29 November 2007

Where oh where have the little sheep been?

Three posts in one day, I blame S for saying I hadn't blogged for awhile...

I had a look on Google Analytics and here's some interesting facts about my readers:
Ecuador (Quito): hello!!! Quito is the capital of Ecuador, I can see that being useful in quizzes. It's about 3000m above sea level, and is near as dammit is to swearing on the equator meaning bugger all variation in day/night. All that from wikipedia here.
I have a reader in Iran and one in Qatar. How cool is that! hello dear foreign sun baked readers!!!

Browser usage is interesting too; Firefox (38.11%), IE (36.95%), Safari (21.25%) so looks like a large number of Mac users out there! hello Mac users!!!

Peak viewing over the last coouple of months was the 16 Nov, and of my individual pages the AppleTV hack page is the most popular.

Love and international reading, B.

28 November 2007

Useful travel tips

It's a quiet day at work here, so while nibbling strawberries I thought I'd put up all those links I meant to while away...

Train travel is so much more convenient than plane. turning up with 5 minutes to go is fine, there's no baggage checking in. It's quiet, fast and you can see bits of the scenery. Tip for young players, buy a rail pass before you leave NZ. It's cheap and the great thing is they never bother marking things off. For example the one I bought was for 8 days, and the nice BritRail people only marked off 3 days - so Mr (and future Mrs) S have a travel pass. Go here.
UK travel planning here. which has nice things like being able to select if you want to walk, bus, train etc.


Nice thing about the UK is that they are all free (excepting various special exhibits).
Brit Museum (drop into Gosh comics across the road, buy stuff)
Tate Modern
Science Museum Check out their shop too, and its very close to the V and A
Transport Museum
Cardiff Museum


Obviously it's going to be hard to find good food, but I'll try to help.
Monmouth Coffee Company, by far the best source of beans and coffee I've found in London and the UK. Next door to Neal's Dairy too and the Borough Market. Woot!!
Neals Yard Dairy
a wet dream for cheese/dairy lovers. Oh God Yes.
London Borough Market Want real food? Like veges with dirt on them? decent ale? Go here. And get your cheese/coffee sorted as well.
Moulin Ales and Food not that Neil and I went there for food and beer. No of course not. But if we had, great food and even better beer. Just down the road from Edradour. Apparently you can hire a cottage thingy there. Lovely. And by god was that beer good. I want more.
Campaign for Real Ale they suffer a bit from an image problem - think Social Creditors in NZ - but worth a visit to find good beer. Mmm beer.
Wychwood brewery you can find some/most of these in NZ and I like them. MrS and I may have imbibed some while in Oxford. Worth checking out their posters with classics like "Whats the matter Lagerboy, afraid you might taste something"
Edradour yeah I know I've already linked to them, but it's my blog and they are that good

Anathema and yeah apologies for it being a myspace
Dream Theater
SymphonyX Like DT? You'll probably like SymphonyX too, great prog-metal
Christopher Rees Welsh singer-songwriter who deserves far more exposure than he currently has
Justin Timberlake

I think that largely covers the things I visited, drank and ate which were good while away. There are, obviously, others I could put up, but decided to stick to places/things I actually used.

Love, B (I now have no strawberries but have filled in some time)

Musing on Justin

At some point a brief summary of Sydney may pop up, but until then:
Muse : believe the hype. NME and various other stupid music magazines have dubbed Muse 'best live band in the world'. On the strength of the gig I saw on Friday, it's probably true. Matt's voice is incredible, his range, power, projection - great stuff. The light show was damm good, my one complaint was that the bass and drums could have been a bit higher in the mix. But I'm really pleased I popped along, the selection was mostly from the last two albums (Black Holes and Revelations and Absolution), but they did an absolutely storming version of Feelin' Good.
Venue was the Henderson arena thing, which didn't have the best acoustics, but the sound guys seemed to have it pretty sorted. Would be close to my top gig of the year.

Since I was in Auckland the blonde (who was arriving back in NZ on the Sat) and I decided to stay there a couple of days and see Justin Timberlake. If nothing else the looks on peoples faces when I said I was going was worth the ticket price. Now, contrary to popular belief, I don't know that many Justin songs (we established later it was 3 or 4), but I had a great time. Stunning lightshow, great performance/dancing, cool vibe. Loved it. And I came away with more respect for JT than when I went in, he was plonking away on the keyboards and a guitar quite frequently. At times his voice was a bit whiney, but that might have been an affectation. Anyway, great concert - and I realised later, possibly the first pure 'pop' gig I've ever been to. The audience hysteria was also funny, at times they were louder than extreme metal gigs I've been to. Freaky!

