My neighbour asked, how are you?

My neighbour asked how are you? A seemingly innocent question, but in 2020 something entirely different. When I saw the words on the screen it rather took my breathe away. I’ve spent a year away from my family (apart from a couple of small meetups) and most of the year away from my friends, my clients and even my neighbours so a seemingly innocent question became elevated to much greater heights than might have been the case in any other year.

My neighbour was of course being kind and it was the kindness that took my breathe away and the awareness shown to notice that I had been a little quieter than usual. I’ve lived most of my life alone, at times (some time ago) closed off from other people as a monk would do. If anyone is geared to handle this pandemic we’re living through its me and indeed I’ve faired pretty well. I’ve not struggled that hard with the isolation, I’ve noticed I drift slightly more than I used to, its harder to concentrate on the things you need to do. But in general I’m not suffering and am confident I’ll make it through if I can avoid the dreaded virus and make it to the vaccines that it’s now clear are coming.

The pandemic is probably (hopefully) the most significant thing our generation will live through. It’s our equivalent of the second world war (or the first come to that). The similarities from that time are obvious and the comparison of our nurses and doctors with fighter pilots from the battle of Britain is I’m afraid very apt though some may not like the analogy. I had a flu jab today and it felt like a military operation. Wear your mask, have your temperature taken, sit there, jab, walk that way, pause and then out of the door. It seemed a little inhuman but don’t misunderstand me, thats the way it has to be and I’m grateful to all the nurses and doctors involved and relieved I live in the UK and not Trumpland.

I come from the generation after the war and indeed part of my diet is still affected by the remnants of war rations we were still living under when I was a child. Spam was a staple of the diet then and I’ve got the blood pressure to prove it! If I could buy it (supermarkets stopped selling it a few years back) I’d still be eating luncheon meat! I didn’t get to do anything in the second world war, I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mothers eye. As a result I’ve spent my life looking at it from afar, being affected by it but never able to see what it was like to live through. The pandemic is my equivalent and the irony that all I’m asked to do is sit on my sofa and wait is heavy to bear. I can’t now train to be a nurse or a doctor or a scientist to help and so I must just be, time will pass (as all things do) and suddenly (we hope) the virus will fall under our spell because of the new religion, science.

How are you? Words that took my breathe away and sent me on a journey into the past and through my entire life and brought me back to the present. Sit on the sofa and watch the snooker, the modern equivalent to marching to war.

Thank you neighbour for caring enough to ask the question, despite going on a slight nutty after reading your question I’m fine thank you. How are you?

Despite the pandemic

Despite the pandemic some relatives came to visit me this weekend. My flat is far too small to house them and in any case that wouldn’t be wise in these times and so they decided to stay in a hotel in Worthing (cheaper than Brighton). Being car drivers this wasn’t as inconvenient as it sounds but did mean that the car would dictate what we could do (it needs parking). This was good and bad. The bad was that I couldn’t really show off Brighton itself too much (anyone who knows Brighton knows that parking is a pain). The good was that it provided a chance for us to go a little further afield, something I don’t usually get to do (not being a car driver). We had rather a wonderful time and the veil of the pandemic that permeates everything at present was lifted for a couple of days.

Jason and Reece drove in from Worthing early Saturday morning and parked in the Regency Square car park where we met up. Smiles all round. I had a plan for this part of the day and suggested we go to The Meeting Place Cafe. The cafe is always busy and its not the best service in town but it has a major advantage in that it is on the seafront and so you can sit down and look out to sea while drinking your coffee (its also COVID-19 friendly being outside). Coffee and chatter ensued until the food was ready the highlight of which was my piece of cake that more closely resembled a doorstop (tasted good though)! This moment gave me a chance to reward my visitors with a couple of paintings I had prepared in advance. A friend of mine had set me a brief to produce a painting earlier in the year and despite the brief being tough the painting was more successful than we thought it might be and it had the additional advantage of providing a template for these two paintings.

Photograph - Jason and Reece

The story of the paintings: After Easter I noticed while shopping in my local Marks and Spencers that they had a large number of Star Wars related Easter eggs left over and when they were still there a couple of weeks later and the price had been reduced to shift them I decided to treat myself to one (we were still in lockdown so a treat seemed reasonable). After it had been eaten I couldn’t bring myself to just throw the packaging away. It had some nice Star Wars related images on it. So I cut them out before throwing the boxes away. Over the course of lockdown the eggs failed to sell and so each week I bought one as a treat and before I knew it I had enough storm troopers to consider producing a couple of paintings!

