Saturday, 23 May 2009

Heston Blumenthal @ The Hay Festival

Just returned from my first ever visit to the Hay literary festival, which is a bit shocking as it's only an hour and a half's drive away. Didn't really get lost on the way. Well, we sort of stopped following our directions and the 'Hay Festival This Way' signs vanished for a few miles but we had a rough idea where we were going so no, didn't get lost.

The site itself was a little smaller than I thought it'd be, and there's not much to do on site beyond going to the talks. It's only a short walk to the town itself though so you can have a little explore. I have no idea what quirk led to Hay-on-Wye having so many bookshops but there we go.

Anyway, we had tickets to see Heston Blumenthal being interviewed by the ginormous nose of Jay Rayner. It was interesting. Hadn't realised quite how self taught a chef he was. Prior to opening the Fat Duck he'd only had 3 weeks of experience in professional kitchens. I knew all the stuff about translating French cookbooks despite not being able to speak the language - just going word for word with a French-English dictionary, what a loon! That tenacity and obsessive streak showed in a lot of his little anecdotes actually.

I really want to go to the Fat Duck now. Especially having heard him discussing the new flammable sorbet dish he's working on (and working with a conjurer so that the waiting staff can simultaneously ignite everyone's sorbet at the click of a finger). Taster menu is about a hundred quid per-head. Cheapest GLASS of wine is around £90. Best start saving now...

There was a Q&A session at the end, during which he dropped a pretty big hint that he was working on a range of appliances for domestic kitchens - mainly the water bath technique of vacuum sealing meat and slow-poaching them in low temperature water baths so that the meat is perfectly cooked.

Other things we did were... Eat a bacon sandwich, drink a cup of tea, buy some mugs, wander into town, have some curried potato thing, have a sheep's milk ice-cream, lounge around in the sun, read Jamie Oliver's ridiculous new lifestyle magazine (good recipes in it actually), drink a pint of official Hay festival ale. And then came home.

Going again next week to see David Simon, creator of The Wire. I hope he does an impression of McNulty.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Cats in Paris // Mae Shi // Abe Vigoda

Caught the second half of Cats in Paris having rushed over from the pictures, via a ‘gourmet’ burger - bought with a voucher from Martin The Money Saving Expert (love that man). It was pretty good. The burger and the band. Band was better than the burger.

4th time I’d seen Mae Shi now. How did that happen? Band on form as always. Wasn’t as much energy to the show as the other times. That’s a Cardiff indie-ish crowd though I suppose (me included). One of the geo-quirks of this city is that crowds can often be a bit static at gigs. I’m still a bit shattered post-ATP, and haven’t really slept well due to varying factors. So that’s my excuse. It was cool seeing the parachute in such a tiny room. And I liked the sit down bit as well. People got livelier after the crowd-participation. Guess we just like to be led? There’s probably a sheep joke in there somewhere.

Been looking forward to seeing Abe Vigoda for ages now. Got a little obsessed with their Skeleton album when I first heard it. They didn’t disappoint. They really are one of those bands that tick all the boxes of what I like music to do. Though I guess you could narrow that down to a MySpace tag of indie/alternative/punk. They were also very loud, and I was stupidly standing directly in front of the bass amp. Newer songs sounded cool, look forward to listening to the EP I bought now.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Pizza Slice – Pizza Hut (All You Can Eat Buffet)

As part of the ATP ‘experience’ we went for an all-you-can-eat buffet at the on site Pizza Hut. I’d not been in a Pizza Hut for a couple years, despite being given a voucher at Christmas, and I’d sort of forgotten how little I enjoy it. The cheese is really greasy and the base is so doughy. I know pizza isn’t exactly health food, but these are a step above your usual heart attacks. You just feel the whole thing ooze into your blood stream. It’s definitely the worst of the high street pizza chains.

I was feeling a bit woozy from drinking, a bit proteined from a fry-up I’d had earlier, and so I didn’t eat that much. ‘All I could eat’ didn’t equate that good value for money. I can’t even remember what toppings I got now. One slice of ham and mushroom. One slice of pepperoni. That’s all I can remember. The ham and mushroom was probably the best of the lot, but maybe that’s just because it was the first one I had? Who knows? I doubt I’ll go back to Pizza Hut until the next time I go to an ATP festival. Which will be in December.

