26 November 2006

The Right Stuff

I made an almost last minute decision to go and see Space Ritual in Ladbroke Grove last night and was well rewarded.

The set list was much as it was at the 100 Club earlier this month but the venue was even more intimate (I got hit by Miss Angel's wings more than once) and there was a light show too.

Sadly I had to leave the venue around 00:15, when the band were still playing, to avoid being stranded in West London for the night.

British Association for Central and Eastern Europe

The British Association for Central and Eastern Europe (BACEE) works to promote a closer understanding between the British people and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and to support the institutions of a civil society that are a fundamental requirement if the ambition of EU membership of many of those states is to be fulfilled.

It does this by means of seminars, study visits, conferences and round tables designed to share the British experience of democratic systems and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and experience across the borders of countries within the region.

My interest in Central and Eastern Europe has grown out of my original interest in Czechoslovakia from the time when I lived and worked there. I joined BACEE a couple of years ago because they run a series of interesting talks at the offices off Victoria.

The most recent talk was, 'The City and Central Europe' by Sir Gavyn Arthur. Sir Gavyn was Lord Mayor of London in 2002-03. He was called to the Bar, Middle Temple in 1975, practiced as a barrister from 1977 and has been a Recorder since 2002. Among his many interests he is a member of the Anglo-Austrian Society, the British Ukrainian Law Society and the Three Faiths Forum.

The main points that I took from the talk were that the city has circa 4 trillion dollars to invest a year but the demand for investment far outstrips supply so investors have plenty of choice on where to place their money. A key factor in their choice is the commercial standing of the country (degree of corruption and bureaucracy etc.) and the judiciary plays a key role in ensuring that commercial operations function fairly.

A convincing argument well put by Sir Gavyn who also illustrated his talk with many anecdotes from his work in Central and Eastern Europe. An entertaining and an instructive talk; who could ask for more?

The Faith Healers

No apologies for another post about the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Saw them again at the Electric Ballroom in London and it was the best gig of theirs that I have seen, and I've seen eight this year alone!

The set list was the same as at The Brook a few days earlier but the band seemed to gel even better, Max made none of his trademark gaffes, and the sound was better with Hugh's keyboards more pronounced than usual.

There also seemed to be a better mix of music and showmanship with the show side of things enhancing the music rather than competing with it as it has done at times in the past. Max (again) is a key part of this and is now the consummate front-man and the perfect foil for the tight, raucous sound from the band.

25 November 2006

Another good party

The Annual Dinner of the British Czech and Slovak Association was a blast, as always. The reason is simple, you get a group of people together who have a common interest in the Czech and/or Slovak republics and mix this with good food, wine and beer (Budvar, of course) and everybody mixes well and the evening ends with a flurry of exchanges of email addresses.

I was on the same table as Tony and Gina who are often to start a new life in Prague. You can read more about this on Tony's blog. People that I was pleased to meet for the first time last night include Paula and Daniela.

It's a year until the next dinner but there is also the summer garden party to look forward to and the regular socials at the Czech and Slovak House in West Hampstead.

23 November 2006

Ms Angel and me

The Space Ritual website has this photo of their exotic dancer, Ms Angel. It says, " Miss Angel - simply too fabulous to be caught on film".

But it neglects to mention who the handsome chap in the Sensational Alex Harvey Band t-shirt in the front row is :-))

Update August 2013:A lot has happened over the last seven years and Ms Angel and I always swap a few words, and a hug, when we meet. This is reasonably often as she now also dances with Arthur Brown who, like Space Ritual, is one of the performers that I go to see whenever I can.

More pints ...

The Guardian cartoon "Clare in the community" has recognised Two Pints' domination of BBC 3. I think that this is a good thing because I do not have to buy the DVDs :-)

Read more of the excellent Clare in the community here.

19 November 2006


I went to see the Sensational Alex Harvey Band play at The Brook in Southampton and they were sensational!

The set had quite a few changes from the "greatest hits" sets of the last two years. Out were Isobel Goudie, Tomahawk Kid, Next, Framed and the usual encore, Delilah and in came Tale of the Giant Stoneater, Amos Moses, Jungle Jenny and Runaway.

"Zaligator" was Max's description of Zal Cleminson after playing Amos Moses. Could this be the title of the next album following on from "Zalvation", another of Max's inventions?

As seems to be normal these days the band were really up for it with lots of broad grins and audience interaction. I'm still not sure how I managed to avoid getting a mike stand in my face thanks to Max's extravagant use of it!

The gig left me gagging for more, which is OK as I am seeing them again on Tuesday at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.

16 November 2006

Two Pints ...

Two Pints .... may well be the most often broadcast programme on BBC ever! I'm not sure why that is but I'm not complaining and have been known to watch four episodes in an evening.

Why watch it?

Well, to be simplistic, it's very funny.

Most of the humour comes from the characters and the very rich dialogue, there's something funny in almost every line - and there are lots of lines!

I just like the little throw-aways that litter the scripts, e.g. "I'm so happy I could kick a puppy".

It's hard to pick out favourite bits because there are just so many but I can possibly narrow it down a little to the end of Series 3 and the start of Series 4. I can watch any of these episodes anytime, which is just as well given the bizarre way that the BBC repeats them.

Full details of the cast and summaries of all 54 episodes across 6 series can be found here.

7 November 2006

Canbury Arms

Obviously I cannot mention all the pubs that I go to, otherwise I'll be writing non-stop, but there are a few that are worth a mention, and the Canbury Arms in Kingston upon Thames is one of them.

There are several things that I like about the pub; it's bright and clean (e.g. no smoking indoors and no piped music), it has a great range of beers (Old Hookey, Sussex, Landlord, Doomsomethingorother, etc.) and a mixed clientelle (e.g. women!). It also does pretty good food though, as a vegetarian, the choice is somewhat limited.

The main groups that go there are couples having a special meal, middle-aged women having a girls night out and students beging students outside where smoking is allowed. If this sounds like you then you should give it a try.

See beer in the evening for more info.

4 November 2006

Space Ritual

Space Ritual do what it says on the tin, they play lots of stuff from Hawkwind's classic 70s album of the same name. They also play other Hawkwind numbers and a fair amount of their own material. All this got the crowd really rocking at London's 100 Club on Friday night.

They came on at 9:30 and finally left the stage at midnight (forcing many of us to rush for the last tube home) having played 15 songs, that's an average of 10 minutes each! The whole feel of the evening is that of an extended jam with a glorious mix of sounds from the many instuments on stage.

The Hawkwind favourites, particularly the final encore Orgone Accumulator, where the obvious highlights but there own new material and the rarer Hawkwind songs fitted in well. I was particularly please to hear Steppenwolf from Amazing Sounds, Amazing Music. The much missed Robert Calvert got a couple of mentions during the evening.

The 100 Club has quite a small stage which only just had enough space for the seven band members, a dancer, The Fabulous Ms Angel, and a guest saxophonist on a couple of songs. It's also a low stage so, as you can tell from the photo, you can get really close to the band. Magic!

2 November 2006

TWAU on Thursday

One of my rituals is to go to The Walk Among Us in Richmond on my way home from work on Thursday evenings as that is the day that the comics come in. I have a regular order which I try to keep down to what I can read in a week - something I always fail in and so the unread pile of comics is gradually going. The respite comes when I take my youngest son to a chess tournament, he plays chess all day and I read comics all day - that's a result!

Not many comics in this week so I may be able to read them all before the next lot come in (who am I trying to kid?!).

The Incredible Hulk #100 is the top of this week's crop and it's massive. I've really enjoyed the Planet Hulk storyline so it's good to see that this week's issue is part 1 of 4.

Also worth a mention is Mystery in Space simply because it's written by Jim Starlin and I read everything that he does. Warlock is one of my all time favourite comics and sitting somewhere in my to-be-read pile is a signed copy of the Dreadstar hardback.