Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire.

Over the last couple of years I've been making a real effort to go to more gigs. It's something I loved doing when I was at uni, and then I kind of stopped going for a couple of years. I'm so happy I've been going to lots more gigs. Well, my brain is happy, my bank balance is not. You win some, you lose some.

Normally the photos I take at gigs are rubbish, but I managed (OK, Pete managed) to get a few decent pictures recently so I thought I'd share.

Arctic Monkeys at Finsbury Park:



Arcade Fire at Earls Court:


The gig had a dress code; either fancy dress or formal attire. I decided to use it as an opportunity to put on a fancy(ish) frock. Dressing up definitely gave the whole thing a real sense of occasion and amped up my excitement (and I was pretty excited already). 



Crap photos, but I think they capture my unadulterated happiness!

I really cannot overstate how good Arcade Fire were. Obviously at the time I was in a total state of manic enthusiasm, but even in the cold light of day, I stand by the statement that it definitely made it into my top three gigs of all time. My brother said the same, and he's a fellow gig addict. Seriously, it was incredible. There are not enough superlatives in the world.

I've got quite a few more gigs lined up; The Libertines (!!!), The Horrors, Johnny Marr, The Black Keys, Josh Record, Band of Skulls... My poor bank balance. Ah well, when it comes to spending money, I'd much rather be a 'do-er' than a 'have-er'. Totally made that up, sounds alright though, right?

Cream tea at Studland Bay.

About a year ago I tried to start a Cake and Tea themed blog. I posted twice but then quickly realised that I didn't have the time, energy or motivation to keep it up! Let's be fair, I only manage to update this one infrequently. I'm going to delete the other blog, so before that happens I'll be transferring over the posts that I actually did manage to write. 



What do you get if you mix naked middle aged men, a ferry on chains, and more beaches that you can shake a piece of driftwood at? Why, Studland Bay in Dorset, of course.


On Saturday we got the ferry (which runs on chains, no less) from Sandbanks (near Poole harbour) across to Shell Bay. After just over an hour of walking along the (in parts, nudist) beach, we made it to the National Trust tea room on Studland bay



I guess it's possible that walking past naked middle-aged men might put you off your tea, but nothing gets in between me and my cream tea, even the sight of slightly-sunburned nudey bits. As you can see from the picture, the cafe is practically on the (clothed part of) the beach. If you like cream teas and beaches (and who doesn't?) then location-wise it probably doesn't get much better than this.


Now, for most people, the location would probably be the best thing about this cafe. I, however, am not most people. My inner child was just a little bit (ahem) over-excited about these special light-up buzzer thingys. Yes, that is the technical term. Basically, you put it on your table, and it lights up and buzzes when your order is ready. Look, I'm easily-entertained, ok?


Our cream tea. It was pretty much standard National Trust fayre. For the uninitiated, that means it's reliably good, if a little on the expensive side. Not the best cream tea you'll ever have, but far from the worst. 

We weren't given a choice of tea, but the English Breakfast we had was nice and strong, and there was definitely enough of it. The scones were tasty, although very average in size (and suddenly my mind is filled with images from the nudist beach...). Personally I could have done with a little more cream, but I am a bit of a pig. 



Scores on the doors:

Tea: 6.5/10 (Good English Breakfast and lots of it.)
Cake: 6/10 (Decent scones, nothing extra special though.)
Service/Facilities: 6/10 (Friendly staff, might be a bit pokey sitting inside in winter.)
Value for money: 5/10
Setting: 9/10 
Uniqueness: 6/10 (5 for the location, 5 for the buzzer, -4 for being part of a chain.)

Definitely worth a visit if the sun's out and you're easily entertained by things that light up and buzz... Just me? 

Why I Love... Reading Festival

Growing up in West Somerset, there weren't many gigs for me to go to. Actually, there weren't really any gigs for me to go to. Which is how I ended up in the slightly unusual situation of Reading Festival (2004) being my first ever gig...and what a gig it was.

I was probably a little bewildered by it all for the first few hours, hell I felt stupid even singing along, let alone screaming and jumping and waving my hands about. But by the time Ash came on on Friday afternoon I found myself pushing through the crowd, jumping along and screaming the words to Girl From Mars. That, my friends, was the moment when I got hooked on going to gigs.

There have been so many Reading Festival musical highlights of mine...Green Day in 2004, and again in 2013 (when they played THE WHOLE OF DOOKIE); Franz Ferdinand starting their set at the exact moment that the sun finally came out; listening to Johnny Marr playing some of my favourite Smiths' songs; Bloc Party headlining the NME tent (and The Futureheads playing just before them). That's just for starters.

But, as we know, festivals are about more than just the music. They're about the people, the vodka smuggling, the never-tempting 'free hugs', the rain coats that you fashion from bin bags, the cups, the disastrous trips to the female urinals, the testing of the theory 'beer before wine, you're fine', getting your digits away at the disco... Oh yes, the music's good, but that's just the beginning.

