A Week in New York, October 2015

Last October J & I visited New York for (nearly) a week, mostly to see the Egyptian stuff in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – but we did do other sightseeing too πŸ™‚ In terms of Ancient Egyptian stuff seen we spent two and a half days in the Met (including time in their exhibition on the Middle Kingdom that opened while we were there), and a day in the Brooklyn Museum. And for non-Egyptian stuff we managed to cram 2 tall buildings, a boat ride past a statue, Central Park (more than once, both walking & running), 2 art galleries & the Natural History Museum and a lot of tasty food & drink, into about a day & two half days. It was the sort of holiday you come back from feeling like you need a week on the beach to decompress before doing anything else … so instead we went away for a weekend in London with friends (and study days for J) before returning to reality with a bump!

A selection of my photos from the trip are up on flickr, here (or click on any of the photos on this post to go to it on flickr). There’ll be more Ancient Egyptian related ones later, but this set has all the sightseeing ones in it.

Day 0

Our journey out seemed to take forever, partly coz we stayed over in a hotel at the airport the night before our flight. But it was uneventful, and eventually we made it to the hotel. When we were booking pretty much every hotel in Manhattan, and particularly in the area near the museums, had reviews that talked about how small the rooms all were so we were kinda fearing the worst, but it was actually a pretty reasonable room and much bigger than we were expecting πŸ™‚

Me in Our Hotel Room

Day 1

Our original plan was to do city sightseeing on the first day, but the weather forecast said that it was going to turn into the only bad weather day of the trip so we changed things around. We had to pick up the sightseeing passes I’d bought so we walked from the hotel through Central Park to do that, via a breakfast of pancakes and bacon (surprisingly tasty) in a diner along the way.

Me in Central Park

We then spent about 9.5 hours in the Met, and saw a bit more than half of their Egyptian things … I hadn’t actually realised quite how much stuff there was in there. We did pause for lunch btw, and were impressed with the cafeteria they had – loads of proper food options as well as sandwiches. Actually I quite liked the museum as a whole – even though we didn’t explore much past the Ancient Egyptian stuff, there was a lot there to see and we could’ve spent a lot longer than the time we had on this trip. The only annoying thing about it was in the Egyptian sections there were constant tours coming through that were purporting to tell their victims all about Egypt in the Bible. But sadly almost everything one overheard them say was utter bobbins – for instance the scarab beetle hieroglyph has nowt to do with the god Ptah, and the plague of locusts wasn’t sent to make Egyptians worry about taking the name of Ptah in vain as they spat locusts out. It wasn’t just wrong, it was fractally wrong – every statement I heard had me wondering where to start in deciding what was wrong with it. And as we spent a lot of time there, I had a chance to hear these stories multiple times …

Naqada II Pottery

Anyway, moving back to the interesting and non-tooth grinding stuff πŸ™‚ The Egyptian galleries are laid out in chronological order and on this first day we managed to get from the prehistoric stuff through to the middle of the 18th Dynasty. I’m going to write up a bigger post about the Met once I’ve got all my photos from there online, so this post will only have general thoughts. One thing that struck me was that there was a subtle difference in how the objects were presented – the Met (and the Brooklyn Museum) are art museums rather than history museums. And although I can’t quite put my finger on how the presentation was different it did feel a bit more like the history was there to contextualise the object one was looking at, rather than the object being there to illustrate the history one was learning.

Model Travelling BoatGazelle

Day 2

For our second day we spent half the day doing sight-seeing before returning to the Met for the early evening (to take advantage of the late closing day). We started by getting up very briskly to try and beat the rush to the Empire State Building – which we pretty much did, still a lot of people but we didn’t have to queue terribly long.

