Late last year, I visited Chicken Shop/Dirty Burger on Whitechapel Road. I had been wanting to try these restaurants as I have read good reviews, and I happened to see that they had a branch down the road from where I worked. I promptly hopped on the bus and took a ride down Whitechapel Road so that I could finally try this restaurant. Of course, I walked across to Rinkoff Bakeries for a dessert, which I already covered in an earlier post!

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Chicken Shop

I knew that although Dirty Burger are meant to do great burgers, they do not have an option that I will eat (I don't eat beef), so Chicken Shop is the menu that I went with. Both restaurants are located in the same building. In fact, from the outside, most people would not even know that there's a restaurant there. A simple doorway on a grafitti-covered green door is the entrance, and the logos for the restaurants are easy to miss.

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Chicken Shop / Dirty Burger, Whitechapel

Once inside the restaurant, there's a cafeteria feel with high ceilings and industrial-style fittings. The brick wall has had a quick whitewash, and the menus are painted directly onto the brickwork. Dirty Burger is on one side, and Chicken Burger is on the other.

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Restaurant interior

All of the tables were taken. Even during mid-week at lunch time, this place was popular. I was seated at the bar where I could see the rotisserie chickens turning and watch the staff prepare the orders. Several large ceramic chickens were dotted around the restaurant.

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Chicken Shop

I ordered a 1/4th of a chicken and asked for breast meat and a side of chips. I did try the two sauces at the table, but these tasted a little too "manufactured" for my taste, so I disregarded them and was glad that I did not smother my chicken with them as I do at Nandos. The chips tasted lovely, and the chicken was alright but I felt that I was missing something. I was not exactly overwhelmed, even though it was a decent meal.

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Would I go back? Well, I would not hurry back. I did not feel overwhelmed by it, but it was worth a try. That's not to say it was awful as it really wasn't. It just didn't meet my expectations. I do wonder if it's special because of the brand, and it's very "in" with the "hip" east London crowd, so it may be the type of place where people like to be seen at.  

For those wishing to try either restaurant, visit the company's websites for a full list of locations and opening times. Note that all of the different locations have a different interior 'theme':

Chicken Shop: http://www.chickenshop.com 
Dirty Burger: http://www.eatdirtyburger.com

Malarky's street art (typically found on shutters) is easy to recognise and was quite common in east London, although it has been a little while since a lot of the artwork was painted and the original pieces are either looking worn or have disappeared. The artist is known for painting foxes or cats, and he also collaborates with other street artists. I recently covered his work here: Malarky, Mr. Penfold, Billy and Lucas.

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Malarky's work was one of the first pieces of street art that I had seen a couple of years before I started to blog about and take a big interest in the street art scene. I saw one of his foxes, and it was probably on a shutter on or just off of Brick Lane.

At the later part of last year, Malarky returned to London to create some new work on the shutters of shops. He also collaborated with fellow artist David Shillinglaw. The new pieces from the end of last year are below.

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The first piece that I saw being completed in the middle of the summer was a high-profile shutter on the middle of Brick Lane. I saw Malarky painting the piece, and in the photograph below, you can see his paint spray cans and a bit of his ladder. (I didn't want to include a photograph of the artist, but he was painting the "Hello" on the left-hand side.)

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A couple of shops away and still on Brick Lane, this yellow cat popped up. The piece by Mr. Penfold (that the cat appears to be looking at) remains, miraculously, but it has been tagged over a little.

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And a few shops away, this new-to-east-London shop gets the Malarky treatment. It's located on Sclater Street.

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More recently, Malarky collaborated with David Shillinglaw (Street Art: David Shillinglaw) to create this artwork near Old Street.

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It was later painted over again by David Shillinglaw. 

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I think the one below is new as I don't remember seeing it before. Perhaps I just walked by it when the shop's shutters were down.

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The following Malarky fox and a face by David Shillinglaw was discovered on Hackney Road as I was riding past in a car.

