Thursday 4 March 2010

London life

My foot calmed down surprisingly quickly but with a fine array of bruises along the base of my toes. It was just as well I could walk as I flew down to London late on Monday afternoon for a two-day Forrester Enterprise Architecture Forum at the Millenium Gloucester Hotel. I was staying in the Kensington Close Hotel with my colleague Andy Wilson, who plays cricket for Grange. We ate in Sticky Fingers, which was very busy for a Monday night and served very filling (and extremely unhealthy) food. Nachos and pulled pork with chips and salad was tasty but, eaten at 10pm, not the most digestible of meals. It was good to be somewhere lively on a Monday. The hotel was OK, initially overrun with Italian schoolchildren, but the usual street noise and closing of doors at 6am didn't make for a great night's sleep.

At lunchtime on the Tuesday I strolled up Gloucester Road which has some fantastic-looking Kensington townhouses just off it - you can just imagine a coach and four pulling up outside 150 years ago - spectacular blocks of flats surrounding well-kept courtyards and curving mews that ought to have minis parked in them and a young Michael Caine strolling nonchalantly along. It's a well to do part of London but as I walked up and down the road and around a section of Hyde Park I was struck by the amount of foreigners that evidently lived, worked and studied in the area. If England, and London, really was a hot-bed of racial tension then you'd expect it to be kicking off on a nightly basis. Dno't believe everything you hear in the media.

After the day's events had finished I visited the Kensington Whole Foods Market in Kensington High St. As a foodie, it brought a tear to me eye. Imagine all Edinburgh's speciality delicatessens and Real Food shops rolled into one with a butchery counter longer than a cricket wicket and you still probably won't cover the floor space and variety in this place. I sampled cheeses and nuts and salmon; they had lots of gluten-free stuff in the bakery and elsewhere (I was greeted by a stand the height of me packed full of Genuis bread); whole pigs; barrels of rice and coffee; eight different types of sea-salt; a vast range of spices; fresh fruit and veg; fish; wines... Had I not arranged to meet Andy back at the hotel I'd likely still be there now!

We ate at the Papaya Tree, a Thai restaurant with some mixed reviews. It served decent Thai food, fairly run of the mill and perhaps a bit tight on the meat content. The red duck curry seemed suspiciously short on duck and the Massaman and green chicken curry with noodles were a bit high on the ratio of sauce to content too, but no real complaints overall.

I left the conference at 1400 on the Friday and had a remarkably smooth trip, arriving home by 1745. Sean had been texting me while I was away, taking twenty minutes or more to compose his little missives which included telling me that Rowan hoped I was in a nice house and Mummy had found Angus in the potty!

Sharon and I wet to see Newton Faulkner in the evening, a first time visit to the Picture House on Lothian Road. It was a good seeing venue but, with the open bar area at the back, behind where we were standing next to the mixing desk, the competition between amplified acoustic guitar and bar chatter was a strain. Why do people pay money to go to gigs and then talk and drink during the performance? We moved down for the last few songs and it was a little better but the sound wasn't great. Newton was self-deprecating and still impressive on guitar and whatever other instruments he chose to employ. There's not many can do Bohemian Rhapsody on acoustic as an encore. He did it last time as well, so maybe he needs to freshen one or two things up.

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