April 2013 Archives

Days Out at Beeston Castle

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Beeston Castle is located south of Chester (outside the village of Beeston), and it was destroyed in the Civil War. The castle was built in the 1220s, but the hill as inhabited in prehistoric times. The ruins of the castle, its walls, and a moat sit high on top of a hill; there are excellent views over Cheshire from the top. There are rumours that a treasure hidden by king Richard II is buried somewhere in the castle grounds.

Inside the walls of Beeston Castle and a well.

The main fortress of the castle sits on the highest point of the hill, and it is surrounded by a moat. A steep bridge has been constructed to take visitors across the moat to the ruins of this fortress. Once inside the walls, it is easy to see why the ruins and area was regarded as beautiful. 

A well is inside the walls on the top of the hill, and the ground inside the castle is very uneven and steep. 

After visiting the castle and admiring the views, I walked back through the wooded area to visit the caves. These caves are man-made from the soft sandstone in the hill, and they are at the bottom of the hill, outside the main castle grounds.

From top left: The outside ruined walls of Beeston Castle; a view outside the door of the castle; the bridge across the moat and the castle towers; the sandstone caves   

There are plenty of opportunities to walk around the castle grounds and admire the views over Cheshire and of the castle.

Beeston Castle

Have you visited Beeston Castle? Leave a message and let me know if you enjoyed it.

Street Art: Ben Eine

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Ben Eine paints large-scale text onto buildings, shutters, and walls in London, and several of his art pieces exist in East London. The text painted uses various fonts and contains a word to provoke emotions in the viewer. The words 'Scary' and 'Extortionist' are examples. He's been busy recently as several pieces have been recently completed.
Originally, Ben started out as a writer and eventually developed a typographic style of street art in bold fonts and colours. His work has been presented to US President Obama by Prime Minister David Cameron. He's now known internationally.
I've photographed a few of his artwork that I've discovered in East London.
'Scary' is painted on Rivington Street.
Ebor Street - 'Protagonist'
Ebor Street - this piece by Ben Eine was painted over by Ben Eine in February of 2013. It read 'Anti Anti Anti'.
Ebor Street - Ben Eine works on his new street art.
Ebor Street - the finished Ben Eine artwork. It reads 'Extortionist'.
Ebor Street - 'Tagonist'.
Ebor Street - Ben Eine work in progress.

Often, it is difficult to get photographs when the shops are open and the shutters are up. The street (Middlesex and Cobb Street) has each letter of the alphabet in alphabetical order.

Ben Eine

Cobb Street; Ben Eine wrote each letter of the alphabet on each shutter on the street here. You can see a partial 'd' and a 'e' here.
These blocks of letters make up an outside wall near Liverpool Street Station.
Ben Eine was busy creating this "this sounds better in the day" text around a make-shift building area near Spitalfields church.

Street artist "Kid Acne" created a large-scale artwork on the Village Underground wall earlier this year. I got some snaps of it on a couple of days when it was in progress and once it was finished. Kid Acne, originally from Africa, has been creating his artwork for over twenty years now, according to Street Art London (http://streetartlondon.co.uk/).

In addition to characters, a range of his artwork has a slogan theme. He paints large, witty slogans on walls and buildings all over the world. In an interview, he stated that the idea came from his years of writing lyrics, and he had the idea for a London slogan to be "Oh My Days" as it makes him think of London (1).

The photographs below shows the work in progress, with the previous artwork by Phlegm (Street Art: Phlegm) being covered up.  


The photograph below shows the work nearly finished.


1) Street Art London. Interview: Kid Ace. http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2013/02/11/interview-kid-acne/ [11 February, 2013].

Street Art: Don Smith

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Paul "Don" Smith's (also known as 'The Banker') artwork on the streets in London is easily-recognisable, and his work is one of my favourites. I've tracked a few of his paintings down across London to show here. Most of his work is portrait-based, and he paints many famous historical figures. 

His 'tag' is a simple silhouette of a banker, and he also uses his name (simply DON) next to his artwork. I like the banker image because it is funny but instantly recognisable, and I've noticed this in many places. Apparently the banker's hat is meant to be a tap (according to the interview here: http://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/london-art-spot-paul-don-smith/), but I always thought it was a propeller on his hat and that the banker was suspended in mid-air, sort of like he was flying. 


I hope you enjoy the collection of photographs of Paul "Don" Smith's artwork that I have gathered below. I'll post more up when I discover them.


During the Olympics, Paul "Don" Smith was busy painting portraits of the Olympians. Some of these can still be seen on Hanbury Street. This wall also contains a crying queen, an anti-slavery ship, and a row of penguins.


