Category Archives: music

Morris Dancers

I was walking down the sidewalk in Brighton when I heard the jingle of bells. Yes, like jingle bells. But it’s May in England, so it wasn’t Santa. No, no, no. As I walked along the sound grew louder. I turned a corner and there they were — Morris dancers. In full regalia, congregated in front of a old Sussex pub, drinking beer, tuning their fiddles, and jingling.

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They were from Guernsey, and they knew their stuff. Beers down, they picked up their fiddles, accordions, guitars, drums and tambourines, and, jingle bells tied to their knees, they twirled and line-danced, flicked white hankerchiefs and bashed sticks in a centuries’ old English folk dance ritual hailing spring.

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The crowd grew, drawn by the music, and the shouts and growls of the forest monsters.

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Just a typical spring day in Merrie Olde Englande.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_dance

 

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The Tango Lesson

I’ve dusted off my tango shoes for some private tango lessons.

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I have the most marvellous teacher in Alan. Lucky me.

Did you know that in 2009 the Argentine tango was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List? It’s not just a dance… it’s culture!

Here are some of my favourite tango clips…

Valentino…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=b_sG5vRKcB0

…two brothers (the gauchos used to practice tango with each other in the Argentine bordellos while waiting for the ladies)…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eomGV4buJzM

…Gotan Project…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kEnrsVzJDTk

Sally Potter and Pablo Veron in The Tango Lesson…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEVEWuCzJ6g

…Roxanne from Moulin Rouge.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxsfB-bQozg

Alan runs the popular La Mariposa tango club in Balham, South London and he and his partner Ros offer both group lessons in Balham on Sundays or private lessons in Battersea. If you’re in London and are looking for some great teachers, give Alan a ring on 0207 652 3633 or 0782 595 2378.

http://lamariposa-tango.co.uk/

Opera in the Square

My friend Tangogirl invited me to the free opera in Trafalgar Square the other evening. “I’ll bring a picnic and wine — you bring dessert!” she said. “It’ll be fun!” Well, she had me at “wine”.

It was another glorious day in London. I spent the afternoon in the bookshop of the The Building Centre in Fitzrovia , www.buildingcentre.co.uk . They have an amazing 3D model of London on display in the lobby there, which I always find endlessly fascinating.

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I thumbed through books and magazines for inspiration for a client’s job, and finally bought a few which I took outside with me and flipped through while I drank a latte and watched the world go by.

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Time was rolling on, and I walked through Soho to Trafalgar Square, where the buskers were out…

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…and the air was filled with the strums of Spanish guitar.

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(He was very good and I bought his CD). Then I edged my way through the crowd to my rendez-vous with Tangogirl at the Landseer Lions at the base of Nelson’s column.

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We found each other and headed into the square where we settled on a step with our inflatable cushions and picnic blanket and spread out our supper of Italian delicacies.

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Coincidentally I’d bought delicious ricotta-cream filled canolos (canoli?) for dessert, and our wine was Pinot Grigio, and we were about to watch Puccini, so it was an Italian evening all around.

Trafalgar Square filled up, and, at 7:30 the Opera began — La Rondine with the marvellous Angela Gheorghiou broadcast live on screens all around Britain.

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A park, a picnic and Puccini — summer is made of this. http://www.roh.org.uk/about/bp-big-screens

Ambling in Lewes

The thunk of tennis balls on tellys, the smell of fresh strawberries in punnets on farmer’s stalls, the puffs of cottony clouds in the pale blue sky…. summer has finally arrived in England. And one of the best places to be in an English June, when the weather behaves, is Sussex (East or West — I won’t discriminate), with its rolling green hills, sheep-dotted meadows, and equestrians clopping along the sides of the country lanes.

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I headed into the town of Lewes yesterday, with no goal other than to mooch about, poke around flea markets and food markets, have a coffee, and soak up the summery atmosphere. On a sunny Saturday in June, Lewes is the perfect place to do all these things.

Market traders were setting up their produce in the main square when I arrived…

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… and the cherry seller offered me a few of his sweet cherries to taste…

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…the bread still exuded a warm yeasty scent…

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…and those newly-picked English strawberries drew the city folks like bees around honey.

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Flowers were everywhere…

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…and I wished I had a garden to plant (maybe next year).

I mooched and wandered…

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…dipping into the antiques shops…

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…stopping to listen to a street busker…

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…admiring the Victorian architecture…

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…and a cat who would be king…

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…who understood what a lazy summer day was all about.

An Afternoon in Covent Garden

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I was in London and found myself with a free afternoon yesterday, so I headed over to Covent Garden, www.coventgarden.com , to have a wander. It’s a place that’s always full of energy, people, and fun things to eat, do and see.

I always glance up at the twisty covered bridge between the Royal Opera House, www.roh.org.uk , and its rehearsal rooms across the road, one of my favourite pieces of modern architecture in London…

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…and as I walked down towards the market, I stopped to ogle the entertainers.

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I heard the clip clop of hooves on the cobblestones and glimpsed the police trotting by on their horses…

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…and I followed them past the merchant stalls where the crowds were queuing up for everything from fresh English strawberries…

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…to candy…

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…to artisan soaps and candles…

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…or tea served in proper china cups (with a side of fudge).

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I passed the hawkers at the Jublilee Market selling touristy souvenirs…

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…past a row of bicycles which caught my eye…

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…and headed into the elegant neo-classical, glass-roofed market (built in 1828-30, with the glass roof added in 1872) which replaced the higgledy-piggledy fruit and veg stalls of the earlier market (which had been on the same site since the 17th century).

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It was as hustling and bustling as I remember, and I stopped for some gelati… decisions, decisions…

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…I settled on chocolate and pistachio…

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…and did some window-shopping.

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I leaned on the railings overlooking the courtyard in front of the old Punch and Judy Pub (the first pub I’d ever gone to in London, back in 1985)…

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…then I headed out to the piazza in front of St. Paul’s, known as the Actor’s Church, www.actorschurch.org , (built in 1663), and famous as the church in front of which Cockney flower-seller Eliza Doolittle met Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady…

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…where another street performer was plying his trade.

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I stopped in a café for a latte and a pain au chocolat…

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…then headed back to Tootsie’s on the Underground, coming full circle.

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