Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BrainDump 1.0: New Toys, Needles and Nearly New Sales

I've got quite a few little things I want to write about today, so I'll keep each bit short and sweet, and you can skip the stuff you're not interested in.

Last week I bought a video camera to take out to Tanzania with me, for filming stories about people Hoja have helped in the community.

It's a JVC GZ-MG505EK, which sounds a bit of a mouthful really, so I'll just call it Gaz. As ever, I bought it in Jacobs Camera Shop on New Oxford Street (opposite the more common Jessops), with a very good deal indeed.

Jacobs are my favourite camera shop in London (or anywhere else, for that matter), for always being extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and for somehow always selling me things for much less than they're worth.

Gaz is a bit of an old model - it's not made any more - and the shop wanted to get rid. It's normally worth about £730 but I picked up the very last one on the shelf for a paltry £250. So having gone in with the intention of spending about £250-£350 on something that would do a passable job, I came out with something much better, at the bottom end of my budget.

I was rather pleased. I've already bought a 4-hour battery for it on eBay for £18 (it would have been £115 direct from JVC). Next up, I need to buy a netbook to go with it.

More preparations for Tanzania: I've had quite a few injections already. Last week was the turn of Hepatitis B and my first Rabies jab, then yesterday I had my second Rabies Jab, Meningitis, and Cholera (which you have to drink - I was pleased to discover it tastes no worse than soluble paracetamol).

In two weeks I go back to have my third and final Rabies, and my second and final Cholera drink. I also need to sort out my anti-malarials, although I'm tempted to take the few Doxycycline I have left with me, and then buy the rest in Iringa - it will be much cheaper that way.

Unfortunately, I am well up-to-date with all my free-on-the-NHS innoculations, and it is only those you have to pay for that I need. And at an average of about £40 a pop, seven vaccinations are not cheap.

The costs of going back to Africa are really adding up.

Yesterday when I went to the Nomad clinic, the nurse hadn't got there yet, so I went on a wander around the Turnpike Lane area. I went in charity clothing store Traid, which I'd never visited before.

I bought a couple of shirts in there (always better than cotton t-shirts in hot sticky Africa), and also had a look at their noticeboard. It turns out they have previously donated significant sums to SPW, the charity with whom I originally went to Tanzania.

In more SPW news, I'll be marshalling at their triathlon in Hyde Park this coming Sunday. If anyone fancies sponsoring some of my Advocates for Action friends, you can do so at justgiving.com/advocates4action. More volunteer helpers on the day would also be appreciated, so if anyone happens to fancy it, let me know and I'll pass you on.

Last weekend I went up to Edinburgh to visit my sister, her partner, and their delightful baby boy. I had three whole days up there, and it was great fun.

I had made a book about a man, his dog and a robot for my nephew's first birthday and this was the first chance I had to give it to him (he's over 13 months now). The book (and the felt dog in particular) was not only a hit with my nephew, but also my sister's friend's son.

My nephew, who has never crawled, is also getting pretty good on his two feet, and he spent much of Saturday afternoon walking 8 or 9 paces happily back and forth between his dad and me.

The highlight of the weekend, however, was possibly the Nearly New Sale on at their local church. Before it even started, there were rumours of the vicar pinching some of the best baby items for her two dogs, a controversial move, given her position.

It was all carried out with such military efficiency. All helpers wore a yellow sash, tea and cakes were sold along the line before it opened, and then at 11am the long queue was allowed to enter in a controlled fashion, stamps on the back of the hand to indicate who had donated to the fund (whatever the fund was for).

Once past the entry point, of course, it was a massive free-for-all. Mothers elbowed each other out of the way as I made a beeline for the small room at the back where the stairgates were gathered (this was my task for the morning).

First we had to queue to get into the stairgate room, as it was already so busy. It was agonising as I could see others carrying around gates they had picked up. Would there be any left for me? Once inside I picked out a couple of different options, and then tried to carry them away for analysis by the parents.

Alas, I was not allowed to leave the room with the unpaid-for item, and I was stopped by one of the Yellow Sashers, who demanded cruelly and politely that I remain where I was.

Later, around the 12-18 month clothing table, I saw a distraught husband approach his wife.

"Women keep pushing me out of the way!" he complained desperately.

"I know! I can't get to anything first!" agreed his wife.

I was glad to hear I wasn't the only debutante at this event.

Last night I went to the Lucky Soul gig at the Camden Barfly. Having been a teacher most of the time I've lived in London, I don't get out to see bands nearly as much as I'd like, so I was rather excited. And not at all disappointed by the end.

The first support we only saw the last couple of songs, but he was a fairly run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter. Talented, sounded lovely, and couldn't really fault him at all, but I've seen a lot of that. I like to be surprised by something new. His name is Nick Evans, and his MySpace is well worth checking out.

The second support was Theoretical Girl, and I was really looking forward to her as one of my friends is a bit of a fan, and her Myspace sounded great. I was even more enthusiastic when she stepped onto stage, and introduced her geekily-entitled backing band, The Equations.

Only two Equations were there, the third was the dummer, but he'd run off to play in his dad's band instead that evening, so they were using a backing track for his part. The two present looked like they'd stepped out of separate time machines - the girl in leggings, a blue and white stripy top, yellow cardigan and with an angular bright red guitar - the boy with Art Garfunkel hair, shirt and brown tank top, playing the bass.

Theoretical Girl was utterly delightful and charming on stage, and her music was great, although it was very slightly lacking in oomph. This may have been because her drummer was missing, so I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Well worth checking out.

Then, of course, the main act came on. Lucky Soul. And they were brilliant, only marred by the tallest man ever to wear a British Lions rugby shirt, who gradually backed into me over the course of the gig. Towards the end I pointed to him that there was a big box someone had put behind me (in the middle of the room), and I couldn't move back any further. Sadly he didn't take the hint.

Lucky Soul made it all okay though. Particularly with Lips Are Unhappy. Shake. Shake. Shake shake shimmy shimmy.

Here's their MySpace.

Lastly, you may remember I had a good moan about Earth Hour not long ago. Well, today is Earth Day. And it's rather more focused. Here's their site.

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