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Malarky/147873188573671

I have been a member of Degustabox, a monthly food subscription box for six months now. Each month, surprise products and samples of food and drink items are delivered to my door. I first saw this subscription service online somewhere and really liked what was in the June box, but I just missed out by a few days. I subscribed in June, but I did not receive my first box until July. You can see July, August, and September's reviews here. The remaining three months of my subscription are detailed below.

October

October's Degustabox contained several smaller items and some decent products - a few that were good and a few that were not so good. I really enjoyed a couple of the products. This is one of the better boxes.

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Special K Cracker Crisps: (3/5) My favourite flavour of crisp/potato chip is BBQ. For a long while, getting this flavour was impossible, but other companies have been bringing it back over the past three or four years. The product has a nice taste, but I am just not that into it. Crisps/potato chips are not something I tend to indulge in, and I find them messy. 

Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Sauce: (4/5) I have purchased this product before to use in a stir fry. It is a good product.

Get Buzzing Original Nutty Flavour Flapjack: (5/5) I enjoyed this flapjack, and I liked the flavour and the texture. I would buy these again as this tasted healthier and seemed to contain less sugar than other flapjacks.

Enhance Drinks in apple and blackcurrant flavour: (3/5) I have used squash to liven up water as I do find water to be difficult to drink on its own. Actually, I normally have my water ice cold with lemon. This was an interesting alternative, but I was not that keen on the artificial sweeteners, which tend to give me migraines.

Kent's Kitchen meal kit in tikka masala flavour: (1/5) This kit contains oil, spices, and curry paste to create a curry. The recipe requires adding tomatoes, yoghurt, and meat. I used chicken for this recipe and followed the instructions, but I was not happy with the results. The curry tasted bland. My partner also did not like it, and he could not even eat it because he really disliked the taste of it.

Solo Marshmallow Creme: (5/5) I like marshmallow cream, but I have never tried this brand before. This is an American product, and I've made chocolate fudge with this type of product before. I received the toasted marshmallow flavour in my box, and I enjoyed it. I made chocolate mousse with most of it.

Dr. Oteker extra dark chocolate and fine dark cocao powder: (5/5) This brand of dark chocolate and cocao powder suit my needs, and I used some of the dark chocolate to make the mousse with the marshmallow cream that I received in this box. These are baking products, and I do not do a lot of baking. There are other products on the market, so I am not typically fussed about which I buy. The quality of this one seemed good.

Bear Paws fruit snack: (4/5) This fruit-flavoured snack does not contain any added sugar. The snack tasted fine, and I like the fact that it's a healthy alternative. This product is aimed at children. 

Bear Alpha Bites: (4/5) This was an extra product in this month's box, and it is a healthier alternative to cereals that are higher in sugar. The taste was fine, but I would not replace it with my museli. This product is aimed at children.

Jelly Belly: (5/5) I have never been a fan of jelly beans, but I received the sour/tart flavour of the product, and I enjoyed them. I do love sour/tart sweets and prefer these type of sweets to chocolate. I may purchase these in the tart/sour flavour if I saw them; I would not buy the original flavours.

Bricohe bread loaf: (1/5) I am just not keen on this product. I am extremely picky about bread products, and this was not to my liking. I received other products from the brand in a previous box, and I was not too keen.

Brioche pain au lait chocolate chip: (3/5) I received croissants from this product in a previous box, and I was not keen on them at all. Howeever, I enjoyed these more but I would never go out of my way to purchase them.

November

The November Degustabox was very disappointing to me as I was not keen on the majority of the products, so it was a waste of money for me this month. Degustabox have one more month on my subscription, so I am particularly looking forward to December's box and hope to get many Christmas items. Perhaps they are saving all of the good products to next month.

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Kettle Chips (Stilton & Port): (2/5) I do like Kettle Chips, but I would never touch the 'stilton and port' flavour. I gave these away and I was told that they were alright.

Pip cloudy apple juice: (4/5) I love apple juice, so these were welcome. The juice is watered down, so it does not have a strong apple flavour. I did enjoy them, but I would have preferred a stronger apple flavour.

Cool Dawn energy drinks: (1/5) These energy drinks are meant to be consumed after drinking alcohol. I thought they tasted awful, and it had a slight coffee flavour. After a sip, I threw the rest of it away. I gave the second one to a colleague to have after drinking, and he also hated it.

