Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Great Digital Detox Experiment: August 2012

It all started with a random conversation with one of the girls at work yesterday, about how much time I spend on the internet, when I could be watching my telly backlog, reading books, doing other things at home.   I wouldn't want to give up the internet for good, but it then got me thinking about whether I could give up surfing for one month, which sounds a more do-able proposition.

(The only exceptions to this rule will be logging my food intake on Weight Watchers Online, online shopping when required, checking the local 5 day weather forecast and watching TV on demand).

Otherwise, from August 1st until August 31st there will be no surfing, no blogging, no tweeting, no emails, no reading message boards, no future holiday research, no YouTube videos, no discovering new music, no showbiz, TV or music news.  It's digital detox time!  I will be writing a diary during the month complete with all the withdrawal symptoms (!) and will let you know how I got on. My other two blogs will also be closed for the duration of August, and I will be back on September 1st with my very own "rentrée".

 Off to watch the Olympics now...see you in September :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Live Review: Roxette, SECC, Glasgow 3rd July 2012

Finally getting round to publishing this, four weeks after the event!

It's not often that we get the chance to see Swedish acts playing live over here (outwith the trendy club gig circuit which we're probably way too old for by now). So when the "opportunity nox" to see the legendary Roxette return to Glasgow in 2012, 20 years after they last played here, there was never any question about it, we had to be there, especially as we hadn't seen them live last time. But I did wonder how many others would be attracted to see a band which narrow-minded lazy critics brand an "Eighties throwback"? Rather a lot, as it turned out....it was practically a sell-out show.

Support act Mim Grey's breezy, bluesy pop recalls a softer Sheryl Crow or a gutsier Colbie Caillat. She certainly has a strong, warm voice which works well in a live setting and could do very well on Radio 2. The problem is that she maybe lacks enough uniqueness to get noticed. The lyrical content and video of "Mr Big Man" suggests that Ms Grey may at some point have auditioned for a certain TV talent show and got a "no" from a particular judge. However, here she is, supporting the legendary Roxette and playing to an audience of thousands of people. How many talent show contestants can say that? Who's got the last laugh now?

However, as with every big gig, the applause is polite rather than rapturous. That kind of reception is saved for Roxette, who take to the stage at 9.00 pm after a half hour break. Almost every seat in the all-seated Hall 4 is occupied, by an audience of all ages although predominantly 30 and 40-somethings. Despite it being all-seated, everyone spends most or all of the concert on their feet. Unfortunately around the time of the show I was still struggling through a bout of fatigue and couldn't stand up for very long...oh and one more thing, in my next life can I be reincarnated as a tall person and not the vertically challenged 5' 3" little person I am, so that I don't need to stand on tiptoes to see over tall people?

I've previously said that the SECC doesn't lend itself to subtlety when it comes to sound quality, but it works better for a band like Roxette which manages to kick serious rock-butt from beginning to end, ballad breaks notwithstanding of course :)

The band kick off with a high energy opening section - "Dressed For Success"/"Sleeping In My Car"/"The Big L" and throughout the show, they throw in some fan-faves although some of them I'm maybe a little less familiar with. There is a mix of the crowd pleasers - "It Must Have Been Love" positioned very early in the show - the newer songs like "She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio)", and some numbers mid-show which slow down the tempo. Unfortunately that also means this modern phenomenon of people going to concerts and spending vast chunks of it on their phones checking Facebook etc. rather than paying attention to what's going on up on the stage. That's a real major gripe for us, but we seem to be in a minority :( Despite all this though, it has to be said that the Glasgow audience is the warmest, wildest, most receptive audience that an artist or band can play in front of. No wonder they all love playing here.