View from the Empire State BuildingView from the Empire State Building

After looking at Manhattan from on high, we next went to look at it from the water … We’d decided not to actually visit the Statue of Liberty, instead we took the Staten Island Ferry which goes past the Statue and gives you a pretty good view of it and of the iconic Manhattan skyline from below. We had our lunch over on Staten Island – we tried to strike off into the island itself to see if we could find somewhere to eat, but I think we went the wrong way and ended up in a distinctly Not Touristy part so after a bit of a failure of nerve we returned to the ferry terminal and went to one of the restaurants there. Despite it feeling like a bit of a cop out, we actually had a rather nice lunch and the service was possibly the best of the whole trip. We then took the ferry back – having taken lots of photos on the way out I just admired the view on the way back πŸ™‚

Statue of LibertyView from Staten Island FerryView from the Staten Island Ferry

And then back to the Met – we got round almost all the rest of the Egyptian stuff, except for one suite of galleries that they randomly closed just as we were about to look at it (I think they didn’t have enough staff that evening? it wasn’t clear what was going on). We even got to the piΓ¨ce de rΓ©sistance today – a whole (small) temple. I really liked how they had the room it’s in laid out – the temple is surrounded by a moat, with a small handful of carefully chosen pieces of sculpture. One of the walls of the room is glass (from Central Park it looks like a glass pyramid), and so the temple is mostly lit by natural light during the daytime. And looking at the temple I even found some graffiti – that’s how you can tell it’s a real temple πŸ˜‰ Mostly 19th Century European stuff, but I think some demotic as well.

Head of a Canopic JarTemple of DendurGraffiti on the Temple of Dendur

Day 3

This was the only day of the trip that we left Manhattan – to spend all day in another museum full of Ancient Egyptian artifacts! We got to Brooklyn a little earlier than the museum opened, so did have a little wander about and a coffee in a nearby cafe. But the rest of the day was spent in the museum πŸ™‚ They don’t have anything like as much stuff as the Met but there was still a lot there.

Female FigurineBlock Statue of Ay

I did manage to fit in a look at their Ancient Near East room as well – I was amused to see that among their objects they have some of the same series of reliefs from Ashurbanipal’s palace at Nineveh as are in the British Museum. Apparently there were so many found that the BM sold some of them off as they simply didn’t have space to display or store them all.

Reliefs from the Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal IIHead of a Snarling Lion

Day 4

After a full day of museuming we spent the next day doing more city sightseeing. For someone who’s not keen on heights I was spending a lot of this holiday up tall buildings: we bookended this day with two trips up to the Top of the Rock, so that we could see the views in daylight and after dark. The trip up the Empire State Building was in large part because J felt you can’t visit New York without going up the Empire State Building … and the trip up to the Top of the Rock was because we wanted to see the Empire State Building in the skyline. And we also got a much better view of Central Park than we had from the Empire State Building.

Me at The Top of the RockView from the Top of the Rock

After the first trip up a tall building of the day we headed to the Museum of Modern Art. I’d thought in advance that there might not be much there to my tastes – I’m not overly keen on “modern art” as a broad category. But it turned out that there were quite a few things I did like. There was plenty of stuff by Van Gogh, the Jackson Pollack pieces were much better in person than on the telly. I also liked the Rothkos, and several other things. And the Monet waterlily paintings … which wasn’t a surprise, I’ve always been fond of them πŸ™‚ And other things too. But I still don’t like Picasso very much, and that’s who always pops to mind first when you say “modern art”.

Me with Van Gogh's Starry NightJ with a painting by Paul Klee"Water Lilies" Claude Monet

We also looked at some of the contemporary stuff in MOMA, but that mostly just reminded us that the passage of time is a useful way of filtering out the good stuff from the dross πŸ˜‰ After that we walked up to the Natural History Museum … hoping to find lunch on the way, but somehow I’d picked the wrong street for us to walk along as we didn’t see a single cafe or restaurant till we were right next to the museum. Still, we got to eat in the end πŸ™‚ And then we saw dinosaur bones πŸ˜€ And some mammals, and early vetebrates. To be honest, whilst I was pleased we went to this museum, it felt much more like a commercial enterprise than any of the other museums – organised primarily to separate you (and any children you might have) from your money. But still, dinosaurs!

