Mixed media, 6-12 April 2014

Current musical obsession: New Zealand band The Naked and Famous. Just a pity that I didn’t get hooked on them sooner, because they played Paradiso in November last year. They’re back in the Netherlands over the summer, but only playing festivals.

Last Sunday Fiona, Abi, and I went out to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I loved the first Captain America film, and this one is great, too. Lots of big action, but even more attention paid to the smaller, quieter scenes.

It was another Edinburgh week. Flying over on Tuesday evening I watched Network, which was a lot stranger than I’d anticipated. I don’t have a very clear picture of what broadcast television was like in the mid-seventies, but they certainly had a good idea of what it was going to be like in the future.

My room at the Cairn Hotel was warm. Warm! Usually when I visit Edinburgh I have to ask for extra blankets, but there was no need this week. The wi-fi was wimpy, though; barely enough for very light web use.

Dinner with mum & dad at the Vaults on Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening I grabbed chinese take-away, and watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – very good.

Since Watch Dogs was delayed, Infamous: Second Son is the first game for the PS4 that we (as a family) have been excited about. The console is still out of stock everywhere in the Netherlands, but I saw that Amazon.co.uk had some available at the start of the month. Given that we were going to get one sooner or later anyway, and that I would hate not to have one when Watch Dogs does come out in May, I ordered a PS4 last week, and it arrived on Thursday. Not specifically for Alex’s birthday on Friday (13! I now have a teenage son…), but a happy coincidence that it arrived in time. I brought back a copy of Second Son for Alex (and a copy of the Tomb Raider PS4 special edition for myself), and Alex played it for most of the evening. It looks fantastic, energetic and free-flowing, with a wise-cracking protagonist, and a cool rebel-against-the-evil-state storyline.

This afternoon we’re all watching Frozen. I enjoyed it at the cinema, but it’s even better the second time round.


I have just arrived at the Cairn Hotel in Edinburgh. It joins my list of Scottish Hotels That Provide Wee Packets Of Walkers Shortbread to guests in their rooms. Other hotels on the list include the Minto Hotel on Minto Street and the Royal British Hotel on Princes Street. Very emphatically not the EasyHotel I stayed at last time.

The EasyHotel on Princes Street has two things in its favour: a) it’s on Princes Street, and b) it’s cheap. Other than that, it doesn’t have much going for it. Saying that the rooms are tiny really doesn’t give you the full picture. I thought the rooms at the Tune Hotel were small, but the EasyHotel goes a step further. The bed was hemmed in by walls on three sides, and only approachable from one end and a corner. The bathroom was a pre-fab shower + sink + toilet unit designed for maximum space efficiency. Well, maybe not maximum. I suppose the toilet could have have fitted inside the shower.

Brush your teeth before taking your shower. Otherwise, wet socks.

There was a slot under the bed big enough to fit a single airplane carry-on sized bag. There was an orange hanger construct on the wall that could take two coats, next to a mirror over a shelf for storing a wallet, a phone, and maybe a packet of mixed nuts. Maybe. At least I had a window, even though it was sealed “Due to reasons of health and safety”. Literally sealed, with sealant. Even so, the room was so cold, and the blankets so thin, that I kept my sweater on in bed. There was a small heater, but its meagre output couldn’t stand up to the power of the frigid downdraught of the always-on air-conditioning. There was no bedside table for my iPad alarm clock, so I slept with it in bed.

Still: it was cheap, and on Princes Street. If all you plan to use your room for is sleeping, then it’s fine. Wifi is just barely good enough for a 1 fps Facetime call.

Other notable features of that trip:

This Is The End with Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen has a lot of very funny moments, not all of them even crude, but also some unpleasant rape jokes that could have easily been avoided.

Bruce Munro’s striking art installation Field of Light: “9000 lighted frosted spheres rising from the ground on slender stems”. I had no idea it was there, and it was quite a surprise to see St. Andrew’s Square all lit up like that.

Field of Light

A bench on the Mound with legs of all different lengths, so it’s level.

Odd-legged bench on the Mound

When you order a cup of hot chocolate at Peter’s Yard in the Quartermile, remember to explicitly tell the barista no cardamom, or you’re in for a big surprise.