Love, B xxx

16 November 2007

From Heathrow and a reference to Conchord(s)

This comes to you from the terminally boring Terminal4. Decided to leave quite early in the morning to avoid traffic in London. T4 however lacks any charm, style and I remember T1-2-3 having more places to spend money. Oh well. I guess my VISA bill will like me for it.
The Scotch shop owner was impressed with what I was looking for (Brora), sadly he didn't have any.

But for those of you outside NZ, Brett and Jermaine (Flight of the Conchords) have won Wellingtonian of the Year.

That seems fair.

Love, terminal B.

15 November 2007

TT 14-15

Weds: most of the day on the train, Glasgow to London. Caught up with Craig for a couple, then Andrew and I had a quiet couple. Not the most exciting :)

Thurs: Quiet day, washed some clothes as the jeans were getting aromatic. Went to Windsor to lunch with Patrick, heading out to dinner tonight. All of which has given me time to think which, I think, has produced the first kinda thoughtful TT.

One thing I have noticed this time is a greater emphasis on security. CCTVs are everywhere, I think I read there are 4 million of them scattered throughout the british isles. That's a helluva lot. And it doesn't stop there. There are constant reminders on public transport, stations, posters - everywhere really - to be vigilant. To report left luggage, anything suspicious, odd behaviour, indeed people are told 'if in doubt, report it'.
There has also been a big furore, with just cause, concerning the length of time a terrorist suspect can be held. Apparently the UK has the longest period (24 days - sorry this is all from memory and I don't have web access at the moment) that police can hold a suspect without charging them. To put that in comparison, NZ is 2 days (but generally 1), the US is 1 day, Germany is 1-2. Some small tinpot country not known for it's human welfare record was 7 days. The leftie complaint is that Tony B wanted to increase this to 40ish days before charging. Gordon B has said that he's keeping a genuinely open mind.

So why am I blogging about this? Well in all honesty it feels like a police state here. And with recent statements about increasing anti-terrorism laws there are about to be a massive increase in police and other forms of watching. Apparently a training branch for anti-terrorism is going to be established whereby everyone in a position of interacting with the public will get training, examples of these include cinemas, theatres, museums etc etc.
In addition to the ad nauseum 'be vigiliant' comments, it also transpires that the British people, already some of the most watched people in the world on CCTV, are also frequently wiretapped or subject to surveillance.

One of the central tenets of the British legal system is habeas corpus which translates, in essence, as a safeguard to individual freedom against state intervention. This basic right of the individual appears to have been gradually eroded by a succession of anti-terrorism laws. The British implementation of these appears to have been more insidious than the US, where Patriot I and II swept away rights in the aftermath of 9/11. It is for that reason that conspiracy theorists have suggested 9/11 was a means to an end for the US government. Given Rudi G's presidential campaign has more use of "9/11" than I do of a certain four letter word starting with F and ending with K, one might be forgiven for reaching a conclusion ...

It is also much easier to spy on people with recent advances in technology. Your cellphone can be tracked to within a small region, internet access is monitored, wifi links, your bank withdrawls and eftpos/visa purchases can be used to track you, CCTV can identify you. It's not hard for a someone to know everything about you. In addition the British have the worlds largest DNA bank, with approximately 1 in 14 people represented. Scared yet?

So why do the British people put up with this? Firstly I think because they have freedom so deeply ingrained in their psyche (to reach into pop psychology for a minute) that they are genuinely not bothered by the changes. The slow implementation of the changes also means the public appears to have accepted them not realising how deep the changes have become. Secondly the surveillance is not obvious. Sure some of the cameras are quite visible, but they've been there for years. Surveillance of phones and people is again subtle, and internet tracking is invisible, meaning even if you were being 'spied' on the chances of realising it are slim.

What has really gotten to me is the constant be vigilant calls. These amount to a request to spy on everyone else and, I suspect, add dramatically to a populations racial stereotypes/profiling, 'he looks muslim, gotta be a terrorist'. I don't see that as helping to develop tolerance. The calls are also portrayed as a good thing, essentially if we don't spy on everyone the terrorists win (to paraphrase GWBush). So whats the patriotic Britain to do?

All of this reminds me of two movies (books too, but let's stick to pop culture), Children of Men and Brazil, and a police state (WWII Germany). Sure the German reference is a bit extreme and I'm certainly not suggesting the British police force is arresting people and hiding them for 24 days. But the similarities are there. Interestingly the German people have some of the lowest surveillance in the world. Given the lessons they've learnt, I can understand why.

Now I'm not saying there aren't terrorists out there. I'm sure there are. But surely giving up individual freedoms on the possibility they might strike isn't the way to deal with it - or at least it doesn't seem to be to me. Surely if any of the surveillance was more obvious, or if people knew about it, there would be more of an outcry. So in that respect have the terrorists gained a victory? Paranoia roams where the shadows play, to quote a favourite lyricist.

At the moment I can't come up with a solution to this, but I am thinking about it.

