Anyone who follows me online knows that I post a fair few videos of me singing. I also have a great recording of me dueting on Creep with Amanda Palmer. So, I was sitting here tonight working on a new cover of Don’t You Want Me by the Human League and I was constantly bothered by the fact that it really needs a female to sing the second verse. So, I thought, why not invite collaborations and see who joins in and how many we might get. This is your chance to record your vocals and build a duet with me.
So I present to you a recording of Don’t You Want Me, with the male vocals and full uke backing. If you are female (or a male with a great falsetto) and want to duet, please download the recording, record your vocals for the second verse and upload them back so we can all hear the result.
Come on, you know you want to…
It’s Boxing Day morning and I here I sit in a quiet lounge, looking out across a lake and pondering what next for the remainder of 2013. You see at a time when the minds of many are turning to the coming New Year, resolutions and what they hope to achieve in the year ahead, I find myself still very much in the present. This is because this is my action time of year with my birthday occurring just 5 days after Christmas.
In truth I never really know exactly what to do with myself on my birthday and usually find myself in some form of anti-climax on the day which is delivered through the perfect combination of lack of planning, holiday season and general apathy. I suspect I am not alone in the perfect mix of desire to do something combined with inclination to let this yearly mark pass by. The danger for me, is that this combined with everyone’s attention elsewhere, can sometimes lead to a rather depressed slump as they day just passes by.
So with four days to go I am not really sure what I will do. I have mooted the idea of resurrecting my birthday mini golf tournament and this may well happen, but then the question becomes who to invite….
So I think it would have been nice if John Minto had been included in the trip to South Africa, he is a key figure in our history regarding that country. However, it is right that John Key attends as a mark of respect from NZ. What I do have an issue with is John Key not having the guts to say what his views on the 81 Springbok tour were at the time.
We need to move on but we need to be honest. I want a PM who has views and the balls to state them!
I’m rather excited about one of our new acquisitions at Auckland Libraries. Our newly arrived 3D printer is turning heads, creating conversations and providing people with the opportunity to engage with this relatively new piece of affordable technology. Currently inhabiting a disused kitchen area on the 1st floor, this fantastic device is now available for all our users to see, play with and learn about. The printer itself is cool, but is really only part of a Makerspace environment where we are seeking to provide opportunities for people to come together to learn, experiment, and create. I had a look at it on Friday and talked with some of the team who are helping make this vision a reality and I have to say I am very impressed with what they have done.
This is the printer itself, which looks about as far from a laser printer as you can imagine. If you don’t know much about 3D printers there is plenty of information about them on the internet but in short the printer takes a raw ingredient (in this case PLA) and melts and deposits it onto a platter slowly creating an object by depositing layer upon layer. This takes a 3D plan and some time to make the object you are after. Below is our printer.
With anything like this, some trial and error is needed to get this right. You either make a plan or take one someone else has made and then put it into progress to see if it actually works. Being the owner of a new iPhone 5S and not having a case, I decided to see if we could produce a case. The answer is yes it technically can, but the plan we found on the internet did not quite mesh with our printer. The picture of the result is below. I will be going back later next week to see if we can get it right. I like the idea of printing my own case and also being able to show people a practical application of what this device can do.
The Louvre has 3 entrances. You can line up with the masses at the Pyramid or you can you use the less known carousel entrance or the entrance on the right hand side of the building as you look at the Louvre. Both are less well used and very quick ways in. If you have pre-purchased a ticket (highly recommended) then you can walk straight in and begin viewing.
Just some short thoughts on Cologne. I've only been here for two full days, but I feel I made the most out of that time by just being out and experiencing it.
Beer, there is beer everywhere here. Beer in the local stores, the bakeries, just everywhere. It's really interesting to walk into a place and see it like that. In fact there is hardly any soft drinks in the stores, there is more beer. I've had a few glass of the stuff now and it is nice. I still prefer my English Bitter, but it's still pretty bloody pleasant. When ordering Kölsch too, the glass of choice here is a thin glass that only holds 0.2l. It's a bit civilized. I had three of these over dinner on the first night and one with lunch every day.
Speaking food. Boy are the proportions big. For lunch yesterday I had schnitzel with mushroom sauce and chips. It was a huge pile of chips. Last night was a Bratwurst in curry with chips. Another huge pile. I think it would be easy to get quite substational if you ate out. All that said, it's bloody nice food and goes down well with that beer. There is a bakery 3 doors down from me and I will admit to having developed something of a liking for their sausage meet in pastry…. Yum! Last night, I actually went with Mexican just to get away from the meat heavy fare. I still had Kölsch of course.
God bless the Germans, English is not a problem here. People easily switch into it and so it is a much easier country to exist in as an English speaker. In fact they apologise for their English, which I immediately follow up with a comment on their superiority to my German. It always gets a laugh. In general I have found the people here to be very pleasant and polite. It's actually a lovely place to be a visitor in.
So Cologne is pretty much closed on Sunday's apart from museums, food establishments and bars. Certainly no shopping. I walked along the Rhine with hundreds of others just taking in the day, and stopping for a pretzel. It was actually very pleasant. This did provide the perfect opportunity to go through cultural institutions and the like. I went through the Dom (Cathedral) and up its bell tower. Also, I spent a few hours in the Museum Ludwig which is a world class museum of modern art. It was an astonishing good museum and collection which has just been totally redone by its new director. A brilliant collection of Warhol and Lichenstein.
There are some similarities between the Rhine and the Thames I think. Both are big, swift rivers which are a silty brown. Both are worked by small boats all day long. Both split the city and seem at once to be like an artery and a divide. The cities are quite different, but the first time I saw the Rhine, it reminded me of the Thames.
I have just really been chilling out in Cologne and so have not kept the same frenetic pace as I have in the earlier cities. It has been a nice place to do that in.
Well I have left London after 5 days and am now sitting in the Gare du Nord in Paris waiting for my connection to Cologne. The memories of London are swishing around in my brain like the Thames and I thought I should try to get them down.
I arrived in London from Paris very tired. Love as I did my time in the city of lights, 5 days living in an environment of French with little of the language was exhausting. I suspect if I had been in a hotel it would have been different, but spending my time with an old couple who spoke only French, added to my cultural isolation. That said, I would not trade that week in Paris for anything. I loved the emersion and just being on the streets of Paris. I had an amazing time and feel I got a closer “French Experience” than any hotel would ever have given me.
Arriving into London was lovely. This city which has always been big in my mind due to the Anglo nature of our history. To suddenly be surrounded by people speaking English was weird and lovely at once. The accents of London's streets have always delighted me and to be among them was bliss. I think if you fly you get a real transition with the assent, and descent of the plane. But, coming through in the Chunnel you just have no real change. One minute your are in France, the next you are in England.
I have stayed with friends Michelle and Andy and they are just great. Michelle met me at St Pancras to help me make the Tube jumps back to their place. It was great to see a familiar face and just talk to someone. And indeed to be guided through the 2 Tube hops to make it to their place in Wapping. The Tube map reads like a Monopoly board to me and I have spent the week delighting in the oh so familiar names. Whitechappel, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Waterloo to name just a few. Popping out at these stations to see what lies about, was an adventure that I relished every day.
Wapping where I was staying, is a short walk from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. My first afternoon I walked down to Tower Bridge and took a stroll over it. It is hard to put into words what it is like to see something like Tower Bridge for the first time. Those of you who have visited here will know exactly what I mean. To see this thing, that is so familiar right there and take it all in is a bit mindblowing. I wandered across the bridge and found a pub and settled for a pint and burger. It was bloody nice.
I have a thing for English Bitter on tap. I really like the taste. I could drink it till the cows come home and consumed more than my normal share of beer over the last 5 days. I guess it is also a healthy education on Coronation Street that means I find the hand drawn pumps quite romantic and just lovely. Bitter is one of the things I will miss.
Like the rest of my trip I have done my fair share of walking these past 5 days. 5 days is a great amount of time to get a feel for a city, but short enough that you need to concentrate and plan or else you will not make the best of the time you have. I have got a good mix of cultural institutions, churches, shopping, and cafés / pubs this week.
Andy asked me last night what was my favourite thing I saw. That's a hard question, but I think have to go with Westminster Abbey. That is some serious church and som serious architecture. What I loved most about it was that I had not planned to go to the Abbey as I had kind go forgotten about it. I was running several hours early for a meeting with a friend and wandered over to look at Big Ben. As I rounded the corner, I came face to face with the Abbey and with two hours up my sleeve, it was the perfect time to take it in.
The tour of the Abbey is an audio tour and it comes with your entrance fee. It is hosted by Jeremy Irons and it is very well done. From the minute you are in that amazing space and have the lovely voice of Mr Irons in your ears, you really are in bliss. The sheer size of the Abbey and the style of architecture is in itself impressive. The there are tombs and memorials everywhere in the church which is awe inspiring in itself. However, the fact that you can stand before the tomb of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, or Edward the Confessor and it really is quite humbling. It is of course a living church too, where people worship every day, which is nice.
I also highly enjoyed the National Portriat Gallery which had been strongly recommended to me by several people. I love portraits and of course I have taken quite a few of myself and of others. The collection at the. National Portrait Gallery is impressive both for its scale and variety. It is a very nicely arranged gallery. That said I did not have a dissapointing experience all week. The British Museum, St Paul's, Greenwich, all proved to be interesting, stimulating and fun.
I was also lucky enough to attend some comedy at the Hammersmith Apollo. My hosts were going and they grabbed an extra ticket. The Hammersmith Apollo is one of the great comedy places and I have watched many great standup routines there on YouTube. To go and experience the real thing was a treat. The gig itself was a charity thing and so we got several performers. To my delight these included Dara O'Brian and Lee Mack! Those are too very funny and talented guys.
London is a great place to travel around too. It's famous Tube is definitely something. Fast, reliable and once you get your head around it simple. I loved being able to make my way around town so easily and then walk comparatively short distances. That said, I have done one hell of a lot of walking. I have done the whole trip. In Paris my feet actually got quite sore but they have improved since then. For my money, walking in a city is the best way to get the feel of the place and to see things. On Friday I walked from. Brick Lane in London into St Paul's. It was a fantastic walk and took me from more run down areas, through the heart of the financial district into London's core. Earlier in the week I spent time in Greenwich, before catching a boat up the Thames to “Embankment” and then walking up to Trafalgar Square, down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, through Green Park and Hyde Park to Oxford Street, and then down Oxford Street to Regent Street. It was a great walk and such a great way to see the city.
So now that I have left London, I know I will go back and soon. It's a city that is part of my lineage and a place that has so many nooks and crankies to explore. It's also a city that is very welcoming. As a visitor I always felt part of the place and I loved the melting pot that is the city of London.
Lastly I was blessed in London to stay with friends. They are in many ways new friends, although I have known them for some years. We had only met in person once before but they were immediately welcoming and we just got on. Their place in Wapping was perfect and their friendship and hospitality were fantastic. It's good to know good people.
Well I'm now in London but it's a bit too early to blog on that. So I want to reflect on my trip from Paris which was pretty darn lovely and surprisingly quick.
My hosts in Paris, lovely as they were, did have a tendancy to make things a drama. On the final day in Paris, I let them know I would not need breakfast the next day but would like a taxi. No problem they assured and I went about my day. However, by the time I got home, there was a problem. They talked to me in very quick French about something with the booking which involved SMS, but I just could not get to the bottom of it. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make any progress in understanding what it is that they were trying to say. After some fluffing about Francios pulled up another site on this iPad and went through the booking process. Alarm at the name and cellphone number request, I put in my details. The price was 45 Euros! He had gone to some premium business transport site. By this point I was exhausted and just wanted to know I could get to Gare du Nord on time. So I went with it.
