Tag Archives: HBO

Armchair tourist

Hi, my name is Andrew and I’ve been a TV addict for 33 years.
teacher, mother, secret lover
Television is, for me, the single greatest invention of the last hundred years. I know we have cured diseases, travelled the world, travelled the stars, built communication networks and seen the birth of the computer. I’m not saying that all of these are not important, it’s just that they’re not TV. Television allows me to do all of these things vicariously, and for that I love it.
I love the fact that I can trek through the stars, I can enter a courtroom, I can see into the past and can even get to know the people I admire better. What TV does best though is allow me the opportunity to travel the world. I don’t mean documentaries or travel shows, I’m talking about something much more fun. American crime drama. Here’s my top 5 wish list of crime capitals as portrayed on TV.
las vegas strip csi
1) CSI Vegas. I used to watch all the CSI series, now I don’t watch any. Actually that’s not true, I have recently started to watch the first few series on re-runs, only the Vegas one though. So enamoured were myself and the wife with it that we decided to go. The casinos on the strip, the desert, the odd people who live there and the allure of the tables. I had visions of strolling from casino to casino, losing a fortune and looking like a rockstar in the process. The reality was so much better and so much worse in equal measure. The downside was the fact that it takes 20 minutes to find your way out of a casino let alone get to the next one (at least another 30 minutes). Playing at the tables was really intimidating, like being a kid at the adults table, it was serious stuff. The upsides were as follows 1) You got free drinks, even if you were only playing on the slots. 2) Our room (booked by my lovely wife) was bigger than our flat and had a TV in the bathroom. 3) The shows were amazing. We saw Elvis, MJ, Madonna and old blue eyes in the same show. 4) The all you could eat breakfast spread spanned the length of a couple of buses. 5) It was so weird it was like being on a different planet. If you’ve been you know, if not you should. Blimey, that was lengthy. Maybe I should make it a top 3.
Jed Bartlett for president
2) The West Wing. What a show. Smart, funny, satirical and smart. It showed you what life would be like as the leader of a superpower and what goes into it. It’s one of those shows that disproves the myth (perpetrated by Brits) that the people of the USA are stupid fatties. I would love to visit the white house, do the tour and make the famous pose in the oval office. The last part is less likely but never say never.
get your white t's here
3) The Wire. Possibly the best show ever. This show though made me realise I didn’t want to go to Baltimore. I’m quite happy watching it through the screen. The grit, the despondency and the ease of which drug and gang culture can swallow you whole. I am sure that it has some very nice parts and would make a great holiday destination. The reality though, I would imagine, is that it has done more in deterring tourism than promoting it.
The nearly made it list…
Sex and the City. Not my cup of tea really but instrumental in our (mainly the wife’s) honeymoon choice. A winter wedding with a weeks honeymoon equalled New York. And yes, we did the tour. It showed off New York beautifully and led to us seeing parts that we might never have thought of.
sex and the city bus
NCIS:LA. I would love to visit LA. The beaches, the bars and the beauty. The strange thing is that I never watched the original NCIS series but the new one really appealed to me. I think the perfect holiday would be being shown around LA by LL CoolJ. All the best sites and you’d never get mugged.
mama said knock you out
A bit of a bucket list? You bet. I have a dream of retirement (many years in the future) where the wife and I can tour every state in America. Maybe staying in swanky hotels, maybe in an RV or maybe just sitting at home all day watching old re-runs of our favourite shows with a nice cup of tea.
Enjoy your weekend.
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The internet troll

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I started off with a different start to this blog. My intention was to have a foray into the world of Internet trolling and then damn it completely. I was gonna call those that do it sad, lonely and a bit pathetic. This I shall not do. I realised that it does have a useful place in the world. It’s a bit like those who write books and those who review them. If you have a good book then you get praise and you feel good about it, similar to those in the Internet world who put up websites and opinions that have a place in the world and are a force for good. If you write a stinker of a book, fill it with unchecked nonsense or insight any kind of hatred, violence, sexism or racism than you have every right to have it critiqued and challenged, just like idiots on the net. I believe that trolling can be a used as a mirror for those who don’t really know what they’re on about and as a gentle reminder that it’s ok to challenge opinions.

Anyway, here’s how it all started…

I have recently been watching the new Aaron Sorkin show The Newsroom. On it was a young and ambitious reporter who wanted to write a story on trolling. This really interested me as I had heard the term before but didn’t really know what it was. The idea behind it is to find a chat room, chat board or open forum on the Internet and play devils advocate until someone bites. Hopefully, if one person bites then more will follow. The ideal way is to write one or two comments and then let it run. The longer it runs, plus the more people get involved equals the indicator of success. This was my challenge. I decided that I would steer clear of anything overly political and stay instead in the areas I know.

First attempt. I suck at this. I’ve tried to elicit a response from a football forum of a team I don’t like. I was quite inflammatory but was very much ignored. My suspicion is that the fans of this club get it all the time and know what I am up to. Maybe I need a slightly more subtle approach.

Second attempt. Ditched the subtle approach idea in favour of aiming at a different group. On the advice of some of the kids at school I’m gonna troll 1 direction fans. Mean? Yes. Childish? You bet. Wanna see how it went? Course you do. I picked the best few but I had about 30 replies. My screen name was Jim Bond.

Jimbond- 14 hours ago – how come all one direction fans are either ugly, stupid or both?

1direction fan • 14 hours ago −
I absolutley love one direction. The first time i heard their song “what makes you beautiful” i cried because i want people( guys) to like me for my my personality not for looks and their song showed me that not all guys care about looks. I’m not ugly though.

Directioner•14 hours ago – my friends all love 1D and we are all HOT.

1Dsoinlove•14 hours ago – what u talking about. You dont know wot we r and you dont understand what 1D are and stand for. They are all about fun and music and having fun. I love Harry and he doesn’t care bout looks.

Although this was a success I felt very mean. I don’t think I’m cut out for this kinda stuff. Picking on poor girls with bad music taste, shame on me. I did notice that none of the comments took offense to being called stupid though.

Attempt 3. Couldn’t bring myself to do any today. Feel kinda guilty that some 1D fan might lose sleep over something I have written. It’s like one of those arguments when you go to bed and think back on what you should have said. Maybe a rethink.

Attempt 4. I’ve decided to play it from the other side. To look for people who have already expressed an opinion and be the devils advocate. Where better to look that Facebook! I had a few goes at commenting on people’s status and then managed to get myself in an argument. This is much more fun and a completely harmless way to waste a bit of time. Have a peak.

facebook troll

So I’ve decided that trolling is not for me. There are a couple of reasons for this.

1) My job (the planning, marking and management stuff), my son, my very pregnant wife and my blog leave me with precious little time.

2) Some people create and others critique. I find myself firmly in the first camp.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I’m off to drop my son at my parents then take the wife out for dinner. If I can get all my work done that is!

Couldn’t resist the last picture! Maybe it will open a debate.

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Comic book geek?

The dark knight returns comic
I have recently been inspired. Not often do I see or hear something that actually inspires me to do something about it. I have been inspired by Kevin Smith and Bruce Wayne. I think I might want to get into comics!
Don’t get me wrong, loads of things have inspired me over the last few years. The Olympics inspired me to watch it but not to go out and kayak (to be fair I don’t think I was the target audience for the inspire a generation campaign), great art can inspire me but that doesn’t mean I can draw and music definitely inspires me but I still (after 16 years of owning it) can’t play more than 6 chords on my guitar. Comics though… Now there’s something I can do.
kevin smith the green arrow
What Kevin has done has shared his infectious love of Batman and all things DC. Kevin Smith, for those who don’t know, is an actor and a director. He is Silent Bob in Clerks, Mall Rats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Dogma. He also directed all of those and more. If you’ve seen any of those then you know his love for comics. He has also written for DC for both Batman and The Green Arrow.
Let me take you back quite a few years, not to my childhood, to when me and the wife, then girlfriend, were looking for people to share our flat. We had rented a big place and had only one income at the time due to one of us studying. We put out an advert on gumtree and waited. We didn’t have to wait long as about half an hour later we had a couple wanting to come round. They came, they were extremely odd and we ushered them out the door with a promise to let them know. We had a couple of phone calls of the same ilk until finally a normal sounding Aussie called. She said that her and her bloke were interested, they came over and they were normal (ish). And so they stayed for a few years. Why am I telling you this? Because the guy half of the couple was a comic book nut.
gumtree aussie rooms
Jimmy was a funny guy who was constantly hungry. He loved computers and comic books. When I look back now I regret not tapping into his knowledge and, at the very least, getting a comic book 101 lesson. Why? Here comes the list.
1) I don’t want to look like a newbie or get ripped off. I need to get knowledgeable about comics without looking like I need the knowledge. This is where the Internet comes in. I can research them in the comfort of my own home and can also buy them and store them on my iPad. I know it’s not the same as owning the actual books but you gotta start somewhere.
Apple iPad Comic Books
2) I want to know the best arc to follow. It seems it’s not just about which character to follow but also about which version or arc. Do I go for the new Batman reboot (the 52’s) or some other timeline? This is what confuses me the most. If I was 10 I’d take whatever I could get. Maybe having money and an ability to over think things is doing me no favours.
3) I don’t have enough time for crap. Seriously. All I want is someone to tell me what to do. Where do I start and where do I go after that. I’m beginning to think that I may have the wrong comic book attitude.
If you don’t feel the need to get into comics at least have a listen to Fatman on Batman. It’s a podcast (available free in iTunes and smodcast) where Mr Smith has various guests on from the world of Batman. The first episode is all about Mark Hamill (yes, that one) who voices the joker on the animated show. It’s funny stuff, even if you’re not into comics.
fatman on batman kevin smith
Maybe I’m having a pre-second baby panic or at the very least a mid life crisis. I do know that I have started to watch Batman cartoons on TV and that my 2 and a half year old doesn’t like them. I try to tell my wife, and myself, that it’s to keep up with what the kids at school like so I can relate to them. The problem is that she can see through me and read my like a graphic novel.
Enjoy your weekend.
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My 12th annual 21st birthday

It’s my birthday today (only if you’re reading it on the 15th) and I’m actually quite excited. The thing that’s exciting me this year is the fact that my little boy knows what’s going on. A bit sad? You bet.
It got me thinking about how my view of birthdays has changed over the years and what birthdays mean at different ages. A list you say? A list with a twist.
Early years – early birthdays are all about the chaos and confusion of it. A house full of family, as much cake and sweets as you can eat and a conveyor belt of presents. It’s the presents that I remember (maybe its a false memory as I’ve seen, and am lucky enough to have, video tapes of those early years) and the fact that they kept on coming. A conveyer belt of ripping, shaking and discarding before moving on to the next item. The other side to the coin was if you got the one you really wanted early on then the others waited for a long time to be opened. I love the start of ‘Toy Story’ when you see it from the perspective of the toy, the panic that new toys bring, “pull my string the birthday party’s today!” a shocked Woody exclaims. One of the best openings to a film I’ve seen.
woody the cowboy toy story
Primary school age (4-11) – This is now more about the party and a little less about the presents. At this age you get to invite your whole class and run around like nutter, high on sugar, for a few hours. The doorbell has never been such an amazing noise. The party food and spread is also very important. This is something I tried to capture in the second Squidge book. I wanted to write about Christmas but not all totally about it. I came up with the idea of the big elf celebration (they were far to busy and then exhausted to celebrate Christmas) being a birthday party, and who better than Santa to throw the biggest party of the year. Here’s a little excerpt.

Now, if you are an elf, then Santa’s birthday party is the best time of the year. Elves don’t really celebrate Christmas like us because they have no time to prepare. Christmas takes a lot of hard work to make great and the elves are too busy making toys. Santa knows this and so makes sure that all of the elves get to have a great big party on his birthday. To give you an idea of how big a party it was, here is one page of Santa’s party preparation list:

 

Jelly and ice cream

Crisps (all flavours, shapes and sizes)

Donuts (jam and chocolate)

Fizzy drinks

Sweets (soft, hard and chewy and all the colours of the rainbow)

Sausage rolls

Pizza (one of each topping and 2 pepperoni as its Santa’s favourite)

