Sunday, 27 September 2009

The road to dreamland is blocked

This will probably be my last post for a bit.Spare me the tears now,I'm sure you can go without hearing about my mundane life for a few weeks ;) I'm devilishly busy getting ready to go back to Guildford on Saturday,and it's pretty much a certainty that my computer won't work there when I get back,for God knows how long.

Been busy lately with driving and things.I have a car (with paisley seats!) but don't know how to drive it,so want to learn as soon as possible.It's going well so far.I'd recommend automatic lessons to anyone.People make it sound like a big deal that you won't be able to drive a manual,but I don't plan on getting through 2 cars a year,and I'm sure automatics are easier to find than they say.But I've had 3 lessons so far,and already I've driven all around Gillingham,done "country roads",big roundabouts on the A2,emergency stops,winding narrow roads with cars parked on both sides and I'm pretty good at parking too.I haven't quite got the laws of physics yet,in that hills make you go downwards faster,so I have actually broken the speed limit once or twice,but overall,I think I'm doing quite well for someone with no common sense and hatred of doing anything practical that involves thinking and concentrating.

Also had a very nice day in Greenwich last Thursday.Myself and my aunt planned this trip to London nearly a year ago and it's only just happened.Bought a very pretty little ceramic bowl from Jerusalem at the market,and Chinese wooden bangles that make me thankful I have the wrists of a 5 year old.We went to the Observatory,which I always find fascinating.I'm generally completely uninterested in science of all kinds,but I've always loved astronomy and the concept of space and time.Also had an interesting pizza at Pizza Express- it's a new thing I think,and is called a "light pizza",because it has a big hole cut out of the middle and replaced with salad.A nice idea,but I did feel a bit cheated.

Today I've been packing,which is always a nightmare.Still have more to do as well.I really don't want to go back to the discomfort of campus accommodation and all the associated bad memories,but at the same time,I can't wait to start going to the gym,having lost only 2lbs in 3 months :) James has sold the idea of spinning classes to me on account that they involve music and glitterballs,so I think I'll be going to that.Actually I know a few people who've signed up to the gym,so that gives me more motivation to go,as if fitting into nice clothes again wasn't enough.

Then there's the small matter of Sounds of Europe to think about.Looks like we'll be back on Monday 5th from 9-11pm,giving us not very much time to think of songs to play.We've both amassed lots of new stuff during the year away,but there's also quite a bit that we discovered just after ending the show last May.I raided my nan's music collection today,but decided Gianni Morandi and Neapolitan folk songs are probably not what the show needs.I did take Patrizio Buanne's album with me though,so may find something on there,though what I've heard so far is roughly 26 times cheesier than a Quattro Formaggio,so we'll see.

Also agonising over whether to go and see Teitur in Shepherds Bush next Thursday.It'll be October 8th,which is a sort of anniversary for me....of the last time I saw him.I badly want to go,but one slip up on the tube/bus front,and I won't be back in Guildford til around 7 the next morning.In the meantime,here's a song of his that I discovered last week,I really like it,I think it's the only Danish one he's ever done.It's called Syner (Visions).

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Twitter is great Part 2

Thanks to Derren Brown's twitter page,I just discovered Charlie Brooker has written another book- The Hell of it All.As I'm just about to finish Screen Burn,this is very welcome news indeed.Even if it is all his old Guardian columns,most of which I read during long and tedious workdays in a certain capital city :)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

You love me and want to move to Norway?

The (irregular) PVE telly round-up:

- Peep Show (C4): Hooray,Peep Show is back at last! I've been a fan ever since the first series- a series where I empathised so much with Mark Corrigan,it was a bit scary.It seemed to have lost its way a bit in the last few series (though Guildford was mentioned once,so bonus points there),but last Friday's episode was just as good as ever.Ultimately it's all about Schadenfreude really- the situations that Mark especially gets himself into are so predictable (the whole German thing this week),but his reactions (coupled with his self-loathing) are always funny.Then there's the two or three lines from each episode that stick in your head all week."A chance would be a fine thing..."

