Touring the South Bank

Two years ago, almost to the day, we went on the most amazing tour of the Southbank Centre.  It involved donning high vis vests to visit closed off spaces and I loved it – an absolute highlight of 2015.  I can’t even remember why I was on the Southbank Centre website a few weeks back, but I noticed that they were advertising more tours and being the efficient nerds we are, Tim and I decided to combine this with a backstage tour of the National Theatre.  What an excellent Saturday.

We met our guide in a very peaceful National Theatre foyer where we were immediately given high vis vests again.  YES!  I now know this to be the hallmark of a brilliant tour.  There were about 10/15 people on the tour, a mixture of ages, quite a few Americans, but a nice respectful bunch who asked (mostly) sensible questions.  After hearing a bit about the history, we were taken into the back of the Olivier theatre, where crew members were going through a tech rehearsal.  I did try to make an effort in listening to the wonderful tour guide as she talked about the drum revolve and the fly tower, but it was so fascinating seeing the action on the stage.

It’s a beautiful theatre and brought back great memories of seeing Everyman there a few years ago.  From the Olivier, we went over to the Lyttelton theatre which was all set up for Jane Eyre.  It’s really odd being in a brightly lit and empty theatre, but you really get to experience the venue, rather than the performance.  We were taken around the back of the stage (where the photo at the top was taken from), saw the props all laid out, costumes hanging up, and a Henry Hoover ready to go. 
From there, we walked down the main ‘road’ behind the stages, visited the carpenters shop, and peered down into the props department from the walkway.  Even though it was a Saturday, staff were still busy at work creating amazing sets and props, including very realistic looking pizza.

The final part of the tour took us through the offices and dressing rooms, where we saw Bryan Cranston’s name on a door, reminding Tim that he has tickets to see Network, and enabling me to snag his spare ticket.  Back to the Olivier I will go in January.
The second tour of the day was the architecture tour of the Southbank Centre, sadly without high vis jacket.  The tour mainly took us around the public areas so it didn’t really add much to the one we did a couple of years ago although we did get to go into the empty Royal Festival Hall where some musicians were hauling instruments on stage for that night’s performance.  What a treat.

I was able to boast about my stay at A Room for London which I am always happy to do for a willing audience (can’t do it enough to be honest) but the rest of the tour wasn’t ‘backstagey’ enough for me.  They do have a bunch more tours scheduled for the rest of the year, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to go on the actual behind the scenes tour.

After we said goodbye to our tour guide, we went back to the National Theatre to try to catch a glimpse of something referenced on our tour.  We were told that the dressing rooms have windows that overlook a private courtyard and on press night, the actors all stand at their windows banged on the glass as part of a longstanding tradition.  According to the guide, you can just about see the courtyard from one of the outdoor terraces.

Off we scampered, and whilst we didn’t find the courtyard, we did find a secluded garden, great views over the south bank (and also people trying to work with two idiots running around outside).  Every time I visit the Southbank, I discover something new.

Happy (belated) birthday, Mr Jones Watches

For someone with only two wrists, I sure do have a lot of Mr Jones Watches.

I wrote about number one here.

And numbers two and three here.

Covered off four, five, and six on one busy day last year.

Quickly followed up with number seven.

It seems very fitting that 2017 has been the year where I’ve reached number ten as it is also the year of their 10th birthday.  I sadly wasn’t able to make it to their exhibition and birthday party as I was in New York, so I decided to celebrate in my own way – by cracking out the debit card.

Number eight was acquired a few months ago as Husband treated me to a limited edition Dog watch.  I got number 15 (I can’t resist a numbered watch), and I love the super cute strap.  More pink stitching please, Mr Jones!

Number nine was another gift from Husband.  The beautiful Nuage designed by Marion Labbaz is another limited edition which sold really quickly – whilst I was debating whether or not to buy it, Husband visited the shop and picked up number 38 for me.  Nuage has now made it to the permanent collection, but I’m so pleased to have one of the originals.

And ta-da – number ten!  I’ve had my eye on Colour Venn since it was released, and snapped it up in recent 24 hour sale without a second thought.  It’s my current favourite, although the yellow ‘second’ hand is very distracting in meetings.

So happy birthday Mr Jones Watches.  Can’t wait to see what you create next.

May Things

Wow, it has been a while.

For a bit of a kick in the butt, I’ve decided to follow a lot of other bloggers and post a monthly review, because then I’ll at least have one post a month.  Hopefully, this will get me back in the habit of regularly writing though.

No real format here – I’m just going to pick five things of note each month which I might have already blogged about or not, but definitely memorable for good (or not so good) reasons.  Let’s get started with May 2017.

Miami Trip
This deserves it’s own post, and is definitely my highlight of the month.  After a series of events and conversations, my Mum decided to take me and Husband, and my baby brother and his family to Miami, specifically my beautiful Surfside and I cannot emphasise enough how much relaxing we did.  It was perhaps a smidge too warm for some of us, but I spent most of the time lying in the palm garden not doing anything.  And the rest of the time shopping, which brings me to…

Sephora
What is a holiday without a trip to Sephora?  This isn’t everything that I bought – I also picked up some essentials like a million sheet masks – but I was really happy to find this Summer Hair Saviours kit – the Sephora at Aventura Mall has actually moved since I went last year, and is now much bigger so has more of these sets in stock.  The photo missing a couple of items that I’ve already used, but I’m excited to try the rest.  I love miniatures!

Eurovision
Once again, I failed to pick the popular songs.  I actually hated the twee-ness from the winning song – Eurovision for me needs high energy, bouncy, Europop and the Portuguese winner was the absolute antithesis of this.  Never mind.  My favourite was I Feel Alive by IMRI, and it has not left my playlist all month.

BFF Dinner
I have been an entirely crap friend of late, but I couldn’t miss celebrating the BFF‘s birthday, so we met for dinner at the National Theatre Terrace – what a great restaurant.  Once we’d actually found each other – for some reason, we both got to the table from entirely different entrances – and once we’d realised it was tapas and not just an odd menu.  I had deep fried veg with aioli which were so moreish, and delicious patatas bravas.  After dinner, we went for coffee and I had some very much needed chatty time.

Reflection
I didn’t really know how to title this.  Part of the reason for the time away is that May has become a tough month for us.  It was the first anniversary of my Dad’s death which is obviously something none of us will ever get over, so I took the day off work and had some time to myself to reflect.  I feel really close to my Dad when I’m outside as he loved nature, so I went for a long walk around the Pond on my own.  I felt it was the best way to mark the day.

Baby, you are going to miss that plane

BFIThe BFI is brilliant.  As part of their Love season, they showed Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight one after the other and I think I ended up paying about £5 for each film.  Ace!

The Trilogy are three of my favourite films, but I haven’t ever seen them all in one go.  I absolutely want to do this every week now, as it’s the best way to see them – Jesse and Céline aging 18 years in a matter of hours, their relationship developing.  I completely fell in love with them both again, any cynicism I have over “romantic” films just melting away.

1995 Ethan Hawke is a dreamboat.  I was only a teenager back then, but he was definitely the type of man that awkward, spotty, teenage-me would have a mad crush over.  The leather jacket, the floppy hair, the silly beard – I can feel myself swooning just typing those words.  And the way he looked at Julie Delpy.  Holy crap!  There is such an intensity in his eyes and it’s effortlessly easy to suspend your disbelief, to actually believe that Ethan and Julie are a couple.

I’m swooning again.

Although I have a soft spot in my heart for Before Sunrise, Before Sunset was always my favourite and for two moments in particular.

  • When Jesse sees Céline in the bookstore at the beginning.  His shock, joy, relief, pain – it’s all there in a brief second and it’s glorious.
  • When Jesse says “I know” at the end.  Hands down, my favourite line in cinema EVER.  He knew from the moment he saw Céline.  He knew.

I’m fangirling all over Ethan Hawke here, but Julie Delpy has just as much of my love.  She plays Céline with just the right amount of anger and passion, and I feel everything she does in Before Midnight.  If Husband and I ever lose our minds have children, I am sure we’d be having the same conversations that they have, from the car to the dinner table to the hotel.  It’s reassuring, and so comforting to see what I think of as a real relationship in film.

The BFI showed them just right as well – I was bemoaning the fact that there were gaps between the three films, and that we got booted out of the screen at the end of each, but it gave me and Tim a chance to get out, grab some coffee, and dissect our favourite scenes with contented little sighs at the beautiful love story that was unfolding on screen.

It was a perfect Saturday evening on the South Bank.

Soul of an artist, hands of a master craftsman

Brutal Utopia 11

My beloved Southbank Centre is having a little rest over the next two years.  Parts of it anyway – The Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Purcell Room are being modernised in an ambitious project.  Tim, Husband, and I thought we’d take advantage of it being closed to sneak in and do a bit of urban exploration

By that, I mean go on an organised tour wearing flash jackets, and guided by two people from the National Trust.

I had managed to snag 3 tickets for the Brutal Utopia tour for the quite inconvenient time of 6pm on a Sunday (inconvenient for me, as I was in the middle of an insane 7 days at work) but it worked out quite well as the sun went down midway through the tour, giving the end of the tour a bit of a mystical quality.

