Play Me, I’m Yours

When I was a little girl I used to bang about on the piano at my Auntie Agnes’ house in Burscough. All her family were musical and there are plenty of photos of me looking adorable at various pianos aged about 4.

Then when I was 7 or 8 I actually had piano lessons from a very old (or so she seemed) lady in Blackpool called Gladys Jolly. I didn’t find her or the music particularly exciting so after doing a couple of grades packed it in. I can’t actually remember who taught me to read music, whether it was school or Miss Jolly but it’s always been a skill I’ve cherished.

I wish I’d stuck with the piano though. I have one at home home and can quite happily sit down with a piece of music and very slowly bash my way through it but I’d love to be able to do it properly. My cousin Lorilee is a music teacher and plays piano to concert pianist level. She can play anything after hearing it and we’ve spent many fun nights together playing and singing our way through musicals, or brilliantly me playing her a Pet Shop Boys song on Spotify and her transforming it into a wildly detailed piano piece instantly. A couple of years ago she started playing a piano in a hotel lobby and I love the idea that one day I’d be able to just see a piano and pounce on it.

So I was super excited (and very jealous I can’t really get involved) by the Play Me, I’m Yours project that’s currently running in London. The idea of British artist Luke Jerram, 21 pianos have been placed with London’s Square Mile with the intention that anyone can sit down at them and do whatever they like. It’s interesting to think about the very British reserved nature and whether they’ll actually dare to try them, but I’m sure if you see someone do it then you’ll want to get involved.

Pianoincemetry

I love the idea of a ‘public space’ and don’t think there’s enough of them in London. This idea demands a space become one and enables everyone to be creative, regardless of their personal situation, and express themselves through the power of music. You might not know how to play, have played for years, or ever had the chance to own your own piano, but this enables every single one of us to get involved. Also it’s brilliantly not just a bloody London centric thing – it’ll be hitting Belfast, Burnley and Blackburn later in the year.

I’m hoping to find one to tinkle out a little Cole Porter on this weekend.

Shunt It

Londonbridge
Another site I write for is the ace London blog – Londonist. It’s a professional blog which is part of a worldwide chain covering cities such as Paris, Philadephia, and LA with the New York Branch being pretty massive over there.

Before I started writing for them, I read the site regularly and always heard about thing I’d never have known anything about otherwise. This still remains the same today prompting me into going to bizarre things I’d never heard of. My colleague Hazel writes about culture, events, arts and food – topics far more high brow that my music or entertainment nonsense.

A couple of weeks ago she wrote about the Shunt Lounge at London Bridge. I don’t really want to say too much about this, I just want you to trust me and go. It’s a bar in a very secret place and I guess it’s only through word of mouth that people are going as you couldn’t just find it. Going there makes you feel like you’ve discovered a secret bit of London and I love Hazel for telling me about it.  My old housemate Seldo saw a
production held in the same place a couple of years ago and urged us to
trust him and just go. We weren’t too keen not knowing what the hell it
was and sadly didn’t. How we regret this now.

The bar is open Wed, Thurs and Friday nights from 6pm until late and located on Joiner Street within London Bridge station. It’s free at the moment although membership from Jan – March for £25 for you and a friend is purchasable, otherwise expect to pay £5. What you need to do is come out of the tube station through the ticket hall and that puts you in Joiner Street (which is still part of the whole station complex – it’s got a pie shop on it.) Almost directly opposite the ticket hall is a door. Confidentally walk through that door and just keep going. Don’t let anything stop you.

I can’t find the damn Londonist post on it, but here is Hazel’s personal one. Resist reading it if you can – just go there. At the very least don’t tell whoever you take with you where you’re going, just let it be a surprise. James nearly wet himself at the excitement of it all. Perfect for anything, but particularly to show someone a cool bit of London or to create a very memorable date (you’ll at the very least almost certainly be forced to hold hands).

