Friday, 17 August 2012

In the Sporting Spirit Lets Play Golf!

I am back from Scotland complete with midge bites and one strip of spectacular sunburn down one leg. It has actually gone a little purple. I kid you not.

During my week in the caravan, I followed Team GB’s victories and am now all excited about sport. Well at least for now. I am trying to get tickets for the Paralympics; I am almost definitely going to visit the Herne Hill Velodrome (where Bradley Wiggins started out); and I am going to miniature golf tomorrow.

I was excited about mini gold because you have the competitive element and certain skills are required to get that tiny ball through the rotating windmill. Additional excitement came from the fact I was supposed to be playing on Selfridges’ roof. However because it is so damn popular - you may have heard of it already - it has already sold out for tomorrow. I am now going to a course in Gunnersbury. I don’t know where Gunnersbury is. And its called Gunnersbury.

Anyway, back to Selfridges for a moment. They have built a marvellous looking Tea and Miniature Golf area on their roof to celebrate a particular type of British eccentricity. From what I can make out from an introductory video you play 9 holes of golf around obstacles shaped like London Landmarks, which are made to look like cakes or sweets. For example, there are several platters of mini-St. Pauls jellies that you have to weave your ball through. Hmm jelly cathedrals.

The course is open from 12-10pm each day until 2nd September and tickets can be bought in advance from here. If you are a more free and easy type of guy/gal you can rock up and wait in line to play your round. It costs £6 per person which is not uber cheap for such an activity, but I mention it here because its uniqueness and I think you would get the added bonus of a nice view. I am all about the nice views.

Of course, a Golf and Tea Party is nothing without tea. I had a look at the menu that the golf and I would say take your pennies elsewhere. Afternoon Tea for 1 is £17.95, which is standard is fancy hotels, but lets be honest you are on top of a department store. No thanks. A pot of tea for 1 is £2.95(eek!) and a brownie £5.95 (just no). So I would take a thermos with you or better yet play later in the afternoon, then go to the foodhall for reduced food items. I'm not sure about everyone down there but I know the sushi place does some great deals. Granted, sushi is not very British, but eat it with your tea and you’ll be laughing. That counts as fusion right?

Oh also at the time of writing Golf is still not an Olympic sport. However with table tennis as a proper event, it can only be a matter of time before miniature golf gets in there. So, until then, I shall keep practising my swing and the art of avoiding rotating windmills. Yes I shall.

Picture taken from here.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Olympic Embrace

After months of bitching about transport issues, sponsors, tickets, missiles on roofs I have been converted to an Olympic way of thinking. I am a flag waving, sport watching enthusiast who air punched every time we get another medal.

I can't be sure when the shift occurred, but I think it was sometime between the Kennth Branagh's speech from The Tempest and Voldemort during the opening ceremony. Or maybe it was when that *insert the worst expletives you can think of here* Mitt Romney said that he didn't think London was ready for the Olympics. Oh we're ready Mitt. Ready to punch you in the face.

Either way, my cynicism dissolved and I am now watching things like show-jumping and swimming. I have no idea what I am watching, but I know I like it.

I am still angry about how much tickets cost, but one of the things the Olympic organisers seemed to get right was the amount of FREE stuff they have put on this year as part of the while London 2012 festival.

If you go to the London 2012 website you can get the low-down on all free and paying events.

There are quite a few good exhibitions including the Road to 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery. This shows some wonderful portraits of our UK athletes, but also those who contributed to the making of the Games.

Most teams have taken over various buildings around the city. The weirdest possibly being the Germans in the Museum of London Docklands restaurant. Apparently you can go along for £10, but having worked at there as a waitress for one dark month, I would advise against it.

However, the Brazilians have taken over Somerset House aka Casa Brasil for the duration and are hosting exhibitions and a Rio 2016 shop (of course). There is also samba and live music every evening until this Sunday 5th August. I think the old-school grandeur of Somerset House is a slightly odd setting for Brazil, but hey it should be fun.

I know loads of venues are doing something for the Games, even if it is just having a TV showing them constantly and a few Union Jacks. The Book Club in Shoreditch has created a, "Basecamp", with a few sporting events of its own including beer pong and basketball and croquet. Of course this is accompanied by screens, food vans and a bar.

