November 2014 Archives

At the beginning of the month, the bloke and I made our way to St. Katherine's Docks after work on a Friday evening to attend the Medieval Banquet. I know that there are a few medieval banquet concepts around the world, but I have never been to one before. Of course, the theme is medieval, so fancy dress and knights and jesters are expected. This medieval banquet is located in St. Katherine's Docks, next to the Tower of London. It is located in the converted warehouse cellars at the docks.


We arrived early because we work in (or on the fringe) of the City of London, and they opened at 7:30 in the evening. I found this quite late, and I would have loved to have arrived earlier and had drinks. (I also feel that this is a little late to have a meal.) Medieval-inspired cocktails would have been nice. Alas, they do not open early and one must wait until 7:30 (on the Friday evening). Two suits of armour are outside the entrance, so many were using these as photogaph opportunities.


Once inside, we were warmly greeted by ladies and men dressed in medieval dress and shown to our seats. Each archway contains two rows of seats, and we were extremely lucky to have one of the best seats in the venue. We were sat at the front, opposite the king and in the middle of the venue. I was able to get many great photographs.


The voucher that I had to use included two tickets and a bottle of Prosecco to share. However, alcoholic drinks throughout the evening are free and I do not go overboard on drinks, but a bottle of Prosecco is always nice. I did try some white wine, and it did taste better than I expected a "free" drink would taste. It was quite nice. The staff made sure that were had plenty (to help aid a good time) and that we were entertained to have a good time.


Fancy dress is available to hire, and there were some really nice outfits - at least for the girls. I did not dress up, however. Goblets and other accessories could also be purchased. I do recommend for those who attend to dress up and "get into" the experience. If possible, also go with a slightly larger group (more than two) as I feel that this is an attraction to be shared with a few close friends.


Our seats were opposite to the "King"! I thought that he was going to be very "kingly" and hence intimidating, but he was actually friendly and allowed people to take photographs with him. He was dressed like Henry VIII. He gave a small speech to commence the banquet and entertainment.


The "wenches" (this is what we were expected to call them, and we were encouraged to shout that term out at them in order to be served more alcohol) appeared to bring us bread in baskets and soup. The soup was a vegetable or pumpkin, and it did have a nice flavour. Spoons were not provided, so we had to mop up the soup with the bread or drink from the soup bowl. 


The entertainment followed as we tucked in. Acrobatics, jugglers, and singing was the entertainment. Several medieval primarily English songs were sung, and these dated from the late 1200s until the 16th century. Greensleves was one of these, of course.



The queen (or lady) also sang along with the king or on her own, and another girl played the violin.



Each archway in the Medieval Banquet were treated to each act or a different medieval song so that everyone could enjoy the entertainment.


Our starters arrived, and everyone tucked into a mixture of pates, cheese, salad, and cold meat. I found the cheddar cheese to taste delicious.


While we shared and consumed the starter with others on the table, we watched the entertainers. One acrobat used hoops and a ribbon and also managed to contort her body around a hoop suspended in air.


Of course, more singing followed. Each time, some of the entertainers changed dress.


Eventually, the food arrived. There was a piece of chicken for everyone. Luckily the people who sat next to us had eaten previously and did not mind that I had one of the chicken breasts. Vegetables were plentiful, and these included a mixture of broccoli, carrot, and swede. A bowl of new potatoes was also provided. Food was plentiful.


The entertainment commenced after we had finished our meals, and more singing and acrobatics followed while we waited for an then ate our desserts. The dessert on offer was apple pie with custard, and this did taste good. During this entertainment, we drank and obtained a goblet for a small cost. This goblet included a free cocktail, which was quite strong. I am glad that I did not have to drink this.


After the majority of us had finished our desserts, the knights came on to fight. Each archway had their own knight, and they tried to get our support. 


