Sunset in the African Wild

... or my heart belongs in the African Bush.

Sunset at Emerald Palace

It is not easy to explain to people how it feels to be South African and how it feels to be away from South Africa. Many South Africans dream of a better job market, less crime and improved infrastructure so that they can go home one day.  It is often physically painful to think about what we have left behind, especially when we are reminded of the awe-inspiring beauty of our home country.

Sunset at Emerald Palace Casino

Scenes like this sunset at Emerald Palace Casino and Resort on the Vaal River sustain me and fill up my soul until I can return.

Sunset in the African Wild

We spent one night at the resort a month ago today.  We went with our friends, Sara, Donovan and Keira, who used to feature frequently in this blog when they lived in Surrey.  At sunset, Keira and I went for a walk to capture the sunset.  If you look at the photos above, you can see the lightning conductors which look like very tall poles.  Those are there because we have violent electrical storms all over the “highveld” in South Africa which is where I used to live.  The lightning conductor poles are there to protect the little cabins (we call them rondawels) as they have thatched roofs. 

Guinea Fowl in Trees at Sunset

This is possibly my Favourite Photo of All Time.  I have always been fascinated by guinea fowl which are plump little birds with white polka-dot spots on their black feathers.   They absolutely do not blend into the African landscape.  If you enlarge the photo above, you can spot two guinea fowl in the branches of what looks to be a baobab tree.

I could have remained there for hours just watching the sun disappear past the horizon but thankfully Keira reminded that there are more important things to do in the life of a four-and-a-half-year-old.

Secret London: West of St Paul’s (part 1)

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Kathy took me on a Secret London walk.  There is so much to see in London and so many hidden passages, statues, gardens and other interesting places and it was fascinating to just see one tiny part of secret London.  Kathy has a copy of Andrew Duncan’s fabulous book Secret London: Exploring the Hidden City, with Original Walks and Unusual Places to Visit and we used this as our guide. We started off at St Paul’s Underground Station.

St Paul's Underground Station

Postman’s Park and the Heroes' Memorial

Postman's Park

Our first stop was Postman’s Park, named after Rowland Hill, the man who campaigned tirelessly to introduce postal reform in the United Kingdom.  He is credited with introducing penny postage.

Alice Ayres plaque at the Heroes' Memorial

Postman’s Park is home to the incredible Heroes’ Memorial which is a memorial to ordinary men, women and children who gave their lives to save others.  It was built by G. F. Watts who was inspired by the story of Alice Ayres, a 26-year-old maid who died saving her employer’s children from a fire.  Kathy told me that “Alice Ayres” was the primary alias used by the character played by Natalie Portman in the film Closer

The Heroes' Memorial in Postman's Park

Just outside of Postman’s Park is a stature of Rowland Hill, for whom the park was named.

Rowland Hill

Cutler’s Hall

We then came upon one of the first and only parts of the walk that I had previously known, the remains of the Christ Church Greyfriars and that is quite a feat considering that I had taken part in the Race for Life in this area on two previous occasions.

Christ Church Greyfriars

When I last saw the church in June 2010, it had scaffolding up and didn’t look so pretty.  It looks better now but still looks better in summer when all of the trees grow in the middle.  Christ Church Greyfriars was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and rebuilt after the Great Fire of London, only to fall victim to the Blitz on 29 December 1940.

Cutler's Hall

We then turned the corner into Warwick Lane to see Cutler’s Hall.  The Cutler’s Company are renowned as famous makers of knives and forks and we were most amused to see the purple plaque marking the site of the Royal College of Physicians next door.

Cutler's Company-Cutler's Hall- Warwick Lane

The terracotta frieze above shows craftsmen forging metal.

The Earls of Warwick and the Old Bailey

Warwick Square- home of the Earls of Warwick

We crossed Warwick Square which was site of the home of the Earls of Warwick in the 15th Century.  I visited Warwick Castle back in 2008, so it was nice to see where they had lived in London.  We crossed Warwick Square and went into Warwick Passage which takes you under the Old Bailey! That was quite intriguing and we walked past the entrance to the viewing gallery.  It was very full though with a line of people trying to get in, so we carried on walking.

Warwick Square and Warwick Passage-London

That is Kathy, my tour guide.  She is made of awesome cakes.

St Sepulchre's Church-Newgate Street-London

Across the road from the Old Bailey is St Sepulchre’s Church. The Newgate Prison used to stand at the site of the Old Bailey and a bellman from St Sepulchre’s Church used to ring a hand bell on execution nights and appeal to the condemned to make their piece with God.  The church is also the site of the first drinking fountain installed in London.  It was meant to discourage the use of alcohol and was the only source of sterile drink for many people.

Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Through Association-First Drinking Fountain in London 

Snow Hill Police Station at the site of the Old Saracen’s Head Inn

We walked past the church and turned the corner to see the tiniest police station I had ever seen.  That wasn’t the least of the excitement regarding this site though!

Police station at site of Old Saracen's Head Inn

The Snow Hill Police Station is located at the site of the Old Saracen’s Head Inn where Wackford Squeers met the Charles Dickens character Nicholas Nickleby.  Long-time followers of this blog will know that I am quite fascinated by places related to Charles Dickens as the area where I work is steeped in Dickens’ personal history and is full of places mentioned in his novels.

Snow Hill Police Station-site of Old Saracen's Head Inn

The next part of the walk was interesting because of its depiction of ruin and decay in London and I think it deserves a post all of its own.  I am sure you are a bit weary by now anyway, as was I after all of that exercise!

Full Moon Over London Bridge Station

Full Moon Over London Bridge Rail Station

As I was rushing to catch my train after a particularly long and weary day yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the brilliant (almost) full moon in the sky.  It really was a sight to see but alas, I only had my iPhone with me and the trusty Hipstamatic app.  How does the full moon look where you are today?

Concert Review: Muse – Wembley Stadium, London, September 11, 2010

Wembley Stadium, Muse September 11 2010 

Back in September, I went to see Muse at Wembley Stadium.  I’m not sure why I never posted this review but I suspect it had a lot to do with how disappointed I had been in my photos from that evening.  Nevertheless, I did make some detailed notes about the gig and have decided to swallow my pride and go ahead with the posting it!

It is notoriously hard to get concert tickets in London as they sell out within minutes of going on sale.  It is well known that many of those tickets are bought in bulk by ticket touts intending to sell them online or outside gigs for hugely inflated prices.  In 1995, I paid £100 for £30 tickets for Glastonbury and in 2004, I paid £80 for £25 Pixies tickets.  I consider, therefore, that I have paid my dues and I will never, ever pay ticket tout prices for a gig again.

Ticket, Muse at Wembley Staium, September 11 2010

Which is a problem.  Music has always been a passion of mine and attending concerts has always been an important measure of that passion.  Earlier this year, there were but four bands that I considered to be among my favourites that I had not seen in concert; excluding the bands I did see at Exit Festival they were Radiohead, Muse, Collide and Editors.  At the end of 2008, I was really disappointed when I had gone online as booking opened to buy Muse tickets and they sold out within minutes.  I did not want to be disappointed again in 2009 and joined up to Muse’s fan club with the specific intention of getting tickets this time.  It worked.  I might have only managed to get nose bleed seats half a stadium away from the stage but at least I was finally able to watch Muse at Wembley on September 11, 2010.


I Am Arrows

I Am Arrows at Wembley (supporting Muse)

I Am Arrows were the first support band of the evening.  They played quite a short set and it could not have been easy for them being first band in a line-up when the crowd was obviously there for the headline act.  They struggled at times to get the crowd really going at all and they seemed lost in the stadium setting but they redeemed themselves with their last two songs.  They played a cover of the Tears for Fears classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” which had everyone’s hands in the air and they finished off with their most well known song “Green Grass”. 


White Lies

White Lies at Wembley (supporting Muse)

White Lies were up next and immediately seemed more comfortable in the stadium than the previous band.  Their sound quality seemed improved over I Am Arrows too but this might have been down to their confidence. White Lies are one of those bands that I’d heard of but had never taken the time to listen to before last night but I was impressed enough to go out and get their music.  Although White Lies are known to dislike the comparison, it is impossible not to notice the similarity between Harry McVeigh’s lovely baritone voice and that of Tom Smith of Editors.  They played an energetic set and played some of their new material as well as the old favourites “To Lose My Life” and “Farewell to the Fairground” which finally seemed to get the crowd going for the evening.


Biffy Clyro

Biffy Clyro at Wembley (supporting Muse)

Biffy Clyro were the last supporting act of the evening.  I’ve been listening to Biffy Clyro quite a lot over the past year and reviewed their album Only Revolutions back in March.  I’ve linked to the review so that you can see what the band did look like because they looked nothing like that now.  I was expecting a rather polished rock band but what we saw on stage was just a mess.  To be fair, there was obviously something wrong with their sound because on about the fourth song, vocalist Simon Neil seemed to make a complaint of sorts and the sound immediately improved thereafter.  Which is a real pity because I could barely recognise “That Golden Rule”, “Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies” and “Bubbles”.  Thankfully, they seemed to get it right for their massive hits “Who’s Got a Match” and “”Mountains” and I enjoyed hearing “Born On A Horse”, “Shock Shock” and “Many of Horror” too.  They closed with “The Captain” which certainly seemed to please the crowd.  Keeping in mind that there probably was some kind of problem with their sound initially, I would still say that Biffy Clyro need to get their act together as this was not the calibre of performance I would expect from a band opening for Muse.



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It is not easy to describe a Muse concert without making gratuitous use of superlatives.  Perhaps it would be best to start at the end as Muse played their closing chords: the electricity was in the air and all around me and I stood still, in awe of the fantastic concert that I had seen, more than a little stunned that it was over.  If I were limited to but one single word to describe the concert, it would have to be “perfect”. (Note well: when you live on the other side of London and you have two tubes and a train to catch before you even enter Kent, there is in fact no time to stand in awe of the band you have just seen at Wembley, no matter how great they are.  It is best to keep this in mind to avoid sprinting through stations and literally catching the last tubes and trains of the evening).

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Muse began their set by bursting onto stage and belting out "Uprising", "Supermassive Black Hole" and "MK Ultra". I was absolutely thrilled when they went on to play "Map of the Problematique" next as it is one of my favourite songs and they had not played it at the Wembley gig the evening before. "Bliss" and "Guiding Light" followed and then, to my utter delight, they played "Hysteria" preceded by the full version of "Interlude".

I won't list all of the songs that followed but my highlights were their cover of the Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley classic "Feeling Good"; the platform lifting away from the stage and carrying the band into the air during "Undisclosed Desires"; and their cover of the old Animals classic "House of the Rising Sun" which lead into my very favourite Muse song "Time Is Running Out".

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During their first encore, the bank played “Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)” and a giant, inflatable UFO came from around the back of the stage and floated across the stadium.  That was incredible and mind-blowing enough but then a trapeze artist dropped out of the balloon and began to perform acrobatics in the air.  It was fabulous to see!  They played “Stockholm Syndrome” too in that encore and disappeared off the stage again. 

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I have to say, I was pretty confident that they would return for a second encore and was thrilled when they returned with “Take a Bow”, “Plug In Baby” and “Knights of Cydonia”.  All too soon, it was over and all we were left with was a feeling of exhilaration and scores of white orbs that descended over the crowd.  Seeing Muse at Wembley was honestly one of the best experiences of my life!  The only complaint I have about the whole of Muse’s set was that they didn’t play “New Born” (which they played the night before) but I do think hearing “Map of the Problematique” was an acceptable trade.

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