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.

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Christmas at Cowley....


....Kelly & I decided that we deserved a treat. We've had a year in which we've both started new jobs and been run off our feet, Kelly ran a half marathon and we've also sold & bought a house. Try all that together, (and in fact in a space of 3 months), and it can be pretty draining.



So we decided upon Cowley Manor, in the Cotswolds. It gave us the opportunity to relax in resplendent surroundings whilst also purporting to lead a grandiose existence for 2 days. It worked perfectly.



We did nothing but eat, sleep, spa and managed on one occasion, to walk. You should all do it. We loved it.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas 2011....

....This was Kelly & my first Christmas together, which was lovely. It meant a bit of project management was needed, but you know what, I am good at that! We caught a train up to Cambridge on 23rd December and stayed with Bev, Kelly's mum. The rest of the family gathered there, so Kel & I cooked for everyone the following evening, Christmas eve.

 

It was a classic ham in coca-cola affair, with mash & greens that seemed to go down a treat. On Christmas morning we all tucked in to our pressies - from which we all did very well. Kel & I cooked again, this time a big ol' English breakfast, before we jumped in the car, (on loan from Kel's sister Jodie), and made off for Leeds.

 

In Leeds we all gathered at Ruth, Andy & Jude's house. That meant mum & dad, (Nana & Grandpa) and Jean & Nige, (Nana & Grandad) and Andy's brother (Uncle) Steve were all in attendance. We drank champagne and opened more presents before seating to a fantastic lunch, all made by Andy.

 

Starting with a crab & lobster soup, then a small lemon sorbet 'cleanser', before a Turkey with all the trimmings. Dessert was a choice of panna cotta or Christmas pudding, after which the all important cheese board rolled out!

 

We played games that evening, including Andy's annual quiz and Jenga, before retiring to bed. On Boxing Day, Steve, Andy and I all went to Wetherby races, where we promptly lost lots of money, (but still had fun). Meanwhile the others back at the house had gone for a walk in Roundhay Park.

 

When home, we pulled together left overs and a cracking dauphinoise potatoes and got stuck in to more food. The evening brought about more games and more booze. The following morning, after breakfast, everyone departed. A wonderful few days in both Cambridge & Leeds was had, whilst Kel & I were just beginning to get excited about an imminent 2 night stay at Cowley Manor. Roll on!

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Christmas Karen....

....As Karen wasn't in town for last Sunday's Christmas get together, Bond invited friends to join them at his place.


Master chef

As ever Mr. Bond cooked up a veritable feast, whilst I duly took to sous chef duty!

 
Service!

Everything we ate was home-made - even down to the truffles. And ending on a cheese board was a sure fire winner.



It was great to see Karen and many thanks to Nick for a fantastic dinner.

 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dinner with Matt & Tess....

....Over from New York for Christmas and en route to Stratford Upon Avon, Kelly and I caught up with Matt & Tess over cocktails and food at GNT RBT.
 

Matt & I

As always, a lovely evening amongst lovely company. See you both on Skype on Xmas day!
 
Tess & Kel.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas dinner with the gang....

....Aimee managed to organise a Christmas lunch, today, for about 40 of us friends. Held at her sister's cafe & bar, Platform, it was an afternoon of eating, drinking and being merry.


The set up.

Christmas songs were blasted out and soon after the meal, the dancing begun. (In fact I am pretty sure it started during it!) A fantastic way to sign off the year and to celebrate Christmas. Cheers.

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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Birthday (Satur)day....

....Today we managed to attend two birthdays, whilst still missing out on two others! A late afternoon gathering for Susie's celebration was a civilised affair, with incredible home made canapes.

 
Spread

Soon we had to excuse ourselves to make our way to Emma's birthday, which was dinner with friends at the fantastic El Parador.


Emma, Natalie & Sarah

We ate fantastic tapas before going for more drinks and a boogie at the Black Heart in Camden.


Boogie

A really fun evening and great to see everyone.

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Friday, 16 December 2011

Blog layout blips....

....It seems the jolly unhelpful people at Blogspot have changed the interface entirely of the system I use to write this blog. And that means that I am not uploading posts in a way that looks right. Please bear with me and layout errors in coming posts, until it is sorted!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Meeting Viggo Skov....

....Gemma & Nico have recently become proud parents to little Viggo. (Although, at over 9lbs, he wasn't that little at all!)

Nico & Viggo

Kelly and I paid them a visit, to introduce ourselves, although judging by the reaction, he wasn't too pleased to meet us!

Nico with Viggo, Kel & Gemma

We look forward to many more visits soon!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

a&e christmas party....

....Our work Christmas party this year was a TOWIE vs MIC theme at the rather posh Valmont Club. (Scroll over acronyms and follow link to save me explaining!) So, following a Secret Santa where everyones present was put under the tree, we all got ready.

 

And the theme really allowed everyone to go to town - the ladies in particular enjoying it.


