I'm a Dinosaur!Me & My Turtley Friend

And then we walked once more. Back down towards Top of the Rock to while away the time till the sun set. We popped into Central Park on the way past to see the memorial to John Lennon. And then walked down Broadway for a bit, and had a drink in a bar around there. Once it got dark we headed to Times Square to walk through there (so, so, so tacky, but a box we felt we should tick), before going back up the Top of the Rock. We’d been pleasantly surprised at the speed the queues moved in the morning, but the evening showed us we’d just timed it right. The view was pretty good tho – worth queuing for! The Empire State Building was lit up in the colours of the Italian flag for the evening – because it was Columbus Day, and the New York Italians have a parade that day (we managed to not find out about it till later in the day, tho we had seen the barriers earlier and wondered what it was about).

J at the Memorial to John LennonTimes Square at NightView from Top of the Rock at NightView from Top of the Rock at Night

Day 5

This was our last full day in New York, so obviously we spent it in the Met with the Egyptian stuff again! We did also pop into a couple of the other galleries – I wanted to see the Monet paintings they had, having seen the ones in MOMA and been reminded how much I like them. (I also bought a waterlily painting t-shirt as a souvenir!) In terms of Egyptian stuff we finished off the few rooms we hadn’t had a chance to see when they shut them on our last visit, but the main reason we’d gone there on that particular day was to see the special exhibition that had just opened about the Middle Kingdom. It was actually a surprisingly big exhibition – the Met is a huge space, and so what had looked like a medium size room on the floorplan turned out to be much bigger. The exhibition looked at how the art and iconography of Egypt was transformed during the Middle Kingdom period. The best known Pharaohs these days are from the New Kingdom (e.g. Tutankhamun, Ramesses II) or the Old Kingdom (e.g. Khufu and his Great Pyramid), but to the (later) Egyptians themselves the Middle Kingdom was their classical golden age. I plan to write up a more detailed post about it later πŸ™‚

Coffins of Mistress of the House of Amun, TabakenkhonsuStatue of Senwosret III as a Sphinx

Day 6

We didn’t need to leave for the airport until mid-afternoon, so had a little bit of time on our last day to do a bit more touristy stuff. This was our opportunity to fit in a run round Central Park – we did a 6 mile loop at my speed (so slow for J) which was rather fun. There are an astonishing number of runners in New York, particularly in Central Park itself (which is also well set up for runners & cyclists with designated paths for them). And then after packing and checking out of the hotel we still had more time to kill so we popped into the Guggenheim Museum using up the last visit on our Explorer Passes. If we hadn’t been looking for something relatively near the hotel I don’t think we’d’ve visited this – it hadn’t sounded to our tastes, and turned out to be even less so than anticipated. Most of the galleries were closed because they were installing exhibitions, so the majority of what was visitable was an exhibition of work by Alberto Burri who was a 20th Century Italian who made paintings that were generally only one colour and the canvas would also have bits of plastic on it or holes in it to create texture. One, in isolation, might’ve been quite striking – there were one or two of the black ones that I almost liked. But fifty, laid out up a spiralling gallery, one after another after another, grouped chronologically (and thus all reasonably similar to their immediate neighbours) got rather relentless. There was also a small gallery open with some of their permanent collection which was more to my tastes – more like the range I’d liked in MOMA. Including a Picasso I actually liked!

And then it was time to go home – it had been a good holiday. I’d been ambivalent in advance, I’d been underwhelmed on my first short visit over 20 years ago, plus a lot of what people talk about when they talk about New York is shopping (which I wasn’t interested in) and there’s a distinct lack of medieval or early modern architecture (being as the city didn’t exist back then) which is often what I want to see when I’m sight-seeing somewhere. But I did enjoy it, although I think it may be a once-(properly)-and-done city for me πŸ™‚

Me in Central Park


Back in the middle of March J & I spent a long weekend in Berlin. Primarily this was to visit the exhibition about Amarna that was on at one of the museums, but we did manage to look at other stuff as well, even stuff that wasn’t anything to do with ancient Egypt! πŸ˜‰

Brandenburg Gate

I’ve got several photos up on flickr, there are some highlights in this post πŸ™‚ Not going to talk about things in chronological order here, instead I’ll group it into categories.

