Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Super-Injunct This!

In England and Wales, a superinjunction (or super-injunction) is a form of gagging order in which the press is prohibited from reporting even the existence of the injunction, or any details of it (Wikipedia).

There have been a number of these so-called "super-injunctions" being reported about in the press as of late - which is a bit strange if the purpose of taking one out is to prohibit the reporting of it. What is being reported is "famous married TV actor has affair" or "footballer has affair with model TV star" etc. Basically, the press is revealing something has happened but for legal reasons, can’t give out too much in the way of information. For famous people they tend to be taken out to protect details of their infidelities being published in newspapers; although they have been taken out for other reasons. One major example being:

"An example was the super-injunction raised in September 2009 by Carter-Ruck solicitors on behalf of oil trader Trafigura, prohibiting the reporting of an internal Trafigura report into the 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump scandal. The existence of the super-injunction was only revealed when it was referred to in a parliamentary question which was subsequently circulated on the internet (parliamentary privilege protects statements which would otherwise be held to be in contempt of court)." (Wikipedia)

In the example of Carter-Ruck, I can see the purpose of a super-injunction being taken out (not that I agree with it). However when it comes to celebrities taking them out to protect themselves from reports of the mistakes they have made, I find myself wondering (as with a lot of things) - why do people care?

Let's use the example of Andrew Marr. He has made a reputation out of being a tough interviewer, asking questions which politicians might not want in the public domain (one famous example was asking Gordon Brown if he was taking prescription medication). However, to avoid tough questions regarding his personal affairs, he hid behind the legal system by taking a super-injunction to prevent the news being reported. Now that I am aware of this going on, I have a lower opinion of him. But the fact still remains that what he does in his personal life is his (and his family's) business - I'm not interested in the revelation that this celebrity is in fact a human - and like all humans, he fucked up.

The two examples I mentioned above have had people wondering who they are and making guesses. I'm not going to put any of the guesses on this page (as doing so would hold me in contempt of court) but more than that - I just don't care. I wasn’t one of the 10s of thousands who followed a twitter account, supposedly revealing this information (which has all turned out to be incorrect i believe). Just like in the Andrew Marr case, I will have a lower opinion of these people if it is revealed to be them but I will remember that it is none of my business - and this something I wish the media would remember.

I see the newspapers and gossip magazines and sigh. They seem to forget what I mentioned above - these people on their front pages (whose lives they dissect) are people who deserve their privacy. No-one should need to take a super-injunction if they have had an affair, because something like that is a private matter. Or at least it should be. Making money by discussing celebrities’ private lives is really quite pathetic. I'm in a room typing this, surrounded by these magazines. I'm seeing such headlines like "Coleen - Forgiving Wayne Was A Mistake" and "Loose Women - Love Battles". I cannot imagine a person who would like their private life to be dissected in such a manor. I also don't want to meet the person who buys these magazines because of this ill-perceived notion that because they are famous "we have a right to know" as that quite frankly is bollocks. The justification for these publications existing is simply that "the magazines sell" - which to me is slightly depressing. Just seeing these makes me sympathise with the people who feel the need to protect their private lives through the super injunction.

Can it be resolved? Well there is no way of stopping the likes of "Heat" and "Look" (there are others but they are the two near me right now) from continuing to publish the details of celebrities lives. There is also no way of stopping the tabloids and dirt sheets from publishing these things - for the simple reason that they sell. Why do they sell? This is where my confusion lies. I respect a number of celebrities for their talented that have elevated them to the position of celebrity, but I am just not interested in their private lives.

I went on a slight detour then from super-injunctions to dirt sheet magazines/newspapers. I have a number of questions which conclude this post - questions that I don't know the full answer to.

1. Why do people care about the details of super-injunctions?
2. Do we have the ability to respect privacy when it comes to celebrities?
3. As a people, have we forgotten that celebrities are also people?
4. Why is it that exploting and dissecting the private lives of celebrities is seen as a way to make money?

As a final thought, I heard on the radio yesterday that Kelvin McKenzie (former Editor of The Sun) has allegedly been emailing the restricted information protected by these super-injunctions to people who have asked for it. I say allegedly as it hasn't been proven but if that's true, he really is a fucking idiot. When it comes to this sort of thing, there aren't many ways to be really stupid, but that is one.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Summer Shake Up

Well, my plans for the summer changed quite significantly today. To recap for anyone who doesn’t read this blog – I’ve got weekend tickets for Sonisphere and Wacken. I have a ticket to see Foo Fighters before Sonisphere and was planning to sit in Hyde Park and listen to Bon Jovi (fuck paying £65+ when you can listen for free!) That was my plan and quite frankly, I was really happy about it. I’ve talked about as a weekend, I think Download is weak, but I was envious to the extreme relating to the booking of System of a Down – a band that is on a very small bucket list of bands I have. I remember thinking that I’ll book a day ticket for the Saturday if the price is right. The prices were released and at the time, it was too much money. The bands were there, but it was just too much. I don’t know if SOAD will tour again but I’d be amazed if they didn’t. With that in mind, I opted not to get a Download day ticket. And then I saw the setlist SOAD will be playing on this tour.

1-Prison Song
2- B.Y.O.B.
3- Know
4- Needles
5- Deer Dance
6- Attack
7- Radio/Video
8- Hypnotize
9- Question!
10- Suggestions
11- Psycho
12- Chop Suey!
13- Lonely Day
14- Soldier Side
15- Kill Rock 'n Roll
16- Lost in Hollywood
17- Forest
18- Science
19- Holy Mountains
20- Aerials
21- Tentative
22- Cigaro
23- Suite-Pee
24- War?
25- Toxicity
26- P.L.U.C.K.
27- Sartarabad
28- Sugar

Now THAT is a fucking setlist! Yes, it is not perfect but still, seeing this made me bitter that I wasn’t going to Download. Then I looked again at the costs and decided that actually, I could afford it this month (making some severe cuts this month to plans) and I’d be able to go see SOAD. The other bands I want to see that day include Down, Hollywood Undead, Skindred, Alice Cooper (2nd Stage Headliner, so probably won’t happen), Twisted Sister, Cheap Trick, Dio Disciples, Clutch, Sacred Mother Tongue, Sevendust and Evile. The travel included, the costs for the weekend are £120. That is amazing. Considering the amount of bands I want to watch, that makes it so worthwhile. I still don’t like some of the bands that day (Avenged Sevenfold and Skunk Anansie will not be watched by me) but there is a lot of win, and I am really pleased with the decision I have taken to go to Download. I am very excited, not just for SOAD but also because I’ve not been to Donington since 2007. The very idea of going to Donington and Knebworth in one year is amazing. I thought when this was booked that my summer was finally sorted and somehow, it was going to be awesome. And then, things changed again, and now I’m going to Reading.

I had bought 2 Reading tickets already. I was trying to sell them as it was an ill-thought out purchase. However Reading/Leeds didn’t sell out on the first weekend of sale for the first time I’ve been aware of the festival. So I was sitting on two tickets and fearing I’d lose a lot of money on the deal. The first attempt to sell died on its arse, and as such I was nervous. They are on sale as I type but then when talking about this with friends at the pub, one expressed interest in buying them, providing he could find someone to go with. After this discussion went back and forth, we realised that if he bought one of the tickets, I could use the money from that sale to fund my own weekend. So we agreed this is what we’ll do and I was going to Reading with Rob. Here’s the thing, only when looking at the lineup again did I realise how good it was. Over the span of the weekend (well, what’s been announced anyway), I would watch:

Friday: My Chemical Romance, The Offspring, Deftones, Rise Against, New Found Glory, Architects, Pulled Apart By Horses, Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Saturday: The Strokes, Pulp, Jimmy Eat World, Madness, Seasick Steve, The Pigeon Detectives, Jane’s Addiction, Glassjaw, The Bronx, Title Fight.
Sunday: Muse, Elbow, Frank Turner, Death From Above 1979, Panic! At The Disco, Cage the Elephant, Fucked Up, Flogging Molly,
Unknown Day: Tim Minchin, Henry Rollins

That is a lot I want to watch, and there is still more to be announced, so I am pleased to be able to go. Reading for the whole weekend will be a new experience for me and I hope it is a good one. So, in one day I have decided to go to Reading. What a great summer this is shaping up to be. The bucket list only has Green Day left on it now I think. Possibly ACDC but the fact I’m not sure says they aren’t there. What a great summer of live music. Where’s my tent?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Team Of Banahans

