A couple of months ago, I came across the company Philosophy by noticing some nice package designs for their combination (shampoo, shower gel, bubble bath) products. The design of the product is minimal and consists of simple black typography and the colour of the actual product through the clear plastic bottle.

The name (scent) of the product is followed by a receipe. For example, coconut frosting, pumpkin icing, and cinnamon buns are three of the scents for their bath products, and each contains a recipe for an edible version of the product. (I can also vouch for the products as they smell delicious and lather up well.)

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Drinks also feature in the range of scents for the bath products, such as melon daiquiri and margarita. Both of these also contain recipes for creating the drink. In addition, the brand sells  non-food scents, and the text underneath is an inspirational message instead of a recipe.

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Some of the products can be purchased as a gift set with the bath product and lip gloss. 

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This minimalist branding with the typography works well. The company was even brave enough to leave its brand name off of the product.

Reka One's "Keep Calm and Carry On" Mural

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Street artist Reka One completed a new mural on Chance Street. The mural was finished in the middle of September and is located on the side of a building, replacing a previous mural by the artist, which I covered here. The mural is titled "Keep Calm and Carry On".

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Street Art: David Selor

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David Selor is a street artist from France. This summer, he visited London and left behind several paintings on walls featuring his dog-like character and witty or thought-provoking slogans. I have photographed and added to this post all of his work that I have managed to come across in the past few weeks. Some of these no longer exist now as London's walls are always evolving.

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Visit David Selor's blog here: http://david-selor.blogspot.co.uk

Visit his Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidselor/

Street Art: Roes (SmileMaker)

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This summer, Hong Kong street artist Roes (SmileMaker) visited London and left behind several colourful walls. The artworks encourage the viewer to smile. I located several and photographed them for you to view here. Many of these have since been painted over. Roes visited during the "Meeting of the Styles" event at the end of June.

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What is your favourite mural by Roes (SmileMaker) in London? I like the business man on the wooden rocking horse because it makes me laugh. The large party boy with the pig mask is also funny. I actually saw the artist painting the business man on the rocking horse.

UK 2014 Birchbox Reviews: November

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My November subscription box Birchbox arrived at the end of last week, and the month's theme is "Cozy at Home". Birchbox is a monthly subscription box that brings sample size (and occassionally full size) beauty products to subscribers. As the colder, darker, and rainy weather hits the UK, the theme of the box is perfect for this month. 

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The box contained a wintery "I'm staying in and binge-watching" card that subscribers were encouraged to fill out and post on social media. As the holidays are quickly approaching, I put "It's a Wonderful Life." This is one of my favourite films.

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The November box contains a couple of full-size items along with the samples, so there are six items in total. The full size items are OPI nail polish and a Dr. Jart+ skin care product. I have used OPI nail polish before and own a couple of bottles of it, but Dr. Jart+ was new to me.

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OPI nail polish in 'Turn on the Haute Light': The different shades of nail polish available in the Birchboxes this month were from the brand's Coca-Cola range. I am extremely happy with the silver colour that I received. The other two options were red and purple. OPI nail polishes are always good quality, and this only took one coat, and it has a shimmer to it. The product also dried quickly. Overall, I like this product, and it is a win for me.

Beauty Protector 'Protect & Detangle' for hair: This product promises to detangle and de-frizz hair as well as to add shine. This does seem to do the trick and made my hair feel soft.

Lord & Berry mini bronzer in sienna: I have only used bronzer once or twice, so it's not a product that I would use normally. However, I cannot fault the product as it is a nice colour and easier to apply than my current bronzer.

English Laundry 'Signature for Her' perfume: This perfume is described as having floral and musk notes, and I think it has a coconut smell. I love perfume, so I was happy to receive this. The scent is also similar as one brand of perfume that I used to use that has since been discontinued. The perfume that was discontinued is in the range Harajuku, which I covered here: Design Review: Harajuku Perfume). 

