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Theatre and the Arts seems to be drawing my attention at the moment. Last week, Natalie invited me to a charity preview of Elizabeth: the Golden Age. The tickets were a little expensive but the profits went to Breast Cancer Research.

At the end of the evening we decided it was well worth the ticket price.

  • We saw the movie the day before it premiered at Leicester Square.

  • We were offered champagne on arrival. I never turn down a free glass of champagne (or three free glasses of champagne.)

  • After the film we were treated to a talk from the film's Costume designer and Make-up director.

  • On departure we were given a goody bag with a t-shirt, movie soundtrack and a block of chocolate (score!).

The film was enjoyable and beautifully shot. The costumes were amazing as well! I often wondered where certain scenes were filmed. Usually, I was trying to figure out where the scene was shot so I could visit it one day. (This is why the Filming Locations link on IMDB is invaluable.)

In the talk afterwards, the costume designer mentioned that the film was historically inaccurate. Even though I've learned a lot about English history in the past year or so, I didn't up the errors. I've now gone and read a bit more about the Spanish Armada and Sir Walter Raleigh. The filmmakers have rearranged the timeline and embellished some events to spruce up the story. The lesson I guess is to learn history from books and not from Hollywood movies. (Although, in my case it's history by the way of Wikipedia.)

The costume designer also mentioned that although Elizabeth appears in a blue dress in the film, this would not have been the case. She didn't explain this comment though so I had to do a little research.

"During Elizabeth's reign, indigo as a dyestuff grew more and more popular. It was widely available and inexpensive, easy to transport in the form of dyecakes, and relatively permanent compared to many other dyestuffs of the time. As a result, it became a popular dye for the clothing of servants and others of a lower station. Soon, the color blue itself became associated with the state of servitude. As such, it is a good choice for someone wishing to dress as a maid, cook, or other type of servant." -- from elizabethancostume.net

jess - 3rd Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london nablopomo film nablopomo07

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Finally we are starting to take advantage of our proximity to the West End. A couple of weekends ago we finally went to see Spamalot. It's been on our list of things to do since it opened in September last year.

Natalie snapped up some tickets from some English rugby fans who had decided to watch the Rugby World Cup final instead. I wonder if they were satisfied with the transaction? They lost around 20 pounds each on the tickets to watch England lose the cup (ah! sweet revenge.)

Andrew and I had both been looking forward to the production as we're keen Python fans. Andrew, more so; he can quote the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, word for word. The production is based on the film so we had high hopes for an enjoyable evening.

Unfortunately, we were disappointed by Spamalot. Maybe our high expectations were our undoing. The whole thing seemed a little stale and was like a big university revue, with a better budget. Well, a university revue where you already knew all the jokes.

I think this reviewer sums up my thoughts nicely (maybe a bit harshly):
"...[Spamalot] systematically reverses everything that made the original funny. It is one big revue of cliches. The laughs are easy and unearned... Spamalot is the gaudy climax of a long, unfunny tradition of post-Python exploitation - books, action figures, video games - that treats the old material as a series of slogans to be referenced without doing any of the work that made the lines so original in the first place." -- Sam Anderson*

All things Python are hastily cobbled together with little new material. Always Look on the Brightside, the Fish Slapping dance, and the Finland song all make an appearance. There is a new song called "You won't succeed in Broadway..." which pokes fun at the Jewish. Obviously a joke designed for Broadway audiences as I didn't find it funny at all. Oh, and we heard the worst comedic French accent from the actors playing the French soldiers.

I did find their references to the World Cup Final, which was being played as we watched the show, quite funny. The Knights who say "Ni" turned into the Knights who say "'Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-pikang-zoop-boing-goodem-zoo-owli-zhiv... would you like to know the score?"

But now I'm just sounding ungrateful. The tickets were my birthday present from Natalie. Thanks Natalie. I did enjoy the evening! A chance to complete a London goal, a great meal of Okonomiyaki, a few giggles and good company were more than enough for me to rate the evening as a "great night". It was certainly better than watching the rugby.

Some photos of the Okonomiyaki from Abeno Too:

Asahi Black Abeno Too
Cooking Okonomi-yaki Condiments
Okonomi-yaki Dancing flakey bits

*Anderson, Sam (2006-06-21). And Now For Something Completely Deficient.

jess - 2nd Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london food nablopomo theatre nablopomo07 explore_london

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Silly me, I've signed up for NaBloPoMo again. Can't remember what it is? Well, it's National Blog Posting Month. Last year someone in the blogosphere decided to commit to posting an entry on their blog every day for the month of November. Members of the blog world love a challenge so we all joined in too. I remember it being a bit of a struggle but still lots of fun. I'm sure it was great for you guys because you had an entry to read every day (even if it was an entry of dubious quality.) Despite the difficulty rating, I've signed up again this year.