Yesterday combined two of my favourite pastimes; going to watch sport and going to a gig. The sport in question was Bath playing at home against Newcastle Falcons. The gig in question was Ginger (from The Wildhearts) playing an acoustic gig with some of his friends. I think I got lucky in that my travel between Portsmouth and Bath, and Bath and Southampton cost £10 in total. What I didn’t factor in was how boring a near 2 hour train journey can get when you are by yourself. The journey started off somewhat badly when I got near to my reserved seat on the train to see that someone was sitting in it. Now, I would have been well within my rights to ask them to move but I opted not to. I figured it would be easier to wait for them to get off the train and take my seat back, or wait for the guard to sort it out. The guard checked the tickets and didn’t seem to care I wasn’t in my reserved seat so I stayed where I was, as I had a table and I was comfy. The only annoyance was the stranger on the table had a travel bag on the table (because it’s not like train companies provide places for you to put your luggage....oh right they do). I was accompanied on this journey by a comedy podcast called Nobody Likes Onions. So there was at least one good thing to come out of the long journey. Well, good up until the point where something is said that in private surroundings, would have attracted a massive laugh, but when you are on the train you have to stifle laughter until it hurts. One line caught me completely unguarded and I lost it. “Porn stars have Amazon wishlists? What do they want, a father?!”

I got to Bath just shy of 2 hours after leaving Cosham. I didn’t actually realise it was such a long journey until looking at train times when booking tickets. But that’s ok because the journey is worth it as long as at the end of it, there is a game of rugby. I got out of the station and looked around and immediately thought “shit, I have no idea where to go”. Having only 25mins till kick off, this wasn’t a good thing to not know where I was. I eventually started following people in Bath shirts and I ended up at the ground. It was fairly close to the train station but not knowing where I was, it was a daunting journey. I hadn’t been to The Rec in about 10-11 years, and I’ve slept a little bit since then. Anyway, I walked the long way round to the stand and tried to find a spot. After accidently ending up in the children’s area (hey, it wasn’t marked!) I located a spot and stood there for the game. Terracing is something which I’ve rarely experienced, and the last time probably was my last visit to The Rec. Before that it was when I was a kid, going to Pompey games with my Dad in the early 90s. I did not expect the terraces to be as busy as it was. I would get a different spot next time I stand at a Bath game and would try to arrive earlier.

The Rec is exactly how I remember it. I moan and bitch at Fratton Park being a shit stadium (and it is) but I feel The Rec has character. It’s very strange how I am so biased. Especially considering I have been to Fratton Park many times and The Rec only twice (actually, I might have answered my own question there). Anyway, I got a place in the terraces just as the game was about to kick off and I felt I was in a reasonable spot. I mentioned above about not knowing what to expect from terraces. I did think there would be less people in the stand than there were, so personal space was abandoned during the game. There were a couple of funny chants during the game; the one which sticks in my mind goes to the tune of The Beatles – Yellow Submarine:

Number One, is Banahan.
And Number Two, is Banahan.
And Number Three, is Banahan.
And Number Four, is Banahan.

The main annoyances came from the guys standing in front of me (one of whom was pretty large, more so than me) leaning back. I accept you need to move but constantly leaning back into me isn’t going to win you favours. What made the entire situation better was the reason I was there – the game. Bath had a dominating first half and went 29-0 up. An amazing start! Half time came with the score being 29-5 (Newcastle’s try was pretty good but the missed conversion pretty much explains why they are going down – because they are shite). Half time bought one of the most random, but probably one of the best things that has happened to me in a football or rugby ground.

During the first half, I was near some Newcastle fans. I’ve mentioned on posts previous how rugby fans all mix together so this wasn’t an issue for me (although one of them was a football fan and had no idea about rugby. He was deeply confused). Anyway, there was one guy who I mostly interacted with. This included some banter (despite wearing a Bath shirt, he said I was one of the Newcastle fans, and announced that to the crowd), him leaning on and hugging me as well as trying to use my shoulder as a coaster. He was pretty drunk I thought and he didn’t spill beer on me so fuck it, no problems as far as I’m concerned. Half time came; he patted me on the shoulder and walked off. I thought nothing of it and looked around contemplating movement. He came back with his friends and then he handed me a beer. We toasted the beer and he said to his mate, gesturing at me “he’s got your beer!” I thought that it was a practical joke and all a part of earlier banter. Actually it transpired he got the pint for me for being a dick in the first half. I’ve said this in private conversation and I’ll say it here – he wasn’t anywhere near as annoying as the people in front of me. This just adds to my argument that rugby crowds are so much better than football crowds. Interestingly, the football fan I mentioned earlier was actually asking his mates questions like “when does the violence start?” and “don’t you guys want more agro?” – these questions were met with responses such as “that shit doesn’t happen with a rugby crowd. Awesome response to a really stupid question.

