Tag: London

Ho Ho Holy Shit… December

I am having fun.

This must be true because time is flying, it seems like only yesterday we were wandering round Edinburgh Zoo! Since then, we’ve had gigs, trips to London and Manchester and, all of a sudden, it’s December and Christmas looms large.

Most years I’d take this week and next week to slowly get up to speed, get the cards written and posted, get the Christmas tree up, buy and wrap pressies and all that nonsense but unfortunately I’m already running out of time.

This week, I have this evening and Thursday evening free. Friday afternoon/evening is our team Xmas lunch which means Saturday will likely find me a little hungover and on Sunday, at around 6.30am, I’ll be at the airport ready to fly off for a week in the US of A. California for a couple of days, Massachusetts for a couple of days and then back home at 8am on the following Saturday… just in time for the Company Christmas Party that night!

It’s been a funny old year. Life has thrown some curveballs and in keeping with the well-known saying we made curveade… no, that’s not right… whatever, it’s been more ups and downs and as ever I wouldn’t change a thing, it’s all part of the journey.

As I’ve said to many others this past year, I’m happy. And that is all that really matters. I have a wonderful woman in my life who loves me, I have a good job, I have the best friends and a supportive family. It’s true, I’m a lucky son of a bitch!

Of course, that doesn’t mean things couldn’t be better. I’m still struggling to lose weight, I plateau’d around June but I’m taking some solace that it’s not gone back on, and I still can’t play the guitar.

Regardless, I feel like I know myself better. My sense of identity is stronger, and I feel like I’m finding my place in this weird world we live in.

I’ll admit it. It’s good to be me.

One day I might learn

Like many people, I like to ponder self-improvement, how I will read more books, learn to play the guitar, exercise more and invest in myself more than I have.

However it seems that deep down I’m actually not that bothered, that I must be happy enough with where I am in my life at the moment. I know this because I keep on booking events, planning nights out and trips, and leaving myself with little free time to do much of anything.

OK, this is a bit of an excuse, I’m sure I COULD spend my free time NOT sitting on the sofa but rest is important too, right?

This is a bit of theme with me, all of a sudden I’ll realise I’m massively busy and overcommitted, that doesn’t seem to change but my attitude towards it certainly has. What I am finding, as I mentioned before, is that I’m putting more and more onus on how I spend my free time, making sure I get the most value from it, regardless of what it is I’m doing.

Looking ahead at my calendar for the next few months has me:
– in Birmingham this coming weekend
– in London at the end of November
– in Manchester at the start of December
– attending two comedy shows; Scott Capuro and Ada Vidal
– attending five gigs; Coheed and Cambria, Band of Horses, Band of Skulls, Simian Mobile Disco and Elbow – and it would’ve been six (Grizzly Bear and The Villagers) but we double booked the trip to Birmingham
– attending two ISTC events (one is in London, hence the trip)
– attending a few (five) other events

And that takes us to the second week in December.

Still, I’m managing to fit in a weekly game of basketball, work on the ISTC website, and so far I’ve managed to do a little more writing than I’ve managed all year so it’s not that I’m not getting things done!

Importantly I do feel like my work/life balance (and my life/love balance) is back on track, I’m enjoying being me!

Weekender

Out on Friday night with some of our ‘new’ friends (and made some more as it happens, it was that kinda night).

Pondered buying a guitar (acoustic, I can’t play).

Saturday. A flight to London, the company of two very very lovely ladies, a cheeky wee night out, bed as the sun came up.

Sunday. A flight to Glasgow after navigating through several thousands of sodden people, bedecked in various ranges of Union Jack. Something to do with that old bird with the funny shiny hat thing…

Monday. An afternoon/evening/night with friends. The usual chats, and some of that honesty stuff I’ve talked about here before. Felt good and of course as they are my friends, they were very cool with it (and possibly want to know more).

Tuesday. Waking up happy. Then tired, and a little hungover grumpy. Parents returned from holiday and I pottered around my flat making more mess than I intended (I was trying to tidy up but got caught in ‘reorganise everything!’ mode).

