Friday, 18 July 2014

A Chap Olympiad, Agnes Obel, and air hockey

Before beginning to write about last weekend, I have first made a page-and-a-half-long list of everything I did... and I wonder why my posts become so long and rambly! Maybe, just maybe, if I want to write about what I do, I need to start doing less.

I am sitting in the airport (in the quiet area with loungers!? Score.) waiting for my flight to Cyprus for the wedding, and realised that as I will no doubt have lots to write about that, I'd better get this one written before it catches up on me! And as I have the perfect opportunity...

Saturday was really quite surreal. The afternoon was spent at the eagerly anticipated Chap Olympiad, a celebration of the sporting ineptitude of English gentlemen. Sporting events included cucumber sandwich discuss and some sort of briefcase relay, and prizes were awarded to those who maintained the perfect trouser crease or an immaculately well-tamed moustache as opposed to those who actually got at all competitive!

The day began at my flat, where I got over-excited and provided china plates, elegant glasses and cucumber sandwiches (to eat) accompanied by Pimms served in a teapot to get us in the mood! A little carried away with food consumption (sandwiches on tiger bread, Sensations popcorn, baked camembert, grilled sweet chilli haloumi and plum tomatoes - YUM), we did not actually manage to start getting ourselves ready until early afternoon (bearing in mind the event began at noon)...

All hair, makeup and hats at the ready (until the moment we stepped outside when all three attempted a Great Escape), we headed off! A great reaction followed us down the street and onto the Tube, where we sat feeling hot, but pretty (hats come in awfully handy for fanning) as we made our way to where the games had already begun.

Slightly unsure of where to go from the Underground, we were soon given a rather large hint in the form of the not so dulcet tones of jazz music as to where we should be. Hidden in private gardens in Bedford Square, we were welcomed by waist-coats, hats of all varieties, old uniform (ooft), petticoats, canes, fans, white gloves and furs galore, many accompanied by proper Fortnum and Mason picnic hampers, and most sitting on traditional picnic blankets or under gazebos, sipping cups of tea and cocktails with a slice of cake; the most surreal but wonderful sight! Of course we made a bee-line for the bar where (still fanning away with our headgear) we ordered more Pimms to keep us going and some more adventurous/lethal cocktails.

Whilst stood in the queue for the bar (in front of a man in a yellow tweed suit? Amazing.) we were treated to the sights of what can only be described as a 'hench man with an unbelievably gruff voice bending metal on (or maybe with?) his crotch'... fortunately the rest of the afternoon took a more civilised turn for the most part! It was spent sipping our cocktails, observing strange goings on in the arena, basking in British weather at its best, engaging in conversation that was probably as far removed from ladylike as it gets (also apparently at an inappropriate volume, as hats do cover ones ears... oops), and admiring (or, quite often, making scathing comments about) the 'general splendour'.

Once the games were over and winners announced, we noticed the construction of the dancefloor taking place and got very excited! As soon as drinks were finished, we took to the stage for a lot of hip swinging, foot flicking, arm flailing and jazz handing, much to the admiration of two ex-naval officers (amongst others, I'm sure), who decided we'd be the ideal candidates to show them how it's done. Oh dear.

With perfect timing (and not before a highly romantic/anti-climatic marriage proposal was made), the rain came. So we took our cue to leave, waved goodbye to the Chap Olympiad until next year and set off for Somerset House.

I've wanted to go to a gig at the venue for a long time, and I think Agnes Obel in such stonking (yep, I just used the word stonking) weather made it a pretty perfect experience!

Having gone straight from an event with strict 30's dresscode to an open-air, standing gig, to say I felt a little over-dressed would be a huge understatement. As we joined the queue, I wished for a big sign explaining my situation, as there was an awful lot of staring going on (made even worse by a near-miss with a familiar face from home territory which is always something I strive to avoid having made my break for freedom in London). Had I not been wearing the hat all day, I might have chosen to tone down the outfit with its removal, but feared that the hat-hair would cause even more stares, and for all the wrong reasons!

Assured that I would blend right in once we were lost amongst the crowd, we ventured in. Having found a good spot and then stood in it for all of 5 minutes, we were suddenly accosted by an overly enthusiastic pair of American Express representatives (not that we realised this for the majority of our encounter). 'Have you taken your selfie yet'? There we stood thinking to ourselves 'do we really look like the sort of people who take selfies'? Knowing looks of disapproval were passed between us as we shared this thought. 'You don't have to take it yourselves', came the response when we gave a simultaneous 'no'! Next thing you know, the guy's taking our photo with my phone, I've uploaded it to Twitter with some hashtag I don't know the meaning of, we've got VIP access to an indoor bar with free champagne and a £20 ticketmaster giftcard, and said photo then appears on the big screens either side of the stage so everyone can see what a fantastic time we're having (or how awkward we look when sprung upon to have our photo taken)... I think it was worth it?

Turns out the indoor bar, at least, served dual purpose, as we did not think much to the support act, Laura Doggett, whose singing voice left us rather dumbfounded given her stature and the sound of her speaking, which I will describe as 'contrasting', so as not to sound too highly critical. To be fair, I do still intend to give her the benefit of the doubt and give her recorded stuff a listen, as maybe it was the whole live 'experience' that was too much for me... so we hid inside with champagne and olives until the storm had passed, then emerged once again in anticipation for Agnes Obel.

A far cry from the vocals that preceded her, Agnes Obel makes me melt a little. I found myself announcing 'this one's my favourite' at almost every song, before resigning myself to the fact that I really just like them all!

She had two cellists and one violinist on stage with her and her piano. All three providing haunting vocal harmonies, and unusual effects drifted from their instruments, each one more powerful and spine-tingling as they worked their way through the set. Agnes spoke sweetly to the audience between each song, offering the small stories behind her music, and expressing her enamour at the venue and us, the audience.

Following a truly magical performance, we were carried out from Somerset House in the tide of the crowd and across Waterloo Bridge to the Southbank, still hypnotised in some way, and not really wanting to just go home where it would all be over. So we had a wander, with the desired effect being almost like wanting food to settle, only in a musical sense instead (or, you know, some more romantic simile; I'm excellent with words)...

The craving for pork scratchings took over for the third time that day, and with Wahaca in sight serving not only pork scratchings, but also Magaritas, our feet knew where to take us. Catastrophically, upon our arrival we were informed they were no longer serving, so we found ourselves on a mission doomed to fail which took us beyond the London Eye. Here, we did not locate pork scratchings, but instead happened upon a well-hidden, enormous amusement arcade and AIR HOCKEY... which we played, of course.

NB please bear in mind that this whole time we were still donning Chap Olympiad costume. I have no doubt it was quite the sight to behold!

Saturday was just the most surreal day! Nevertheless, if Saturdays were frequently spent in such a way, I would be more than happy. Sunday took a more real turn, with salt beef sandwiches (ENORMOUS and incredibly tasty) from Borough Market, drinks in The Shard, a visit to Barbican for the Digital Revolution, Polo Bar for tea to relieve chronic indigestion/the hangover and Liverpool St station for Burger King. Real as it may have been, it was still equally as pleasant, and probably requires a post all of its own. However, as at this point, I am perched in a low-growing tree on a beach in Cyrprus, frantically finishing this post off in order to begin writing about my adventure here, I just leave you with that succint list and safe in the knowledge that Sunday was the perfect way to round off a fun-filled, frivolous weekend!