Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adults Only Entertainment (No, Not THAT Kind)

The terms 'Science museum' and 'Adults only' in the same sentence first caught my attention. The promise of wine and hazmat suits sealed the deal. Last night, I attended the Science Museum Lates evening in London, where visitors were treated to a simulated biological outbreak in the museum after hours. The opportunity to tap into our inner-child without the actual presence of children was brilliant. No temper tantrums, sticky fingers and questions of where babies come from.

Most of the permanent gallery spaces were accessible to browsing visitors, but it was the bio-terrorism themed activities that people flocked to. We explored the Medical Gallery by torchlight and painted pustules and pox on our skin. A massive queue formed for the silent disco: it's connection to bio-terrorism alludes me still. And did I mention there were hazmat suits? Yep, for a quid, you could get yourself one of these flattering onesies, which come in rather handy when poxifying with fake blood or when you just decide to spill wine on yourself *ahem*.

You don't have to be a kid to enjoy the museum. Just looking around the room yesterday, it was evident that everyone was having a great time, interacting with the displays, the activities, the (fake) blood-drenched staff and the glitter and paste. But, I do often find myself avoiding the Science Museum on a regular day as it is predominantly a kids' domain. Spending a Sunday afternoon navigating prams and those sticky fingers, if you're not that way inclined, can be a bit of a nightmare. So, if you share my sentiments, and you're in London, come join me next month as the museum hosts its next themed Lates event.

A free event, Science Museum Lates takes place monthly on the last Wednesday of the month. Some activities will cost you, but it's next to nothing. The museum works hard to keep its core programs free so any donation you can spare at the end of the night is appreciated.

I should mention too that my housemate Cherie and I decided to head home in our hazmat suits, fake pustules and felt moustaches (which we made at the craft table in anticipation of Movember). Evidently, we were the only ones who felt the urge to do so. I do believe commuters on the Piccadilly line were wildly entertained last night. I'd like to think that we raised some awareness for Movember and/or the Science Museum in the process - I certainly recall delivering some very convincing, albeit Merlot-induced sales pitches. The most fun one can have on a school night.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Messing Around in London, Adam Hills Style

I love living in London, but there are some things I really miss about Australia: Rockwiz, Talking About your Generation, City Homicide, GNW, Spicks and Specks. So whenever I hear of Australians coming to do live shows here in the UK, I tend to get very excited.

Now, while the idea of watching 'Alf from Home and Away' strut his stuff in Priscilla: The Musical is tempting, this week, I chose instead to see Adam Hills' comedy show Mess Around at the Soho Theatre. Mess Around had a season at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival earlier this year, but was sold out before the festival had even started, much to my disappointment. To make up for this, I've since seen the show three times in the UK. That's not as weird and stalkerish as it might sound because let me explain something about Mess Around. It's based on the premise, as Adam explains at the beginning of the show, that his banters with audience members at the start of his stand-up shows are inevitably funnier and more entertaining than any prepared stuff. What's more, his theory is that everyday people will always be more interesting than any celebrity. Therefore, he has based this entire show on off-the-cuff chats.

One of my favourite moments comes from the Edinburgh season in August this year where, upon enquiring as to why a particular blonde woman had dyed her entire fringe bright blue, we received the following response: it's so my husband can find me in the carpark. She went on to add that they own a silver car, which is apparently a common colour for a car. As you can imagine, every show is likely to be completely different and unpredictable. So far, I haven't once been disappointed.

Tonight, I was at the final show of the London season. The audience members who participated were hilarious, in such a natural and effortless way. Adam never once makes them look or feel bad, which is so crucial with any audience participation. One woman had travelled all the way from Oslo with her husband just to see this show, and as it was her husband's 30th birthday (he's German), we all sang Happy Birthday to him in a German accent (because we couldn't actually sing it in German).

To drive his point home about everyday people being more interesting than famous people, the show always ends with Adam recounting his encounter with who, he claims, to be the most interesting person he's ever met - a pizza shop owner from near Bacchus Marsh in Victoria. For me to re-tell the story here would do it injustice, but let me say this: it involves a Greek-Italian-Australian accent that will make any expat yearn for a souvlaki and Vince Colosimo.

If you want to get a taste of what actually happens at these shows, it's worth checking out Adam Hills' blog, in which he writes about every one of his shows and the people whom he meets.

Adam Hills, it's been such a pleasure. Please come back to London soon.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Grow a Mo and Leave a Lasting Impact on the Face of Men's Health

Every man deserves to grow a little piece of luxury. And a well groomed moustache is a true sign of the modern gentleman.

The Modern Gent is the theme of this year’s Movember campaign and on Wednesday night, we celebrated the London launch of this now global fundraising phenomenon. In the decadent One Mayfair, a restored space that once was St Mark’s Church, 650 gentlemen and ladies gathered to show their support for raising awareness for men’s health and celebrate the Mo. Stepping into the venue, guests were transported into a world of old country manor charm. Hardwood finishings, leather couches and hunting paraphernalia surround guests in the elegantly lit neo-classical reception hall. As the Finlandia Vodka and Birra Moretti flowed freely, we were immersed in an evening of style and luxury.

