Double Hubble in London

Great Court British Museum
Great Court British Museum

My birthday was coming up and Helen had arranged a treat in London, for the Saturday so we were up earlyish and out of the house to catch the 0915 from Berkhamsted. We managed to find a spot in the free parking outside Berkhamsted castle. We got travel cards from the machine and only then did we notice delays and cancellations on the Euston line, apparently due to signalling problems. It turns out that we would have less of a wait because the 0901 was due in at 0908 so we only had time to get a coffee before the train arrived.

I had plans for the trip too, I was going to choose a new light tripod, with a tilting centre column to help with taking photospheres. I thought I might also have a look at a Canon 8-15mm lens, which would enable me to apply to be a Google trusted photographer.

The weather was grey with the threat of rain, temperature was below 10 degrees. It turns out the signalling issues were near Tring so it did not affect our journey time. We got on the 68 bus and because we were early I suggested that we get off the bus at the British museum. I thought it would be a good idea to take some photospheres of be fantastic roof inside the british museum.

London street
London street

Helen tried to help some Chinese guys looking for the university of London once I told Helen that she had the map upside down she send them on the right direction. We can across a load more Chinese tourists outside the museum some of them in factory overall suits, not sure if they were the guides or something else. Once at the museum helen send a happy half an hour with the elgin marbles while i went round and took photos of museum roof.

Suitably photographed we left the museum and got on the 188 and alighted on Waterloo bridge, then headed to the BFI iMax cinema which was the surprise that Helen had arranged, the film was about the Hubble telescope in 3D, which I was well pleased about. We had time for a coffee at the Costa franchise.

The film was excellent it told the story of a mission to upgrade the Hubble telescope in 1990. The result I on of imax is very high and the footage from n space was stunning. After the film we headed to o the National Theatre just in case there was a photo exhibition in the lobby, it turns out there was not but in the past we have seen the press photographer of the year and landscape photographer of the yeat., both free and well worth a visit to. On the was to the NT we past a street food market and after some deliberation I had an excellent griddle toasted sandwich and Helen had a Polish cottage cheese, onion and potato dumpling.

We decided to walk to Tottenham court road, I wanted to check out Park cameras. I looked at the to pods and liked the look of the 190 carbon fibre model with 4 sections, it is small light, has a 90 degree centre column feature and is very expensive. So I bought the even more impressive Canon 8-15mm USM lens because I asked and got a £50 discount. It is likely to become my goto lens as it covers that wide angles I look and is suitable for photosphere sets. Oh forgot to mention we also stopped off Foyle’s and helen bought some books.

Having spent enough money for the day we headed back to Euston on the 73 bus.

The Battle of the Sexes – London Film Premier

Billie Jean King at the premier of the battle of the sexes
Billie Jean King at the premier of the battle of the sexes

Out of the blue I got an email at work from Helen asking if I wanted to go to a film premier in London’s Leicester Square that evening. Her sister had won a couple of tickets on Twitter and none of her friends could attend at such short notice. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, pondered for a short time and tried to figure out if it was possible. The event started at 18:00 so I thought it would be difficult to get there in time if I left work at the official time of 17:00, however if I left at 16:00 or soon after it should be feasible. The premier was for the film The Battle of the Sexes a documentary about tennis star and women’s rights activist Billie Jean King won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles, but the biggest match of her career took place in 1973 against former men’s champion Bobby Riggs, a self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig who declared that, even at the age of 55, he could beat any woman in the world. A rousing and hugely enjoyable documentary with a great soundtrack.