I do quite like those little shakers of chilli flakes you get mind.

Monday, 11 May 2009

ATP: The Fans Strike Back

I’ve almost been back from ATP long enough to start forming coherent thoughts now. Here’s some things on bands I saw in a rough order of when I saw them.


Jeffrey Lewis – only caught a bit of this so no real opinion. He was wearing a Spillers tshirt.
HEALTH – good stuff. Some man complained that they’d been “too structured”. Pardon? 3 members of HEALTH were in the swimming pool the next day. They went “Whoa!” when they saw the slides.
Andrew WK – my lip spontaneously started bleeding. Motivational talks mixed with rock actions, and surreal moments including a man with a balloon on his head.
M83 – caught a bit of this and it was sounding really good but there were some clashes so I couldn’t watch the whole thing.
Devo – set of the weekend? Probably.
Antipop Consortium – I don’t listen to much hip-hop so I’ve not got much frame of reference for this. It was okay I suppose.
Jesu – This wasn’t really my kind of thing from what I remember.
Fuck Buttons – new stuff sounded good. I don’t think I watched the whole set.
Edan (DJ set) – I didn’t even notice this was happening at the time and I barely remembered even being there the next day.


Retribution Gospel Choir – I’ve not really heard much Low but this was good. Best heckle of the weekend was “throw a guitar at someone”. Luckily, he didn’t.
The Cave Singers – someone I was with said “this is good music to sit down to” and that was true.
The Acorn – had their moments. Worst stage banter of the weekend; “This place reminds me of Jaws … I guess it’s an average city in England huh?” - Silence
Harvey Milk – they were very loud. I liked it, but can’t ever imagine myself thinking “ooh I’d love to crack on that Harvey Milk album right now”
Beirut – Front loaded his set with all the hits which was annoying because I was getting a beer in a stupid place full of people taking up all the bar-time buying coffees.
Marnie Stern – I liked the fret-tappy songs more than the other ones. Bass Lady had inappropriate stage banter. What would her mother say if she knew?


Shearwater – Another good band for sitting down. I do mean that in a good way. Sometimes it’s nice to sit down.
Future Of The Left – weird seeing them on a massive stage during daylight hours. Felt like half of Cardiff was there watching them. Some man in a ludicrous hoodie got berated and Kelson threw sweets at people in a slightly menacing way. I bought a tshirt.
!!! – didn’t watch much of this. If it had been on a bit later I might have been into it more.
Parts And Labor – not quite as good as I remember them being on record (have only heard them a couple times) but I enjoyed it more as the set progressed.
Spiritualized – I sent my friend a text going “I’m watching that drugs band you like” and he replied going “which one? They’re all drugs bands”
The Mae Shi – The perfect band for that precise moment in my life. They Do This All The Time.
The Jesus Lizard – One of them classic bands that I’ve never really ‘got round to’ investigating. This will be remedied.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


So I've decided to start running. I'm basically quite thin but I've got a bit of a pot belly and this hit home the other day when I was having troubles finding a suit jacket that fitted my slim shoulders without being stretched across my gut. So yesterday I ventured into a sports shop and kitted myself out. I think I now know how my friend Shane feels when he goes into a delicatessen.

So anyway, off I ran. Wearing trainers that aren't Converse/Converse imitation (for the first time since The Strokes released This Is It), and tracky bottoms (for the first time since ummm... primary school).

Week 1 on my training schedule is 1-1-2-2-1-1 with 2 minutes of fast walking between each section of running. It doesn't sound like much but my fitness is basically at about 0%, so the 2 minute stretches were a bit of a push. Did it though, so that's something! I even sorted my route out so that the final 1 minute stretch was uphill! AND I was carrying extra weight because I had my work clothes stuffed into a rucksack. Go me.

My leg aches a little bit now. Knee feels fine though. That's what I was mainly worried about. Well, that and bumping into someone I know. Which also didn't happen. Another small victory.