Category Archives: General

The Big Chill 2008

We’ve just spent the weekend at The Big Chill 2008 festival at Eastnor Castle Deer Park, near Ledbury in Herefordshire.

We had a great weekend, lots to do, the weather was mostly pretty good; good enough that I got a bit of a tan anyway.

Nigel & Vic at The Big Chill 2008

Highlights for me were:

  • Alabama 3 acoustic set
  • John Hegley
  • African Head Charge (once the sound was sorted out a bit; it was terrible for the first 3 songs)
  • John Shuttleworth
  • Adrian Sherwood (Lee Perry was quite funny to start with but got a bit annoying after a while)
  • Russell Howard (as seen on Mock The Week)
  • Tom Middleton’s “Summer of Love” set
  • Cider Bus and the food stalls in the Enchanted Garden
  • The Disco Shed
  • Burning down the house on the hill.

Building the House

Other stuff I saw, but didn’t hang around for, or caught the end of:

  • Leonard Cohen
  • Beth Orton
  • Bomb The Bass
  • Martha Wainwright
  • Ty
  • Roots Manuva
  • Roisin Murphy
  • Martina Topley-Bird
  • Hot 8 Brass Band

We were in the Quiet Camping section of the South Camping field. The toilets there were pretty much clean with paper and handwash throughout the festival. More waterpoints or some sinks would have been useful. The security there was also fairly innocuous and we didn’t see any heavy handedness. A tent a couple down from us had money stolen while they slept and two police officers were patrolling the area the next night.

Burrow Hill cider bus in the Enchanted Garden

Although the food was pricey, it was mostly of a very good standard compared to the woeful burger/noodle stalls I’ve encountered at other festivals. Manic Organic were charging £7 for a plateful of tasty veggie food. I didn’t go to Glasto this year, but seem to remember they were charging £6 last year.

The festival programme was £6 extra, with some of the money going towards The Big Issue, but charging for the programme was a bad idea, given that the times weren’t announced anywhere else obvious.

The main field was pretty messy with litter by Sunday afternoon, but others were remarkably clear of litter, certainly better than any Glasto I’ve been to. Watching the rubbish collection, it also looked like people did bother putting the recyclable stuff in the right bins.

Watching the Hot 8 Brass Band

It was definitely a good idea not having vehicles moving around on the main site, it stopped the ground from getting churned up and made it safer for kids, and there were a lot of kids at the festival.

We missed Bill Bailey as he was on first in the comedy tent when there were no other major crowd-pullers on. We had a look over an hour before he was due on and the tent was full.

Nice clear journey there and back, but we were both shattered by the time we got home.

Aldeburgh, Sizewell and Orford

Two weeks ago we had another weekend camping in Suffolk.

This time we camped at a nice site in Hollesley, near Woodbridge. Lovely site, with room for about 20 caravans and a similar number of tents. Good, clean toilets and dog-friendly for those who have them.

We drove up to Aldeburgh on the Saturday morning to be greeted by the customary blustery day that seems to greet most of our camping expeditions. The sun was out though and it wasn’t raining so we had a nice walk along the sea-front.

Aldeburgh Beach

After a spot of lunch from the excellent fish & chip shop in the town centre, we drove up to Sizewell further up the coast.

Sizewell is best known for the two nuclear power plants there, Sizewell A and B. These two buildings loom over the beach, dominating the skyline, but not really detracting from the lovely empty beach at Sizewell.

You can walk quite close to the two buildings from the beach, and there seems to a warm water outlet just offshore which was surrounded by fishing seagulls when we visited. Sizewell B is instantly recognisable by the giant “golfball” which covers the reactor.

The beach area is part of the East Anglia Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and lives up the classification. The beach is a combination of shingle and sand with the dunes playing home to Sea-Kale, a rare plant which is protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981).

Sea-kale and Sizewell B

After a very pleasant walk along the beach, we went back to the campsite, eating at the local pub in Hollesley before turning in for the night.

Sunday morning was bright, but windy. We packed up the tent and drove to nearby Orford.

Orford is really pretty, with a harbour, castle and Orford Ness which is an island which used to house a secret military research base.

The Ness isn’t accessible on a Sunday as the ferry doesn’t run, so we made do with a walk along the shore of the estuary, past a number of decaying boats sitting in the silted-up estuary.

Abandoned boat at Orford Quay

Heading back into the village we stopped at The Jolly Sailor pub for lunch. I had a really good ploughman’s with a huge chunk of cheese, pickled onion and a good chunk of pork pie. One of the best ploughman’s I’ve had anywhere!

Finally, we went for a walk around Orford castle, though the strong wind made it difficult to walk around the more exposed parts of the earthworks.

The castle is close to the hotel owned by Ruth Watson, who starred in the first few series of “The Hotel Inspector” on TV.

Orford Castle

After that it was time for the journey home. It rained pretty much all the way, but that didn’t really matter as the rain had held off while we were camping.

More photos of Aldeburgh, Sizewell and Orford.

Jake and Dinos Chapman exhibition

Quite a while back we visited the Chapman brothers’ “If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be” exhibition at the White Cube Gallery near Piccadilly. It was a very interesting exhibition in three distinct part.

Upstairs was “One Day You Will No Longer Be Loved”, a room of altered paintings. Each picture was an old portrait of the kind you would expect to see in any stately home. All of the painting had been changed to make the faces look like those of decomposing bodies, with nose bones exposed, sunken eyes and skull-like grimaces. Really horrible but equally fascinating and in some cases amusing.

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Downstairs, in the main room was “Fucking Hell”, a remake of the brothers’ 2000 work “Hell” which was destroyed in the art warehouse fire in 2004.

chapman-hell-192_674845e.jpgNine large glass display cases arrange in a swastika shape. Each case contains a diorama crammed with figures, vehicles and landscape. Most of the figures were skeletal Nazi soldiers, with varying amounts of flesh still on their bones. There were hundreds, if not thousands, in each case, crushed together following paths, being tortured or torturing others. Some of the figures were of Hitler, including one of him painting a picture of the scenes.

Despite the horrific imagery there was actually a lot of humour involved, there’s a McDonald’s logo in there, a Stephen Hawking character on an island and all kinds of amazing little details.

The sheer scale of the work is staggering, the amount of work that the brothers and their team have put in to creating such a huge work is astounding. The horror of it is relentless but fascinating.
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The final part of the exhibition gives the show its title, “If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be”. The brothers bought 20 authenticated water-colour paintings by Adolf Hitler for £115,000 and “improved them” by adding rainbows, flowers and other “pretty” items. They then put the collection on the market for £685,000.

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An interesting show, with lots to look at. Some people will be horrified by the “bad taste” and twisted creations, but I really liked them. Great imagination and a wicked sense of humour were exhibited in all the works, and I’d recommend people see the works if they get a chance when they’re next exhibited.

(The exhibition closed on 12th July 2008, I really should have written this sooner)

Cleethorpes and Grimsby

The week after the trip to Southwold we drove up to Cleethorpes to see my folks for the Bank Holiday weekend.

It’s a fair old way from the Isle of Dogs to Cleethorpes, about 180 miles, but we made good time on the journey up there on the Friday evening,

On the Saturday morning we had a walk around Cleethorpes followed by lunch at the Ocean Fish Bar, and in the afternoon drove to Grimsby Docks to take some photos.

Grimsby Docks and Dock Tower

We didn’t manage to find our way to the actual dockside but did spend some time wandering around the Fish Market area and the fish processing buildings.

At the weekend, the docks are pretty much deserted apart from a few people working on their boats in the marina area.

Salmon heads 1

When I was young, growing up in Cleethorpes, you could always smell fish near the docks, and quite a long way down Freeman Street, which used to the main shopping area in Grimsby before most trade moved to the Riverhead Centre now known as Freshney Place. Now that much of the fishing industry has gone, the smell isn’t quite so pervasive, but the actual dock area still smells fishy.

Yard, Grimsby Docks

These days most of the fish that is sold at the Fish Market and processed in Grimsby is caught by boats based in Scotland and there are a lot fewer boats based in Grimsby. The food processing industry still provides a lot of employment in the area, and the combination of Immingham and Grimsby docks are the UK’s largest port by tonnage, with lots of car and food imports passing through.

Sunday morning, I got up early and went to a car boot sale with my Dad. Lots of junk with a few interesting items scattered about but nothing worth buying.

On Sunday afternoon, my brother, sister-in-law, Vic and I went for a walk along Cleethorpes beach where there are some wild orchids growing. The weather wasn’t as chilly as it usually is on the beach so it was quite pleasant and we took some time taking photos.

Beach Huts, Cleethorpes

Orchids and buttercups

Monday morning saw another trip to a couple of car boot sales. This time I found something interesting enough to buy. There was a stall selling old computers, including an old Amiga 500 and a Toshiba MSX machine, but I couldn’t really justify buying either of those, and they looked in pretty dirty condition. However on another stall I found a Psion Series 5mx in good condition along with a mains adaptor which I bought for a bargain £15.

I have the slightly older Psion Series 5 already, and to be honest I’m not sure that I’m really going to use either that much, but they’re nice machines, able to read and write to CompactFlash memory cards. The Psion Series 5 machines were pretty much the last great British-designed computer.

In the 80’s the UK lead the world in designing home computers with the Acorn and Sinclair machines, and Psion were one of the few companies that survive from that era. Sadly, they don’t made consumer devices any more, concentrating on handhelds for inventory tracking etc.

Southwold

A couple of weekends ago we went to Southwold in Suffolk, a small town where my Mum lived before the war. Vic and I both went there on holiday when we were kids so it was a return to old haunts in some ways.

We drove down to the Harbour Campsite on the Friday evening, arriving at about 9pm and putting the tent up as the night drew in. We then popped down the road to the Casa Mia bar for some food as we didn’t fancy heating anything up on the gas stove. After a good pizza and a beer (possibly the only drinking establishment in the area that doesn’t have Adnams!) we returned for the tent to sleep.

The next morning we were woken by the sound of rain falling on the tent. Not what we wanted to hear really, but we got up and cooked some bacon for breakfast.

Raindrops on the tent

Once we were fed we decided to walk into Southwold along the beach. That proved to be, well, not a mistake, more of a challenge. The wind was howling down the beach, blowing the rain horizontally into us. By the time we got to the beach huts marking the start of the the town, we were drenched, cold and red in the face from the wind. We retired to a coffee shop for a hot drink and to dry out a bit.

Southwold

Having had a breather we wandered around Southwold, visited a few shops and popped into the Kings Head for lunch by which time the weather had improved, at least to the stage where the rain had stopped even if it was still overcast and a bit windy. We walked back along the edge of the common to the campsite and stopped to take a few photos along the way.

Cowslips

After a bit of time back at the tent reading the paper, we walked down the harbour to the Harbour Inn for some dinner and a couple of pints of Adnams beer. Back at the tent it was going to be a cold night so we wrapped up warm and went to bed.

Southwold Beach

Sunday was much brighter, though there was still a biting wind. We packed the tent up and went for a walk on the beach before popping into town for some fish and chips.

We then headed back home, having enjoyed the weekend, though better weather would have made it more fun.

Track Day at Rockingham

Last year, Vic’s family clubbed together to buy her dad, Alan, a single-seater racing car experience for his birthday.

A couple of days before his birthday this year he arranged to go to Rockingham Racetrack and take up the challenge.

Vic and I went along to watch, as did Vic’s mum, Joan, and Vic’s sister, Lorna. We took a picnic with us so that we could make a bit of a day of it

Rockingham is up by Kettering in Northamptonshire, but the trusty TomTom satnav got us there safely, albeit a bit later than we’d originally intended.

As we got out of the car we were greeted by the squeal of tyres as other attendees went through their paces in saloon cars on the skid pan. The smell of burning rubber hung in the air as the specially rigged cars swung around in a pretty extreme fashion.

We went into the huge observation deck/waiting area while Alan registered, and it was then a case of waiting for an hour or so for his group to be called.

When Alan was called, the rest of us walked down to the garage area down at the track level. While he was being briefed we had a look round a sample car they had parked in one of the garages, and watched some of the other customers driving a variety of Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus, Lamborghini and Mini cars.

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After Alan and the other single-seater drivers had been briefed we walked over to the pit lane and watched some of the other guests on the track.

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After a while it was Alan’s turn, and he and 5 other single-seater drivers headed out. The other cars are all out at the same time as well, so there’s a mix of single-seaters, sports cars and Minis all going round at the same time.

The single-seaters get about 8 laps each before having to come in, which is just about enough to start to get a feel for the handling of the car.

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After the event

Alan thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and we rounded the trip off with the picnic back at the car-park.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggetty Jig

We’ve been back for more than a week now.

Singapore was fun in a “how many shopping malls” kind of way. Bought a few bits and pieces; new camera lens, bag, trainers etc.

Vic had an allergic reaction to the anti-malarial antibiotics we were taking, so we had to visit the Raffles Hospital. As with our visits to hospital in Malaysia, the level of service, speed and cost really put the UK health service to shame.

Ophir Road, Singapore

Watched loads of films on the flight back home and stayed awake through the entire twelve and a half hour flight.

Sunday was London Marathon Day so we left town and drove down to Rye in Sussex, and then on to Camber Sands for a walk along the beach.

Mermaid Street, Rye

It was a bit fresh but it was nice to sit by the car and eat fish and chips.

Fish & chips by the car

Photos can be found in the usual place on my Flickr photostream.

Camber Sands

We decided against going to the Glastonbury Festival this year, after the mudscape that was last years festival. Instead we’re going back to Bestival on the Isle of Wight in September, which we attended in 2006.

Bali & Lombok

We’ve been away for two weeks now and I’ve not been able to update the blog yet. I’ve got a bunch of photos to upload to my Bali and Lombok Flickr set which should appear about the same time as this blog entry.

I’m writing this offline as we’ve been unable to find a decent internet connection. We did get online for half an hour on a shared dial-up connection in an internet cafe on Lombok but that’s been it. I brought the Macbook with me but none of the places we’ve stayed have had WiFi connections easily available.

We flew out from Heathrow around 6pm on 14th March. Fortunately the flight wasn’t delayed by the person running onto the runway that day. Changed at Singapore and flew on to Bali, arriving on the evening of the 15th.

Picked up from the airport by a driver from our hotel, the Bali Niksoma in Legian, which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. We had a couple of nights in Kuta, picking up a few supplies and enjoying the warmth.

View from Bali Niksoma Resort

It was then on to the Tegal Sari cottages near Ubud in-land. The cottages were great, two storeys with plenty of lounging space and views over paddy fields. Three nights there, giving us plenty of time to look round Ubud and visit the sacred Monkey Forest there.

Rice paddies, Ubud.

Ubud Monkey Forest

Next stop was Candi Dasa, on the East coast for just a single night. Didn’t like Candi Dasa much, there was no beach to speak of, the place we stayed (Kubu Bali) was a bit of a hole and the town seemed pretty empty. Had a couple of good meals at Vincent’s and Toke but I wouldn’t recommend Candi Dasa to anyone.

Early start next day for a short taxi ride to Padang Bai to catch the GiliCat fast boat to Lombok, which is about 35km from Bali. This takes two hours rather than the 4 hours by normal ferry, but costs much more.

We were picked up at Teluk Kode and driven the half-hour journey to Windy Beach Resort at Mengsit where we had a lovely bungalow on the seafront. Stayed there for 6 nights and really relaxed.

Our bungalow at Windy Beach Resort, Lombok

We’re currently back on Bali, staying near Tanah Lot.

More when I get a chance….