As the room seemed to reach capacity, and guests were more than adequately wined and dined, we paused to hear a few words from the guys at the Movember Foundation. JC was one of the original men who started the Movember concept in Australia in 2003, and in 2010, continues to bring energy, life and fun to the campaign. His passion is infectious and admired.

Movember UK in 2010 will be supporting The Prostate Cancer Charity and Everyman Institute of Cancer Research. Guests gained insight – through videos, words from John Neate (the CEO of The Prostate Cancer Charity) and English TV personality and motorcycle enthusiast Charlie Boorman – into the essential work that these charities do for the men and women whose lives have been directly or indirectly impacted by prostate or testicular cancer, and the importance of being better informed of men’s health issues.

The message to take away from the launch – and the reason for this hairy (or stubbly) venture – is simple yet poignant.

36,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.
10,000 men die every year from prostate cancer.
1 man dies every hour from prostate cancer.

Growing a Mo and supporting those who will be sporting a Mo in Movember not only raises necessary money towards changing these statistics. It is a vehicle for encouraging a discourse on men’s health issues. For those who have supported the event in the past, it is evident that the overarching theme for Movember each and every year, and around the globe, is camaraderie. Support your Mo Bros who have given their faces for the cause by giving them a smile, a knowing wink or a donation. And together, let’s work towards leaving an ever lasting impact on the face of men’s health.

Register to take part in Movember 2010 or donate to a fellow Mo Bro.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

J'aime le Vin

I'm lousy at hobbies. I get bored of things remarkably quickly and have an attention span of a puppy. Over the years, I have accumulated a vast collection of musical instruments, sporting equipment and foreign language dictionaries, all of which now call the space under my bed home.

This week, I add French to the list of things I will try once in the hope of achieving longevity but probably won't. What possessed me to sign up to a 10-week course alludes me as I stare at my assigned homework for the week, willing it to conjugate itself. Actually, I do remember the logic behind this idea. Four years ago, I spent about three days in Paris while backpacking through Europe. After being spoilt by friends and locals in Germany, Italy, England and Crete, my friend Kat and I found ourselves friend-less and French-less in Paris, left to fend for ourselves. We were ignored when we spoke English and our measly attempts at 'Bonjour' and 'oui' did not fool anyone into believing we actually knew what we were talking about. After leaving Paris, I joined the ranks of many non-French speakers in denouncing Paris as a city of inhospitable souls who grunt a lot.

It's taken me four years, but I'm finally ready to give Paris another chance. Like with any break-up, it takes time and distance to allow one to reflect back on the relationship, to forgive the wrong-doings of the past and to take personal responsibility for our actions. Which brings us back to my French conjuguation homework. I am taking French classes so as to demonstrate to the French the changes I have made within myself and to prove that I am willing to make an effort in the relationship. At the very least, I will learn to say, 'I'm sorry. My French is not very good but I'm trying,' and 'I'm not English, I'm from Australia.'

I will report back on my progress. So far, I can say, 'Je m'appelle Biheng. Je suis Australienne. J'aime le vin.' Which translates to, 'My name is Biheng. I am Australian. I like wine.' With a shoddy accent.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Two Days in Brighton

When I think of Brighton, the image of a pebbly beach and big-ass pier usually come to mind. Brighton certainly boasts both and last weekend, I was lucky enough to be staying at a hostel overlooking the flashing lights of the pier and the calm water. But turn your back to the beach and you’re suddenly faced with a side of Brighton that, in my opinion, is way cooler.

Brighton’s ‘Lanes’ area, just north-west of the pier, is where I would happily get lost again and again. Narrow, windy, random yet peaceful, this small part of Brighton is made for those who enjoy aimless strolls, al fresco dining and good food. This is where I found the vegetarian restaurant Food for Friends (17-18 Prince Albert Street) which appears to be quite well-known now, having won an Open Table Diners’ Choice award in 2009 as well as sporting a mention in Lonely Planet Great Britain. My Thai green curry with sweet potato, aubergine and countless other vegies was packed with flavour and had me considering turning vego.

Further north is a precinct known as the North Laine. With a vibe not dissimilar to Melbourne’s Brunswick Street or Acland Street, I felt instantly at home. The shops were funky and unique, and offered hours of aimless browsing. I spent a significant amount of time in the health food shop Infinity Foods helping myself to a range of organic herbal teas, cereals and spreads which I lugged back with me to London. Its sister cafe down the road served organic vegetarian and vegan foods – a great place for brunch and people watching. Sadly, I arrived heavily hung over and my garlic mushrooms and spinach on toast just didn’t quite hit the spot fried bacon and eggs probably would’ve. Not their fault though. The coffee was strong and much needed so I was very thankful.

Brighton is a bit of a party town, as I learnt on my visit last week with nights being the domain of pub crawlers and stags and hens. And that was a Monday night too. I arrived in my dorm room to the smell of weed and two dazed Belgians rolling their next joint. At least my other roommates – two Germans and an Australian – were very normal and fun. There’s to be no mention of the horny 19-year-old Dutch kid. Ever. So the two Australians and two Germans went down to the bar and learnt about each other’s cultures... by drinking Foster’s and Jagermeister. By the time we returned to our room, the smell of weed had, thankfully, more or less subsided. I got a whole two hours of sleep due to a horny 19-year-old Dutch kid’s idiocy. But let’s not go there.