Saturday, June 23, 2012

More formaldehyde anyone?

Today I was having a spontaneous meet up with my two closest friends from England who I only see when I happen to be across the border. Although I wanted to give myself a lie in I had already trained myself to get up at working hours, aka 7:30am. However my friend Gabby is a morning lark and this meant we could arrange a meeting point and time. She decided to head into London for around 12 and although tfl told me it would take almost an hour, I arrived with half an hour to spare.

After numerous timing issues we did eventually all meet up and followed our stomachs to Covent Garden. Alas, our stomachs didn't get us much further than that as we did several loops around the place waiting for someone to make a decision. This is why Tasha is an integral member of the trio, otherwise we would still be looping Neal's Yard now. She led us along to a Carluccios, which happened to be the one restaurant in London I can remember eating in. Even still, it was better than wandering around in the rain again.

I had fritto misto which is battered things from the sea with garlic mayonnaise followed by some chocolate profiteroles. After a long catch up, and an extravagant lunch for a group of three students we headed back out to London with our classic mindset of none what-so-ever. Following our feet, and to some degree our noses, and ended up in Covent Garden Market trawling through the numerous gift shops including The Moomin Shop where memories of 10 year old me appeared out of nowhere and I finally figured out where my love of all things Scandinavian comes from. The many, many gift shops also unleashed Tasha's tea-set fetish and well Gabby just loved all of it. Using our feet again we decided to just wander off but for some reason we all decided we should go into the British Transport Museum after spying a pillow made to look like a train ticket, that's the kind of tacky crap I love. The entry fee to the museum was not even on the map of acceptable, but the shop was free and lets be honest a museum is just a warm up act to it's gift shop, especially this one to me since I am a major map enthusiast and wannabe pilot.

This time we actually did wander but with the aid of flipping a coin. We were testing out the theory that you can't really get that lost in London because no matter where you are you will probably stumble across a tube station  and a tortoise can travel between bus stops in the city is less than an hour. The game took us through Theatreland and we ended up at the Hunterian Museum which I had read about the day before in a "I-should-really-go-there-for-uni-brownie-points" kind of way. The Hunterian Museum is part of the Royal College of Surgeons and is a collection by John Hunt who was re-known for his skills in dissection and preparing specimens as well as teaching using comparative anatomy of different animals rather than focusing on just human anatomy. The Museum itself is quite a bizarre place, it would take so much time to properly look at every single specimen in the building, my friend Gabby put it beautifully, "He must have liked Jam to get all these glass jars."

The museum was a classic example of something grotesquely fascinating, some things were just plain shocking. The human specimens were the most bizarre and particularly the foetal examples, it was something you just don't see in any other scenario. As a biology student I found everything pretty fascinating but after basking in a room of unthinkable amount of death things in formaldehyde and watching several videos of arterial bypass' and brain surgery, I couldn't help but feel a bit pale.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Pilgrimages in A Day

After a wonderfully relaxing morning I was going to attempt what could be my daily commute to Wimbledon, though mainly I just wanted to sneak a peak at the site. The journey took a surprisingly long time, by the time I looked at the timer I had set when I left the flat it had been 2hours 42 minutes... However, this may be partly due to the fact a group of Americans thought I was their guide to take them to The Wimbledon Museum and continued to accompany me and ask questions that I had no idea  how to answer. Luckily though my gut instinct did me well and I managed to get them there without losing one, and I left them at the museum so I could escape and wander about inconspicuouly without the baggage of loud american tourists.

I went a walk around the whole complex, around the outside of the gate and I was already an excited little puppy. Who knows what I'll be like on Sunday when I actually start work. From the wall you could see Court One and Centre Court and when I coninued round I got to the compeitiors complex, alas I didn't see any of them. However you could hear them, the familiar pop of a tennis ball against a racket was some pleasant background noise. Around the site everything was being prepared, everything down to the smallest detail as a man was painting over tiny chips in the railings.