Dr. Jart+ V7 Turnover Booster: This serum is described as boosting skin's radiance. The gel is quickly absorbed into skin. I have only used it every day for a few days now, so I cannot vouch for the effectiveness of the product. I am always a little skeptical of anti-aging skincare products.

Drinkwel: This product can be used to help recover after having a night of drinking. I am not sure when I will use these.

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Overall, I am happy with this box. I have been a subscriber of Birchbox since June, and some of my past reviews are here: UK 2014 Birchbox Reviews: OctoberUK 2014 Birchbox Reviews: September, and UK 'Love Me Beauty' box reviews: July, August, September.

Carrickfergus Castle

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Carrickfergus Castle in located in Northern Ireland on the western coast. It was out final sight to see for the day after we had spent the majority of our time wandering around Ulster Folk Park and Transport Museum. The castle is located on the edge of water (Belfast Lough) and a small harbour nearby. The castle was built in three stages; the first stage was built in the 1170s. It is one of the best-preserved Norman castles and was also used in World War II.

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In 1210, King John of England conquered the castle and claimed it. Over the years, it was influenced by the English and built upon further to contain a chapel and other battlements. The Scots also conquered the castle. It was even invaded by the French in the mid-1700s, and they looted the castle and town before they were later caught by the Royal Navy.

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The castle was used as a prison in the Napoleonic Wars, and it was later used as an armoury and then an air raid shelter in World War II. After the castle was regarded as a national historic monument, any additions created in modern times were removed and the Great Hall and other areas were transformed into what the castle would like like in medieval times. Recent excavations this spring have turned up several historical finds related to the castle, including a tunnel that went to the Great Hall and other pieces of the old walls. Pieces of pottery and buttons were recovered. 

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Interior of castle

The interior of the keep has been redecorated to show what it would have looked like in medieval times. This is where King John would have stayed. It is the largest room at the top of the keep with a large window for natural light and a large fireplace. There's a large chess board on the floor and other games that can be played here, and there's also mock weapons and armour.

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Room at the top of the keep

There is also a cellar and a well in the keep. The well can actually be used from the ground floor, but you can also glimpse it in the cellar below.

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Cellar and well

We also got to see the latrine that the king would have used and the Great Hall. There was even a mannequin of King John on the toilet. Outside in the ward, we saw cannons and some of the cannons had the English rose emblem. Apparently these cannons with the emblem on them are rare.

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Latrine, Great Hall, and English rose emblem on cannon

There were battlements all around, including this small room/tower that faced out over the water that allowed archers to have a look at three sides and shoot arrows at enemies approaching.

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Archer in tower over sea

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Battlements

One of the areas of the castle holds an oubilette (jail). The jail does not have a door, but there's a window and it is located over the water. Prisoners were thrown in from the trapdoor above, and this is also where their food was thrown in. There was one prisioner who is said to have escaped through the window.

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Oubilette

Some of the battlements can be walked on by visitors today, and there are some decent views over the harbour.

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Views of the harbour in Carrickfergus

This autumn, nearly fifty painted bus charity sculptures have appeared in London's streets to celebrate 2014 as the Year of the Bus. The bus sculptures started to appear at the end of October and will remain in their locations until early December. The buses have been brought to London by the London Transport Musuem (and Wild in Art, the company responsible for many of the charity art sculpture trails) to raise money for charities.

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Stephen McKay - London Telephone Bus

I spent a couple of lunch breaks and had trips up to London at the weekend in order to track down this bus art sculptures across London! I am showing my favourites here.

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Sian Storey - Swinging London

The Year of the Bus celebrates London's iconic red buses. This year marks the anniversaries of different types of buses, and a hundred years have passed since the first motor bus, which carried soldiers in 1914. This year also marked the introduction of the new Routemaster buses, which I saw unveiled at the London Transport Museum three years ago, to London's streets. 

