Von Wonderland goes to Wonderland

Its the festive season! We’re midway through December which means we can officially start talking Christmas officially. I mean I already started with my Christmas card making as is the way of things as a crafter. It is also the season for Christmas markets which I also enjoy checking out. I’ve decided to try and go for as many as possible as and when I see them. I don’t think I have ever seen so many Christmas markets/fayres called “Winter Wonderland” as I have this year. Maybe Alice in Wonderland has given me unrealistic expectations of what a “wonderland” is, but these so called “winter wonderlands” really are underwhelming. Maybe if I was a child it’d feel more magical?

I’ll start with the London Christmas markets/Winter wonderland as I went to a total of 3 of these (since I have been to London a few times in November). I went to Leicester Square, Southbank Centre and Hyde Park (the so-called Winter Wonderland). All of these markets/fayres are free to enter and I thought it’d be nice to go and check them out when I had some spare time. I’ll start with Southbank as it was the first one I went to.

20181122_114401.jpgThis setting looks like it would be really nice in the evening with all the lights and the setting of the river bank. I like the little huts that the stalls are in along the river. Initially I thought that the stalls along the river were the only ones, but then I noticed the actual entrance. A lot of the stalls along the river were food stalls. I was salivating just from the smell to be honest. I wanted to eat all of the noms. There were one or two stalls selling gift-type items like candles but that was about it on the river bank. On entering the actual market area, there is a security guard who checks your bag. Not 100% what they’re after because it was a pretty cursory glance she took through my bag. Once20181122_114605.jpg inside, the area is set out kind of like a little village arrangement that you can walk around with little huts. I have no idea what this area is like when this event is not on, but I’m pretty sure its not like this. We took a wander through the little village deciding to go left first. Most of what was in there was again, either food stalls or stalls selling typical “London” souvenir-type items. There were a few stalls selling hats and scarfs etc. and a few with Christmas decorations but to me it was more of a food market with the odd few other stalls thrown in. There was also a cider bar which looked pretty cosy. I decided to indulge in something chocolatey. I considered getting a Bailey’s hot chocolate but upon seeing the cost, re-considered. I think there was considerably more that they could have done with the stalls because the area was so quaint and scenic. Was a bit of a shame really.

20181122_152040.jpgNext I visited the market in Leicester Square. This was again, an enclosed area with a bag search on entry. (Again, a very cursory glance). The slight difference is the box office at the entrance for the seasonal performances. This market was set out more like a regular market. The stalls were pretty much the same as the one at South Bank. A lot of food stalls and some gift stalls but they were all the same stalls. I would have thought they’d take the opportunity to put some different stalls in to add a bit of variety. We took a wander around this one. I’m sure it looks really cool at night with all the lights but it was still daylight when we were there.

20181130_121755.jpgThe final one I checked out was the biggie, the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. I went to this one of a different day (entirely different week as well actually). It was very helpfully signposted from the tube stations (as I have an absolutely terrible sense of direction). There was another bag search here, however this time we weren’t allowed to take in open bottles. This wouldn’t be an issue if I didn’t have all my luggage with me and an open 2litre bottle of pepsi max….It still had most of it left in there as well and I refused to just throw it away (that’s just plain wasteful!) So out of principal, I stood at the side of the search area and drank as much of it as humanly possible before binning whatever was left. I’m not 100% what the logic was there and what they thought I would be doing to endanger others with just under 2 litres of pepsi, but there we go. This place was absolutely huge so there was a map to help navigate it. This was, to me, 20181130_131703.jpgmostly a fair ground. There were loads of rides and rollercoasters everywhere, other attractions such as shooting galleries and “penguin races”, not to mention bars and food stalls of course. It was divided down in to different areas or “lands” such as Santa Land, Bavarian Village etc. I found that on the whole, although it was free to enter, if you wanted to do anything you had to pay. So even things like looking at ice sculptures you’d have to pay to go in. I wandered around and once again found that the stalls selling gift items were the same as the other markets. (These have seriously been no help with my Christmas shopping). There were the odd few extra stalls but there was nothing particularly different or original there. The Bavarian Village was a good place to stop and 20181130_131107.jpgeat, although it was a total sausage fest (literally). There were some cool looking rides around the fair ground (not that I went on any as I was on my own and had all my luggage with me), but I’m sure they’d be great for the kids. I was taken aback by just how many bars there were around some parts. Like every other stall was a bar. No wonder they wanted to take all drinks off people on entry. I ended up mostly just wandering and eating. This is another place that I’m sure is really cool at night and would be awesome for families to go to. I think calling it a Wonderland is kind of overstating it though!