Danny Boyle at the premier of the battle of the sexes
Danny Boyle at the premier of the battle of the sexes

I must admit I did not know what to expect and I did not know anything about the story, but it sounded interesting, and most of all it was one of those events you don’t want to miss because they don’t come along very often, and I just loved the idea that I had only just found about about it and would have to make a real effort to get to it. First things first check with the boss that he had not issues with me disappearing at 16:00, easier said than done he was in meetings most of the day, but we were due to talk so no problem. Next what time are the trains, Tring was probably the station of choice, there was a train at 16:34 (ideal) then one at 16:56 (OK but pushing it a bit. I never got to check with the boss but I took a flier, I had been in early for the past couple of weeks working on a big project, so the hours had been put in.

So I left work at just after 16:00, went home for changes into jeans and T-shirt (that is what you wear to a premier isn’t it?), drove to Tring station. I got to the station at 16:28 leaving me 6 minutes to get on the train. I had phoned Helen;s sister and she would probably be on the 16:34 if she rushed, so the challenge was on. Parking was easy as a space was free near the entrance, but the parking ticket proved confusing in my rush, it was not clear how much money I needed to spend, so I just fed the machine until it gave me a departure time, as it happens £4, not so bad. Next ticket I ran across the bridge  to the ticket machine but noticed that the ticket office was open and there was no queue probably the quickest route. Travel card in hand I slipped onto the train which was waiting on the platform with 20 seconds to spare, slightly out of breath.

Yvonne Goolagong at the premier of the battle of the sexes
Yvonne Goolagong at the premier of the battle of the sexes

Helen’s sister had met up with Helen;s cousin on the way to the station and she was off to London for rehearsals, in play soon to be premièred. They both made the train at Berkhamsted and I switched carriages and joined them. We were soon arriving at London Euston. It was not too busy even though the rush hour was about to start it was 17:05 ish. We jumped on the Northern line and got out at Leicester Square at was 17:22 not bad I had left work only 1:20 earlier and had been home and got changed on the way. Next job was to find the cinema the Vue, we to the main square I noticed some press photographers but thought nothing of it, then down to the bottom of the square. We could not see it, so out come Google maps turns out we had walked past it the press were outside it was at the top of the square. First we checked that we were on the list, the people at the door checked our names ,and said we were a bit early which suited us as I was hungry and needed some food. After walking through some of Chinatown we settled on Pret as it was easier, and quicker. I had a goats cheese and beetroot sandwich, and a Pain au Raisin. At about 18:00 we headed back and they let us in.

I was not sure what to expect and was surprised to see press photographers either side of the foyer as we walked though. They clearly did not recognise me as only a few of them took pictures, perhaps they were going for the natural light and had switched off their flashes? We were directed up stairs to a big room where people were milling about in suits and smart dresses, there were a few of us dressed for the occasion in jeans and T-shirts mainly staff! We grabbed a seat round the edge of the room and indulged in some people watching. Basically people arrived through the entrance and were sometimes followed clearly staff who had had to refer to a printed booklet to know who they were and whether they were important. Some of the people (most whom I did not recognise) were stopped by the photographers in the room for a photo opportunity. Other “normal” people were left alone so it was easy to tell who was famous. I spotted a few people I recognised most famous of whom was Billie Jean King, and then Danny Boyle who sat down and chatted to someone I did not recognise only 4 yards away.

The eight of the 9 at the premier of the battle of the sexes
The eight of the 9 at the premier of the battle of the sexes

We managed to indulge in a glass of champagne and a bag of pop corn before we were called into the screening. I suggested we go early, and it was a good job as the centre section of the cinema was reserved for Billie Jean King guests, but we managed to get some good seat on the isle, then we sat back and waited for the film to start. Before the film there was an introduction by the directors and producers followed by Billie Jean King, who bought 8 of the famous 9 down to the front of the seats. The projects then rolled and we sat back and enjoyed the film. It was well made and told a great story.

When the film finished we did not hang about, and left to go home. Back on the tube then just made the 21:04 with seconds to spare and out of breath from running. I was home at 22:00 not bad I thought for a school night. I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, days like that don’t come along too often, they must be grabbed with both hands.

