Friday, May 31, 2013

Disaster Movie Drinking Games and Other Random Crap

Okay, so it's 4am and instead of lying next to A in bed - as he leaves in less than four hours for a flight to Washington - I'm on the couch with my 4th pint of water attempting to hydrate myself and regulate my temperature.

So weird that I woke up at 3.15 completely dehydrated when no alcohol was consumed. Usually I wake up in the night needing the toilet but then go straight back to sleep. Today: not so much. I gulped down 3 pints of water very quickly but I was also way too hot in bed and even with covers kicked off and pyjamas rolled up, I couldn't cool down enough to sleep. I think it's safe to say I'm coming down with A's lurgy from last week. My throat's been all scratchy for a day or so and my nose is feeling blocked.

Whoopee! Ill and alone for a week. (Ha ha. Attempting to generate sympathy). Though not to worry, I am northern and female. We are a stoic bunch!

And so I apologise for the 2 week gap in blogs, though I do appreciate the huge amount of views of the Eurovision blog. Cheers for that. I do love Eurovision. It's so ridiculous, yet heartwarming, yet terrifying at the same time, especially when you realise how much your country is hated in Europe, never mind the rest of the world. We really are nice people. Well mostly! Though we do have some questionable people in power. Always the case really.

Anyhoo, last week I babysat for one of my ex-pupils and we watched Disney's Pinocchio. I hadn't seen it in years but we had it on VHS as kids and watched it at least once a week, so as we watched it, the lines came back to me and the songs. I realised I could almost recite along with it. Still. But what I had sort of blocked out of my memory was how disgustingly terrifying it is.

Bear in mind the kid watching it was 3 (almost 4) but there were bits when he got up and walked out of the room and bits were he screamed at me to go 'fast. fast' - which means fast forward. So as I'm patchily watching this Disney classic, I begin to realise how evil it is.

Now of course this was me looking on with 21st century eyes, when it was released in the heart of the 20th Century (1940) when things were very very different, but really I think it may need an overhaul. 

There are the small things, like one of the clocks where the mum is spanking the little boys bare bottom over her knee. (Not too bad but majorly frowned upon nowadays.)

Then of course there are slightly larger things like the fox accosting him on the way to school. Sorry, did I say accosting? I meant to say abducting. Hello! Stranger Danger. (Giapetto=lax parent. Couldn't even walk him to school on his first day. Shame on you.)

Then of course the fox wants to sell him to the theatre. Erm, can you say human trafficking? I mean I know he's technically wooden but he also lives in a land where you wish on a star and the blue fairy appears to grant your wish. A land where his conscience is a cricket. This is human trafficking!

Then he's locked up by the guy that bought him. So that's abduction, sold, threatened and traumatised within about 20 mins. Surely it can't get much worse? Well actually...... Cue Mr fox again. And after a meeting with a fat, ugly, terrifying man, he re-abducts Pinocchio and this time sells him to this evil man. (Apologies I have no idea of his character name and I don't want to...he's evil!) The fat man takes all the ragamuffin boys away to Pleasure Island on a horse and carriage. Now, dodgy title aside, actually no, not aside. Let's think about the title: Pleasure Island. Lots of little boys taken by an evil older man to Pleasure Island...hmmmmm. Yes ladies and gentleman, we have paedophilia. This movie has it all! But seriously, I'd watched this so many times as a kid (granted I wasn't 3) but once as an adult and it made me feel really uncomfortable.

Then of course everything at Pleasure Island is free because the paedophiles wouldn't want you to pay for anything - heaven forbid - and they are even encouraged to smoke cigars and cigarettes. (Disgusting!) And there's a tent where they can go to fight. Now, he asked me to stop it at this point and I was more than glad. I didn't want to see them all turn into donkeys. Now I'm all for the odd white lie to keep the kids in check, you know things like: Eat your crusts, you'll get curly hair. (Still doing it mum and it's not working.) Or don't eat the apple seeds or you'll grow an apple tree inside you. But I think it's quite another thing to suggest you would be turned into donkeys if you indulged too much or if you were - dare I use the word - naughty.

I'm all for tough love and discipline with children but that really took the biscuit. Let's face it, it's no Tangled. Ha ha. Sorry Disney. I used to love it and loads of other people do but there's dark and there's DARK. Wow.

Moving on to something a little less harrowing. For those of you that don't know me, A, my partner has a love of shitty Disaster Movies. (Now really I didn't have to add the distinction 'shitty' because they are all pretty 'shitty' and it's not like there is a section named Good Disaster Movies. But I just like to point that out. They are shit but so shit they're good!) And last night whilst watching a classic (I use the term loosely - we both fell asleep) 'Super Cyclone', I realised what amazing drinking games you could create around the genre. And how incredibly drunk you would be.

Okay, so all of these things could equal taking a shot, or two fingers of drink. (But obviously just choose a couple of things to look out for, not all of them, otherwise we are talking serious alcohol poisoning. Not good!!!!)

  • Every time stock footage of a disaster is used. (This happens a lot.)
  • Every time there is some dodgy CGI. (You will be tipsy within the first 10 minutes.)
  •  Every time there is a discrepancy in the lighting. (Honestly there is no continuity in these films. It's like the don't even try....or they do it on purpose??)
  • Every time there is shocking acting and/or over acting. (This is a given. But you could make it more specific: Watch out for the best shocked face. Or best extra performance. Or best panic face.)
  • Every time there is a period of shit or uncomfortable dialogue. (Again, this will happen a lot, so you might want to narrow it down. Bad dialogue between scientists. Bad dialogue between survivors. etc.)
  • The prolonged stare: Every time the an actor stares at the camera for more than five seconds.
  • Every time there is a water shot that's supposed to be the raging sea but is actually a calm swimming pool. 
  • Every time they actually reuse their own footage. (Those moments where you go, wait a minute, they just looped the same shot, lazy buggers.)
  • The slow motion shot.
  •  The bullshit scientific explanations. (Do they sound genuine? Do you actually believe these numpties know what they're talking about? If your answers are a resounding NO, then take a drink my friends.)
And really you can probably add many other things to this list, but like I said, just choose a couple and you'll be in for a great night. Ha ha. The only Disaster flick you'll be marginally sober in is probably A's favourite:
The Day After Tomorrow. One of the only half decent, big budget ones. But for the drinking game you definitely want to B-Z list ones. They are amazing!

This kid the other day on the bus was blowing raspberries, allowing all his spit to fly onto the window and then used his fingers to draw with the spit. Lovely! His mum was ignoring him on the telephone and I was attempting to ignore him by turning my Ipod up, but all I could hear was raspberry after raspberry. It was driving me mad. He then started leaning over the back of the chair, touching my bag and attempting to make eye contact. Sorry love but if you were a little less raspberry then I might have given you the time of day. but for 30 minutes on a bus with you making that sound, there was no way I was giving you the time of day.

I love teenage girls when they think they're being stealth. There were three teenage girls on the bus giggling and pointing and stage whispering about one of the other passengers. They thought they were being quiet. Bless 'em. They also thought that no one could crack their expert code of miming the fact that whoever they were taking the piss out of was holding a newspaper and wearing glasses. And the pointing, well that was difficult to work out but I am an NCIS fan. Love it! The non stealth of teenage girls.

Well, it's now 5.36 and the sky is beautiful outside. I am slightly concerned that I will fall asleep at my babysitting job tonight, but as long as the kids are asleep first I'm sure that'll be fine. Ha ha.
I hope everyone has a much better and longer sleep than I have and a great weekend.

Oh, just lastly, I should mention the wonderful wedding of last week. NT is now NH and I wore a pink dress for a whole 12 hours. I know, pretty distressing. I also had Vegas style, transvestite lashes which were awesome, except they did come unstuck a few times. Ahhh well, they look even better when they're hanging off. Ha ha. But seriously, it was a fabulous day and I wish NH and TH all the best for married life. The weather was perfect; the shoes crippled me but the (bare foot) dancing was great and it was lovely to reunite with the hens. Also, the cocktail station = genius idea.

2 weeks to the next Wedding. When LC becomes LA. Weird. I think I'll still be calling all the ladies by their maiden names. Can't cope with that many changes in one year. Ha ha. I'll have to gradually phase them out.

Safe journies to anyone travelling today, especially A, and I wish you all a sunny weekend.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Eurovision 2013

Yay! It's that time of year again. It's the 58th Eurovision song contest and my 3rd annual Eurovision blog.
This year we are in Sweden, over that Bridge from the TV show The Bridge.

Well the CGI caterpillar had A hooked from the word go, but I would need a little more persuasion.
Now as usual, it will be a run through of the rather extensive notes I took throughout the show, so sit back, enjoy and relive the wonder of Eurovision.

Okay, so really the epic choral opening was quite distressing. This is Eurovision, let's not make it something it's not. Oh, it's the new anthem, did anyone know we already had one? (Justice, peace and liberty, we write the story.) And what was with the Olympic style flag bearing, time wasting spectacle? Were they hoping there would be a copy cat murder on the fake bridge, just like on the real bridge in that TV show The Bridge? Or did they think it was fun to allow them a further runway to flaunt their extreme randomness?

Already the pink knickers of Finland were offending me. And then the host comes out.....Urgh! Pink boots and a coat. Is she naked underneath? Oh, I get it she's a flasher.
"May the best song win." I highly doubt it. It's Eurovision.

And so to the acts:
1. France.
Tina Turner wannabe? Minus the thighs.
A added, "Is she wearing a crow?"
She was also touching herself, dirty bitch, though I guess if you're on first people have to remember her some how.

"So Long". Oh my word, is he retarded?
Weak pathetic voice. Well suited to a weak pathetic song!
Shoes that he's wearing today, one is called love, the other is Spain?/pain?

Edward hair.
Light in dress. If you have a frock like that you don't have to move. Always a plus. She has a set of pipes though. Classic choreography in the background a la Backstreet Boys.
Ooooo, lightening  and terrifying expanding dress that sets on fire and everything. Awesome!

