Sunday, 18 March 2012

Florence, obsessive fans and more retail woe

This week it was off to see Florence + the Machine at the Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace), a new venue for us, although it has been around for a while and comes with a fair bit of history :-

       The Ally Pally was built in 1873 as North London's answer to the Crystal Palace
South of the river. In 1936 it became the headquarters of the world's first regular
public "high-definition" television service (so what exactly is the hi-def that is being
touted around at the moment – have they just rebranded something that we already
had and are charging us a fortune for the privilege?), operated by the BBC. The iconic
radio tower not only stands but is actually still in use.

Our friends Joe and Kirsty were joining us, fortunately I drove Joe to the venue, because while his knowledge of the West End and central London is mighty impressive, North London would appear to be a complete mystery to him....This is evidenced by his inadvertent attempt to sabotage Kirsty’s journey – overriding my instructions to get Kirsty to the destination – and leaving his intended about 6 miles short of the venue. Fortunately I managed to intervene and put Kirsty back on the right train....

This still left a couple of challenges, especially following last week’s abject failure at the Kaiser Chiefs.

1)  Actually lure Mrs B to the venue – it would be so much easier if she was a mouse, I could just use cheese

2)  Get The Beast in....For some reason he is very unpopular with concert security....

Frustratingly I could see Mrs B’s building shining like a beacon on the horizon..... not having cheese I had to use other food to tempt her out of her high tower, promising her that the menu at the on site bar/restaurant looked tempting. Indeed it did. Well, on the web site it did. Sadly on concert nights it is much reduced with more effort concentrated on shifting vast quantities of alcohol. Still the food trick worked and Mrs B arrived in astonishingly good time ... leaving me to explain that the choice was not perhaps as appetising as I had made out. Fortunately Mrs B is used to the crushing disappointment of my well-intentioned but often empty promises (First Class flights to Japan ring any bells?)....

Getting The Beast in was, as always, an interesting challenge and I’m almost ashamed to say I’m getting fairly proficient at using sleight of hand tactics to avoid detection. Admittedly more Tommy Cooper than David Blaine.... There was heavy security, with bag searches and pat downs. I briefly watched the security guards in action and worked out the most gormless one. Stepping up to the guard I removed my coat from the rucksack – the only thing apparently in there and proffered the now empty space. I’m OK as long as they don’t try and rummage around at the bottom. The other secret is to make it look like the rucksack is as light as a feather – No easy feat as The Beast is built more on the lines of a Bulgarian shot-putter rather than Russian gymnast.... Still the ruse worked and I’m delighted that both Mrs B and The Beast made it in....

"All This and Heaven Too"
Florence is great live, much better than the review I read of the gig which claimed she is just a shouter. The reviewer was obviously not a fan ... which is probably just as well as it gives a bit of balance. Many of her fans tend towards the intense, bordering on the obsessive....A couple of examples being :-

As I was being jostled and deafened by a fan next to me, I turned to her :-

Me“You’re a bit excitable aren’t you!”

Over excited fan“I am, I think I love her (Her being Florence)”

Me“What, more than your mum?”

OEFslight pause and a look of guilt - “Yes”

Me“Wow that’s a bit harsh on your dear old mum”

OEF“Well I suppose I should hold final judgement until I’ve tried one of Florence’s roast dinners”

Me“I think your mum’s safe, I don’t think Florence does roasts...”

Then on leaving the venue

Wannabe“Do you know something, I think I really need to be Florence”

Wannabie’s friend - “Babes, you can be whoever you want”

I would love to been a fly on the wall at Wannabie's career interview -

Career teacher - “No, Wannabie I said you can be anything you want, not anyone..."

Wannabe - "What Qualifications would I need to be Florence?"

Career teacher - "Being born her is the only one that springs to mind"

This was a much bigger venue than I had seen Florence perform at before – previous occasions being the Bloomsbury Ballroom and at the Shepherd Bush Empire Although for some reason I could not remember the Shepherds Bush trip, it was only that Joe was so adamant that he had seen Florence once before with me (neither he nor Mrs B had made it to the Bloomsbury Ballroom gig) that I used the BlackLOG as a reminder. As a reward for his insistence he got the following text from me...