Holy Cow! sauces (Mangalore Malabar and Korma): (3/5) I love curry, but I found these sauces to be bland instead of spicy. I have had better similar products.

Branton carmelised onion chutney: (2/5) Chutney is one of those products that I do not eat. I gave this away to a colleague.

Lindt chocolate star: (5/5) I was never a fan of this chocolate brand, but these are nice. The inside is a soft chocolate truffle, and the outer is a soft chocolate shell.

Chai Latte: (2/5) I gave this away and the review was a "meh".

Stir-in Flavour shots (Garlic and coriander): (3/5) I struggled to put these to use, but I mixed one with some chicken and it was alright. I would have preferred another flavour.

Montano cider: (4/5) I do not have cider, so I gave this to my partner who said that it tasted alright, but he's also not too keen on cider.

December

I was not too impressed with my last Degustabox, which was the December box. I know others felt the same disappointment. I had expected more for the December box. More on that will follow.

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Pukka green tea: (4/5) I do drink green tea, so this was nice to receive. It's not my favourite brand, but I found it to be ok.

Popchips (original): (3/5) I have previously tried Popchips when they became available, and they are alright. I'm not keen on crisps or potato chips as it's just not a snack I have regularly or enjoy.

Eat Chia: (1/5) Chia seeds are considered one of the superfoods, and these are recommended to be sprinkled on cereal or yoghurt. I have tried this product previously, and I am not sure about it because the results are not instant. The seeds do not have a flavour.

Bahlsen (milk chocolate and caramel biscuits): (5/5) These biscuits, which I have previously bought repeatedly, were not new to me. Two flavours were provided, and the caramel flavour was one that I had not previously tried. My favourite is the dark chocolate, which is a product that I do purchase from time to time, but this flavour was not one of the ones provided.

Glow Worm drinks: (3/5) These energy drinks can also be used as cocktail mixers. One of each flavour was provided, and the flavours were hit or miss for me. The flavours are cucumber and apple, raspberry and grape, ginger and lemonade, and pear/lime and spice. The raspberry and grape was nice, but I was not keen on the pear/lime/spice flavour. The other two flavours were good as well, but the best was the raspberry/grape.

Kent's Kitchen Madras: (2/5) I received the Kent's Kitchen 'Chicken Tikka Masala' in a previous box, and my partner and I both disliked it. This one was better, but I halved the amount of tomato in it because my partner dislikes tomato. This had a better flavour, but I still found that the spices did not blend as well as I'd expect they should.

Fry Light Chili Infused cooking oil: (4/5) This product is to be used in cooking to add flavour. The product works well with frying in a wok and can be used to add a little extra spice to fried rice.

Bonne Marman marmalade: (5/5) I love marmalade, so this was welcome.

Eisberg alcohol-free wine: (1/5) When I received the alcohol-free wine, I thought for sure this must be a mistake as Degustabox do an 'alcoholic' and 'non-alcoholic' box, and I signed up for the 'alcoholic' box. I'm not sure how I will use this as I do not really see the point in alcohol-free wine. I think this will be used for cooking, but it's sitting in my cupboard as I do not know what to do with it.

My verdict on Degustabox:

Although I did find a few nice products and one product that I have purchased since (as well as others that I would not mind purchasing again), I did not feel that it was value for money and some of the products were ones that I would never buy. Also, the past couple of boxes had repeated goods that I had previously received in the past six boxes, and some of these I was not keen on.

Ultimately, I cancelled my subscription so that it would not renew. I was also not happy with the way my response (criticism) about the December box was handled by Degustabox. I felt that they did not try to or care to keep my custom.

I think I expected something better for December's box as I was already greatly disappointed with November's box. November's and December's boxes were the weakest. (Now that my subscription has ended and many were upset, I do hope that they have made improvements. The January 2015 box is out now, and I've peeked at the contents and I'm quite happy to have ubsubscribed as I wouldn't have used a lot of those items this month.)

Do you subscribe to Degustabox? Let me know what you think!