"Heart of Gold" and a portrait of a young child are on a small strip of wall near the wall of Olympians pictured previously.


Another image, next to the famous banker image, features Ed Dempsi.


Additional works on or near Brick Lane include Pitt Brooks Forester, a time machine, and a guy wearing a gas mask. (Gas masks feature in some of his other portraits in other locations.)


Elizabeth Taylor features in the portrait above. She was born in London to American parents.


"Falling in Love" (across from Spitalfields Market) has since been covered up by paste-ups, which always seems to be the way of artwork on the streets. I think this one was created around the Olympics.


Additional works on Brick Lane are Paul Weller and The Who.


Del Boy from "Only Fools and Horses", a popular British sitcom, also makes an appearance on Brick Lane. The artist also seems to create artwork for others, such as this rainbow bow (and ship), dedicated to "Sarah". (Both of these are located on Brick Lane.)


A simple "Articulate" pallet and brushes is located on Redchurch Street, though this may have now been covered up.


A painting dedicated to Neil Armstrong is located on Sclater Street where there are some building works going on at the moment.


The above selection of photographs of Don Smith's artwork was taken in various locations. The flag, tube train, and Big Ben were photographed in Notting Hill. I assume that Don Smith had this work commissioned for a restaurant; it's not far from the Notting Hill tube station. The "World Peace" cake image was used in the skate park on South Bank, and it was also used on Redchurch Street.


The above photograph is another shot taken of the restaurant front in Notting Hill.

donsmith1.jpg donsmith2.jpg

The commemorate the queen's Diamond Jubilee last June, Don Smith created the above portrait. This is located on a back street between Spitalfields and Brick Lane, and it is next to an image of Charles Dickens.


The above portrait is Jimi Hendrix, and I think it is also on Brick Lane.


Another Hendrix and "World Peace" cakes and a Mona Lisa were located at the South Bank skate park.


Great Eastern Street has a Mona Lisa portrait with Paris skyline underneath.  


The above one seem to be recent, and it's located in an alleyway near Shoreditch High Street, not far from Box Park and Boundary Road.


In addition to the above, these super-D paste-ups were recently added. One was underneath the previous image, and the other was near Hanbury Street and Spitalfields. It did not last very long before another paste-up was placed over it.


The above robin is also new, and it made a welcome sight after so many cold days this spring. The robin is located on Brick lane, underneath the rainbow bow painting.


The last images are also new and feature a small boy, Tommy. One has an Easter message, and it is located in Blackall Street. The other is located on Hanbury Street, just off Brick Lane where there are many large-scale street art artwork.

View Paul "Don" Smith's website: http://www.pauldonsmith.com 

Miniature Food Art

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Today, my art inspiration is all about food in miniature form. These are so cute to look at, and they can be used in jewellery and for dolls' houses. I am impressed by their small size, and the artists creating them must have good eyesight and patience to create works of art with this attention to detail. I'm seeing more and more of these trending at the moment, though it's for the quirky and a little girly.

The shop ClayDecor (below) has small cakes, cupcakes, macaroons, and so many different types of miniature food.

ClayDecor: http://www.etsy.com/shop/claydecor
The shop SnowFern (below) also has miniature food for dolls' houses in addition to miniature-food jewellery. I love the cupcake cookie necklace, the cucumber ring, and the tomato earrings. Quirky and cute.
Snowfern: http://www.etsy.com/shop/snowfern

At Last - Spring!

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

This winter was a long and cold one, and in the last week, the temperature has started to feel a little more normal for this time of the year. I took a walk around St. James' and Green Park last weekend. The daffodils were starting to bloom in Green Park, but they were in full bloom in St. James park, and a corner of St. James' park was a yellow carpet.

Bright yellow daffodil

A white and orange daffodil

It was nice to see the daffodils. Daffodils are one of my favourite flowers, and I was disappointed a couple of weeks ago when I missed seeing them  due to the cold weather; I had gone on a daffodil charity walk. 


Daffodils begin to bloom in Green Park.

I walked past Buckingham Palace, which is between the parks. I took a few photographs here. My favourite photograph location for the palace is next to the fountain and the Queen Victoria statue. The palace was not too busy with tourists.


Buckingham Palace

After visiting the palace, I took a walk a few hundred yards down the Mall, and I was greeted with this fantastic display of yellow daffodils in St. James' park. The photograph does not really do it justice. Also, imagine if the sun had been out. 


A yellow carpet of daffodils.


Close-up of a daffodil.