Travel & Getting Around

Our trip out went remarkably smoothly – no traffic delays on the way to the airport & the flight was on time etc. And we even managed to figure out buses & U-bahn trains to get ourselves into central Berlin to find our hotel. Even so, it was evening by the time we got there so we just got some dinner at a nearby restaurant and then went back to the hotel & crashed. Tiredness not helped by it being just a couple of days after the Marillion Weekend!

I’d managed to get us a hotel within walking distance of the museums (the ones we went to were on Museum Island), so even though it was bitterly cold we did that rather than figure out the buses or trains. And it was nice, we got to see a bit more of the city than we otherwise would’ve. We walked past the New Synagogue on the way to & from the museums, and several other neat looking buildings. Also lots and lots of graffiti ranging from basic tags through to very elaborate art – I’m not sure where the boundary between graffiti & “official” art was. I wish I’d taken more photos of that in retrospect, I’d only really got one (I was a wimp, my hands were freezing cold if I took my gloves off so the camera stayed in its case too much).

Berlin New SynagogueBerlin BuildingBerlin BuildingMural

And the less said about the flight back the better – getting to the airport was fine, but the airport itself was pretty crappy (busy, cramped, no decent food options, not much information on what was going on) and the flight was delayed. But we made it home to the miserable wet weather that the UK had waiting for us so it worked out OK πŸ™‚

Food & Drink

All my photos of food & drink were on my phone to put on G+ while we were away, except for one, so the quality is pretty crappy (I’m also not sure how to embed them in this post so that they’re a sensible size etc, so I’ll just say the album is here, on G+. The first night we just went for “close” as the primary criterion for food so wound up in an oriental place that did interesting fusion food that wasn’t quite to our tastes (not bad, just we didn’t like it). Breakfasts were in the hotel – a continental breakfast buffet which was rather good. Lunches were mostly in the Neues Museum in between looking at things, which meant club sandwiches or salad for me and slightly more variety for J (there was Egyptian themed stuff). In the evenings we tried to eat German food, which to be honest I found a bit overwhelmingly dense (I was coming down with a cold by the last day tho, so maybe that was it). We also drank beer with our meals, it seemed the thing to do πŸ˜‰

Berliner Pilsner

Neues Museum

As I said above, the primary purpose of the trip was to see an exhibition at the Neues Museum, and also to look at the rest of their Egyptian collection. I’m going to talk about the things we saw more in another post & share a whole load more pictures of the items (not uploaded yet, and only half-processed). We spent 1 whole day and two half days at the Neues, which for me was in retrospect a bit much – the last day I was feeling coldy and so very done with that museum, I should’ve gone off to somewhere else while J finished up the bits he hadn’t seen or wanted to see again.

J at the Neues MuseumGreek CourtyardJ

One thing I really liked about the museum was the remaining bits of the original decoration. The museum building had been badly damaged during the war, so there wasn’t a lot left, but when the restoration was done they’d preserved as much as they could. The Egyptian wing of the museum had previously been painted to look like an Egyptian temple, and the other wing (Greek, Roman and, pre-historic items) had things like murals of Odin in rooms which used to house the collection of items from Norway.

Paintings of Egyptian TemplesOdin Over the DoorMap on the WallPharaohPainted DoorwayBerlin Green Head

Pergamon Museum

On one of the mornings that we didn’t spend in the Neues Museum we went to the nearby Pergamon Museum. Which could have a sub-title of “Monumental Architecture We Nicked from Around the Ancient World” πŸ˜‰ The key piece is a Greek altar building from Pergamon, which is stunningly large to have as a museum exhibit. They also have rebuilt a part of the Ishtar Gate from Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar’s time, which is the thing that we went to the museum specifically to see. Again I’ll talk about this more in another post, as I’ve several photos of the buildings and artifacts they have in the museum.