I hope that if anyone visits any “Wonderlands” or Christmas Markets in the limited remaining lead up to Christmas, you enjoy and are filled with…”wonder”…..Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

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S’cold Saturday

I know, clutching at straws with the title there but it is cold and it is a Saturday! The end of this week has seen an increase in a nasty case of the “brrrrr”. Or in English, its been getting cold. Its starting to feel more like December as a result.

You’ll have noticed that I have been absolutely rubbish at posting the past few weeks. I have lots to post about but just not had 5 minutes to do it! With Christmas fast approaching I have been busy as an elf trying to get stuff sorted.

This weekend, Christmas will be arriving in the Von Wonderland household. We’re bringing down the tree, getting the decorations up, finishing the Christmas shopping, writing the cards etc. I know it seems late to some people but I find if you do it too early it all just gets in the way for a month and I get annoyed with it. I have some new penguin-y additions for the tree. Every year I add new penguins to the tree, just because penguins.

We exchanged our secret santa presents at work yesterday. Someone bought me some new pens and a notebook (as pictured at the top of the post). Seems like someone knows me well! If you happen to be reading this secret santa, thank you! (And oh the irony!)

I know I say this every week, but I will try and get ontop of my posting. I have so much to tell you all about! I should hopefully have some time to get them done and can maybe schedule some posts if all else fails. I’m just a disorganised blogger! Anyway folks, stay safe in the chilly weather and until next time, stay wonderful 🙂

End of week vibes

Well it has been quite a week wonderlanders. I have come down with a nasty case of man flu, which is not suuuuuuper helpful, or pleasant really. I am not enjoying the speed with which my nose is running, its like a tap. (sorry to be so graphic but dudes, if I have to suffer, so do you). I am sneezing and coughing so much I have pretty much pulled my chest and shoulder muscles. But enough of my complaining! (about that anyway. I may complain about other stuff later. Who knows?!)

I’m currently on a mission to write up all of my November activities. You may have read my first part about Hyper Japan yesterday (if not, you should have! Stop reading this and go read that. Just kidding, read this first…or don’t…) I have other things written with pen and paper but need to get typing! I think I’m still kind of recovering from my November antics. Currently also trying to get through the mission that is Christmas shopping. Why is December always such a busy month? Maybe its because I’m so disorganised…. On the whole Christmas front, I do have a post (or 2) coming about Christmas fairs and markets. People are now officially allowed to be festive as it is December, but only slightly because its early December. You can be Christmassy-er more towards the middle of the month. Those are the rules.

I’ve had some days this week that weren’t great so rather glad the week is over. Soon it’ll be the Christmas break which I’m also looking forward to so I can have a proper block of time off. I know I’ve had some breaks through November but I’ve been so busy it doesn’t properly count as time off. Think I’m going to just sleep for a week when it happens. Until the next update everyone (which will hopefully be this weekend!), stay wonderful 😉

A full weekend of Hype! Part 1

I’ve been saying I’ll do it for a while, but at last I managed to do a Hyper Japan for the whole weekend! (well, a whole weekend with a break on Saturday evening for Band Maid because, y’know, everyone co-ordinated so well with their organisation. See the post about the Band Maid gig here). If you don’t know what Hyper Japan is, see my previous posts on it here, here and here. I’ve decided to split this down by the days this time, so one post for each day. I guess you’ll just have to skip the bits that don’t interest you? So without further a-waffle, lets kick this off with Day 1!

This was the Friday session, starting at 12 midday. I must say the organisation this time was kind of confusing initially and a bit odd. So on arrival, we were in a kind of giant shelter away from the venue where the tickets were checked and wristbands given. It took me a while to even find where I was going because of the poor directions I was given by the staff. In the end, I checked the website again to find out where I was supposed to be. Once priority entre had gone, we were then herded into the next queuing bit where we were checked for wristbands/offered wristbands(?!) So what was the point of the first bit?!

