Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The green, green grass of Wales

When Tom Jones sings about the green green grass of home, he's pretty bloody accurate about his beloved home country of Wales.

The Welsh countryside is indeed very very green. Which can mean only one thing...it gets very very wet there, very very often. Sobering thoughts as we embarked on a camping/socialising weekend in mid-Wales following the wettest June on record.

Heading out, cross-country from Oxford, our trip to the county of Powys and the mid-northern town of Rhayader (or a rural property just outside this village) took us through the rolling (green) English countryside and towns like Worcester and Hereford.

After a three-hour drive, we reached the property, a huge estate on which friends Nick and Rhian were based. Their cottage was nestled amongst vast green fields, some with sheep grazing, some with hilly forestland, and all by the River Wye. It was an idyllic setting.

Living in London, you get used to not seeing much wildlife, so after a few minutes in "the bush", it seemed that every sort of bird known to man called this place home. Ditto the sheep, who were to become the alarm clocks in the morning.

We spent a leisurely evening sitting around the fire (as you mid-Welsh summer), eating yummy vegetarian curries. Were it not for the copious amounts of alcohol we consumed, I'd have felt like I was at a health retreat.

Next morning, Rhian offered us some of her home-made elderflower champagne, which had been merrily bubbling away in the kitchen.

As Nick loosened the cork, the bottle practically exploded and elderflower champgne sprayed throughout the loungeroom. It was even fizzier than what appears to be the current craze of dipping mentos mints in coke bottles...

Most items in proximity copped an elderflower shower, including Nick, who dashed outside with the spewing bottle. It was pretty amusing.

Later, we set out for a drive through the (green) rolling hills in the heart of Wales, and into the Elan Valley. Sheep roam the roads in these parts, and we had to stop a number of times to let a little sheep family amble past. They don't seem to dock the sheep's tails here like they do in Australia, and it was really funny to see sheep with big woolly tails dangling behind them.

Out there, it's peaceful and the air is crisp and fresh. It was an unusually sunny day and it was so good to be able to look out to the horizon and not see people or buildings. We meandered round the little country roads, checked out a few quaint pubs and heard all about sacred geometry, which I intend to investigate in much more detail.

The weekend continued much in the same way, although I was feeling much less like I was at a health retreat when I awoke on Sunday morning to the sound of sweet little birds crapping sweetly on the side of the tent, and the all-the-more rather disturbing sound of my head about to explode. Pesky hangovers...at least I didn't have to resort to dunking my head in the River Wye, unlike one of us.

It was a very relaxing weekend - great company, food and scenery, and tainted only by the usual horror show drive back down the A40 to London.

Get me to Antarctica. Quick!

Oh, how do I love thee, facebook. Let me count the ways.

What I love about facebook is that you can find people with what mind seem like the most niche of interests. Like going to Antarctica for example, which is a huge mission of mine.

I got chatting with Kevin though one of the travel groups, who has recently been to Antarctica and more than happy to discuss the experience. He pointed me to his blog, fliesbynight, which displays some of the most stunning photos. He said he took over 3,000 photos in the 2-week trip. What a stellar effort!

Check out his photos of Antarctica. This is just one example of what you'll see. Fwaww. Stunning huh!

This photo is © 2007 Kevin Tangney. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Giant guitars line the river

As I walked to work today through the More London area just near City Hall, I saw a bunch of huge painted guitars, each signed by a rock legend.

Apparently, the exhibition opened last week and there are 30 of these mega guitars. I'll have a closer look on my to work tomorrow.
This pic from the SE1 website shows Paul Weller signing a guitar at the launch.
Very cool!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wembley ROCKED for Diana

Yesterday’s Concert for Diana was awesome. We knew it was going to be one of those amazing events to see live, but the whole 6.5 hour experience was unforgettable.

Walking into the new Wembley stadium is significant – it’s new and sparkly and absolutely vast! It was three quarters full by the time we took our seats, and the noise coming out the stadium was deafening.

The crowd roared when Elton John came out to the stage and sang Your Song. Huge black and white images of Diana flashed in the background, reminding us all why we were there. Kim, Carol, Anne Marie and I compared the goosebumps that instantly appeared on our arms, and the first droplets of emotion rolled down our faces. As opposed to the second and third droplets that strangely resembled beer.

Princes William and Harry came out onto the stage, booming: “Hello Wembley”. The crowd erupted once again, as they explained what they wanted the concert to achieve – that we all come together to celebrate their mother’s life, with many of the things she enjoyed: music, dance, charities and good friends.

The line up of star performers and celebs was great. The highlight for me was definitely Rod Stewart singing Maggie and Sailing. They’re just classic songs that everyone knows and loves. P Diddy’s tailored version of I’ll be Missing You was haunting – the crowd really seemed to get into it, and that bloke surely knows how to get a crowd moving.

The ever-stylish Bryan Ferry played classics like Slave to Love and Let’s Stick Together, and Roger Hodgson bashed out a few iconic Supertramp tracks.

More contemporary artists like Joss Stone, Lily Allen, Nelly Furtado, Fergie, Natasha Bedingfield, Orson and The Feeling did a number or two each, with the English National Ballet performing a scene from Swan Lake. The best shots of that performance were the aerial shots – you just never really get to look down onto a ballet performance.

The Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical medley was fab, with the highlight being Any Dream Will Do by past and present Josephs. Kim and I had been threatening to sing this all afternoon, and were able to let loose when the time came. I reckon we were pretty good! Or maybe that was the beer ears kicking in….

The crowd practically wet itself with excitement when a newly blond and crew-cutted David Beckham mosied out on stage to introduce Take That. The boys were in top form as they belted out Shine, Patience and Want You Back for Good.

There was much speculation as to whether Elton John would finish with Candle in the Wind – either the version he sang at Diana’s funeral, or the original. Unfortunately, it was not to be…I reckon it would have been the perfect way to end, but the never-before seen home movie footage of a young Diana, overlaid with Queen’s These Are The Days of Our Lives, made for a pretty poignant ending to an unforgettable evening.

Getting out of Wembley and onto the trains was a bit of a nightmare, but all the way home I saw people clutching their Official Concert for Diana program.

The night proved that Diana, Princess of Wales, truly was the people’s princess, and always will be.

PS - Huge thanks to Kim, Carol and Ann-Marie for a GREAT day!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Hoorah! The smoking ban kicks in today

July 1, and the smoking ban kicks in today throughout the UK. Hoo-bloody-ray! Of most interest to me is that the ban now applies at train stations and railway concourses.

Each morning when I walk down the concourse at my local station, I'm blasted with the stale smoke of commuters who are banging down fag after fag before the eternal (15 minute) journey. From today, that will be a thing of the past.

I'm also loving that the ban will apply in shops, pubs, bars and restaurants. It's about time!

I don't care if people smoke - that's their own choice. But this new law enforces them to have consideration for the non-smokers who have had to endure smoky pubs and train stations for way too long.