I'm actually gonna puke! I think the shoes just sent me over the edge. Ding dong? Oh dear.
No wonder her fiance hasn't proposed yet.
Veil + wind machine = best part of performance.
And finish with a girl on girl kiss. Thank god that is over.

5. Spain
Pretending to be a bagpipe with your voice is not the easiest or wises thing to do.
She's flat the whole time.  Come on bitch hit a frickin' note.
Definitely the right dress for a wind machine.

6. Belgium
Love kills. Youth.
Must keep my eyes open. Mustn't blink ever.
Creepy women appearing, giving him extra arms and the odd grope. Those poor women. I hope they are being properly compensated for this dire attempt at dancing.
Catchy though as I sang the last chorus with him. Shit!

7. Estonia
We've suddenly lost colour. A lovely wholesome lady. I know she's pregnant but I think that pretty much constitutes wearing a bin bag . Let's all applaud a long note. Why do people do that?

8. Belarus
They look like they are having fun, especially the 2 male dancers.
Sick of seeing her knickers. Maybe she should try more fabric next time.
Key change and fire.

9. Malta
So what the fuck is he doing there, if he's a Doctor? He has a respectable job. 
Very cute. I just wanna grab his cheeks and ruffle his hair.
No one will trust his medical knowledge after this.
Oh isn't it nice, everyone sitting on the bench together.

10. Russia
Audible breath.
Surrounded by lots of large balls. And they light up. Amazeballs.
Wholesome girl singing what appears to be a put your guns away, let's all live in harmony kind of song.
Good voice though. (Credit where it's due.)

11. Germany
Oh dear, she can't sing in tune.
Attempting to skip in those shoes. Ouch!
I like Cascada though as she's beautiful and normal sized, but I don't know why she was stood on a plinth the whole time.

12. Armenia
Excellent hand signals/choreography.
Girly scarf. Unnecessary wind machine.
This song is really boring. But they are rockin' that denim.
Fire shooting off in all directions:fire hazard.

13. Netherlands
Slit your wrists.
fantastic voice. Actually like the chorus. Although it ends, "That;s why birds don't fly." Now I'm confused: I thought they did.

14. Romania
This is brilliant! Punch bags behind him. And then there was that point where they replace him with a female opera singer. Magical!
Some men wearing panties, tumbling.
Then I realised how phallic the punch bags were.
He looks a little like Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon.
I'm not sure he has a penis.
Oh and then a naked woman came. So that's nice.

15. United Kingdom.
Bonnie, Looking her age.
It's a shame we had to follow the penis-less wonder. Nothing could quite live up to that.
Bonnie, I think you either need to cough or chill the fuck out.
We've lost instantly. Though she did pick it up a bit and did us proud.

16. Sweden
He's an orange woman from Wigan. Heavy on the make-up.
Costumes from The Island? Or some futuristic, dystopian characters from a YA novel.
Ball grabbing moment plus fireworks.
He has a very lop sided quiff thing. Odd.

17. Hungary
Backing singer slapping her thighs in the background. Well there's nowt else to do.
Mish mosh mash.
I'm gonna whisper 'cause I can't really sing but look at my over sized beany.
How dull and grey.
The guitarist is having a lovely time. The singer is not. He's bored out of his mind and so am I.

18. Denmark
What's with the pipes and side drums?
Come on where's the marching band display?
Cute dress, voice and face. It's kind of Cinderella with a marching band escort and she forgot her shoes.
Crap song though. Don't know why it's the favourite.

19. Iceland
Brush your hair you scruffy fuck.
Wet song but the guy can sing. Wet guy too.
He really believes it though.
Finally he's found some friends just in time for the key change. That's good timing.

20. Azerbaijan
It's a bit deep for Eurovision.
Weird contortion style man in the box. Is he being the other guys shadow?
He must have been so thrilled, drowning in rose petals.
Additional spine on her dress. They do all this additional crap to detract from the terrible song.

21. Greece
They're playing hockey in gym skirts.
Classic chorus: Alcohol is free.
They definitely enjoyed wearing their skirts, a little more than they should.
Lighting up instruments. Cool as ken.
You can't help but enjoy this. I'm imagining being off my tits and skanking around quite happily to this. Should be renamed to: Alcohol is needed.

22. Ukraine
It's a giant! It's unnecessary.
I kinda wanna flick her in the face. Jealous of her figure though.
I can't pick out the melody. It's all over the place and slightly schizophrenic.

23. Italy
The most uncomfortable stance ever?
Cute suit.
They were going for simplicity but it came across as can't be arsed.
So generic.

24. Norway
Strobe extreme.
Nice voice!
Oh my god I actually like this one.
Epic! Slightly Scissor Sisters.

25. Georgia
Back to back. Spotlights. Tinkly Piano.
Oh my. No!
Lost in the mist. They have no feet.
Oh, the mist has gone. I got bored half way through and switched off.

26. Ireland
Semi naked Boran players. They didn't have any money for shirts. It's a shame.
I have an innate desire to slap him.
I actually can't believe it's Ireland. I think I might be craving Jedward.

