Weekend wrap-up

I got up to a few fun things this weekend, so thought I’d bundle them all into one email of recommendations.

On Saturday morning, myself and my pal Rachel went for brunch in Café Tamra on the Northcote Road. They do all the typical brunch items and it was good, but not particularly, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of other similar places on the same road. I’ve been to Brew not so long ago, and I don’t think Tamra would win in a battle between the two. Tamra is also one of those places where they have probably fitted in two more tables than they should have; so it feels a bit cramped. I got their special, and yes, it was absolutely delicious, but I don’t know if I’m in agreement with paying £12 for a brunch plate in a café. The special was chorizo and avocado on toast with a fried egg and cannot be changed, even if you want a poached egg, which I did. Once we were finished, Rachel suggested a glass of wine, as the afternoon was pushing on, and I do love the Bollingbroke which is a bit further down the road, so it seemed too obvious to avoid.

Northcote Road itself is yummy-mummy central, so I don’t know why we were surprised when the usually fab Bollingbroke was like a crèche. I’m all for babies and kids, but when your pub resembles an actual crèche, I think you need to rethink your offering, especially if you are expecting me to make a repeat visit. Well it didn’t stop us having two glasses of wine, sure what else would you be doing on a Saturday afternoon.

Saturday night was a fun night out with some friends that live in South East London, near Brockley. We went to a themed 70s/80s evening at the Rivoli ballroom, which is one of only two remaining in London (and which was used in Strictly, which I know my mum will love). The evening kicked off with a band called the Martini Encounter. They describe themselves as a ukulele cabaret act, with all three playing contemporary tunes on the ukulele. It felt to me like I was actually living a Wes Anderson movie.  It takes place the last Saturday of each month, I will certainly be returning and suggest you do too! You can have a look at the Martini Encounter on YouTube here to give you a flavour of what to expect.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to see my pal Peter play in the London gaelic football county championship. I’m more of a hurling gal myself, but I’m always interested in watching a gaelic game.  Peter plays for a team called St  Kiernans and sadly they lost. I’ve been to a couple of the matches they’ve played in Ruislip in very far west London. I really do love how it’s like you’ve taken a plane and are back by a pitch in Kilkenny. In fact, in some ways, it’s ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves’, for example, at the beginning of the match they sing Amhran na bhFiann (the Irish national anthem) and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen that happen at a county final in Ireland (as a former county champion, I think I can make this statement). Obviously it’s mainly first or second generation Irish there, and afterwards you can have a packet of Taytos and Magners (which is the brand under which Bulmers is marketed in the UK), so you have a feeling of international travel while staying on British soil.

And that’s everything, until next time. Oh and I’m thinking about re-naming the blog, since I think the current title is more 20’s AMG, not reflective of my 30 year old mature self. Any suggestions in the comments section would be welcomed.

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Things that are uniquely Irish and sort of baffling to some English people I have met

Having lived in the UK for the past 5 years there are a number of things/events that are more-or-less exclusively Irish that baffle my friends and colleagues. This post is spurred on by the Late Late Toy Show, televised tonight, which no self-respecting Irish person could possibly miss. In no particular order, I’ve created a list, please do feel free to add any suggestions in the comment section:

  • The Rose of Tralee. Obviously this holds a particularly special place in my heart and I regularly hold an event at my home where I allow myself to crown the unofficial London Rose (reigning champion is Rachel Magson). This year I ended up showing some of my work colleagues the winning video and found it difficult to defend how unbelievably sexist it was. I always felt the host helping a Rose to put on their shoes was just chivalrous, but the top ten moments as shown on the RTE player to some of my English pals, looked like it could have been a satire
  • The Ploughing Match. This probably speaks for itself and is probably the most Irish thing ever – people travelling to the midlands to watch others ploughing land. I know this type of event exists in the UK, but not one that dominates the news agenda for at least two days, and has everyone asking ‘are you going to the ploughing?’. I assume that’s what happens, I did take a day off school to go there once, but didn’t see a moment of ploughing if I’m honest. Put in context, more people go to The Ploughing Match every year than go to Glastonbury, which is mindblowing to any English person I have told. Obviously my colleagues went wild when they saw the actual Rose of Tralee being interviewed on the clip that I showed them from this year’s match
  • That we have a Halloween bank holiday. I need not expand on this, but every year it makes me sad to miss out
  • Christmas FM. Where I discovered the best/worst Christmas song ever, Christmas Shoes. Listen and weep. Listen to Christmas FM and you will hear it once an hour and may end up weeping for a different reason
  • How small our president is. He may be short, be we really do love him. He’s my favourite president of Ireland since everyone’s actual favourite president, Mary Robinson
  • The Late Late Toy Show. If nothing else, watch it for the array of Christmas jumpers

Novel phone at great price

I’m a big fan of the first few pages of any weekend magazine, pages that are sort of full of nothing, mild commentary and sometimes blatant advertising (the Irish Times, I’m talking about you). Anyway, it was while reading the magazine that comes along with The Observer that I came across this gem which makes me wonder if the world is just gone mad. My good friend (and sole avid reader of this blog), Caoimhe, has always said that tIMG_1310hings always come full circle; and when it comes to mobile phones, this certainly is the case. When phones were first invented, we all wanted them smaller and doing more and more. I remember when I first got google maps on my phone when I first moved to London – life changing stuff at a time when I really did rely on a map to get around. Anyway, for the privilige of reduced functionality, you can now pay £200 to have a phone that just sends messages and takes calls. I’m pretty sure you can do that with a basic Nokia that you can buy for about £20, but I guess that wouldn’t make the first few pages of The Observer…I am also wondering if there is any significance in the fact that the phone brand is called Punkt, but sadly I think there is not, the world is indeed gone mad.

 

Rebel Bingo London – A review

IMG_0844 My good pal Denise arranged for a gang of us to go to rebel bingo a few weeks back. I’ve heard of RB on a few occasions in the past but never really understood what it would be or how it would be different. As we walked up to the bingo hall in Camden (who thought I’d ever be writing that sentence pre-2050?), it turned out that none of us really knew what we were going to.

The website for RB says this: Rebel Bingo is a very intense and emotional style of bingo. And it really, really is. Essentially it is bingo, but a lot more emotional. And a bit trendy. The venue was an old school bingo hall, it was sold out and was full of 20 and 30 somethings, they’ve done such a good job positioning something that is fundamentally just bingo as a trendy thing to do! There were 7 of us and we got two booths right beside each other. There was a bar, and also, very helpfully, staff came around with wheeley trolleys and sold drinks at your bingo table – this was maybe one of my favourite aspects of the night. We all got a bit excited at the beginning because we very quickly realised that there was  prize fund of £1,000 and began deciding how we’d split that amongst us.

Anyway, so as I mentioned, it was emotional. The host was great (and very handsome), the bingo callers unbelievably rude and opened the evening with some hilarious provocative dancing which got the crowd going. So the prizes ranged from cash (£5 -200), to rollerskates, pandas and a speaker system. As I said, the host was brilliant, and when there was a winner, there was shiny silver confetti, massive hip-hop tunes, paparazzi style photography and generally a VERY, VERY upbeat celebration. We had a win at our table, and below are some pics to give you an example of the level of celebration around Kayley’s £5 win…..

And then I got two lines in one of the games. So I nervously called bingo. Then there was the usual music, photography, the host comes around and says, I’ve never seen such a nervous winner. He checks my card, asks me to show him where my lines were. I showed him. The spotlight was on, it’s a bright light, the photographer was taking his pics, the host was checking the numbers and so was an independent adjudicator, lots of checking and verifying. He turns to me, speaks directly into the microphone and says, “you are a LOSER”. Yes, in front of at least 500 people. Our table sits down in mortification. Alex says; “what the hell, you have a degree and a masters”. That’s exactly what he says…. For some reason, I thought you could get two lines in any box on the bingo sheet – they do not teach you how to play bingo as part of a masters degree (that may surprise many of my two readers, given that my subject was PR). I’m still sort of red with shame when I think of it now. Below is a picture of me trying to show the host how I had won…and shortly after I realized that I hadn’t.

That aside, it’s a really, really fun evening and I’ll probably do it again actually. Entry is about £20, and I’d advise that you buy tickets beforehand; it seems to sell out all the time. I think it might actually be the perfect thing to do for a hen party, and in fact there was one high spirited, high-skirted, gang sitting very near us. Here are a couple more pics of us enjoying the end of the evening.

 

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Book, film and cinema review: Brooklyn

I first read Colm Tobin’s book Brooklyn about 4 years ago when I was relatively new to London. The main theme of the book; emigration and loneliness, being torn between a big city and being with your family was something that really resonated with me, although I had yet to find my Tony at the time! I remember I suggested it as part of a book club I was in at the time that had quite a few American members, thinking that it the other members might identify with it, but it really bombed for reasons that I can’t fully recall right now. Anyway, for this reason I was very excited to hear about the movie that has just come out. Nick Hornby did the screenplay, and since ‘How to Be Good’ is one of my top 10 books ever, I was doubly excited.

The biggest challenge was to get someone to see it with me, the Bond movie Spectre had just come out in the cinema – so any once-a-monthers had already been to the cinema this month. Some of my pals had seen it on preview, and their reports; that it caused unending tears, didn’t encourage Alex to accompany me. It was released on a relatively limited basis in London so by the time I got around to going; my choice of viewings was very small. (As an aside, I would really like to know who did go to the 12.15pm screening of Brooklyn every day for the past week at the Ritzy in Brixton.) It’s also very difficult to stream illegally, not that I tried… This was how I ended up discovering the fantastic Curzon Mondrian on the South Bank – Alex loves nothing more than a fancy cinema, so finally I had a venue and a partner.

The cinema itself is in the basement of the Mondrian Hotel and is run by the Curzon Group. It’s a 56 seater, so it’s tiny and the seats are massive with lots of leg room. At £14.50 a ticket, it is a standard London cinema price, which I do think is bonkers but I’ve kind of grown used to it. The cinema is only open on weekends and shows a very limited number of movies (they were only showing two movies the day we visited). Very conveniently they have a small table in between each seat where you can place the bottle of wine that you’re bound to have bought to see you through the screening.

The downside to the cinema is that, with only 56 seats, one can get a little self-conscious when making loud crying noises… yes, the movie really was that sad. But it was brilliant, Saoirse was excellent as Eilis, and all of the Irishness was so wittily captured, particular highlights for me were Nettles Kelly (played by Brid Brennan, who was actually roommates with Colm Tobin in Dublin in the late ’70s), and Mrs Kehoe, Eilis’ landlady who was brilliantly played by Julie Walters. If you’ve not gone to see it you should, and it’s not all sad, it’s also very, very funny and the beach in Wexford looks stunning (I think it is Curracloe beach).  Anyway, the end result was that it made me grateful to be very near home, relatively speaking, not have to take the boat between here and Dublin (except that dreadful occasion when it snowed so my Christmas flight was cancelled) and to have discovered a gem of a cinema.

Outdoor Cinema in London

I love the cinema and especially love a fancy cinema. Cinemas with couches and service to your seat are really the absolute best, although I will admit that it’s far from fancy cinemas I was rared. In fact, in Kilkenny we did have the oldest cinema in the world with only one screen and not popcorn making facilities, but that is a complaint for another day.

Outdoor cinema is a growing trend, especially in London where, when the sun shines, it can be absolutely perfect :) Everyone brings extravagant picnics and there is a general festival feeling at the venue. I’ve had three experiences in the past couple of years with varying levels of success and thought I’d share in case you were thinking of doing any of them.

Film 4 Cinema at Somerset House: Annie Hall – August 2014

In typical London style, these tickets have to bought about 4 months in advance. As I recall the tickets were about £25, which in retrospect is a ridiculous cost. The place itself is fab, you can arrive a couple of hours before the movie to gIMG_1568et a good spot and admire everyone’s picnic baskets. I chose Annie Hall because I love it, and Alex hadn’t seen it. I really love Annie Hall, my favourite part is when Annie parallel parks very badly and Alvy is like “it’s fine, I can walk to the pavement from here”. Kills me! Mainly because I’m not a very good parallel parker myself. Anyway, it poured rain. It was awful. And I wouldn’t let us leave because we had paid £50 pounds to be there (approx). After about 30 minutes of IMG_1576extremely heavy rain, they slow gave out ponchos. The rain cleared, we stayed a
nd watched the movie and I was sick for about a week. Here are some pics. In the first picture, I was heading on my way, dreading the rain.  In the second picture Alex is giving the two fingers to Film 4, who sponsor the event.

The Power of Summer Everyman Cinema at Battersea Power Station: This is Spinal Tap – July 2014

This was a most wonderful experience, which I am sorry to say since it can’t be repeated (Battersea Power Station is being redeveloped). We went to see This is Spinal Tap because Alex had never seen it. My pal Caoimhe says she could never date a man who hasn’t seen it, I don’t feel this strongly, but was keen to right this wrong. They had a number of food and drink stalls here, and in an unusual twist everyone was given headphones and really super comfortable beds, so everyone was lying horizonal and there were no issues with being able to see the screen. Drinks were easily accessed at a couple of bars dotted around the massive screen. One would expect a massive screen at all of these outdoor scFotorCreatedreenings, but that is not always the case!

I’ve included some pics so you can see what a lovely setting it was. I always like to have a selfie, and in this one you can (kind of) see the beds they had for very comfortable viewing. This is over and above the best outdoor cinema experience I’ve had.

One New Change Rooftop Cinema: Groundhog Day – August 2015 

Caoimhe, as mentioned above, LOVES a rooftop, especially a rooftop cinema, and it was probably her love for this that pushed Alex into booking this. His intention was to book for us to see In Bruge and we thought this was what we were doing up until that day when we realised that he had actually booked Groundhog Day. Also known as the worst movie ever. We went anyway, even though I wasn’t looking forward to it. It was the same day that Kilkenny won the All-Ireland semi final, so we had to have a celebratory prosecco (it’s not Sunday in London unless there’s prosecco) so we ended up late. We got some takeaway Byron Burger, which made everyone there hate us and arrived in just as the movie was starting. IMG_9819

The setting was beautiful and I don’t think my picture does it justice. This was, by far, the poshest outdoor cinema I have experienced. But the screen was quite small and really annoyingly, some people sat on camp chairs and some people on the ground, meaning that the already small screen wasn’t really visible.

Now, the movie was actually brilliant. If you have dismissed Groundhog Day, I urge you to reconsider. I have already used it as a reference for doling out life advice, one of my favourite things to do, and a future profession if I can only figure out how to make money out of it.

 

 

A rant about…

The Daily Mail..

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Daily Mail, but I can’t deny that I read it online most days. I’m also not the biggest fan of Cheryl Fernandez Versini but the two have combined to make me angry  enough to put pen to paper, so to speak.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed an article related to her gaunt frame, Part of this article covered the fact that Cheryl herself had written an Instagram post related to how upsetting she finds it to be called a ‘bag of bones’. A couple of days later I noticed they did a really lovely profile on Cheryl focusing solely on her “yo-yo” dieting across the years. You can read the article here if you like, the premise of it is that Cheryl has always been fairly slim and has probably fluctuated by 5 pounds across about 10 years and, in truth, that “yo-yo” is probably as much as many women might fluctuate across any month. I’m ashamed to say that I read it.

The article was followed by another about her looking “super slim” at some X Factor auditions and today we are told that she is “eating loads” in an attempt to regain her curves.  In some ways I see that the Daily Mail survives on articles such as this, and maybe Cheryl’s weight really is something that interests people, it must get the clicks if they are writing multiple articles on it. Here I am admitting in a few lines to have read two separate stories about it without any active interest.

I’m sure it happens to lots of celebs, there is something that doesn’t sit right about the Instagram post, coming directly from a clearly stressed celeb and flagrant disregard for what she has said. There is something so staunchly insensitive about the article detailing her “fluctuating” weight as it follows that Instagram post. The social movements of ‘fit not thin’ and ‘strong not skinny’, will make slow changes to how women feel about their own bodies and interpret other people’s bodies (if they so wish), but that open media criticism goes a very long way to undo any of the positive body messaging a pushed campaign can do. What do you think?