I decided to give it a little lateral thinking and channelled David Essex, to much amusement.

 

It proved to be an immensely fun night, where after a long, hard working year, everyone was able to let off steam in, erm, style.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Weekend in Newcastle....

....This was the weekend that Jude was meant to be getting Christened. But with that getting postponed until after Christmas, this simply turned in to a family catch up. Ruth, Andy & Jude still made the trip over, so they collected Kelly and I from the station and took us straight up to Close House, where we met Mum & Dad for lunch.

Eating at No.19
Following that, we popped in to Corbridge and the much loved RE: shop. (Kel & I will have to wait until we're in our new house before utilising that shop fully!) In the evening, with mum & dad looking after Jude, it was an opportunity for Ruth & Andy to get out to dinner with Kel and I.
Kel & Ruth
We ate a fantastic Indian meal at Vujon, just off the Quayside. We then walked along to the Malmaison bar for an aperitif cocktail, before retiring for the night. On the Sunday, we decided to stage what would usually be a Boxing Day affair, with the Laing & Wenzel families joining us at Queens Road.

Gathered; in preparation for Dad's annual quiz.
With our Christmas being spent in Leeds this year, we took to Dad's quiz and a sit down meal a little earlier than usual, but the typical fun and banter ensued. A fantastic weekend amongst family and friends as ever.
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Monday, 5 December 2011

Weekend at Center Parcs....

Many years ago, Ian with his family and me with mine, made a trip to Center Parcs. We liked it so much, we did it again a year later. Perhaps even a third and final time. Then many years passed, we grew up, Ian married the lovely Susie. I met the marvellous Kelly. We became friends all over again, and so decided to reprise the Center Parcs holiday all over again too. Only this time, with more alcohol, cheese and about the same number of board games and bad jokes. This, it proved, is likely to be the first in many regular jollies.



There was no agenda for the long weekend - simply to get away. Oh, ok, so Ian & I wanted to reminisce about the rapids - THEY GO OUTSIDE - and the cool chalets. Well, it turns out the rapids still go outside, (only now we're bigger, we're not quite as rapid in getting down them), and the chalets....well, they're not cool. In fact I couldn't see a change since the 1990s, but they did a job.


Dinner time!

It was 'Winter Wonderland' whilst we were visiting - that didn't mean a great deal other than some spray snow in places, a firework display on the Sunday and some carols.


It's behind you.

Other than that, we simply went for long walks, went ten-pin bowling, took my Nana out to lunch, as she lives nearby, and drank a little too much every evening.


Dinner with Nana at The Lion, Farnsfield

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In short, it was a fantastic, fun(ny) weekend. Again please. (Only somewhere different this time).

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Soho Joe's, then singing flows....

....The tri-annual birthday dinners for Richie, Nick and I continued last night, with a belated celebration for Nick. Despite it being very much a school night, we had an epic evening. We started posh, at Dean Street Townhouse, then it gradually got more debauched. Great (and incredibly good value) pizza followed at Soho Joe.


Richie and Nick tuck in.

Then after a few more beers at the Toucan, we took to Lucky Voice for a 2 hour sing song in to the early hours.


Can anybody find them somebody to love?

A super fun night and I couldn't think of two finer boys I'd rather spend it with. Happy birthday (again) Nick.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Kelly & Roy hit 2....

....So, in line with last year, we decided to get away for the weekend to celebrate and go for a walk. Lewes was the chosen destination - somewhere in good proximity to London that also gave the potential for scenery and a good, long walk. We stayed at a lovely little B&B, called The Corner House. Owned and hosted by Benetta Adamson, (who we learned was a retired, pretty successful national TV producer), the place was chic, stylish and well, we were pretty pleased. We dropped our bags in the afternoon and left to explore Lewes.


Lewes Castle

Walking down the High Street, we popped in and out of shops and then stopped off at the Castle. The weather was sensational and we were afforded an incredible view across the South Downs and Seven Sisters chalk cliffs.


Tucking in, at Bill's

More shops, then a pit stop at Bill's. A superb produce store and cafe that is buzzing at any time of the day. We tucked in to fish finger sarnies and bloody Marys. (It's a holiday after all, right?!). We walked back to the B&B as the shops closed, grabbing a bottle to accompany X Factor, before leaving for dinner in the evening. Once spruced up, we headed out to the local pub, (a tip from Benetta), The Kings Head.


Cheese. (And wine).

We had a truly fantastic meal - the perfect celebration. The service was sensational and everything was just really good. We shared whitebait to start, before Kel took pork for main and I went for venison. We then shared a homemade rocky road pudding.

The following day we were treated to Benetta's home cooked breakfast - a ridiculous spread. From fresh fruit, granola, cereal and toasts, to the full English works. Perfect.


Walkies!

