I’m just back from Glastonbury. I’ve been once before, to support my mate Trev when his band, Sucker, played on the John Peel stage. You can hear Sucker’s unofficial (and sadly now redundant) England song Go For Goal here. Perhaps they can redo it with the line “we’ll be crying in the street”.

I’m a city and hotel sort not a field and tent type. The first time I went camping, as a student performing at the Buxton Festival, I ended up in hospital (well, a day visit) with damp and aching bones (I’m sure it’s a recognised condition). But that was many years ago, so I thought it was abouty time I tried again. I went off to Argos and bought a tent. And I had a good time, even though the place was flooded and I was hit on the head with a big metal pole when, because of the high winds, a cafe blew over. I just gave in to it all, stuck some carrier bags around my feet and put my socks over the top. Wellies? I didn’t buy them. They’re just not my thing. Like rucksacks. I reluctantly bought one of those but, when possible, carried it in my hands rather than strapping it to my bag. I know, it’s foolish, but we can’t escape the stupid lives we make for ourselves.

Like my phobia. I only have the one… I think. Sure, I’m averse to many things; I’ll always run away from a man wearing a T-shirt that declares “Here Comes Trouble”, but that’s just common sense isn’t it? Not a phobia.

My phobia is some daft kind of claustro one where I can’t bear having a tag put around my wrist. Then they tighten it and I can’t take it off and I go mad and sweat and cry and try to dislocate my thumb. I go to pool tournaments where my team captain, Darren, who is a doctor (ok, of sociology but the band nazis don’t need to know that do they?) comes with me to the band nazi stand to tell them it MUST BE LOOSE or I will get stressed… or rashy… or allergic. Whatever works.

With effort I can get them on and off without stretching them. Oddly, once I know I can get it off I don’t mind it being on. That’s why I can wear a watch.

Last Glastonbury I managed to make my wrist as thin as a pin. This time the stress was starting before I’d left home.

I wasn’t going to have it. It’s just crazy. How can it harm me? And so, I don’t know how, I managed to wear it for the whole festival.

I’ve even considered keeping it on forever. I said to Ben (Norris- top dog comedian who kindly invited me along as his guest) that I wouldn’t take it off til the day I died. I lied. It’s off now.

But this was going to be about Glastonbury. I was going to put some pics up. Now I have to stop and go off to choir.

I’ll have to do my Glasto stuff tomorrow.

Bloody phobias.

Nordens Folkekokken

June 23, 2010

I didn’t take this picture. I didn’t eat this meal. But I did have a meal just as beautifully presented as this at Nordens Folkekokken in Aalborg, Denmark.

Sadly nothing to do with Denis Norden, Nordens Folkekokken is owned and run by Corden Bleu head chef Johan Bulow; a deadringer for Whose Line is it Anyway? regular Ryan Stiles. And Johan was a most welcoming and informative host. He’d very kindly invited us along as his guests as part of us winning a weekend away in Aalborg from the lovely people at visitaalborg.com. (Oh, and I should point out, everyone is going to be lovely, kind etc. We’d won a prize! Get with the programme! I’m hardly going to slag them off, am I.)

Oh, another incidental, but surely I can’t use brackets again. Here it is: In Danish pubs you can get slags for just a few krone. We saw one man order six and he was brought some wormy sausages in a cup.

Ok, that last bit was a little rude. But, he hadn’t bought them in Nordens Folkekokken so it’s ok.

I asked Johan what Folkekokken means, though stupidly forgot to ask him about Nordens. Folkkokken is the people’s kitchen. It’s good food at reasonable prices. Johan said it was food for all, “from the banker and the lawyer to the mistress and the pickpocket.” At which point I said “I’m glad you’ve got us two covered.” He didn’t laugh. but I laughed inside and Zoe maybe did too, to please me.

Johan decided to open the Folkekokken after the crisis. I didn’t ask him what crisis. That seemed rude to me. I worried about whether it involved his favourite pet maybe, but Zoe seemed to think he was talking in broader terms and that he might have been referring to the global financial crisis. I guess now we’ll never know.

But I’m glad he opened the restaurant and I’m glad he is offering “food based on the classical Nordic kitchen and cooked in new ways with local herbs, berries and flavours – based on the best ingredients.” You can find out more on this here.

We let Johan advice us on the courses as the menu was in Danish. I’m no food critic (Zoe is and I hope she will leave some notes on what we had) but it was all lovely and local. And each course was accompanied by a complementary wine selected by Johan (complimentary too in a way, since the wine is included in the menu). Of course I had to go and spoil things by sticking with beer. I know that must seem awful but I am in a country that brews probably the best lager in the world. I’m shameless and that’s that.

