Invaded – my old NYC apartment

invader45Photo from Gothamist

In preparation for my next New York visit I was checking out the locations of some of Invader’s last invasion, an invasion I’d again missed by a few weeks last October. Tabernac! Really must try and co-ordinate that better in the future.

Turns out that my favourite street artist has put a piece on my old building at Kingsland and Nassau in Greenpoint. Exciting! It sits nicely above a Sweet Toof piece I’d seen last time I was there. As if I don’t miss that apartment enough with its epic views of Manhattan. Can’t wait to get back there and see that as well as some of the 40 or so other pieces.

Now I can only hope that Monsieur l’Invader decides to hit up Walthamstow so my current home can be just as well adorned. There’s been a few pieces of street art and murals turning up nearby in the last few months so can but hope.

Balmy Bali

Just got back from two amazing weeks in Bali – amazing weather, great food, lovely people and a whole pile of fun. In summary – the best holiday I’ve had in about ten years. Consequently feel a whole lot more relaxed, look a whole lot more tanned and am generally annoying people who have had to deal with two weeks of very cold British weather.

So what did I do? Landed into the airport and spent a few days at Legian beach, slightly less hectic than the Aussie-ful Kuta , where I slept a lot to recover from our recent app release busy-ness, surfed, swam and had more massages than I care to mention. All fully family appropriate, don’t worry 😉

Next took a car across the mountains to Lovina, where I wandered the black sand beaches and had my first proper dive in a year – and the best dive I’ve had in five – at Pulau Menjangan. This was good news, as it meant my ears were behaving so I could get on with some serious diving. The next day saw the dolphins at dawn, hundreds of them, before driving over to Tulamben to dive the amazing off-beach wreck there. Stunning.

No rest for the wicked, Ubud was my next stop – a beach-free central town dedicated to monkeys and the more relaxed, hippy arts. Ironically had my worst massage here, but everything else was amazing including the villa I stayed at with outdoor shower. Sunlit & moonlit showers are the best, at least in tropical temperatures. Plenty of culture and temples to see, and also monkeys – who are violent beasts it seems and not as cute as you might think. Hint: do not carry food on your person.

Ubud was very hard to leave, but the idyllic Gili islands off Lombok were calling, and after a few hours drive and a few hours in a boat I could see why. Blue seas, an island small enough to walk round in two hours and white sand beaches – not to mention no dogs or petrol vehicles – amazing! I ended up staying here for the rest of the trip, getting in plenty more diving, sun & just pure relaxation. The dives had everything – seahorses, turtles, sharks and an overload of cuttlefish, my favourite sea denizens. Not quite paradise, but a pretty close approximation to it and highly recommended.

So all in all an amazing trip and can’t wait to get down that way again. Meanwhile I’m still fighting the jetlag, and adjusting to a balmy 3 degrees C in the UK (a tenth of what it was there) – so that means I’m already starting to go through my photos. Something of a miracle given my current backlog. The photo above is the first to come, at some point you’ll see my picks of the 8,000 odd more I took. Coff.

Une bonne journée

Today has been a fun day, with a dash of gallic flavour. C’est bonne, ca.

Around midday we headed down to the Secret Cinema at Leake Street, the tunnels underneath Waterloo. As usual with Secret Cinema we had no idea what film was going to be shown, just general instructions on what to wear (50s/60s European with a white scarf) and where to turn up. I knew that Secret Cinema involved re-enactments of the film around seeing the film itself, but not much more than that. So, looking a lot smarter than usual for a Saturday afternoon, we rocked up to Leake Street to find a large queue of people entering, and lots of soldiers herding people along, all talking French. I was ‘lucky’ enough to be singled out by the soldiers, and made to stand with my hands against the wall as my identification documents were confiscated. Then after some minutes myself and the other detainees were taken to a dark room, followed by an indoctrination talk with spotlights in our eyes where we were asked to sign out name as belonging to a terrorist organisation. Even knowing that this was all an act it was pretty unnerving, especially when a planted audience member was taken to one side, beaten and thrown in a prison cell to be tortured. Magnifique!

