Sunday, 28 February 2010

Italy Trip - Rome

Wonderful Cherubs - St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

The Swiss Guard - The Vatican

Margaret on St Peters Square

St Peters Square

The Spanish Steps

The Trevi Fountain

Me and Margaret

The Colosseum

It was an early start as myself and my Auntie Margaret set off for the eternal city on the 6AM Bus. A journey that would take us about four and a half hours to get to Rome. I slept through most of it !

The city of Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber river within the Lazio region of Italy.
We caught the Metro to the centre and our first port of call was the Colosseum. (70–80 AD), the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire. Originally capable of seating 60,000 spectators, it was used for gladiatorial combat. You could really sense the atmosphere and imagine the Gladiators doing battle.
Next port of call was the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)which is a spectacular sight. Standing 25.9 meters (85 feet) high and 19.8 meters (65 feet) wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city.
A traditional legend says that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. I hope so.
After a quick beer and Tiramisu stop it was off to the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) dominated by the church of Trinità dei Monti. The Scalinata is the longest and widest staircase in Europe. These days it seems to be a very popular meeting place for chilling out.
To get to the Vatican a bus was required (number 62). It was a beautiful day and the temperature was over 20 degrees. It was just lovely to lay on the steps in St Peters Square. Or at least it was until the Police came along and moved me along !!! We then visited the amazing St Peters Basilica which was stunning. My photos don't do justice to the amazing architecture and sheer size of the Basilica.
St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the Basilica. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age.

Considering that we only had such a short time I think we did pretty well to see so many of the wonderful sights. Of course we only really scratched the surface and didn't have time to check out the many famous galleries and museums. I was amazed at the number of monuments and statues almost everywhere. Truly a fantastic place and one of the worlds great capital cities.

Thankfully we caught the train to Naples before our connection to Sorrento. An exhausting but wonderful day. Bella Roma !!!!!!

Italy Trip - Sorrento

A Hoopee.

Sorrento Harbour.

View of Sorrento from Piazza Tusso

I am lucky to have relatives living in Sant Agata which is very close to Sorrento and the beautiful Amalfi coast in Italy.
I had some holiday to use up from work before the end of February so it was a quick decision to swap the snow and ice of England for a few days of Italian sunshine.

Whilst in Santa Agata I managed to spot a bird i've always wanted to see !! A Hoopee which really made my day. As a means of celebration I called into a local Tavern and was soon mingling with the locals drinking Perroni. It wasn't long before I was helping them with their English football coupons !! And I picked 3 wins and a draw, unfortunately Rochdale lost at home else I would have been back for free drinks. As it was I got given complimentary Amaretto so all was good.
Another experience was at the Italian barbers. Unfortunatey communication was limited ... Therefore the slight trim I was hoping for turned out to be quite a severe chopping of my golden locks. At least he seemed to be enjoying himself.
Then it was the turn of a rather elderly gent who didn't exactly inspire confidence when he dropped the cutthroat razor twice. Undaunted I let him carry on and quite enjoyed the close shave and the pampering with several herbal smelling lotions and potions. Altogether it lasted well over an hour and cost about ten pounds - A bargain !!

Sorrento is a lovely place to visit. Land of Mermaids. Land of Orange and Lemon Groves. Land of Colors. This small city in Campania has earned various alluring names. Famed for its sea cliffs, the town's steep slopes look out over azure waters to Ischia, Capri and the Bay of Naples. The birthplace of Limoncello liqueur is great for diving, sea fishing, boat cruises and meandaring through the labrynth of traditional shops and restaurants. I was quite happy to wander around for hours after stopping off for the occasional beer.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bigelf & Priestess Oxford 20/2/10

