Just had a long weekend away from the world of deadlines. First up to Brighton to see Ladylark (who has covered much of what we did). We went to see the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Movies i.e. classic film scores. There is something amazing about seeing a live orchestra playing the Star Wars theme (or Indiana Jones or The Great Escape): despite knowing an orchestra recorded it as live for the film, it seems startling that fifty or so people can create it so perfectly in a theatre. We also had seats with an excellent view of the percussion section as they scurried from one instrument to another (tubular bells...now the gong...big drums...etc.) which meant my likelihood of falling asleeep was dramatically reduced. At one local orchestra concert a few years back I fell asleep until the drums went mad (it may have been the 1812 overture, if that has a quiet bit). The conductor on Saturday clearly delights in conforming to the stereotype of the long-haired passionate conductor and was therefore also great fun to watch.
Then cocktails at Zoot Street. I resisted the urge to add a quest for the perfect cosmopolitan to my decade-long quest for the perfect onion bhaji (current leader remains a small curry house in Barnard Castle in Co. Durham*), instead plunging for a Dark'n'Spicy (dark rum, vodka, lime - I think). This is on top of another cocktail evening at the Hotel Barcelona last week, with Carrie and treacle_A, amongst others where I tried the Raspberry Martini (yummy). Zoot Street is somewhere I'd need to spend a leisurely evening in, in order to fully check out the extensive menu.
* (this quest covers the traditional "English curry house" bhaji - the lovely flat bhaji in Dublin (light and delicate) and the bhajiya at Chowki (more flour based) don't count)
Sunday was spent having the first lie-in for what feels like weeks - I felt a lot better than I have in ages, simply for having caught up with some downtime hours. Then we plotted a tour of London for the Monday, when an Aussie friend was over. He only had two days in London so I wanted to cover some of the less-obvious tourist stuff. Drove up, with a tank full of baby giant African land snails in my lap which were to be given to ladylark's boyfriend's sister. Why she wants them as a pet when she has the lovely adorable and manificent eep kitten is beyond me...
Eep woke us early, by running jumping and standing still (although never for long). As with all kittens, she is intent on destroying Evil (a newspaper photo of Orlando Bloom) and controling the world so I suggested Guiness may be a co-conspiritor. The London tour went:
- Canary Wharf
the sheer scale of it is unrivaled in London
- DLR to Cutty Sark
we did our best to beat a kid to the front seat (driverless train) but failed. I can claim the Cutty Sark under some kind of work expense perhaps, since clippers like her plied their trade out to China in the nineteenth century
- Old Royal Observatory, Greenwich
the meridian, naturally. Since the Aussie friend is a Doctor Who fan, I thought this would be appropriate. You also get a good view of the London skyline as far west as St Paul's from here.
- overground to Cannon Street
thence to St Paul's Cathedral, with much rambling from me about symbolism and the successive destructions of London, and over the Millenium Bridge to Tate Modern. On the bridge we ran into someone our friend knew from Australia, and who now lives in Singapore. This does nothing to disabuse our overseas' friends that everyone in the UK knows each other in some way.
- lunch at Gabriel's Wharf
with Sam and Sarah, her business partner. They were getting ready to pitch an idea to a funding body, so I annoyed them over pizza by asking questions like "what's your USP?" etc. Sam has written up the eventual outcome.
- zig-zagging across the Thames
first along to Waterloo Bridge book market. Then over Waterloo Bridge, at which point I was unable to resist a gesticulating explanation of the three cities of London (the City, Westminster and Southwark) since all three are visible at that point. Romans and Boudica were mentioned. Somerset House's fantastic courtyard was closed off due to some open-air gigs (PJ Harvey, Lemon Jelly, Belle & Sebastian). Along Embankment to Cleopatra's Needle and back over Hungerford Bridge to County Hall.
- London DUCK tours
This was the one paid bit, taking us about the main sites in a WW2 amphibean landing craft (the DUCK) before driving down a slipway right beside MI6 and into the Thames (i.e. right at the spot used in The World is Not Enough for the start of the speedboat chase). Up and down as far as Westminster. The guide was good, and I learnt several new things (what those huge tunnels under the southern embankment at Vauxhall are, which pub cellar contains the remains of the Panopticon prison at Millbank and that Westminster and Vauxhall bridges reflect the green and red divide of the Houses of Parliament).
- walked over Westminster Bridge and heard the Chimes of Big Ben (that's a Prisoner link for you, Naomi), then through Horseguards and Admiralty Arch to Trafalgar Square. Then a No. 9 bus to
- Earl's Court
Only a Doctor Who fan would think this is worth visiting. Eventually I found the right exit and photos were taken in front of the TARDIS. In mine, I look like I'm returning home from shopping. Delightfully, not only is the St John's insignia in exactly the right spot on the right-hand door, but the little phone cubby hole still opens. Inside is a modern help intercom rather than an actual phone, but it's the wonderful idea that the Met are keeping it there in perfect telefantasy amber that appeals so much.
- back to Piccadilly
The three of us met online many years back, in a Red Dwarf chatroom (yes, yes, shut up, we were younger), so it has been a tradition for a while now to go on curry hunts on a meet-up. This year, I sounded places out first and we went to Chowki off Piccadilly Circus. Absolutely yummy. Parsi Bhajiya to start, which was lip-tinglingly spicy, followed by stuffed potatoes etc from the Benares region, which was cooler and came with some beautiful sauces and roti bread. All washed down with that staple of Anglo-Indian restuarants, Cobra beer.
- Finally, Leicester Square
At this point, my brain gave way and we called it a night.
Tuesday involved more bouncing kittens at 6am and a day job visit to a client in London, then home on the late evening train. I'd spent the whole weekend skim-reading one of my most useful research books, refreshing some key elements now coming to the fore in Warring States. I finished this whilst having a beer at Waterloo and foolishly went to WHSmug to buy something for the train. I seem to have ended up reading The Da Vinci Code. I would advise anyone with sense not to - certainly, I fell asleep before Exeter. Two days of kitten alarm clocks did mean that today was the first work day I've been at my desk at my nominal start time for weeks though.