D4D

Hasta La Muerte, Motherfucker

Archive for the category “Travel”

Situation Standard

Yet again, I appear to now be idiotically busy over the next few weeks – well, really ’til the end of the year, what with one thing and another.  I still don’t quite know how I end up doing this to myself, but it’s pretty much standard behaviour these days.

I’m not complaining – in general I like being busy, and prefer it to days doing nothing  – but every so often I look at the calendar, and the board that holds all my upcoming tickets, and think “Lyle, you really are a bloody idiot“.

So, just in the next six weeks, and in no particular order, I will be…

  • Seeing Sir Ian McKellen as King Lear in Chichester (and staying overnight, possibly stopping off in Oxford on the way back)
  • A one-day conference in Birmingham, which may or may not happen, depending on other work commitments/stuff
  • A day-trip blitz run to Sheffield
  • A day in London doing a food festival in the morning, and a play in the evening
  • followed the next day by a day-trip run to Middlesbrough and Durham (for reasons I won’t go into now, as it’d identify the dates I’m away)
  • a weekend in Newcastle (which is, of course, not the same one as being up in Middlesbrough, despite proximity and so on)
  • A day trip to Cambridge
  • An evening in London, via Oxford (there’s reasons, but yeah, still idiotic)
  • And at least two other visits to London (with another one in early December)

Not just those travels, but somewhere in there also needs to be

  • Finally getting the starter motor on my car replaced (a hassle/fight that’s taken way too long, and will get written about some other time)
  • Seeing a number of films, which I’ve already got tickets for
  • other (more local) food things
  • Working (of course)
  • And finishing off two other projects.

In short, all a bit mad.

I know I’ve said it before – but for next year I need to start doing a little bit less, not being so booked up, and allocate some downtime for myself.  I just need to get some perspective on it all – because ‘downtime’ for me is also car-time and driving-time, it’s time where I can just float a bit, figure things out and so on.

Mind you, that’s also what I’ll be doing over the next six weeks, so I can figure bits out and what I want to do (and how) in 2018…

The Man Behind The Curtain

I mentioned in the last post that I’d done a day-trip to Leeds, and that I would write more about it.  So, here we are.

One of the Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Michael O’Hare‘s “The Man Behind The Curtain” in Leeds. It’s always been booked solid, but when I looked on a whim a couple of months ago, I discovered that there was a table for four free for a late lunch on Saturday. I called the other friend who was interested in the same place , and I booked it.

That’s where the first shock came in. The entire price of the meal was paid at the time of booking, including the wine – and the service charge!  Now to me, that’s taking the piss.  The only other Michelin-starred place I’ve seen with that attitude is The Fat Duck, and even there it’s “only” the food that is paid for ahead of time, not the wine and tip. Every other place I’ve been has taken a credit card number, and said “if you don’t show up, you’ll pay the full price”, which is fine with me.  Paying up front for it all seems very dodgy.

Anyway, I did that, and last Saturday was the day.

I’d hired a car for doing it as a day-trip, as I was also driving the others there and back, and it makes life fun.

“The Man Behind The Curtain” is… highly individual.  First things first, it’s on the top floor of a department store – definitely not somewhere you’d just wander into! As it turns out, it now *was* on the top floor – our meal was the last lunch served in the top floor, and they were moving to the basement after the dinner service.

It’s a strange space, seemingly more of a gallery than a restaurant. The walls were graffitied and arty, with chicken-wire clouds above some tables. I’ve never been anywhere else like it – but that also shows in the food.  Again it’s very arty – some of the food is quite spectacular, as is the crockery it arrives in. In particular, “Emancipation”, which is cod in squid-ink, basically black food on a black “droplet” plate…

That was just one of the ten ‘courses’.  And they were all brilliant.

Honestly, I kind of wanted to not like it, to be unimpressed by the entire place. I feel really strongly about the whole ‘pay upfront’ thing, and think it gives a really bad impression of the restaurant. But the food, the atmosphere, and the service of the place all combined to leave me still impressed.

It was a really good day, and decent drives there and back (two hours door-to-door each way) helped as well.

King of the Air

Today, the news is full of the ‘shocking’ news of Monarch Airlines ceasing to trade.  I’m more surprised that anyone’s surprised, to be honest.

Now OK, Monarch are (semi) local to me, I know people who work(ed) there – but no-one who was in key positions, finance etc.  However, it’s no shock to me at all that they’ve gone under – in many ways I’ve been more surprised that they’ve gone on as long as they have.

The Wikipedia page contains a summary of it – but it’s stuff I was aware of anyway, having watched the news and so on.

Three years ago, they were nearly bankrupt. They got a last-minute bailout/buyout by Greybull Capital, which was all that allowed them to keep trading. Three years ago.

This time last year, rumours came up about their potential bankruptcy. They got a last-minute extension to their ATOL licence (similar to the activities of last weekend) after another £160-odd million fund injection from Greybull and other investors.

Between those warnings, the drop in customers in markets that were key to them (tourism to Tunisia and Egypt, primarily) and other competition, and the general atmosphere post-Brexit, it was no surprise at all.  I fully expect a couple of others to collapse as well.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a shitty situation – for the people who work there, and for the passengers and customers who are currently wondering what’s going to happen.  But it still shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Personally, I know that I wouldn’t have booked anything with them, regardless.