NaBloPoMo seems to be easier if you have a theme to run with. Along with the normal entries about daily life, I've decided I'll post entries along the theme of "I like living in London because...". I'm determined to absolutely love living here this time. My entries might just put me in the right frame of mind.

(Although, there may not be that many entries on my I HEART London list. I have lots of other stuff to blog about too. We've just returned from a 7-day holiday in Italy. Surely that counts for a few entries. Also, in November, we've booked a mini-break to Poland. That's good blog fodder too. Time will tell.)

jess - 1st Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: nablopomo nablopomo07

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On Saturday we were able to take part in something new and completely different. A re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings.

All I could remember from year 10 history lessons is that the Battle of Hastings took place in the year 1066. After our attendance at the re-enactment I'm now much more knowledgeable on the subject. The Battle of Hastings happened on October 14th in 1066. Duke William and his Norman army were trying to invade England. King Harold and his army were trying to stop them. (That's a very concise version of events; go forth and learn at Wikipedia.)

After the battle, the victorious William ordered that an abbey be built to commemorate the victory. It was named Battle Abbey. The ruins are still there today and the surrounding village is called Battle after the Abbey. The re-enactment on the weekend was staged on the site of the original battle, the ruins of the Abbey as a backdrop.

I was actually surprised at how much fun we had at the re-enactment. Highlights of the day:
  • Battle of Hastings as re-enacted by under 10s - The morning started with a children's version of the Battle of Hastings. It was hilarious! Groups of kiddies sprinting across a field and then clumsily thwaping each other with foam swords.

  • Falconry display - a demonstration by historical falconers. They showed us the types of birds the nobility would use for sport in the 11th Century. We saw a Eurasian Eagle Owl, the largest species of owl, which can weigh up to 4kg and a Peregrine Falcon, a bird only the richest of noble could afford. During the display the Peregrine Falcon dived and swooped over the heads of the audience. It was quite disconcerting. The Peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth when it dives. It reaches speeds of over 300km/h.

  • Knight's training - a display of training exercises the Norman cavalry would drill. These included spearing a man made of straw, throwing a spear at a shielded serf, sword strike at a cabbage and chasing a serf. All on horseback of course.

  • Medieval fair - there were a number of stalls selling 'medieval' wares... cloaks, bows and arrows, wooden chests, etc. The people involved in the re-enactment had camped nearby and wandering through the camp was like travelling back in time. People dressed in 11th Century clothing were mending garments, cooking on open fires and repairing shields and armour.

The major event of the day was the Battle of Hastings re-enactment at 3pm. This time it was grown men running across a field and then thwapping each other with swords. Although, there was the added excitement of bows and arrows and cavalry. It was interesting enough but slightly tedious and a bit repetitive. I'm sure it's more exciting when you're in the thick of things.

In 1066, the Normans (the French) were the victors on the day. Legend tells that King Harold died after being shot in the eye with an arrow. Duke William the victor, became the King of England and is now known as William the Conqueror.

Later that evening, back in the present, there was another re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings, albeit a less accurate re-enactment. France vs England in the Rugby World Cup at Saint-Denis stadium in France. Unfortunately, the English won this time.

More photos on Flickr...
Duke William Knights in Training

jess - 17th Oct 2007, 11:11 tags: travel london quirky explore_london hastings

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And now it's gone really quiet around here. The reason why? I have managed to secure a job. Yay! ( maybe.)

Andrew, being the very talented and gifted person that he is, was employed almost as soon as he stepped in the country. We arrived in London on a Wednesday, he had an interview on the Thursday and he was offered the job on the Friday. He's been working very hard now for a few weeks.

On the other hand, I had decided that I wasn't going to look too actively for a new job. I didn't have much success with either of my previous two contracts in London. I was going to enjoy the time off (well the continued time off. We'd already been on holidays for 2 months). I was going to go shopping at the veggie markets on Portobello Rd, run in Hyde Park in the afternoons, and just generally slack off.

In the typical way of things, when you aren't looking for something, it tends to fnd you. I was actively pursued by a recruiter. I interviewed for a role and was offered the contract. I couldn't really turn it down to be an unemployed bum. The role looks promising, but I'm taking it one day at a time.

The bad news (well for me) is that I'm working for a big MNC with a strict Internet policy. I have no fushmush mail, no hotmail, no gmail, no MSN, no Facebook. I've been too scared to try too many of my other time-wasting sites. This is my first role since 1998 where I've actually had nothing better to do than work.

The good news is it's a pretty cool place to work. There is a gym and a library. It's a cashless workplace so all I need is my ID to buy my lunch or a snack. They have follow me printing. I print from a PC, walk to any printer in the office, swipe my ID and my jobs will print there. My desk is in the atrium, under natural light and next to a tree. His name is Gary.

Let's hope it all works out. I have my fingers crossed.

jess - 10th Oct 2007, 11:11 tags: london

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