Sunday, 22 April 2012


....You may have noticed a lack of blogging of late. Our new house is time consuming, to say the least - in trying to turn it from a wreck, in to something worth calling home. There is much more to do, but when we're done, we look forward to having you over to dinner!

Lucian Freud, National Portrait Gallery....

....Within months of his untimely death, the National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting a retrospective of the British painter's oeuvre.

I was tremendously excited - having been fascinated and in awe of Lucian Freud's painting when at school, I desperately tried to copy his style and brush technique in my own work.

The brush strokes, the colours, the layers of paint. Beautiful. So, to see them up close was nothing short of exhilirating. The beauty of such a show, is to be able to see all his work together, from beginning to end. And actually to realise that his mid-career paintings that I thought were unbeatable, are.

Freud's earlier work, from the 50s, where his textures and technique were still more subtle - these are what I realised I liked most. Like, 'Girl with a white dog', 1951-52.

As his work developed, Freud's brush work became looser, (lazier?), sometimes to great effect, but arguably sometimes a little too muddied. I also came to learn that Freud was, well, a bit of a dog. Multiple partners, (all of whom he painted obviously), but an ability to come across a slightly arrogant and nasty man. An artisan, I suppose.

Freud's final painting, of his whippet, Eli and his assistant, David Dawson. It was unfinished.

None of this deterred from my over all affection toward his work. His life time achievement as a British painter and the influence he has had on so many - including myself in my youth. It is a worthy show that must be seen, if only to uncover to others, as it did to me, the Freud paintings you know much less well.

River Cafe treat....

....Kel & I dined out at River Cafe last night. Fortunately, the majority was paid for by a gift voucher from generous partners at work - and judging by the vehicles in the car park, it was needed!

We ate a wonderful meal, right on the Thames. Kel started with veal carpaccio, then monkfish for main. I plumped for scallops followed by veal shin. We shared a pannecotta for desert. Not your every day dining experience, but a superb and very much appreciated one.

Full reel:

Quoc's stag do....

....This had to be timed around Quoc's next visit to London, (as he now resides in Tapei), so that meant the unusual not-even-mid-week Tuesday night stag do.

Friends gathered for drinks at the Princess Louise, dinner at Union Jacks, then bowling & karaoke. Much fun had - certainly too much for a Tuesday!

Full reel:

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Lynn hits 30....

To celebrate her birthday, it was a little bit of what Lynn fancied, at a local restaurant with lots of friends.

The eaterie of (almost) the same name, closed it's doors to host only us - and it was a phemonemal dinner to see in the last of our 'gang' hit 30.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Jude, up and about....

....A few weeks short of his first birthday, Jude has decided he can now walk. Naturally, Grannie is the happiest of all and here is her captured footage of said event.

ZX Spectrum....

....The pre-Olympic fan fare brought spectral light to Whitley Bay recently. An Olympic beam was projected from St. Mary's lighthouse, far and wide. Spectators gathered on the beach in their hundreds to witness the spectacle. Mum & Dad included. Nice.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


....This weekend finally saw the purchase completion of a new house for Kelly & I. We're incredibly excited.

Dad came down to London for the celebratory dinner at Pizza East, (and pre celebratory bubbles at our temporary residence).

There is a lot of work to do on the house, but it's a project that'll mean it will be exactly how we want it. The street itself is incredible - a quiet crescent with wonderful neighbours. Perfect.

Did I say we were excited? Dinner round our new gaff soon. Promise.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Pitmen Painters....

....I took Kelly to the Duchess Theatre to see this North East based show. I had first seen it in 2008, in it's original run at the Live Theatre in Newcastle.

Critical acclaim followed and Lee Hall's play got the West End run it deserved - first at the National Theatre, and now in it's final string of performances in the heart of Covent Garden.

Having seen it before didn't ruin any of the play for me - indeed it is almost entirely the same cast from the Newcastle days. And what a cast. The play is inspired by William Feaver's book about a real life group of painters, (formed in 1934), called the Ashington Group. All pitmen, they gathered weekly over what became a thirty year period to learn art appreciation under the tutelage of Robert Lyon, (played by Ian Kelly), a well to do former Royal College artist.

The group, much to their surprise, received critical acclaim from the likes of Henry Moore, leading to exhibitions in across the country. Over time praise faded and their brief, but impactful foray in to art drew to a close.

The play itself fantastic. The Geordie dialect is strong throughout, so be sure to tune your ears in! It is equally laugh out loud funny, as it is poignant and moving. It also provides an insightful perspective on the study of art and the rise of capitalism at that time.

For me, it is a must see play. The performances throughout are inspired and it reminded me of my love for theatre, my love for this play and my love for the North East.

Dinner with the Palmers....

....Not just with Ian & Susie this time, but also Joan & Eric and James & (soon-to-be-a-Palmer) Theresa. In a feat of space management, we all gathered and ate in Ian & Susie's wee flat.

