Hi everyone and welcome to this weeks blog post (sorry for being late with it). I have been away for a few days so this blog post is likely to be a long one but hopefully you will find it interesting. So with that in mind I will start.
So this week I was off work and went away for a short city break. I went down to London. Now I say down to London as that is geographically correct for where I live but still lots of people say they ‘go up to London’. I know people who say this and even on Downton Abbey which is supposedly set in Yorkshire they say they are going up to London. I am not sure why this but I am sticking with the geographical correct version of down to London. Do let me know what you say.
Anyway I had planned my visit for a few months. I finally found some affordable accommodation and got some cheap train tickets so I was all ready for a few days away. The plan was to just go away for a few days, see some shows, catch up with a friend and basically relax and enjoy myself. It has been a long time since I have done that so I was looking forward to a few days just for me. I love London. I love the sights, sounds and the buzz that it has. I do however often feel a bit inferior though as everyone seems to be very good-looking and stylish although when you look closer they do look tired around the eyes. Anyway it was good to visit and here are some of the things that I did while visiting.
One of the reasons I love London is that there are so many great shows to see. When I visit I usually try to see a couple of shows and normally these are just musicals. This time however one of the shows I went to see was a play. The play was called Mojo and all I knew about it was that it was set in the 1960’s in London and about gangs. I thought it was going to be a serious play but in fact it turned out to be a black comedy. The reason I wanted to see the show was because of the ridiculously talented cast. Excluding the line up for the National Theatre 50 year celebrations, Mojo was one huge star filled line up. Well in my eyes anyway. The plays stars Rupert Grint, Daniel Mays, Ben Whishaw, Colin Morgan, Brendan Coyle and Tom Rhys Harries. This is a really talented cast and stars to actors who I am a huge fan of, they are Ben Whishaw and Colin Morgan. The play is on at the Harold Pinter theatre and I have never been to this theatre so I set off in plenty of time so that I can get some food and find the theatre. It turns out Planet Hollywood is just over the road so I go there for food. The fun thing about Planet Hollywood is looking at all the film props they have around the restaurant. anyway i finish my food and head over to the theatre to double-check the time and stuff. As I get near there are a few fans hanging around. I’m thinking they are way too early because the cast will already be inside and its a longtime until the end of the show. Just at that one of the girl pushes past me and runs to a hooded guy carrying sushi going in the main entrance. I look closer and realise it is Ben Whishaw. I am now excited and slightly star struck. I walk over and he speaks to the girl. He knows her by name so I am guessing she is a big fan. I want to ask if I can have a photo with him but I know it unfair to ask. The poor guy is at work and wants to go eat his sushi and not be pestered and I am not one to stop him. I do take a photo but it is a bit blurry. I posted it on Twitter and someone thought it was the Argos alien. Anyway he heads off inside and I decide to head off and look around some shops as there is still a long wait until the play starts. I decide to have a look inside the M&M World as I have heard about it but never been in. I go inside and I am hit by a sweet sickly smell of M&M’s and lots of merchandise. I buy a pen as I plan to see if I can get an autograph after the play. After looking around for a bit longer I head to the theatre. The bar is now open so I decide to buy a small glass of wine. The description of small certainly applies to the amount I get and not the price. It was in a plastic cup and was the amount to fill a thimble at the price of £6.40!! If there is one way to welcome us northerners to London it is to charge to us a fortune for alcohol. I use all my acting skills to hide my shock at the price and the amount of wine that is in my plastic cup. I try to make it last but 2 mouthfuls is difficult to make last. Anyway it is time for the play to start. I booked a seat in the dress circle row F. thinking this is not to far back. What I didn’t realise is that the theatre is only small and the dress circle only has rows up to F. However I do have a good view. As I wasn’t expecting it to be a comedy it took a while for me to get used to the style of production. The scene with Ben Whishaw with his top off while Colin Morgan is tied to a jukebox with his trousers down is a bit of distraction but I’m not complaining. The acting is great but occasionally struggled to hear Rupert Grint. He needs to project his voice more. It is good to see him doing something gritty but he still comes across as Ron. He is like how Ron would be in the muggle world without Hermione to keep him right. It is his first theatre role and he performs really well and hopefully he goes on to do more. Ben Whishaw and Daniel Mays are the top performers though. Ben Whishaw oozes stage