Thursday, 17 November 2011

A wonderful weekend in London...

I've already reviewed Friday night and Monday night's gigs, but there was a whole weekend of fun and food in between!

So after a fab night out on Friday at the gig, and a lovely midnight stroll over the river back to the hotel, we awoke slightly tired on Saturday morning and got ready to go out at a leisurely pace.

The destination? Scandi Kitchen.

I was determined to have lunch at this lovely little Scandinavian deli cafe and shop on Great Titchfield Street, and as we were starving by this point we headed straight up there. I was somewhat excited - The Beard is Swedish and has introduced me to a wealth of amazing food. We discovered Scandi Kitchen earlier this year after they started doing mail order and we have been repeat customers ever since. Its a small team that run it, largely Scandinavians living in London and they are super friendly.
The shop/deli is small but full of amazing food. I opted for a 3 piece smörgåsbord of meatballs with beetroot salad, seafood salad and prawn and egg on a variety of delicious breads. This was followed by a slice of apple cinnamon cake and washed down with a large cup of amazing Swedish coffee.
Looking content with my lunch!

Buying dill chips, otherwise known as crack crisps
Food for my belly
After we'd eaten lunch and bought some stuff, we headed back to Oxford Circus with the intention of going to Carnaby Street and Fouberts Place for MAC. However, we got a bit waylaid in New Look and River Island and had to rush back to the riverside to watch the fireworks for the Lord Mayor's Show!

Once we'd strolled along the riverside back to our hotel and got ready, we re-emerged to go out for dinner at Bangalore Express, an Indian restaurant opposite Waterloo Station.

Ladders to tables!

I think they have a couple of other restaurants across London as well. I went here last year with some forum friends, and it is good value and rather yummy. The poppadoms are excellent, the cocktails well mixed and the peshwari naan is to die for. They also had a low fat curry which suited me and meant I felt less guilty about the naan bread! Saturday night was definitely not a night to be limiting my syns - there was curry to eat, and rum to drink! After stuffing our faces we moved on.

Our original plan was to go to Crobar, but it was quite busy so we wandered up the road to The Intrepid Fox which was marginally less busy. Still really busy, but the music was good and the prices aren't bad for central London (about £8.50 for a rum and coke and an JD and coke). The decoration is a little tiny bit cliché but the staff are friendly, tattooed and the punters the same. We spent the rest of the night here, singing along, drinking, chatting with other people. Avoiding sick. We finished the night with a walk back from Soho to our hotel. It's quite a long way but all downhill and a nice walk at that time of night, if a little eerie in places!!

Sunday saw us up in time to get ready and check out of our hotel by the prescribed time, then we wandered over to the Imperial War Museum for lunch and to have a look round. We'd been to the IWM last year and managed about half of it, so we were returning for the other half. Lunch was delicious - I had steak and kidney pie with veg mash, followed by a blackberry meringue. And tea. plenty of it! We decided to go to the Holocaust exhibition which is massive and very thorough. No photos as they aren't allowed, but I can highly recommend it. What I found particularly interesting were the stands talking about the Allied response to the unfolding crisis. I think the quote attributed to Edmund Burke at the end of the exhibition sums it up nicely:

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." 

Then it was time to head back to our respective stations and get our trains home. It was a great weekend in the capital, and for once I was a little sad to leave.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Lacuna Coil live at Exeter Phoenix 14/11/11

Soooo, after a spiffing weekend in London, I went to see Lacuna Coil at Exeter Phoenix on Monday night. This was the 3rd time I'd seen the band in 18 months, having previously seen them in Bristol and Leeds in 2010. They are another of my favourite bands, so it's always a pleasure to go and see them perform.

The best thing about the Phoenix is the size. I always forget that it is a TINY venue. Not as small as The Cavern, but pretty small. It wasn't rammed either, which is good in some respects, as it meant it was pretty easy to get a good view. Not so good for the band, but Exeter is a tough crowd to please (I don't get it myself, but hey, that is another story that I might decide to tell one day). For the most part though the crowd were in fine mood and voice, and were largely fans. I did spot someone who'd probably been on the same gig trail as me, as he was wearing a Within Temptation Unforgiving Tour shirt, and there were a fair few people in LC shirts.

I got a spot pretty close to the front and I was struck by just how tiny Cristina Scabbia is! It's not really any secret that I have a bit of a girly crush on her, and she is super cute up close. And her voice! The sheer power in it is amazing.

They powered their way through a whole host of songs, striking a good balance between tracks from Shallow Life, Karmacode and Comalies, with a couple of new tracks mixed in, including new single Trip The Darkness during the encore. I felt a bit sorry for Andrea Ferro as it seemed like his mic was being problematic - at one point I was sure I could only hear him because his voice is quite powerful and I was quite close. It did improve towards the latter end of the gig. Not sure what was going on there though!

I'm not sure I can give you a track by track account like I did for WT - I had a bit of help with the running order for that one! Needless to say, I danced and moshed my way through the gig, sang quite a bit and thoroughly enjoyed myself! Particular highlights were:

1. I Won't Tell You - from Shallow Life, it's one of my favourite tracks on that album.
2. Enjoy The Silence - the cover of the classic Depeche Mode song is one of Lacuna Coil's most famous recordings, and never fails to produce a fantastic crowd sing a long.
3. Daylight Dancer - one of their best ever tracks if you ask me!
4. Trip The Darkness - I love this track and now can't wait for the new album in January.
5. Without Fear - I absolutely LOVE this song and they have never played it live in the 4 or 5 times I've seen them. Until this tour that is! It is the one song that I always hope they will play.

All round a fantastic gig - as I heard someone comment on the way out of the venue, they just get better every time.

Within Temptation live at Brixton Academy, London 11/11/11

Pic by Hapfairy

This was the event of my year. No kidding, I have been building this up in my head and out loud (much to the amusement of my bf) for a whole year. Actually scratch that, since the last time I saw them live, which was in 2007.

I've been following all their tour vlogs and by Thursday I'd got to a point where I started wondering whether I had built it up too much, and what if they disappointed? I needn't have worried.


Let me start by saying that Brixton Academy is probably the best place you can see a band like Within Temptation indoors. The venue itself is an old Astoria cinema, built in the 1920s and still containing its Art Deco interiors. By itself, the venue is grand and impressive. Stick an equally grand and impressive band on the stage and you have something magic! 

The main event kicked off with the short film "Mother Maiden" which sets the whole tone for the album "The Unforgiving". This was followed by the first four tracks from "The Unforgiving", all generating much excitement from the crowd and a good party atmosphere. Sharon had tweeted a couple of days ago that she'd had some throat problems, but either she was better or just doing really well because the vocals as ever were totally spot on. She has a truly amazing voice, with so much power! 

Ice Queen was next up and as I predicted was an instant crowd pleaser. I love this song (as I think every WT fan does!) and had been eagerly awaiting it. As ever WT make good use of visual elements to their shows, utilising a giant video screen behind their rig to show short films throughout the songs, or their music videos where they have them. During Ice Queen my best mate nudged me to point at the ceiling, where the lights were scattering dancing snowflakes all over the place. 

The Howling was a popular choice, and the video graphics for that reminded me I still haven't got my hands on The Chronicles of Spellborn, if it is even still going! Our Solemn Hour was all the more poignant for it being Remembrance Day and Sharon sported a poppy on her outfit for the duration of this song, which was accompanied by war footage. 

Stand My Ground was a personal moment for me, as the last time I saw them live at Download in 2007, they had some equipment issues and could only manage 4 songs, this being one of them. I was in a totally different place mentally to where I am now and this song at the time was a huge source of strength to me. I didn't cry this time! 

