Monday, 12 September 2011

A very patriotic weekend

One of the highlights of last years social calendar...last night of the proms (in the park!) not the Albert hall version...the upmarket festival version, in fact the only one I would like to brave-particularly as I was staying in the Thistle marble arch 2 minutes away and not camping in any squalor or fighting for a spot on the tube!

Out of this years line up I'm not ashamed to say I was looking forward to the overtones, deacon blue and Westlife! Catherine Jenkins and Russell Watson would also be good.

We managed to bag a good spot near a path (hoping it would be easy to navigate to and from the loo/bar/taco truck, delete as appropriate) and three of us tried saving the space for our dozen or so friends who did not get the queue as fast as us.

To do this we fashioned what I like to think of a rounders style 'marker' set up, but instead of posts there was a pot of potato salad, some strawberries and cheese twists acting as bases. This actually worked quite effectively and people pretty much stayed out of our zone.

Once the others arrived we managed to set up half a dozen blankets and commence the festivities (ignoring the bottle of champagne we drank in the queue, that doesn't count). Actually while I'm on that I should state you are not allowed to take glass into the proms, therefore champagne proves difficult. In the hotel beforehand I literally funnelled champagne into a plastic bottle. It's sacrilegious! I also funnelled a bottle of red wine into a cranberry and vodka into a water bottle and hoped these wouldn't later be misinterpreted as soft drinks and give someone an epic hangover!

The aforementioned funnel became quite useful later when we used it as a drinking game...for the record funnelling a strongbow is not easy, nor is it something that should be encouraged (or repeated!)
Once the acts started I was pleasantly surprised a new most of deacon blue's stuff...dignity being a highlight. I was actually surprised they were on so early as I thought they'd be quite a headliner.

One of the surprises of the night was the cast of rock of ages. God knows what Justin Lee Collins does in it but he sort of narrated it, Shayne ward was very convincing with a long blonde wig, so much so that one of our group said earlier on...that person has long thick hair that can't be a wig! A closer look and a quick google and we were all surprised. He can still belt out the big notes. The whole cast had us vowing we were going to go and see it.

We also agreed we'd like to go and see the Overtones! I love all that sort of old 50's music, in fact the cast of jersey boys were a massive highlight for me last year-they are not too dissimilar! Opening their set with sha boom had us all shuffling round our picnic.

It was around this point we started warming up for Westlife...literally. We were stretching and lunging and generally being a bit stupid, an act I'm blaming for my totally aching muscles the two following days!
It was sometime around now I accidentally drank a vodka gin redbull tonic. With the no glass rule, premixed cans were a popular choice of packed picnic...accidentally filling a cup with vodka then unintentionally filling it with a can of g&t rather than redbull tastes gross. Trying to make it taste better by adding the illusive can of redbull is not something I would condone you try at home.

We were all very excited when the 'loifers' (only works if you say it in a mock Irish accent) came on. Opening with uptown girl was genius, again something I blame for being in bad physical shape the next day...we were throwing some serious moves!!

Now something that you always see at open air concerts is grown adults getting on each others shoulders, in practice actually getting on someones shoulders is not easy. When flying without wings came on I decided I wasn't high up enough. A particular member of our group is a good few inches taller than 6ft, getting up there was the mission. Now we'd both been enjoying one or two drinks over the course of the afternoon (he was the pioneer of the strongbow funnel). I had to fully lean on someone else to steady myself as he stood up. At one point I was literally au 90 degree angle!

Once up, as predicted the view and atmosphere was great seeing above the flags and the lights and generally getting a bit giddy from the altitude! Getting down was a worry a few minutes away! As you can imagine flying without wings while flying above the crowd was brill! Highly recommended!!

Lang Lang also did a great piano set before rushing off to the hall to play for a much more civilised bunch, the first act to play both stages on the last night.

One of the next surprises of the night...Rolf Harris!! He had everyone in the crowd going crazy for a rendition of tie me kangaroo down sport. It is at this stage however we were crawling on the floor looking for a friends phone that had gone walkabout, it's really annoying-ruins your whole night something like that. We didn't even find it in the end. Our best guess is it was left in the toilets. Totally gutting!

The end of the evening is my favourite part..'you are now live in the Albert hall', the singalong! Let's face it no one knows more than one verse of any of the songs, me even less! But we started with a great version of you'll never walk alone. Twinned with exuberant flag waving!

Next up, Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen, rounding off with a bit of Auld Lang Syne, I just can't see it having the same effect in the hall!

The fireworks were really nice and I only took one or 2 pictures to not spoil them by watching through a 2in screen. As I said I was staying at the thistle, it was such a nice feeling to be so close to bed!
It's such a great day, will deffo be back again next year, maybe I'll learn some words by then!

The next day we had tickets booked to go and see 'that dress'. Not before a big fat boy breakfast though. Ah the joys of not staying at home! On arrival at the Palace we were stunned how many people were there...they must be making an absolute mint (no pun intended) with all these tourists..and I was one of them!
Before we get to see the dress you have to shuffle through the state rooms and Faberge collection, and I mean shuffle!! We hardly picked up our feet or the pace all day, bar a little rendition of the running man in the East Gallery..I'm blaming the funnel.

The Faberge collection is really badly laid out, in a room which has been specially converted with low black ceiling and black walls. The tiny pieces are in cabinets and the line is totally condensed due to the slow speed of the commentary. The palace staff are telling people to move along but the voice in your head is still on case 1! Not very well thought out. Some people actually skipped it altogether under the velvet ropes.

Seeing the state rooms was nice, you just can't really imagine the Queen using them. The throne room was good as there were pictures showing the official wedding photos and you can see where they are in situ, in my opinion they should have done that in more rooms...and here is the Queen having a cup of tea and a hob nob!

Once we got to the room with the dress, I'd already heard about the awful mosquito-esque net it's shielded under and the 'ghastly' way it is lit from within. No photos are allowed in the palace (although some people were flagrantly ignoring that rule) but to me the ends/bottom rim on the dress looked a but tatty! Maybe it's where she was traipsing it across gravel by the abbey...did she step off a red carpet?! She did look gorgeous on the day. The tiara was also there courtesy of Cartier. I have to say I didn't fancy it much to look at it but it looked good on HRH Kate!

The shoes, now they were something! Unfortunately as they were completely hand crafted there is no size on them, so I can't report on the size of the royal foot! At a guess I'd say a dainty 4!
The 8 tier cake was also there. You can see where they've cut it and it's been patched up again. I'm a bit disappointed they didn't eat any of it! Although on the commentary it says McVities also supplied a biscuity/chocolate masterpiece which they ate.

At the end of the tour predictably you exit through the cafe and gift shop. We had elected to have lunch at the cafe beforehand but when we got there it was only tea and cakes! It was reported back there were bagels, great a royal smoked salmon and cream cheese would suit me....when it arrived the bagel didn't even have a top! It was a bagel base with a tiny sliver of cream cheese and a bit of salmon absolutely doused in black pepper! What exactly does ma'am do with the rest of the bagel? So as presumably the corgis enjoyed the other half of my £4.95 bagel we decided HRH was probably upstairs looking out of a top window sighing about why all these commoners were in her garden. I wonder if she ever pops down for a cup of tea...I meant to take a picture of said bagel, but I was so starving I scoffed it before I could be bothered to get my camera out of my bag (pictures are allowed in the exterior!) It was a grey day but luckily stayed dry while we were there. it wasn't until I got off the tube on the way home the heavens opened...typical!

Our tickets were validated to we can go back for a year for free...for what I don't know!
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