Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wimbledon and The Lion King

This week we did two stereotypical London activities: Wimbledon, and a Musical in the West End.

I went to Wimbledon on Tuesday evening, the second day of the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. When I arrived at Southfields tube station, it was all done out as a tennis court, with green stuff on the platform and white lines painted, and the seats turned into little pavilions with umbrellas over them.

The Queue was about 10 minutes walk from the station, and as I walked into the field that was turned into a carpark for the event, I could see it stretching around the corner. It looked like we'd never make it in! We got to the end of the Queue and got handed our Queue ticket with our number on it, and a souvernir sticker 'I queued for Wimbledon 2009'. The Queue is very organised, you get your ticket so that you can't line jump, and you can't hold places for friends because you only get one entry ticket per Queue ticket.

It seemed to take forever to get around the first corner, but the rest of it went pretty quickly. Once you get inside the gates they have information up about all the past champions, and a timeline of the tournament, but the Queue was moving so fast I didn't get to read it all :(

After clearing security and buying our tickets, we purchased our strawberries and cream and went to watch Ana Ivanovic's game. It was packed with people, and we stood and watched some of it. Then we realised that the game on the court behind us was going to start, so we decided to watch that as it was a men's game and they'd be hitting the ball a lot harder. It was between Taylor Dent (US) and a Spanish guy (who ended up winning). Dent wasn't playing too well, and kept double faulting, and he was getting very frustrated. He even swore at the referee, saying that one of the linespeople was 'F***ing blind' after she called one of his shots out.

The game was halted due to bad light, so unfortunately we didn't get to see the end. It was exciting while it lasted though :)

On Wednesday night we went to see the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. We'd only heard rave reviews, so we were expecting something awesome, and the start of it was really awesome. I don't want to say what happened in case any of you are planning to see it though! But the costumes were really great, and they did all the songs from the movie plus a few new ones.

****Spoilers below the photo****

For those of you who aren't planning to see it, or who don't mind spoilers, I thought I'd try and describe some of the costumes and puppets. At the start of the musical, they had an elephant puppet (not sure how to describe it) which consisted of one person acting as a leg, and them all holding up the body and controlling the head; so there were four people shuffling forward making an elephant puppet look like it was walking. There were giraffes, which were people on stilts, with sticks like crutches for the front legs. There were zebras, which were people standing upright, using their legs as the back legs, and wearing a costume that made up the body, front legs, and head. And the best one was this cart, which as it rolled across the stage had all these gazelles that bounded across the stage (it was connected to the axles somehow, and looked really cool).

The lionesses had these lovely hat type things that were the lions' faces, while the males had different types of hats where the face was either up above their head, or it fell forward on a spring thing. It was really effective on Scar when he threatened Mufasa and the scary face came towards him.

Oh, and Pumbaa was really cool because he was basically just a giant head being worn by this guy who was the back legs and controlled the head and nose. The nose could move and it sniffed the bugs and things :)

Timon and Zazu were puppets that were completely controlled by the an actor each. For some reason Timon's actor was completely green... not sure why because this didn't really blend into anything.

It was very entertaining, so if you like musicals (and/or the Lion King) I recommend you see it if you get the chance!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shakespeare's Globe

Recently the Globe had an open day to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, and because it was free and we were penniless, we went along for a look.

The Globe is part museum, part theatre. It begins with a general history of the area, putting the original theatre in context with its surroundings and the cultural climate.

The Globe wasn't the first theatre Shakespeare was involved in, but after the first one was destroyed they set about building a dedicated one. He became a shareholder in it, along with four others. The rest is, as they say, history, and the Globe was built.

Inside the entrancey part they had some play sword-fighting with was kind of exciting. The two guys circled each other for a bit, occasionally darting in and trying to stab each other, until at the end one of them managed to 'stab' the other one and then finished him off by cutting his throat.

Inside the theatre itself there were a bunch of brave people standing on the stage delivering lines from Shakespeare. One guy was very impressive, and even managed to do a flip in front of everyone. After that they did some audience participation, and taught us how to fight like in the plays. We learnt how to punch, poke out eyes and pull hair. Very fun.

