Halloween is on its way, but it feels as if we only just celebrated Halloween. This week, I paid a visit to the Corinthia Hotel for Halloween-themed afternoon tea. This was only available for the week leading up to Halloween. I last visited the Corinthia for afternoon tea last Christmas (Festive Afternoon Tea at Corintha). 

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The Corintha Hotel was decorated with pumpkins, autumn gourds and squash, and various autumn-coloured flowers and berries. The Lobby Lounge, where the teas are served at the hotel, also had a massive autumn display with pumpkins and autumnal flowers underneath the gorgeous dome light.

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We were seated and ordered our champagne and sandwiches. Unfortunately, I was not completely up for the afternoon tea experience as I've had a nasty cold all week and I was feeling particularly ill yeaterday evening when we had the afternoon tea. I actually feel worse today. The cold has affected my tastebuds, which is really frustrating, so I am not able to really comment on the selection of food and my preferences as to which items were my favourites.

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I had an old-fashioned tea from 1921 called "Bert Firman" and later switched to the standard English Breakfast. We received two fruit scones and two plain scones with rapsberry and strawberry jam and clotted cream.

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We made a start on our Halloween pastry selection, which included eight different items.

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The following Halloween treats were provided.

  • Wraith: Cookie crumble cupcake with roasted vanilla ganache.
  • Jeepers Creepers: Chocolate mousse, burnt orange marmalade
  • Frankenstein: chocolate mint macaroon
  • Trick or Treat: Pumpkin custard tart with nutmeg chantilly
  • Hocus Pocus: Lemon cream, digestive crumbles, toasted Italian meringue
  • Devilish Disguise: Pistachio chantilly, white chocolate
  • Mausoleum: Chocolate sable biscuit with raspberry jam
  • The Haunting: Crispy Choux, Cappuccino chocolate

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I'm not fond of cappuccino or coffee, so I did not care for that one. The pumpkin tart was nice, and the pistachio treat was also nice. I liked the crispy base. I was unable to taste the mint in the macaroon, and the others I could not really enjoy because of this stinking cold.

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I loved the design of the pastries.

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Happy Halloween to my readers!

Apple Day at Borough Market

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This Sunday was Apple Day at Borough Market. Those who know in "real life" know that I grew up on a farm that is well-known for its apple orchard, and I spent a lot of time picking and selling apples at the farm market and farmers' markets around the area when I was younger. When I heard about this, I decided to pop up to London to Borough Market to see it. 

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Apple Day apples - with juice and pears

Apple Day is celebrated in England in October, and the first Apple Day was held in 1990 in Covent Garden. Apple Day celebrates the apples and those that grow and harvest them. The day is celebrated in various locations in the UK, and a typical day may involve apple-related games, cooking demonstrations, apple varieties, apple juice and (alcoholic) cider.

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Apple Day

Apple Day at Borough Market promised a service from Southwark Cathedral choir, Morris dancing, The Lions Part theatre group performance, apple-peeling competition, apple tasting of different varieties, apple demonstration and pressing, and the execution of John Barleycorn (a symbol of the harvest).

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Apple variety tea towel

Many old traditions surround the apple. For example, the "apple wassail" was recorded as taking place in southern England. The "apple wassail" was a form of blessing for the trees for a good apple crop in the next year, and it was held on the Twelfth Night (twelve days after Christmas and the end of the Christmas festivities). Men would go out and howl (wassail) amongst the apple trees and tie bread to the trunk and branches of the apple trees and pour cider underneath the tree. In Somerset, they celebrated the "Apple Tree Man", which is the name given to the spirit of the oldest tree in the orchard. (For more information about the "apple wassail", see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Wassail)

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Borough Market bell

I arrived before noon on the Sunday. Borough Market is not usually open on Sundays, but it was in order to celebrate Apple Day. However, not all of the vendors were open for business, and it was already busy. I noticed that many tourists were wandering around, and a lot of families were visiting the market. I watched a man ring the bell, signaling the start of the trading.

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Pumpkins

In addition to apples and the normal fruit and vegetables, Borough Market's fruit and vegetable vendors were selling pumpkins and large squash.

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Apples were decorating the stalls of some of the vendors as well, such as a cheese vendor and a chocolate vendor.

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Halloween-themed snacks also seemed to be popular. Cinnamon Tree Bakery was selling cinnamon and sugar biscuits and skull-shaped shortbread. Soul cakes (a cake made with spices and dried fruit) were meant to be on sale, but I did not see any. Their tradition goes back to Halloween.

