Shush! It’s a Secret!

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Latimer: I have just learned about the amazing Secret Cinema in London, but guys, it’s a secret so don’t tell anyone 🙂

I would love, love, love to go to one of these. I will make it my mission to experience at least one major Secret Cinema! So, what’s the premise exactly? Well, it’s a fully immersive cinema experience. The Secret Cinema releases what the movie will be, you buy your ticket, then they assign you an identity in line with whatever the film is. You dress up and you turn up to where the Secret Cinema event will be.

The area is a replica of various parts of the film in question, so to use an example, the most recent event was Back to the Future.

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You get dressed up like someone in the Fifties, from the town in question, then you go to the fully immersive town. It was a complete replica of the town square – you could go to the diner, or the school dance. You could talk to the people there, the idea is to ‘be’ in the movie. So, the more you talk to people there, the more ‘story’ you get. They might tell you to do things, or go places. You could even sit down in the diner and have a burger! As in the movie, Biff comes in and fights with Marty and they race outside and jump into a car and drive around the town square! It’s all fully interactive.

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And then, after about 3 hours exploring the area, you go and watch the movie, but there’s still some tricks and stuff. Like an actual DeLorean appears and so on!

It sounds like so much fun. Here are some trailers of what previous movie experiences have been – I would love to have been at the Blade Runner one!

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Natural Wonders

Latimer: It’s been very hectic these last few weeks here at M. Latimer-Ridley! We’ve been busy with Unbroken Ties, Keeping Secrets 2… and editing the follow-up, Keeping Secrets 3!

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Added to all that – I’ve just moved country! Yup, for now I’m M. Latimer-Ridley’s London correspondent, at least for the foreseeable future!

I’ve been trying to get out and see things, subliminally advertised to me via the London Underground! There was recently an exhibition in the Natural History Museum, so last Saturday I took myself off to see some Mammoths and Neanderthals!

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I made the mistake of thinking London would maybe not be packed with tourists (this will never happen I’m sure)! There was a big queue to get into the museum, a queue to get to the exhibitions and a queue to see the dinosaur skeletons, which happen to be super popular (I’m not surprised, dinosaurs are great!).

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The Natural History museum is amazing. No one does buildings quite like the English – always so grand!

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The Mammoth exhibition was very cool; the museum had on loan Lyuba, the baby mammoth that was found in Russia – the most intact specimen of a woolly mammoth, she even has hair!

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I also learned here that ‘woolly mammoth’ is just a type of ‘mammoth’ and the biggest was actually the Columbian Mammoth. They had a life-sized model of it and it was amazing. I could have stood starring at it for hours. Nearby there was also a statue of a Short-Nosed Bear; which basically dwarfed a grizzly.

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The Proboscidea family tree!

The Proboscidea family tree!

This all led me onto the ‘evolution of man’ exhibition. I love me some evolution!

The great man himself!

The great man himself!

Recently, in the last few years the Neanderthal genome was sequenced, and it turned up some interesting details. Among other things, the results showed that non-African populations had some Neanderthal markers in their genomes, indicating that there had been some crossovers, and interbreeding between Neanderthal’s and modern humans in Europe.

It appears that when our common ancestor moved out of Africa they migrated north and eventually became Neanderthals, who were adapted to survive in the frozen climate. While, the African common ancestor evolved to become modern humans. Some of these modern humans then migrated north and became lighter skinned Europeans, and encountered their cousin the Neanderthal.

It was assumed that Neanderthal couldn’t talk, but actually the genome work showed that they have a similar gene to us called the FOXP2 gene that is involved in speech and language.

In the exhibition they also said that the Neanderthal markers that are present (to varying degrees, about 2%) in Europeans, largely affected the immune system. So it poses some interesting questions about responses to diseases.

There were also more ‘types’ of humans than just Neanderthal’s wandering around at the time, and they may have also contributed to the modern genome. This all raises the question of what we actually mean now when we say ‘modern human’.

Anyway, these were some great exhibits and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they show during the year!

And of course, I’ll be doing a series of museum hops around the city while I’m here 🙂

London Will Rock You

london_2423609bRidley: I wandered over to London for the weekend. That’s my news. You know, I love the hustle and bustle over there, the different types of people you see, the numerous niche shops that would whither and die in Dublin, the abundant restaurants to eat tasty food in (most especially the Krispy Kreme doughnut stands)krispyand of course, the tube. I keep calling it the subway, or the underground, which marks me out as an outer towner, or so I’ve been told, but I can’t help feeling a small sense of pride that I have an Oyster card (which is just a card you top up and scan at the ticket barrier. I know how to use it though)download and I am no longer completely befuddled by their map filled with colourful lines, hoops and loops.tube_map I know how to get to Victoria station (among so many other places, but I mention here as this is where I get my Krispy Kremes 😀 ), how to make my way to Oxford street for a bit of shopping, I’ve braved the tube at rush hour, I’ve caught the last train at half twelve at night and I’ve seen what it’s like when there’s a problem with one of the lines and trains aren’t running (there was just people, people, so many people everywhere!!). I loved it all!

