Adventures in Birmingham: Live music at Six Eight Kafé

Those of you who know me on Twitter will have noticed I’ve been to every single Live Music Friday evening at Urban Coffee Co but now I’m delighted there’s a second coffee house to embrace one of life’s pleasures.

I’ve loved live music in coffee shops ever since I first saw a man and a guitar at a late night coffee shop in NYC in 2000 and have been trying to recapture the experience ever since. Whilst popular in America, I used to go to listen to music every Sunday in New York, the first I’d seen in the UK (I’m sure there have been others) was at Urban‘s first location. It’s not just about having someone play but the right type of ‘coffee shop’ music.

Country, folk and jazz all lend themselves to the acoustic vibe that works best. Many of us loved the gypsy/jazz band (I don’t know the name, the band didn’t carry any cards!) we saw at Six Eight Kafe on their first birthday so we begged the management to run more candle-lit nights in their gorgeously dark basement.

Last Wednesday was the first of those nights when we were treated to more live music. The first band had an excellent acoustic set up and performed a mix of original material with covers and harmonious vocals. There is something special about going to events in a dimly lit room. Perhaps because it smacks of the illicitism of the prohibition era and so feels like we’ve been invited to an exclusive underground event.

This and the amazing coffee that the Six Eight coffee gods seem to produce every time makes it an essential addition to the Birmingham calendar.

Coffee & music, two of my favourite things; more please.


Movie – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is another film that if you blink, you’ll miss it at your friendly, local, picture house.

One would think any film with Judi Dench in it is a) good and b) a hot ticket (although her being in it will not get me to see a Bond film, wild horses wouldn’t drag me, etc etc).

The film has a full array of Brit actors in their prime, all of which I feel the next generation or two can learn from.

The run-down ironically named Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in desperate need of guests and advertises itself as a place for the ’retired and the beautiful.’ A group of disillusioned British strangers head over hoping to find meaning in what’s left of their life and partake in new adventures and inevitably make friends – or enemies. So far, the person with the funniest lines is Muriel (Maggie Smith), who is only going over in the short term to jump the NHS queue for a hip replacement and is gloriously an ignorant racist. It doesn’t take many marbles to work out she will be won over by India before the end of the film.

All the characters are in search of something but it’s only the judge, Graham (Tom Wilkinson) who knows what; his lost love of some 40 years ago, his first boyfriend.

The young – and possibly the most enthusiastic hotelier in the world – has his own woes with a domineering mother putting him under pressure to sell the loss-making, hotel left to the family by the father.

I love how the stories gently unfold and how the group started bonding and unlike some comments from Indian people I have seen, I think India is portrayed pretty well – remembering this is fiction! Of course a real hotel where even the phones didn’t work and there was layer of dust on unused furniture will not present itself open for business in a country known for its warm hospitality!


Smile factor 9½/10


What holiday habits will you bring into your working life in 2012 to make it more fun?

Each weekday at 11am, we invite Enterprise Nation followers on Twitter to take a short break and join us for a chat. We call it the #WatercoolerMoment and we’ll often pose a question to get the conversation started.

Last week we asked: ‘What holiday habits will you bring into your working life in 2012 to make it more fun?’  We had so many great tips from our followers we asked regular contributor Rickie Josen thought to compile her favourites and share a few with you.

What holiday habits will you bring into your working life in 2012 to make it more fun?

1. Turning my phone off and shutting down Outlook for an hour so thoughts don’t get interrupted.  @andrewdlevey

2. Staring into space more and letting the brain free-associate. @colinshelbourn

3. Being a freelancer means you can work whilst wearing your swimming trunks in the house and not just by the pool. @Timmy666

4. Try something new. Go to a training course or event or something to stimulate your ideas.@andrewdlevey

5. Enjoy the really good stuff while you’re working. E.g. occasionally have the best coffee and the luxury cake rather than just saving those for the weekend. @RickieWrites

6. Knowing when not to work is important. On my recent holiday I learned not to take my laptop with me everywhere. @Timmy666