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Cider and mulled apple juice

Of course, hot mulled apple cider and ice cold apple cider was for sale. For those who do not enjoy the alcoholic variety, mulled apple juice was also for sale. I had this, and it hit the spot on a chilly day in late October.

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Southwark Cathedral service

An area of Borough Market was sectioned off, and Southwark Cathedral had their service for Apple Day at the market. There was singing and gifts for the church and a service, but I could not really hear much of it. The area sectioned off was right underneath the railway bridge with trains crossing on the metal bridge over our heads every couple of minutes.

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A bell-ringer rings a bell and the procession follows behind

After the service, I went to explore the market, and I caught the procession of the Corn Queen and Berry Man (who goes by many names, including John Barleycorn or the Green Man) and many others through Borough Market. John Barleycorn represents the personified grain harvest and output of the crops (bread, alcohol, etc). The story and character probably comes from pagan beliefs about the harvest, which were then taken into Christianity to help the conversion of pagans. In the folk song, John Barleycorn is executed (plouged and harvested) so that bread and alcohol can be made from him for people to live, and this has similarities with Christain beliefs. (More about John Barleycorn can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barleycorn)

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John Barleycorn

Other figures share the stage with John Barleycorn and the Corn Queen. During the parade, corn dollies were also present and paraded through the market. These represent the spirit of corn, who lived in the fields until the harvest. These corn dollies were idols created to give the spirit a home until the spring. The person who cut the last of the crop would bring it home, drench it in water, and the oldest married woman would turn it into a shape of a woman.  In some places, the idol was dressed in a woman's clothes and called the "Corn Mother" or "Old Woman". The best parts of the grain are turned into a wreath and worn on the head of the prettiest girl, and the corn dolly is the centre of the festivities. (More about corn dollies can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_dolly)

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Corn Queen

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John Barleycorn and others, including Pomona (goddess of fruit trees)

Music accompanied the procession and after the talk at the stage area; I was unable to hear what was being said as the trains were traveling overhead. 

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Music

John Barleycorn was happy to have his photograph taken with many guests as he wandered around the market.

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John Barleycorn

After the procession, the morris dancers started to dance in the market. There was a large crowd to watch them. Morris dancing is a traditional style of folk dancing in England. It involves bells and hankerchiefs and ribbons. One of the dancers was dressed as a dog or a dog-like creature. I do not know the significance of this.

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Morris dancing

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Another glimpse of John Barleycorn walking through the crowds

I decided to stay for the play, "The Musicians of Bremen", which is based on stories in the Canterbury Tales. While I waited for this to begin, I watched one of the actors playing conkers with children and teaching them how to play the game. I do not understand the game myself, but it's basically an English game involving the conker. (In America, we call this nut the buckeye.) The conker is tied on a string, and the objective is to knock the opponent's conker off the string.

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Conkers

I saw a couple of the actors posing for photographs near the Corn Queen, but I am not sure who they represented. The woman is wearing antlers.

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The play, "The Musicians of Bremen", was performed by the theatre group, The Lions Part. This included the tortoise and hare and fox and hare with singing animals that begin a journey away from their farmer's land.

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The Musicians of Bremen

This was really for children, and one really had to be up at the front of the stage to hear as the trains overhead were noisey. This was fun, but I left in the tortoise and hare, and I think there was half an hour left to go. (I stayed for the first half of an hour, but my feet were tired and there weren't any seats.)

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"The Musicians of Bremen"

The most interesting part of the day for me was trying the different varities of apple on display. Many of these are extremely old and early apples. The seeds have been kept by Brogdale Horticulture Trust to conserve the different varities. They have 2300 apple types and 50 acres of orchards in Kent, England. There were several different varieites to try, but I was disappointed that the oldest known apple (originally brought from Rome) was not amongst them as I was led to believe from the Borough Market website, and they did not really have as large as a selection either.

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Apple tasting

At the bottom of this post is a list of most of the apples on display for tasting. The oldest apples were much smaller than the apples of today, and some of the apples did not have much taste. Many of the apples had softer flesh and were not as crisp. (I like a crisp apple and generally I dislike soft fruits such as plums and pears.) The performers were cutting and handing out the slices and admited that they did not know much about the apples. This would have been better if they did know about the apples or if a farmer was present to discuss them.

Information sheets were located around the bags of apples, so I photographed as many as I could, and this is how I correlated the list of varities at the bottom of this post. 

