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Archive for the category “Travel”

An evening at home

Tonight is the first evening this week that I’ve actually been at home, and not working. It truly has been one of those weeks, despite my best-laid plans for calming things down this month.

So what’s been happening?

  • Monday was in the South Bank Centre in London, seeing a talk by Stephen Hawking, and a small celebration of his life in the week of his 75th birthday.  When I got the tickets, he’d been supposed to be there in person, but ill-health meant his speech and question/answer session were conducted on video screen instead. Disappointing, but fair warning of this had been given, and it was still a good evening. It would’ve been great to see him in person, but there we go.
    Interestingly, the event was sold out, but on the night it was only about half full. I suspect that a lot of people decided to not bother going, once they knew it would ‘only’ be a video appearance. Anyway, their loss.
  • Tuesday was at home, but doing a bundle of work that needed doing because….
  • Wednesday was back in London, taking the parents to see the matinee performance of Amadeus at the National Theatre. Which was bloody excellent, and will probably be written about more in another post. Having seen it, I then drove the parents home, and got back to mine about 11pm. Looong day!
  • Thursday evening was at the cinema, seeing the truly ridiculous (and thoroughly entertaining) xXx 3 – The return of Xander Cage.  A film so bad and ludicrous that it went full-circle and was stupidly brilliant.

Even today has been spent on-site rather than in my own office, so it’s still been harder on the braincells than it could’ve been.

All told, a bloody long – but also good – week, and one where I’m really quite happy to have nothing lined up for the weekend, so I can spend some time vegetating. Seems like a plan to me.

2017 Inspirations – Photography

As things change for me in 2017 – well, as I do new stuff, or restart old stuff – I’m hoping/intending/planning to write more about it here on D4D as well, along with things about what’s driving those choices.  So there’s a new subject/category to cover it all.  And this is where it all starts.

As long-term readers know, I was into photography for a long time, did pretty well at it, and even ended up taking a course while I was in Norfolk in order to better understand what the hell I was trying to do.

But since Norfolk and Suffolk, I’ve been doing a lot less photography. Some of that is due to my mobile phone, where the pixel count is higher than the SLR I still have. It’s also about faff – lugging an SLR around for the day (particularly when doing anything else, like one of my idiotically long walks) is a hefty job anyway, and it’s simply never ready for a quick photo. Using the SLR is a much bigger commitment in many ways, and over the last four years, I really haven’t been making that commitment.

This year, I want to change that, and do more where I actually go out with the SLR, with the intention of taking photos.

The first real inspiration for that has been this story on the BBC, of Dean Saunderson’s photos of a deserted Nottingham on Christmas morning. It’s something that works for me, having been to many places at ungodly-o’clock, and seeing them with very few people around. Oxford, for example, is beautiful at 5am on a summer Sunday morning – and the same applies for many other cities. So this is a theme/topic/idea I could get into, and will probably have a few goes at over this year.

We’ll see at the end of the year how I do on these inspirations. It’s going to be a year where I (hopefully) figure out more about the things I want to continue doing, and which ones I’ll be happier to leave by the wayside in order to do other things.

Eating Out – The 2016 Summary

In all over this year, I’ve had 22 Michelin-starred meals in 18 places, for a total of 36 stars all told.  I’ve tried to keep a wide range through the year, from pubs-with-stars through to some of the most spectacular-looking dining destinations in the UK.  In no particular order, I’ve been to…

  • Three-star
    • Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester Hotel, London
    • Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire
  • Two-star
    • Hélène Darroze at the Connaught Hotel, London (three times, including tonight)
    • Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham (twice)
    • Midsummer House, Cambridge
    • Hibiscus, London (now closed)
    • Hand and Flowers, Marlow
    • Manoir aux Quat Saison, Great Missenden, Oxon (for my Birthday, no less!)
    • Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, London
    • The Ledbury, London
    • Marcus at the Berkeley Hotel, London
  • One star
    • House of Tides, Newcastle (twice)
    • Raby Hunt, Summerhouses, Darlington
    • Pony & Trap, Chew Magna, Bristol
    • Paris House, Woburn, Beds
    • Benares, London
    • Alimentum, Cambridge
    • Wild Rabbit, Kingham, Oxon

Interestingly, neither of the three-starred places count anywhere notable on my favourites.  In my opinion the best restaurants of the year have been

  • 1st= Hélène Darroze
  • 1st= Midsummer House
  • 3rd= Hibiscus
  • 3rd= House of Tides

The best meals, on the other hand, is a smaller list – the top three would be…

  • Hélène Darroze – the second visit
  • Hélène Darroze – the first visit
  • Midsummer House

Yes, Darroze really is that good (in my opinion, of course – others may vary)

Alongside that, honorable mentions go to

  • Wild Rabbit – any other year, it would certainly have been in the top three, and indeed I’d say it’s probably number four/five in the list
  • Marcus – much as I dislike the man himself, I can’t deny that the meal was bloody marvellous

There are other places I still want to go (and I’m considering another Scotland visit at some point in 2017) but I won’t be going to anywhere like as many as this year.  I’ve massively enjoyed it, and I truly don’t want to become blase about the entire thing.