Now, the voting is still going on, but I can safely say the top three is absolute bullshit! Where is Romania? And why is the Moldovian crazy lightening dress not getting more points? Luckily Norway is still going fairly strong and The Netherlands depressing one is doing okay as well. But really, the Danish song was shockingly shite!

A is asleep on the couch and there's still 10 countries to vote. Looks like Denmark may have it. At least we're not bottom this time, in fact Ireland just gave us 7 points, which was rather generous. We only gave them 1. But their song was a pile of topless crap.

How good was Petra the host? Awesome. Normally there's a few annoying people and they change outfits every three seconds. But she was cute and despite being an up scale flasher, she was actually quite funny and charming, with that Swedish charm. Oh though that stupid young guy and his hash tags can fuck right off. Or should I say, #fuck off. As always Graham Norton added an additional level of much needed sarcasm and with that I leave you.

Denmark have won. Ireland have well and truly lost and we haven't. Yes!

Happy Eurovision 2013
Thank God there's only one of these things every year.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hollywood, Sunset, Bel Air, Rodeo and The Getty. Los Angeles best of the rest! The Sarky Traveller

So, it's speed tourism time again and for this edition it's the final of our three days in LA. We've seen and experienced an array of architecture, beach life, Pueblo life, food, entertainment, fun and plenty of sun. (Thank you California!) But you may have noticed a few staples of LA life that we haven't yet broached. So here's what we did in order to see as much as we physically could before our red eye to Boston, but still leave us gagging for more.

All The Sarky Traveller blogs now have a new home on 

A name synonymous with film stars, glitz, glamour and of course The Oscars. Hollywood was actually not what I expected at all. I guess part of me had a romantic notion of what it would look like and that was thrashed through after around 30 seconds. It's seedy, in parts slightly run down (though they are doing it up) and kind of dark, though not in a lack of light way. But all this adds to it's sort of blind charm. No it's not like stepping into a Marilyn Monroe movie set. No there aren't celebs on every corner and you might want to keep tabs on your hand bag (purse) but it adds yet another dimension to this multi faceted city!

The stars are a highlight for me: The Walk of Fame. I honestly think I would have been happy just wandering the star lanes all day. Most of the time I had my head down, shouting out another famous name I'd just encountered. Geek, I know! But it was sort of fun to think that most of these people had walked these streets at one time or another. And it's not just movie stars, there are bands, musicians, singers, astronauts and composers. Every time I found a British representative I was very proud.

Now, as you begin your walk along Hollywood Boulevard, just think of how cool the word Boulevard is. Honestly, I swear we don't have them in Britain. We're not cool enough to pull them off. Close, Avenue, Street, Road. They're all doable, but Piccadilly Boulevard....nah! It just doesn't work.
Anyhoo, as I was saying, beware of the tour guides. They provide driving tours of Hollywood, Sunset Strip and take you round to stars homes. If you want to do this, fine, I'm not saying they aren't good tour guides with lots of interesting things to say, but if you don't want to and you want to just walk around and soak up the seediness then be firm because they are American and they will try everything to talk you round. They were literally accosting us every three steps and couldn't understand why we wanted to waste our time walking around. (It is a long walk to Hollywood and Highland, the main centre of Hollywood activity but if you can afford a couple of hours to soak in some sunshine and sights, then do it. You can't find your favourite stars when you're cruising past in a car. Besides, it's good exercise.)

So, once you've successfully shouted at the fifteenth person to ask you for a tour, you can get on with enjoying the sights, such as the Pentages theatre which was gearing up for The Book of Mormon when we were there; the beautiful Redbury hotel and Capitol Records building (regularly seen in TV and movies but a particular highlight is in The Day After Tomorrow when it's destroyed by a huge tornado.)

Oh, and just a quick note for those Beatles fans, they each have there very own star on Vine, quite near Capitol Records. 

So moving on along the Boulevard, you'll find a host of actually quite random shops, interesting buildings, theatres, museums of the strange and absurd and lingerie shops of the stars. Bizarre but true. There are some very cool memorabilia shops where you can pick up vintage film posters, movie memorabilia, music memorabilia and postcards.

As you reach Hollywood and Highland, with it's Dolby Theatre (home of the Oscars); shopping centre, bars, cafes and night clubs, you know you've found the Hollywood mecca. Here also lie the Chinese Theatre, which was actually gearing up for a premiere, so we couldn't go and check out the hand and footprints outside it. But still, the bit we could see was rather impressive. Also adjacent to the Hollywood and Highland complex is El Capitan, the beautifully lavish theatre which functions as the Disney premiere cinema. And eventually, I found Marilyn in the stars and a couple of others that made me laugh. 

We walked back to the car on the opposite side of the road to take in the sights of the other side, including more random shops, stars and general Hollywoodness. Next stop: Sunset Boulevard for Sunset Strip.

