Last Days: Festival of Love on the Southbank

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Exhibitions at the Southbank Centre are generally something I avoid, purely because it sometimes feels a bit too…well, corporate, I guess. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I suppose I assume I’m not going to have that much fun at them, because everything’s going to be very serious, and I won’t be allowed to touch things and engage with them. And there’s a part of me that tends to feel like I should try and find something elsewhere, like it’s some kind of huge cop out to go to one of the busiest tourist destinations in town.

That said, I found myself with too much time on my hands one Sunday after working in the morning, and was at a bit of a loss for what to do. I always like strolling down the Southbank, whatever the weather, so I found myself having a quick cloudy lemonade at the Hayward, and looking through the literature for what was on. Something caught my eye: the Museum of Broken Relationships had set up an outpost, pulling in contributions from London’s broken-hearted residents. I’d read about the museum before, and it really grabbed my interest. People submit artifacts from relationships they’ve been in that have fallen apart. It’s incredibly voyeuristic, but ultimately a fairly uplifting experience. Pain is universal, broken hearts are commonplace, and many of the stories accompanying objects are about how the person concerned has moved on with their life.

I spent a good couple of hours in The Heartbreak Hotel, where not only can you forensically dissect past romances, but you can also examine letters to Cathy & Claire, the agony aunts at ‘Jackie’ magazine in the 70s. You step into an interpretation of the Jackie offices, complete with blocky wooden desks, typewriters and extendable desk lamps. The letters themselves are fascinating, with advice written from most members of the Jackie staff (Cathy & Claire never actually existed). While you’re in there, you can also grab a cocktail from the Department of Good Cheer, and get dressed up as famous pop heartthrobs.

I liked it so much that I revisited the weekend after with a friend, this time going into the Tunnel of Love, which I was a bit too freaked out by to go alone. We wandered in down a corridor of pin ups, both likely (Jennifer Lawrence) and unlikely (David Mitchell). Everything was pink neon hued, saturated in saccharine. At the end of the tunnel we reached a large space with a big Twister board, some viewing booths and a DJ space. Obviously we made our way straight to the DJ booth and started scratching up Donna Summer before viewing a wall of lovelorn confessions written by visitors to the exhibit.

All in all, the Southbank is an excellent place to while away a few hours, and I recommend you giving the Festival of Love a final send off before it vanishes after this weekend.

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Last Days: Camden Beach

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a loss for what to do, and fancied a bit of beach action. Home home is 20 minutes from Brighton, but as anyone who’s faced that pebbly megahulk before knows, it’s not the place to get sand between your toes and lie back contemplating the marvels of existence on a sunny day. In fact, you’re more likely to stumble across some druggy teen and sit there getting sad about the burnt down pier and the increasing shabbiness of the place as much as anything. Oh, and have you tried going through East Croydon on a sunny day? Forget it.

Instead, I opted for Time Out’s number one attraction of the week, Camden Beach. My friend later told me he was extreeeemely sceptical about going to the most popular place in T.O. on a sunny Sunday, but we trekked out to Chalk Farm tube and joined the queue. As my friends/colleagues (frolleagues) will tell you, I *hate* queuing. I turn into my dad, loudly tutting and getting increasingly irate, swaggering around declaiming ‘I just DON’T queue, I don’t do it. I refuse’. Well, on this day, I dealt with it and we only waited about 15-20 minutes to get in. You’ll actually be grateful for the queuing system once you’re in, because it ensures the place doesn’t get overcrowded.

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We found a spot, grabbed some drinks from the Tiki bar, and settled down for a couple of hours in the sunshine. They’ve got music playing, deckchairs, little beach huts, a volleyball net, a champagne & hot dog stand, and all sorts of other delights for city-dwelling beach lovers. I had a ridiculously good time – while it’s never quite going to match up to a glorious Cornish beach, there’s something pleasing on a deep level about getting covered in sand and lolling about with a cider. We even made sandcastles! It took a while to work out the optimum sand:water ratio, but once we had it, there was no turning back. We spotted a nearby girl getting jealous and attempting to emulate us with little success…she was a bottle of Prosecco worse for wear though, so I should be more generous.

I can strongly recommend it as a day out. It’s free to get in, and I made a pint of cider last a very long time, so you can do the whole thing on a minimal budget if you so choose. Bear in mind you can’t take any bottles in yourself though, so if you were considering beating the system, you should think again, sunshine. Take a few friends, take a bucket and spade, and enjoy the slightly disconcerting experience of seeing the Camden skyline while surrounded by sand and beach huts. To quote their tagline: you’ve got 99 problems, but a beach ain’t one.

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Disco at Kingly Court

HEY!

So, I’ve been on a blogging hiatus since June, because quite frankly, I couldn’t find the time. And I was having too much fun. I’m going to attempt to catch up a little bit, and let’s start here, with a club review.

