Rockin’ & Shockin’: Manchester, London and Athens
ROCKIN’: An overnight flight to Manchester, a chance to sleep five hours straight
SHOCKIN’: Ever tried sleeping on a seat that won’t recline? (That’s what you get for sitting in the Exit Row.)
ROCKIN’: Seeing friends, old band mates and iJamming! Pubbers in Manchester
SHOCKIN’: My nephew gets stuck in Chester, man. I don’t get to see him.
ROCKIN’: Enjoying a drink at Kro Bar on Oxford Road in Manchester.
SHOCKIN’: Even in the student part of Manchester, a bottle of Becks now runs £3.
ROCKIN’: The asparagus-mushroom risotto on the menu at Kro Bar.
SHOCKIN’: Apparently, it’s off the menu.
ROCKIN’: I’ll have the all-day vegetarian breakfast then.
SHOCKIN’: That’s off the menu, too.
ROCKIN’: Oh, looks like they found some asparagus-mushroom-risotto after all.
SHOCKIN’: After having lost it and found it again, it’s actually very good.
ROCKIN’: Post-show drinks at Big Hands on the Oxford Road
SHOCKIN’: I really don’t need them.
ROCKIN’: Onions bhajis at the local chip shop
SHOCKIN’: Not a good idea at two in the morning.
ROCKIN’: Hanging out on a tour bus
SHOCKIN’: Trying to sleep on a moving tour bus
ROCKIN’: Staying at a 4-star hotel in London
SHOCKIN’: You call this 4-star?
ROCKIN’: The Tower Hotel has a Costa Coffee Bar
SHOCKIN’: It’s aptly named: They’re charging £2.65 for a cup of coffee.
ROCKIN’: There’s a Starbucks in a cute circular building just over the quay
SHOCKIN’: Unlike the Yanks, they don’t correct you with the words “tall” and “grande” when you ask for a “small” or “large” coffee at a somewhat more affordable £1.60. (Though that’s probably because their English is not good enough.)
ROCKIN’: Wi-fi hot spots in London
SHOCKIN’: Either they don’t work or they cost an arm and a leg. Or they don’t work and they cost an arm and a leg.
ROCKIN’: Free wi-fi at The Barley Mow Pub in Hoxton.
SHOCKIN’: It actually works. ALL HAIL THE BARLEY MOW
ROCKIN’: The Street Food Café at Rivington Street venue Cargo serves falafel and vegetable tacos.
SHOCKIN’: The Brazilian waitress goes outside and sits down with her mates the exact moment I see my cheap (and not very good) dinner emerge from the kitchen and get placed on the counter.
DOUBLE SHOCKIN’: After asking another Brazilian girl to (begrudgingly) bring it over for me 10 minutes later, Halley’s Waitress re-emerges with the bill – and a built-in 12% tip.
ROCKIN’: Hot Club De Paris are supposedly superb live.
SHOCKIN’: I miss them to ensure I miss the shocking Agent Blue
ROCKIN’: Jagz Kooner joining Radio 4 on maracas in London
SHOCKIN’: No one sticks about for his DJ set
ROCKIN’: Radio 4 are brilliant
SHOCKIN’: The PA is shit.
SHOCKIN’: Being so tired from jetlag and lack of sleep on the moving tour bus that I don’t have a drink all night in London.
ROCKIN’OK, I’m encouraged to have just the one. But it is after midnight.
ROCKIN’: Going running along the Thames Path east from Tower bridge
SHOCKIN’: All the warnings about burglaries and crime must take the fun out of living in such posh dockside flats.
ROCKIN’: The Tube takes me to Hammersmith in no time at all
SHOCKIN’: I spend 15 minutes wondering around the Hammersmith Mall trying to get my bearings
ROCKIN’: A British quality paper runs a Best Beers in The World Feature. And names Brooklyn Lager and Goose Head IPA among the Top Dozen.
SHOCKIN’: They’ve probably never tasted a cold Evans Ale or Keegans’ Hurricane Kitty
ROCKIN’: The pints of Marston’s Smooth at The Wellington.
SHOCKIN’: I genuinely couldn’t tell you if it’s meant to be bitter or lager.
ROCKIN’: Walking home across Waterloo Bridge with a packet of Fishcoteque chips in hand
SHOCKIN’: I nowadays consider walking ‘home’ to mean walking away from South London
SHOCKIN’: No time to shop in Britain.
ROCKIN’: Given the current exchange rate, just as well.
ROCKIN’: The quality of Greek wine served on board the Olympic Airlines flight from Heathrow. And, unlike transatlantic Continental, it’s free
SHOCKIN’: That most people think Greek wine is all either Retsina or Ouzo
ROCKIN’: Staying at a 4-star hotel in Athens
SHOCKIN’: That’s more like it.
ROCKIN’: The bottle of Greek red wine temptingly placed on the welcome tray in the hotel room.
SHOCKIN’: Despite – or maybe because – there’s not a single word I understand on the label (it’s all Greek to me), I open it. And pour a glass. It’s pretty damn serious. Sadly, I only manage a glass before crashing out.
ROCKIN’: The excellent English spoken by the Greek hotel staff in Athens
SHOCKIN’: The terrible English spoken by the Greek hotel staff in London
(And let’s pause to ask a serious question. An open labour market is all well and good, but if, at least in the UK, all service industry jobs are filled by young people who struggle to speak passable English, then how does that benefit the customer? There’s certainly no financial savings being passed along at the cash register.)
ROCKIN’: Running through the streets of Athens on a Saturday
SHOCKIN’: Missing the official run through the streets of Athens by one day.
ROCKIN’: Running up the Acropolis and the Hill of The Muses
SHOCKIN’: …In a floppy Triple 5 Soul hat and with white suncream all over my face because I forgot to pack my running cap and decent sunscreem. I look like an alien but at least I survive the sun.
ROCKIN’: The 2500 years old Parthenon…
SHOCKIN’: …Is still missing its marbles. (Some of which sank at sea when they were stolen by the Brits.)
ROCKIN’: The amount of extraordinary history towering over the City of Athens
SHOCKIN’: The relative lack of attention paid to it.
ROCKIN’: A 20-minute cab ride in Athens costs £2
SHOCKIN’: A 10-minute cab ride in London costs £10
ROCKIN’: The way that the picturesque surroundings of Athens seems to inspire a peaceful city
SHOCKIN’: A shame it can’t be like that in the similarly situated Rio.