presence and commands your attention in every scene he is in. Daniel Mays delivers some of the best acting I have seen for a long time and I would expect award nominations for him. After a slightly confusing first half things do come together in the second half. I did enjoy the play and felt quite lucky to have seen such a great cast. I would give it 3.5/5. I leave the theatre and look down the road at the stage door. It is not too busy yet so I decide to go down and join the other fans. I have a good view and the security guards then say that only Tom, Daniel and Colin are going to be signing autographs as the other three have already left. I don’t believe they have left that quickly (maybe Rupert Grint has a broomstick on the roof) but fair enough. I still want to wait to see Colin Morgan so stay where I am. First Daniel Mays comes out. He talks to everyone and poses for pictures and signs autographs. Then after he goes Colin Morgan comes out and he is also happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
Someone near me asks to shake his hand and he does so I decide to ask as well. I know I am 32 and is a little sad but hey it is a good opportunity. I ask for his autograph and if I can shake his hand. He says yeah and we shake hands. He is then greeted by the scary fan I met early. It turns out she is Russian and has sent him gifts. I don’t know what the gifts were but he said to her ‘he felt it was too much but thanked her’. I decide to head off now leaving the crazy fan behind and walk away. As I look down at my programme I realise he hasn’t actually signed it. I must have distracted him with the handshake. Never mind I’m not going back amongst the crowd i have had my moment.
The second show that I went to see was Once the Musical. I went on Wednesday evening which was my last night in London. This is not your typical musical there are no fancy costumes or huge dance numbers and certainly no jazz hands it is more Irish Folk music. But before you die-hard musical fans start to turn away it does have some beautiful songs such as ‘Falling Slowly’, ‘Sleeping’ and ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’. It is based on a film from 2007 and tells the story of an Irish musician whose life has ‘stopped’ and he meets a Czech girl who helps start it again. It is so moving and uplifting and yes it did move me to tears. I want to say it was a show I needed to see but that just sounds odd but that’s the best way I can describe it. It help put somethings in my life into perspective. I strongly recommend that if you get the chance to see it you must go or at the very least listen to the soundtrack. It is the best show I have seen in years and would give the show 5/5.
As well as being a great show it was an interesting night for me. I had arranged to collect my ticket at the box office. I was in the stalls in the second top-tier pricing. When I went to collect the ticket the member of staff told me I had been upgraded to the tope price ticket in the stalls. I didn’t think this happened to theatre tickets. I know you can have your hotel room upgraded or plane ticket but never theatre ticket. The new seat was a good view so no complaints there. To add to this good feeling the bar for the stalls was actually part of the set which meant I could go on stage. This was too good an opportunity. I don’t need asking twice to go onto a stage nether mind the stage of top West End musical. I did put my acting ability to good use as tried to not to look horrified at the price of a J20 at £5.40. Then while audience members are on stage the cast then come out on stage and start playing instruments and singing just like in a traditional Irish bar. After a few songs everyone leaves the stage and take their seats ready for the show to begin and my patience with audience members starts to wane. As I am watching the show an older guy the other side of the centre aisle from me and a couple of rows back starts talking to his wife quite loudly. This is so rude not only to everyone else watching but to the cast on stage. I give a few evil glares and hope that works. Just as he stops I could hear some clicking. It turned out to be the guy sat behind the talking man who was turning his watch face and when he did this it clicked. I tried the evil look on him but it didn’t work. At the interval I could hear a few others near me complaining loudly about the disturbance. The young couple behind me then said very loudly so that the two men (I would have said gentlemen but they weren’t) could hear “I hope who ever was talking and also clicking their watch will stop it in the second half of the show) I turned and agreed with him. I think they got the message as it was better in the second half. When the show finished I wiped away my tears and clapped when the cast came to do their curtain call. I did give a standing ovation as did a small number of others but this seems to be a rare thing. I remember always seeing standing ovations at the theatre but recently when I have been it hasn’t really happened. This is nothing bad about the productions I have seen they have all been top quality it is just people have stopped giving standing ovations. So next time you are at the theatre or cinema even and you want to show your appreciation then give a standing ovation it means a lot to the cast.