St. James' Park daffodils

My stroll through the park brought me closer to more spring bloossoms. I snapped some photographs of trees in full bloom, such as the one below. I'm not quite sure what type of tree this is; I should have looked at the signage. (In the London parks, there's normally signage to name the types of species in the park.)


Pink spring blossoms

Many birds were also out on the lake in the park. I noted about twelve different species of bird and snapped a few photographs of them. I liked this old fellow, and I've seen him here before. 


Bird in St. James' Park

If you are looking for something to do in London at the weekend, then head over to the parks and admire the daffodils and the spring flowers.

Dynamic Dialog Data with JSON in CQ5

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
A little over a year ago, I posted about creating dynamic dialogs in CQ5 (Using JSON to Populate CQ5 CMS Dialogs); this was a method I used in CQ5 4.0. In CQ5 5.0, it is much easier to do this. Here's an up-to-date tutorial that makes adding dynamic dialogs in CQ5 with JSON much easier. In this tutorial, I will explain how to make a dyamic selection (drop-down menu) and a dynamic checkbox group. 

Creating the Component and its Dialog

The first step is to create the component with the dialog.xml file for the component. Create the component in the 'apps/' directory in the usual way, and create the dialog.xml file. In this file, make sure that you specify a 'selection' xtype. You will also need to include the following:
  • options: This should point to the output of the JSON file. (In this tutorial, we will be creating our JSON using Java Server Pages, but you could simply create a static JSON file instead.
  • optionsRoot: This defines the JSON data root.
  • optionsTextField: This defines the text label for an option in the select box.
  • optionsValueField: This defines the value for a selected option in the drop-down.
I've included an example of this selection xtype below. This drop-down will display a list of US States.
<items jcr:primaryType="cq:WidgetCollection">
                        fieldLabel="Select US State:"
                        optionsRoot = 'states'
                        optionsTextField = 'label'
                        optionsValueField = 'id'
In the example above, we point our 'options' variable at the current path to the node in the JCR. The variable $PATH will give us this value dynamically. The JSON node should be accessible via the following:
You can get the above path from looking at CRXDE; simply click onto the component in the 'apps' directory and view the path to the file.
We then create our dynamic file (which will output the JSON) in the same directory. (This file is referenced in the dialog above, and it will dynamically add the results of the JSON.) Our file structure will look like the following:
- states
  - .content.xml
  - dialog.xml
  - states.json.jsp
  - states.jsp

Creating the dynamic JSON

The dynamic JSON file should be saved as states.json.jsp as it uss Java Server Pages to render. At the top of the page, be sure to add the contentType 'application/json' so that it knows to render the output as JSON. Then, include your link to the Java tag. Print out the items by looping through using the JSTL core library, as demonstrated below:
<%@ page contentType="application/json" %>
<%@ page import="java.util.*" %>
<%@ include file="/libs/foundation/global.jsp" %>
<%@ taglib prefix="mylocation" uri="http://myapp.mysite.com/locations" %>
<%@ taglib prefix="c" uri="http://java.sun.com/jsp/jstl/core" %>
<mylocation:states currentPage="${currentPage}" />
<c:forEach var="item" items="${states}" varStatus="loop">
  { "id": "${item.name}", "label": "${item.name}"} ${not loop.last ? ',' : ''}

Add your Java Tag Descriptor

In the above example for the JSON file, we referenced our own tag library, known as "mylocation". This will need to be added to the tag library descriptor (TLD) file. Simply locate this in your Java package and add the descriptor. In the above example, we are passing the current page (currentPage). Remember that the prefix described in the JSON file needs to be the same as the 'name' in the TLD file.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<taglib xmlns="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/j2ee" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"

xsi:schemaLocation="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/j2ee http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/j2ee/web-jsptaglibrary_2_0.xsd" version="2.0">




Add your Java Tag

After the tag descriptor has been created, add the Java file in the same location as defined in the tag descriptor. You will add your logic to this class, and you will pass back (to the JSP page) the value to render the states. It is likely that you will need to also create a Java model to describe this data (for states). For example, you should probably create a model for the states and use getters and setters to set up your data for each state. (You possibly want to associate the state name, abbreviation, and other data about a state for this.)
In the tag, you should add your getters and setters for the data passed into the tag. As we are passing in the currentPage, we need to add a getter and setter for this. To do this, we want to add the following to our Java Tag file:
At the top of the file, we will add the variable: 
private Page currentPage;

In the Java Tag file, we simply add our getter and setter methods, as below:

public Page getCurrentPage() {

return currentPage;

public void setCurrentPage(Page currentPage) {
this.currentPage = currentPage;

When we have completed the logic to retrieve our data, we need to pass the data back to the JSP page. In the following method, we use pageContext to pass the name of the variable (which we use to get the object in the JSP), and the name of the object. For example, the states object is the second parameter, and it would be a type StateModel, as discussed.

pageContext.setAttribute("states", states);



Once you have followed the steps above, your dialog should print out dynamic data. You may need to debug this by viewing the JSON output as provided by accessing the JSON link detailed above. And, you should use JSONLint to ensure that your JSON is valid JSON mark-up.

Dynamic Checboxes and Radio Buttons

Once you have completed the above, making a dynamic radio button or checkbox button group is a piece of cake. You can use the same code as above, but there is only one change that needs to be made here. This change needs to be made in the dialog.xml file. In the 'type' field, add 'checkbox' (instead of 'select'). You're all set to go!


Problems and Issues

This method was slightly different to my older implementation, but this is much easier. I spent over a day trying to locate an issue, however, as I could not get my JSON to load. I assumed that it was not being rendered correctly, and I was not expecting the results. It turned out that it seemed to be cacheing the JSON. I know that JSON can cache, and Google Chrome is notorious for cache issues, even when you have cleared the cache and forced refresh.

Another problem was environment-related. For some reason, two instances of CQ5 were running, and the environment (localhost) was confused! The old JSON was being rendered, despite making obvious changes, and it wasn't clear why CQ5 was hanging on to the old file. I spent ages going over (and then back over) my JSON and the method I was using only to discover that it was an environment issue with two CQ5 instances running in the background.
Of course, check the obvious issues first. Make sure that your paths are correct. And, perhaps start with dummy JSON data just to ensure that the JSON is being dynamically loaded into your dialog. That way, you can isolate any issues that may be related to Java errors. Also, don't forget to use JSONLint to validate your JSON mark-up.


I had fun making this, despite annoyances with the environment. I hope you do too! 

Bethnal Green Railway Arches

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

A walk away from the bustling City of London is Bethnal Green, and I took a walk through the area one morning. The walk followed the railway, and underneath the archways of these railways are businesses. Many of the businesses are car servicing, and many of these cater to London's taxis. I noticed black London taxis everywhere.

A cafe under the railway arches is between several car servicing companies.
Archways with black taxis.
As I walked further down, following the railway, I noticed several tunnels going underneath the railway. Many of these had taxis parked up in them. I think some of the taxis had been parked there for some time.
Parked taxis under the railway archway
Motorbike and archway near Bethnal Green station.
In some areas, there were graveyards of London taxis near the railway. I guess that they use these taxis as parts and just keep them there.
London taxi in Bethnal Green
The railway continues past Warren Green, with the tall skyscrapers of the City in the distance.

Street Art: Cranio

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Last autumn, Brazilian street artist Cranio (also known as Fabio Oliveira) visited London and left several large murals around east London. This artist is known for creating tribal blue characters, and they remind me of the film Avatar. The characters are often depicted in humorous or witty overtones.
According to an interview, Cranio got his name from school where he was teased for being the smartest child in the class, and he started drawing from age two without formal training (1). 
Rivington Street Cranio artwork
Cranio's artwork on Brick Lane
Cranio's artwork off Brick Lane
Cranio's artwork off Brick Lane
A Cranio character looking poorly. I think this was located in a car park near Village Underground, near Shoreditch High Street.
More of Cranio's work can be found here: http://cranioartes.com/
1) GlobalStreetArt.com. Brazilian Blue Men: Interview with Cranio. http://blog.globalstreetart.com/post/30510413383/cranio [12 February, 2013].
The first time I visited Notting Hill's Saturday market (Portobello Road) was twelve years ago. I visited in the winter and the summer, and the summer was busy with tourists. However, much has changed in twelve years, and like the rest of London, the Notting Hill market has at least tripled in visitors. I noticed the same trend with Camden Town's market, which I visited last March. Even in the tourist off-season, the markets in London are packed anymore.

The colourful Notting Hill street with the crowds and vendors wear and sell fur coats.

Portobello Road market has always been noted for its antiques. There's plenty more stalls here, and there's a few street performers. (I think the majority of street performers must visit more in the summer months.) However, if you wish to buy something antique, do make sure that it is genuinely an antique as a lot of the goods are reproduced, and there's a lot sold for the tourism industry here.

Various items on display for sale.

Letterpress stamps for sale from the days of print shops.

After walking down the market, we stopped at Zaza, an Italian Gelato shop directly on Portobello Road next to a stand selling beautiful flowers and plants. We tried Zaza's ice cream, ice cream cake, and liquid hot chocolate. We tried the pistachio (one of my ultimate ice cream flavour favourites) and vanilla ice cream. The ice cream was delicious.

Pistachio ice cream and chocolate.

One ice cream 'cake' was chocolate, and the other was strawberry. The ice cream was served onto a dry, biscuit-y base and decorated with chocolate (and strawberry for the strawberry one).

Vanilla ice cream and strawberry ice cream cake.

The liquid hot chocolate is probably the best I have had in London. I really recommend it. Imagine melting really good quality chocolate into a cup and drinking it. 

Zaza liquid hot chocolate

After our desserts and hot chocolate to warm us up, we continued browsing the shops in Notting Hill.

A vehicle with crates and dust bin.

Browsers in the market

More browsers in Notting Hill

Increasingly, Portobello Road has embraced clothing stalls, and vintage clothing is common here. There was an abundance of fur coats, which seems to be the trend at the moment.

Cakes - Portobello Road

Bread for sale

I liked the colours of these buildings and the flag on Portobello Road

I hope you've enjoyed this tour of Portobello Road, Notting Hill's Saturday market.

Days Out: Bolsover Castle

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
I visited Bolsover Castle in January, and I had a chance to walk around the castle and its grounds in the snow. The castle itself has evolved over the years; it suffered damage and areas were rebuilt to meet the tastes of the owners and popular culture. Part of the castle is in partial ruins; the walls exist, but the roof does not. There's also a large horse stable and a tower (known as the "Little Castle"). The castle is on a hill, and the views can be enjoyed. We saw several people sled-riding on the hill below the castle.

Bolsover Castle in the snow with snowy views.

The interior of the "Little Castle" is lavishly decorated, and it was built for show and not as a fortress. The rooms are filled with detail, including wall and ceiling paintings and engravings. I particularly liked the rooms below, but there are also many other rooms to enjoy.

The "Little Castle" rooms.

I think that the castle grounds would be nice to visit in the spring or summer months. There is a fountain near the "Little Castle". 

A view of the stables from an archway.
I've been noticing a lot of paste-ups appearing in East London this year. These tend to be put up all at once, and then it will go relatively quiet for a short period, but there's been a lot of activity recently. I've noted Gee, Paul Insect, Bortusk Leer, and Sweet Toof already this year, although the work by Bortusk Leer may have appeared in late 2012 as they look as though they've been around for a little while. 
Street artist Gee Higgins (Energized Art) added many paste-ups to Shoreditch and Brick Lane at the end of January. There are three main different types of paste-ups added with varying colours. These include a flowery skull 'no angel', US president Obama with a punk hair style 'no angel', and several images of the infamous 'V for Vendetta' mask with different colours. There are many of these throughout Shoreditch. In addition to this, there's a painting near some of Don Smith's artwork on Brick Lane called "natural born artist".
Various paste-ups
'Real lies / realize / real eyes' paste-up with the mask
'Natural born artist'
More information about the artist is below. I'd like to see more examples of some of his work on his Flickr page.
Gee's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gee-street-art-Energized-Art-/292191767501602
Gee's Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/82830468@N07/
Paul Insect
Paul Insect's work uses bold, bright colours and graphics. Damien Hirst is a fan, and when Paul Insect had an exhibit at a gallery in 2007, his work was bought in advance by Hirst. At the moment, there are two types of new work around London. The first features a circular character with legs. Different colours are used on some of the prints. The other artwork features a graphic pattern using multiple colours and is printed on brown paper.
Bortusk Leer
Bortusk Leer is a street artist from the UK who creates friendly-looking monsters. These remind me of drawings that a child would make, and I think the artist is attempting to bring the viewer of the artwork back to their childhood days. The characters look comical and are brightly-coloured.
More examples of Bortusk Leer's work can be seen here: http://www.tonysgallery.com/?p=29
Sweet Toof
Sweet Toof's work is characteristic of bright pink gums and teeth. His street art always depicts this imagery. According to the artist on the Wikipedia page, the tooth symbolises death but also symbolises life and the need to live life. 



Recent Comments

  • jenn: Thank you. read more
  • Murge: Amazing post. read more
  • Herbert: good post. site read more
  • Frank Quake: Hey, This is great when you said that I had read more
  • Chappy: You mention peptides here? I have had first hand experience read more
  • jenn: Thanks! I love the work. I have got more recent read more
  • Fanakapan: Thanks for the write up. This was some of my read more
  • jenn: Yes.... but that's only for the islands. Mostar and Montenegro read more
  • jenn: Hello, the code is not mine to hand out. I'll read more
  • pantich: More info about the best day trips from Dubrovnik can read more
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID