22
Jul

She’s Arrived!

By: muttler
Kate's in London!

Kate’s in London!

Hi all!

Apologies for the lack of updates. I am being told off by a few people now that they are expecting more stories here on the blog and I am not delivering. So I best fix that!

Part of the reason is that my main activity here is just work, so I didn’t think I would bore you with the details there. But in the last week and a half there has been a bit to report. So let’s start the first of a handful of new posts…

Weekend before last I was back off down to London. No major activity planned, but rather to head out to Heathrow bright and early on the Sunday morning to pick up my lovely lassy from the airport. Woo! But rather than head down super early on the Sunday morning (a 6am arrival), I decided to wander down the day before and catch up with a London based Aussie friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a while. So back on the train it was to central London. Sadly, our plans fell through at the last minute, so I was left to my own devices for the day.

watch out! space invader overhead!

watch out! space invader overhead!

I didn’t have anything particular in mind, so I just decided to wander, visit some record and comic stores, and just soak up the hot, steamy, London. In my wandering I was happy to come across an Invader perched high on a wall. I was hopeful that I would come across more in the area, but alas no.

A few hours of wandering and I was tiring out from the humid weather. As luck would have it, I passed a cinema that had a screening of the new Richard Linklater film “Boyhood” in only 10 minutes time. Score! So rather than keep wandering, I decided it was time for a relax and movie. I was super keen to see it, and knew I would probably miss it back home, so was pumped (I won’t go into my review here, feel free to check me out on letterboxd if you want some thoughts).

3 hours later it was back into the glorious balmy London early evening. Since I was staying out at Heathrow for the evening due to Kate’s super early arrival, I decided to head out in time to watch the World Cup 3rd place game. I arrived easy enough, with plenty of time to settle into the bar for some World Cup. An average game later and it was bed time.

BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ! Holy moly, it’s 5am. So a quick check out and I was in Terminal 3 arrivals, anxiously waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Sadly, the plane was delayed almost an hour and a half. Boo. But in the end a surprisingly sprightly Kate popped out into the arrivals hall and all was good in the world.

So did we head back to Warwick for Kate to settle down and get some rest? Of course not! A day of wandering London was in order! The plan was to keep her awake as long as possible to get into the local time zone. So after dropping off some bags, we decided to grab some brunch and wander one of my favourite places, the National Gallery. I still get a buzz seeing the Botticelli’s and Van Gogh’s.

With that it was some more wandering, slowly making our way back to Euston station. We had some time to a quick pop into the British Museum (another favourite) but the crazy crowds meant it was fleeting. With that, it was on a train back to Coventry, and with it, finally some rest for Kate.

08
Jul

Stop Me Before I Paint Again

By: muttler
banksy is more than just amazing stencil work

banksy is more than just amazing stencil work

I woke on Friday morning still abuzz from the gig the previous night. Somehow I managed to get a deep nights sleep in my Hammersmith hostel, amazing given my adrenaline levels and being in a noisy hostel.

The main plan for the day was not to head back straight to Warwick though. One of my new work colleagues had a meeting in London, so Jane, my main research partner here, decided to come down to London and join us, so that we could have a more casual day getting to know each other and talk research. So at midday I was to meet up with Jane and Sara. But in the meantime the morning was mine.

Given I have spent so much time in London, I decided to do something I had not done in quite a while, that was to check out some of the still remaining Banksy gems around the city. Sadly, not that many are in great shape. Many have been destroyed, vandalised, painted over, removed, etc, so finding many is actually more difficult than it might seem in London. So when researching online, I came across a great blog post by a dude called Mitch who had details about how to get to and find 4 of the main ones still up. You can read his great guide here, so I won’t go into all the detail of how to find them: http://mitchfournier.com/2013/03/09/in-london-see-some-banksy-for-7-20/

graffiti painter

graffiti painter

So thanks to Mitch, I headed out exploring. First up from Hammersmith was to visit Portobello Road. No Mary Poppins, but the markets were being set up and I saw my first Banksy in a few years, and one of the classics “Graffiti Painter”.

and to think he did this without anyone seeing

and to think he did this without anyone seeing

This one is quintessential Banksy… so funny yet so well created. Unfortunately this is hard to get a great snap of as it is just behind market stalls, and I guess everyone takes it for granted these days as things just get left in front of the work, hiding it from public display. But I was able to manage some pics. The detail for covert spray painting and stencil work is always under appreciated in Banksy’s work, and in this one, the artist is some of his best work.

a hoodlum and some hoodlum work

a hoodlum and some hoodlum work

So off it was to chase more Banksy! Next stop was Great Portland Street to see another classic. Not as classic for the stencil work, but for the appearance of a trademark rat and witty slogan. Again, this was just there for all the locals to casually wander by, except for people like myself to visit. A French trio were also looking out for some Banksy work and we crossed paths here, enabling a cool snap.

classic rat

classic banksy rat

This is also a great one to see as it contains the classic elements and is well preserved and is easy to get some snaps of. Easy to get to as well, so pop it on your list of Banksy targets!

watch out!

watch out!