The weather for my visit was cold and a bit wet and on Tuesday first thing it was quite miserable. I decided it was a day for galleries and museums so I head off to Tate Modern. I love this art gallery. My favourite piece that they have is Monet’s water-lily painting. It is in a different room from last time and there is no seat which is a shame. I like to sit and look at this painting. I don’t know why but I just find it a very relaxing painting. The gallery is full of school parties though which means it is quite noisy. After spending the morning there I leave Tate Modern and now that the rain has stopped I walk along the South Bank. If someone asked me what my perfect day would consist of one of the things would be walk along the South Bank in London. It is just a great place and there’s always something going on. From the South Bank I head off to Trafalgar Square past the giant blue cockerel (I’m guessing it is some sort of political statement)for the National Gallery & National Portrait Gallery. I love both of these galleries although the National Gallery always has Lily’s in the entrance and that is the one flower I don’t like the smell of. In the National Gallery there’s a small exhibition called ‘Treason, Plot & Murder’ which is very apt for Bonfire night and I have a little look around it. From the National Gallery I move to the National Portrait Gallery. This is a great place I love the mix of paintings and photographs through the ages. The following day I continued with my cultural visit by going to the British Museum. This is a great place and what I love is that each time I go I discover something new. This time it was the Warren cup which is basically a gay roman cup but is important in roman history and also LGBT history I discovered. In fact the British Museum is quite good for people interested in gay history and they have even done a book about it. Last time I visited London I wasn’t ‘out’ and would have felt awkward with all this but not now. Anyway I thought this was a better option than Soho.
Because the weather was bad on Wednesday my plan to do shopping on Oxford Street after the British Museum went out of the window and instead I got my first ever London bus and went to the cinema to see Thor:The Dark World. I had been looking forward to this film but I left feeling a bit underwhelmed. Normally Chris Hemsworth swinging his hammer about does it for me but even that didn’t improve things. Also Natalie Portman seems to have resorted back to her poor acting ability that show demonstrated in Star Wars. She is a better actress than this and doesn’t need to do it. The whole film felt a bit too much like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ with all the Dark Elves. It was good however watching a film in London that was partly set in London. although they need to get their facts right Greenwich is not three stops on the Tube from Charing Cross. Overall I would give the film 3/5.
On Tuesday night (Bonfire Night) I met up with a friend for food and a catch up. It is great to see him again and doing so well in the big city. Maybe one day I can do the same as him. It is a big decision to make that type of move but if the chance comes along you sometimes have to go for it. Maybe it is just a dream. Anyway after talking it has made me realise to start moving forward with my career and hopefully my personal life and it has made me think about things but all in a good way. I didn’t see any fireworks on Bonfire night but BT tower did seem to have some electronic fireworks so that was something. After food we said our goodbyes and I headed off into central London in case there were some fireworks near the river. There weren’t but there were lots of people wearing what I call V for Vendetta masks. Apparently there was some protest going on. The ones I saw were dancing around in a circle in Trafalgar square to the song ‘Paint It Black’ which was quite creepy. I did manage to miss all the protest though which was a good thing.
Putting the scary mask people to one side I do love London at night. There is a great atmosphere and buzz.Everywhere stays open late and it is always busy in the centre. Each night I wandered through Leicester Square down into Trafalgar Square, along the South Bank and back to Westminster to get the tube back to my hotel. I never felt threatened or scared it was a great feeling. This is why London is one of my favourite cities.
I had a great time in London and hopefully will be back again to see more shows and have a good time. Before leaving London I couldn’t resist getting my photo taking at platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross Station.
That is it for this week. Hope you have enjoyed it. I will be back on time next Sunday. Until then bye for now.
Top Programme of the Week – Downton Abbey
Top Song of the Week – Cast of Once – Falling Slowly
Book I Am Currently Reading – North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell