Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Their Mortal Remains and the Importance of Being a Londoner

Last weekend, I had a rather eventful day. I was planning on catching one of the final viewings of the Pink Floyd exhibition, Their Mortal Remains, at the V&A, but on my journey there, I got caught up in the terrorist-attack-which-wasn't-an-attack.

As I stepped off the tube at South Kensington, I heard an announcement over the tannoid. We were being asked by an automated voice to make our way, calmly and quickly, to the nearest exit. The press of people filtering out of the station were visibly anxious - recent events in London have left most of us on edge, but it was impressive to see that no one was in a full blown panic. As we exited the station, we were confronted by walls of blue and white tape and armed police blockading the roads. A helicopter chattered overhead and people were milling around, not quite sure where to go now that their destination had been cut off. Something had apparently gone down on Exhibition road, but nobody quite knew what.

Of course, it eventually transpired that an Uber driver had bowled over a bunch of pedestrians outside the front of the Natural History museum. He wasn't a terrorist, just a dangerous driver and luckily no one had been seriously hurt. But it was amazing to see the response to a potentially awful situation in action. Our London police force had responded at lightning speed and everyone you bumped into in the crowded street was helpful, looking out for the people around them. Whether it was offering a moment of reassurance, or letting you know which street hadn't been blocked off yet. Personally, I feel this is incredibly important - it shows that in the face of potential disaster, Londoners pull together to support those around them.

After winding through a convoluted route of backstreets, I finally made it to the V&A. Moments later, I was being handed a headset and was entering down the psychedelic rabbit hole and into Their Mortal Remains.

The exhibition was fabulous! I am by no means a huge Pink Floyd fan - they're a band of my Dad's era, so I grew up with their music in the background, but it was never something I paid a huge amount of attention. However, following the exhibition, I'm going to make an effort to listen to more!

The exhibition followed the band's journey from student-y band to world-famous (yet mysteriously anonymous) rock royalty, showing how their performance had changed over the years and demonstrating just how ground breaking they were for their time.

A Pink Floyd gig was a riot of colour, lights and puppets. Huge inflatables would hang over the venue, a terrifying 'teacher' puppet loomed from the stage, eyes blazing while their signature circular screen would flash movies and animations behind the band. For their 'Wall' tour, they even built a giant structure out of individual white bricks. A performance was a full on production!

The exhibition was huge and incredibly well put together. Your headsets would automatically play different audio as you got closer to certain exhibits or videos. Props, posters and instruments were on the display whilst lights flashed around you. You could even play with a mixing deck and create your own version of a Pink Floyd track. 

The exhibition ended in a concert - everyone sat around on the floor as a wrap around screen played Comfortably Numb from their 2005 reunion at Live 8, as lasers danced overhead. It was strangely emotional, a reminder of musical genius which is rarely seen in music today.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Edinburgh (Not Quite) Adventures

So, the nature of my ('proper', full-time, non-blogging) job means that I am required to be wherever my clients are. For the majority of my career, I've been lucky enough to be based in London, beavering away happily in the city and not in some god-forsaken wasteland in the middle of nowhere (or on an oil rig in the north sea, as one unfortunate colleague ended up at). However, recently I was asked to leave the cozy south and travel up to Edinburgh for part of my working week.

Now, initially I was pretty grumpy about this. In terms of traveling, Edinburgh was just about as far as you can be reasonably be expected to travel on a weekly basis. AND, it's COLD. To add insult to injury, in order to get there at a reasonable time to do any form of work on a Monday, I am rudely forced out of bed at 5am. I'm telling you now, 5am is a time of night I will never be happy to see.

However, as you may have notice from my Instagram, Edinburgh is undeniably a beautiful city. Full of wide, sweeping streets, beautiful old building and more spires than you can shake a stick at, it cuts quite the impression. The city is watched over by the imposing castle, located on a hill in the city center. Walking through the streets in the evening, I love looking at the lit up monuments (which seem to be everywhere) and listening to the haunting notes of a busker's bagpipes playing the Skye Boat Song* (a tune which has taken on a whole new life in my head ever since having become obsessed with Outlander...). Yes, I'm a cliché in a bucket, but I don't care. 

