Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Notting Hill Carnival

This was the main reason (or excuse) why we'd stayed in London over the Late Summer Bank Holiday Long Weekend - the 2005 Notting Hill Carnival - which we've read is the largest street festival in Europe!

Held over this same Bank Holiday weekend every year, the festival takes place over a huge area stretching from Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, across the suburbs to Kensal Town and parts of North Kensington.

We headed there around lunchtime to catch the carvial float parade which winds its way through the main streets for a few hours, entertaining all with its loud music from on-board mobile sound-stages, followed by dancers, performers and groups of drum bands getting the crowd into the groove.

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The mobile sound-stages pumping out the diverse music for the parade; and one of the many costumes worn by the dancers(?)

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More costumed dancers; and some of our group: Pete, Me, Carly, and Sue-Anne

We took up a great spot along Westbourne Grove, right next to one of the millions of drink stalls selling the surprisingly great Red Stripe Lager which was the hit of the day for me - I'd never noticed it before in the off-licences, but it is a full-strength Jamaican Lager which, for £1.50 a can, went down a treat in the summer heat - by the end of the day there were private street vendors everywhere, selling it and other beers from ice slurry buckets in the middle of the busy streets, which we were only happy to pay a premium for to get a cold one!

The normally sedate suburban streets are turned into a huge open-air live music venue, with normally residential terrace houses opening their windows and front gardens to huge sound systems pounding out a wide variety of dance/house music, through to excellent mixes of reggae and carribean beats.. Crowds simply strolled along the streets, taking in all the different sounds from the various 'sound systems' as they were called, all the while sampling a big range of African/Carribean foods and drinks.

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Carly, Me, & Pete; and the rest of our group, including Katrina & Gennaro

One of the funny side stories from the day was the girls' mission to avoid using the 'not very nice' portable toilets the organisers had provided in certain locations - many of the locals had put up signs out front of their houses offerring the use of their bathrooms for £1 per person - this sounded all fair and reasonable, until the girls decided to approach one of the queues to use a bathroom, only to find because of demand they had doubled the price to 2 quid!!!! Well, despite their attempts to barter them down with offers of 'bulk-buys' and 'group discounts', they were out of luck and the increased price remained! And to stand by the principle of the thing, they refused to pay the extra, and opted for the free public portable option after all their efforts to find one that had kept their original price.. Gave us guys a good laugh as we were able to stand up in the (by that stage in the day) very grubby toilets!!

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Sue-Anne & Carly; and Carly on the over-run Portobello Road

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Carly, Gennaro, & Katrina

Assumably because of noise restrictions, the festival music events only run until 7pm, at which time unless you're going to hit one of the bars of clubs, it is time to head home and back to work for the short week the following day.. Or, you could go home and open a few bottles of Rose like we did and enjoy the last few hours of sunlight of the final long weekend for the year!


Currently listening to: Joey & Norman Jay MBE - Good Times, 25th Anniversay Notting Hill Carnival double CD

Monday, August 29, 2005

Messing about on the river

With a picnic packed and hiking boots on, and above us one of the most amazing days of weather we've seen while living in London, we headed out to Richmond on the District Line to take a walk around the huge Richmond Park. We arrived at Richmond station and strolled through the beautiful streets, making our way to the river near the White Cross pub (Kate's old work haunt) on our way to the park - this is where we drastically changed our plans..

With 30 degree heat by that stage, the hike through the park wasn't looking terribly appealling. But the row boats for hire lined up along the river very much were! So with a bag full of beers, cider, and picnic lunch we hired a 3-seater row boat from one of the vendors along the bank and set sail(?) upstream to see what we could see.

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Rowing isn't as easy as it looks

After about half an hour of trying to look like I knew what I was doing with the oars, we had made our way around to Twickenham and simply pulled the oars in, opened up the esky bag, and floated along with the slight outgoing tide.

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Carly giving it a shot, but not for too long

We couldn't beleive what a great last minute idea it was, and so we spent the next hour or so sitting back, drifting along the Thames back towards Richmond, drinking, eating and planning our next year or so in London..


Monday, August 22, 2005

More new blog coming soon.. I promise!

I know, I know.. the spargo blog has slowed almost to a complete stop lately..

Those ardent fans out there (ok, maybe just my youngest brother, Jay, in Brisbane) are crying out for more updates from the last part of the English Summer.. Well it's not for a lack of stories that we haven't been posting - behind the scenes there are several new entries from recent events that are almost complete and will be 'switched on' for the public in the next day or so.

So please be patient.. Having a real job again is taking it out of me, and too much beer in this great summer weather is prohibiting my ability to get up early and put in new entries and get some photos up for you..



Saturday, August 20, 2005

Our Birthday Party at home

Happy 27th Birthday to us!!

To celebrate we invited everyone over after work on a balmy Friday evening (which was Carly's birthday - the 19th), to celebrate with us. It'd been a while since we've caught up with many of our friends, as almost everyone but us has been getting away on holidays over the summer break. So it was great to see many of the ex-Ealing people again who I hadn't seen since moving to the LDA, along with the regular friends and trouble-makers from all around London.