Absolutely ages ago in the Summer (remember THAT guy?!), I piled along to a new concept club called ‘Disco‘ at Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street. It’s the newest creation of the hugely innovative Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling (also responsible for Maggie’s), and it’s one of those fantastic places where every single detail has been carefully considered. On arriving, you’re greeted by Pan Am uniform-clad staff, all perky smiles and pencil skirts. It’s fun – you’re given a boarding pass to enter, and the rather tiny club is a delightful tangle of rollerskates, neon and disco balls.

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The drinks selection is glorious and…I’m trying to skirt around using the words ‘kitsch’ or ‘retro’, so I’ll just say: very apt for the theme. Cocktails heavily feature Midori, grenadine and orange juice, and spirits can be ordered with a mixer of Cream Soda or R. White’s lemonade. If you’re getting down on it, opt for the twinkly jewel in the ‘Sharer’ crown: a hollowed out disco ball packed full of black raspberry vodka, Moet, Malibu, Midori, pineapple and passionfruit.

If you’re into zinc counter tops and slate walls, this place is not for you. Only take your fun friends, those who have a healthy taste for gold hotpants and Donna Summer. While it’s obviously supremely gimmicky, it’s so well-conceived that you can’t help but be charmed by it. All in all, I absolutely adored it. To get in, you either need to become members (it costs £35 a month after a £100 joining fee which includes free entry for two, discounts on private hire and priority booking on tables) or you can get on the “limited” guest list on the website and pay £20 for entry. Possibly not the most budget-friendly of places, but you’re  guaranteed a wonderful night.

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This very lovely bouncer asked to pose for a photo….

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…and then was worried he didn’t look tough enough, so he did a ‘security guard’ pose…

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Take a Different Route Home

When I was a fresh-faced yoof undertaking my first proper daily commute to London, I was determined to stay wide eyed and interested in the world around me. I didn’t want to become a typical commuter, slumped in my seat on the train, head down as I tramped the city streets, never looking up.

That was 7 weeks ago.

Even in that short time, I find myself getting into bad habits. I doze on the train where initially I read ‘improving’ books. My healthy juices have been swapped for cloying lattes. I tut and sigh at anyone who gets in my way or irritates me, whereas my attitude used to be ‘at least I’ll never see that commuter again, look on the bright side’.

In an attempt to remedy my morning and evening ennui, I decided to go from a different station (Victoria instead of Charing) and ended up on a glorious walk that sliced me through Piccadilly, Mayfair and St James’s park. I enjoyed it hugely. Give it a shot, take a diversion, find something different.

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Theatre review: Blind Date @ The Charing Cross Theatre

Going on the title and the poster alone, I wasn’t sold. Going on blind dates is insane enough, let alone watching a show about them, surely? But when a chum kindly invited me along, I did a bit of reading round, and was intrigued. Blind Date is a show conceived by comedian/actress Rebecca Northan, which revolves around the structure of a blind date played out in front of a voracious audience. The difference? The blind date is plucked from the audience, minutes before the show starts.

Improv is a sticky game, to mix my metaphors. By its very nature, it can’t be predicted, nailed down, or neatly defined. At uni, I came across the work of a theatre group called Improbable, who frequently improvised sections of their shows around the life stories of audience members. That was one thing, but this show was going to rely hugely on the charm and watchability of the poor chap chosen to be the male lead for the night.

So let’s backtrack a minute. As the lights come up on the stage, we meet Mimi (Northan) for the first time, as she sips nervously at her red wine, waiting for a date who never turns up. It’s a drizzly Wednesday evening with a typical London crowd, and we’re watching a woman with a ‘joke’ red nose perched ludicrously on her face. No one is sure what to expect, but what we do know is that we’re going to make her work hard for this.

Thing is, you fall for Mimi almost straight away. Northan’s been touring this show for years, and you can tell. It’s a masterclass in improv and how to handle a rather nervous member of the audience who is desperate to impress the 200 people watching him…And that was where the problem came. Northan was perfect, delightful, and hilarious. Her date, plucked from the cosy embrace of the plush velvet seats, was not. In fact, he was downright irritating, slightly drunk, very sweary, and occasionally offensive. His date, in the audience, was also very much ‘over-refreshed’ and vocal….

It was a unique experience, hugely entertaining, quite wince-inducing at times, and all in all was quite like a real first date! Northan is a tremendous talent and it’s worth seeing it just for her. The concept is a thrilling one, and the ‘anything could happen’ atmosphere is electrifying. Go, see, be entertained, be horrified, be charmed. Blind Date runs at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 29th June.

Adam & Albert

 

 

I’m currently writing this post from a wonderfully sunny St Ives in Cornwall, but before I go on to boast about the glorious weather, I’m going to rewind to last week, and a cold and faintly snowy London.

 

Last Thursday, India and I headed up to South Ken to see the event we’d been anticipating for months on end: Foals at the Albert Hall. We last saw them in the grubby, chilly, small Concorde 2 in Brighton, and were fascinated as to how they’d translate to such a different venue. If you’ve never seen the band live, I urge you to get tickets for whatever you can lay your hands on. Foals are phenomenal live, and I say that without the slightest bit of exaggeration.