- How Not to Live Your Life (BBC2): I saw the first series when it was repeated on BBC2 during July and August,and was very pleased to see the new series is being shown on BBC3 on Tuesdays at 10.30.Don is a bit of a loser who's inherited a house (and its mortgage repayments) from his nan.Last series was all about his love for flatmate Abby and hatred of her boyfriend.This series,she's gone away for a few months,leaving Don depressed and sulky.The old lady slapping him round the face and telling him to "cheer up,you pathetic little c**t" is probably the funniest thing I've seen on telly for a while.

- Shooting Stars (BBC2): Another programme I've loved for years.I would say I was too young to understand the humour properly the first time around,but for me,it's always been about George Dawes anyway.He doesn't have as much to say as he used to,but his songs are still brilliant- as silly and catchy as anything Tim Vine would write.Hip Hop is the Best has always been my favourite...There's been a lot of negative feedback about this comeback,but I find it just as funny as the originals.I wasn't sure about Angelos to start with,but he's growing on me now.

- Grouchy Young Men (Sky 3): Not sure if this is a proper series or just a one-off,but I enjoyed what I saw of it.I used to watch Grumpy Old Men/Women and secretly agreed with most of what they said,so I'm pleased to see there are miserable people closer to my age too :) I hope there'll be more episodes sometime soon.

- Dolce Vito- Dream Restaurant (C4): Heard a lot of negative stuff about this show too,but I really enjoyed it.A nice bit of escapist TV for a Thursday night,in the same way Holiday,A Place in the Sun and all of those type programmes are.In case you didn't see it,it follows restaurant owner Vito try to open a British restaurant in Italy.After several potential deals on sites from Benevento to Florence fall through,he finally settles on a place in Bologna,serving up a menu of things like Ploughmans Lunch,fillet steaks,fish and chips and prawn cocktail.It all looks very nice too.Vito was born in Campania (the best part of Italy of course,as that's where my family are from too :) ),but moved to the UK at the age of 1.But despite that,he's still as Italian as they come- loud and very excitable,a contrast to his fabulous (also Anglo-Italian) fiancée,who is also seen a lot helping out with business negotiations.There are also plenty of gratuitous shots of his Alfa Romeo,which is always nice.

- X Factor (ITV): Still not convinced about the new format.I don't like Britain's Got Talent,and that is essentially what the early stages of this is now.That said though,my favourite so far is a guy whose name I can't remember now,but he had big hair and sang Sex on Fire.He was amazing,but that audition probably wouldn't have worked without the audience.So,swings and roundabouts as they say.Boot Camp next,this is the most boring part of the whole programme for me,so I'm not too bothered about what happens there.

- Derren Brown: The Events (C4): I'd never seen anything Derren Brown had done before the Lottery thing,but I've been enjoying this series and the vast amount of discussion surrounding it.People have been going a bit mad about the Lottery programme,and I just can't understand why.He's made it clear that he isn't a psychic,but an illusionist,so what were they expecting? The events themselves aside,I've found the two programmes so far very entertaining.I haven't won the Lottery yet,and I didn't get stuck to my chair,but I am inexplicably finding Derren more attractive every week.It must be magic :)

Monday, 21 September 2009

I sacrificed myself to make you want me

I'm having "one of those evenings".One of those evenings that shouldn't happen anymore,but still do.So what better than to listen to Kings of Convenience,providers of always lovely music and words.This video is rather mystical and relaxing too.

Scotland Day 4: Giggle Chops

A bit sad to leave our lovely apartment behind, we go back into Edinburgh to get some breakfast and leave our luggage somewhere. I decide £7 is extortionate to leave a holdall at the station for 6 hours, so carry it around all day. It’s not in the slightest bit uncomfortable...

