Monday, July 30, 2007

Red Bull Air Race - Where the free tickets went

If anyone's been reading this for a while they'll know that I've been very curious as to what Greenwich Council was doing with the free tickets that it was given by Red Bull.

Well another local local blog, the last bus home, has got the answers, click here to see them.

On the positive side the tickets did appear to end up with the public, the majority to individuals rather than community groups.

However what I find annoying is this response:
"The Council was concerned that not many residents would be aware of the Red Bull website and so would miss an opportunity to get tickets. For this reason, the Council proactively wrote to groups offering tickets and then advertised them on the Greenwich Council website and in the Greenwich Time newspaper"

I don't believe that anyone can really call the Council Proactive. I first became aware of the free tickets at the end of May when I looked at Red Bulls web site. Sure Greenwich Time had mentioned about a week or so before that that the race was coming but it didn't say a word about the free tickets.

A month later they do mention them in the "newspaper", they say they're going to community groups. The only way that you'd know that the public can register for what would be left over would be to have gone to Red Bull web site or to have done a search on the Council's web site.

Now remember that they'd already made the decision about a draw for the remaning tickets a month before, why didn't they say something? Why give the impression that only community groups would get them?

Finally a few days before the race they send out an email saying that members of the public can get those free tickets independently of any community group. That is, I believe, the first time that they proactively told anyone about it.

The only way you seemed to be able to find out that you could register for tickets was on various web sites, by email or through word of mouth. Given how much room the Council can find in Greenwich Time to spin and stretch the truth about what they're up to they didn't seem able to find a few lines to give the details to their residents.

To see the Council even admitting that finding out about the tickets on the web might be hard for some people and then blatantly failing to try and communicate properly to non-residents groups just makes me really angry. I've had quite a few people who are obviously IT literate tell me that they only got tickets because I posted about them. How many people unfairly missed out on their chances because they don't use the web or email?

Shame on you Greenwich Council!

I'm so happy that word got out to enough people to make sure that all the tickets were taken.

Red Bull Air Race Final

Sunday was the day of the final of the Red Bull air race and I and some of my friends had tickets, so off we went. After seeing the practice session last Friday I was really looking forward to it, even more than I was already.

So how was it?

Well I thought it was great!

We were up in the grandstands on the O2 side of the river, the view was great and we weren't too squished either. One minor complaint was that we couldn't see the start (which was also the end) gate. However we were right in front of a particularly tricky, and therefore interesting, section of the course so in all honesty I wouldn't have moved if offered a view of the missing gate.

There were a pair of commentators, a Brit and an American. The Brit was an idiot, a snow boarding "dude" who didn't really seem to know much of what was going on. I think the biggest contribution to the day he made was pointing out that pilots are the opposite of bananas. He also used the word "uber" to describe some attribute of the planes involved, speed I think, and that's a "cool dude"/geek type of phrase that for some reason irritates me. His American companion knew what he was talking about but was far more laid back, some might say dull. All things told though when you were getting into the final heats and it was getting rather tense and exciting they did seem to get into the swing of things, or maybe we were so into it that we were prepared to overlook their short comings.

The racing itself was great and we went from knowing nothing about how it worked at all to being able to spot when the planes were close or actually did pick up a penalty for doing something wrong. We also got to recognise some of the different flying styles of the main pilots, which is nice to do.

In the end the final was between a Brit, Paul Bonhomme, and an American, Mike Mangold. It really was pretty tense and we were getting really rather into it. Bonhomme managed a time that was on the fast side of average but not as quick as the fastest times of the day. Mangold then pipped him by a second.

Anyway as said we were getting really rather excited and involved. We could tell that Bonhomme's run wasn't a great run and Mangold was aggressively pushing himself. Those last dozen seconds watching Mangold and the timer count up were fantastic.

I'm really not into sports, I don't follow or watch anything. So I guess this was my first real sporting event and I loved it and felt like I understood it.

So great stuff!

