Sunday, 28 June 2009

Like Jesus being onstage with Moses

I think I can now die happy. Well, ok, not really, but musically what we saw at the end of the Hard Rock Calling festival Hyde Park today is pretty hard to top.

It was a funny old day - burning heat, then a thunderstorm, then overcast. Great atmosphere though, with thousands of people lying around, chilling out or standing up to watch the bands play.And what a lineup. The Pretenders and Fleet Foxes (excellent), Ben Harper (mediocre - played only one song I knew, though that was a cracking cover of Led Zeppelin's Good Times, Bad Times) and the brilliantly mad Seasick Steve. He this a grey beared old coot who dresses in ancient overalls, plays instruments like a one-stringed stick thing and sings bluesy swamp rock. He could have stepped out of a Jack Daniels ad, except he's the real thing.

Top of the bill of Neil Young. He played a great set, with a lot of the hits (Heart of Gold, Rockin' In The Free World) that he didn't play when I saw him last year. Only criticism is that he's over-fond of the big, drawn out crescendos of drums and guitar at the end of the rock tracks. Shorter is sweeter - like with my highlight, The Needle and the Damage Done.

Sadly, the happy atmosphere of the rest of the show was also tarnished too. There was quite a bit of grumpiness in the crowd, as older fans (possibly fueled by drinking all day) got mad at people getting in their line of site or bumping into them. The worst offender was a very drunk woman near us who kept leaning on people around her as she woozily tried to take photos on her disposable camera. Security pulled her away eventually and she promptly collapsed, which was a sad way to end a gig that obviously meant a lot to her.

But all that unpleasantness was forgotten during the encore, a terrific cover of The Beatles' A Day In The Life. A couple of verses in, this brown haired guy walks on to sing with Neil. I was wondering who it was when the camera zoomed in and Lauren suddenly grabbed me.

It's Paul McCartney.

We, and everyone, go mental. A Beatle. Singing with Neil Young. In front of us.

It doesn't get better than that.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Appuldurcome House

Since living in London I have seen so many awesome old buildings that if I were to write about them all I would have to change the name of this blog to "Ye Olde Home and Garden" or some such. While on the Isle of Wight last weekend though we saw one old house so interesting I am inspired to give it its very own blog entry - Appuldurcome House.
The house from the front, looking deceptively like a house without a gutted interior

You can read about the history of it here, but the upshot is that the house was abandoned after the War and what remains now are the most delightfully creepy ruins I've ever seen. The house is intact enough to see what the rooms were once used for, but ruined enough to give it a mournful and solitary air.

The house from the back

We had a great time exploring and imagining what the house must have once been like. When an old house is full of furniture it often feels like a museum rather than a place where people actually lived. That wasn't the case at all with Appuldurcome.

While on the Island we also visited Queen Victoria's home, Osbourne House. It was well worth the visit, even if we did leave tut-tutting about how Queen Vic must have had very poor taste judging by some of the garish interior. I'd recommend Appuldurcome, though, if only due to the way it forces you to use your imagination about how it would have looked back when Queen Victoria was choosing her rude statues and bright gold ornaments for Osbourne House.
Osbourne House

Monday, 22 June 2009

Beaches! Tents! Joy!

Yesterday was the longest day for those of us lucky enough to be in the Northern Hemisphere, and Stephen, Tane and I decided to spend in on the lovely Isle of Wight. In two days we managed to see some great old houses, walk to some cliffs, find some £2 beer and drive around the entire Island. Awesome.
Walking back from the western most point of the Island

The best part for me, though, was going camping. I love sleeping in a wee tent, snuggled in my polyprops and "Therminator" sleeping bag (Seriously, that's what it's called.) Tane and I bought our tent over two years ago and apart from a trip to New Plymouth and another to Ireland we haven't used it at all. After last weekend, however, I am determined that the summer of 2009 shall be known forevermore as the Summer-o-Camping. Maybe next time though Stephen will bring his own tent, even though he claims that the tiny car was comfortable enough ...