Brick Lane : A Minor Exploration

Bricklane
Sunday night with nothing to eat in the house, J & I went for our first exploration of Brick Lane.   

Located in the East End of London, the street is famous for a Sunday market and also being the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community.  Previously it was the heart of the Jewish community and it was quite different from the Jewish tales of Brick Lane my grandad told me about as a child.

We wandered down the road slowly, stopping to look at various shop windows, wishing it wasn’t late on a Sunday evening so we could actually buy some of the groovy things we were seeing.

As we grew thirsty and ran out of shops, we ventured into the massive Vibe Bar.   A large dark room with a glassy chillout area, this is a place that definately needs investigating on a weekend evening.  Set in an old brewery, there seemed to be endless staircases that perhaps lead to a further part of the bar on days when more rooms are open.  A drum & bass dj outfit were playing and the listings for the Bar look interesting.  As an added bonus, they serve Pie Minster pies, who make the brilliant Heidi pie which I got so hooked on at Glastonbury.

Continuing down the road and enticed down Dray Walk by the smell of an outdoor BBQ, we reached the Big Chill Bar.   Although I hadn’t been before, I was aware of the venue from knowledge of their annual festival and an intimate Pete Tong set last summer which I’d sadly been unable to attend.   Wandering into the spacious but busy bar, we smiled to see David McAlmont on the decks, playing the sounds of Cole Porter.  What more could I want!

The venue is a large rectangular shape with a long bar running down one side.  Filled with couches, and complete with wireless internet access, and a varied food and cocktail menu, this is one place which I cannot wait to return to.   A perfect place to meet friends or brunch.

Bl_2
But back to Brick Lane itself.  At it’s basest form, its a place where you can get a curry any time of day or night.

The ‘picking where to eat’ experience differs largely from anything I’ve experienced before,resembling more the club/bar scene in Blackpool or Ibiza.   Outside nearly every restaurant there is an employee trying to get you to come into their particularly venue.   If you linger for more than a second outside a menu, without anyone outside, someone will come running out, and so it became a mission to try to read menus without stopping.

We were offered all types of wonderful things – a round of drinks for free, 20% off our meal, free starters, but eventually we plumped for the only restaurant that didn’t try to make us go in, The Aladin.

Comfortable but basic inside, we ordered Onion Bajjiis and Chicken Tikka for starters, followed by a mixed grill thing and a chicken korma, all accompanied by a bottle of plonk from a nearby shop.   Yay for BYOB.   We particularly enjoyed the menus claim that the Aladin was a favourite of Prince Charles, having mentioned it specifically on LBC in the mid 80s.   The menu even invited us to ask the staff to hear the tape of the mention if we so desired.   We contained ourselves.   

Unfortunately though, after such promise, the meal was ultimately disappointing.  The starters were perfectly average, and while J’s mixed grill showed some promise, my chicken korma was darker than expected and the chicken itself was rather chewy.

Well at least we can cross one of many Brick Lane restaurants off the list.

I’m sure there will be many more Brick Lane related blog entries to come.

(writing about Sunday 12 February)

The Hellfire Club : Bethnal Green Working Mens Club

Wmc
When Darren brought up the idea of Bethnal Green Working Mens Club one hazy Saturday afternoon, we looked at him with a bit of confusement.   "No no," he exclaimed.  "It’s really cool!"  Really?  A working mens club is cool?   "Yes, they are sometimes on rollerskates!"  We decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, albeit with one eyebrow raised.

My birthday rocked round and options for where to go seemed pretty limited.  We could have an admittedly great time at Wig-Out or we could try something different.  Purusing the wonders of the world wide web, I happened across Oh My God I Miss You: The Hellfire Club at, well would you believe it, the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club.   Aah this was fate.

The website itself scared quite a lot of my friends who wondered exactly what I was planning on taking them to.  After all the dress code was that you should have a ‘touch of the whore’ about you.   Brilliant.

It promised sleazy kitch, rock & roll, classics, showtunes, rockabilly, oddball delights and a taste of the devil.