Now apart from some mild shopping, and numerous happy tube trips (where i people watched, I just love people watching!) I went, for the second time, to a show (the first time was when Latimer and I saw Wicked during the summer in the Apollo, so so good!). This time I went to see We Will Rock You, which is the Queen musical.images

Now, you mightn’t know this, but Queen is my favourite band. Their songs and tapes were played quite often in my house when I was younger, even at eight or nine I remember singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody and knowing all of the words, so to go to this musical was the next best thing I’ll ever get to actually seeing Queen in concert (and we know this won’t ever happen. Poor Freddie)220px-WeWillRockYouDominion

Now I’ll start this off by saying the actual storyline wasn’t great, but you just have to suspend your disbelief, turn off your brain and just let the music flow. The story is basically about an universe where the only type of music that is created now is synthetic, everything is ruled by the Globalsoft corporation. Instruments are banned and have become things of legend, everyone wears the same clothes, they act the same way and they listen to the same type of music.WWRY_RadioGaga_690x345 As it’s technically a love story, you of course then have a boy and a girl who don’t conform to society’s expectations, they’re ‘different’ and they seem to have an inherent need and love for rock and roll, which they seek out.scaramouche-01 we-will-rock-you_9 I won’t go into it any more, but saying that it was all fairly predictable means you can probably guess what happens but my god were the actors absolutely fantastic singers. They managed to fit in so many of the songs, even Fat Bottom Girls! It has to be one of the best, most fun shows I’ve ever been at. Towards the end of it we were all singing along, clapping, waving our arms in the air, and not to mention there being a small bit of long hair swinging (the more female version of head banging, of course)1279-we_will_rock_you-banner We-Will-Rock-You--001

If you get a chance you should check out this show, we got cheap enough last minute evening tickets, so it was all very reasonable. The only thing that would have made it better was if I’d had a doughnut at it. 😀

Chillin’ at Court

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Latimer: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to go to Hampton Court.

But, I kept forgetting/never knew, what it was called, so I’d get really frustrated trying to explain to people where it was I wanted to go.

“I’d love to go to Henry VIII’s Palace… you know with the,” cue my distant expression, “with the red-brick gatehouse.”

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I would stare expectantly at the person and they would stare back rightly confused. I would get frustrated, thinking everyone should know what I meant and give me the name of said building (so I could forever remember it and not look like a fool every time I said I wanted to visit it!).

This has been the way it’s been for me for years. But finally I realised it was Hampton Court I wanted to visit.

It’s in London, so when Ridley and I went there, I just had to go!

Hampton Court is epic and after being stuck in a queue for every which-way-thing in London, it was surprisingly low on visitors, which probably made the experience all the better. We had an ice-cream on the lawn, enjoyed the sun and stared in wonderment at the gorgeousness that is the Court.

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While there, Ridley got real bohemian. She headed over to a tree, sat down, pulled out a notebook and pen, and with a big smile said –

“Let’s do book-work!”

I shuffled over to the tree, thinking this was a very quaint idea; we’d be like Jane Austen or something. A minute later I leaped up. “There’re ants crawling all over the tree! I hate nature -!”

Ridley jumped up, screaming, her dream of book-work in the park destroyed by nature. Deflated we gave up and headed into the Palace, letting the magic of Hampton Court wash over us.

If anyone watches/reads Game of Thrones, Robert Baratheon reminds me of Henry VIII. I think that might be intentional – George R. R. Martin draws from history right? Well, the banquet hall has Baratheon stamped all over it – it’s so cool!

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In my head I was saying, ‘ours is the fury’! over and over again, until I annoyed myself!

Ours is the Fury!... or something.. ha!

Ours is the Fury!… or something.. ha!

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Apparently the tapestries that hang in the hall are made of gold and silver thread.

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Rich people back then got tapestries as a show of wealth, because of the cost involved in making them and the materials used. Henry VIII amassed tapestries like celebrities today buy diamond encrusted iPhones and fancy cars. Tapestries were the flash accessory of the day, and Henry VIII had the largest collection. The tapestries aren’t as bright now as they were in his day, but they are still impressive!

Throughout our holiday we were asking each other the question of – ‘what would you do if you fell back in time?’ Our hypothesis started out with the notion that we’d be gods! We’d know everything.

But, Dara O’Briain sums up the truth of what would happen…

Ridley struggled to read the tiny script writing on a massive charter in Hampton Court. Waving her hand she moaned; “And I wouldn’t even be able to read!”

Even if we could read it wouldn’t be written in the same English as it is today – we would probably not even understand what people were saying to us. That old adage by Wittgenstein that; “If a lion could talk, we would not understand him,” because his frame of reference would be so different to ours.