After the faff-fest that was the entry into the venue, we were searched and sniffed by the passive search dog. I thought this was a good thing. Its unfortunate that its needed but its good that they’ve thought of this to keep people safe. One thing I noticed when I got in to the venue was that it was smaller than summer (in the summer we queued in this room!) and it was hard to tell because the venue was different but also I think smaller than the last Christmas event. This time it was entirely on one floor as well, the balcony wasn’t in use. I was quite surprised by the layout and the fact that the live stage wasn’t in its own room as it generally is. The zones were set out relatively logically and I liked how they were named this time (such as the gaming/anime zone being Akihabara and the kawaii zone being Harajuku).

20181116_131346.jpgThe first thing I often do is have a cursory wander around just to see what is where. As it was lunchtime and the food smelled soooooo good, I decided to get myself something to eat. There weren’t many food stalls this time around and I thought that it was kind of cheeky having the venue’s cafes open. Surely that defeated the object? I decided to indulge in a bubble waffle. It was tasty and super messy to eat, but oh so worth it. I think I’m in love.

After greeting my friend and getting her fed, we re-visited the stalls and did a spot of shopping. See my day 1 haul photos in the paragraph below!

I was pleased to see some new exhibitors as well as some of the classics. I saw that Maz’s Boutique was there which was awesome. Some of you may recall I first encountered 20181120_212511.jpgMaz’s Boutique at Em-Con earlier this year. The bows I bought then are still regularly worn as part of my outfit as I often refer to as “toddler chic”. I invested in some more bows and a choker this time. I also bought some chokers from another stall, Jane Nevermore. Not only are these chokers awesome, but as I tried one and it was a bit on t20181120_213458.jpghe small side, she put me in some extra links right then and there! I bought 2 to go with my 2 purple cyberlox sets. And what trip to Hyper Japan would be complete without a visit to he Fuzzballs stall?! I invested in some stationary (that I probably didn’t need) and a tote bag (which I needed by the end to put my shopping in….)

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One of the main reasons I go to Hyper Japan is to watch the musical acts. Not only do I get to see bands I already know about and enjoy, I also get to discover new bands that I like. Some acts I go to see just out of curiosity because hey sound like they’d be interesting. I also like to watch some of the other performances. The set out of the Hyper Live stage area was just plain weird this time. There were several rows of chairs approximately halfway back which just appeared to be in a random place. There are some acts you see that you just don’t sit down to watch. It would be just plain silly, but if you stand you want to be at the front, but if you do that you’re in the way of the people sitting down, although they can watch the screens. This dilemma first became apparent when I (out of morbid curiosity) went to see Banzai Japan. This is an all-girl idol group. I know what you’re thinking, not at all my style, and you’d be right, but I’m nothing if not adventurous. So we entered the audience area and were handed folding fans that were part red, part white (in line with the girls’ outfits). As we approached the front of the standing crowd and looked around, I suppose we shouldn’t have been suppose that we were surrounded on all sides by middle aged men. Yep, that’s right. Middle. Aged. Men. I had a similar experience watching Band Maid last year. Fair enough if they are into that music but you would generally expect this portion of the audience to be teenage or pre-20181116_154657.jpgteen girls. Well, that’s my expectation anyway (like when I was younger). I’m not one to judge and I know that you get the same effect but the opposite way round at visual kei gigs.. Although the music can be heavy, and you may expect some males, its predominantly females watching the show. What was entertaining was the crazy fanboying that was screamed loudly in our ears, presumably from the die-hard fans or from their hyper team or whatever. I found this hilariously funny and was reminded of Gintama (if anyone has seen that anime). I can’t even describe why, but it really did tickle me. They were certainly a fun performance with a lot of energy. Describing them as having “spirit” was pretty accurate I must say. They tirelessly performed a number of songs with well-choreographed dance routines. I was exhausted just watching them.

