Sunday, 24 March 2013

How to fail to make it into a Hollywood film....Plus a 4th concert Photo pass

Paloma Faith – (Cambridge Corn Exchange)

When I booked the tickets Mrs B was not due to have surgery just a few days before, however, having missed out on Paloma’s set at Somerset House in 2012 (being in Hong Kong with work at the time) she was determined to attend this one. Unfortunately it was standing and not seated and so I valiantly gave free reign to Mrs B to stand where she wanted…..She chose a spot at the back and within a short while a group of tall people came along and stood in front of us….I was struggling for a view so Mrs B can’t have seen anything at all. I could tell she was not 100% as she was not in the mood for moving. The show was good although the sound quality was not a patch on the Somerset House gig and I only had the Mini Mega Beast with me. There was definitely a party atmosphere though as it was the last night of Paloma’s Tour.

Pictures with Mega Mini Beast
"Do You Want the Truth or
Something Beautiful?"

Can't I have a bit of both?
"My Legs Are Weak"
Al Lewis - (St Pancras Old Church)
My 4th Official photo pass and thanks to the generosity of FK, Al’s Manager, I was given free reign at a rather charming venue “St Pancras Old Church”.

Being such a small venue it was interesting to see a different approach on the door with attendees being ticked off a list rather than having to produce tickets, giving everyone the feeling that they were on the guest list.

The support was the lovely Lottie Mullens – I was chatting to her after her set when FK piped in:

FK - “Careful he’s a stalker”

Lotte laughed.

While I said “Thanks FK, I’ve been called a lot of things but never a stalker”

FK -“No not you ”

Lottie - “That’s good to know”

He was talking about the odd guy who had been trying to get Lotte’s phone number just as I arrived

Lotte did a blog diary a few years back about the problems faced by females trying to make it in the music business. The rights of which have been purchased by Hollywood so it might be making its way to a big screen near you soon…..

Extract from Lottie’s diary

Apparently Madonna never hugs anyone – it’s a firm handshake or nothing. Unfortunately when you’re an aspiring nobody you have to be a bit more compliant otherwise people think you’re just cold.

There’s a bizarre over-familiarity in this business – I wouldn’t hug or kiss my bank manager. It all seems to be part of the 'we’re friends therefore we do business' culture – designed to lure you into a false sense of security.
I’ve often tried to be business-like and go in for the handshake but guys nearly always disregard it and pull me in for an awkward sweaty hug. The new breed of pervy hugger seems to have sussed that this is a potential groping opportunity and that if he (it’s always a he) extends both hands towards your armpits he’s likely to get a fingerful of breast.
Prime suspects are middle aged record label executives chancing their luck, or the lone fan that turns up to the gig two hours early hoping to catch you at sound check and ‘hang out’ for three hours while you wait to go onstage. They know where you are – MySpace and Facebook have told them.

Unfortunately fortunately I won’t be appearing in the film as I didn’t attempt to hug, kiss or molest Lotte in anyway.

Mrs B, having been to Paloma Faith the night before, was excused and given the evening off, so I invited along my Italian friend Elena. She took her role as Mrs B’s substitute surprisingly seriously to the point where she only just made it for Al’s set. Having gone the wrong way when she left St Pancras Station and taking a very long route to the venue….I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of driving through London. So far I have avoided paying the congestion charge and on all but a very few occasions have found free parking close by. It pays to research the internet before setting off for a new venue and checking the local parking signs when you arrive, even at venues you know fairly well. It is not beyond the specialist skills of local councils to change parking rules between visits. I’m convinced that this is an underhand attempt to increase revenue…. As it was I found free parking about 30 meters from the venue, which proved of great relief to Elena, who was worried that she would face a second long walk of the evening.

Remaing pictures with The Beast

St Pancras Old Church
If your names not on the list you are not getting in....
Lottie Mullans

"Can't Find The Words"
Al Lewis

"The Truth In Growing Old"

You get inconvenient hair in
all the wrong places.... 

Kaiser Chiefs - (O2 Academy Brixton)
I got it wrong again – it was the anniversary of Mrs B failing to make it to see Kylie – who happened to be playing at a venue only about 25 minutes from her desk. When I booked the tickets for the Kaiser Chiefs I forgot that it was Mrs B’s ‘even busier than normal’ busy week. Despite it being half way across London Mrs B made it in time for the encore…..I had a much better time of it, being able to use my O2 mobile account to skip to the front of the rather lengthy queue. As a bonus I even managed to sneak in The Beast….

"My Place is Here"

"Never Miss a Beat"

"People Need Light"


Through work I went to a one act play followed by a magic act and musical interlude. Unfortunately copyright meant I was not allowed to take any pictures of the play – apparently you are allowed to take pictures during rehearsals but there is a rather hefty fee involved for taking pictures during production, even at an amateur level….

The play started off rather promisingly with the first three characters being more than competent. In fact the lady playing the character of a cleaner was brilliant. It had the effect of making the remaining actors look worse than they probably were…..Think Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep turning up at your local kindergarten’s Nativity play as the third, surprisingly large, sheep whose every movement had you convinced that it was only a matter of time before it ended up at a local restaurant served with two veg and some mint jelly….

The magic show was marvellous, with money from the audience magically disappearing (No I don’t mean the entrance fee) and then then magically re-appearing from inside a lemon. If only the magician had used an onion I’m sure he could have reduced the transfixed audience to tears…..If you like a magician with balls, this was the show for you, hundreds of them spilling out all over the stage floor…..and then, with the untimely drop of a stage prop flap, the illusion was shattered as the secret of the ‘sawing a woman in half’ trick was laid bare in the best traditions of Tommy Cooper. Unlike the great man himself our magician didn’t die on stage (Sorry Tommy, harsh but fair) but rose above his misfortune and laughed in the face of adversity…. I’m afraid to say The Beast and I were laughing too hard to capture the moment for posterity.

The musical interlude….Sorry Diana you were correct we should have left after the magic show but then I would not have got to sit next to one of the actresses and keep a straight face when I asked why she was not singing in the show.

Her response, “I can’t really sing”

It took all of my will power to stop myself saying “It’s a shame that line of thinking didn’t stop you when it came to the acting”. But hey who am I to judge? My acting makes Sylvester Stallone look like an Oscar contender.

Add caption
When life gives you lemons
sod making lemenade
Pull money out of them.....
Sorry for the extended break - sometimes life gets in the way and I find it difficult to find the time to put the BlackLOG together...hope to catch you next time

Monday, 4 March 2013

I find Thai often repeats....

I've been a bit tied up and so haven't had time to get a fresh BlackLOG out.

Since I happened to get talking to a young Thai lady, while I was waiting for Mrs B, at a Kaiser Chiefs gig  I felt I could slip in an old favourite of mine, from a few years back.... I showed the blog to the young Thai lady, who found it amusing but was confused by the reference to Ting Tong under the Thai bride section (Oops, I had forgotten that it was in there.....).  How do you explain Little Britain to someone not from the UK who has never seen the show.... I mumbled something about a very English centric comedy program, I needn’t have worried as she had met Matt Lucas on her travels and had seen the show, just not the Ting Tong sketch… I guess like Fawlty Towers (I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it…) not all episodes are shown in every country….

Looking forward to a relaxing holiday
 Mrs B and I accidentally booked a trip to Thailand (well not exactly true, but it is reminiscent of a fantastic line in the Film “Withnail and I”,when Withnail (played by Richard E Grant) exclaims “We’ve come on Holiday by mistake”). What we did was realised the problems of booking a late deal to the Far East. Booked one Saturday to leave the following Saturday, chances of getting any inoculations(1) from our local doctors, zilch, cost of inoculations from private clinics, more then the cost of the holiday itself.

(1) The cats were not impressed that we missed out, they still get their annual jabs. I pointed out to them that it gives Mischief the opportunity to bite the vet, while McG gets to fill the surgery with his fur. It always looks like a dozen cats have been shaved in there,after one of his visits but miraculously he still seems to leave with more fur then he started. All Jesus could do was fill a few baskets with uneaten bread and fish, while McG could probably fill the Albert Hall (you don’t get to read about that in the Bible now, do you).

Today I will be mostly eating Vet.....
I looked on this holiday as an opportunity to lose some weight, very quickly and with very little effort. In order to maximise the effects of this "Thai diet" I had planned to eat at the airport(2). While Mrs B had busily filled her suitcase with summer clothes, I opted for cases full of DVD’s, cause by my reckoning, after eating at the airport I would be bed bound for 5-6 days. I then expected to emerge for just enough time to eat some of the local delicacies before returning to my sick bed for the rest of the holiday.
(2) A recent report had indicated that eating at airports is like staying in hospitals, extremely bad for your health

I remained disappointingly healthy, despite some reckless eating
The stress diet My carefully planned Thai diet failed to materialize. I had complimented my eating at the airport by eating on the plane and at some of the dodgiest looking road side restaurants that Thailand had to offer. Despite all this effort I remained as fit and healthy as anyone with an aversion to vegetables, fruit and exercise has a right to. I now had to pin my hopes on weight loss through stress. If the stress at the start of the holiday was anything to go by I would have the worlds top super models begging for my secret.

