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September 2018

Portugal 2018: Nobody Expects The Spanish Expedition

Not a bad little bar to end up in on a Saturday night: NaparBCN, in BCNPortugal! Home of Cristiano Ronaldo, custard tarts and [find third Portuguese thing starting with C before this goes online]. The Belated Birthday Girl hadn't been there before: I'd only spent two days in Lisbon a decade ago, or more accurately in an industrial estate to the west of the city centre. But in July of this year, we travelled to the nicer bits of Portugal and hit them like they owed us money. (Which, of course, was the exact opposite of how it ultimately worked out financially.)

So why are you about to read four thousand words about Spain?

Because, inevitably, we did this year's big holiday by train. We could have just flown to Lisbon and made our way down the road to Porto, but that would have been too easy. No, we took a rail-only route that went London-Lyon-Barcelona-Madrid-Lisbon-Porto-Vigo-Hendaye-Paris-London, adding another five days to what was technically a nine-day stint in Portugal.

Rest assured, the Portugal section of the trip will have plenty of space dedicated to it here, and soon. But for now, let's look at the Spanish bits either side of that, which neatly break down into four different cities.

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BrewDogging #55: Edinburgh Lothian Road

"Oh dear! My Clydesdale Bank is now a trendy craft beer bar!" GOOD.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn, Overworks, Tower Hill]

It's August, it's the height of the 2018 Edinburgh Festival, and I'm not there (as I explained earlier). Nick and several of the Pals are in Edinburgh as I write this, and hopefully we'll hear how things went for them in a future post. Meanwhile, The Belated Birthday Girl and I are at home in London keeping ourselves fresh for the fest in 2019, when I'll have to confront the horrifying fact that it'll be the thirtieth anniversary of my first visit.

But even on a year off, you can't keep me or The BBG away from the place. Particularly when they opened up a second BrewDog bar in the city earlier this year - in fact, right now it's doubling up as Fringe Venue #102. So during the late May Bank Holiday weekend, we popped up there to pay it a visit, and to do several dozen other things as well, like we usually do. Some of them worked, some of them didn't, as you'll see.

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BrewDogging #54: Tower Hill

Look very closely and you can see a whole bunch of people who don't know how shuffleboard works.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn, Overworks]

A few months ago I was banging on about the recently-opened Seven Dials bar, and how huuuuuuuge it was, and how it was obviously going to be BrewDog's new London flagship bar. Well, part of that might still be true - you can't beat the geometric centre of the West End as a location. But since then, BrewDog have opened another London bar in the City, and it's huuuuuuuger.

Then again, that's part of its problem - it's in the City, so my traditional roundup of other interesting things in the area would resemble Alexei Sayle's theoretical publication What's On In Stoke Newington. (For some reason, new London BrewDog bars keep reminding me of Alexei Sayle routines.) So instead, I'm going to tell you about three separate visits I've made to the bar since it opened back in April, each one showing off its features in different ways.

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Simian Substitute Site For August 2018: Funky Monkey Pub Crawl

Funky Monkey Pub CrawlMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JULY 2018

Movies: This is an awkward month to be talking about. As you've probably noticed, there were only two posts here in July, but those two posts took a ridonkulous amount of work to complete. And there's another issue: as you'll hopefully find out soon, July has turned out to be one of those months where there's plenty of activity to write about in detail in the future, but not very much that I can throw away in a quick paragraph here. So, this is going to be even more of a mishmash than usual, starting with a quick run through the films I saw at the pictures during the month. Ocean's 8: it doesn't have the effortless quality of Soderbergh's variations on the theme, but it's entertaining enough, and the cast are all having fun without making you feel left out of it. Yellow Submarine: fascinating to realise that all the avant-garde animation I've been watching in festivals for the last thirty years has borrowed from this movie somewhere along the line. First time seeing this in a cinema for me, and the setting emphasises the weird dichotomy between the speedfreak overload of the fantasy sequences and the mogadon pacing of any scene with the Beatles in it. Vertigo: last time I saw it in a cinema it was 40 years old. Now it's 60, and still more perverted than any other picture from the period you can name. Hereditary: nah. For all the hype, there's a British horror movie from the last decade (no names mentioned) which takes a similar narrative trajectory to this one, but works because it knows exactly how to slowly crank up the story to a point of no return. Hereditary moves in ludicrous fits and starts, so the only sensible reaction is to laugh at how daft it gets.

Theatre: For some reason, the leading male role in The King And I is never given to an actor from Thailand. I don't know about you, but that's a Tony Jaa movie I would kill to see. In the meantime, at least these days they tend to cast actors of Asian extraction: last time I saw it in London the King was played by Korean Daniel Dae Kim from Angel and Lost, and the current production at the London Palladium (running till September 29th) stars Japanese Ken Watanabe from various Christopher Nolan films. To be honest, giving the role to someone whose first language isn't English may have been a mistake: Watanabe has the presence that the role demands, but his diction leaves a lot to be desired, as he's frequently quite hard to understand. He's the main weak link in Bartlett Shears' production, hot from New York and bearing awards by the ton. Kelli O'Hara is quite obviously Broadway royalty and is spectacular as Anna, and the look of the show is always sumptuous thanks to Michael Yeargan's sets and Donald Holder's rich lighting. But it doesn't quite take off the way it should - you want Shall We Dance? to be a moment of total ecstasy, but it never reaches the heights you want it to. It's still an entertaining night out, but it could have been even more so.

Music: Here's a question: has anyone ever noticed that the categories in Month End Processing are always in alphabetical order, or have I just been wasting my time for the last eight and a bit years? Don't answer that. I only mention that rule here because I'm about to break it, as there's a bit of Music that refers back to the Theatre production mentioned above. In the programme for The King And I, they mention that Ken Watanabe has had a musical career prior to appearing in the show, and has released a couple of albums. This seems like the sort of research task that a monthly subscription to Spotify was made for. Which made it all the more bizarre to discover that Ken Watanabe, when he isn't acting in movies or Broadway shows, has apparently made a couple of records of glitchy electronica. A furious evening of research revealed what you've probably already guessed: there's another Ken Watanabe. This one has studied music production at UAL, Middlesex and Goldsmiths (according to his LinkedIn profile), and has cheekily managed to bagsy the domain kenwatanabe.com for himself. From there, you're currently able to stream or purchase his current track My Wetland Dream: I suggest you do that, if only to confuse him about why there's a sudden surge of interest in his music.

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