Monday, 24 August 2009

V2009 - Day One

Through a totally unnecessary "Day of the Jackal" style operation, I dismantled my Nikon D700 camera and lens in order to smuggle it into this years V music festival. Unnecessary, as the security checks were minimal to say the least. It was worth it though, for I discovered that when moving through the crowd any initial resistance crumbled away once they caught sight of the beast.

With such a large camera held at head height and just in front of me, people assumed that I was there on official business. They were not only stepping out of the way but getting their friends to do the same. From above it must have looked like Moses parting the Red Sea. This worked fine as long as they did not ask the age old questions :-

"Are you a professional photographer?"

and before I can answer...

"Who do you work for?"

Letting people think I'm a professional is one thing but I can't bring myself to actively lie to them.....

As the Red Sea parted, one young lady accused me
of having a 'perv' lens. I looked her up and down
and assured her she was perfectly safe from this
'perv lens', as it had much more interesting things
to take...


Not my best photo but a good demonstration
of what you get when some drunken festival
goer insists you take their photo in the
middle of a crowd. Trying to explain to
him that the camera is set up to take
pictures over 20 feet away, is a bit like
attempting to explain to a hysterical five year
old that you ate their chocolate bar to save
them from obesity..... In the end I just took
the photo. As Mrs B pointed out, he didn't
really want to see.* He just wanted his soul
captured for posterity.

* To be honest he was so far drunk it probably
would have looked in focus to him if he had
bothered to look, rather then swaying off through
the crowd...


The artists in the order which we saw them on Saturday 22nd August at Hylands Park Chelmsford :-

Starsailor
A nice start to the day but found it a little sad that such a great band as Starsailor should make such an early appearance in the day. At least they were on the main stage though...

James Walsh - Lead singer of Starsailor


Bassist James Stelfox


Noisettes
Good entertainers, if a little scary. Impressed to see Shingai playing a guitar.
Shingai Shoniwa the lead singer
and bassist with the Noisettes.
She's a little intimidating, so
I'm glad that I did not get that close
to the front.



Jet
Jet - Australian rockers who
did not impress Mrs B. The best thing
about them was having a bunch of
Australians in front of us as they got
thrashed in the cricket. Harsh but fair.


Lily Allen
I like Lily but wish she would stop smoking on stage. It's not big, it's not clever. While I'm at it, what's the point in playing with the Wha Wha machine? It's not a musical instrument and just goes to highlight that Lily can't play one. While not the best voice in the world I love her lyrics and combined with the music it makes for a good show.
Lily appears to be floating on air as she
celebrates her spot on the main stage


Is that Miss Allen sporting Lady Gaga style
face make up. No wait didn't Lady Gaga nick
that off Bowie.....?


Specials

The Specials brought back a few memories of the
80's. Happy to report that Terry Hall, the lead
singer, is still as miserable as ever.


The Wino joins the Specials on stage. Rather
odd that whenever she is booked for a concert
she invariably fails to make it. Which makes
me suspect she was either late for last year's
V or early for the next one....


Razorlight

Johnny Borrel takes the Razorlight boys through
anther great performance. One of my highlights
of the day.



The later the artists' slot, the harder it is to get
good photographs. Not only does the light go but
the crowd gets well, "crowdier". I guess a lot of
the people are still comatose in the early part
off the day,resurfacing only as darkness falls.



Fatboy Slim
The worst thing about a big music festival is
when you have a clash of two bands, that you want to see,
appearing at the same time. The big
dilemma of the day for us was, should we see
Fat Boy Slim or The Killers?



Having seen the Killers previously and Mrs B
having a hankering to listen to some of those
Fat Boy sounds, the choice was made.



From my point of view it didn't turn out to be the
best. I loved the light show and the few tracks
that he played off his albums. Unfortunately
the rest of the set appeared to be a moronic
repetitive beat. [Mrs B "But that's what he does!!!"]Still Norman seemed to enjoy
himself.


Some of the faces in the crowd
I'm trying to work out if this guy had had too much to
drink or wether he was just sick of the music.



Some enterprising "ladies" decided to
wheel a tea trolley through the crowds.
I'm not sure they sold enough tea to
make it worthwhile…


Why stay in and watch the V festival on TV
when you can bring your living room with you...


This fan truly has stars in his eyes


I suspect Katy Perry might
be missing a shower cap.


Fortunately the Swine Flu symptoms were easy to spot.


Crowd surfing Essex style...


And that was just Saturday, tune in next time for Sunday...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

If a picture paints a thousand words......

....Then I fear you readers are in trouble as this weeks BlackLOG has gone all pictorial on us.....

We start off with U2 at Wembley Stadium.

For some reason U2 have decided to take
a Giant Sea-slug and stretch it over a
pommel horse. I'm just glad they failed
to find a huge gymnast to go with it.


As you can see, our seats were not that
close to the stage. Thankfully the live
sound quality was brilliant (almost like
being at a Britney concert but without
the bit where she attempts to sing one of
her songs live. Oh and with decent music.)


I never thought I would say it but I love
the new Wembley Stadium. It's just like
being at an intimate gig with only 87,999
other people watched through the wrong end
of a high powered telescope


I would like to apologise to our friends Craig and Mala. When I said that I would drive, I forgot to mention that we would have to park the other side of London. I think it took us longer to walk back to the car than the 35 mile drive back home. For the record if we had gone home by tube we would probably still be in the queue.... A final note on a brilliant evening - Mala and Craig had totally different opinions on travelling home in the back of ElleGee, with the roof down. Craig was like a dog with his head hanging out of the window, loving every second. I just hope he did not catch too many flies on his tongue. Mala on the other hand spent most of the trip with her head under a blanket and proclaimed it to be the worst journey she had ever had. So truly a split decision...

Triathlon training in Southwold
Well almost. We splashed about in wet-suits for a bit and failed to run or cycle. Got some nice pictures though....Next BlackLOG I'll run you through the gadgets that I have got for training which are going to fail to get us through the event.

What it says on the box....


It looks like the owner only managed to sell
the bottom half of their house


How strange. An inland Lighthouse - it's
probably why Southwold is so prosperous,
luring unsuspecting ships onto the beach...


I love these coloured garden sheds on the
beach. I just wonder how much they cost?


Only the English No.1 - Could any other
nation produce such wonderful people? For
the record just like Scott of the Antarctic
they fell short of reaching their goal - The
beach was just another 50 metres further on.
I think you will agree it was a brave effort
though.



We were going to buy one but they did not have
the colour we were after......



Only the English No.2 - This pair got even
closer to the beach and then got distracted
by an overgrown bush. What a riveting
afternoon they must have had.


By popular demand (i.e a couple of people requested) some more shots from Sicily

Odd shaped tomatoes, certianly look good in the photo.


Our niece Trinity looking through
the market stalls


Fresh squid and prawns


Big sis relaxing at the villa


The Sicilian version of Del Boy - Everything
on his stall was No.1 quality in Sicily,
unfortunately for him he offered me a taste
of his No.1 sun dried tomatoes - they were
like strips of leather not sure about sun
dried, more like nuclear blasted....


Sicilian parking - yes the black car is parked!!!


The boy can fly I tell you...


The arch of a Sicilian church


Like a lost scene out of the Alien
film, the crew burst fourth from the
belly of the pool


All photo's taken with my Nikon D700 - except the ones at U2 (it's a bit unsubtle to try and sneak in a full SLR camera with a 70-200 zoom lens) . We are off to the V music festival this weekend, so expect more photos next week fingers crossed I can get the D700 through the security (they activly encourage camera use, but it's not clear if that just means the small point and shoot ones ....

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sicily part 2 - yes we made it....

It was clear that not many English had made it to the particular part of Sicily that we were staying in.  We were accused of being Polish, Russki and even Yanks but not once English. It’s also a novel experience being in a place where hardly any English is spoken. This adds an exciting new edge to ordering food in restaurants. I’m not sure if the locals are simply really bad at acting out food charades or if they take great delight in fooling us into eating the most unexpected items possible. I’m not 100% certain but I think we might have eaten (well been served anyway) swordfish testicles. Hmmm, keep those coming while I just pop off and evacuate the rest of my dinner……For once, even my tried and trusted "speak louder in a funny foreign accent" mode of communicating failed me. I guess people have to have some understanding of basic English for this to work.
The Sicilian version of smoked fish.....

Accommodation
It was great with air conditioning that almost worked in every room and an entertainment system that built up gradually over the holiday, so we didn't get over excited from the start. The villa's particulars had promised a DVD player and satellite TV.  It turned out that the DVD player did not work and the owner had taken the satellite receiver with them. My sister mentioned this to the management company and on day two a new DVD player arrived. Day three and the satellite receiver arrived but we could only get a couple of Italian channels as they had not included the Sky satellite card. Day four and the satellite card arrived which gave us access to basic Sky services.  I had hoped that more channels would appear over time but alas that was our lot. Still, it gave the kids something to do when they came out of the pool. It's funny, you can't seem to get kids near water when it comes down to washing, bathing, showering etc but a bit of chlorine and insect infested water and you can't get them out of it for days.......
The local beach was not huge but it was certainly well used

Sicilian driving
Impressive in a "I can’t believe there are not more wrecks at the side of the road" kind of way. The driving style varies from "Fast with no give way",  to "Ultra slow (almost slow motion)". This latter style is in general when the Sicilians are on their phones and are expending so much energy on hand gestures and high volume speaking that they don’t have anything left to push down on the accelerator. They don’t worry about looking before pulling out into moving traffic (they are, after all, too busy in mid conversation to worry about mundane things such as the highway code. If an Italian version exists I expect it consists of the following – “Do what you like as long as you don’t hit anything” I suspect the following amendment may have also been added – “If you really must hit something make sure it's a tourist). They just drift out slowly and continue at a snail's pace, while vehicles all around screech to a halt with horns blaring (the Sicilians never miss an opportunity to announce their presence with a cacophony of horns) or other motorists are forced to drive into the oncoming traffic.  Once their phone call has concluded they just put their foot down and immediately re-join the rest of the mad throng, without heed to anything around them. I was particularly impressed with the motor bike that shot past us on a narrow winding road. The rider then slowed dramatically as he appeared to be trying to take off his tight fitting jeans. Fortunately he was not bike stripping but trying to fish his phone out from his pocket. We slowly followed him for 20 minutes as he weaved precariously all over the road, hand gesturing with both hands at times. Then just at the point where I thought I was going to have to nudge him off the road he abruptly concluded his phone call and then shot off at high speed. I saw a couple of police speed traps along the roadside but I’m sure they were just for handing out medals for the most erratic driving (or that could possibly read erotic if you count stripping motorcyclists).

Mafia
Not much sign of the Mafia in what is purported to be their spiritual home, unless you count the Mozzie Mafia who took every opportunity to suck every last drop of blood from us. I don't even remember borrowing any money from them or getting a visit offering us protection. We tried sacrificing my sister's children to their merciless biting but they seemed to like their meat to be on the more mature side. I'm not sure what the Mozzie Mafia equivalent of a horse's head in the bed is (think the Godfather) but we did find a half-drowned bat in the swimming pool one morning. Not sure what message that was sending us other than "Time to clean the pool". For those of you worried about the rat on wings he appears to have survived the ordeal - it must have only been a warning for him as his little legs were not encased in concrete blocks. Fortunately the villa had a huge cave underneath which not only acted as a garage but also came in handy as a bat recovery station. Please note I'm only guessing that batty survived as when I returned to check on his progress he was gone. I was a bit suspicious about the cat that was sitting on the spot where I had left him, licking its lips but put that down to coincidence.......
I think the Mozzie Mafia ran out of horses heads

Triathlon Training
As Mrs B has signed us up for a triathlon and these were two crucial weeks in the intensive training schedule that we were busily avoiding, we decided we had better take running gear and wetsuits with us. Since we did not own wetsuits and I had found some reasonably priced ones on the internet I had ordered them for next day delivery.  They arrived as promised but unfortunately my Large suit proved too small for me (I have broad shoulders and am sticking to that excuse). Since the supplier was only based around 40 miles away I decided to make the trip to change it. Rather embarrassingly I ended up with an XL (Please remember the large shoulders, any excess that appears around my middle I’m putting down to additional material to accommodate them…….) Fortunately Mrs B’s suit fitted perfectly.

Cycle training - not happening as there are no bikes to hire nearby – not the end of the world as we do quite a bit of cycling so should be no problem…..

Running – The first 800 metres of the first day's run went really well and then my calf muscle tightened (the one that I hurt racing a small dog in Canada last year. I should have known that would come back and haunt me).
This has resulted in me power walking rather than running. Mrs B seems to be doing well and as long as I turf her out of bed around seven she is off like a grey hound with arthritis that has been attached to a stone block – leaving any later than 7:30am and it gets too hot to do anything other than a pathetic shuffle.  My subsequent attempts to run have led to an ever decreasing return as the leg now gives way after about 200m. Deep joy.

Swimming – This is going to sound pathetic but my bike crash in Wales a few weeks back had left me with muscle problems in my upper arms. Even short swims were leaving me in agony that I can only describe as being like an attack of the bends (True I have never suffered an attack of the bends but it was what I imagine it would be like if I had).  Having dragged the wetsuits with us I was determined that we would use them at least once.  I tried it in the Villa's swimming pool but it was so warm it was like being boiled alive in a straight jacket. The decision was made that we would have to find a secluded cove and do some covert wetsuit training.

The saving grace has been that Lisa, my sister's neighbour who came with us, is a trained massage therapist and has been nursing me through the worst of my aches and pains. She is probably why I can still move. So for poor old Lisa it turned into a bit of a Busman’s holiday.

For those of you feeling generous Mrs B's and my own, pitiful, Triathlon efforts are up for sponsorship. The Charity is run by HSBC and aiming to rebuild a school and orphanage in India for under privileged kids.

If you would like to sponsor one or both of us then please use the following links

BlackLOG

Mrs B

I told you those triathlon starts can be brutal


That's it for Sicily,  there is a lot of other stuff that went down on the holiday but I've had a gagging order placed on me - I will try and take the opportunity to leak these out in future BlackLOGs

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Sicily - part one

Since I've returned from relaxing holiday in the sun I've made a resolution to go easy on you guys and to try and keep the Blogs relatively short. In the spirit of this I have split the Sicily Blog into bite-size chunks. The unfortunate side effect of this, when combined with my normal wittering, is that we don't actually make it to Sicily in the first instalment......

No real drama on the way to the airport other than a 40 mile tailback on the good old M25 - We managed to avoid this by going into London and it would have been plain sailing if I had not decided to check on the route back for our friend Kirsty, who was not only on cat feeding duties but also got press ganged into dropping us at the airport (Kirsty does get to drive ElleGee for her sins but to be honest, from what I heard about the weather*, the "top down" opportunities** have been few and far between).  I found out the route was clear for Kirsty's journey home. Shortly after this Tom-Tom instructed us to leave the route we were on. I assumed there was more trouble ahead and instructed Kirsty to turn off the motorway. Just as she did I remembered I had not reset the destination to Gatwick Airport and Tom-Tom was therefore trying to take us home. Doh! Fortunately it was quite easy to get back on track and we only lost a couple of minutes. If we had been pushed for time, however, I'm sure we would have been at one of those junctions that ended up adding half an hour to the journey. Sensibly Kirsty ignored any further instructions from me after that and we got safely deposited to Gatwick Airport. Unlike Nafman, our previous Sat-nav system, the Tom-Tom seems to work pretty well and generally only has problems when user error creeps in. Like the time it tried to take me to Suffolk when I was attempting to drop a friend off at Euston station. It turns out that when I had typed in Euston to Nafman, I had inadvertently selected the Suffolk village rather than the London train station. (In my defence it did have the picture of a station-like building next to the name Euston. The building certainly did not look like it belonged in a small Suffolk Village.)

* What can I say? You don't expect hailstones in Bishops Stortford in July. I think even I would have been reluctant to have had the roof down.

** ElleGee's not Kirsty's  -  It's not that kind of Blog (That will probably see the loss of half the existing readership)

I also managed to have a huge fight with Tom-Tom on the Thursday before we came out to Sicily. I was returning from a business trip to Berlin and was using Tom-Tom to check for any traffic problems. It kept trying to take me off the motorway and even worse was telling me that the journey which normally takes just over an hour was going to take 20 hours. Without Mrs B in the car I took the opportunity to use some choice words, I can tell you.  I carried on the motorway route and although there were lots of roadworks there was no sign of any real problems. Tom-Tom, however, continued to take every opportunity to tempt me off the Motorway. It was only when I reset the machine, when I got home, that I realised that I had accidentally selected the "walk" mode, which accounted for the 20 hours predicted travel time as well as Tom-Tom's futile attempts to take the stupid (if somewhat fast-moving) pedestrian off the motorway (I thought these machines were meant to have an in-built intelligence? If it can work out a route checking millions of different roads in minutes  - at least that's what it informs me it is doing, while I wait for it to plot my journey - could it not work out that the pedestrian was going a bit over the average walking pace of, let's say, 4 miles an hour by around 2000%? In my book, anyone who can walk at 80 miles an hour should be welcome to use the motorway*** and probably be drafted into the GB Olympic team for the 2012 Olympics .....While I did not actually say sorry to Tom-Tom I did feel a tad guilty for the torrent of verbal abuse he received. It's just as well he has not got special parrot-like abilities to repeat choice phrases - I suspect Mrs B might have been having a word or two in my shell like if he did.

*** Let's face it, that's faster than most lorries, caravans and Volvo drivers go.

My sister had, as usual, got to the airport hours early and was already moving the tribe around the Duty free area like Moses taking the Israelites through the desert. I think they were on their 10th rotation of the shops and had eaten about three meals by the time we arrived (another few hours and they would have qualified for lost in translation status). Considering the relentless pace she was driving them around the airport, the kids and my sister's friend Lisa were still in good spirits, holiday excitement kicking in to cover the pain of early arrival.

Tune in next week to see how we get on for the rest of the holiday. In an attempt to draw you back and to try and make the Blog sound more exciting than it probably is I can promise you it will contain details of :-

The Mozzie Mafia;

My thoughts on Italian driving; and

Our attempts to train, in the scorching Sicilian heat, for the Triathlon that Mrs B rather foolishly signed us up for.....

To end this week I promised Douglas (from the US) that I would show some video from the last BlackLOG demonstraiting Zip wiring - So please stepforward Mrs B and show us how it's done. For those with fear of heights look away now...

video