It is a massive achievement that Marie is able to perform on a live stage at all, given all that she's been through in recent years. That alone makes the show a triumph. She is also in great voice although at times requires the assistance of backing singer Dea Norberg to help her through certain moments. By the way, Ms Norberg herself has an impressive musical CV. She's been backing singer at Melodifestivalen for a number of years and also back-up for Swedish entries at ESC, most recently Charlotte Perrelli (2008) and Malena Ernman (2009) - more info at http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dea_Norberg

The 'wonderful balloons' are set off during "Joyride" much to the delight of the audience. There's lots of wisecracking during the band-introduction segment, with references to Sweden and Stieg Larsson. The wild-man guitarist, Christoffer, made himself the most popular band member (apart from Per and Marie of course) with a solo of "Scotland the Brave" which drove the audience completely bananas. As if they weren't hyper enough already! Of course that guitar-solo is tailor-made to every venue, so I'm guessing there will be a few Hendrix-style renditions of the Star Spangled Banner by the time the tour reaches the USA.

Needless to say they save "Listen To Your Heart" until the end, every lyric sung back to the band from beginning to end. The final song, an acoustic "Church of Your Heart" brings all the band members to the front of the stage for a strangely muted conclusion to an otherwise rockin' evening.

I hope the band enjoyed this show as much as the audience did! We certainly had a great night. The world tour rolls on to a couple of Norwegian festivals in August, then on to Canada, USA and finally to Mexico. Catch them if you can!

Dressed For Success, Sleeping In My Car, The Big L, Spending My Time, Stars, She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio), Perfect Day, Things Will Never Be The Same, It Must Have Been Love, Opportunity Nox, 7Twenty7, Fading Like a Flower, Crash Boom Bang, How Do You Do, Dangerous, band presentation/Scotland The Brave/Joyride, The Look, Listen To Your Heart, Church Of Your Heart.

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: June-July 2012

Let's start from the present day and rewind.  London 2012 is underway and for the first time we truly have TV on demand.  Now with all these extra BBC channels on satellite (25 of 'em), Freeview, the red button and the like, you really can pick and choose what you want to see.  So far, so good!

Whilst on the Olympic theme, we got some rather good Olympic-themed documentaries on the BBC.  Such as "FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER" (BBC2) and "THE RACE THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD" (BBC4) the latter told the story of the 1988 100 metres final which achieved notoriety thanks to Ben Johnson's win.  The notable thing about this programme didn't just have a load of reminiscing talking heads but the actual athletes who competed in the race.  Including Ben Johnson himself. 

I spent the bulk of July tuned into one very important TV event: the Tour de France of course.  One thing we can always rely on is the knowledgeable, entertaining and informative coverage provided by ITV4's team: Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Gary Imlach, Ned Boulting and Chris Boardman.  I hope they all stay together for many, many more years to come.  One major achievement this year was getting the final stages of Le Tour onto ITV1, our main commercial terrestrial channel, and bringing it to a whole new audience.  This was in no small part due to a certain Bradley Wiggins of course, but how good would it be if we got a prime-time evening highlights show on ITV1 in 2013?  I think the answer to that one would be 'dream on'...

Because the schedules are filled with soaps, boring feature-length cop dramas and endless talent shows.  I would usually avoid the latter on ITV like the plague, but I decided to give "SUPERSTAR" a go.  This was the latest in a long line of Lord Lloyd-Webber's publicity stunts talent searches, this time to find the leading actor in the new arena tour of "Jesus Christ Superstar".  So far so good: after all, my love of  "Any Dream Will Do" was well-documented in the early days of this blog, and I also enjoyed his other shows on a similar theme.  Yet there are certain specific differences between BBC and ITV talent shows.  "The Voice" didn't work on the Beeb, and from the very little I saw of it, the Lloyd-Webber format didn't transfer so well to ITV either.  After about three nights I completely lost interest.  The talent show format is now very stale indeed, and every new series is like another dead horse being flogged in front of our eyes.

I would rather be watching a good documentary on BBC4.  Something like "HITLER, STALIN AND MR JONES" for example.  The best documentaries tell a tale that's never (or rarely) been told.  In this case, the story of a Welsh 1930s investigative journalist who exposed life under Stalin and lost his life whilst getting his final scoop in Mongolia.  A journalist with (some dubious) friends in high places but killed at 29, disowned as a casualty of political skullduggery.  He may have just known too much....was his murder all it seemed, or an act of revenge?

