A Day Unlike Any Other

I arrived home on Friday evening after work with a single objective for my Saturday – to buy a new bicycle. However within twenty minutes of entering the flat my plans had tripled. No longer was I simply buying a bicycle, i was now buying a bicycle between the hours of 10am and 12pm, then I was going for lunch and chatter with friends between 1pm and 6 pm and finally I would be topping off the day by seeing Metallica play live at the O2 arena between 7pm and 12am. Never have a had such a day planned so meticulously for me by someone else! Not that I minded, it was just a surprise.

Lets do this using the correct time scale and begin with the bicycle. I have been cycling to work and back for about three weeks now. My faithful eight year old full suspension mountain bike was beginning to show the signs of not being very pleased with this activity. A little more of it clunked and/or squeaked each day. Add into that the fact that the suspension on it was eating all the energy I was trying to apply to the wheels and you get a scary, slow commute to work. It was decided a new bicycle was required. I spent two days before work looking around for suitable candidate and found three potentials which I loved. The first was a Raleigh Pioneer Urban for ladies at a price of £199. The second was a Trek Soho for Ladies at £349. The final one was a Specialized Vita Sport for ladies at £399. I really did struggle with the idea of spending nearly £400 on a bicycle for a few days and really couldn’t justify that amount when the statements I get from my bank or red each month. The only logical choice was the Raleigh so that’s what I got.

The Raleigh didn’t have as many favourable features as the other bicycles but that’s why it wasn’t £400. Anyway, by the time I had finished bargaining with the men in the shop they had agreed to fit quick release wheels on it for me and to part exchange my old bicycle for £20. Lovely! So as thanks for their deals I bought a small hand pump for puncture repair on the way to work. They changed all of the fixtures and fittings from my old bike onto my new one (by that I mean mudguards, light brackets etc) and in total the whole bicycle cost me !195. A bargain even if I do say so myself. Getting it home was easy thanks to the quick release wheels. it slotted into the car and we took it home. once back to our little cul-de-sac the wheels went back on and I peddled round like a mad woman for a little while and proclaimed ‘WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’ as i went round corners very fast. here’s a snap of the bike.

Pretty much as soon as the new toy was inside the flat safely we were off again to meet friends for lunch. We ended up in Wapping at a pub called ‘The Prospect of Whitby’. Apparently it’s the oldest river side pub in London. It was very pretty to look at.

We sat upstairs in order to enjoy the views off the balcony while we dined. The menu and food were very good and i thoroughly enjoyed the roast vegetable tagliatelle I ate. I am informed by my other half that his sausage of the day with mash and onion gravy was also very good indeed. The pub has some truly amazing views from it’s balcony. I’ll share a few of the pictures I took.

I was very puzzled by the reasoning for this particular structure however.

However, after a quick investigate on the relevant Wikipedia page, it seems the pub was patronised by a Judge who hanged most of his trialists and the noose is there to signify his appreciated custom. A very interesting pub indeed. The sloping of the floors in the upstairs of the building is a little off putting at first but you soon settle into the jollity of it and appreciate the river as you eat and drink yourself happy.

After having our fill at the prospect of Whitby, it was time for the gig. However, Boris Johnson and his stupid planned engineering people at Transport for London seem intent on making any event I want to attend at a weekend virtually impossible to get to. This weekend the Jubilee line was closed which basically cripples the south East end of London. Good job lads! Anyway, because of this issue, we ended up getting a Thames Clipper Boat to the O2. I have to say, it did feel very Rock arriving at the arena by boat and the view of the dome from the sea was stunning.

Once inside we queued for merchandise before finding our seats. I have never been seated at a gig before but as the tickets were found and bought at short notice we couldn’t really complain. We were on the first level of seating and still had a pretty good view. The stage had been moved to the middle of the standing area. It was very different to my visit a few weeks before when I saw Fall Out Boy. This time though, the atmosphere was electric. here’s a video I took of their show opener with some of the most amazing Laser arrangement I have seen in a while.

Now i am not the biggest Metallica fan that ever lived, in fact, I only know one song and it’s the same one the rest of the world knows, ‘Enter Sandman’ but I absolutely will say that it was by far the best live show I have ever been to. The atmosphere and performance was outstanding in every aspect. In my time I have been to see a lot of bands play live in various venues and never would I have thought a single band could manage to rouse every one of the 15,000 capacity into dancing and clapping but Metallica did it. Even I was on my feet and joining in on songs I had never heard before. Here’s some of my photo’s.

They truly were amazing in every way. Some of the newer bands I have seen should take lessons off Metallica as not only did they play for nearly 180 minutes but they stayed on stage after the show and threw out handfuls of plectrums and drumsticks. They also gathered all the flags fans had made and were truly appreciate of every single person that turned up to their show. I haven’t ever seen artists with so much humility and for that Metallica, you have my utter respect. I will end with the video I got of ‘Enter Sandman’ and the sentiment that if you like even 1 bar of music that Metallica has ever produced that you should see them live as soon as you can. They are Astonishing.


Belated interesting weekend update!

Firstly, my apologies for not doing this entry in the correct chronological order but I was waiting on a friend (who’s name I shall not mention) to send me the required photographs. Anyway, they have now been received and I can proceed along with telling you all about the lovely day I had on the 22nd March.

A friend from Manchester had rung me much earlier in the week to inform of his presence in London and enquired as to whether I would be able to do lunch. I was available so we agreed a day and time. Public transport had a different idea of the time though as the scheduled engineering work made a 20 minute journey into a 90 minute horror but that’s an entirely different rant.

I met up with my friend and three of his comrades who were in London with him for a 22nd Birthday celebration. We duly ate sushi/noodles and a lot of other things before deciding where would be cheapest to enjoy the gorgeous weather and company. But before we did I saw these amazing cakes!

Now my cake fix is done we can continue.

In London this is a fairly tall order as there is so much to do and see. I did suggest though that if none of the party had ever been to Covent Garden on a weekend it would be a well worth while walk because the entertainers and musicians there are normally top quality. So we walked form Russel Square to Covent Garden as we didn’t want to chance getting delayed by any other engineering works.

When we arrived I reminded all in our little group to be wary of pick pockets because Covent garden was teeming with tourist and easy meat so we all double secured valuables and then waded into the crowds to find an entertainer that tickled our fancy. There were plenty of people just doing small displays such as this one: –

We really wanted a more sustained effort of holding out attention. We plodded off to find a show and we didn’t have to go far.

The first man we came across was a magician. As entertaining as his show was, it was incredibly riskee (insert French pronunciation here). In order to secure assistants for his show he actually pulled children out of the crowds by their collars and manhandled more than one less than happy crowd member. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely in the spirit of the show but he was lucky none of the parents caught him on the jaw when he lunged for their children. He was acceptably funny so we put some pennies in his hat.

We detoured via an ice cream van before settling on the next show to see. I also saw a shop full of very sad and reduced in price Wall-E toys

The next entertainer was a man who looked rather like a hobo. the clothes he was wearing were very tatty and he was extremely skinny. He looked less like an entertainer and more like a beggar. Anyway, we settled on the edge of his area to watch. Imagine our glee when the hobo came across to one of our party and plucked him out the crowd to help. Our friend was declared the entertainers ‘Favorite one’ of his two volunteers and this happened: –

Now you have to give the man his dues. he not only performed a very convincing striptease but our friend played his part well and was suitably horrified. The show ended with the hobo escaping from a straight jacket under a bet that if he didn’t free himself in two minutes then his favorite one (i.e. our friend) would win £10. Wonderful! The crowd was particularly mean and didn’t appreciate his showmanship in timing his escape to be two minutes and one second. They still made him pay the £10. After the show we did try to return then money to the entertainer but he wasn’t having any of it. I think he really appreciated that his favorite one did not knee him in the danglers as he was gyrating his codpiece in his face.

The day ended with us migrating towards Leicester Square for drinking games and chatter. I will be honest and say apart from the brand of cider I was consuming (Brothers Strawberry and Pear), I don’t remember much else about it. I must have thought that this electric car charging ‘Juice Point’ was brilliant though as I stopped and took a bad photgraph of it.

A good day!

Student Paramedicship

Way back in January I sent in an application to the London Ambulance Service (LAS) for a student paramedic place I had seen advertised in the newspaper. I didn’t hear anything for months until in late February a letter dropped onto the mat that said I had been shortlisted. Hoorah! I then receive another letter about a week later detailing my invite to an ‘assessment day’. Now the last ‘assessment day’ I went to was horrific so I can’t say I was looking forward to it. I diligently learned the material they sent me, brushed up on my map reading and numeracy skills. I also started cycling to work (which is a 13 mile round trip at least 3 times a week) in order to bring my fitness level up a little for the ‘lifting’ section of the assessment.

The test section on the material I had learned was fine. As was the map reading and the section on highway code. I also feel like the verbal reasoning test went well. However, when it came to the maths section, I think my brilliance was short lived. I started off well on the easy questions only to stumble when i got down to fraction addition and such like calculations that I did in year 7 but never again. Of a total of 30 questions, I only managed to answer 18 in the 7 minutes allotted for the test. I did however feel reassured when the accountant sat next to me had only got to question 17. I think maybe that test is for mathematical genius’ only and not the common man/woman.

I shall know the results on Thursday so I shall be sure to update on here. I do have a rather exciting weekend to report on at some point but I am waiting for photographs from a friend before I write that one so watch this space.

Lovely Day

You know sometimes you can wake up and think “I really cannot go to work today. My soul might die if I do.” Well today, I had one of those days, and a very minor sore throat, so I called in sick. I have never been so pleased about taking a sick day in my life. The sun is shining, the grass outside my flat was mowed this morning and I have a laptop that can still access my wireless internet connection if I am outside sat on it.

Today, life is good. The friendly cat who lives the floor above us is making sure I don’t get into any mischief and watching me carefully from a broken panel in the fence. My neighbours, to whom I was previously an anonymous tenant, are now stopping and smiling to saying hello because I have taken a wonderful day and plan to truly enjoy it by sitting on a run outside on freshly cut grass. I apologise for the quality of the photo but webcams can only do so much.

Who’s the winner? I am, that’s who.

When insurance pays off

Before I went away to university I purchased a laptop to take with me and, as it would be transported around a lot, I took out an insurance on it to cover any mishap that might befall it. It was an Emachines but the model number escapes my memory. Anyway, it was a good laptop when I bought it but after 3 years hard service at university then 18 months of neglect it had developed an annoying fault. When the power button was pressed nothing happened apart from the fans would start blowing. I had used the insurance several times at university for odd faults but this was by far the most severe. I only had about six months left on the warranty for it so was keen to get a pick up and repair organised as soon as possible.

The laptop was duly collected and I patiently waited for a phone call or letter to inform me of the return date. No such communication came until Friday when my Mother informed me a letter had arrived back at her address where I haven’t lived for almost 4 years. Odd I thought so I asked her to open it up. It was a letter from my insurers stating that my laptop was beyond repair so please use this £420 voucher for a new one. Marvellous, and let me explain why. After university I had cleared my laptop of everything apart from anti-virus, World of Warcraft and an internet browser. It had been relegated to a convenience item for browsing the web on the sofa. It’s specifications when new nearly five years ago were pretty good but on the day it died, the laptop was pretty poor so to receive a letter stating it was worth £420 was a revelation. I really was very very pleased indeed. This letter could also not have arrived at a more opportune time. It landed on my Mother’s doormat the day before I was due to visit for a Birthday celebration. What timing!

So this weekend I happily trotted off to PC World (where the voucher was valid for) and purchased a HP G60-214EM laptop. I am very pleased indeed. It actually plays a better game of world of warcraft than my PC. The only irritation I have is that it comes with Windows Vista as the operating system. I have avoided vista for as long as I possibly could but now it had been forced upon me. So far, I find it much slower and too ‘fluffy’ around the edges for my experience. I realise it is probably fully customisable to remove the nicely rounded edges it has but I cannot be bothered to hunt for the well hidden settings in order to turn off all the pop ups and friendly hints. I wish Microsoft had an option for software they sell when you set it up that says something like this: –

‘If you would prefer not to be molly coddled through every step of your computer usage by annoying animated paper clips and other pop up boxes then please tick this box and we shan’t bother to install the needless megabytes of space all these things will require therefore making your machine run better as your RAM will not be eaten up by useless announcements you really didn’t need to see.’

Anyway, after I spent an hour or so uninstalling everything then reinstalling the programmes I run, I am very pleased with the result. It is extremely quiet and I particularly enjoy the number pad on the keyboard. The built in web cam and microphone also work well. Overall, it seems to be a very nice laptop but I have only had it for a day so a more in depth scrutiny shall have to wait.

Birthday Celebrations

On Sunday, my Mother celebrated her upcoming 60th Birthday with a family outing to a Cantoneese restraunt in Boston called the Zhu Guang. On a Sunday it does a buffet which is ideal for families as it enables any childrento simply try various different dishes until they find one they like. As I rule I normally steer clear of buffet restraunts but this particular chain (the Zhu Guang started in Boston as the most exquisite take away before branching out) has such a good reputation that I am happy to visit it and will even eat their rice without paranoia. They did not disappoint on this occasion either. They had decorated all around the table with ‘Happy 60th Birthday’ balloons and banners and even presented my Mother with a bunch of flowers. It was a joint celebration as Sunday was one of my sister’s actual birthday as well as being a premature celebration of the big 6-0 for my Mother. Anyway, back on track.

I had convinced my Mother that Iwouldn’t be able to make it back for her birthday meal as I had a band audition that weekend but really, I was going. My eldest sister and I had plotted that I could stay on her sofa the night before and then just be sat at the restraunt when Mum arrived for extra ‘Surprise!’ spice. I duly arrived at my sisters and enjoyed catching up for a few hours before the sofa beckoned.

On Sunday I took my nephew and brother in law to the restraunt with me as elder sister was collecting Mum from her house. We arrived much earlier than anyone else but luckily the restraunt has a rather large selection of fish in an indoor pond that kept my nephew entertained. There was one particularly huge fish which i believe to be a coy carp. My nephew was most disgusted when the coy carp began to eat the tiled wall of the pond. He exclaimed

“Look! He’s eating the wall! That’s disgusting”
My retort was “Well maybe the walls are tasty if you’re a fish.”
To my horror just then my nephew leant down and licked the tiles on the outside of the pond and said “I don’t think the tiles are tasty”. If only I could enjoy the mental state of a four year old again. The world must seem so much nicer.

Eventually my Mum arrived and my presence in the ‘waiting to be seated’ area had the desired effect. She was indeed very surprised and delighted I had managed to make it. The drive was worth it. My sisters and their respective broods arrived shortly afterwards and we got settled down. The food made the trip even more worth it. It really was lovely. I am always particularly fond of the soup at Chinese/Cantonese restaurant so took up far too much space with a large serving of chicken and sweetcorn soup. It was so delicious. I was only a little disappointed that there was no hot and sour soup on offer but all was forgiven when I saw the sheer array of food on the buffet for me to try. I duly tried an awful lot of food but I did chicken out when it came to the muscles on offer as they looked a little to slimy even for me.

One of my nieces was less partial to trying anything and satisfied herself with some chips and prawn crackers. When asked what drink she would like, my sister (her Mum) suggested water would be a good idea to which my niece showed a look of disdain and asked,
“Is it Chinese water?”
Needless to say we all laughed. Here is a shot of the Birthday girls blowing out the candles on their cake

Trips home are made all worth while when you get to experience a glimpse into the complex life of four to seven year old children and, if only for a short time, really appreciate the finer points of life as a result.

A Loaded God Complex, Cock it and Pull It

On Friday I went to see Fall Out Boy play live at the O2 arena in Greenwich with a friend. Neither of us had been to the O2 arena before so we didn’t fully know what to expect. I don’t think either of us expected to emerge from the tube station and just be at the arena though. My friend managed to take a good shot of the outside

We were quite surprised by the amount of bars and restaurant’s inside the O2. There really was an enormous amount of choice in there as well as a multiplex cinema. It’s quite an impressive set up they have in there. i can see how you would make a gig in the arena into an almost whole day affair once you got in there but that wasn’t our prerogative.

We were confronted with several huge signs telling us quite clearly ‘No camera’s or recording equipment past this point’ but we took in a camera anyway and I’m pretty sure we won’t have been the only ones. Anyway, we queued and filtered our way into the arena and bought some drinks at the expected horrific over pricing but it was all in the spirit of things. There were also men and women around the standing floor area and in the stalls with buckets on their back who would sell you cold beer. Highly ingenious it a little dubious. We went to the proper bar for our drinks.

The arena wasn’t as bit as I was expecting if I am honest. Admittedly the seating went very very high up into the roof but the floor standing space really wasn’t enormous but that was all the better for us because we were standing and could therefore manage to get a little bit closer to the front. My friend however was a rock concert virgin so I had to be gentle with him. I have ample experience of working my way through a packed crowd to get to the front barriers of a gig but it’s sweaty and results in bruising. My friend was not in for that so a nice comfortable middling position was settled upon where we wouldn’t get squashed and/or covered in someone elses sweat.

The first support band was called Hey Monday and if we’re honest, we really didn’t care for them. It was a little like Hannah Montana with guitars and drums. We listened and clapped but were pleased when they’d finished their bit. The other support band introduced themselves as Kids in Glass Houses and they were much better. They had a set of much catchier tunes and you could hear what the lead man was singing which was all an improvement on Hey Monday. But of course even they could only do so much to please us as we were all about Fall Out Boy.

They came on and were brilliant. They had some pretty cool effects too. At one point the stage went dark and all their guitars illuminated which was pretty funky. They also had some fairly impressive pyrotechnics going on and with each pop of them you could feel the heat. Here’s some action shots taken by my friend.

Fall Out Boy truly played well and the singer was very good indeed. I have always liked his voice but worried how he would sound live and the result is – he still sounds pretty freaking good so was very pleased. Here’s a short video of the chorus of the song ‘Sugar, we’re going down’.

I was however NOT pleased with the crowd. the crowd was awful. There was barely any movement in the form of dancing/rocking/moshing. I have been to an admirable number of rock concerts before ranging from Franz Ferdinand to Greenday to Nickelback to Editors to Foo Fighters to P!nk and so on and so on and I can hand on heart say that the crowd at that Fall Out Boy gig was the least engaged I have EVER seen a group of ‘fans’. I tried to have my own fun and dance around a bit but simply got daggers shot at me from the people surrounding me. I really do take my hat off to Fall Out Boy for not seeming to lose heart and give in with the crowd being a horrible as it was. I guess it’s a function of having a large and ’emo’ teenage fan base who don’t want to sweat or throw their hair about too much. It was a very sad state of affairs and actually spoiled my enjoyment of the gig a bit because I couldn’t even have my own fun due to the perfectly preened people around me really looking as though they may murder me if I continued. but I’ll leave my rant there because I really could go on about how despicable the crowd’s behaviour was for quite a long while.
All in all we have an excellent time and I got a very cool hoodie as a souvenir.

Summary: if Fall Out Boy come back to the UK any time soon, I’ll go along again, plough to the front and show the emo kids what it means to ROCK THE F**K OUT