Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Three giggings and a show-eral

It’s been a bit hectic since our return from skiing with the following events all in quick succession:

Kylie – O2
The Pigeon Detectives – Cambridge Junction
The Feeling – Heaven
The Children’s Hour – Comedy Theatre

That’s without taking into account a trip up to Lincolnshire to help celebrate our friend Hugh’s 50th birthday

Can I make this clear from the outset?  Going to see Kylie was Mrs B’s idea, after our friends Lisa (Tourettes Girl) and Phil (Daddy Duck) had mentioned they were going.  While I can tolerate Kylie and even have some of her music, I just can’t see past her as the girl next door (all be it one with a very nice bum…..Hmmm can’t think of any neighbours who get even close on that front - certainly not Madge Bishop or Mrs Mangle, although a certain Charlene Mitchell probably runs her close*). Now I’m not saying she doesn’t have a certain amount of talent, in a “singing karaoke style and dancing like your favourite arthritic granny” way…..Yet I am clearly in the minority.  The O2 was full of her adoring, tone deaf, fear of fast movement, fans.

* Please note this a Neighbours in-joke, which (not being a fan) I had to rely on Wikipedia to fill in the details….Honest. 

Now I can’t fault the actual stage show, with its camp Roman-Greco  theme, which was amazing.  Our Italian friend Vinny (a last minute substitute for our Indian friend Mala) asked me :-

Vinny :- “Whyy  arrre there soo maany semi-naked men on de stage?”

Me :- “You’re kidding me?”

Vinny :- “…and soo maany men holdin de hands in de audience?”

Me :- “Didn’t you realise that Kylie is a huge gay Icon?”

Vinny :- “Nooooo…. ….Mala never told me thees 

He went quiet for a while after that….if he was shocked at Kylie’s fan base it is just as well he didn’t come to see the Scissor Sisters, who have a much more radical and proactive gay following…. 

The stage and production was in truth 100% Las Vegas style over the top brilliance and while the Kylster was off stage, undergoing one of her many costume changes, the dancers got to athletically strut their stuff …..until Kylie tottered back on stage.  It was as if clear treacle had been poured onto the dancers and they slowed down to match Kylie’s pedestrian pace.  While this proved less than impressive from a visual perspective,  it had an unexpected benefit,  especially when combined with Kylie’s constant need to be in the spotlight.  It  made for some terrific photo opportunities.  At times it was like being in a well-lit studio with the opportunity to take still life pictures…. You can judge for yourself in the Photo finish section….  

The big question of the day was what time would Mrs B make the show?  Her previous record is halfway through the main act , when she only got to see 50% of the Hoosiers….In an early indication, I was informed that there was a bit of a panic on at work but since the absolute final dead line was 10pm to get something out the door she had hopes she would at least catch a bit of the show…
The clock is ticking - Mrs B’s desk is about 10 mins from the O2 (OK, 15 minutes - Mrs B has short legs)

Mrs B’s text message – “Is she on yet?”

Me text message – “No”


Mrs B’s text message – “Is she on yet?”

Me text message – “Just come on”


Mrs B’s text message - “Is she still on?”

Me text message – “Yes”


Me text message – “Would you like me to pick you up?”

Mrs B’s text message – “Yes, please…Sorry.”

So Mrs B didn’t even get to see the human fountain that was Kylie’s triumphant finale.

Just as well I had a confused Vinnie, Lisa and Phil to keep me company, although they were less than impressed in my failure to fall under their heroine’s beguiling spell. I just hope Mrs B does not want to go to the next Kylie show, I’m not sure I could take it and I’m not sure Vinnie would agree to be a substitute for a second time….

Pigeon Detectives
A Tuesday night in Cambridge, so absolutely no chance of Mrs B making it. So Joe (Stunt Cock) took on the role of keeping me company. Even at the tender age of 23 I think he felt a bit old, with much of the audience being made up of what looked like the remnants of a school trip…. the ones that get left at the school gates because their parents have enjoyed the quiet life while they have been away and could not be bothered to pick them up again afterwards. The more forward-thinking parents even took the opportunity to move house without leaving a forwarding address….