We met outside the Concrete Cafe (which does not sell coffee) where we met our guides – Liz and Eleanor – and put on our hideously yellow high vis jackets.  We had a quick health a safety briefing from the Southbank Centre advisor who instantly struck fear to Husband’s heart by saying we’d be walking over high walkways.  It made the tour a little tense for him, but he still managed to get better photos that I did. Curse him.

Brutal Utopia1
The tour started on the balcony of the Hayward Gallery where Liz gave us a bit of background on the surrounding concrete.  I haven’t ever appreciated the differences in the concrete in the different buildings, but I can see now that they really all very distinct.  The pyramids on the roof that you can just see in the above photo are actually hidden by a false ceiling inside as they’re a bit leaky, but part of the Let the Light in project is going to restore them to their intended glory.  I recently bought an Inca Starzinsky necklace, profits of which go to the refurbishment project which I think means I can claim part of the pyramid as my own.

From the gallery, we went underground to one of the tunnels underneath the whole centre.  It’s hard to explain why being in a dimly lit, narrow tunnel filled me with such joy, but I was insanely giddy.

Brutal Utopia 2Everything got a bit blurry with my photos as we were marching along briskly.  How I wish I had time to set up my camera properly.

Brutal Utopia 3There is so much empty space underneath the halls in order to provide a noise barrier.  And also to give atmospheric photos.

From the very bottom of the halls, we then trekked up to the top and into the ventilation room.  More than anything else, this room shows why they desperately need to renovate – their air conditioning system is at least 50 years ago.

Brutal Utopia 4The centre takes air from the outside in a crazy room full of filters where it gets pumped downwards – not very efficient.  I loved all the old pieces of equipment, the random buttons, and the straw-covered concrete walls.

From the ventilation room, we snaked through another dark corridor and over a metal walkway high in the ceiling of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  There were holes in the floor that looked directly down into the seats in the auditorium which I didn’t get a photo of. Biggest regret.

This was where Husband started to freak out, as we descended a  narrow spiral staircase to the projection room filled with more old bits of machinery.  Yet more upgrade needed here, but it was amazing to see the big old projectors.

Brutal Utopia 5We didn’t spend much time in this room which was sad for Husband because the next part of the tour was the rest of the spiral staircase.  I really did think Tim and I would have to carry him down.

We sat on the old leather seats of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and found out a bit more about the hall like how the walls could be adapted for different acoustics.  We also heard a very creepy squeaking noise from the tunnels beneath us.  Animal or ghost?  We didn’t stick around to find out and made our way out into the foyer.

Brutal Utopia 9I’ve walked passed this foyer so many times and didn’t ever know what was inside.  At the moment, it’s filled with awful plastic furniture (I say this as someone who loves plastic furniture) but the Brutal Utopias guide book has some photos from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  If they can recapture some of the amazing style from the 60s, they could make this space very special.

We then went down to the green room and dressing rooms.  We were left to explore for a few minutes, but most of the doors were closed so not much time was spent here.  It was very reminiscent of our ITV studios tour, so a bit run down and, well, crappy.

Brutal Utopia 10We finished the tour outside the lift for A Room for London, and for a brief moment I was overjoyed at the thought of seeing my boat again (after staying there three years ago) but we stayed at the bottom.  We wouldn’t have all fit in the lift, so of course we weren’t going up.

Annoyingly, I don’t think we got the full tour as there was some kind of performance art group going on at the same time, so we didn’t go into the Purcell Room and it felt as though we were rushed through some of it.  We did get a good 80 minutes of wandering around all these non-public spaces though, and it’s amazing that Husband and I have been both above and below the Southbank Centre.

I can’t wait to see it in two years time.

More photos on my Flickr.

They’d Better Be Building a Kitchen – Bug 48

Bug48

Another photo of Dr Buckles on his bike signals another Bug review. I’ll need to think of more creative ways to photograph his lovely cycling pre-credits sequence.

As with the last Bug, I didn’t love all of the songs, but I have become obsessed with one of them at least:

Robin Schulz’s Sugar is insanely catchy. I cannot get it out of my head. The video is a cute take-off of the Taylor Swift cop video and amused me for a few minutes, but it’s the song that’s most memorable. I was worried Robin Schulz was a douchey DJ dude, but he’s European so that’s impossible. I’ve just discovered that Nathan Barnatt who stars in this video was also in a Yelle video for Que Veux-Tu which is one of the best songs ever.