Tane packs up the tent while Stephen takes a photo of himself and I say something wise (I assume)

I am not sure what part of the trip the others liked best, but it was possibly the parts that involved laziness, sand and sea.
The Isle of Wight was lovely, and I can't recommend it enough as a great place to go camping and see the English countryside - especially on the longest day of the year when it doesn't get dark until past 10pm. Bring on the next camping trip!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Newseum - an after thought

While having a self-indulgent browse through some travel photos from earlier in the year , I was reminded of something I meant to blog about months ago and didn't - the Washington D.C. "Newseum". As the name suggests the Newseum displayed a fascinating history of the media and news, as well as interesting exhibits such as this very moving one about 9/11.

Wreckage from the top of one of the Twin Towers in the foreground with the front pages from various newspapers around the World from 11 and 12 Sept 2001 in the background.

The exhibit that left the greatest impression on me though was a wall of photographs. On first glance it looks like a wall of ordinary photographs of ordinary people, but on closer inspection you learn that they are all journalists killed in the line of duty. We may complain about the free press when stories appear in the media that appear dubious or overly sensationalist, but after seeing these photographs I am even more appreciative than usual that I am resident in a country that allows the media to flourish.
On the subject of free press, I also recommend you all read this article written by murdered Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge about why he continued to critique his government in spite of threats to his life. His photo wasn't on the wall as his death had been too recent, but it is an excellent article that gives the photo wall at the Newseum even more perspective, especially his line "Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you." I just hope I remember that line next time I read a news article that irritates me for whatever reason or see a copy of The Sun ...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Dad in London

As I said earlier, I love having family come and visit. As soon as Erin left Dad arrived, and we've spent a fabulous week showing him around the usual haunts. He's done a fair bit of exploring himself as well, especially around Ealing's book shops, and has developed a real taste for one of the best things England has to offer - the pub lunch. Yum.

Dad and the Houses of Parliament

The highlight for me, though, was going to Lords yesterday to see NZ lose by one run to South Africa in the 20/20 World Cup. It was great on so many levels - the game exciting, the grounds a great spectator venue, and most of all the sheer wickedness of getting to see a game at Lords with both my Dad and husband, even if I didn't understand their cricket speak half the time!

Lewis, Dad and Tane watching the game

Unfortunately Dad leaves tomorrow and the visits by whanau are over, but we are hoping that we'll get more family visiting at some point and look forward to seeing everyone again in the not to distant future.
Go the Black Caps!

Friday, 5 June 2009

The past 15 years

I have been reading about David Bain this evening in light of today's finding by a jury that he is not guilty of murdering his family 15 years ago. When reading the news about how he is now completely free after all that time (in the legal sense at least, I imagine he will never be free from gossip and sideways glances), I started thinking about just how long 15 years actually is. Since mid-1994, David Bain has been in prison. Since mid-1994, in contrast, I have been to 31 countries, received 2 degrees, been shopping countless times, as well as eaten out, gone to parties, and had an average of a good laugh a day (so about 5,400 then), climbed 3 mountains and run one half marathon, dam dropped, gone both black water and white water rafting, gotten married, learnt to speak Italian well and Spanish, Maori and Arabic badly, and have discovered the joys of sushi, mee goring, Coke Zero and pasta while also learning that coloured jeans, blonde highlights and two minute noodles are not for me.

15 years really is a long time when thought about like that. Whether he did it or not, David Bain must be feeling more than a little overwhelmed right now. It also makes me sad for his brother, Stephen Bain, who was only a month older than me when he was killed. If things hadn't happened as they did (I am being deliberately ambiguous as I still can't decide what happened) I imagine he would have been able to rack up quite a list as well.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Erin in da house

I love it when family come to visit, especially when they bring me lollies from home. So, I am feeling pretty happy at the moment about Erin being here on a short stop as part of her around -the-World trip. Unfortunately, although we went to visit the Queen she did not pop outside her palace to say hello. Never mind.

Outside Buckingham Palace

On the bright side though the weather has been amazing, which has made for some great times soaking up the rays. Oh, and seeing some old rocks as well.


Whenever I see family it is great how quickly things click back to normal, even though years may have passed. Sometimes living in London I feel far away and disconnected from the folks at home, but when Erin (and Ngaire last year) visit it's so much fun showing them around my pad and newly adopted home. Yay!