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Another random only-in-London moment…

Another random only-in-London moment…

I was outside my local food shop the other night when a woman came up to me and thrust £5 in my hand.

Alas, it was because she wanted me to go in and get her some organic chicken – with a strong emphasis on the word ORGANIC. She couldn’t go in as it would apparently mean tying her yapping dog up.

So being the nice chap that I am, I took her money, verified with her that the chicken was suitably organic, made my own purchases, and gave her her chicken on the way out. (How often do you get to say that?)

And as is always the way when one stranger in London reaches out to another, she had to justify and explain the whole thing. Apparently it was because her boyfriend had inconveniently invited someone round for dinner after a gym session, so she needed more meat. But then, she said, she was a veggie anyway… Why she didn’t tell her boyfriend to pick up something on the way home, I’m not sure.

London – the world-class city where you can’t get a takeaway on a Saturday night

London – the world-class city where you can’t get a takeaway on a Saturday night

Disney characters starvingOne of the many many reasons for living in London is that it’s meant to be a world-class city, the place people flock to.

Well, I hope they don’t want a simple takeaway delivered on a Saturday night because it seems nigh on impossible.

Our first choice was Sufi – a Persian restaurant round the corner rated by Jessie J and Time Out, amongst others. We’ve ordered from there before without any problems, but of course that was on a weeknight. We called them tonight, to be told they don’t deliver on a Saturday night.

Next stop, another Persian restaurant called The Piano in Chiswick. We ordered it via Hungry House seemingly without a problem – thirty minutes later, with our hunger pangs getting ever more desperate, we get an email only to be told they rejected our order without any explanation as to why. I really should have checked the website earlier – they manage to spell Persian wrong on their homepage. Seriously.

Ditching the notion of such exotic cuisine as Persian altogether, we thought we’d retreat to the safety of Chinese food. So tried to call the Drunken Tiger restaurant (great name, amiright?) in Shepherds’ Bush. After five minutes of them not answering their phone, we gave up.

We finally resorted to the tried and tested Seven Stars takeaway round the corner – really, we should have stuck with them from the start, because they took our order without any problem and it’ll arrive in thirty minutes. Fingers crossed.

And now we’re starving and ready for bed at the same time. Not a great combo!

My part in the Olympics London 2012 opening ceremony…

My part in the Olympics London 2012 opening ceremony…

Me in costume at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony
Me in costume at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

In the best tradition of every sports story, my moment as part of 10,000 performing volunteers (1,000 in my sequence alone) in the Industrial Revolution sequence of the Opening Ceremony was merely the climax to a very long journey, way back in the first auditions last Autumn, through to tonight’s moment.

Along the way, there’s been heartbreak (my dearest wife was also accepted, but had her offer withdrawn due to visa restrictions), struggles (rehearsals every weekend since early May, mostly in a Dagenham car park), pain (my muscles seized up during one particularly intensive rehearsal to the point when it hurt to type for a week, and I’ve caught colds standing in the rain), stamina with 4 mile-walks back and forth across the Olympic Park, disappointment (my role in the ceremony amounted to lifting fences and turf in style!) and surprises (the turf we move get twice as heavy after it rains – and it’s rained a LOT during rehearsals!) not to mention a preview of the transport chaos.

It’s tested my patience with the constant changing of plans in the early days, and stamina with all the physical activity that’s been involved from the very beginning of the auditions – I’d never had to “walk with sass” before! There have been weeks when I’ve barely seen my family and friends with my work and Olympics commitments, and missed my son’s first steps as well as a friend’s son’s christening (sorry Matthew!) 

The constant travel across London to the rehearsal venues has been a little wearing – although I stopped complaining when I realised a fellow volunteer had to fly in from the Falkland Islands every week! I’ve also missed out on opportunities to enhance my skills by volunteering at work for some of the Olympic duties, which has been annoying.