Sunset Strip
Sunset Strip is actually only a tiny portion of Sunset Boulevard which stretches for about 25 miles through Downtown, Hollywood, Beverley Hills and Bel Air. The Strip itself is famous for celeb hang outs, mainly of the yester-year, lavish hotels which have probably witnessed a few celeb deaths and giant billboards advertising everything from film to TV to perfume and alcohol. Driving The Strip was the best option for us and if you're short on time I suggest it, because you are likely to be stuck in enough traffic that you can take in a lot of sights from the car, even the driver and unless you're planning on visiting all the bars and clubs on the off chance of seeing a celeb (not on my top list of holiday must dos) then seeing is quite enough. And remember the speed tourist motto (that I just made up) is to want to go back to a place, so you have to give yourself little tastes, enough to leave the desire to return. 

The Giant billboards are awesome! And really are giant! You will pass The Chateau Marmont famous for hosting lots of celebrities and of course playing host to a fatal overdose. And also the Rainbow Bar and Grill where Marilyn met DiMaggio and Whiskey a Go-Go home to the Doors in the 60's. I missed the Viper room where River Pheonix died outside but it didn't really bother me. At times, it feels like you're pointing out the sights of people's deaths. Again, not on my top list of holiday must dos. But still, a ride along the Strip is essential and it takes you right to our next stop: Beverley Hills.

Beverley Hills
Of course you think 90210. It's impossible not to. Even the youngsters now probably would as they did a whole remake thing. But you can't beat the originals: Brandon, Brenda, Kelly and Dylan. Ahhh, that was Saturday evening television at its 90's best. So iconic sights in Beverley Hills are mainly the massimo houses, gated communities, The Beverley Hills Hotel and Rodeo Drive. We went on a drive through again, stopping off for some amazing up-scale diner food at Kate Mantalini. Yum!

If you are a little peckish in the Beverley Hills area, I do highly recommend Kate Matalini. It's yummy American diner food but in a lovely modern setting and it feels more like a restaurant than a diner. The meatloaf is phenomenol! And despite it's location and it's more up-scale nature, the prices are ridiculously reasonable. Highly, highly recommended. 

Now Rodeo Drive is a landmark of luxury and opulence and so we chose to drive it. (We are neither luxurious nor opulent) It was kinda fun too as you could people watch and laugh about the things you could never afford from the comfort of your hire car. It also made me think about Mighty Ducks 2, where they are at The Goodwill Games in LA and they attempt to go shopping on Rodeo drive, though the cowboy kid mistakes it for rodeo drive and takes his lasso. He he. Made me laugh anyway. 

Of course, if you have a few extra hours to while away the time, by all means soak up the grandeur and pronounce all the designers with a Northern accent (Bulgari is definitely my favourite). And soak up that relentless Californian sun. Honestly, you'd think it would run out at some point, but it never does. 
We even passed The Beverley Hills Hilton where my partner piped up: "Oh, that's where Whitney died." Another glorious landmark for wonderful reasons. Ha ha. That's LA for you. Playground of the rich and famous.

Bel Air and The Getty
Home of UCLA and The Getty Museum, up market Bel Air (not that there's much of a down market around here) is not only famous for its Prince, (quality 90's show) but it's hills and winding lanes and spectacular views right to the sea. We had a few hours left before our red eye and what best to do than take the electric, unmanned train up the hill to The Getty centre, a spectacular feat of architecture as well as a substantial art collection and fantastically sculpted gardens. 

Expect amazing views from the many balconies and promenades. Enjoy the call of the outdoors as you stroll through the gardens taking in Calder sculptures and water features; and the tree lined inner courtyard. It's not necessarily the most beautiful building but it's charm arrives in the way it angles and shapes around the landscape surrounding it. It is absolutely huge and would of course take a whole day to do everything, but in the name of speed tourism, we explored a few rooms, took in the gardens and found the best places to view LA and it's environs. 

What a spectacular city and a spectacular end to our time there. I hope I've inspired more of you to try speed tourism, or at least to check out the joy of LA. I honestly thought I wouldn't enjoy LA. I had this picture in my mind and I'm so glad that has gone now, replaced with unforgettable images and the thirst for more. I will be returning and I will explore further. I have barely begun to scratch the surface of this multi faceted and cultural melting pot of grandiose proportions. Thank you LA.

Oh and a huge thank you for the response to the last Sarky Traveller blog on Universal and Griffith Park. 

When I return there will be a little less sun and a bit more storm, as we tackle New England on the East coast. Have a great weekend and if you're travelling, good luck and enjoy!

The Sarky Traveller

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday.

Rants is officially 2 years old today! I can't believe it. In that time I have posted 126 blogs, had 4580 views from around the globe; started The Sarky Traveller on her way and basically vented and ranted at you lovely people. So thanks for that. I really would be even more messed up if I didn't have this outlet, especially now as I don't go out to work anymore. The old cabin fever does get a hold on you.

So in honour of my 127th blog and 2 year anniversary as a ranting bitter northerner, I feel I must return to fashion. I started back in 2011 with a blog about how much I loved London, which ended up moaning about the Huckleberry Finn, Shoreditch types. Well this is just a general, I hate fashion, everything is horrible, why don't they have a clothes store for things Helen would like, type of blog. Here goes:

Took a trip to Stratford Westfield last weekend to stock up on presents for the millions of May birthdays I had to buy for. And while there I thought maybe I could treat myself to something new, a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, something. Because being self-employed or freelance (feel the air quotes) really doesn't leave much funds for treats and usually my treats consist of new books. Who needs clothes when I could get through 60% of my week in pyjamas if I had to. But still, when two of your three pairs of jeans are almost revealing crotch, it's time to consider that treat.

Jeans are both the love and bane of my existence. Mainly because now you have to want skin tight, painted on monstrosities. They literally don't have any other choice. I'm not saying they don't look good on other people, but I'm not other people and if I wanted something that revealed all my imperfections and complexes then I'd walk around naked. Really. Whatever happened to the wonder of the wide leg jean or the flare? I miss the noughties.....the jeans were so good! I had so many beautiful jeans and I had money, which helped a little. But even bootcut is a joke. I tried a pair on and I could barely get my feet through, let alone boots. Bullshit!

So after a couple of shops (I have a low tolerance for clothes shopping), I gave up. Ebay would have to do. Buying other people's flared jeans that no one wants anymore, that's what I'm doomed to.

So jeans were off the menu, but what about a nice top or something? Well. It's nice to see slogan t-shirts are back in fashion, isn't it? (cough cough) But not only that, you can get slogan trousers and not even slogans, abbreviations or....what's that word when you have initials that stand for something.......oh that's going to annoy me.  Anyhoo, it seems that unless you want to buy a t-shirt with geek or nerd or dork on it, then there really isn't much choice. I don't need a freakin' t-shirt, it's pretty obvious when you look at me.
And not forgetting the jock t-shirt and LOL or WTF or OMG. Quite frankly I would like to shove those  acronyms (figured out the word eventually) down the nearest dork t-shirt wearing freak and have done with it. I HATE OMG and WTF! Why can't people find the time to actually say all the words. Soon we'll be communicating with sounds not words and eventually we'll regress right back to the cavemen with a system of grunts and butt scratches. But at least you'll all have an Iphone. ARGH!

Anyhoo, calming slightly, I have issues with the printed leggings as well and long dresses and the obsession with neon. Basically, I need them to open a shop with things for Helen, which would consist of flared jeans; flared cords (I miss them so much); lots of black cute dresses to wear over jeans; cute t-shirts with spots or anchors or hearts or stars on and lots of navy blue things, because I really love navy blue, especially in the summer. I could probably even get on board with coloured jeans and maybe even print jeans (again stars, anchors, etc) if they were flared. Really, am I asking too much????

Obviously I am. Well, it's back to ebay I go. Let's hope I can pick up a bargain. Ironically I just realised I am sat here in star print pyjama bottoms and a navy blue t-shirt. Ha ha. But I will have to get changed later when I go out to teach. Luckily kids don't give a crap if you're wearing shit you've had for years and is falling apart. They are so good like that.

I feel significant time has passed for me to talk about my traumatic fall of last week. I was walking home from my last music class of the week, around 6pm, coming from Temple. The sun is shining and I'm glad to be going home as A is back from another conference and I know I have the Prison Break finale to watch. Backpack on, shoulder bag on, hands in pockets, Ipod playing. So I'm sauntering along Fetter Lane and outside the Eat is some wooden benches. I didn't notice they'd removed one and I stroll through not seeing the four metal bolts they've left sticking up out of the floor. I think my jeans got caught in one and that's why I couldn't stop myself falling, splat and rather spectacularly forwards.

I must have just managed to get my hands out of my pockets as they grazed the hard paving stones but my left knee got a right bashing. So I sit up assessing the damage and making sure I have my bags and stuff, and there's a guy about a metre away who turns, looks in disgust and turns away. No, are you okay? Can I help you up? Now part of me was grateful for that as of course I was embarrassed but really, if you see someone fall do you turn away? Fucker!

It was then that I noticed the four metal bolts and I thought how dangerous that was and how if I had landed differently I could have impaled myself on one of them. Not the best thought to be having at this point. So I hobble up and have a slight panic about Frank (my Ipod) in my pocket and of course my beautiful vintage sunglasses but they're both fine. Then I have to hobble past a pub teeming with alfresco drinkers, though they didn't even bat an eyelid. I was thinking if that was up North they'd probably cheer as you went past, but then if that was up North, someone would have helped me up.

Luckily I didn't have to wait long for the bus but my leg was screaming out in pain. When I eventually looked at my leg, it was bleeding and grazed at two points and I could tell there would be a lot of bruising eventually. When A got home he brought a bag of ice and I sat with an icepack on whilst having a breakdown at the Prison Break finale. There was some minor sobbing, though I think my earlier trauma may have had something to do with it. Still, it's funny how things we did as a kid become more traumatic as you get older. I used to fall in the playground umpteen times a week but now, one fall really knocks you for six.

So after 6 days it's looking decidedly green and yellow and it's getting to that scabby stage where you want to scratch your leg off with a cheese grater but as long as it's completely gone in the next two weeks for the first of four weddings this year, then great. The last thing I want is my scabby knee sticking out of my bridesmaid dress.

