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Archive for the category “Day Trips”

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.

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.

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.

“Quiet” August

When this month started, I said it was going to be a quiet one, before the storm that is my September.  And of course, me being me, it hasn’t really worked out that way at all.

Instead there’s been several visits to the cinema, a bundle of social evenings with food and the like, catching up with people, three or four London days, and all of that jazz. In some ways I’ve been busier in August that I am in usual months – the difference has been that I’ve been based from home, rather than weekends away.

Looking back, it seems like this is actually pretty much standard – last year was the same, and so was 2015. (although there’s no ‘busy’ post as such, I was still doing a lot of stuff)  So that idea of a ‘quiet’ month is… pretty much bollocks, really.

And then yesterday was a late afternoon / early evening visit to the National Burger Day event down in London (which will be a post all of its own, I’m sure). Still to come this month I’ve got another big walk over the weekend, a cinema visit, and a social thingy, and then the idiocy of September, which currently includes (but is not limited to)…

  • Meatopia on the Saturday and Sunday  (although the Sunday is somewhat based on what’s going to be on, but I haven’t bailed on one yet)
  • as well as seeing the Sisters of Mercy on the same Saturday evening. (Yes, I’m a lunatic)
  • possibly a pub-crawl of sorts
  • Seeing Coriolanus in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Walking a full marathon overnight in London at the end of the month
  • Two other concerts as well as the Sisters of Mercy.

So yeah, daftness abounds. As ever.

Saturday – Chris Ofili, Weaving Magic

Following on from seeing the Giacometti and Soul of A Nation exhibitions, my final visit was to the National Gallery, to see “Weaving Magic” by Chris Ofili.

A friend of mine had seen this and really liked it, hence why I wanted to see it.

It’s a fantastic tapestry – designed by Ofili, and then handwoven by Dovecot Tapestry Studio, and based on “I know why the caged bird sings“, by Maya Angelou. It’s also been staged and displayed really well, in a room of its own, which has also been decorated by Ofili.

So you end up with a room covered in murals like this

And then the tapestry itself, the only thing of colour in the room

It’s well worth seeing – if you get the chance to go before the end of August, I’d recommend it. Even better, it’s free to go in and see it, which is… noteworthy, in the current climate.

Saturday – Soul of A Nation

While I was in Tate Modern on Saturday, I also went to see the “Soul Of A Nation” exhibition, which is about Black Art during the Civil Rights movement.  It’s not one I was really planning on seeing, and more of an impulse “Oh, why not” thing, but it was still interesting.

The Civil Rights movement happened in the US before I was born – not by much, but obviously by enough.  I know the basics of it, but not a lot of the detail, and always feel I should know more about it.   It absolutely amazes me that it was all relatively recent, that it was all happening fifty years ago. In that context, it’s amazing how far we’ve come – although there’s still a long way to go.

Anyway, it was an interesting exhibition – although there was a significant amount of (in my opinion) shite stuff, there was also enough to make it worth having gone in.  I also got to learn about AfriCOBRA, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists – most of which was admittedly bad, but still, made me laugh just for its honesty.

One of the other things I found interesting (and slightly sad) was that in an exhibition so deeply connected to Black Art, African-American History and Civil Rights, every single person viewing it was white.  There was a quote on one wall, the gist of which was that Visual Arts were the biggest bastion of White Male artists, and the exhibition visitors certainly helped to reinforce tbat.

All told, it was interesting enough. I don’t think I’d bother seeing it again, but I’m still glad I did get to see it.

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