Of course that’s not really what happened, but all that detail, the conversations, the revelations and realisations, the laughter and tears, the hugs, the smiles, the nerves, all of that is left in private.

It's not easy being green

Last year I flew to America (visiting Boston and Chicago) and this year I’ll be flying to London (twice) and to Singapore later in the year. I’m travelling much more than I used to so I guess it’s only natural that I’m pondering how to rebalance my carbon emissions.

This definitely played into my decision making when I recently changed cars and whilst it wasn’t my main focus, I was pleased to get a hybrid engined car (petrol/battery). It’s also a nice side-effect of getting fit and cycling to work now and then (not as often as I should mind you) that I don’t run my car as often either.

However, to properly rebalance things I need to do more. Recycling at home is one thing but given the air miles I’m clocking up I’ve been looking at other options.

On the face of it, it looks quite straightforward, carbon offsetting through something like carbon credits seems to be the right thing to do but, as ever, when you start to dig a little into the motivations behind some of these things and part of me does agree that all I’m really doing is ‘buying absolution’.

So what to do? Stop flying to far away places? Having not travelled much beyond Europe until recently (one trip to San Franscisco 11 years ago this feels a little bit harsh but no, I’m not suggesting I’m in ‘carbon credit’ already. Perhaps the bike thing is what to focus on first and foremost?

Anyone else got any ideas/suggestions/thoughts?

Last Sunday…

Final day of a long weekend in London, and no plans at all.

And so it was that Kirsty and I spent a lovely day just wandering about, no real aim at all. We dumped our bags at Paddington left luggage (yes, we included a marmalade sandwich just to make sure) and decided we’d head for Convent Garden. On the way we stopped in this shop and that, had a coffee here, and then we stumbled across Artbox which prompted the following:

 

So after buying just about all the panda related goods, we meandered some more, walked past Gok Wan and then it was time to head back to the station. A bite to eat and it was time to go home 🙁

That said, it was nice to have no plans and just let our feet decide where to go. I do love me a good wander.

As ever I find myself conflicted about London. I love the diversity, the choice, the buzz of the place, can’t stand the sheer volume of noise and people. At present I also have more acquaintances down there than I do in my hometown (although that’s changing) and it does seem a better fit for my lifestyle. Not that I think a move is on the cards just yet but… who knows?

All in all it was a fab weekend. I do love visiting London, and it’s twice as much fun when you get to meet lovely people, and spend it all with a lovely woman (who was a little bit nervous at meeting all these new people but I don’t think it showed!).

Last Saturday…

The hotel Kirsty and I were staying was part of new budget range which is slowly branching out from it’s Asian roots. The service is good, the rooms clean and well appointed but very very small and you pay only for what you want (towels, TV, late check out, even the option of a window is offered as a way of keeping the price down). The room was just big enough for squeeze round the bed and was perfect for a weekend. It isn’t big, or luxurious but as it’s mostly used as a place to sleep it’s definitely somewhere I’d use again.

We had a bit of a lie-in as we discussed what we were going to do, neither of us had anything we were particularly bothered about but having checked a few maps we decided the Design Museum would be a reasonable way to spend a few hours as we were planning to meet up with @jtopper, @lipsticklori and @manda_jones in the afternoon, and my mate Keith (he’s one of those weird people not on Twitter) in the evening. First things first though, breakfast!

The aptly named Breakfast Club wasn’t far from us but we decided to head to the station and see what we could find on the way. Glad we did as we had a delicious breakfast at Foxcroft & Ginger, well worth dropping in if you are in the Shoreditch area. After that we jumped on the train and headed to the Design Museum.

I’ve never been before and, if I’m honest, it was a tiny bit of a let down. Probably more due to the exhibition that was showing (Conran) than anything, I love the idea of the place and there is some fun stuff on the top floor. After that we wandered along the river towards Borough Market, stopping whilst @kittykirstykat bought a new hat and scarf (the wind was bitter on the riverbanks) and then onwards to the market itself.