This weekend's Brixton Splash (a community street festival featuring live music and dancing) on Sunday is going to be a pretty special affair because it coincides with Usain Bolt running in the 100m men's final. I think it is safe to say there will be a few parties going on until the wee hours on Sunday night.

I urge you to go out and take advantage because after all my whining I zipping north for a week and will miss everything. There are few chances when any of us will be in an Olympic city again, and I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. So go and embrace the Olympic spirit. In a month's time we can all be bitter and cynical together again.

Go Team GB!


Oh now I remember when I got into the spirit! It was when Mitt Romney offended the entire country, Boris came to our defence and then a few days later did this. Mayor Johnson sir, we salute you.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Tell me a story

I am so excited about my most recent discovery that I have been itching to share it since Monday when I experienced it for myself.

The life-changing experience of which I speak is Spark London: A true storytelling event.

The premise of the night is very simple- anyone is allowed to go up in front of the audience and share a story which must be 1) true 2) about themselves 3) relate to the theme of the week and 4) be no longer than 5 minutes long.

I was a little sceptical about the prospect of hearing people tell their stories. I don't like people and I don't like strangers trying to talk to me so I thought it might not be for me. However, my feelings on leaving the venue could not have been more different. To be it simply- it was wonderful.

I think it was a fluke when I went, but over half of the story-tellers were Americans, which definitely made it feel a lot cooler. It was like being in the back room of club in New York where everyone should still be allowed to smoke indoors and click instead of clap. Not that I have ever been to a club like that in New York you, but various TV programmes and films have assured me of their existence. And it wasn’t that wanky.

One woman just had the best New York accent I have ever heard in real life. She was from Queens and wore a baseball cap with NY on. It was truly amazing. Say "coffee" or "New York" in one of those stereotypical NY accents, then double it and you will have this woman. She told a funny story about being a former catalogue model and having her breasts manhandled by a black transvestite called Laquesha. However, by far the best thing she said, in fact the best bit of the whole night, was when she explained she was from Queens (hence the accent) and said, "To put it in perspective- it's like Luton".

It was brilliant to see the range of people overcoming their embarrassment or, in some cases, rearing to get on stage in front of everyone, to tell something that happened to them. Many were very funny, a few were heartfelt and some just bizarre, but for some reason because they were all true people the audience, myself included, were completely captivated.

When we first walked, in the compere for the evening went through the audience and asked people if they had a story to tell. Most people shook their heads frantically; mouths clamped and avoided her gaze. But, during the break people were hounding her to try and get their 5 minute slot on the stage. "This is what happens," announced the compere coming back in the second half, "Everyone really does have a story to tell".

Coincidentally the nights are a New York phenomenon, but Spark is currently the only night of its kind (so they say) in London. I went to the Upstairs bar at the Ritzy in Brixton, which is a regular night (every third Monday of the month), and just takes donations. Or there is a night at the Canal Cafe in Little Venice every first Monday of the month, but that seems to cost £8. Too much me thinks. Not that I'm biased or anything.

If you are up at the Edinburgh Fringe you can go and see their show with professional storytellers. I would wait for the open-mic though because it makes it so much more interesting. There really was something oddly comforting about hearing the truth.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Do you remember what summer feels like?

I am going to jump on the bandwagon here, but what the hell is up with the weather? It's gone batshit crazy that's what.

Are you having trouble remembering what summer feels like? Even with my pretty low sun tolerance I am having withdrawal symptoms. So, as a result, I am looking for things which remind me of summer or at least give me an opportunity when I can pretend it is July.

A perfect antidote to my SAD is Oxjam Brixton's "Beat the Blue" Summer Launch Party at Brixton Clubhouse. If you didn’t get that- it’s in Brixton. The club night, to be held on Friday 20th July from 7pm, promises to showcase an array of local reggae acts. I am imagining a rum in one hand and summery sounds to lull be into the belief that I am on a Caribbean island rather than round the corner from a KFC.

So they've got DJ Zinc Fence bringing his awesome Catch a Fire night and Cpanel DJs Balofo and Nomic and (what I am most excited about) The London City Reggae Choir. I have never seen a reggae choir and cannot help but be a little intrigued.

The Brixton Clubhouse is a cool little club with terrace outside and a slightly odd wicker fence separating the terrace from the street. It's just around the corner from the station so if you get lost you are really are stupid and don't deserve to go to a fun night such as this.

