Concert: PJ Harvey at the Royal Albert Hall, 30 October 2011

Royal Albert Hall PJ Havey

Last night we made our way to the Royal Albert Hall to see PJ Harvey in concert.  I have been a fan of Polly Jean Harvey since 24 June 1995.  I remember the exact date because my friend Sarah and I went to Glastonbury together that year.  I didn’t know PJ Harvey’s music at all but had compromised with Sarah as she really wanted to see her.  I thought that my misgivings were realised when Polly burst on to the stage in a neon pink cat suit but let’s just say that I was absolutely blown away by her performance.  To this day, I remember the moves she made and the props she used with each and every single song she played that day.  Quite incredible, considering I didn’t know any of her songs before that day!

I left Glastonbury that year and bought all of PJ Harvey’s CDs and I have bought every album since then.  When I heard that she was performing at the Royal Albert Hall, I made sure that I got a ticket!

PJ Harvey Royal Albert Hall ticket

This is the second concert I’ve seen at the Royal Albert Hall, the first being the Editors concert back in March 2011.  I have to say, with the incredible acoustics and sound in the Royal Albert Hall, I don’t think I will ever be able to go back to a normal concert venue after this. The Royal Albert Hall is the premium concert venue, the type of place that real music lovers go to appreciate good music.  All of the tickets were sold as seated (although there did appear to be a standing gallery on the very top level) and the atmosphere was one of reverence and circumstance.

PJ Harvey Royal Albert Hall

PJ Harvey arrived on stage shortly after 8.35pm.  She started off the evening with “Let England Shake” and “The Words That Maketh Murder”, both off her latest album, the Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake

Supporting band PJ Harvey at Royal Albert Hall

Next up was “All and Everyone”, also from Let England Shake.  This song was incredible and I felt goose bumps over my entire body hearing it.  It reminded me of just how much of an impact that concert in 1995 had on me because I wasn’t a fan of Let England Shake until last night and now my mind has been absolutely changed.

PJ Harvey Royal Albert Hall harp

The next couple of songs were also from Let England Shake (see the setlist below) with the exception of “The Devil” and “Dear Darkness” from White Chalk.  I was absolutely thrilled when they began to play “The Last Living Rose” as the Grand Organ suddenly lit up and Mick Harvey could be seen playing it.  It was incredible!

PJ Harvey Royal Albert Hall harp

In the photo above, you can just make out Mick Harvey on the organ, with John Parish on keyboard and Jean-Marc Butty on the military drum.  Oh, and just in case you are wondering, that is the Mick Harvey of The Birthday Party and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame.  I will admit to a definite fan girl moment when I learned that it was him!

Jean-Marc Butty supporting PJ Harvey at Royal Albert Hall

Jean-Marc Butty actually made quite an impression throughout the show and it goes to show how good the sound is in this venue.  I especially enjoyed his drumming in “Pocket Knife” from the 2004 album Uh Huh Her.  He was energetic, skilled and absolutely entertaining.

Mick Harvey Jean-Marc Butty John Parish supporting PJ Harvey at Royal Albert Hall

My favourite part of the show (up to the encore) was when Polly launched into “Down By The Water” and “C’mon Billy” from her phenomenal 1995 album To Bring You My Love.  Stephen was most impressed because finally, one hour into the show, he recognised one of the songs!  Poor long-suffering husband of mine.

When Polly finished performing “The Colour of the Earth”, she thanked the audience and made to leave the stage. 

PJ Harvey Royal Albert Hall standing ovation

It is testament to this fantastic performance that the whole audience shot up onto their feet to give PJ Harvey a standing ovation.  I wish the photos above were clearer but I was clapping too much to be able to take better shots!  Polly and the band looked truly humbled which is crazy because they should have a fair idea how awesome they are.

Now I know it is pretty much a given in any concert that the band will come back for at least one encore but the atmosphere was electric as the entire audience stayed on their feet and clapped for about five minutes before Polly finally returned with a guitar and performed “The Desperate Kingdom of Love”.  This is such a stunning song and I remarked to Stephen that I have never seen someone achieve that with a guitar before, it was just so powerful and stunning.

“White Chalk” was up next, another acoustic track and then the moment I had waited for all night arrived as Polly finally performed “The Sky Lit Up” and “Angelene” from Is This Desire?

She finished off with “Silence” from White Chalk which was a brilliant track to showcase her powerful and impressive vocal range. 

This concert was truly special and absolutely worth every penny.  Polly Jean Harvey – you are a legend and I am truly grateful for the privilege to see you not once, but twice in concert. 

Wandering Down Portobello Road

One of the most precious gifts in an expat’s life is when friends and family visit. My sister-in-law Sandra is both. She is married to my husband’s brother but she was my friend long before she became family. Sandra arrived in London on Saturday and I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days with her before she left this morning to meet up with her parents, aunt, uncle and cousins.

Portobello Road W11 Street Sign

On Sunday morning, we headed off to Portobello Road, the street that was immortalised in the movie Notting Hill.  Of course, Portobello Road and Notting Hill were trendy long before the film but I had never been here before.  It was so much fun to do something completely different.

Something about the short hour it took to get from Dartford to Notting Hill Gate reignited in me the desire to explore London.  I seemed to have grown complacent over the summer (the very antithesis of this blog!) but I have realised, once again, how many treasures are just a train ride away! 

Living in Portobello Road

We entered Portobello Road from the south-eastern corner and I quite enjoyed looking at the houses and apartments. It must be lovely to live on such a pretty, lively and fashionable street. I imagine it might get tiring too though and that sometimes residents wish for a little peace and quiet.

Houses and apartments in Portobello Road

Once we entered into the main retail section of Portobello Road, there was a carnival of colours, textures, tastes, sounds and smells.  I really enjoyed playing around with my camera and tried to capture the spirit of this gorgeous street. 

Portobello Road

I’ve heard that Portobello Road can get incredibly busy at times but I have to say, it was quite pleasant on this mild and sunny day.

A Davey Builder Ghost Sign Portobello Road

I’m gaining an ever-increasing appreciation of ghost signs and this one is especially notable as it has been moulded into the concrete as opposed to simply being painted on.  I wonder what measures they are taking to preserve it?

Snapshots of Portabello Road

Click on the photo above to see the extra cute message on the tin and to appreciate the grand collection of antique sewing machines.  I learned to sew on a hand crank Singer sewing machine and would give my eye teeth to own one, yet this shopping chain seems to have thousands of them in their displays across the country.

Always Look Up Portobello Road

Always look up.  You might even notice a strangely Mediterranean-looking scene in Portobello Road in the middle of autumn.

Plates and Antiques Portobello Road

We loved poking around all the antique stores with their interesting and beautiful wares.

Rings and Trinkets in Portbello Road

Sandra even bought a Turkish amber and silver ring that looked ever so nice on her.

The Portobello Print and Map Shop

I was really interested in the map shop as they claimed that all of their maps were authentic and not replicas.  I might go back there and get some maps for my study walls.  They would be a welcome replacement for the dodgy and inaccurate world map that is currently hanging on my wall (I bought it from a vendor at the side of the road in Johannesburg).  Although, i have learned quite a lot about world geography by discovering the inaccuracies on the map.

Volkswagen Minibuses Portobello Road

Being a lifelong fan of matchbox cars, I have to say I was really impressed by these gorgeous models.

The Salvation Army Portobello Road

We walked almost to the end of Portobello Road before heading back up the street to buy some waffles and crepes for lunch and matching scarves to remember our adventure by.  Portobello Road is an absolute gem and I have no doubt that I will take visitors there in the future.

Portobello Road

Installation Art in Bishops Square, Spitalfields

Installation Art at Spitalfields

I have a confession to make and I trust that this will stay between us.

The first time I was invited to meet up with friends in Spitalfields, I looked the area up on Google Maps and thought it looked a bit too scary for me to be travelling to alone on a cold, dark January evening.  It seems incredible to me now, of course, because in the space of nine short months, Spitalfields has become one of my favourite parts of London.  And I had absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of safety and security.

Spitalfields is located near Brick Lane and Liverpool Street in London's East End. It is an area that is steeped in history and is home to the Old Spitalfields Market that was founded in the 17th century. Today, Spitalfields is an increasingly trendy, up and coming area and I just love the installation art in the area.

 I Goat by Kenny Hunter - SpitalfieldsI Goat by Kenny Hunter

Kenny Hunter's I Goat is the newest piece of art in the area and was installed in January 2011. The public voted for Kenny’s design in a sculpture design competition which began in early 2010.  Kenny states that I Goat represents “how each successive group of immigrants have faced their own combination of conflict, oppression and poverty”.  I am quite fond of this little goat!

 Red Church by Eleonora Aguiari at Spitalfields Red Church by Eleonora Aguiari

Eleonora Aguiari's Red Church is a likeness of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church in Spitalfields, which you can see in the background behind the I Goat above.  Eleonora used red to represent a dialogue between purity and passion although she does tend to use red in many of her sculptures!

Spitalfields Spirit by Paul Cox Spitalfields Spirit by Paul Cox

I know that we are meant to refer to the sculpture above as Spitalfields Spirit but really, everybody knows that they are the Spitalfields bunnies!  I think these little things are adorable and they are meant to represent the spirit of community and diversity of the area.

A Pear and a Fig by Ali Grant

I quite liked Ali Grant’s A Pear and a Fig but soon discovered that it is not easy to photograph bronze in the correct light!  The sculpture is a reminder of the days when Spitalfields was a bustling food market.

One thing is for sure, London is constantly changing and that is especially true for areas like Spitalfields.  I see on the Spitalfields "About Art" page that more sculptures have gone up since my visit.  That’s okay, I was looking for an excuse to return to the area anyway!

Holborn Bar and Barnard’s Inn Hall

Holborn Bar

Holborn Bar Prudential Assurance building, 142 Holborn Bars, EC1

If you’ve ever visited Holborn in London, you would probably have noticed the large red brick building that seems to dominate the area.  This is the Prudential Assurance building and it was built between 1879 and 1901.  It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and is in the Victorian Gothic style.

Detail Holborn Bar

I have always wanted to explore inside the building and in the courtyards and on this particular day, I was conveniently disguised as an office worker in a fancy suit and so I went in.  Prudential Insurance moved out in 2002 and it looks like DeVere Venues hires out this Grade II listed building as a conference, training and events venue now. 

Arches at Holborn Bar

Barnard's Inn Hall

Barnards Inn Hall

When I went on the Secret London walk earlier this year, we visited Gresham College but I did not take photos of Barnard’s Inn Hall because I did not realise its significance.

Barnard’s Inn is a really old building, dating back to at least 1252 when it was recorded as part of the estate of the Mayor of London, Sir Adam de Basyng.  It was established as an Inn of Chancery in 1454 and it was an Inn for law students who then passed on to the Inns of Court.  Barnard’s Inn has been part of Gresham College since 1991.  Today it is used for meetings, dinners and functions. 

I visited one of the Inn’s of Court, Lincoln's Inn in Holborn,  back in August (on a decidedly sunnier day).  I love the sense of occasion, history and importance that one feels walking around these beautiful buildings.

Barnards Inn Hall - weathervane

The photo above reminds me of what is fast becoming my London mantra: always look up!  There are so many treasures to be found in this city when you just look up and notice the world around you.

A Weekend at Swilland Mill, Suffolk

I know, I know. I've been a bad blogger but can you blame me with this unseasonably warm weather?  As the Real Autumn* begins to descend upon us, I look back on the last, beautiful weekend of the summer.

Swilland Mill

Can you believe that this photo was taken in October in Suffolk, England?  October is traditionally the rainiest month in Suffolk with temperatures averaging 15°c.  A group of friends and colleagues went up to Swilland Mill to celebrate my friend Kate’s Hen Party (also known as a bachelorette party).  We were blessed with incredible weather with temperatures soaring into the late 20s and clear, sunny skies.

We had a fabulous weekend with lots of karaoke, Prosecco and food.  We also had an Ann Summers party, Butler-in-the-Buff and a very swanky murder mystery dinner.  I am pleased to say that this time, it wasn’t me!  I was having far too much fun during the weekend to take any photos (and what happens at the Hen’s Party stays at the Hen’s Party) but I certainly fell in love with the venue.

Swilland Mill was one of the largest post mills ever built in Suffolk and they suspect that it might have been the largest ever built anywhere.  It was built around 1800 and first appeared on local maps in 1825.  They stopped using the mill in the 1930s and it fell into disrepair after the war until the 1970s when it was used by a local potter.  You can read all about the history of the mill here: History of Swilland Mill.

Today, Swilland Mill is comprised of three luxury apartments (if you can call 3-4 story luxury accommodation ‘apartments’). They have been exquisitely refurbished and decorated and I guess it is no surprise that I enjoyed it so much there that I have booked a week’s holiday there just before Christmas. We were going to take Ste’s parent’s on a road trip around Suffolk and Norwich anyway, and now we are going to do something similar but just have a base up there from which to travel.

The Mylen at Swilland Mill

Can you blame me for liking it so much?  I love that there are pieces of old mill equipment located around the apartments.  We got to explore all three apartments this weekend and the one I have booked over December has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lounge with flat screen TV and DVDs and a gorgeous kitchen.  It is perfect for a winter getaway with the family.

*The Real Autumn is distinguished from the Unreal Autumn that we had in September in that this time, it won’t be followed by a glorious week of beautiful blue skies, hot sunshine and summer dresses.  I am quite confident in saying that today was the last day for 6 months that I will go to work without a jacket and long sleeved shirt on.

I’m really excited for this autumn and winter and am looking forward to colourful winter clothing, Christmas markets, two weddings, visits from my South African family, blogger’s outings and X Factor and Merlin.  Of course, that also comes with colder weather and the inexplicable increase in my appetite, rain, two exams and craziness at work.  What do you have planned for this season?