Friday, December 7, 2018

West End Wonders and Ooobop!

With three days at large in London over the first weekend in November, I made the most of it!
OMG, this happened! Janene from and I got to spend quality time together and it's like we'd known each other forever in person not just online. What a gal! We hit the West End and the red wine and I think the cabaret world has a new fangirl - just sayin'!

Yes we were THIS close to Patti LuPone. She is every bit as incredible as her reputation. And in an ensemble piece, she was equally Dive and One of the company (of Company by Sondheim), which is part of her magic.
Ah the West End - terrible and fabulous. I love finding ancient landmarks like Lillywhites - which to me is all about Bertie Wooster and golf clubs!
Excellent busker in Piccadilly Circus by the way. I had a good old sing along.
 I have such a love/hate relationship with the West End. One the one hand it is SO London - people, historically fabulous places - Jermyn Street! Piccadilly Circus! The theatres! The crowds!
But it is also a massive tourist trap with terrible service on overpriced food, souvenirs and shows. Twice that weekend I ripped one in a French Maitre D, including the one at the Waldorf who made such a scene, I pointed out to him that it wasn't a lover's tiff.
A major exception was the food and service at Tandoori Chop in Charing Cross. They do amazing platters of the best Tandoori cuisine. A lovely place to brunch!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

London and Proper Ganda

 Well, after my lovely sojourn at Livingstone Lovell, I was back in London!
My first gig was at Proper Ganda, held at The Others club in Stoke Newington.
What an amazing event! I shared the stage over the evening with rap poets, singers, a short film, comedians - it was amazing.
The Others is a big space with couches and a bar made from old doors. It's very laid back, reminds me of the Paisley Stage in Napier. Actually it's very Wellington in vibe. A perfect first gig for this slightly nervous colonial.

This is a tiny snippet of video my brother in law in law Martin took.
A few hardy local friends came along - Felix from University and his wife Alexandra which was a lovely surprise, Martin and Moises, and my old school chum Belinda, her partner Michael and friend Flore. It turned out that Belinda and Michael were no strangers to Proper Ganda, talk about a small world!
It was great to do two sets and get a warm reception but the highlight for me was meeting Liam, The World Wide Welshman. What a lovely human, and a great band too! At the top of the gig before anyone arrived we had a chat about music and I expressed an interest in singing backing vocals for them. I love that. He was all YASS!!!
So I did. All original material but a jam is a jam, you know?
No photos of this crazy, but here is Liam:
The World Wide Welshman -you can find him on Facebook
After, I got to debunk to Hackney with Belinda for a few days. But more on that later.
Thank you Alzira for having me and to the whole Proper Ganda team. It was RAD!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Escape to Lillingstone Lovell

After my lovely time in Brighton I hopped on the train to Milton Keynes and was picked up by the lovely Nicola whom we met when we were in the UK in 2011. This post here talks about our outings back then.
Off to the delightful village of Lillingstone Lovell we went! I have spent three lovely calm days there - Nicola and I have pottered about vintage shops, eaten delicious Chinese food, her own fabulous home cooking too. And we saw Johnny English which was silly and fun.
This morning before leaving I grabbed some photos of this place which is straight off a chocolate box!
The village noticeboard
Thatch looking good! I love the wee cat.
The church which is ancient and glorious
The decommissioned phone box being overtaken by nature. Creepy but cool.

One of the gorgeous double gable houses
The Gables itself - two old cottages made into one and an extension in the same style. It's the most wonderful marriage of old charm and modern comforts.
Looking down Brookside, which is the name of the street. The eponymous brook is really a ditch and on the right.
Looking the other way along Brookside.
Duvet covers drying in the conservatory -with five guest rooms there's always plenty drying. I love them because they look like ceremonial robes.
I love this Emma Bridgewater wallpaper mural in the dining room. We sell a lot of EB tins and all the designs are on here.
This is Morse - Nicola's Chocolate Labrador who took a shine to me and decided that my bed was the place to be, when I wasn't rubbing his tummy. This is the best Sorry Not Sorry face!
 It doesn't surprise me at all that people stay with Nicola even when they need to drive miles to their destination - it is such a lovely place to stay.
I'm feeling refreshed, my sore legs are feeling better. And tomorrow night, I have my first gig!! Eep!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Prinny the Maximalist and me - Royal Pavilion Brighton