Jam sandwiches (with the crusts cut off)

Ham sandwiches (with the crusts left on)

Balloons (the ones that float)

Streamers

A Piñata (full of marshmallows so they don’t hurt you when they fall out)

A gigantic birthday cake (must be chocolate sponge with chocolate icing and chocolate buttons)

 

And there are 20 more pages just like this one. I bet if you can think of something you would like to have at a party, you would find it on Santa’s party list.

squidge Christmas elf

Teenage years – as you get a bit older the party at your house, with the cake and cliche, just won’t cut it. It’s a time in your life when it’s all about you. I want this, I want that, and so on. You want one big present (usually very expensive) and a cool party at the bowling ally, swimming pool, fast food restaurant, quasar (look it up kids) or cinema. What you don’t realise is the expense. Your parents have to pay for the lot. At 13 or 14 though you don’t really care or consider it.
Early 20’s – clothes and a pub. It really is that simple. You can legally drink and you wanna look good doing it. The choice of pub though is very important. You want somewhere cheap, and that usually means a chain, but you also you want somewhere with atmosphere and that means expensive. Do you go to the local or somewhere different. These decisions are very important in your early 20’s and the clothes choices infinitely embarrassing when you look back.
the chequers billericay
Early 30’s – my 30th was a massive event. Bouncy castle, fancy dress (I went as a Jedi), old school sweets, shed loads of beer and pumping 90’s tunes. Everything from the Chillies to MC Hammer and all that is in between. This birthday though will be as the last couple have been, very low key affairs. A couple of friends, a couple of kegs of beer and laugh or two.
adnams broadside and bitter in my fridge
I’m off for a swim with my son now (partly so he’ll have a good nap and not be grumpy when my friends show up later) and then maybe out to lunch to line my stomach for the beer ahead.
I envisage a Sunday morning hangover followed by a fry up and many cups of coffee. Enjoy your weekend people. I know I will.
The final picture is of me and my dad at my 30th. He says he’s meant to be John Wayne, I think he looks Like Woody. You decide.
me and my dad peter
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Hello World

My blog today will be aimed at 2 groups of people, those who are new and those who have been here for a while. Allow me to explain.

To those new people who have found me through my article on Bucket List Publications I would like to say a big hello. Please feel free to sample the menu of topics on the blog. Here are a few of my recommended morsels…

1. A travel(ish) post. Up in the sky

I hate easyjet

2. A music blog. I’m with the band

the god damn disasters

3. A little geek chic. Why Star Trek is cool

spock massage

And for pudding, try a little rant. An open letter to my neighbors

If you still have a little room left, have a browse of the Squidge elf website. It’s all about the main character in my Christmas books and is filled with games, puzzles and even teaching ideas. www.squidgeelf.com

squidge elf

For those who are regulars in these parts, Howdy. I recently submitted an article to an online magazine with a pretty big readership. My article has been published and I’ve even been called a featured writer. Check it out whydon’tcha

My very clever article all about London link

East London the camel e2

I hope you liked the 2 for 1 ness of the blog today. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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London 2012 and all that

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I would have loved to have done a blog all about the Olympic village, the amazing atmosphere and the buzz of the events, but I can’t. I didn’t go. I did a few very silly things in the long and arduous run up to the Olympics and so guaranteed myself zero tickets. A fact that I now regret and thought that I was over, until this morning. Here we go…

1) I didn’t go in for the draw. Way back when, the Olympics seemed to be a real pain in the bum for those of us who live in East London. Our tax would have to fund (and continue to fund long after the flame had moved on) the new stadia of various shapes and sizes. These stadia were also under scrutiny around who would get them after. The ticketing system seemed unfair and the general feeling amongst us was that they would never sell all the tickets and they would eventually go for cheap. That was mistake number 1. The ticketing was a nightmare, and I really didn’t want to end up with synchronised swimming tickets. What I hadn’t taken into account was the fact that it got me onto the village or that the village tickets would disappear the day they came out. As I said, mistake number 1.