After our visit and a lunch break at Bushmills Distillery along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, we drove down the road and stopped off at Dunluce Castle. The location of the castle has been fortified for many years, and it was the location of a fort before a castle was built on the site in medieval times. This castle is also used in the television series "Game of Thrones", so you may recognise it from that.

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The current castle dates between the 15th and 17th centuries; the family (McQuillans) who owned the castle controlled the sea and region of north Ulster. Some of the stones from Giant's Causeway have been used in the building of the castle. 

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The castle was taken by the MacDonnell family in the late 1500s, and many Scottish settlers lived there. During the Irish rebellion in 1641, the castle was taken over and the town of Dunluce was burnt to the ground. The castle was completely abandoned in the 1680s, and this is why the town no longer exists. 

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Dunluce village was a busy 17th century village located just outside of Dunluce Castle. There is no visibility of that village now as it has been covered by fields. The car park for the castle was once the centre of the town (the diamond). Archeological finds from the village are on display in the castle.

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The inner ward area of the castle is across a small bridge. The entrance building and some ruins around it that lead to the bridge form the outer ward. A pathway leads underneath the bridge to go down to the sea.

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View while crossing the bridge

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Columns near southeast tower

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Manor House

The castle is built on steep rocky hills on the sea. A rumour about the castle is that the kitchen fell into the sea in the mid-1600s, and the castle was abandoned afterwards. Part of the castle did fall into the sea, but information boards at the castle claimed that it was unlikely that the part of the castle that fell into the sea was the kitchen.

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Upper ward

The sea cliffs and caves around and limestone under the waves creates a unique sea environment. Basking sharks or dolphins are meant to be seen if one is lucky, but we did not see any on our visit.

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Sea views from castle

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After enjoying a look around the ruins, we left the castle and admired the views from the adjoining hillside. 

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There are a few picturesque points to get a photograph of the castle from. We were fairly lucky with the weather as we did not have rain, and we did not have to contend with large groups of others visiting the castle.

The quiet town of Ballycastle is where we stayed for the night along the Causeway Coast after our visit to the Dark Hedges. We ate dinner at The Diamond Bar; this is located in the town square (or diamond, as they are known in Ireland) and afterwards walked down Quay Street, a leafy street with large Victorian houses. This street led down to the harbour where we enjoyed views and walked onto the sandy beach. I found some pretty shells and rocks.

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Ballycastle, visited by Vikings and others from the sea in old times, became a popular and thriving town in the industrial age. Coal mining, salt, soap, glass, and bleach works (linen) were produced here as well as other items.

Ballycastle is only one of two locations in Northern Ireland for coal mining, and it is believed to have begun in the 1400s and stopped in the 1950s. The company had houses constructed for the miners, and the coal was exported to Dublin by boat. To attract men to the area to the mines to work, the owner actually bought large supplies of grain to make bread and offered loaves to his workers for half the price. 

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Ballycastle

The next day, we visited Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant's Causeway before arriving at Bushmills Distillery. Bushmills Distillery, located in Bushmills along Giant's Coastal Causeway, is the oldest distillery in the world. The company is owned by Diageo, who also make the drink Bailey's Irish Cream. Whiskey is distilled here, and they operate tours of the distillery as well as having a restaurant and gift shop on location. We had lunch at the restaurant while we waited for our tour.

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Bushmills Distillery

We took a tour of the distillery, but photographs were not allowed. We saw the entire process of the whiskey production from grain to liquid/vapour to heating and then bottling. The bottling and packaging was the most interesting as we could watch the bottles be filled, labelled, sealed, and packaged into boxes by smart conveyor belts and machinery that would push the bottles into certain areas and line them up for boxing and wrapping.

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Bushmills Distillery

We were also shown to a room where we could see the effect that the wooden barrel has on the taste and colour of the whiskey. Barrels are reused after they contain other alcoholic drinks, and each type of wood produces a different taste. One display also showed different lengths of time of whiskey in a see-through barrel. As the years progressed, the whiskey in the barrel became less because it does still evaporate. This is why older whiskey is a little more expensive.