I wouldn't be heading back there for 2 days when I will be having my first day and induction working for the catering company behind the Championships. One of the other places I was dying to visit as soon as I got to London was a little café just off Oxford Street that specialise in Scandinavian Cusine. I found them after I got a huge craving for cloudberries (multe) which are native to Northern Scandinavia and wanted to know where to get my fix. Since then I have had them on facebook/Twitter and enjoyed their Nordic banter and being gagging to go visit them. Halfway up Great Titchfield Street it is quite difficult to miss their bright red front of shop but their punny blackboard outside will get you inside if not.

The cafe itself was a lot cosier and welcoming than I had even imagined with sofas at the front and tables at the back with the shop section. If you thought this was still pretty limited seating then not to worry as there was more downstairs. I arrived pretty late in the day so their full range of smørrebrød/smørbrød/smörgås was not there but what was there tickled my food presentation-fetish. I also couldn't resist some Kladdkaka which is a Swedish chocolate cake that has the consistency of brownie, if not a bit stickier, with a meringue crust. If that didn't sell it to you then maybe their nickname of "Crack Cake" will. 

The cafe has a ridiculously friendly atmosphere in everything that they do, so much so you could probably fall asleep there and wake up to breakfast in bed, or them all snuggled up next to you. It's not just a café though, it is also a shop selling anything any homesick Scandi would want (mainly cheez doodles) and a great place for a non-native (such as myself) to wander around and feel like I'm on holiday. 

Unfortunately I couldn't stay in Rose heaven all day and I headed out back home. My little adventures today showed me how multicultural London is, something somebody who has been bound by the rural ways of life often loves to experience. From going from hearing nothing but the sing-song of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian to trying to interpret some Spanish and German people on the tube. It's these little things that make me feel like I am on holiday somewhere (okay, so I kinda am) and help me enjoy even the mundane and simplest of places.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Longest Day (not just because of the Solstice...)

I never like to open with a cliche but this really was the day I had been waiting for for far too long now. I had arrived in Dundee the day before and spent a good 6 hours packing for all possible occasions: working at one of the poshest events in London this summer after the jubilee, climbing up a mountain that goes from +30°C to -20°C, for a safari and for a beach resort. Somehow I managed to fit all of this into a rucksack and small suitcase, still the thought of navigating London on the tube means every bag is a step closer to getting lost in a strangers armpit.

How often does this happen?

At 9 o'clock my taxi came to whisk me away after my fleeting visit to Dundee and after a quick train to Edinburgh, caught with minutes to spare, I was off to London. I have fond memories of East Coast trains as there is usually something good at the end of them.  I got a taste of what London might be like when I was trying to find somewhere to put my bags in the horrendously packed luggage racks. I wish people would realise that they can fit their tiny handbags in the overhead storage rather than clogging up the main racks. One of my travel pet-peeves! However after some pushing, shoving and impatient people I got everything in, alas at opposite ends of the carriage to the other. Opposite me there was an old woman who had been on since Perth and she barely said a word for the whole trip, but I constantly saw her peek over to nose at what everyone else was reading or doing. Next to her was your standard business man who had probably just rolled out of a meeting to head back home, both of them had excellent faces for a caricature and when I find the time to recreate them I will! As much as I was attempting to read what my fellow passengers were like, I am sure they were judging me as being a waste-of-space-gap-yah-kid too.

After York the train was non-stop until Kings Cross which meant we arrived a mere 4 hours after leaving Edinburgh.I like to think I have got to know this piece of track quite well and I look out for my favourite sights but there are the occasional new ones I have just missed completely like a huge stretch of forest after Dunbar that made me think I was back in Austria and the massive ferris wheel in York I have somehow missed over the years. I also like to look out for rail side artwork, for example the mileage signs on either side if the track pointing to London and Edinburgh but they are very blink and you'll miss it though making them all the more special when you catch them. As soon as I stepped off the train in London I knew that trackies and a hoody were a bad call as the temperature had increased, however Kings Cross was surprisingly empty as I had arrived before rush hour so my luggage wasn't going to be too much of a problem, as was my pertistant perspiration. For my time in London I was staying at my friend Heather's flat, she used to be my babysitter many moons ago so this is just going to be advanced babysitting for her!