I knew of Borough Market but, again, had never been. How we managed to negotiate it without buying anything is a mystery. So many delicious looking stalls, covering just about every kind of foodstuff I can think of, the smell alone was heavenly as you wandered along. Passing BBQ stalls, huge pots of soups and ghoulash, enormous wheels of creamy French cheese, fresh fruit and veg stalls, sparkling displays of fish, rich slabs of meat and that’s before we get to the breads and cakes. Food heaven and, in the midst of it all, The Market Porter. Nice little pub made all the nicer by being able to score a table and the arrival of Jon, Lori and Manda.

At this point I’ll only say that beer was had (tasty tasty ale from Devon I think), chats, laughters and other such frolics were partaken of, and tentative plans were made for another trip back to London sometime. We also learned the “on my penis” joke which about sums up the contents of that part of the evening.

Then, all too soon, they were leaving and, as if by magic, my mate appeared! No, he isn’t Mr.Benn.

More drinks followed and then talk of some much needed food prompted a wander back to the tube and back to… The Breakfast Club! Now, I say a ‘wander’ but my mate is 6’4 and is quite happy to motor through the myriad of tunnels and footpaths to be found in the London Underground, so let’s say it was more of a ‘focused charge’. Regardless, after a quick shoogle on the Tube we arrived at our destination. As well as dinner we were, apparently, going to ask to meet the Mayor.

Food was had, more chat and nonsense and, once again all too soon, my mate had to head off leaving Kirsty and I to meet the Mayor. Which we did. If you ever go, it’s probably worthwhile doing the same, or at least asking, he’s not always in…

And then, all of a sudden, it was Sunday.

Last Friday…

I always enjoy visiting London and I’m lucky that when I do I also know a lot of lovely, friendly, funny, engaging people who I can meet (I’m still trying to fathom why they keep agreeing to it, and can only presume that it’s some form of charity outreach program?). The reason for the trip this time was to catch a comedy show organised by one of those lovely, friendly, funny, engaging people I mentioned. More on that later.

First, a confession.

I’ve become increasingly glib about travel. Rather than stress about every detail of the entire trip I have a much more relaxed approached these days, presuming that each leg of the trip will take care of itself. I may need to revisit this attitude.

I booked our room for the weekend, at a new budget range of hotels called Tune, back in November last year. I knew I had the confirmation email so thought nothing of it until Thursday night when I was checking the location of the hotel to figure out the train journey from Heathrow. I do remember, on Thursday night, thinking:

‘Hmmm, that’s a bit further away from the Theatre than I thought… must’ve been a really good deal!’

And so it was that, after an uneventful flight, a quick train ride to Paddington and then a few swipes of our Oyster cards, Kirsty and I wandered out of Lambeth North tube station, crossed the road and went to check-in at a hotel where they knew nothing of my booking. We checked surnames, booking references and, finally, the address of said hotel.

Yes, that’s right, we were in the wrong Tune hotel. The one we wanted was just off Liverpool Street, which was considerably closer to the Theatre than the hotel were standing in. In my defense, the hotel I had booked has only been open for 3 weeks and didn’t show on Google Maps, hence my confusion… that and the fact I’m a knob, of course.

The show we were there to see was called Comedy Sex and was the ‘baby’ of Zoe Margolis who, according to her tweets, finds it very straightforward and relaxing to organise such an event. Or, you know, the opposite to that… regardless, the night was seamless, the acts were brilliantly entertaining and there was a definite ‘here to have fun’ vibe from the audience. It was all in aid of Brook, the UK’s leading sexual health charity for young people, so kudos to Zoe for pulling it all together for charidee (more on the stellar lineup in a moment).

Before the gig we met up with @miketd and his lovely partner @ktd, @jonnyb, @andrewviner, @stevenixon and @jtopper, a few light ales and some food later (in a rather nice pub called The Harrison) and we were on our way to Bloomsbury Theatre where we got to say hi to @lipsticklori and @manda_jones before the show started (more on those two later).

Not knowing many of the acts other than by name, I wasn’t really sure what to expect but Al Murray proved to be an excellent host, keeping the evening moving along nicely. Standout acts for me were Scott Capurro (tears of laughter!) and Helen Arney, but the calibre on display was excellent, not a dud amongst them: Al Murray, Helen Arney, David Baddiel, Mitch Benn, Scott Capurro, Richard Herring, Robin Ince, Shappi Khorsandi, Matt Parker, Jay Rayner, Kate Smurthwaite and Catie Wilkins. Billed as a “one-off” event, I sincerely hope it isn’t!

Post-show drinks in the Phoenix Arts Club (where we also met @encratica and bumped into @mrangry) was a fun way to round out a wonderful evening of filthy laughter in the company of  lovely, friendly, funny, and engaging people.

As no member of my family has ever said, Ye cannae whack it!

Knackered and at just the right stage of happy/tipsy Kirsty and I gave up about 1.30am, stumbled out into the cold London air and headed back to the (correct!) hotel.

Getting around

Boston in the fall. Lovely, even though I only had a few hours to wander the streets and take the duck tour. Gorgeous place, friendly people, definitely one to revisit.  I was a little bit spoiled by the fact it was around 21C in glorious sunshine but, nevertheless, Boston has a charm that is almost European (understandably so). Winding streets, glorious parklands, and an air of history. Yes, I liked Boston very much indeed.

Chicago in the fall. Grey, cold and regimental. Whilst it was nice to have the opportunity to visit (I was visiting some of our customers in the US of A last week) I was less than impressed with Chicago. Again, the weather played a part but the city itself seemed very anonymous. Again, I only had a few hours to wander so without doubt I didn’t get the best of what it could offer but I won’t be hurrying back.

It’s been a hectic month. Between struggling to build a website (I’m a month behind schedule, which I hate), things at work being even more mental than normal (which is a good thing, we are TOO busy), and the last week of travel (London, Boston, Chicago in the same week), suffice to say I’m reeling a bit.

Hopefully the next couple of weeks will ease me into December nicely, and then onto 2012.

So that was London

Home, fighting off a cold, thinking back over the past few days. London is always interesting, a hustling, bustling, somewhat odd place.

I spent Thursday wandering around with my mate, eating a huge, delicious salt beef sandwich for lunch, chatting about life, love, and more. We, as usual, set the world to rights, and caught up on everything that’s happened over the past few months.

And then we watched a burlesque show. If you ever manage to get to one of The Rebel Rebels shows, do it. Sexy, funny, I had a great night. Chatted to some fun people, including one woman (who was part of the show, along with her ukelele) who once was made a cup of tea by Guy Garvey!

Friday found me out and about on my own. I had no real plan in mind so wandered, both physically and mentally. Pondering photographs, considering the coming year, determined that it will be a good one. It was relaxing to have no real aim for the day, other than getting to the pub to meet a weird bunch of people who have things called “blogs” or use something called “Twitter”.

I don’t know either.

London remains an interesting place that is fun to visit but I just don’t think I could live there, or even work there. Just too many people. I like my wide open spaces (I spent most of Friday morning wandering Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park). The upside of London is the vibrant cultures, giving a wonderful mix of references, sights and smells.

Thanks to everyone, all 14 of you, who turned up at the pub on Friday night, some I hadn’t met before, all of which I’d happily share a beer or … 8 with again!

This Friday, for one night only

As I previously mentioned, I’ll be in London at the end of the week and, specifically, on Friday night I’ll be in the Ship & Shovell from around 6pm (probably earlier, I’m always early).

Several other people will turn up, some you may know online, some you may have met before, some you may have wanted to meet but haven’t managed to yet, and some you will want to meet even if you don’t have the foggiest idea who they are. You’ll also have to put up with me.

If you are thinking of going, but are a bit wary, please let me know. Most people will be bloggers/twitters, and none of them have two heads (ohh except him, but he always leaves early). It’s a ragged group of smart, funny, and down to earth people, the last twice I’ve managed to arrange something like this it’s been great fun.

Also, it’s in a pub. Pubs serve alcohol. What can be so bad?

Ohh and happy to exchange mobile numbers if you aren’t sure but want to check we haven’t moved on if you decide to come along (we won’t, although reception wasn’t great when I was last there), let me know.

Hope to see you all there, mine’s a Guinness!