Archive for the ‘london’ Category

I went to wander through parts of the East End, taking in Brick Lane and two small museums in one day.

I have actually been to Brick Lane once before, on the night Jon and I first arrived in London, but I thought I’d explore the place in the day time to see what it was really like. On the North end of Brick Lane, it’s a bustling place with cosy cafes, vintage shops, and specialist stores. Quite young and trendy. Then as you progress Southwards, the place is fringed on both sides with restaurants – the Brick Lane I met on my first night. In the day time that area is much less bustling as the touts are not on duty; and the streets are filled mostly with locals going grocery shopping at the local store (which stocks all types of South Asian supplies) or emerging from the mosque after prayers.

The colours of Brick Lane

I had heard that the Brick Lane Beigel Bake had the best bagels in London, so since I was there I had to try it didn’t I? I was happily munching away while wandering about the place. But I have to say, I think the best bagels I’ve had are still those from New York! Mmm…

I then head to the Geffyre Museum which traces the changing styles of interior design in London.

It’s like peeping into people’s houses cos it’s basically a series of spaces decorated in the style of various periods, from 1600s to the present. Fairly interesting to see the change in styles – from simple and functional, to ornate and flowery, then on to minimalist and modern.

The museum also showed the evolving style of chairs over the centuries.

This chair is, I think, the most comfortable of the lot :) When you sit in it you really melt into the cushion and feel like you’ve become part of the chair.

The Geffyre is a small museum and quite off-the beaten track. Not really a main attraction for a passing tourist unless they’re particularly interested in interior design. So having walked through the entire place without taking too long, I moved on to the last destination for the day, the White Cube. It’s a minimalist art space that has changing exhibitions. The day I went there were two photography exhibitions of mild interest. I think there are probably more interesting exhibitions at other times.

Anyway, having covered everything I wanted to during the day I went home feeling mighty pleased with myself :)

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There’s a weekly antique market in Islington called the Camden Passage Market, which is actually not that near Camden. It’s a cosy little place, and all the wares line narrow passages behind the main row of shops lining the road. The Camden Passage Market also takes in the Pierrepoint Market, which is similar in nature, just a little distance off the main thoroughfare.

It was fun poking around the place looking for interesting buys. Quite a lot! But most out of my budget :) So just browsed…though I did get my parent’s Christmas present from there! Was quite pleased with myself :)

When I went to visit the day started nice and sunny, then it suddenly burst into rain, even though the sun was still shining. That’s the crazy British weather for you. But it did make for nice photos :)

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Scottish Dance Theatre

Shan, Ben, Jon & I went to catch the Scottish Dance Theatre’s (SDT) performance at The Place, a contemporary dance school. The SDT is the same group that ran the workshop I went to a couple of days before. I had heard that the dance tenderhook was “very beautiful” and was keen to watch it. It was actually the dance on which the workshop was based, but they didn’t teach the choreography during the workshop, just the techniques.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with tenderhook. The reviews were so good, and the mental images conjured in my mind after the workshop were very different from how the actual dance looked like. It’s a dance that’s supposed to explore relationships between people, and I thought it would evoke more emotions and be much more stirring. The music was so good! Unfortunately, it seemed more like a series of movements to me. I knew the significance behind them, since they explained it during the workshop, but I thought there’d be more to it, more blending of movements; instead they took the elements and pieced them together. That’s what I thought at least, though they had some interesting use of props. I guess it’s just cos I expected so much more. But that’s just how it is usually right? When you expect too much you tend to get disappointed.

I was more impressed with Dog. Though requiring less technique, I liked how they kept up the energy and showed commitment to the dance. It involved a lot of explosive movements sandwiched between segments of fluid movements. I always find that you need a certain kind of dancer to be able to pull off such contrasting textures of movement. A lot of times there isn’t enough explosiveness, and the movement just looks weak, and the whole effect is lost. But I thought they did it very well, and melted easily from explosive to fluid. I actually also saw more meaning in Dog than in tenderhook. The choreographer made it clear that he didn’t have any particular meaning he wanted to convey when he started choreographing the dance, but that that doesn’t mean his dance has no meaning. So he urged the audience to see their own meaning in it, i.e., it is pretty much up to you. So to me, it seems like well, we’re all sometimes like Dogs. Sometimes kicked around by others, loved by others, sometimes affectionate, scared, conditioned to do certain things, curious, sometimes out of control, etc., but still always very human. I don’t profess to understand the whole dance. There were bits that totally didn’t make sense to me, but that’s the little bit I pulled out from it.

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Jon & I caught Rihanna’s performance at the O2! :)

Yes, we did see some people bringing umbrellas for the concert.

