london1967: (knocker)
The first outing of the month was on the first Friday; in the evening after dinner at Vico's we went to the Royal Academy to see "Painting the Modern Garden:Monet to Matisse".



It was our first visit to the Royal Academy! We really loved the exhibition: there were some great paintings.

On the Sunday I made some bugie - traditional Italian fried-pastries for the Carnival. I took some into work the following day, and on the Tuesday I used the other half of the dough to make more for Adrian's Italian class.


The following Friday it was the long awaited trip to the Menier Chocolate Factory to see Sheridan Smith in "Funny Girl". The show sold out in a matter of hours when I booked it back in August.
We had the meal deal: dinner followed by the show.


I must say that the show was absolutely brilliant!
And being in such a small and intimate space is always a bonus.


Then of course there was Valentine's Day, celebrated at home.


3 days later it was my birthday.
Adrian surprised me the night before with a yummy cake, decorated for a disco diva! LOL



I had booked the afternoon off work on my birthday, and I met Adrian at Hammersmith tube station to go to the the River Cafe



where we had the most beautiful meal! It was great to see that the 'hype' that has surrounded this restaurant in the almost 30 years of activity was well deserved.


The food was delicious and the service very attentive.
Adrian mentioned to a waitress that it was my birthday and my dessert arrived suitably adorned!


After lunch we travelled to Victoria, to catch the end of the RHS "London Early Spring Show". We got there at 4:35 pm but most of it had already been dismantled! (it closed at 5 pm).
Luckily the tickets were free (thanks to Richard, who had gifted us an RHS membership for Christmas) but we were a bit disappointed.


Nevertheless, we bought a little something: 2 bulbs of Sparkling Striped Gloriosa Lilies.

We hung around near Victoria after the show, since we had booked tickets to see "A Bigger Splash", at the Curzon.
The film, by Italian director Luca Guadagnino, features Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson and is set on the Italian island of Pantelleria.
It's beautifully shot and, erm, there is lot of nudity, full-frontal! LOL
The cinema opened almost 2 years ago and is very comfortable (and expensive!), and we had never been before.


(Sadly I don't have any of the pictures I took on my birthday as my PC decided to fry the camera's memory card.)

As it was my birthday, I thought it would be fun to cook a Piemontese meal at the week-end. We invited Chris and Michael to join us.

I suppose I was a bit over-ambitious at cooking 9 courses (and making bread, and filled pasta) but I managed to do it. I cooked all day on Saturday (and a bit on Friday evening) and I have to confess that I was utterly exhausted.
It took me the whole day on Sunday to recover! I guess I am no spring chicken any longer. LOL



Bread making:











A bit more baking the following week: Adrian went up to Leeds for a couple of night mid-week, and I thought I'd bake him a coffee and walnut cake (his favourite!) as a welcome home surprise.
I'd never baked it before because I don't like coffee.

(The pretty plate is a birthday present from Michael and Chris)

Surprisingly, I didn't mind the taste of coffee at all in the cake and had a couple of slices.

And the month ended with another meal at Vico's on Friday (probably the last one for a while now that my 25% discount card has run out!)



followed by theatre




(the play was great fun! we enjoyed having a box to ourselves although it meant leaning over to be able to see the stage)

and some more baking on the Saturday.

We had invited a new acquaintance/friend for tea. Adrian baked scones and made sandwiches, and I tried a new cake which required quite a lot of work.



A choko-berry fraisier (cocoa Genoise sponge, filled with berries and a very sinful crème de cassis crème mousseline, topped by a thin disc of marzipan stuck with blackcurrant jam, and a chocolate mirror glaze).
I dread to think about the calories!

london1967: (knocker)
January, arguably the longest month of the year, is behind us.
We did quite a bit, in fact we've been out every single Friday night (and also had a busy couple of Saturdays).

The first Friday was Adrian's sister's birthday. She came down to London for the week-end, so that she could also see the Panto.

We - and our dearest friend David, in London for the panto - went out for dinner at a local pizzeria, Sicilian Art Pizza. The food, as always, was excellent and a good time was had by all.
I managed to sneak in a cake I had bought from Patisserie Valerie but we didn't embarass her (or ourselves) with a rendition of Happy Birthday!

That was reserved for the following day, when the whole Panto audience sang! No picture of her blowing out the candles as I was carrying the cake.
We recreated the scene at home later that evening, although it was only the 3 of us and David.


"Cyril the Squirrel and the Magic Nut" went really well.
Yes, there were a few complaints that they couldn't quite hear at the back but apart from that it was a success.
It was thrilling to see my 'work' performed and people enjoying it.

Here are a few photos from the performance plus a portrait of my very own Panto Dame. Doesn't she look familiar? LOL














Well despite having the scripts in their hands, some of the actors managed to forget their lines, etc. Although in a way it added to the merriment.
One of the characters was called Verbena Vixen but at some point Kitty Furball called her Vergina. Corpsing ensued, and I can still laugh out loud now just thinking about it!

The following Friday Adrian met me straight after work and we first went for a steak and lobster dinner at a restaurant at the Hippodrome Casino. A touch of Vegas in the heart of London!



Then we wandered around Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, St. James' Square and Piccadilly, and later King's Cross for  for "Lumiere London", a free light festival.
We expected it to be busy (some streets were closed to traffic) but not so ridiculously crowded!
We only saw about half of the sights and after King's Cross we had both had enough of the crowds and decided to call it a night.






















The following Friday it was dinner and opera.
We had an early dinner at Vico, a "bustling trattoria in the heart of the West End, where Soho and Covent Garden meet. We serve Italian food, The Appian Way – from along the Via Appia, which connects Rome through Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Puglia to Brindisi in the South. We serve simple food cooked with heart, and are located in a perfect spot for dining before or after a show, or a meal in town“.
It's round the corner from work and I have a 25% discount card for 'locals' until the end of February.
We had been once before in September when it had just opened and it was noisy, had a sort of industrial look with plenty of empty space and stools to perch on, and you bought your food at the counter and ate it with plastic plates and plastuc cutlery!! I thought it could have been a place where teenage skateboarders from the rich Italian bourgeoisie would hang out.
Obviously the concept didn't work and now it has been refurbished like a proper restaurant. And we enjoyed it much more.