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Apple pressing

After the apple tasting, I watched apple pressing and took some more photographs of apples. The apple pressing was held at a stall that was selling London apple juice. This is a part of the London Orchard Project, which was set up in 2008 to help city people understand and sustain apples and learn how to make juice. It is a community orchard.

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Toffee apple

I bought some apple juice and a candy (toffee) apple. The toffee apple tasted spicy. I said my "goodbyes" to Borough Market!

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Borough Market

Have you been to Apple Day? Most of the varities available for the tasting are included below.

Api Noir: A 1700s French apple, similar to the "Api" that was found in the Forest of Api of Brittany in 1628. The fruit is very small (a little larger than a crabapple) and dark red in colour. It was popular for wiring into evergreens to make garlands and for floating onto Wassail cups. 

Hounslow Wonder: This apple variety was grown in Hounslow in 1910 and won an award of merit. It is a crisp apple with acid flavour.

Howgate Wonder. A  large cooking apple. 1915, Isle of Wight (England). Has a sweet taste but loses the taste when cooked. Keeps it shape well when cooked.

John Waterer: This variety was introduced in 1920 from Twyford, Berkshire. It cooks to a lemon-coloured froth. It is very tart in September but loses the acidity and froth as it ages.

Saint Edmund's Pippin (or Russet): Suffolk (England), 1875. Sweet, juicy, with dense texture. When it is very ripe, it tastes like "pear vanilla ice cream". The apple is yellow and brown in colour.

Striped Beefing: Norwich (England), 1794. Coarse-textured and juicy. This is described as a cooking apple.

Barchard's Seedling: Putney, London. 1856. Fruit is sweet and crisp.

Mobb's Royal: Australia, 1865. Described as a mid-late season cooking apple. It is pale green with very white flesh. Resistant to disease and keeps well.

Curltail: Surry, England, 1872. A cooking apple. Tender and sweet flesh. Named after the shape, which is enlarged at the stalk and curls around.

Greasy Pippin: An Irish apple, founded in 1951. Greasy fruit, but it is described as firm, sweet and juicy. It is green in colour.

Biggs' Nonsuch: Twickenham, England. Yellow, tender, and juicy flesh.

Shoreditch White: Somerset, England, 1884. Described as having a tender, yellowish flesh.

Knobby Russet: Sussex, England, 1820. Firm and dry with a strong flavour.

Tom Putt: Somerset, England, late 1700s. Crisp and juicy and is meant to cook well. Widely-used in the west coutnry and midlands for cider.

Golden Spire: A yellow-green apple from Lancashire, England in 1850. It is described as a crisp apple.

Queen Caroline: Leicestershire, England, 1820. Described as having a firm but loose-textured flesh. They have a yellow colour. It is a cooking apple used in October and November. Cooks to a creamy puree. (Named after queening or quoining, which is a term used for angular-shaped apples.)

Lynn's Pippin: Cambridge, England, 1942. It's a cross between Cox's Orange Pippin and Ellison's Orange variety. It is described as sweet, soft, and juicy but disappointing. Whatever that means.

Castle Major: A cooking apple for use in October and November. It has deep yellow skin with a reddish glow on the sunny side.

Bloody Ploughman: Gowrie, Scotland, 1883. Crisp and tender flesh and grows well in cold spots.  Large, red eating apple but is also good for applesauce. Mid-September. When ripe, it can darken to a deep purple colour and stores for three months.

London Pearmain: 1842. Crisp.

Chad's Favoruite: London, 1952. A large apple with an intense flavour.

Downton Pippin: hereford, England, 1861.

Marriage Maker: England, 1883. Creamy flesh.

Sops in Wine: Southwest England, 1832. A beautiful apple on a purple-red tree with red-purple blooms. The apple is red, and the flesh inside is red in colour. Used for eating and cooking. 

Brownlea's Russet: Hemel Hempstead, 1848.

Pitmaston Pineapple: Worcester (England), 1785. A dessert apple with a sugary flavour. 

Morris' Russet: Described as a sweet, medium-sized apple.

Mabutt's Pearmain: Kent, England in 19th century. A tender, juicy and freckled apple with a lot of flavour and is used up until Christmas.

Cellini: London, 1828. This was a popular London apple.

Every Christmas, I buy a small hoard of soaps, bath bombs, and bubble bars from the shop Lush. This year, the company seems to have done a little bit more with their marketing and ideas and have come up with some new scents and products. The Christmas products typically come out in October, and I noticed them in the shop last weekend. Not only did they have Christmas products, but Halloween and autumn products were also in the mix. Read on to find out more.

