing death scene, in my experience of operas. A standing ovation was well earned. Highly recommended! Runs on selected dates until the end of next month - booking heavily though, so hop to it if that's your intention.

Afterwards, we were to meet at the box office, to head to the pub. I'd normally have nipped out a side door, to avoid the crowds there, but found myself ploughing through them instead. (On a side note, I see they have separate queues for the cloakroom! I've never used it myself.) Met the Man with the Hat, met the group. And upon the decision to move across the road to The Globe, two of us made an advance party, with instructions to bag a table upstairs.

Many thanks to my companion for the tipple he bought me, and we took a table. Where we were approached by one of the staff, who informed us that we couldn't sit at such a large table if there were only two of us. We assured her that we were expecting more - and on cue, the Man with the Hat appeared. Swiftly followed by more. We ended up grabbing every chair in sight, and inhabiting the back corner of the room, vaguely gathered in the vicinity of a table.

Well, I had a great time! The place was overrun with Irish, interestingly - three of us in this group. And I got into a discussion about U2 - always ready, willing and able. Colin, you asked me about my favourite songs - if you're still reading this far down, they were Moment of Surrender (recorded) and Unknown Caller (live). Both off the last album, No Line on the Horizon. Particularly open to debate is my choice for best live song - you have experience it, though. My absolute best concert experience of the last tour was, of all places, in Sheffield.. and I remember having something of a transcendental experience with that song. Lasted right through the next day..

The evening progressed with three writers, of one form or another, huddled in the corner talking about blogs n stuff. And the Man without the Hat telling tales, some of which were taller than he.. An excellent night, but a late one. On my way home, I don't blame the lady who decided to sit, for the duration of her journey on the down escalator in Leicester Square station - it's a long way down, and I guess she was tired. (Had to go back through there - Covent Garden is still exit-only.) Surprisingly, for once, my mother didn't pre-empt my call by calling me first, even though I didn't get home till after midnight - she must be getting used to my late nights with this group!

Tonight, with - again - nothing on Meetup appealing, I managed a cheap ticket to a classical concert at the Southbank Centre - it's been a while. Must print off the programme.. tomorrow, unusually, I'm back to Ireland for the second weekend in a row - it's my mother's birthday. But I have to fly back early on Sunday.. because guess who's in town, and playing on Sunday and Monday? And of course, I'm going. And London will truly rock..

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Play: Moments

Nothing I fancied on Meetup tonight.. so I had a hunt elsewhere, and of the list I saw, nothing jumped out at me, so I chose the nearest one, and got a cheap ticket to Moments, playing at the Drayton Arms.

Now, it claims to be in South Kensington, which is close enough - however, when I looked at the address, I realised I'd been here before, and it's actually just 15 minutes walk from my house! (Well, my current one - I'll be moving come the end of the year.) Straight down Old Brompton Road. So, naturally, I was overconfident, and left it pretty tight - but I set a fair pace, and got there just before 8.

I knew it's the first door you come to (coming from the west), and straight up the stairs. So I hurried up there.. to discover a closed door and a couple standing by the table with the fliers. I figured they were waiting, so I waited too. After a couple of minutes, I did start to wonder - just as I tried the door, it opened, and a fellow appeared apologetically, carrying a basket that seemed to contain the necessaries to take admission. Good job I had my confirmation, because he had no record of me - but upon seeing it, he waved me in, and as it happened, I got in first.

I took a seat in the second row, towards the far end. It wasn't completely full, and I had space to spread out on the bench seating. I needn't have worried about being late - the door creaked open several times during the performance to admit people. Eventually, the guy who'd been late out front appeared back inside, to tell us that this was the VERY first performance, i.e. the first preview, and that it was a Nordic company - as I'd read in the free (and quite professionally printed) programme - whose principle was to hire Nordic people. And so the actors and writer were Icelandic, and the director Swedish.

It lasted just under 90 minutes, no interval. And started with projections - video projections on screens at the back, meant to represent the character's childhood, in what was probably Icelandic, and with a projected translation overhead. Which was all actually really effective! It's the story of a down-and-out guy, losing control over his life and his relationships. And acted primarily by two very hunky, bearded Icelandic blokes (speaking in English). Lovely.

The lack of experience showed, in the actor who forgot some of his lines - but covered most professionally. The writing was also immature in parts at the early stages. However, there are a couple of excellent twists, and overall I found it most enjoyable. Recommended, if you like things Nordic. Runs until the end of the month.