(the courgette chips were to die for!)

Then we went to see La Traviata at Covent Garden, the 3rd time we've seen this particular production over the years, but always very enjoyable even from our £14 seats up in the gods.


Last Friday it was culture again.
We went to see the "Celts: art and identity" exhibition at the British Museum. It wasn't too busy and we really enjoyed it.



After a quick Mc Donald's, we went to the cinema to see 'Youth', the new film by Paolo Sorrentino. We absolutely loved it!

On the Saturday, we had invited Roberta (Adrian's Italian teacher) and her brother Carlo (visiting from Italy) for afternoon tea, so we had a busy morning and early afternoon of baking, but it was fun and we enjoyed a few very pleasant and chatty hours, drinking tea and prosecco, and eating.




london1967: (knocker)
On Thursday evening, I met Adrian at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank.



The building is in a great position and there are 2 restaurants on the 8th floor (run by Harvey Nichols)  with great views over the river.


We had a booked a table at the brasserie


for their 3-course set menu with a welcome cocktail for £30 each



The food was really good.

I have to confess that I'm not a great fan of fancy food (maybe it's because I'm Italian but I like my food to be rather straight-forward) but I really enjoyed it as it wasn't too pretentious (said that, I had to look up a couple of words!)

Soutzouki sausage, sesame hazelnut labne, cumin pickled cabbage, glazed fig, fried artisan flat bread

Chilled gazpacho, Manchego albahaca, sourdough crisp


Goat’s cheese tomato tatin, grilled asparagus, mustard seed dressing

Coconut Thai yellow curry duck leg, lemongrass jasmine rice, shrimp sambal

Dark chocolate orange pave, tonka bean ice cream

Vanilla brûlée, strawberries, melting moments

After the meal, we had to rush back to the London Wonderground at the Southbank Centre "a playground for the people, leave your real life at the door and step inside..."


Among the attractions there is the 1920 Paradiso Spiegeltent - Wikipedia informs me that a Spiegeltent is "(Dutch for "Mirror Tent", from spiegel+tent) a large travelling tent, constructed in wood and canvas and decorated with mirrors and stained glass, intended as an entertainment venue".
It is used as a performance venue for a number of acts.




The one we went to see is 'Briefs' an Australian group of acrobats and drag artists, burlesque with balls as the website says!

The website warns that it "Contains adult content and some nudity. For the fun-hearted, not the faint-hearted!" and it was certainly right! LOL!

I enjoyed the show


especially the acrobats and the contortionist who were rather easy on the eye too. A couple of the acts were a bit too crude for me but then I guess I am a bourgeois these days!

I'm always quite fascinated by performers who go out on a stage and really expose themselves (in this case, on more than one level LOL!)
I guess part of me would love to do that, if I had any talent and the personality.

And talking of performances, our panto is now only 5 months away and I'm busy writing it (at times, it's a bit of struggle).
The postman yesterday delivered part of Adrian's costume and of course we had to try it on and take a couple of pictures!


london1967: (knocker)
When I look at the pictures taken during the last few weeks, I see a lot of food. But I'm positive we did so much more than just stuffing our faces!

The last Friday in April we went to Roberta and Gianfranco's for dinner. Roberta is Adrian's Italian teacher, but needless to say we didn't speak much italiano!
I got there straight from work and when I took my coat off we all laughed because both Adrian and myself were wearing the same M&S shirt (I had bought mine first, but as Adrian really liked I bought him one too). The children were rather amused by our 'uniform'!

On the Sunday, we went to evensong at Southwark Cathedral.
The service was rather long (and at one point I nodded off slightly); when the service was over we gathered outside to witness the internment of the ashes of our neighbour Jo. Both Adrian and I thought that the place was anything but peaceful with the constant din from the trains passing on the nearby viaduct, the noise and the smell from the adjacent Borough Market, and the people eating on the benches but it probably suited our late neighbour.

May started with a book launch. Bobby, a neighbour of ours, launched his book "Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages" at the "Gay's the Word" bookshop. It was packed.
Before the launch Adrian and I had dinner at a nearby Strada:


Then we had the 'excitement' of the general election (LOL!) and the first get-together for the Residents' Association's Panto (I decided to write another one: "Cyril the Squirrel and the Magic Nut").

The following week was very busy:
- Paul, an old friend of Adrian's, coming for the afternoon and then dinner on the Tuesday
- dinner and theatre on the Thursday
- exhibition at the National Gallery on the Friday
- gardening all week-end (lifting the bulbs and planting dahlias, lilies and a number of seedlings)

We went to see "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - The Musical" which was excellent and very funny:


We had a pre-theatre set dinner (tapas serves à la afternoon tea) at Salvador and Amanda's in Covent Garden:




The exhibition we visited at the National Gallery was 'Inventing Impressionism': "the UK’s first major exhibition devoted to Paul Durand-Ruel, the entrepreneurial art dealer who discovered the Impressionists".
We both really enjoyed it.





After the week-end of gardening, we went to the local garden centre/cafe' on the Sunday evening for a 'meet the neighbours' event. I baked some macarons to take round.


Last week was somewhat quieter, although we both had dentist appointments and Adrian had to go for laser treatment on the eye which had undergone cataract surgery a few years ago. The treatment went well and now he can see clearly again!

It was also Eurovision week and our friend Richard arrived on the Friday to stay for a few days.
We also had the great pleasure of meeting Gregory ([ profile] isledemoi) on the Saturday.
As Richard was visiting, we invited Gregory round for a cuppa on the Saturday afternoon, rather than suggesting meeting in town.
I'm afraid the 'spread' wasn't quite as abundant as on previous occasions (no scones!), but we had sarnies, a chocolate cake made with Old Speckled Hen (a 'fine ale'), lemon curd macarons and orange natas.
We were all in agreement that Gregory was a very charming guest!








In the evening we watched Eurovision with Utku, a neighbour of ours. It was fun but we were disappointed that Sweden won (quite a boring song, in my modest opinion).