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Mandii Pope - Buckingham Palace Bus

Four main trails for the bus sculptures included the Olympic Park, City of London, River (around London Bridge), and Westminster/Soho.

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Beth Quinton - Moquette

The Great War was a theme common for some of the buses. Another bus was decoated like Buckingham Palace, and another was painted to look like a row of telephone boxes.

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Crispin Finn - Ding! Ding!

I honestly cannot pick a favourite bus art design! There were so many that Ioved, and the bus is a great canvas. More photographs are below.

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Sarah Jane Grace - Poppy Fields

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Cath Kidston

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Damien Jeffery - Rock 'n' Royal

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Kristel Pillkhan - Spectrum

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Jane Callan - Brollybus

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Mini Moderns - Push Once

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Srokowski Design - Invisible to the Environment

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A large selection of buses

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Michelle Heron - Tower Bridge Bus

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Detail from 'Travels with Edward' by Valerie Osment

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Jenny Leonard - Lord Mayor of the City of Westminster bus

These are not all of the buses on display at the moment. Another trail of buses will appear on London's streets before Christmas, and word has it that it will be based in Croydon. I believe that the bus art sculptures will be auctioned off in January.

In the middle of October, the bloke and I made our way to Millbank Tower along the river Thames in London for a date night. Millbank Tower is just down the river from the Tate gallery and is not far from Westminster; the tower is 118 meters tall. I had made a reservation in advance, and this included enjoying the views over London whilst sipping on a cocktail at Altitude London's Sky Bar, Skyloft (the bar/restaurant at the top of Millbank Tower) and a film in their ground floor cinema.

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Skyloft

We went straight to the venue after work and were told to get the lift up, which we did. We arrived at Skyloft with an impressive view of west London all around us. We were the first to arrive, so we got the drinks order in quickly. I already knew, from the menu that I read online, that the Millbank Melon was the cocktail for me. I love melon cocktails. This one contained coconut and melon rum, pineapple juice and orange juice. 

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Cocktails at Millbank 

However, I was worried that it would taste a little too much like rum, so I had a bellini. My partner had the Long Island (vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and Cola).

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Cocktail

The cocktail was nice and fruity. I sipped it in between taking a load of photographs of London, and we got to watch a beautiful pink-purple sunset appear as dusk fell over the city.

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Views of Westminster

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Looking toward the City

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Looking toward Battersea

I went around to the different windows and got photographs over Westminster, the City, and Battersea. I could make out all of the landmarks, and the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus could also be seen as the light faded.

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Skyloft bar

The bar area expands a good portion of the open plan room. One side is for the bar, and the other side is set up for a restaurant. I was able to get many photographs because the restaurant was empty, and the bar was empty as well. However, the bar did get busier as the time progressed due to others arriving to see the same film.

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I liked the brickwork and the decor of the bar area with couches and chairs set up near the windows, each with trendy pillows on them. I've wanted a Union Jack pillow for some time.

After polishing off the first cocktails, I ordered a second one. I actually got two because I was not sure which one to try. In the end, I decided to try the Millbank Melon, and it was lovely. I got the Raspmopolitan, which is a Cosmopolitan with raspberry vodka. I love raspberry vodka with cranberry juice. It also had Cointreau in it, and it was a little too strong. The bellini and melon were my favourites. 

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As we had just come from work, we decided to get dinner here. I did not have any lunch due to being swamped at work, so we both ordered burgers (sliders) from the restaurant menu. We still had to sit in the bar area, as the restaurant was fully booked. The restaurant actually has the nicest views as the windows face west London. I had the chicken slider, and this came with chips. This was just enough for me.

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Chicken slider and cocktails

I got several photographs of London as the lights were starting to come on.

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After we had finished eating and admiring the views, we got the lifts back down to the ground floor where the film was being shown. The deal came with free popcorn each, so I collected our popcorn and ordered a couple additional drinks before we were ushered into the cinema. 

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Popcorn

The film for the evening was "What If", starring Daniel Radcliffe, and it was released last year. The film is set in Toronto and follows the complicated relationship between Radcliffe's character and the lead female character (Zoe Kazan) from the beginning of their friendship. 

Overall, it was a fun night out, and we walked all the way from Millbank Tower to Waterloo, dodging tourists at Westminster and Big Ben. Walking around London in the evening when there's not quite so many people is much more bearable, and there's something charming about London at dusk and in the evening. 

Have you been to the Millbank Tower for cocktails or a film or food? What did you think?

"Art of the Brick" Lego Exhibition

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A couple of weeks ago, a few friends and I went to the "Art of the Brick" Lego exhibition at the Truman Brewery near Brick Lane. I work opposite the exhibition, and it was particularly popular during half-term week and has brought many more people to that area of east London. My friends and I all appreciate the Lego brick, so this was a great chance for an excuse to meet up.

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The exhibition features over eighty different sculptures made from Lego bricks by New York artist Nathan Sawaya. The exhibition is located in the middle of Brick Lane at Dray's Walk. 

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After watching a short video about the artist and the creative process, we entered the first room, which contained famous classic statues made out of Lego bricks, such as these two below: Julius Caesar and "The Thinker". 

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From here, the exhibition changed direction and displayed famous paintings created from Lego bricks. The light and shade was created by using different Lego bricks, in some instances. In others, the Lego bricks created their own depth to create the artwork on canvas. The square/rectangular bricks were primarily used in their different colours, but certain key features could be swapped with a special Lego shape, such as in the artwork of "The Girl with a Pearl Earring" below. My favourite work was the wave as this was a dimensional piece with some of the bricks layered to create a three-dimensional effect.

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Some of these sculptures took days or months to finish, and the information about each was displayed to us. This included the time it took to build each piece and the approximate number of Lego bricks to create the piece.

The next room we went to had everyday objects made from Lego, and another room showed a swimmer, created with some Lego bricks, light/reflection, and imagination to allow our minds to complete the remainder of the artwork. This was cleverly constructed but not easy to photograph.

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The following several rooms of the exhibiton primarily showed the human figure and the artist's relationship to it through a variety of themes. The sculptures were created with one primary colour of brick. Well-constructed pieces included the image above, with the three figures with shapes for heads and the portraits below. The artist's portrait is the blue one, and his female friend modeled for the red one. The yellow one is less-defined and is meant to represent everyone else.

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Two of the most clever pieces are the yellow figure featured at the top of my post, with Lego bricks inside and this fractured blue man. Each piece represented a different emotional state, and some of these states are included in the artist's own suffering and personal experiences, according to the information boards scattered around the exhibition.

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A massive dinosaur skeleton broke up the exhibition area. The artist was inspired to create this for the children who came to visit the exhibition. Children love Lego as much as adults, but several of the themes in the exhibition are primarily directed toward adults. The dinosaur provided an element of fun, and I could see this being popular with children.

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More emotional and psychological states of human figures followed.

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I also saw the artist's signature on one of the large Lego sculptures and photographed it.

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The last couple of rooms dealt with popular culture, and several portraits of singers (all made from Lego) graced the walls. The next room featured British icons, such as the red telephone box and a "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster, made with some unique pieces of Lego for the intricate bits.

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To showcase Britain as the home of popular music, the boy band One Direction had a prime location. All of the members of the band were constructed from Lego. This represents today's music.

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Next to One Direction features the Beatles. The construction is fairly good as I could pick out the different Beatles based on the shape of the head and 'face' features.

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I was glad that the exhibition was not as bad as I was expecting, as I had read some poor reviews of it. (I had booked tickets before it opened.) Of course, it was a great excuse to hang out with friends, and we visited Kingsland Road afterwards to eat at one of the many Vietnamese restaurants there. We'd done this previously (just over a year ago) and really enjoyed it.