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Kyoto, May 2010

Click here for more photos of Kyoto

Ah, the sudden flurry of uploading strikes again. This time for the amazing Japanese city of Kyoto, home to geisha and temples, plus it ranks highly on quality of life and when you visit you’ll see why. Unlike nearby Tokyo, Kyoto mostly stays low to the ground, a few stories high. There are fast moving major streets, but people and bikes take priority on the back roads – and even bikes stop to let people and cars past, there’s something you never see in London. All of which combines together to make an enchanting city that is well worth a visit.

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Osaka, May 2010

Pictures from Osaka, Japan 2010

Finally, some pictures from last year’s Japan trip. Osaka was the first town we stayed at in Japan. It wasn’t a planned part of our trip, but due to last year’s major event of this time – the volcanic dust cloud – we ended up in Japan over Golden Week. Sounds pretty doesn’t it, but it’s not a pretty experience for anyone wanting to book a hotel in Japan as Golden week is the one week in Japan where everyone goes on holiday. Literally everyone. So Kyoto had no hotels available and Osaka was the nearest town worth visiting on the way. Such is life.

Footnote: A year ago the volcanic dust cloud seemed like a major disaster in our lives. This year, tens of thousands of people have died in Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami and much of the country is still affected by this tragedy with many still missing. You can donate here if you want to help. In the meantime my thoughts are still with those mourning their loss.

Misty Black Mountain Hop

Weekends round here seem to oscillate between fun adventures outside of town and homebody sessions. This weekend is very much homebody, catching up with errands and geek activities such as installing new computer operating systems, watching the entire extended edition of Lord of the Rings (classic being ill recovery movie) and finding out that Crucial seem to have run out of MacBook Pro memory right now – what with that? Guess my ageing laptop will have to wait for its final upgrade. All this is in stark contract to last weekend, where a group of us headed off to celebrate M’s birthday at the lovely Castle Farm in Capel-y-Ffin right in the Black Mountains.

Castle Farm is a lovely location, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, although as we arrived on a windy, almost moon-less night it seemed less than idyllic – no small thanks to Tom suggesting a recently escaped psycho from a local prison and the wind trying to throw everything at our windscreen as we crawled up pitch black, windy country lanes avoiding fallen branches. All this city-folk fear subsided once we were inside the large, but cost house and had a roaring fire lit. Oh, and after a few drinks. A few hours later, everyone else arrived and the weekend’s party began in earnest with many more logs being burnt.

The next morning was still overcast and windy, but we could now see the epic view out the windows. Nestled in a valley between two spurs of the Black Mountains, the farm has a stunning outlook, green fields dotted with windswept trees and sheep. Although it was less than perfect walking conditions we took a ‘brief’ (four hour) constitutional up to Lord Hereford’s Knob where the wind tried its best to blow us off. The hill that is. Mountain scaled we pushed through the wind, back down in the rapidly fading afternoon gloom to the warmth of the fire, where everyone else was enjoying Britain’s Got Talent, pretty much in the same place we’d left them four hours earlier. For some reason they all seemed pretty sure this was the better choice… The evening passed in a haze of good food, cake, board games, possibly some vino and enjoying a roaring fire as the wind howled outside the window. Perfect.

Weekend’s away, whether in Britain or abroad, are always so much fun – and though I’m sitting here somewhat wishing we had a roaring fire to enjoy, or a new place to explore, it’s the contrast of the two states that really make things pop in my mind. Every weekend enjoying the comforts of home can become deathy dull, conversely spending every weekend somewhere new is rapidly over-whelming so it becomes hard to fully appreciate the new wonders in front of you. Creating your own perfect preferred blend of experience and reflection is arguably part of what life’s all about. Or maybe just having an open fire everywhere you go. Mmmm… burny.