For those of you with good memories,  the Pigeon Detectives were the group we tried to see in December, when they were supporting James.  We failed to see them when we got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam (probably the good people of Brixton attempting to get away from James) and got to hear just the final chord of their set and caught a glimpse of the backs of their heals as they exited to rapturous applause.  That chord sounded so good that I was determined to try and see them again as soon as possible, and I’m glad that I did. 

The lead singer Matt Bowman is fairly manic and almost shouts the lyrics  but he did his own version of the Kylie Fountain finale, which was about 1 millionth** of the cost (one bottle of water 99p, then think  fire-eater only without the flame) but almost as effective.  In these austere times of economic belt-tightening it’s difficult to argue against it, unless you get very picky  and stomp off down the health and safety route, playing the unhygienic card….

** Yes I know you have told me a million times to stop exaggerating

The Feeling
At last I managed to winkle Mrs B out of work at a semi-sensible hour, even having time for a quick bite to eat.  We sacrificed seeing the support act but from the few minutes we saw of him it was no great loss…

Heaven is a great venue, situated under the arches of Charing Cross Station and ordinarily a little small for a group like the Feeling, but having been on a break for a few years they were taking the opportunity to try out some new songs from  their forthcoming album.  As a reward they also played a number of  their old favourites….for £15 a ticket this has to be one of the bargains of the year…  The only down side, a bit of a disaster from a photographic point of view as the performance seemed to be mainly back lit – not something you can complain about when strictly speaking you should probably not actually be taking pictures…..  

The Children’s Hour
Starring Kiera Knightly and Elisabeth Moss (Zoey Bartlet in the West Wing and Peggy Olson in Madmen). This certainly puts to bed the rumour that KK can’t act or that she vanishes when seen (or should that be unseen) side on….The play heavily relies on the audience having a sense of righteous anger at the injustice metered out to two women,  Karen (Keira) and Martha (Elisabeth) who set up and run a girls’ boarding school in 1930s New England. One of their students, Mary (Bryony Hannah in things I have never heard of before) is a truly detestable diminutive sphere of nastiness, who I genuinely loathed from almost the moment she sauntered onto the stage. I hope for Bryony’s sake she is a good actress and she is not just Ray Winstoning it (i.e. just playing herself…) I have come across way too many manipulative people in my life to have any sympathy for any of them – although McG can be quite manipulative when he wants a head rub but he is so cute when he does it (except when it is 3am and he gets his claw accidently trapped in my nostril….)  

I can honestly say my sense of injustice went through the roof. Although much of this was not down to the plot line or acting skills but more to do with smoking, yes smoking on stage in an indoor venue….Sitting in the second row, while great for seeing the expressions of the actor and being showered with bits of broken pottery (Life is so unfair, Mrs B gets covered in Rob Lowe spit while I get broken pottery….Where was my KK spittle???) but paying a small fortune to be immersed  in clouds of smoke (even if some of it was KK smoke***) is not my idea of fun. 

*** Sorry KK as beautiful as you are, as a smoker you and I have no future….…No young lady, crying doesn’t work on me, you should have thought about that before doing your ‘Ivor the Engine’ impression  in my face…. In fact I even withdraw my previous request for your tobacco-stained spittle….

Although I have never smoked, having spent what seems like most of my childhood trapped in a smoke-filled car****, a result of my mother being the original Fag Ash Lil***** I may as well have. This has left me with an anti-smoking zeal equal to and perhaps beyond those of a reformed smoker.  To paraphrase the great Adam Ant “Don’t drink, don’t smoke what do I do?” Apparently I moan a lot about smoking….I guess I’m not so worried about you drinkers as long as you follow three simple rules, don’t run me down, throw up on me or call me in for an intimate conversation and then burp alcoholic fumes in my face….Not necessarily in that order….   

**** My father only compounded the problem by insisting on going everywhere at a steady 55mph, as he experimented with fuel economy.  The result was more of my life trapped in the smoke-filled environment, about 1p a year saved in fuel cost and choruses of “Oh Dad can’t we go any faster?” “Are we there yet?” “Are we there yet?” from my sister and me in the back seat…We had learned years before not to bother asking Mother to stop smoking, as this would only result in her wafting even more smoke in our general direction when she turned around to tell us “No she couldn’t….”  

***** She still claims today that she never inhales, just puffs on the damn thing, which rather un-settlingly left the rest of us to do the inhaling for her…. 