Get on sightseeing bus and seemingly upset a German girl by our very presence who sits scowling at us all the way around. It’s a modern new-fangled bus tour, with headphone commentary instead of someone at the front with a microphone. We heard quite a bit about the city’s history from the driver on yesterday’s trip, but it’s still interesting. Like the bit about the street which is actually a bridge. Bus is definitely the best way to see the city. Walking all the way around would be too much like hard work, and I wouldn’t have really known what we were looking at anyway. Intend to get off the bus around the observatory, but miss the stop and have to walk back there later. After a quick trip to HMV, we walk up Calton Hill where there are nice panoramic views of the city, and lots of memorials.

Head back to Royal Mile after assisting some men from Paisley with directions- the directions being “go up the hill”. Have very yummy lunch at Garfunkels (Aberdeen Angus burger and chips), and another look around touristy shops before getting back to Waverley for our train at 5pm.

Have to sit opposite an annoying couple. The girl is annoying on account of her sulky face, and the guy is annoying on account of his haircut, his insistence on keep stroking the girl’s aforementioned sulky face and calling her Giggle Chops. As a combination they’re annoying because everything about them screams “London”. Though actually, they do get off somewhere before London, where they are replaced by an annoying German girl who keeps having hilarious German-English Blackberry conversations containing phrases like “Yeah, the dubstep war hamma geil, na”. Keira leaves me before London too, and I make my way to the door extra early to race off hoping to get the 10.03 from Victoria. Thankfully, we’re 5 minutes early, and despite having to buy 2 separate tickets and a tube journey of 5 stops, I make it. I’m cranky and stressed by this point, temporarily forget where I am, and automatically ask for a bottle of Coke in French. It was a French bakery chain though, so it was OK :) Read Charlie Brooker’s hilarious Screen Burn book on way back from London before getting home around 10.45 instead of the midnight I was dreading. Magic.

Scotland Day 3: You’ll never see a Nessie in the zoo

Get up at an ungodly hour (4.45am) with very bad tummy indeed. Get down to the Royal Mile for 7.45 to meet our coach that will take us to the Highlands and Loch Ness.Melt at the sound of our “tour guide”’s accent (Scottish of course). Discover he in fact isn’t coming with us at all, he was only there to check us in- our real tour guide and driver is what I think could be described as a stereotypical Scot. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy with a gruff voice, very dry sense of humour and a very nice kilt. Tells us he’s ex-military (that explains a lot) and that his first language is Gaelic (pronounced “garlic”, I never knew...). Says you shouldn’t come to Scotland if you don’t like Scottish music, and proceeds to play us some lovely chilled-out Gaelic music by a lady called Kathleen MacInnes. When going on a tourist... tour, you expect your guide to know about local history. This guy certainly doesn’t disappoint, and talks pretty much all the way through the 12 hour trip, stopping only to blast a bit of music or get angry at another driver/cyclist/police car... I like him, he’s definitely my kind of tour guide, even if his stories are pretty much exclusively about clan massacres and gruesome deaths of prominent historical figures. He finishes the rather sickening story of how William Wallace died just in time for our first stop- at Kilmahog, the home of Hamish, a gorgeous 16 year old Heiland Coo...



After Kilmahog, the scenery changes and we’re in the mountains. This is why I wanted to come to Scotland- I watch Tir is Teanga on BBC Alba and am usually fascinated by the prettiness and mystery of the mountains. In real life, it’s just as impressive. It may be a long trip, but it’s difficult to get bored when there’s something new to look at around every corner. One minute you’re surrounded by heather covered “bens”, and the next there’s acres of boggy marsh stretching in front of you, and the next, you’re driving by a loch lined with berry-laden trees. Officially enter the Highlands and get very excited at seeing road signs in Gaelic. I learnt (Irish) Gaelic for a while, but gave up because it was too hard, but I think it’s a lovely language- impossible to read and wonderfully Scandinavian sounding. Stop at Glencoe after hearing about the 1692 massacre. It’s probably the prettiest place we stop at all day. Also interesting to see how fast the weather changes, just 10 minutes before Glencoe, the sky is grey and bleak, arrive at Glencoe and the clouds have shifted and it’s just like any autumn day.



