Thursday, March 27, 2008

MADEIRA – The 2008 island visit

The day before the day before we went

So it’s Saturday and I’m in Whitney Oxford, and my feet are killing me. Why? Because I bought a pair of walking boots, no make that two pairs of walking boots, that don’t do what they are supposed to do. Let me explain. My old Zamberlan trek-lites, although serviceable had worn soles, no good on the slippery clay paths I would find in Madeira’s rainforest. So I bought a nice new pair of Contour trail shoes in Joe Browns and very nice they were too….. until I spent a day walking round London on the Friday. I got back to our hotel and I was footsore, with hot damp smelly feet. What is good a thousand feet up Snowdon on a cold winters day – lined and waterproof, just does’nt hack it in the muggy conditions of a city. So on our way back to the hotel we took a look at the sales in Covent Garden, spending a tidy wad on the side, where I picked up a pair of non waterproof KSB shoes. The sole was quite hard and the toe a tad narrow, but they were Ok and worth a punt for £20. And they were great, on grass. On concrete that sole was just too hard. So it was back to the start – but this was’nt the main reason I was in Whitney.

We would be stopping Saturday night at Helen's, a friend of mine, and we were there ostensibly to buy some supper and what have you. I also wanted to get a new inhaler, and some bits and bobs…. As chance would have it there was a sale of trainers going on at the local hall, and since I did’nt fancy wearing either a pair of deckies or my mega-hot Contours for the whole trip I took a look. Half an hour later and I was decked out in an excellent pair of well fitting, comfy and best of all non smelly/non waterproof approach shoes, for less than £20 – basically what I actually wanted to buy [but could’nt] for £60 a fortnight earlier.

Arriving at Helens we found the key she had left [they were out and would’nt be back until late evening]. I watched Wales trounce France for the rugby Grand Slam and went to bed much happier, even though I still had sore feet.

The next day we drove down to Gatwick, stopping en-route for Sunday lunch and checked into the hotel prior to our early departure the following Monday morning.

The following day we duly presented ourselves at the Airport and were checked through in no time at all. The flight was packed and as usual there was little space for each of us. We sat on the tarmac for a while, being late when all of a sudden there was a bump and……… nothing happened. We sat there some more until we actually started moving in a purposeful way towards the runway. Nothing could stop us now and hurrah we were up and away on an uneventful but somewhat uncomfortable 4 hour trip to our destination, the Isle of Madeiria, semitropical , green and although we did’nt know it at the time – full of germans.

The approach to Madeira was quite spectacular, all clouds, greenery, precipitous cliffs and mountain peaks. The approach to the airport for landing was also quite spectacular, but in a more scary way. The cheery pilot asked us to ‘hang on’, as the runway was ‘a bit short’ and therefore braking would be ‘quite hard’. Blimey, I’ve had softer car crashes than that landing. First off the plane weaves and banks all over the place on it’s approach, then you get a sudden view of cars, houses above you, a vision of green cliffs and red rooftops flashes across your view and suddenly you are down, careering down the too-short runway towards the sea at umpteen miles an hour, braking hard and being thrown forwards in your seatbelt. A small cheer and a scatter of applause confirms we have made it down in one piece. I find out later that they extended the runway out over the sea on stilts and that it’s nicknamed the aircraft carrier for very good reasons.

A slight argument occurred a little later as we attempted to get our hire car. S bristled somewhat at the information that the excess insurance [fully comp to you and I] would be an extra £60 thus hitching the deal up to the heights of potential absurdity. Why so expensive? I figured there must be a reason, so it might be better having the cover than not, regardless of the expense. Later on, although we did’nt ever need the excess, I figured that it was a good thing we paid, as the amount of blind bends, potholes and things [mostly rocks] that seemed to fall from above made me grateful that we stumped up.

Funchal was nice, the hotel apartment was nice, the view was very nice – mostly of the sea right below and in front of us, framed by the harbour on one side and the famous Reids Hotel on the other. We sat back and soaked it all in prior to kicking off our shoes, having a beer and relaxing.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Duffy - Rockferry

Well it's not often I'm moved to writing a record review, but in the case of our local pride and joy, bridesmaid to my goddaughter, Chloe and all round singing sensation that is Aimee Duffy, well it's a first...........

So. Duffy: the long awaited album. I was led to expect by both the tracks that have been released already and the superb live performances that have been variously screened on youtube and on the box that this would be something very special.

What we get is essentially a box of chocolates, a curates egg; something for everyone but not everything for all. There are some superb tracks: Rockferry just builds and builds; Warwick Avenue could have come from it’s namesake [Dionne]; Stepping Stone is a grower; Mercy we all know about! Distant Dreamer is a slice of pure Spector meets Scott Walker and is another grower.

The other tracks might just get to me but on first hearing don’t do much.

The exception to this is Syrup and Honey which is awesome, stripped back to guitar and emotion, even with a little intake of breath at the beginning. For me this is the best song on the album and is a pointer to the direction [to me at any rate] she should take her craft.

As a work in progress Duffy has made an excellent start, and with experience in refining that incredible instrument that is her voice and writing good songs with the right production crew there is no reason for her second album being every bit as good as that other Amy’s second album was.

If I was coming to this cold I’d probably give it 3* but based on our Duffy’s powerful live performances to date I give it 4* and hope that the next one lives up to the potential shown here.

So there. now you know.