Level 1 stress - mother arrived to look after the cats, spends most of the day standing in the way saying “Can I help?”. "Yes! Get out of the bloody way…."

Level 2 stress - now running short of time to get to Heathrow.

Level 3 stress - car takes the opportunity to lift our spirits by winking at us with the low tyre pressure warning light (indicating a possible flat).

Level 4 stress - M25 grinds to an inevitable standstill.

Back to level 3 stress - as we found no tyre problems when we reach our parking destination.

Return to level 4 stress - as we attempted to pick up our tickets. We could not find anyone prepared to admit to having heard of the “Diamond departure pick up your discount tickets here you cheapskates desk”.

Level 5 stress - time ticking away, find a desk with a slightly different name but with no one minding it, a little note saying “popped to IKEA, back next month.” Eeeekkkkkk. I laughingly suggest to Mrs B that we are probably expected to pick up the tickets from Gatwick.

Level 6 Stress - Mrs B opened the covering letter, given to us by the travel agent (not much better then Estate agents really, they just don’t get huge commissions for doing very little for you except inconvenience you at every opportunity) - huge alarm bells start to ring – Pickup point "Gatwick !!!!!!!" Stress levels reached breaking point, hearts stop and a sickening feeling started to build. If this had been the 'Enterprise' you would have heard 'Scottie' proclaiming “she can’na take it Captain, she’s breaking up”. Stress levels beyond measure.

The woman eventually returned from Ikea with just a badge saying “I spent 4 days in an Ikea queue and all I got was this bloody badge, so what’s your problem?” She picked up the crumpled heap of human devastation that was the Blacks and said. “It’s OK, your travel agent wrote the wrong Airport and pickup desk name (3), easy done, here are your tickets, now bugger off.” (You know where you stand on a package holiday, none of this customer service malarkey).

(3) This just goes to prove it does not always pay to read the instructions. Just ask anyone who has ever attempted to assemble flat pack furniture. You feel so much better as long as you put it together, without referring to the instruction sheet. You then don't have to worry about the missing 'flange angle screw retainer' that is always missing, along with the most vital instruction on the sheet. This leaves you guilt free to combine the additional screws (that don't acutely belong in the box) with one part hammer, two parts brute force and a good sprinkling of four letter words, to complete the task. OK, it will always stand at an odd, best to refer to it as a rakish, angle. What do you expect? This is after all flat pack furniture you have purchased. Like Fast Food, Airfix model kits and Internet Brides, it was never going to look like the glossy picture that enticed you to make the purchase in the first place.

We finally made it to Bangkok and just had one final hurdle, the journey to our hotel. Now the brochure quoted a transfer time of 2.5 hours, the travel agent 3, Kuoni Holiday Itinerary got it up to 3.5 and the tour guide who met us at the airport quoted 4. About 6 hours later we reached our destination Cha Am.

The hotel swimming pool,Cha Am
I always find it interesting that when in sunny parts of the world, anyone without much of a suntan looks like they must be new arrivals. After over a week and a half I still looked like I wouldn't be arriving until a week next Thursday.

Fellow Hotel guests
The usual bunch of sock and sandal wearing Brits, a couple of miserable Germans (the original Sour Krauts), hoards of little Thai people who arrive at the pool at about 7 in the morning, stay for about an hour and then vanish for the rest of the day. Then there was Gavin. I never actually spoke to Gavin, I just happen to know that he was called Gavin because that is what was emblazoned on the only shirt he wore. It was a rather fetching polyester number in grey and blue with red piping. The shirt also informed me that Gavin worked for a well-known photo processing company and served as a warning to give Gavin a wide birth. I duly obliged.
Fake paradise
With any purchase in Thailand you are never sure what you are going get, other than there is a 99.9% chance that it will be fake. This ranges from the obvious CDs, DVDs and fashion items (don’t worry, this does not apply to me) to the less obvious. I speak of fake bridges and rivers. Our day trip to Kanchanaburi and the famous bridge on the river Kwai proved this. Not only did the bamboo and wooden bridge of David Lean’s film no longer exist, but we were over fifty years too late. (In my defence, I couldn’t get Mrs B out of bed.) The river was actually called the Mae Klong during the war and not re-named Kwai until the mid sixties. Sir Alec Guinness must be spinning in his pint glass..