All this for an Oyster card, daily sandwich lunches – oh, and the chance to squeeze my theatrical performing urges in front of an audience of 60,000 and a TV audience between half a billion and four billion or so (depending on who you talk to).

County Essex! Some of the County Essex performing volunteers

It’s been an amazing journey, and one I’d do again in a heartbeat if I could. I’ve made friends with a totally random selection of fellow volunteers of the great British public, from 18-year-old students to retired PE teachers. We have a sense of purpose and unity that’s not often found in everyday life. We’ve laughed in the middle of the Olympic Stadium, cheered people on as they went on an impromptu run around the track, and cried at key moments of the Ceremonies – even when we’ve seen it three times already.

Waiting to go on stage at the Opening Ceremony…

And that’s not to mention the indescribable feeling of walking on “stage” into a stadium filled with flashing cameras – a feeling that I am very unlikely to ever experience again.

Tonight, we feel a sense of elation that our families can now finally understand what we’ve been working towards for the last twelve weeks, tinged with a sense of sadness that this will be it for some of us. We’ve been given the opportunity to take part in other ceremonies, but personally, I think it’s time I came back to normality, and saw my son a bit more often.

But at least I can have a lunch that doesn’t involve Pringles crisps and crunchy bars!

Performing in front of 60,000 people…

Performing in front of 60,000 people…

At the dress rehearsal for the London 2012 opening ceremony A crowd of 60,000 people at a dress rehearsal for the London 2012 opening ceremony (via @2012govuk on Twitter)

So as you may not have noticed, I’m one of the performing volunteers for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, in front of a total of 200,000 people in the stadium over three nights, and one billion TV viewers worldwide. Which, oddly, isn’t that daunting – probably because I’ve got a relatively small role.

You won’t get any particular spoilers from me (unless you want to know precisely where I’ll be, in which case just ask!) – but you may want to carve out 90 minutes of your life on Friday to watch the ceremony. I’ve seen most of it four times, and there are bits that still manage to either draw out a small tear. Or have me playing air synth with gusto.

So get in front of your TV just before 9pm UK time (or 4pm New York, 1pm California time). You’ll love it, I promise.

The Shard reminds me of…

The Shard reminds me of…

The Shard and Nineteen EIghty-Four The Shard and Nineteen EIghty-Four
McDonalds 1, anarchist demonstrators 0

McDonalds 1, anarchist demonstrators 0

So, Hyperham and I were watching the news reports about yesterday’s violence by some anti-capitalist demonstrators in Central London yesterday. Up flashed an image of a McDonalds being attacked.

The next thing you know, HyperHam has a sudden craving for McDonalds, and if it wasn’t the fact she had a baby strapped to her bosom (and she maintains that the taste of British McDonalds’ meat is sufficiently different to American McDonalds’ meat as to make it inedible), she’d probably have gotten up and biked over to our nearest McDonalds to get a burger.

Just how much is a house in London?

Just how much is a house in London?

I realise that alongside transport discussion, talking about house prices in London is one of the dreariest middle-class things one could possibly do in London, but since we’re looking for some kind of dwelling that has more than one bedroom to accomodate a screaming child, I’ve been taking more than a mild interest in property prices.

So when I noticed a “For Sale” sign besides a derelict building on the same main road as work, it perked my interest. Sure, the house was huge but on the minus side, it was on a busy road opposite a shopping centre and car park, in a fairly dodgy area of West London and in an era of falling house prices. It can’t be that expensive, surely?

Nope. To buy a derelict house that requires extensive renovation, on a busy but dodgy and certainly unglamorous part of West London, would set you back the not-inconsiderable price of £785,000. Sheesh.

