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Beautiful Plumage

I have to admit that I wasn’t old enough to see Monty Python when they were first shown on TV (Not the Nine o’Clock News was more my era) but I have watched them repeatedly since then along with the films.

When it was announced that the five remaining members where reuniting for a series of shows in London I knew that I wanted to get tickets. Unfortunately so did many, many others and the first round were gone in 43 seconds but to to me. So when the next tranche were released I tried again and could have got tickets but they were too expensive for my pocket and I passed.

Sometimes though things work out and I was lucky enough to be invited along with Helen by a colleague who was going with his brother and had a couple of spare tickets. Actually this was better than a couple of tickets as it was also in a corporate box!

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I hadn’t been to the Dome for 14 years so it was interesting to be back and what a transformation! It’s a really great space – pity it is the wrong side of London for us.

The five remaining members (Cleese, Idle, Gilliam, Jones and Palin) stepped out to much applause at 19:30 and over the next couple of hours went through all their favourites including the Cheese Shop, Australian Philosophy Department, Gumby Flower Arranging and, of course, the Dead Parrot. Between each sketch to give time for costume changes and the members to get their breath back there was a music number sometimes with Eric Idle singing his heart out and other times by a dance troupe.

On several giant screen between sketches we were treated to the best of Terry Gilliam’s work which looks as fresh and inventive today as it did when it first came out. I would buy a DVD of his animation should anyone be thinking of producing one.

Given that they are all in their seventies there was inevitably going to be some forgotten lines but the only one who seems to have any issues was Jones who during one sketch had to be prompted several times and loudly by Cleese, much to the latter’s amusement. All the other seemed pretty spritely.

No matter what they did the Pythons weren’t going to go wrong with such a partisan audience and I came away having throughly enjoyed the event as did all the others we were with.

The following night, the last night of the run, was televised and we watched the first ten minutes but it just wasn’t the same and some of the show was just too risqué  for TV (Penis Song (the Not Noel Coward Song) – for example!). I’m really glad that we got the opportunity to go and see them live. Thanks Andy!

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Oxford University Museum of Natural History

We’re incredibly lucky in the UK to have many wonderful museums that are also free to access. Last weekend my Dad and I went to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History which has recently reopened following a £2M restoration of the roof. It is an amazing space full of light and interesting exhibits, as you can see from the pictures below.

The front of the building is full of skeletons of animals and dominated by two dinosaurs but hidden away at the back without much fanfare is a dark room containing the Pitt Rivers Museum. This museum was started from the collection of 22,000 objects donated by Pitt Rivers, a variety of objects from different cultures around the globe. I love looking at the oddeties in the collection and I am particularly fond of the display of shrunken heads.

If you are in Oxford I highly recommend a visit.

Tracks Added – June 2014

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A more manageable list this month after the bumper lot in May.

This months additions are:

  • Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited – Live at the Royal Albert Hall
  • Laura Mvula - Live with Metropole Orkest (SoS)
  • LSO - Vaughan Williams – Symphony No. 4 (SoS)
  • OKGO – Upside Out
  • Foxes - Amazon Artist Lounge Live
  • Various - Best of the 60′s

The gem of this months additions has got to be the Steve Hackett release covering the gig he did at the Royal Albert hall late last year and which I was at. This is a two CD/one DVD set that showcases Genesis tracks from the period when Hackett was there, so in my opinion, the classic era. It includes Supper’s Ready in all it’s 26 minutes and 15 seconds glory!

There was also another release from OK GO this time featuring four tracks from their forthcoming release which you can (still) support at Pledge Music.

That’s it for this month.

Those above marked (SoS) are from a subscription service called Society of Sound which is curated by Real World Records, Peter Gabriel and the LSO. This provides members with two downloads a month of which you get no choice. This means that some months you get something that you really love and other months not so.

Statistics

All my music is held in a web-based music streamer called Subsonic, a roll-your-own Spotify if you like. This provides statistics on number of tracks and size of collection, as you can see below.

1,237 artists
2,680 albums
23,530 songs
240.14 GB
1,901 hours

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Tales from the Vault

It has been years since I have been to see the recording of a TV show and so when I was offered the chance to be in the audience of Tales from the Vault, a new F1 programme from Sky I was keen.

