Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lily Allen plays Shepherds Bush Empire

From Lily Allen 2009
Having left Tokyo that morning, I was determined to make it to Shepherds Bush without failing asleep on the Tube! I stood up all the way just to make sure.

La Roux started the evening well, good music combined with a couple of caffeine drinks gave me a second wind…

Lily Allan then played a great, if a little short set. It is hard to remember, that unlike most of the acts I’ve seen live, Lily is at the beginning of her career and doesn’t have a large catalogue of hits to fill an evening. Her cover of Britney’s Womanizer was particularly good – I hope to hear Britney’s live version shortly…

I was grateful to get to bed that evening – it was only midnight locally, but it felt like the sun should be coming up – as it was where I’d been that morning!

Travel god desert me travelling to Tokyo

From Tokyo March 2009
It had to happen eventually – the travel gods deserted me on my business trip to Tokyo… After the tragic crash of a cargo plane at Narita airport, we where informed a few hours before we where due to land that we’d been diverted. Naively thinking it was like being diverted from Heathrow to Gatwick, I wasn’t concerned – it was a business trip and the car would simply pick me and my fellow travelling colleagues up from a different airport. Little did I know!

We landed uneventfully at Central Japan Airport, an airport build offshore from Nagoya. After some time sat in the plane, the ground staff presented every passenger with 20,000 Yen, at the time I thought this was generous compensation for the inconvenience.

Having quickly cleared immigration, we gathered at the airport railway station. At this point we considered jumping in a taxi – something that with hindsight would have been a very expensive time consuming choice. Luckily we had the technology to seek advice from our colleagues in Japan – get the train to Nagoya and change was the advice – it was dawning on me that a travel adventure was about to begin – in a land where I couldn’t even guess at the meaning of the signs, and after a 14 hour flight…

We boarded our first train. EasyJet would have been proud of describing the airport as “Nagoya” airport – about 40 minutes later on what had been a very fast train – frequently exceeding 150 KPH, we arrived at Nagoya’s central railway station. Here we had a choice – bullet train or "commuter” train . It was now dawning on me how far from Tokyo we where. Rather than being diverted from Heathrow to Gatwick, we’d been diverted to the equivalent of Newcastle or Liverpool or even Paris!

On advice, gratefully received, from our local colleagues we navigated the process of purchasing Bullet Train tickets. The wonders of Blackberries – and here I admit most of the good work was done by Dan.

So we found our way onto the Bullet Train – for a journey I now know was 342km – which took 1½ hours. If we’d know that the “green car” was the equivalent of first class, rather than some greener way of travelling – maybe you have to pedal! – we’d have selected that. The 20,000 Yen wasn’t looking so generous – it had cost most of that to get to Tokyo.

The final leg to the hotel was simple – jump in a taxi and show them the name of the hotel…  All of this completed without my iTouch which I’d managed to leave at home before I’d got a clue how much I’d miss it!

The rest of the trip was uneventful, hard work, but straight forward. Our hosts showed us some great placed to eat authentic local food. Topped off by some of the best steak I’ve had the privilege to eat. Subtly different from top quality steak in Europe, but wonderfully cooked in front of us and presented. The restaurant also offered great views across Tokyo from the 37th floor of our hotel.

The only pity was that I dragged my camera half way across Japan, and only managed to get a few pictures out of the hotel window! Having said that it was a great view of the Tokyo skyline.

Travel in the reverse direction was, I’m thankful to say simple and uneventful – no diversions to Newcastle or Paris…

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bring on the Scots!

From England v Scotland 2009
Half having expected to have been on a plane to Tokyo instead of watching the last match of the 6 nations, I made my way on another spring day to Twickenham. This was my first time in the “television” stand – the side where the camera are – so the formalities at the beginning of the match where towards me rather than with their backs to me…

The first half of the French match had been a wonderful display of rugby. Scotland put up a better defence than the French and held England to 15-3 at half time – reasonably respectful. Then in a very cagey second half both sides cancelled each other out – a final score of 26-12 was a fair result.

The Irish then managed to narrowly defeat the Welsh – allowing England to  achieve a 2nd place in the 6 Nations that looked very unlikely when they struggled to defeat the Italians, and couldn’t keep their discipline against either the Welsh or the Irish!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

French overwhelmed at Twickenham

From England v France 2009
On a very pleasant Sunday afternoon I made my way to Twickenham with no great expectations of a good performance from England. I’d been grateful that they’d broken their loosing streak while I was watching against Italy – even if that had been unconvincing. Imaging my surprise when they scored in the first few minutes – every team has some luck and the French often take a little time to wake up. But then the excellent play continued and by half time the score line was  an amazing 29-0.

It wasn’t a surprise that the second half wasn’t as brilliant – I’ve never seen England play well for two halves in a row – but loosing the second half 5-10 still meant an impressive 34-10 result. Could they keep it up against the Scots, and if the Wales-Ireland result when England’s way a incredible 2nd place in the 6 nations was possible! 

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Septuagenarian rocks O2

From Tina Turner 2009
It is quite incredible that this was a the Golden Anniversary tour for Tina Turner. Maybe not that she’d been touring for 50 years, but that she could rock the O2 with the best of them, and keep up with her support dancers – at least 40+ years her junior!

I’d been looking at the tape running across the stage wondering why it was needed – then all became apparent as a section of the stage allowed Tina to move out above the middle of a packed O2 – quite a piece of engineering. Especially to keep health and safety happy!


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Return to London

When I left London, public transport had been shutdown by the snow and I needed shoes with tread on them even for my short walk to the office. Now I’d got more of a tan than I’d had since I was a teenager, or possibly my student days sat in the back of an eight coxing during the heat of a Oxford Summer.

The holiday wasn’t quite over – one more luxury – a first class seat all the way back to London. And yet again BA lived up to their reputation of wonderful service. Even Heathrow managed to be a smooth passage – quite a long walk again, but I hardly stopped, a two minute wait for my bag, then straight through Iris immigration and on to the Heathrow express back to the centre of London…

I'll certainly be looking to go on Safari again, and next time I go to a holiday location, I'll try to stay in a "international chain", where hopefully the internet age will reach and I won't be so disconnected. I'll have no excuse for not updating my blog in real time, rather than months after the event that way...

The flights for my next escape to warmer climbs are already booked! Yet another Airmiles purchased - First Class return to Hawaii with AA - I've still got many Islands in Hawaii to visit, and the Volcano has woken up since I was there in 2007.

Total Relaxation

Beau Rivage - Belle Mare - Ile Maurice
Next phase of the holiday was what I missed in my previous twin city holiday in Hong Kong and Singapore – A chance for total relaxation – not that being driven around Kruger park taking pictures of the wildlife was exactly taxing…
I’d splashed out on a ocean junior suite, to ensure I had a balcony with a great view – the expense was well worth it. A great location on the beach front in a quiet corner of the resort. Breakfast delivered to the room at 10am managed to break my habit of a life time, of not being a breakfast person. 10 days of total relaxation – enjoying the cool of the balcony and the sun of the loungers on the beach. Avoiding sun burn was a little tricky – but by the end of my stay I was browner than I’d been since I was a teenager spending summer holidays on the beach in Devon. This wasn’t quite Devon – for a start, 90% of the guest where French. The lack of reasonable Internet access was a little surprising for a so called “5 star plus” hotel – but then it was a true holiday hotel, with no pretention to be catering for anything but sun worship, relaxing and possibly some water sport.