B (a bit disturbed by the sudden change in blog style)

14 November 2007

Nov 12-13 Och aye laddie

Escaping Blackburn proved trickier than expected as the Railway station had rudely moved itself during the night. The signs pointing to where it used to be now directed one to a Mall. Complete with all the bad-mallness you'd expect. In the spirit of Fiennes I soldiered on, finding both the station and the train I required to deposit me in Preston. From Preston I headed up to Glasgow to be met by Neil. Those of you who have met Neil will understand my livers trepidation in reacquainting myself with him. But 'twas good to see him again and talk a load of bollox about music, over a couple of quite excellent beers. Spending time with Neil worries me, I find it difficult to argue music with him (we coincide too much), and our love of dark ales and whisky is worryingly close. It's not just me, Frances said the same thing. Worse was to come after we'd adjourned to the pub (a favourite of Neil's with lots of excellent ale on tap) and discovered our favourite distillery was "Edradour" (see last major scotch post). After meeting Neil's other half (apparently easy to guess who I was since I had a Marillo t-shirt on) we decided to head to the distillery the next day since it was only a 2 hour drive from Glasgow.

Having sorted out the business of the next day we settled in for a pint, or six. Ended up eating at the pub, which offered vegetarian options! Wow! The other two seemed amused by my 'wow, it's lettuce! and it's crunchy', I guess spending time in London does open your tastebuds after all ! Post beer we returned to Neil's place to sample some whisky and listen to music. Mmmm tasty. There's a picture floating around of what we sampled which I'll upload at some point. Most interesting would have been the bottle from the whisky club/society thingy that Neil belongs to.

Tuesday rolled around and we gently approached the day. Juice, water, coffee and some food took up the first hour or two of movement, and then we hit the road. The Perthshire (?) tourist road was lovely - here they value their bonnie heather, we want it destroyed. There were aspects of sadness on the trip. We were to pass Dewer's world of whisky (stop giggling Blair), which I was assured had a huge globe with 'World of Whisky' encircling it. No such luck. We also had to drive past The Famous Grouse (again, quiet Blair) and the large metal grouse outside that place. I'll be back...
Arriving at Edradour just outside of Pitlochy: it's the smallest distillery in Scotland (400L for the smaller of the two stills), is quite breathtaking. There's a small stream running through the place, and all of the buildings are lovely. I have some photo's, which again will make it up at some point. We went on the tour, which given the size of the place was predictably brief. They played a video about how they made stuff, which was soooo twee we were laughing (quietly) - even had a flute - just like the Scottish hotel owner in Little Britain. A dram of their cheap whisky was provided while we watched. Even their cheap stuff is good.

A brief chat about all the different types they make followed. They had the stuff I liked at our tasting - roughly the same price as in NZ interestingly. Except WhiskyGalore had none left. Also a large range of cask strength's finished in a range of barrels. A group of four were described as their top range.

The tour went through the distillery and ended up in the tasting room. Seeing as I was always going to buy the 13yo I decided to try three of the four of their top range stuff. First up was a Tokaji finish. Really intriguing taste to this one, very very sweet (from the wine barrel) and very young at 4yo. The complexity of the taste would have suggested a 12-18yo. Both nose and finish were also sweet with very strong overtones of honey. I'd have given it an 8.5-9.

Next up was the 24 yo port finish. In the parlance of youth, OMG. There are times you taste something and just know you have to buy it. this was one of them. It's no exaggeration to say one taste sent shivers through me. Neil was laughing until I got him to taste it. That shut him up. Quickly. It's got a lovely nose, a very very complex woody caramel taste and a finish that just wouldn't end. Had this been at the tastings we've had in Wellington it would have been a 10 (by way of comparison, the Brora's I so loved were in at 9.5). I would be buying this one.
Last up was their 22yo finished in Chateau de'Quem (sp) barrels. Massive citrus nose and taste to this (lemon in particular), a much lighter whiskey than the port (well duh!), again wonderful complexity and a long finish. Apparently that one was the hit at the Xmas party for the staff. Sadly only a 9 for that one as it had been totally overshadowed by the port finish.

As I'm sure most of you guessed, I bought the port finish. And no, you don't want to know how much and no, unless I know you know whisky, you won't be tasting it.

We got back about 6ish (bloody traffic) and had a quiet nite drinking tea (no honest, we did!) and listening to music and talking more bollox. We did finally find someone to disagree on, Leonard Cohen. I think he's great.

