When the holiday comes to an end …

… so the creeping realisation that normal life must resume at some point soon. Good or bad?

In years gone by I’ve always rather liked the return to a comparatively wintry London. The transition between summer and autumn has been taken care of while we’ve been away. Between our return to the UK and Christmas are a series of events which mark up the run to the festive period.

That feeling still remains, but it’s lessened this year it seems. This time around I’m pondering the past couple of weeks and what I’m returning to.

View from the MGM Grand

So, now the bag is packed and we wait to return to the airport, there’s a moment to wrap up the past fortnight. Has the holiday changed anything? Here’s one of those lists again.

1. Las Vegas didn’t surprise that much

The first wander through the casino at the MGM Grand may have been a hideous assault on my senses, but I did soon got used to the noise, the lights and disturbing lack of windows. Contrary to what I’d originally assumed about Vegas, WiFi access was complimentary – nearly everywhere – so much so in fact I don’t quite understand why it is so many places in the UK don’t offer the same service. I’m sure there’ll be someone out there who knows and who will hopefully tell me.

 

2. San Francisco is (possibly) the best city in the world

The hills are steep. The sky is blue (nearly all the time) and there’s a delectable chill to the air. Most people are friendly. Every street has a charm which hasn’t bored me after six days.

Golden Gate Bridge

3. Everyone deserves a break; some need a fresh start

San Francisco has led me to this conclusion. London sucks in comparison. If there was work here and the cats were prepared to fly, I’d move here in a heartbeat.

 

4. I’m sick of carbohydrates

I’m bored of bread, look suspiciously on fried food and fear turning in to anything approaching some of the bulbous-shaped individuals I’ve seen in the past fortnight. I long for a salad or some barely steamed vegetables. I don’t want cheese with anything.

 

5. Life is simply about overcoming a series of battles

Follow the path of least resistance (when you’re not implementing the strategy you want to see in place) and remind yourself that interactions with other members of human race risks upsetting your finely tuned mood. Email is evil. The only contact worth its salt is face to face contact. Don’t underestimate the extent to which the passive experience of public transport will unpick any good day leaving you in tatters when you get home and even more susceptible to reaching for a glass of wine or bottle of beer.

Golden Gate Bridge Signage

6. I need to feel good about myself

Exercise is the key here. Daily exercise. I haven’t been doing it regularly for the past two years at least. As a result I’m porking out a bit. And that’s an easy hit. So more exercise is the most important thing to pick up when I get back to the UK. An elevated mood can be guaranteed just by regular exercise. This can only be a good thing.

 

7. Tune-In Radio is a GREAT THING

I find the fact that I can’t access content produced by the BBC outside of the UK (apart from podcasts). I’ve paid for it. I do want to be able to access it. But in it’s place the Tune-In Radio app on my iPad has proved invaluable. I’ve been able to hear more of the brilliant Derek and Romaine and connected up with the local classical music station KDFC. Both have excellent albeit entirely different subject matter and presentation styles, but as a UK visitor to the States and as someone who spends most of the rest of the year in the BBC bubble, it’s great to hear that there’s great radio outside of the bubble. This just from rediscovering Tune-In Radio on my iPad. I’ll definitely be revisiting that when I get back to the UK.

 

8. I love taking pictures

And these two shots might be my favourite of the holiday. The latter might just be turned into a blog header.

Inside the turbine hall

Vegas by Night

And no. The nail-growing project failed within about 48 hours.

Opera: Don Giovanni San Francisco Opera Luisotti Lavia

A disappointing production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni featuring some good voices and assured performances let down by uninspired direction (Gabriele Lavia), a lack-lustre set design (Alessandro Camera) and distinctly flat lighting design (Christopher Maravich).

The super-natural pay off for Don Giovanni’s philandering and murderous activities makes this a difficult show to pull off convincingly and plausibly. No matter how good the musical performances are, the visual representation has to be cast-iron so as to avoid unnecessary distraction for the audience.

As it turned out, the 21 giant mirrors which moved around the stage and helped reconfigure the space for different scenes seemed a little cumbersome. Similarly, the chorus who also appeared rather twee in the peasant scenes. (Despite this, a pity they didn’t have a curtain call at the end.) Some of the scene changes seemed a little mistimed – mirrors moving mid-scene and bushes and benches being moved off stage before the curtain came down – although the set for the final scene was breathtaking. I’m still not entirely clear why there had to be chairs lining the stage when the chairs were never used.

The real stars of the show were undoubtedly Italian Marco Vinco (making his US debut) in the role Leporello and Kate Linsey in the role of Zerlina, both of whom lit up the stage with their committed and energetic performances.

City Hall, San Francisco

Bums or Homeless?

A final wander around San Francisco this afternoon trying to get a handle on the city before I come home. There are a handful of pictures which sum it up for me. This one was the most vexing.

Three homeless guys in shot, all of them laying out in the sun asleep. What you can’t see are the thirty or so others dotted around the grassy areas in front of City Hall, next to the public library and down towards United Nations Square.

The city is a monument to a community’s continued resolve after the 1906 earthquake. The City Hall itself was originally budgeted for $1.5 million and was eventually completed at a cost of nearly $6 million.

The residents of San Francisco will cast their votes in the mayoral elections on Tuesday 8 November 2011.

The secret to a relaxing holiday

My iPad is littered with previous attempts at writing about my personal problem with email. Those draft posts go on for way too long. Brevity is the key.

Previous holidays me and the Significant Other have been on have seen us engage in an ongoing battle to keep me from my work email. For the most part that battle has worked. I’ve chilled as a result. And then – somewhere towards an end of my leave – I’ve quickly logged in ‘to check on things’. That’s when I’ve seen emails from people. Subject lines. Guilt-ridden triggers. I get sucked in soon after. And then my holiday is lost.

Not so this holiday. Because it appears my password has expired rendering the login process disabled for me. And the only way I’ll get it reenabled is to ring the IT support line which I’ll only be doing on Monday morning when I get in.

Now that is the secret to a relaxing holiday.

Radio: Sirius OutQ Derek & Romaine

One of two rather lovely radio discoveries I’ve made on my holiday this year.

Derek and Romaine on satellite radio station Sirius OutQ.

Derek and Romaine #tgoodexpedition (mp3)

Brilliant chemistry, refreshingly loose-tongued and a real tonic. Radio mercifully free of adverts (apart from the top of the hour) and with enough time to afford the hosts the opportunity to pause before speaking.

Who knew speech radio could be like this … and for the gays?