Christmas Tableware

I continue to nearly drown in a tidal wave of incoming business. I am stressy and emotional. Only one thing soothes my shredded nerves, apart from Harry of course, and that is looking at Christmas Stuff that I do not need and have nowhere to keep.

Today the stuff that is attracting my attention is Christmas tableware, which looks like this. This is all very tasteful and I want some of it.

I am supposed to be decluttering so that Harry can move in, I do not have room for another complete dinner service. I am trying to think of ways to sneak it into the flat, which could be difficult because I’m never home at the moment, while he is there all the time.

Spode Christmas Tree

http://www.spode.co.uk/christmas-shop/christmas-entertaining/tableware/spode-christmas-tree.html

I really like those green bands, they are really 1930s. Spode, a British pottery, says the design dates from 1938.

Cup and saucer, £30 for a set of four.

spode xmas cup saucer

Dinner plates, side plates and dishes, £60 for a 12-piece set.

spode xmas plates 2

 

Portmeirion Holly & Ivy

http://www.portmeirion.co.uk/christmas-shop/christmas-entertaining/tableware/the-holly-and-the-ivy.html

Portmeirion is another British company, I have blogged about it before and use the Water Garden range for my everyday tableware. It is the first time that I’ve had a matching set and it gives me so much pleasure. The Holly & Ivy range is elegant and grown-up.

Cup and saucer, £19.50 per set of 1 cup, 1 saucer.

 

portmeirion holly tea cup

10″ dinner plate, £16.50 per plate.

portmeirion holly dinner plate

Villeroy & Boch

https://www.villeroy-boch.co.uk/shop/winter-bakery-delight-flat-plate.html

Villeroy & Boch is a German manufacturer of ceramics. I didn’t know about this lovely brand until recently, Harry told me about it, apparently his mother likes it. I can see why.

A delightful plate for Christmas baked goods, £19.90.

villeroy boch xmas bakery plate

I added up some prices and it came out as follows. Enough Portmeirion Holly and Ivy tableware for two people (2 each of cup & saucer, dinner plate, side plate, dish) comes to £133. Pros: You can buy the pieces individually and I only need enough china for two people, esp in light of the storage space issue. Cons: This is an expensive range. The Spode Christmas Tree range, which is also really nice comes to only £90 and a complete 20-piece set includes enough place settings for four people.

I will let you know what happens. Expect more Christmas-related posts over the coming weeks because the thought of eventually getting some holiday from work in December is all that’s keeping me sane right now. And of course I want nice tableware, of course I do.

My heart is pounding.

Business is the busiest it has been in five years. I keep forgetting to breathe and my heart feels like it is going to burst out of my chest.

There is no video gaming. Year of the Console is on hold.

I have been to the Netherlands again and have now returned.

I have two more countries to visit, immediately.

Harry is looking after me and my flat as best he can. He is cooking and taking care of household repairs.

I am making reasonably good money and that is the most important thing, out of anything.

I am desperate for Christmas to come so I can have some time off.

I have been at my desk since 4am. An influential client emailed me at 8am, singing my praises.

That’s all for now. I need to get back to work. There will be a lot of nice travel photos in due course. Thanks for your patience.

 

Happy 7th birthday, TLYW

We are seven! In fact it was the blog’s birthday a week ago but I’ve been so busy with work, I completely missed it.

Each New Year’s Eve, I do a review of the year on TLYW, but on the blog’s birthday I review the whole period since the blog started. A period which would not have been the same and perhaps could not even have happened without your readership and support! So thank you! Thanks very much indeed for reading along and sharing all my adventures.

By way of a little celebration, here are 7 of my favourite things since the blog started. I wish I had kept it my whole life. I wish blogs had been a thing when I was a child in the 18th century. Anyway. Here are 7 of my very favourite things, in no particular order.

Party in Trenton, New Jersey, 2016. What a TREAT! Thank you so much, Trentoners, for welcoming me while I was there on business from London.

South Africa, 2016. Beautiful. Had my 50th birthday here.

img_1588

Netherlands, 2017. What a lovely country! I would seriously consider living there and keep mentioning it to Harry. I had my 51st birthday here. You are still waiting for photos from this trip; there are plenty of them! Below, a performer on stilts at a fair in Den Bosch.

IMG_4836

Miami, Florida, 2012. The trip of a lifetime. I went to Disney and stayed in one of their most fancy on-site hotels for a week and then I went to Miami Beach, where I stayed in the breathtaking W Hotel. It was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in and Miami is one of my favourite places in the whole world, due to the impressive Art Deco architecture. What I wouldn’t give to be there right now.

Disney

Universal Studios

W Hotel

Miami Art Deco, with pink police car

corner windows2

Istanbul, Turkey, 2012. Such an amazing place. I took a sight seeing trip on the river.

DSC01099

DSC01117

New Delhi, India, 2012. Sculpture park, as seen below. I wasn’t in India for very long but it was really educational. I’m going back this year.

DSC01002

Egypt and Jordan, 2013. Gave me an enduring love for the Middle East. Become more peaceful, please, because I want to bring my tourist money to your countries.

DSC03201

DSC03392

Not forgetting: France (several times, Paris, Nice); Sweden; Greece; Germany; Switzerland; Belgium; Hungary; Canary Islands; more United States including visiting friends in Michigan, also San Antonio, Texas; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; Shanghai, Beijing, CHILE! And in the UK: visits to Yorkshire to see my good friend C (several times), seeing U-Roy play live at the One Love Reggae Festival (lifetime ambition fulfilled, check), seeing Marc Almond play live in London (check), seeing a whole bunch of operas, ballets and classical music concerts at the Royal Opera House and Royal Festival Hall, London.

It’s been amazing. I hope there’s more to come because these have been the best years of my life.

I must go, business has gone wild and there is no more time for blogging. I will visit 3 countries in the next 4 weeks so there will be a lot of travel photos when we finally get to the end of the year.

Love you! Happy birthday to all of us!

7 bday

Dead Island

Dead Island. Deep Silver (2011), Xbox 360. An open-world, survival, horror, first-person action role-playing video game. I am playing single player.

It’s October and it’s Month 10 of the incredibly exciting Year of Console Gaming. It is Sunday afternoon and I am supposed to be working right now but I am taking time to post, because the YOCG is that important.

Business has taken off in a huge way in recent weeks, a lot of travel is coming up and I will have to be very determined to carve out any game time during October. Despite this, October will reward my effort because the game of the month is Dead Island, which has in common with GTA: San Andreas that it was one of the first games I acquired for the Xbox and one that I liked enough to return to a couple of times, usually at Xmas, because I wanted to get properly into it. This time around, October is my chance.

As you will recall, we are following an historical trajectory throughout the Year of Console Gaming. January and February were pre-history. March was Ancient Greece. April was the Middle Ages, quickly followed by the Enlightenment in May. June edged into the 20th century. July inevitably brought WW1. August evacuated to New York for the duration of the 1940s. September rudely bounced into the early 1990s and now here we are with Dead Island, which is set in 2006.

Zombies are here, finally. Game development swerved drunkenly towards zombies in the 2000s and games started to be set in the present day but with a zombie apocalypse representing the threat. Dead Island, developed by Polish team Techlab and published by Dead Silver in Germany, is a classic example of the genre. Set only five years before the date of publication, the action of Dead Island takes place on the fictional island of Banoi, a lush, tropical resort. The island is in the region of Papua New Guinea, north of Australia. The player becomes one of four characters who wake up in a luxury hotel to find that there’s been an outbreak of flesh-eating zombies. Played from a first-person perspective, your character will run around the island, trying to escape, which will involve completing missions, collecting machine parts, etc. You will be constantly attacked by zombies and engage in melee combat such as hitting them with wrenches, baseball bats or whatever you have handy.

Last time I attempted to play this game was probably last Xmas or even the one before and I seem to remember that I loved it. Although it was initially a bit nerve-wracking and I didn’t like being in the dark corridors of the hotel, once I got outside in the sunshine, I soon got the hang of bludgeoning zombies with heavy objects, repaired my car and had a fantastic time driving around. Eventually I drove through the wall of someone’s house, into their living room, and got my car stuck there, with the result that I had to sit there while hungry zombies slavered at me through the window, but hopefully things will proceed better this time around.

Dead Island sold 5m copies. It received a IGN score of 8/10. Dead Island 2 has been eagerly awaited by fans but currently has no release date, following a change of development team. So if you wouldn’t mind quickly emailing or tweeting @SumoDigitalLtd to ask what they are doing with it, that would be great. Maybe they will take notice if we all message them.

Here’s a trailer so you can see what I’m in for this month.

And here’s the trailer for Dead Island 2. Hurry up. Thanks.

Year of the Console, September Review. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. September is suddenly over and so it is time to say goodbye to Month 9 of our specially extended 14-month year. The game of the month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004/15) on the Xbox 360.

The 2015 release of the remastered version of this game was the reason I bought the Xbox two years ago. I desperately wanted to play it and have returned to it more than any other game apart from World of Warcraft over the last two years.

September was a hectic business month and I hardly had any time for gaming; despite this, I made more progress with San Andreas than on previous occasions.

If you are completely new to console gaming, like I was two years ago, having spent 20 years with PC games and their mouse-and-keyboard controls, Grand Theft Auto is a terrible place to start. It is fast paced and you will spend two-thirds of your time behind the wheel of an uncontrollable car, mowing down pedestrians and driving into walls at 100mph as you attempt to escape the police. You will not make any in-game progress and everyone will laugh at you as you handle the car like a drunken child.