Unfortunately the more populist documentaries these days seem to stick to a particular formula.  Which is, well-known name 'gives back'.  In this case, "GORDON BEHIND BARS" and "THELMA'S GYPSY GIRLS" (both Channel 4) in which Gordon Ramsay decided to singlehandedly turn round the lives of prisoners in HMP Brixton, wave his magic wand and voila!  The Bad Boys Bakery was born, saving the world one treacle slice at a time.  As for Thelma Madine, she who is the maker of those big fat dresses in "Big Fat Gypsy Weddings" she decided to singlehandedly turn around the lives of a group of teenage travellers by teaching them to sew the dresses that they'll inevitably be wearing in a year or two before being consigned to the usual life of drudgery.  Saving the world, one diamante at a time, when they're not aiming insults and aggression at each other, that is.  It all seems a little too "staged" and you will have guessed that we're very sceptical about it all.  Still watching the shows though....

One documentary maker who is at the beginning of her career is BBC3's Stacey Dooley, who in "COMING HERE SOON: STACEY DOOLEY INVESTIGATES" looked at how the recession has affected Greece, Ireland and Japan.  She may have a simplistic and goofy style, yet she has a warm persona which exudes humanity and empathy which is absent in many of today's plastic TV hosts.  Dooley's style is perhaps a little too over-emotive at present, but she seems to suit that BBC3 demographic just fine right now.  It will be interesting to see where she goes from here, and whether she can break out of the teen-TV ghetto.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Allsångsscenen är din: Tomas Ledin - Skansen 24.07.12

Say what you like about Tomas Ledin - he's not to everyone's taste, but you can't deny his enduring popularity with the Swedish public over the last 40 years.  To commemorate this musical anniversary, Tomas took over the Skansen stage following this week's "Allsång" to entertain an audience of over 25,000 in the iconic Swedish open-air venue, and many many more both in Sweden and worldwide on SVT Play, for his very own TV special - "Allsångsscenen är din: Tomas Ledin".

I had been looking forward to seeing this concert for a long time, mainly because I have only caught occasional video clips of him performing live over the years although I do have his last live CD "I Sommarnattens Ljus"  amongst the many Ledin CDs in my collection so I was already well aware of his strengths as a live performer. I wired the laptop up to the TV to enjoy the concert in all its glory, and I thought it was about time to introduce my mum to a) the joys of a Swedish outdoor singalong and b) Tomas Ledin.  For although she was familiar with the name, having heard me going on about him for 30-odd years, she's not familiar with his music.

The show began with some flashback clips from over the years, from a 1972 interview to the present day then back again.  Appropriately Clabbe af Geijerstam, who interviewed Tomas in the clip, ended up introducing him and his band tonight. Appropriately they began with Festen Har Borjat which is a very good place to start. Then onwards through a string of hits from over the years. Tomas is also enjoying something of a resurgence of late: his appearance on series 2 of Så Mycket Bättre may have won him some new fans, his "Showtime" season last year at Rondo in Gothenburg was so successful that it's relocating to Cirkus in Stockholm following his short summer tour. And his greatest hits album "40 Years - 40 Hits" has recently topped the Swedish album chart. Tomas was in great voice throughout the show and definitely proved that even at 60 years old - still looking very good for his age - that he still rocks.

Still on the subject of age, my mum was particularly impressed with the all-ages audience, from children to golden oldies and everything in between. I told her that this is a regular occurrence at Sweden's various open-air shows whether it's Skansen or Liseberg. Here in Britain you would never get a show like Allsång on TV every week, it would be viewed as too "cheesy" by a sneering media and the 'demographic-obsessed people who run TV would probably recoil in horror at the idea...after all in this country it's not "cool" to hang out with "old" people or watch an "old" person singing on a stage. But for now we can forget that we live in Britain and instead we can wallow in a Swedish summer evening.