7. Try to use time positively when technology occasionally lets us down! @aptanet

8. Best holiday bonus is the enforced shutdown, so u can follow ideas knowing you don’t HAVE to do something. @colinshelbourn

9. If I’m working on a specific project I always go somewhere else to review for a fresh perspective.@andrewdlevey

10. I have a trip to the gym most days which energises me – missed this over xmas!@LyzzyBee_Libro

11. I find a change of scene definitely helps if energy levels are dipping. @andrewdlevey

12. It’s important not to get isolated and to keep up friendships – I missed when doing two jobs so I’m doing now! @LyzzyBee_Libro

13. Holiday time – savouring each moment rather than stacking up mental notes. @lubnagemarielle

14. Making time for the lovely things you do on holiday: eating well, lots of fresh air, walking more, always being excited. @Timmy666

15. Getting away from it all. Get out of the usual work setting to help with new ideas and different thinking. @andrewdlevey

16. I got into a habit of meeting a friend a day over the xmas break and will try to work that into daily life. @LyzzyBee_Libro

Movie – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

A Tom Hanks film that I nearly missed; I say a Tom Hanks film but as we know from the trailers, he is dead in the movie and so appears infrequently. In fact, annoyingly, the main character that’s in every scene is young Thomas Horn who plays Oscar, the bereaved son of the Hank’s character who perishes in the World Trade Centre on September 11th.

This is the first ‘footage’ I have seen of those events; I couldn’t even bring myself to watch on the day or since, nor have I been to the site since. However, the film isn’t about 9/11 but about a young boy coping after the early and cruel death of his beloved father. I though given that he is on his own they’d be a lot of support from his mother, played by the excellent Sandra Bullock but sadly she has even less of a role than Hanks.

Instead the film focuses on Oscar’s hunt to find out where a key he found by accident in his perfect father’s closet may lead. This would be a great story if this was a fantasy adventure but it’s set in early present day New York so a non-story to start. Whether Oscar’s self-harming and (extremely) annoying (loud) nature is due to the passing away is not clear, nor is why a mother would let her child out alone all over the city on subways, busses and walking whilst he looked to interrogate everyone with the surname ‘Black’ the name found on the keys’ envelope.

The emotional wrench that I felt from the trailers is delivered through a key point made throughout the film of Oscar hearing his Dad’s phone messages as the situation deteriorated in WTC. The most poignant though is of his mother having her last telephone conversation with him as she looks out in absolute horror at the building crumpling in front of her across the city skyline.

I know this is based on a book (which everyone suddenly seems to be reading without knowing the film had been released) but what I expected more of is a relationship (however) tense portrayed between the son and the widower. Instead the highlight is Oscar befriending his Grandma’s ‘lodger’ from across the street. That and the fact that a lot of the action is based around the Upper West where I used to live.


Smile factor 5/10

Book – The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar

Fairies and New York? Two enticing subjects. I’m slowing getting back into reading (and watching films) based in New York after my long self imposed ban (long, sad story of one big city & one broken heart).

The book is bigged up almightily by Neil Gaiman and I hope when my book gets published (after I finish writing it and sending it out to publishers and someone some accepts it) I’ll have an introduction as good.

The story itself is all in the title, except there are bad fairies as well – obviously. New York – and the whole world is inhabited by fairies from many different nations. In NYC the fairies, as with the communities, are from all nationalities and as with the humans stick together. When Heather & Morad, arrive on the run from their native Scotland after some accidental fairy wrong-doing, they are able to be seen by Dinnie, the overweight, unemployed squatter and Kerry, New York Dolls obsessive with Crohn’s disease who lives opposite. Dinnie has never had a girlfriend, is a terrible violinist and in return for a nationally treasured fairy fiddle that has come into his possession, Heather agrees to help him become the man Kerry would fall in love with.

It’s a delightful tale with many interwoven stories; the fairy clans, the drinking and debauchery and the money stealing and most hilariously, fairy travel; if they want to get somewhere fast, or more likely be on the run from rival fairies, they attach themselves to a cab.