The singing followed and ended the evening. Afterwards, the wenches grabbed us all up from the tables so that we could participate in the entertainment, which included dancing around the room to music. The evening did not end there, but the venue was turned into a nightclub and continued to serve guests until 10:00 or 11:00 in the evening. Actually, as we had a long way to get back to Basingstoke, we left straight after and before we got pulled onto the dancefloor.


Overall, this was a fun night out. I expected a little more entertainment and more role-playing from the different actors and direction from the "king". Of course, the medieval banquet is a little cheesy, but that is to be expected. After a few drinks, this does not matter anyway. The idea is to have fun and to participate. Those attending in groups dressing up and participating will get more out of this. 

Baking Pumpkin Cookies

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Happy Thanksgiving. I made pumpkin cookies a couple of years ago, but I did not get around to it this year. Pumpkin cookies are one of my absolute favourites, after snickerdoodle cookies of course. This year, I will be going out for my Thanksgiving meal. I do not always take the day off, but I have done in the past couple of years and have done every few years since I first moved to the UK. (I've actually worked through most of them.) Last year, I went back to America to celebrate it, and that was the first time I have done so in the 12+ years that I have been here.


Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate the harvest. When the settlers arrived, they found the winter to be troublesome and had to rely on help from the native American people. They had the first Thanksgiving in 1621.


Did you know that former president Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday and choose the date as the last Thursday in November? Before that, each state set their own date for Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving was always used to celebrate the harvest and would generally appear in earlier November of at the end of October. The holiday also has religious meaning and the dates of celebration varied. At one point, it was twinned on November 6th to celebrate the fact that Guy Fawkes was not successful.


Variations of the day are celebrated in other countries. I think it would be great if the UK adopted this holiday. Black Friday (the big shopping day after Thanksgiving) seems to make an impact here, and I think that having the holiday would prevent Christmas appearing in October (or even September). It's also great fun. It's two days off of work, having a meal, watching sport or parades on television and then it's okay to start thinking about Christmas.


Happy Thanksgiving.

UK 2014 Glossybox Review: November

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Glossybox is a beauty subscription box, and each month, a box with a few beauty and skin-care sample items arrives in the post. Sometimes full size items are included, and this month's box had two full-size products. These were a Burt's Bees Lip Shine (gloss) and a Lollipops brand eye pencil. Every subscriber got each of these items in their box, along with extra samples.


My box arrived early last week, and I received the following items:

Lollipops Make Up Eye Pencil (in black): This black eye pencil is easy to blend, and I really enjoyed using this product. The product is inside a plastic casing, so no pencil sharpener is required. The product blended well and it has become by favourite eye pencil. I would purchase it again.

Burt's Bees Lip Shine (in Smooch): This berry shade is perfect, and when I saw the spoiler a few weeks ago that each subscriber would get one of these lip shines in a different colour, I hoped for this berry shade. This is another great product, and it kept my lips hydrated. It was also not too sticky. I would purchase this product.

H2O+ Face Oasis Hydrating Treatment: This gel is to be massaged onto the face as a mask, and it is meant to reduce fine lines. Luckily, I do not have fine lines yet, so I cannot see if it does what it claims. However, the product does not feel greasy and is absorbed into the skin. I also tried putting it into the fridge to cool it, as directed, and this cooling felt nice on my skin.

MONU Skincare refining capri facial oil: This product claims to decongest pores to prevent acne. I've been using it for a few days now, and it does leave my skin feeling hydrated and perhaps cleaner.

OGX Argan Oil Shampoo: Subscribers either received this in shampoo or conditioner, and I received the shampoo. Argan oil seems to be used in many beauty products these days; I saw the Argan nuts and trees on a visit to Morocco a few years ago and the oil is used to make spreads and dipping sauces as well as used to aid the body's skin and hair. This product smelled nice, but I was not overwhelmed. Also, it left my hair looking shiny but greasy (in my opinion) in the first couple of uses. This lasted me over two weeks, and it grew on me. I did not need conditioner with it, and it add luster to my hair.