I went again in 2005 and 2006 and, after a massive gap, last year. A year ago today, in fact. 



Despite feeling waaay too old (it's the only big festival that falls within the school holidays, so there are a lot of people under 20 there) we all had an awesome time. To my considerable delight, the security in the campsites was a lot tighter, the toilets were cleaner, the whole thing felt more 'organisied', and (most importantly) there was a silent disco! Yeah, it's no Glastonbury, but what is? Regardless, I am deeply in love with festivals. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a long term relationship.

Eat Me #1

I am all about the food and drink. Oh yes. So much so that I'm going to need to start separate posts just for ALL THE FOOD. I'm basically just doing these posts so that I can look back at them and salivate...mmmm food...


Coffee cake at the Pettigrew Tearooms in Cardiff.



Toasted marshmallows during our camping trip.



After showing no real signs of cooking competency (mean but true) for over a year, Pete pulled it out of the bag with an epic roast lamb dinner. Man, it was good.




Tea, coffee and a brie, bacon and cranberry baguette from Fee and Brown in Beckenham. 
This was genuinely the best bacon, brie and cranberry baguette/panini I've ever had. And I've had a lot too many of them.


Coconut milk at the Lewisham Model Market. 



Incredible lemon and poppy seed cake at Teacup in Manchester. 
It had white chocolate ganache between the layers and it was epic.

Well, that was a well-traveled selection of food porn. That must be why I have no money...oops.

Something new every week. [2014: 26 to 33]

One of my 30 Before 30 challenges was to do something new every week. I reckon I probably have done something new most weeks (well, something small anyway) but I'm going to try and document it from now on. Here's weeks 26 to 33:


26: Went to Wimbledon.



27: Had afternoon tea at the Pettigrew Tearooms in Cardiff.


28: Had a meal at Taste of Cyprus in Elmers End. Didn't take a photo though!



29: Saw T20 cricket.



30: 'Met' the Why Bird!



31: Visited the John Rylands Library in Manchester.



32: Went camping near Lyme Regis (and, um, wore Crocs). 
The Crocs might be a first and a last!



33: Passed my freaking driving test!!!
Yes, that really did need three exclamation marks.

Dreamland, Margate and T20 Cricket.

SOMERSET, OOH ARR ARR!
SOMERSET, OOH ARR ARR!

I'd be lying if I said that the Somerset supporters raised the roof when we went to see Kent and Somerset playing T20 cricket in Canterbury. A) There were approximately 10 Somerset fans in attendance. B) There was no roof. There were, however, floodlights and a giant inflatable pig named Pigby (really).

Sadly Somerset lost, but on the plus side we had a free cider and got to watch an apocalyptic storm brewing. Turns out that there's nothing funnier than a man trying to rein in a giant inflatable pig in gale-force winds.




Saturday was Margate Day (for us, not officially). I've been a couple of times before but we were hoping that we'd have beach weather this time. Our hopes were dashed by stupid clouds, so we popped into the Dreamland Exhibition instead. For those of you who didn't grow up in Kent all of you, Dreamland is a theme park in Margate that closed in 2006. Since then there's been a big campaign to conserve the old rides and get the place reopened. Rather than try and compete with the big boys they're restoring the park to its former glory and reinventing/rebuilding the old rides (the park first opened in 1920 and a lot of the rides date from the 20s and 30s). In my head it's going to be a retro paradise and I am very much looking forward to visiting once it's open again.

The exhibition had loads of old arcade games, and some parts of the bigger rides. This resulted in a rather excellent photo opportunity...


This might actually be my favourite photo of myself ever. I'm not sure exactly what this says about me, but it says a lot. Sexy, right?

Bath

We decided to hit up Bath on the way back from visiting my parents in deepest West Somerset. I'd been before but not for about 10 years (wow, that makes me feel old) so I kind of new my way around. I use that phrase loosely because I never really know my way around anywhere.

Here's me pictures:








The old buildings were lovely, but the best thing we saw (kind of) was this window display of novelty teapots:



We also had tea and cake. Of course. I felt the need to mention that just in case anyone was concerned that I'd changed beyond all recognition.

Elephants!

Everyone loves one of those animal trail things, right? You know what I mean. No? Oh. One of those exhibitions where there are massive, decorated animals placed around a town. Previous favourites of mine include cows in Prague and Gromits in Bristol. Last month, it was elephants in Bromley. Here are the best ones...



Pretty bird elephants.



Pirate elephant.



 PICK AND MIX ELEPHANT!
Best. Elephant. Ever?

The thing I love the most about these exhibitions is that they take people by surprise and seem to make people genuinely happy. I saw loads of people stopping to take photos. 
Actually, that's the second best thing. The best thing is (obviously) finding a pick and mix elephant. Oh yeah.