An interesting performance in the form of DJ Takaki and Hibiki Ichikawa (a shamisen player) was the next one I watched. A combination you wouldn’t expect to work so well, but I could listen to this for days. Both incredibly skilled performers in their own right, but when you put them together, something just clicked. It was Gestalt. The sum of the pats became greater than the whole. Its these types of performance that are just one reason this festival is awesome. You just don’t see it everyday.

 

Next I saw Xmas Eileen. They were described as a “Mysterious J-Rock band”. Again, they weren’t technically wrong. Initially it said on the schedule that only 4 members would be present but it seemed all of them made it over. I don’t even know the best way to describe these guys….I’d say maybe a mix between Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and some hint of Slipknot with the masks, the visual performance and the fact I’m not sure what half the members really do (and I say that as a long-time Slipknot fan). There’s definitely some fun and silliness and the fact that no-one in the band has a name and they have one guy referred to as “the performer” who literally just dances and hypes the audience. 20181116_182359.jpgI don’t even….For this, we were all stood up, I ended up right at the front, which is an intense place to be when you don’t know what’s expected of you. Thankfully I appeared to be next to a super fan who showed me what to do. I haven’t laughed this much in a while, it was a really fun performance (laughing mainly at my own ineptness at dancing and following directions). The band also like being close to the front of the stage, which always makes me a bit “wha!” out of discomfort. That’s the best way to describe the emotion it makes me feel…The band are relatively newly formed but they didn’t seem to let that impact their performance. Their MC was a mix of English and Japanese, but they were merciful and kept the Japanese relatively simple. I decided to save my meet and greet with these guys until Sunday as I wanted to see Mutant Monster (with missing them the Saturday for Band Maid). So I remained at the front and centre.

I saw Mutant Monster at last year’s Christmas Hyper Japan. A 3 piece female punk band, 20181116_191302.jpginspired by old school British punk. These awesome ladies have so much stage presence and personality on stage that its hard to not get swept away by their utterly infectious brand of music. Each donning a Mutant Monster shirt dress and paid of well-worn classic Doc Martens, they truly showed everyone exactly how its done. Their set list was a mix of older songs plus a taste of their new album Nekokaburi. After their performance, the meet and greet queue filled up insanely quickly and fans had to be turned away (many of whom argued the decision with the queue controller). I just managed to get in to get my CD signed but the queue for photos was crazy long so we decided against it. And that concluded my day! My feet were tired and worn out already!

Frupdate….

See what I did there? Combined Friday and update? Ah I’m a genius at titles *ahem*….

Good morning wonderlanders! I write to you this morning (yes, morning, I know!) from an undisclosed cafe in Leicester Square, London. Yes I’m being one of those annoying writer types but I don’t have my laptop out, so I guess I’m technically not…. I believe this is my last London trip for the year. I have no others booked and don’t think I’d even have the spare time to come back. Mind you, 3 trips here in a month/5 trips here in 3 months is probably sufficient. What am I doing this time? Well I went to a rather fun event last night as it was the single launch party for Tokyo Taboo’s single “No pleasure, only pain” which I will be writing more about in due course.

So far this morning as I eat my breakfast, I have been people watching. The tube in the morning of a weekday is pretty interesting as an experience. The train arrives like a sardine tin full of people, all looking off in various directions looking utterly defeated or just done with life that morning. The other thing I see and find very odd is people who manage to stand up on a tube and read while simultaneously not falling over! I swear some people must train for years to be able to achieve such things. All common sense seems to go out the window when people have places to be, like not letting people out of the way before trying to jam themselves into an already crowded carriage and not even thinking “hmm there’s another train arriving in 1 minute that I could get because clearly there is no space on this one”. Nope, instead they jam themselves in and then pull some kind of Matrix-esque movement to avoid getting their head wedged in the closing doors just as they are closing. Don’t get me wrong, very entertaining to watch and definitely worth waiting for a couple of trains to pass through before I got on to a less crowded train.

