Sunday, 31 May 2009

Southport - 30th May 2009

I think the last time I visited Southport I was about 13, and burnt my ears in the sun. It would have been a family based summer holiday at Pontins. Fortunately today is just a daytrip, so there will be no Crocodile Club for me. My accomplice for the day would be Gill (she of the cartwheel and sand writing ability) for she was also free for this glorious Saturday and also wanted a day out by the sea. So off we went, suitably attired, well I had shorts on.

A few 80's tunes later and we were paying for our ticket, you have to pay to park everywhere, even outside my own house, but anyway we were in Southport, hurrah. First things first, Gill wanted ice cream, not that whippy stuff, but a 'proper' scoop, I must agree, not about the consistancy of ice cream, but ice cream itself, it does go well with a stroll down a pier, and so we did.

Ice cream consumed, or rather licked away, we continued our meanderings, right upto the sea, which for those who know Southport, can be quite a distance. Getting there was something of a feat in itself. So the shoes and socks had to come off. Gill had flip flops, so they were easily flipped off and we flopped our way via the squelchy black mud/sand to the sea, and paddled.

Paddling done, and small shell collecting achieved (according to Gill, I have a house full of 'stuff' and more 'stuff' is always welcome), we continued our meanderings until we found respite in the smallest pub in Britain and consumed a couple of beers. The lakeside view is what it says on the tin, so perched on the veranda we quenched our thirst before heading home to burn stuff.

As it was such a fine evening, we sat outside and warmed ourselves by burning stuff (not my collective 'stuff' but wood and paper) in my chimnea. Quickly making a chilli, which I intended to have with jacket spuds cooked inside the chimnea, but turning out as blackened pieces of charcoal, mash became a substitute. A few more drinks and music rounded the evening, until Gill headed home.

A nice day with a nice if not a little burnt evening.

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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Spain - May 2009

It's May, it's 2009, it's another Formula One season, must be time to visit Mecca, or rather the Catalunya Circuit in Barcelona, but more of that later.

It's always nice to be somewhere where you don't have to worry about the weather, and always nice to be there with friends, so it's more than fortunate to have a friend who lives in Spain, and always welcomes a visitor from England. This trip I would be traveling very light, due to the fact that the cost of placing my case in the hold is £20, so hand luggage only. It's just getting there that could be a nightmare.

Todays nightmare came in the guise of an overly officious boarding person, who took it upon themselves to screen the size of peoples hand luggage, despite the fact that we had already had had our luggage checked when we checked in. Some people were being asked to resize, and the guide that was being used did look a little smaller than the one we had to use at check in (call me paranoid). This caused a few passengers a little anguish when their bag would not fit or got caught on the guide, and then being informed that they would have to place their bag in the hold at some ridiculous surcharge. Fortunately I was never asked, but left a rather crimson woman arguing with the officious person over a matter of a few millimeters, size does matter.

Goodbye England, hello Spain. A couple of trains and a taxi later and I am enjoying a beer on the terrace at Michelle's place of work. There I was forced to sit in the sun, bottle of San Miguel by my side, waiting for Michelle to finish. It's a hard life, but someone has to do it. So here I am again, Spain, bit of shopping then back to Michelle's for a bite to eat (pizza, fingernail free) and a few drinkies. On the way to the supermarket we happened upon a most spectacular sight, a field full of blood red poppies, so obviously we stopped for a photo or two. A most spendid start to my visit.

Friday was quite a busy day, up relatively early, shower, walk to Masquefa, get train to Barcelona. I am finally going to venture inside the Sagrada Familia. The trains here are so different from back home in England, yet they do run on tracks, but they are clean, punctual, informative and cheap. Ok you need to know a few words of Spanish, as the digital displays tell you where you are, where you are going to be, and where it will finally be. Not some dodgy Dalek impersonator based tannoy system that no-one can understand.