I understand smoking is allowed in a West End play if it is deemed  essential to the plot but I fail to see how it was essential for this particular play.  Yes the play is set in the 1930’s but I’m pretty sure that it is not essential to see chain smoking to work this out….If the play was about lung cancer then I guess you could put an argument for it…

While I’m at it are they trying to snigger behind our backs ….?  A story about the ruination of people, through lies,  being performed at the Comedy Theatre…?  As good a play as it was (well, what I could see of it  through the billowing smoke that is), it was hardly going to be a bundle of laughs…..

Some leftover’s from last week

Shouted by Tourettes girl, from the  chairlift “Oh my god there’s a one-legged skier down there….”

Cannonball – “Yes but it looks like he has two perfectly good ears….”

The almost surprise present....
Before we went skiing Mrs B and I had popped into a local jewellers to sort out a present for Tourettes Girl, who was also celebrating her birthday on the ski holiday… A few minutes later a loud, booming voice declared that he needed to buy some Lovelink charms as a surprise present for a friend….

I managed to catch Stunt Cock’s (Joe’s) eye and he rather lamely and unconvincingly finished with:

“.....of my girlfriend, who I don’t really know….”  I think he might have also fidgeted his feet, like a five year old with his hand caught in the cookie jar….
Mrs B piped up – “Oooo, I’ve always wanted one of those…” digging me in the ribs with her elbow “Hint…hint” but was fortunately so distracted by sorting out the present for Lisa and the big diamond ring the manager of the shop was rather speculatively waving in front of her, that she did not twig Joe was actually trying to buy her birthday present….
Blog of War
Then there were 5 (possibly 6)
It would be nice if you would go and pay your respects before association with the BlackLOG ends their credibility....

Show me the sunny
Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels
(good news we have had a 3% rise as from the beginning of April)

KW Produced so far –  678
KW generated in the week –  97

This has earned us approximately – £331 (Including savings estimated at £37 where we have used our own energy)
Of which £175 has been paid out so far…

Record of the week 

Slow by Kylie - An approprita song for the little lady, file under eye candy only

I'm not sorry  by the Pigeon Detectives  

Love it when you call  by The Feeling  

Smoke gets in your eyes by Judy Garland -  Thanks Guys

Photo Finish
Not wanting to risk attempting to smuggle The Beast into any of the gigs, it is way too stressful – I probably could have managed it at the Pigeon Detectives but no chance at Kylie or The Feeling, the Mega Mini Beast (just about slips into a jacket pocket) takes centre stage…..  It certainly suffers a bit in low lighting  but I’m delighted with the 24mm - 600mm zoom facility….

I did manage to get MMB into “The Children’s Hour” but being in the second row it would have made it a bit obvious if I had whipped it out, so just sat back and enjoyed the show, well the bits  in-between gagging on  cigarette smoke….

Kylie attempting the rather awkward
Microphone swallowing dodge…

Unfortunately she didn’t manage it
and so carried on warbling….

Welcome to Las Vegas....Just leave all your money
in the slot machines and your dignity at the door....

Put that Kylie down, you don't know where it's been....

I'm not even sure if Boney M.would have risked
 their already dodgy artistic reputation with this stunt.

Warning  – especially for any Canadian readers
out there, controversial statement coming up,
you may wish to skip the next line....

I actually prefer the Boney M version of “Heat of Gold” to the
Neil Young original…

sorry but its true  

 Kylie "I've been framed I tell you...."

Kylie during her failed “Steps” audition

It was a close run thing as to who gave the more static
performance, Kylie or the statue of Pegasus?

Kylie doing a Joan Rivers impression

"I wish I had a twin, so I could know what
 I'd look like without plastic surgery."

"I'm a bit bored now, you don't mind if
I go for a bit a swim do you?"

Kylie preparing for the wet T-shirt competition -
a big thank you to Matt Bowman of the Pigeon Detectives
for providing the water spouts....

For gods sake who let Kiera Knightly, Elisabeth Moss
 and the rest of the Children's Hour cast into see Kylie?

The Pigeon Detectives  
"Turn Out The Lights"  

Matt Bowman - lead vocals of the Pigeon
I bet you wish they had turned out the lights.... 