A ticket costs £5 in advance from here or it's £7 on the door. The money is going towards Brixton Oxjam Takeover concerts in October.

Oxjam is a month long festival organised by Oxfam that takes place up and down the country to use local musical talent to raise money to fight global poverty and raise awareness. There are loads of events happening up and down the country and all over London. I just know about the Brixton ones because I live in Brixton and I am helping them spread the word. I am good like that. I know I know, I am growing more slappable by the second.

If you would like to see my awful attempt to dance to reggae music (it involves a lot of swaying and intermittent hip shaking) let me know and we can live in a tiny summer microcosm for the night.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Vive la Revolution!

When I get an email with the title "URGENT CALL TO ARMS", I am not surprised or put off opening it. As your typical lazy lefty (not saying that all left-wingers are lazy just that I am one of the lazy ones. No hatemail please) I sign up for so much stuff on the internet and am frequently asked to join protests, sign petitions and generally cause a ruckus. However the above mentioned email was different. It was alerting me to this weekend's 5th annual Bastille Day on the Southbank.

As France's sixth biggest city, London is hosting its 5th annual version of the French national holiday known there as, La FĂȘte Nationale. The all-day festival will celebrate the country’s food, art and all things Français.

*NOTE: I volunteered last night at the Southwark Playhouse, who are hosting a few of the events, and all their fridges are packed with different French cheeses. It was a beautiful sight.*

In France, the annual festival marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789. It is still celebrated in France was as a symbol for the rest of the French revolution and the fall of the monarchy. I could go into more detail, but quite frankly it is not that interesting and involves a lot of sectors of government, names and dates that have no place on this blog. If you care to learn more click here for a good rundown of events. Or better yet read Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, which is a wildly dramatic version of the revolution without the boring bits.

Back in London, most of the day’s events are happening in and around Borough Market. There will be extra French stalls at the market as well as more unusual events popping up throughout the day such as the Waiter's Race. I am still a little confused about this one. It seems that Waiters from the Bankside restaurants are quite literally going to race one another. Possibly while holding crockery. I think it may be one of those things that has to be seen to be believed.

There are also events like hatmaking and talks about perfume, games of boules, Absinthe tasting, films, cycling, football and art workshops. But from 6pm there will be live music and dancing to take you through to midnight. I am hoping a lot of Edith Piaf impersonators and accordions but I feel they will be slightly better than that.

All the events are free and more details and timings can be found on their website here.

The initial email I received it turned out was a less "Call to Arms!" and more for a request I use my arms to help them put up lights around Borough Market on Friday night. So the least you can do is come and admire my handywork while pilfering all the cheese you can stuff in your beret.

*NOTE: Berets and fancy dress optional.*

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Get quizzical for charity

In my last post I casually mentioned how I was volunteering for

everything under the sun (or at least South of the river). Didn't it make you sit up and take a good look at your life and want to be a better person? No? Humph. Self-righteousness is obviously not for you then.

If you do fancy helping out a charity without the time commitment, with a guaranteed dash of fun, why not come to the Sounds Familiar Music Quiz in aid of Oxjam Brixton takeover. Sounds Familiar is a regular music quiz that pops up all over London and has agreed to host a night next Wednesday 11th July at the Dogstar in Brixton. The admission price will go towards funding Oxjam Brixton’s one day festival in October.

In effect, the quiz is a fundraiser for a future fundraiser. I don't get it, but I trust Oxfam and know you have to spend money to make money. But you need to have some money first. I could totally be on the Apprentice.

The Sounds Familiar Music quiz is "London's best and most raucous music quiz", according to Time Out. See, it isn’t just me. Real reviewing types rate it.

The idea of the quiz is not only to test your music knowledge with rounds like, Mum & Dad’s School Reunion, Soul Weekender, You’ll Never Hear From Me Again, Round of Relaxation, Mash It Up and Name That Tune, but encourage its quizees to get up and dance and have a "rare tear" as my Glaswegian Uncle would say.

If you needed more convincing the quiz is so popular that it is taken on the festival circuit as can be witnessed in this clip at Glastonbury last year. I think we can all agree this is something pretty special.