On through Fort William and we see Ben Nevis and hear about how whisky is made, and that 50% “goes to the angels”. Stop at Spean Bridge- near where The 39 Steps was filmed. Officers were trained around here during the Second World War, which explains the presence of a war memorial in an otherwise seemingly random location.

Reach Fort Augustus around 1.30 and get our free lunch. Cheese and pickle sandwich, apple, Scottish mineral water and shortbread. I can’t stand shortbread unless it’s of the Millionaire variety, but I eat it anyway. It’s a bit nicer than I expected. We only have an hour here, so choose not to go on the boat trip a lot of the others are going on, but sit on the shore of Loch Ness with our lunch. No Nessie, but several ducks...The water is crystal clear and the whole place is very peaceful, though probably not for the locals.

Tummy starts hurting again once we’re back on coach, and headache develops too, as well as sudden sense of sleepiness. I think there’s rather energetic bagpipe or accordion music being played now, so I don’t fall asleep properly. Get excited at the mention of Monarch of the Glen as we drive past Ardverikie House aka Glenbogle. MotG was one of my favourite programmes back in the early 2000s- (admittedly mostly because of Archie), and it was probably this that got me interested in the Highlands long before Tir is Teanga.

Final stop is at Pitlochry in the Perth and Kinross area. It’s like an urban jungle compared to everywhere else we’ve been- with an actual High Street with banks and estate agents and charity shops. Get chips at fish and chip shop (surprisingly)- the best chips I’ve had in a long time. They’re very generous on the salt and vinegar front in Pitlochry. Mmm...

Drive over Forth Road Bridge back to Edinburgh. Views are nice, but I’m actually quite scared of bridges, so I don’t enjoy it all that much. Arrive back in Leith at gone 8pm and don’t do very much for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Scotland Day 2: (Liquid) Sunshine on Leith

Apparantly Scotland doesn’t have rain, it has Liquid Sunshine. Ring people at home, who all tell me it’s been 26 degrees in Kent. It’s not that in Edinburgh, and we have a whole day of Liquid Sunshine, clouds and rainbows. Book Loch Ness tour for following day and head to Royal Mile to look at the shops. Best shop is easily Ness, which not only sells gorgeous bags with a modern twist on tartan, but also lovely colourful clothes and cute gloves / arm warmers. Realise everything is too expensive. Go to Edinburgh Castle and are a bit disappointed that it costs £13 to get in. It had better be a bloody good castle. First sight is a nice view of the city (Princes Street), and a rainbow stretching over it.




Look at Scottish Crown Jewels (I never knew such a thing existed :/ ), the Royal Apartments where King James IV was born, the War Memorial, the Dragoons Museum, the Prison of War Experience. Castles are nice, but it’s hard to imagine what they were like in the days they were used, when there are 50 American tourists all with gigantic backpacks pushing their way around. Spend most of the day there and decide it is a pretty good castle- the Crown Jewels did it for me, very interesting story. They’re also very understated, unlike the camp and garish crown our lovely Queen wears. Have lunch at Redcoat café- tuna sandwich, Scottish mineral water and the best Millionaire’s shortbread I’ve ever had. Walk back down the Royal Mile looking in every touristy shop at tartan scarves, tartan rugs (now I have a car, I really want one of those) and exquisite cashmere socks. The rain and wind makes them all the more exquisite, but at £25 I have to sadly say goodbye to them. Go to St Giles’ Cathedral, lovely old building with quite a modern interior. Men in cherrypickers are painting the ceiling. Buy the cutest cartoon postcards- a sort of Where’s Wally vision of Edinburgh, light a candle for a certain person as I’ve done in every church in every country I’ve been to in the last year, then go home.

Disappointing carbonara for dinner. Watch Insatiable- a thoroughly enjoyable Spanish chick flick with a major twist. Discover Rock of Love on TMF. Good Lord...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Hop Farm

I have no brothers or sisters,and I never went to playschool.This means for the first 4 years of my life I only had adult company,and subsequently have always felt more grown up than other people my age and even now,hate their sometimes childish behaviour.