The next morning I was a bit apprehensive that the taxi might not appear. I had had to prepay and I had no idea what I was going to so if they did not show up. However it did and I got to the train station on time. Much relief as I exited the taxi.
I came over to “Blighty” on Eurostar and I have to say I am so pleased I did. The check-in process at Gare du Nord was easy and quick. I had my ticket so was able to go straight to immigration and customs. Immigration was simple although I will say that the British immigration staff are a lot less friendly than those in the Netherlands. Customs was a slight hiccup. One of my bags showed something odd on the X-Ray. The guy was so lovely and carefully went through my bag. They could not find it though. More of a search, still nothing. Finally, they found the offending article, a roll of 50c Euro coins which I had been given in change by a pissed of women in a cafe in Amsterdam.
Boarding the train was a breeze and the general service on Eurostar is great. Plenty of room and I even had two seats to myself. Boy that puppy flies along. It's a damn fast train! The dining car is fun too, lost of space to stand and great windows to take in the view as the world hurtles by. The channel tunnel itself was surprisingly short. I was astonished when we emerged in the U.K. Before I knew it I was in London and meeting my lovely friend Michele. My only negative comment on Eurostar was the carriages are looking tired inside. The upholstery is wearing and ther were a few broken arm rests. That said, I am looking forward to my trip back on Saturday, but I don't want to leave London either.
So it’s my last night in Paris and I thought I would jot down some more thoughts after another two days in the place. Tomorrow I head to London and no doubt that will again swamp me with a different experience, so I want to get this down.
I always knew 5 days in Paris would not be enough to really do the place justice and this evening I am definitely feeling that is so. However, I feel I have made the best of my time here and given it a jolly good go.
Since my last post I have visited the Musee D’Orsay, the Galeries Lafayette, Bastille, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, and the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. I have been busy,
Musee D’Orsay is far more manageable than the Louvre and can be done in a day. I also found the atmosphere in the place very relaxing and a great environment for viewing art. The collections are stunning, with the Rodin sculptures and the impressive Impressionist collection of particular note. The also have a very impressive Van Gogh collection and I was stunned to view this up close. Van Gogh is probably my favourite artist. I find the raw emotion in this brush and palette work impressive and I get a real kick out of seeing his up close. Also, they had a very interesting exhibition called Masculin which was dedicated to the male nude through history. It took in painting, sculpture and photography. It was interesting, at times confronting and often amusing. There were a lot of cocks in that place.
If you have been to Paris and not been to the Galeries Lafayette, you are definitely missing something. This is a serious shopping precinct. It takes in 3 buildings (as far as I could work out) and the most impressive of these has an amazing dome in it. Every label in fashion, perfume and anything else you can think of is there. The place was bloody humming on a Saturday too. It was almost too much, but I enjoyed wandering around taking it all in. A small but of shopping was done and then I had lunch at a cool little wonton place on the roof where you could also look out over Paris.
I finally made it up the Eiffel Tower this morning. This was my only tour of the trip. It seemed the easiest way to get in quickly and it certainly was that. The passage up to the first level was very quick as we bypassed the throngs of people waiting. Jesus it was bitterly cold up there though. Outside, in the wind was just miserable, yet hundreds of people were clambering to get up the tower come hell or high water. The guide was interesting, funny, a bit of a raconteur and he has plenty of interesting stuff about the tower of the city of Paris. I will admit though, it was so cold at height, that I was actually glad to get out of it all and down. Still what a view, what an amazing piece of architecture and what a city.
I don’t really have words to describe Montmartre, it’s a really interesting, vibrant and weird place. Probably also one of the coolest I have been. I emerged from the Metro, to see a squabble between a woman and one of the gypsy men who were doing the gambling games in the alleys. I moved with the throngs past the stores, gambling, food and general craziness and made my way up towards Sacre Ceour.
At this point I would like to thank all the people who briefed me about Paris and what to watch out for. I had a great technique in place for moving about Paris unhassled and it has worked perfectly. It certainly was useful at Montmartre.
