Birthday Weekend

Scott, Ivona and me at the O₂ Academy on Friday night

Scott, Iwona and me at the O₂ Academy on Friday night

When I was living in Rouen (France), it dawned on me that every Christmas Day should fall on a Sunday because (just about) everything in France is closed on Sunday – just like on Christmas Day.

Likewise, every birthday should fall on a Friday or Saturday (provided you don’t have to do anything super important the following morning). The good news was December 19 (my birthday) fell on a Friday this year 🙂 Which raised a question: How the hell was I going to make it more memorable than a typical Friday evening, a night usually spent listening to Funky Friday on WXPN before going to bed at midnight (which I do to conserve energy for the ParkRun).

As I was unsure of how to celebrate, I texted (Hyde Park Harrier) Ben and after one thing led to another, I ended dancing up to disco with a lot of people who were dressed for the late ’60s at the O2 Academy in town.

Inga and Scott dressed for the '60s

Inga and Scott dressed for the ’60s

But before joining the mass of bell-bottom and tie-dyed wearing, flower children lookalikes, Scott (another member of the Hyde Park Harriers) was throwing a party at his flat, which was the perfect warmup event due to the presence of beer, disco and partygoers appropriately dressed for the fun at the O2 Academy. The occasion provided fun chatter – when I didn’t feel like sleeping (I really should have taken a longer nap prior to the party) – from which I learned that it’s possible to be engaged to someone with a different native tongue and not learn any of that language.

Jim and Scott

Jim and Scott

As for the main event, since I’ve been in Leeds, I’ve always considered the O2 Academy to be a gig venue – I’ve seen Public Enemy and Jimmy Cliff there. But I never knew the place also doubled as a disco, which was the scene Friday night. I was there because Scott and Ben organized a night out to enjoy an event named the Love Train T&C Reunion.

What the hell is the Love Train T&C Reunion? The Love Train is this legendary disco crew headed by a character known as Brutus Gold (Real name: Nigel Wanless) that regularly performed at the Town and Country club (the forerunner to the O2 Academy) in Leeds during the 1990s. Ben mentioned he would frequently see Love Train perform back in the day but currently, they only play in Leeds around Christmas.

Scott, Iwana and Inga

Scott, Iwana and Inga

As expected, the music was groovy as the audience was treated to the best of the disco era as the Love Train played some of my favourites, including tracks from the Village People, Donna Summer and Earth, Wind & Fire. On occasion, members of the audience were invited to dance on stage, and Inga (a part of our group) did – and she can cut a rug very well 🙂

The only memorable thing about my ParkRun

The only memorable thing about my ParkRun

It seemed like Friday night/very early Saturday morning would be the only fun/memorable thing about my weekend as my ParkRun was terrible. But fortunately, a few days ago, I received an e-mail saying that the New World Steel Orchestra (who I’ve seen several times) would be holding its Christmas concert today (Sunday) at the West Indian Centre. As I had no plans for today, that was the place to be.

The New World Steel Orchestra

The New World Steel Orchestra

So after catching the last 75 minutes of the Tyne-Wear derby (that’s the Newcastle-Sunderland match) at a nearby pub, I cycled to the West Indian Centre, where as expected, a decent number of Christmas songs were part of the show, such as “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” (which was actually sung by a solo performer) and “Jingle Bells” (which was belted out by a pianist). On the other hand, the New World Steel Orchestra did some non-Yuletide classics such as “Blurred Lines,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Jammin'”.

Events at the West Indian Centre seem to be hit-or-miss in regards to attracting a decent sized crowd. But the Christmas concert attracted a large audience as the most of the chairs set up for the show were filled (It’s also interesting that while all of the members of the orchestra are young adults, most of the concert’s attendees were 40-somethings or older although there was a smattering of young children in the building). Unfortunately, I had serious trouble understanding the MC and other speakers at the concert (Maybe, it’s my hearing or their accents). Towards the end of the show, a gentleman presented certificates to several members of the orchestra, which as wonderful as the occasion was… I have no idea what the awards represented. In addition, Arthur France, the founder of Leeds Carnival and a prominent community leader, heaped lavish praise on the leader of the orchestra for… I have no idea.

Arthur France dancing towards the end of the show

Arthur France dancing towards the end of the show

Maybe during the last song

Maybe during the last song

But most importantly, it’s fun seeing a large audience get treated to Christmas classics in a unique matter.

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