Pergamon AltarJ Photographing Non-Egyptian Stuff!J in Front of the Ishtar Gate

Brandenburg Gate (and assorted nearby buildings)

One of the things I’d wanted to see was the Brandenburg Gate, so on the second full day we were there we walked there from the museum. Getting to it just as the sun went down – took several pics despite the cold, including the one at the start of this (massive) post πŸ™‚ On the way we walked past several statues and grand buildings, including the memorial to the victims of war & tyranny. Oh, and quite a few bears – this being the tourist trap bit of Berlin. In one of the shops we also spotted the most appallingly tacky plates embossed with the image of Nefertiti in gold (on white) and a couple of cartouches (which didn’t have Nefertiti’s name in). It was awful. J has a pic somewhere I think, but I don’t know if he’s sharing it or not πŸ™‚

Memorial for the Victims of War and TyrannyBrandenburg GateBerlin Bear

Berliner Dom

Berliner Dom

On the last full day we spent the afternoon looking at the cathedral that’s next to Museum Island. The physical building of the Berliner Dom has had a bit of an odd history. Underneath it is the crypt where the Hohenzollern family were buried, and this family played a major role in German history from the 12th Century through to the early 20th Century. They provided several Electors, Kings & Emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. And the Protestant branch of the family that ruled in Prussia are buried in Berlin from the mid 16th Century onwards. The church building appears to have been pulled down and rebuilt several times – each time to make something grander and more fitting for the family status and aspirations. This finally stopped when the existing church was bombed in the Second World War. It was subsequently rebuilt exactly as it had been pre-bombing, for the first time restored rather than replaced. (My understanding here is based on one small leaflet in English, a skim-read of wikipedia for dates and some attempt to understand the German signs in the church – take with requisite large barrels of salt).

Dome ExteriorCherubDome Interior

The existing building is grandiose & ornate, and by this point this was built the family clearly thought very well of themselves indeed (I think they were Emperors by then, so you can see why). The outside is floridly carved with all sorts of bits & bobs. The inside has mosaics, reliefs, statues, grandiose tombs – you name it, it has that sort of decoration. Around the dome are mosaics of all four evangelicals, statues of four great reformers (e.g. Luther & co), reliefs showing scenes from the acts of the apostles. Higher up in the dome are yet more mosaics. The stained glass actually looks like paintings rather than windows. In the church itself there are also some ornately carved tombs or grave monuments of some of the Hohenzollerns.

Evangelical Mosaic & Reformer StatueAltarGoose!Death Writes in His Book

Upstairs there was a small exhibition of models of the church they didn’t build last time round (ie the ideas that got turned down), plus we could get up to the inside walkway round the dome & look out through the windows. There’s also an outside walkway but this was closed due to bad weather (I’m guessing they were worried about ice & snow). Unfortunately the windows for the inside bit were clarty beyond belief and so the pictures I have are a little spoilt by the grubbiness of the glass.

View from the Dome of the Berliner DomView from the Dome of the Berliner DomJ

Downstairs was the crypt laid out with coffin after coffin of the Hohenzollern family. Quite depressing actually – rather than being glorious monuments these felt very personal and sad. Mostly black coffins, with maybe bits of velvet and the occasional dead bunch of flowers. Even when there was decoration it didn’t lift the sombre mood. And the relatively large number of child coffins dragged it down further.

Hohenzollern CryptCoffins of Kings

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall Memorial

On the last morning we were there we managed to pack up our stuff way before time to go to the airport, so decided to walk to a place where we’d seen on the map the Berlin Wall used to run. I had a little guidebook, but it hadn’t mentioned where the memorial stuff for the Wall was, so we were very pleased when by chance we walked directly to the area that’s been set aside for that. This morning was also the only point in the trip we were actually in what used to be West Berlin, and that only briefly. There are some sections of the wall still standing, with several small information points that tell you what happened to whom & where. There’s also a memorial to all the people who died crossing the wall trying to escape to West Berlin during the years the wall was standing. And a section of the wall has been rebuilt so that you can see what it looked like.

Berlin Wall MemorialBerlin Wall MemorialBerlin Wall MemorialBerlin Wall Memorial

It’s almost incomprehensible, to be honest. The Berlin Wall coming down is one of the first current affairs events I really paid attention to (as I said yesterday in my post about Doctor Who) and the mindset of the people who ordered it built in the first place just makes no sense to me. “Oh look, all our people are defecting in their droves because they hate their lives here so much, so lets not change a thing, let’s just wall them in and kill them if they try to get out”. We didn’t end up staying long here, too cold and we had a plane to catch, but I’m glad we managed to see it before we left.

Overall, a good holiday πŸ™‚ A new city I’ve now visited, and we saw quite a few things as well as the Egyptian stuff. I think I’d like to go back sometime, but preferably in the summer!

Marillion Weekend 2013

Marillion Weekends are held every 2 years, and on March 8-10th was the 10th convention – J and I have been to every one of them so far πŸ™‚ This year, as with the last 3, it was held at the Center Parcs at Port Zélande, in the Netherlands. The current format is the band play 3 gigs, one each on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, complete with support bands and a long set from Marillion. There’s also stuff during the Saturday & Sunday afternoons, including a pub quiz about the band where the final is the fan winners vs. the band. And Swap the Band where fans get to play on stage with the band in place of one of the band members.

Logo on the Screen

As I said, J & I have been to all of these conventions, from the first one which was just an evening in a small club in Oxford (The Zodiac) in 1998. (At first they were more frequent than every two years, as well as smaller.) We’ve had a selection of different people join us over the years. This year there were seven of us in our group – me, J, Paul, Ady, Ellen, Avi and Gordon.

Photos are up on flickr, I’ve just put some highlights in this post. I only took the point & shoot camera with me, not my DSLR – too faffy to have the big camera in a gig, and harder to hold over my head to take the pictures. J took most of the photos of our group, btw.

Friday 8th March


My notes emphasise beer … funnily enough πŸ™‚ Those of us coming by car (Paul drove himself, me & J and Ady from Ipswich) got up at brutal o’clock (ie 4am) and got to Center Parcs around 1330 local time, in time for lunch and BEER! πŸ™‚ We met the others (who came by plane and shuttle bus) afterwards, while we were buying merch, then got settled in at the chalet before our dinner.

The evening’s concert started off with a set from DeeExpus (who we’ve seen support Marillion before). And as was the case then – I enjoyed the set while they were playing, but I still haven’t listened to the album at home.


And then it was on to the main act πŸ™‚ Marillion came out and played through the whole of their album Radiation – which was released in 1998, so is 15 years old. I think it was the first album released after I’d got into the band, so I feel a trifle old now πŸ˜‰ It’s an album that’s not had all that good a reaction from “fans in general” in the past, because the mix is thought to be a bit sub-par – but live the tracks have always rocked, so they’ve re-released it this year with a new mix. This set included several tracks I like live – and one that’s gradually becoming a favourite of mine: A Few Words for the Dead. Since they toured Sounds That Can’t Be Made h has been doing some playacting with a fake rifle during this song & it adds something to it, to me.

The second half of the set after a short break was very much the bouncy set of the weekend – and could’ve been designed for me. Several Fish era songs (including Script for a Jester’s Tear which is one of my favourite Marillion songs), and the h era songs included both Hooks in You and Cover My Eyes. I bounced up & down till my feet hurt, and sang so much my voice went a bit πŸ™‚

MarillionPete Trewavas and Mark KellySteve HogarthSteve Hogarth

Afterwards those of us that were staying out (me, J, Paul, Ellen & Ady) walked briskly to the Adventure Factory (yeah, that’s the name of the bit where the bar was) and got beer. There was a queue from hell for beer from the bar, so we won’t dwell upon that – aggravating tho it was, we did end up with a sufficient quantity of beer πŸ˜€ About 1am we headed back to the chalet and I think in the end we stayed up till 3am chattering away – only 22hrs since we’d got up in the morning!

