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John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl

This was a seriously amazing night. John Williams and the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. That’s one hell of a venue. I found mysef eating a picnic as the sun was setting, the crickets starting chirping and a full moon came out. I got a serious Close Encounters chill vibe, which was very apt. Johnny (to his friends) played some serious stuff in the first half (Olympics, War Horse, Schindler’s List, er… Tintin.) and the second half was all crowd pleasers. Superman, Raiders, Star Wars, the whole last reel of E.T.

It was unforgettable. And I saw a shooting star. Nice touch.

(Image credit: Michael Giacchino – twitter.com/m_giacchino)

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Licence to Drive

I learned to drive.

This is quite amazing if you account for the fact that I have spent the last twenty years not knowing how to drive at all. Sure, I had some lessons when I was at college, with a man called ‘Fat Stan’, beloved of many learner drivers in Woodley, Berkshire and beyond. But Fat Stan and I did not get along. I would try to make light-hearted jokes which he refused to acknowledge just happened (very uncomfortable) and his instruction technique consisted of getting me to drive him from one fish & chip shop to another so he could feed his face on a constant basis. On one occasion I was tasked with driving Fat Stan to his home, where he disappeared inside for twenty minutes (taking a dump), returning to the car with a piping hot Pot Noodle, which he ate as I was (trying) to learn how to operate a moving vehicle. So that didn’t work out. And after that amount of trauma, I was never compelled to learn for many years – until now.

I had three lessons and passed first time. Eat it, Fat Stan.

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My Disney Day

The day before I moved to LA, I got a call out of the blue from Disney Junior asking if I was interested in doing some character design work. Apparently they’d seen my characters on the Lamington Facebook page and thought my style would suit a project they have. Talk about good timing. A meeting was booked and, after a few pushbacks (it’s the Hollywood way), I got to go to Burbank and talk cartoons, which is essentially the best way you can spend your morning. The overwhelming impression I got is that people at Disney are mega nice. It’s brilliant. Do you think people work there because they’re so nice already or do they become nice after working there, through some kind of nice osmosis? WHO KNOWS. Anyway, hopefully I will be doing some designs for a preschool show, which is ace.

After that, in the evening, we went to see BRAVE at the El Capitan. Man, I was not prepared for the onslaught of WTF I was about to experience. All I knew is that Disney owned the theater and ran it right. The El Capitan is actually a venerable old theater – it’s where they premiered CITIZEN KANE – and it has one of those gorgeous interiors that looks like the Muppet Show should be happening any second. Well, I wasn’t far off – when I saw the guy playing a massive Wurlitzer organ, I knew something was different. He ran through all the Disney classics, even a rendition of The Circle of Life which is always welcome. Then he sank into the ground and about fifteen curtains swiped in from different directions. Only these weren’t ordinary curtains, these were laser-curtains, containing about a million lights each. They proceeded to put on a light show that would make Stanley Kubrick blush, and then they parted for some 3D trailers. Don’t know what 3D system they are running there, but it was snazzy as hell, as was the Dolby Atmos sound which is just ridiculously powerful.

The trailers ended. So now it’s time to watch BRAVE, right? Wrong. The screen itself lifted, revealing a huge stage with two people who started singing and dancing. Naturally, this was the beginning of a full-scale song and dance spectacular, featuring a cast of dozens, with people dressed up as Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Snow White, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Daisy, etc. Parents were clapping, kids were screaming at their favorite characters, streamers were falling from the ceiling, general mayhem in the aisles, until the finale bought the house down. The whole thing took like an hour.

Then we watched BRAVE. It was okay!

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LA So Far

From rainy old Brooklyn to sunny Los Angeles, life has completely changed in the space of four weeks.

I won’t lie, some of it was pretty stressful. We had to find a place to live in California, and we only had one week to do it. We looked in Los Feliz and Silver Lake, but stuff was oddly expensive, then we took a chance on a place in Larchmont (never heard of it), right opposite Paramount Pictures. It was nice and luckily we got accepted. Only then did we find out that we were going to live in the house from the Sarah Silverman Program.

Back in New York, we packed up the contents of our apartment carefully over the course of three days, only to see the movers throw around the boxes with carefree abandon. I could practically hear the crunch of broken glass as they went about their merry way. Unbelievably, nothing we packed got broken (I was imagining opening a box of sand and glass), although the furniture they wrapped was utterly destroyed by the time it arrived. Nice job, guys.

We spent five days in an empty New York apartment with nothing but a confused cat and an air mattress to call our own. This part wasn’t stressful at all, it was kind of like camping, and as I’m English (we think we’re good in a crisis situation) the Dunkirk spirit kicked in I was ready to sing Run Rabbit Run and exchange my ration coupons for some powdered egg.

Then, the flight. Pretty much the most stressful thing ever is taking a one year old cat on a plane. Ripley (our cat) is a tough cookie, but my heart broke into a million pieces every time she cried in her carry case, which, incidentally, she’s too fat for. I felt guilty, scared, protective and sad in equal measures. It was unbearable. But we made it! She was running around the new place within half an hour of getting there, and once we got our furniture back, she was happy as a loon.

In short, as far as I can tell, Los Angeles is mind-numbingly amazing. No superlative can describe the positive effect the weather here has on a person. And the view of the hills in the distance does something to your psyche. You’re no longer closed in like you are in New York; you can relax at last. The two negative things you hear most about LA are that the people are weird and the traffic is bad. That has not been our experience at all, in either case. People have been ridiculously friendly (heck, even the DMV was a pleasant and relaxing experience) and admittedly, while we haven’t been driving much during rush hour, getting around has been super easy. Maybe it’s our location, but nothing is more than 20 minutes away. Heck, I would spend an hour on the subway getting from Brooklyn to Manhattan. This is heaven compared to that.

Things I’ve daydreamed about for ages like visiting Disneyland, eating Umami Burger and In-N-Out, going to the fancy malls, learning to drive, buying a car, seeing comedy at the The Groundlings, movies at the Arclight, yada, yada, yada, I’ve finally got to do. I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but right now it’s all exciting and new and fun. And not scary. California has welcomed us with open arms and I for one have allowed it to hug me close to its bosom.

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