Joseph McKenzie you have been found guilty of being correct about the four of us seeing Florence and the Machine on a previous occasion. It was September 2009 at the Shepherds Bush Empire. It gives me no option but to pass the harshest sentence available to the BlackLOG court of arbitration. You will be taken to a place of my choosing and declared a Florence wannabe. (yes babes you can be anything that you want as long as you are Florence) You must love yourself more than your mother and constantly jiggle your man boobs into everyone around you while shouting, loudly and off key, all of your greatest hits.....

And I got this reply....

Thanks I will take that as an admission of my total guilt for being correct but I feel the sentence is a little harsh. I'm not sure this situation should really work against me!

Guided by the light
When we had arrived at the venue Joe and I had gone into the car park, right next to the Palace but quickly worked out it was going to be a nightmare getting out afterwards. I had spotted some spaces a few minutes’ walk away on the road that we would be using as an exit. I shot out of the car park much to the confusion of the parking attendant, who had one task and one task only and seemed to take it as a personal slight that someone might spurn his hospitality and decide that they didn’t fancy taking hours to leave the venue....

The plan worked really well and after the concert we managed to get clear pretty swiftly, although we seemed to upset a few pedestrians who gestured wildly as we passed – I told you the Florence fans are an excitable lot. At one point we were tailed by a police car but they peeled off after about five miles which I subsequently found a bit disturbing as shortly afterwards I realised that in my haste to get away quickly from the venue, I had not put my lights on. Is this final proof, if any was needed, that the traffic police are not interested in the motorists safety just the revenue available from speeding fines?

More retail woe....
Our attempts to get Britain out of the recession are being thwarted at every turn. The more we spend with companies, the more they seem determined to cock up the order, with the result that correcting the problem probably costs them more than any profits they would have made. I can see us being held responsible for a triple dip recession....

Our latest mishap was for the glass splash back we had ordered. We had requested two samples to be made up for us and chose the colour we liked. When they came to fit the order I looked at the product and told the fitter that it was not the right colour. He assured me it was the one we had selected. I dug out the two samples and sure enough they had fitted the one that we had rejected. A bit of investigation and it transpires that the samples they had sent us and been labelled incorrectly. Once again another company agreed they had cocked up and have had to put the order through again losing any profit. While we might be expert at finding incompetent firms at least they are not complete cowboys of the Bodge-it and Scarper variety....

The red sample we selected infront of the
pink splash-back that they fitted.....

Deep joy...Oh, well just another
month to wait for them to fix it
Watch of the Week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

Price £2,495
RRP £3,800
Saving £1,305
Beautiful condition Breitling Chronomat 39.5mm Automatic 18k/SS Mens Ref. B13352 complete with box, manuals and guarantee dated 11th November 2003. An excellent example that has barely been worn and is complete with original rare navy/gold dial and blue sharkskin strap with deployment buckle.

Record of the week

Wrong Again by The Wrong Words – Almost every company we have dealt with recently

Sorry by Tracy Chapman - The phrase that seems to swiftly follow our dealings ....

Dog Days Are Over by Florence & the Machine - McG and Mischief will certainly be relieved....

Cosmic Love by Florence & the Machine - I guess you could call this a universal feeling....

Rabbit Heart by Florence & the Machine - The looking glass, so shiny and New. how quickly the glamour fades – Especially when you find out they fitted the wrong colour....

My Boy builds Coffins by Florence & the Machine –I bet if we ordered one it would be the wrong size, wrong colour and probably the wrong shape

Photo Finish

The Beast gets Florence in his sights - You can probably tell why I go to  such extreme measures to try and get him into concert venues... We were back about 70 metres from the stage with a packed swaying audience in front. Mrs B said she was delighted to see the pictures as she had not actually seen Florence on the night – not even Wannabe Florence....

