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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Sunday, 22 June 2008

Diamond (but avoiding the Jubilee!)

(finally finished on the 1st July.. oops!)

It's been a lovely weekend so far; Beth and I had a wonderful, relaxing (on the whole!) day in London yesterday.

After dropping the children at Beth's folks (they were excited to have a 'sleepover' too; their chosen acoutrements on this occasion were a pair of bongos and a pack of playing cards.. who needs technology, eh? Well, OK, they took a DS and a Leapster as well!) we drove into Central London and parked the car at work. After lunch at The Montagu Pyke (formerly 'The Moon Under Water' - perhaps the name changed because there's another by the same name on Leicester Square!) - probably the place we've eaten most on our days out in town - we discovered that both The British Museum and The National Gallery were ten minutes walk away! We're hoping to take the children on a sight-seeing trip into London during the summer holidays, so this afforded us a good opportunity to see whether there was enough to keep a nearly-nine year-old and five year-old occupied for an hour or so. In fact, I don't think I'd ever visited them - when I was younger, I daresay they weren't free to enter, and it's only as I approach middle-age(!) I have an appreciation of the amazing artifacts (such as seven thousand year old Egyptian statues) and sheer scale of the paintings that I've only seen as postcard or poster prints.

We then drove around the ring-road to the O2. I'd never done the Blackwall Tunnel before - and if I can avoid doing it again, I will! In fact, the 'southbound' tunnel is newer, and it's only the long wait in the sunshine so that the myriad confluences of traffic can be ensured a steady flow through the tunnel itself (being as it is the only crossing of the river in the area) and the general featurelessnes of the area that made it unpleasant. The journey home was worse, since the older of the two tunnels includes some sharp bends and very narrow lanes that makes it a claustrophobic experience that requires lots of concentration - tough at that time of night!

But I've skipped ahead a little.. when we had arrived and parked up (the £20 parking fee, though expensive, was still less than return tickets on the tube or shuttle bus - added to the inconvenient closure of the Jubilee Line that weekend it seemed the least-hassle option) it was interesting to see the 'Millennium Dome' (as it was) at close quarters, since it was still a chargeable attraction when we'd previously visited. Now, it's a fairly generic entertainment centre, with all the usual suspects (Nandos, Pizza Express, Starbucks) but still a pleasant indoor venue for a night out - ideal, I guess, for the locals!

Beth and me in the O2 'chill out' dome thingWhat piqued our interest, though was the O2 'chill-out zone' - an inflatable dome (within the Dome.. how cool is that?) with a cushioned floor, beanbags strewn and music playing quiety, intended as an escape from the busy walkways outside. It was free to use, and had surprisingly few people inside; Beth and I bought a Saturday paper, and spent much of the time before the concert relaxing in there! There's a photo of us in there to the right..

The O2 Arena from the upper balconyWhen we entered the Arena, we found our seats, high on the balcony, quite a long way from the stage (see the picture, right, for an idea of the size of the place! The absolute top of the photo represents the equivalent seats to ours on the opposite side... click, as always, for bigger). But the sound was excellent, and we could see everybody - just Neil Diamond and his band for the whole concert - well, either on stage or on the huge video monitors. The performance was excellent, though, with some classic sing-a-long songs and some tracks off his new album. A couple of things struck me while we were there, though; although there was a fine brass section, the copious quantities of strings that accompanied many of his early hits was played by two keyboardists - I guess to save on costs, and because digital orchestras are of excellent quality these days. I also spent quite a while trying to work out where the cameras were that were filming the singers 'straight on' for the large video screens as they stood on the stage, since the audience filled the area immediately at the front of the arena, and it would be awkward (to say the least!) to negotiate them with a large broadcast camera! I concluded that, just behind the sound desk (several tens of metres back!) there were a pair of cameras with a very, very long zoom!

So, a fine, fine concert, and, apart from the interesting route home suggested by the satnav (mainly involving lots of revellers around the place) an excellent day, leaving us tired and happy, and a lifetime ambition achieved (for Beth, at least!)

Posted by james at June 22, 2008 11:17 PM

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