The second half was slower for a Bath fan. We got a penalty to make it 32-5 which was a much nicer position to be in. At this stage, Bath scored, or appeared to score a try. The ref called for it, or seemed to call for it. The play went back to the middle of the pitch but no points were awarded. Newcastle scored another try and scored a harder conversion than the first one they missed and the score was 32-12. Over the course of the second half, there were a lot of sloppy errors, but also another Bath try, penalty and conversion taking the score at full time to 42-12. A superb and well deserved result as far as I’m concerned and I was very pleased to have travelled to Bath for this game. I’ve not mentioned it yet but this was the last professional game of England World Cup 2003 Winner Danny Grewcock. He was superb in this game and I am sad to see him retire. I couldn’t hang around for the entire goodbye as I had a train to catch so I could get to St Denys, where the Talking Heads is. I briefly dosed off a few times on the train before I wasted about 30mins of my time and lost about 10 years off my life. I got off at Romsey, to change for St Denys.

The first thing I noticed when I got settled on the platform of Romsey station was there was nothing on either platform informing train users of when the next trains were due. Another thing which caught my eye was that at 18.50pm, everything was locked and there was no sight of another person (staff) anywhere. That to me is shocking service. This makes this station worse than Hilsea train station (and for anyone that knows Hilsea station, it is pretty terrible). As there wasn’t any way to find out at the station when the next trains were due, I decided to go smoke and boot up the National Rail app on my phone – thinking that this would have the most up-to-date information and could tell me when my train was. It did – 19.07 was when the train was due. At 19.07, no train arrived. I waited a minute then rebooted the app to see if it was delayed to find that the entire service had been removed from the listings – cheers! Then after another minute, a one carriage train pulled up at the other platform. I darted over to this platform, assuming this was my train. I was told that it was not and it was heading back to Salisbury. The train then proceeded to leave the station the same way it entered. I’ve not seen that happen before (aside from at stations where you hit the end of the line). Eventually another train turned up which was my train. No idea when trains are coming, trains just don’t arrive, unmanned from god knows when – Romsey station is a fucking disgrace and I would advise you to avoid it if you can.

Anyways, eventually I got to St Denys station which meant that gig times were a coming. I knew exactly where to go this time as it was a simple straight path. However I decided to be smart and buy myself a sandwich. So I went off the road I know and walked off to hunt food. After getting lost, I found the venue and somewhere to buy a drink and a sandwich. It is somewhat annoying when that happens, but hey, at least I’m not still lost. The rain at this stage was a right arsehole, so getting to the shop was a nice relief actually as it meant being inside. There were people coming in after me to buy alcohol and one looked about 10 – I felt old. Anyway, I bought my sandwich and left. I stood outside in the rain to eat it which on reflection was a stupid idea, but oh well. I walked away from the shop and entered the Talking Heads. It was gig time!

To read my review of the gig, grab that mouse of yours and click this link! REVIEW – GINGER @ THE TALKING HEADS.


Friday, 6 May 2011

Election Thoughts and Political Projections

I like to vote. Other than having a genuine interest in politics and current affairs, I can't explain why I like to vote. I've been voting since 2005 and haven't missed a chance to vote. It confuses me why people don't vote (assuming it is physically possible). Even if you hate politicians that much, you could go and spoil your ballot paper. I think we should introduce legislation to make voting compulsory - but have an option on the ballot paper saying "no vote". Anyway, that is somewhat irrelevant to the point of this blog. On Thursday, I got another chance to vote. Two votes actually - local council and the referendum on whether we should adopt the Alternative Vote voting system for Westminster elections. Some people are very protective of how they vote, insisting that it's a secret ballot for a reason. However I have made no secret of the way I vote. For local council, I voted Conservative and in the referendum, I voted No to Alternative Vote. I found out at work that day that the referendum votes wouldn't be counted until Friday afternoon, but we would know the results of the council election Friday AM.

I am writing this Friday evening so I know the results of the local elections and indeed the referendum. What I didn't realise was the votes in Wales and Scotland were essentially general elections for their respective assemblies and parliaments. Locally, not much changed in terms of the composition of Portsmouth council. It was held by the Lib Dems, although the Conservatives gained a seat from them. Only 1/3rd of the seats were up for grabs in Portsmouth, though I don't imagine the Lib Dems would have lost Portsmouth if all the seats were up for grabs (it might have gone to No Overall Control perhaps). Other local areas had elections as well for their local councils. Havant and Chichester remained strongly Conservative. Gosport and Fareham didn't have local elections.

