31 May 2011

Me and Vancouver's Stanley Cup Fever(s)


The entire city of Vancouver is gripped by Stanley Cup fever. Raucous celebrations, parades of high-fives, car flags whipping in the west coast breeze - the signs and symptoms are everywhere. The fever has an unshakeable hold on the city and its inhabitants. Or so I'm told.

Too bad I'm in London.

After the emotional rollercoaster of an exorcism that was the Chicago series, the team - led by an heroic Ryan Kesler - ground out a victory against Nashville. And in the conference finals against San Jose, the Canucks seemed to collectively find another gear - from Luongo on out.

And now, just as they're hitting their stride, they're in the Stanley Cup Finals. Unlike their last two appearances, this time they're the favourites.

If EA Sports' Stanley Cup Finals Simulator is right (as it has been in 13 out of the 14 match-ups so far) this will be a tight seven game series with two overtimes. And at the end of it all, the Vancouver Canucks, in their 40th year in the league, will hoist the cup. The city will go coconuts for weeks.

I wish I could be there to soak up and stoke the revelry.

Instead I will be huddled around my laptop very late at night, or very early in the morning. My sunken eyes fixed unwavering on the screen. I will be irritable and sweaty, with a blanket wrapped around my shuddering frame. I will drink tea and eat biscuits - no chicken wings and Molson Canadian for me. I will be alone. I will cheer silently (so as not to wake my sleeping wife).

It doesn't sound as fun as the honktastic celebrations that will rule the Vancouver streets. And it's not, not by a long shot. But it is a playoff fever I call my own.

And, if the symptoms sound suspiciously like actual fever, let's just say that while we may all be Canucks, we all do it in our own way.

Canucks All Are We. Rogers Arena - Vancouver, Canada


24 May 2011

The Rapture has been Rescheduled


When 21 May came and went without so much as a single Ascension, lead Rapture enthusiast Harry Camper was half dumbfounded and partially flabbergasted.


18 May 2011

A man and his will to survive

I rolled up to the office complex yesterday and - stomach rumbling - ducked into the ground floor cafe. It had been a long bus-and-Boris-Bike journey; I was hanging tough and staying hungry. My goal was simple: a bagel with cream cheese.

The cafe was almost empty. I placed my order. Then, rising up to the challenge of a steadily-increasing hunger, I asked for some tomato.

I surprised myself with this bold decision. I'm normally heavy-lidded and plodding at least until noon, but on this day I was resolute and steely-eyed. I felt completely at ease, yet entirely ready to change my passion for glory.

As I waited, I rocked onto the balls of my feet and surveyed the deli counter. My hands instinctively closing into fists.

Even as my every sinew coiled, I felt peaceful. Then, with my consciousness rising up, I realized what made this day so peculiar:

Eye of the Tiger was being pumped in through the overhead speakers at a barely audible volume. Not loud enough to really be heard, but definitely loud enough to turn a down-on-his-luck bagel-eater into a champion.

The clerk handed my bagel over the counter. I snatched it out of his hand, and, without bothering to pay, I jogged out the front door. With the weak sunlight streaming shining off my glasses, I pumped my bagel-carrying fist above my head and jogged into the lobby. I continued to jog in place as I waited for the elevator.

Moments later, I exited the elevator, strode into the office, perched myself on the corner of my desk and stripped down to the waist.

Then I destroyed that bagel.


14 May 2011

Highbury & Islington's Danger Park

Cars and lorries chug around the square, peeling off to the M-something to the north, or penetrating into the heart of north-east London. Smack in the centre of this whirl of vehicles is an oasis of lawn and tall trees. A park – completely inaccessible – surrounded by a fence of circulating traffic, and an actual fence. It has no gate, nor a crosswalk to facilitate access.

Highbury and Islington is a representative slice of London – double-decker buses, cars, and lorries circle a roundabout, there's an underutilized section of green space. The buildings around the square are also representative: charity shop, a couple of chicken places, tube station, a bank and of course, a pub.

