A bumper crop to end the year as my Christmas requests were fulfilled by Santa.
This months additions are:
Train – Bulletproof Picasso
Simple Minds – Big Music
The The – Mind Bomb
Prides – Mixtape 2014 (single)
Peter Gabriel – Back to Front EP (SoS)
Alpine – A is for Alpine
Tchaikovsky – Serenade in C (SoS)
Radiophonic Workshop -Radiophonic Workshop (SoS)
Taylor Swift – Shake it Off (single)
It’s been a catchy month. I wouldn’t say that I am in Taylor Swift’s usual demographic but this particular track has got into my head and I cannot shake it off. I feel the same about Train only this is a whole album of unbelievably catchy tracks.
I originally listened to Bulletproof Picasso on Spotify (you can too here) and could have continued to do so for free (with the occasional ad) pretty much forever but there is something that I cannot quite get my head round and that is renting music. I have written before about having ownership of my music so am I glad to now own this.
Alpine’s stand out track Hands is supported by the odd video embedded below. Anyone have any idea what it is about?
I haven’t decided whether to bother with this in 2015 but if you have any strong feelings let me know in the comments.
Those above marked (SoS) are from a subscription service called Society of Sound which is curated by Real World Records, Peter Gabriel and the LSO. This provides members with two downloads a month of which you get no choice. This means that some months you get something that you really love and other months not so.
All my music is held in a web-based music streamer called Subsonic, a roll-your-own Spotify if you like. This provides statistics on number of tracks and size of collection, as you can see below.
So all this year I have been recording all the new music I have added to my collection (you can see all the monthly entries here) and I wanted to take a look back and see which of all the albums I’ve added I’ve enjoyed the most.
The criteria for this award is quite simple it is the one that I have come back to listen to time and again. It also excludes any that were added in December as any of these wouldn’t have had enough time to be regarded as long term favourites.
And so without further ado the winner, from March, is…
While this is not as good as 2012’s XXX it is still a fine record and a return to Asia’s best. Personal favourites on the album are Nyctophobia (simply for managing to fit that into the lyrics), The Closer I Get to You and Joe Dimaggio’s Glove.
So well done Carl, Geoff, John and the one that replaced Steve!
30 years ago I went to what was then the Apollo theatre in Oxford to see Marillion. This was during the Fugazi tour when they were still in their ascendancy and Fish wasn’t writing songs like Lavender.
I remember the beginning of the gig very clearly. The set had a raised stepped gantry in the middle of the stage at the top of which was housed a white circle of what turned out to be paper on a frame. This was backlit silhouetting Fish behind it and then of course as the music hit a crescendo and he leapt through. Very theatrical and great fun. It was a good gig.
Wind forward 30 years and I am in Reading’s Sub89 club waiting for Fish to appear. This time there weren’t any theatrics unless you count braving the crowd and coming to sing amongst us, as you can sort of see from the dark picture above.
The set list was predominately made up of tracks from the latest “A Feast Of Consequences” which was good because that was what I had practiced and the reason I had booked a ticket in the first place. Between each track Fish told a story or pulled down the christmas decorations above him. Initially this was just pointing them out but then they started coming away and more and more followed! There were two themes in the stories: inequality and war which were also reflected in the songs showing that he hasn’t lost his sense of right and wrong over the years.
For the encore we were treated to Incubus from Marillion’s Fugazi which completed a circle for me as that was also played all those years ago in 1984.
This has to be my favourite shop in the world. It was situated directly opposite our hotel and with its unassuming frontage was easy to miss.
It’s a lamp shop but unlike any I had ever seen before. In the window were several brass instruments that had been turned into lamps and they were beautiful, stunning pieces of work. Behind these was an Aladdin’s cave with bits strewn everywhere and there to one side was the craftsman standing creating another masterpiece.
Thanks to my friends at Ryanair I have an extra hour at the airport to write this blog post, so much for the “on time airline”. Oh well.
When abroad Helen and I like to try and find off the beaten track places to eat. This usually is done by a combination of guidebooks, hotel receptions and Tripadvisor for advice. Previously this has worked incredibly well, last night not so. This was partly our fault as we were looking for a traditional Hungarian meal and had identified a possibility. Unfortunately when we came to go out we clicked on the wrong entry on the Tripadvisor app and ended up at somewhere that wasn’t offering haute cuisine. It was one of the quickest meals we have had in a long time but at least it was cheap!
As we had so much time to kill we decided to head back to the markets and take a look at night. Also realising that we weren’t spending money as quickly as we expected meant that we could afford to grab a few extra presents. It was a much more vibrant and attractive place at night so I am glad we went back. Helen was too as it enabled her to sample the mulled wine.
For our last morning we took a stroll North to Heroes Square. This is anther attractive area of the city with the square itself, a park behind and then a museum. There was also an open air ice rink set up with many able skaters whizzing round. It looked fun but I’m told it requires balance, something my wife assures me I don’t have. We then wandered back to the area around our hotel to grab some lunch before returning to the airport.
We did, however, have time for something that we have never done before – change local currency back into sterling. In fact we had so much left over that we got back £75 and still had plenty left to tip the taxi driver and for drinks at the airport. That is completely unheard of for us!
It was an enjoyable few days in the Hungarian capital. Many head for Prague but I would say that Budapest is far more attractive and cheap too.
Today, the reason we had come to Budapest when it was cold – the Christmas markets. I believe that these originate from Germany but they are everywhere now. We visited Birmingham’s German Market a couple of weeks ago and the ones in Budapest were supposedly bigger, hence the trip. You could ask why we simply didn’t go to Germany.
It was the first day for the markets today and as such they had got off to a slow start with not all the “sheds” (there’s really no better word to describe them) occupied. Despite that it was still a colourful place to be, as you can see from the pictures below. There were plenty of unusual gift ideas, including jewellery, leather, wood and other mainly candle based items. There was also plenty of opportunity to grab a plastic cup of mulled wine, if that’s your chosen poison.
We left the markets and made off for another walk around part of Budapest. The weather was greyer than yesterday and pretty chilly but a brisk walk up to the Liberty Statue soon sorted that out. The monument celebrates the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi Germany. Given their time under Soviet it’s a surprise that it wasn’t ripped down in 1989. They did, however, change the inscription removing the reference to the “liberating Soviet heroes”. It is a great monument and has a real Soviet era feel to it.
From there we came back down and made our way to the Central Market Hall. The ground floor has numerous market stall, shops really, selling fruit, veg, dairy produce and local meats. Upstairs are stalls selling tourist souvenirs and hot food. Downstairs was an Aldi!
Finally, we made our way back to the warmth of the hotel to thaw out our feet. Based on today I am not sure how I am going to cope once the real cold weather sets in at home.
After a relatively mild start to autumn in the UK the cold of Budapest has come as something as a shock and it’s not even that cold. At 2 degrees it is still hat and gloves weather though so that is how we left the hotel this morning.
The city is made up of two settlements, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube. We made our way today to Buda which sits on a hill over looking the flat Pest. It is a short ride to the top in the funicular, something that a number of other tourists had decided was a good idea. From the top you great great views across the city with the parliament building looking particularly fine. Unfortunately, as you can see from the pictures below, it was a pretty grey day and so some of the shine was taken off.
Buda is a lovely place that has a number of fine churches, streets stuffed with old buildings and an area of small turrets over looking the Danube that remind me of the sort of structures made in sand sculpture competitions. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets and taking pictures, which you can see below.
I guess for some London Stansted is a really convenient airport. There must be some people who say “I know let’s leave this dreary English weather behind and jet off somewhere sunny. Stansted is only just down the road”. Those people don’t live in Reading. For us Stansted means a trek along major motorways of the South of England. Including such stationary wonders as the M4, the M40, the M11 and, of course, the beauty that is the M25.
We had booked a room at the airport ready to make a quick getaway in the morning. At check-in was a bemused group who were being told that they hadn’t confirmed their booking and so their rooms had been released and now the hotel was full. A night in the car no doubt awaited them so I was thankful that wasn’t us.
I’ve said this in the past and I think its worth repeating – travel is time consuming. What with the hanging around at the airport, the flight itself and losing an hour the time quickly gets eaten up meaning that we didn’t arrive at our hotel until 4pm. However, it is worth it for what you find when you get to your destination, such as the parliament building shown above.
There was also a little home from home just around the corner from the hotel!
Last days away are always hard as you have to balance the time you have available to do something meaningful with an eye on the clock to ensure you leave enough time to make your flight. Today was one of those days although with a flight not due to leave until 17:20 we had plenty of time for one last bit of sightseeing.
Behind the hotel where we were staying was a park housing the Villa Borghese and this was one of the few areas we had yet to venture so this morning we went for a wander through it along with numerous runners making the most of the fine weather and traffic free roads.
Speaking of which the roads in Rome are a nightmare and certainly not designed for pedestrians. Pavements are few and far between and those that do exist are narrow. Of course the streets are teeming with tourists who have no idea where they are going and no sense that there might also be a car sharing the road. Despite this Roman drivers are highly tolerant. You very rarely hear the sound of a car horn. If it was me I’d have my hard firmly resting on the horn!
Stopping for a coffee in the Piazza del Popolo proved to be an expensive business with one bitter lemon costing the same as the pizza we had enjoyed yesterday lunchtime. To be fair that’s the only time during our visit that we felt we had been stung. The hotel proved to be especially good value as drinks were always accompanied by nibbles of some sort.
We elected to take a taxi to the airport as the cost was only a few Euros more than the trains and decidedly more comfortable, although our driver was clearly auditioning for the vacancy at Ferrari – a regular Michele Alboreto! At one point he took off from the motor way to join a narrow pitted track. I thought that we were being abducted but it turned out to be a shortcut!
We arrived at the airport in plenty of time which turned out to be a mistake as our plane was delayed by over an hour due to high winds in London. Not a good sign after a week of lovely, fine weather but at least we had a fun time and some late summer sun!
Today was a bit of a departure from the norm in that while we did all the usual touristy things we also went to a museum to see and exhibition of the works of MC Escher.
His work fascinates me and is some of the most accessible art that I have come across. Part of what I love about his work is the symmetry of it. The tescilating, regular patterns seamlessly moving from one form to another without your eye really noticing. Really striking. More enjoyable than the Spanish Steps too, which I have always felt were overrated.
Something that isn’t overrated is the Coliesum. A marvelous building on a grand scale. It is even better at night when the air is cooler and there are fewer people around.
We had a meal at a cafe in a good position overlooking the Coliseum but as I have been warned previously – never eat anywhere that is known for something other than its food.
After a stroll around the whole of the building we made our way to the Forum but this didn’t seem to be lit so we grabbed a taxi and made our way back to the hotel.