Parking ticket

Just got my first ever parking ticket. The parking spaces at Dirk in the centre of the village got turned into a blue zone a few years ago, and although I often set my parking disc, I don’t always remember to do so. Especially if I’m just nipping in for a couple of items. The disc was sitting behind the windscreen, as it always does. I could have got lucky if it had accidentally still been set to a valid time from the last occasion I used it, but no. In the shop for less than ten minutes, feeling slightly virtuous from having bought the latest Z! homeless paper from the vendor at the door, step out onto the street and there’s the parking warden just popping the ticket under the windscreen wiper. €90. Bah.

Thumpers at Paradiso, Friday 4 April 2014

I saw Thumpers in October last year when they opened for Chvrches at Melkweg, and I loved them. I had never heard any of their songs before, but their drum-heavy feel, bouncy rhythms, and the playful intertwining of vocals really got to me. (To be honest, I thought they put on a better show than Chvrches.) “Unkinder” instantly became one of my favourite tracks of 2013.

I was excited when they announced their album and their own tour, and I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale. They played Paradiso this evening at the crazy early hour of 19:00. (I don’t think I’ve ever left Paradiso while it was still light.) The small room was practically empty when Abi and I got there around 18:45, and never filled up completely, but the audience felt warm and welcoming nonetheless. The band played a short but energetic 45 minutes, and were as good as I remembered them. The new single “Tame” sounded great, and the extended version of “Unkinder” they ended with was just wonderful. Recommended!

Thumpers at Paradiso
Thumpers at Paradiso. Marcus Pepperell on guitar, John Hamson Jr. on PHAT DRUMS.
Marcus Pepperell (Thumpers) on guitar at Paradiso
Marcus Pepperell looks uncannily like Jim Newbery
John Hamson Jr (Thumpers) on drums at Paradiso

I had hoped they would have copies of their CD Galore at the merch table in advance of its 19th May European release (it’s available in North America, Australia, and New Zealand already), but no such luck. I had to console myself with another Thumpers T-shirt instead. I already have the grey, so I got the white one with blue letters this time. Gotta have my merch.

Walk to Velsen Zuid

On Saturday Abi and I took a long walk from Oostzaan to Velsen Zuid. Our original plan had been to walk a bit farther to IJmuiden and then take the green “Fast Flying Ferry” hydrofoil back to Amsterdam, but unfortunately the service has stopped. It was shut down on 1st January because of low passenger numbers. Alex and Fiona went on it once a few years ago, but I never got the chance – pity.

We left the house around 08:30, and had amazing walking weather. Blue skies, temperature rising through the mid teens, and a very light haze that burned off later in the morning. Our route took us over the Den Uylbrug, along the north shore of the Noordzeekanaal, and through Overtoom and Nauerna. We took the Spaarndam-Buitenhuizen ferry across the Noordzeekanaal, and then walked through Spaarnwoude to the edge of Velsen Zuid, where we caught the 82 bus into Amsterdam.

I’ve played golf at Spaarnwoude, but this was the first time I’d explored more of the recreation area on foot, and it’s lovely. Towards the end of the walk, we took a detour from the direct path to visit an outlook point (on a hill — a hill!) and a signposted art object. This turned out to be the enormous piece “Klimwand en Schijf in Grofpuinheuvel” (Climbing Wall and Disc in a Mound of Rubble) by Dutch sculptor Frans De Wit.

It does exactly what it says on the tin: a free-standing public climbing wall (no entrance fee; just bring your own gear) in line with two massive concrete discs embedded in a man-made hill of rocks. There’s a narrow staircase betwene the discs, and when you climb it you can see that the climbing wall is exactly in line with the discs. It’s super impressive.

Between the Den Uylbrug and the Noordzeekanaal
Ships unloading in the Westhaven
Klimwand en Schijf in Grofpuinheuvel by Frans de Wit
Climbing wall
The stairs leading up between the two discs

Migraine recording

Alex is home from school and in bed right now after another migraine last night. I’m going to create a new shared calendar to record them, and see what patterns we can discover.