According to my made up statistics there is only a .1% chance that this is not a fake sign.
Thai language
As anyone who knows me will testify, I am more than capable of crucifying the English language, let alone a foreign tongue. Sadly my attempts to master the Thai dialect sank my linguistic inabilities to new depths. At one point I found myself meowing at bewildered Thai’s with an accent that even McG would have been proud of. Judging by some of the looks I got from the locals, you would have thought I had said “Your great uncle’s pet elephant has left his nostril hairs all over my fridge” or more alarmingly “If you want to have access to my bank account, just leave your grandmother’s left shoe under the Water buffalo wearing the green pyjamas”. I eventually reverted to my normal tactics of speaking to foreigners very slowly in English at high decibels and with a funny accent. (Always works for me, although Mrs B gets that glazed over expression that reads, “God I wish I was anywhere but here”.) For the last few days of the holiday I attempted to play it safe, sticking with “hello”, “thank you” , “That gorilla looks like it might be related to you!” and “Has your wife not heard of Immac?”.

Thai massage
Mrs B's Masseuse was much sexier than mine
It was very noticeable that when Mrs B and I booked a massage, Mrs B quickly selected the slightly more attractive of the two (but when you are comparing the back end of a hippo with the back end of a rhino it doesn’t make a lot of difference). Part way through the massage I regretted accusing my masseuse's uncle’s elephant of shedding in my fridge. I must admit the left shoe proved very useful for keeping away the legions of cats that followed us around, sadly I never did find a home for the damned Water Buffalo which had to be abandoned at the airport. I believe it did OK, with the Green Pyjamas it looked like a slightly slimmer than usual American tourist and was adopted by a well to do Thai family .....

Thai taxi drivers
Magical Mystery Tour - It's always much more fun
when the taxi driver can't see where he is going.....
Despite my aversion to taxi drivers, Mrs B and I found ourselves having to use the local scrapheap-challenge offerings that passed for motor vehicles for hire. The first taxi we used appeared OK on the face of it - a little too many dials on the inside and additional skirting on the outside for my liking, but it had working seat belts, air-conditioning and the engine had a throaty roar (which quickly became an annoying humm when sitting in the back of the car for more than 30 seconds). The driver even quoted a decent rate to take us back to our hotel, so we did not even bother attempting to barter. The next taxi we took was a whole different ball game; the driver quoted a ridiculously high amount for the same trip, so I set about beating him down. Just as I got him to the amount I was willing to pay, Mrs B chimed in with a counter-bid. This caused confusion for both me and the taxi driver and resulted in a bidding war which ended with us paying more than his original asking price. To make things worse, when we got into the taxi it looked like we had found out where the first taxi had obtained all his extra dials from - this car had been stripped of everything - except a few seats and a steering wheel. I would love to know if he was still building the car or had stolen it a couple of nights before and was in the process of stripping it down. 

Thai Glue
Mrs B and I (at huge expense - something like £1.50) invested in a beach bag, which promptly broke within a day. Since I was determined to extend the bag’s life to the end of the holiday, I purchased a Thai version of superglue. The picture on the packaging showed a huge elephant glued upside down to the underside of a palm leaf - now you don’t get much more reassurance than that. I certainly can’t complain about the sticking power of the product. I was, however, a little disturbed when the tissue that I used to wipe up some of the excess glue started to smoke. I can assure you, any plans of experimenting with the product by attempting to stick my fingers together went out the window after that.

The Thai toilet incident
Mrs B censored the true horror of this story. All I can say is - think of the worst loo in Scotland (as portrayed in the film “Trainspotting”), take away the flushing mechanism and toilet paper - then you might just start to get the picture. I will either face years of therapy to get over the incident or alternatively blank it from my mind. I think I’ll choose the latter. Far cheaper and I certainly never intend to revisit that toilet even under hypnotic conditions.

Thai Brides

Ting Tong - I'm sure she is just
very close to her favourite uncle
It is with a morbid fascination that we saw so many old English Guys (many sixty plus) wandering around hand in hand with young Thai girls. At one stage we were considering bringing back a Thai Bride kitten for McG (at 9 years of age it puts him in the correct age bracket) but then remembered that we have had him neutered, so it would probably have been more cruel than anything..... 

Next week it should be back to the normal shoddy service featuring Al Lewis, AmDram, Paloma Faith, Kaiser Chiefs....