Tag Archives: 2010

A splash of Cologne

Enjoyable though the High Society exhibition was, it wasn’t exactly a full day out. Having opened the doors of perception and the like, Izzi and I felt the urge to do something to fill out those awkward late-afternoon-early-evening hours. That period that’s too late for afternoon stuff, but too early for evening stuff. Izzi suggested that a trip to the Cologne Christmas Market on the South Bank would be just the ticket, and I agreed.

Sign's out of date, mate.

While there is no shortage of German Christmas markets, particularly around Christmas (which I believe to be no coincidence), the one on the South Bank is worth a look by virtue of its size and location. It lies roughly between the London Eye and Waterloo Bridge, stopping a little short of both.

I find the South Bank a little awkward to get to from Waterloo Station. You have to duck down alleys, climb stairs, cross busy roads, traverse via subways or some combination thereof, none of which are particularly inviting. I blame the architects. Anyway, having finally got there, we scouted things out.

The Magic Roundabout is easily explained by modern science.

A stall that instantly attracted our attention was one selling gingerbread. Izzi took the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping, in the process acquiring rather more gingerbread than is considered sensible for one person to possess. I was rather taken by the gingerbread houses they had – I didn’t dare to believe that such things existed in this world. We consciously resisted the chocolate fountains, which as you may know are a device of Satan to lead immortal souls to hell. Izzi did reason that strawberries and apples are both fruit, and therefore the benefits of the fountain could be made to outweigh the costs. We did not pursue this line of reasoning any further.

I was rather impressed by a stand that sold nothing but watches, and found myself making a mental shopping list. You know what I rather like? Those ladies’ watches you get that come on chains. I think those look rather nifty. Personally, I favour something fairly plain in the watch line – those pocket watches with the Union Jack cast into the case are unspeakably naff.

I impressed no one with my inability to do a simple wooden puzzle on one of the stalls. I did briefly consider the purchase of a wooden tie. It’s hard to explain one of these things if you’ve never seen one before. It’s a piece of wood, carved into the shape of a tie and segmented for flexibility, the whole being attached to the neck by means of elastic.

I was also very tempted by a Venetian-style ceramic mask, and may yet return. It was one of those commedia del’arte jobbies, you know the sort of thing. This one was particularly grotesque – I believe the character it portrays is “Il Dottore,” which takes its visual inspiration from the seventeenth century plague doctors’ protective mask. Izzi, too, was this close to buying a lacy number. But while she thought it was nice, she didn’t think it was £30-nice, if you catch my drift.

There was also a stall selling liquorice, making much of its apparent health virtues – reducing stress, weight loss and the like. Quite apart from the fact that this is pseudoscientific bollocks with absolutely no basis in reality, this was just a sweet shop. The fellow wasn’t selling liquorice pills or even liquorice root. We’re talking liquorice allsorts here, people. I suppose in a sense he deserves something for sheer balls-out audacity, but I take my liquorice very seriously and so cannot support his enterprise.

"Rink." Now there's a funny word.

To go into everything we saw and did would take a long time and wouldn’t be very interesting anyway, so let it suffice that it’s a great place for getting those quirky stocking filler-type gifts as well as being a pleasant couple of hours in its own right. Combine it with a visit to the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall or any of the myriad other leisure facilities on the South Bank and you got yourself a day out. If that doesn’t float your boat, there’s an ice skating rink just in front of the London Eye, which is an unrivalled opportunity to test the resilience of your coccyx.

It runs until 23rd December, so you’ve got plenty of time. Tell them I sent ya. They won’t know who I am, but you know.

Further Reading

http://www.xmas-markets.com/en/ – The official site.

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The Mask of the Red Death

(Warning – this entry probably NSFW, we’ll see how it goes)

Having engaged in the usual Halloween activities of placing razor blades in apples, poisoning Haribo and breaking several dangerous psychopaths out of prison to roam the streets, I’m fully prepared for the trick-or-treaters the evening may bring. In the meantime, I probably ought to recap the events of Friday and the Last Tuesday Society’s Danse Macabre event.