Dan Gillespie Sells  lead singer of The feeling

Stop me if you have heard this one before....

Dan Gillespie Sells  -"Hands up if you frequent
Heaven when it's a night club...."

 The Feeling

"Love it when you call....or even just leave a message"

Hope to catch you next week have a good easter and don't let the damn bunny nick all your eggs.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The weighty issues of travel

Here’s an idea for a game take 9 international travellers and set them up in a struggle of life and death (or at the very least a struggle for the contents of their wallets) with one rather grumpy check-in clerk. Now before you start  feeling sorry for the grumpy check-in clerk, as she may well have been out-numbered, she was, in fact, wielding the power of flight and thus holding all the cards. 

As all game shows need a hapless assistant, our grumpy check-in clerk can have the use of an elderly gentleman clearly suffering from Alzheimer’s (henceforth known as “The Goldfish” because of his magnificent memory retention)  whose role is to float up and down the line of travellers and greet them enthusiastically every few minutes and then act surprised when he is informed that he has already spoken to them just moments earlier….repeat ad infinitum.

The travellers aim  to get their somewhat over-loaded luggage (mainly because of the ridiculously small allowance provided – this is a ski holiday not a toothbrush and T-shirt affair) checked-in for as little extra cash as possible. 

The Goldfish's role is to bob up and down against the travellers and, under the guise of informing them about airport etiquette, actually attempt to put the travellers off their game by annoying them and creating tension for when they get to meet grumpy check-in clerk

The grumpy check-in clerk's sole purpose in life is to make the travellers' journey as miserable and expensive an experience as possible….

Despite the fact we had paid for a 10th seat on the flight (it was as cheap to purchase the holiday chalet for 10 as for 9 and we had always hoped that we might manage to fill the last space) grumpy check in-clerk refused to include the 10th person's* luggage allowance, probably because this would have removed most of the tension from the game and any chance of her fleecing us right royally.  

* The Goldfish was genuinely surprised that A.N.Other was a no show 

Most of the game was taken up with arguing that as we were one party we should be able to combine our individual allowances.  This tactic actually worked in our favour as the diversion allowed me to transfer 12 kilos into my hand luggage, taking it from the regulation 5 Kilos to over 17 (I may have mentioned before that the Beast does not travel light).  Fortunately grumpy check in-clerk was oblivious and didn’t demand to weigh my hand luggage.  Lisa did the old "wearing 7 layers" trick for travelling, which while effective makes for an uncomfortable journey when the weather turns warm, which of course it had….

After much haggling we ended up being charged only £15 extra between the 9 of us.  This was somewhat of a result when you consider we had been willing to pay £30 each before the holiday for extra luggage.  After initially being informed extra luggage was available, we were subsequently advised that the option had been withdrawn, in favour of charging people exorbitant amounts for each kilo over the allotted limit of a toothbrush and extra skimpy change of underwear…..I think we can count that as a moral victory. 

The magnificent nine 
Mrs B – A.K.A Penelope Pitstop,  because of her pink salopettes (which Mrs B regretted getting until they were voted the best salopettes of the holiday by the group and miraculously became a treasured possession), shapely black ski jacket and her equally treasured ski helmet with goggles.

Penelope Pitstop looking like a refugee
from HR Puff'n'stuff.

Lisa A.K.A the Tourettes Girl – at one point when the swearing got too much and Tourrettes Girl got stuck on a tricky narrow section,  a kind French lady came across and asked Lisa if she would like her to take her skis down to an easier section. Lisa readily agreed and watched the woman ski off into the distance, carrying her skis way beyond the tricky section and down to the  bottom of the slopes, leaving a, for once, speechless Lisa to trudge uncomfortably all the way down the slopes to retrieve them.  Just as well she walks faster than she skis….  

Tourettes girl trying desperately hard to avoid
any kindly French lady skiers.....

RichardA.K.A  Ron, after Ron Jeremy the porn star.  I’m not entirely sure how this nickname came about because I was not about at the time it was bestowed on him.  I'm 25% certain that Dickie is or has never been part of the porn industry. 
Ron building a new prop
for his latest porn epic....