Today I visited the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. I knew I would love it, and I did. I wasn't expecting to have such a profound connection to it however and this has moved me to write.
The ceiling of the Music room, with Lotus chandeliers that moved me to tears. More amazing photos can be found here, given one is not allowed to take photos oneself!
The Royal Pavilion is a Temple to Maximalism, but also to consumerism. Prince George (Prinny) let himself go bonkers on this building. More was never enough! It spoke directly into my heart on several levels.
The thought that struck me very early on in the tour was that people talk about Prinny creating the RP, but he didn't. He paid - or in many cases failed to pay - other people to create it for him. He never so much as stitched a stitch in a drape or gilded a cockel shell himself. He was the consumer. It reminded me of a wardrobe of designer clothes curated by a stylist - something that suits the wearer but gives them little agency in the process. No wonder he never found his "top end."  Hearing his story today, I could feel an almost visceral yearning from him to create something himself, that he never sated. But I doubt it would have ever occurred to him to get stuck in and have a go. Or if it did, the urge would be immediately suppressed. Was he ever that self-aware? Who knows. Being a royal at a time when class distinction meant that any kind of manual or physical labour was not for a royal personage would put a stop to that.
The Gallery, which is really a very posh hallway. Photo from link above.
And yet, he loved even the kitchen behind the dining hall, with its four gorgeous palm pillars, and had even dined in it. He seemed to be involved in appointing house staff especially the cook, and paid his staff many times more than the going rate. I hear in all of this a man wanting to connect. His parties where he preferred to be social than play cards, the dining tables laid out in exquisite edible mosaics that were swept away at the end of the night. He clearly had a respect or at least an appreciation for the people who created his world for him.
The Meat kitchen, directly behind the dining room, was a state of the art space for its time - unshown is the high ceiling with windows to let out the heat, and the palm leaves at the top of the four columns.
I have a strong connection to my surroundings at home. If I have curtains on my windows, I chose that fabric and sewed it myself. David and I would have worked out how to hang them, painted and papered the walls - all very hands on and while that is tiring and annoying sometimes, I know it is an expression of who we are. Without this visceral connection to my spaces, I think I would get bored and move on. The combination of knowing we did it ourselves and the daunting reality of the financial and time cost of changing it combine to keep me happy with my lot!
This dining room, with its dragon chandeliers, is beyond words magnificent.
Queen Vic's bedroom with the most beautiful wallpaper. She decided to strip and sell the Pavilion as it was in the city and too exposed, and too small for her tribe of children!
 Prinny's voracious appetite for sex, food, drink, company, beautiful surroundings, never seemed to be sated. He consumed but never really experienced satisfaction or contentment. I wonder what the same man, born into a different family in a different time, might have been like? A painter, an interior decorator, a rock musician maybe? What talents might he have developed if he had to DIY?
Prinny I feel for you.
I can't believe my luck in being here after the eight year restoration of the Saloon was completed.
The Saloon as it now stands, based upon the 1823 schema.
Here is a short video about the restoration. Upstairs was an exhibit showing samples of the originals and some of the processes gone into to make it happen. While the Music Room was hands down my favourite space, having this insight into the restoration process was so exciting. It made my palms itch - I would have loved to help make the gold tassels, or to hand gild the walls. I love me some of that.
So many feels. In the shop at the end of my tour, I bought many, many things. Tea towels and cards and stationery mostly, because these items of paper and fabric imprinted with details from the various spaces, seem to be the closest link to the painstaking creative work gone into creating and then restoring this very special building.
Thank you Prinny you bat sh!t crazy guy, for making this pleasure dome that was never built to last; but in a city so committed to being Extra, is held close to minds and hearts and will forever be preserved.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Brighton, I HEART you, and corsetry!

I am skipping across what happened between leaving Auckland and arriving in Brighton on the south coast of England. Short version: binge watching TV, officious airport staff, insomnia, tube stations and suitcases, kittens, trains.
And here I am in Brighton! What a place, it speaks directly to my heart as a Wellingtonian, but added value is AMAZING architecture everywhere. These are all from the street I stayed on my first night here.