Friends on the Futon; and Mr & Mrs Wilkie (very brown after their Croatian summer holiday)

With the beer and wine flowing in our very full little flat, the night degenerated quickly after Darren arrived following a post-work session at a pub. Needless to say he had a great night, finished off with an impromptue dance on the cleared floor with Willow.

My Ealing friends (and Willow) surprised me with an unexpected birthday gift. I unwrapped a World Series Cricket Australian one-day team t-shirt, which is a replica from the early days of the one-dayers when the Aussies wore skin-tight retro-styled playing shirts in Canary Yellow and Green, the English wore powder pale blue, and the Kiwi's wore their beige poo-brown outfits. The shirts are these days being reproduced and sold by a group of kiwi's who first started wearing their own homemade beige-brigade skin-tight team shirts and circket pants to matches - but on realising that they had a market with their home-made uniforms made by their mother, they went into production and enjoy great success selling the team jerseys..

Me and my new team shirt; and the Ealing crew (L-R: the Bull, Katie, Spargo, Amanda)

Mine is personalised with a SPARGO player name across the top of the back - I will be wearing this to every appropriate event I can think of, and I'm sure even some places where it isn't appropriate!

Carly and I; Carly and an impromptue Tesco mudcake plus candle

Carly and cake; and Wilkie cutting a cake for his birthday the next day (the 20th August)

Me and the Bull; Willow and Darren at the end


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shane's Birthday and Mary Poppins the Musical

My first birthday in London, and it coincided with my first visit to a West End Theatre to see a musical.. I spent the day at work, where everyone made the day enjoyable despite being a long way from the family in Brisbane.

Carly's mum Jenny had organised to take us to see the new Mary Poppins: The Musical as a gift from the Smiths for our birthdays. The performance has been receiving excellent reviews since it started earlier this year.

We met in an after-work Soho pub so we could have a quick Pint before the show, and then headed to Theatreland for a quick bite before the show (Actually, we had the best kebabs we'd ever had in London from this place across the road from the theatre!).

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Carly and I on my 27th Birthday; me and my favourite mother-in-law

We'd heard from friends that the show was excellent, and from the start it didn't dissapoint. The sets were amazing, and the actors certainly portrayed the characters as if you were watching a well produced re-make of the movie, except this was well and truely live! The actor playing Mr Banks was none-other than David Haig, who you'd only remember as being the guy who played Bernard in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'.. Jane and Michael Banks (the children) were brilliant, hitting all the punchlines with precision . My only dissapointment was that the old sailor guys who used to fire the cannon off of the rooftop ship on top of the Banks' home didn't get a mention!!

There were just so many little things done so well in this show, that it'll be difficult going to the other shows around the West End in the coming year and a bit. Only in a musical performance of Mary Poppins are you going to have the characters walking up the walls and across the ceiling in one of the songs, and have a rooftop chimney sweep scene that looks just like the rows and rows of chimneys you see all across the terrace houses of London. It really was magical! An excellent production which we'd recommend to anyone, whether you're a fan or not.

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Carly & Jen outside the theatre; and upstairs on a Routemaster travelling through the West End on the way home


Sunday, August 14, 2005

John & Kathy visit London

During the week we've had Jenny staying with us, and in what has become a bit of a tradition, Ross has compensated for his 'no show' in London by sending with her a bottle of Red for us to have over dinner - so below are the photos of us having a bottle of Bellini we had brought in Venice last weekend, followed by the bottle of Mount Pleasent he had selected. Note the huge glasses from Venice in use again for the red!

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Cheers Ross, wish you were here - again..

After our very busy trip to Venice last weekend, we had to backup this weekend for a vist to London by Carly's uncle (and Jen's brother) Johnny and partner Kathy, from Galway in Ireland.

We'd spent time with Johnny at his apartment in Cadiz, Spain, while he was living there studying at the University, so it was great to be able to return the favour and have them stay with us. Their first night here was spent having some drinks at home, and then dinner at what is becoming our favourite Indian restuarant, The Famous Lily in Fulham. Below are some photos from the restuarant, by this stage the night was in full swing with the usual Johnny and Jenny banter and humour(?)..

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Jen & Johnny; and Carly, Jenny, Johnny, & Kathy

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Jenny, Johnny, & Kathy

With Johnny having lived in London before, we need to think up some new attractions for the day of sightseeing on Saturday, so to take advantage of his professional cooking skills, we took them over to Southwark and the Borough Markets, to have a look around at the produce and markets, and let him buy ingedients so he could cook us dinner that night - nice hosts aren't we!!??

After the markets we took a long walk along the river around towards Waterloo, ending up crossing over opposite Embankment and taking the tube up to Leicester Square, where we had a great lunch in one of the restuarants on the Chinatown Mall - after the big night before this feast went down a treat!

We then went home and let the chef to his devices, as he prepared a delicious meal of roasted lamb shanks and vegetables. It was amazing to see someone who knows there stuff prepare a meal like this in your kitchen.

The following day we spent having a day at home relaxing after a big breakfast, with Johnny and Jen catching up on all that had been happenning since the siblings had last seen each other the year before.

Sadly though the weekend had to come to a close, and John & Kathy headed off to the tube late in the afternoon, and their flight home to Galway. But before they left we made certain they knew that we'll be visiting them soon to take a look around their part of Ireland.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Trip to Venice with Jen

More coming soon..