I have some time today to take in the sights and do some shopping. At some point in my life I should probably do some actual touristy stuff here. Maybe today, maybe not. I’ll just see where my whims take me. This weekend should see some more of the November stuff posted so hopefully look forward to that? But until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Now serving The Dome: Tufnell Park

As if my weekend wasn’t crazy busy enough, it happened to coincide with Band Maid playing in London. I was lucky enough to see them last year at the O2 Academy Islington and this time they played The Dome in Tufnell Park to a sold out venue. I think this show sold out quite far in advance really and it was certainly well-deserved. If you don’t know who Band Maid are, you should (and also, I’m not sure what you’ll gain from reading this if you don’t know who Band Maid are, but who am I to stop you!) Band Maid are an all female rock band from Japan and as you can possibly guess from the name, they perform dressed in Maid outfits. On first glance, you may well group them in with the likes of other Japanese female bands and pre-judge as a result, but my advice is: don’t. Do not be deceived by how these ladies look, they are awesome musicians who put on one hell of a show. (Apologies in advance for the poor photo quality!)

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Band Maid are fresh from the release of their latest album: World Domination and were touring under the same name. They played a range of songs including some crowd pleasing classics such as “Choose Me” and “Non-Fiction Days” as well as tracks from the new album. They managed to hype the crowd with ease and this always entertains me slightly (I mean this in the nicest way) as Saiki’s resting bitch face is usually in residence through at least part of the show, although she can’t help but smile when the crowd show their enthusiasm. Its just part of the personality that so strongly shines through. Here was the setlist they played (taken as ever from setlist.fm.)

  1. Domination20181117_200307.jpg

  2. Play

  3. the non-fiction days

  4. Moratorium

  5. CROSS

  6. Don’t you tell ME

  7. Turn me on

  8. secret My lips

  9. DICE

  10. start over

  11. onset

  12. Carry on living

  13. CLANG

  14. Spirit!

  15. Alone

  16. glory

  17. you.

  18. FREEDOM

  19. REAL EXISTENCE

  20. Choose Me

 

There were evidently some new fans in the audience, not just judging from the overheard conversations of people not fully knowing what to expect from the band, but it was nice to see a slightly more diverse mix of fans. As everyone was queuing up outside, you never did see such a random collection of fans to the point where you wouldn’t be able to guess who was playing if you didn’t already know.

As always, the MCs were done by Miku in a mix of English and Japanese. (I swear my terrible language skills have been tested this weekend!) She spoke about what they had been up to in London this time and as she went in to the “magic time” part of the MC (a play on what happens in Maid Cafes where you have to say the magic spell on your food,20181117_211220.jpg led by the maid), something unexpected happened. The rest of the band had taken this opportunity to go and cool down by crowding round Akane’s fan near the drum kit, with Saiki sitting on the drum stool. So when Miku looked round at who was using the kick drum and saw Saiki sitting there, she was surprised and shouted “Saiki drummer?!”. The band members then took it in turns on the drum kit, with varying degrees of success and some direction from Akane. Miku was then encouraged to have a turn to which she initially refused and air-drummed, before giving in to the pressure and having a go, remarking afterwards how scary it was. This lady definitely has a huge personality and despite the differences in languages, she still managed to entertain everyone and showcase that personality. I can’t imagine how daunting it must be to try and MC a crowd where you only speak some of the language, but she gave it a much stronger effort than I have seen some people do.

For the first time, and with pretty much entirely the effort of my partner, I managed to retrieve a pick! I was surprised that people were not grabbing for them as much as I usually see at shows, but they were maybe better able at catching or something?! I was super happy to be able to get it 🙂

All in all the show was absolutely awesome. If you haven’t checked them out, I strongly recommend it. I’m so glad they decided to return to the UK to play for us and serve their Masters and Princesses overseas. Here’s hoping they come back again soon! Stay wonderful wonderlanders 😉

Here is the link to their OHP:

https://bandmaid.tokyo/

Too…many…sheep…puns!

A look at an alternative wedding fair

Good day!

Some of you may recall when I wrote one of my late weekly updates (I think it was a week ago? My memory and general knowledge of where I am in the month is terrible), that we attended an alternative wedding fair. This was the Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza (or EWE for short). As you may be able to tell from the name, they take the sheep theme and pretty much run with it, hence the title of this post. This was held in Birmingham and is held yearly.