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Some old favourites were back in the Christmas display, such as the "Melting Snowman" bath melt, Santa bath bomb, star bath melt, star bubble bar wand, "Candy Mountain" bubble bar, and "Christmas Eve" bubble bar. In addition, these new products caught my eye.

Holly Go Lightly: I love the Breakfast At Tiffany's reference here as well as the glitter and holly design of the product. The product is actually green when crumbled into a bath, and it has cinnamon, orange, clove and lime fragrance.

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So White Bath Bomb: This very white bath bomb smells of delicious apple, and this is not a new product. It's possibly one of my favourite bath bombs.

Cinders Bath Bomb: This spicy cinnamon bath bomb contains popping candy to crackle in the water. I normally buy this one every year as it reminds me of crisp autumn evenings in the UK with November 5th (Guy Fawkes Day) around the corner. 

Penguin Bath Bar: This penguin sounds refreshing as its fragrance is of lemon and orange. 

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Dashing Santa Bath Bomb: Mandarin and orange. This smelled lovely, and I almost bought one.

Snow Angel Bath Melt: This bath melt is part bath bomb as well. It is similar in fragrance to the Snow Cake soap, which is my favourite Lush soap scent. It smells slightly of marzipan. (The snowglobe soap was a close second favourite of mine, but unfortunately they did not bring it back this year.)

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In addition to the bath bubble bars, melts, and bath bombs, a few new Christmas soaps appeared in Lush this year. My favourite is still the "Snow Cake" soap, so I did not purchase any of the others. 

Baked Alaska soap: This citrus-smelling soap uses bright colours, but the round ball-shaped and slightly blue hue with dim colours shining "through" looks like a snowball. It reminds me of seeing Christmas lights in the snow - either partially-covered or reflected. It's a very pretty product.

Reindeer Rock soap: This berry-scented dark red soap has imagery of reindeer etched on it.

Yog Nog soap: This is a creamy scent, and the soap has Christmas imagery (stars and pine trees) etched on it.

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Christmas Hedgehog bath bomb: (The light blue and white items in the above picture) These contain shea butter and cocao butter, and they are a little messy to pick up. Thankfully, though, they don't leave spikes in your hands. I was not really that into it.

Golden Wonder bath bom: (The square gold and white items in the above picture) These are also my favourites and the little gift box contains a colourful surprise when it's placed into the bath.  

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After buying four items (I was reserved this time) for the bath, we went to Cafe Rogue and had hot chocolate and more chocolate. I could not wait to try out my new Lush products as they smelled amazing. (My bathroom still smells nice.)

The last item that I will mention is new, and it's the "Sparkly Pumpkin". It does not smell spiced like a pumpkin (no cinnamon), but it is a light floral scent. (It's actually grapefruit and juniperberry.) This is actually a nice fragrance for a slightly-chilly autumn evening. The product was also popular as two others purchased it at about the same time as I did, hence the empty-looking plate by the time I got my photograph. I love pumpkin and this time of year, so this was a no-brainer. I've also used it and really enjoyed it.

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You can see the four items that I purchased above. Have you purchased anything from Lush, and what are you looking forward to trying the most?

St. Bartholomew-the-Great Church in London

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The City of London used to be filled with churches, but many of these had perished in the Great Fire and many more that were rebuilt at this time have long gone - damaged and destroyed by falling bombs during World War II or demolished to build up London's businesses. Visitors to London can see blue plaques on the sides of some buildings informing them that a church used to exist on the site and that it was demolished in a particular year. St. Bartholomew-the-Great is one of the oldest (built in 1123) surviving churches in London and it was lucky to have survived the catastrophes that brought down the other churches. 

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One of the entrance ways to the church miraculously survived fire and bombs. In fact, a zepplin air raid caused damage to St. Batholomew's hospital, which is located right outside this gatehouse. The damage can still be seen on the walls of the hospital. This same air raid damaged the building work that covered up this beautiful Elizabethan timber-framed gatehouse. This small glimpse with more modern buildings around it gives a glimpse into how London would have looked in older times.  

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Through the gatehouse is the main entrance to St. Batholomew-the-Great. If you stand with your back to the archway, the hospital is just to your left and the covered wholesale meat market Smithfield's is directly to the right. This contains a plaque to Scottish freedom-supporter William Wallace, who was killed here after he was captured by the English. (This area, along with Tyburn River - near the current location of Marble Arch - was a place of execution.) Directly in front is a green area in the middle of a roundabout, and this is where several Protestants were killed by being burned to death in fires by Catholic Queen Mary. Such a nice place is London!