Her flat is out in Lewisham found in South East London in a nice typically London-y area, then again there isn't really a "typical London" it is all so pick and mix architecturally speaking. I spent the evening getting to know the area by walking between the two Overground stations we were slap bang in the middle of. Having lived in Scotland all my life I never thought there would be that big of a difference between us and those across the border but I had only been  in England for a few hours and there was a quite a different look and feel to the place. I don't mean just in that "london smell" and the hustle and bustle, there were little things like the way people went about themselves, the fact there are off licences and there are flags everywhere. In Scotland, other than the Royal Mile on Edinburgh, we aren't really a flag waving bunch (contrary to popular belief) but in England, my god are they proud of old Jack. Maybe it's just because it's the Jubilee/Olympics, but still; I doubt I'll be forgetting what country I am in anytime soon.

As I was out on my walk it was getting rapidly darker and darker, something I was not used to at all. By 10pm the sun had already set on the longest day of the year and as my body clock forced me to head to bed I thought of my friends back home sitting on a beach watching the sun flirt with the horizon. Nevertheless, there was no time to be jealous as I have one impressive itinerary for the next 5 weeks and I will need my sleep.

Monday, June 18, 2012

So the Adventure Begins!

I'm sitting on the ferry somewhere in the middle of the North Sea sandwiched between Scotland and Norway on a 7 hour trip to Aberdeen from Orkney. I have taken this trip dozens of times but this one is a little bit more exciting. I am heading off to London, firstly, to spend two weeks working at the All England Lawn Tennis Club for the infamous Wimbledon Championships and then a week after that finishes I am bound for Africa to tackle it's highest mountain.

Usually I am more than excited to leave home for a while but this time felt weird which was strange since I was going away for less time than normal, but I suppose since I was going somewhere further and more exciting than Dundee with a lot more thrills and miles out of my comfort zone.

The ferry sailed on out away from the sun and into the darkenss, something there isn't much of in Orkney at this time of year amd I attempted to get some sleep on the boat but that is impossible at the best of times and this time I had managed to set up camp next to Northlink's resident wild boar. A nights sleep on the boat (without a cabin) is never much more than just having your eyes closed for several hours.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Passenger Gig - The Caves, Edinburgh 20/05/12

The Caves is found in the Cowgate of Edinburgh which has a number of famous gig venues and is notorious with the city's famous ghost tours and the area history as a river of sewage. The venue is a wonderfully lit little place lined in flagstones and with the tell-tale "underground Edinburgh" scent (anyone who has been on a Vault tour will know what I mean).
Mike Macfarlane

When we got there the first warm-up act was on and he was a very Frightened Rabbit-esc called Mike Macfarlane who doesn't have any songs on release, or youtube or anything but I hope this changes! Obviously proud of his new guitar effects pedal he did well to captivate and audience as the first act on, even using a member of the crowd as a slave by holding up his set list! He had at least one stand out song in my mind that he said was about Tramadol and if I can get a copy I will let you all know how to do the same though I am sure just asking on his facebook would do! 

Kat Healy
Following from Mike was Kat Healy who was a woman who seemed awefully sweet but when she came out with songs about affairs and lust you realised she was that bit more feisty! She had three people on stage with her and that was the most people on the stage at one time for the whole evening and I thought that perhaps less is more as the venue is pretty small and her voice got drowned out by the backing instruments at times. Still, her songs were really nice and she has a wonderful voice and she even had free promo-EP's to hand out at the end which is always a winner!
Robin Adams

By now some of the audience was getting impatient unusually rowdy as the noise level in the venue had increased which was a shame as Robin Adams was next on and he was ridiculously talented! It was just a shame people kept talking over him, at least he could have solace in the fact that the majority of people standing were still mesmerised. I recommend you take a listen to some of his songs on facebook as I can almost guarantee you will go on and buy his albums.