An abridged version of the short film "Sinéad" was shown as a preamble to the song of the same name, which is a good dancey track and one of my favourites from the album. There was a lot of jumping around and dancing to this one! 

What Have You Done? and Iron followed, with equal measures of crowd participation. Likewise with Angels, which was accompanied by the video for the track, which is a great piece of film. Angels (I keep typing angles... doh!) is another song that has personal resonance for me. In 2007 when I saw WT for the first time I was in the process of a difficult separation from my ex husband and this song had so many parallels with what was going on in my own life that I just broke down in tears at that gig. So, on Friday, when they played it, it was nice to hear it and think back on the difference in me, in my life and my happiness, and also that I have no residual anger about what was happening then. Pity maybe, but no anger. It was a beautiful moment for me that left me at peace with the world. 

Where Is The Edge finished up this part of the show, then the band went off for a quick breather, before returning with See Who I Am and Mother Earth. Mother Earth was accompanied by a video of aerial photography of somewhere, not sure where, but it started with a fly by of the coast, with a lively sea. Having grown up near the sea the sight of cliffs and lively water makes me yearn for home and feel calm and grounded all at once. 

The band went off again and returned for a final encore of Stairway to the Skies, rounding off The Unforgiving nicely and drawing everything to a close. They finished up with a little chatter with the crowd, some photos and Sharon's video, during the filming of which it was requested that we all shout a word... the words chosen by I think Ruud... Fish Sticks. Guess who'd been watching South Park?! 

I had orignally wanted to hang about for a bit to see if we could meet the band, but my best mate was knackered from a long week at work and a frantic day to get there on time, so we decided to head back to our hotel via a midnight lit Palace of Westminster and some soggy photos!

It was an amazing gig, absolutely perfect!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Ok, so I've been doing a little sorting of my cupboards and I've found a load of stuff that I've never used, or have used once or twice. I couldn't decide what to do with it, so I thought I'd give it away to a couple of lovely readers!

So, what do I have for you?

One lucky winner, drawn at random, will receive:

Burt's Bees Soap Bark and Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream

Bentley Organic Honey, Bran and Oatmeal Soap. 

The Burts Bees Cleanser is lovely. It is very thorough but gentle at the same time. It contains Witch Hazel, Soap Bark, Chamomile, Echinacea, Aloe Vera and Cocoa Butter for a smoothing, deep cleansing wash. I reckon it would be suitable for most skins.
The Bentley Organics soap is gorgeous, it smells fabulous, leaves your skin feeling wonderful and is organic to boot! It has a slightly scrubby texture from the oatmeal but it isn't harsh.

A runner up, drawn from the remaining entries at random, will receive:

A set of samples of products, including:

Lavera Basis Sensitiv hand cream
Lavera After Sun Gel
Green People Day Solution SPF15
Aussie 3 minute miracle
Sanex Zero x 2
Tigi Curlesque Curls Rock Amplifier and Defining Serum

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below and I will draw the winners at random on November 30th at 8pm.

Good luck!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Winter is well and truly upon us now!

I've been spending the last week at my parent's house helping out, as my mother had a hip replacement op a few weeks ago. My boss kindly let me work from 'home' for a week in order to do that, and I have to say it has been nice to work from such a pleasant place! I am looking forward to going home though, I have missed The Beard a lot, and my grumpy, loving kitty.

Even down here in Cornwall it has turned very cold all of a sudden, and my hasty packing started to feel a tad inadequate once the weather turned colder! I did remember to bring some gloves, which was a good thing, especially when I was waiting for the bus into town the other night.

The upshot of all this cold weather is that my skin has decided to become drier, as it does every year. I first noticed it when I just couldn't get my make up to sit right, and not matter what I did it just wouldn't play ball. So, new moisturiser has been purchased and the moment of truth will be tomorrow. I've been thinking about reviewing the skincare range I use for a while, so I'll wait a couple of weeks now and then I can pretty much review the entire range, as I'll have used all of it!

