Day 139: Achievement 85. Go see the darts at Alexandra Palace

Happy new year.  Hope you had a good Christmas.

A few things quickly struck me about going to see the darts at Alexandra Palace.  Firstly, it’s a lot smaller than you’d think.  Secondly, and incongruously, the dart board is a lot further away than you’d think.  Thankfully, a pair of giant projection screens flank the stage and provide a helpful clue about what on earth’s going on.  This is surprisingly useful; the alternative is seeing the back of fine, athletic, players throwing darts at a fuzzy round target.

Gaaaaame on!
Andree Welge at the oche in his match with Colin Lloyd

So, in summary: it’s £30 to watch a the evening’s darts on a big TV. And it didn’t even look to be HD. And there was no commentary from the legendary Sid Waddell.  And the beer was £3.40 a pint (but served at the table by enterprising keg-carriers).  Freebies included boards to write amusing and/or coded messages on and some amusing Ladbroke’s ear warmers. This was just as well, considering our night at the darts coincided with London’s worst cold snap for at least a year.

Prat with a sign
Proof. I really was there.

But, those major pitfalls aside, the atmosphere is excellent.  Excellent and boozy.  Even the attending ladies were going in hard with the grain.  Luckily for them, relieving themselves didn’t entail a half-mile walk and a long flight of stairs.  It did, and my thighs concur with my view here, for us chaps.

In terms of the action, we saw a first round surprise as Co Stompé went out to Peter Wright.  The crowd boo’d and jeered when Colin Lloyd (playing Andree Welge) thumped the board, mid-game, in frustration.  The noise picked up by the board’s microphones nearly blew the roof off the place; Nick’s top tip is to not be near the PA system next time Jaws steps up to the oche.  I could tell you more, but I’d merely be repeating what’s on the PDC Website.  Go have a look there if you’re massively bothered.  Which I suspect you’re not.  So you won’t click that link.  Which makes me wonder why I’ve put it in.

Oh, yes, and I managed to get on TV.  Sort of.

Can you see my sign?

Hopefully Sky TV won’t mind too much.

I aim to do more Things soon.  Sorry I’ve been hopeless lately.  (Not that you care; you’ve probably already skipped over this post in Google Reader or something.  What’s that?  Hmm.  Oh, OK.)

Day 105: Achievement 67. See the Lord Mayor’s Show

As London is home of the world’s oldest civic procession, it would seem remiss to not see it at least once. So, the day after the election of the 683rd Lord Mayor of London, I went down there with my camera:

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There’s not that much point in me banging on about what the Lord Mayor does and all this and that; there’s a great website (http://www.lordmayorsshow.org/) with all that stuff on it.  It’s interesting reading, for sure.

A selection of my photos from the day are, of course, over on flickr.  Look out for the one of the Thames Fireworks that I managed to take through a star filter — it’s a corker.

Day 99: Achievement 91. Go see the banger racing at Wimbledon Stadium

I’ve wanted to go see the banger racing for as long as I can remember.  Well, technically, since Joff’s cancelled stag do.  (I should probably set the record straight at this point: it’s not that his good lady wife-to-be called the whole shebang off, but an inopportune moment of ill-health on Joff’s part.  The actual stag do involved everybody wearing antlers while driving dodgems in The Trocadero. Anyway, that’s quite enough about Joff.)  The point is this: since then, I’ve always wanted to go.

So, along with Katie, Ewan, Roz and Shorts, I rocked up on a Sunday evening.  The event at Wimbledon is run by the good people at Spedeworth.  For the princely sum of £13, we were able to enjoy ten races and a superb fifteen minute display by everybody’s good friends from Paine’s Fireworks.  “How can you be sure Paine’s Fireworks are everybody’s good friends?”, I hear you ask.  Well, the gentleman broadcasting to the stadium on the PA system (who looked uncannily like Sven Goran Eriksson) told us so.  About thirty times.  If an unlikely set of circumstances somehow required it, I like to think he’s the kind of guy I’d get to MC at a Bah Mitzvah.