I've heard some complaints about the day. One of those was about the price, £20 for a standing ticket. We paid £50 to have a seat in the Grandstand. The standing tickets were about 2/3 the price of what I paid for a standing ticket at an air show a couple of weeks ago and there were no transport hassles like I had for that. We were happy to pay the extra chunk for a seat as one of our number wasn't a huge plan fan and didn't want to be on her feet all day long. The seat gave me the best view I've ever had at an airshow and really let me get into the race. It's also what I paid for a gig that lasted less than two hours at the O2 a few weeks ago. I think that it was pretty good value, so did my friends, we all really enjoyed the day.

Aside from the race we also had some helicopters putting on a demonstration and doing some very impressive things. If you've not picked it up I'm a bit of a plane fan and what they were doing really was rather good. Maybe it would have meant less to someone else though.

We also had the Red Devils parachute team jumping and landing in the Thames, brief but still rather good.

At the end of the racing and after waiting ten or so minutes for the crowds to die down we had an easy exit from the racing area and strolled down to the Pilot Inn. We then had a few very pleasant hours with some beers in the sunshine, a very nice end to the race.

So we all had a great day and were very happy with what we go for our money. We'd certainly do it again if it were to come back to the Thames.

I've got a few more photos that I'll post up. I didn't take any of the planes racing as I had some of those from Friday and my friend had a proper camera with a decent zoom lens.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Charlton on the big screen...

...well almost.

There's a new movie coming out called Flood which is based on the book of the same name, click here to see the book or here to see the movie's web site. The movie web site has a trailer on it.

Basically the book's about a big flood hitting London. It's quite a funny disaster story, one of those things where the situation keeps getting worse and worse. A new scene will be described and you just know that what you're reading about will shortly blow up/sink/collide with something/go horribly wrong in some way and make the whole situation even worse than it was.

I really enjoyed the book because it seems pretty well researched and it was mainly about London, it had lots of interesting little facts about the town that I'd never heard before.

The movie seems to have changed things around. It seems to focus on a handful of main characters who have the chance to save the day, where as the book has many people in it each giving a different view point and many of whom do little things to help. A big plot point of the book is also that the oil refineries in the Thames Estuary explode and the flood carries the burning petrol and oil up the river into London. That doesn't seem to be happening in the trailer at all so maybe it's just been dropped as too expensive to film and just one disaster too many.

Anyway many parts of the book happen along the river around here and the Thames barrier seems to play an even bigger part in the film than the book so there's bound to be many shots of the river side area of Charlton. I think it's worth a look anyway.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Red Bull Air Race 2nd Practice Day

They were out practising for the air race again today and this time I didn't think "I'll go down there later", I went down there ASAP.

It really was rather impressive, very impressive in fact. I've got tickets for Sunday and I'm really looking forward to it.

One thing that I couldn't work out was if it's going to be possible to see if for free. It looks like they're going to close off the Thames Path for paying spectators right down to the Yacht Club on the southern end of the peninsula. Beyond that you might be able to get down to the river, for example at the Anchor & Hope pub (click here for a map) but I'm not sure what the views will be like. It's beyond the end of the course.

Anyway here's some photos from this morning:
The boys (and girl) in blue are on full alert.

This is the southern end of the course, I think the barge is about here.

Prezzo Restaurant at the Millennium Retail Park

The McDonald's next to the Odeon on the retail park closed down a few months ago and has been replaced by the rather nice looking Prezzo Restaurant. I nearly went in there a couple of weeks ago but Nando's won me over, the other night I was in the mood for Italian so I gave it a crack.

So how did it go?

Well OK, only OK.

The starters were good. I had the Crostini al Tonno (Tuna Mayo on toast) and Ms. Charlton Above Average had the Grilled Goat's Cheese. Both were pretty good, I certainly enjoyed what I had.

For mains I had the Penne con Salmone and she went for the the Il Carltoni Calzone, a baked folded pizza.

My dish was OK. It had a nice taste but I was expecting their to be bigish chunks of salmon rather than the somewhat flaked tuna that I got. Still as I said a nice taste though.

As for the Calzone well she wasn't impressed. It was a bit too baked and the outside was burned in places, still that's not a huge problem. However the pepperoni it came with was really rather odd and we both found it unpleasant. It was removed and left on one side. Not something we'd have again.