Kelly & I were on starter duty, with devils on horseback, followed by simple crostinis. Ian whipped up a wondrous slow-cooked pork with all the trimmings.

Joan was not not to be outdone either, with a beautiful almond cake. Magnificent all around and always a pleasure to be amongst the Palmer clan.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Alex hits 30....


This was a 30th to remember. Alex sure will. Organised months ago and coordinated to perfection, girlfriend Nieve made sure that 35 friends were safely housed at Buckland House from Friday, awaiting Alex's arrival.

Alex arrives

And a surprise it was. Alex was blown away and following the cheers, we settled in to a brilliant weekend. Of general excess. The first evening was pretty unstructured, but a great get to know you.

The incredible setting

The following day we nursed hang overs by grazing on food, playing snooker, watching the footy and going for a fantastic long walk around the grounds and in to the woods.

Nieve holds court with the boys

Saturday evening brought in the caterers and a sit down black-tie dinner. It was a wonderful evening that descended in to piano-sing-a-long-chaos around the grand piano in the main hall. Epic. The drive home on the Sunday was certainly a test, as I was at the wheel of the 9-seater mini bus. But we made it. Just. Happy birthday again!

[full reel]:

Jude Ellis Preston is christened....

....We travelled up to Newcastle a week or so ago, not only to celebrate Nige's 70th, but also to witness the Christening of Jude.

Ruth and Andy decided it would be done at what was our, (and still mum's), local church, St. John's. The baptism was at the end of a fantastic service - a lot of the content and music chosen by mum herself. Jude was on great form, not kicking up a fuss once and causing lots of cooing as Ruth walked him up and down the aisle.

Great Nana gets in on the action!

Afterwards we had friends back to the house, for food, drinks and a whopping cake. A fantastic family day, that everyone enjoyed. If only Jude knew what on earth went on!

[Full reel]:

Nige hits 70....

....The Prestons' and the Barkers' all went up to the Jolly Fisherman pub in Craster a week past Saturday.

The pub itself has relevance, as friends and Andy own it, so it was the perfect place to celebrate Nige's 70th together. It was the perfect setting too, right on the coast, overlooking the sea on a wonderful day.

We tucked in to lunch and raised a glass of prosecco and cut a cake. A lovely afternoon, many happy returns!

[Full reel]:

The Artist....

....What an utterly irresistible film. The Artist has won many plaudits and even Oscar nominations, since its release. Thankfully this charming, funny and endearing silent film, about the silent movie era in the '20s and '30s, steered clear of novelty. Well clear.

The performances of leads Jean Dujardin, (playing George Valentin) and Berenice Bejo, (playing Peppy Miller), were outstanding. And for me made all the more watchable owing to their (relative) lack of a famous face.

Always important in a silent movie is the score and this original creation from Ludovic Bource was a fitting and fantastic accompaniment. Special mention too must go to Valentin's companion, his dog, who is wonderful as a constant cameo.

The opening 20 minutes is quite honestly the most entertained and captivated I have been by a movie in some time. The storytelling at the heart of the film is sensitively realised and the finale a wonderful one. You'll be smiling throughout I guarantee. You must go and see this.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A secret weekend away with Chris and Sarah....

....Chris told us to pack our smalls, we were going away. And we didn't know until we pulled in to the centre of Rye, that it was to be our final destination.

So we spent Saturday & Sunday down on the coast with Chris & Sarah, staying at a lovely flat above Lion Street Store that Chris's dad rents through the week.

We ate at the George on Saturday evening and breakfast the following day at Haydens, whilst inbetween dropping in to every local lovely pub & shop we could. We even squeezed in a walk on Lydd beach, (the sandy side). Then, just before leaving, we caught up with friends Karen & Mark....finally realising why they'd escaped London for here, all those years ago! A fantastic surprise and a fantastic weekend, thank you.

[full reel]:


....The first film I have seen in some time on it's opening night. Steve McQueen's second directorial outing, following his superb Hunger. McQueen employs Michael Fassbender, playing Brandon, once more as the protagonist in this portrait of a sex addict. The film is slow and moody, gathering momentum as it draws on.

Shame is perhaps titled to reflect what Brandon feels, his battle with his addiction and with what is clearly a deep sadness in his life. This life is only complicated by the arrival of his sister, Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan. 

The performances of the pair are simply stunning. Fassbender affecting and real in his seedy world. Mulligan captivating, doe eyed, ditzy and troubled. The sibling relationship has clearly always been difficult and Sissy's arrival only makes it more so. Her super slow rendition of New York, New York is a most memorable scene.

It is certainly the most overt sex I have ever watched at the cinema, but this didn't mean it was at all sexy. The direction by McQueen was first rate - long vivd scenes, obtuse camera angles, everything natural. The sex was never passionate and it showed.