Anyway, in contrast to Smashing Pumpkins where most people were around our age, this time around most of the people attending were young, screaming girls. Gosh. They can really scream. When Rihanna first appeared I thought I would go deaf! Already our ears had a pre-taste of what those vocal chords were capable of. When some celeb (I assume) came in, the girls all started screaming, and already I thought that was loud. Actually, I first heard the screaming then noticed they were screaming over someone that I totally didn’t recognise. Jon and I asked the couple next to us (who happened to be around our age) who that guy was, and they didn’t know either. I think we’re all too old to know these things… :) But yes, there were some others our age and older. But the bulk of the crowd were kids (with chaperons!) and teenagers. Actually it’s quite cute to see parents and their kids bonding over this event :)

But lest we sound like old fuddy duddies, we actually knew quite a lot of her songs :) Jon was surprised that certain songs he was familiar with were sung by her.

Paying tribute to Bob Marley

She put up a good show, and actually sang during the concert, not lip-sync, though the back-up singers did a lot of singing too. But I like her voice, there’s a distinctive tone to it. Still, the concert felt more rehearsed and structured than the others that I’ve been to here. I guess it’s cos she has to coordinate the songs with the dancers and dance routines, with props and multi-media displays behind. So she had less leeway to improvise. It’s probably all timed and choreographed. But that’s probably how it is with a lot of pop acts like Spice Girls and Kylie Minogue I think. Saw on TV the Spice Girls rehearsing their moves for their latest tour that just ended. On the other hand, Smashing Pumpkins was a rocking good time that felt free form and independent, and Mika was an intimate affair and crazy fun (even if he did have dancers occasionally, they really just pranced around freely in a non-choreographed way).

Overall it was a worthwhile trip, and fun to join in and sing the songs when I knew them…and of course we all know the ella-ella song! :)

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The dance workshop was great!

Not what I expected, but very interesting and inspirational nonetheless. Instead of teaching their repertoire per se, the gave insights to the thinking and creative techniques like “brackets and squirrels”, “kites”, “paisley” and “canon” that went behind the work. A lot of it requires improvisation and creativity, which I found great fun! We rotated with various partners, and each partner brought something else to the equation. Some of the dancers were fantastic! It was so inspirational watching them! Strength, grace, and creativity all rolled into one. Turns out that they are intending to audition for the Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) – no wonder they were going all out to impress, and it was clear the SDT dancers were impressed!

My whole body feels worked-out and stretched. We really used every inch of our bodies tonight, and I’m definitely going to ache tomorrow. How wonderful!

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Shan, Ben, E-Ping, and I went for the Mika concert at the Brixton Academy. Unfortunately, Jon was unable to make it that day. Brixton Academy is a very nice location for concerts. Although it’s an indoor location, once inside you somehow feel like it’s an outdoor stage cos of the wide spaces and overhanging balconies. It’s small size (relative to the O2) also makes it feel quite cosy.

Mika was just recently awarded the Best Breakthrough Act at the Brit Awards. His more well-known songs include “Grace Kelly”, “Big Girls”, “Lollipop”, and “Love Today”. You should check out his website which has excerpts from his songs. I like how it’s so whimsical and carnival-like.

The whole performance was very feel-good and whimsical. Lots of jumping, lots of hand-swaying, and sing-a-long whenever we knew the lyrics :) I also thought the lighting and decor was very good. It fit in very well with his style of music and the atmosphere of the night.

Even the encore was hilarious. The musicians, dancers, and Mika himself dressed up in animal costumes and acted out a silly skit. Then as Mika burst into “Lollipop”, giant balloons started to fall from the ceiling, and tons of confetti was blown about. Great way to end a happy concert :)

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I went to catch the play The Mousetrap, the longest running show on West End, and in the world. It’s based on the murder mystery by Agatha Christie.

Very well delivered, the actors managed to bring out the idiosyncrasies of their characters. I had a fun time trying to figure out who did it. So many possibilities, everyone could have motive… I did suspect the right person, but wasn’t completely sure until the end.

So….to solve the mystery, the murderer is….

Nahhh. I can’t tell you! Go watch the play or read the book yourself! :)
We were sworn to secrecy after the show.

Anyway, I felt like a senior citizen that afternoon cos every other person attending the play was elderly and silver-haired. It was quite sweet, they’d buy ice-cream and eat it together during the interval. They’d hold hands. Aww..

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Smashing Pumpkins!

Jon & went to catch the Smashing Pumpkins concert at the O2 and it was FANTASTIC!

