March is birthday month (yes, I get the whole month), which explains my lack of posts on the old blog front recently. All I can say is I’ve been rather busy celebrating with others / being celebrated.
My birthday always falls on either the last day of winter or first day of spring depending on your calendar, thereby not only acting as an annual demarcation, but as a seasonal one.
Fond as I am of birthdays (supported by my recent biblical comedy quote “It’s just like my version of Christmas except everyone celebrates me rather than Jesus”), there was something about this year that didn’t feel so childlike.
Let me explain – I map my age to 19 (the year I travelled the world, the year I started university, the year my confidence exploded), and so every birthday since then has felt like my nineteenth. Not this year though; I felt less like a teenager, more like a person ‘experiencing’ age (rather than just celebrating a number), and for the first time in a very long time, blissfully happy.
Naturally, London and I have seen a fair bit of one another recently. Here are just a few of my ‘culture vulture’ highlights from March:
Like any normal precocious ten-year-old, I was in an AmDram production of The Wizard of Oz, and have seen the film countless time. But it was only since watching an emotive episode of Ugly Betty, I’ve wanted to see this musical about the green girl gone bad (or the ‘untold story of the Witches of Oz’). So, as part of my birthday present, Graham took me to the Apollo Victoria, where we were serenaded by forward-facing singing and overacting aplenty. Naturally, I loved every minute, but unlike a musical like Hairspray there was little social consciousness – it was purely a linear tale that appealed to the whole family. Who said there was anything wrong with some wholesome family fun, anyway? Alas, Graham doesn’t quite share my enthusiasm about musicals.
The Lock Tavern / Barfly
My birthday eve was spent at these two local spots that epitomise everything you either love or hate about Camden. The Lock Tavern’s beer garden is a sheltered, heated, cosy little area of ivy trellises and Camden scenesters. Barfly immediately evokes memories of its Cardiff sister – it’s dark, dingy, grotty and brilliant, with music that pumps its way up through your feet and forces obligatory dancing. And I blinking loved every second of it.
La Crêperie de Hampstead
Founded in 1980, this place is basically a North London institution, offering the street eats of Paris for a relatively reasonable price. My parents have been taking me here since I was a kid; my birthday was no exception.
Evolving English at The British Library
Editorial geeks that we are, Graham and I have been looking forward to this for some time. The exhibits themselves were great (war propaganda, text poems, the evolution of swearing, new dictionary words recorded by year, and even a copy of Talk Tidy, the definitive guide to Wenglish), but the exhibition as a whole lacked cohesion since rather peculiarly, it wasn’t presented in chronological order. Plus the section on Beowulf reminded me of a particularly nasty uni module and made me want to run a mile. Still, we had some fun adding to the ‘voice bank’ by recording ourselves speaking a tale of the shudder-inducing Mr Tickle (with Graham choosing to submit his entry in ‘subtitler speak’).
Those health-affecting dust-creating porcelain sunflower seeds (The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei) really would’ve been much more fun to jump around in. Oh well.
Rough Trade Pop Pub Quiz
I’m hardly a music buff, but I love this quiz night. Founded by the Rough Trade Record Shops, the quiz covers all musical bases with picture, themed and blockbuster rounds, ‘Badly Drawing Boy’ and the compere’s own keyboard interpretation of various tunes along the way. With a multipack of crisps on offer for the best (and usually most offensive) team name, ludicrously competitive indie music scenesters whose faces sag with disappointment every time a pop music question comes up (the clue’s in the title; what did you expect), and the brilliant atmosphere of The Lexington, you can’t exactly go wrong.
Television Centre Bar
I got to enter the famous BBC Television Centre building as a guest and proceed to its main watering hole – a student union-style pub with an abundance of media types (I fit right in, naturally).
The Boat Race
Whatever you say about the north-south London divide, you can’t deny that Putney has charm. And on the day of the Boat Race, this charm is elevated to partytastic levels – crowds, Pimm’s, punting hats and stripes, English cheering, Aussie boozing. Reminded me a bit of Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, although obviously with fewer canals and just one mighty great river.
Billed as “a night of expression, live music, passion and creativity”, but really just a lovely open mic night down in the cellar of The Yard in Old Street, I watched my friend sing all of my faves from her set (groupie alert – yes, I’m starting to learn the words) to thunderous applause.
There’s been a veritable collection of them! Robert Green, the butter-fingered goalie, followed by Alex Zane wearing a tribly (natch) in Hampstead, followed by Gok Wan (girlfriend!). Who’s next I wonder?!
What a month it’s been. A big thank you to all involved.