"Hurricane Drunk"

"Between Two Lungs"

Ok it was two fans, they were all out of lungs.....
"Kiss with a Fist"
"Dog Days are Over"
"Shake it out"
"Hands up anyone who would like
to try one of my roasts? "
'Drumming Song'
"My Boy Builds Coffins"

"Would you like to try it out?"
Hope to catch you next time....

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Sayonara – or possibly Bloodynora

This weeks BlackLOG covers :-
 - The build upto our Japan trip
 - Kaiser Chiefs at Hammersmith Apollo
 - My entries for "The Veolia environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year - 2012"

Sayonara – or possibly Bloodynora
With our Japan trip only 8 months away I felt it was time to get into the swing of things so sent Mrs B the following email:

“Mrs B do you fancy getting in the mood for Japan?  I can book a table at Roka Restaurant in Canary Wharf.”

This lead to the following exchange:


Love you, Mrs B”


Dear clever clogs.  My rough grasp of Japanese (said in a loud voice , with accent and slanty eyes *) comes up with: 

It is! There, being expensive, it is splendid thing” **

Which could be a “yes” or “good idea but no, I have spent all my bonus on handbags and all things red***
So do you want me to :-

A) – Book a table (and for what time)

B) – Contact the bank for an overdraft to get us through to next month

C) – Book you into “RA” Red Anonymous – “Hi my name is Mrs B and I can’t stop buying red things....”

Sayonara – or possibly Bloodynora if you chuck anymore Japanese at me....

Love Me”

* Yes, I'm afraid I'm one of those Brits.  While I can fluently fail to speak other languages (some would even say I struggle with English), it  does not prevent me from gamely attempting to converse at a very loud level, in English with a strange accents.  The accent used may or may not bare resemblance to the language of the poor unfortunate, often bewildered, individuals that is the recipient of my attempts to break down the language barrier. This drives Mrs B up the wall, secretly I think she is jealous of my special talent...

** You have to love Babel Fish as a translator

*** While Pablo Picasso went through a blue period (1901 – 1904) and Van Gogh went through a yellow period, Mrs B is currently going through a red period – handbags, shoes, kitchen utensils etc are morphing towards red .....I just hope we can stop our bank account going that way....


We made it to Roka.  It was fascinating – expensively authentic, so really getting us into training for Japan.

The staff were quite rude and dismissive – which made me feel a bit like being one of the prisoners on Bridge over the River Kwai

Mrs B was running a bit late (more British rail than Swiss clockwork) and I was sat next to a Japanese woman eating on her own.  I watched with fascination as she ate and texted at the same time (I know there is a phenomenon “sexting”, I wondered if this was an example of being  “texfed”).  If it was me I would probably end up tapping a little rice messages while munching down on my iphone...

It turns out the Japanese diner wasn’t on her own and her date turned up about half an hour later.  She briefly stopped eating, stretched out a hand in his general direction but did not manage to look up from her phone...

I have noticed that more and more people don’t appear to be able to function without a smart phone in hand – while walking, talking, driving and, although I might not have witnessed it, probably sex as well – let’s face it there is bound to be an app for it....

There was no apparent conversation from the other table but plenty of texting. So I guess they were communicating just not sure if it was with each other....While the future of the virtual world seems secure I’m a bit concerned  about the prospect of actual social interaction.....

I’m delighted to announce that we both managed to survive our Japanese culinary experience – Mrs B managing to avoid raw fish, while I avoided vegetables both raw and cooked (It’s all about vegetable rights ....honest he says, with fingers crossed behind his back). Although I’m not sure how much of a dry run this really was - sitting in a restaurant with English menus and surrounded by English speaking waiters and waitresses is not much of a test for finding ourselves in a restaurant with no English menus and non-English speaking staff....

Kaiser Chiefs
The Kaiser Chiefs made it, the support band made it, I made it, my friend Ediane made it, her husband Costas made it (but not to the support).  Unfortunately Mrs B and The Beast didn’t make it.  Mrs B got caught up in another work crisis, while The Beast didn’t get an invite, being too big to sneak in, and he was replaced by the Mega Mini Beast. 

