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 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.

Day of Culture with Birdy and Jas, including Mark Rothko and Chris Ofili

2017-07-23 16.57.49The day started well with a smile from a little boy on the train up to London. He was just getting bored so his mum sat him on the table in front of her so he could see her face but instead he saw mine, I smiled and he beamed back. He kept doing it for five minutes. We’ll never meet again but we had a little moment 🙂

I’d picked a seemingly odd place to meet but those that know me know that that just means there’s a plan and I had a big one. Costa on the corner as you come out of Monument tube station isn’t the sort of place I’d normally select but this day it served my purpose. A short wait and suddenly my companions round the corner and we are a team.

2017-07-22 11.38.55I beat them there and so once they arrived we set off straight away as we had better places to visit. Heading towards the Thames we reached my first goal almost immediately as it’s on the left and just before London Bridge. Time has caught up with the Monument so that now it is almost entirely hidden by the large buildings around it, despite being a significant monument to an important part of Londons history. Built in the sixteen seventies it commemorates the Great Fire of London.

Alt: Wow – a monument at monument! – How cool is that.

We move on to London Bridge where we’re immediately provided with a spectacular view of the Shard, having already seen the The Walkie-Talkie behind us. Looking down the Thames we can see Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast. We cross the bridge (noting the new safety features).

2017-07-22 12.12.57We get to the corner of London Bridge station were we encounter a large group of Scooters causing excitement in one of our group.

Alt: Scooters on London Bridge – How on earth did Paul organise that?

We cross the road and all of a sudden we are in Borough Market, a great place to spend an hour in London despite recent events. My vegetarian friends where faced with rather more meat oriented stalls than they would have liked and the spit roasted pork turned stomachs I’m afraid. But overall the experience was great and they managed to find a nice Veggie Burger for lunch (I opted for large fancy cheese straws (more of that later)).

Alt: Borough Market – what an amazing place all tucked away, distressed by the whole cooking pig thing but loving the vegan cheese burgers

Time to find somewhere quiet to eat our lunch (surprisingly difficult to do, some tables and seating at Borough Market wouldn’t go a miss). Luckily I have that in hand and guide the troops to my secret spot. Before that we take a little detour to take in The Golden Hind II and encounter a couple of buskers one with a flaming trumpet.

Alt: Famous boat on route to ‘chilled out’ eating area (not the cutty sark but actually the golden hind). Highly amused by the man with the flaming trumpet and concerned about the fingers of the guitar bashing busker!!

20170722_130019Just as the rain starts to get a little unpleasant we reach my secret spot and have a nice french style outdoor bench to sit and eat our food with excellent tree cover to take care of the rain. Its zen like nature turns out to be a little more zen than even I thought as our in-house zen master discovers in the undergrowth a Buddha

Alt: Birdy remarking on how cool it was to find chill out eating area and to be sheltered from rain by the trees, Dad going into his Buddhist conditionality thing prior to discovering Buddha himself sitting opposite in the undergrowth – cosmic!!

With the weather clearing a little its time to make a dash for Tate Modern, we make good progress and soon find ourselves at The Wobbly Bridge (The Millennium Bridge). We’re distracted by workers feeding a squirrel before diving into Tate Modern.

Alt: The guy interacting with the squirrel outside the Tate Modern

We’re all a bit short of coffee by now and so decide to do the cafe first and then the gallery.

Alt: Coffee in the Tate Modern

2017-07-22 14.15.23Despite my dodgy friend (you know who you are) advising me the Rothko room didn’t exist anymore I persisted and found that Tate Modern has done a very nice job of updating the Rothko room since I last went. The Rothkos here are old friends of mine and it was nice to see them once again. In the past I have seen them with more light than they are currently allowed and so this encounter was different to my others. The feeling that you are in a church of art still persists though. A free experience in London such as this should always be checked out.

Alt: Rothko – birdy didn’t quite ‘get it’ – Dad did (kind of) and Paul in his element (definitely did get it)

Having left Tate Modern and begun to walk along South Bank towards Embankment I was attacked by two waves, the first was small but managed to get over the wall and spray me, the second much bigger (as tall as a mountain) climbed so high I darted left out of its way (lightning reactions me) but strangely it didn’t manage to get over the wall and so there was no spray. I survived.

Alt: Seeing Paul move like lightning to avoid wave on riverside (one of Birdy’s highlights although she did find the guys on the bike trying to avoid being hit by the flying pigeon and the lad tripped over by the tree pretty amusing as well)

2017-07-22 14.45.17As we were making good progress I decided it would be nice to sit and watch the river for a short while. This afforded a spectacular view of St. Pauls, The Leadenhall Building and The Walkie-Talkie building. Birds amused us as did my remaining posh cheese straws.

Alt: Sharing cheese straws on the bench (with the surprisingly zesty mustard seeds)

The rain began to fall a little heavier so we decided we better make some more progress. Hoping we’d get to The Golden Jubilee bridges we stepped up our pace but by the time we reached The National Theatre it was fast becoming a downpour so it was time to dash inside, grab a coffee and see if the rain would burn out. We let ‘Grandad’ Jas out of our sight for a brief moment and he wandered off on his own with Birdy having to chase him down and bring him back to safety.

Alt: Sheltering from rain in National theatre café (dad wandering off with the drinks in a world of his own)

Helpfully the rain relented and we were able to cross the river and make our way to Trafalgar Square. I had one more surprise left. For those that don’t know, Chris Ofili has a new work on display at The National Gallery. This is free to all visitors and if you have a spare twenty minutes in London I recommend you check it out. Commissioned by the Clothworkers Company Ofili collaborated with the Dovecot Tapestry Studio to have one of his designs handwoven into a spectacular tapestry. The tapestry took five weavers three years to make. Ofili has created a modern masterpiece and you all have the unique opportunity to see it in its original conception before it moves on and I suspect never quite appears so brilliantly as this.

Alt: National Gallery – checking out the tapestry (nice touch from Paul to give us the story behind the painting and the 3 year project) – also really nice gesture from Paul to buy us both a postcard of the painting

2017-07-22 16.02.43 2017-07-22 16.02.37 2017-07-22 16.02.29








image1I take them to London I show them the finest art available to man and what gets them fired up? Yoda floating in the air, facepalm.

Alt: Dad interacting with Yoda – How the hell is Yoda ‘floating on air’

Its a short walk to Covent Garden from Trafalger Square and so we decide to head over whilst regaling our youngest team member with stories from our past visits to Covent Garden.

Alt: Covent Garden – Birdy hearing reminiscences from both Paul and Dad about their Covent Garden experiences.

20170722_165008After a little wander we get some well deserved drinks to finish the day.

Alt: Fancy drinks at CG (not sure about the cucumber though) and a whole discussion about Rhubarb

Despite the weather a wonderful day in London with fun all the way along. Our paths were blessed and we saw London as everyone should see it, wonderful and resplendent. Many thanks to my companions for making the day perfect.

The evanescent Howard Hodgkin at the National Portrait gallery and the man who walks his cat on a lead

Urgently needing a coffee having missed buying one on Brighton train station we dived into Cafe in the Crypt on Trafalgar Square, always worth remembering if you’re in the area. On to the exhibition..

2017-05-02 10.41.27I haven’t been to the National Portrait Gallery since Mario Testino was on some years ago. But Howard Hodgkin will draw me to any gallery that’s prepared to show his work. I hadn’t expected this exhibition to be quite as large as it was but pleasantly so. Its just right and the work is, to put it mildly, beautiful. Hodgkins painting style is close to my own and when I stand in front of them I recognise the language he’s expressing with each brush stroke. There are a surprisingly large number of paintings that can be viewed with a representational eye though his work becomes increasingly abstract as time passes. Personal favourites are Portrait of the artist 1984-7, First Portrait of Terence McInerney 1981, Lawson, Underwood & Sleep 1977-80 and Mr and Mrs E.J.P. 1969-73. But to be honest I ‘ve had to slash that list for fear of re-typing the catalogue.

This is a wonderful exhibition, Hodgkin is one of our great painters and everyone should rush to see this show.

Some criticisms for the National Portrait Gallery. First, brief your reception staff on the exhibitions you’re currently running. None of them had a clue! Slightly depressing. Two, the chairs in your cafe downstairs are VERY uncomfortable, the sides jam you into the chair and stop you from sitting with a good posture. Three and the most important, I couldn’t buy a paperback catalogue and so had to pay ten pounds more for a hardback one. Not all of us are part of the metropolitan elite and so that ten pounds hurts. On top of which I personally prefer a softback version and don’t want to HAVE to buy a hard back version. Slap yourselves around the face and come to the realisation you’ve made a mistake about this. Even your staff know I’m right.

After Hodgkin my friend Millie and I walked through Covent Garden revisiting old memories until we found a rare spot of tranquility in London. At the end of Neal Street is a nice little bakery and if you happen to be lucky and get to sit in the window you can watch the world go by. Indeed, you can if you’re lucky, watch a man walking his cat on a lead. He’ll probably be posing for photographs as the tourists love it.

Walking back to Covent Garden we stumble across the Moomin shop and of course have to step in and buy a couple of bits and bobs. We’re all moomin’ed up now.

We continue on our way and find ourselves at Embankment Tube station a little drowned by now and ready to go home. An uneventful train ride sees us safely home and because its still early we decide to have a drink at Grand Central. It scores a big hit with me as it sells Makers Mark, two of those and a little Jazz music finishes the day perfectly.

As always Millie a lovely day and many thanks for your company.

We’re on our way, we’re on our way

2017-04-17 16.54.26I should confess from the start that I’m an Ipswich fan but having lived in Brighton for thirty years. I’m one of those rare footy fans that has two teams for a good reason and so I’m happy to support Brighton whenever they’re not playing Ipswich.

Two years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would go to Brighton football matches with him and I agreed. At the time they weren’t doing that well but the experience of being in the ground on the day is always worth doing if you can and so it all began. I began to work my magic and before very long we had started to win matches and climb the table. But that first season it was not to be, an injury crisis mid way through and a further one in the playoffs meant we experienced the bitter taste of defeat in the play-offs.

The second season kicked off and everyone was wondering had the squad been damaged by the previous seasons experience. It didn’t take long to see that was not the case. Almost from the start of the season they had that glow that some teams have when they’re at their zenith. It’s a rare privilege to watch a team at those times ( I watched it at Ipswich in the late seventies and haven’t seen it since, until now). All season they’ve been confident, relentlessly passing the ball around the opposition and somehow, always somehow scoring when it mattered (except against Ipswich of course 😉 who managed a draw).

I think we all knew that they were going up when they crushed Norwich (scum) 5-0 and of course for me that was a great day. I had been at the 1998 game where Ipswich thrashed Norwich by the same score and the memories flooded back. Dancing with the Brighton fans in the aisles of the North stand while the scum were battered on the pitch was a major highlight of the season.

My friend and I have been on a journey together, the highs and the lows and yesterday it all came together to give us a wonderful finish to our journey (we can’t afford to support them next year). I didn’t doubt they would win this game and in truth they never looked like it despite faltering slightly in the last quarter of an hour. When the final whistle blew we shook hands with tears in our eyes and just stood in the stand and watched the fans invade the pitch, we wanted to take in the scene and a wonderful sight it was too. Quietly, at the end, we crept on to the pitch just to stand on the corner flag and say we were there. Chris my old mate. Nothing will ever take this from us, two years of memories culminating in glory!