I was laughing with my lovely friend Hester who lives here, how our kiwi eyes see so many details and think, how can that be allowed, it would kill someone in a quake! and then realise, no chance of that happening!
So far I have been on a tour of the pier, water front and some of the town, stocked up at Boots, drunk lots of good coffee, and finally slept for a few hours. Oh, and I had the most exciting experience that I could have, being me. Some of you will appreciate this!
I stayed in an AirBnB on the street shown, and my landlady mentioned in passing that a corsetry business was over the road, in a perfectly unassuming house! This business is Axfords and I was over there knocking on the door asking to chat to Michael the owner in two minutes.
 Michael was happy to talk to me, and the more I saw the more I was blown away. These guys make their own spiral boning, have coutil and cotton/viscose satin and other fabrics woven for them - they've been at it 125 years and in the cutting room (photo) I got to touch and coo and the quality of the garments is fantastic.
I love that this company started in 1880 making utility garments really, at a time when most women would be wearing a corset of some kind. And right through until corsetry evolved into a specific kind of garment for much more niche purposes. Michael says they make corsets for the theatre and TV, and the current production of Rocky Horror.They have three manufacturing locations as Brighton is a place where you have to work around the buildings not vice versa. Their HQ is 82 Centurion Road, where I found them, however...
...this is the other side of the house which is built into the hill so it appears a lot bigger from New Dorset Street that runs behind. The garment construction and boning making happen in two other buildings around the town. There's a big A bricked into the gable that you may be able to make out in the photo - this building was built for Axfords, pretty impressive.
Every corset is made from start to finish by the same corsetiere. Those of us who sew will appreciate what a difference this makes to the quality of the garment. There's as much engineering as sewing in a corset and controlling this is a big part of the quality and durability of the resulting garment.
And can I say that the cutting room smelled like it should? Like an Atelier should. Just magical.
Thank you Michael for letting this random kiwi fizzing with excitement and spouting nonsense in her tired state, into your business and talking to her. I couldn't think of a more fun thing to do - beats the Pier hands down!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Day one, the long flight

23/10 10.02pm. Auckland International Terminal.
Finally, departure day has arrived. After a day of finding things to occupy myself including dishes, ironing shirts and watching Hustle to get a feel for London, I finally go to the shop to meet David. Putting the smaller case on the shop scales confirms my doubts that it is more than 7kg. Off to the airport we finally head, and we have a teary departing at the drop off.
First things first – weighing bags, My large suitcase which could be 23kg and which I was convinced was close to that, weighs 16kg. What can I say, in spite of appearances, I am a weakling. The small one however weighs 9.5kg. So I remove 2.5 kg of crap from it and transfer the crap over to the big one. Sorted.
Then I try to check in at a kiosk. It will not read my passport. Uh oh. I take a look and there is my unsaggy 2011 photo. I had left home with my expired passport!
A quick panicky call to David and he is on the job; happily I am an hour early. The amazing woman at the desk reassures me it is all fine, checks me into the best seats all the way (as I discover later), we chat about grandparents and our childhoods and badly designed things and she labels my suitcase and all the things and soon my knight in shining Peugeot is back with the new, saggy face photo passport. (I don’t really mind it just amuses me!) He’s my hero! A bit anti-climactic after the teary farewell.
An uneventful flight north and a pleasant stroll through a cool, still evening from the Auckland Domestic to the International terminal and here I am, with three hours to kill and nothing to do but buy over-priced food or souvenirs. I buy a jaunty travel pillow festooned with pohutukawa flowers. The woman shop assistant whispers that she is afraid of another customer who appears to be under the influence of something – extreme tiredness, drugs, who knows. Luckily that customer follows me out rambling and wanders off. I feel like I have opened a window to let a wasp escape.
I finally pass through the passenger-only gates, abandoning the bottle of L&P I bought to wash down pills, and am faced with a huge concourse of booze and perfumes and makeup. The smell is overpowering, my sinuses are not happy. How ironic that we cannot bring more than 100mls of liquid into this space filled with tens of thousands of bottles. With my precious reserves of fund raised money, it just seems so surplus. Finally out the other side, I am sitting quietly in the departure area of my gate, with a handful of travellers. The flight is very under full and I hope to get a row to myself. Or at last an empty seat beside me.
I feel so very unprepared for this trip. I’ve never been apart from David for so long since our first year of long distance bonding. My comfort zone does not include solo travel, lugging suitcases, public transport, staying with people, and living with minimal clothes. For these reasons alone it is good that I am doing it. I desperately need a kick up my butt – performing was meant to be that but it comes too easily to me. I need my life shaking up.
I know that millions do this every day, but I feel like Bear Grylls taking on the Amazon.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Four more sleeps before the UK!

I am pinching myself - only four sleeps to go. A week ago the planning board was crammed with jobs to do, and now most have a black line through them. Very satisfying.
Packing is fun. I need day time clothes as well as costumes and all of the paraphernalia that goes into making hair and face look the part. But things are looking good for a two suitcase only situation, which will allow me at the other end to only need to take one anywhere with me at a time.
It's a plan anyway.
This cross stitch pattern on Etsy is designed by a Wellington based student teacher - I love his work!
So deep am I in the details, I have really only just started to realise what is happening - when people say, see you next week and they are in Brighton!
I have actual paid work to tackle before I go, and focussing is hard. But I feel like I've got the that moment when the stressy jobs are handled. Trains booked, travel hair dryer located, costumes vacuum packed. Roaming for phone sorted, netbook brought up to date, adaptor plug purchased etc.
I even made a money belt! I'm not posting about it until I've test driven it though!!
Wish me luck!