Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oxford for Electric Six

Saturday 14 March 2009

We took the train to Oxford, famous for being one of the two most well known university towns in the UK. Owing to a momentarily lapse of stupidity, I left our camera on the train and it was swiftly whisked away, despite numerous calls to lost property in Wales (as that was where the train was heading) it was never seen again, but at least there were no photos on it. Despite the loss of camera (we had a second one at home) I was able to snap a few photos with my mobile and all was not lost.

The reason for coming to Oxford was to see the American band Electric Six, who are simply brilliant with their witty and humorous music which is a mix of rock, disco and a dash of synthesiser thrown in for good measure. It was also a great opportunity to marvel at the architectural style of Oxford and generally just soak up the culture and history of the town.

Prior to seeing the band, we took a look around Oxford and took a bus tour with commentary, followed by a walking tour - the tour guide, Stuart, had a wonderful name...I mean, was a fantastic guide and allowed us access into a number of the university colleges, both inside and out, as well as one college's chapel.

Architecture spotting from the bus

One of the colleges

Inside the college

Nice ceiling...

Pretty as a picture

The chairs look a little hard though!

More pictures

He looks like John Lithgow...

One for the fans of the latest series of Dexter

Inside the chapel

In this particular chapel, only men were allowed (as it was a male college) and the wife of the dean was only allowed to attend a service in a walled off section of the chapel. Oh, how times have changed!

A flagstone in the chapel

I can't read Latin, but it appears to be something about glorious resurrection

We also were able to wander through some of the gardens along with the obligatory 'keep off the grass' signs.

Keep off that grass Sha!

In fact, we were asked at one particular college what the Queen and the college gardener there had in common. One plucky walker said "Uh, they both have corgis?" to which the tour guide burst out laughing. Apparently, it is because they are the only two people who were allowed on the grass in the courtyard. We learnt that the Queen owns all the swans in England and is the only one allowed to eat them! Visions of the Queen with a bloody swan hanging from her mouth, jumping up and down on the grass filled our heads.

Strike a pose

Archways are always interesting

An intriguing alleyway

Some good looking towers


It was mid term break while we were here which meant that the majority of students were being picked up by their parents and were loading their cars up with everything they needed to keep themselves entertained over the couple of weeks they had off.

Student stealing a speaker

Looks like his Dad is in on the action as well!

Student stealing a bike

After our walking tour we caught up with a FileMaker guy, Ben and his partner Monica for a tasty fish and chips lunch at a local pub, the White Horse.

Since being over here, I have really started to gain an appreciation for cask ale - all the stories about British beer being flat and warm is simply not true. Sure, there are some cheap and nasty beers but there are a number of yummy cask ales too and they are far preferable to drinking lager, well at least in my humble opinion.

After lunch, we proceeded to have a wee wander around by ourselves to see what else we could spy.

More cool buildings

And another

A crest from one of the houses within a college

And another crest

Oxford Library

This library has a copy of EVERY book ever published in the UK

A tall steeple

After popping in on a little studenty pub down a couple of tight alleyways, we headed for our accommodation, checked in, ate a small dinner of nibbley bits from the supermarket as we were still feeling full from lunch and then headed back out to the gig. Oxford is (obviously) a very student focused town and there was no shortage of drinking in the street en-route to more exciting venues. I think there was a bit of fancy dress going on as well, due to it being mid term break.

After arriving at the gig, we were confronted by the support band, which were doing metal covers of disco songs. I can't recall the band's name, but they were very unique and a couple of them were wearing classic white disco suits. Strange to hear a hard metal version of Stayin' Alive! I love seeing a band that doesn't take itself too seriously and also enjoys what they do, and this was clearly in evidence.

Following on from the support act, the main event - Electric Six - lived up to their name and were as good as when we had seen them in Wellington a few years ago. I was a little taken aback at their first couple of songs as the lead singer seemed to be having trouble getting into the swing of things. Not to worry, as after a song or two, he picked up the pace and the crowd were spellbound. On another note, this was the first gig I had ever been to where they had cigarette girls...girls dressed glamour style holding trays with packets of cigarettes - I thought this was the noughties, not the 1930's!

The following day we headed back to London as we had a date to see a whole lot of sliced up bodies preserved in plastic…but that’s a story for another day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Greenwich Observatory

Uh, so, yeah, as you may recall Sha and I live in London and we have been blogging about our experiences. Well, I have become rather slack on the updating front (as I am sure you will know) and really haven't done much of it lately. Nonetheless, I will do a few 'quick fire' rapid posts to try and bring us forward to the present day. I may have more chance of eating my own face, but hey, at least I can say "I tried" (and failed).

Sunday, March the 8th 2009

Sha and I headed to Greenwich where we met Perraine and Heather for a coffee (milky) at a cafe in Greenwich park. Actually, the coffee was slightly better than the rest of the crud that masquerades as coffee over here, so that was something. Heather then headed off back home to do some work on some illustrations she was working on while Perraine, Sha and I went down to Greenwich and did a walking tour with a guide who gave us a lot of history (and through a very thick accent). As this was over 8 months ago, I can't remember the finer details, except that I am pretty sure I enjoyed myself and that the name of the ship the
Cutty Sark was derived from something quite rude involving naked witches dancing around a house (or church?) which they had set on fire. This was a long time ago. Oh, and would you believe it, you can read all about it on the Wikipedia page linked to above.

After the walking tour we headed up to the Greenwich Observatory and watched a 30 minute show called Invaders From Mars, with the deep booming voice of
Tom Baker narrating. Gotta love Tom! That was quite a unique experience, lying back on the seats on the Observatory and looking up to see what settling Mars may be like in the future. It was so comfortable that Sha actually dozed off for a minute. Right - now for some pictures.

Thames Underpass Walkway

By going through this walkway you can actually walk under the Thames and exit on the Isle of Dogs - from there, just a quick walk to Canary Wharf. You can see the exit point in the distance.

The Admiral Hardy Pub

The last man that Lord Nelson ever kissed...

Greenwich Observatory

You can't see them, but there are little spikes all over the ledges to prevent those damn pesky pigeons from landing.

A big red ball at Greenwich Observatory

The ball is raised just before 1pm and at exactly 1pm it is dropped. It was used by ships in Thames as a method of synchronising their time pieces (the hill of the observatory can be clearly seen from the Thames).

Another interesting part of the Observatory

All for the moment, but over the coming days I'll put up photos of our trip to Oxford and a few of the other interesting things we did in March.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Little Shop of Horrors & Vampires Rock

Sat 28 Feb/Sun 1 Mar 2009

A very musical weekend - we saw Little Shop of Horrors in Wimbledon (yes where the Wombles live) on Saturday and Vampires Rock on Sunday. Both were fantastic.

Prior to seeing Little Shop of Horrors (a
matinée no less!) we had a forage at a market in Wimbledon which has a working watermill. Had a yummy pizza lunch and bottle of red wine at an Italian restaurant too.

A nice brick pub/cafe

Mmmm, bread and bricks

Sha, wine...just waiting for the pizza

I did a sort of (Doctor Who focused) review of Little Shop of Horrors here and I can't really explain Vampires Rock except it was a musical. With lots of covers of rock songs (think Queen, Meatloaf, Kiss, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol). And Vampires. It also had Toyah Willcox. With characters such as Baron Von Rockula, The Devil Queen, Pandora Rosie Box and Stringfellow, it sounds like the ravings of a madman with the mental age of a 12 year old, but it really is a simply fantastic evening - a load of fun, music, comedy and vampires. Did I mention the vampires?

I managed to snap a photo of Sha with Toyah just before we left:

Vampires Rock video

And here's Toyah doing School's Out

Oh go on, one more...Rebel Yell

I think you all get the idea! Anyway, if you get the chance to see Vampires Rock, do so - you won't regret it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mmmmm, Monster Munch

One good thing about living in the UK is that they have brought back the perennial favourite crisp (or chips if Antipodean), 'Monster Munch'. As a kid, I absolutely loved these yummy delivery mechanisms of salty goodness.

Anyway, I seem to recall that some of these flavours may not have been available in New Zealand, but there were a few others such as Bacon as well as Cheese and Onion. I really had to go to a lot of trouble to get hold of the Roast Beef flavour over here - while all the shops seem to stock Pickled Onion and Flamin' Hot, Roast Beef is a little harder to come by (oddly enough, it was in Bristol that I found it). Oddly enough, they actually do taste like the flavours they are emulating! Isn't food technology amazing? Until it gives us cancer I suppose.

There were also number of TV adverts which may stir some memories?

and this one: