I absolutely love this parody!
Place: Cambridge, England.
Yesterday we took advantage of Greater Anglia's Duo train ticket and ventured north to Cambridge, my first visit in about 13 years.
We didn't really have a plan in mind, but after wandering the grounds of Emmanuel College, we eventually found ourselves sitting on the river deck of the (excellent) Anchor pub, enjoying the intermittent sunshine and hoping the fast-moving grey clouds would keep on moving. Predictably, after a few pints and time spent watching the punts on the Cam, it began to rain. We headed indoors and ordered our lunch — the most delicious fish'n'chips for me, mussels and fries for T — and another round of drinks.
"What did you do in Cambridge?" we imagined people asking us.
"Umm, we spent four hours in the pub!"
So, then, shocked into at least seeing some of the sights, we braved the hordes of tourists and took a long wander, heading in the direction of King's College, which is where everyone heads when they visit Cambridge. We were deterred by the £7.50 entry charge to the chapel and, as it turns out, if we had decided to join the (very long) queue, we probably wouldn't have seen much: they closed the gates five minutes after we arrived!
We admired the grounds of nearby Clare College instead.
We saw lots of other things too — the Round Church, the main shopping thoroughfares, the winding building-lined alleys, the Corpus Clock and St John's College — before stopping for another drink at the (distinctly average) Baron of Beef pub.
When it was time to head back to the train station we discovered most of our route cordoned off, thanks to a bomb scare, and we ended up having to walk a mile-and-a-half very quickly to make sure we didn't miss the 17.04 back to Liverpool Street! Despite the crowds and the inclement weather, it was a rather relaxing (and somewhat boozy) day, the perfect way to unwind after a busy week.
On our last full day in Brazil we decided to visit Păo de Açúcar, otherwise known as the Sugarloaf, so that we could watch the sun set and get some great panoramic shots over Rio.
Getting to the top of the 395m mountain requires two cable car journeys. The first ascends to Morro du Urca, which affords great views over Rio's extensive shoreline. The second makes the final ascent to the summit of Păo de Açúcar.
Unfortunately, after eight days of exquisite weather — hot, clear, sunny — the clouds decided to close in just as we were having a bite to eat on Morro du Urca. As we sat there looking up at our final destination, the mist got thicker and thicker — until we could no longer see the top of the mountain.
The view at the top wasn't much: just some tree tops and a never-ending sea of white mist. How disappointing. There was a half-hour wait until the next cable-car, so we had to fill in the time by browsing in the souvenir shop.
We had about an hour until sunset, so we partook in "happy hour" at the bar and drank caipirinhas — Brazilian cocktails made from cachaça rum, sugar and lime — before taking photographs as twilight descended and the lights of Rio twinkled into life.
Place: Pista Cláudio Coutinho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date: November 1, 2012.
Camera: Sony DSC-HX20V.
Back in late October/early November we went to Brazil for eight days — four of those were spent in Rio de Janeiro, where we did the usual touristy things, including a trip to the Sugarloaf, an amazing mountain-top reached by cable car.
At the bottom of the mountain there was an attractive winding path following the rock-lined, rather rugged coastline for 2km. It was all very lush and beautiful (and reminded me of my mum's garden).
We had only walked about 200m when we spotted movement in the trees adjacent to the path and then a couple of furry little creatures jumped out onto the fence and frolicked around. It was almost impossible to take a clear photograph because these adorable capuchin monkeys moved around so much. And then, before we'd got over the surprise of seeing monkeys in the wild (MONKEYS. IN. THE. WILD!), they were gone, scampering away down the cliff-face and into the undergrowth below.
I'd forgotten I'd taken this picture — don't you just love his thick grey fur, striped tails and tiny face?
Back in December, before the Christmas madness kicked in, I went to a series of gigs — and managed to record little souvenirs of each experience, either on my iPhone or my (relatively new) Sony Cybershot.
The first was the 'A Word in Your Ear' gig, curated and organised by founder and publisher of the now-defunct Word magazine, Dave Hepworth, at the Lexington pub in Islington on December 4.
There were several acts on the bill and it was held in a tiny, cramped, hot, sweaty, oven of a room filled with people of a certain middle-aged vintage — and I'm talking people a lot older than me. Most of them were there to see English journalist and radio DJ Danny Baker in conversation with Mr Hepworth, but once that was over the venue cleared out a lot — and then we had a great time watching Skinny Lister, a young English folk band that reminded me a lot of Weddings Parties Anything that I used to follow around a bit when I lived in Melbourne in the early 1990s.
I recorded them singing one song — the first time I'd ever used that facility on my iPhone — and despite standing right at the back (near the bar), I'm surprised by how well it turned out. Though you might beg to differ.
The next week, T and I head to north London (again) to see Squeeze at The Forum in Kentish Town. I wasn't that familiar with their back catalogue, probably because they were never as popular in Australia as they were in their native territory (in fact, in Oz the band was always known as "UK Squeeze"), but I did know a couple of their songs — namely Cool for Cats and Tempted.
I took along my Sony Cybershot and using the low-light setting, we got some terrific shots despite the fact we were tucked away off to the side.
It was actually a surprisingly enjoyable gig — most of the audience were in their 50s and well-behaved (listening to the music instead of gabbing to their friends and playing with their phones which everyone under the age of 35 seems to do at gigs nowadays). And the music — and sound — was slick and polished and professional.
And finally, on December 18, I went to see ABC with an English friend at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Once again, we were probably the youngest people in the audience. We had terrific seats in the Upper Circle that commanded an unobstructed view of the stage — and lead singer Martin Fry's gloriously shiny suit!
It was a really fun —and rather nostalgic — gig in which the band performed their 1982 album The Look of Love in its entirety to mark the 30th anniversary of its release. They were accompanied by the Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra, conducted by Anne Dudley, and the sound was just magical.
I filmed the title track on my iPhone not thinking it would capture the sound as well as it did — with hindsight I wished I'd swung my camera around to capture the people around me really getting into it. The song went down such a treat, they performed it twice!
Place: Sloane Square, London.
Date: January 4, 2013.
Camera: iPhone 5.
After years of clinging on to an outdated BlackBerry (how could I say goodbye to that keyboard? than inbuilt camera?), I finally upgraded to an iPhone last November. Oh. My. Goodness. Aside from all the lovely instant internet access and all those glorious apps and games, I love the camera! I've been documenting my entire life snapshot by snapshot ever since and posting them on Instagram.
I took this picture (above) on Friday after a quick dash to Peter Jones, in Sloane Square, where I splurged on new bed linen and bath towels. Every December/January I marvel at how strikingly pretty the festive lights look — the store's beautiful facade is all a-twinkle and gorgeous "stars" hang from the trees — but I have never bothered to take pictures...until now.
Note, I haven't manipulated these images in any way, except to resize them. I'm inpressed by how well the iPhone's camera works, even in extremely lowlight conditions.
When I began blogging in 2004, I promised myself I'd never begin a post by saying, apologies I haven't blogged for so long. But I might break that rule this time.
I didn't blog regularly last year — well, not here anyway. The book blog went from strength to strength and most of my energies were devoted to maintaining it. But sometimes I do things — trips away, gigs attended, wanderings around London and so on — that don't fit in with a book theme, so this is the perfect place to dump them. Except I never get around to it.
I'm going to try to post here more often in 2013. Hence the new look.
The new banner, by the way, was taken last week when we were staying in East Sussex. It shows the 15th century church of St Thomas a Beckett, which sits slap, bang in the middle of a sheep paddock. We first visited it in November 2011 during a 25-mile cycle through the East Sussex countryside and it made an impression: I'm not religious but it appeals to the architecture and history buff in me.
Place: Bomber Command Memorial, Green Park, London.
Date: November 18, 2012.
Camera: Sony DSC-HX20V.
I love this new memorial, tucked away in a quiet corner of Green Park (near Hyde Park Corner), which commemorates the 55,573 people who died while serving in Bomber Command during the Second World War. It was only opened this summer, and while I must have cycled past it dozens of times I've never stopped to check it out.
It was fairly busy when visited last Sunday afternoon. Much of the site was covered in poppies and Remembrance Day wreaths and quite touching items — letters, photographs, wooden crosses — left by loved ones.
The bronze sculptures of seven airmen look so realistic and the detail on their uniforms and clothing is amazing. Something about the expressions on their faces, and with their eyes cast to the skies, gave me goosebumps. This might have been my first visit to the memorial, but it won't be my last.the official photographic website.
Place: Hyde Park, London.
Date: November 18, 2012.
Camera: Sony DSC-HX20V.
When I cycled into work on November 13 — the first bicycle commute I'd made in about a month — I was mesmirised by the autumnal colours of the trees in Hyde Park. In the early morning sunshine everything glimmered and glittered in an array of yellow and gold. It was truly beautiful — and an exhilarating start to the day.
I made a mental note to visit the park on the weekend, so that I could capture some of that magical colour on my camera. So, on Sunday, we bundled ourselves into warm clothes and strolled to the park, only to find that the best of the colour had gone. In just five days, most of the trees had lost their leaves, and those leaves that were clinging on were past their best — many were an ugly burnt brown.
Still, I was insistent on tracking down a few good trees that still had some colour — and here is some of what I found. As usual, click on the images to enlarge.