Sunday was spent finishing planting the dahlias, etc. and Monday (which was a Bank Holiday) was spent at home again for me (Adrian and Richard went shopping - when they got back they found some freshly baked scones waiting for them).
And now it's all back to normal, although tomorrow evening we have another meeting re the Panto (meeting the actors to discuss their involvement, so that I have an idea when writing it. This time we have 2 professionals in the cast - no pressure! LOL!) and on Friday we're invited at Mike and Alex's in Streatham for dinner.
london1967: (knocker)
Weirdly I can’t really tell whether the last few weeks, since coming back from the US, have gone slow or fast, a bit of both I guess.
This week I had my last appointment with the ENT consultant, and really after spending just over £2,000 (thankfully paid directly by the insurance company) it’s sort of back to square one.
I am a bit disappointed.
When I saw the consultant after our holiday, he said that he had looked at the MRI images (which he had on ‘the system’ - he didn’t want the CD I had brought with me) and said that there was a growth, a nodule on a salivary gland and that I needed an ultrasound-assisted biopsy to determine whether it was benign or not.
I went for this test a few days later but the doctor couldn’t find the lump (which I am very relieved about, of course). So when I saw the consultant again the other day he decided to check whether said lump was really there in the MRI images. He needed the CD (which luckily I had with me). It turns out that he hadn’t checked the images in the first place but relied on the report written at the centre where they performed the MRI scan! He couldn’t find it either but he said that as he’s no radiologist he’d write to people who filled in the report. And this for £290!
Don’t get me wrong I’m pleased that he couldn’t find anything, although this rigmarole doesn’t really fill you with confidence about the diagnosis and leaves wondering whether they may have missed something, or indeed filed the wrong report. Oh well!
We went to the cinema and the theatre once.
We enjoyed ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ although I felt it wasn’t quite as good as the first one and maybe (sorry Adrian!) a bit tired.
We loved the fact that it was set in San Diego at the very beginning.
Maggie Smith’s character berates the Americans on 3 different occasions (I did agree with her complaint about tea!): I did wonder whether those lines were really put in with the American viewers in particular, after all that’s what one would expect from Lady Violet herself!
The theatre show we went to see was at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
‘Buyer & Cellar’, a one-man show starring Michael Urie of ‘Ugly Betty’ fame. We loved it and laughed a lot.
It is set in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu mansion, and it is rather hilarious. It must be very exhausting for the actor: 100 minutes on stage with no break!
Last week-end I visited my parents.
On Sunday morning my brother and I went to see a friend and on the way back we became victims of road rage.
Another driver took exception at my brother going first at a roundabout: he chased us and pulled in front of our car in a matter of seconds. Marco managed to stop the car from crashing; the other driver got out and was furious, completely out of control like a wild animal. Marco tried to reverse and drive away, but had to stop as the other guy jumped in front of the car.
He started pummelling the car with his fists and cracked the windscreen in 2 places; then started with the side window and then opened the door and tried to pull my brother out of the car. At that point, I took my seat belt off and thought that I had to get out of the car to try to stop him. Marco told me to call the police and take the number plate. The other guy then calmed down slightly and we managed to get away.
When we got back to my parents’ we were both rather shaken and went straight to the carabinieri to report the assault. It took a while to file the complaint. Now my brother will have to replace the windscreen (the insurance is not paying out) and we’ll see what happens. It is quite likely that the ‘animal’ is going to file a counter-report probably saying that my brother tried to run him over. He may even find some ‘witnesses’ – you never know with some people.
And tomorrow we have the meeting with the people who want to come and dig up our garden to replace some drains belonging to our neighbours. Oh well, we’ll see how it goes. No point in getting all worked up.

Last week

Feb. 8th, 2015 11:43 pm
london1967: (knocker)
This week-end was spent (again!) entirely at home, apart from a quick sortie to the local garden centre/cafe' this afternoon.
I was lazy and we spent lots of time watching telly!
I'd like to say that I have our American trip all under control but it's not quite as well planned as previous ones: maybe it's a sign of aging but I seem almost unable to concentrate long enough to write down a proper itinerary. I'm sure that it will come together in the end. Plus it's not as if we were travelling to the Amazons.

I'm starting to get excited about it, although I am also very excited about the upcoming episode of the Great British Bake-off (the charity version) with Jennifer Saunders, Lulu, Joanna Lumley and Dame Edna!

Talking of telly, on Friday I tried to get tickets for a recording at the Hammersmith Apollo of a BBC special for the 60 years of Eurovision. Tickets sold like hotcakes and they were not cheap. £63 for a standing ticket in the stall (I don't think so!). I've tried the slightly cheaper - and seated - circle tickets but by the time I entered the captcha string there were no tickets available (and I tried a few times). Maybe it's for the best to watch it on telly.

After all our little trip to the theatre with Michael on Friday night gave me a bit of a headache due to the loud music (I confess that at one moment I thought that I couldn't deal with the noise and wanted to run out - but of course being in the middle of the row, one would rather pass out that disturb other people. Not that everybody was that considerate: the guy next to me spilled his drink over me and, by way of an apology, said that he didn't do it on purpose because after all it was vodka, and not just a soft drink!)

Oh yes, so the theatre. We went to see

at the Leicester Square Theatre, and it was good fun. Apart from the excessive volume. And a few drunk people who made a show of themselves. I did tut and rolled my eyes a few times.



Spring seems to be on its way.



Hopefully by the time we'll be back from our trip, it will be warmer and sunnier.
I'm looking forward to sow my flowers seeds.

This week I'm seeing the ENT specialist on Tuesday. I'm giving the naked yoga a miss because of the upcoming trip and because I think we're spending too much time on our knees during the class (LOL!) and my left knee has suffered from it.
The teacher said that I can get out of the yoga class as much as I want and that there's no limit. Poppycock, I say. Break your tendon when you're almost 50 and you'll change your mind!
london1967: (knocker)
Every year, GetIntoLondonTheatre offers promotions on many West End shows in January/early February.

This years we booked to go to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
I met Adrian at Fire and Stone on Maiden Lane for an early dinner: starter, a pizza and a glass of Prosecco for £15.