Tomorrow, it's back to Meetup - I'm back with Let's Do London - for less! again: this time for Carmen, at the Opera House. Goodness, twice in one week..!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Opera: The Barber of Seville

Wow - a Meetup with Let's Do London - for less! that I could actually make. Seriously, I'm out of the country as often as I'm here these days, what with trips to see U2 adding to the regular trips to Ireland.. Anyway, this was perfect, as I do love The Barber of Seville. And these, as ever, were the best value tickets going..

It was a real Manic Monday though, and deadlines saw me heading straight from the office (after meeting said deadlines). I could just about have gone home first, but they were meeting for drinks first, and oh, but I needed a drink after today. So off I trotted. A Tube was waiting for me on the platform, and having dashed on as the alarm went off to indicate that the doors were closing, I threw myself into a seat, bruising myself on the armrest.

Disembarking at Embankment, I walked up a packed (as always) Villiers Street. A brave taxi inched its careful way through the crowds of people (and one fox, that came from the Charing Cross side and dashed across, making several folks go "aah..").

They were meeting at The Chandos, which I was actually in only last Thursday, and knew to be the pub on the corner as you approach the Coliseum. And I knew, without being told, that we'd be meeting upstairs, because they're renovating downstairs. I see it's called - appropriately - "The Opera Room". Anyhow, I walked the length of it, to discover them at the same table I was at on Thursday, right at the back. I saw the organiser's hat, long before I saw the Meetup sign! (Large as it was - the sign, I mean.)

Much faster service tonight than on Thursday. We spent a pleasant half hour or so there, and I met some old acquaintances and made some new ones. And then we meandered off to the Coliseum, just two doors up - although I wasn't sure which door I'd come out of, and had to get my bearings). We blithely passed the man in the hat, who had re-positioned himself outside the door for the benefit of those who didn't fancy the pub (ah, the dedication of the organiser..). And we took ourselves inside and upstairs.

What luxury it is, being in the Upper Circle of the Coliseum. I think it's only happened to me twice before - I'm usually in the balcony, which is a full two floors higher and extremely steep. What was also good was that we came to our seats along a side aisle, with a railing - the steps here have irregular heights, and I'm not good with stairs in general, so it's something of a minefield for me. In fact, I couldn't have requested a better seat - we were all about halfway down, with a perfect view of the stage, and with most going in the row in front of me, I found I had two free seats beside me. So I moved over into one as the lights went down, and had a free seat either side! Very handy for spreading out.

I'm sure I've seen a production of this before, but it has been a while, and it was an absolute delight. The singing was spectacular, the costumes and setting reminded me of those old Ladybird children's books - you know, with the sumptuous illustrations. In general, the production played up the slapstick, and was full of fun. And when the evening came to an end, the director (we think) was brought on stage to take his bows with the rest.

I'd had an ice cream at the interval, but was slightly relieved when the mood was not for drinking afterwards - I was, and am, very, very tired. I'd be asleep now, but that I was hungry, and fancied something to do while I ate.

For tomorrow, I got a cheap ticket for a play called Moments, in the Drayton Arms - honestly, chosen because it was the closest option. And on Wednesday, I'm back with Let's Do London - for less! again, for Carmen, at the Opera House. Always delighted to get together with them..!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Concert: Regina Nathan

My mother loves Regina Nathan, so it was great to discover that she was appearing at Glór on one of my weekends back - and I booked. Naturally, the plan was to eat in the Abbey Tavern beforehand - there are few places that my mother favours to eat in, and it's not far from Ennis.

I was a little worried about timing, with so much to do in our evening. I had to do the Lotto before dinner, I had to get petrol on our way into Ennis, she wanted to go to Mass, I had to get parking in three different places - the Abbey Tavern, the cathedral, Glór. And she won't walk far. Mercifully, it all worked out.

Someone pulled out of a spot right by the door as we arrived at the Abbey Tavern, and we were, as usual, served fast and done within the hour. I felt like steak, for a change, and had the most delicious sirloin. Making a dash for it afterwards - she was relieved when I reminded her that they keep the pub clock 15 minutes fast - we headed straight for Ennis, since I'd already done the Lotto. Petrol stop on the way - nice and cheap - and we got a space across from the cathedral. Not close enough for her liking, but never mind. It's a while since we've been there, and I see they still have the stammering priest, and his stammer still hasn't improved. Fair play to him for persisting though, especially considering these services are broadcast live on radio!

