Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Winter Wetland

I entered a competition through the Londonist website to win a pair of tickets to a preview night of the Winter Wonderland event that's going on at Hyde Park Corner at the moment and "shock! horror!", I actually won.

Having completely forgotten that I'd entered the competition, the phone call from a nice sounding lady the day before the preview was to happen was a very pleasant surprise.

My memory being like a sieve nowadays meant that I'd also forgotten to tell the other half that I'd entered and after a bit of gentle persuasion along the lines of "come along tomorrow and watch me fall on my ass as I attempt ice skating for the first time", "it's free" and "it's only ten minutes away from work", we were all set for a nice evening.

Unfortunately the good old British weather wasn't going to let us get away with things that easily. The following day, Friday, felt like one of the wettest days of Winter, so far.

I spent some of my lunch break doing a quick reconnaissance of the area and taking a few shots of an empty park. The weather was cold and cloudy but by late afternoon it had started to take a turn decidedly for the worse.

I periodically looked out at Hyde Park, from my window at work, willing the dark rain clouds to go away and the wind to abate. And truth be told, it did a little bit. Come evening the wind was no longer howling like a wolf and it was no longer raining cats and dogs. Now it was just raining small hamsters and puffing like a bulldog.

Nevertheless, we thought, "it's free" and with our brollies protecting us from the majority of nature's cruel taunts we stepped out across the park and gave it a go.

It was wet. VERY wet!To be fair, so did a few other people but not many. It was a lot emptier than it would normally be and this was a blessing in disguise.

Unfortunately I didn't get to ice skate for the first time. The rink was covered in an inch of water and only the brave, intrepid souls or the foolish dared to venture out. I was wearing jeans and knew that just a single fall (all but guaranteed for me) would have me soaked through in freezing cold water and turned to an icicle in no time.

We did try out other things though. Out first port of call was the giant wheel, a kind of mini London Eye with pods, that could seat a family, slowly rotating around to give you a good view of the surrounding area.

In our case the view was mostly obstructed by the rain though it was quite atmospheric and we got a pod to ourselves which allowed us to cuddle up as the rain lashed the pod and the wind howled around us. The other half loved it every time that a gust of wind blew the pod from side-to-side whilst I wondered what our chances of survival would be if the pod did actually fall (slim.)

I would however recommend the wheel (dependant on price) if you happen to pass by on a clear day or night.

Next we ventured into one of those capsule rides where a video gets played in front of you and the capsule rocks and rolls around in time with the video. In the case of the Winter Wonderland ride, it was a small excerpt from "The Snowman" accompanied by the requisite "Walking In The Air" song.

And boy was it naff! The rocking and rolling didn't really have much to do with the very grainy old video being played in front of us and the floor of the capsule was like one giant, muddy puddle as people got on and off with their wet shoes whilst nobody cleared up in-between.

Definitely not recommended for anyone, of any age!

Water skatingThen we tried out the haunted house which as grown-ups you don't really expect to be very good, now do you? After all I remember going in these when I was little and not finding them particularly scary then. Is there such a thing as an actual scary haunted house ride anywhere?

Anyhow, it was more gory than scary though I did get a great laugh out of the bloke with scary mask who jumped out at the other half just after we entered and made her scream her head off. Hehe! In fact that was the highlight of that ride.

We then strolled around watching kids slide down the giant toboggan ride, which did look like good fun but, as with the skating, was off limits for us sensible adults in the still pouring rain.

And finally we checked out the German market which was okay though very touristy and very small compared to others that I've seen or heard about around the country.

So, though slightly dampened by the weather conditions, for free, we'd had an interesting evening out and finished it off with a lovely pie and mash in Selfridges food hall. Yum!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The case of the peculiar christening

I went to my first christening the other Sunday.

Other than my own baptism, I'd never been to one of these before. And it was quite a peculiar affair indeed.

First off, it wasn't in a church but in a members-only bar/club in East London. So loads of people drank their way through the while thing.

Secondly, though the other half and I turned up half an hour late, the christening was delayed by...get this...the West Ham vs Tottenham game that was going on that afternoon!

The celebrant had to wait for the match to finish before half the intended crowd turned up!

And when it did finally start, it was a strangely informal affair. The celebrant was an Archbishop of the episcopal church from Kent (nobody seemed to know what this meant so I'm not sure who had arranged for him to officiate.) He dressed up in his full purple robes for the occasion whilst young children of all ages roamed around the hall making as much noise as they wanted whilst the whole thing carried on.

By roamed, I mean that the little 'uns ran and crawled in front, behind and sometimes through the ceremony whilst it was going on with the archbishop (who apparently had five kids himself) carrying on just fine.

It was obvious that neither parents or God-parents of the little boy to be christened has stepped into a church in a long time. They looked on baffled. So, to ease the discomfort of the mainly West Ham partisan crowd, the celebrant got everyone to sing "I'm forever blowing bubbles" as the first hymn! (It's the West Ham theme tune.)

That's how bizarre the whole thing really was!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Long Time No See

Having joined Facebook recently and deciding that only people I really like will get added as friends rather than any Tom, Dick or Harriet, I found myself rather restricted.

Whilst lots of friends-of-friends are on Facebook, my immediate circle of friends only has a small number of people who are IT literate and have heard of Facebook.

So no friends-of-friends-of-friends etc.

But it was a small group. Too small...

I guess that some people feel pressured into oneupmanship. You see all those people with hundreds of "friends" and there's me thinking that I probably don't even know that many people! Besides, Facebook doesn't really work if your group of friends is too large. You just get bombarded. It's almost as if you need an inner and outer circle, something I'm surprised they haven't implemented yet as standard.

Nevertheless, I hunted around a bit more, typing in a few names into the search box to see who else I could find. As luck would have it some of my old school and university friends were on there (though not many, which was surprising) so I sent a few friend requests out and waited...

When I got a few replies, I started the obligatory "Hello. How are you?", "How are things?" going type messages with them and to cut a long story short, I ended up arranging a meet up with four of my old uni mates.

It'd been over ten years since last I'd last seen them. We all used to hang out together durng those formative years and even went on a fly-drive holiday around North-East America after we finished uni, from which I've had some great memories, but distance and laziness did me in.

They all lived in Surrey (we went to Kingston Uni) and I didn't. Without a car, and no direct form of transport, it'd take me almost two hours to do what should be a relatively straight-forward trip down to see them. just never happened. They kept in touch which each other whilst I grew further and further away.

Anyhow, it was great to see them all and the bizzare thing was that apart from a few more grey hairs or, in some case, slightly less hair, we were all basically the same!

One of my friends had got married (on the day that I went to Nepal so I never made it to the wedding) and had had two kids (one of whom was a junior monster) whilst another is getting married next year. Spookily one of my friends had not changed at all, in so far as I even thought that he was wearing the same clothes (or very close to the same clothes) that he used to wear 10 years ago!

Oh well. We all got on pretty well, though meeting on a Friday in busy, noisy pubs was probably not ideal for catching up type chat and I did have to rush off before everyone else as we'd met in Clapham Junction and their journeys home were more straightforward than mine.

Hopefully the beginning of some better friendships, I hope?

To be continued, I guess...