So, the portal that opens sucking me and Ridley into the past becomes more and more dangerous! I think our science backgrounds would also lead to us being burnt as witches!

We did conclude, on our travels, that it would not be good to get sucked back in time and end up in Edinburgh. It was hit by ‘plague’ (we never learned which plague) 11 times. We also would not have survived the closes, with people tossing buckets of waste down the narrow streets… or having to drink beer because the water was so dangerously full of bacteria (from the waste flowing down into the lake and therefore the drinking water).

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Walking around the Court is almost like walking through time (the safer version of it). You half expect to turn a corner and see a man in tights, a grey curly wig, heels and a fancy velvet jacket…

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Funnily enough, that did actually happen at one point. He was sitting talking to a 1700’s era woman.

We (the tourists) all walked past them, listening in on the conversation, confused as to whether they were in-character or not and nobody talking to them to find out.

We all kept a safe distance; blinking and straining inward to listen to them, but glancing to each other and giving a nervous laugh, like we were all thinking, ‘is this a mass hallucination?! Can you see them too?!’

We left the palace, happier for having been there! If you’re in need of an oasis of calm in London, head to Court!

Forging Magic

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~~~

“I’ve finished it!” Ridley skipped into the room, waving a thick folded piece of cream paper. Purple glitter tumbled out from the folds in the page to flutter down into her hair, making her look like a giant demented pixie. ID-10022438She jumped to a stop beside Latimer, who ignored her. The only sound in the room was Latimer furiously tapping away at her keyboard. Ridley rocked on her heels and waited. When the other girl was finished typing her sentence, she peered up over her glasses. Her wary expression was highlighted by the glow from her computer screen. With a sigh, she took a fortifying swig of her tea, while Ridley smiled at her and nodded, urging her to ask.

“What’s finished?” Latimer said, setting her cup down on the table with a dull clunk.

Ridley’s grin widened. She thrust the sparkling page at her and the tinsel bits scattered everywhere. Latimer’s hand shot out to close down her laptop and prevent the pieces from falling into it. Shaking her head, she took the page and prised it open, then groaned at the avalanche of glitter that slid off the smooth paper and landed in her lap. A huge swell of lavender perfume rose up from it.

“I got tired of waiting, so I stopped…waiting that is, and I started making instead,” Ridley said, twirling around the room. “I figure my letter isn’t coming, that or my owl got really lost…I wonder…do you think something happened to it?” Her face fell and she stopped spinning to stretch back and squint out the window. Hulking grey storm clouds lumbered by overhead. “Poor owl…”ID-10084553

“What are you – is this gold leaf?” Latimer said, leaning closer to stare at the ornate writing at the top of the page.

“Yep, I figured they’d do it right, especially on their invitation letters.”

Dear Ridley, we are pleased to announce you have been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…you forged this!” Latimer’s head swung up and she scowled. She shook the letter, part of it creasing under her thumbnail. “Where’s mine?”

“Yours?” Ridley frowned, reaching forward to carefully extract the letter from her friend’s grip. She tried to smooth out the crinkles with her fingertips. She averted her eyes, refusing to glance up and tried to hide her smile. “Why would I have one for you?”

Latimer scoffed, pointing at her. “You don’t expect me to believe that you’d be happy to go to Hogwarts on your own?”

“Of course I would!” The other girl stuck her chin up in the air. “You’re very presumptuous to think I’d spend my time making one for you, it takes-”

“Hand it over.” Latimer smirked, thrusting her hand out between them. “I just know you’re lying when you start using words like presumptuous.” There was pause; she wiggled her fingers.

“Fine.” Ridley reached round to her back pocket and tugged out a heavy envelope.

“Thank you!” Latimer said, hugging it to her chest. “What’s brought this on?”

“Don’t wrinkle it!” Ridley said. She waited until the letter was placed on the table before answering. “Well we’re going to England. Where we’ll be in both London and Oxford, if we can just find a door, just one entrance into Diagon Alley or platform nine and three quarters, I’m pretty certain my papers are good enough to fool anyone once we’re in. In your packet there, you’ll find your letter, a train ticket, bank statements for Gringotts and a few other handy bits and bobs.”20130405_1087

“Impressive.” Latimer said.

Ridley nodded and smiled. “I know.”

“Forget about the glitter though.”

“What! Why?”

“Because…” Latimer grimaced, she tried to brush it off her legs but it just collected in her shoes and stuck to her palms. Another wave of lavender fragrance was released with the movement. She sneezed and held her hands up; the little purple pieces sparkled in the light. “It’s a Pandora’s plastic bottle of twinkling chaos! It was only invented to look pretty when it’s locked away, but you should never release it.”

“I think glitter is fun!” Ridley raised her arms and clapped her hands, a small cloud of purple shiny bits puffed up into the air from her fingers. “Dumbledore would have agreed I’m sure.”ID-100100592 Laughing and dancing beneath the falling particles, she accidently inhaled a few of them and started coughing. Latimer jumped forward and began whacking her between the shoulder blades.

“Hack them all up, Ridders!”

“All I can smell is lavender!” she cried out, her eyes and nose started streaming. She bent over and clutched the edge of the desk. “I think I’m allergic. They’re trying to kill me!”

Latimer nodded, still clapping her on the back. “What did I say? They’re evil in a bottle.”

“Tea!” Ridley wheezed, she grabbed the cup up from the table and washed down the last of the glitter. Taking deep breaths, she glared down at the tiny glinting choking hazards on the wooden floor. “I think you’re right Lat, we’ll forget about them.”

Latimer crossed her arms. She waited until the blond haired girl was upright and breathing normally again. “So…you have a plan then?”

“Our best bet is the train I think.”

“So it’s off to platform nine and three quarters!”20130405_605

~~~

“Ridley?”

They pushed the trolley forward, closing their eyes just as they reached the wall and then suddenly, they were through. White steam billowed out from the large black chimney of the train; it swirled around them, obscuring everything and leaving only large purplish shapes and shadows to hint at what was there. Laughter, voices and music drifted to them from all directions. As the mist started to clear, a large black engine emerged from the thickest of the cloud. A sharp whistle pierced the air.images (3) Students in Hogwarts robes bumped past the two girls who huddled to the side and stared around with open mouths. They side stepped away from the crowd, avoiding the large wooden trunks that trailed after people, each one with familiars perched on the edge. Latimer and Ridley grinned at each other and clutching their envelopes, they lunged forward.

Ridley! Wake up! We’re here.”

Ridley’s eyes flew open and she glanced around. “Ah nuts.”

They were nowhere near the gleaming engine of the Hogwarts train; instead she was almost blinded by the blue and yellow colour scheme that had been slapped on everything throughout the cabin of the plane. The intercom crackled overhead as they taxied towards the docking bay at the airport.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to London. We hope you had a nice time on your flight with us. We have arrived on time to Gatwick airport.” Trumpets and music blared out; celebrating the fact they’re arrived as scheduled. Ridley shuttered and touched her throat; glad the flight crew had no access to glitter or confetti.

Latimer grinned over. “Let our adventure begin!”

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Ridley: And did it ever begin! We wandered all over Oxford and as Latimer mentioned in our previous post, we stayed in Christ Church. For a lot of the holiday it really was Harry Potter themed. Before we took a bus to Oxford, we popped over to Kings Cross train station. 20130405_619There we waited in line for around twenty minutes to get our picture taken at the wall where they’ve set up the platform nine and three quarters sign (and a fake trolley with suitcases).

20130405_607They let you borrow scarves and Harry Potter glasses for it as well. We took individual photos and then a joint photo, for the craic!

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While I did worry a little bit that we were probably too old to be in the crowd queuing to get this done, when I glanced behind me, there were quite a few women older than us there (and only women actually now that I think of it! No men!) waiting to have their picture taken. Not that I cared really- never let embarrassment stop you from doing something you love or really want to do, in the end it will always be something you regret if you let your red cheeks guide you!! So Latimer and I snatched up our Slytherin scarves (Slytherin were just misunderstood you know, we firmly believe we could have infiltrated them and brought them over to the good side. ‘Draco, come with us, escape snakeface!’) and we posed to the best of our abilities! I had my suitcase with me (not on purpose, I’m not that sad, yet, we’d just literally arrived off the plane and this was just a little detour), so I incorporated that into the picture, it was Latimer’s brilliant idea!20130405_1053

After our ‘photo shoot’, we wandered into the Harry Potter shop just down from the sign. 20130405_610We both couldn’t help thinking that when we were younger, in the height of our Harry Potter fangirling, we would have given anything to visit there. They had amazing things for sale.20130405_61620130405_105520130405_106120130405_105720130405_1062 It’s just as well I suppose we didn’t end up there all those years ago, I would have been extremely broke afterwards!20130405_105920130405_61120130405_1060

Then on to Oxford where we stayed in rooms in Christ Church itself.  20130405_624We were allowed to have breakfast, from 8am to 9am, in the Great Hall; my god that was an experience of a life time. Both mornings we were there, we arrived promptly at 8 and didn’t leave until 9, we made sure to spend the full hour there. 20130324_092211Drinking tea, eating sausages and corn flakes, discussing life, humming the Harry Potter theme tune softly (and not so softly), all under the giant oak rafters (as Latimer said, it was like we were sitting under the inverted hull of a great wooden ship).20130405_98520130405_982 People were reading their newspapers, or discussing all sorts literary things (we were there during the Oxford Literary festival, we caught the tail end of it, so there were writers and literary people staying in the college too and we had breakfast with them all surrounding us). 20130405_989

20130405_98620130324_09124220130405_981While they continued to discuss high-brow, intellectual topics (which were interesting, I won’t say they weren’t), I gazed around, wide eyed and kept imagining owls flying in through the windows and circling above me. It made me very happy.

Randomly over toast, I ended up chatting with a retired classics professor; he was visiting a friend who lived in the college. He told me about how in his time as a researcher, he’d studied Latin wax tablets and Egyptian papyrus scrolls-you can imagine how much my eyes gleamed at that and how impressed I was!20130405_978

After breakfast on our last day, we wandered around the room, studying the portraits and as we were ‘residential guests’ we were allowed up at the top table (you were allowed eat there too, but no matter how early we arrived, the seats were always taken!). We took loads of pictures! Of course.20130405_100120130405_1005

It was such a privilege to able to wander the grounds. On Saturday night, after a dusting of snow had covered everything, we stood in the large courtyard at the heart of Christ Church.20130405_65520130405_67220130405_96820130405_95620130405_949The fountain in the centre bubbled away and the church bell started to toll. We were completely alone, though there was a murmur of voices coming from the Great Hall, where an official dinner, part of the festival we guessed, was being held and dull light shone out through the stained glass windows lining the long room. 20130405_105120130324_091142All the wrought iron lamps around the courtyard were lit and the gates were closed to the public. We paused on the flagstones, we were absolutely frozen, our feet and hands were numb, but the world stilled and we just marvelled at the beauty of an absolutely perfect moment.20130405_974 Then there was a cough behind us, as someone hurried down the stone stairs to join us outside and we started forward again in search of warmth and a cup of tea.

No wonder so many magical books have been set in such a wonderland.

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Find more of our Oxford Tales here 🙂

 Through an Oxford Shaped Looking Glass (Alice’s Christ Church :))

– Time for Tea! 🙂

Bastille Live

Wherein Latimer and Ridley attend a gig with the cool Indie kids!

Ridley: We went to a gig last Thursday night, the doors opened at 7pm and it was over at half ten. I’ve since realised I’m turning into an old fogie; I was happy that it was over early. It meant that while I had fun, I was still able to go home, potter round in my pjs and not have to go to bed too late as I had work the next morning. As I returned home, my feet aching from new boots I hadn’t bothered to break in (I never learn my lesson), I wondered what happened to my devil-may-care self, where did she disappear to? The Ridley who didn’t give a fig if I rocked in at 2am even when I was due to be up for 7am?

Latimer: Big mistake!! Always break in new shoes!

Ridley: To be honest though, devil-may-care me never really existed, that scenario only occurred a handful of times (and I always regretted them!). I’ve always been a tad too sensible for my own good and I hate early mornings as it is, so if I haven’t gotten my full night sleep, I’m like a kicked bear (very cranky I’d imagine)!

Anyway, we went to see the band, Bastille. I hadn’t heard about them before this, our excellent friend Orbie told us they are up and coming.

Ridley: I like being ‘in the known’, it feels like I’ve been let in on a secret only a few people are aware of. In a year or two when Bastille are playing on every radio channel, I’ll be able to sit back with a smug smile and say, ‘I went to see them long before they were famous.’ I’ll annoy everyone! Haha.

The gig was held in the Academy, a place I haven’t been in since it was only a grimy nightclub named Spirit (and that was seven or eight years ago).

The inner chamber… nah, just a stairwell, nice posters though!

Where are we the underground of a rail system!?

Nope… just Academy Level 2!!

Unsurprisingly, they’ve done it up-kind of. For the event, we were in a the basement (Academy Two), the ceiling was low, dark, with thick black metal columns supporting it (they were actually those industrial supports used when building work is being done, a tad worrying.), the walls were dark brick and the wooden stage was tiny, you could reach out and touch the band. It had an appealing hippy dishevelled look, though I’m certain I wouldn’t have been all that impressed if all of the lights had been turned on, showing every crack and dust pile.

There were two supporting acts to get the crowd going (there couldn’t have been more than about hundred people there). I found myself a nice pillar to lean against (helped me deal with my pinching boots! Oh, how my toes hate me.) Having found a perfect spot to see the stage, I noticed quite a tall man, with very large hair, in front of us, blocking the view of the stage.

Latimer was eyeing him too and leaned over to whisper, “I hope he’s not going to stand there all night, we won’t be able to see the band.”

Little did we know, he definitely wasn’t going to stay there, especially since when he turned around to leave, we realised it was the lead singer of Bastille; Dan Smith (who was born on Bastille Day, hence the band name! Louie, Orbie’s friend, told us this!)! We burst out laughing. Imagine complaining we wouldn’t be able to see the band, because their lead singer was standing in our way!

Though that wasn’t the last ‘interaction’ we had with him, well, that Latimer had with him anyway. 😀

They went through a fantastic repertoire of songs that had the room hopping and their speakers were so loud, my throat vibrated with the sound from them. At one point I was convinced I wasn’t able to breath properly!

Latimer: I love the atmosphere at these gigs when the band can play live and interact so well with the crowd, it’s incredible.Bastille are so talented. I love the sound of Dan Smith’s voice and their music is so lively.

They did a brilliant cover of Rhythm of the Night; a great song anyway, but they made it there own.

Ridley: During the second last song of the night, Dan put on a hoodie and descended into the crowd (Latimer hypotheses this is because he didn’t want people to touch his hair! His gorgeous gravity defying hair!), he sung with the microphone lead hanging over people’s heads. He ran around the sides and into the middle. People went mad, we were all like mini-paparazzi flashing camera at him and other people were patting him on the head. I was delighted, having only been half an arms distance from him, little did I know he actually tripped into Latimer who was in front of me somewhere! One day, it’ll be a story she tells her future children…maybe! She should freeze and preserve whatever part of her touched him (how sore!!), it could become very valuable! Haha.

Wonder what that would fetch on ebay?

Latimer: He came towards me, crouched low and I started backing away my mind screaming; ‘gaaaah, don’t come near me!’. I stumbled back into two girls, then as he twisted to bop along with the crowd, he fell into me, and I touched his back in a ‘gaah, get away’ kind of manner. Haha, is that how I’d react to all possibly famous and famous people?

If Ricky Gervais fell on top of me would I push him off screaming? Part of me hopes this won’t happen… the other, that it does! I laughed to Ridley afterwards, and said Dan falling on top of me was like two stars colliding. She stared.

“Well, you’re deluded.”

Probably!

We might catch up with Bastille again in March when they return to Dublin… will they play a bigger venue? How will life change for them… it’ll be interesting to see 🙂

Gold! Always Believe in Your Soul!

Ridley: I’ve been wrapped up in the Olympics the last little while. I have to say London has absolutely out done itself. Britain should be so proud!

Now of events, I’ve been watching the rowers, the swimmers, the runners and of course, the boxers. I just spend the time marvelling at their athletic feats while I snack on crisps and lull on the couch.

One thing I have noticed; the games really bring out the patriot in you, don’t they? So many countries and the people within them surely think this? There is absolutely nothing like watching one of your Olympians stepping up to the podium. 

At the moment, here in Ireland, there is one person’s name on all our lips, Katie Taylor. While I’ll be the first to say we have fantastic sports people, Katie really is the woman of the hour. When she received her gold medal around her neck, there wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium or in the country.

Shivers shot through me to hear our nations song, ‘Aran na bhFiann’ song by thousands in a completely different country, there were so many of us there it was a like a GAA (football or hurling) final in Dublin!  (Or the Euros in Poland this year!)

For the week or so of her three big fights, the country, the people of Ireland forgot their worries and joined together. We speculated, we hoped, we debated and we prayed for a great result. We all love to support our teams and our people. We get behind our heroes and we cheer them on. Even now, one of our most popular songs that we sing at nearly every event harks back to the 1990s during the World Cup in Italy when our football team got through and played in them. Their coach was Jack Charlton and the song: ‘We’re all part of Jackie’s Army’.

Granted we didn’t win the World Cup of course, but it’s all part of the craic to be involved somehow, to get swept up in the tension, the fun and the ‘what if’. I remember it well, I would have only been nine or ten, but we watched every one of the matches with our team playing on a small fuzzy television. We did it while wearing knitted Ireland scarves and floppy green top hats! It’s this absolute support that we show any sport or person, no matter if you’ve never watched or followed it before, that really makes me proud to be Irish.

During Katie’s final match yesterday, 1.5 million people tuned in to watch it. Some business closed for it, others brought televisions and radios in to watch or hear it in work. In Bray, Katie’s home town thousands turned out to watch it on the big screens there. I loved this video of them all going mad and celebrating at the result.

The ESB (electricity company) has said the demand for electricity dropped by 6% for the duration of the match (and then jumped back up afterwards, as we all turned on the kettle for a cuppa, no doubt! Haha.)

Everything stopped when that first bell rang, the streets and roads were empty. Seriously. Total silence descended over the country as people watched the fight, and when she won, the screaming and the singing and the hollering began. Life restarted again, people flooded the streets, cars were back in traffic jams and all anyone could talk about was, ‘did you see the fight?’

(Here’s a brilliant video of Thai Tims singing about Katie, so cute and fantastic that a country so far away has people celebrating her. The tune is originally ‘The Wild Rover.’)

Even if you weren’t a fan of boxing before this, you’d end up at least being a fan of Katie Taylor’s, who is unbelievably hard working, modest and generous in her praise to her fellow fighters. She’s done more than win the country’s first gold medal, she’s given it’s people hope and happiness. To cap it all off, the summer seems to have come at last! We’ve had absolutely fantastic weather the last two days to coincide with the win. People are wandering round laughing, smiling and getting sunburned. For this weekend at least, we’re all glancing at each other with raised eyebrows and saying, ‘Recession? What recession!’

Long may it last!

Food, glorious Food!

When lunchtime rolls around in Ireland, Latimer and Ridley find themselves getting hungry, but roast dinners and stews aren’t what occupy their thoughts; no, they’re reminded of their culinary adventures in Tokyo!

Latimer: whenever I get hungry, I think back on food I had in the past. And for me, it can be the very distant past.

For example, my sister went to college in London when I was 6yrs old; when she moved there, myself and my mother went with her, to help her settle into her dorm for a few days. One night we were very hungry so we decided to get chips. I can remember it vividly, how dark and cold it was (my sister tells me now that it wasn’t a good area to be in at night time!), the roads were black, wet with rain, and the chippy was a little suspect.

We got three bags of chips wrapped tightly in newspaper (old school!). They were massive bundles and the chips were delicious!

There were so many that we could only manage to eat a few.So the majority of those chips were tossed in the bin.

That was a lifetime ago, but to this day, I remember those chips when I get really hungry. I think back and always say to myself ‘oh why did I toss them! I wish I could eat them now!’

It’s such a strong memory. We always remember a good meal, as if our body is saying ‘yes, remember how much you like to eat! How tasty food is! REMEMBER!’ Somehow it seems like the body is afraid one day we might not like food anymore!

When we went to Tokyo, it was one of our aims to eat well everyday. When we were in Japan 4yrs ago, we were with other people and it was hard to find food that everyone wanted to eat. This time, we had no worries; we’re pretty similar in that we wanted true Japanese food, and we wanted to eat!

Thankfully, Tokyo was only too willing to feed us!

Every time we went somewhere, I took out the camera and snapped some pictures. Because we wanted to remember the food; we wanted to show people; ‘look, look at the food! Look how yummy it is… we ate that! We remember the taste’.

Looking at these pictures now, I have very fond memories of sitting in these places, munching on this food as Tokyo and its people flashed passed us; we ate in good company, had good chats and dreamed good dreams… so with that, let me show you our food memories!

Day one of serious photo taking involved yummy okonomiyaki (sort of savory pancakes) at the famous restaurant, Sometarou in Asakusa. We mentioned it in a previous post, but it’s worth another mention. It was amazing!

It was also the most tradition place we ate in, and while it was roasting sitting by those frying-slabs, it was just perfect!

Ridley lovingly paints our pancakes, with a substance we didn’t recognise but had the consistency of tar!

Cuttlefish and tiny red shrimp- probably us at our most adventurous I think!

The next day we were off to Ueno Park.

Now the Lonely Planet guide book didn’t recommend many eateries in Ueno, so we were stuck. It was a hot day, the park was vast and we were hungry. Looking around the periphery of the park we managed to find the Korean cafe.

Ah, we love Korean food, it’s hearty stuff, so we were very happy with this find!

Although the waiter didn’t understand us, and we had some mishaps ordering, which left Ridley with food, and me with a drink! Ha! We managed to sort it out and I ended up with food, but Ridley didn’t get her drink! But she didn’t care by then, it was too much hassle!

But actually, the drink was AMAZING! Like drinking sunlight (big assumption!).

The food was typical Korean fare (yummy!)….

Except for these….

Ahhh! What are they? They’re looking at me! Ridley ate them without looking as far as I’m concerned! When I pointed it out to her, she was two mouthfuls in… she was rightly aghast!

When we went to Ikebukuro, we ate in one of the shopping malls.

Which we were kind of thinking was a cop-out as we should eat ‘authentic’ food out in the little restaurants. But the guide book (not that it had become God in the last few days…well actually it had, all hail guide book!) said that the malls actually have some really good places to eat in!

They were right! This was a veggie noddle dish, with rice, served in a pipping hot stone bowl. Which, in winter would be just amazing, in summer a bit too hot, but still lovely!

At one point I remember we spent hours looking for this one restaurant around the Ginza area I think.

Ridley had her google maps out and we managed to find the place where the restaurant should have been. But it was mysteriously absent (she was annoyed because we had spent all that time looking and it was almost like the map had bested her!).

So, falling back on the God, Lonely Planet, we headed into the nearest shopping mall. We judged based on pictures what restaurant we would eat in.

It was on the top floor and faced a massive sky-bar that loomed over the mall from across the road. We sat down, and a lovely waitress came over and explained the menu (we had been staring at it completely bewildered). She had very good English (we were soooo happy!). The first thing she asked though was…. ‘have you ever eaten Korean before’.

Haha, we didn’t even know we’d come into a Korean restaurant. We were even happier!

The food was cooked (by her in front of us) over a small hot plate, in a large steel bowl.

She asked us if we wanted rice or noodles, we said noodles…. but they didn’t materialize. We were baffled, but we ate away not caring.
It was great, sharing food over a hot plate like that. Korean food is so hearty and built to share (kind of facilitates conversation too!).
When we were finished the waitress returned with the mysteriously absent, much discussed noodles. She put them into the remaining sauce and added water, leaving it to bubble away… It was so good!
It reminded us of being in a Korean drama! It was the best feed I think we had while in Japan.

I get very hungry thinking back on this dinner… sigh. On another day we contemplated going back to this place, but Ridley frowned, “I don’t think I could find it even if we wanted to, we did so much walking around… I wouldn’t know the way.”

Ridley is like a human GPS, so if NavWoman couldn’t find it, it wasn’t possible!

Of note here, is that myself and Ridley have this deep love of ramen. It started really from watching anime (Naruto mainly). We always wanted to taste the real stuff in Japan. We managed to on our first trip a few years back and we always regretted not eating more of it (our other friends didn’t really like it that much).

So this time we were noodle crazy- we wanted to go to ramen places as much as possible. It’s a massive bowl of happiness!

This place was a ramen shop around where we were staying (Akasaka). It wasn’t the best ramen we had, but it was nice. We had to use the typical vending machines the Japanese use in eateries like ramen places and curry houses.

Bascially you select the meal you want, pay for it, get your ticket and give it to the people in the shop. It’s a brilliant idea, because us foreigners aren’t left feeling confused… although a few times some kind Japanese people had to step in and help us! You have to match up katakana, kanji and hiragana symbols to identify the food you want on the machine (a little time consuming, so we had to make sure no one was waiting behind us, or sidestep and let them in first!).

I was actually always very happy to see these machines in the places we were going to eat in- a deep sense of relief!

Our search for ramen brought us to another cool, traditional restaurant around Akasaka. This ramen was delicious!

These were Ridley’s gyoza (dumplings… she didn’t like em- too many onions!)

My yummy ramen (I love sweetcorn)

Ridley’s pork ramen (looks delicious)

The best ramen we had, we got in the Ginza district, in yes, another shopping mall! This was our last night in Tokyo, so we finished it with the food we had loved most- (well, next to the Korean food!).

This business man was eating beside us. He was a little rude to the guy making the ramen.

I found at times the meat that was being used was tough. But this was melt in your mouth pork. I feel like Homer Simpson at the moment, drooling away at the thoughts of eating.

I was so tired this night. Me and Ridley sat at this bench for ages. We were the only people there. I nodded to sleep at one point (resting my eyes, haha). When we got up to leave, the two ramen chiefs smiled over at us and gave us big goodbyes and thank yous. It was a nice way to end our ramen adventure!

A side project we had was to have proper Bubble Tea/Milk Tea. This is popular in Asia. Basically it’s a milk-based, flavoured drink, with tapioca balls in it. The straws are thick so you can suck them up. The desire to get the Bubble Tea wasn’t that strong as the days wore on. It was only as we passed through Harajuku on our third round that we found this Pearl Lady place. Which seemed to be where all the kids hung out.

It was all pink and open plan and full of cheap fast-food places selling curly potato fries and so on. 

After about 10mins of trying to remember my Katakana (argh, I hate Katakana). I was able to figure out two flavours, caramel and strawberry! That’ll do we thought!

We settled down at the window overlooking Takeshita dori. We slurped on our Bubble Teas, with intermittent coughing/choking fits when we gulped down a tapioca ball or three, or ten.

We’ve had some bad Bubble Teas (Christmas market, Berlin brings back bad memories of gingerbread, hot Bubble Tea! Oh nasty). So, I was dubious. But this was so tasty. I wish we had of known about this place sooner! Check it out if you’re ever there- it’s so good!

Following a delay in our flight (actually an out and out cancellation), we ended up in an airport hotel. I finally tasted the strange green-tea and cherry blossom flavoured kit-kat I’d bought. It was actually nice. But doesn’t it look weird?

We were offered a free all you can buffet lunch- I should never be offered such a thing! I tried a bit of everything (and felt sick afterward). I snapped a picture of the fancy Japanese sweets because they looked so lovely. But I didn’t like them- they were made from rice dough and filled with bean-paste… I was expecting chocolate- so I was left grimacing, while Ridley nodded, “yep, bean paste! Knew it!”.

On the way home, our fly was practically empty- it was heaven for a long-haul! Everyone, I kid you not, everyone had a three seats to themselves! 

I won’t end with airplane food- don’t worry (it makes me sick and I can’t eat it). But I was able for this ice-cream….

Our final taste of Japan, for a few years at least!

On a book related update, the editing of our book is nearly finished! By me at least… procrastination must be the way of getting things done in a weird way! I’ve done so much of it. Soon we’ll be sending it to the professionals. We are so excited to be walking down this road! Ridley is busy with her book trailer too, so all is going well!

In the editing process I have been armed with my moomin cup (always full of Lyons tea) and my moomin pen for the taking of notes (both bought in Kiddyland in Harajuku)! The kit-kat, yes, is one I bought in Japan. If it keeps I plan to eat it when the book goes ‘live’ so to speak! Keep watch… it might not last that long!