Joe -  A.K.A Stunt Cock – named by Ron (OK make that 5% certain Ron is not part of the porn industry) and the co-star in the fictitious porn movie “Shoot my ride” taken from a sign-post outside a boarder park.  The name stuck because with all the jumping around that Joe does, at 23 he is young and energetic, and as the best skier in the group appears a little cocky to the rest of us mere ski mortals.

The Stunt Cock in action.

ChristianA.K.A Cannonball, due to the resolute crouch position that he adopts when skiing ….if only he had managed to knock over some people we could have called him bowling-ball…
Dr Cannonball Lecture I presume.

PhilipA.K.A Daddy Duck – After Tourettes Girl's habit of latching onto him and following him down the slope….
Daddy Duck gets a radical makeover in an attempt
to avoid being stalked by Tourettes Girl….   

KirstyA.K.A Jackie Stallone -  it was going to be the Queue Terrier because of Kirsty’s inability to stop at the back of lift queues and instead plough on through to the front, oblivious of the devastation left in her wake (very European) .  That was until we were playing around with the iPhone app “Celebrity look alike” and Kirsty was shown as 76% like Jackie Stallone. Very harsh, totally unfair but shockingly funny to the rest of us…..

Who would have guessed that Sly's mother
would do all her own stunts...

ShonaghA.K.A The invisible skier – during the entire week I did not see Shonagh once on skis.  My guess is that her pale Scottish complexion makes her blend into the snow.  

A rare shot of the invisible skier....

Me -  A.K.A Pushover after Stunt Cock sprayed me with snow and caused me to topple over – see “three falls and no submission” below.

It almost looks like I can ski... 

A.N.Other - Just like the holiday A.N.Other didn’t make the Blog, which is just as well for me as it would make this magnificent nine feature a bit of a fraud….   

Three falls and no submission
Fall 1 – second day – a very tired last journey down the rather tricky black run “La Face”…I got within about 50 metres of the end of the day and my rather tired legs just buckled.  Stunt Cock  tried to console me by saying he was also a little tired, bless his little cotton socks. I had to remind him that I was twice his age and had about a quarter of his ability….My one consolation is that I can still beat him in straight line speed.  My fastest clocked time of the holiday was 60mph (only 8 mph less than my personal best).     

Fall 2 – fourth day – A rather schoolboy error,  I went to spray Joe with snow as I came to a stop and completely misjudged the move and ended up missing the ground and leaping like a demented ninja and found myself in a sprawled heap about 10 feet beyond where Joe had come to a much more conventional halt…..

Fall 3 – fifth day -  Joe decided to get me back and sprayed me as I waited on an area between a blue and green run.   I thought nothing much of it until about 10 seconds later I went to ski off and toppled gracelessly onto the green run…..I’m putting it down to the power of the spray… 

There may have been more but if there were, like the average golfer miscounting shots, I've conveniently forgotten some of them.....

Hardcore party animals
The entertainment during our week consisted of a number of hard-core events including balloon bending, origami and wig wearing….I don’t think this was a match for the group the previous week,  whose main activities consisted of drinking (23 bottles** between 10 of them on one night) and fighting with the neighbours, other guests and eventually themselves, after they ran out of other people to argue with…The Chalet hosts Tom & Joe (who were non-residential) were forced to sleep on the sofas in the living room  for the last couple of nights, to stop the situation getting anymore out of hand.

** rather interestingly the chalet rules allow as much wine to be consumed as is physically possible but as a non-drinker, I had to battle hard to replace my wine quota with a couple of bottles of Pepsi max for the week. 

The drunken skier
One of the joys of Val D'Isere is La Folie Douce – a bar high on the slopes that from 3pm to 5pm bangs out loud thumping tunes, while plying its customers with copious amounts  of alcohol, before sending them off down the hill as much more relaxed and chilled out skiers. Sometimes the skiers are just too  chilled out........we had stopped in a bar below La Folie Douce, when the rest of the bar started singing, "Ollay, ollay, ollay, ollay" and making "ooooooohhhhhh!" noises, followed by big, raucous cheers.

We looked across to the slope and watched a rather wobbly skier making a very haphazard  way down the slope. He was giving big drunken waves to his appreciative audience in between  tortuous turns  (ooooooohhhhhh) and colossal crashes (massive cheers).  He was also gathering an impressive entourage of slope-side followers who were enjoying filming his travels….