The presentation of the dishes was good and the restaurant looks nice inside too. The service was very good but it was very quiet in there. There were only a few other groups in there, it was way under capacity. Now some of that is because it was a weekday night but I do wonder how badly the new Vue cinema has affected the audiences going to the Odeon, and it'll be those audiences who want to eat at one of the restaurants next to it.

Would I go again? Possibly but I must admit I felt a bit let down. Not so badly that I wouldn't give them another try but the Nando's option will be a hard one to beat.

As for prices well you can see the complete menu here, I didn't think it was too bad at all

Prezzo have a web site here if you're interested in seeing it, the main point of interest is the menu which I've linked to above.

One extra thing I did notice while there was that Pizza Hut seem to have tarted themselves up a touch. The somewhat garish and tired old look has been replaced with a toned down set of more neutral tones, or so it appeared through the window. Somewhat similar to Prezzo itself.....

Anyway as I said it was OK, better than Pizza Hut but not as good as I was hoping. Fingers crossed a second visit will be more rewarding. It's certainly nice to have somewhere new to try

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I hear planes....

...and they sound like small high performance propellor ones. I wonder if they're rehearsing for the air race over the weekend down by the river.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Free Tickets for the Red Bull Air Race (continued)

Well with only a few days to go the saga of the free tickets that Greenwich Council have been given by Red Bull for the Air Race continues....

I'd read that someone appears to have got some tickets, click here to see their post.

And then today I get an email from the council saying:

The Red Bull Air Race World Series is coming to London for the very first time this weekend.

Five lucky GreenwichCard holders can each win a pair of grandstand tickets at The O2 to watch the racing on Saturday 28 July.

To enter the draw please email your name, address and telephone number to

The draw will take place on Thursday 26 July at midday and winners will be notified by telephone.

To find out more about the race and how you can buy tickets for both days, follow the link below:

So if you've got a Greenwich Card and you've not got tickets give it a go.

To the best of my knowledge this is the first time that the Council have proactively shouted (well emailed the small percentage of Greenwich Residents on their emailing list) out that they've got free tickets that are meant for "us". I don't think they ever made a mention of them in the Greenwich Time paper. Indeed in the latest issue there's only mention that you can buy tickets, and that's tucked away near the page on page 19.

Anyway as I've said give it a go if you're not going already.

Hopefully once the day passes someone will provide me with some information on how the tickets were actually distributed.

Edited to add: I've also received an email saying that someone else has received a pair of tickets so they are on there way out to people.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Another misleading Council email...

The Council is trumpeting it's performance in a new Independent Audit Commission Report.

The Commission's report, known as a Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA), was released on 10 July. It says the Council's ambition is "well above minimum requirements ― performing strongly", the top mark available.

However great ambition isn't everything is it, how's the Council actually doing?

Well surprisingly they were given good ratings in the report.

The key summary is this:

Headline questionsTheme 2007 Score2002 Score
What is the Council, together with
its partners, trying to achieve?
What is the capacity of the Council, including its work with partners, to deliver what it is trying to achieve?Capacity33
Performance management32
What has been achieved?Achievement33
Overall corporate assessment Score33
Key to score
1 – below minimum requirements – inadequate performance
2 – at only minimum requirements – adequate performance
3 – consistently above minimum requirements – performing well
4 – well above minimum requirements – performing strongly

So in 5 years they've managed to get their "Perfomance Management" and "Prioritisation" from "at only minimum requirements" to "consistently above minimum requirements". Oh that and boost their ambitions, which you'd think wouldn't be too hard a thing to do.

On the one hand it is good, they are improving in some areas, but it's hardly the glorious praise that you'd expect such a headline to be about.

I'll not deny that the Council lacks ambition though. Where as before they would have been happy to stretch the truth in a press release they can now spin what they like in their own newspaper (Greenwich Time) and their glorious leader stands up in front of 12,000 residents at the O2 and tells a bare faced lie. Ambition's not something that's hard to come by.

The email they sent out boasting about this new review is more than a bit misleading, "Top marks for Greenwich services" it boasts.

No, that's not what the report says at all.