My only qualm about the exhibition was the cost of the items for sale in the shop at the end. Two pounds and fifty pence for a postcard is extremely steep, even when considering London prices. I also felt that the exhibition was a little costly compared to other events, though I can imagine that the cost of the Lego and transportation is part of the reason for this.

Overall, it was a good evening out. I'd recommend this exhibit to those who appreciate artwork and creating artwork from Lego bricks. There are a couple of gems, and there are some clever creations using Lego. I was impressed that the artist managed to show emotion in some of the sculptures, using just Lego bricks.

The exhibition is being shown off Brick Lane until January 4th, so there's still time to catch it. I recommend to book in advance.

London's Postman's Park

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This scenic space of green park, quite a rarity within the square mile of London, was named after postmen from the General Post Office who used to take their lunch here. These days, City workers use it during their lunch breaks and the odd tourist can also be spotted here.

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The park used to be a cemetary, and London had a lack of space to bury its dead. (Bodies would be piled on top of the ground with thin layers of soil placed on top of them, and sometimes the bodies would be cut up to take up less room.) London's lack of grave space became a major problem until graveyards further afield were open. At this time, Postman's Park became a park. Gravestones can still be seen in the park area.

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The park was used as a setting in the 2004 film "Closer", starring Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, and Jude Law. One of the key elements of the film was taken from this park with one of the characters choosing their identity from one of the names in one of the memorial plaques.

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On one side of the park is a memorial wall. The memorial wall is known as G.F. Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. The wall was unveiled in 1900 and was conceived and undertaken by Victorian artist George Frederic Watts. The wall contains plaques dedicated to those who lost their lives trying to save one another. According to the plaque about the memorial in the park, Watts believed that these "everyday" heroes were models of great behaviour and character. The plaque ends with the quote:

"The material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession; the deeds of its people are" - G.F. Watts

Underneath is an excerpt from the Bible, John 15:13:

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

 The wall was proposed as a way to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee Year as Watts wrote in to a newspaper in 1887.

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Here are just a few.

Sarah Smith: Pantomime Artist. January 24, 1864. Died of terrible injuries when attempting in her inflammable dress to extinguish the flames that enveloped her companion.

Arthur Regelous Carman ("Little Peter") aged 25, who with Alice Maud Denman, aged 27, died trying to save her children from a burning house in Bethnal Green. April 20, 1902.

Arthur Strange, carman of London, and Mark Tomlinson. August 25, 1902. On a desperate venture to save two girls from a quicksand in Lincolnshire were themselves engulfed.

Henry James Bristow, aged 8, at Walhamstow. December 30, 1890 - saved his little sister's life by tearing off her faming clothes but caught fire himself and died of burns and shock.

Joseph William Onslow, lighterman, who was drowned at Wapping on May 5, 1885, trying to save a boy's life.

David Selves, aged 12, off Woolwich supported his drowning playfellow and sank with him clasped in his arms. September 12, 1886.

Ernest Benning, composer aged 22. Upset from a boat one dark night off Pimlico Pier. Grasped an oar with one hand supporting a woman with the other but sank as she was rescued. August 25, 1883.

Thomas Simpson. January 25, 1885. Died of exhaustion after saving many lives from the breaking ice at Highgate Ponds.

Richard Farris, labourer. May 20, 1878. Drowned in attempting to save a poor girl who had thrown herself into the canal at Globe Bridge Peckham.

George Lee, fireman. At a fire in Clerkenwell carried an unconscious girl to the escape falling six times and died of his injuries. July 26, 1876.

William Drake. April 2, 1869. Lost his life in averting a serious accident to a lady in Hyde Park whose horses were unmanageable through the breaking of the carriage pole.

For more information about Postman's Park memorial, visit the website: http://postmanspark.org.uk 

An app (available for iOS and Andriod mobile devices) can also be downloaded where visitors to Postman's Park can view more information about those who will never be forgotten by sacrificing themselves.

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