Except when big bouncy pillows are involved...



And furry animals...



And especially carousels...



Yesterday I went to the Hop Farm in Paddock Wood with Emma and Shabana.It took us forever to find,but it was a really good day.I literally haven't had that much fun since I danced around like a loon to the Work Your Magic remix at The Scala last year.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Scotland Day 1: North > South

Manage to get seat on commuter-rich 7.58 from Gillingham-Victoria. 5 stops on Victoria Line to Kings Cross. Get annoyed at how rubbish the Underground is on account of it being so small and claustrophobic and full of London people (There are many reasons I don’t like London- the people being one of the main ones). Take back everything I said about the Paris metro- it’s fab. Meet Keira at Kings Cross, buy stuff to eat on the train (Millionaire’s shortbread and bacon and egg muffin from a nice man called Fabricio). Man tells us off for not queuing for the train. Who the hell queues on a train platform? Especially when your seat is already reserved. Get 10am Flying Scotsman all the way to Edinburgh, stopping at Peterborough, York, Darlington and Newcastle. I’ve never been this far north. Discuss ideas for Sounds of Europe and do the crossword in Closer- it’s a joint effort, as the clues are sometimes very misleading with their unindicated use of plurals. Notice that the landscape in Northumberland (?) / Southern Scotland is lovely- streams and hills everywhere, and tons of sheep and cows. And masses of open sea to the left (we’re travelling backwards). Decide North is better than South, not that I needed much convincing anyway.

Arrive in Edinburgh 10 minutes earlier than expected. Come out of Waverley Station in the wrong direction and spend ages looking for the stop where Lothian Buses number 10 to Western Harbour leaves from. Ask 2 drivers and am rather embarrassed that they don’t understand my accent. Being from the Home Counties where everyone from Canvey Island to Bournemouth speaks the same makes you assume that it’s an easily understood accent. Suddenly feel a bit foreign. Find bus and get annoyed at the Lothian Buses system of not handing over any money and having to put it in what looks like a metal paper shredder and collect your ticket from a machine about a foot away. What if you don’t have the exact change? I didn’t, so I lost a pound. Decide I don’t like Lothian Buses, although the tartan seats are nice and comfortable. Arrive Western Harbour (Leith) after what seems like quite a long time thanks to all the traffic lights and roadworks. Find Ocean Apartments pretty easily and fall in love with ours immediately. Decide to just go to Asda for some food, and spend the rest of the evening in with the Michael McIntyre and Europop DVDs. Have a bit of a sing song to This Is My Life. Go to bed.

Ostend

Apart from a boy at the back of the coach who was with his nan and clearly didn’t want to be, myself and Keira were the youngest people on the trip by about 60 years. They must have loved our chatter. We considerately moved from one end of the coach to the other after getting off the ferry though, just to make sure we didn’t make absolutely everyone hate us.

The ferry trip was pleasant on the way over. Nice to be on the good old Dover-Calais after a few years. Though I still have no idea why when my Danish friend was living in the UK, seeing the White Cliffs was the one thing he wanted to do more than anything else... Anyway, after coffee, we went outside and took some amusing pictures....



I have less hair than Keira, so mine are not quite as effective :(

When the driver (called Alan, which made us think of this every time someone said his name) said we’d be stopping before we got to Ostend, I did get a bit excited at the thought that it would probably be in France and I could speak French again. Turns out it wasn’t though, it was about 15 minutes from Ostend itself- a little chocolate factory on the side of a motorway. I definitely got excited at the sight of Galler chocolate bars, of which I ate very many when I lived in France and subsequently look like I do now. But I bought one anyway (white chocolate praline as usual).

The coach dropped us off near a mini marina type thing...



And it wasn’t long before we found a music shop. Excitement for me once again as it was the Free Record Shop, like they have in Oslo. Seems CDs are just as expensive as they are in Oslo too. I didn’t buy anything in the first one- though we were both intrigued by the amount of CDs by a guy called Regi, and also the popularity of an accordion duo called The Sunsets and a cheesy looking guy called Christoff.