Bday
So off we went about 1030, and arrived at a mammoth queue. Hooray.   Eventually after lots of standing in the cold and being allowed in 2 at a time, we all got in and watched cool young 20somethings go to the groundfloor, and those you may associate more traditionally with a WMC downstairs.  What exactly was downstairs we may never know, but the Guardian indicates that our room is run as a separate licensed venue rented out from the WMC itself.

So the room was a large square, mainly carpeted and full of elaborately dressed up twentysomethings with a devil on the stage.   When we entered Editors – Munich was playing.  A fabulous song, but surely a bit safe and regular given the music policy.  Within about 20 minutes the regular indie was pushed aside and a more random selection ensued. We were happy.

Devil
Great thing  #1
: The bar staff do not care how much you pay them for drinks. Darren got a whole round for free. I got a round of 8 drinks for £15 and James got a Red Bull for "errr lets say a pound?"

Great thing #2 : Lots of people I know happen to live near us randomly.   And we saw them all there. Hooray.

Great thing #3 : Everything was decorated in a really fun way. You can tell the promoters put a lot of effort in.

Great thing #4 : It was fun buying random things to wear, and getting a smidge dressed up in silly things.  James had a cane, Naomi a bowler hat, Darren a leopard skin scarf.  Jeez we’re hardcore.

Great thing #5 : It was like being back at uni, walking from the union to Hurst. It took us 5 mins to walk home. Sweet!

Bad thing #1 : The door queue was massive, and they seemed really disorganised about who they were letting in and who they were making wait longer.

Bad thing #2 : It was quite hot

So yes, it was rather good and it’s definately got the Karinski stamp of approval.  Hooray!

We look forward to many more nights at the WMC.   Sometimes Mark Lamarr plays rockabilly, sometimes they have tea partys and bake sales.  Sometimes they play bingo and learn how to jive.   I get the feeling we might be going there quite a bit.

[writing about Saturday 11 February]

Quack Quack

Last weekend we were very good with trying new things. We went to Stay Beautiful (ok we’d been once before), played new music at Popz, decided to live somewhere new, and went to Duckie on Saturday.

Going to the Vauxhall Tavern is not a prospect I relished given the last time I went past it (admittedly it’s only been once and was just before Ray of Light) there was steam pouring out of the door and all I could see inside were mainly naked men. But… I trusted big hairy Darren and off we went. And hey, guess what, it was great fun! The venue itself is actually great. It’s a nice temperature with a big bar, a big stage, a raised level and the toilets aren’t that bad either (although there are only 3). The music, provided by the Readers Wives, was very varied going from the mainstream Kaiser Chiefs all the way to Neil Diamond and Sweet Caroline. Why did Darren and James give me weird looks as I sang every word? It’s a tune! The night also featured a quiz on stage which was great fun.

So yes, go to Duckie, it’s great and surprisingly for me, girl friendly! Hooray.

Crazy Folk

Although everything in London has pretty much returned to normal there is still a small fear of dread as you head to the tube station in the morning and realise it’s Thursday.   Last week I completely forgot and was only reminded by a workmate talking about ‘the fear’.  Today I was reminded by police outside our tube station.

At the 2nd stop on our journey, an american man wearing a puffed up gilet/waistcoat type thing got on and was jabbering away to himself. He leapt over us to sit on the seats in the corner (bench facing seats) and was ranting about cot death, killing children, and putting bullets in the back of people’s heads.   Continually.   He was completely crazy.

Needless to say I got off at the next station and got a bus the rest of the way.   I was just a little annoyed that there wasn’t even a member of tube staff anywhere near the platform, and I couldn’t find anyone to tell about this man until I reached the turnstiles.  At this point I told the man in the little glass hut, who didn’t really seem to care, that there was a man acting seriously suspiciously.    Grrh.

So I was late for work, and missed my opportunity to have a McDonalds slice of fruit toast.  I hear it’s good?