Photograph - Cuckmere HavenAfter our meeting at The Meeting Place Cafe I suggested we go to Cuckmere Haven as it was a nice sunny day and the location would afford ease of parking and provide us with a pleasant walk. It didn’t let us down and before we knew it we had logged 15,000 steps improving our health all the while chatting and enjoying the wonderful scenery. Watching the swimmers wade out and then let the incoming tide sweep them back in land was the highlight for me. I’ve been to Cuckmere Haven and climbed the hills to get the beautiful view from above but have not actually walked through the flood plain and experienced it first hand so this was a treat. After sitting in the sun watching the tide come in laughing and joking around I suddenly became thirsty and so it was time to walk back to the car. We had thought of having a drink at that point but it was a bit crowded and it seemed prudent to drive on somewhere else for a drink.

Photograph - Jason and Reece Lewes Castle

We decided to visit Lewes on the way back to Brighton as my guests had not been there. We had a very pleasant walk through town and visited the The Castle, Baltica Pottery Shop and the Fifteenth Century Bookshop before meandering back through town visiting The Sussex Guild shop on the way where we made a couple of small purchases for fun. Finally we halted at Fuego Lounge for coffee and a catch up on the footy results. A very pleasant coffee made to taste better by our football team (Ipswich) winning and going top of the table! We are top of the league, say we are top of the league!

Photograph - Fish and Chip shopTime to head back to Brighton. We had planned to have fish and chips in Brighton but parking was a bit of an issue and so we ended up driving through and on to Shoreham where I knew of a good fish and chip shop. Blundens Fish & Chip shop didn’t let us down (even having mushy peas, essential for Vegan customers) and so we had fish (ok none of us had fish but you get the point) and chips beside the River Adur.

Back home to Brighton for some well earned rest.

The next day we met up again and decided to do breakfast at Brighton Marina. Slightly sad to say the marina is starting to look rather tired these days and the service wasn’t that great. We decided to duck out early and go somewhere else.

Photograph - larking about on the golf courseA short drive along the coast we were pleased to see that Roedean Cafe and pitch and putt course was open and decided to stop and have a go. My compadres were sceptical but after they got into the swing of it (see what I did there) we had a good laugh and accidentally added to our fitness count with another 15,000 steps. Judging by the photo I’m not sure we had the technical aspects of the game down pat but we gave it a good go and each of use had a good shot and a bad shot in us. Very pleasant to finish up on the terrace outside the cafe with drinks in hand.

And suddenly its time for us all to go home. Many thanks to Jason and Reece for coming down. Was a great time and I look forward to the next time 🙂

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part three

Graphic - Government messageAbout a week had passed with me holing up in the flat slowly burning through my supplies and the time finally came to step outside again and look for new supplies.

My first trip to Marks and Spencers since this crisis really kicked in and it wasn’t very well organised. No markings on the floor and no protection for staff at the tills. Shopping was as a consequence tricky as people tried to avoid each other stepping this way and that while trying to get out of there as soon as possible. I was surprised at how successful I was and indeed felt rather smug as I had picked up some cheap food that had obviously been over ordered and they were trying to clear. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I had accidentally missed out a whole row whilst going around trying to avoid people (Its at times like this you realise you have a fixed way of going round a supermarket and when something disturbs that mistakes occur!). Having failed to get some milk and yogurts I realised I was going to have to go out again. That would have to wait for tomorrow.

Since I still hadn’t found any loo paper and was down to my last roll I decided to see if I could get some at the same time as milk and yogurts. Marks and Spencers are my usual food shop but they hadn’t had any loo paper since the crisis started and I didn’t have any expectation they would now so I decided to try shopping at Waitrose instead (despite the likely queue).

When I got to Waitrose there was indeed a queue, one that stretched around the corner and started up the hill to Seven Dials. I tagged on the end and waited. Everyone was obeying social distancing and it was a sunny day so no real stress just patience needed. The queue soon moved and after only fifteen minutes I had reached the door and was next in. The floor had been divided into small areas to ensure social distancing (this was the first time I encountered this). The few days since my last shop had had an affect and Waitrose was much further along the organisation trail than Marks and Spencers had been. Before looking for milk and yogurts I decided to see if there was toilet paper and low and behold there it was, I could have sworn it had a glow all of its own! Not only that but I was able to snag some Kitchen towel and finally some hand soap (can’t get enough of that in a pandemic!). Having snagged some milk and yogurts (ok, I bought some Cadbury cream eggs as well) to go with the loo paper etc I was out of there . Emerging into the light with shopping in hand felt like a relief. As Sartre says ‘Hell is other people’ and in a pandemic this is never more true! Having dragged the shopping home I immediately unpacked it all and having done that a serious hand washing was needed. We’ve all become skilled at washing our hands like surgeons do these days.

Unlike a lot of people at this time there is nothing stopping me from working. I work from home anyway as a web designer and social media manager. However these are not normal times and I find the process of shopping for food somewhat draining so that when I return home I find it hard to concentrate on work for the rest of that day. I’m guessing there’s a degree of adrenalin that goes on while shopping which then drops as you return home. I tinkered with work related things for the rest of the day until I finally gave up.

Around this time the governments propaganda machine began to function and we began to get daily updates on the figures (deaths, infection rates etc). Along with the daily updates adverts began to appear on the TV and across social media. Messages like ‘Act like you’ve got it, anyone can spread it’ began to appear on my Facebook timeline. Its around this time that comparisons with the war began and I start contemplating whether there will be rationing.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part two

Following my last trip to the pub I awoke and indeed the world had changed. Social isolation began. Since I already worked from home and largely live in social isolation this initially didn’t have much effect on me. I had a few days worth of food and so hunkered down for a while. However, time came when I needed more food (and loo paper, I hadn’t stockpiled like others) and also I needed to pick up a repeat prescription, time to find out how the world outside my flat had changed.

Walking up to Seven Dials in Brighton (my old area) the streets were quiet and people shuffled to the left or right to try and maintain social distancing on the pavement. Reaching the doctors surgery the first change became apparent. The front door was locked and we were instructed to speak to reception through the intercom on the door. I requested my prescription and this was placed in a basket just inside the door and I was buzzed in to enable me to pick it up. Never even saw the receptionist!

Prescription in hand I walked the short walk to Seven Dials itself and my pharmacy. This is where the second change occurred. There was a queue down the street to access the pharmacist. Part of the reason it was down the street was because everyone was observing the social distancing rules and leaving a gap between each other in the queue. I went to the back of the queue and began to wait. Everyone in the queue was quiet and seemingly nervous, everybody obeyed the social distancing rules except for one old lady who didn’t seem to understand how to do it. I resisted the temptation to act as the worlds police and ask her to step back from the woman behind me. Buses passed by us with not a soul on board until eventually one passed with a single passenger, the only bus passenger I saw that day. Police cars patrolled by us, presumably checking out how the queuing was doing (at that time they had no special orders to enforce social distancing). It wasn’t a very fast moving queue and so I had to wait for an hour before reaching the pharmacy door. Once I made it into the pharmacy the reason the queue was slow moving became apparent. The pharmacists is small and social distancing meant that only two staff could work at one time (they would normally have five or six). Only two customers were allowed in at a time, one waiting at the reception the other at the back of the shop. Getting served was relatively quick and suddenly I was outside with tablets in hand. I offered some encouragement to those still queuing and set off for Waitrose to get supplies.

I walked down to Waitrose and was half expecting a large queue to be waiting but as I came down the hill there was no sign of one (might be getting loo paper after all). I turned the corner and there was the queue going the other way along Western Road. After queuing for an hour at the pharmacy I didn’t fancy another long queue and so decided to carry on to Sainsbury’s further along. No queue and I got basic supplies and was in and out in fifteen minutes. No loo paper, kitchen towel or hand sanitiser though.

In to the flat with tablets and food. Instantly double wash hands and settle down on the sofa for a moment. I start to think about my old friend Anne Frank and how I have gained a little more insight into what things were like for her. Nothing like the fear of being hunted down of course, but a little touch of the isolation. I’m not the first to think of Anne in these times and I won’t be the last, her writing very apt for our current circumstance. Thanks for your thoughts Anne.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part one

The year started as they normally do, New year was over and suddenly its January. Traditionally I’m VERY busy at the start of the year and Twenty Twenty was no exception. January was washed away trying to prepare accounts and get the tax man off my back. February became a desperate race to invoice my clients for their annual maintenance contracts on their websites. All the time of course trying to update peoples sites and get on top of the to do list. Soon February was gone the invoicing had been done and I was settling in to the task of reducing the to do list and then March came.

From the beginning of the year we had heard about the epidemic in China. The Chinese government had effectively shut down an entire City and everyone speculated about how heavy handed this seemed and how it would be impossible to do such a thing in the West. At one point they even built a new hospital in a matter of days which seemed very impressive at the time.

Slowly but steadily the noise about this epidemic grew louder until the first documented case appeared in the UK and quickly afterwards someone in Brighton had it and all of a sudden something that was just a news story about China became a reality in my own City. It was at this point I had to make a call as to whether I should visit my mum over Easter. I needed to make the call early because the train tickets would need to be made in advance. Things didn’t look good and I concluded it would not be wise to risk taking this virus to my mums house and so I called her to let her know I wouldn’t be coming.

Things started to move quickly now. More cases appeared in the UK and suddenly the government began to show signs of activity. Sporting events were the first to come under scrutiny and although scientific advise was to let them continue conversations were beginning to be had about how long this could go on. It was a matter of days before it became obvious that they would all have to stop and a steady stream of announcements was made as each sport cancelled their particular tournament or event. This would finally conclude with the announcement that the Olympics would be delayed for a year.

In the meantime I went to my weekly snooker match with Aron as usual. This level of activity was as yet unaffected and so we played what proved to be our last game and I had what proved to be my last after match Greggs sausage roll for a very long time (I’m assuming at this point see future posts).

Almost a week passed when a friend (Russell) contacted me suggesting we get together for a coffee. It still seemed relatively ok at that point and so we decided to meet. However, in the time it took to arrange the meeting all Cafes were ordered to shut and so we switched the venue to my local pub The Prince of Wales. We met in The Prince of Wales and both of us had taken the opportunity to do some shopping before hand (seemed wise at the time and proved to be so). Having had previous experience catching flu in a pub I advised we drink only beers from bottles (This also proved wise). We had a nice chat and a laugh with the landlord Trace and all elbow shaked for what we thought would be the first time but actually it proved to be the only time (as it turned out). Then it was time to go home and when I woke up the next day the world had changed..

An accidental tourist in Brighton

It all started with a routine trip to see the nurse at my doctors practice (nothing exciting just an annual check up). She greeted me with her shocking pink hair and it was immediately a very Brighton moment, pride is approaching so I expect she’d had it done for that (its not normally pink). She gave me a good report and suddenly I was out in the sunshine and had a couple of hours to spare. I had an event to attend nearby and so it was not worth returning home, time to visit one or two old haunts.

2019-07-03 16.27.332019-07-03 16.27.44First stop was coffee at Small Batch Coffee on Seven Dials. Haven’t been there for quite some time and so this was a chance to update my mental database about locations in Brighton a little. It was too hot to sit inside and although it was too hot for me outside also there was at least some air so outside it was. As soon as I sat down with my white Americano and took a look around me I had the feeling of being an accidental tourist. I cross Seven dials on a regular basis, indeed Seven Dials used to be my base in Brighton when I first moved here and so I’m not used to sitting down there and looking around I’m usually busy doing something or passing through on the way to doing something. It is of course full of memories for me and staring me right in the face was a big one. The large tree on Seven Dials was almost lost a few years ago because of an arbitrary decision by the Green Council (shocking) at the time. A friend of mine Millie Ferguson fought to save it and with the help of many others did just that. Ever since I’ve thought of it as her tree and what a beauty it is. A nice coffee and people watch and it felt like time to move on, I’m thinking chips at this point.

2019-07-03 17.21.492019-07-03 17.07.592019-07-03 17.05.32I walked down the hill to London road trying to think of a suitable place to eat, nothing suitable by the time I reached Preston Circus and so I turned right and started walking into town. Suddenly I recall the solution to my problem, one of the best fish and chip shops in town. But, is it still there? I haven’t been to Bardsley’s for many years (used to go regularly at one time). I walk up Baker Street with trepidation hoping my fears are wrong and that it is still there. Phew, very much still there and that makes me happy. I decide to sit down and spend a little time to see how things are with Bardsley’s. First thing to note is that they have a wine list! Shock horror. The times they are indeed a changin. I’m very happy to report that despite a recent change of ownership the food was excellent and the service too, don’t change anything guys its a winning formula, nice to see you still there.

2019-07-03 18.24.072019-07-03 17.37.58Time now to step across London Road and walk up to New England House. I worked in this building for many years and amusingly I find myself visiting my old office space when I attend Fusebox events these days. However before reaching New England House I encounter some interesting graffiti and so take a shot whilst trying to dodge a woman trying to park her car in a tight space.

I’m attending a Fusebox VR/XR event discussing the use of XR in marketing and a free beer at this point is a welcome follow up to my meal. I’ll not review this event here as you can find a full review on the Two Patch Pirates website. A couple of interesting speakers and a bit of networking before setting off for home.

2019-07-03 22.02.432019-07-03 21.56.382019-07-03 21.10.542019-07-03 20.05.22On the way back home I pass The Prince Albert and admire the mural but no beer this time. As I walk across Churchill Square I sense I’m going to get drawn into my local for a beer and sure enough before I know it I’m sitting at the bar of The Prince of Wales (POW to its friends) with Trace and Aron (the landlords). Its strangely quiet (there’s usually more noise) until I realise it’s quiz night, a new innovation for POW but nice to see it working. If you have a team pop along. Quiz master David (sorry David picture came out all arty) runs a good quiz and has done for years. I settle at the bar and get shanghaied into helping the bar team (not smart on their part as I’m poor at pub quiz’s, poor memory). A good craic with the guys as usual and their superior music knowledge earned them some gold stars! Not winners but respectable performance.

I start to tire and so its time to go home and get some sleep. A good day.

Roy Harper at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (not Hastings Roy!) 2019

royharperOff to see Roy Harper at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill. I jumped on the train at Brighton and I’m happy to report it set off on time. Just an hour to go until I’ll be at Bexhill.

Had one of those encounters that happens on trains sometimes. Usually I have it with a woman, sometimes kids, but this time it was a young man. He needed me to unfold my legs to take his seat and we had a little fun while I tried to do that (not an easy task any more). I was reading a newspaper which eventually I finished and after a little while he asked if he could read it and we had a little joke about the fact I had taken a page out of it (can’t say why its a secret!). All of this minor stuff is leading up to the fact that as he got up to get off the train he turned and smiled and said have a good day. I wished him a good day also and couldn’t help thinking what a nice young man. The reason this interaction registered with me was that I felt a shiver down my spine as two generations crossed paths and politely exchanged the time of day. I wish him well with the rest of his life!

Arriving at Bexhill I couldn’t get hold of my companion who was meeting me there and so decided to cross the road and have a beer in the Royal Sovereign. This all seemed remarkably familiar until I realised it was a Shepherd Neame pub just like my local The Prince of Wales in Brighton. I’m happy to report I spent a couple of beers worth of time there and the nice young lady behind the bar was pleasant and happily chatted first with me and then also my companion who found me there. After two pints they were starting to taste too good and so it was time to leave before we couldn’t and miss the gig!

A pleasant walk down to the seafront and then along the front to the De La Warr Pavilion and we were in position. But before the gig we decided to have something to eat and so walked around the corner to Marino’s fish and chip shop/restaurant. Very much enjoyed eating in here, a small but pleasant restaurant and the staff were very attentive. We enjoyed our food and can highly recommend this location if visiting the De La Warr Pavilion.

And so back to the De La Warr Pavilion for the Roy Harper gig we had come to see. The first thing to say is that the De La Warr Pavilion makes an excellent location for a gig, we were immediately content to be there. Happily seated we awaited the man himself.

Roy Harper is seventy eight now and each time he tours he threatens it will be his last and sure enough one of these years he’ll be right. For now though he’s not looking near to it. His voice is still strong and its astounding that a man his age can perform to this standard still. A mixture of old and new the first half of the gig was electrifying, particularly with the elephant in the room (his relatively recent court cases). I for one was awaiting a response from him and sure enough he had written a song for just such a moment. Fierce and yes angry, he gave his side of the issue in the best way he knows how. I stood to applaud because I understand what he must have gone through and the song told that story. Its impossible for me to know the rights and wrongs of the case but if I’ve learnt anything about the law it is that you must trust the jury in every case. He was found innocent and had all other charges dropped and that must be good enough for us all.

The second half of the gig was a little looser, clearly Roy was tiring a little. That said the standard was still high and in this half he managed to do something only Beth Orton has previously done. His sound drawing me down as though under water and transporting me elsewhere before slowly raising me up to the surface and back to reality.

On a couple of occasions lately I have found myself at the end of the rainbow and this gig was one of them so thanks Roy and thanks also to Jason for being there with me!

Escaping the world

A nurse drained all my blood away today (well it felt like that). She complimented me on my improved blood pressure (unusual apparently) and said I could have coffee and breakfast now. I decided to take her literally.

I walked down to The Mad Hatter in the sunshine and quickly found myself standing at the counter ordering a flat white and a croissant (ok, two croissants). I tried sitting inside on the little stools at the window but frankly they’re too uncomfortable and horribly fixed to the floor (dump them guys). So I moved outside and sat alongside all the other guys out there (not sure where all the women were but presumably working :-).

Before I knew it I had escaped the world. All I needed to do was watch it go by and so I did. The highlights were the elderly gentleman running (kinda) across the road in pink braces to keep his trousers up, the girl with bright yellow/pink trainers, the number of Chelsea tractors on the road, the improved standard of design on the side of vans and lorries these days and the ironic site of multiple Waitrose vans passing by the Waitrose supermarket extolling the virtues of shopping online.

I used to escape the world everyday when I was a student, I’d sit there reading about existentialism and nihilism. In the end settling on Simone de Beauvoirs flavour of existentialism whilst gently nudging aside the nihilism.

An hour passed along with a second cup of coffee and then as if waking from a sleep it became apparent I was still in the world and so needed to cross the road and get going. If I could do that everyday I would and I have decided to make that my goal as time passes by.

Frankie and Johnny, The Crypt, Canaletto at The National Gallery, The Elephants Head in Camden, The Roundhouse and finally Beth Orton

The day started well, a lazy Saturday morning in bed having breakfast and watching Frankie and Johnny (see my review here http://filmreviews.6fish.co.uk/film-review-frankie-and-johnny-1991/). I hadn’t seen this film for a while and my review from some years ago says it all really.

After a bit of mooching about the flat doing stuff it was time to set off for London. The first thing to notice was that there seemed to be a lot of snogging going on, on the trains, on the tube stations you name it. People celebrating Valentines Day early I guess.

Arrived at The Crypt at Trafalgar Square and settled down to a coffee, only had to wait a short while before my companion for the day arrived and soon after we set off for The National Gallery. I have a policy of trying to hit this gallery each time I go to London but only for short targeted visits (its too big to not target your visit). Its a national treasure and people should take as much advantage of it as they can. My target for this particular day was Canaletto.

canalettoRoom 38 of The National Gallery houses one of the great collections of work by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto). We spent twenty minutes walking around it and they were minutes well spent. Beautiful masterpieces by one of the worlds greatest painters. Most paintings I need to view close up and from a distance but these you need to stand real close and observe the wonderful details. Computer level accuracy of geometry years in advance of the technology. The added bonus for me was wonderful scenes of Venice which I visited many years ago now. Don’t think about it, go see these paintings, trust me.

A tube ride to Camden and we’re walking up Chalk Farm Road. Time for a drink in The Elephants Head and to catch the end of the rugby (England win obviously). A pint of fruity cider and we’re off again, next stop The Roundhouse.

theroundhouseI have to say that The Roundhouse is the most beautiful music venue I’ve visited. Once containing a railway turntable it has been saved from dereliction and turned into a beautiful venue for music. Worth a visit just to see the building alone. We however, had come for Beth Orton.

Beth Orton at such a large venue as The Roundhouse was unusual and I think even she was feeling the pressure. The first couple of songs where some of her more recent experimental work (so I’m told) and I’m not sure they worked that well in this venue the acoustics not helping. However she moved on to more familiar material and you start to feel the Beth Orton wave wash over you. At times during the concert it felt as though I had dived into a pool of Beth Orton and under the water felt completely obsorbed into her sound. Slowly you come up for air and the spell is broken but you get back out and then dive straight back in. She’s not just a pretty face/voice with good lyrics she understands music and that tells as you listen.

Before you know it we’re leaving Chalk Farm underground station and on our way home. A great day as usual Jas, thanks for that mate.

Jean-Michel Basquiat at The Barbican, Imperial War Museum, Parliament, Cafe in the Crypt and London Christmas decorations

basquiat01smallThe day started well. The sun came out and so it was a pleasant walk to the Station. Having tried to book my ticket online the day before (an appalling experience that resulted in no ticket) I had concluded the only thing to do would be to go to the ticket office and get a ‘human being’ to resolve the problem. Smart move, very nice man behind the counter, had my ticket in hand moments later. Online booking 0 v 1 Human being. This gave me some extra time to kill and so I settled down in the cafe nearby and enjoyed a chilled twenty minutes with coffee and Pain au chocolat.

Off to London and a couple of hours later I’m at Barbican Tube Station. I’d arranged to meet my companions in a cafe nearby but it was closed so fall back to the Pret a Manger. It served its purpose well and I can recommend the berry smoothie, excellent. The staff were also helpful and friendly so well done to them.

basquiat02smallIf you’re going to the Barbican I suggest you approach it from the Barbican Tube station, this is because the walk to the Barbican from there affords you an encounter with the Banksy tribute to Basquiat under the tunnel. Nice work Banksy.

Jean-Michel Basquiat at The Barbican. The first thing to say is that this is a big exhibition, don’t underestimate it. Its rare that I need two hours to take in an exhibition these days but this one demands it. Not only is it big but its tough, also, you’re going to have to work to get the best out of it.

Basquiat didn’t live long but the life he lived was filled not only with the social life that probably killed him but also with the culture he surrounded himself with. Art, Art history, Music, Poetry, jazz all apparent in his work. The strongest painting influence is Picasso, he studied him hard and it shows. Compare Picasso’s The Weeping Woman with his portraits to see how well he learned the graphic skill that Picasso brought to painting. The Jazz is all Charlie Parker and some of Basquiat’s work is visual jazz. Its a wonderful exhibition, I won’t try to tell you its easy viewing because it isn’t but is it worth the effort? You bet. Well done to The Barbican for this show which is very well presented and curated. There’s much more to say but go see the show.

basquiat03smallBirdy, Jas and myself then took a large change of gear and travelled to Lambeth North. I had a plan but first there was just time to visit the Imperial War Museum and see the Atrium newly done in 2014. A spectacular site with a Spitfire, V2 rocket and Harrier hanging from the ceiling! And a random tank just for fun. I sense Birdy and Jas may re-visit.

This is our second trip together and the first was blessed despite the bad weather. This second trip had slightly better weather but this next part got the worst of it. A short walk from Lambeth North Tube Station is Westminster Bridge and I wanted to come to Westminster bridge from the Southern side to see Parliament across the river. Big mistake, we got drowned walking there and when we got there Parliament was in total darkness and barely visible in the dark. Of course Big Ben is wrapped in scaffolding too (though we were aware of this in advance) the result being our/my first failure for our little Band of Brothers. Even the walk up to Trafalgar Square past Ten Downing Street was hard work and little fun.

Our relief came in the form of Cafe in the Crypt which despite its somewhat limited menu provided my compadres with some nice hot soup and a roll to bring them back to life. I drained as much energy as I could from a hot chocolate and a little something to eat. Sufficiently revived I revealed my last plan for the day to give my guests the chance to walk away but they showed fight and decided to take up the offer and it was a good call.

basquiat05smallbasquiat04smallWe took a tube to Picadilly Circus and walked up Regent Street to see the Christmas decorations. Turned Right at Beak Street and then left into Carnaby Street which got the Oooh from my companions. Congratulations to the Carnaby Street organisers this display is great and well worth the diversion for. We walked the full length enjoying the display whilst at the same time lamenting the commercialisation of the Street which was once alive and full of interest but is now just a place to shop. Back onto Regent Street we walked up to Oxford Street, taking in the decorations there and then along until we reached New Bond Street which also had a rather good display.

Many thanks to my companions Birdy and Jas, they surrender themselves to my guidance and hopefully it mostly works out for them 🙂 An excellent day.