So here I am, outside the Sagrada Familia, about to pay my Euro's and venture inside. This has to be one of the most amazing buildings ever constructed, and the work still continues. The building itself has two faces, old and new, both complement each other, yet are distinctly different. For the first time I am able to see all of this close up and in my face, its simply breathtaking. Where do you start. Entering on the newer side, under 'The Passion' with its angular scultures, depicting the last days of Christ, you enter the Cathedral through huge inlayed doors. Words cannot describe fully what I am seeing, even with photographs, the sheer scale is unprecidented.

Inside it is simply vast, your eyes are cast upward into the grand ceiling, what was Gaudi smoking when he designed all of this. Round and through to the older side and outside to the classic face of the Sagrada Familia. Here is the nativity, with scenes depicting Mary and Josephs journey, Herod and his soldiers seeking the infant child and many more with angels, kings etc. Striking representations sculpted in a more classical style than the angular Passion. From here I ventured down into the museum, to see how and why all of this was constructed, I simply cannot put into words how impressive all of this is, bizarre models of how Gaudi calculated the loads and stresses each arch would be able to take.

Now I must join an orderly queue to travel upwards into the towers, a further fee is required to do this, but of course it is all worth it. Within 30mins I am exiting the elevator and beginning to explore the towers, spiral staircases twist up and down, with little room for passing, so decorum must be obayed, with a little patience. Some towers you can only ascend, and others decend, but you can get around all four towers, and with a few balconies you are able to see some most extraordinary sights, and see Barcelona from a most interesting vantage point.

After spending as much time as is possible in the towers, I re-emerge back inside the central cathedral, and wander a little more, got to make the most of my visit here. Back down into the museum, few more photographs, all the way around the outside, yet more picture taken. Eventually I must leave this place of wonderment, but not before purchasing a few souveneirs, fridge magnet representations of Gaudi's number square. Alas it is time to go, catch my train, meet Michelle back at her workplace, and get something to eat before heading off to see The Adicts at The Faktoria. (read about it here)

Saturday brought a day of firsts, the first first was to finally eat paella in Spain, I have been here so many times, but never eaten paella. So here we were, me and Michelle, Saturday afternoon, sitting in the sun, tucking into a huge dish of mixed paella. Mixed means mixed, rabbit, chicken, mussles, prawns, fish, you name it, it is in this dish, and it was delicious. Ok we are in the touristy bit of the sea front, but hey, it was still good.

The next first and last first, was to indulge my inner (or not so inner, eh Gill) geek, and go see the new Star Trek movie. Obviously it's not the first Trek film I have ever seen, but it's the first time I have been to the movies in Spain. No it was not in Spanish, my Spanish is in no way good enough for that, it was in the only language I am able to speak fluently, English, but with Spanish subtitles.

What of the film itself. Well it's like what they have done with the new Bond films, it's familiar, yet new, reinvented and revised for a new generation of movie go-ers. For followers of Trek the makers of the new film have included a clever little plot device so that they can make sequels to this one, without polluting the existing Trek timeline, oops my innner geek is spilling out. Anyway it's a good film for Trekkies and non Trekkies, funnier if you are familiar with the concept, but a good sci-fi adventure movie. Two things are remarkable, one being how full the cinema was and secondly how dark the room was, once the film got underway. There was a false start with the film, as someone had set the picture size incorrectly, but that was soon sorted and the film restarted. Despite that, the film received a nice round of applause at the end.

to be continued............................

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Saturday, 9 May 2009

Adicts - Barcelona (Terassa) May 8th 2009

As I was to be in Barcelona for the Grand Prix, Michelle had checked out if anything was on while I was there, and to her surprise an English Punk band, 'The Adicts' would be performing at the same venue I had seen the 'Arabian Orchestra' last December.

The Adicts are a band I have only 1 frame of reference to, that being someone had the clown face logo painted on the back of their leather jacket (Tacky I think). I had not heard anything by them, so going to see them would be if anything, interesting.

Punks in Spain? I was surprised.

On approaching the venue the concentration of mowhawks, studs and bondage gear became greater, until saturation point inside the venue. Everywhere you looked people had 'punk' t-shirts, and none of them Spanish. Dead Kennedys, English Dogs, Damned etc. This was going to be interesting.

First to tread the boards are a local Oi! punk band. Obviously they had brought their mates along, as they sang along (in Spanish), with no spitting, some stage diving, and plenty of arms in the air. It's a Spanish thing, or so I have been told.

From what I could gleam from the interweb, The Adicts would appear to have quite an interest in the movie 'A Clockwork Orange', borrowing imagry for both songs and costume. So it came as no surprise they came onstage to the theme from the movie, decked out in white boiler suits and bowler hats.

But what was a surprise was how well the audience knew the songs. From when the singer made his way to the stage and his first words in first costume, to last words in last costume, the audience continued to sing along. It was a bizarre singalong to a band I had never heard before, but obviously they are well known in this neck of the woods.

So what of the music, it was more party punk than a statement of anarchy, a fun band which did not take themselves too seriously. They know how to entertain, as the the singer informed us, he was nearly 50, but it did not matter, they entertained, and we were also. Despite how long they must have been playing the same songs, there was an air of freshness about it al, not because of my lack of exposure, the band themselves are uncontrived, hugely enjoyable, well crafted and theatrical.

I would like to see them again....sometime.

click here for gallery of pictures

Sunday, 3 May 2009

St Annes & Blackpool, May 2nd 2009

Saturday morning, the morning after the night before, and the night before had only comprised of a few beers, so a clear head was in the building. A Saturday morning usually has a few tasks attached to it, tidying up, vacuum living room, the usual mundane chores, then laze about until monday.

But today, me and Gill had decided to visit the sea, St Annes to be the exact expanse of sea in question. So following her usual saturday rituals, some not too dissimilar to mine, she picked me up around 3 and off we went.

Parking up at a cafe in St Annes, we indulged in a cup of tea and dodgy cake, then a set about walking. I hadn't been here for many a year (am not sure if I have actually been here before), so it was quite a new experience. Plenty of photo's were a taken. Gill is quite phobic about her picture being taken, but managed a couple. After wandering up and down the pier and back to the car a further jaunt was undertaken.......Blackpool.

We only made it as far as the south pier before the tackyness that is Blackpool became too much and the money ran out of the parking meter. But our allotted time allowed for the pondering over of the prom sculptures, the writing of names in the sand, and to peer upon the giant disco ball. Ice creme was consumed with great gusto before i was persuaded to make a fool of my self by attempting cartwheels upon the sand. Gill would be quite adept at the cartwheel, me on other hand, just fell over utterly hopeless.

All that was left was to drive home for a homemade curry and a few beers. A good day.

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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Ojos De Brujo - Liverpool Philarmonic May 1st 2009

My friend Michelle informed me a few weeks ago the Ojos De Brujo would be playing near Barcelona in june, like the cat curiosity guided my mouse via the interweb and I found that Ojos De Brujo would be performing in Liverpool at the beginning of having survived (unlike the cat) I booked tickets for me and Peter.

Slowly the days passed until at last we ventured forth to that pool of liver to behold the magnificence that is Ojos De Brujo. Unfortunately we arrived a few minutes late and the band had already started, but no matter we were here and that's all that mattered.

New tracks mixed with old, old tracks remixed for a live performance. The audience encouraged to release themselves from the confined of booked seats and to strut, boogie and jiggle about in rhythmical formation infront of the stage. we just sat in wonderment at this spectacle on the balcony, as it afforded us a great view and sound.

Ojos De Brujo performed a short first set, had an interval and returned to bemuse amuse and infuse us some more. They are able to fuse so many different types of music, all with an effortless complexity, and expertise it possitively blows the mind. How many more rhythms can you fit into one song, and still they would add more.

So in all we had a great night. On returning to Blackburn it was decided we sould venture forth into the night and consume beer, and so we did.

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