Kyle & David


Damon Fox and me

Damon Fox

The Great man in Trademark Top Hat

Bigelf are in my humble opinion unique. They have been defined as a progressive rock/progressive metal band. Throw in some Psychadelic Glam Rock and you will soon start to build up a picture. They were formed in Los Angeles, CA in 1991 by larger than life front man Damon Fox.
The trip to Oxford got off to an interesting start. After leaving my wifes car in the Park and ride we went straight to the New Theatre to see if there was any sign of the band. Strangely enough 'The Rat Pack' was being billed for the night. When I checked the tickets I realised the gig was at the Academy on the Cowley Road. I suggested a 'time out' to Mrs A while we re-thought plans over a Pint or two of Hobgolin Ale
Depending who you asked the 'Academy' was anything between a stroll down the High Street and Over the Bridge to 'Don't even think about walking without a Team of horses and supplies??? All very odd, undeterred we set off having purchase a street map of Oxford. It was a doddle , I walk further in my lunch 'hour'at work.

Approaching the venue we had the shock of our lives. There was a good hour before the doors even opened and already the queue was snaking around the block !!!!
That was when I realised something odd was happening. The average age of those queuing could have been no more than fifteen. The vast majority being hyperactive girls who had raided their mothers make up bags by the look of it?

Apparently they were waiting to see someone or something called 'Chipmunk' who was doing his thing downstairs. This was no cute furry rodent however and is in fact a 'Grime Artist' from Tottenham. No I don't have a clue what one is either but it was driving our teenage friends into a frenzy whatever it was ?

When we did get to Doors for Bigelf there were two guys already there David & Kyle. They had been there since 3PM and surving on a diet of donuts and fizzy drinks - This was going to be in an interesting night for all concerned.Couldn't help but think they could have waited a few hours and still been at the font of the queue. Anyway they were good lads and we all had a good laugh and the time went really quick.

Enough of all this pre-amble - Priestess from Montreal kicked off and played a solid hard rocking set which I enjoyed.

Then it Bigelf , no big intro just straight down to Business and what a performance it was. It was some sort of irony that here were four unbelievably talented musicians playing to an audience of about a hundred and fifty or so. While downstairs in the bigger arena it was packed to the rafters with an audience who wouldn't recognise a decent riff if it bit them on the arse.
It matters not because the Elves were amazing !! Damon Fox reminds me of some sort of crazed love child between Russell Brand and Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) in his 1970's peak.
Most memorable for me and my wife was the fitting tribute to Andy Butler-Jones God Bless him. We both really loved the gig and can't wait to see Bigelf again.
My night was complete when I met Damon afterwards and had a photo with him. A lovely guy and a pleasure to meet.

As far as I can remember the set list was as follows:

  • The Evils of Rock @ Roll
  • Neuropsychpathic Eye
  • Painkillers
  • Frustration
  • Disappear
  • Madhatter
  • Blackball
  • Hydra
  • Money It's Pure Evil
  • Money Machine
  • Superstar
  • Counting Sheep

Europe & Diamond Head Birmingham 19/2/10

Joey Tempest

John Norum

Brian Tatler - lead guitar Diamond Head

As always when travelling to Birmingham we managed to get lost even though Sat Nav told us we had reached our destination. Well unless the gig was at a BP Petrol Station then it was wrong ?
As a result we missed the start of the Diamond Head set. I've always been a fan and saw them in Northampton a few years ago. They were formed in 1976 by the ever present guitarist Brian Tatler. After several break ups they reformed again in 2000. It is well documented that they have been a huge influence on Metallica who have covered Diamond Head tracks in the past. Despite this they never quite reached the dizzy heights of some of their contemporary bands around the time of the 'New wave of British heavy metal. (NWOBHM).
Highlights for me were, 'Helpless', 'Am I Evil' and 'Helpless'.

