Today in photos

Not all mine, either.

Firstly, a-ha’s appearance to sign copies of their 73rd greatest hits album: 25:The Very Best Of a-ha at Oxford Street’s HMV, which I couldn’t attend because Oxford Street is in London and I am in Cape Town. Initially, this seemed like a very bad thing, but it wasn’t really because I got to go round a brewery. There are no breweries on Oxford Street in London. (I haven’t verified this fact in any way, but it seems a fairly good bet).

Photo from HMV get closer

But as I say, thanks to the Ogilvy and the champion taste of Carling Black Label, I was invited on a Brewery Tour and Tasting – the beer, not the brewery – which was fun, interesting, informative and quite staggering when it came to sheer size and numbers. They make a lot of beer in Newlands. A lot. More than 1,000,000 litres a day.
And that, as I may have mentioned, is a lot.

The official photographs, from the official photographer are yet to come (and we’ll surely revisit this when they do), but I did knock a few pics off with my trusty 8MP X10 camera.
Keen mathematicians amongst you will have calculated that that amounts to a whole 3,000,000 pixels more than an iPhone 4, of course. Loving all these 0’s this evening.

Here’s a remarkable device filling the bottles in the bottling plant

It’s called a bottle filler and it spins around rather fast.
The whole bottling plant was hugely impressive (and rather noisy) as this short collection of video clips proves. It was a bit like watching the Discovery Channel in person. Except that there were no repeats.
The rest of the photos are here – blurring slightly as the day progressed. I wonder why.

Don’t throw your lifelines away

There aren’t many pop videos which begin with a poem written by a king.
In fact, if you can name any at all, I’ll be impressed. And that’s going to leave you high and dry when that “name a pop video which begins with a poem written by a king” question comes up at the next pub quiz you go to.

Instead then – tell them about this video: Lifelines by a-ha, which is prefaced by a poem written in 1977 by King Olav V of Norway :

When I look back
I see the landscapes
That I have walked through
But it is different

All the great trees are gone
It seems there are
Remnants of them

But it is the afterglow
Inside of you

Of all those you met
Who meant something in your life

And then the video, based on the Norwegian short film A Year Along the Abandoned Road and filmed in the abandoned Norwegian fishing village of Børfjord.

…and presented to you this evening not just to assist with future pub quizzing, but also to mark two months before a-ha’s last ever gig in the UK, which will take place on November 27th at Wembley Arena: one of the venues where I saw them perform on their Lifelines tour (on 12th October 2002).
The 27th November 2010 is, incidentally, also the date that I land in the UK for The Last Hurrah tour.

It all seems to fit.


One hundred days from now, I will be enjoying a concert at the Oslo Spektrum in… Oslo, that being the major reason behind The Last Hurrah Tour. Thus, at such a milestone, it seems appropriate to enjoy a little more a-ha and what could be better than their only UK number 1, The Sun Always Shines On TV (which, of course, is actually untrue)?

Released in November 1985 – yes, that’s 25 years ago – this single sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide, of which I was personally responsible for 0.000022%.  And, in further personal a-ha trivia, I own (as in on CD/vinyl) no fewer than 4 separate cover versions of this song, including one* by the utterly, utterly pisspoor female Europop dance duo Diva, who thankfully remain the perfect example of a no-hit wonder.

* which I have just found here.


Things are coming together nicely for The Last Hurrah with the booking of the flights and the accommodation for the Oslo leg of the trip: the internet is a wonderful thing.

Budget flights from Gatwick were very easy to book, although I had to specify upfront that I wasn’t going to be bringing any diving equipment with me, which was a disappointment but did save some cash. Also, since it’s just an overnighter, I also chose “no hold baggage” – saving another €13, but leaving each of us each with an allowance of just 10kg of hand baggage and meaning that I’m going to be wearing a LOT of clothing on the flight. As you do when heading to Norway in December, I guess.

The hotel was more problematic. The location had to be good: handy for the much vaunted 210kph flytoget rail service – which unsurprisingly arrives and departs from the main railway station – but more so for the concert venue. Oh, and reasonably economical too. And that’s no easy thing to do when playing around with Scandinavian pricing.

I used Google maps extensively before plumping for the perfect place, booked it and all was done. Then I decided to have a look at Streetview. Ah. Is that the place we’re staying, just above the (ahem) “Red Windmill Bar”?
Yes, yes – I think it is.

Because while the cat is at home (with the kittens), the mouse will frequent hotels above dodgy pubs full of Scandinavian women.

Allegedly, anyway.

The Last Hurrah

With the World Cup over (feel eet, eet is gone), it’s time to move on to other things and I need a project to keep myself occupied now that there isn’t live football available 24/7 (at least, until the new football seasons start in a couple of weeks).

So I’m turning my attention to my little end of year jaunt to the Northern Hemisphere and I have decided that this one will be entitled The Last Hurrah: after a-ha’s final single and in keeping with the bittersweet purpose of the trip. There will be tears.
Given that there will be just 180 hours between my outbound flight touching down at T5 and my inbound flight leaving the same – and with approximately a million people to see in the UK plus 3 blokes in Norway – this will be no holiday and organisation will be key.

There are some obvious items that are set in stone and flights and hotels need to be booked for those (cough, Big Ant, cough), but the rest is all just in my head. The only issue is that in there, it finds itself competing for space with thoughts of lobsters, christmas trees and external hard drives (don’t ask) and thus requires documenting here in some sketchy form or other.

Cape Town | Sheffield | (Newcastle) | Sheffield | Gloucester | Oslo | London | Cape Town

Obviously, these are just the bare bones. You can’t fly directly from Cape Town to Sheffield (nor from Gloucester to Oslo) and there will be no overnight stop in Newcastle – but it will be visited.

The emphasis (indicated above by the use of italics) in the case of Newcastle is important because it will be my first trip back there since leaving University back in 1995. I’ve often promised myself that I would get back up to The Toon, but either money, time or (now) distance has prevented it. On this trip, I’m determined to make a day of it up there – if only to see what remains of my old haunts.
Sadly, as far as they go, I suspect there won’t be much left to see: 15 years is a long time when you’re considering cities in Northern England and the throes of rejuvenation.
I hope that green bridge is still there.

So anyway – there they are – the best laid plans of me.
And surely the only things that can ruin them are a BA strike or an errant Icelandic volcano.