January catch up post

Spiller Millenium Mill viewed from ExCel London
Spiller Millenium Mill viewed from ExCel London

I have not posted for a few weeks so I thought I would do a catch up post. Last weekend I went on what seems to have become an annual trip to the Outdoor, Bike and Boat show at ExCel exhibition center in east London. I am interested in all three so it is really good value for money, three exhibitions at one venue all on one £20 ticket. You can save money by booking online early but although they advertise a £4 saving it turns out that there is a £2 booking fee.

It had snowed recently so I was not sure whether I could get there so I did not bother with the paltry £2 saving. As it happened the roads were clear once I got to the A41, and the roads were quiet I think the snow had scared everyone off. I got to the venue by 11am and parked up which cost me £20 for the day, quite steep if you are the only person attending.

Snow Wendover Woods in Black and White
Snow Wendover Woods in Black and White

The halls were quite quiet whilst I was there I think most people waited to see what the weather and road reports had to say before heading out. However by the end of the day it was very busy. The exhibition was not quite as good as last year where I enjoyed the cycle polo, which this year had been replaced with an evening criterium race. The highlights of the day were a talk by Charley Boorman about his new vehicular adventure, and the launch of the Madison cycle team, who were all going to use steel bikes!

This weekend started with a film, Django Unchained on Friday evening. Helen and I really do like to start the weekend with a film. I gave the film a 4/5 but Helen gave it 4/5 for the first two hours but only 1/5 for he last hour, which I have to admit was a bit violent. It was classic Tarantino, and one I enjoyed especially the first 2 hours.

On Saturday Helen was busy with her visiting sister, so I took the opportunity to head to the hills with my camera, it was probably the first opportunity to get pictures of the snow without it either snowing or there being a grey sky. I parked up at Dancersend, and headed up to the Ridgeway above Tring park, then across to the Cafe in the Woods in Wendover Woods. The sun shone the whole time and it was great to be back out in the fresh air after having spent the past two weeks cooped up either in the office or at home.

Snowy view from Dancersend
Snowy view from Dancersend

Saturday evening was a real treat we went to a talk at the local church in Aston Clinton, St Michael and all Angels, for a talk by one of the curates Carole Peters. Carole had in a previous life been an investigative journalist starting off in newspapers then progressing into television. She told us about her adventures in Africa investigating war lords, and in Haiti too. It was very interesting. Everyone bought finger food and there were drinks for sale. I was quite unusual to be drinking beer and wine in a Church, without the vicar handing it to you in a silver chalice with a dry wafer.

On Sunday we went to see another film, Hero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Osama Bin laden. It was a well made film which confused me at first. I give it 4/5. That was the end of an action packed weekend.

Busy weekend

Stag and deer
Stag and deer

Helen was away at the weekend and I am off to Belfast this morning so you will be treated to a blog post of my busy weekend. I dropped Helen off at the train station of Friday evening then settled in for an evening in front of the TV, followed by going to bed early, as I had plans.

I was up at a reasonable time grabbed some breakfast and a strong coffee and headed out to the woods at Ashridge, the rut had started so I might be able to get some pictures. The weather was perfect for photography a clear atmosphere and a few whit fluffy clouds against a deep blue sky. I parked up in a car park which is close to a large open field where the stags tend to congregate and do their strutting about.

Walking through the woods I spotted the odd deer and a couple of stags, but they are hard to get pictures of in the shaded woods. 100th of a second at ISO 800 is about all you can hope for, still the new 40D I’d slightly better at high ISO’s than the old 20D. I did a circuit of the field and took a few landscape shots of the trees which were just starting to turn autumnal. The deer were gathering but there was not a lot of action, and I had other things planned.

Thames view around Little Wittenham
Thames view around Little Wittenham

On the way back through Tring I called in at R’s but I got know answer, so I went home and had some lunch then headed over to Wendover for a haircut, which was more eventful than usual when the guy having his haircut in the chair next to me had his ear snipped with the scissors. He got a free haircut and I thanked my luck stars I was not their 5minutes earlier is I might have been in that seat. I grabbed a paper and went home.

