Tuesday, 28 August 2012

My (Cockney) Zombie Girlfriend

Other peoples ambitions and obsessions often seem strange. Climbing very cold, dangerous mountains, wanting to get a hole in one in golf, winning a chili-dog eating competition, or being a zombie extra in a film. I think you see where this is going!

Yes, my OH (Other Half) had an ambition to be in a zombie film, if not as a main character then as a walk-on (or should that be stumble along?) zombie. Last year she had the opportunity when along the zombie grapevine she heard they were asking for volunteers to shuffle along to docklands for a few days shooting the climax scene of 'Cockneys vs Zombies.'

So it was with great excitement she spent three days trying to eat some British veteran actors, whilst covered in a lot of fake blood, while they in turn shot at her! I met her in our local Essex pub, she'd stayed covered in fake blood and zombie makeup on the train home, and certianly looked like she'd been in a car accident! Yeh, strange what some people have an ambition to do. She certainly enjoyed it, and has been eagerly awaiting the release so we can go play 'spot the zombie,' and last Thursday managed to swipe some of the very last tickets left for the premier in Empire Leicester Square as part of their 'Frightfest' season.

I won't give too many spoilers away, but I must admit I wasn't expecting too much but was pleasantly surprised. Certainly not a film that took itself seriously, and it was great fun because of that, at the Q&A the director and writer said they'd made it for a 'Frightfest' audience, putting in as much gore, jokes and bad taste as they could get away with. Mixed in with that was an impressive cast; to be honest you have to see it just to see Richard Briers playing a geriatric peeping tom machine gunning down the undead. Richard Briers, zimmerframe, machine gun; not three things you'd ever expect to see put together. However it was Alan Ford who played the action hero, (most people will remember him from 'Snatch' where he played the nasty villain who fed people to his pigs) who despite being 75(ish) was racing around sorting out zombies in a way that would put Bruce Willis to shame!

Of course the highlight for us was the dockland scene, where I tried picking Ellie out of the crowd, and she'd even managed to get a frame all to herself, of which she was quite chuffed! Blink and you might miss the lone female zombie shuffling along the dockside, but that was definitely her! I'd recognise that bunches hairstyle anywhere!

At the end there was time for a quick Q&A, and in the distance queueing to ask questions of the directors and actors I recognised a familiar hairstyle again. A sensible question then I suddenly heard 'Would Mr Ford prefer to be eaten by Zombies or Pigs?' She's found loads of reviews that have used her question, quoting it as 'the perfect Frightfest question.' They'll be no living with her now!

Oh, and apparently Alan Ford would prefer to be eaten by pigs.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Neil Armstrong, the last pioneer?

I was going to post about a recent trip, but in light of Neil Armstrong passing away this weekend I thought I'd share some thoughts, and some things that I've read in the press that have made me wonder if we've reached the pinnacle of our civilisation and are now on the slide down the other side?
On the Moon, photo courtesy of NASA

I was checking up on Twitter news on Sunday morning with my first coffee of the day when I learned that Mr Armstrong had passed away. I also learnt way too much about half baked sloppy press at the same time. Ed Yong (Edyong209) had collected together some rather appalling instances, I thing they've been corrected but if you plough through his twitter feed he's recorded photo's of the various pages and web articles. NBC, who as an American website should have know better, listed him as Neil Young; a Dutch paper claimed he was the first man to walk on Earth; and even the UK slipped up saying he was the first US woman in space. I believe the correct Internet hash tag here is #palmface.

I can't say any of my reading got any better when I found out there were people asking who he was, someone who decades before had the entire world gathered around TV sets to see grainy pictures of him stepping down onto the dusty moon surface. But then, as others pointed out, nobody born since 1935 has walked on the moon. Very soon there will be nobody alive who has been there, and there doesn't seem any real will to go back. 'We have enough problems down here to deal with,' is what most people will say.

I don't know if that's right or wrong, but these large scale projects do bring benefits that are unexpected, in this case Velcro, and seeing how small an isolated how vulnerable home really is. Today people wonder what's the point of the CERN collider, but I only recently learnt that off-shoots of this technology resulted in MIR scanners. The Earth is not flat, and neither is science; A sometimes takes mankind to K while on the way to B. Right now I'm reading Iain M. Banks sci-fi novels, who have civilisations which have 'Sublimed,' and have gone from technological zeniths and have withdrawn back into their own society and given up. Some days I do wonder if we're doing the same.

Despite the inventions, the real outcome of the space race was to prove what amazing things man can do if he really tries, if real will is put behind in. What is also impressive is the man who got to make that boot print was refreshingly dignified and down-to-earth, and not big headed about it. Maybe if he boasted and hyped himself as much as people-who-kick-a-football for a living people under 18 may well know his name, but despite the odd reprint I'd hope his name is being learnt in 200 years time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

You are now leaving Essex....but probably not Suffolk

 Normally I'd not dare to take a day off when I need to get glass made for the weekend, but after the disastrous weekend due to the 'barrier fiasco' a few weeks ago, I had lots of glass unsold, and had made more than I needed, so we decided on a day out to clear our heads.

The original aim was the seaside, and we weren't planning to go far, but then I remembered we'd talked about going up to Southwold, via the little village of Blythburgh. It was a lovely sunny day, so we plugged in the postcode for the car park of the Whitehart Inn (because that's the only postcode I could find!) and hit the road.

The Angel Of the East
Now it occurs to me that I don't see that many people from Suffolk, certainly not when I'm on the stall in London. Originally I'd have said it's because it's not a very heavily populated area, but I now think it's more a case of why would they want to go anywhere else! Having no real itinerary it was no problem when a mis-hearing of the sat nav and we turned into Saxmundham. I'd been through it on the train, and not thought much of what I'd seen, but it's certainly a lovely place and stuffed full of artists! The book shop sold art supplies, a sculptor had a shop, I even nearly tripped over a young lady in an alcove sitting on the floor sketching the street! I was quite pleasantly surprised how vibrant and busy the high street there is, having a much greater range of shops than ours for what appeared a quieter area. Ok, it might have been a bit tatty at the edges, but I'd rather see open shops selling local goods than just estate agents and charity shops such as our commuter belt one has become.

We'd originally thought to stop there for lunch, but pressed on to Blythburgh and the pubs postcode, which turned out to be another piece of inspired good fortune. Now I must confess not to be very keen on Adnams beers, and lately my experiences of eating out has been rather 'unimpressive.' I decided to go for a snack, a fish finger sandwich! Expecting no more than a certain frozen food Captain's fare, I figured I'd get some chips too!

How over impressed was I! First to be sat in a beer garden with some dayglo budgies in an aviary one side, and at the other a HUGE expanse of reeds, marsh, estuary, wild birds, and achingly lovely scenery.  I'd have taken a picture, but not only would it not have done it justice, but my grub had turned up, and I'd have taken a picture of that too if I hadn't been enjoying eating it so much! I certianly didn't need the chips! The fingers were very much home made, and the last time I'd had fish that fresh and well cooked it had been in Whitby in a shop 50 yards from the fish dock. And it was no bread crumbs either, but a very light tempura style batter. I am assured OH's ploughmans was of an equal standard, but I was rather too taken with my increadiable sandwich to note more than the enormous hunk of cheese that had come with it.

From there it was time for a walk around the lovely little village, which has the 'Angel Of The East' village sign which is worth visiting just for itself! Sadly the church was shut, so from then we had a long drive around a few surrouding villages to scout the area for other places to return for a closer visit. We'd almost forgot the seaside until we saw signs for Aldeburgh so headed for the seaside.
Yes, a real red telephone box in Bythburgh! We checked, inside it was clean and fully working!

Again this is another town full of art, lots of galleries this time, and even the Suffolk crafts guild had their own exhibition space. The shingle beach wasn't so great for walking on, but I certainly noted a huge lack of litter compared to many that I'd been on. In fact the only clutter on the beach was so picturesque it was worthy of a few snaps! There were even little huts selling fresh fish, and even dressed crabs and lobsters direct from the fishermen.

Eventually we ended up at Woodbridge, which has a lovely harbour and estuary location. A lot of shops had closed by the time we reached here, so we had a quick look around the town (certainly one worth coming back too, and soon!) and then hesitated on spending out more on dinner. I'm glad we did, it seems Suffolk folk really know how to cook, and we had pizzas that knock socks off anything I've had for... well, since I don't know when!

Working fishing beach at Aldeburgh

The coast here really is clear - of people and litter!
So from there, rather tired but refreshed, we headed home, already planning in our minds to go back. I can see why you never meet many Suffolk folk now, they already have enough wonderful views, villages, walks, food and art, not to want, or even need, to leave.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Giant Meercats, Chameleons - all in an average Greenwich day

I seemed to have been living in Greenwich last week, no sooner than I'd left on Monday night than I was back Thursday morning for another mammoth day. It was really busy, as it was the last day of the Equestrian events, and everyone seemed in great spirits that day. Instead to trekking home I decided to stay on for Friday, a much quieter day as there were no events that day, and then back yet again for a very long Saturday.

There has been a great buzz this week, the atmosphere has been terrific. I only regret not skipping the Friday to be there on Sunday as well, as I didn't realise the pentathlon final was on that day in Greenwich.

Click to expand picture - Frank the Chameleon has a day out in Greenwich Market

Saturday turned out to be more entertaining than I'd expected! For most of the week a Hurdy-Gurdy player has been in and around the market. For those who don't know what that is, it's a very odd Elizabethan musical instrument, which has a small keyboard as well as strings. The last time I'd head one being played it wasn't very good (think cats in a bad temper) but this guy was excellent, and I actually quite liked his playing. There's a photo over on Greenwich Market's Facebook Page if you want to see more.