I have good and bad to say about Sacre Ceour, and more really how it is. Let’s start with the good. Oh what a church. Boy it is a stunning building, full of lovely atmosphere. It’s very similar to Notre Dame in the mix of sightseers with little regard for sanctity and the devoted having deep religious experiences. I actually think it is a better church to be inside than Notre Dame. It felt more personal. The dome is beautiful.
After being inside I went up the Dome. This was an amazing experience, because hardly anyone goes up the 300 steps and so for the first time in Montmartre and Sacre Ceour I was not surrounded by people. I found myself picking my way across steps on the open roof of the church and then up into the dome. Boy what a view! Stunning and every bit as moving as inside. The views over Paris were amazing. After that I went down into the Crypt. Again, hardly anyone was there. There is basically another whole church underneath with numerous chapels and alters. Again, a moving testament to religion and how people are affected by it.
Now the bad, it’s not Sacre Ceour itself, but they way people treat it. There are many steps up to Scare Ceour and all along the way people are trying to plait bracelets onto your arm. I used my patented, frown, hands in the pockets, French sounding “Non” to great effect. Then there is the bad souvenirs, topped by the guy playing very loud covers of Tracey Chapman and the like on the steps while the masses sit around the listen. This to me removes some of the sacred nature of the place. Yes it’s all very Montmartre, but I think it’s a bit distasteful in this place. A whole industry as risen around the masses going to see the church and it kind of detracts from the journey up to the church. I am conscious that I am sounding like an old fuddy duddy and I am not even religious, so I am going to move on.
After I left Montmartre I made my way by Metro to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. This place is famous for being the resting place of many great figures like Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. But actually, it’s just a bloody stunning cemetery full of amazing tombs and crypts. It’s also huge. I loved wandering around in this history, these amazing tombs and crypts. Of course I visited Jim Morrison (quite a small and unassuming grave) and Oscar Wilde’s (anything but small and unassuming grave). WIlde’s grave had been so graffitied by people that it had to be restored and is now protected by glass. There are still some actually quite lovely kiss marks on it from some adoring fans)
So, as my time comes to an end in Paris, I am feeling satisfied, in awe and quite fond of the place. I will definitely come back as I need to give this place more time. As a non French speaking person I have in the end found the place ok. Most French I encountered when you said ‘Anglaise’ will happily work with you in some form of English. In fact, most of them are just a bit worried about the fact that they won’t know the words. It’s hard speaking in someone else’s language, I think they have a right to want you to speak at least a little of there’s. I have had enough to get by and at least get going. The ability to say hello, please, thank you and goodbye gets you a long way.
And with that Au revior …
After two full days in Paris, I thought I would jot down some thoughts. The problem is really, where to begin…
I will admit, that when I arrived into Paris on the Thalys from Brussels, I hit a bit of culture shock. I had emerged from the train having left a culture that spoke pretty good English on the whole and well Brugge was a smallish place. Paris, is anything but small and certainly not an English speaking city.
I wandered around the station a bit for a while just trying to work out what the hell to do. Finally, I found an information booth, resolved I needed a taxi, and decided to sit down, have some food and catch my breath.
Now if I needed some reinforcement that I was in Paris, this was a great reminder. I sat down and waited, and waited, and waited… Wait staff passing by not paying me any notice. Finally I reached across to another table and grabbed a menu from it and decided what I wanted to eat and drink. I waited… and waited…. excusez-moi I said loudly and one of the staff immediately acknowledged my presence. I indicated I would have the Cheese Burger (the place outside indicated they did good burgers) and was immediately told they were not doing burgers before the waiter gestured at another part of the menu and walked off. I was flummoxed, I will admit. I pulled myself together and decided on the Croque Monsieur and and Orangina. I of course waited and he never came back, I ended up calling out excusez-moi and getting my food. It was actually nice and well a good reminder that I was in Paris. “You gotta be bold boy”
The culture shock did not stop for me there either. The line for the taxi was enormous, it was raining, but the line was covered, the taxi driver spoke basically no English and the traffic was horrid. However, I had some good moments. Like when he talked to me in French about how the person he had just been talking to out the window was his brother-in-law and I actually understood him. They had pulled up beside each other at the lights. Coincidence I said, “Oui, coincidence” he replied.