(Mushrooms in a very spicy batter)

The pizza were 'world-inspired'. I had a London (Cumberland sausage, smoky bacon, mushrooms - inspired by a full English breakfast) while Adrian had a Peking (shredded duck, hoisin sauce, cucumber strips). They were both very tasty.


We really enjoyed the show!


The staging, the costumes and the 'effects' were phenomenal. Perhaps we were a tad too old for it? No, extra cushion for us to sit on! LOL

The Theatre Royal is a lovely building.


I recall going to see My Fair Lady there many years ago.


(Wonka bars anyone?)

Yesterday I spend a sizeable part of the day cooking.
Michael and Christopher were coming for dinner. Chris is on a very strict diet: no alcohol, no gluten, no cow's milk products, no sugar... so cooking was a tad more challenging.


In the end I prepared:

Polenta bruschetta with porcini mushroom topping

Prawn, prosciutto and rosemary skewers on an avocado, ginger and lime salsa:

Turkey saltimbocca (with an experimental sauce made of grape suice, balsamic vinegar and honey to replace the Marsala):

and Nigella's Venetian carrot cake (but made with rum flavouring and orange juice instead of rum, and xylitol to replace the caster sugar):

They all seem to enjoy the food, and the cake especially. There wasn't much of left of it!
london1967: (knocker)
On Tuesday I went to Milano for the day to meet my friends Paola and Francesco.

I took the fast Italo train


which takes you to Milan from Turin in under 50 minutes (it travels at 300 kmh). I got here at 9:40 am.


I had time to visit 5 churches slightly off the beaten track before meeting my friends for lunch. I took pictures of/in 4 of them.

The first was the church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore which, in the past, was attached to a Benedictine convent. The front of the church was opened to the congregation


while the back - separated by a screen -


was reserved to the nuns, who would receive communion and watch the priest raising the host through two small holes in the screen.


The church and the nuns' hall are a masterpiece of Renaissance art, frescoed by Bernardino Luini and his sons. It is so lovely to look at.







(What big ones!)

I really loved the Noah's Ark's frescoes:





The second church was the Church of San Sepolcro, which had originally being modelled on the church of the Holy Sepuchre in Jerusalem.


It has a couple of terracotta scenes from the Last Supper


Then I visited the Church of San Sebastian, with its frescoed dome.


It was erected by the city of Milan to ask for protection from one of the many plague epidemics.

The last church was the church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro

built by Bramante at the end of the 15th century next to an 8th century chapel dedicated to San Satiro


which incorporated some Roman columns.

The most eye-catching feature of the church is the trompe l'oeil apse


You are tricked into thinking that the church has a choir, while in fact it's only 3 ft deep, as it is revealed when you get nearer:


The dome is also beautiful:


After pizza and a lot of chatting, we walked to Piazza Duomo



and to the Galleria to admire the Christmas tree adorned with Swarovski crystals:




Christmas was spent at my parents' with my brother; and we visited my aunt in the afternoon.

I travelled back to London yesterday morning.
The flight was almost 2 hr 30 min late leaving because of technical problems.
The divider between business and economy was stuck without being locked in position, and the captain was concerned that it might move abruptly in case of turbulence.
So they had to call an engineer.
In the meantime, a passenger collapsed and the paramedics had to be summoned.
After the passenger and his family left the plane, the engineer arrived and with the help of a couple of passengers and the captain managed to unscrew the divider and then lock it in position.

Luckily I got back in time to relax at home before going out to the theatre with my sister-in-law and nephews (who travelled down to spend Christmas with Adrian)

We went to


Wilton's Music Hall which is (according to their website) " the world's oldest surviving Grand Music Hall and London's best kept secret. This stunning and atmospheric building is led by Frances Mayhew and produces an exciting programme of imaginative, diverse and distinct entertainment including theatre, music, comedy, cinema and cabaret."



The show was "Mrs Hudson's Christmas Corker".
The actors worked very hard and there were some funny parts, but I didn't really enjoy it that much.
I don't know if it's because we sat in the gallery and on the side and we all missed some of the lines (no microphones used) or because it was just all a bit too silly for me. It had good reviews - perhaps I'm not sophisticated enough to understand it.
I must admit that I enjoyed one of the actors who was rather hairy and in one scene had a costume mishap and ended up briefly naked (full frontal!). Oh gosh, I'm turning into a dirty old man! LOL!

(The Shard lit up for Christmas)
london1967: (knocker)
As you may have noticed, I've been struggling to keep up with LJ this year but not to the point of being completely absent.

A few weeks ago I got the chop from a friend's  LJ in one of his periodic culls. I am not sure what 'crime' I committed as I am certain it was I who had commented last, but I'll never know as his is a friends-only journal. The irony is that he used to complain about people disappearing without a good-bye!
I was a bit disappointed as we had met him in the past, although very briefly; on the other hand there was often a bit of a sting in the tail in some of his comments (but of course, it could all just be in my mind), so oh well, I won't be slitting my wrists quite yet.

So before I bore you all with a summary of my last 2 weeks, please feel free to hit the de-friend button should you feel compelled to do so. I am big boy (as I have often been told! LOL) and I can take it.

Two weeks ago we were very daring and had a night out mid-week.

It started with dinner at The Ivy


We went for the affordable set menu (available until 6 pm - my office is a 2 min walk from the restaurant - and after 10 pm).


We both had the same starter: "Slow cooked salt beef hash with fried hen egg, HP jus"


and main course "Corn-fed chicken breast with creamed polenta & vine roasted tomatoes"


Adrian chose the "Chocolate orange steamed pudding with custard" for dessert

while I enjoyed a "Piña colada parfait with peach melba"

It was all rather yummy and beautifully presented.

After the meal, we went to the Duchess theatre for a preview of



The play is about an am-dram group putting on a murder mystery. And of course everything goes wrong with hilarious consequences.
It was very funny (Adrian was crying!), and it must have been really physically demanding and exhausting for the cast, who were probably full of bruises (I would have been!) by the end of the play.

That week, on the Saturday, I baked some natas (Portuguese custard tarts) flavoured with orange


which we later took with us to the Crystal Palace's Antenna Studios for a "free evening of 3½ short films starring the palace, the park and the subway. A night that frames Crystal Palace as a magical zone of pleasure and transformation."
We went with Michael and Christopher, who live in Crystal Palace.



The movies shown were (descriptions taken from the Deptford Film Club website):

  • The Pleasure Garden (Dir. James Broughton 1954, 37mins)

"Amidst the ruins of the Crystal Palace Gardens, a frock-coated Minister of Public Behaviour (John le Mesurier) is determined to stamp out the least sign of indecency or lewdness. However a fairy godmother (Hattie Jacques) comes along in his wake and sets the characters in the park skipping, loving and dancing once more with the aid of her magic scarf. A Cannes-winning valentine to the land of Edward Lear, Shakespeare and pantomime."

  • Amelia & the Angel (Dir. Ken Russell 1958, 26mins)

"A delightful mix of religious allegory and magical fantasy directed by Ken Russell, who lived in Crystal Palace for many years. A young girl, Amelia, distressed about losing the wings she was to wear in her school nativity play, is saved when she follows an angel into a mysterious building."

  • Journey Into a Lost World (Dir. Ken Russell 1960, 22mins)

"The poet John Betjeman reminisces on Britain’s great historical exhibitions: Barnum and Bailey’s circuses, Brighton fairgrounds, Crystal Palace, Alexandra Palace, the original White City pleasure ground, the Empire Exhibition at Wembley and the Festival of Britain."

  • Setting Sun (Dir. Dom & Nic 1996, 4mins)

"The video for Chemical Brothers’ 1996 hit, with vocals from Noel Gallagher."

Last Friday we went to the cinema in town to see

We loved it! It's about the unlikely (and rocky) friendship between a Welsh mining village and a London-based lesbian and gay group which was collecting money for the striking miners in the mid-1980s.
It's inspired by a real story and it's a very moving and funny film.

And now the garden.
The e-mail about the scaffolding at the end of the garden that I sent early on Thursday morning to the council produced unexpectedly swift results.
When I got home that same day it had gone!
We thought it a coincidence and informed the council, but they replied that an 'enforcement officer' had spoken to the scaffolding company that very morning. Since the permit had expired, they came round to remove it at once.

On Saturday we emptied the shed, and moved it so that now we have access to our narrow (2 ft) strip of land between our fence and the 2 flats, through a little gate in the fence.
By moving the shed we also managed to chop down a mock orange bush, which was too tall and too close to the building. A shame, I know.




While we were in the garden, we noticed some people on the roof of the top flat's bathroom. They came back to finish it off!

Also the landlord came to talk to me because I had sent him an e-mail to point out that the elevation of the its flat has been increased by a row of bricks. While this doesn't particularly bother me (and I won't report him to the council), I just wanted him to be aware that he can't just flout the regulations of a conservation area.

Here is a time-lapse view of the back garden from the back bedroom window: with tree, scaffolding and all the bushes; without the tree; without the tree, scaffolding and the mock orange bush.


In a way, we are already used to not having the tree any longer.
It often seems to be the case: you worry about things, and afterward it's all a bit 'meh'.

This week I am slightly concerned about the referendum on Scottish independence.
They are of course very welcome to do as they wish (coming from a country which was 'united' just over 150 years ago, I can understand them wanted to be 'independent') but I know that if they vote Yes, we'll paying for it, starting from the pound which will take a severe beating.
Oh well, we'll see.
london1967: (knocker)
I haven't quite finished posting about our Tuscan holiday (we've been back over 5 weeks) and I have been neglecting talking about what we have been up to in London too.

We have been to a couple of exhibitions in the last few weeks: 'The Vikings' at the British Museum and 'Veronese' at the National Gallery.


The first one would have been really interesting if the number of visitors hadn't been so high. You had to queue everywhere! The first room had the labels that accompanied the artefacts at knee level: not a good idea when there's a mass of people blocking the display cabinets.
Things got a bit better (or perhaps we got used to the crowd) and we enjoyed the rest of it.
In my opinion, the British Museum just sold too many tickets for each time slot.


Veronese on the other hand was superb! We were given a little booklet with the painting descriptions and you could spend as much time as you wanted looking at them.
As always with paintings produced by one artists, I'm always curious to read about which museum or collection they belong to.
I found it rather poignant that some paintings which were created to be together are now continents apart.

For instance, these portraits of a noble family from Vicenza were re-united: the men are in Florence, and the ladies in Baltimore.

Iseppo and Adriano da Porto - Paolo Veronese Livia da Porto Thiene and her Daughter Porzia - Paolo Veronese

(Pictures courtesy of Wikipaintings).
I wonder whether at night when the gallery is quiet, they all have a nice chat?

Before going on holiday, we went to the theatre to see Angela Lansbury in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit", her return to the London's stage after almost 40 years!


It was very great fun and we were amazed at how sprightly and nimble she was on the stage!

The day after we came back from Tuscany we visited the RHS Great London Plant Fair at the Horticultural Halls in the evening.


The week leading up to Easter was very busy.
At the week-end Sue came to visit us - we didn't really do much (although we spent a couple of hours at a local charity fair selling our floral cards).

On the Tuesday evening we went to listen to Bach's St. John Passion at Westminster Cathedral.


Very nice, especially because of the surroundings (no pictures allowed) but an experience not to be repeated for a while.

On Thursday Linda and Bert (two neighbours from the other end of the street) came for dinner:


On Good Friday, after Veronese, we went for a very naughty steak lunch


before watching 'The Punch Game' at the cinema.

On Easter Saturday we ventured out of town, going to Hastings for the day, thanks to some very cheap train tickets that we had booked ages ago.
We really enjoyed the day out.


The highlights were the ruins of the Norman Castle and the old town.


The castle can be reached via one of two funiculars




The castle was the first one built by the Normans in England after their successful invasion in 1066 and used to cover much a larger ground (much of it has been lost to erosion)



Here we watched an introductory video and then had a walk around the ruins, admiring the views.




We walked down to the old town.