We made a slightly early exit, and I revised my geography of Ennis as we headed for Glór - yes, the fastest way is left at the lights! As for parking at Glór - no problem, there was hardly anyone there when we arrived, and we got a nice, close space. I do think a lot of the audience must have been at Mass with us - there was something of an influx before too long.

We took a seat in the cafe, and I ordered a couple of slices of cake, tea for her, wine for me. What wasn't ready straight away was brought down to us - not terrific fare, mind. The wine was rather insipid, and the cake, as usual, a bit dry - standard for here, but better than some places, and still tasty, and we ate it. No complaints about the tea.

When the announcement came that the doors were open, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm - from anyone - about going in. We meandered in eventually - booking wasn't heavy for this, despite good advertising, and we'd got good seats. Mind you, seats here generally are good, with the best legroom of anywhere I can think of!

The concert started pretty well on time - just the singer herself, with an accompanist playing a grand piano. And a music stand, for when the singer forgot her words. A glass of water stood on the floor beside it - you'd think they could've found a table of some kind. There was a rather uncomfortable-looking stool, on which she perched herself on occasion, and a sparkly feather boa sat on the end of the piano, ready to be used as a prop.

The accompanist came on first and took a seat at the piano. And played for a bit before the singer came on. Slowly. Must have had something to do with the distinctly uncomfortable-looking shoes she was wearing - very high, very sparkly, and very heavy-looking, all ornamentation, with ribbons at the back. She also wore a long black shift-dress, unfortunately highlighting what was not a svelte figure.

Anyway, she was soon into it. My mother kept complaining about the sound - there were no mics, and the singer is very softly spoken. Quite a soft singer as well, except when the song called for some drama and she bellowed out.. quite a contrast! We were well informed as to the programme - programmes were handed out for free. Indeed, they were thrust upon us - we were often asked whether we had one or wanted one, and they were to be found in large quantities on tables scattered through the venue.

It was a mixture of popular show-tunes and well known arias. One song from La Boheme in each half, which was nice for me - it's my favourite opera. "I Dreamt I Dwelt" - I love that song. With some difficulty, she clambered to sit on the steps leading down from the stage for one number. And so, the first half was over.

The second half was designed to be a bit lighter, and it was a relief to see her in a shorter dress - black, again - and more manageable shoes. She started with "Send In the Clowns". A couple of sings later, there was some kind of glitch at the start of Perhaps Love, and we saw her get a bit tetchy and make the accompanist start over. Whether it was something she did, or the pianist did, I cannot say. I did think to myself at this point that her voice isn't really suited to popular musicals - too operatic. Oddly, she read a poem at one point - well, it was enjoyable. The feather boa finally made its appearance, and she touched up her lipstick, for goodness' sake, for L' Accordioniste (sic), where she portrayed a prostitute. As an encore, she made us all join in with Thank You for the Music - hard to match her pitch though (she's a soprano).

All in all, pleasant enough. She got a standing ovation, but to be fair, there were several people she knew in the audience. She mentioned she hadn't done a concert in a while, and I think it showed. Still, my mother enjoyed it, and it got her out of the house for the evening.

Back to London tonight, and tomorrow, I'm back - at last - with the Meetup Let's Do London - for less! group, to see the Barber of Seville at the Coliseum. Upper Circle - it's always nice not to have to climb all the way to the balcony, in this extremely high theatre. For Tuesday, I got a cheap ticket for a play called Moments, in the Drayton Arms - honestly, chosen because it was the closest option. And on Wednesday, I'm back with Let's Do London - for less! again, for Carmen, at the Opera House.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Concert: Spem in Alium

Well, no thought was required when I saw that the London European Club from Meetup was headed to an early music concert - Spem in Alium - in St. Martin-in-the-Fields last night. And so I booked. When I mentioned to my boss what I was going to, he put on his Latin cap to try and figure out what the title means.. (turns out it's "Hope in Any Other"; there's a Wikipedia article).

So, off I trotted. The concert itself was on good and late - 9.30 - which left us time to meet beforehand for dinner/drinks in the Silver Cross, down the road in Whitehall. I'd never been here before, but with Google Maps' help it was easy to find, and I turned out to be the first to arrive (apart from the organiser). He hadn't been able to find a very big table, but after a bit the next table became vacant, and we just slid it over.