We then set about on our walk across the South Downs. Unfortunately there was a thick mist for the first hour or so of the walk, but gradually it cleared, to the extend that the beating sun reduced us both to t-shirts in late November! It was a great walk, beautifully scenic and a respite from the Big Smoke.


Stacked

Of course it wouldn't have been right if we hadn't finished off with a treat, so we headed to The Snowdrop Inn for quite simply the biggest roast dinner you will ever see. Too big perhaps. But I finished it of course. A great end to a great break, for a great celebration. Cheers.

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Thursday, 17 November 2011

John Martin : Apocalypse....

....The name of this show is a great one word summation of the exhibited work - Martin's oeuvre is epic, magical, mystical, biblical, fantastical, celestial, fictional - sensational. On an apocalyptic scale and often of apocalyptic subject.



For a humble Geordie lad, with huge ambition, not just in art, but also engineering and publishing, John Martin created quite a stir. His non-traditional style of 'landscape' painting and the sensationalist subject matter was often critically slammed, but what can't be denied are the paintings' impact - both then and now.



Visitors flocked to see visionary scenes, of incredible detail and imagination, not just locally but on a Worldwide scale.


The Great Day Of His Wrath, 1851-53

Ironically, despite the fervor, Martin had more critical and financial success with his series of mezzotint prints, including depicting Milton's, 'Paradise Lost' in a popular series.


Satan Arousing The Rebel Angels, from the Paradise Lost Series, 1827

But personally it's all about the paintings - the scale, the dynamism, the story. You can see where so much modern day inspiration has been found and used in film, particularly. Each painting could be a still from a blockbuster. Of Lord of The Rings. Of many others.


Sadak In Search Of The Waters Of Oblivion, 1812

What I found is that the show entertained me. It is creatively brilliant, populist, breathtaking, yet the most traditional of forms. A painting. A meticulously created still. But the realisation is vivid and spectacular.


The Last Judgement, triptych, 1853

The Tate Britain show brings the drama to life further, in the final room, where Martin's triptych, 'The Last Judgement', is brought to life theatrically with a lighting and voice over show. These paintings carry on the theme of the end of the world, as prophesied in the biblical Book of Revelation. They marked the culmination of a career spent painting apocalyptic disaster, that astonished audiences then and continue to do so. Including me - even in this digital, 3D, technological age.


Portrait of John Martin, by Henry Warren, 1839

Over 150 years later, this is a blockbuster - the Geordie John Martin done good! An epic show, that must be seen.

Going, Goldman, Gone....

....The door has finally closed on Goldman Close. We have completion.



Kel and I moved the remaining items to storage, where we packed the space like tetris.



All that remained was to take a photo, with our last posession, our bikes.



What a wonderful eight and a half years, but it paves the way for a new chapter, one where Kel & I can set up a marvellous new home. (After a 2 month rented hiatus of course). Onwards.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

We need to talk about Kevin....


....I didn't even reach the one hundredth page of the book. Which, given my reading prowess, is not that bad. But I found it to be a difficult read. So, as I like the easy way out, it was interesting to see this award winning book released as a film - this way, I could sit through images...much easier for me to digest - I'm a pictures man after all!



The director, Lynne Ramsay, has done a wonderful job. There are trademarks to be seen, as in her previous films, Morvern Callar and Ratcatcher, meaning it can be a difficult watch - but deliberately and effectively so. Juttering camera, in & out of focus, intense close-ups, long pauses. But in the context of the subject matter, they all have their place, adding to the uncomfortable intensity.


Eva & son, Kevin

The opening scene, of billowing curtains, is exquisite. Like a Vermeer painting. It sets a tone for the rest of the film - both in the picture quality but also by raising questions from the viewer - what is beyond the curtain? And, do I really want to know? The second scene grabs the senses, with more vivid colour, noise and detail. The drenched colour reminding me of the Richter portrait, Betty, that I saw for the first time on Monday.



Most people know the subject matter of this book - unfortunately it's a relatively familiar one - particularly in the U.S. But whilst we know the outcome, it is the relationship between Tilda Swinton, (Eva) and Ezra Miller, (Kevin) that is the main feature here.



The time altering scenes focus on Eva's struggle to raise Kevin - to love him, but also the struggle with her guilt in the aftermath of the incident. Whether Kevin is a difficult child that is difficult to love, or a difficult child because he knows he's unloved, is hard to tell.


Kevin

Kevin's intelligent, yet anti-social behaviour comes to a head, and the act in which this is portrayed, is clinical as it is brutal. Clinical too in its isolation of Eva - as though intended to highlight her guilt, (be it right or wrong). It also means that she is the only one able to pick up the pieces afterwards.



The film is scored by Johnny Greenwood, alongside the use of familiar tracks from the 50s & 60s, that together provide quite an unsettling, if at times familiar, musical accompaniment.



A challenging film, but captivating and rewarding, of sorts, too. The acting is intense, but brilliant and through colour and texture the direction & cinematography have created a haunting picture.