After the training we got to walk across the stage. The ceiling is rather nicely painted, and it is surprising just how small the theatre looks from up there; the current Globe fits about half the number of people it did originally.

We plan to go to actually see a play sometime soon. If you're willing to stand at the front (supposedly the best place to be), tickets are only £5.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


For the second May Bank Holiday weekend Stuart and I made plans to visit family friends who lived in Yorkshire. We headed up by train on Friday night, and unfortunately the trains were so busy that we had to stand for the first section of the journey, which was an hour! There were lots of other people in our situation (who hadn’t made seat reservations), but thankfully heaps of people got off so we could sit for the last half hour. We learnt our lesson and will make sure to get reservations in future.

We arrived in Doncaster and were met by Madge who then drove us along the M18/A62 to Hull and then on to their house in the thriving metropolis of Roos. Roos has a lovely old church which comes complete with overgrown graveyard and crypt. It also has an old Norman cross which is in very good condition considering it’s over 800 years old.

On Saturday we were driven to York, and on the way we stopped off for fish and chips. There was a statue of Giant Bradley who at 7’9” was the tallest Briton, and used to work on a local farm. Then we headed onto York where we would have 24 hours to spend, so when we got there we started off in the Information Centre to decide what to see. Our first destination was the National Rail Museum which has heaps of trains of all shapes and sizes, including a miniature railway which we had a ride on. It also had a selection of awesome old posters for various holiday destinations, including one which compared Cornwall to Italy. Unfortunately that one wasn’t for sale, but we did get a nice one telling us that you could take your dog on the train.

After that we walked along the old city wall that surrounds the old part of town, and saw Clifford’s Tower, which is where lots of exciting things happened (you can read the Wikipedia link). That night we had Chinese for tea in an awesome old building with low beam ceilings, which has got to be one of the most un-Chinese places I’ve ever eaten Chinese food in. Then we walked around town and saw all the hens and stags getting drunk on their big night out, and turned up by the river just in time to go on a river cruise through York along to Bishopthorpe Palace where the Archbishop of York lives (he was at home but they pulled the curtains as we arrived).

The next day we did a walking tour of York which told us the history of St Mary’s Abbey. The abbey was pulled down by the townspeople during King Henry VIII’s reign, and now only a few of the window arches remain, along with hundreds of the old stones littering the ground. We also saw an old Roman wall, which is what part of the city walls were built on, as well as hearing a ghost story about the Treasurer’s House. Apparently a boy was working in the basement of the house when he saw a column of Roman soldiers come marching through the basement. He described their outfits completely accurately to a historian until it came to describing their footwear, at which point he said that he could only see them from the knees up. They then dug up part of the floor in the basement, and about 6 inches below the surface discovered an old Roman road that the house was built on.

After we left the tour, we went into the old Minster, which is one of the most impressive and massive buildings I have seen, and looked at the stained glass windows and climbed the tower. There were around 270 stairs, and they got narrower and narrower as you went up. From the top you get an amazing view of York and the surrounding countryside, but you only get about 10-15 minutes up there before it’s time to go down again. The stairs are so narrow that you go up in groups so that you don’t have to pass anyone on the way.

That afternoon Madge and Alister picked us up and we drove back to Roos. It was another lovely sunny day so they decided to have a barbecue to make the most of the weather. Stuart sampled some of the local beer, and enjoyed it so much that the next day we went to see where it was brewed and had a tour around the microbrewery. The owner is a relative of Alister’s, and the brewery was set up as part of the diversification scheme for farmers. We then went on to Withernsea to see what a somewhat abandoned seaside resort looks like. The answer is: a bit sad. The trains stopped going there in the 60s, and then the hotels and B&Bs shut down, so now there are lots of arcades but not many people to use them.

Our final event for the long weekend was going to see the local stately house. It’s privately owned, which means it’s not in pristine condition like some of the National Trust houses, which is quite nice because you can believe that people lived there. Some of the floors are quite slopey, and the rest of them are a bit creaky, but you get to see a chair that Queen Victoria sat in, and there are also plenty of beautiful paintings and sculptures, and huge rooms to imagine yourself living in.

So that was our visit to Yorkshire. There is definitely a lot more to see in the area, and it is a really nice place that we want to visit again.

Photos coming soon to a Flickr account near you!