This time around, I returned to San Andreas with eight consecutive months of console-handling experience. It was like a different game. I found myself able to control the car, outrun the police, complete quests, etc. And so it came to pass that I finally had the experience I wanted from San Andreas, the experience I knew was awaiting me, where I cruised around the beautiful, West Coast city in a series of progressively more glamorous stolen cars while listening to the deep reggae and hard core rap on the 1990s radio stations and only occasionally slowing down to do a drive-by shooting.

I am pleased to report that we have screenshots and actual gameplay.

Here I am in character as gangster Carl Johnson, aka CJ. In this clip, CJ is at the gym. I mainly included this to demonstrate how camp this game is. OK, so I deliberately dressed CJ in tiny shorts for comic effect, but even so. The shorts were there in the in-game wardrobe in the first place. I have to assume that this is how Rockstar Games wants CJ to look.

In this second clip, CJ is on the back of his friend’s bike. His friend is driving and CJ is shooting at police, very amateurishly. It is sheer dumb luck that I managed to hit anything but nevertheless we successfully finished the quest. There are exciting sequences in this clip such as a huge articulated lorry driving off a bridge.

Screenshots

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Rockstar Games (2004/15), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world action-adventure game set in 1990s San Andreas, a fictional US state based on California and Nevada.  

Plot and setting: Gangster CJ drives a series of stolen cars around a city that’s essentially Los Angeles in 1992, shooting rival gang members, evading the police and wearing a series of camp outfits.

General remarks: I absolutely loved it, it was everything I hoped for. It is funny. It is exciting. The cars handle beautifully once you’ve learned how to drive. The map is large. The quests are meaningful and contribute to plot development without being constraining. The roads are wide. The scenery is attractive, especially out by the coast. The soundtrack is hands down the best music I’ve ever heard on a game and I couldn’t have asked for more from it. The best moments were just driving around the city, listening to K-JAH West. As you recall, I enjoyed riding my horse around the deserts of Red Dead Redemption (also by Rockstar Games) but then the horse didn’t come equipped with a radio and even if it had, it would have played country & western, which, yanno, one would like to avoid.

Thumbs up: Everything. Music. Pleasure of driving. Map and scenery. Comedy. If you take CJ to the local fast food restaurant and make him eat too many chicken burgers, he will throw up on the floor.

Thumbs down: It’s hard to find anything to criticise. I suppose the graphics can be a bit blocky but it was originally released in 2004. When you take that into account, it looks great.

Return to?  Without a doubt. I will return to this game and keep returning to it until I’ve listened to all of the music and seen all the locations. This was one of my favourite games of the year so far, on a par with Ark: Survival Evolved.

We must close with a tune. This is on the GTASA rare groove radio station Master Sound 98.3. If you played the original version of this game back in 2004 and didn’t wait for the 2015 remaster, then you should congratulate yourself because the original soundtrack was longer and even more funky, if such a thing is imaginable. Cross The Track was produced by James Brown.

Maceo and The Macks: Cross The Track (We Better Go Back) (1975)

 

 

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

I went to an art exhibition with Harry. I was very excited to see Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at Tate Modern in London.

soul of a nation

It features artworks made between 1963 and 1983. I was born near the beginning of this period and was a young adult by the end, so it spans all of my early life. It is recognisable as the era of the Civil Rights Movement, which prominently included the call for Black Power as one of its distinctive features, along with second-wave feminism, socialism and related movements which take an interest in the rights of the oppressed.

The art and artists in this exhibition are mainly African-American. I’m British and of course I was a child during the earlier part of this period so there was a limit to how much Black Power protest art I could be exposed to. But as a teenager I listened to hip hop, which led me to hard core rap in the early 90s and that’s where I learned about Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Dr Martin Luther King, Rodney King, Bobby Seale and all these people.

This was where the exhibition really made an impression on me, because I knew some of these names, rap music taught them to me like a history lesson. I knew Bobby Seale’s name in connection with the Black Panthers (in fact, he was a co-founder). I knew he was important. But then I was confronted with this larger-than-life-size artwork by David Hammons. It is Injustice Case, 1970. It is a body print and screen print on paper. What it shows, shockingly, is that Seale’s trial (for conspiracy to incite violence) had him bound and gagged in the courtroom. I was in shock. It’s as though Bobby Seale suddenly came to life and was right there in front of me, tied to a chair. I didn’t know that happened.

hammons

There were also several preserved copies of The Black Panther newspaper, the official newspaper of Black Power movement, which reported on important events as well as rallying readers. The newspaper featured many posters which were examples of cutting-edge 60s and 70s design by in-house BP artist Emory Davis. I love protest art, it’s full of fire and passion.