Saturday 9th March

Logo on Screen

Funnily enough, I started the day with a mild hangover, can’t think why πŸ˜‰ Didn’t stop me having a few beers during the afternoon – although perhaps it should’ve done coz the hangover came back for the evening, oops :/ Gave away the beer I’d bought at the start of the gig and drank coke for the rest of it – caffeine, sugar, liquid, perfect hangover cure, shame about the taste!

The first of the support acts was Pete Trewavas doing a “solo” set – I put it in quotes because he had someone whose name I forget come on stage with him for a couple of the songs. But it was all his own music, and mostly himself singing and playing guitar. He kept saying he was nervous, but it didn’t really show. And obviously he got a good reception, because he’s part of Marillion. The second support act were Sweet Billy Pilgrim, who I have to confess passed me by entirely. Pleasant yet un-memorable would be my take on them, but everyone else really liked them. Perhaps the previous paragraph explains it, and I just wasn’t in the right head space for the band?

Pete Trewavas "Solo" setPete Trewavas "Solo" setSweet Billy Pilgrim

The first half of Marillion’s set was a play through of the album Brave in it’s entirety. Previous conventions have normally done an album play-through on the Friday night, this is the first time we’ve had a whole album on the Saturday night as well. And this is the first time we’ve had a repeat of an album as well – they played Brave at the convention at Pontins back in 2002. Brave as an album is a pretty emotional (and bleak) piece of work – it’s inspired by a news story about a girl found wandering about on/preparing to jump from the Severn Bridge who refused to tell her rescuers who she was or why she was there. The songs on the album are possible stories for how she ended up there. To be perfectly honest, this is not one of my favourite Marillion albums. Everyone you talk to about it says it’s an album to sit down and listen to – lights off, volume up, read the lyrics, give it your full attention. And I don’t really interact with music that way – I stick it on as background, and sing along with the stuff I know or dance round the living room (depending how many people can see me …). So Brave passes me by a bit on record. It’s still a powerful experience live. And it’s enhanced when the band play it as a whole album because the stage show to go with it involves h acting out some of the bits as well as the music playing. So there were bits with a girl in a white dress (Jennifer Rothery, the guitarist’s daughter) lighting candles round h during an atmospheric bit, masked men pulling h off stage etc.

Steve HogarthSteve HogarthSteve Hogarth & Jennifer RotherySteve Hogarth

We’d known for weeks that Brave would be played on this evening, so we’d been speculating about what the second set would consist of – I was assuming (and asserting) that it’d be all the more emotional songs, to continue the theme. And I wasn’t entirely wrong, this was the evening they played Out Of This World complete with the film of the Bluebird crash – always an emotional moment. But they did play some other stuff like Warm Wet Circles which was more upbeat and bouncy πŸ™‚

After the gig we split into two groups like the previous evening (tho not quite of the same composition – Paul had caught the lurgy so headed back to the chalet), and thankfully the queue for beer in the Adventure Factory was better managed this time and we got drinks quicker πŸ™‚ (And I was feeling up to beer again!) We met up with Tim, who works with J, while we were there and after a few beers headed back to the chalet for more. Tim provided us with the weekend’s lasting joke, I think πŸ™‚ While we were all sitting in the living room we heard footsteps on the top flight of stairs & all the lights dimmed. Tim said “who’s that? Beelzebub??” … given where people were, it had to be Paul letting his cold affect his masking of his dark powers πŸ˜‰

Sunday 10th March

Started the day without a hangover, always a plus πŸ™‚ We spent lunch in search of vegetables, but still failing to find much – always the problem at that Center Parcs, the food isn’t great. J also took charge of the camera over lunch because he’d noticed I wasn’t taking enough photos of the people we were with, so we have a few from this morning/afternoon.

Modern Socialising ...

Then it was off to the main tent for the afternoon – the temperature was dropping from the almost spring-like temperatures it had been down to the more arctic weather we’ve had since, so queueing was particularly chilly today. There’s a youtube vid of the queue for this (sped up) – look for us around the 0.44 mark.

The afternoon’s delights included the final of the quiz, which included a round on prices of various “collectibles” on e-bay – stumping the band more than the fans, unsurprisingly. Then there was the Q&A session with the band, which was the normal sort of thing – one question that stuck in my mind was someone had asked Rothery 10 years ago in a convention Q&A where he saw the band in 10 years, so they asked again this year. The answer was much the same, too “hope there is a band, see no reason why not, hope we’re still doing conventions”. In answer to another question h also let slip that he’s touring with Richard Barbieri later this year, so that gave us the next gig we needed to sort out tickets for πŸ˜‰

We then had a public proposal (… I hate these, I think they’re generally cringe making, and I feel it unfairly puts the poor woman on the spot), and people having their photos taken with the band on stage which went on for ever and ever. (There’d been a sweepstake for it, we didn’t enter.) Then it was Swap the Band which is always cool πŸ™‚ People enter by sending demos of themselves playing/singing Marillion songs, and a selection are chosen to come up on stage and play with the band. So it’s an extra mini-gig in effect, we got 6 extra songs and even if it’s not the whole band the replacements are always astonishingly good πŸ™‚ Also funny was watching Pete when he was the one swapped out – he didn’t know what to do with himself. First he sat at the back of the stage, then he started playing air bass, then air drums, then some more fidgeting around … eventually h took pity on him & gave him a tambourine or something to shake so he had something to do πŸ™‚

Swap the Band (Guitar)Swap the Band (Keyboards)Swap the Band (Vocals & h's Keys)Swap the Band (Added Electric Violin)Swap the Band (Drums)Swap the Band (Bass)Pete Trewavas

Dinner was brisk, as the afternoon stuff had been running late. And the queue afterwards for the main tent was very cold – and unsurprisingly they were running late for that. When we were let in the support act, Harvest, were still sound checking, which felt a little odd, and must’ve felt even odder to them. When they came back out they got a really good reception – I enjoyed their set, but I couldn’t tell you much about it now (and sadly my notes just say “Harvest were good” which isn’t enough of a memory prompt to tell you why when I’m writing this more than 2 weeks later).


Then it was time for the last Marillion gig of the weekend. We’d spent the day speculating about what they might play – there’d been no hints dropped by the band beforehand, so we were just working off “what haven’t we heard yet”. We had two main bit of speculation – one of which was right and one of which was wrong. The right bit was that we hadn’t heard anything off the most recent album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, so we were wondering if they’d play the whole of that – and it turned out to be true, although they didn’t play it straight through in the order it is on disc. Instead the songs were scattered through out the whole of the set. So that was cool, it’s a good album πŸ™‚

Our wrong bit of speculation was that we’d get all the big “crowd favourites” that we hadn’t had yet – like Easter or Fantastic Place. But we didn’t – and we didn’t miss them either, still a very good set. Including one of the first times This Strange Engine has worked for me as a song (I generally find it too bitty & broken up, but this time it worked). And they ended with Garden Party – gold foil fluttering down through the air & lots of bouncing up and down πŸ™‚

Steve HogarthMarillionSteve Hogarth

Afterwards we went back to the chalet & chilled out for a while – drinking up the beer (had to be done, obviously πŸ˜‰ ) and playing cards & chatting till about 1am.

The trip back on Monday went OK, although it was brutally cold when we left and there was snow falling from around when we entered France all the way back to Ipswich. Ady was staying over at ours afterwards, but Paul had to get home so that Nat could have her car back (due to an unexpected work trip meaning she needed the one she was insured to drive for work purposes on Tuesday). Which didn’t work out all that well for him as the traffic apparently looked at the snow & stopped moving. Still he made it in the end, so that’s OK.

It was an awesome weekend πŸ™‚ Roll on the next one … in 2015 when we might just about’ve recovered πŸ˜‰