Waiting Around

I wrote a while back about how bad I am at doing nothing – something I hadn’t properly realised before this year.

In a related way, I’ve also found I’m not great at days when the only thing I’ve got planned is in the evening. It’s not too bad during the week, because I’ve done stuff during the day, and then just adding bits in the evenings.

But on weekends, it’s not the same. There’ve been a few days this year where I’ve had afternoon or evening stuff planned, and it’s left me feeling like I’m at a bit of a loss in the mornings, like it’s kind of freeweheeling a bit, not knowing quite what I want to do, or where I want to be.

Honestly, it’s not a feeling I’m overly comfortable with – I like having a plan, and getting on with it. Being in a holding pattern ’til later in the day isn’t something I do well.

I’m more aware of this now, and come 2017, I’ll be making better plans, knowing this about myself. If I’ve got something in the evening, I’ll also do something in a similar area earlier in the day – or just get better at having a half-day.

The Last Bits, and The Next Bits

It’s hard to believe that it’s only a week to Christmas Day, and two to the end of 2016.

This week we’ve had temperatures up around 10-13° C – which is ridiculous for mid-December – and I’ve been wandering around in shirt-sleeves.  (While also wondering just how people are walking about fully clad in coat, gloves, and even furry hats. What the bollocks are they going to do when it gets cold, for fuck’s sake?)

Yesterday was my penultimate Michelin-starred restaurant visit of the year, so it’s all coasting down to the end of year. Which is no bad thing, to be honest.

I’ve got some plans and ideas for 2017, but really I think the theme is “do less”.  I’ll still be doing all the stuff I’ve been doing in 2016, just less of it.  That’s the idea, anyway. Whether it’ll work out that way, well, only time will tell.

Theatrical – Thoughts

This year, as I’ve said before, I’ve seen a lot of plays – well, by my standards, at least.  Up until two years ago, I hadn’t been to the theatre in a long time, but for some reason it’s clicked into place over the last eighteen months or so, and I’ve been really enjoying it.

There’s been a lot of Shakespeare this year – partly because of 2016 being the 400th anniversary of his death, which has lead to a lot more stuff being staged, but also because it’s interesting, I know very little about it, and wanted to advance my knowledge of the plays to a greater or lesser degree.

At the same time, I’ve also seen other stuff along the way, and it’s pretty much all been interesting.

The full list for 2016 has been pretty impressive…

  • Faustus (adapted from the Christopher Marlowe original)
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe
  • King Lear, with Don Warrington as Lear
  • The Spoils (written by, and starring, Jesse Eisenberg)
  • Macbeth
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Threepenny Opera
  • The Alchemist
  • Faustus (original script, by the RSC)
  • King Lear, with Glenda Jackson as Lear
  • Tempest at Stratford-upon-Avon

There’s stuff already booked in for next year, too – including

  • Amadeus at the National Theatre
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Hamlet
  • Don Juan in Soho, a play by Patrick Marber
  • Obsession, with Jude Law

That’s it for now, but I’m sure there’ll be more to come as well.

Theatrical – The Tempest

This weekend, I went down to Stratford-upon-Avon to see The Tempest at the RSC Theatre.

As I wrote back in April, it’s been a busy year for me of going to the theatre, and this was the last visit of this year. I’ve already got a number of things next year, starting in mid-January, but for this year, I’m done.

I’d not seen Tempest before, and knew very little about it, but thoroughly enjoyed it. The staging is pretty epic, making use of the carcass of a ship for the stage surrounds, and a very cleverly designed floor with mirrored parts underneath. The lighting reflects off the mirrors and produces a number of different effects depending on the colour – it’s theoretically simple, but massively effective.

Additionally, they’ve done some really innovative stuff using technology and motion-capture, allowing them to project Ariel onto large mesh screens that also move, conveying the freedom of the spirit in a very effective and impressive way that would’ve kept me happy even if the rest of the play had been bobbins.

In particular, the man playing Ariel (Mark Quartly) does a fantastic job – beautifully conveying that he’s a spirit that most people can’t see, concealing himself among the stage timbers, with an outfit that shows him but also camouflages him very effectively. You forget he’s there, watching all, and then he moves and you remember and realise – it’s really quite creepy, but done in a really good way.

Mark Quartley as Ariel

Mark Quartley as Ariel

I found it interesting to also see the parallels between Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream, the similarity of some of the themes and so on. Indeed, a lot of the stuff for the spirits in Tempest could work really well for the fairies of Midsummer Night’s Dream – and I’d like to see it done.

It’s a fabulous production. I don’t honestly know that I’d be overly bothered about seeing the play itself again (although I probably will at some point) but if you’re going to see one version of it, this one’s bloody good.

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