A couple more things in this exhibition that I particularly want to remember. This painting is called The First One Hundred Years and it’s by Archibald Motley (1963-72).

motley 100

It is Motley’s snapshot of the first one hundred years after the Civil War. What can you see? I spotted a hanged man, a Confederate flag, a red devil, a trumpet, a white bird, a Klansman, a wolf, crucifixion, a flaming cross, a sign that says ‘Whites Only’, and also faces – that looks like Dr Martin Luther King in the middle and Abraham Lincoln on the right. You might have noticed from the dates of this painting that it took nearly 10 years to complete. It is very unlike all of Motley’s previous work and when it was finished, he never painted anything else again.

The last painting that I want to mention is Liberation Soldiers by Wadsworth Jarrell (1972). You really need to go and visit this in person because it is huge and the colours are electrifying, I was mesmerised.

liberation soldiers

It is a portrait of five Black Panthers and features two Jarrell hallmarks. Firstly, the colours, what Jarrell himself called the “loud lime, pimp yellows, hot pinks, high-key color clothing” of fashionable African-American men of that time. Secondly, if you look at the men’s skin and hair and other areas of the painting, you will observe that things are composed by repetitions of the letter B. Every B is different to its neighbour, sometimes dramatically. Jarrell has used a technique that I now know to be chiaroscuro to contrast light and shadow to give the heads and hands their three-dimensional shapes. I find it so fascinating that these abstract B shapes, in such violent shades of orange, red, purple and yellow, can trick your brain into seeing a human face.

It took Harry and me a long time to go around this exhibition because nearly everything in it is that good and will make you stop, stare and soak up new information.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power is on at Tate Modern in London until 22 October.

Protest music of the time. I was just reading about this track by Black nationalist Amiri Baraka and the review said it was the centrepiece of his seminal 1972 album It’s Nation Time. It occurred to me that that was the second time I’d encountered the phrase Nation Time in as many days. I quickly realised where I’d heard it before – it must have been a phrase used on radio station K-JAH West when I was playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. And so we come full circle back to video games and popular entertainment which is apparently where I get my important facts. Anyway, there’s an intelligent review of Baraka’s masterpiece here.

Amiri Baraka: Who Will Survive America? (1972)

Did you break up with that boy?

Hello, dear readers. I’ve been having a frightfully busy time with work and travel, which is why I haven’t blogged in two weeks or played any video games. I thought about doing some gaming now because I have a night off for the first time in ages, but it was that or talk to you.

I spoke to my mom on the phone yesterday and we had a nice chat. She said ‘did you break up with that boy you were seeing?’ She was referring to Harry, as he was the clear winner of that epic period of romance which happened a few months ago and is referred to here on TLYW as Starry Skies.

‘No!’ I replied, in surprise. ‘Why would I break up with him? He’s lovely and we have a very good quality relationship.’

‘You stopped blogging about him’, said Mom. ‘Well because things are taking off, that’s why, and I wanted to keep it more private’, I said. ‘We are getting to know each other and are probably going to start living together. He is an absolutely delightful boy from a nice family and is kind to his grandmother.’

‘Oh, that’s very good’, she said. ‘That’s so important.’

She is right, it is. That’s why he is special. Added to which he has the brain of a mathematician and the body of a model, is a fantastic cook, loves cleaning and loves me. He is irresistible. He is so cute that he lights the place up like a Christmas tree, it’s like Christmas around here all the time. I couldn’t ask for more, could I.

Harry and I were talking the other day, we were standing in the hall where he was kindly tolerating my smoking out of the window. ‘I think I’ve done very well and that I am lucky to have you’, I said to him. ‘If I ever show signs of forgetting, remind me that I said that’.

So that’s where we’re up to. We are having a Relationship and are going to live together. It’s a big step for me as I’ve been single for 7 years, pretty happily. I am out of practice and a bit nervous. It occurred to me the other day that the last time I entered a new relationship, in the sense of committing to an actual partnership, was 2005. I was 39 then, I’m 51 now. My partner back in 2005 was 29, and my partner now is 24, so there’s that. God damn. I feel young. I also feel a bit like Stephen Fry because I am that fat. I also feel a bit like Calvin Klein because I am that glamorous.

Harry bravely gives his heart to me even though he believes that I will one day tire of him. This just makes me love him more, but he is wrong. I will not tire of him. If he wants a serious relationship, then we will see how serious he wants to get. I wonder what type of wedding he would like to have. Maybe I will get that beach wedding in the Bahamas I’ve always wanted. Not while there’s a hurricane there, obviously. Maybe wait for the weather to calm down.

Shall we have a tune? I think we should. Let’s have some vintage Christina Aguilera. I’ve been using Shazam recently. Enough said.

Christina Aguilera: Back In The Day (2006)