 Having been to a few medieval banquets where the mead was flowing a little too freely I can see how this might have gone down well in 'ye ages gone by.' I've looked at old instruments like this a little more sideways ever since listening to Emilie Autumn's 'Face the wall' (which is an instrumental electric violin song, played by a violin virtuoso who dropped out of the classical world to do more alternative performing.) I never really 'got' violin solos till then, but hearing that I could see how in Bach's day this instrument and style of playing might have seemed revolutionary. It was the rock and roll of the day. Maybe it's my ear, or way I listened to it, but I couldn't fail to notice some of those Hurdy-Gurdy melodies weren't far away from rave & electronic dance music of today. Maybe it is just me, maybe it's because I've spent way too many hours working this week, but looks like I'm not alone in thinking this is an instrument that more could be done with. Elizabethan Star Wars anyone?

Darth Vader vs The Hurdy-Gurdy

So after that if I told you I saw two giant meercats wandering around the market, you'd probably not believe me? I was certainly surprised as I looked up from popping a pendant in a bag for a customer to find a meercat had crept behind my stall and was staring at me!

I've seen them in the market before, they create such a buzz when they come along, and have got the movements down so well too! They are always a pleasure to see, and often have lots of children and adults with cameras stalking behind them!

Then late afternoon there seemed a large crowd gathering besides Ng Jewellery's stall a few stalls away. I looked over and wondered why someone was carrying a model chameleon on her arm. Of course, it wasn't a model, but the real thing! Because the weather was so nice, the lady owner of 'Frank' had taken him out for a walk. She explained chameleons don't really walk much, there like standing still waiting for food to walk past them, but the sunshine and fresh air was good for him. As long as he stayed green, which meant he was happy, and didn't turn grey which meant he was unhappy, he seemed unbothered about lots of oooing strangers stroking him and taking photos. Now I lived very close to Camden Market for many years, and I saw some strange and interesting sights, but certainly never quite so much as you get to see on an average sunny day in Greenwich!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Is it over yet?

Glass Aliens on the Stall at Greenwich
Well, that was another very long week! I am pleased to report that the barriers in Church Street in Greenwich were certainly missing when I returned on Saturday, although the portico end still has a massive wall in place which I think can't be removed as it stops what little traffic dares enter Greenwich from driving into people! However Saturday wasn't such a great day for me, but Sunday was fantastic - and completely opposite what alot of the other traders experienced! It can be a very freaky market like that.

Along with lots of people in maroon Olympic uniforms wandering around I've spotted the athlete support teams as well buying presents to take home, and they seem to come in waves of nationalities; last Monday it was lots of the Korean team, followed by USA, this Sunday it was lots of Canadians including one lady whom had 'Athlete' on her Olympic I.D. card although I failed to ask what event she was in. I was back on Monday too, and had the very proud parents of USA Javelin thrower Kara Patterson who came to buy gifts, and explained how they get no funding, just whatever sponsorship they can find and she'd be training for 12 years to get there! (You can find out more here Kara Patterson) It didn't look like she's dones so well this time, unlike the UK Equestrian team, and there were some very jolly and contented people who'd been watching the event coming through late in the evening.

 Because of last weeks 'upsets' I've been doing some extra days, as I'd made extra glass in case it was busy. Shifting the opening hours to 12-8pm hasn't quite worked as alot of people haven't realise and are turning up between 10 and 12 to shop, so like alot of other traders I've been turning up early. It is making for some very long, long days though. I am itching to get back to doing some more glass aliens, as I want to make some for the MCM Expo in October, but I'm really starting to flag at the extra days and hours now. I'm back on Thursday for the last Equestrian day, and maybe on Saturday too, (I haven't decided about Friday yet) but I suspect I might take a rare Sunday off, as the pace is starting to get to me. My feet at least would be grateful if I do!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

How to Kill a Market Pt2 - A glimmer of hope?

Firstly a big thank you to all the messages of support over the past few days following my last entry, it's really appreciated! I now find out I'm not alone as being affected by the olympics, and many small artisans businesses are struggling when we were told that we would be thriving.

However I've got a small glimmer of hope this morning as some of the press, (such as greenwich-traders-win-concession-over-their-great-barrier-grief ), are reporting that LOCOG are backing down and are going to remove 'some' barriers. I've just seen a tweet from the official Greenwich Market feed 'Shop Greenwich' that the barriers are being taken down. Phew, but I'm still crossing my fingers as it may not help with some of the over-zealous officals and wardens. It's going to be 'seeing is believing' for me when I'm back this Saturday.

I think this is both thanks to the managers and staff at the market, who were passionate in harrasing LOCOG to save the market from disaster, as well as all the people who've been tweeting, blogging, phoning, complaining and generally making pests of themselves to embarress LOCOG into action. It's incrediably sad that it was necessary to do this in the first place, and that they didn't go ahead with their original plan to make the shops and stalls of Greenwich a vital part of their plan to help everything run smoothly. I notice in other reports complaints about long queues at the venues for food and drink, (doubtless overpriced) and how so much of the official merchandise is imported. not-made-in-britain-how-the-olympics-got-outsourced-overseas Last week at the market I had a choice, with no queuing, of Chicken Katsu curry, or Portuguase cod, black olive and potato stew, and even roast beef dinner with yorkshire pud, before chatting with neighbouring stalls who makes their own leather belts, a silversmith, dress designer, potter.... shall I go on? And they all make it in the UK.