The day did not go well. Two of our party cancelled, a cashpoint ate my card and it was raining when I set out for the evening. When I got to Borough, the intent was to meet with the Directrix and others at her new studio – unfortunately, I managed to balls up the communications there. On the way in, I bumped into someone who directed me in a play a few years back, which continued the tradition of weird coincidences around Last Tuesday Society events.

Nevertheless, I managed to meet up with Tiny Emma and some others who were new to all this. We went and queued up, where we were delighted to meet some of the security staff. I don’t know where the staff came from, but they seemed to be quite determined that however much fun we were having standing in the cold, we should be having less of it. The Society handed out bananas, which improved matters somewhat (and you know what? Banana skins really are slippery!).

Eventually we got in, and I tried to seek out the Directrix’ party in an effort to unite our two groups. Unfortunately, I was hampered by the fact that the event was extremely crowded, and my mask made it kinda difficult to see.

Overall, the costume – pictured left – was a bit of a hit. I lost count of the number of people who wanted to take a photo of or with me. I also managed to startle quite a few people, and had a couple of women who wanted to kiss the skull. Not bad for a customised £3.50 mask from Sainsbury’s.

As for the event itself, it seemed a little less OTT than previous balls. I think there were fewer freaks than usual – I certainly didn’t see as many, but as previously mentioned, I had trouble seeing anything at all. A lot of people seemed utterly bewildered by the whole thing (“There are naked people! In the buffet!“).

I wonder if this was perhaps because, with it not being strictly a masked ball this time, people were less willing to drop their inhibitions. There were a lot fewer people at the hot tub this time by the time we got there, for instance.

The bar service, credit where credit’s due, was a lot better this time around. Separate bars had been set up for those who just wanted water or beer, which helped, and the staff seemed a lot more competent. So kudos there.

These two delightful young ladies were very complimentary about the mask.

As previously mentioned, we weren’t too impressed by the security people, who seemed rather overzealous. One of our party bitterly noted that the plastic club (about the size of a truncheon) that formed part of his costume had been confiscated because it was considered to be an offensive weapon. Upon his pointing out that several people had canes and the like, which are far more offensive as weapons go, he was told “We’ll get around to them.” In fact, he seemed rather annoyed that I still had my cane. I’ll be honest, I got the impression that he didn’t like me much. He was Tiny Emma’s ex, and such people tend not to like me. I don’t know why, it’s not like I’m some Adonis who’s going to whisk their former girlfriend away. Seriously, I don’t even have a face.

Still, there was much to enjoy – the pop-up cinema was showing the classic of silent horror cinema, Nosferatu, and Tiny Emma was mildly horrified by a man who offered to put hoops through her spine and suspend her from the ceiling. I told her she should have gone for it, but she remained sceptical. So much for open-mindedness.

Oddly enough, I managed to remain pretty sober throughout. I don’t know if this is a by-product of the diet and exercise, but the alcohol just didn’t seem to have any effect. Given the amount of effort it took to drink anything with that mask, I thought this was jolly unfair.

Despite the general lack of freaks, this event lasted rather longer than the others. Usually things start to properly wind down around 2.00, or so it seemed to me. This time, things were still going pretty much full swing when the party came to a close at about half four.

Goodness me, I don’t have much space between these two pictures… Ah, that’s better.

With the party over, I made my way back through the mean streets of Southwark and Elephant and Castle to Kennington, where I got the night bus home. One of our party asked if it was entirely wise for me to be wandering through the rougher parts of South East London at this time of night. I pointed out that dressed like this, it was unlikely that I would even be approached, let alone mugged. And it was so.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T TAKE YOUR MEDICINE, BILLY

I arrived back home just in time for my alarm to go off, indicating that I had now been awake for 24 hours. Not bad, really. Between that and the clocks going back, my body clock is royally screwed. Oh well.

Roll on New Year’s Eve Eve, I say.

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