Friday, 15 May 2009

Writing Prize - Yay me!!!

Today at work I learned that I won first prize in a review writing competition, set by the local college, who hold classes at our place of work. The competition was to write a review on anything... album, concert, book, film, restaurant etc. Now, whilst it was very tempting for me to stick to what I know and love (U2 of course) I decided to go with a restaurant review, and chose Gordon Ramsay at The London in NYC.

The review had to be 500 words or less, which is difficult, but I managed it. :)

The great thing about it all is that Keith, my hubby, entered the competition too, and he wrote a review of the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd. I helped him a little bit by editing and he won first prize with me!!! They could not decide between us...

We had already decided to share the prize whoever won, so now we have £45 each to spend!

Here are the reviews. The Pink Floyd one is particularly interesting for me because it is fascinating to have something like that album explained. The theme behind it is something I had never even given a second thought. Thanks to Keith for a great insight!

Gordon Ramsay at the London Hotel, New York, NY

Whenever I think of Gordon Ramsay, I think of some hyper-active, spiky-haired creature, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, punching his palm and making wild gestures, expletives spewing out like fire from a dragon's mouth. So, going to his restaurant was a little daunting.

Expecting fireworks, we arrived at the London Hotel to find an understated, serene place. It was like the calm and peaceful eye of the storm that was Manhattan, and while that storm raged outside, inside we floated gently on a tranquil sea of music and hushed tones. The walls of the restaurant were pale oyster panels, and the tables had crisp white cloths.

We arrived early, but were courteously seated with no fuss. A waiter arrived and asked: "Would you like to join us in a glass of champagne?", which sounded like he was going to give us a free one, and join us in drinking it. I said yes, and when I saw the cost on the bill, I thought that perhaps the staff had all joined us in a glass, and we had paid for it!

Although Gordon does not actually work in the kitchens here, his personality and signature were all over every dish. The array of courses was mind-boggling. Tiny, delicious canapes, an 'amuse bouche', starter, main course, 'pre-dessert' and finally dessert. Hats off to any restaurant that gives you a dessert to prepare you for a dessert!

The food was a work of art (we photographed every dish!) and as every plate was presented and explained by the waiters, I thought of Gordon in the kitchen before the restaurant ever opened, showing his chefs exactly what to do. I thought of all the times I had seen him on the TV, screaming at a chef that a particular dish was not good enough to leave the kitchen - did not meet his standards. And I was grateful for that attention to detail.

The portions we had were not huge. The fact that we ate two lots of bread (which was delicious) and practically licked our plates clean (if no one had been around, I would have!) is testament to that. We even bought some Pringles on the way back to our hotel! But, as they say, size is not everything. The experience of being in a Gordon Ramsay restaurant was, for me, a dream come true. To experience fine dining at its very best and have the talent of a chef like Gordon behind it was worth every penny.

Since this visit was to celebrate our wedding anniversary, when our bill arrived we were presented with a mini sorbet with a candle in it, with a message written in chocolate! What a lovely touch.

I wrote thanking the restaurant on getting home, and by return came a lovely reply. Gordon passed on his best to me and my email was read at the morning team briefing at the restaurant. The perfect end to a wonderful experience.

The Wall by Pink Floyd

Released in 1979, The Wall produced a number one hit single, a love it or hate it film, one of the most popular guitar solos of all time, and the death knell for the band that created it.

To go beyond The Wall you have to enter the mind of its creator, Roger Waters. The inspiration for the character known as Pink in The Wall is Waters himself. It is a musical autobiography.

The album opens with a soft melody representing a late summer evening in England. Seventeen seconds in, a crash of drums and guitars herald the start of the war. The track ends with the screaming dive-bomber releasing a bomb but instead of an explosion, we hear the cry of a baby. Waters was just five months old when his father was killed at Anzio in Italy during WWII.

The album then unwinds to reveal a troubled, fatherless childhood and an over-protective mother. Another Brick In The Wall (part two) tells of unhappy schooldays and a sadistic schoolmaster. Each traumatic experience is logged in his memory and forms "another brick in the wall". As he grows up, the threat of nuclear holocaust and experiences of the opposite sex all contribute to his mental instability. More bricks for the wall being built inside his troubled mind.

Further on, Pink is married and is a rock star touring America. Clever sound clips tell the story and link the songs. He finds out that his wife is being unfaithful when the international operator is connecting him to his home phone and a strange man answers and hangs up. In turmoil he brings a girl back to his hotel room but flies into a rage as she tries to seduce him. Realising that everybody close to him either hurts or exploits him, he resigns himself to a world of drug-induced isolation, safe in his hotel room flicking from channel to channel on the TV. The wall is complete and he is hiding behind it.

Alone, he reflects on his fate, the horrors of war and the pressure to perform. However, his managers need him for the concerts and won’t allow him any respite. They use drugs to revive him. Jolted from his stupor he resolves to become more aggressive towards the world that has hurt him and assumes a neo-Nazi persona to his fans, inciting racial hatred and violence.

The penultimate track is called "The Trial" as a judge hears evidence from his mother, his wife and the schoolmaster. His verdict is for Pink to be exposed to his fears and traumatic experiences, to confront them and recover as best he can. Finally the opening theme is reprised as those who really love him gather around him to aid his recovery.

The problem with any autobiography is that it is deeply individual and because of Waters' domineering manner during recording, divisions were created that were never healed. However, thirty years on it remains a remarkable piece of work from a remarkable man.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The "Magnificent" Stuedabakerbrown

I have discovered a new band... it's always great when you do that. They are called Stuedabakerbrown and they are from the borough of Monroe in NYC. Their music is influenced by the likes of U2 (good taste), Tom Petty and Coldplay. The singer has a killer voice!! Check them out here on youtube.

Here are two of my faves. The first is one of their own songs, A Time For Fire, and the second is a cover of Magnificent which is... well Magnificent! For the latter, please ignore the silly schoolboy video of the guitarist jumping around in his underpants (boys will be boys!!). Listen to it with your eyes closed, and preferably with headphones because the sound is kind of poor. But it's the only example of Magnificent that I can find.

Haven't seen you in quite a while....

... I was not down the hold just passing time though, LOL.

I have been banning myself from spending too much time doing things online. Why? Because my novel will not get written by itself. I needed to take myself away from distraction, so spent a few weeks just using my PC as a word processor rather than a tool to take me on wild journeys all over the place! It worked... kind of. I did some writing, but it's still nowhere near enough. Oh well, these things take time. And in the meantime it is time to do some blogging again.