 

After a rather pleasing support slot from Efterklang, the laser lighting kicked in, the smoke machine pumped up to full volume, and the band made their way on stage. Most of the set came from their new album, Holy Fire, interspersed with crowd-pleasers such as Total Life Forever and Spanish Sahara. When Foals play, something almost transcendental happens to the audience. I looked around the crowd, seeing people transported by the music, these huge guitar riffs and echoing vocals punching the walls of the Albert Hall.

 

After about half an hour, India and I grew frustrated at being in a seated area, and our attempts at chair dancing weren’t really cutting it, so we clambered down to the front of the tiered section in a haze of dance-driven urgency. We spent the rest of the gig waving about like idiots, watching the mosh pit from on high, and feeling the waves of sound on our faces. Due to our (over)enthusiasm, we got pulled aside at the end of the gig to give a short interview about Foals for the Albert Hall. After hoarsely repeating the word ‘epic’ several times, we were on our way to Soho.

 

In Soho, we picked up Frankie, who took us to a new discovery: The Soho Social Club. I almost don’t want to talk about it, because it was so ace that I don’t want anyone else to know it’s there, but what the heck. It’s essentially one room on the corner of a dark, tucked away Soho street, and contains a few small tables and one long banqueting table. The walls are stacked with books and framed black and white photos with a heavy S&M emphasis. The cocktail menu is brief but carefully curated, and the staff charming.

 

When we got there, Frankie was greeted heartily by an old dear in a fur hat and large earrings who perched, regally, at the very end of the long table. ‘Oh hello love’, she said, ‘it’s been ages since I saw you, hasn’t it?’ They chattered away for a little while, before Frankie turned to us and said she’d never seen the woman before in her life…But I’ve overlooked the very best part of TSSC: the dogs. Yes, dogs. Four squiggly balls of fluff scattered around the room, enjoying the attention of the delighted customers, and I took quite a shine to a sweet French bulldog called Modesty.

 

From there, we dashed to The Diner for stacked burgers, baskets of fries and Cherry Cokes before crossing the river to the BFI, just in time for my beloved Adam Buxton and the start of BUG. If you’ve never been, BUG is a bi-monthly (last time I checked) showcase for new and interesting music videos, which Adam hosts. Not only is it a fantastic way of discovering new bands, but Adam also reads out YouTube comments on the videos, and gives his own commentary, which is hugely entertaining.

 

Bit of a skim through Thursday, but I’ll be back soon with posts about Cornwall, and showing off about the sunshine. Ta ra for now.

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I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

I am SO SORRY for being atrocious at posting lately. I got tangled up around Fashion Week and haven’t quite regained my footing until now. Someone even contacted me the other day to check if I was dead, so I knew it was probably time to post. Also, this weather is making me feel totally miz. I’m looking outside and can see a fat grumpy pigeon perched on the bare branches of the tree at the end of the garden while it rains on him, and that sort of sums everything up. I’m desperately in need of sun.

So what have I been doing with my life, I hear you demand? (Correction: I like to think I hear you demand. You’re probably just thinking about pigeons right now. You philistine.) I’d say in the month since I last posted, I’ve mostly been eating. I went up to St Andrews in February to judge the Alfa Romeo Young Designer Award for Lady M Presents, write up coming shortly. That was an awful lot of aceness. Also, I love Scotland, and I managed to resist doing my famously awful Scottish accent for the entire weekend, AND I didn’t even refer to anyone as the ‘Scotch’, as Stewart Lee is always getting people to do. Or quote any of this video.

The weekend after that, I went to the London outpost of the St Andrews Fashion Show, including dinner at Circus with the winners of the award. Circus is a unique concept: Pan-Asian cuisine served alongside…well, circus acts. And of course, we saw the St Andrews show again. Eating sushi while watching fire-eaters was a pretty fascinating way to spend an evening… On the whole, the food was delicious, the entertainment very absorbing, and we were shown into the venue by a man in a top hat and much more eye makeup than me, which is the way any good night should start.

It was great to see the designs on the catwalk again, and I’m still bowled over at the huge amount of hard work that must have gone into the organising of the show. I skipped out earlyish to get some much needed sleep, and also to eat plum jelly in my hotel room. Yep. That’s how I roll on a Friday night. Jelly roll. The next day, nursing a jelly hangover, I got taken to one of the most delightful restaurants I’ve been to in a very long time, which was The Delaunay, a charming place tucked away just off the strand. Beware the photo of the waffles I had, which can be seen in the pictures below. It has been known to induce fits of jealousy.

Then I went to Sketch, and back to Canteen, and to the wonderful Brasserie Zedel, and I made brunch, and sausage and mash…In fact, I really have been more or less eating non-stop for the last month, and having a rather wonderful time, all sorts of adventures and smiling non-stop, but I’m going to catch up with posts a bit at a time to avoid any essay length blogs. In the meantime, take a look at some pictures, why don’t you? And if you’re wondering where the title of this post comes from, I say firstly to you: get sum edukashun, yeh? And secondly, this.

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