Sightseeing-Gigs-More Sightseeing! It’s an Olympic Tri-Blog-a-Thon!

Time’s passing by on our 2012 UK Tour and I realized there were a few items on my London tick list remaining to be tended to between performances and the tour’s end.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Thursday late afternoon and off we went for traditional English cuisine at F. Cooke’s Pie and Mash, a place I’d learned about watching Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. The restaurant is located in the working-class London neighborhood of Hoxton and is unassuming; brightly lit by sunlight with simple tables, chairs, sawdust sprinkled on the floor and an elderly woman working the counter. The meat pie was covered in a green parsley liquor, or gravy, and the mash was… of course… mashed potatoes. Nothing really too bizarre about all of that although I admit we skipped the other specialty of the house—the pickled eel. As we were finishing up, the shop’s owner, Joe, came out from the kitchen and asked, “Are you the Americans?” We replied, “Why yes, we are!” Joe proceeded to engage us in a fine conversation about food, the superior quality of French cheeses and his travels abroad. While the pie and mash was nothing to write home about, although that’s exactly what I’ve just done, our time talking with Joe certainly was.

Moi, Joe (holding a copy of Ned's CD) and Ned outside the F. Cooke's Pie and Mash - Hoxton, London.
On our way back to the flat we hopped off the bus to have a pint at the Eagle Pub. I didn’t need much encouragement to have a pint, but having one at the Eagle was a cultural experience because it’s famously mentioned in the nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel… “Up and down the City road, in and out The Eagle. That's the way the money goes. Pop goes the weasel.”

Pop Goes the Weasel at the Eagle Pub!

The next day Ned and I were on the train, this time to Norwich to play at the Chapel Arts Centre. Ned’s friend, Erika met us at the station and drove us to her home where she entertained us with a nice cup of tea during which she admitted she had borrowed her son’s car to pick us up. She hadn’t driven in years and actually spent time the day before brushing up on her driving skills. Honestly, we wouldn’t have known the difference; driving on the wrong side of the road scares us in general. Tea time over, Erika drove us to the BBC Norwich radio station for our live interview and performance. The 20 minute session consisted of light banter between Ned and Steve, the program host, as well as performing two songs. I think Ned would have let me speak on air but was fearful I might start talking like a London cabbie suffering from Tourette's syndrome. It was probably a wise move on his part.

Malcolm joined us for the performance at the Chapel Arts Centre where we appreciated playing for a “listening” audience as opposed to a “Give me another pint!” audience. After the show, as well as the next morning, Erika was kind enough to show us a bit more of Norwich. Like so many English towns, Norwich is steeped in history and deserves more time than our schedule allowed. Still, it was fun to see a bit of it. Thanks Erika!

Live on-air performance at BBC Radio Norwich!
Well, back to London for a night and then off Saturday morning for our performance at the Seahorse Pub in New Romney, Kent. As you might suspect from the pub’s name, New Romney is on the coast. It’s at the very southeast tip of England. And, unlike most of our destinations in the UK, is not served well by train. Sandra made quick work of the drive in the rental car, adeptly avoiding London’s Olympic Games traffic and negotiating the narrow country roads.

After checking in at the fine Captain Howey Hotel, I made the short walk to the beach and discovered an interesting event taking place: A carnival complete with machines that spin you around until you want to puke and candy and pop to ensure a productive and colorful puking episode. The odd thing was it was SO American; the rock music blaring and the painted images on the puke-inducing machines. The only thing they got wrong were the people working the carnival. They were much too clean and well kept to be authentic carnies. It just goes to show there’s always room for improvement!

The night’s gig at the Seahorse pub went really well. It wasn’t a large audience, but our friends Roger and Carol Humphries, Chris Shilling, and Marianne Baker and her parents were in the house. We played as a duo and enjoyed one of the highlight performances of the tour. After the show we chatted with the audience and, before saying goodbye, our host and pub’s owner, Sheena, opened up the kitchen and served us a midnight dinner. It was a night to remember.