In terms of the country, the big losers of the election were the Lib Dems, losing 10 councils (notably including Sheffield - where Nick Clegg's constituency is) and losing 798 seats. The big winners were Labour, having gained 27 councils and 853 seats. 17 councils moved from no overall control to being controlled by one party (by the looks, mostly Labour). Possibly the big surprise was the fact that the Conservatives didn't lose out. Generally speaking, governing parties get punished at local election time. Overall, the Conservatives didn't gain or lose any council's, and gained 28 seats. That might not be seen as a massive success (and indeed it isn't) but it was widely predicted they would lose quite a lot of seats, as many as 250 I saw predicted. So considering the predictions of heavy losses, the fact they made a gain at all (no matter how small) is a fantastic result. It goes to show that the country as a whole punished the junior partner in the coalition government, the Lib Dems, following the first year of this government. I'm not entirely sure why (other than the backtrack on promises) but the result essentially confirms the Lib Dems generally don't have an active role to play in 21st century UK politics. I assume that in 2015, if the economy hasn't picked up, they will lose most of their parliament seats, which would likely confirm the end of Nick Clegg as party leader (if he hasn't already gone).

I don't know a great deal about the Welsh Assembly, so I cannot comment much on their results other than to say Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems were the main losers. Labour gained the most but amazingly, the Conservatives gained here as well and became the 2nd biggest party in the Assembly. So with two strong results for Labour, this was shaping up to be a good night. Unfortunately (for them anyway), Scotland happened. To be honest, all the political parties had a bad night in Scotland, aside from the Scottish National Party (SNP). On my recent visit to Scotland, I can tell you for free that there were not many Conservative or Lib Dem signs around, and I know that Scotland is still fairly anti-Conservative (poll tax). So to see both of those parties receive losses was no big surprise. Labour lost fairly heavily as well, with the SNP picking up all but 1 of the seats lost. One major surprise for me is that half of Gordon Brown's UK constituency went to the SNP, which could make the next UK general election a lot more interesting (considering he is a former PM and they tend to be in very safe seats). The Scottish election this time around is historic, in that the system was designed to promote coalition governments (it was designed by Labour, and like fuck are they going to design a system where they will be out of power). However the reason that this election is historic is that the SNP won the first overall majority in the history of the Scottish parliament and will now likely have a referendum on independence for Scotland. The repercussions of this election could be huge, and could change the UK forever - so I am interested to see how this plays out but I honestly don't know if Scottish independence would be a good thing or not. Based on one policy of the SNP (anti-nuclear weapons), they might shut down the submarine base in Helensburgh, which would kill my home town for jobs - and I can't support that!

So we've covered councils, Wales and Scotland. Let's look at the referendum then. I learned during various politics lectures that the people who write the questions for referenda try to make them needlessly confusing in order to skew the result. So when it came time to vote, I read the question more than once just to make sure I was voting the way I wanted to. The question was fairly plain and easy to understand. When voting no, I thought the country would vote no but I wasn't sure. I did not expect the result that we have got. 439/440 regions have declared their referendum results (waiting on Northern Ireland) and it is a very clear win for the No 2 AV campaign. The results (as of 11pm Friday 6th May) are as follows:

Yes 2 AV - 5,863,519. 32%
No 2 AV - 12,640,417. 68%

I never anticipated such a massive result for the No 2 AV campaign but it was a clear message sent from the people that did bother to vote (because the turnout was just over 40%) that we don't want the alternative vote! A 36point lead cannot be disputed. I do wonder what the impact of this decision will be and indeed the impact of the elections on the country as a whole. Will Clegg's future as Lib Dem leader be in doubt? Will the next campaign for electoral reform be about fully fledged Proportional Representation? What will happen to the coalition? Is it really as strong as they claim in the media? What will happen in Scotland now they have a nationalist party with an overall majority in charge for the first time? I don't know the answer to these questions yet, no-one does. However, this could be a really interesting time for UK politics and I for one am interested to see what impact, if any, Thursday’s election will have on the UK.

I was going to write this blog and include my review of my day watching Bath and seeing Ginger. However if you have reached this stage in the blog without having died, you have realised that I had quite a lot to say about the elections. The blog about Bath RFU/Ginger will be a lot shorter and written/posted probably on Sunday. Until then, you stay classy!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Bank Holiday Weekend - Scotland

A day at work before going on holiday always drags, no matter where you are going or how long for. For me this time, it was a Thursday. The extended bank holiday weekend (thanks to the Royal Wedding and Mayday) was the setting for a weekend break 22 years in the making - I was going to Scotland, the country of my birth. As a family, we left when I was about 18 months old and for one reason or another, we hadn't been back. However this long weekend, that would all be changed. We were staying in Dumbarton, which is the nearest town to Helensburgh, and Alexandria - where we used to live and where I was born respectively. All I wanted out of this trip was to see bits of Helensburgh (like the old family home and generally the area around) and to see the Vale of Leven hospital in Alexandria, where I was born.

After finishing work on the Thursday, we started the long drive up to Scotland. The journey is about 465 miles which wouldn't have been possible to do all of on Thursday night (well, safely anyway) and doing it all the Friday would leave very little time to do anything. We drove from Portsmouth to Warrington Lymm Services Travelodge (not far from Manchester) where we spent the night. The room was a fairly basic Travelodge room, and I spent the night on the mattress which comes underneath the couch in a family room. I maintain they are more comfortable than the beds, but they look disgusting. The morning consisted of breakfast in Costa and getting back on the road.

The journey to Scotland on Friday was painless, and involved driving down some stretches of motorway which were surrounded by fantastic scenery. It was very nice to see and led me to declare that "my country of birth is nicer than yours!" Finding the hotel was fairly easy really, and we learned that the hotel was less than 3 months old. We checked into the rooms (I had my own room this time) and got settled in. I'll say this, Premier Inn rooms are far far better than Travelodge rooms. The journey up consisted mainly of listening to the Royal Wedding. I had previously said that I wasn’t interested at all in the wedding, but it was good listening to it on the radio. We stopped at a service station which had it on in their “casino” which had a massive crowd. Strange how you get sucked into these sorts of things.

After getting set up in the rooms and booking a table at the neighbouring pub for dinner, we ventured into Helensburgh. We decided to do all the sight-seeing I wanted to do on the Friday, as it wouldn't take long and we had half an afternoon to kill. It was really nice for me to see these places. We went for a walk along Helensburgh seafront which was nice as the weather was nice. We looked at the little funfair that was down there and saw the most embarrassing "Roller Coster". I'm not sure that's a thing but apparently it is (the spelling error was painted on the rollercoAster). We drove down to where my dad used to work which had changed quite a lot. We passed "Peace Camp" which is essentially a commune of people protesting nuclear weapons (the HMNB there has the nuclear subs I'd guess). We later learned that usually there is only one person living there at one time now to look after the place. We went back to the hotel for dinner, where the pub had a fish & chip buffet on. Unbelievably unhealthy but very nice at the same time - battered fish & sausages, roast chicken, mince beef pies and of course, chips (with plenty of curry sauce on the side). Fantastic. After the meal, me and my dad sat in the pub where I got nicely drunk on Tennents and Belhaven. A really good end to my first day in Scotland.

Saturday started very well, in that I didn't have a hangover! The plan for the day was to visit a couple of cities that my parents used to visit when they lived in Scotland. Before that though, we went back to Alexandria as there was a shopping centre which we weren't sure if it was open or not that we wanted to visit. From the outside, it looked like it had been closed for a little while. However it was open (it was just an old building). There wasn't much going on in there. The inside of the building was very nice (old marble staircase looking great). We visited two shops and moved on, with the next port of call being Stirling.

The drive to Stirling was great, in that the scenery was beautiful. There was a lot of countryside which just looked nice. We didn't see much of Stirling other than the town centre but it was a decent town centre. Much better than the one in Portsmouth. We visited a cafe for a drink and a toilet stop. The toilet in this place was miles away (which considering the size of the cafe, was quite surprising). After killing a bit of time strolling around, we moved on to Glasgow.

Glasgow is a fantastic city to visit. The only thing that I was told about it is how amazing the buildings are. This is very true - the architecture is fantastic. There are some really old buildings and some really new buildings which somehow blend together so that neither seems out of place. Another thing worth noting is how big the city centre is. It reminded me quite a lot of walking round certain parts of London. The main difference from London though to be fair was how clean the city centre was. I was quite surprised at this, considering I live in a much smaller city than Glasgow, which is nowhere near as clean. From the bits I saw, Glasgow seems to be a great city, and I am really glad we had the chance to go there. It was also kind of cool seeing some of the gig venues which I’ve seen in tour listings. Glasgow has about 5/6 gig venues that I know about, which really makes it appeal to me. As the day drew to a close, we looked for a curry. I’d heard of a famous curry street in Glasgow which we didn’t find. We then went to Dumbarton to look for one, which was unsuccessful. Then went to Helensburgh and found an alright one called Café Lahore. I’ve since spoken to someone from work that is also from Helensburgh who said “I’d never eat there” but it was fine. Strange as it might be, I judge restaurants on food quality, and this place was alright. A small stroll later, and we headed back to Dumbarton to the hotel.