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2) I booked a holiday in the first week of the Olympics. So the tickets did go back on sale thanks to the media coverage of empty seats. The problem with this was that I was in a caravan in Great Yarmouth (check out last week’s blog if you’re interested; don’t bother if you’re not). The tickets were still on sale when I got back but they were now in huge demand as the quarter finals and up had already started by this point so they were a) in demand and b) bloody expensive. I did try to get tickets, but all for nothing.

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3) Every other person seemed to go. Facebook and texts have been mocking me. Not in a horrible way but due to the fact that many of my friends status updates and messages have been about how great the park is and all the different coloured Olympic flags they have had the time to wander round and take. Even my Dad got a free ticket from his company, a company he retired from months ago! Just when I thought it was safe someone else would pop up with a, “lovin the park, it’s the most amazing thing in the world ever!!!!”

This though was to be topped by something far worse…

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4) I don’t have a Visa Barclay card. Just when I thought that was it, when no more needles could be inserted into my now paper thin skin, one of my old university friends posted that he had won tickets to the games. It looks to be VIP and all that (I haven’t been able to ask as he is in the middle of it) and he has amazing seats for all the events he gets to see. The problem is that he is a nice guy so I can’t begrudge him his good fortune. This is him below by the way, smug so and so.

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So that’s it. Gutted. I tried to get tickets most nights and early mornings this week but the website is a joke. Why did I think I was over it until this morning? As I came into the living room this morning my wife greeted me with an email from the borough (one of those blanket sign up for thingies) saying that they were giving away free park passes to residents. They had a thousand to give out and would do so at 9am. I chucked on some clothes, jumped in the car, parked very illegally and ran to get in the queue. 6 tickets per household, who would I ask? The queue went from the council building all the way round the block. I counted at least 800 folks queuing and I don’t reckon on any of them asking for less than the full quota of 6. As I walked past the front of the queue back to my car some horrid chav of a women (surrounded by all her chavy mates) shouted, “Look another casualty of the queue, hospitals up the road darling.” I did the only thing I could, the thing that I have been doing on face book and texts the last two weeks… I walked away without a word.

NB. It has come to my attention that I might be able to get Paralympic tickets. The nice bloke who won the tickets told me. What a nice bloke.

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Carry on camping

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So I’m staying in a caravan this week. A caravan on a caravan park. This is one reason why I’d never make a good travel writer, my lack of travel.

It’s our annual week away with the family (usually spent in centre parcs) and we have decided to come to Great Yarmouth.

I must admit to being a bit trepidatious about doing the caravan thing. It was partly to do with a change of scenery and partly to save money for the imminent arrival of child number 2. We also liked the idea of doing whatever we wanted and being allowed off site, as Center Parcs is harder to leave than a maximum security prison and harder to get into than the Olympic village. When there last year we asked some friends if they wanted to come and visit. Center Parcs wanted 50 quid for the pleasure. I’m not saying its not worth the money, but I am saying we wanted the same as Mel Gibson in Braveheart… Freedom!

So me, my son, my wife, her sister, her sisters husband and her sister and her husbands 2 kids are all sharing the same caravan. It’s one of those massive static ones, but space is still at a premium. So far, so good. Why so good? Here comes the list…

1) We are all together. Every year our family come over from Saudi Arabia. They live there in the ex-pat community and get the summer off to visit with their various families. Before the birth of our boy they used to stay with us, since then we don’t really have the space. It’s nice to all be together for a prolonged period of time, sitting around, doing as little or as much as we want. Its trying to make up for a year of not seeing each other by having a concentrated dose. Potent but effective (in the nicest possible way).

2) We have the big room. The upside to this is all the storage, the down side is we have to share it with the boy. The small rooms hardly have enough space to walk between the beds, let alone put a ready bed (a blow up mini bed with the duvet attached) between them. No one has complained yet, I think they are worries that we might give them the big room, 2 year old child included!

3) My nieces look after my son. This one speaks for itself. They chase after, get ordered around by, play with and generally entertain him. It’s a 2 way street though as they get some great video footage of his antics to show their friends back home. He loves it, they love it, me and my wife LOVE it!

4) The facilities. They have a bar and a pizza place. And some stuff for the kids I ‘spose. Soft play and a pool if it rains, a park and the beach if not. They are all in good working order and have all been enjoyed by the younger among us. To be honest, I absolutely love the ball pool and will jump in it whenever it is quiet and empty enough to stop me squashing a small child. My son thinks this is hilarious (my nieces have footage of this as well).

So there you have it. Would I caravan again? Probably not. Not that it’s not fun but we’ve had our break from the maximum security wonderment that is Center Parcs and am eager to go back. It’s like ordering Chinese food, you may try something new every now and again but you always go back to your favourite. Haven holiday park and campsite has been a nice bit of lemon chicken, but next time I’ll order the sweet and sour.

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend and feel free to share this post.

All pictures were taken on site at Haven, Caister-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth.

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He’s just a rascal.

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In true British fashion I expected the opening ceremony to be awful. I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. The ceremony was funny, interesting, spectacular and above all else culturally relevant. Where did this cultural relevance come? One man, Mr Dizzee Rascal.

Before the ceremony began the BBC did a very lengthy build up. Veeeery lengthy. It included a picture/video montage, another look at the torch relay, a chat to Olympic champions, yet another look at the torch relay and lots of pundits filling time. All of this was nice. What was great was the Dizzee Rascal segment.

Mr Rascal took us around east London and spoke very passionately about the area. He shared where he grew up (a council estate in Bow) and chatted to the people he met, some young and some old. It felt very real, not contrived or a show. He spoke about the diversity of London with pride and actually brought a lump to my throat.

Having lived in Bethnal Green and Bow for the better part of a decade I also agree that the Olympics has gone to a part of London that really needs it. The regeneration of the area has been huge and the investment by the council massive. I may not agree with where all the money has gone but it has gone on the local area.

I’ll put up with the Olympic lanes, the closing off of my local park, the massive influx of tourists and not being able to use the public transport system, all because of the words of a grime rapper from Bow. His pride in this area (the jacket he wore onstage at the opening ceremony had E3 stitched on it, our local postal code), the way he speaks about London and his love of all things ethically and culturally diverse in our great city.

London has an effect on people. I was not born here but I feel that it is my city and I couldn’t be prouder. I know loads of people who feel the same.

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A God Damn Disaster?

It had all the makings of a great night.

1) Son dropped off at parents. Check.
2) Meeting friends and Sis at a pub. Check
3) Friends band playing an awesome venue. Check.
4) Bowling alley booked. Check.
5) karaoke booth NOT booked. Check.

And it didn’t disappoint.

The first sign of a good night in the making was that we walked into the pub about 20 seconds before our friends Alex and April. We sat, we chatted, we had drinks and we waited for my little sister to show. This was the second sign of a good night as my sister was only 15 minutes late. So we sat drinking, chatting and having a laugh without having to do that sly looking out of the corner of your eye thing, while hoping the person you are talking to doesn’t notice,  while waiting for someone who hasn’t shown up yet to show.

We strolled up to Bloomsbury bowling and walked straight in. No cover charge for us (as we were bowling), no queue and it was the same story at the bar. The fun part was walking past the karaoke booths and trying to guess what the drunken groups of girls (stereotypical I know, but true) were singing and watching the dance moves. Some of them were really going for it.

So far, so good.

We then went to the diner part and ordered food and then the band we had come to see started to play. Bad. The diner table had a direct view of the stage and the audio was being pumped throughout the venue, Back on track! Even better than that was the fact that the bowling alley we had booked was as close to the stage as you could get.

The band themselves were great. A mixture of guitar twanging, drum thumping, bass pounding Rockabilly originals and unique covers.   The lead singer interacted well with the audience through both his banter and rockabilly growling tones, the double bass filled the stage with both its size and sound (and was expertly played), the rhythm guitar was driving and didn’t falter and the drums were a skillful mix of background metronome and foreground fills (and even a solo).

Better than all this though was the fact that I was winning the bowling.

Next on stage was a burlesque act. I shall say very little about them due to the fact that some of my students may read this. They did what all burlesque acts do and did it very well.

Our great night ended with 2 wonderful things. A) we caught the last train home and B) there was still a slice of pizza left in the fridge. Spot on.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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