There are actually quite good prizes for the winning teams including 2 tickets for Sneaky Sound System at Electric Brixton, 2 tickets for The Black Seeds at Electric Brixton and 2 tickets for Sham 69 at Electric Brixton. As well as some CDs (some better than others).

The only thing that makes me hesitate from signing up is the "Pile of Shit" round, which is supposed to feature the worst records the compere can think of. I fear this round would feature a lot of my most cherished songs (Chumbawamba anyone?). Despite this I shall brave the outing and practice my "Oh God! Who ever listened to this pile of monkey crap" while secretly crying inside.

Tickets are only £5 per person (or £30 per 6 person team. Obviously) and can be bought here. You can turn up and pay £5 but to make sure you get a place tis best to book in advance. The quiz starts at 7ish and runs until the last song is sung and the last table danced upon. So it is written so let it be done.

You will be thrilled to know that I am accepting team mates to add to my knowledge of 80s Pop, Enya and the Spice Girls. If you think you have what it takes to join the winning team I will be holding interviews on Monday 9th. No time wasters please.

If you want to know about more about Oxjam Brixton takeover check out their website and you can still get involved.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Cheer for a Volunteer

My post titles are definitely getting worse. Hmm. Need to do something about that.

So, a few weeks ago I was bored. Very bored. Despite living in one of the most exciting cities in the world (as I am constantly told by people who don't live here and say they never want to) I had nothing to do with myself and, more unhelpfully, no money.

It was during an afternoon of this sustained boredom that I found a few sites asking for volunteers. Seeing more and more adverts for volunteers and "stewarding opportunities" it occurred to me that this would be great. I could meet new people, see some cool stuff and do something more valuable with my time than stalking people on Twitter and wishing they were my real-life friends. With nothing to lose I signed up to steward at the Secret Cinema and the Southwark Playhouse, generally help with Brixton's Oxjam (a day festival for Oxfam where bands will be taking over different venues in Brixton) and organise the South London Free Film Festival, which I have written about before.

What is immediately obvious from the above is that I was exceptionally bored and had momentarily lost my mind. How the hell was I going to help with all these events? I have a lot of spare time, but this was ridiculous.

In my defence I didn't think everyone would want me to help. I was hedging my bets. What I forgot was that if people are asking for volunteers they generally want all the help they can get. Shit.

So first piece of advice if you want to volunteer- be selective!

I went along to a meeting for the Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival (FFF), which was, slightly bizarrely, in the Centre for Wildlife and Gardening in Peckham. It was every bit as odd as it sounds. Nice, but odd. After talking to the lovely (and exceptionally organised) people at the FFF, I opted to steward at their events in September. One down three to go.

The Secret Cinema has been going on for about a month now and was just asking volunteers to do as many shifts as they could. I have wanted to go to the Secret Cinema since I heard about it last year, but couldn't bring myself to pay the required £20+. So, last week I did three evening shifts, stewarding while dressed in a boiler suit. I won't give away any details because there is still another week left, but it is very impressive. So that was completed in 72 hours meaning I could tick another one off the list.

I have done a trial shift at the Southwark Playhouse and am going to keep volunteering for them. They seemed to like me, which suggests if you smile enough and don't make smartarse comments anyone will hire you. Who knew? I can do a few shifts a month and get to see some amazing theatre. I feel like I'm getting the better deal out of this.

Brixton Oxjam were looking for help with marketing and publicity, which means you lucky people will be hearing a lot more about them running up to their takeover in Brixton in October. It mainly gives me an excuse to talk to lots of people on twitter about music and Brixton, which I like doing anyway.

I have done my fair share of work experience placements, but this is different. I happen to enjoy learning about arts organisations, but the main benefit is getting to experience these events from the inside and for free. One could argue I was also contributing to society etc but meh. That is neither here nor there. At our age I think, if you have the time, it is a great thing to do so get moving!

I have added links to all the aforementioned organisations that are always looking for volunteers, but here are a few other websites that list more varied opportunities-

Team London


Greater London Volunteering

Volunteering England

And an old favourite, Gumtree (where I found Secret Cinema advert)

If you need more convincing to get up and do something, volunteering can be good when people ask if you have any hobbies. I haven't had hobbies since I was 14 and gave up the piano, but suddenly people seem to want to know what my "hobbies" are. I now have something other to say than "Um...see friends. Um...reading" which makes me sound like an eedjit.