This is the area of Smithfield Market (read more about the meat market at Smithfield Market), where cattle and other animals were brought to be butchered. As a result, the area was filthy with cow mess, stench, blood and innards which were not properly drained away. Complaints were often lodged against drunken herdsmen and stampeding cattle, which would sometimes damage property.

We saw an information historical board about wife-selling at Smithfield Market, in the days when divorce was not common and too expensive. Yes, men could sell their wives if they were unhappy, but both husband and wife had to agree to this. Some wives also wanted to be sold. More about the practice of wife-selling in old England can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife_selling_(English_custom)

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After stepping underneath the archway, the church is directly in front. Some gravestones are lined up in the patch of green area around the church. The church was 2-3 pounds per adult to enter. The interior was altered a little bit as the area around the church changed, and at one point, the church was abandoned.

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South aisle

We paid the entrance fee and entered St. Bartholomew-the-Great. We admired the brickwork and the tiles and the old age of the church. The church is also meant to be one of the most haunted, as this area of London is the most haunted. One of the suspected ghosts is meant to be Rahere, the founder of the church who was also jester to King Henry previously. His tomb is inside, and it was moved during work on the church (and a sandal stolen by a builder), and this is what was meant to have woken him up to haunt the area.

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Medieval floor tiles could be seen in one corner in the east ambulatory. Also, in the picture below, note the old brickwork inside the archway. 

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St. Bartholomew-the-Great has been used in the following films: Shakespeare in Love, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Right outside the church is the street named Cloth Fair, which was named after Batholomew Fair in the land outside and where part of the Smithfield Market is now built. (Note that the market building is a newer and Victorian construction; the market itself was open fields and land.) Bartholomew Fair was held annually by the monks to raise income for St. Bartholomew's, and it was essentially a cloth fair. It was the largest of its kind in Europe and attracted international merchants. The fair would attract street performers (wild animals, musicians, puppets, acrobats, prize-fighters, wire-walkers, freaks) and crime. The fair was held on St. Bartholomew's Day until 1855, and it was shut because of the public disorder. (More about the fair can be read here: http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/londons-last-bartholomew-fair)

Alex Chinneck's Melting House

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Yesterday, I headed over to Southwark Street in South London to see Alex Chinneck's "A Pound of Flesh for 50p" (also known as "The Melting House") before it is removed at the end of the month. The artwork is part of the Merge Arts Festival this year. A week or so ago, I published another entry featuring the artist's work: Covent Garden Floating Building Art by Alex Chinneck.

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The melting house has been in its location not far from London Bridge and near a railway bridge (40 Southwark Street) for almost a month now.

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The building appears to melt over the course of the month as the bricks are made from wax and clay and engineered to melt, with some assistance (heat applied).

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The importance of the wax used in the construction is historical. On this area of bankside was a candle-making factory.

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More information on this artwork and additional artwork by the artist can be seen here: http://mergefestival.co.uk/merge-events-2014/2014/9/19/alex-chinneck-a-pound-of-flesh-for-50p-the-melting-building 

Blackfriar's Road currently hosts an upside-down house, which was a previous commission by the artist for the festival.

UK 2014 Glossybox Review: October

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In July, I subscribed to beauty subscription box Glossybox, and the last three months of reviews are located here: UK 2014 Glossybox Reviews: July, August, September. The Glossybox subscription box contains samples (and sometimes full-size products) of make-up, skincare, and other beauty items.

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October's box theme for Glossybox is "Pop Art", and the box came with some full-size products (such as SoSusan mascara and Ciaté nail polish) and sample sizes of other products. Each box contained a full-size NUXE product. I loved the box design this month. Each subscriber got one limited edition box design. (From what I can see, the illustrations are the same, but the "Pop Art" woman's shirt and hair are a different colour.) The cardboard box that this box came in was also decorated in "Pop Art" design.

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Below are the items I received in October's Glossybox box. Overall, I am farly happy with the products this month. This box includes a nice range of make-up, skin care, and fragrance.

NUXE Crème Fraîche® beauty mask: This 24-hour moisturising mask is meant to soothe and freshen skin. I love the honeysuckle smell of this product, and it brought back childhood memories of summery June evenings. Honeysuckle is quite possibly my favourite fragrance. The product melted into my skin within the ten minutes.

Être Belle Cosmetics lip peel: This lip exfoliator removes dead skin to create soft lips. This is the time of year that my lips tend to dry out a little bit, so this is a welcome product in my box, but I prefer my Mary Kay (satinlips) brand that I felt is a little more effective in doing the job.