Data Ft Benny Sings – Don’t Sing is a good concept for a video. I loved the moment when I suddenly understood what was going on.

The video for Darwin Deez’s Kill Your Attitude had me rolling my eyes a bit – a female video character lead and all she’s concerned about is the washing up and dirty laundry? Really? But it’s a catchy song – I hadn’t heard of Darwin Deez before so I think I’m going to investigate further.

I loved the video for Lights by Hurts, mainly because it reminded me a little of a club I used to go to when I was younger. The choreography is great, and I’m just a teensiest bit in love with Theo Hutchcraft because of it. I’ve heard their song “Wonderful Life” on XFM and Lights continues along the same vein, so another band for the list.

Bug was the first of two shows that we’ll see Adam at this month – we’re off to the Greenwich Comedy Festival next weekend to see him again. He ended Bug with a very funny Bob Dylan video which I would guess he’ll show again at the festival, but we shall see.

It’s always tea-time

OXO2015_4The final day of my Birthday Bonanza 2015 was my actual birthday, which tradition dictates is spent with my beautiful Husband.  The day started off emotionally, as I unwrapped a brand new Macbook Pro and immediately burst into tears.  Husband says he just wanted his Bluetooth keyboard back after my disaster earlier this year but I was really not expecting it and felt very overwhelmed.  Now, the long task of transferring my entire Photo album over to the new laptop begins.  I do have quite a lot of photos…

I messed around on the laptop for a bit before we set off for Not Afternoon Tea at the Oxo Tower.  The Oxo Tower has fast become my favourite restaurant in London – I’ve been there a few times now, and this was out second time having Not Afternoon Tea.  It was just as perfect as the first time.  I had wanted to sit outside but it was so very wet – we got a table by the window though so that’s the next best thing.

Once again, we decided to take advantage of their special “Experience” menu, which this summer was Alice in Wonderland themed.

This was our first course:

OXO2015_1We had Drink Me virgin pina coladas which had chocolate labels that we peeled off to eat.  The rocks in the middle were like M&Ms only way more delicious.  Finally, the Eat Me cakes were red velvet and GORGEOUS.

OXO2015_2The cocktails arrived next – above is Husband’s Nutslide: “Koko Kanu, Absolut Vanilla vodka, PX sherry and almond milk. Shaken with a pinch of smoked salt” which was insanely chocolatey.  I had a Victory: “Chartreuse, cointreau, blackcurrant and apple juice, charged with soda water”.  It.  Was.  Strong.  I kinda want another one right now.

OXO2015_3And then the main event – the cakes.  I was surprised when Husband ordered exactly the same as me as he’s not really a chocolate fan and the Chocolate Classic plate was very chocolatey.  Chocolate orange pavé, Black Forest sundae, salted caramelia almond stack and chocolate coconut mousse.  Every single one was amazing.  It’s funny – it really doesn’t look like a lot of cake, but I was already full by the second piece.

After the empty plates were whisked away, we were served a Golden Afternoon cocktail out of a teapot (which I didn’t get to photograph) with a gingerbread pocket watch.  I actually don’t remember much about the ingredients of the cocktail- I think it was Hendricks gin with jasmine tea?  What was really cool was the dry ice, which gave the effect of steam coming out of the teapot.  I really want the tea set though, despite the fact I don’t actually drink tea and would never use it.

OXO2015_5

And if that wasn’t enough to put you in a sugar coma, we got two boxes of sweets to take home.

Our next trip to the Oxo Tower will be less sugary, but we’ll definitely be doing their Not Afternoon Tea again after that.

The pleasure, the privilege is mine

Liquid Fire1The Southbank Centre is currently in the midst of their Festival of Love – a summer of music, art, and exhibitions culminating in a weekend of weddings at the end of August.  I would dearly love to get married on the South Bank (which, as this blog has established, is one of my favourite places in the world) but I’m already married, so I’ve settled for photographing every piece of neon they’re currently displaying.

Liquid Fire2Love and Liquid Fire is a exhibition of recent pieces from God’s Own Junkyard, a place I spent a blissful couple of hours at last month.  There are also ‘behind the scenes’ treats scattered around the Royal Festival too – a making of video, notes, and sketches.  I squeed with joy every time I turned around to find more neon in all the corners of the 2nd floor – they look glorious from the outside but even more amazing inside.  We awkwardly got in people’s way when photographing them, but it was totally worth it.

Liquid Fire3This is my favourite photo from my exploration, and yet another display of “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” art that Tim and I have stumbled across.  Just look at that arrow!  How perfect that would look on my bedroom wall, and it matches my Tatty Devine Fairground Lights necklace.  Someone buy it for me?