After our tour, we met in the bar and were given our vouchers for a free glass of whiskey. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to locate any photographs of our whiskey glasses. I had one of the easy-going selections, and we also received mini bottles of honey whiskey for free.

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Bushmills

After the visit to Bushmills, we drove down the Causeway Coastal Route to stop off at Dunluce Castle.

Over this weekend, all sixty of the "Year of the Bus" charity art sculptures were on display in the Olympic Park so that they could be seen by the public before being auctioned off for charity. I tracked them all down on their trails last autumn, except I never got to get to see the ones in Croydon as they were only there for about a month over December. My original post with the London "Year of the Bus" bus art sculptures is here: London Bus Art Sculptures Celebrate 2014 'Year of the Bus'.

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All sixty of the buses were on display with views of the Olympic stadiums and the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the background, and I went down earlier today to see them all. I got to see all of the buses that I had previously seen on the trails, and I also got to see all of the Croydon ones.

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The Croydon trail also had some real gems, so I was happy to get to see these.

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Diversity - Croydon BID

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The Library - Year of the Bus

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Pearl - Year of the Bus, Surrey Street Market - Year of the Bus, Trammin' - Berkeley Homes, Poppy the Party Bus - Centrale Shopping Centre, Flower Fairies - Whitgift Shopping Centre, The '75 Crocous Valley - Berkeley Homes

I really liked the bus with the crocus flowers; most of the above images are of the buses that were in Croydon.

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Croydon Layers

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Magic Bus Magic Carpet

The other one I liked was the tiled "Magic Bus Magic Carpet", which was also in Croydon.

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Of course, I got some photographs of some of the old gems in front of the Olympic Stadium, such as the Kath Kidston sculpture.

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Jungle Bus and Moquette (Whitgift Shopping Centre)

A couple of the buses at the Olympic Park were currently being painted, such as the "60 Years" bus, which I caught in progress.

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In addition to the bus sculptures, a new Routemaster bus was also on display, and people could board it. These buses were launched last year. The "Battle Bus", dating from 1914, was also on display and could be boarded. This bus took soldiers to the front in World War I and was in Belgium and France.

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Battle Bus (1914)

Did you visit the Olympic Park at the weekend and catch a glimpse of all sixty buses?

UK 2015 Glossybox Review: January

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Glossybox is a monthly beauty and skincare subscription box. The January 2015's Glossybox theme was "Fresh Start" and included five full-size items. My box arrived in the middle of the month. As well as the five full-size items, subscribers received another HelloFresh coupon, which I will not use. They included one of these a few months ago, and I did check the product out but it isn't for me. On to the reviews...

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January 2015 Glossybox

MeMeMe eye line pencil in clay: This is a British brand, and the eye liner pencil is described as being soft and in a shade (clay) that suits all eye colours. I did not find the pencil as soft as I'd have liked, but I did like the colour.

Nicka K New York Colorluxe Powder Blush: I'm happy to receive this product as I have needed a new blusher for awhile. This loose powder blush comes in an applicator powder pot for easy application. I do like the colour, even though it's a little dark, but the applicator comes out quite thickly. I'm also not sure why extra money was spent on the mirror on the lid as this is too small to actually test your application of the product. I did not find it useful.

Jelly Pong Pong All Over Glow: This product is a brightening gel and can be used on the brow bones and cheekbones to create a glow. I was not sure about this product's results as the product does seem to be a bit dark and super-shiny for me, but I love the packaging.

Kueshi Natural & Pleasant Cosmetics Face Toner: This pink product is a facial toner thats purpose is to rehydrate skin. This product has a pleasant scent, but I have not used it long enough to see results.

Naked Lips Organic Lip Balm Superfruits: This is a clear moisturising lip balm that has a slight superfruit taste/smell, which I wasn't really that keen on. However, it made my lips feel soft and hydrated, and it comes in a small easy-to-carry tube.

What did you think of the Glossybox January 2015 box? I thought that it was a good box, and I preferred it to last month's.