Coffee in hand, it was off to number 3. Rather than tube it, I legged it down to Regent St to check out a Banksy in a slightly less obvious location. Although much closer to busy thoroughfares, it is hard to spy as the “Falling Shopper” is not at eye level, rather up high, adding to the drama of the piece (as well as a “how the heck did he do it?!”).

i even love the shadows under the falling shopper

i even love the shadows under the falling shopper

Although not as classic as the others, this is still a great one to see and super easy if you are shopping along Regent St.

fancy banksy

fancy banksy

As luck would have it there was even a Banksy exhibition happening in London, and just near the Falling Shopper. Believe it or not, it was being held at… Sothebys. Yep. I guess not unexpected, given Banksy pieces, both prints and street works, command such huge prices, of course Sothebys would house it. This was  an exhibition collected of works from Steve Lazarides, Banksy’s former agent.

Over time, he has obviously amassed a huge Banksy collection of prints, one off canvases, and gallery pieces, and they were all on show. No auction, but apparently all up for sale. I decided not to waste their time and find out how much some of my favourites were. Below are a bunch of pics of some of my favourites, which was kind of odd to see all in a gallery setting. Regardless, still a thrill to see them.

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I hadn’t gotten my fill of Mr Banksy quite yet, and it was time to visit just one more. I legged it down to the nearby tube station, swinging by the National Gallery building. This is what I love about London. If I wanted to pop in and see a Botticelli, I could. Not today, but I would be back in to see one of my favourite paintings before I leave England no doubt.

a big blue rooster. of course.

a big blue rooster. of course.

I did like the big blue rooster though out the front. Now THIS is art.

So off it was to Tower Bridge, and down to my last Banksy stop. This last Banksy was the one I was most keen to see. Why? Well, I am lucky to have my own Banksy, and it is a limited print of this work…

random banksy in the neighbourhood

random banksy in the neighbourhood

“Choose Your Weapon” is a great work, well preserved in an area down from Tower Bridge. I was super excited to see this one because it adorns my study wall. Like Graffiti Painter, some of the stencil work on this is incredible, again hard to imagine that he would have had hours to do this without being caught.

choose your weapon

choose your weapon

The juxtaposition of Banksy’s stencil work and the Keith Haring dog is great, a fantastic comment on the hoodie/pitbull culture of some parts of the UK.

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While checking this out and snapping photos, an older guy decided to say hi and have a chat, asking me if I had travelled to see the piece and what I thought. I said I thought whoever owned the wall was a rich man. He played dumb for a little bit and then explained that it was his wall and that he owned the row of shops it was painted on. He explained how he had to put in the camera to stop the vandalism, but that it was regularly visited by all kind of people, including even the local school groups. He seemed like a nice chap and told him I was thankful of people like him that decide not to tear down the wall to sell.

hangin' with the hoodie

hangin’ with the hoodie

So I said goodbye to my last Banksy and made my way to catch up with Jane and Sara, down on Southbank.

We spent the afternoon talking research and wandering Southbank, and finding time to pop into the Matisse paper-cut exhibition at the Tate Modern which was quite cool. After some dinner, it was back on a train to head back toward Banbury with Jane, to spend the weekend with her and her family before moving into my own flat next week. But what a way to spend a casual day in London.

08
Jul

JACK FREAKIN’ WHITE

By: muttler
oh yeah, jack white

oh yeah, jack white

So. One of the awesome things about being so close to London is that there is a strong likelihood that some cool bands will be playing. But one of the most serendipitous things of this trip to Europe for work was that one Jack White III scheduled a show in London during my time at the Uni of Warwick!

Now, you all know my obsession with all things Jack White related. Ever since I saw a fledgling White Stripes in Melbourne back in 2000, I have been an avid disciple. So you can imagine my excitement. Sadly, the show, which was originally scheduled for a Saturday (ideal when staying an hour out of London), got moved to a Thursday night, so it had to be a quick trip to London rather than a weekend. But who cares? It’s Jack Freakin’ White!

a virgin trains sticker of advice

a virgin trains sticker of advice

So after work I jumped on a fast train to London. Good to see the Virgin humour is translated to their trains too. I made sure to keep my dreams in my pocket.

In no time I was in London and tubed my way to Hammersmith, my home for the evening. Dumped my bag in my hostel and it was straight to the Apollo. I was in the venue in no time and settled in for the evening. After a very earnest bunch of angry youngsters who were support, it was Jack White time!

Woah.

the man in action

the man in action

This was my 12th time seeing Mr White in his various incarnations, and outside of an epic 2 hour show from the White Stripes back in 2004 that will always have that special place in my heart, this was the finest I had ever seen him. This was a close to 2 hour set of songs from across his whole career, played with such rawness and passion from Jack and his band, that I was just blown away. I was a little worried going in, as sadly I find his latest album Lazaretto arguably his weakest album from his oeuvre, however he only played the songs I dig from that album and supplemented them with amazing song after amazing song, culminating with an epic Seven Nation Army.

So yeah. I don’t think I can really do it justice. Just when you think that gigs are just a little routine, you go to a show that surprises you and blows you away in all the right ways. Thanks Jack.

 

08
Jul

Rockin’ Leamington Spa Style

By: muttler
the man busting out "cars"!

the man busting out “cars”!

Hi all!

Apologies for the lack of updates in the last week. A combination of just being at work, but also a bit of moving around. I am now settled in my own flat at the Uni of Warwick, so I can catch up on some blog action.

Let’s go back to last Wednesday. As I probably mentioned, I was staying in a place called Leamington Spa, which is a small township not far from Uni of Warwick. It is a fairly small but really pleasant town, so it was to my surprise I found out they had a 1000 person rock venue. And an even bigger surprise that Mr Gary Numan was playing! So of course I had to go.

It seemed every rocker, old and new, turned up for the gig. Older folk who knew him from back in the day, and younger folk who know him through his obvious influence on bands like Nine Inch Nails. Me, I was a bit of both, but thought that hearing “Cars” live by the man himself would be a bit of alright.

And was it? Yeah! It was pretty cool. He certainly still has it, prowling the stage and putting on a good show with his band, which did sound incredible. A focus on new material, which was very How To Destroy Angels sounding, did give way to his classics like Cars, Metal, and Are Friends Electric.

Super glad I went. For 20 quid, to see the man in directly responsible for many a band that I listen to was a real treat. Good one Leamington Spa!

02
Jul

Week One at Warwick

By: muttler
it's official! i'm a visiting academic

it’s official! i’m a visiting academic!

Hi all!

A quick update. Not that I have done too much worth blogging about, but just to say hello really.

As you will have read in my Bletchley Park update, I am now at the University of Warwick, and in the first few days here I have settled in really well. The busy time for everyone here is just winding up, so I have only had sporadic meetings, but I have got my nose stuck into some good research projects (as well as trying to finish a few things off) so am excited about the next month. Jane, my host here, in particular has been amazing at getting me settled in.

Anyway, just a few random pics and minor stories for you:

 

1. Lady Godiva

watch out for peeping tom!

watch out for peeping tom!

The University of Warwick is just near Coventry, home of Lady Godiva. There is a statue in her honour (which I have written about already) but I forgot to show what happens on the hour in the city centre. Yep, Lady Godiva rides out of the clock with Peeping Tom watching. Of course she does.

 

2. Kenilworth Castle

castles castles everywhere

castles castles everywhere

You can’t go a mile without bumping into a castle around these parts, but Kenilworth Castle is quite cool as it is still in its state after years of wear, tear, and wars. Haven’t been in yet but had a nice stroll around.

 

3. Dandelion and Burdock

mmm... burdock

mmm… burdock

Of course I had to try it! Quite tasty actually. On the way to a root beer type drink, but not quite. Would happily drink again.

 

That’s it! There is a chance I may end up seeing Gary Numan tonight as he is playing near my lodgings which could be quite cool. And then tomorrow it is off to London Town to see the man himself, Jack White. Woot! More updates later.

28
Jun

Careless Talk May Give Away Vital Secrets

By: muttler
i guess this blog is breaking the rule already

i guess this blog is breaking the rule already

Hello from ye olde England!

I arrived yesterday from Sweden, where I flew into Birmingham and straight away made my way to the University of Warwick, near Coventry. I was met by Michael, my work colleague from Oz, and Jane, my host here at Uni of Warwick, who then whisked me away to the university campus. Straight away I was met with lovely hospitality, boding well for my next 5 weeks working here.

After some dinner together, I retired to my temporary lodgings here in the small town of Leamington Spa, where I am for the next week until me flat at the uni becomes free. But enough of the work talk! What have I been doing?

Well, today was a grey Saturday, and it was the last chance Michael and I had to catch up before he heads back to Oz and I start my research trip in earnest. But rather than talk shop in a hotel or at the campus, we decided to do it on the train… to Bletchley Park!

bletchley park!

bletchley park!

Bletchley Park is only an hour from Coventry, so it was a good excuse to visit, since I had not had the chance. Bletchley Park, for the unaware, is the home of the codebreaking effort of WW2, as well as the spiritual home for all IT people. Why? It is really the birthplace of modern computing, with Colossus, the world’s first programmable digital computer being developed here to help in the codebreaking efforts. So super exciting!

i have trouble enough understanding how it works let alone cracking the codes

i have trouble enough understanding how it works let alone cracking the codes

We arrived to Bletchley Park and were greeted by the fairly new main visitors centre, which I believe is in the once decrepit, now gloriously restored, Block C. Immediately we set eyes on one of the famous Enigma machines. Holy cow it was exciting to see one in the flesh (or metal as it were).

part of the brain of colossus!

part of the brain of colossus!

 

english code making

english code making machines

And from there our exploration began in earnest. We made out way through the opening exhibit, seeing all kinds of other historical gems, such as Typex machines and pieces from Colossus itself.

the great man

the great man

Block B housed a large historical exhibit, covering most of the detail of what happened and how it all happened. Especially prominent in this section was the great man Alan Turing, considered the father of modern computer science and artificial intelligence. The exhibit was a great dedication to the man, including a very cool slate statue, and the formal apology from the British Government for his disgraceful treatment after the war.

the first rule of bletchley park is... you don't talk about bletchley park

the first rule of bletchley park is… you don’t talk about bletchley park

Dotted around the whole site were many posters from the era. My favourites were the ones warning personnel not to talk about anything. Who knows who you may be talking to!

the heart of bletchley park

the heart of bletchley park

From there it was to the famous mansion at the heart of the site. It is incredible to think that, aside from one close (but apparently accidental) bombing incident, the whole site went unnoticed to the enemy.

doing my part for the war effort

doing my part for the war effort

The rest of the site comprised on very cool displays and recreations inside the many blocks and huts around the site. I gather that a lot of work has been done in the past few years to restore the huts, and it was certainly worth it to be able to wander inside them and get a feeling for exactly how they would have been back in WW2.

much more productive than my desk

much more productive than my desk

Hut 8 included Turing’s work desk. Amazing to think on that desk he cracked many of the communication mysteries of WW2. A bit more than happens at my own work desk 🙂

In the blink of an eye 5 hours had passed. It really is an amazing site and it is great to see they are continuing to restore as much of the original buildings as possible.

the joke will never get old

the joke will never get old

So with that we decided to head back to Coventry. I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of another classic English tabloid headline. The Suarez jokes are running thick and fast (and still hilarious)!

coventry cathedral

coventry cathedral

Rather than head straight back to my digs at Leamington Spa, Michael gave me the quick 10 cent tour of downtown Coventry. The most impressive feature is the old Cathedral. What makes it different to others?

not much inside huh?

not much inside huh?

While it survived WW2, all that survived were the spire and shell… everything inside was destroyed. Quite incredible that it could stay standing, but apparently the iron work was that good. Super amazing to be in the middle of it.

i elected not to have my own lady godiva moment

i elected not to have my own lady godiva moment

I also got to see the statue dedicated to Lady Godiva, who famously rode through the town naked in the 11th century to oppose the immense taxes her husband was placing on the towns folk. She presides over the main town square, as well as pops out of the Broadgate Clock (while Peeping Tom leers on). Suitably kitschy.

world cup pint

world cup pint

We were done in time to arrive at a pub about 15 minutes in to the first Round of 16 match in the World Cup. What good timing! And to continue my rubbing it in to my friends, I then proceeded to watch the thrilling Brazil v Chile game in a pub, while having a good meal and pints. Sadly Chile went down in penalties, but I wasn’t complaining (being full of cider).

With that, it was back on the train to Leamington Spa to watch some more World Cup in the comfort of my hotel. I even got to watch some Jack White from Glastonbury! Muttler for the win.