Anyhoo, this free flow rant has become longer than expected. The words were just pouring out. I quite enjoyed that. Ahhhhhh (sigh of content). Here's to many more years of northern ranting, because let's face it, it's the best kind!

Cheers and I send virtual birthday cake to you all! (I'll let you decide what flavour it is.)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Universal Studios, Griffith Park and Horror Nights. LA 3 ...The Sarky Traveller

And so, as promised The Sarky Traveller returns with another day in LA. Sticking true to my speed tourism roots, the past two LA blogs were actually one day out of the three we were able to spend there. So moving on swiftly, we slide into Day 2.

All The Sarky Traveller blogs now have a new home on

Now in some ways a large portion of Day 2 was slightly unnecessary but it's one of those, who knows when we might be there again type scenarios and also, we're not getting any younger scenarios. And also, I never got to do these things and travel when I was young so I'm making up for it now, type scenarios. So anyway, it was necessary for us but other people might think with only 3 days in such a massive city it wasn't worth it.
Well, those people are wrong! And I'm here to show you why.

But first: An absolute must if you're visiting Los Angeles is the wonderfully wild Griffith Park. Overlooking what feels like the entire World but is in fact just the monstrously far reaching and beautifully sprawling city of Los Angeles, Griffith Park winds up and up to bring you face to face with The Griffith Observatory and pretty much as close as you're going to get to The Hollywood Sign.

Again, Alias fans will go wild as they remember Sydney and Vaughn meeting for secret mission ops and a little gentle flirting.

But really it is such a beautiful building with its white walls and huge green domes and fantastical views. Inside is a Planetarium and heaps of exhibits to keep you gazing upwards, as well as a cafe, shop and plenty of viewing platforms. It is free to get in with the planetarium shows at an additional cost. And besides, from up there you feel like a giant looking down on the tiny buildings and even smaller people, which is always fun.

As for the rest of the park - the largest Urban park in the US - there is tonnes to do, especially if you're into hikes and horseback trails. There's even the Los Angeles Zoo, the outdoor Greek Theatre and the Travel Town Museum, complete with miniature railway for the kids. If you have more than the meagre 45 minutes we had to look around, then attempt to find the nicely hidden away Bronson Caves where iconic scenes from many TV and films have been shot, in the former quarry and subsequent caves.

But this is speed tourism, so after some nice photos and admiration for the view and the Observatory, it was time to take the short drive to Universal Studios. Giddiness expected!

Before you arrive at the entrance to the studios, you walk through the City Walk, a strip of shops, restaurants, cinemas and venues. This is accessible to anyone, without having to pay admission to the Studios, though you do have to pay parking. And at night there is a hell of a lot of neons, think Seattle Pike Place Market or a teeny Vegas, which gives it a great atmosphere and pulse. There is a huge 19 screen AMC cinema there, which seems right being so close to one of the largest movie and TV studios in the World. And as a lover of the US store Hot Topic, there is also one of those there too.

Once through the City Walk you are greeted by the iconic spinning globe of Universal. Queue for a photo if desired and then it's a hop skip and jump through the gates for a day of Movie magic. Now I am going to try not to add too many spoilers for those who haven't been yet, but I will say that there is a lot to do, so aim to arrive when it opens at 10, because it closes at 5.30/6.00. And also if you go in peak times. i.e summer holidays then you are likely to be queuing for rides and attractions much longer than we did. Hint hint: Go in October, close to Halloween. The weather is still incredible but the most you have to queue is 10 minutes and you can take advantage of the Halloween Horror Nights as well.

So of course one of the most amazing things about Universal, is that it's a working studio. As you enter there's a board telling you what is being filmed that day and in which studio. (Giddiness). And you can take the Studio Tour which is something that I used to see on the adverts as a kid and think it would be the scariest thing ever, especially with the old shark leaping out of the water. (Sorry, Spoiler, but if you didn't know that then you must have had your head in a bag for the last thirty years.)

So you take your tram, as they call them, not like a tram in Blackpool, for those Brits who are reading this. It's more of a low riding bus with no sides and you have your tour guide/tram driver who appears on a screen and talks his/her socks off about all things Universal. It takes around 45 minutes but feels longer. You wind past old film posters charting the iconic films made here and down past the studios. We passed Studio 22 where CSI was filming. It was actually hard to believe that behind those walls familiar faces were acting their socks off, whilst we sauntered by enjoying the sun.

Driving through the back lot is incredible. There are full scale or almost full scale representations of various streets that can be adapted to be any US City. Probably the most impressive thing here is the Back to the Future set. Also they told us they had used the sets for some episodes of NCIS. Sweet! Some of the buildings are facades - meaning only a front - whereas some are the full building and can even be used for internal shots. Most of all it's just really interesting to hear about the inner workings of a movie set. And when you imagine your favourite actors there, it really is magical.

Along the way are a few interesting detours: King Kong 3D Return to Skull Island; A demonstration from The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift and The Mummy special effects ride, which all take place from the comfort of your tram. You get to see some cars and vehicles from TV and film and without spoiling too much, The DeLorean from Back to the Future is a pretty cool sight.