The offer came from a friend who I had previously only ever spoken to on social media having come together through our love of WilliamsF1 – sometimes it had felt more like a small support group as we got each other through the difficult days of finishing well down the field! It is also somewhat ironic that most people perhaps fear that someone they meet online might turnout to be a 40ish year old man. In my case I would have been worried if he wasn’t!

Carl and I met at Syon Lane station and walked to the Sky TV studios where we would spend the day. The one thing that I had forgotten was just how tedious a recording could be as there was a lot of waiting around while things were setup and retakes were done. This would have been fine had we been sat down but, thanks to Top Gear, the audience was stood up so it was a shock to the legs for anyone that was normally an office worker. It was also a very small audience of about 40 people which was a surprise.

The proceedings would have started promptly had Horner not been delayed – some unkindly suggesting that his Renault must have broken down on the way!

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The format of the programmes is that Steve Ryder interviews a few studio guests on an F1 related topic interspersed with archive footage. The shows that were recorded while I was there were “team-mates” where the guests were Nigel Mansell and Red Bull’s Christian Horner and “underdogs” with Damon Hill, John Watson and Williams’ Pat Symonds. So a really high quality set of people to discuss the topics on hand. To add a bit of interaction the audience were able to submit questions beforehand and then Ted Kravitz would find said individual and get them to ask their question for their moment of glory.

My question wasn’t selected (possibly because it wasn’t about the individuals being discussed or possibly because it included the word “fucking” in it! You can read an expurgated version of the story here, search for “bury the hatchet”), however, Carl’s question was selected and was first up (gulp!) and because I was stood next to him my mug will also be on TV (unless it is edited).

After the first episode was recorded Mansell and Horner dashed away as quickly as they possibly could but Watson, Ryder, Hill, Symonds and Kravitz all hung around chatting to the audience and having their pictures taken, which I thought was good of them and made for a really good day.

However, the thing that really made it for me was when I cheekily suggested to Symonds that there was a large amount of white space on the sidepods that could do with being filled with a sponsor. He replied with a crafty grin that we should watch this space and so now I am excited!

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Tribute to the Great Jim Bamber

There was a time a few years ago that every January I would religiously head off to the Birmingham NEC to got to the Autosports International show. There amongst the stands displaying the latest motorsport widgets was the Autosport magazine stand in which a tiny corner would be devoted to their cartoonist Jim Bamber. The magazine carried one of his cartoons every week and always captured the latest hot motorsport topic in his distinctive style and with great humour.

It was at Autosports one year that Jim and I were chatting and to this day I cannot remember what triggered this question but Jim said to me “Was it you that emailed me about doing my website?” to which I replied “No, but I can do it for you if you want!”. And so began Jim’s website and a long friendship.

The site went live in February 1998 and was called “The ones that got away” the  idea being that it would showcase the cartoons that weren’t suitable for the mainstream publications Jim drew for but eventually everything went up there.

Each week Jim would email me a copy of his latest cartoon which I would massage into the sizes required by the site before uploading. Over time I developed the site so that Jim could add captions and some thoughts for each image that was uploaded. We also got into some early ecommerce by selling copies of the popular annual Pits compendium.

Jim knew my love of Williams well and took great pleasure in sharing with me his latest cartoon documenting the teams ongoing woes. The following summed up the start of one season for Williams and shows how keenly observed his humour was.

However, like many others he could be frustrated with F1 and I suspected that his real passion was for rallying but, of course, the cartoons of F1 dominated as that’s what the majority wanted to see.

After quite a few years Jim had his figures out and the site began to conflict with the marketing effort on that so it we spent less time on it. However, we kept in touch and met on a number of occasions. We also emailed regularly talking about F1, Williams and our respective businesses. He also sent me some quite racy pictures at times too and not motor racy either – he had a real boyish sense of humour.

tumblr_m1v03theSp1rsjqe4o1_500The last time we met was shortly after he had been diagnosed with cancer and despite the obvious difficulties stemming from that he remained on good form and was keen for a TV project that he had been involved with to take off. Jim continued to work until late last year and I think that Autosport is the poorer for the lack of his cartoons brining us back down to earth with a smile.

Jim, you will be greatly missed.

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