So, what is an alternative wedding fair? Well, there are traditional wedding fairs where you go and get ideas/meet traders/find out what on earth you are supposed to be doing to plan a wedding (and of course, scoff some free cake samples). I’ve been to a few of these since the start of my engagement because this isn’t the sort of thing you tend to learn about growing up. You know the vague things that are needed to make a wedding happen usually but you can guarantee there’s things you don’t think of and you’ll often only have your own experiences of attending weddings to try and work it all out. If you are after something less traditional, however, or you look like I do, traditional wedding fairs are scary, scary places. They are full of stalls with smiling ladies who are showing you lots of generic white or off-white dresses, generically perfect hair and make-up, pretty flowers and flowery cakes. My experiences of these fairs in the past include even seeing stalls that are advertising lipo suction to prepare you for your big day and I’m not even joking. In no particular order, I have also experienced the staff not seeing the funny side of me and my partner switching the “I am the bride” and “I am the groom” stickers we were given, a make-up artist thinking I was homosexual (not that this is an issue) and my sister was the other bride (this was the issue) despite her chief bridesmaid sticker and generally companies with very tacky ideas trying to get me to use their services for our wedding. I wouldn’t say I’m the classiest of women, but some of these things just need putting in a large heap and setting on fire. Not to say that regular weddings are bad or I don’t like them, they just aren’t me and they are certainly not us as a couple.

Now that we have the traditional out of the way, on to my experiences of the alternative. When you first enter the wedding fair, you will already be very aware that this is not your average. We were greeted by a wandering brass quartet and a lady dressed as a pirate making giant bubbles. There were also wooden flower decorations about the place and paper decorations when you first went inside. Something to note about this place, (and hence the title) is that there is a big play on the sheep theme. An idea I quite like is that as you go through, there is a “sheep hunt” with a chance to win prizes from the stalls. Each stall (or most stalls) has a sheep hidden somewhere in their stall and you have to find the sheep and write down the name on your form. You do this for each thing you want to win and then after the weekend, they pick the winners. There area a variety of terrible sheep-pun names but at least they’re having some fun with it.

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So what type of stalls do you have at an alternative wedding fair? Well technically, similar stalls as you’d have at a regular wedding fair, but with more originality. So there are cake makers, wedding dress makers, accessory makers, stationers, caterers etc. The difference you’ll notice though is that many of the stalls are brightly coloured or in some cases, darkly coloured rather than your usual white, pink and gold. You also find less florists and more “button bouquets” and pretty much a commitment to making your day 100% more you. There are entertainers that go beyond your usual run of the mill wedding bands or close-up magicians, DJs that play alternative sets of your choosing, a full-on tea service that will cater to whatever theme you choose. Something that ran through the entire event was the sense of laid-back discussions you could have with exhibitors who were conscious to not harass you and got on board with whatever crazy ideas for a wedding you wanted to talk about, even getting excited with you rather than looking at you like you had 2 heads.

I found this far more useful than any wedding fair I’ve been to so far. There were bespoke dress-makers there and on the whole I maybe saw one or two white or off-white dresses. Something cool that happens here, rather than having a standard wedding dress catwalk, the fashion show roams through the fair itself, making it far less formal. There are also bespoke shoe-makers so you could actually have the wedding shoes that you wanted designed for you! Not forgetting for the suit-wearers, there were also vintage suit hire companies there for a wedding outfit that’s not your average. Of course there were also hair and make-up artists there who would again, create a style that you would want, not your average standard bridal make-up. There were more vintage and rockabilly styles available and again, pretty much just something unique to you.

If you are looking for a way to plan a wedding that is not exactly your average, with people who will be just as excited at your crazy weird ideas as you are, this is definitely an event worth checking out. The event was on for the whole weekend but you could buy a ticket just for either half a day Saturday or for Sunday. We bought a ticket the first Saturday session but we didn’t need the whole time and that was with re-visiting some stalls. If you turn up later in the session, you’ll still have plenty of time to go and look around. I would really recommend doing and checking this out if you are planning a wedding that’s a bit different or quirky, both for ideas but also for traders.  Their website also has a directory of traders to help with finding what you’re looking for if you aren’t able to go to the fair or the next fair is too far in the future. Here is the link to the site:

http://www.allaboutewe.co.uk/

So if you are planning a wedding, I wish you all the best and lots of luck, and I hope this is of some use? Until next time, stay wonderful 😉