We didn't really know exactly what we were going to do until a day or two before - sorry to everyone we saw on the pub crawl that got interested at the prospect of us holding a wee party. In the end we had a lovely but pricey afternoon tea at Charlotte Street Hotel with a couple of friends of G's, followed by heading down to Brighton, for a possibly-last-time-together gathering for her very international collection of PhD friends.
There had been loose talk of a talent show on the emails that went around - we sort of brushed it off. Then we got there, and G, while wandering upstairs, noticed people putting pieces of paper with names on into a pint glass. She came back down and informed me that Shit had got Real, and we needed to think of something. There was a dauntingly high level of involvement (and sometimes talent!), starting with the couple who brought matching pyjama bottoms and did what we understand to be Just Dance moves, from the Wii Fit game of the same name.
In the end we presented with me sitting on a chair and G explaining that we had seen these fine creatures roaming the streets of Brighton, admired their bouffant manes and glossy coats, but we must address the question: are they really intelligent? Cue people holding up numbers and me stamping on the floor the correct number of times. Unexpectedly realistic too: after the last question ("How many purple sweets am I holding") floundered slightly on poor light and ambiguous colouration, I had to stop and look for signs of approval after each clop - just like a real counting horse!
And then my birthday, which featured cake and present and general loveliness from G followed by going to the pub for a few hours. A birthday on the 2nd of January is always difficult to get people engaged for, but there was a nice time had all in all. Jo miss_newham and Rob friedslice were waiting for us, with a gift of Highgate Station's Finest - a booklet with details of London Folklore and Legends. Later followed by dawnage and orangerick, who brought an actual tiny babby! The infant seemed to deal with the pub better than the pub dealt with it, as an apologetic barstaff came over to say that they were very sorry but the kid would have to hoof it, though it could stay until the parents had finished the drink. This wasn't very firmly enforced, drinks were definitely nursed, and anyway as Dawn said "jokes on them, we never make it out for two drinks these days anyway". Also present was ozgirlabroad, shewho and shewho's new chap, who is thoroughly excellent, and seemed to meet the approval of everyone present, babe-in-arms included.
A little after that I went up to Bounds Green, for a Kebab. dubdobdee had previously linked to an amazing map of London, or to be accurate a perfectly ordinary map of London with two sets of data overlaid on it. One is a collections of dots from the geotagging information in Flickr photos - blue if they're local (lots of photos of the same city), red if they're a tourist (lots of photos of different cities), yellow if it's indeterminate. If you've take a few photos in a row in the same vicinity you get a line, and taken together you get something like the satellite maps of a city at night - but only of the bits that people found interesting enough to take a photo of. And on top of this is a layer of people annotating the Flickr photo, figuring out what the big groups are, which stadium or park or museum is over there? And then right up the top, where there isn't really a mystery to be solved, someone has written "Vrisaki, Myddleton Road, Bounds Green - THE best authentic lamb doners bar none!". And so up there I cycled to find out what impelled someone to make this bold claim in the public eye.
(unfortunately the doners were considerably less interesting than the means of advertising - I shall in future stick to Harran opposite Harringay Green Lanes station)
A few days after that, I finally made it to see the Unrecorded, which is a band featuring Smiley Nick, someone that I meet every time our mutual friend jinxremoving blows through town, and who delighted me by coming along to my housewarming last year despite knowing pretty much no-one there. I've been meaning to see his band for ages, since first meeting him nearly (erk) four years ago, and this time it looked to be really happening. During the day I'd heard from my friend Ian from Dublin, who is technically inuitmonster, but only technically. I met him for a pint and a chat, and then mentioned that I was heading home and then out again to a gig. An excellent feature of Ian, which I had not previously fully appreciated, is that he will not necessarily be turned off by the fact that neither he nor the only other person going to a gig have any idea what the music will be like, so he arranged to meet me there later.
It was in the Old Queen's Head in Islington, which rang a vague bell, and when I turned up I remembered being there for a folk night by my lonesome many years ago. And it was folk when I arrived, a band behind someone called Kat Flint, who was the reason for the gig - a friend of Nick's from when he was in Edinburgh many years ago, now Steve Lamacq favourite. The room was not in fairness short of hipsters, but they were in general quite quiet, apart inevitably for the table of cockweasels to my immediate right. Anyway, it was lovely to see Nick, he was sitting with the guitarist from his band, who was also the brother of one of Kat's London band, and I think the boyfriend of another. Such is the way of things, in indie London. Anyway, I'd not really thought through the timing - after Kit had finished Nick and his band members were mostly busy chatting to her and the band, and then getting them selves ready. Fortunately Ian had arrived by that stage, and we were able to chat and peoplewatch for a bit.
And it turns out that the band are actually great - they mostly look Standard, with Nick on bass and two others on guitar and percussion, but the lead singer stands behind a collection of equipment and samples and loops the others and her voice. This sort of thing can easily go wrong or experimental, but it was extremely well done, very atmospheric, and the lead singer has quite the voice for it - she appears to be a combination of Beth Gibbons and Geoff Darrow. Though I almost certainly don't like Portishead as much as you, so that is only praise, not extravagant praise.
Afterwards we hung about like groupies while Nick (understandably) talked to people from the scene, which did (understandably) appear to be nearly everyone else there. We eventually decided to cut our losses and head off, and said goodbye to him - which turned into a 10-minute chat, during which he nearly paid attention to us to the detriment of the man who owned the pub and was trying to pay him. Nick explained later that the getting paid was something of a novel situation for him, so he wasn't entirely clear that was what was happening.
But yes, The Unrecorded = a good band, and I shall be importuning some of you to come out to see them.
And then we went to the Legitimate Theatre! We occasionally go "Hey, we live in London amongst other places, shouldn't we take advantage of that?" and towards the end of last year there were pieces in the papers about how Jerusalem had been very well reviewed and then had left (I remember, I thought "Oh that's very well reviewed", and then it left) and had then been over to New York and been very well reviewed, and now it was back, and it turns out that it's still good. So I suggested it to G, and we got some tickets (for three months in advance!) and turned on on the day with not a very great idea of what it was actually about.
And it's about a lot of things - a wild old man in a caravan and how he fits and doesn't fit into society, the march of progress vs the cycles of the yearly fete and the young turning old, the children of the Crminal Justice Bill, what you can and can't disguise and escape by being immensely charming and convivial, the hilarious lie that is England as a law-and-order country.
It's also really funny, which I was not in fact expecting - Mark Rylance is generally the center of attention, and some of his bluster is read as comic and some tragic, but the rest of the cast also shine - Mackenzie Crook (basically playing the gent off the front cover of Songs for the Jilted Generation) in particular has great comic timing. And thinking about it, the extended nature of the first proper scene may well be the first and only farce I have ever enjoyed. In service of this is the fact that Jez Butterworth clearly understands that swearing is Big and Clever.
Also it has a rave on stage. Infact the staging is very good throughout, partly benefitting from only having one set - when one of the characters throws a pitchfork into the ground and it sticks there, that's because there's a layer of turf on the ground.
Most of all I came away from it with the thing you get from great art - a long list of people who I wanted to drag to it - ultraruby and bluedevi and shewho's new chap, anyone with memories and views and experiences of the past and the future and progress in the country and law and order