So Susan Flutter Mascara: According to information about the product, two coats of mascara give you dark, curly lashes. The changes are a little more subtle than similar products, and at least the product does not cake on (and then get onto my cheekbones or underneath my eyes when I blink). 

Ciaté London paint pot (in talent scout): The bright colours are inspired by pop art. The colour is thick, but I needed two coats of the polish to cover my nails. I am not too sure about the dark purple colour, but perhaps it will grow on me after a couple more days. I do think this goes best with jeans and a casual top.

Yves Rocher Queleues Notes d'Amour: This perfume came in the cutest little bottle, and it's a decent size for a fragrance. I like the scent and do not currently own a similar scent, which is slightly odd because I do have a small hoard of perfumes. The scent is damascus rose and guaiac wood, and I'm not sure if I could ever pick those scents out on their own.

Rimmel London BB Cream Matte: This facial sun protection cream gives skin a matte finish. I generally am not into this type of product, and the colour is too dark for my skin.

A Weekend in Belfast

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I visited Belfast at the end of May, and surprisingly, the weather was nice for the majority of my time there. Exploring the city was the first part of our nearly two-week long holiday (a road trip vacation) in Ireland. There's quite a lot to do and see here, and I could have spent about one more day here, but this holiday road trip was mainly about spending a little time in each place and seeing as much as possible before heading off to the next place. 

I have separated some of the attractions into various posts as there is so much to see. You have probably already read these, but if not, the list is below:

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Belfast along the river from the Titanic Quarter

The first place we headed for after dropping our bags off at the hotel was the Titanic Quarter. Our hotel was on the opposite side of the city centre, so we walked down the main street and over the bridge, catching glimpses of several attractions along the way, including the tiled blue and white fish located on the banks of the river. This tiled sculpture is actually a salmon, and it is named 'Bigfish', and the artist is John Kindness. On closer inspection, the fish is made of tiled images and newspaper clippings that celebrate Belfast's history.

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'Bigfish' by John Kindness 

'Bigfish' is located near Custom House Square. In the past, Custom House Square was a busy quayside and filled with moored ships; it was also used as a "Speaker's Corner" and attracted large crowds. Today, the square is a meeting-place where events are held sometimes, and it is an attractive place with jumping fountains, beautiful old pubs, a clock tower, and an attractive-looking Custom House (built in 1857 and the building which the square is named after). In fact, the River Farset lies underneath the road and under the jumping fountains. At the river's end of the square is Belfast's oldest drinking fountain, and it was used by people and horses.

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Custom House Square

The clock tower, named the Albert Memorial Clock, is also located in Custom House Square. The clock tower was built in 1865 to commemorate the death of Prince Albert. As you may be able to see in the photograph below, the tower does lean slightly, and it has been corrected so that the lean does not get any worse than it already is!

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Albert Memorial Clock

A small footbridge over the river leads to the Titanic Quarter, the site of Belfast's historic dockyard. The footbridge has many locks of love chained upon it. One of them read a lady's secret in that she planned to propose to her boyfriend in June and he had no idea! I wonder how the proposal went.

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Locks of Love

From the Titanic Quarter and in many places in Belfast, visitors can always spot the two giant yellow cranes. They are a prominent fixture of the city. They are located in the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and they are named 'Samson and Goliath'. Unfortunately, I was not happy with my photographs of the cranes to include them, but I did get several photographs on the river banks. This was a pleasant walk along the river, and there are several tourist information boards dotted around to read up on Belfast's history.

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Titanic Belfast

The Titanic Quarter has been regenerated recently, and there are some new flats and a large entertainment complex known as Odyssey. More plans with offices and housing seem to be in the pipeline, and in my opinion, the area could use restaurants to cater for the tourist trade. A tourist can easily spend a whole day in this area of Belfast, and after our time there, we opted to locate a restaurant in the complex for supper, but the few restaurants that are located there were shut. 

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The Custom House (left) and Belfast

After no luck with restaurants in the Titanic Quarter, we walked back across the footbridge and opted for the closest restaurant that looked reasonable with the help of our mobile phones. The restaurant, McHughs Bar & Restrauant, was a great find. It is located in the Custom Hopuse Suare that we visited earlier and is one of the oldest buildings in Belfast. The food was great (pity about the pint glasses being dirty with the previous drinker's lipstick though!). 