It wasn't long before I abandoned him to go to the bar and order food. I had to wait an age to be served - and when I was, darned if I couldn't remember the table number! I had to go back and make note of it, as a result of which I lost my place in the queue and had to wait another age. Finally, I ordered a Hunter chicken - covered in cheese and bacon, and doused in bbq sauce: a British pub favourite. And wine. I must say, it took a lot less time for it to be delivered to my table than it had to order it! And although the chicken was small, it was delicious.. sadly, the fish goujons ordered by another of our group were less successful.

We sat for a good while and chatted, I went for another wine, and it was duly time to head to the church: good and early, to have a good choice of seat. First though, we had to pick up our tickets, in the box office - through the "glass pavilion". As you approach from the south, this is on the other side of the church, and I have probably been here before - I just can't remember when; when I've been here recently, someone has collected my ticket for me. So, downstairs is a box office, a large lobby, and a crypt cafe. Where, possibly, we could have come to eat instead. Never mind - when we all had our tickets, it was about 9 and time for the church doors to be opened, and we headed up.

We took seats near the front of the central nave - seating was unreserved. I discovered they had footrests under the pew in front, as well as very handy shelving to leave your stuff on. And in due course, the choir filed on - all 40 of them, dressed in black. Tiered staging had been arranged in front of the altar.

The concert lasted about an hour. And it was simply stunning! Under most circumstances, being so close to such a large choir would be an experience in itself - but this music made it extra-special. I didn't buy a programme, but this was part of the Brandenburg Choral Festival, and there were programmes for that lying around, from which I gleaned that, as well as the title piece, we'd be listening to Bach and Taverner (Spem in Alium itself isn't long enough to last a full concert). And it was chilling.. it's rare to hear such a large choir, unaccompanied by instruments (although one piece did have a couple of trumpets), and the sound of so many voices in this setting was moving - in parts, eerie. Spem in Alium, which came last, was the highlight though, and I could hear why it's so well regarded. It was breathtakingly moving - as I remarked on my way out, much better than on YouTube..!

Afterwards, some of us elected to go for a drink in the nearest pub, given the coldness of the night's breeze. And so it was that we went for one drink in the Chandos, just across the road. Downstairs was being refurbished, so we headed to the cosy upstairs lounge, where we nabbed a table in the corner. I ordered a drink from a seriously tired-looking (and sounding) barmaid, and we had a most pleasant time before venturing out in the cold again.

This evening, I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.. tomorrow, we're off to Glór to see Regina Nathan in concert. On Monday, I'm back - at last - with the Let's Do London - for less! group, to see the Barber of Seville at the Coliseum. Upper Circle - it's always nice not to have to climb all the way to the balcony, in this extremely high theatre. For Tuesday, I got a cheap ticket for a play called Moments, in the Drayton Arms - honestly, chosen because it was the closest option. And on Wednesday, I'm back with Let's Do London - for less! again, for Carmen, at the Opera House.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Storytelling: The Heart of a Hero & Concert: Varldens Band

Oh my, regular readers must've thought something had happened to me, it's been so long! No, it's just been so busy..

Monday was The Heart of a Hero, a meetup of the Crick Crack Storytelling Club - and I usually try to get to those. This was held in the Soho Theatre, as usual, and featured an Egyptian storyteller. It was pretty full, if not completely, by the time the demure, diminutive lady came on, barefoot, in a kaftan, and stared at us for a minute before beginning. Now, Arabian-type stories can be very rambling, and this was one such: but it was quite lovely to watch her pace the floor as she wove her tale, painting for us with hand gestures the story of warriors, deserts, and camels. And her accent lent itself to the telling, of course. It's funny - she came to life during the telling; when she was finished, she just.. stopped. Stared at us again, and walked off. Surreal.

Unfortunately, it went on longer than your average storytelling event - I mentioned it rambled - and by the time I'd gotten home and eaten, it was past my bedtime.

On Tuesday, I was back with the World Music Meetup, for a concert by Varldens Band. I hadn't heard of them, but the included YouTube video clip on the Meetup page persuaded me I'd like them. Mind you, on the night in question, the last thing I felt like doing was heading all the way over to Shoreditch - it's nearly an hour each way. Google Maps suggested Tube, then Overground for the outbound journey: Tube, then bus for the return (the Overground doesn't run very late). I nearly didn't go at all, but when I got home, the place was a flurry of activity - turned out I was getting a new flatmate, and the letting agent - and someone else I didn't know - were in a flurry of activity, preparing his room. So I headed off and left them to it. Met the flatmate on the way out and let him in, making my apologies.