The Kaiser Chiefs and support (Frankie And The Heartstrings, Fixers) were great.
Ediane and Costas really enjoyed it.
I really missed Mrs B and the Beast  - concerts are never the same when they don’t make it.
Ricky Lead singer takes to the balcony for
a well earned rest between songs

At least the drums were in focus....

Costas and Ediane - The low light ability of
the Mega Mini Beast could give a burnt out
light bulb a run for its money....

Watch of the Week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

Must de Cartier 21 SS 18K
Must de Cartier 21 SS 18K
Price £1,095
RRP £2,100
Saving £1,005
Click on the watch to find out more  

Record of the Week

I Think I'm turning Japanese by The Vapours – Not if my dodgy accent has anything to do with it 

Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin – Certianly the face to face variety

Never Miss A Beat by Kaiser Chiefs – Mrs B did...she missed all of them...
Photo Finish  
I’ve entered a little photo competition,  The Veolia environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year for 2012 – I don’t for one minute expect to win any of the categories, let alone the big one (overall winner) but I would like at least one of my pictures to be selected,  blown up to huge oversized proportions and hung alongside the work of some much-respected professional wildlife photographers as an exhibit at the Natural History Museum....I won’t get to find out if any of my pictures make it till later in the year – so wish me luck. In the meantime here are my handcrafted entries: - 
The Wildlife Photojournalist Award
This category seeks to develop the visual narrative through a series of six (6) unique images that, together, tell a story without the need for words.

When nature comes to you - I looked out of the window one night and saw this beautiful fox walking about like a tourist. I grabbed the camera and shot out of the front door.  I was at first disappointed that the street light had given all the shots an amber glow but came to realise it is actually part of the charm of the picture. 

The suburban tourist 1 of 6  - I wish I had studied road signs as a cub

The suburban tourist 2 of 6 - Asking Directions

The suburban tourist 3 of 6 - People Watching

What better tourist occupation than People watching?

The suburban tourist 4 of 6 -  Nature Walk

The suburban tourist 5 of 6 - Shoe Shopping

Unusually chew ability scored higher over size,
colour and style for this savvy shoe shopper

The suburban tourist 6 of 6 - Recreational drug taking

Sad to see that drugs seem to be invading
all aspects of modern life.
Category - Creative Visions
This category is for conceptual pictures – original and surprising views of nature, whether figurative or abstract

The small water god
Animal Portraits 
This Red Kyte looked so majestic hovering
in the air, waiting to swoop down.

Lioness - Domination

I love the way this lioness dominates the picture - she just owns
her environment, walking straight towards the camera - You just
know you are in her world and playing by her rules....

Fox in the Snow

No more than a few meters from our front door this beautiful Fox appeared –
Looking very much at home. I talked to some passing dog walkers who said
he was a regular visitor and they would often find him sitting just a few feet
away from them watching them and their pet.  They described it more like
 a guardian angel than a wild predator.... 
 Animals in their Environment
Spotted Fly Catcher...

Southern Boubou in flight

When on safari it is easy to concentrate on just the traditional game –
Having already seen: lion; elephant; giraffe;  cheetah; rhino etc  I
was looking around to see if anything else was going on and a
Southern Boubou caught my eye,  perched on a bush. I brought my
camera around to take what I thought would be a static shot, just as
the Boubou  took flight and so managed to track the bird for a more
interesting shot.
Behaviour: Mammals
Tempting as it was I decided not to play fetch...

After a couple of days watching lions lazing around, barely moving,  it was
fascinating and rewarding to be able to watch this young lioness, around
2 years old. The way she played with the stick was like watching a family
 pet,  her tongue poking out taunting us for not getting out of the truck 
and coming over to play with her....  

 Elephant - Thou Shall Not Pass

We were returning to the lodge for dinner one night when we came
 across this male Elephant.  He was in a bad mood and decided that no
one was going to get passed.  After a 20 minute standoff he decided
 enough was enough and decided to charge.  Our Ranger threw the
 truck into reverse and felt it would be best to take the long route home....
Behaviour: Birds
Sparrow - Reflections of flight
Next week we continue the kitchen revamp - How well do you think it's going?