If you go to Aalborg (and you should) then do call in. The prices range from 350DK (just under £40) for three courses (with wine) to about 550DK for the full five courses, and if you are there midweek it’s 50DK cheaper. Now that may seem dear but drink is included and the food was sensational. If you’re a lawyer take the mistress.

Tour de Farce

June 22, 2010

The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, is home to the Bicycle Museum. It’s not a lot of bicycles, but rather a pedal-driven, human-powered exhibit that takes up to 10 minutes to cycle. We didn’t know if we were allowed to cycle it ourselves or if we had to wait for a museum guard. There was no one around; no guard, and, at the time, no other visitors. we clambered aboard and made a film. It’s nine minutes long. If you watch it all I don’t know whether I should be impressed or appalled. And my apologies to Zoe for… well, just for… this:

And thank you to Zoe for giving me a Flip camera as a gift. Without it none of this would have been possible. More films to follow. I’ll try and keep them shorter.

I’ve just come back from a weekend in Aalborg, Denmark and whilst there we enjoyed a visit to Kunsten Museum of Modern Art.

The building was designed by Elissa and Alvar Alto and Jean-Jacques Baruel and built between 1968 and 1972. If this reads a little like An Idiots Guide to… that’s because I’m writing it. For more details go here. And look! He’s on a stamp!

The building itself is difficult to see and difficult to photograph, partly because when we visited there was no access to the Sculpture Park. A shame since we were there on such a beautiful day. However, it’s once you are inside that the true beauty of the building (and I can’t believe I am about to type this) literally comes to light.

The building serves the art;  not only through its astonishing ability to allow glorious light into all the right places, but also by its flexibility when it comes to housing works such as this exciting installation, You Too Can Be a Superhero,  by the Danish artist Ruth Campau.

AVPD can stand for Avoidant personality Disorder. It’s also the collective name for two artists, Aslak Vibaek and Peter Dossing. Now imagine the ‘a’ and the ‘e’ joined together and the ‘o’ with a line through it and you’ve got the Danish way. You can find out more about them here. I don’t know the name of this piece. It’s a dark corridor with an obtuse angle in the middle and a mirrored wall opposite the angle. it gives the impression of being two walkways. It’s not. I’m going to call it Funny Mirror Tunnel. I liked it. Here’s Zoe in it, not two people.

And here’s a view from inside.

I’ve drawn attention to some of the temporary exhibitions in the gallery. (There’s also a cycling thing which I had to pedal furiously on for ten minutes and of which we made a film. Give me a day or two and I’ll get that sorted.) But the gallery is also home to a permanent collection of Danish modern art from 1900 to the present day. Here’s a couple for you to enjoy, though I may get into trouble for putting pics up. I don’t know the rules on these things but I mean well.

Walking man IV (detail) by Kurt Trampedach

In the deep forest lives a drummer by Anders Brinch

Aalborg day two

June 18, 2010

Firstly, a hangover from yesterday, something that took me by surprise. Last night when we arrived in Aalborg we collected our bags and… well, left the airport and got a taxi. I don’t get it. We just strolled into Denmark. No one wanted to look at our passports, no one stopped us, checked anything. is this normal? Is this common? is it part of our prize?

So today, we we’re up fairly early. We’ve been given optional tasks but we’re going to do our damnedest to fulfill them. We had our typically Danish breakfast; eggs, bacon, bacon, bacon. Only joking. Heck, you don’t need to know our breakfast. It was fine. Standard all over Europe help yourself smorgasbord (I don’t know what that means, but it sure sounds Scandinavian, so I’m using it). Then  we headed off to this:

It’s the Aalborgtaarnet, know to some (me) as the Aalborg Tower. And with our Aalborg card it’s free to go up.

Well, if it’s open. We got there too early. It doesn’t open until 11am. Oh, and it doesn’t open in bad weather. Look at those blue skies. But still, no opening. Too windy. There wasn’t a soul in sight, but it was a nice walk and it was close to the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art which was fantastic and beautiful.

More of that at another time. I must race now. We are being treated to a meal at a fancy restaurant and the booking is at 7pm. in 40 minutes. It’s nice winning prizes. Oh, and time is different here so England don’t play Algeria until 8.30pm, so, fingers crossed, we’ll see the second half.

Arriving in Aalborg

June 17, 2010

So I’m here in the Happiest Place in the World;  Denmark. In Aalborg. If you are wondering why, please read here. But before I tell you anything about this place – and I don’t know much yet, it’s 12.30 now, we’ve only been here half an hour and we must drink beer – let me help you out with some do’s and don’t about travelling to Denmark. Well, let’s keep it to don’ts.

Don’t think you can get Danish Krone at Bluewater. You can’t. Don’t get it at the airport like we did. The exchange rate’s… heck, I don’t know. I’m, told it’s bad, but it’s just, well, it’s just all notes. And when I give a couple of hundred and get a few thousand back, hey, I feel pretty pretty good.