For previous reviews of Glossybox, read my 2014 October Glossybox review and my UK Glossybox reviews for June, July and August 2014.

Basingstoke Christmas Lights Switch On

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I was able to watch the Basingstoke Christmas Lights Switch On this year. The date of the switch-on was on Friday, the 21st of November. The Basingstoke Rock Band, Common Ground, and Concept provided some of the entertainment before the switch-on and fireworks display this year. The last time I saw this was in 2012.


Common Ground are a boy-and-girl band that won an award this summer. They sang a couple of their songs and a Christmas song, and I really liked them.

Common Ground

Concept is a boy band from Basingstoke, and they were on X-Factor this year, but they did not get past the judge's houses. Shame! They were really good and better than some of the acts that made it through to the live shows. They are quite popular now.



Keith Chegwin was the celebrity to turn on the Christmas lights. Every large city that has a switch-on event has a celebrity come to turn on the Christmas lights officially. Santa was also there, along with the two elves, who hosted the entertainment for the evening. Santa, the elves, and the band Concept joined Keith Chegwin in order to push the large button that turns on the Christmas lights.


I loved the expressions of them as they pushed the large button. This turned on a glowing Christmas tree in Festival Square and set off the fireworks on top of Festival Place shopping mall.


The fireworks were beautiful, and I got plenty of photographs of them.


Thanksgiving Day is in a few days, and the Christmas lights have started becoming switched on since the start of the month, so it's safe to start posting Christmas / holiday posts now.


This year's Christmas Lights Switch-On was better than the previous year that I went to see it. The fireworks were beautiful, and we had some good entertainment and bands. Enjoy.

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.)


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.


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


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".



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.





Visit David Selor's blog here:

Visit his Flickr here:

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.










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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Archer in tower over sea


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.


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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Sarah Jane Grace - Poppy Fields

Cath Kidston

Damien Jeffery - Rock 'n' Royal

Kristel Pillkhan - Spectrum

Jane Callan - Brollybus

Mini Moderns - Push Once

Srokowski Design - Invisible to the Environment

A large selection of buses

Michelle Heron - Tower Bridge Bus

Detail from 'Travels with Edward' by Valerie Osment

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.


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. 

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).


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.

Views of Westminster

Looking toward the City

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.

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.


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. 


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.

Chicken slider and cocktails

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



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. 


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.


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. 


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". 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


More emotional and psychological states of human figures followed.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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: 

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.

Tower of London Poppies

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The poppies art installation at the Tower of London has taken over public imagination. The installation, by Paul Cummins, is titled "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red", and I took photographs of it in its first stages, as it was being installed by volunteers in late July (Tower of London Poppies Commemorate The Great War).


The installation has proved to be so popular that the crowds were several people deep when I went to visit it last week during a late lunch break. In fact, the public were being told to keep away from the Tower of London as the installation was proving too popular. Volunteers were in the area to direct the crowds around to keep the flow.


At the same time, a petition was launched to keep the display at the Tower of London for a longer period of time. Recently, we were informed that part of the display (the 'wave' feature that appears to flow over the bridge and the 'weeping willow' that appears to cascade from a window) will remain intact until the end of the month. These will then go on display in various locations throughout the UK to bring a part of the installation to those who were unable to see it. The two features will then be on display at the Imperial War Museum so that future generations can appreciate them. The remainder of the poppies will be shipped to those who purchased them.


I knew that the art installation was proving to be popular at the weekends and during half-term as the trains to London were crowded with people mentioning going to see "the poppies at the Tower". However, I did not realise just how popular they were until I heard about people being asked not to visit the installation.


On my first visit to the installation, the area was empty. I noticed that a couple of people happened to come upon the installation and read an information board about it.




The crowd was several people deep on my latest visit, and it was too busy, so I did not bother to stay long.