But Hen & Chickens is more than a pub. It is also a theatre that features new comedy, including impro, sketch, stand-up and any of the above in various stages of completion.

I've never been inside, but it may just be my favourite pub in London. I love comedy (doing and watching), I adore beers, and I can be contented with a weekend paper, book or good company in the dark, rich atmosphere of a proper London pub for hours on end. Throw in a comedy show and it could be much longer before I emerge.

But fear of a late resurfacing is not what keeps me out of the H&C. The most time I spend near the Hen and Chickens is a few idle moments peering in the window whilst waiting for the 277 bus to peel off of the traffic and take me home.

And as soon as a bus I intend on taking arrives, I switch into what some might call 'commuter-mode' but what I prefer to think of as Jason Bourne-mode; with a powerful urgency I slip through the crowds and make an escape.

Of course, I always plan to come back up here and catch a show – or at least a beer – but it just hasn't happened. However, with the expectations I've got built up, I may prefer to just keep the Hen & Chickens as it exists in my mind: the perfect, lighthearted, beer-soaked respite from the traffic of the corner on which it stands watch. A purpose built booze and laughs oasis, maintained forever as it should be – unspoilt. Just like the patch of green in the centre of the square it stands watch over.


09 May 2011

Gimme Indie Rock

Let's face it: your Monday could probably be improved by Noah 23's great 'Gimme Indie Rock' mixtape. Noah, a Canadian underground hip-hop stalwart, messes with a bunch of indie rock, rapping overtop of Pavement, Modest Mouse and Cat Power, among others.

And/or, if you feel so inclined, this 23 minute DJ Z-Trip megamix of 30 years of Beastie Boys is also pretty damn fine.

Happy Monday.


07 May 2011

A Nice Business trip

Last week I found myself on my way to Nice to represent our organisation at a series of meetings with people I'd never met, on topics I had only the sketchiest of details about. Not a recipe for guaranteed success.

Couple that with my general aversion to businessness and, as sure as the probability of being regarded with deep suspicion at the airport, a cornucopia of faux-pas was in the offing.

Fortunately, that trouble never really materialized. The south of France was Nice. And I managed to take care of business. The biggest problem was that Nice was even warmer and sunnier and beachier than pictured above, and I was dressed like this:

However, I did manage a quick submersion in the chilly May morning Mediterannean, and for great chunks of the meetings I managed to present myself as capable and earnest. So yeah, success. Business and pleasure mixed.

I realized, while waiting for my return flight, that business trips - when required very infrequently - are novel and, largely on the strength of that novelty, are even enjoyable.

Plus when they are to vacation-friendly places like Nice, you can complain about them in a way that makes people both despise and envy you; that's a winning combination.

However, I've heard that once the novelty fades, you're left with nothing but the pain in the ass from uncomfy plane seats, and bags under your eyes from watching incomprehensible late-night French TV in bed.

Here's hoping the travel stays novel.


06 May 2011

Marbles Presents: The Yak

On Wednesday 11 May, Marbles (the world's foremost Canadian-Cornish improvised comedy duo - consisting of Dave Waller and Ryan Millar) will be unveiling a sweet-ass new comedy show.

It is The Yak, an improvised talk show hosted by the beardy bespectacled duo. It is part of London Improv, the sexy new comedy club taking place at The Miller pub.

The patter will be unscripted, the commercials fake, and the energy will be loosey-goosey. As always, it will also include a one-of-a-kind Marbles long form set.

A recipe for thought-provoking hilarity.

And, like any good talk show, we will also have guests... and those guests will be real characters.

For our run we will have all manner of ludicrous folks coming down (including a tortured French chanteuse, an embittered theatre critic, a seven year-old stand-up, a guy from a gay future... the list goes on) and some very classy musical guests.

Our first show features:

  • Hannah Barberra Cartland, a cycle courier and performance poet from the West Country
  • And a very special appearance from some undersea royalty...
  • An undoubtedly brilliant musical act (TBC)

Watch comedy future tap into comedy past and have a chat about it... watch a live taping of The Yak!