Don’t cat sit for three cats when the pollen count is at its highest and then run out of asthma inhalers on the day you are travelling and then try and persuade a weary chemist in Bluewater to phone your doctor and persuade them to say yes to your emergency inhaler. You know that scene in Magnolia where Julianne Moore waits for her prescription and the chemists mutter to each other and she gets tense and then she says How dare you!

Still, that’s behind me now and I’m having a beer and writing my blog whilst Zoe looks over our bag of goodies from Louise at VisitAalborg.Yes, the ever patient and lovely Zoe has forgiven me my inhaler fiasco, she’s tolerated me leaving my glasses on the plane (thank you nice Danish man for stopping me near the conveyor belt), she’s even ok about the currency thing. But listen folks, order your currency in advance. Please. You’ll get more. Oh, and don’t go to Bluewater, walk into the First Choice bureau de change and ask for Dutch Krone. I just confused them. And me. And Zoe.

A diversion. When the flight details arrived from Norwegian.com I had to contact Anne Sofie at VisitDenmark because I couldn’t understand them. They were all in Danish. She sent me an email giving me the gist (turn up, check in) and then politely pointing out that in fact they were in Norwegian.

Anyways, now it’s all exciting. We’ve checked in to the Quality Hotel, and it must be quality because the only other people drinking in the bar with us right now are the crew who flew us over here. And we have a big pack of goodies.

The bag of goodies includes info, maps, vouchers, our Aalborg cards, lots more, and a letter from Louise congratulating us on our prize. We were delighted, and excited. Particularly when we got to the paragraph that starts with “I have booked a table for you at…”

But more of that tomorrow. It’s ten past one now and I guess we are going to have a busy day ahead of us.

I love Aalborg. I have the perfect slogan for it:

Aalborg, better than Copenhagen… maybe.


June 13, 2010

I’m catsitting again. I tend to do this a couple of times a year for friends who like to have a holiday. It gives me somewhere to live. And it gives my long-suffering friend who kindly houses me a break every now and then (it was meant to be for six months or so… now… 3 or 4 years later… oh my… I have become the guest who won’t leave). So far I have four families in need of occasional catsitting. Maybe, in time, I can build up enough cat families, all taking holidays at different times, so that I can just float from cat house to cat house, never needing a place of my own.

Now I am catsitting for Stella, Tigger and Pirate (the names of the cats, not their owners… not that you can own a cat). Saucer too, but sadly she disappeared a few days before I arrived. We hope she’ll come back, but it’s been a while now. She’s blind too. Hopefully someone, somewhere, has taken her in.

Tigger on top, Stella down below

Stella looks calm doesn’t she, sleeping down below? Well she won’t let me get near her. There’s low level growls that make all of Hither Green quiver, and then comes the hissing, the spitting, the scratching.

I looked up Stella on the internet to try and write some witty Tennessee Williams thing; to portray myself , sweaty and vesty, crying her name in despair. But I was distracted by this Stella picture. I can’t really compete with a nude lady holding a lamb.

Tigger is far more friendly. Tigger moves like a Ray harryhausen cat, all stop-motion jerks and crazy head twitches. At feeding time she paces around in circles, whipping her head like a lion would if I was standing there in a red top hat and tails. She sometimes walks around Pirate, as he sits still, waiting patiently for his half a pack of jellied cat stuff.

Pirate’s the friendliest. Given the chance, he’ll jump up on my lap; at night he sleeps on the bed.

The other two spend most of the time sleeping on my bags. Wherever I go the cats are always drawn to my bags. That’s fine, but with mad cat Stella plonking herself on my suitcase I’ve now gone ten days without a change in underpants.

I’m off to the happiest place in the World next week. So some surveys said, a few years back.

I’m off to the second most peaceful place in the World, according to the 2009 Global Peace Index. It’s slipped a bit this year; to number 7. That’s still way ahead of the UK which is way down at 31.

The most peaceful place on Earth is, apparently, New Zealand. But I haven’t won a holiday there.

I’ve won a holiday to Denmark. Yes! Won! Free! I entered a competition at Visit Denmark to be a guinea pig. I had to prove to them that I would be a good guinea pig. I had to show them what I would do if I won. I said I’d write about it on my blog and also I’d make a film. They liked all of that and contacted me to see if me and my girlfriend would be guinea pigs. We said yes.

So, we’re off to- no, no, no, not Copenhagen. We’re going to Aalborg. Aalborg, in North Jutland. And while we are there, as guinea pigs, we will be given tasks.