Have you seen the poppies? The removal will start after November 11th, so there's still a good chance to see them before the volunteers finish collecting them and shipping them to their new owners.

Remembrance Sunday 2014

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Today is Remebrance Sunday. I was walking around Westminster earlier in the week and noticed that they were beginning to get the area ready for today's parades and events. I came across a display of crosses and poppy wreaths outside Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church. This display is the 'Fields of Remebrance', and it has been held in the garden between the cathedral and church since 1928. Apparently, Prince Harry opened the 'Fields of Remembrance' on the day that I visited, but I did not see him as I visited later in the day.




Toward the end of the summer, I visited The Colonnade hotel for afternoon tea. The Colonnade is based near Little Venice in London, an area of beautiful and expensive large white Georgian-style houses along the canal. The building is actually the birthplace of Alan Turing, founder of computer science and one of those responsible for breaking the codes in World War 2; he was born in 1912. Sigmund Freud also stayed in the building in the 1930s, and it was a hotel at that time.


The streets are lined with Georgian terraces and large trees, and the hotel has a small courtyard where afternoon tea can be enjoyed. As it was a beautiful summery day, having tea outside would have been lovely. However, we did not do this as my guest wanted to sit inside in case others arrived with cigarettes.


We were led into the basement area, which was a little too warm for my liking and had a large skylight to brighten it up. The decor is modern but does look a little tired, in my opinion. We were seated and served our champagne.


The three-tier afternoon tea stand arrived soon afterwards, packed full of sandwiches, pastries and scones.


We had a selection of cucumber, ham and salmon sandwiches, which were all tasty.


The tea was a slight disappointment as it was nothing special. Afternoon tea, in my opinion, should be loose leaf tea. The calibre of afternoon tea provided did not fit the elegance of the hotel and the area, in my opinion. I felt slightly let down.


We received a fruit scone and a plain scone with a fresh strawberry. The scone did taste nice.


We had a small selection of pastries. These included a couple of macaroons, cheesecake, carrot cake, brownie bites, and chocolate eclairs. Overall, these were disappointing. The selection was also not described when they were brought over to us, so we just had to guess the flavour or type of pastry.



On the way out, we noticed the spendor of the hotel and a full suit of armour in the lobby of the hotel.


This afternoon tea was a bit of a disappointment as I felt that the calbire of the afternoon tea did not match the hotel. Have you been to The Colonnade for afternoon tea? What did you think of it? What is your favourite London afternoon tea? 

Ulster Folk Museum

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I have always been fascinated by how people in North America and Europe used to live in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and I always loved to visit living history places. Unfortunately, there were not really many of these where I grew up, and they never compared to Greenfield Village at Ford in Michigan and a couple of the folk parks I visited in Ireland, including the Ulster Folk Museum. Last November, I went to Greenfield Village, and some of my photographs are included in the post Days Out: Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. At the beginning of June this year, I visited the Ulster Folk Museum after A Weekend in Belfast.

Irish soda bread cooking on the fire in a traditional Irish home

We visited the Ulster Folk Museum, which is a collection of several historic buildings from various parts of Ireland, after leaving Belfast behind us. The majority of the buildings are in the recreated town, named Ballycultra, but there's also some historic farms and other farm-related buildings on a rural trail. The buildings contain historic furniture and items to match the standard of that type of house or building in the time period. 

The Old Rectory

The house pictured above (The Old Rectory) was built in 1717, and it is English in design. Most of those who settled in Ulster were of Scottish origin. In the late 1700s, a retired captain who fought for the British in the War of American Independence lived in the house. By the 1800s, it was lived in by a minister Rev. McCullough and the house was extended. The house is furnished for a clergyman of the time 1890-1910. In my opinion, it is one of the more unique and nicer buildings.

Kitchen in Old Rectory

When we entered the house, there were a couple of women in period dress there to chat to us about the house, and they had soda bread on the fire. We explored the house noting all of the cobwebs and spiders in the wooden beams. Upstairs is a large room with the brickwork forming the chimney.