The problem with working up in Edinburgh is that I don't have the luxury of daytime hours to explore the city, so now I'm going to turn to you dear readers. Please, let me know your recommendations of things to do in Edinburgh outside of 'usual' hours. Where should I visit and what should I see to get a real feel of the city? What things shouldn't be missed? And, perhaps most importantly, where should I eat? 

So, help a travelling Londoner in need  and send your recommendations this way! 

*Controversially, I also love the tram....

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Wild Flowers and Wedding Bells

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I attended his big sister's wedding up near Newcastle. I'd been really excited about the big day for quite some time as the last time I attended a wedding, I must have been about knee height!

First things first however, I had to find a hat! The boys in the wedding party were sett to look dashing in mourning dress and so I had to find something suitably smart. In the end, I found one in a place I wasn't necessarily expecting - Marks and Spencer!

The wedding was being held in a beautiful barn conversion out in the countryside. Surrounded by dry stone walls and fields of ponies, the location couldn't have been more idyllic! The barn itself had fairy lights weaving in and out of the rafters and beautiful spherical flower arrangements hung from the ceiling.

Soon, it was time for the bride's entrance. She floated down the aisle in a cloud of white, lead by bridesmaids in cobalt blue. Moments later, the barn erupted into applause for the new happy couple.

Confetti was thrown, photos taken and speeches spoken before the wedding breakfast was served. I couldn't have been happier when a large platter of beef carpacccio materialised on the table in front of me!

The tables were frosted with more arrangements of white flowers and, from our seats, we could look out over the countryside as we tucked into our food.

The rest of the evening passed dancing to the band (who were fantastic!) and roasting marshmallows over the fire pits which crackled away merrily in the barn's courtyard.

The whole of the wedding was thoroughly enjoyable. The location was rustically elegant, the crowd lively and the happy couple, well, very happy. I was delighted to have been a part of their big day and wish them a beautiful future.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Last of the Summer Sun: Tuscany, Italy

Last week, I was lucky enough to go on holiday with four of my favourite people. We'd chosen to go somewhere where we could chill in the sunshine but also pop off for the occasional day trip, all whilst eating good food. So, perhaps it wasn't all that surprising when we settled on a little villa just out side the Tuscan village of Sieci.

Our villa was situated on top of one of the rolling hills Tuscany is famed for. Since we hadn't the foresight to hire a car, we had an entertaining (frustrating) time dragging our cases up the long country road to our home for the week. Thankfully, the trip was worth it!

For the most part, our days passed blissfully by the pool, catching up on all the reading we'd failed to do throughout the rest of the year and floating around on the must-have accessories of 2017...

Occasionally, we'd potter down to the nearby village (eyes out for the wild boar!) to stock up on essentials such as wine, cheese and parma ham.

Demi took the role of resident chef, cooking us up spectacular meals each evening while we drank wine and bickered over whose turn it was to do the washing up.

Since Florence was only a short train ride away, we ventured into the city to explore the beautiful streets and visit some old favourite spots.

Of course, stopping by the spectacular Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

and the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

One particularly good discovery was the rooftop bar at the Westin Excelsior which gave us unrivalled  views over the city and tasty cocktails. We enjoyed our first visit so much, we returned a couple of days later for round two! Just look how far we could see over the rooftops of Florence!

Whilst in Florence, we took an afternoon course to learn how to make pizza and gelato. We learned about the different flours Italians use in their cooking, how to stretch our pizza dough properly and the exact differences between gelato and ice cream. The course was really fun and interactive, made all the better by the tasting session held at the end where we got to eat our hand made pizzas and sample the gelato, all washed down with a generous glass of wine.

On our last day, we escaped the city's heat by looking around the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's town hall. Famed for once having been the seat of Medici power in Florence and later, the home of the provisional government, each room of the building is decadently decorated with elaborate paintings, likening the residents to various old Roman gods and goddesses.

Tuscany is a magical area of Italy. The countryside, with its vineyards and olive groves, is simply beautiful and Florence is a spectacular city. I already can't wait to return.