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining – I suspect RyanAir are ecstatic about all those extra Monarch pilots and crew suddenly becoming available (and without even needing expensive relocation packages) that can fill the gaps in their current schedule.  Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if RyanAir didn’t aim to buy up a lot of the Monarch stuff – planes, staff, routes etc., and make money off the misfortune of Monarch.

Fluffy

This evening, I’m off to London to see a comedian called Gabriel Iglesias (AKA “Fluffy”) at Hammersmith Apollo.

It’ll be the second time I’ve seen him, and I’m looking forward to it. When the tickets were announced, I got them straight away – at the same time griping about it being a Friday night gig, wishing it could be a Saturday, but there we go, it was the one that was announced.

The Friday sold out pretty quickly, so there’s now a Saturday night gig too – which is kind-of annoying, but still, I’m happy to be going for the original date, the one that should have sold to the people who really wanted to see it, rather than the also-ran “yeah, kinda interested”s, who’ll end up at in the Saturday one.

It makes for a long old day, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

Marathonic

[Apologies to anyone who’s already read a similar post on Facebook!]

So – Saturday night was the night of the Shine Walking Marathon. As I’ve said before, I knew it was likely that I might run (well, walk) into problems this time, because of other stuff that’s happened over the last six weeks or so, both with new boots (and resultant blisters) and the initial damage from the walk on National Burger Day.

So I wasn’t fully optimistic about the day, but also I wasn’t going to duck out without at least trying.  I still wanted to complete it if I possibly could, but I was also prepared to back out if it got too much.

And as it turned out, that’s what happened.  Annoyingly, it was the damage from that first walk, which didn’t take long to reblister, swell with blood, and then burst/split. Indeed, it happened within the first three miles. After that, I still did another three, but it was hurting enough that I decided to stop before it became even more serious.

I’m still really disappointed in myself for having bailed – although everyone else I know has effectively told me to not be so bloody stupid – and narked that Life threw so many obstacles and hindrances at me in the last six weeks.

Of course, I’ve now signed up for next year’s one, so I’ll be working on sorting myself out and repairing all the damage over the next three months, and getting properly prepared for it.

 

Stratford

Over the weekend, I went to Stratford-on-Avon.  It’s somewhere I’ve only been once before, and had thought it was a long drive to get there.  Then when I got in the car on Saturday morning, I discovered it’s actually only 70 miles, and so only just over an hour.  Why had I thought it was much further? Because I’m an idiot – last time I went, I travelled via Cheltenham, for lunch at Champignon Sauvage (it was part of my Michelin Project last year)

So I got there a lot earlier than I’d originally planned/expected to, which gave me plenty of time to wander and explore the place a bit, and do some other stuff as well.  Last time I went, I got mislaid a couple of times (not majorly – it’s too small a place to get properly lost in) so I wanted to do things differently this time.

I really enjoyed wandering around – or at least until midday or so, once the coach trip people had all woken up and descended on the place, along with usual weekend shoppers and the like.  But it’s a nice place that’s easy to walk around, and my mental map of it is now a lot more comprehensive.

Then I met up with a friend, M, with whom I was having lunch, and then seeing a play later – see, there was a reason for going, it wasn’t just random!

We had lunch at Salt, a passion-project restaurant for the chef, Paul Foster, who used Kickstarter to fund getting it running. That was thoroughly enjoyable, and is definitely somewhere I’ll be returning to next year when there’s other RSC stuff on that I want to see.

Afterwards, we had some time to kill, so sorted out booking into our respective hotel rooms, then took a ride on the Stratford Ferris Wheel, and then pre-performance cocktails at the RSC.

Finally, we saw Coriolanus at the RSC (about which more another time) , and back to hotels.  I’d booked the room before realising how easy the drive home would’ve been, so that was a bit of expense I won’t need to make next time, but it still made for a decent weekend away from home.

Healing Heels

Over the last three weeks, I’ve managed to damage and hurt my feet more than I have in the previous year or more.  And it’s all preceding a walking marathon at the end of September, so it’s been a little bit stressful.

It all started (as I wrote at the time) with an ill-fated walk to National Burger Day, during which I discovered I’d destroyed the insoles of my current walking boots.

New boots obtained, I wore them and tested them on the 3rd September, with walking to and around Meatopia, then going on to do a concert in them. All told, I was on my feet – in new boots – for 16 or 17 hours, and while I didn’t actively damage myself on that one, I was definitely hurting by the end of it, and changing shoes to drive home was a joy.

Then over this weekend just gone, I went back to London and did an eight-mile walk – but with different socks. And because of that, I ended up with a huge and red-raw blister on one heel.

I’m done now on distance walks until the actual event at the end of the month – so everything will be healed up and fine by then.

As it is, though, right now my confidence is at a low about completing the marathon.  Events (and boots) have conspired against me somewhat, and I’m just trying to decide on my best options at the moment, whether to go with my old (and broken in) boots with new replacement insoles, or stick with the new boots and decent walking socks. Honestly, I don’t know which will be best.

I’ll still be going, and I’ll be doing my best. I’m still 75-85% certain I’ll complete the course.  But if I’m in danger of causing myself serious harm, I’m going to stop and not complete it.  I’ll do my best, but not at the expense of serious damage.

And if I do drop out, I’ll sign up to do next year’s one instead, and be better prepared for that.

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