It could have been an episode of 'This is your life!' as within 30 minutes we bumped into Carole - who used to live across the road - in the park near the castle with her dogs, then Paul and Antony whom we hadn't seen for about 10 year (before they moved to France) and finally Lynne (who has moved to Hastings) and Miranda (but the last meeting had been arranged) who were later joined by Sue, yet another neighbour.
We had tea and a slice of cake with Lynne, Miranda and Sue at St. Leonard's.


Lynne drove us back to Hastings.

We had a look around the Stade - the shingle beach - which is apparently home the largest fleet of beach-launched fishing boats in Europe.

(These tall, black sheds are used to store the nets.)

We went on a ride on the other funicular




and then strolled around the old town, before catching the train back to London (2 hours to London Victoria!)







The week-end before last Fiona - Adrian's sister - and Inigo visited.


On the Saturday we went to the William Morris Gallery at Walthamstow (very interesting!) and had a walk around the nearby park.








When we got home, I was 'dragged' (I hate parties!) to Linda and Bert's leaving do at a bar at Crystal Palace. We stayed for about an hour and then came home to cook dinner, and play Perudo afterwards. (I won, I won, I won! LOL!)

Last Thursday we had an evening out in town.
We had dinner at the camp-looking restaurant Salieri on the Strand,



followed by 'Handbagged' at the nearby Vaudeville Theatre.


The play was simply superb!
The idea is intriguing: on the stage you have the present-day Queen and Margaret Thatcher (the play - I believe - was written before the former Prime Minister's death) reminiscing about their private meetings and their relationship. (The Queen meets the Prime Minister every week privately, so no-one knows what is said).
The stage is shared with another Queen and another Thatcher who are contemporary to the events that are narrated, and with 2 actors who play an array of part from Dennis Thatcher to Neil Kinnock to... Nancy Reagan.

The result is hilarious, in spite of some of the subjects that are being covered, which certainly are not.
Having 2 pairs of Queens and PMs on the same stage is a brilliant ploy. And the way that they interact with the audience is very clever: in a way, they keep you on your toes!


The actresses are so convincing (appearance, voice, mannerisms) that sometimes you forget that they are not the 'real thing'.
For instance, when the Queen stated that at the time of the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton she was in America on a private visit to 'inspect some studs' there was only some hesitant sniggering in the audience to start with, before we all erupted in laughter. Surely Her Majesty wouldn't say such a thing! And no, she wasn't amused at all!

On Saturday we went on a Downton Country location tour but it's a tale for another post.
london1967: (knocker)
Last Thursday after work I met Adrian in town because we had booked tickets to see Joan Collins at the Leicester Square Theatre.

Before the show we had dinner at the Stockpot on Old Compton Street, a place Miss Collins wouldn't be seen dead in! (I'm talking about the restaurant and not the street).

But well the food is tasty and straight-forward and all very reasonable.
(After all, we had discounted tickets for the show too. I didn't book it full price when I saw it advertised, but a few days before the show a Time Out promotion offered £47.50 tickets for £25).

The show was fun. She talked about her life, marriages and career, showing a number of clips from films, TV and adverts.
Of course, the most entertaining bits were about meeting other famous Hollywood stars... sometimes the claws were firmly out! (and perhaps not without good reason)
There was only one costume change from sequinned trousers to a sequin dress.
At the end there was a Q&A session where, helped by her husband, she answered questions submitted in advance by members of the audience, which included quite a large number of gay men! (one of them wanted to know if she had the number for 'Shrimpy' the actor in the latest commercial for a chocolate bar).

On Saturday morning we left home at 8 am

and went for breakfast at Balans (I had the breakfast burrito)

before walking to the British Museum.

to visit the 'Beyong El Dorado' exhibition.

As we were a bit early for our 10:30 am slot, we had a look around a few rooms.

The exhibition was really fascinating and well organised. It touched briefly upon the origin of the El Dorado myth but it was all about gold artefacts, their making and their use in a number of Colombian civilisations.
Many of the items were on loan from the Museo del Oro in Bogota', a place that is very likely we'll never visit.

On the way home we stopped at the local nurseries for a nice cuppa and a slice of cake.

On Sunday afternoon, we went out for 2 and half hours.

Because of engineering works, our local trains were diverted to Blackfriars (instead of Victoria)

so we decided to go to St. Paul's cathedral for one of the free Sunday organ concerts.

A short stroll from the station along some of the city's streets and alleyways and you are there.

The concert lasted for about 40 minutes: we sat with many other people straight under the dome.  It was quite enjoyable!

When we came out, it was getting dark and we went straight home on the train.

Girl power!

Jun. 6th, 2013 11:54 pm
london1967: (knocker)
It's been a busy week.

On Tuesday evening we met our friend Lucia - in town from a conference - for dinner and then ice-cream.
In the last few days the weather has been sunny and warm, without being too hot.

Tonight we had dinner in Little Sicily.

Here's Adrian with his Milanese di Pollo con spaghetti al pomodoro e basilico.

I had the same. The combination is something that would send shivers down the spine of many Italians, but I'm made of sterner stuff (or perhaps I have lived here way too long! LOL!)

Then we went to the theatre to see "Viva Forever!", the "Spice Girls" musical.

The musical - written by Jennifer Saunders and produced by Judy Craymer (the producer of hit musical "Mamma Mia!") - is closing at the end of the month, after only 7 months.
It had very bad reviews and obviously hasn't pulled in enough punters. Surprising, considering its pedigree.

It was entertaining and there were some witty lines that wouldn't have been out of place in Ab Fab.
But the story wasn't strong enough. The musical is about a girl group on a TV talent show and satirises the hunger for fame at all costs, but doesn't quite go far enough in my opinion.
It also acts as a jukebox for a number of the Spice Girls songs.  It was fun but it failed to engage me.

Still for £24 each for a 2 course dinner and theatre, it was a cheap night out.

Talking of Girl Power, last week we watched 3 TV programmes all very different, all about women and all very enjoyable:
"Up the Women", a historical sitcom about a group of suffragettes
"Psychobitches", a comedy/series of sketches in which famous women are psycho-analysed
"Mothers, Murderers and Mistresses: Empresses of Ancient Rome", a series of documentaries.
london1967: (knocker)
We went to Greenwich Theatre this evening to see

which was great, mindless fun! We laughed a lot.

We were sitting in the front row and like many others we got picked on: the wedding organiser grabbed our heads together and pushed them to his chest shouting: "Look, I'm Dolly Parton. I've always wanted to do this!"

Before the show, we had dinner in Cafe' Rouge where I got to chat to an Italian couple (he had a very strong Tuscan accent - the hard 'c' is pronounced as an 'h' in English) who were in London for a few days because their daughter wanted to see One Direction at the O2!

And this morning I met my new dentist. The one I had for 13 years left the practice and a new, bright thing took his place. He seems very pleasant and made time to have a chat, and took some general X-rays of my teeth. And, oh yes, he's quite easy on the eye too. But he looked so young - probably not even 30 y.o. - and I felt oh so old!
london1967: (knocker)
It's not my birthday yet for another 20 minutes or so but I have already started celebrating.

We've been out all day.

First stop was 'The Shard' the newest skyscraper to grace (or blight! - take your pick) London's skyline. It opened to the general public a couple of weeks ago.

It is the tallest building in the European Union and the second one in Europe.

The views from the 68th floor and the 'open gallery' (as in open to the elements but still behind glass) on the 72nd floor are breathtaking.
London spreads as far as the eye can see and the river and the complex railway network really look as the arteries of this city...

The views are magnificent

You can see many more photos in this slideshow

After we left the Shard, we took the Jubilee line to Green Park and walked down to Buckingham Palace

and the nearby Goring Hotel where we had a scrumptious and relaxed afternoon tea.
It exceeded expectations: a 5 star tea with a 5 star service in a 5 star hotel!

We were there for over 2 hours!

We had the

A glass of Bollinger
Eggs Savoury
A selection of finger sandwiches, including chicken with soured cream, tarragon & red pepper, smoked salmon and egg mayonnaise
Freshly baked, warm homemade scone with Devonshire clotted cream and jam
Spice cake with Brandy icing
Chocolate and mandarin dome
Chestnut roll
Mulled wine jelly with cinnamon cream
Chocolate and hazelnut slice
Tea, brewed to your liking (or coffee if you prefer)

(this is the menu from the website - it slightly differed. The Bollinger was accompanied by strawberries; they also served a mini-trifle at the end)

We then attempted to walk off a few calories by strolling in St. James' Park

(from the park you can now see the top of the Shard)

to Leicester Square. We went to see the Supreme Fabulettes at the Leicester Square theatre.

As we were early we had a drink at Manbar (previously 79 CXR)

The show was great fun!
The three ladies were joined on stage by a (former?) American porn star called Johnny Hazzard who had appeared in 2 of their videos (which were directed by Boy George).
He was wearing very short jeans cut-offs and he suffered a bit of wardrobe malfunction a couple of times with some of his family jewels dropping out! And guess what? Even a porn star blushes! LOL! (We got an eyeful as we were in the second row).

And here you can see the three ladies performing their latest single "A drag queen is a cowboy's best friend"!

And after all this excitement

it was time to catch a bus to Victoria and the train back home!
london1967: (knocker)
It feels naughty to go out on a Monday night but that's exactly what we did!

Adrian met me outside the office and we went to The Ivy for a pre-theatre dinner.

It was our second visit there and it was just as good as the first one.

We started with drinks

A cocktail ('Essence of Padua') for Adrian and non-alcoholic one for me ('Green apple ginger')

Then Adrian had

'Duck egg on toast with morcilla, datterini & capers'

followed by

'Grilled poussin forestiere'

while I chose

'Truffled rocket, pear & pecorino salad'


'Crab crusted pollock with creamed spinach & shellfish dressing'

It was all excellent! Dessert was great too.

Adrian picked ''Blood orange steamed pudding with custard'

and I had a 'Peppermint coupe'

which is really just peppermint ice-cream with a chocolate sauce but it was served with quite a performance!
The cup was covered with a slab of chocolate on which the waiter poured hot chocolate. The chocolate must have had some popping candy in it as well. It was a simple but lovely dessert!

Price-wise not too bad at all; just under £90 for 2 set menu with a cocktail and a 'mocktail', water, one glass of wine and service.  Although of course not to repeated too often, that's for sure!

We had just enough time to walk to the Savoy

for a performance of

(I almost expected Kermit the Frog to pop out of that O but it was Will Young instead!)

The theatre was packed and the gays were out en masse! lol
It was a very slick production, naughty (nudity/lots of leather shorts rubbed very provocatively) but nice.
london1967: (Default)
We spent the evening at the Chocolate Menier Factory.

First dinner

(this was Adrian's toad-out-of-the-hole)

and then theatre: the first preview of

which was quite fun!

The stage was level with and came straight up to the first row, in fact you had to walk on the stage to get in and out

and it was great to see the scenery getting pulled apart and rebuilt  in the 2 intervals right before your eyes! (from student lodgings at Oxford into a cloister and then into a drawing room)

There was something in the air tonight. The guy sitting in front of me kept brushing my knee and squeezed my leg once in a very absent-minded way, and someone else apparently (according to Adrian) 'heavily cruised' me in the intervals and particularly when we were leaving. He was probably wondering whether I had stepped out of a production of Cirano de Bergerac but Adrian just said that he's almost 60 and he knows cruising when he sees it!
london1967: (Default)
Last night I met Adrian at the Crypt

for a quick dinner

Outside the Crypt, I made Adrian pose next to one of the many 'themed' Olympic mascots that seem to have appeared all over London

I don't think he was pleased!

(I believe its name is Wenlock - although I keep calling it Wedlock)

A very short walk 

and we were at the BB Bakery Covent Garden where we indulged in tea and cake (Black Forest for me, Mille-feuille for Adrian)

This was a madeleine moment; a bite and I was back to the Italian summers of my childhood when we sometimes had ice-cream cakes with amarene... 

Adrian enjoyed his mille-feuille too

It was soon time for the evening's entertainment

(Is it a bird? Is it a plane?)

"What the Butler Saw" is a Joe Orton's farce performed for the first time in 1969. 
The review for this production haven't been very good at all, but we still enjoyed it.
A woman in the row behind me was laughing all the time and so loudly a noise and nuisance officer should have been called in.
We were much more restrained.

It was all rather racy and I expect it must have been rather controversial in 1969 with its many references to lesbians, gays, and sex.
Perhaps in 1969 the policeman would have covered his family jewels with its helmet but last night he just didn't bother and was quite happy to run naked across the stage (he was rather blessed in his nether-regions department!).

Talking about what the butler saw, the 'Metamorphosis - Titian 2012' exhibition at the National Gallery is putting together works by the old master with some contemporary art installations. One of these allows the user a peeping Tom experience.
According to The Independent:
"Mark Wallinger's Diana is customarily wonderful. In a darkened room, he has built a sub-room into which we cannot quite look through a louvred door and frosted window. It seems to be a bathroom: blurred shampoo bottles stand on the window's sill. As you ponder these, something moves. It is a woman, seemingly naked – one of seven chosen by Wallinger, all genuinely called Diana, who will occupy the room in turn throughout the show."
london1967: (Default)
After a pizza

and dessert


on the South Bank, we went to the National Theatre for a preview of

A new play which will have its world premiere next Tuesday.

The cast of 6 is lead by Julie Walters and interestingly 3 of the 6 actors have been in the Harry Potter films (which I have never seen).


Julie Walters plays a former hippy, now dying, who's reunited with her son and daughter (and granddaughter).
There's a lot of swearing and shouting, and some very funny lines. 
I enjoyed the play but found it a bit long.

We got the 22:55 train home and spotted a steam train at Victoria
london1967: (Default)
Another Saturday afternoon outing to the Menier Chocolate Factory to see "Educating Rita" starring Matthew Kelly and Claire Sweeney.

We had booked the 'meal deal' and so we had lunch from a special a set northern-inspired menu before the show.

I picked the 'macaroni cheese' 

which I didn't really enjoy much. Once the gratin had been eaten, the rest was fairly uninspiring and - quite unusual for me - I didn't finish it.
It was served with garlic bread which Adrian ate (having bread with pasta or lasagne is a bewildering to Italians!)

Adrian chose more wisely; he had a 'Scouse stew' (a traditional lamb, potato and turnip stew); we both had pear cider to drink and we both enjoyed our desserts ('Brioche and butter pudding studded with Menier chocolate and served with creme anglaise' for Adrian; 'Menier melting moments with fresh fruits & whipped cream' for me).

followed by cappuccino (for Adrian) and popcorn tea for me.

Popcorn tea was a novelty for me. 
From the Teapigs website: "Back in the day when tea was too expensive for your average Japanese peasant, they’d mix it with toasted rice to make it go further. From such humble beginnings has grown a tea that, in today’s Japan, is celebrated in its own right as Genmaicha tea – or, to its friends, Popcorn tea. The British equivalent would probably be something like bubble and squeak, although obviously not recommended for use in teapots."

Would I have it again? No: once was OK; twice would be just silly.

And the play?

It was excellent!!
london1967: (Default)
As you probably know, Adrian ([ profile] london1952) has been attending an Italian evening class since last September.

Last night they had a class outing to the Globe Theatre

to see Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" in Italian, as part of an international programme

37 plays, 37different languages

Roberta - the teacher - had some spare tickets and Adrian managed to talk me into going.

The evening for Adrian and myself started with an Italian meal at Zizzi's.
The restaurant is so close to Southwark Bridge you are almost under it


I had the Zizzi's platter of assorted 'affettati' for starter and Adrian bruschetta


followed by 'Penne alla Vodka' for me and Pizza 'Mezzo Mezzo' for Adrian (it should really be 'Mezza e Mezza' as pizza is feminine but hey  'gnocchi' was spelled without the 'h' on the menu)

We really enjoyed the meal although we were a bit pressed for time.

The Globe theatre is just round the corner. I made the lady that checked our tickets laugh when she asked "How's your Italian, gentlemen?" and I replied "Mine's excellent"!

Watching a play at the Globe is certainly an experience.
It's a circular theatre and the centre is opened to the elements: with impeccable timing, it started raining just before the play started and stopped when it finished.
Not that we had to worry as we were not standing in the pit but sitting on the benches in the gallery

But please don't think we had it easy. The benches - even with cushions - were hard and halfway through the first half we were shuffling in out seats, trying to find a position that didn't hurt our backs.
Adrian was in pain and he said that he thought he was going to pass out.
Of course, as we didn't want to disturb the people sitting next to us, we waited until finally the interval came.

By then quite a few people had left. Was it the rain for the standing audience? Was is the benches for the people in the gallery? Or did they find it hard to follow the play in Italian? Or was it *gasp* the performance itself?

I say it was the performance. Adrian gave it a score of 1 out 10 (and I believe that the 1 point was gained by sending out Mark Anthony in jeans that showed quite a bulge!).

How can I describe it?
Well, imagine your Romans clad in sunglasses, jeans and leatherette coats with tails, the scenery made up of a broken chair, and of 3 wooden doors on castors moved around the stage the whole time, the bier 'built' with two plastic dustbins with another bloody door on top.

Picture the actors rolling and prancing about on the stage, putting light bulbs in their mouths, jumping up the doors and climbing on top of each other and even inside the dustbins. 

Come back for more?  What? Are you NUTS?

In the interval we decided that we were going to stay as long as we could move to the row behind (some people had left by then) where it was possible to rest our backs against the wall.
And so we did, and sat through another hour of this modern, self-indulgent monstrosity.

The performance was certainly very energetic but it failed to draw me in.
I couldn't really care about what was supposed to happen to the characters (you had to use your imagination - Caesar was stabbed by drawing red lines in crayon on the chair; Cassius was killed by a soldier who perched on his shoulders and rubbed red dye on his bald head).

Yes there was applause and even cheers at the end. Was it relief? Or perhaps politeness? Or maybe it was friends and relatives?

I for one was very relieved when we left and went back to normality, whatever that may be.


london1967: (Default)

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