The Sunday was meant to consist of two things, going to Loch Lomond and seeing a friend of my mums. This plan changed late on Saturday to visit Antartax Village, then go to Loch Lomond, then go see mums friend. The Loch Lomond bit of this day didn’t happen. We went to Antartax with the intention for a little mooch before leaving. We ended up staying there for nearly 5 hours. We started off with a breakfast there which honestly would put Wetherspoons to shame. It was delicious (and the first time in many years that I’d eaten fried bread). We then looked around the clothes (I was instantly drawn to the kilt section). One thing I noticed about this place was the amount of suits they were selling. Transpired any suit, regardless of marked price, was being sold for £50. So then the hunt was on to find a matching suit set which fit. Unfortunately for me, this did not occur (although I did get some nice trousers for £15 each). Wading through all of these suits took most of the time and we left just before 1. Without the time to go to Loch Lomond, we headed back to the hotel room before being picked up. We spent the rest of the Sunday at mum’s friend’s house. I wasn’t overly keen on going at first as truthfully, I didn’t travel 465 miles to spend time with someone who I didn’t really know. However, it was a really nice afternoon/evening so I’m glad we did go. I guess it is nice to know someone if you are going somewhere. Anyway, we got a taxi back to Dumbarton, and crashed out in the hotel for the last time.

Waking up on the Sunday was slightly painful as I was slightly drunk the day before. However when turning on the TV, I was greeted with the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. That was quite something. Funny how a major news story dominated the journey up to Scotland (the royal wedding) and how one would dominate the journey home. The knowledge was fairly limited early on (which might seem somewhat obvious) but the news channels reported everything they knew. Anyway – we head off on the road and I took in all the Scottish scenery I could, knowing that when we got back into England, it wouldn’t be the same. It actually was quite nice as we drove by the Lake District. We stopped at a farm shop where I grabbed another haggis pie. The drive from there was fairly uneventful, and the scenery just wasn’t a patch on Scotland.

All in all, the jaunt to Scotland was fantastic. I am so glad to have finally seen some of the things I’ve seen. The scenery in Scotland, especially on that drive to Stirling, is beautiful. I will go back again in a heartbeat. I jokingly talked about moving there – but if I could find a good paying job, I would go.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Reviews: Diabetes UK Gig & Skindred @ The Wedgewood Rooms

Diabetes UK gig: Hairforce 5, TFO and Toxic Shock – Wedgewood Rooms. (24/4/11)

Easter Sunday is usually an occasion for me to be off work. Even when working in retail, I didn't have to work this day. I'm not religious, so do not buy into the actual festivities of the Easter weekend, but if they are going to give me a long weekend - I won't moan. Anyway, the Easter Sunday just gone was different to the others as I actually had something of note to do! The Wedgewood Rooms was hosting a charity gig for Diabetes UK, with a club night after. The headlining band were a 80s tribute band called Hairforce 5, and the two bands under them were The Founders Of (TFO) and Toxic Shock. I know people in both of the two bands playing before the tribute band, and I hadn't got round to seeing them live. So the chance to see them both live on the same night, plus a tribute act, plus a club night and it's all for charity? Sounds good to me.

I can't remember if I had heard any Toxic Shock before going to these gigs (I'm sure I heard clips of them on their website but that could be my mind playing tricks on me). Anyway, their set was very enjoyable. Their music is very headbangable (is that a word? It is now!) The thing for them which really stand out for me is how catchy their music is. I really enjoyed their set and I hope to see them live again.

TFO are a different style to that of Toxic Shock and indeed Hairforce 5, which made me wonder if they would stick out like a sore thumb (I have heard from other people they are more of an indie band than metal) but they were also really good. Their set I thought meshed a number of different styles together including indie, rock and ska. Again, their songs were very catchy, and their homage to the Jungle Book was quite unexpected, but very enjoyable. I also hope to see them live again.