I was lucky - managed to grab the Tube just as it was about to leave the platform, and despite what it said on the indicator board, it was headed to town. I'd grabbed a paper on the way in - which I had completely read by the time I got off, at Whitechapel. Long way - I was glad I'd got a seat, from an obliging gent who got up for me. At Whitechapel, I went down the stairs - ironically - for the Overground; the one I wanted, Northbound, handily left from the same platform I came out on.

One stop later, I was in Shoreditch. Turn left from the station, then right on the main road, and you can just about see the bottom of the Rich Mix sign, on the left. This is a place I've thought of coming to many times, but never have before. First confusion was the large, glass sliding door.. when I finally figured out which end opened, I could go in and queue for my ticket. Well, stamp on the wrist actually. The actual concert wasn't starting till 8.30, it transpired, and with it not yet 8, I headed for the cafe to the other side of the lobby - I was starving. No dinner, y'see.

First thing I saw was an ice cream stall, with a chap choosing flavours. Salvation! I had a couple of scoops - mint choc & whit choc. And boy, were they welcome - served by a friendly woman who was good enough to take my ice cream back while I got my change back in my bag. I took a seat, had my ice cream, and by the time I was finished, the "main space" was open and I headed in, having a cursory check of my wrist stamp as I did so.

It's essentially a large-ish, pretty empty room. Stage to the right, mixing desk to the left. There are tables in front of the stage, which were already thronged, although the doors can't have been open that long. Although the group organiser had said there'd be a Meetup sign on the table.. there wasn't. A number of people later commented the same on the Meetup page - not that I could access the internet on my phone from there, it seems to be BT only. Now, I headed first to the bar (immediately to your right as you come in) and I do think I spied the Meetup table as I did so. If that was it, there was no space anyway - and when I had my drink (in a plastic container) I headed straight for the other side of the room, where I nabbed the comfiest seat in the house. In a room full of folding chairs, I had the sofa..

So there I sat, musing that I like this place. I even had a table beside me to leave my drink on - until someone grabbed it to sit on! There was a lack of chairs, and someone working there was in a flurry of bringing them from a back room until a supervisor told her she didn't need to bother, that a lot of people preferred to stand anyway.

In due course, someone came on to introduce the band. And my heart sank. For goodness' sake, he was talking about their "mission of world peace" and they even had a wee film, filled with smiling people, mostly children, in what looked like third-world environments. With a naff voiceover. And how they meant to achieve world peace? By - um - forming a whopping great band, filled with people from different continents. Jeez, U2 does more for world peace, but not even Bono pontificates like this!

And so the band finally trooped on, and my heart sank further. There were so many of them, they had trouble fitting them all - never mind mics and instruments. And when the music finally started, it just struck me as a cacophony. I recognise this type of thing from Irish trad music - a band formed of, seemingly, every passing musician, trouble fitting them on stage, and just playing a rambling piece that gives enough time that everyone can do a solo. Catchy enough, but you definitely don't get the feeling that everyone on stage is needed. I gave them two songs, finished my drink and left. I could have got the Overground back at that time, but the bus is cheaper, so I proceeded with my original plan. It wasn't long till the bus came, and I got home eventually - a three-hour evening, 20 minutes of which was spent listening to music. And when I got home, it was to a flatmate newly arrived to London and wanting local info. While my dinner went cold before I got a chance to eat it. By the time I eventually got it eaten, it was, again, too late to blog.

Yesterday, the plan was to go to a film. Unfortunately, I hadn't had much time to consider my film list, and by the time I got it finished, it was too late to go to anything! (Would've been The Martian.. bummer, the very one I wanted to go to.) And, guess what? Too late to blog!

So here we are, and it's Thursday. And tonight, I'm headed to Spem in Alium, in St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, with the London European Club. Nice that they're doing my kind of stuff now! Meeting in the Silver Cross beforehand for dinner/drinks. Tomorrow, I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.. on Saturday, we're off to Glór to see Regina Nathan in concert. On Monday, I'm back - at last - with the Let's Do London - for less! group, to see the Barber of Seville at the Coliseum. Upper Circle - it's always nice not to have to climb all the way to the balcony, in this extremely high theatre. For Tuesday, I got a cheap ticket for a play called Moments, in the Drayton Arms - honestly, chosen because it was the closest option. And on Wednesday, I'm back with Let's Do London - for less! again, for Carmen, at the Opera House.