Tomas takes us from daylight to dusk to night-time, all in the space of one hour. But it's not just him and his band on stage, there are also some very special guests. Such as, for example, the wonderful Sarah Dawn Finer. Unfortunately the chosen song for their duet, Lay Me Your Body Down, is not one of my favourite Ledin songs, from that very early era which I'm not too fond of. Nevertheless it's great to see and hear Sarah singing again. Folk musicians Hazelius Hedin accompanied Tomas on Bla Bla Kanslor which is followed by a rousing Sensuella Isabella. One more special guest to follow...I bet you didn't expect to hear rapping on En Del Av Mitt Hjärta, but you got it courtesy of Så Mycket Bättre chum Timbuktu. And the guest appearances kept on coming: David "Shout It Out" Lindgren brought a super-confident "Just Nu" and this was followed by his Melodifestivalen entries medley with the help of Niklas Strömstedt, E-Type, and the white-trousered legend that is Måns Zelmerlöw! I only wish that these songs had all been performed in full though.

The pace then dropped considerably for the acoustic "Här kommer den nya tiden" which Tomas performed along with Eva Dahlgren. But there was one very important song which he hadn't played - yes, that one. If Tomas is the king of the summer, then his very own anthem is "Sommaren är kort". But who'd have thought that it would lead to SVT pulling the plug on the show? In a spontaneous moment, he invited a stage invasion. OK so maybe it was a stupid idea in retrospect, but he was carried away by the evening's euphoria so it's understandable :) Now SVT could be put on the naughty step along with Mr Ledin: the show has been reported to the TV watchdogs for being 'undue commercial promotion'.

Advertising or not, you can watch the show again over at SVT Play where it will be available for the next three weeks: http://www.svtplay.se/video/202630/allsangsscenen-ar-din-tomas-ledin

The set list:
Festen har börjat
Lika hopplöst förälskad
En dag på stranden
Lay me your body down
Blå, blå känslor
Sensuella Isabella
I natt är jag din
En del av mitt hjärta
Hon gör allt för att göra mig lycklig
Det ligger i luften
Just nu
Melodifestivalen hits medley
Här kommer den nya tiden
Sommaren är kort

Here are some pictures from the show, courtesy of Rex Features/SVT.

Tomas with Eva Dahlgren
Tomas with Hazelius Hedin.
Tomas & Sarah Dawn Finer.
David Lindgren - Just Nu!
Tomas rocks out...
...and again!
Tomas with Timbuktu

London 2012: an opening ceremony to be proud of!

Almost 24 hours from when it happened, I have just finished watching the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

One word to describe it: wow.

Those who know me well will know that I'm a long way from being a "patriotic Brit", and the title of this blog clearly explains where my heart truly lies.  Yet, dare I say, that opening ceremony made me, dare I say it, proud to be British.

It's been years and so much hard work in planning, but the multi-themed opening ceremony devised by film director Danny Boyle said so much about this country in a way that no other event supremo could have even thought of.

Tour de France 2012 winner Bradley Wiggins kicked it all off, by ringing the bell to get the party started. Isles of Wonder took us from a trippy green-and-pleasant-land intro, to the gritty, grimy industrial revolution. Drummers, men in top hats, Kenneth Branagh as Brunel (with Bradley Wiggins sideburns!), big chimneys rising up from the ground.

Subtext: When Britain was great.  When Britain "made stuff".

A tribute to industry... at EuropeCrazy HQ we visualised a finale where the Olympic Park was transformed into a high street of pound shops, beauty salons, cash-for-gold shops and To Let signs, bringing our industrial past into the doom-laden present....

Anyway, onwards, to pearly kings and queens, to an army of Sergeant Peppers, to suffragettes, steelworkers, to a Britain that is long gone and lost.  But from that rises five rings forged in steel, bursting into fireworks.  With hope for the future. (Although with David Cameron sitting in the VIP section of the audience, that hope is very minimal at this point in time).

Happy and Glorious: a fun segment with the current James Bond (Daniel Craig) being greeted at Buck House by HM the Queen - the real one - with both proceeding to board a helicopter, fly over London and eventually land in the Olympic Park.  Or not???

...Straight On Till Morning: I love the subversive nature of this opening ceremony: for now they celebrate the NHS and Great Ormond Street Hospital, with real medical staff dancing around, all to Mike Oldfield and his tubular bells.  The children drift off into dreamland and it becomes a celebration of children's literature with everything from JK Rowling reading from Peter Pan to a giant Voldemort and the massed ranks of Mary Poppins coming to save the children from darkness.

The next segment is probably the funniest of the evening: Simon Rattle conducting the LSO in a performance of Chariots of Fire doesn't sound like it, but put Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean on that one-note keyboard line and it's a different proposition altogether, add in his dream sequence of the famous beach run and it's a winner.

We came into the present on the following segment which merged our digital life and over 40 years of Britain's pop music tradition, everyone from the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols, via David Bowie and Mud to the Specials, the Happy Mondays, New Order and Frankie Goes To Hollywood with the help of colourful dancers in a number of different costumes, bringing it reasonably up to date with Dizzee Rascal performing "Bonkers" and the final tribute to the man who made our digital life possible - Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web.

But isn't there some sporting event going on?  So here's David Beckham in a speedboat with the torch.  He soooo wants to be James Bond.  But as mum reminds me, we've already seen Mr Bond tonight.

There followed a tribute, which I assume was for those who lost their lives in the 7/7 London bombing which took place 7 years ago, just one day after the announcement that the 2012 Olympics had been awarded to London.  A suitably reserved performance of "Abide With Me" by Emeli Sande gave way to the parade of competing athletes.

It's a more feelgood parade of athletes this time round, with varying degrees of dancing, clapping and Olympic swagger which at times is more reminiscent of the closing ceremony than the opening.  But it's so good to see everyone there, without exception: I'm from a generation which clearly remembers a time of boycotts - the USA refusing to go to Moscow in 1980, the USSR and its allies returning the favour in 1984.  2012 also brings a massive achievement for my own gender.  Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are allowing women to compete in the Games, therefore there are no nations unrepresented by women.  It's hard to believe that it has taken so long to establish this gender equality but it has finally happened...and regardless of their achievement, that is definitely something worth celebrating.

We enjoyed the walk-round soundtrack which would occasionally burst into something unique and totally British - "West End Girls" or "Stayin' Alive" to "Rolling in the Deep" and "Galvanise" heralding everything from the well-greased Fijian flag bearer, to the pink and blue of Germany, Mexico's riot of colour, Nigeria's green and white dresses, Peruvian hats and the white-trackies-with-gold-bits which was the Team GB fashion disaster.  Our favourite parts of the athletes' parade will always be those countries who put their individual stamp on the proceedings whether it's a grass skirt, a unique piece of headgear or a brightly coloured flowing gown.  You all brightened up our evening :)

Finally, to the formal, serious bits.  You would need to have had a heart of stone not to be moved by Muhammad Ali's appearance: "the greatest" is ravaged by Parkinson's disease but he has made it here: a massive achievement indeed.

But after all these weeks of the torch relay, who would finally light the cauldron?  My own tip for this was multi-winning Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave, however he then passed it on to not one but a group of seven unknown young athletes, nominated by British Olympians.  A big ask, an enormous expectation, and something they will remember forever.  In a final unique touch the 'copper petals', each one held by each competing nation, came together to form the Olympic cauldron.  That phrase "the wow factor" is a bit over-used in these times, but on this occasion it was highly appropriate to describe what just happened there.  And finally, to end the evening, who else but Sir Paul McCartney with the singalong to end all singalongs..."Hey Jude" :)

Well done to everyone concerned for a brilliant opening ceremony and let's hope that London 2012 will not let us down!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tomas Ledin's big night at Skansen, next Tuesday

The time has almost come....next Tuesday night, following Allsång på Skansen, Swedish music legend and "king of the summer" Tomas Ledin will perform an hour-long set at 21:00 Swedish time (20:00 UK time) and he will be joined by some very special guests: David Lindgren, E-Type, Eva Dahlgren, Hazelius Hedin, Måns Zelmerlöw, Niklas Strömstedt, Sarah Dawn Finer and Timbuktu. 

In 2012 Tomas is celebrating his 40th anniversary as a recording artist and has spent the last couple of weeks at the top of the Swedish album charts with his latest greatest hits compilation.

Thoughts on Le Tour, 2012

As I type this there are only three stages left of the world's greatest annual sporting event.

It's been a strange one, this year for a number of reasons. 

Wiggo Wiggo Wiggo Wiggo Wiggo - yeah! Firstly who would have thought that in our lifetime a British rider would spend a great big chunk of the race in the yellow jersey and more or less have the race won with several days to go?  A fantastic achievement indeed for Wiggo.  Not only that, but who would have thought that there would not just be one but two British riders in the top three?  Chris Froome has been a revelation on this Tour and no-one could blame him if he chooses to walk from Team Sky at the end of the season and take his chances with a team who would prioritise his race-winning opportunities more seriously.   But that's the world of team cycling for you: rule number one, know your place. 

The Sagan saga:  Peter Sagan, a young rider from Slovakia, came to his very first tour and meant business almost from the beginning.  His stage-winning celebrations turned him into one of the race's most talked-about new stars.  But what about our favourite Manx missile?  Mark Cavendish was conspicuous by his absence for most of the race and seemed to be ruled out of defending this year's green jersey.  There is still that iconic Paris finish to come, which has been Cav's domain in recent years, and Bradley has declared that he and the team will pay Cav back for the selfless work he's done in Le Tour this year, by working towards that big finish on Sunday.  And then there's the small matter of some Olympic games coming up...

Changing tack: One of the darkest moments of this year's race came on stage 14 when tacks were thrown on the road, causing extensive damage and punctures.  One of the riders damaged most by this was the defending champion Cadel Evans.  Now regular readers will know that I'm no Cadel fan by any means but this was a pretty sad and sick stunt.  Le Tour is an event which is free for everyone in the vicinity to attend and enjoy.  We can only hope that this was a one-off. 

Schleck?  Heck!  Feck!:  That was basically my reaction when I found out that Frank Schleck had tested positive for a diuretic.  With all the bans and negative publicity of recent years, the last thing this year's tour needed was a positive test.  I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this story.  Whilst we're on the Schleck family, we have really missed Andy in the race this year and can only wonder how different the dynamic of the race would have looked if an on-form Andy was there, challenging Bradley all the way to the finish. 

The achievement of British riders has been fantastic and if it encourages even one person to take up cycling and change the anti-cycling culture in this car-obsessed country, then job done.  However, it hasn't been a classic by any means: it's been a Tour in transition, with the stars of the past either banned, injured or retired and few serious challengers for the title.  Nevertheless the Tour de France is and will always remain a spectacle, and France itself will always be the star.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10 things to love about....Turkey!

It's now been 7 weeks since our short break in Turkey. As all that time has passed, I thought it would be a good idea to resurrect the old "10 things to love about....." format from the early days of this blog rather than the day-by-day account which I usually do.  We only had 4 nights in Icmeler this time and a day-by-day report would probably not be too different from the one from September 2009. If you're reading this and you've ever been to Turkey, you know what to expect by now, and some things never change...!!

1.  The Turkish hospitality

Is it annoying? Nosy? Intrusive? Maybe, but it's also filled with genuine warmth, affection, cheeky banter and above all great fun. And wherever you come from, they're guaranteed to have a cousin or a brother who lives nearby. Those who work ridiculously long hours in Turkish resorts, pushing themselves to the limit and beyond just to keep their valued customers fed, watered and entertained really deserve the highest praise.  This commitment to customer service also gets the best reward, as holidaymakers keep on coming back time after time.  I never used to understand why people kept returning to Turkey for their summer holidays, but you actually have to experience it yourself to understand the reasons why. 

2. The beautiful scenery

Although Icmeler has significantly developed over the years as a holiday resort, it has not lost its natural beauty.  Apart from that magnificent coastline (more about that later) there are areas of the town which are just jaw-droppingly pretty, with beautiful flowers and exotic foliage, for example alongside the canal, which make it extra special...

3.  Something old, something new....

The powers-that-be in Icmeler know that apart from keeping the punters happy with the tried and trusted resort favourites, they also have to make changes and improvements as time goes on.  The removal of the old canal stalls and their replacement with small shop units hasn't been too popular with many holidaymakers, but there's another recent innovation which has given the town a new focal point and revitalised the surrounding area.  I give you...the Square!!

4.  Food....glorious food!

We've been three holidays to Turkey to date and what makes it really stand out is the quality of the food in the resorts.  There really is something for everyone: whether you want traditional Turkish fare or "British" food, or most other international cuisines.  The menus are vast and varied, and I'm particularly impressed that as an 'almost-vegetarian' there is a great selection of meat-free choices whereas in some countries these are so hard to find.

I do still eat chicken though, and there is lots of it in Turkey.  The humble but tasty chicken shish turns up everywhere, and nowhere more tasty than at the Hanedan restaurant which for a while topped Trip Advisor's list of best restaurants in Icmeler, and even at the moment it's rated 3rd best restaurant.  It's easy to see why: traditional, authentic, varied and totally Turkish.  They sell a lot more than chicken shish, but sometimes you've gotta have it :)

A Turkish meal is always a feast and many of the restaurants kick it off by delivering a big tasty bread to your table.  It's like a more hollow version of a naan bread.  And absolutely delicious!

5.  The wine

Then of course you need to wash it all down with some Turkish wine, which of course we are always willing to try out for the purposes of research (!) and which we can also highly recommend. 

6.  Turkish coffee

For a pair of coffee obsessives like us (the stronger the better) Turkish coffee is a must.  It's like espresso only turned up to 11.  One mighty strong coffee in a little cup, and it will keep you going when the excessive heat threatens to wear you down.  Yes you're probably wondering about the logic of drinking coffee in those kind of temperatures, but hey, it works for us ok???

7.  The boys can dance

Those lovely young waiters are indeed a multi-talented bunch.  Not only are they working all the hours but in many of the bars on any night they're providing the entertainment as well as serving the food and drinks.  Search 'Turkish dancing waiters' on YouTube and you'll find a variety of them, not just from Icmeler but in almost every Turkish resort.  The repertoire never changes that much though!

But that's not all.  Get your dance steps ready as you could be hauled out of your seat at any time for some audience participation.  So get started rehearsing the Cha Cha Slide and the Kiss Kiss routine!

8.  The surrounding areas

Icmeler really is a little piece of paradise on the Turquoise Coast and you can easily spend a week there without venturing further afield.  But the resort is also in very close proximity to its bigger, rowdier neighbour Marmaris, just minutes away by bus.  We prefer the taxi boat trip which lasts just over half an hour, which is a very scenic route indeed, passing the stunning coastline and through the shimmering sea.

9. Hello! Yes please!!

As always, the concept of window shopping doesn't exist in Turkey :) Make the least bit of eye contact and before you know it, you've been whisked into a shop, plied with the offer of an apple tea and sweet-talked into buying some 'genuine fake' or other. Lovers of the current labels-du-jour however will find lots to use up their baggage allowance on the way home (and then sobbing at the airport when they've got to pay for that excess baggage!). Personally speaking, I'm a bracelet fanatic and no trip to Turkey is complete without buying at least 10 of them :)  As for CDs, there aren't really any big record stores in this part of the world and they tend to be smaller shops mainly stocking the top 40 albums.  If you're looking for something more obscure you would probably be better waiting till you get home and check if it's on iTunes etc: at least I got the Power Turk compilation and the old Mor ve Ötesi CD which I came for.