B xxx

13 November 2007

TT 11a More Holes and Revelations

Nov 11 Pt II

Arrived in Preston LANCS. First impressions didn't change so lets run with the stereotype - there were no middling people, they were all either thickset or scrawny. Hair on the blokes was either short (caesar cut style) probably cos 'it's sensible like', or long and flowing in the traditional bogun style. There were more than a few mullets too. I don't want to describe the women's hair, suffice to say the blokes may have looked better.
Everyone smoked. Babies, children, teens, the dog - everyone. And more gratuitous use of the word fuck than either Andrew or I manage. Go The North.
Escaped the railway smoke fest that was Preston and headed to Blackburn by coach as work was being done on the railway. Reminding me how much I don't like coach travel. Urghh, but only 30 minutes and the scenery is nice up here. Blackburn was more attractive than I thought it would be. Found the venue by seeing a guy on the bus with a DT t-shirt on holding a map, ahhh Zen navigation, sometimes it comes through well. Wandered around a bit trying to find a B and B or a hotel, but nada in the town centre (how screwed up is that!). So got a taxi to take me to some. Sorted.

Wandered back into town to grab some dinner and go to the gig. SymphonyX were opening - who if you are a prog-metal fan are well worth checking out. I've got three of the albums and all get spun reasonably frequently. The singer has one of the best voices in metal (next to LaBrie), and it was a very good hour long set. It's been quite a good few days for support bands really !
DT came on around 9 with their version of Thus Spake Zarathustra before launching into Constant Motion. All I can say is wow. This is one band who know how to play a crowd. Portnoy's kit has, if anything, increased from the XX tour and he's a showman. I get the feeling that Gavin Harrison (PT) might outplay him, but MP is by far the better viewing. LaBrie isn't on stage that much, which is probably one reason why DT can do such long tours - again (like the SymphonyX guy) you can tell he's been trained properly. Excellent posture when he's singing and that voice... I was standing on the John Petrucci side of the stage, and he was excellent. John Myung and Jordan Rudess were great, and it's always funny to seeJR wander out to the front of the stage with his portable keyboard for a solo.
All in all, last gig of the tour, relaxed atmosphere, and a great show. The band are highly professional - and it's nice to see a back projection and lighting show. I don't seem to go to enough big bands for that! There's also a fair degree of humour in the shower with the SymphonyX guys kcking MP off the drums and him doing a 'i'm not worthy salute' to them. MP throwing drum sticks to JP who flicks it back to MP backwards. Thoroughly enjoyable concert.

The audience, heh heh, 90-95% male. A lot wearing denim jackets. I realise this area is kinda the birthplace of Brit Heavy Metal, but still, it's fun to laugh at the cliches!
Merchandise stand had been stripped during the tour so no t-shirts (in my size, a 'S' didn't seem a good investment). And at 22 UKP they did seem a bit steep.

Headed back to the B and B and had a nice long sleep - missing brekkie, but that didn't bother me too much.

Tomorrow it's off to Glasglow to see Neil and some scotch.

Of Holes In Blackburn

11 Nov

Waking up at the dreadfully uncivilised hour of 8am on a Sunday for some breakfast before heading to the train station was made bearable by the confused look on the chef's, no let's be honest, cooks face. Having been scarred by the coffee on Saturday, to the point where P pointed at a Starbucks and said "hey, they'll have better coffee than we had", and I was forced to admit that he was right, I went with OJ only.
His cackle seemed a bit hurtful.

So after brekkie we headed to the station as I was catching an early train in order to get to Blackburn in time for Dream Theatre. If I get time I'll put some maps up for that. A mocha later and we said our adieu's. Once again I'm struck with how much I like first-class. Truely money well spent on that flexi-pass. It's comfortable, quiet, has legroom, food, water and power sockets.

Blackburn is the place immortalised by the FabFour as "4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire", suggesting some form of rodent control maybe in order. since I have many hours to fill in here's some musings on various things that have changed or not changed since I was last here.

A topic close to my heart. English Ale has always put me in a profoundly good place, the slight bitterness, the varying degrees of solidity, the surprisingly low alcohol content (3.5-4.5%) and the complexity and uniqueness of each form. On this trip I've found the rumoured demise of the local ale pub in favour of the ghastly 'gastro-pub' to be much in evidence. Therefore the odds of finding a Carling, Guinness, Fosters (!), Stella and Heineken are much better than a good regional ale on tap. That's sad as it's one of the traditional food stuffs the British do well. The stuff is out there if you know where to look, we found a great local ale pub in Cardiff, but it's getting harder to find. I haven't heard much from the CAMRA group recently, and they do have an image problem (those of you in NZ - Campaign for Real Ale- look like smelly greenies, bushy beards and say 'arrr' a lot, Worzel Gummidge like). I'd suggest one of the current batch of Celeb Chefs could do a bit for it, but Gordon is everywhere (even promoting Gordin's Gin), Jamie is a twat, Ainslie needs a bullet, which leaves us with Nigella. Perhaps Nigella frolicking in a barrel of real ale sold under an amusing moniker "Nigella's Tasty Ale" is what the industry needs?