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Chicken and steak on a hot stone

The next morning, we explored the city. Belfast City Hall was one of our first stops. It is a beautiful building. This building started to be built in 1889 on the site of a smaller city hall building. The population of Belfast had quickly increased in the late 1800s, so the new and much grander City Hall took its place.

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Belfast City Hall exterior 

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Belfast City Hall exterior 

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Belfast City Hall exterior 

Unfortunately for us, there was an event or something taking place in the City Hall, so we were turned away. However, the interior pictures we saw online later looked amazing. It is a pity to have missed seeing it for real. However, we continued to look around the gardens around the City Hall.

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Queen Victoria statue in front of City Hall Belfast

A memorial to the Titanic, designed in 1920 by Thomas Brock, is located in the grounds of the City Hall. Near the Titanic Memorial Statue is the Titanic Memorial Plaque, which bears the names of all of those who perished in the tragedy. According to an information board at the memorial, the lives lost included 124 first class passengers, 166 second class passengers, 530 third class passengers, and 692 crew (not including the captain). We read the names of those who did not make it, and this was sad to see whole families had been obliterated. One of these families had several children.

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Titanic memorial by City Hall, Belfast

After this quick stop, we walked to George's Market and the Botanic Gardens and explored them before continuing to the Ulster Museum. The museum has several exhibitions covering history, science, and art. Human history throughout the ages in Ireland was one area, and we saw tools and artefacts that early humans used as well as information on burials and the chambered tombs. This led into Christianity and medieval times. Included were hoards of gols that were discovered. There was also a room dedicated to the Spanish Armada ship treasures that was sunk off the coast of Ireland. In the entrance area is a celtic cross, and other areas were dedicated to natural history and science. We saw meteorites and fossils and gemstones.

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Ulster Museum - gold hoards, celtic cross, pottery, museum exterior

Queen's University Belfast is located in near Ulster Museum, and the area is filled with trendy-looking restaurants and cafes. We walked back to the city centre via Sandy Row to have a look at some of the murals, and we passed the university before heading onto Sandy Row.

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Queen's University Belfast

After visiting the murals on Sandy Row, we continued walking up the street and came across one of Belfast's most famous pubs, The Crown Bar. The Crown Bar is unique because it maintains its 19th century "gin palace" interior. 

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The Crown Bar

Stained glass, intricate wood carvings, decorated ceilings, and individual private drinking booths make up the interior of this pub. Unfortunately, the pub was extremely busy on a mid-afternoon weekday (too many other tourists), and we were unable to find a seat to enjoy the atmosphere of this pub. However, I did manage to capture a few photographs inside it.

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The Crown Bar pub

After the pub, we wandered around Belfast and walked to the Cathedral Quarter. Many of the streets around the Cathedral Quarter have nautical names, relating to the history of Belfast. In the older days, the river ran down the current location of the High Street, and boats would moor upon the banks of the river. The river was moved underground but some of the street names along the way retain nautical past. The Cathedral Quarter is one of the trendy areas in Belfast and is filled with pubs and clubs, and there is a lot of street art around the area. The Duke of York pub, down a narrow street off of Hill Street, gets a lot of business.

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We walked back toward the centre of Belfast after a walk around the Cathedral Quarter. Belfast was once filled with narrow streets, known as "entries", off its major streets (such as the High Street). These were used for trading and connecting major streets. The taverns inside these entries were frequented by sailors who had moored their ships upon the High Street when it was once part of the river. (We had dinner one evening at McCracken's pub in Joy's Entry.)

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History was made in the "entries" as well. Joy's Entry was the site of the first English-speaking newspaper. Wilson's Court was the location of "Northern Star" political newspaper, which was destroyed by the British to stop their publications.

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Joy's Entry

After dinner, we made our way back to our hotel. By this time, the shops were closed. Belfast main shopping centre at Corn Market seems to be the place to go for the youth of Belfast to hang out.

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Corn Market

Have you visited Belfast? What did you think? I felt that we needed about one more day in the city to see the remaining sights that we did not get to see (and to prevent being rushed). We arrived in Belfast at about mid-day due to a delayed flight and had one full day after that. I think Belfast can be rushed in approximately two days, but three days would have been better.

Belfast Street Art

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I discovered quite a bit of street art in Belfast, and I am not including the murals that I have already covered in my post Belfast Political Murals. Although street art can be and is often political, it is in a different category to the murals that I've captured in Belfast. Some of the work I recognised from artists who had painted in London, including Malarky and Conor Harrington. 

Yarn-bombing seems to be quite popular in Belfast, and I saw various trees and statues that had been yarn-bombed and knitted over. The trees below were discovered near Queen's University.

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I also saw statues that had been yarn-bombed. These two women sculptures, depicted to celebrate the working woman, had bracelets, ear-rings stockings, and other items knitted around them.

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I also discovered some street art by Lucas and Malarky (Street Art: Malarky, Mr. Penfold, Billy and Lucas) in Belfast. Anyone who has been to east London and Brick Lane will have seen some of their work on shutters.

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I also discovered several pieces in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast, but I am not sure who the artists are.

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The Cathedral Quarter in Belfast hs a lot of street art and murals. I was happy to see a large wall painted by Conor Harrington (Street Art: Conor Harrington), whose work I have seen in London. It features three figures, one watching on while two others sword-fight.

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Conor Harrington

Additional art in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast includes a sculpture known as "The Calling" that features two sculptures of figures high upon posts calling to one another.

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The Calling

This weekend, the Truman Brewery hosts The Other Art Fair and the Monkier Art Fair. I received a ticket through my workplace, so I went along to view the artwork during my lunch hour. The exhibition (art fair) was quite busy when I visited it on the Friday. For those readers looking for something to do this weekend, have a browse of this exhibition. There is a price for tickets to enter, but you can see some great pieces of work and buy a piece if you like it enough.

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The Other Art Fair showcases work by emerging artists, which has been picked by famous artists. The work is on display and on sale at the fair. I saw illuminated pieces by Rocco Wonderland, sculptures made from books by Alexander Korzer-Robinson, photographs, sculptures, pottery and clay, and artwork made of wire.

(For more information about The Other Art Fair, visit the official website at http://www.theotherartfair.com.)

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A craft beer bar had been set up in the gallery, so visitors could sip a beer and admire the artwork.

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Another section of the Truman Brewery warehouse, next to The Other Art Fair, hosts the Monkier Art Fair. This fair celebrates urban artists and is in its fifth year. I actually preferred some of the artwork in this section and did recognise several of the artists' work because some of them do create artwork on the street. Benjamin Murphy, David Shillinglaw, and Shephard Fairey were among some I recognised. There were some other pieces I loved, such as the painted stormtrooper helmets (known as Art Wars) by Ben Moore, a series of images made with Lego figures, and various other pieces that I did not photograph.

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One of my favourite displays was David Shillinglaw's, which I took photographs of and posted below. He had a large section of wall in a prime area near the craft beer bar.

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For more information about the Monkier Art Fair, visit the official website at http://monikerartfair.com/artworks/.

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As I left the Truman Brewery warehouse and the exhibition, I saw this painted MINI car parked right outside the door.

After Books About Town Art Sculpture Trail, I've waited all summer for charity art sculpture trails, and then two come along at once! This autumn, the "Year of the Bus" is celebrated by Traffic For London (TFL), and the streets around Westminster, the Olympic Park, and the City will host approximately fifty painted bus sculptures dubbed BusArt. At roughly the same time and to celebrate the new Paddington Bear film, fifty Paddington Bear sculptures will be waiting to be discovered throughout London at various locations.

This morning, the BusArt sculptures (Year of the Bus Sculpture Trail) launched in Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, the sculptures were only available to view from 8:30-10:00 this morning. I was hoping that they would be available to view at about 7:00-8:00, before I have to get over to work in Brick Lane, and I was planning to get in to London really early to see them. I found out the actual times late last night and realised that it was not possible for me to see them due to the timing. I will just have to wait for them to be placed on their trails. The sculpture trail officially starts on Monday, and it runs until early December. I know that I will be doing a lot of walking over the next few weeks.

Here's a sneak peek of a couple of the buses in Trafalgar Square, courtesy of Transport For London's Twitter feed. [EDIT - added later in the day.]

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During most of the same weeks, the buses will be joined by the Paddington Bear Trail. This trail covers a larger area and is ideal for those who are not afraid to cycle in London. All of the bear and bus sculptures are painted by local artists to raise money for charity, and in the case of the Paddington Bears, some are designed and painted by celebrities. Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Emma Watson, Michael Sheen, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Beckham, Guy Ritchie, Ant & Dec, Jonathan Ross, and mayor Boris Johnson are among the celebrity list. The Paddington Trail begins on November the fourth and ends at the end of December.

I know that I am going to get into shape over the next two months while I track down all of the sculptures.

Find out more:
Paddington Bear: http://www.visitlondon.com/paddington/
Year of the Bus: http://www.wildinart.co.uk/bus-art

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