I gave R another call and got hold of him, and popped round for a coffee, it was good to catch up. Then I was back to the woods to have another crack at the rut. I was not disappointed. Two stags were on the rise in the field and occasionally challenges came from the edge of the field, which drew the stags down closer to where I had positioned myself and within lens shot. At one point I saw charging and crashes as their antlers clashed. I left at about 17:30 clearly sunset is the best time of day.

I grabbed an M&S curry on the way through Tring then went home to watch Hard Candy on Netflix, which although got good reviews was rubbish, I lasted 30 minutes in. Again I had a fairly early night as I was going to give the deers another chance in the morning. There was not much action in the morning at 08:30, but it was nice to be out in the woods when it is quiet, on such a nice morning. Next it was back to the house to make Tumbet for a quick Sunday evening meal, you can make it ready to put in the oven for later. This time I used new potatoes which I boiled and skinned red peppers for a jar, which made it easier to prepare and tasted great.

Ewelme view
Ewelme view

I was due to pick Helen up at 1600 from Didcot so as the weather was again great I headed out early to Little Wittenham to get some pictures around the river Thames. I grabbed my 10-22mm lens and polarising filter, it was to be one of those days. Over and around Little Wittenham there is some thing called Earth Trust, which I must find out some more about, it looks like they have been planting trees and putting up walks and generally doing stuff for nature conservation.

Helen’s train was on time and the Tumbet was great we watched the film Tyranosaur, which although very hard hitting was very well made, a great story and well acted. That’s what I call making the most of a weekend.

The Olympic hangover

Easyjet aircraft and Jet Tanker
Easyjet aircraft and Jet Tanker

I set the video for the closing ceremony as I was off to Belfast in the morning. I arrived at Luton a bit later than usual, a work colleague Richard was on the car park bus but had not invested in priority boarding so we went out separate ways at security. In the deep departure lounge there were quite a few people who must have been at the closing ceremony the evening before, they still has faced and hair in thirty national colours. I had time for a pain au raisin and an espresso before the flight was called.

Unusually the gate was number 6 a gate I had never used before, it meant we would be getting a bus to the plane, much to the disappointment of the speedie boarders. The plane was quite full they had to do a call over the tannoy to get a mother and small child seated. The papers were full of reminisces about the last two weeks they were some interesting bronze, silver and gold prizes for unusual categories such as best hair cut and best use of a cardboard tube!

I think the Olympics have gone on for long enough now, it seems that for the past two weeks all I have done is watch sporting events on the tv. Yesterday Helen and I went for a walk around Cholesbury the first time we had done so since the Olympics started, but even then we decided we should be back to see the mountain bike race. Whilst out on the walk I was bitten by a fly which managed to draw blood now as I wrote this I have noticed a red welt on the calf of my right leg. Still it was really nice to get out into the woods and observe nature. There were not many birds about, but we did find two large stripped feathers which we thought might be taking edge feathers of either a Buzzard or a Red Kite. There was a hint of autumn top come the oral leaves were starting to lose those deep green for a more yellowed green.

London 2012 Olympic Park
London 2012 Olympic Park

However I digress, at work I had a few meetings and moved a few projects on. Then it was back to the hotel for a something to eat and some internet surfing, however the WiFi was not giving out UP address and the receptionist could only shrug her shoulders and offer sympathy.

An early breakfast was followed by an early arrival at the office, and another day of the same as the day before. I left the office at 14:45 and headed back to the airport, the weather had improved and the sun was shining. At the airport security was slightly busier than normal, and I was luck enough to have my bag picked out for more scrutiny than the x-ray machine would allow, my asthma inhaler had caused some confusion.

I had 30 minutes to spare before the flihgt was called so I fired up my Android phone and surfed the internet. It seems that the phone works best when it is plugged into the usb post of the laptop, I suspect this is because the phone shuts services down when on battery only and so after about two minutes the wifi hot spot disappears.

I needed my flight to be on time today as we have cinema tickets at the Rex booked to see the film/documentary called The Last Projectionist which is about the decline of the need for real projectors and people to run them in cinemas these days. The Rex in Berkhamsted features in the film (well it did in the trailer anyway).

Whilst sat typing this a grey passenger jet has just taxi’d out to the run way, i’m pretty sure it was an RAF Lockhead Tristar. Whilst it was taxiing there were fire engines with lights flashing standing by, I am not sure if that is standard procedure for the RAF, but the fire engines disappeared once the plane had taken off.

The Queens Barge at London 2012 Olympic Park
The Queens Barge at London 2012 Olympic Park

Pretty non-eventful flight managed to do the soduku from The Guardian classed as moderate. Weather in Luton was sunny and fine. After a short wait for the bus I was back to my car and ready to drive to Berkhamsted. Easy when you have Satnav you say, well it turned out to be quite an interesting trip. There is no main road to Berkhamsted from Luton, so the directions were via some very small roads, surprisingly I did not meet another car on the very narrow roads. I did howvere see loads of places for nice walks. I got to The Rex in good time and got myself a bottle of fizzy water and some chilli nuts.

The film was called The Last Projectionist which I thought was about the decline of the job of the projectionists in cinemas, it was in a way but it was more about the history of projectionists from the point of view The Electric the first cinema in this country and is still a working cinema in Birmingham. There were not many people in The Rex but I enjoyed the film, which feature the owner of The Rex.

The weekly commute to London (this time to see Warhorse)

The new roof at Kings Cross Station
The new roof at Kings Cross Station

I got Helen tickets to see Warhorse, at The New London Theatre Drury Lane, March 24 was the first Saturday available with decent seats. Theatre is not my thing, but the show seems quite different to the norm so I am quite intrigued. We did not get off to our usual early start as we were out late in Tring at Olive Lime for a curry, with friends.

We got to Berkhamsted station at 10:28 just in time to get our tickets and miss the 10:30 train to Euston, so we grabbed a paper and cappuccino (triple shot!) and took a seat in the sun. The 10:45 left on time with us on board searching for a seat on the crowded train. Not sure if it was our tardiness or the sun that had got everyone out for a trip to London. We eventually found some seats and settled in to the brief journey to London Euston.

Apart from the new Wembley stadium there is not much to see except for embankments, brick walls, and peoples back gardens. The gardens can be quite interesting, some are nicely manicure but most are just back yards left to their own devices except for the odd mow now and again. Some we completely concreted over.

I lost Helen this is the last picture I have
I lost Helen this is the last picture I have

Kings Cross station has reopened and has a new roof, so we thought we would take a look. We walked via the back streets to get there they are far more interesting and a lot less busy. The roof is very impressive, check out the pictures. From King Cross we headed to the Brunei Gallery, at the School of Oriental and Asian studies, to take a look at a photographic exhibition of Japan after the Tsunami, many of them were very moving. Some just out of this world such as a large ship sunk into the side of a building and cars on top of 3 storey buildings. After donating to the relief fund we jumped on a bus to Aldwych and headed towards Neal’s Yard to find some lunch. Near by we passed a nice looking restaurant, but we passed on it and ended up in a not so good one in Neal’s Yard. I ordered tuna salad and Helen a Pizza. The food was reasonable for London £25 for the two of us. I had water melon juice which was freshly made and delicious, Helen had apple which was also tasty.

We had 30 minutes to spare before the show so we took a leisurely stroll in the direction of the New London Theatre. We got to our seats not too early after Helen had to queue for a pee. I read the paper while Helen warned me of the dangers of rustling sweet containers at the theatre apparently it is not allowed! The set was pretty minimal but there were enough props to set the scene. The animated horses were very clever requiring three people to operate them. The show was bought to an exciting effects scene for the interval leaving the audience wondering what was going to happen next.

At the Tsunami exhibition
At the Tsunami exhibition

The second half had even more effects, there was a happy ending that bought made the audience shed a few tears. All in all I enjoyed the show but not enough to go rushing back to the theatre. I’m still a theatre Luddite.

We both wanted to drop into a book shop so the obvious choice was Foyles so we walked in the general direction of Charing Cross Road. On the way we passed a trendy publication shop (coffee table magazines) that also sold some good T-shirts, two that caught my eye, were one that listed the percentage constituents of a human body and another that had bird silhouettes. I took their website details www.mymagma.com

The Masons Grand Lodge
The Masons Grand Lodge

In Foyles I bought a book called Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes, it won The Financial Times book of the year. It is about the idiosyncrasies of the Swiss, it sounds interesting, watch this space for future book reviews. We got a bus from outside Foyles to Holborn then you can walk round the corner and catch a bus to Euston. Finally we have figured out the easy way to get a bus from Foyles to Euston, on many occasions Helen has cracked and hailed a cab or we have ended up walking to a bus stop on Tottenham court road which is not too far but withe the crowds and tiredness at the end of a day in London is not fun.

We arrived at Euston station with enough time to spare to get some thing to eat when we got home, then we sat on the floor of the train to Berkhamsted. All in all we had a great day out in great weather. We have a BluRay to watch later called Drive, you may see a film review later.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ****

The best exotic marigold hotel film poster
The best exotic marigold hotel film poster

Went in with optimism & came out with a big smile on my face. Whatever age you are, go and see it.  Older folks – it will resonate.  The gang of maturer folks behind us were guffawing with the best of them.  Younger folks, it will remind you that older folks are just you where the bodies have carried on but your minds are still 27.  The whole country should see this, particularly in dull February.  Excellent cinematography full of light, colour & warmth.  The scenes with Judi Dench advising the call centre will strike a chord, and if anything, the film would have benefitted from more of these scenes.  Enjoy!

Point Blank (A Bout Portant) ****

Very good French film. Worth a watch. Nuff said

Thanks Helen for that effort here is a slightly more verbose film review.

Point Blank (A bout portant) film poster
Point Blank (A bout portant) film poster

The film starts with a loving couple, the wife is pregnant, and in a separate thread and injured guy is being chased by two armed men.

The injured man end up in hospital after being hit by a motorcyclist. The husband of the couple turns out to be a nurse and saves the life of the fugitive much to the annoyance of the people trying to kill him.

The film takes many twists with good cops and bad cops, chasing the guilty and the innocent around the Paris streets. Filmed in reportage style with none of the hollywood polish. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good thriller.

The tourist (***)

The Tourist poster
The Tourist poster

Angelina Jolie and star in a block buster with plenty of othjer engish actors. The essence of the story is that Angelina is trying to meet up with her lover who owes a lot of money to the british government and the secret service are after them.
They devise a pan where she picks up an innocent tourist on the train to Venice where most of the film takes palce.
The plot twists a bit and there are some good action scences and it is strange to see ??? Play a more serious part of the pirates films. Helen want to give the film 4 stars but it is my blog and I say 3 stars.

Les Petit Mouchoirs (*****)

Petits Mouchoirs
Petits Mouchoirs

Went to Rex with Abida, to see this French film. It is a story about a group of long time friends from Paris. One of them Ludo is the soul of every party and one night is hit by a lorry on his way home from a night club. Even though you know it is coming it still comes as a surprise.
Anyway all the friends who usually spend the grande vacances at Max’s summer cabin near Bordeaux, now in a dilemma whether to go or not. Eventually they do.
The film concentrates one by one on the different charaters and relationships between the various people. The film makes you laugh and cry. Just deserving of the 5 stars.