The beautiful neon is going to be at the Royal Festival Hall until 6th September – my other photos are in my God’s Own Junkyard album on Flickr.  I might need to visit every week.

Stop Looking at the Monkey – Bug 47

Bug 47This blog will be peppered with photos of Dr Buckles on his bike if I keep going to see Bug.  And I plan to keep going as watching music videos for a couple of hours is a very pleasurable way to spend an evening.

I didn’t enjoy as much of the music in this show, but some of the videos were fantastic.  There now follows a list of my favourites.


Such a great narrative from Hot Chip’s Need You Know.  I was mesmerised during it, trying to unravel the different threads.  Plus, I didn’t realise Hot Chip members looked like that – I don’t know who I thought they were.


This is possibly the most amazing video I have ever seen.  It took four months make and I immediately want to reposition the pins on my pinboard at work.  Wow.  Genuine astonishment from me.

I was going to post Róisín Murphy’s video for Evil Eye but I can’t seem to find it on YouTube.  The style in her video was gorgeous – a lovely bit of 1980s feathered hair and sexy porch.  To be clear, I mean the porch in a house.  I’ll wait for it to appear on YouTube to make some more notes.


Adam ended the evening with this adorably surreal dance off starring Jus Reign and Timothy DeLaGhetto.  They are both very talented men to dance with such banal looks on their faces.  I’m probably too old to appreciate a Vine star but this old lady did have a bit of a giggle.

I’ll leave my favourite video from the evening for a separate post because it nearly made Tim poop himself so I think it rightfully deserves it’s own post.

Also, Jonathan Ross was there which is nothing to do with the rest of this post, but that marks two Adam Buxton gigs that I’ve seen Jonathan at now.

If I can’t take my coffee break, something inside of me dies

RFH

A couple of months ago, I was browsing through the Jonathan Groff tag on Tumblr (as one does) and read a reference to a musical he’d just been cast at the Royal Festival Hall.  GROFF IN LONDON!  This was an opportunity too good to miss.  I’ve seen him once before in Death Trap, but there was no singing in that, and my miniature crush on him has only developed tenfold since then, what with me recently binge-watching HBO’s Looking.

I didn’t know much about the musical, other than it being about a window cleaner who decides he wants to… well, succeed in business.  Based on a 1952 book, followed by performances on Broadway and the West End, and a film in the late sixties, the play was reborn a few times with Matthew Broderick, Daniel Radcliffe, Darren Criss, and a Jonas brother, in the lead role – J. Pierrepont Finch, or Ponty.

This was a one night only kind-of-a-deal – I’ve seen this referred to as a concert musical – something which surprised Husband as he assumed that it was part of a longer run.  Nope – just Tuesday night.  I’d managed to get fairly good seats, which was only marred for me by the guy in front who seemed to have a broken neck.  It’s the only was to explain the constant moving of his head from side to side.  But broken neck guy aside, we had full view of the stage, which was set out like a radio play – Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the back conducted by Mike Dixon, and a series of old fashioned microphones at the front for the performers, foley artists at the side.  It made for a really interesting and unique experience.

Ponty belonged to Jonathan for the night, and it really felt like the role was made for him.  Which does come across as quite bitchy seeing as Ponty is quite manipulative and calculating, but there is a wonderful innocence to him as well.  He had an amazing relationship with the audience, frequently conspiring with us – it was ridiculously cute.  During the song “Rosemary”, where he suddenly realises there’s music in the sound of his loved one’s name, he gets a little wave from the conductor – the breaking of the fourth wall was so fun.

The aforementioned Rosemary was played by Cynthia Erivo who was stunning.  Her voice was just something else – it really brought a modernity and youthful edge to the 1960s play.  I’d love to see her again.  Everyone in the audience routed for Rosemary and Ponty, and the cheers when they finally kissed just made them kiss for longer – Jonathan and Cynthia had such great chemistry.

Another standout player was Hannah Waddingham who was laugh-out-loud funny as Hedy LaRue, a nickname I shall give to very many people from now on.  I was surprised how funny the musical was, and although it’s set in a very different era (an era where it’s necessary to sing “A secretary is not a toy”), there were still a lot of very relatable themes.  It had a very Mad Men quality, so it was quite apt that the play was on a few days after the series finale.

The only downside to the performance was the sound – ever so occasionally, the orchestra overwhelmed the singing and it was a bit hard to make out some of the words, but that really is quite nit-picky.  It was just such a treat to hear some live Groff singing.

Part of me is sad that there isn’t a longer run as I’d love to see it again.  But the other part is pleased, as it makes the one night very special for the people that saw it.