I haven’t been for a rock concert in ages, and I’m not sure if the one I went for even truly counts as rock. Anyway, this was a fabulous gig. Rock sounds so good live!

Jon & I had really good seats – not in the standing area, but just above it. From observation during the night it seems that if you’re in the pit, the only fun place to be is right in front, otherwise it can be quite a drag cos you can’t see much. Sitting just above the pit you have the feeling of being part of the crowd but with better view of the stage, and a lot more comfort.

I predicted that most of the people who would be attending the concert would be around our age plus minus a few years. All of us would be going there to relive our teenage years! :) And true enough, everyone looked around our age! And I bet there must have been a disproportionate number of people born in 1979 as well. I’m sure the Pumpkins won a ton of fans from that generation :)

Speaking of that song, Billy Corgan performed a superb solo acoustic version of it. It started hilariously with Billy giving his rendition of the Girls Aloud song ‘Call The Shots’. He was saying how that was the greatest song ever written and how much he liked it, and then he suddenly surprised everyone by launching into 1979!! The crowd went wild! It was more than we could have asked for! You have to listen to it for yourself! I tried several times to upload the video but it’s too large, such a pity.

We had such a great time! Now if only U2 were playing somewhere around UK/Ireland before we go back…

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I brought myself out for a Valentine’s Day date to watch The Lord of the Rings musical at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane.

There’s weren’t many matinees that day, so my choice was limited, but I wasn’t disappointed. The show was really good!

When you first go into the theatre, you are transported into Middle Earth. The sides and roof of the theatre were covered with vines, and the hobbits were going about their village activities like gossiping, catching fireflies, fishing, etc.

I loved their stage and their staging. The stage itself is like one giant turntable, but there are concentric circles that can turn in different directions. Also, the circle is cut into eight slices and each slice (and segment of the slice) can be raised to a height of about 2 metres. I’ve never seen such a versatile stage before. And they utilised it to great effect. For example when the fellowship first started out, they gave a sense of journeying across varied terrain by continually manipulating the stage – sometimes they would climb hills, walk through valleys, jump across crevices, etc. And when Frodo and Sam were climbing the cliffs, the different slices were raised to different heights to give the visual effect of them climbing.

I also thought they brought out the fearsome evil of the wraiths very well. Those playing the wraiths stood on silts to make them much larger. These wraith were kept in the shadows such that you didn’t know they were on stage. Then suddenly the strobe lights would go on and show their presence. All the while when the lights are flashing the wraith’s ‘horses’ would be tossing their heads and searching for the hobbits. It was a scary feeling really. I heard someone behind be say it was even more scary than in the movie!

The other scary part was when Gandalf was fighting the Balrog in Moria, the Balrog was made to seem immensely huge such that only his head and shoulders could be seen on the stage; and the whole theatre was filled with smoke and wind was blowing so strongly such that even though I was sitting at the top floor, everyone’s hair was flying! Add red flashing lights and Gandalf’s “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”, and you feel like you are brought into the story. The same person behind me said, “I think I’ll have nightmares tonight!” :)

I also thought their portrayal of the relationship between Frodo and Sam was much less mushy than in the movie. They managed to show the brotherly love and care between the two characters without falling into mushiness.

Although the musical version was a super abridged version of the story (much much more abridged than the movie), their adaptation of the story for the stage was very good. I think the idea was to give the story, but more than that, to give the feeling behind the story, and that I think it did quite well.

My only grouse is that Gandalf in the musical was not as powerfully portrayed as in the movie.

Overall, even though it was an entertaining musical, my favourite of all the mediums is still the book! Gotta love the original!

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Dark Wing Duck

If you come up to London, funny as it may sound, you must try the duck!

There are differences in opinion as to whether Four Seasons or Goldmine has better duck, but it’s generally accepted that these places have the best duck. So to find out for ourselves, we decided to try both restaurants. I’ve always loved duck anyway, so this survey was perfectly fine with me.

We had gone to Goldmine with Shan & Ben and found the food to be excellent. The duck was tender and flavourful. The duck in Singapore tends to be chewy and tough, very different from the texture of duck here.

When Ernest came up again for the weekend, we decided to try Four Seasons at Bayswater. We had been to Four Seasons at Chinatown, but had heard that the Bayswater outlet was better.

The duck was, as expected, very good. Jon prefers the duck at Four Seasons because it is more fatty, but as I like my duck lean I prefer the Goldmine one. The other difference between the two is that the sauce at Goldmine is more savoury, whereas the one at Four Seasons is sweeter. Again our preferences differed – mine for savoury, Jon’s for sweet. So overall Goldmine gets my vote, and Four Seasons his.

In any case, both places served up good duck. So go eat!

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