The report is a "corporate assessment" and it's aim "is to assess how well the Council engages with and leads its communities, delivers community priorities in partnership with others, and ensures continuous improvement across the range of Council activities." Basically how well the Council works as an entity.

As for how well the Council is actually doing in terms of it's services to us, those that pay for them, well look here.

Are "residents and businesses across the borough receiving high quality services from the Council" as the email claims?

Well this table summarises what the audit commission thought in 2005 and 2006:

Service Area20062005
Benefits - The Council's performance in providing housing and council tax benefit services. The assessment is made by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate and is based primarily on achievement against the 2005 housing benefits/council tax benefits performance standards.44
Children and young people - The Council's performance in providing children's services, such as children's education and social care. The joint assessment is made by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (external link) and Ofsted following a review of the Council's overall performance and key indicators.33
Culture - The Council's performance in services, such as libraries and leisure, as assessed by the Audit Commission.23
Environment - The Council's performance in services, such as transport, planning and waste, as assessed by the Audit Commission.32
Housing - The Council's performance in community housing and, where applicable, housing management services, as assessed by the Audit Commission.23
Social care (adults) - The Council's performance in adult social care services. The assessment is made by the Commission for Social Care Inspection following a review of the Council's overall performance and key indicators.22

What does that tell us?

Well they managed to improve their Environment rating but on the other hand both their Culture and Housing slipped.

So is that "High Quality"? I don't think so, do you?

All told Greenwich gets a 3 Star Rating from the Audit Commission, as do nearly half of all Councils. Most of the rest, a third of all Councils, got 4 stars. 1 in 3 Councils are better than Greenwich, we're about the same as most of the rest.

"Greenwich Council: We're getting worse but doing it more efficiently!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Controlled Parking Zone Changes

Well the council have now deemed it fit to write letters to the residents of the area that will be affected by the changes to the parking zones.

It would have been nice if they'd written to us when the changes were first proposed rather than just tacking up a notice on a lamppost. It's as if the Council don't want the residents involved in their decision making process....

Anyway it's happening now, so what is it?

Well the existing Charlton and Westcombe parking zone is going to be split in two along the line of the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach. Existing permits will be valid in both zones until they expire. They don't seem to say when the split will be made.

There's again reference to a number of free parking roads being made into permit parking ones but no mention of which ones and when. For that I guess you have to look back to that notice on that lamppost.

Still some communication's better than no communication.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Maryon Park

The other week I went for a walk around Maryon Park, not to be confused with Maryon Wilson Park which is an adjacent but separate park in Charlton. The park is here and is probably most famous for being used in the film Blow Up (which I've not yet got around to watching).

I'd walked around the west side of it before but not the east and I was pleasantly surprised, it's a really rather lovely place. It is, perhaps, a bit small but it's very green and it feels very secluded and a million miles away from the built up area that it's in.

One special area in it is Gilbert's Pit which is on the west side. It's one of the disused chalk and sand quarries that used to fill the area. The pit was used up until the late 1930's, the sand from it was apparently mostly used for making glass. After the war the big pits were gradually filled in, they used them to hold rubble from the bombing of London. I believe that Charlton's Stadium might be built over another such pit. If you ever buy a property around here and you have an environmental survey done you'll be warned about "landfill". Rather than being a dumping ground for rubbish as you might presume that term means as far as I know it's referring to the filling in of those pits with that rubble.


Why is the pit special?

Well they cut down into the earth and in doing so revealed the layers of soil, rock and sand that make up the geological history of this area. Due to that it's a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). One of the things that it shows it that Charlton used to be covered by a warm tropical sea inhabited by, amongst other things, sharks and later by crocodiles.

If you look carefully at some of the exposed cliff sides you can see those layers quite clearly, it's really rather interesting. There's boards up that will tell you all about what you're looking at.

So basically it's all really rather good and quite a nice little hidden gem. It could do with a tidy up though, the paths to the pit are a bit overgrown with nettles and there's litter there too that's been there for years, in particular there's what looks like a bike saddle on the other side of the fence protecting the cliffs that I remember from when I first went there over a year ago.

Oh and if fossils, sharks and crocodiles weren't enough the Romans were there too. On the hill in the park they've found traces of a Roman Fort and a settlement.

