Monday, 15 September 2014

30/8/2013 Out and about in London Town....

A couple of weeks off work and plenty of time to spare - what sort of idiot would then do three things in one day? Well I thought it would make sense as I'd get maximum value for money from my Oyster card if I made enough journeys to get it up the the daily fare capping limit - effectively getting some free travel on a nice summer day. My destination is in Greenwich, but for a change I don't choose the fastest or most direct route on the TFL Journey Planner. I'm soon passing Alexandra Palace, but I can never get a decent picture from the train.
I enjoyed my short trip on the river last year so much that I thought I'd take a longer one this time as part of my journey. It's expensive when compared to travelling by bus or train, but it's understandable when you think how much these Thames Clippers must cost to operate. You can get a discount with an Oyster card though. Unfortunately it doesn't count towards Oyster's daily fair capping, but I still think it's worth it as I find it a very enjoyable way to travel on a warm summer day.
 It feels weird acting like a bit of a tourist in the city I have lived in all my life, but I don't care!
I still haven't been on the London Eye, but the queues looked really long today, and I don't do queues...
I did enjoy walking over the Millennium Bridge last year on my way to Tate Modern though - some nice views to be had from there, and some fine ones from the higher points at Tate Modern itself. I covered that in a blog last summer, but thanks to MySpace you can no longer see it online. Bastards.
HMS Belfast is another box still waiting to be ticked, I'm amazed I've still not been on board. Although I've seen it countless times, the nearest I've been is observing it just outside a window in Southwark Crown Court - I spent quite a few hours watching it go up and down with the tide. I was there doing Jury Service BTW - not on trial!
The best way to see London't many bridges is definitely from the river. Or maybe from the air? Imagine flying a jet fighter through the middle of Tower Bridge? Yes - it's actually been done! I bet the pilot involved got the biggest bollocking of his career after that...
It's not to everyone's taste I know, but I really love the unique mixture of old and new architecture that can only be found in London. Edit: The odd shaped building to the right of Tower Bridge in the picture above got in the news a few days after I took this photo - it melted a car!
Yes, I even like The Shard! I can see it and some of the other taller landmarks from back in Barnet. The GPO Tower and the transmitter mast at Alexandra Palace used to be the only things you could see from my part of North London, but there are a few tall buildings in central London that you can see from Barnet Hill these days.
It might take a lot longer than the tube and cost more too, but It's worth every penny as far as I'm concerned. It is quite surprising what a speed these catamarans can get up to on the open river and travelling on the Thames Clipper is a lot more fun than the train!

All too soon I arrive at North Greenwich - in much better style than I did on the Jubilee Line earlier this month. The actual excuse for my voyage is a visit to The British Music Experience. Photography isn't allowed in there so no pictures, but the website gives you an idea what it's like. It's nothing like as big as I was expecting, but there is still plenty to see and do. It's basically an interactive museum of British popular music since the 1940's. There are plenty of exhibits in the various rooms; actual instruments played by many world famous pop and rock stars. Programs, records, stage costumes and much other historic memorabilia. There are sections covering the earliest days of rock & roll, right up to current times. The Stones, Beatles, Hendrix, and many other artists have exhibits related to them. Punk, and heavy metal are covered as well as pop - you can see outfits worn by the Spice Girls as well as David Bowie. You can watch loads of different video interviews, put on headphones and listen to all sorts of stuff, and even make music yourself in the Gibson interactive studio. There are loads of guitars, basses, and drum sets you can try out, and there is even a vocal booth - you can record your efforts too if you want. Not feeling the need to show off I wasn't too bothered about trying any of this out - I can do this sort of thing at home anytime, with guitars that are as good as or better than most of the ones available here - not that I'm dissing the range of Gibsons and Epiphones you can try at the BME - name any classic Gibson model and it's there for you to try. You are issued with a 'Smarticket' on your way into the BME and you can use this to 'save' things of particular interest to you to view online at your leisure when you get home - one of the novel interactive features of the BME. It's certainly worth a visit, and I'd definitely go again 'cos there is loads of interesting interview footage I didn't get time to see...

Back home to freshen up and get something to eat then I'm off again to max-out my Oyster card for the day - if I haven't already. I'm heading back to East London for the second time today. I'm off to a gig in Hoxton, but first I want to check out the new BrewDog bar in Shoreditch. Things aren't going too well as I'm running late - an unexpected phone call made me miss my train so I'm half an hour behind already and know I'm going to miss the first band Bubblegum Screw, but should still just have time for a quick drink before the headliners... In spite of researching the location of BrewDog Shoreditch online before leaving home I still couldn't bloody find it! If I still had my smartphone.... I kept thinking I could see the distinctive blue BrewDog sign in the distance, but like a mirage, every time I got closer it turned into a blue one way system road sign! I found it in the end though. This being the trendy East End I was expecting the joint to be packed with the usual pretentious 'Hoxton Hipster' crowd - fortunately it wasn't. It wasn't even that full considering it was a Friday night - maybe BrewDog isn't 'cool' enough for them down there? Actually I preferred BrewDog Camden to this one, although that bar seems to contain more hipsters and trendies. I only had time for a quick couple of beers but the Cocoa Psycho went down well - I tried it in Camden and wasn't that impressed but it seemed much nicer tonight.

Oh yes, I'm supposed to be going to a gig as well.... Fortunately Mother Live is only a few minutes walk away - just as well as I realise I am still in the BrewDog bar at the time Healthy Junkies are due on stage. However, they are about 15 minutes late on stage - about the only thing which has worked out for me this evening. I arrive at the venue to find a very low turnout for a Friday night and two bands who both have a regular crowd of followers. It's cheap to get in so where is everyone? Maybe I'm not the only one who's not keen on the venue - the bar and the inadequate uni-sex toilets don't make it a place you really want to spend any more time in than necessary, although it does look like a rock venue should, and I like the comfortable furry effect of the carpet on the walls! I suspect this has been done for acoustic rather than tactile reasons though.
As you can see, although my phone is fine for taking pictures outdoors in daylight - it's crap for gig lighting conditions. Lasers and a smoke machine don't help either, but apart from making photography difficult the lighting is quite atmospheric. The band look good although the sound is a bit muddy. I've heard plenty worse though.
Healthy Junkies have been ringing the changes recently, both with a new rhythm section (who seem to be working out well) and a lot of new songs in the set. The band's debut album 'Sick Note' from last year had plenty of good songs on it, and from what we are hearing the band's second album will be another strong effort. Healthy Junkies have a knack of being able to write catchy pop/punk songs with hints of grunge and glam mixed in.
As the band are headlining tonight we are treated to a longer set than usual, and a couple of covers in the form of '20th Century Boy' and 'These Boots Are Made For Walkin'. It's a good value for money show, and I just wish I'd been able to catch the always entertaining Bubblgum Screw.

By 11.00 the show is over, and although it seems early for a Friday night there doesn't seem much else to do but go home. However, I've had a busy and varied day - and guess what my most enjoyable thing all day was? Yes - the boat trip on the river! I was like a big kid and loved every minute of it!

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