10. Turkish Night

If you're in Icmeler on holiday, don't miss the Turkish night at the open-air venue, the Kervansaray, up in Marmaris. Book with one of the numerous tour operators in town for a good deal, however don't always rely on luxury transport to get there (that's another story ha ha...but we made it anyway!) For 22 quid you get a meal, unlimited wine/soft drinks and an evening of folk dancing, bellydance (both male and female), numerous moneygrabbing photo opportunities to help you part with your lira and a generally all-round fun night.  To round off the evening, 3 females from the audience take part in the bellydancing contest.  (No, I wasn't one of them!!)  Which is always won by the English contestant, and there is always a Russian exhibitionist who has to settle for second place. 

That's about it then.  Till the next time, whenever that will be.....

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Retro Saturday: Jonatan Cerrada

Let's take a little trip back 9 years to a top tune by France's first "Idol" - Nouvelle Star winner Jonatan Cerrada.  If you remember, Jonatan and rival finalist Thierry Amiel were in a Will & Gareth-style contest, with everyone (including myself) expecting the foregone conclusion of a Thierry win.  So it was all the more pleasing when Jonatan triumphed.  This is a little piece of pop perfection from Jonatan's debut CD, which I would like to dedicate to Rachel and Keira and hope it brings back some happy memories of that Parisian pilgrimage :)


Retro Saturday: Guesch Patti

With my favourite annual sporting event going on at the moment - the Tour de France, need you ask - I thought I'd do a little trip back in time with a distinctly French flavour tonight. 

Back in 1988 - which I've decided to log in the history books as an officially fab year although admittedly it had its ups and downs - French pop singer Guesch Patti had a bit of a pan-European hit with the grammatically incorrect "Let Be Must The Queen".  The song came to my attention all those years ago after it got an airing on some British TV show or other, maybe Rapido, although my memory is a bit hazy on this one.  Anyway I thought it was time to feature it on Retro Saturday.  Very 'French' and very much "of its time" but hey, that's not so bad. 


Monday, July 02, 2012

Goodbye (for now) September...hello Petra Marklund!

Today brought some surprising but very welcoming news.  Over the last few years, September has been one of my favourite Swedish pop/dance acts.  Today in an interview with Dagens Nyheter http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/musik/petra-marklund-sa-mycket-svartare the singer revealed a complete change of sound - and artist name - for her forthcoming album which will be released in the autumn.  The main change is that, for the moment, she has dropped her artist-name September and will release the album  under her own name, Petra Marklund.  The other big change is that the album will be in her native language and out goes the familiar dance-pop style of recent years.

One of her main musical collaborators on the album is none other than Kent's brilliant Joakim Berg.  If anyone had suggested a few years ago that these two artists from two very different musical worlds would have been working together I wouldn't have believed it.  But that, perhaps, says more about the open-minded nature of Swedish music.  Artists are willing to innovate, take risks, to try a new sound, to discover and embrace unlikely musical collaborations.  That takes true talent, and I'm delighted to see Petra take this exciting new step in her career.

And even more exciting news is that none other than Salem Al Fakir will be guesting on one of the tracks on the new album.  I'm sure it will be fantastic.

Good luck with the new album, Petra - I can't wait to hear it :)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Here come July

Aah, it's the 1st of July already, and we've said goodbye to the first half of the year.  By way of a musical tribute to the new month, and I meant to do this last year/the year before that/the year before that....anyway, finally, I present "Here Come July" from the wonderful Scritti Politti's 1999 album "Anomie and Bonhomie".  The album was mainly influenced by rap and hip-hop, but you could rely on Green to come up with his trademark musical versatility on the reggaefied "Mystic Handyman", whilst "Here Comes July" is yet another musical departure, reminiscent of the Foo Fighters or Sugar, only with Green's distinctive vocal over the top of it.