Nothing British about this rodeo carnival ride!
Sunday was a day of sightseeing on the way back to London. First up? The White Cliffs of Dover! They are quite white and aptly named. We hiked most of the trail along the top and stopped often for photo opportunities. At one point I found myself laying on the ground and leaning a wee bit over the cliff top to take a picture. As I stretched my arms out, I reflected upon two things: (1) I am not familiar with the geologic stability of the top of chalk cliffs and (2) back home, the National Park Service would have similar cliffs fenced off and marked with signage reminding visitors that falling off a cliff is often harmful. I carefully nudged away from my cliff side perch… but I got the shot!

Leaning out to get the shot at the Cliffs of Dover.
Having survived the Cliffs of Dover, we made a quick “look-n-shoot” at Dover Castle and then drove inland to Canterbury. There, Marianne and her mum, Sue, joined us for a walkabout of the walled city (their home town), its cathedral, and then off to enjoy Pimm's No.1 and lemonade accompanied by meaty things dipped in batter and deep fat fried at an outdoor café. It was a perfect way for us and our 20,000 best tourist friends to cap the day! Thanks go to Marianne and Sue!

It's Dover Castle seen through the entry archway.

In Canterbury Cathedral.
Back in London, Ned and I had two days off and it was time to work that London tick list again.

First on tap was taking the bus to Abbey Road, famous for its recording studio, Abbey Road Studios, and the “Zebra Crosswalk” on which the Beatles were photographed for the cover of their album, Abbey Road, on August 8, 1969. You really can’t miss the crosswalk because it’s the one with a couple dozen people hanging around at any given time of day waiting for traffic to clear so they can pose for pictures imitating the album cover. Here’s how it works: When there’s a break in traffic, subject and photographer simultaneously walk into the middle of the street and take the photos. One funny thing was watching people “pose” as if they’re walking rather than just walking. Try it and you’ll see how hard it is to convincingly pose a walking motion.

Back to our photo shoot, Ned and I quickly joined the fray and made several passes across the road while snapping shots in rapid succession and keeping an eye on traffic. We don’t know if people have been injured in pursuit of the snapshot, but it’s highly likely as the crosswalk is not controlled by stop lights. While we were there, one London bus driver just laid on the horn as he approached and passed through the crosswalk. He wasn’t stopping for anyone, tourist or resident.

Just a few steps down the street are the studios protected by a short white wall and iron fence. The wall is covered entirely by graffiti. Thus, you can leave you own note for the Fab Four, living or dead. But, if you want your note to last, you’ll have to make repeat visits because the local council paints over the graffiti every three months!

Ned on the Zebra Crosswalk on Abbey Road!
Moi on the Zebra Crosswalk on Abbey Road!
Before ending our day, we stopped by Camden Market for a look around and a late lunch. The market is a hip spot stuffed with shops of all kinds, street food from across the globe and the occasional sign suggesting pickpockets make their living at the market.

At Camden Market you can find almost anything... like getting a tattoo and later having it removed!
Today Ned and I were up and ready to tackle the last item on the London tick list—to see an event at the 2012 London Games! Our event of choice was the Men’s Triathlon taking place in and around Hyde Park. Being a free event, 500,000 of our closest tourist friends tagged along. The Piccadilly Line was jammed packed. While standing in the humid, stuffy subway car, the thought crossed my mind that airlines ought to study this method of maximizing passengers per square foot. Out of the Tube and a quick walk to the park, we arrived in time to see the competitors complete the last four laps of the bike race. Those guys were cookin’! Viewing the running portion of the event was impossible, so we wandered a bit and stumbled upon a huge viewing area in the middle of the park where we watched Great Britain take the gold on a giant screen. It was a proud moment for our host country and for Ned and me it was very cool to witness the reaction of the crowd.

The head of the bike pack during the Men's Triathlon in and around London's Hyde Park
The crowd erupts as Britain's Alistair Brownlee wins Olympic Triathlon gold!

All for now from the Olympic City! One gig to go way over on the southeast coast in the Cornwall area. I’ll have at least one more official blog entry as our 2012 UK Tour wraps up.... and a few more photo albums!

Ciao! ~ Todd


  1. You're most welcome! :D

  2. "She hadn’t driven in years and actually spent time the day before brushing up on her driving skills. Honestly, we wouldn’t have known the difference; driving on the wrong side of the road scares us in general." LOL