In terms of performance, one of the strongest I've scene. As a film, it is a beautiful, if not disturbing portrait of a taboo subject. Handled by McQueen with artistry & artistic license.

A film to see and one would think a strong Oscar contender too.

Jude & Missy....

....The best photo of him yet, this time he's as transfixed as Jess & David's dog Missy is bemused!

Source Code....

....Despite the film appearing nearly a year ago, this is one I've only just succumbed to. I must say, at first glance I was pretty uninspired - Jake Gyllenhaal taking on an action roll, in a Speed-esque romp. But I was totally wrong.

Directed by Duncan Jones, who also chaired Moon, the film is much more sci-fi, much more complex and much more thriller than anything Speed could ever have brought to the table. Jones openly talks about the film being indebted to Alfred HitchcockStrangers On A Train or North by Northwest could indeed be reference points.

Gyllenhaal is an ex-army pilot, Colter Stevens, now being used by the CIA to test their new experiment - Source Code. The Source Code is futurist technology that allows Gyllenhaal to assume the body of a person for the last eight minutes of their life.

In this instance he assumes the body of teacher Sean Fentress, aboard a Chicago-bound train that is about to be the victim of a terrorist attack. By using Source Code, Gyllenhaal can repeatedly attempt to work out who the culprit for the attack is and therefore protect the City from further attacks.

It has more twists and turns, a romantic side even too. It's very good - not as good as some reviewers seem to think, but a different stratosphere to Speed. (Remind me why I'm promoting Speed so much?!) Definitely see this one.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Liam hits 30....

....Celebrating in style at Bloomsbury Bowling, Liam left no stone unturned, with several lanes booked and a karaoke room to finish the evening off.

Great fun was had both bowling and singing, (the latter a lesson on how to cram 30 adults in to a small booth!)

Happy birthday Liam, welcome to the club.
[full reel:]

The Killing II....

....After watching the superb first series last summer, it's taken a while to get around to the second series. I'm not sure quite why we waited, but it was well worth it.

With a slightly different premise to the first, the hunt this time is for a serial killer. Sarah Lund is back, with a similar array of knitwear and a new partner in Strange.

Strange & Lund

Compelling, nail biting, frightening, complex and just utterly brilliant, you will not be disappointed. You could argue it starts a little slowly, but come episode three, you'll be watching them back to back.

Monday, 2 January 2012


....Wow. Steven Soberbergh take a bow. That was truly awful. How and why the 'all star' cast signed up to the film is beyond me. Poorly acted, (Jude Law is the case in point), poorly written, poorly realised. What a waste of 2 hours....I wanted to contract the virus just to spare me of the movie. Watch it only to behold the dross.

The Ides of March....

....I should really watch as many films as possible, before the Oscars. So I am. The Ides of March is a political drama, written and directed by George Clooney, whom I thoroughly enjoy watching and who's talent seemingly knows no bounds.

With him in this film is current flavour of the month Ryan Gosling, who plays Stephen Meyers, a brilliantly talented aide to Clooney's Governer Morris.


The film, (and indeed the Shakespeare-related title referencing the day conspirators were to overturn Ceaser), covers the mirky, dirty ground that's walked on the campaign trail for Presidency.

The picture is well thought in cast and direction - beautifully lit in particular, whilst Gosling is very much the focus throughout and pulls it off with aplomb. It's a film that should be seen for great performances, but also to plant (yet another) seed of mistrust in your mind when it comes to politics.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


....The premise for this film interested me from the start - tackling a subject like cancer is always tough, but to do so in what is an enjoyable, emotional, heart warming comedy is another.


Based on a true story, the film sees 27 year old Adam, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), diagnosed with a cancer giving him a 50% survival rate. His battle to overcome the disease himself and with his best friend Kyle, (Seth Rogan), is warming and funny, (the latter largely inspired by Kyle's need to use humour as a coping mechanism).


Gordon-Levitt is a brilliant lead, stoic in adversity, but when he momentarily unravels at the enormity of his disease, I couldn't help but unravel with him.


I think the film is successful in helping to break the cancer taboo and prove that it needn't be totally bleak whilst doing so. How fair a reflection it is on the disease and its life consequences, I can only speculate, but it's origination as a true story is a good start.


A perfect film for this lazy New Year's Day. And a reminder why I like Gordon-Levitt as an actor so much. Check it out.

Happy New Year : 2012....

....Kel & I wish you all the best for 2012. No more yawns, we promise.


Saturday, 31 December 2011

NYE 2011.....

....Always a tricky time of year, yet for me, (unlike most), never a let down. This year Kel & I took advatage of two couples' hospitality.


We started at Sarah & Dan's for drinks and then moved on to Aimee's flat for dinner and to see in New Year. We even found time to get back to Sarah & Dan's until the morning hours. Good times.

[Full reel]: