Never Land

When I debated long and hard whether to blog or not to blog a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t realise that I didn’t actually have a choice. The new job, or rather the lack of time the new job brought with it, meant that I simply wouldn’t be blogging, well at least not regularly. Turns out 7a.m – 8.30p.m days in the office followed by reviews in the evening…doesn’t leave much time for me to spend here…much to my sadness. Now, however, that the baby is born and safe in Bucklebury things have calmed down slightly – and here I am.

So where to start? The title – Never Land? Ah yes, a Never Land party, otherwise known as my elder sister’s 29th and 53 day party, and a party that send us to a ‘land’ that many would ‘never’ remember. Fortunately I was one of the ones that did. The party, which has become rather an annual tradition, first launched in 2006. Since then, school was completed, the world explored, university conquered, but the party, the party stays the same:

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The ‘Bailer’

I’ve been pondering the paradox of social media for quite some time – that social media, designed to make people more sociable, actually makes us more anti-social.

Yes, we may be invited to more events; more house parties, dinner dates and pub nights, but the way in which we respond to such invitations is anti-social. If we even respond at all.

It’s the immediacy of online, of texts, of snap chats, of emails; we don’t organise ourselves, or feel that we need to be organised until the last-minute. Back in the day, before the technological noughties, if you said you’d meet someone at a pub at 7pm, you’d meet someone at the pub at 7pm. How different the story is today, how casually we drop the text apologising and saying we’re running 30 minutes late. But are we really sorry? No, if we were sorry, we wouldn’t do it time and time again.

The ‘bailer’ is another phenomenon who has peaked in contemporary times. The ‘bailer’ accepts invitations, whole-heartedly states that they will be in attendance, and then in the final lead up to the event, ‘bails’. Bailers have been known to bail on the day itself, and they normally do this via text. They don’t even have the decency to call – an act that cannot be described as anything but anti-social, especially when paired with a dire excuse, such as  ‘working late’, or a ‘work event’, or ‘forgot I was supposed to be seeing my granny’. All of which I award ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) to. You have enough technology around you to make sure that you don’t forget. Forgetting is not an option. Organise yourself.

A case study: remember my summer in the South of France? Well, during the second week of this trip I got a text message from an invitee. The text message arrived on the Thursday telling me that they wouldn’t be able to make it out – which considering that the other guests had arrived on the previous Sunday, and that this guest was invited the week before them…well, it’s just laughable.

More recently – and indeed the reason for this blog – was Saturday night and a Light Dragoons’ party up in Norfolk. Numerous friends and I were invited to this party; we all said yes. Last Monday hits –a mere five days until kick off – welcome to prime bailing time. The texts flood in; bang after bang after bang, the anti-social shots are fired. Out of the people I was invited with, I was the only one who went.

I admit that leaving home in 35 degree heat (and the allure of a cool swimming pool) and getting into an overheated car to embark upon a 2 hour journey up North didn’t come without complaint. ‘I don’t want to goooo,’ I moaned while turning on the Sat Nav and bidding my puppy farewell, ‘it’s so hot.’ But, I’d made a commitment – and when you make a commitment you bloody well follow it through.

In this case, I cannot tell you how happy I was that I did. What a party! Peter Pan-themed, I’d never been to anything like it before; a man-made miniature lake acted as our dance floor, a ship overlooked us, stationed in which was the DJ, budgies (as in the actual birds) flew around the marquee, fireworks glittered through the sky at midnight and a crocodile rodeo drew in drunken challengers (I have the bruises to prove it). It was a fantastic, incredible, nay epic night.

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And the bailers? Those who fribbled away this wonderful party; perhaps they have bailers’ remorse, but will it stop them in future? I doubt it. Etiquette to them is the rock to Sisyphus – they will never quite get there. So damn you Mark Zuckerburg, damn you Jack Dorsey: you’ve succeeded from behind the safety net of your code and created a world where yourselves and the anti-social thrive.

21st season strikes again…

There’s a reason 21st’s are for 21-year-olds. Once out of University, and out of that habitual drinking environment, we just don’t have the stamina anymore. I discovered this yesterday morning when, as I was guzzling paracetamol and vats of orange juice, my younger companions were drinking beer and sunbathing.

Though only three years ago I was celebrating my own, the all-nighter followed by the morning hair of the dog, seems like a distant memory. This summer, however, I think I’m in for a reminder. I thought once 21st season was over, the next big thing would be weddings. I was wrong. It’s not weddings, or indeed even the 25ths which face me, it’s the younger sibling and friends’ younger siblings’ 21sts.
And my liver is just not up to it.
This is not to say, however, that I didn’t have fun, and if working of the premise that the more rotten you feel, the better time you had…well Saturday’s party was up there with one of the best. The dress code was black tie with a hint of the races – my angle on it: wear something racy.
Here’s a selection of the night’s photographs:
With the birthday boy...
With the birthday boy…
A selection of the night's fillys...
A selection of the night’s fillys…
Champagne got the evening off to a flying start
Champagne got the evening off to a flying start
Inside the marquee
Racing tags provided the table plan...
Racing tags provided the table plan…
And jockeys the guests
And jockeys the guests

 

Inside the marquee
Inside the marquee
The oldies table (relatively)
The oldies table (relatively)

alice and cran walking

Getting into the theme and making use of the table decorations...
Getting into the theme and making use of the table decorations…
The dancing begins
The dancing begins
And continues...
And continues…
And continues some more...
And continues some more…
To the bar for refreshments...
To the bar for refreshments…
Making use of more table decorations...
Making use of more table decorations…
Before calling it a night...
Before calling it a night…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henley Regatta

The ultra-chic granny, dressed in all her finery; pearls shimmering, sapphires sparkling, takes a sip of her flute of Bollinger, and then looks curiously at her equally glamorous companion, “Really? I never knew Henley was actually on the river.”

So the tale goes. And I have to say that yesterday, apart from walking over it, I saw as much of the river as this folk-law grandmother. I saw a few rowers, don’t get me wrong, and that, well that was very nice indeed. Swimming, rowing, and water sports in general, tend to work nicely with the male physique, or rather create a very nice male physique. Burly shoulders, strong cores and all so tall…one can’t complain.

Once I’d trotted past these fine specimens, who made the sweltering day feel even hotter (there wasn’t the breeze of France), I meandered down the tow path, along with what felt like half of London, in search of the Champagne and Cocktail Club. Just past the Veuve Cliquot tent I found it (and past the overcrowded Mahiki tent). I was initially intending to have a glass or two of the aforementioned before heading back to watch some races…but then, I made it to the tent, and well would you leave?

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It was just so comfy and cool…and even though it looks it, it isn’t VIP, anyone can go in free before 6pm!

There was also the delicious and wide-ranging beverage menu, which I decided would have been rude not to test it out…

Sponsored by the award-winning Chase Vodka, the drinks slipped down exceptionally easily. The difference between vodkas had never been so apparent to me…quality vodka is like a different spirit. If only I’d had the money at University, not only would it have tasted better, but it would have prevented so many Glen’s-induced hangovers…

chase vodkaVodka, Champagne, music, cocktails and brilliant company drove the afternoon well into the evening…In fact, I had such a great time that I don’t feel guilty about missing the races, after all there’s always next year, and after yesterday’s experience courtesy of the Champagne and Cocktail Club, I will most definitely be returning.

Henley outfit (thanks sister)
Henley outfit (thanks sister)
The watering can - a £60 must!
The watering can – a £60 must!
The fantastic company
The fantastic company

 

 

Return of the Flash Man

Do you remember me talking to you about Almond croissants? Well the protagonist of that tale, the one who had selfishly run off to Singapore, has finally returned! After 11 1/2 months, Flash is officially back.

His return coincided with his sister’s 21st birthday party, so last night Sophie C and I put on our glad rags and set off to North London; for both a party to remember and the long-awaited reunion.

And what a reunion it was:

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“The Tripod”
cran and steelSophie C and Jamie S

alice adn flash 1Alice and Flash

a simmo and sophieBen S and Sophie E

anna and toriTori and Anna W

alice, soph and jenAlice, Sophie and Jen M

quinn, alice, greg, rudkinJonnie Q, Alice, Greg S, Henry R

elliot and skinnerElliot D and Joe S

jamie and louLou E and Jamie S

IMG_2592Edd S (having a party), Elliot D, Flash and Rob A

alice and flash 4WELCOME HOME FLASHER!

Festival Frolicking

A bitterly cold wind, powering rain and angry clouds chased us up the A14. My younger sister’s Skoda Yeti fought back bravely and gripped the motorway resiliently. We ploughed through a sodden Market Harborough, before hitting the slippery country lanes and finally arriving at our destination – Nosely Hall, and Noisily Festival.

Luckily we weren’t camping. I’d done that the year before, and well, post over-landing down through Africa (and camping), I swore I’d never do it again. I’m just not a camper, I like being clean, I like washing, I like beds. I may not sway towards camping, but a camper van, well that’s an entirely different story. Hail to the camper van, or the farm girl equivalent – the horse-box.

And so it was. We unpacked our overnight bags, fresh from London, into our horse-box and set up a much more agreeable form of camp. Much more agreeable indeed. Darkness wrapped itself over the howling hills as we made a dash for it deep into the wood. Multi-coloured lights peppered the track, luminous mushrooms glowed and bluebells danced with the wind; it was like a midnight fairy land. Deeper we penetrated this magical copse and soon the bellowing wind was muffled by the slow pulse of bass. If music be the food of love, or rather, if music drown out the screaming storm, play on.

And play on it did. For three days. Saturday brought with it a change of season; autumnal rain was usurped by sunny spring. The woodland sparkled and disco dryads’ flooded in merrily. The new day also brought with it a new companion; Sophie C made the journey North and joined our party. After a sleepless night, my younger sister and I made a make-shift bed and had a nature nap, all the while music beat steadily overhead.

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Waking from our much-needed slumber, we ventured back into the mind-bending wonderland and sought out nutrients. Wandering past stages filled with wondrous dancers, past comedians and their amused crowds, we came across our would-be prey. Sizzling seductively were the meat feast concoctions of dreams; a bespoke burger if ever there was one. A new catering company specialising in alternative carnivorous treats – Got Game. Got we did, we got three burgers…

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Nourished by two Obelix and one succulent venison burger, we lugged our limbs back to the comedians (Tickled Pig) and spent the remainder of the afternoon chortling in the utmost merriment. Alas, my wristband defied me, and my time in festival fervour was drawing to a close. Sister to the organiser; yes, enough money to prolong the stay; no. Oh sadness. Farewell to the new friends, farewell to the rural respite and back to the city.

But with an experience to remember and an incentive to climb up the ladder of journalistic success – and actually earn some money, for then, perhaps I will be able to purchase a weekend ticket. Until then Noisily, until then.

NOISILY FESTIVAL

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Bank Holiday is imminent. In an hour I’ll be packing my bag and heading up to Leicestershire to celebrate the weekend off in style; at the one and the only NOISILY FESTIVAL.
Whether you’re there for the whole weekend, or just get a day ticket, go you must.
Who better to sell it, than themselves, read away dear reader, read away:
Music
First off, wrap your ears around this while you read, Atomic Drop will release their new album just in time for the beginning of the summer and are using Noisily to showcase it. This mix has four album exclusives and is pure bass madness.
If tear out is not quite your style, then fret not, we’ve got you covered – with exclusive mixes being dropped from techno heavy weight Electric Rescue and house maestro Dale Howard in the next few days, you’ll have your thirst for the gentler side of electronic music slaked in no time. Keep an eye on our Mixcloud page.
Visual splendor! 
The fantastic Melissa Greenwood has produced this masterpiece for us, a Where’s Wally-esqe landscape taking in all the elements of last years festival, this years planned features, music and more. All of the promoters involved, the organisers and the other key members of the team are in there somewhere. Have a search if you know any of us. Click on the image for a zoomed in version.

Boutique camping 

While Noisily is an eminently civilised place to be, there is one way to make your stay in our woods even more pleasant – glamping. Green Yurts were our provider last year and we fell for their beautiful hand made yurts. If you like the finer things in life then head over to their website here to book your space for the weekend. Or, if your pockets aren’t deep enough for one of these, why not hire a ‘Handsome Hardwood Gazebo’ from our friends at Fieldlounge and add a sense of community to you camp site.
On site
We’ve already spent a few weeks on site grooming it for your arrival. The new festival entrance and stage area have been cleared, and we’ve installed a new treehouse structure for you all to play in. The grass is growing and the site is blossoming in anticipation of your arrival.
          
Lighting plans have been finalised and we’re not going to be coy about this – you are going to be blown away. Lasers, LEDs, projections and Avatar grade glowing woodland.
New features are blossoming left right and center – Yeti in the Basement’s fur lined chill out yurt, a giant interactive electronic fishbowl and a thumb war boxing ring for you to get down and competitive in…
We’ve also partnered up with the exceptionally talented cabinet maker Oak Fraser. He will be making various pieces for us this year but I think that this one says it all – a solid Oak carving of the Noisily Logo. The Noisily team are in general agreement that it is one of the most beautiful objects we’ve ever seen, and I think you might agree.
We can not wait to show you all what we’ve been planning. Excitement doesn’t even come close!

Get your tickets here.

See you in the woods!
The Noisily Team x x

Gaucho International Polo

I was a bit of a rider back in my youth. Rallies, gymkhana, showing jumping, dressage, x-country, you name it and my steed and I would try it. It wasn’t, however, until I had swapped my reins for an Oyster card, that I tried my hand at Polo – despite, ironically, learning to ride on a pony by that name.

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It was about four years ago now, in the heart of Oxfordshire, that I paid £70 for an hour’s tutorial. Now, I am a competitive person and I don’t like being bad at things – or worse average at things. In fact, rather just be awful and never touch the sport again, than to be alright, okay, mediocre at it. This, sadly, was exactly what I was – distinctly average.

“It’s like hockey on a horse,” people conferred as they dismounted and loosed girths. ‘But, I can bloody well hit hockey balls,’ I thought sourly, as annoyed at myself, I returned my pony (under 15.2) back to its Argentine owner.

My second-rate experience of playing the sport did not, however, deter my interest in it, and so, when invited to the Gaucho International Polo at the 02, I accepted immediately. I wouldn’t, after all, be participating, I’d be spectating. And what a spectacle it was.

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A fleet of Maseratis entered the arena, out of which came – to the roaring screams of fans – the English and Argentinean teams. Spotlights shone on each player while the big screen showed close-up photos and their handicaps. It was England’s number 3, with a handicap of 8, who was met with the most raucous roars. The captain; the very, very attractive captain, Jamie Morrison.

Two national anthems later and the first (of four) Chukka[s] began. Horses collided and sticks fought each other as the two teams waged Polo war. Penalties were awarded in multitude as international superstar Nacho Figueras clashed with the English four. The Argentines threw their hands up and bickered with the referee – they didn’t need to, for, fluffing under the pressure, Morrison missed not one, not two, not three, but four penalties.

Driven by their competitors’ misfortune, Argentina came back in the third Chukka, with Figueras scoring in the first five seconds. His goals were followed by another two from his team mates and it looked like it was all over for England. But, it wasn’t. We fought back and after some teeth-clenching ride offs, we scraped it back to 10 all. Sailing through the last-minute and Argentina scored again…30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds…and then, then with 1 second on the clock, England was awarded another penalty.

Holding the edge of my seat, and trying to ignore a mouthy blonde who – along with having practically her entire mammary glands on show – was f-ing and blinding furiously, I watched Morrison approach the goal. Slow motion…come on…he raised his stick…contact with ball made…and…miss. No!

Even though the outcome wasn’t what we wished for, and England bit the dust in another penalty failure (it’s always penalties!), I’d had a brilliant time. For a sport that I’d only had an hour’s experience of, the 32-minute game had, had me gripped.

Privy to a priority pass to the club, my evening was topped off when I bumped into Morrison, who fresh with sweat from the game, agreed to pose for a photo with me!

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Gaucho International Polo at the 02 = awesome.

Nola’s Press Launch

“How did you meet Dan Aykroyd?” has been the recurring question this week. I suppose just posting a photo of myself with the A-lister, cult figure and real life Ghostbuster was a little vague…So I’ll explain.

I met him on the rainy night that t’was last Tuesday, in the depths of East London, among the uber edgy, in Shoreditch. I was invited to the press launch of new – and New Orleans-themed – bar Nola.

Power walking as fast as my ridiculously over-sized high heels would allow (not very fast), I arrived at 66-68 Rivington St with a decidedly limp set of what were perfectly crafted curls. Following the alluring sound of a saxophone,  I made my way up two flights of corrugated iron stairs and found myself outside a party in full swing.

A small room, filled with around 120 dancing press, the atmosphere was joyously infectious. However, not a dancer, and certainly not a dancer in my absurd choice of footwear, I ventured through the jostling crowd and found my companion for the evening. He’d already secured a set of cocktails and with a clink of glasses our evening began.

nola cocktailsNot punch, but punchy, these cocktails were not for the faint-hearted. Acidic bursts of citric flavours both blended and masked the cocktail’s smooth vodka base. One sip and a tangfastic facial expression later, and I was hooked. Back to the bar…

barThe mixologists were stealthy in their creations; to the extent where they had done an art attack – and pre-prepared stocks of cocktails, which were left on the bar for anyone to take. With the number of people and the capacity of the place straining, this was definitely the right move. No-one wants to run dry at a launch.

