Sunday, June 26, 2005

O2 Wireless Festival, Hyde Park

Our first UK music festival - the O2 Wireless festival, has come and gone, and gave us our first taste of the big acts that you get to see in London all the time, compared to Australia where you can only be hopeful that someone big might do a solo tour and actually make it to your town, or appear in the Big Day Out line up once a year.

Carly and Darren B.

Dan and Sophie met us at Hyde Park for this great day out, where a huge main stage looked out over a large area set aside for the main crowd later in the day, and behind that were some smaller tents were other acts performed. Later in the day we met up with Buse's younger brother Darren - who is living/travelling over here also.

I was mainly there to see Basement Jaxx live for the first time, but before they came on we were treated to an excellent set by Ralph Myerz with his animated drum beating, live sampling and mixing of the crowds noise, and on-stage fireworks display! Also in one of the other tents was the superstar DJ of the English summer - Mylo - although a massive crush of the crowd prevented all of us from getting into the tent for his set, with the exception of Dan who used his weight/height advantage and copious amounts of drunken alcohol to get to the front.

All of us in front of the main stage waiting for the Stereo MC's

On just before the Jaxx were South London group Stereo MC's who i'd heard little about before the day, but was promised a lot by Dan's English girlfriend Sophie - and she was spot on! These guys were absolutely brilliant! Carly and I danced around near the front of the crowd with Dan and Soph, as the Stereo MC's vocalist/rapper fired up the crowd with his unique dancing and grooving down off the stage and right in front of us as we lapped it up!

The Stereo MC's put on a brilliant set and get the crowd good and ready for Basement Jaxx

But coming on for the finalé was Basement Jaxx, and they put on a very impressive and polished show - amazing and very powerful backing vocalists which sounded even better live than on their albums, and some fantastic work by the DJ's and musicians meant that we got to see a brilliant big-name live act on a summers evening in Hyde Park, central London.

Various photos of Carly and Dan down the front of the crowd for Basement Jaxx

We definitely have to do a few more of these events over this summer and the next one while we're here - it is just the best way to spend a day out! A few beers, a bit of a dance and some carry on with your mates amongst the crowd, and some great live music for the ears.


Friday, June 24, 2005

Wimbledon 2005

Wimbledon. Summer. Strawberries and Cream. Pimms. SW19.

This has been on my list ever since I realised that the first place we would live in London was on the Wimbledon Tube line, and that the home of tennis was a short ride on the Underground into the south-western suburbs - I don't know why but I always conjured up this image of it being somewhere way out in the home counties!

Although a few of us had been planning to go to the tournament, it was a last minute decision to head out there this afternoon straight from work for an afternoon at the championships at the end of its first week. So I jumped on a series of buses & tubes to get myself from Hanger Lane in Ealing, all the way around and down to the Southfields/Wimbledon area, and to the back of the very long queue for the 'after 5pm'cheap tickets giving you access to the last few games on the outside courts. This system is a fantastic idea, whereby you come straight to the complex straight from work, with a few drinks from the off-licence under your arm, get in the queue where you receive your official Wimbledon date-stamped 'queuing card', and move along in your place until you reach the front. We were very lucky, I was in the ground within 40 minutes (Carly had stayed home - didn't want to go.. crazy!) and Karen W., Andy, Daniel C., Sophie, and Dan's brother Ben came in just behind me.

First stop before we headed to the outside courts was the strawberries and cream vendors, to get a bucket of the most expensive fruit and runny cream you will ever eat (yes, worse than the Ekka!). Dan had arrived organised, with a bucket of Tesco strawberries under his arm he'd purchased on the way, so he gladly dunked them in my expensve cream much to his delight! Smart arse...

We then walked around the outside courts and managed to catch a doubles match with Lindsay Davenport first up.

Lindsay Davenport playing doubles on an outside court

After that we just walked between the many outside court that still had games playing, and because of daylight saving and the long summer days up here in the far northern hemisphere, the sunlight lasts 'til 10pm, allowing tennis to play until not long before that.

The draw; and the big screen on Henman/Hewitt Hill

Action from the outside courts; and (right) Me, Karen & Andy watching from courtside

Dan and I at the outside courts, beers in hand

Dan managed to get a shot of Boris Becker doing courtside comments

As the games began to finish up for the day, attention turned to the last remaining sets on those big matches inside the centre court and court number 1. Unfortunately we only had tickets for the outside courts, so we headed up to the Hill where we'd seen crowds mass to watch big name games in the past on the big screen (resulting in the site being renamed Henman or Hewitt Hill).

Unknown to me, Daniel, Ben and Sophie had been exploring some closed off areas of the grounds, ans collected some hilarious photos of then covorting with Ball Boys, life-size cutouts of womens tennis pin-up Maria Sharapova, and helping themselves to drinks supplied to the umpires chairs!!! Brilliant!

Photos from around the ground.. Ben and the ball boys

Ben and a very life-less Maria

Daniel making adjusting the draw; and Ben joining the camping out queue

With the sun well and truly gone, and security staff ushering us out of the grounds, we got a last few photos at the tournament draw boards, and as we walked out the gate you could see the crowds already queuing with their sleeping bags, barbeque's, and camping chairs for the first of the next day's tickets - Ben promptly joined the queue (jokingly), much to the dismay of those who had already been sitting there for hours!! Very funny..

We headed down to the Wimbledon town centre on the bus for a few drinks on the way home.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Visiting Mel & Jen, Brenda & Mike in Chelmsford, Essex

Carly's cousin's Melanie and Jennifer, never ones to say no to a quiet night, organised to meet us while they were visiting London. So we picked a pub in Southwark off of our favourite pub-selecting website fancyapint, and met them after work on a Thursday night for what turned out to be a fantastic catch-up, telling all of our London stories, and hearing all of theirs from when they lived here themselves - they had planned to take a spin on the London Eye, so we stayed at the pub while they hopped over to Waterloo, and simply continued on when they returned to the pub an hour later.

We left the fantastic pub we'd been in with more than a few drinks under our belts, and headed to another bar in Waterloo for some food and more wine until closing time. Towards the end of the night we made plans to catch up on the weekend, out at Chelmsford in Essex, where their mother Brenda and partner Mike were staying while here for their annual 3-month UK summer holiday to visit friends and family still here.

So on Saturday morning we headed out from Liverpool Station, and met Brenda at the station in Chelmsford a short while later. We spent the day catching up with them, and looking around Chelmsford which is where they had all lived while in the UK when the girls were in school.

One highlight was a visit to Brenda's nephew's Manor House just outside town - as you can see from the photos this place was truly amazing! Not sure how many bedrooms or how many houses you could have fitted into the kitchen, but to put some scale to it, there were three 2 & 3 bedroom houses sitting on the estate, probably provided for servants etc. The scale and granduer was something i've never experienced in the owership of a private person - this was no museum of royal building!

The rear of the house, just outside of Chelmsford

And just to top if off, there was a local cricket game happenning on a field at the back of the estate - so very English!

We were staying with Brenda at her sisters beautiful home in suburban Chelmsford, which had an amazing well-kept rose garden. I couldn't help myself so I got stuck into taking plenty of shots of the hundreds of roses opened for the summer weather.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening in the back garden, enjoying a barbie and drinks with everyone as the sun set on another amazing English summers day.

That night we headed out into the craziness of Chelmsford's bars and clubs, which we were warned would give us a good insight into Essex nightlife - it certainly did, and while it isn't worth going into detail here, it was an experience that will live with us for a while yet. On the way home at 4am, my impromptue performance to the girls of a certain MBF advertisement jingle 'accentuating the positive' from the roof of a phone box probably gives an indication of the nature of the night!

It was a long train trip back to London that afternoon...


Monday, June 13, 2005

Ski Trip Reunion Party

After the craziness of the ski-trip (see this post here from the insane week in the French Alps here), it was only just that we all have a reunion catch-up session, to see what everyone had been up to since March, and to have a look at the photos and fantastic short videos that had been taken on and off the slopes.

We trekked out to Andy's place at Watford on the overland, for a bbq, drinks, and hopefully some nightlife action later at the bars on the Watford high street.

Andy and Darren around the BBQ; and the Outdoor Heater cooking craze takes of in the UK!

In the photo above you can see Andy at work on his heat bead-powered non-gas barbeque - even though he obviously knew what he was doing, Darren and I thought this was just so bloody funny to watch as he tried his hardest to get the thing lit, helped along by the use of a board to 'fan the flames'! All the while we stood back, beers in hand, laughing and questioning the silly Englishman as to why he didn't have a gas bottle.. Because as we all know, a man's reputation lives and dies with his barbequeing prowess, and, well, much to our delight Andy was struggling on this day!! A great laugh which is also captured on a short video I took of Darren getting stuck into him.

Just like the ski trip the lads got stuck into the drinks and before too long much of the sillyness from the week in the snow had returned. Considering it is summer it was a chilly night out on Andy's fantastic rear deck, so he had an outdoor heater working above the table - this was the perfect opportunity to introduce outdoor heater cooking to England after Dale and I began doing it at his place back in Northgate.. However it became obvious that bread roll heating was not as impressive as marshmellows - Andy would have to get some for the next party.

A few photos from the night, including all the fun of the Outdoor Heater cooking

As we became far too rowdy for the suburban backyard and the neighbours close-by, it was time to head into the town centre (which is just down the street, very convenient) for the Watford High Street experience. This was the first time we'd been out in any of the towns that are on the outskirts of London, and we were impressed to see the place packed, with people spilling out of all of the bars and pubs. Carly had stayed back at Andy's place as she'd had enough, so me and the lads had a couple more until it was definitely time to go home - this was confirmed when I added some 'character' to the paving on the High Street on the stagger back.. As he 'held back my hair and gave me a pat on the back as we continued walking, I think Andy thought this must have been sweet revenge for the rubishing I given his BBQ earlier that afternoon!

I was not very well the next morning!

Here are a few more shots of Andy's place that I took the following morning after we'd stayed the night, so those back in Australia can see what it is like - he's done a top job with that back deck, especially for an Englishman..

The view of the neighbourhood over the side fence

Andy's pride and joy - his back deck

A sequence of shots of the rear of the 2-bedroom flat/house