November in Paris

Last weekend we jaunted over to Paris on Eurostar for an Autumnal long weekend break, a chance to catch a breath in what’s turning out to be a very busy few months. Paris in the fall is always a mixed bag, as the continental weather can get pretty wet and cold but luckily for us the forecast torrential rain held off leaving just a few light showers in its wake. This trip we stayed at Adrien’s beautiful flat in the 10th, near to Gare de l’Est – a fortuitous coincidence as he had his own jaunt off to New York literally an hour after we arrived, so we got to share a brief breakfast before he headed out. A big thanks to him, as it’s one of our favourite areas comprising central location via the walk along the St-Martin canal. Magnifique.

After so many trips to Paris we tend to avoid the tourist activities, instead reverting to a mildly obsessive attempt to see every Parisian Space Invader. Thanks to a previous birthday present of Invader’s Paris invasion guide we now have some highly accurate maps to help us, and guide us around areas of Paris we would otherwise never go near. The stand-out this trip was a long strip of invaders on the edge of Belleville opposite a full-on street market that seemed to specialise in stolen goods and loud arguments and an ethnic mix that reminded me more of Jerusalem than anywhere else. The upshot of our hunt, was that we now know the first ever Invader is no longer there, and that M is better at spotting them.. winning 37 to 32 in new sightings. That puts us having seen about 100 off of the now 1,000 placed in Paris.. so plenty of opportunity to claw back a second frame there.

Other than Parisian street art, of which Invader is flanked by Shepherd Fairey and Faile but little else, we enjoyed some splendid meals. Brunch at Les Enfants Perdues was a set menu joy. Cafe Charlot provided good solid cafe food during the day and traditionally French service. First night we went to La Fidelite where the opulent packed surroundings was highly enjoyable, although my mild food poisoning from the cod was less fun – c’est la vie. On Saturday we went to Hotel du Nord and had a splendid time, highly recommended.

Food aside the highlight of the trip was a visit to Deyrolle, a French institution where you can buy all forms of preserved animals – from butterflies to polar bears and everything in between. Expensive to buy, but fascinating to wander round and proving that however many times you visit Paris, there’s always something new to find and enjoy.

Space Invader Japan Invasion Kit

Good news for all fans of Space Invader, he’s just re-opened his Space Shop with a wide selection of goodies. First up are the ‘Made in Japan’ Invasion Kits – IK_13 – made to celebrate his current show in Japan. They come in two flavours – 30 signed at €350 a piece (already sold out) and 150 unsigned at €200 each*. Get ’em while they’re hot!

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The New York Drawings of Matteo Pericoli

Thanks to the Guardian I’ve just learnt all about Matteo Pericoli, an Italian who moved to New York in 1996 and started doing beautiful line drawings as a hobby while he worked as an architect. This hobby evolved into something more serious, and now Pericoli has a series of books showing skylines around the world. His New York views from famous people’s windows are my favourite though, showing a range of vistas from traditional NYC landmarks, through water tower strewn rooftop landscapes to just the windows of the opposite building. Pericoli has even won acclaim for creating the cover art The Beastie Boys ‘To The 5 Boroughs‘ album. Lovely, evocative stuff.

London’s Velib Bike Scheme Arrives

London Cycle Hire Bikes

Suddenly this morning all the empty London Cycle Hire bikestands are full (or semi-full) with spanking new bikes, along with intrigued Londoners staring at them. As of yet though I’ve only seen someone pushing a bike around, not actually cycling on one so no idea how they work in practice.

This is all very exciting, and now we just have to see how Londoners take to the scheme which has met with varying levels of success in other cities around the world. Hopefully it will get more cyclists on the road as planned and reduce some of the overhead on the city’s public transport, as well as helping to push London as a city for cyclists (we can but dream). As for me, I may sign up – even though I already have a bike – as we live in the central part of London it’s easy to just grab one, cycle to work and park it nearby. Then for any evening trips the same tactic can work without fear of bike theft and the hassle of locking them up.

Of course now we just have to see how the bikes survive the attentions of some of the more Neanderthal natures in British culture… from random destruction and ‘happy slapping’ to drunken cycling and urination. Excelsior!