The crew

nsj, Katie, Shorts, Rozzy

Those ten races, then.  We saw Stock Rods, we saw Historic Stock Cars and we saw the Bangers.  The stock rods are the closest thing to road cars.  Entry level, small engines, designed for those who wanted a foot in the door.  The historic stock cars step the pace up and introduce an element of contact, but the bangers races are where it’s at.  Full on smashes, pile-ups, roll-overs.  Just mayhem, really.  And top marks to the enterprising lads who turned up with estate cars.  The practical man deep inside everybody salutes you.

Vroooom!

Vroooooom!

Top tips if you’re going: soft drinks are cheaper at the food bar than the bar bar; the food is crap, expensive and best avoided; it’s loud at the trackside – take earplugs; get there early to bag a parking spot.  We’ve vowed to go back.

Day 85. Achievement 22: visit the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace park

I’ve left you hanging for ages.  Sorry about that.  Have been a little but busy with work and also with a pub quiz I decided to take on.  It’s at the Tabard, next to Turnham Green station.  Wednesday, 8.30pm, with 2-for-1 on curries.

It was a very pleasant day on Sunday, so Man In Shorts and I decided we’d storm up Crystal Palace museum and park.  The visit to the museum was brief.  After hiking up a steep hill to get to its front, which my calves are yet to forgive me for, a locked door (and signs) suggested we went back into the park and used the actual entrance on the other side.

Having complied with the request, and nearly accidentally stumbling into a child-infested fun fair, you can probably imagine the utter delight when a sign on the actual entrance apologised for the museum being closed.  Dodgy central heating, apparently.  If only they had a website on which they could put such information, saving people an hour-long journey across London…

Crystal Palace museum

Booo

After a moment of quiet reflection on the museum’s steps, it was time for a gentlemanly saunter around the park.  I was able to point out anoraky things (like the purpose of the sloping wire hanging from the side of the transmitter mast*) and Man In Shorts was able to pretend to care.  Not that he did, you understand.

The Crystal Palace National Sports Centre provided an interesting diversion. On an Astroturf pitch, swathes of foreign gentlemen were engaging in some sort of ball game.  I’m no sports expert, but it seemed to be the same as football — with the crucial difference that handling the ball seemed to be permitted.  If any learned readers know what they might have been playing, do let me know.

Adjacent to the foot-and-handballers, a small racing track was populated by a couple of enterprising young chaps with radio controlled cars.  These were no Tomy efforts; they whipped around the track, engines going like agitated two-stroke garden strimmers.  And either the chaps were smashed or these things are difficult to control.  Motoring expert Man In Shorts couldn’t credit either driver with having a ‘consistent racing line’, nor with keeping the cars under control.  All I know is that the cars were noisy and weaved about the track a lot.  Maybe they were just warming up the tyres, like on F1.

Radio Control

Two stroke

Another diversion came courtesy of an ice cream van.  £1.50 for a 99, in London, in mid-October, was too much for me to resist.  Shorts was quick to note my wandering accent.  He says I got all ‘working man’ when talking to the ice cream man.  But I was the one with the ice cream, not him, so accepted both moral and actual victories.  In my head.

The ‘Dinosaur Park’ opened in 1854, some years before Origin of Species was published, and its theory of evolution shocked and outraged the simple Victorian folk.  Renowned scientist Richard Owen and sculptor Benjamin waterhouse Hawkins headed up team that took visitors on a journey through prehistoric time.

Dinos!

Dinosaurs!

Bromley Council and the National Lottery have funded the restoration of the park and an Audio Trail.  At each of ten points around the dinosaurs, there’s a different bit of audio to listen to.  Shorts assures me it’s good fun.  It’s free to download at http://www.audiotrails.co.uk/dinosaurs

Shorts with sound

Shorts enjoys the Audio Trail

Despite being able to see south-of-the-river from my window, it’s not a place I usually visit.  It’s probably thanks to the apocryphal tales of taxi drivers (…’south of the river? at this time of night? you’re having a giraffe…’) and also that there are very few reasons to actually go there.  Similarities with Leeds increase once you spot petty misbehaviour (some young chaps had jumped the fence and were gayly romping around with the dinosaurs) and the after-effects of a joy-ride.  Quite how one drives an Escort van into the middle of a wooden bridge, in the middle of a public park, is quite beyond me.  Considering the intense heat caused by a vehicle fire, I reckon the bridge is doing well to remain standing:

Burnt van

Ahh, south London.

More photos, as always, on Flickr.

(* it radiates Radio 4 on 720kHz and Spectrum 558kHz.)

Day 48: Thing 69. See a comedian at the Hammersmith Apollo

It was Dara’s 110th performance on this tour, the second date of a nine night run at the Hammersmith Apollo.  He was very, very, funny.  If you can’t make it to one of the remaining performances in London, or one of the provincial gigs, the last Apollo show will be recorded for DVD.  Details over on Dara’s website.

I’ve been to The Apollo once before.  It was, and I’m equally ashamed and amused to be writing this, a The Feeling gig.  The venue hasn’t changed much since.  Aside from the addition of stalls seating for the comedy crowd, it’s pretty much the same. The auditorium is still tatty, the toilets remain rank, the beer continues to command a ludicrous £4.10 a pint, the bars maintain a state of woeful incapacity.  But that can all be forgiven, simply for this: the seats are comfortable and even a lanky streak of piss (like me) gets enough leg-room.  And, as I said above, the man’s funny.

One of the highlights of the evening came courtesy of a lady sitting behind us:

A funny moment

A splendid night out.

Day 30: Achievement 75. Notting Hill Carnival

“Bollocks!”, I thought, waking up rather later than I’d planned.  It was Monday, you see, and the last possible opportunity for me to attend the Notting Hill Carnival in the Year of Things (as it shall now be known).  P, one of my learned colleagues, had been advising me about Carnival a few days before.

“If you’re going there on the Monday,” she said, probably nursing a latte, “get there early. Before about two o’clock, because the police sometimes start closing it off if it gets packed.”  She also helpfully suggested going up towards the big Sainsbury’s (where the 295 normally terminates, bus fact fans) where things are a bit more family orientated and less prone to getting tasty.  Simple logistics required us to cast this particular bit of information aside.  I say ‘us’, for this was a Thing to do with Man In Shorts.  He’s my muscle and, in this capacity, had recently accompanied me to darkest Dagenham to buy some second hand turntables.  In other capacities, he’s my housemate, an excellent drinking partner and a worthy addition to any pub quiz team.  He also makes the best Bolognese sauce you’ve yet to taste.

Those simple logistics, then.  We live south-west of Notting Hill, the Sainsbury’s is at the north-east end of it all.  There’s no buses running through the area and the Hammersmith & City line was somewhat constrained by station closures.  Add to this a complete lack of geographic knowledge surrounding W11 and the solution is clear: go to Westbourne Park and follow the crowds.  And, wow, were there a lot of crowds.  And a lot of policemen.  And lady policemen, too.

Having neglected to bring any beer with us, the first task was Operation Red Stripe.  Thankfully, the good people at the local Best One were operating a beer-selling operation of magnificent — almost military — efficiency.  A commissionaire granted access to small groups of people at a time.  Once inside, chest freezers and open-fronted fridges were filled with the promised bounty of tins: Heineken, Red Stripe, Kestrel, Red Stripe, Fosters, Red Stripe.  For the motorist, Old Jamaican and Rubicon were also available.  Three lads were constantly replenishing the stock.  Six similar lads, behind the tills, were taking hundreds of pounds a minute.

In and out in no time, cold booze in hand, and time to explore with our new-found props.  Wasn’t long until we happened upon a sound system:

First sound system

Loudspeaker geeks will be interested in the following:

Loudspeakers

Discuss the combing effect.

We then walked past a guy who was dancing to Frank Sinatra.  On the top of some bay windows. Two floors up:

Dancer

On the way back down to Ladbroke Grove, a gentleman with a Flip camcorder stopped me and asked me for my thoughts on Carnival.  There was an incentive:

Horned tit

Continuing on, a rare chance to see some acoustic/unplugged/live entertainment:

Locals

And then we happened upon the Rampage sound system.  This was unique at Carnival, simply because it was the only think I’d heard of.  And that’s really only because my friend Ian (@iandeeley) works at the same radio station as them.  Anyway, it’s very much where the crowds were (and, if you’re getting bored with Ken Bruce or Woman’s Hour, Rampage are on 1Xtra at the same time):

Rampage

After having a good old wander, we settled down on Ladbroke Grove to watch some floats go past.  Once you’re accustomed to the incredible outfits, dancing, and general bonhomie, take a look at the trucks themselves.  Most had a generator big enough for a large town, trailers replete with concert speaker systems of every shape, size, make and vintage.   Booming times.  Noise exposure limit for the day exceeded, time to head for the barbecue. The man-sized barbecue:

Man-sized BBQ

It was very tasty (as it should have been for £6). Just look at Shorts’ face of delight!

Jerk Chicken

A repeat trip to the Best One, and some portable toilets that would make Michael Eavis blush, and we were back in business.  The booze had clearly tripped a fuse somewhere because, once back on The Grove, I decided it’d be a good idea to dance.  Now, let me put this very plainly: dancing is not a way I like to travel.  It’s not a way I can travel.  A gentleman of my stature and co-ordination simply cannot be graceful in rhythmic motion, no matter how much Red Stripe has been imbibed to assist.  Good job nobody seemed to mind, even though I was blowing a plastic horn and undoubtedly stamping on toes, accompanied by a man who was trying to assail floats at every opportunity. If you woke up with tinnitus and a fractured metatarsal on Tuesday, it was quite possibly my fault.  Sorry.

Tiger

Slipstreaming a float along the eponymous street brought us to Ladbroke Grove station, beneath the Westway  and railway bridges.  I then chose to remember a bit more of the conversation I’d had with P a week earlier.  She said something about avoiding that place because “that’s where it all kicks off”.  And, indeed, it seemed to feel a little bit edgy.  Whoops.  Time to beat a hasty retreat to Holland Park Avenue, working against the flow of both float and human traffic.  Needless to say, with Red Stripe and survival instinct operating in harmonious unison, it wasn’t long before Shorts and I parted company.  Helpfully, he phoned and woke me up just seconds my bus home had left the stop outside our flat.  Timing’s never been his strong point.  He did make me a super bacon sandwich for supper, though.

Day 1: Partial achievement 48(A). Pub quiz in W

Wasting no time, the first of August (and the first day of planning and doing Things) involved heading to The Goldhawk in Shepherd’s Bush (W12) for the weekly pub quiz. It’s £2 per player, perhaps not the cheapest quiz in town, but all the kitty goes to the prize fund; two-thirds for the winners, a third for runners up.  I was joined by Shorts, Cotler, Rozzy and Jen.  Because it was Yorkshire Day (but mostly because this quiz doesn’t have any prizes for team name) we called ourselves ‘Happy Yorkshire Day’.

After an hour and a half and forty-five questions (ten of which were the picture round) it was time to hand it in, with an air of reasonable confidence…

Answer sheet

And, with 32 out of 45, second place.  £30 for us:

Prize money

I ended up with all the shrapnel, for what it’s worth.  Cotler took the £5 note.

If you go to, or know of, a decent pub quiz in NW, N, E, SE, SW, EC or WC, please let me know.  I’d love to join you or form a team of my own.  Add a comment here or hit me up on Twitter (@nickjeffery).