Lumiere is a wonderful idea where light sculptures and installations are shown in towns and cities, free of charge. This year Lumiere returned to London and Elly and I went.
There were about 50 pieces on display from Kings Cross to Mayfair, West End, Fitzrovia and the South Bank. It was a joyful evening in some ways like a firework display for adults and the atmosphere was glorious; happy people strolling around in the dark enjoying culture. It was brilliantly organised with enough stewards to stop you getting lost and more than anything it was a celebration of confidence and style.
London felt like a world-class city putting on something for those who live there and visitors like us. Hats off to the Mayor of London for organising the event – first class.
We started in Berkeley Square where a single huge nightingale was perched on a tree and speakers softly played ‘A nightingale sand in Berekely Square’. It sounds corny but it was magical. Elly and I sat on a park bench and remembered a Berkeley Square Ball we went to in the 1980s.
Then we headed for Mount Street and up to Grosvenor Square, by the now disused American Embassy, before grabbing a cab to Regent Street and the Cafe Royal where we stopped for a cocktail and a chance to warm up.
Like any art gallery, not every installation was jaw-droppingly amazing. Some were and some certainly were not. Northern Lights in Grosvenor Gardens while massive was dwarfed by the space it was in. The projected foot on the side of the Haward Gallery was just a bit rubbish.
Then onto the South Bank and some less impressive displays before catching our train home. It was a wonderful reminder of what a great city London is and the value of publically provided art.
The first Kingman film, Kingman:The Secret Service was unusual, funny and rather charming. Impossible special effects with some wry British acting. The second film Kingman The Golden Circle is a train wreck and a tragedy.
In this film the 300 executive producers decided that being too British was a liability and so they needed to fill the cast with Americans, supermodels and sexy older actresses to appeal to the older males audience (like me) and then bring in (dreadful) cameo performances from the likes of Elton John.
The result was that this elite British spy network, Kingsman, relies (yet again) on the Yanks to save their arses. It was very sad and lacked that suave quality of the original. Julianne Moore as the evil baddie was phoning it in and Colin Firth was counting the money live on screen to me. Also I stopped thinking the word “fuck” was shocking or avant garden when I was 14 so why does every character have to say it 15 times in the movie. Finally, why does the lead Taron Everton have to pretend to be a Chicago home-boy, he was from South London and sounds like a dick.
I love animals but you can have too much of a good thing. Take our Christmas lunch at Stanwell House, a lovely boutique hotel in Lymington.
We booked a table in the conservatory hoping to enjoy the last of the pale December light over a Christmas lunch. What we hadn’t bargained for were the dogs. Out of ten tables, five had dogs ranging from the small quail sized Yorkshire terrier to the more meaty Cockerpoo. The problem initially wasn’t the dogs but their owners.
The humans had dressed their dogs up in everything from a stout Christmas lead to a frankly insulting Santa hat for the Yorkshire terrier. It was the behaviour of the owners that was the most revolting. They all seemed to think they had brought human grandchildren to lunch so they spoke baby talk to the dogs and fussed over them constantly.
Things came to a head; or should I say bottom, when one of the dogs took a dump on the restaurant floor. The smell of dog poo is bad enough but mixed with Brussel sprouts simply indescribable.
Thankfully, a waiter saved us and moved us to another room in the restaurant where adults were enjoying lunch, free of dogs.
My home town of Lymington has a Facebook group called Lymington Rumour Control. This was set up to be the village pump, a place where wit and humour could flourish as local residents share useful and humourous news about our town.
Sadly, it degenerated into a playground for the terminally sanctimonious and the meeting ground for the staggeringly self-opinionated.
It was also the home of lazy sods asking the same questions like “can any one recommend a dentist/hairdresser/vet/tyre repair shop within 200 miles of Lymington “. There is a service on the Internet called Google you lazy bastards.
Lymington Rumour Control is now filled with tragic locals whinging on about parking, cyclist, litter, donkeys, parking, and puddles or pot holes…… and parking.
I began to hate the town I love.
It was like a never ending chorus of that Internet trope “what about the little children”; a self-righteous maelstrom of poorly spelled and inarticulate spleen-venting.
So I unsubscribed from the toxic hellstew that is Lymington Rumour Control and I now I love my town again.
Somewhere in the Eighties the National Health Service was partially privatised. By which I mean dentists and opticians. Neither of the changes are welcomed as a trip to the dentist now costs three figures and anything above the most basic scale and polish means selling a kidney.
By my rant today isn’t about dentists but rather opticians. In my hometown, Lymington there is an opticians that we shall call Grovel and Snobs. A stylish shop run by a man who clearly wanted to be a brain surgeon but had to settle for investing in some clever machines and selling overpriced Danish glasses to the socially climbing,townsfolk of Lymington.
My view is that the Opticians are as relevant as Saddle Makers and Milliners. Their job can and will be done by computers within ten years. Milliners will remain as long as weddings need hats. Once opticians have disappeared, then I’ll be spared stupid questions like “Do you do any hobbies where your sight is important”. Just think for a minute of a hobby where your sight isn’t important.
To cap it all off, I was quoted three weeks to make a pair of sunglasses for my wife. Boots in the High Street quoted one week but the kicker was trying to get a copy of my wife’s prescription. Rather than hitting Ctr+P and printing it from a computer, Grovel and Snobs insist on handwriting a copy of the 18 numbers and then charging you £17.50 ($24) for the privilege.
Unbelievable. Complete and utter nonsense. So they lost two customers in ten seconds.
The 2017 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was a fantastic experience. In many ways it all that is best about the United States. Impressive, friendly and well organised.
I arrived at Dawn on the first day for the Dawn Patrol which has a smaller number of balloons permitted to take off in darkness. The burners and colourful canopies roaring to life in the darkness is a spectacular sight. I described it as watching baby dragons wake up all snorting fire and noise.
Then the mass assent takes place as the sun rises with six or seven hundred balloons taking off and you can wander through them lending a hand when asked. It is so good natured and friendly without a hint of health and safety nonsense just sensible people having a good time.
Two things, apart from the balloons, spring to mind. At one point a grandmother had lost her grand-daughter in the crowd of 50,000. She was in a panic but a marshall got on the radio to the police who had her. A kindly visitor had handed her in. It was done so effortlessly it was a joy to watch.
The whole balloon festival is spectacularly well run from courtesy buggies to get you from the massive car parks to the gates. A lack of parking charges (normally $15 but I was never charged) to plenty of places to sit.
I had never been to a balloon event and this was the ultimate experience being among these giants in the New Mexico dawn.
I’m happy to report that I have left Las Vegas with more money than I arrived with. I planned to gamble $500 and left with $$640. So financially it was a success. However, I hated it. It bills itself as a place where you let your hair down and enjoy yourself and you can certainly do that. From guys selling beers out of suitcases on the street to mobile billboards for hookers, it’s all there.
However, at the heart of it all is a sad desperation. People willing themselves to have a good time to the soundtrack of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. If I had my way it would be illegal to play anything by those Gods within the city limits.
I was walking through the Casino at the Bellagio when I heard a woman doing a rendition of ‘that’ scene in When Harry met Sally. Full bore organism, I kid you not. I looked over and she was screaming “I won thirty, I won thirty”. I thought thirty grand was excellent until I discover she meant $30. Seriously, how small must your life be to get that excited over thirty dollars? I saw a man pouring chips onto a roulette table to try and impress his bored wife. He won something every spin, just less than he’d bet.
I was there to catch a flight home so watched the Bellagio fountains at sunset, did a small amount of successful gambling to pass the time between sunset and dinner but the highlight was probably the shower in my room which was first class. I think my problem is that I assumed that Bellagio would be glamorous. It is in the same way that Dubai is, namely, it isn’t.
Like Bulgari jewellery, it is all style and no substance. The croupiers are not all resting Victoria Secrets models. In all likelihood, they are cleaners for the Philippines who can count. Zero personality. Your fellow gamblers are divided between the seriously addicted to the clueless morons like me trying to fill time.
The whole thing is artificial; from the shows to the gambling, from the phoney bellhops to the waitresses, the whole thing reeks of insincerity. This was summed up by a slot machine I played. It had no rules or table of winnings. So I pumped in $20 with no clue of the odds or what I was supposed to do. I gave into the machine which spat out $160 dollars. I have no idea how but that was probably the idea. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
As I climbed into my cab for the airport I spotted the Trump hotel and casino. That summed up Las Vegas to me. Tasteless, noisy and stupid. Give me Albuquerque any day.