One of these tasks is the Aalborg Beer Walk. It was stressed to me by Anne Sofie Salling Rasmussen, the press and event co-ordinator, that this was NOT a pub crawl. I have said that we will NOT get drunk. But who knows?

We’re also off to the Utzon Centre, a cultural exhibition centre designed by Jorn Utzon (picture a slash through the ‘o’ of Jorn) the architect who designed Sydney Opera House. And we’re going to Kunsten, the new Museum of Modern Art.

And it’s all for free, thanks to the AalborgCard, some kind of magic-like Willy Wonka ticket that gets us in everywhere for free and enables us to travel around everywhere (well, not to New Zealand) for free. Should you ever go to Aalborg you can buy these magic cards for DKK 299 for 72 hours. It even gets us 20% off pool tables at the Kennedy Pool Lounge. This is information I have not passed on to Zoe yet.

I’ve also kept quiet about another place I’m sure we’ll visit. It’s not included in the itinerary, but how can anyone go to Aalborg and not visit the Aalborgtaarnet.

I’ll hazard a guess on this one and go for The Aalborg Tower.

Once a month I head off to the bar at the BFI Imax at Waterloo, London, to take part in the BFI film quiz. It’s only £3 and we all get to show off just how boffiny we are when it comes to obscure Polish film posters for forgotten Samurai classics starring Grace Kelly.

Ok, I’m mixing up the rounds. But it is a quiz for boffins and without the regular team of Jonathan, Jeremy, Nik, Shanine andDave, well, I’d be lost. Sure, I’ll know a few answers, but you can bet they’ll know the answer before the question’s finished. If I’m lucky there’ll be two or three questions where I might be able to help out. And those two or three questions could mean the difference between winning and losing. Last night we won by 6 and a half points.

We don’t know what the half was for. Maybe they were being kind on me when I said the name of Dennis Hopper’s character in the first series of 24 was Victor Drago (it’s Drazen). It took me long enough to get to Victor. first off I remembered it as Frank Drago. Then I couldn’t get Tony Drago out of my head.

Here’s the bar. and on it the Medusa. The BFI is having a Ray Harryhausen tribute, and as part of it they got us all to make monsters out of plasticene. Here’s a few of them.

Mine’s on the far right, sticking his tongue out. I also gave him what might be mistaken for a large penis. I don’t know why. I feel a little sick about it now. But then, he is a monster, and it may well not be a penis. It could be another leg, or nose. Look, I’m sorry, ok?

Here’s some of Ray Harryhausen’s creations in action, from one of my favourite titled films, The Valley of Gwangi. Cowboys, dinosaurs and lots of people running around screaming. What more could you want?

What? You want a tiny horse? Well, ok. Harryhausen’s your man for tiny horses. (If you can’t bear to wait, scoot forward four and a half minutes).

World Cup Tweepstake

June 5, 2010

Yesterday there was a World Cup sweepstake in the guardian. If only I worked in an office. Or had 32 friends. But hang on, I have Twitter. And with almost 1966 followers it seemed only right that I should hold the first (ok, most likely not) World Cup Tweepstake.

This is how it worked. I let everyone on Twitter know it would start at 8pm. Once 8pm arrived all they had to do was send me a tweet saying “Count me in, daddio.” And, astonishingly (to me), it worked. Within the first minute I was overwhelmed with responses. I took them in order and drew the teams out of a saucepan. I’m sorry to all those who wanted to take part but didn’t make it in time.

Here’s who got who.

  1. France- @The_No_Show
  2. Mexico- @cat_elliott
  3. South Africa- @cazlol
  4. Uruguay- @Wulfruna
  5. Argentina- @Suvvo
  6. Nigeria- @stezario
  7. Greece- @BaldiesUnite
  8. South Korea- @LisaG75
  9. England- @kirtle
  10. USA- Felixleiteruk
  11. Slovenia- @Insomnia68
  12. Algeria- @LionelCox
  13. Germany- @Naaaade
  14. Serbia- @kat_scotty
  15. Ghana- @keeper9
  16. Australia- @JE2E
  17. Holland- @TMitC
  18. Cameroon- @Wllmtnnnt
  19. Denmark- @hinjowarwi
  20. Japan- @BottyB
  21. Italy- @Zoleipar
  22. Paraguay- @microbehat
  23. Slovakia- @bilbobaggins2K
  24. New Zealand- @Suggie
  25. Brazil- @KellyAJackson
  26. Portugal- @kjdaco
  27. Ivory Coast- @greythorne
  28. North Korea- @Professoryard
  29. Spain- @steve_parkes
  30. Chile- @jamestilburn
  31. Switzerland- @petittsa
  32. Honduras- @Antgrad

Good luck everyone. I will sort out a prize at some point, but I’ll keep it a mystery for now. Maybe I’ll make something. Out of biltong.