Good news on this front. The level of quality food seems better than any other time I've been here. You can buy food that looks like food (ie not prepackaged) at most/all supermarkets, and there has been a massive resurgence in farmers markets (like the Borough Market). These are also ideal places for buying ale and cheese so tend to attract me. We wandered past one this morning in Cardiff, that had we known and had more time... The levels of takeaway food are also much improved. Sure there's still the crap overfried or boiled to buggery out there, but the recent influx of Europeans to London is reflected in the variety and quality of food available. The recent awakening to food has also seen an increase in Organic certification and Organic outlet stores. Even cafe's are now advertising themselves as 'organic'. All of which makes it more bearable should I get a job over here.

Oh god no. Yeah things still suck here. We are spoilt rotten in Wellington, but even so a city this close to traditional coffee power houses such as France and Italy should be able to get a good cup somewhere. I am not jesting when I say my stovetop espresso using Monmouth Coffee Company beans seriously kicks ass over anything I've had in London. Outside Monmouth CC that is. I just don't get the ambivalence of Londoners to good coffee, they all seem to be drinking the stuff. But it's crap. Really crap. Even MCC offer a filter option for those who don't want espresso. WTF?!?! Aside from crusty ol buggers who remember the 'good old days' of Kirk's Coffee House and complain cos the new cafe's 'don't serve just a normal nice cup of coffee' who wants filter in a cafe? Freaks.
Bitter? well yes, but not in a good late extracted way.

If anything else comes to mind I'll mention it later. These TT are getting longer and longer, you poor buggers reading them!

love, B

Of Cheese and Sheep Impressions

Woke up and had brekkie, meandered into town and looked around Cardiff. A note about brekkie, we were asked did we hear the fight, I had although Patrick seemed to have slept through it. Apparently two guys were at it and ended up bottling some chick, who rather than going to the hospital wanted to go after another chick. We considered moving.

Weirdly I found the cheese stall and purchased some Welsh strong Chedder and a Welsh mustard and ale cheese. Both were great. The Chedder was stunning.

Headed to the Welsh Museum which had a wonderful display on the evolution of Wales, beginning from the establishment of the planet. It went through how various rocks were formed and when, and how this affected what eventually became Wales. Included were examples of animals present in this area of the world, and the evolution that occurred within them too. All very interesting from my perspective.

But the unexpected highlight was a display focussing on a couple of major benefactors of the Welsh museum, the Davis sisters. Their family made money from setting up the coalmines etc, and then the kids (including the sisters) continued to run things. They also had a strong philothanopic streak. And also they began to collect art, particularly the impressionists. I like the impressionists a lot. So i spent many hours looking at Monet, Manet, Rodin, Renoir, Millet, Daumier, Carriere in addition to Constable etc.

After an afternoon tea and a pint we ambled home and are having a quiet evening. Watched a fascinating a doco on Buster Keaton and am reading the paper at the moment. Quiet is good. Although there is a disco in the pub downstairs.

12 November 2007

TT 09 Nov Of leeks and sailing wax

After another slow start to a day, this one brought on by our late end to the Oxford trip, I caught up on email downloads and writing TT08. I shaved to avoid looking like a mountain men and attracting too much female attention in Wales (hey it's a national sport Welsh-baiting, better be careful writing this tho), and braved 11am traffic to try and make the 1155 to Cardiff. Failed miserably at that thanks to mucho traffico, and am currently passing through Newport at 245pm almost in Cardiff, where I'll be waiting for Patrick who also was the victim of traffic and is on a train behind me.

On the subject of trains, being the organised kinda soul that I am I bought the BritRail pass while I was in NZ. And cos it's off season (just!) I splashed out for a first class ticket. Glad I did, comfy chairs, legroom, power sockets, a nice pastel purple colour scheme, nibbles, coffee, juice, water - it's all good. I have a fair few train journeys over the next few days, so this bodes well. Wifi would also have been great, but I guess you can't have everything.

Read the Guardian today, having done The Times and The Independent over the last couple of days. Still buzzing over the PT gig, but must focus on the Chris Rees one tonight. Hmmm weather is crapping out at the moment, Mr P and I should find some accommodation sooner rather than later.

I'll get back to this later. Although not sure when I'll get some internet access to upload it.

Met Patrick at Cardiff and, with much thanks to his iPhone (note: if you yourself are not a geek, it's a good idea to carry one around with you - times such as this showed their worth) we found some accommodation in a B and B above a pub. Spooky. So we dumped our gear off and headed off to find the gig. More use of the wonderful Google maps on the iPhone, and we found the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay. A meander off and the food and beer situation was rectified. Huzzah for beer and food. Actually the food wasn't that good, but the beer was tolerable - a lager.
So the gig, well in terms of value for money it couldn't be beaten 6 pounds for 4 bands and a free CD. This concert was part of the Swn festival. From my recently acquired knowledge of the Welsh language, that means noise or sound. Actually I'm copying from the booklet. First up, over a pint of local ale, was Al Lewis. Described as a mix between Damien Rice and David Gray was actually pretty close. I enjoyed him, interesting lyrics, some in Welsh which forced me to listen to his music which was also very good. His was the free CD single, and I'll post a review of that later.
Christopher Rees and his band were up next. He played stuff from his new album (which I bought) very enjoyable stuff, his lyrics appear to have gotten darker. And his music has moved to an alt-country style, or at least its more predominant. Very very good stuff, and his take on the murder ballad genre was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to spinning his CD. when I have a iPod...again.

9 Bach were up next. Playing traditional Welsh folk songs. From the singers description of these songs (since they were in Welsh), it appears the Welsh are fans of wrist-slitting, very depressed songs. It was ok, but I'm not the biggest fan of some chick singers.

Julia Harris was the final act. A dreadlocked blonde with a guitar, stunning smile. Fun upbeat songs, quite poppy, but good. She's apparently rocking along on the Welsh radio stations - and from what I heard she could be the next kinda thing to be picked up.

After a somewhat convoluted walk (my fault), we got back and slept.

me x

9 November 2007

TT 08 Nov Of Oxford and the Porcupine

A leisurely start to the day saw Andrew and I breaking our fast while my clothes tumbled their way to cleanliness. Further tumbling, this time to dryness, found us walking around the town before clothes and lads were reunited and returned to the flat. And then we were off on our big Oxford adventure, leaving from Paddington we shared tall tales, middling anecdotes, and small favours (err oops, wot goes on tour stays on tour). Deciding that it would be a good idea to find the venue first (see, clever chaps!) we even managed to find a map which had the street we wanted on it. For those of you playing at home the walk took 25mins.

This level of exertion led us to seek refuge in a pub, one that served Wychwood beer - damm I'm good. Plans were assessed, talk made of more beer, but in the end we thought a viewing of the old pretty Oxford would be good (the venue was in the newer, less salubrious bit). So we ambled off, arms linked and voices raised in song "And did these feet, in ancient times..." (more prog refs there kids). Sadly it appeared god is a pop fan, for the heavens began dribbling, causing consternation and a call from the big man "quick, to the pub". just after we enacted Andrew's directive the heavens opened and unleashed a torrent the likes of which the world has rarely seen, thankfully we were at a bar and ordering a frueli (belgian strawberry beer, nice but missing some of the characteristic sour notes a good fruit beer should have).

We read papers and drank our beer. How very Oxford thought we. The deluge stopped and after letting the ark go first, we went on a rambling tour of old Oxford, which is indeed 'right nice'. Lots of lovely buildings and attractive wildlife. Many pictures were taken (of the buildings) and the light after the rain was quite superb. As evening fell our minds turned to other things so while searching out a pub, we came across a scotch shop. I know, of all the things eh?! So in our Don-like image we meandered in to thrill the somewhat bored chap in there. They had some barrels of scotch which you could buy small portions of and we tried the Ben Nevis 10yo and the Macallan 18yo. Neither grabbed us, although andrew liked the Nevis (I think it was the same as what I'd had at the tasting the other week). The sales-chappie managed to sadden me by not having any Brora or Edradour, but did give us some tasting of an Aushkoshtan (no it's not spelled right and Im too lazy to google...Neil?) as he'd asked if we liked it and I said I'd been unimpressed thus far. A three barrelled 18yo dram was poured, and lo, the people were mightily impressed (matured in sherry, bourbon and something else, memory hazy). We liked this shop, said we'd return tomorrow (to which we all smiled) and meandered off. Three nips under our belt was certainly keeping our bellyfires warm, rather than risk it being put out we found another pub. As luck would have it, "The White Horse" - the one that Insp Morse drank lots of pints at. Again so impressed was I that texts were sent. I hope they were understandable!

More meandering, more photos and a realistation that gnawing pain in our bellies was not misplaced rats, rather twas hunger. So grub and wine was had by all. And finally to the venue. Not the best, but meh. the doors had opened at 7 and we got there about 740ish, in time to catch the last three songs of Anathema. That pissed us off a bit, but they were doing acoustic so missing their usual power. Oh well, another time. I grabbed a t-shirt and andrew grabbed beer. We bullied our way to near the front and awaited Porcupine Tree.

What a stunning set. Steve Wilson said as it was the 2nd round of touring for Fear OABP that they'd be mixing things up and we got three tracks from Signify (ooohhhh), Even Less, a fair chunk of FoaBP, couple from the new EP Nil recurring, bits of Deadwing (sadly not Arriving Somewhere...), couple from IA, Hatesong. So yeah wot a fantastic setlist for my first gig from PT, I've spending far too much money on this band since 1995 or 6 when Adrian said he'd heard something from TSMS and said I needed to get the album. Damm him. Very happy camper here.

We meandered back to the railway station, caught the earlier train (woohoo) then bussed back to home, tired (well it was 2am), boozed (beer, wine, spirits) and spiritually uplifted (awesome gig).

b xxx off to Cardiff today

7 November 2007

TT 7 Nov

From the TT desk: after a quiet start to the morning since the girls had run off to work (nah nah nah) I caved in and got some drugs for the cold. They seem to be working, nice to able to buy things without the spectre of being a P-head - and from the supermarket as well. Headed back to the Science Museum and had a great day looking at medicine stuff in the Wellcome museum, space race, planes and development of flight. All really interesting, if spoiled a bit by stupid school kids. Got to be a legitimate defence to shoot them. Weakened and went to the imax 'sea monsters 3d' film today. I say weakened, but given the topic (ancient aquatic dinosaurs), the music (Peter Gabriel) it wasn't that surprising I went. This one wasn't half as annoying as yesterdays, although they did insist on having a 'story' to hang the CGI stuff on. This featured a lot of palaeontologists reconstructing on the fly the story and magically revealing perfect fossils by using their brush. Now aside from the small issues of finding the skeleton, getting the skeleton out etc, I think the biggest issue was that all of the palaeo's were young. And the group they focused on was laughable, a good looking black guy and two hot babes (blonde and a brunette). Now I've spent some time with palaeo people, and I struggle to think of any that could be described as 'hot'. At least at the PhD level !

So I'm home now to have a reasonably quiet evening.

In the news review section that occasionally pops up in TT. Aside from the rapidly escalating crisis in Pakistan the major issue dominating the paper is the imminent opening of the St Pancras station refit - which takes over the Eurostar next week. An operation is taking place in New Delhi to separate a child from her parasitic twin who had led to her having 4 arms and 4 legs, but no bonus head sadly. Nylon tea bags are now being sold on the mainstreet in direct competition to the poor quality paper ones the Brits are used to.
But the pinnacle of news asides from today are the following top 'stupid' laws in England:
* People are banned from dying in Parliament. This is because its a Royal Palace, and technically anyone who dies there is entitled to a state funeral.
* It is an act of treason to to place a postage stamp bearing the monarch's head upside down.
* An old London by-law means a pregnant woman can relieve herself anywhere, including a policeman's helmet.

Tomorrow consists of me and Andrew heading to Oxford for the Porcupine Tree and Anathema gig. Woohoo. Beer! Gig!


TT 06 Nov

Quiet start to the day, managed to bugger my ankle again yesterday - aggravation of the bloody soccer injury. Never had that kind of injury from hockey. No wonder I don't like that poncy big ball kicking thing.
So hobbled off to the supermarket grabbed some rolls, branston pickle, paper and juice to go with my cheese and coffee. Quite a good start to the day all things considered.
Caught up on emails and applied for jobs. All of which took me til about 1230 when I headed to the Grant museum of biology at UCL. Interesting place and had a chat to the curator since I was the only person there. Told him what I worked on and then had a good look at the anapsids, diapsids and the lampreys and lungfish up close. They also had a fossil of a very primitive turtle, or rather a lineage that (probably) led to turtles. I was allowed to take photos as along as I didn't put them up on the web...hmmmm....

Went to a pub for a beer while I worked out what I was up to next. It turned out to be the Science Museum. Looked at the steam engine development and watched the Ocean iMax movie (the Johnny Depp narrated one). The thing that pisses me off about NatGeo movies is the anthropomorphism, and the stupid bloody lines they use. How the fuck are you supposed to learn things when the doco is making cutesy comments. Twats. But I think I might head back there and look at more stuff. And there is a new iMax movie about deep sea monsters...

Caught up with Fran and Kate in the evening. It was cold. But beer put to mind to that. I've got a couple of photos of them which I might put up tomorrow. There was the Liverpool vs some foreign team game on whcih l/pool kicked them 9-0. Everyone else seemed to care far more than we did.

Oh well, off for a shower and to face the day now
love and lollipops, B.

6 November 2007

Oh No!!!

My iPod has developed a case of 'click-of-death'. That's generally fatal.


Why the F*(K it couldn't have gotten this a couple of weeks before I left, or after I came back I don't know.

It is getting a bit elderly now so I'm not going to yell at it and there wasn't anything irreplaceable on it.


Tuatara Times 05 Nov

The flight wasn't particularly exciting. Read my book, "Imperium" by Robert Harris, which was really good - a well researched fictional story of Cicero and his rise to power. Nice page turner too. Also read the new Vanity Fair as it had Hitchens, Stoppard and more criticism on Haliburton, Bush, Cheney and the war. Lots of stuff to watch on the in flight, but felt more like reading and listening to music - except for the Simpsons movie and some Top Gear episodes (S8).