I continue to do well with Slimming World - if my parent's scales are to be believed (and there can be a 2lb margin of error for different scales) then I have lost a load more weight this week (which is why I'm slighly suspicious) and am only 7lbs from target. I have to wait until Wednesday to confirm that on my own scales though. I'll be really pleased if it is right, I didn't think I would lose much this week as a result of over indulgences earlier on, but we shall see!

I've been on my acne medication for nearly a month now and it is slowly starting to have an effect - I'm still getting spots, but they are smaller and there is less of them, plus they heal up quicker. I did have a doozy on the bridge of my nose at the weekend but I think that was hormone related. Thankfully it has been sunny so I've been able to wear sunglasses when I go out to cover it up! 

I finally made a skirt with some of the fabric I purchased a while ago - I'd put off making anything while I was losing weight, but I needed something to do this weekend in the absence of my usual tv and distractions, so I brought my stuff with me and made up a pleated skirt yesterday.

Friday sees my long awaited trip to London with my best friend to see Within Temptation! I have a new outfit (newly made skirt and sparkly top), and loads of plans of how to spend our time there. I will be taking loads of photos (better dig out the camera charger this week then!) and will report back next week with a full round up of what we get up to, including the gig (and I fully intend to hang out to meet the band afterwards like a teenage fan girl), the Imperial War Museum and Swedish sandwiches!

My only other thing to do this week is order some new corset laces as the ones in my new one aren't long enough. Well, they weren't last week anyway!

Awesome Films Number 2: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

No. Not the forthcoming US remake of this fine Swedish movie. The original Swedish version. I have the say, the thought of the remake makes me incredibly sad. I mean, the Swedish movies only came out a couple of years ago, why do they need to remake it in English? I can only assume that it is because the target audience can't be bothered to read the subtitles. Anyway. I think I'll save my final feelings on that for when I've seen the remake.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, or Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) as it is titled in Swedish is the movie adaptation of the novel of the same title by Stieg Larsson. It follows the fictional journalist Mikael Blomqvist and his reluctant assistant Lisbeth Salander as they search for a missing person, tackle corporate corruption and murder. At the beginning of the film Blomqvist has been found guilty of libel after he published a report on the corruption in a large company. 

Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace)

Mikael 'Kalle' Blomqvist (played by Michael Nyqvist)
The film is a fantastic adaptation of the book, capturing the very essence of Larsson's characters. The scenery is gorgeous (it does have the advantage of being in Sweden, which is pretty awesome really) and the cinematography is sumptuous. Having read the book before seeing the film I was really worried how Lisbeth would be portrayed, as she is such a complex character, but I needn't have worried - Noomi Rapace's portrayal is absolutely spot on. Rapace took a method approach and everything you see about Lisbeth's appearance in the film is actually real, there is no stage make up or clever costuming.

This is part of a trilogy, and the narrative does reflect that; the main plot of this book/film is resolved in a traditional fashion, but then there is a sub plot that continues into the second and third film. The story is very clever at not really leaving you sure whether there is a hero or not - all the protaganists are inherently flawed as well as being crusaders for good in their own way. This nod to pulp fiction and film noir sits well with the gritty feel of Scandinavian crime fiction and this is no exception.

The David Fincher version of this film comes out very soon (December I think) but I urge you to watch the Swedish version first. From the trailers I've seen, the point of the book has been missed somewhat and the treatment of Lisbeth in particular seems a little off. Still, to be sure I will have to watch it.

For now, enjoy the majesty of the original film. Available from Amazon and other good DVD retailers.

(all pictures screen grabbed by me)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

NOTD: Pink and Glittery

I purchased OPI Divine Swine from the Muppets collection at the weekend. I mean, I couldn't resist that glitter!!

Layered over OPI Lincoln Park After Dark, with Seche Vite Base and Top Coats.


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