We found the beach quite quickly, which as I said, looks much nicer on a sunny day. There were quite a few people there, and we had a little sit down and chat like you do. Somehow it just didn’t feel like Belgium though- I guess that’s because I’d only been on a beach 4 days previously, and once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all really. We looked in all the tat shops along the seafront, as you have to, and I bought some nice vintage postcards which will go nicely with my ones from Bruges and Paris, and my Soviet propaganda ones from Russia. It seems local photographers are a bit modest when it comes to Ostend- none of the postcards with real photos on did the beach justice at all.

After a bit more walking, we found the Japanese garden that Keira’s friend had told us about. I didn’t really know what to expect from a Japanese garden, but it was nice. Lots of bonsai as I suppose is to be expected, fishes and a waterfall...





Walking back into the town centre, I decided I’d quite like a holiday home on the Belgian coast. There are definite similarities between Ostend and Schleswig-Holstein, with the biggest difference being that Ostend is a cheerful, more colourful kind of place that’s more instantly likeable than anywhere on the German Baltic coast. The language situation in Flanders is quite interesting too- Flemish (to me anyway) definitely sounds like Plattdeutsch, and actually, any multilingual signs to be found were written in Plattdeutsch as opposed to standard German, which surprised me. This is just another plus-point of Flanders for me though, I didn’t feel as out of place as I did in Denmark- with a bit of listening practice I think I could understand quite a bit of Flemish. Then of course there’s French. Though I know about the strained Flemish-Walloon relations in Belgium, quite a few people in shops spoke French- good for me :) Cultural point number 2- people in Paris will ignore you when asking for directions, people in Ostend are nice and have a sense of humour.

We found some more music shops back on a busy sidestreet- by the way, in case you’re a fan- Englebert Humperdinck seems pretty big in Flanders- he was playing at the Kursaal sometime that week, and there were posters of him everywhere. Anyway, I couldn’t go to Belgium without buying something for the radio show- so I got Laura Pausini’s E Ritorno di Te, Star Academy 6- Leurs Singles, and De Jager by Eva de Roovere. Details to follow on WYM some time.

And after a quick trip to the psychedelic pink sweet shop, a quick trip to the lovely gothic church near the harbour and a pretty rough ferry trip back to Dover, there ended our trip. Four hours wasn’t really enough, although we did fit quite a bit in. It’s times like this I feel lucky to live in Kent, as we’re so close to Europe. Live anywhere else in the country and I just don’t think a day trip would be worth it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Twitter is great

Remember the other week when I talked about my Riverside pictures and that I think bleak landscapes are more interesting than pretty postcard ones? Well thanks to Olafur Arnalds (my favourite Icelandic classical musician- he's friends with Teitur don't you know?) and his Twitter postings,I found this site which has kept me occupied all morning.Web Urbanist has lots of photos of abandoned places and buildings,from the eerie St Kilda archipelago in the Outer Hebrides,to disused chemical factories in Poland.It's rather wonderful.Also this- the ghost city of Cyprus...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

I wish I'd written this: Part 1

Nothing better to do on a long boring evening than translate songs...

I’ve prayed to my angel, thought of no other girl,
Waited for a thousand hours, all for nothing.
Written twenty letters until one was good enough for you
“Hi, how are you? Do you think about me sometimes?” Sometimes...

What does it look like, the sky above you?
Over there where the sun never sets in summer.
Where does the sky begin and end?
If it stretches far enough, then the sea between us will be meaningless
I miss you, oh I miss you.

Reset all the clocks, I can’t see anymore,
Since I met you, my heart has stood still


Sentimental,but hey.I like it.*Sighs at inability to ever write such words..."

Friday, 11 September 2009

Pictures...

...of our trip to Edinburgh are here and of our day trip to the Highlands and Loch Ness here if you're interested.Will write about the whole thing some time this weekend possibly,but not before I've written about Ostend :)