So the long search for a 2-bedroom flat in an area with a nice school within an hours’ commute of Shepherds Bush continues…

Caught in the fringes of student protests in London

Caught in the fringes of student protests in London

Student protestors at Regent Street on 9 December 2010

Protestors at Regent Street on 9 December 2010

HyperHam and I were headed into Central London last night (for a thoroughly enjoyable Airplane! Q&A, as it happens) when our bus hit gridlock around Oxford Circus. I’d assumed it was general Christmas shopping traffic, until I saw the cars on the other side of the road replaced by a crowd of protestors waving placards and marching headed in the other direction.

Once we turned the corner and were headed down Regent Street, the marchers seemed to get a bit more demonstrative, and some of them started throwing orange barricades into the road, presumably to impede the progress of the police vehicles ahead and behind them. But given there were a pile of bricks on the road, they could have caused much more damage if they’d have wanted to.

Thankfully for us, they didn’t. Although since Prince Charles and Queen Camilla were apparently down a side street heading for the theatre (which we didn’t know at the time) maybe their attention was elsewhere.

Anyway, here’s some blurred shots of what little action we saw on Regent Street around 7.25pm.

The Hawksmoor in Covent Garden, London

The Hawksmoor in Covent Garden, London

Ob. disclaimer – we went to a Qype event and the soft opening of the new Hawksmoor in Covent Garden

Good luck on actually finding the place (psst: it’s pretty much opposite the famed Pineapple Dance Studios) – and once you do, you’ll find a very imposing set of double doors.

But get past those and there’s a friendly host who offers to take your coat. Not many places do that these days for free, so there’s a good start!

Down the steps, and as someone else mentioned, it’s a throwback to urbane 1950s New York, with a dark bar thronged with people supping cocktails and generally being fabulous. There’s not really any such thing as a bad cocktail, but the Hawksmoor Julip was tastily bitter, and the Concealed Weapon certainly was.

The bar snacks on offer are highly recommended – the lobster roll are oozing in gorgeousness and something slightly Oriental, while the lamb cutlets were very easy on the stomach.

Of course, all it did was whet the appetite, and we’ll have to come back one night for the steaks in the dining room, which looked opulent, spacious, gorgeous and well-lit.

Definitely somewhere you’d take Christina Hendricks on a date *swoon* and far more visually impressive than its predecessor.

Check out my review of Hawksmoor – I am almostwitty – on Qype

LondonEating & DrinkingRestaurantsSteak Houses

Change is not always good

Change is not always good

The GoldhawkFor the last ten years, my local of choice has been The Goldhawk. It’s a short walk from my house, and serves pretty good food and a wide selection of drinks for a London-reasonable price. And it’s always accepted my American Express cashback credit card, which is handy because I can tell myself that I get 10p back for every £10 I spend.

On Sunday, we had need of a Sunday roast dinner. So we blearily stumbled down to The Goldhawk for 12pm, and noticed change was in the air.

For a start, instead of the usual chirpy cheerful barmaids that usually greeted us, there was a strange man with a whispy Dad’s Army-esque spiv moustache. He was friendly and polite enough, but we had to ask for the Sunday lunch menu. Then it turned out that there wasn’t one – and we could choose from chicken, lamb or beef. When asked where the usual-vegetarian option was, he shrugged and said the suppliers hadn’t brought any in, and that apparently the pub had just changed hands from one national conglomerate to another – namely Faucet Inns.

Still, our stomachs cried out for a traditional Sunday roast and Miss H deferred to our immediate needs, and she ordered nachos and chips instead. I took out my American Express card for payment, and was immediately told, most apologetically, that they no longer took American Express. Disgrace! Still, our hunger could not be denied.

Our food came in due course, and here came the final change. One that was so heinous that if we hadn’t already paid, I’d have seriously contemplated going somewhere else. A very meagre allocation of roast potatoes – just two – AND NO YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS. A Sunday roast just isn’t a Sunday roast without Yorkshire puddings. And to top it all off, the puddings menu was non-existent too.

To be fair, the rest of the food was delicious, and I’ve had reasonably good times in The Goldhawk before so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But even so… be careful, Goldhawk Manager. That’s all I’m saying.

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