La Folie Douce, the starting point for
many a skiers descent into hell...

The bad husband
I have to hold my hand up and admit to being a bad husband on this holiday, with Mrs B's birthday due while we were away I was running out of time to get her a card. My last opportunity was when we were in town the day before we went. I was struggling to slip away and the only opportunity I had was in Sainsbury’s the Supermarket.  Only, just as I slipped into the card aisle who should appear?

Mrs B – “You had better not be thinking what I think you are thinking”

Me – sidling away from the cards “No just cutting through to get to the err…err…vegetables…”

Mrs BHands on hips (a la the big Mama in a Tom & Jerry cartoon but without any stocking crinkling around her ankles) and a large unimpressed frown across her face, although I think I detected the merest hint of a smirk.

It didn’t get any better in the resort and I had to rely on the kindness of Lisa to slip out and cover my shame with a rather obviously French-bought card….Oh the shame

The French version of the luggage game
Not very exciting as the French check-in staff could not be bothered to even weigh our luggage, just put everything through, leaving the  only excitement at the airport a rather tired Mrs B who grumpily asked me why I had made the ski bag so heavy, as she dragged it from the transport bus to the check-in desk. I looked around and noticed Mrs B was dragging the ski bag from the wrong end i.e not using the wheels.

Appropriately after the battle of the cases the holiday ended with a battle over Taxis.  Having booked 2 taxis for 9 people and accompanying ski luggage the two buffoons that were our taxi drivers packed the vans so badly that there was only enough room for 8 passengers.

As a veteran of a ski holiday in which Mrs B and I drove across France in a convertible mini with 2 pairs of skis and full ski gear, I was not about to pay for an additional taxi and so forced them to  re-pack, which they did rather begrudgingly, cheeky buggers….

Blog of War
With just 4 people qualifying for the event (evidently tougher qualifying rules than I had intended…it can be tricky sending those emails), the competition has been put back until the 1st May, while I mourn the loss of my dignity.  So the competition will be a bit more bijou  then originally intended, never the less  please give a big hand to our brave contestants.

Penwasser Place

Talkative Taurus

Kitkat's Tales

and I guess me who only qualified because I live here.

It would be nice if you would go and pay your respects before association with the BlackLOG ends their credibility....
Show me the sunny
Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels

KW Produced so far – 581

This has earned us approximately – £286 (Including savings estimated at £35 where we have used our own energy)

KW generated in the week – 116

Record of the week
Carry that weight - I could not get the Beatle version so I'm afriad you have to make do with the Cheap Trick version....

Tubthumping by Chumberwumba - In honour of our brave La Folie Douce skier "I get knocked down but I get up again You're never gonna keep me down".  I guess this also covers the Blog of War.....

Photo Finish
I make no apologies for ending this week with loads of photo's from our Val D'Isere trip.

From left to right Cannonball, Stunt Cock, Tourettes Girl,
Ron, Jackie Stallone, Daddy Duck, Penelope Pitstop,
Pushover, extra points if you can spot the Invisible Skier 
and A.N.Other..... 

Product placement without all the palaver
of that big embarrassing cheque….

Just as well I’m a Pepsi Max fan…..

Sometime later….

Damn, not even a free can.

Cannonball finally works out
why origami poker sucks.

It’s all the constant folding….

Mrs B celebrating at la Folie Douce, fingers
crossed it doesn't result in a ski of shame... 

Avalanche a sobering reminder how
dangerous skiing can be.

From my enquires the person caught
up in this fall was dug out alive. 

Tourettes girl trying to work out
 where the batteries should go….

Shonagh finally materialises....

An attempted arty shot....

 Is that Gandalf leading the way???

The view from the Chalet . 

Ron applies makeup before his big scene….  

Mrs B attempts the relaunch of shoulder pads from
the 80's....Crystal Carrington eat your heart out…

Stunt Cock, giving it large...

We checked the youngsters nappy afterwards and can
report - rather impressively -  it was clean….

Mrs B "Aaaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh!!!"

Please note that is not an expression of fear on Mrs Bs face,
 that is the look after fear has taken one look at the
situation and done a runner….

As I make a rather wobbly exit
Stage left here’s to next
Years snow adventure...
Next week the joys of Kylie and the Pigeon Detectives