Was only in Hong Kong for an hour and a half, had some issues in transit thanks to NZ duty free not sealing the bottle of voddie I got for Andrew. But I'll get in touch with Regency DF and see if they can sort that out. I was proud of myself, managed to keep calm and not yell or kill anyone. Go me! Got to London, found Andrew, headed back to his place to meet Alex (she's lovely) and shower. Oh god that was good.
Then to the pub. My cunning plan of dozing on the plane then drinking at the pub until 9ish seems to stop jet lag as i'm fine today.

Today I've been to the Monmouth Coffee Company and Neals Dairy Yard at the Borough Markets. Had a very good espresso there and bought some beans so thats the next couple of days sorted. Picked up some cheese too, some of which was in my sammie for lunch.

Wandered around a bit and realised I hadn't actually looked at a map all day...had a meander on the Thames track which I haven't been on before, went to Tate Modern and as luck would have it they had an exhibition of surrealism, abstract (ism?), smattering of cubism and modernism so lots of Picasso, Miro (who I think rocks), deKoening, Georges, quite a few Lichensteins, Warhol and many others. I like surrealism, it's one of my favourite forms of art. The, without wanting to sound wanky, juxtaposition between the preciseness of the art and the vaguely disconcerting feeling that something is wrong with the picture. A painted 'cinema of unease' which, if we believe Sam Neill, maybe why as a NZer I like it. That took me til about 3ish when I went and found some bread rolls and salad to go with my cheese, dropped in to say to Andrew, and am now sitting outside the Brit Museum. I went to the drawing exhibition - last time there were heaps of Caravaggio, this time an interesting selection of old masters drawings, and a collection of early 'comics' which was good. In fact great!

I saw that UCL has a couple of museums which I haven't been to so may see them tomorrow. Meeting Patrick (patron of the MMG) tonight for a beverage or two, and Cousy n Kate tomorrow night. Patrick was good, and still very very hairy!

Not sure when this will get put up on the blog...

Shalom, B.

3 November 2007

On the way to a farflung ex-empire

I'm sitting at Auckland airport without much to amuse me for an hour or two, hence the hop on the web and blog. Oh god, I'm so sad. The delights of the food court failed to tempt me, and as the limit for booze into the UK is 1 ltr of 42%+, I've grabbed Andrew's order and left it at that. Might consider some cigars, but not really in the shopping mood. I've acquired a throat infection which is pissing me off, but it is making me tired which is a good thing for flying :)

Firstly a movie review, those of you who like NZ movies or believe in supporting out indiginous movie industry should pay attention. We wandered along to Perfect Creature, the new movie by the director of Irrefutable Truth About Demons. Now that movie was enjoyable, and the feeling most of us got after watching was, it would be great to see him given money and a decent script. PC has had far more money thrown at it, and looks great. Sadly the script suffered- cool concept (vampires 'the brotherhood' and humans live in harmony) but done very very poorly. Actually the concept lent itself to some interesting exploration, was this really a symbiotic relationship? There were scenes in the movie suggestion subjugation - was this deliberate?
Anyhoo, story line, such as it was, concerned a vampire that went bad and started killing humans. It was 'infected' with some new virus thing. The head of the brotherhood, who happened to also be the bad vamps bruvva, had to go hunt him. The main hunter, played by Dougray Scott, never managed any style - tried hard to look tense, worried and generally emo, but failed.
The movie dragged. Badly. Even worse, it's only 90mins long. S had made some comment before it started about C and Z grades, and I pointed out I could certainly find them for her. It appeared we were at one already.

Recommendation: don't go. don't get the dvd. watch 'demons instead.

The trip: I'm thinking of resuscitating Tuatara Times, which gained a far larger readership last time I was overseas that I ever suspected. We'll see how I can fit that into the blog format.

To all of those I didn't quite get around to seeing before I buggered off, sorry about that (DH+LP in particular - promise i'll pop down, it's only ChCh afterall!).

Akld duty free is crap btw. Which I guess everyone knows, but still. The booze salesman looked confused when he offered to help and I said I was after 'single malts'. Apparently that's a brand. FFS!!!! nevermind, the heathrow scotch shop and neil's Scotch Tours should fix me up right proper.

I've just remembered UK customs like to have an address that you'll be living at, might have to write that down since I think I left Andrew's in my luggage. But, being the organised (hoohoohoo) lad I am, it's also sitting in my email. And so far I can't think of anything I've forgotten. Not bad for an hour of packing !

I should take this opportunity to write a CD review or something. Or Diapsid III (yes it's coming). Or maybe, heaven forbid, finish formatting another paper.

For those of you who want to get in touch, the gmail account is the best bet.
Oh and the title refers to Hong Kong, not sure how much of a stopover I get there actually as there's nothing useufl on my boarding pass...
Love, B