I openly discussed with the people I was with leaving at this stage. I had enjoyed both bands but I was considering getting home. However, I decided to grab another beer and stick around for a little bit of Hairforce 5. Truthfully, my first thought of them was negative as I thought the way they dressed on stage made them look like tits. I ended up sticking around for all of their set and being thoroughly impressed by them. Actually, they played covers from a variety of bands and there were some weak points - Walk This Way being particularly poor. However, 90% of what they played was fantastic, so you can't really argue with that. The set was packed with crowd pleasers and sing-along's which were really fun. I think "fun" is probably the best word for them. Early on in the set, the lead singer said "thank you for coming down to see 3 fantastic bands, well 2.5 fantastic bands. I'm sure you all know what I mean" - to which I tweeted about, wondering why they would sell themselves short like that. In my mind, they can't have been putting down either TFO or Toxic Shock as they were both great. However, they won me over so I can say that this night had 3 fantastic bands playing and I really enjoyed the live music portion of the evening.

The club night after was run by the guys that run It's A Sin, a local club night to Portsmouth. I would like to talk about that in detail however I can't. I remember I heard some good music but aside from that, it is a little bit of a blur. I tweeted that it was good though, so I’m sure my drunken self was right. A good night all round.

Skindred Destroy The Dancefloor (Wedgewood Rooms - 27/04/11)

I was interested to see what the Skindred gig last night would be like considering the gig had been moved from the Pyramids to the much smaller Wedgewood Rooms. I am surprised that, following two high profile slots at consecutive Sonisphere festivals, the gig had to be moved at all. However, for all the people in the sold out Wedgewood Rooms, we were in for a treat. Having seen Skindred there in 2010, I knew what they were capable of. The 2010 gig was fantastic and I was hoping for more of the same. I arrived towards the end of the first band, Me vs. Hero. Listening only to the last two songs, I liked what I heard from them. Usually with a support band, I try to compare them in my head to a similar sounding band to form the basis of my opinion. However on this occasion, I was unsuccessful. They didn't seem to get much of a response from the already packed Wedgewood Rooms crowd but I thought they were alright, and they got the night off to a pretty reasonable start. They attempted to get the crowd to make some noise for the next band, Chiodos, with very little success.

Chiodos are another band that I am struggling to put my finger on in terms of a comparison with another band. I remember thinking they were fairly similar to Bullet For My Valentine but I've no idea how accurate that comparison is. As for their set, they were fairly good. I enjoyed most of what I heard from them, although at times I was bored. They managed to get a better response from the crowd than Me Vs. Hero got (although from what I saw, that wouldn't be hard). Predictably, their biggest response was asking the crowd if we were ready for Skindred. After two bands who were alright, but truthfully I'd have been just as happy arriving after they started, I was ready for Skindred.

During the break between Chiodos and Skindred, the atmosphere in the venue picked up quite significantly. This was noticeable by the amount of songs that either made parts of the crowd cheer, or even had the crowd singing along. It must be somewhat frustrating being in a support band, and hearing that a recording of Slipknot - Psychosocial get a better response than your band did. The biggest response came when AC/DC - Thunderstruck played. This was probably a mixture of people loving the song, and people knowing this meant Skindred were about to take the stage.

The room exploded as Skindred took to the stage. They started with what seemed almost like a reworked version of Bruises which was really good. Following that was Roots Rock Riot. This was a superb start to their set which continued to get better as it went on. There was a homage to Metallica during Trouble which was very well received. The new material released on Monday sounded great, with the new album providing a moment of comedy. Benji Webbe asked the crowd who had the new album, which got a fairly big cheer. He then asked who had stolen the new album, which got a slightly awkward response. After clarification, it transpired quite a lot of the people who had the new album had downloaded it for free. "Let me see your hands, people who stole it....you bunch of c**ts!" Following that was a crowd-pleasing declaration that stealing music isn't a bad thing, as long as people still came to the gigs to rock out - safe to say, that wasn't a problem for us.

Seeing the way Benji Webbe can hold a crowd of any size in his hands is phenomenal. During a song towards the end of the set, the band paused with Benji just stood at the front. Without gesture, the crowd went nuts, chanting Skindred until the song kicked back in. Destroy The Dancefloor and Nobody were the final songs before the encore, which is unfortunately when I had to depart. I was left in no doubt though that Skindred are an amazing live band, regardless of setting (be it main stage at Sonisphere or in the 400 capacity Wedgewood Rooms). They are a band that, if you like their music, you need to see them live. For the people that are attending the Download festival this year, make sure you find the time to catch Skindred - you will not regret it.