Street Art: Borondo

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Spanish artist Borondo (Borondo Narcissus) had been painting the streets regularly in London early last year and the autumn of the previous year. His work, classical in style, often depicts portraits or figures. One of his common styles is to paint windows white and then etch his work into them, creating faces in the scratched-off paint. I like discovering work by this artist as it always looks fresh on the streets, yet it reminds me of classical paintings often seen in museums.

The large mural is painted off of Sclater Street and shows three entwined bodies.

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The white etching style is located on Shoreditch High Street in a bricked-up shop window.

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Other artwork has come and gone, and there were some real gems! Sadly, the work below has since disappeared.

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I've had this post waiting to be published for a few months but wanted to capture a couple of additional pieces by the artists, but I have so far been unable to.

One of my favourite pieces (a collaboration) for awhile was watching the evolution of a row of faces in a lot behind Brick Lane. These faces evolved and other artists contributed. At one point, the whole wall displayed a different style of face!

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I would like to see Borondo come back to visit the UK and paint some more on London's streets.

Street: Ghost Bikes

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Ghost Bikes are memorials for cyclists who have been hit on the street. These memorials feature a bicycle painted white, and these bicycles are located near the spot where the person was hit. The memorials were first created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003. Now, they can be spotted all over the world.

Some of the ghost bikes have other information about the person who was hit, and some contain flowers and messages left by friends and families.

I've recently spotted one of these ghost bikes in London on Commercial Road. I also read about them before, as I discovered several paste-ups of a portrait in Shoreditch. The portrait was named "Andrew", and I discovered many of these around. After doing some research, I discovered that Andrew was a reference to one man (Andrew Hull) who had been killed in an accident while riding his bicycle. More about this and the paste-ups can be read here: http://ghostbikes.org/london/andrew-hull

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Ghost bike

The above ghost bike was discovered on Commercial Road near a flat I stayed in for a week in early 2013. It is a memorial for a sandwich worker, Javad Sumbal, who was hit at the end of 2012 on his way from Stepney to Shadwell to the deli. His work colleagues painted the bicycle white and placed it at the junction where he was hit. 

#JeSuisCharlie (Je Suis Charlie) Street Art

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A couple of weeks ago, the world watched as a group of radical terrorists murdered a group of employees (cartoonists) at a Paris publication, known as Charlie Hebdo. Those murdered were at their desk and doing their jobs - creating and drawing publications to sell to pay off their mortgages and create a living doing what they enjoy. The controversial drawing outraged a group in society, and I am not going to judge that what they did was right or wrong. However, a disagreement (about beliefs or something that someone is passionate about) is still not a reason to commit murder. Worldwide, this terrible ordeal touched many. A lot of love went out in understanding that the killers are trying to oppress the freedom of speech and instill fear in society. 

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Pure Evil

In the days following this tragedy, London's street artists took to the streets to show their support for "freedom of speech". The words "Je Suis Charlie" (translated to "I am Charlie") were seen everywhere. Popular London artist Pure Evil updated his mural on scaffolding across the street from his shop on Leonard Street to read "Crayons are mightier than bullets #JeSuisCharlie".

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Other works were in progress...

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Meanwhile, well-wishers wrote various words of encouragement on the steel hoardings in the middle of Brick Lane.

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Grafitti Life

'Grafitti Life' added a mural with a gun, encouraging a stop to violence and killing. 

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Furia

However, not all locals in the diverse area of Brick Lane were happy with this 'campaign'. Furia painted one of his popular portraits on a wooden wall near Brick Street with the phrase "Je Suis Charlie", but this was promptly and crudely painted over within a day or two.

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Je Suis Charlie

Also, the nice bakery on Brick Lane that I wrote about a few months ago that sells the delicious brownies and pastries (The Antishop) was in the press because the owner claimed that he was threatened by a local. I am surprised because this is London and this area of London is the most diverse in Europe, if not the most diverse in the world.

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Freedom of Speech

While I cannot judge the publication on their choice of media to print and ridicule, murder is not acceptable. The world is already a horrible enough place without instilling fear and murdering those that you do not agree with. The purpose of this post is simply to show the response of this tragedy through the eyes of street art.

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