You go through back lot sets for Europe. They call it Little Europe as they feel it can be adapted for any European Town/City. Awww bless the US. They really don't have a clue do they? You pass by Amity Island, famous for it's use in Jaws and also Murder She Wrote; Little Mexico and some scale model stuff from King King, before heading through more specific sets. There's a plane crash wreck; a particularly sinister Motel and a huge green screen and lake. Anyhoo, to cut a long story short. It's incredible. It's a must see and you just have to do it!

Once back from the tour there is a hell of a lot to fit in not least of all the Lower Lot rides: Transformers 3D; Revenge of The Mummy and Jurassic Park. To get to the lower lot will take you at least 10 minutes on four massive and rather slow moving escalators. Still, it gives you time to catch your breath and soak up the views as you head down, deep down.

I don't want to reveal too much about the rides, except that Jurassic Park is a water ride and you will get wet no matter where you sit. And also if you have to queue for hours for these rides, which I hope you don't, there is a lot going on to attempt to entertain you. Even if there is no queue it takes about ten minutes to walk through to the actual ride, but watch out for a glimpse of the All Spark. Amazing!

Food is fast and exactly what you would expect: burgers, sandwiches, fries, hotdogs, churros, cookies and other naughty treats. But they also have these lovely frozen daiquiris (if of course you are old enough to drink - remember 21 over there guys) and they are just fabulous in the Californian sunshine, whilst taking a breather. Plus they are also a great accompaniment to the ten minute journey back to the Upper lot, where The Simpsons Ride awaits. The best bits of the Simpsons ride is all the additional clips and videos. Watch out for your favourite cast members doing their thing!

But Universal is not just about rides, it's about real life attractions and shows. At the Special effects show you can see old school effects versus the most technologically advanced effects used in TV and film. Expect really obvious humour and cheese cheese cheese, but still great effects. At the Terminator 3D experience, the combination of live action and 3D effects is particularly entertaining, though the opening bull shit gets old and quick. Wear ear plugs until you actually go into the auditorium and you'll be fine. The Animal Actors stage is fabulous, with perky animal trainers and super cute dogs, pigs, birds and other animals. Water World only has two showings a day but it is well worth it if you can fit it in. Oh and warning again, you will get wet, if not by what's happening in the performance then by the people going round with supersoakers and buckets of water. Fun fun fun. If in doubt, pack a poncho, but really just enjoy it. Think hi-jinks, fire, lots of stunts and of course, water! Then finally there is the wonderful Shrek 4D which adds that extra element of touch to it's already heightened senses. I think the only thing we missed but we actually heard in passing was a Blues Brothers Live show, which conflicted with our tight schedule, but all in all we managed it before kick out time.

Now earlier I mentioned how you should visit near Halloween because of the Halloween Horror Nights. Well guess what we were up to an hour later, after a massive pizza in City Walk? Yes, yes yes! It was time to scream and laugh more than I ever have in my entire life. Let the scare fest begin.

Warning: If you don't like scary movies, don't even think about it because this isn't a scary person running around on screen that you can hide from, this is really scary people running at you and chasing you, with chainsaws. Oh hell yeah! It's freakin' awesome!

What a difference an hour makes. The lights are off, the sun has gone to bed and it's time for the night creatures to come and play. The crowds are huge, the atmosphere is incredible and there's not a child in sight. You might however find a mass of Clowns with chainsaws; Witches; Zombies or Crazy Toyz (their Z not mine). It was extremely well done and scary as hell. The Studio Tour trams became the Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead and you had the joy of being dumped in the back lot and chased around many of the most iconic sets and a creepy forest by lots of zombies. Amazeballs!

The rides were still open, so you could do Jurassic Park in the dark. (If only for the rhyme.) There was a live show: Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure. And there were 6 walk through mazes to scare the bejeezers out of you. Expect people to jump out at every moment, but you still won't be able to stop screaming and laughing. Expect your face to ache from all the screaming and laughing and most of all expect massive queues. But saying that, it all added to the experience. Everyone penned in, in the dark awaiting their fate. Kind of eerily poetic.

When we went they were bigging up the Third Season of The Walking Dead, which meant there was not only the Terror Tram invaded by The Walking Dead, with actual sets and props used for Season 3, but there was also a maze. We were also treated to such gems as: Silent Hill, working up to the release of Silent Hill Revelation film; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a 3D Alice Cooper maze which was awesome. You had no idea what was real and what wasn't. Mind fuck!

Again, long story short, this is amazing for Halloween lovers and fright fest people everywhere. You can of course go just for the night time shenanigans, especially if you've been to the studios before, but if you're there in late October, check it out because it really is fantastic. You know they are just actors and they can't touch you, but when they're running towards you with a chainsaw, you sort of forget that and run and scream, like a little girl with a Pheobe run. 

So that was day 2 of the 3 day speed tour of LA. And you may be thinking; what about Hollywood and Beverley Hills and Rodeo Drive and.......Well calm down. You've seen what we can do in short spaces of time and we still had one day left. When I next get my Sarky Travelling pants on, I'll be taking you on a speed tour of the best of the rest of LA.

Until then, keep travelling!
The Sarky Traveller