Inspiration factor 8/10

Movie – The Muppets

Confession time; I have never seen anything of the Muppets. I think I felt I was too old for it first time round but now seems the perfect age to enjoy it and in any case, I still recognise many of the characters, not just Kermit and Miss Piggy.

I joined many other first time viewers at the cinema last Friday evening, admittedly the rest of them were under 3 ft high but we all loved it. What I admire about modern day children’s films are the copious adult in-jokes that only we can appreciate and yet they take none of the joy away from the kids.

The story line is of a lone Muppet, Walter, who visits the  old Muppets LA studio only to find it’s about to be destroyed in the name of the almighty dollar by a wealthy businessman. He sets about trying to prevent this, with the help of his (human) best friend along with his unwitting girlfriend, who have travelled to LA for their 10th anniversary. She hopes this means a proposal but the ‘men’ set out looking for the mansion inhabiting Kermit to persuade him to put on a fundraising television show and save the studio from evil tycoon.

Kermit has to reunite the gang including Miss Piggy, now an editor at French Vogue, Fozzie who performs in a tribute group, the Moopets, Gonzo who now runs a successful company and best of all Animal from an anger management re-hab unit that includes Jack Black which means he is restrained from playing his beloved drums. (Who does that remind me off…..?)

The cast break into song fairly often; when Mary feels let down by her potential fiancé Gary who is busy looking out for his little Muppet brother, Walter, when Miss Piggy and Kermit reminisce about their old romance and .. well pretty much at every opportunity.

The movie leaves me wishing I could travel by map (as in when they show a line moving across a map in movies to denote travel) and the ditty ‘Man or Muppet’ is already stuck in my head, partly due to Chris Evans playing it on Radio Two.

I’m going to have to score it highly since it kept me awake at the end of an extremely tiring and sleep deprived day.

Smile factor 10/10

It’s a New Year, take on more

This time last year, I remember reading about all the lovely things people give up in January as part of New Year’s resolutions’. (or rather by now, given up on them). In the first instance, I‘m of the school of thought that if we want to change something about our life we can change it any day of the year; why wait for a cold January 1st to roll round?

However, this isn’t an anti-resolution rant; far from it. Despite being one of the world’s odd balls in that I love Winter (sorry) and don’t have any problems with January (truly sorry) – I go off on my travels and have a lovely break for Christmas week, Italy for the second year, but still look forward to coming back on the 1st and being refreshed and raring to go for the fresh new year ahead. (Again, I apologise).

What I’m advocating is that change is indeed as good as a rest so let’s make fun changes in January. Rather than giving up things you love (wine) to do things you despise (exercise) in the coldest, darkest month of the year, let’s take up piano lessons or even better crafting or baking; activities that can be done in the comfort of our homes whilst eating chocolate and/or drinking wine.

The time to give up is April, when you have warm summer months as an incentive to leave the house and jog round the park.

For now, here are some fun things to do in January:

  1. Do more list

    Take off your layers and go to a Spa. Go for a weekend if you can and with your friends.

  2. Throw a cosy staying home party, your friends will love you (even more) for brightening up their January and it will cost next to nothing if everyone contributes. It may even be another chance to wear that party dress you wore once or you can have a theme party.
  3. Start wearing bright colours. If you’re addicted to black, try wearing one new colour each week. You make like it.
  4. Book a holiday. If taking the winter off to go to sunny climes or skiing is a little extravagant, spend hours and hours planning your big holiday for the year. Make it an event in itself.
  5. Go away each weekend to see fun friends or beloved (obviously) relatives.
  6. Learn something new. Yes I know, you’ve always wanted to but ‘never got round to it’. Well I’m giving you a ‘roundtoit’ (get it?)
  7. Learn to cook or bake, painting, singing, learning a language, reading, starting a book (that old chestnut), dance class, picking up PC skills or horse riding.  If it’s something you want to do, now is the time.
  8. Have a sparkling 2012!