Mike Rosenberg
For a second I thought there was going to be a fourth support act, Stu Larsen who I recoginised from previous Passenger stalking. However after some guitar arranging he scurried off stage and on walked Mike Rosenberg aka Passenger, we need not worry though as we would be seeing Stu again later. Mike opened with a new song, or at least one I had never heard before, called "Words" and I got a taste of what it is like to see passenger live without knowing his songs word for word. He preforms brilliantly and this was shown by the silence in the crowd hanging onto every word. Mike has a repitoire of songs that any well-established musician would be proud of and it's like a treasure trove, whenever you go to listen you discover a new album full of gems or a new collaboration on youtube. Mike's gig was filled with periods of silence with intervals of uproar and applause, but he liked to prefrom outside the norm by coming down into the crowd and leaving the microphone and amp aside. I said that Stu would be back didn't I? Mike invited him on to duet with him on the track "Heart's on Fire" and their voices complemented each other beautifully. I could happily listen to those two sing together all the time, I highly reccomend you look up some of their duets on the old YouTube.

Stu & Mike
After Mike finished I was determind to head out and get a cheesy "crazed fan" photo and on the way I caught one with Stu Larsen as well. Now I can say I have met both Joshua Radin and Mike Rosenberg  I think I can say my life has been made, just Simon Reeve to go now!

Crazed Fan Photo :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Little Gems X

I found this song by Neutral Milk Hotel after searching the word "Aeroplane" on Etsy and people had made some wee things with lyrics from this song. It turns out this song has some of the best lyrics I have heard in a song all about being young and in love.

This song by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss is one of my favourite, what I call, Late-Night-Nostalgic songs. It's the kind of song you can fall asleep too and just reminisce. It's gorgeous.

Here is an old classic by the Dire Straits but probably glossed over by most young people! One of my favourites while growing up and I think it should be part of many life soundtracks.

I found Ivy & Gold when I was looking up Gotye covers and I thought the lady (Rachel Wilkinson) was not only stunning but also had a very nice, unique voice.

Jaymee Dee's song "Rules" appeared on The Hunger Games soundtrack, alas only in the credits, so she has began to come into the limelight as of late. I enjoy lots of her covers with her husky, bluesy touch. This is a cover of one of my favourite songs and I love it, almost as much as the original.

I recently finished John Green's "Looking for Alaska" and coincidently started listening to this cover of Kasabian's Goodbye Kiss by Lana del Rey and the song above on repeat. Anyone who as read the book knows that this was a fatal end to any eye make-up on my face.

I remember Charlie Simpson from Busted, and pretending I didn't like Busted at all when really Year 3000 was a tune. Here he is all grown up and a bit more respectable but still displaying husky tones and wonderful eyebrows.

I've known this song by Matt Nathanson for years now, probably thanks to Scrubs, and it is getting covered by a duo called Lilygreen & Maguire (yup, that is Jon Lilygreen from Jon Lilygreen & The Islanders, Cyprus' entry into Eurovision a few years back) and released as a single but I hate it when people don't realise singles are covers, so yeah, here is the original which sounds pretty much exactly the same as the new release...

Lauren Aquilina has been on the YouTube singer/songwriter scene in Britain for a while now and is known to hang out with the likes of Kate McGill and Orla Garland who have both made and appearance on here and it was about time I put Lauren on too.

I had a sudden urge to relive my childhood by listening to Jolene (as well as Dolly Parton some of my other favourite bands aged 5 were ABBA and Elton John, we all start somewhere) and I came across this cover by Jesse Thomas who has a wonderful mixture of a sweet, young voice with this ridiculously raw smoky edge. It's a glorious voice box. Oh, and she has a bunch of originals on itunes you should check out!