I had never seen Europe before but had heard very good reports from the pre-Christmas gigs.
I really like the new album 'Last look at Eden'. I think that sometimes the massive hit 'The Final Countdown' has worked against them. This is the track that everyone thinks of when you mention 'Europe'. However much of the earlier stuff was really heavy and in John Norum they have one of the greatest Rock guitarists going.
Lead singer Joey Tempest looked as youthful as ever and the corkscrew perm is long since gone from the eighties heyday. He has a real stage presence and didn't stop all night, at one stage jumping down into the photography pit to shake hands with fans.
I though they were superb and my highlights were, 'Last look at Eden', Ready or Not' and 'Rock the Night'. The night would not have been complete without a rousing rendition of 'The Final Countdown' for the final encore.

Set list from memory:
  • Intro
  • Last Look at Eden
  • Love is not the Enemy
  • Superstitious
  • Gonna get ready
  • Scream of Anger
  • No Stone unturned
  • Prisoners in Paradise
  • Ready or not
  • New Love in Town
  • Start from the Dark
  • Cherokee
  • Rock the Night
  • The Beast
  • The Final Countdown

Friday, 12 February 2010

Family Coat of Arms

I'm not really big on tracing back my family history in all honesty. However I was mildly interested to stumble across a Coat of Arms for the family name. I suppose every name more or less has one? But it's still nice to think of having my own shield or flag to fly over my castle.

Equally impressive is the family motto 'Impelle Obstantia' which translated means 'Thrust aside obstacles'. How cool is that ?

However I have a long way to go before I can match the achievements of Admiral Stanley Arthur - American Vice Chief of Naval Operations from 1992-95, and won the Distinguished Flying Cross eleven times and the Navy Distinguished Flying Medal three times amongst other decorations.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Early Morning Swim

Inside the Mounts Baths

Since my back operation in April 2007 I have found swimming to be a great help to reduce the stiffness that builds up.
I like to get down to the Mounts Baths in Northampton as soon as it opens to the public at 7 AM. Which is easier said than done a lot of the time, especially in the Winter.
It is nice because you tend to see the same faces each time.

I am not a natural swimmer by an means but have managed to build up to doing 36 lengths of front crawl. This is just over half a mile in distance.

The pool itself cost approximately £52,000 to build in 1936 and is believed to be the only Art Deco swimming pool in the country. The baths were built on the site of the town's old prison.

I have to say I really prefer these old Baths to the modern day Leisure Centre Pools that have no character and are not designed for 'up and down' swimming.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Book Review - 'My Friend Leonard'

James Frey

The two Books.

I first read 'A Million Little pieces'a few years ago. I stumbled upon it quite by accident in a charity shop where I was drawn initially by the sparkly cover. After reading the sleeve notes I decided that I had to read it.
Frey is 23 years old, and has been an alcoholic for ten years, and a crack addict for three. He is also wanted by the police in three different states on several charges. The book takes us through his agonizing experiences during his time in the rehab clinic.
Frey meets many interesting people in the clinic, and who play an important role in his life both during and after his time in the clinic. These people include a mafia boss (subject of Frey's subsequent book My Friend Leonard), and a woman drug addict with whom he falls in love. It is a cracking read.
However controversy was to follow some of the claims made in the book as being 'falsified'.
Frey later apologized for fabricating portions of his book and for having made himself seem tougher and more daring and more aggressive than in reality. There were also literary reasons for his fabrications, as well. He stated that he wanted the
book to ebb and flow, to have dramatic arcs.
My Friend Leonard was published in June 2005 and begins with Frey's release from an Ohio County Jail. He immediately drives to Chicago to see his girlfriend who has just lost her Grandmother after being so close to her. When he arrives James is informed by the director of the halfway house that Lilly committed suicide because she could not deal with the pain of losing her grandmother. Despite feeling an incredible sense of loss and confusion he does not resort to alcohol to escape. But does visit a liquor store.
James then makes contact with Leonard from the rehab centre and this is the focus of the book mainly. The relationship between them both as Leonard treats James as his adopted son.
The book is a wonderful story of how James must handle great adversity throughout his new life. He has to deal with people who aren't always reputable. He battles with depression, but slowly grows from his experiences.
I really enjoyed this book would highly recommend.