Ummmm, Dan Aykroyd? Ah yes, Dan Aykroyd. The star of The Blues Brothers had met the owners of the bar on holiday, the trio had got on famously, and Aykroyd agreed to bless the launch with his presence. The star also owns a vodka brand called Crystal Head – which was used for all the drinks. A scratch of backs scenario.

At around 10.30 pm the band started a count down – Dan Aykroyd was in the building. The crowds that jostled before, started to mosh (as in mosh pit), and the scramble to see the star began. The heels that had plagued me now became useful, and at 6ft (yes they were massive) my vantage point was superior to the majority my contemporaries. The band played louder, the climactic entry was imminent, three, two, one…and she entered. She? Yes, Aykroyd’s PR, who told the hungry crowd that actually to see their hero, they would have to purchase a bottle of Crystal Head vodka for a cool £50, and then they could get it signed and have a photo with him.

Well my friends, I’m afraid that as the ‘flounder’ of a journalist that I am, shelling out £50 for a snap with a star, was just not going to happen. But what journalists don’t have in finances, they make up for in opportunism. So when my companion returned with his signed bottle, I decided to recycle it, and went up to the bouncer controlling the door which separated the common man with the celebrity, tilted my head to one side and said in my sultriest voice:

“Hello, I’d like to have my box signed.”

And friends, in I went. Never underestimate the power of sexual suggestion, or indeed the desperation of a skint journalist trying to make their way in the industry!

 

Dan A

Supper Club Review: The Novel Diner does The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was published in 1963; a month later the poet committed suicide. Though half a century has passed, last night, in the newly renovated Bush Theatre, both Plath and her only novel were resurrected. Ted Hughes’ wife and her book were brought to life by supper club sensation, The Novel Diner.

Mina Holland, Co-Founder of The Novel Diner.

Mina Holland, Co-Founder of The Novel Diner.

Set up by Claire Coutinho and Mina Holland, The Novel Diner is a pop-up restaurant which brings works of fiction to life. You are literally nourished by novels. Past menus have featured Turkey Bewitched to a Dark Gold for The Great Gatsby,Whipple Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and, very impressively, Sea Urchin Cevichefor American Pyscho.

Last night’s voyage took us into both the era and the culinary world of Plath’s protagonist Esther Greenwood. Entering the theatre, you forgot that you were an arm’s reach from a bustling pub bar. As soon as you stepped through the threshold and were handed a chicken, caviar and lemon thyme canapé and a Gin & Elderflower Collins, there was no doubt that you were in 1953.

Beautifully dressed women, working 50s glamour to perfection, surrounded delicately laid tables, peppered, alongside candles and flowers, with Esther’s worrisome ripened figs: “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

This was beautifully quoted by The Novel Diner’s very own Esther Greenwood, Bess Roche, after a deliciously cool starter of Fresh Crab and Avocado Pear Salad dressed with Poet’s Leaves.

Soft, self-conscious and questioning, Roche captured the internal angst of Plath’s heroine wonderfully. She absorbed diners with her monologues, effortlessly keeping them in the 1953 time warp.

Roche was not the only guest speaker: after the diners had finished a hearty portion of Grandma’s Meat Loaf with Pancetta, Fondant Potatoes, Sautéed French Beans and Butter Beans in White Wine (served in individual Le Creuset pots), Professor Richard Brown took to the floor and delivered a fascinating mini lecture on Plath, The Bell Jar and – somewhat surprisingly – Bob Dylan. Brown’s enthusiasm was infectious and his pithy dialogue both informative and entertaining.

Pudding was A Ladies’ Day dessert dish of Brandy Ice Cream, Meringue & Fig Molasses. The rich brandy fused delightfully with the sweet meringue and both were topped off fantastically by the fig molasses. It was a punchy pudding, and as with the rest of the evening, The Novel Diner team executed it perfectly.

A supper club where you eat, drink, dress up, read and learn, The Novel Diner has found a niche in an overcrowded market, and it delivers time and time again.

Verdict: •••••



butterbeansSpooning some butter beans

meatloafGrandma’s Meat loaf

salad fingersEating salad with my fingers

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/20/restaurant-review-the-novel-diner-does-the-bell-jar/