The hill on the east side of the park, the trees really do make you feel quite secluded.

The tennis courts on the east side.

Gilbert's Pit, the west side of the park.

The view from the hill that separates the east and west sides of the park. I think it's around here that the Roman's had a settlement.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Coriander Indian Restaurant

I get a lot of take away menus popped through my door, most of them go straight into the recycling. However one did catch my eye, it looked colourful and well printed on good paper. A closer look revealed it to be either a restaurant I'd had a special meal in several years ago or a new that has taken it over.

So I gave it a go.

A couple of times.

I was pleased, so was Ms. Charlton Above Average.

The service on the phone has been good, the first time even warning me that I couldn't use the voucher that I hadn't got around to mentioning yet as it was only valid in the week.

Delivery was prompt, well within the stated time window both times.

Presentation was good. Just little things like having a sprinkle of chopped herbs on everything. Also it comes in all plastic pots which are easy to wash out and recycle, I never feel able to recycle the cardboard lids that other places use, they get terribly stained and smelly.

The mint raitha that comes with the papadoms was nice and not some bright artificial looking colour.

The meals themselves looked, smelled and tasted good. They weren't as brightly coloured as I've often seen so I suspect they've held their hands back on the colouring side, which is good. One of the things I tried was the Chicken Jalfrezi which is something I've had in many places and there's was one of the best. Spicey but not overpoweringly so, you could still taste the other herbs and spices. The lamb that they do seems to be good quality cuts, not fatty and gristly.

So all told very good indeed, I think I might have found my new favourite take away. The prices are a little bit above what I used to pay but I feel like I'm getting something better for the price and it's still not what I'd call "high".

Two thumbs up from Charlton.

The Details
Tel: 020 8858 7878 (doesn't appear to be working yet)
1A-3 Station Crescent
Westcombe Park

The Tour, The Photos

My photos from the Tour de France on Sunday....

Come to Charlton we've got Lions...

The Haribo Lorry that provided me with my sugar rush for the day.

I wonder if it was like this after the Battle of Hastings (yes I know the Normans weren't really French).

The clowns had high pressure water squirters, some people got squirted, I'm glad I didn't.

My new recycling logo? It's passing a pub which is pretty much called the "Anti French". Apparently they're used to be many Antigallican pubs in London opened up after the Napoleonic wars, the one in Charlton seems to be the last one still open. There used to be a closed one near London Bridge station, I'm guessing it's probably been demolished by now.

Riders to the right of me!

Riders to the left!

Here I am stuck in the middle of the road, oh and the main pack on my right.

The convoy of support vehicles.

Charlton on film tonight...

One of the first things I discovered upon moving to Charlton is that a reasonably famous movie was filmed here in the 60's. The film was Blow Up and the place was Maryon Park.

Well Sky are showing the film tonight, it's on at 9pm on TCM2. They also showed it last night and I caught the very end recognising the tennis courts.

In a very odd coincidence I went exploring the park on Sunday in the time between the float parade and the riders. I'd not been to the east side of the park before and it seemed really rather nice. There'll be a post about it soon with some photos.

Anyway 9pm tonight.....

Monday, July 09, 2007

Another Taxi Parade

The Albany Charity had another excursion today from Charlton Stadium. Off to Hastings this time.

Something seems to be a lot more organised this time though. Last time there was quite a traffic jam of balloon festooned cabs trying to get out of Floyd Road. This time there was a Police presence at the top and they were flowing along very smoothly. It meant that it wasn't as much fun for me to watch but for the kids on board it meant they would be getting to the sea side quicker so that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, as I've already said in my post on the Tour de France, my camera's out on loan so once again no photos, curses.....

The Tour de France in Charlton

Yesterday was the big day and summer actually put in an appearance as well.

I thought it was all rather good. Just after 9am the float parade came along, well to be a bit more exact it was shooting along at a rate of knots. It all felt very French and not quite British. There were cars, vans and floats advertising what appeared to be mainly French products that I'd never heard of. Lots of them were tooting their horns and some had music playing. People were often strapped onto the back of the floats (I said they were going fast) and were throwing gifts out to the crowds. I saw some people getting T-Shirts, myself I got a pen and the Harribo lorry hurled a packet of sweets at me for which I as most grateful.

Then there was a pause.

Them whoosh the bikes came and went. There were two or three packs of maybe 4 bikes slightly ahead but then the rest of them came through in one huge block. Quite literally within seconds they were gone. There then followed a big convoy of support vehicles carrying spare bikes and the like.

As I said it was very quick, a part of me felt a bit disappointed, it was good and I wanted more. However it was still a great experience and I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and it felt slightly "mad" and, as I've said, foreign.

One thing I did enjoy noting was the difference between the French Police motorbikes and their British counterparts. The Brits were in high visibility tough yellow jackets, thick leather trousers and all encompassing helmets.

Their French chums were in chinless helmets, short sleeve blue shirts and what seemed to be normal trousers. One of them was even zooming along with his hands behind his head. Health and Safety seems to be something that happens to someone else.

My camera's out on loan today and I haven't yet grabbed the photos from it, they'll follow as soon as I can get them.

After the action was all over I came home, grabbed a cuppa and then shot off to Wembley to see Metallica play. It was my first time at the new Stadium and it gave me some thoughts about the O2 which I'll cover in a future post.

Update: My photos can now be seen here

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tour de France

Well Sunday's the day that the Tour de France will come to Charlton. The official web site, has a lot of information on what's going on. To get you straight to the point there's a leafleft with times and maps to be found here.

There's both a parade of floats and the bike race itself passing along Woolwich road going out to Kent. The time's that they're due to pass Greenwich are:

Float Parade: 09:15
Riders: 11:00

Both times are estimates so there's going to be some variation. You'll also have to add on a bit of time to allow for them to get from Greenwich to Charlton.

So I'll probably get myself down there for about 9am, then I might pop home for a cuppa and get back there for about 10.45. I'll see how the time passes, if it's a great atmosphere I might well just hang around.

For those who are interested in road closures the key one seems to be that Woolwich Road is shut from 6am to 2pm.

The Blackwall Tunnel appears to be open but the slip roads down to the Woolwich Road roundabout will be closed at the same times as Woolwich Road itself.

I'm looking forward to this, I hope it stays dry......

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"Gangs in turf war"

According to the News Shopper web site the Police have said that local gangs are involved in a "turf war".

The fight that occurred the other day at the top of the hill was apparently a part of this "war".

On the one hand you do begin to panic a little bit, on the other if there is really a major problem then admitting it is the first step to dealing with it.

I also wonder if I do truly live in my own little bubble and that the bad things that do happen pass me by. Inspector Sands posted quite a long entry wondering about the state of society around here, you can read it here. If there is that serious a problem and it's passed me completely by then it does make me think that he's got a point.

Like him I don't go to the top of the hill very often, not because I'm deliberately avoiding it but just because my life doesn't go there. Similarly I've seen very little of anything that I'd put down to "gangs".

So I'm wondering if this really is a big problem and about the part that I'm playing in my neighbourhood if there is.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Charlton Lido

The Greenwich Phantom has had a question about Charlton Lido and wondered if I knew anything about it.

Well I didn't.

I know a bit more now, but not a whole lot more.

The Lido will be opening up to the public from Saturday 21 July to Sunday 2 September.

You see some information on the Lido here and here.

About the only thing that I can add to the mix is that the map linked to from the first page above is wrong. The actual location of the Lido can be seen by clicking here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I've got a parking ticket....

I discovered a parking ticket on my car which lead to a flurry of activity. My resident's parking permit had expired, I thought that it was running out soon but hadn't expected it to be dead already. I should have remembered that I got my first permit before I moved to my current home, so it doesn't expire on the anniversary of me moving here. Curses.

However I would have expected to receive a letter from the council reminding me that the permit was about to expire. In fact their web site says that they will (here).

I've had to put my hands up and pay the fine, after all my permit had expired. Still I can't help but feel a bit cheated that the Council didn't write to me first.

Free Tickets for the Red Bull Air Race - Update

I've been sent another response to a Freedom of Information Act request that someone submitted to the Council about the tickets the Council are being given by Red Bull.

The key points are:
  • The Council expects to be given about 3000 tickets. That, they say, is 10% of the tickets for the Greenwich side of the river. There are less tickets available on the other side and it seems that Newham and Tower Hamlets will get there proportion out of those tickets.

  • No tickets have been distributed yet.

  • Once again they say that the Council has written to certain Community groups asking them apply for tickets. The groups they've written to are those that "represent geographical groups - as opposed to special interest groups". That's almost exactly the same wording as they've used before so it might be something they've got ready, perhaps they do see it as a sensitive issue.

  • They say that residents are still being asked to let the Council know if they want tickets so there might still be a chance that some will be available. If you want them, give it a go.
Not that much new there but the explanation of the 10% figure is nice to see.

Once we get closer or past the event I'll see if I can find out where the tickets actually went.

Thanks again to those involved in getting this information to me.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Andrea Bocelli and Spur's Steak & Grill at the O2

Last night I found myself back at the O2 for the Andrea Bocelli concert. The arena wasn't fully open, the very top level of seating (level 4?) wasn't in use but other than that it seemed sold out. So how did I find?

We got there at about 4pm with plans to eat before the concert, I thought it would be a nice idea to try a restaurant out. There were queues for all of them but we settled on the Spur Steak and Grill. When we got to the front of the queue we were told that the kitchen was too busy for us to eat right then but that if I gave my phone number I would be called when we could have a table. I was told it could take about 15 or 20 minutes and I said that was OK.

After 20 minutes of strolling around (which passed reasonably quickly as we checked out the other restaurants and the merchandise stand) there was no phone call and we headed back. There was now an even bigger queue and I'd had no phone call. After some dithering about considering eating somewhere else (a 25 minute wait for Frankie and Benny's) we were on the verge of giving up and heading off for a hot dog when I got the call.

So we went to our table, which was wobbly. Not impressed.

However from there it was all up hill. The service was great and our waitress was, as seems typical of the O2, very very helpful. There was a bit of a wait for my first beer but after that everything was smooth. The table was even fixed with some napkins. The food was really pretty good as these things go. I asked for a medium rare steak knowing that in most places they will overcook and you'll get something that still has some pink in the middle. However they did it exactly as I asked for and very nice it was too. Ms. Charlton Above Average tried the strawberry milk shake and really enjoyed it going for another when she had polished the first one off.

For two mains, two starters and two rounds of drinks we paid about £45 which seemed pretty reasonable.

The oddest thing was the toilets..... The restaurant itself was playing 50's and 60's type music but then you head into the loos and suddenly you're hit with Native American tribal music and chants. Is that meant to help relax you? Is it meant to get you into the "right" mood? Is it meant to get you back into the restaurant ASAP? Odd.....

So two big thumbs up for Spur's.

But, and there is a but.

When we were leaving at about 6pm the queue was huge. There simply aren't enough places for people to eat yet. As I said earlier the top level of the Arena wasn't open so it wasn't a maximum capacity crowd, it could have been oh so much very worse than it was. I don't think I'll eat there again (if indeed I go there again) before more restaurants open up. That's no comment on the quality but just about over demand.

On to the concert.

Well once again there were more encounters with members of staff and without fail they were all cheerful and very helpful.

We were sat on the floor of the Arena and unlike when I was sat up on level 4 I had plenty of leg room. As with level 4 though the view and the acoustics were excellent.

Getting out was a bit problematic. It seemed intended that we use the big staircases at the back of the Arena to get out, however people were climbing over the fence to the seats on the side (level 1?) and going up there. Some security staff were trying to stop people doing it and there were some grumbles about needing more exits from people in the crowd. In the end we went out some side tunnel at the back which took you through some of the guts of the Arena (lots of pipes and ducts overhead) before popping out near the restaurants.

It did seem to be a bit awkward getting us all out but I've got to point out that I was right near the front so some extra exit time is to be expected.

All things told very good indeed. The only let down being not enough of it being open yet to handle the number of people going there.

We walked home fearing the scrabble for a bus. However some buses did go past us and they didn't appear to be too full at all so maybe it would have been fine.

All told it was a great evening, it just needs to be able to handle more people.