The story gets better however, he drops me off and I realise the B and B I am staying in is in an apartment block, with 3 towers. But which one do I go into and how? I rummaged through my papers and found the sheet from the booking. Tower 1, Gonse. I found that name pushed the bell, something inaudible came through the intercom and I heard the door unlock. I knew I was headed for the 4th floor, so I hoped into the strangest old lift ever and up I went. An old lady greeted me at the door and indicated immediately that she spoke no English. Hmmmm…. However, we got by, she showed me the place, indicated this and that and proceeded to give me some instructions on how to get to this and that. All done in French at a million miles an hour mind you. I did however get the gist and well save to say I have been functioning in Paris ever since. In truth after my initial internal panic, I am loving living with an old French couple for 5 days. I have had the best view into life in an apartment in Paris.
With all that said and done, I am here. What about Paris? What about Paris indeed. What a city. It’s big and its busy. It’s steeped in its’ history and its’ history is all around you. You cannot help but be wowed by the history in those palaces and grand buildings which are just everywhere. I have never been to or seen a place quite like this. A drive through central Paris (and why anyone would by choice drive through central Paris is beyond me) leaves you with your mouth open. So much opulence, so much gold, so big, so much history.
I also get the feeling that while the average Parisian is rather blasé about the history around them, Paris itself does not take this stuff for granted. It’s history is part of the blood that flows through the veins of Paris and I suspect keeps it alive. Remove the history from Paris and you would be left with a large, dirty and a bit unfriendly town. However, instead you have a magnificent testimony to imperial France and the many centuries of opulence and struggle it has experienced.
The Eiffel Tower deserves a paragraph to itself. This really is a stunning thing. By day, the size and intricacy of the metal work are beautiful and astounding. By night, it shines beautifully like a beacon. A symbol of Paris and of France, over what they do so rightly call, the city of lights. I did fall in love when I saw it lit up at night. Part of that is it is so famous and a symbol, but it also is just so beautiful. I’m in Paris was all I could think.
So, while I definitely had some culture shock on arrival, I can confidently say I am loving Paris. It’s a lovely city with little surprises around every corner. On my way to Shakespeare and Company (the quaint long lasting English language bookstore at Paris’s heart) I stumbled upon a medieval church which just left me humbled. Grand, but not like Notre Dame, ancient, with so much devotion and peace within its’ walls. I could have passed it by, but instead I walked in and was immediately touched by it.
The Louvre is enormous. Truly enormous and really too much to take in in one go. I spent around 4 hours there and had gallery burnout. I saw the “big” stuff like the Venus de Milo, the Raft of the Medusa and of course the Mona Lisa. What strikes me as such a shame about the Mona Lisa, is that it is a famous piece and so protected that I think its magic is lost. You cannot get close enough to it to really understand its significance, the atmosphere is not conducive to it anyway. Also, do people ever understand why it is so important. I would suspect not.
The Metro is fun and I don’t find it confusing. The carriages on the #6 line to The Arc de Triomphe are quaint and feel like they have been the same since the 70′s. Maybe they have. I always admire a city with a good mass transport system and Paris has it. But you need people for that and population density. Hint, hint Auckland.
Lastly for now, I have been having such fun in restaurants in the evening. Just going on, ordering some food, and watching Parisians. Last night I found myself sitting beside two French women who were having a conversation about boyfriend troubles. I was listening in, fighting the urge to give advice, when I realised I could understand them. I could understand them because they were speaking in English with beautiful French accents. The accents had made me miss the fact that they were not speaking French. Gotta love the French.
I could go on, but really I will just be saying the same thing in different ways. Two days in and with two days to go, Paris is an amazing, interesting and captivating city which is steeped in its history and that is what makes it such an amazing place to visit.