The furnishings looked modest enough, and the room held two beds, with chamberpots of course. I imagine that the parents and children shared this room.


After visiting that house, we explored the remainder of the town area. There were plenty of shops and other businesses to visit. We visited the police station and read about a history of the police in late 1800s and early 1900s. We visited the courthouse and read some material about some real cases and punishments.

Afterwards, we visited the printer's and saw a collection of very old newspapers and saw a printing press in action. The upstairs of the printer's is a Newspaper Reading Room. In the 1800s-1900s, these were common in Ulster towns as a way to get news and information before they were replaced by libraries in the 1950s. There would be a subscription fee, but visitors could read newspapers from other parts of the world. Fascinating. This makes me realise how lucky (or unlucky) we are to live in a world where information is literally at our fingertips.

Old bus driving down road in Ballycultra

There was also a doctor's office, school, pub, post office, bank, clothing shop and factory, hardware shop, and several churches of different Christain faiths to visit and we went into all of these that were opened.

Off of "the triangle" (the town "square" is in a triangle shape in Ireland) is a tearoom, and we had a quick snack here. I had a cinnamon scone, which was really nice. Next door is the Picture House, a cinema for silent films that was used between 1909 and 1931. Refreshments could be purchased, but it was tea and a bun instead of soda and popcorn that we know today. When we visited, Charlie Chaplin was showing. We watched a little bit of it.

Tearoom and Picture House

A couple of buildings away from the cafe and Picture House is Meeting Street, a row of houses that also contained trades inside some of them, such as a bicycle repair shop and a shoe shop. These houses were built in the late 1800s.

Meeting Street

Shoe repairs shop

After wandering around a few of the other buildings in the town, we made our way to the rural trail. We saw this cute young donkey with its mother in one of the fields on the edge of the town.


Coshkib Hill Farm is one of the farms we visited on the rural trail, and the farm had chickens wandering outside. The family who owned the farm contributed to a lot of folklore, which including music and storytelling, and the house was used a lot as a social gathering place.

Coshkib Hill Farm

A photograph of the kitchen in the farmhouse is below. There are plenty of seats for visitors.

Coshkib Hill Farm kitchen

These chickens were pecking the ground outside.

Coshkib Hill Farm chickens

Next, we went to Ballyvollen Houses, a collection of cottages.

Ballyvollen Houses kitchen

Ballyvollen Houses are unique houses that have their roofs supported by English-style oak cruck-trusses (see photograph below), and they are thought to have originated in the 1600s. They were built by English settlers to the region of Lough Neagh and would have been used for salmon fishing. There is also a basket-maker's house next to these houses as that was an important trade for that particular area.


Bedroom - Ballyvollen Houses

Not far from these cottages is a blacksmith's cottage, Ballinderry House. It is a single-story house. 

Blacksmith - Ballinderry House

Coalisland Spade Mill, located on the rural trail, was used to make spades for farming. It was not running at the time and was locked.

Coalisland Spade Mill

One of the small cottages on the rural trail is a blacksmith's forge. Unlike the one in the town, this one had someone working inside it.

Lisrace Forge interior

Off to the side of the rural trail and in a little meadow is this small stone tower, known as Tulylish Bleach Tower. The tower was shelter for a watchman whose duty it was to guard rows of newly-woven linen that were stretched to bleach in the sun in the bleach field. (Linen's natural colour is brown, but it changes to white if left in the sunlight for a period of time.) Stealing this linen as it was bleaching was a common crime in Ulster.

Tulylish Bleach Tower

Our final stop was The Cornershop. The Cornershop served the immediate neighbourhood in an area of a town or city. This cornershop has less of the goods that would be standard products that would be useful to buy, but sweets can be bought here.

The Cornershop

There's a really nice guide on the museum's website that explains the history of each of the buildings: 

Bonfire Night 2014

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Basingstoke held its annual Bonfire Night and fireworks to celebrate November 5th last Saturday evening. (For those outside of the United Kingdom, the day marks the attempt by a man named Guy Fawkes and others to overthrow parliament; he was hanged for treason, and bonfires and fireworks mark the celebrations.) I went to Basingstoke's fireworks display this year as it fell on the weekend and I could attend. In previous years, it was held on the 5th, and I was unable to attend when this fell on a weeknight. Basingstoke had also rebranded their event to "Basingstoke's Big Bang". I saw plenty of fireworks.



In addition to the fireworks, a bonfire was lit with a scarecrow/dummy representing Guy Fawkes on the top. The bonfire was warm on the chilly November evening. I took a lot of photographs and watched the fire dance and change shape. Sometimes, the shapes looked like animals or faces.



Happy November 5th! What are you doing to celebrate this year? Many of the firework displays will happen tonight or this weekend.

Dinner at Cantina Vinopolis

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I've wanted to give Cantina Vinopolis, located in Borough Market, a try for some time. After receiving a BuyAGift voucher for Christmas last year, the opportunity came up. When we both arrived, we were the first to be seated in the restaurant. After initial good service, the service went downhill as soon as we were seated and I asked which wines were available with our voucher. Now, potentially this could be a nice restaurant as the food is not bad, but the service was terrible.

(Not only was the service bad, but I ordered a bottle of Prosecco and was informed after 15 or 20 minutes that the Prosecco was not cold. Why they didn't inform us of this before we received our starter is another issue. We were told that it would be chilled in 15 minutes if we wanted to wait, and we did decide to wait. I asked for the Prosecco to be delivered before our food, and I was hungry so I overdid it on the bread rolls while we waited.)


We received our glass of white wine after a little too long, and then the menus were taken away and we were given a cut-down menu. I'd already decided what I wanted from the other menu, and I was not keen on any of the mains on the new menu. 

My partner had the chicken liver and foir gras pate with chutney and brown bread, and I had the soup of the day, which ended up being a creamy tomato. The soup was quite nice. 


For the main, I decided upon the gnocchi filled with tomato, basil and mozzarella in a tomato sauce. I was not keen on the meat dishes on offer as they did not offer the spring chicken that I was looking forward to that I had decided to have on the main menu before the menus were removed and replaced with a BuyAGift menu! My partner opted for the duck leg.

The gnocchi tasted alright, but I had an overdose on tomato and carbs. After the bread fiasco while we waited for our bottle of Prosecco (which still was not chilled enough), so I was unable to finish my meal.


I started to feel a bit ill as I had eaten too much. I had to leave some of my main behind, and to tell you the truth, I was not even excited by the dessert by the time it arrived. And actually, it didn't seem like much of a loss. The dessert was not the best. We both ordered the dark chocolate mousse with raspberry sorbet. The mousse was not creamy and did not have much taste. The raspberry sorbet was nice, though.


Overall, I had to give this place low marks on the service we received. I am not sure why they have a different menu for BuyAGift. The voucher is still expensive enough to merit the original menu options, surely. BuyAGift is not like Groupon, where the prices are greatly discounted. 

Have you visited Cantina Vinopolis? What did you think of it?

C215 Uncovered on Blackall Street

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Blackall Street has had a little bit of a clean prior to building works taking place, with some of the paste-ups disappearing from the walls a few weeks ago. This has led to the uncovering of a piece of street art by C215. The artist, who is from France, has stenciled a lot of portraits and cats around London. However, his work does not seem to last too long as it tends to get tagged over quickly by another street artist that I assume he has a rilvary with. I originally covered the artist in my post Street Art: C215


Summer 2014 Street Art by HIN

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Street artist HIN (Street Art: HIN) pasted a couple of walls near Brick Lane at the end of the summer. The last time I noticed his work was toward the end of last year, and he pasted a few collaborative pieces with artists Mo, Cranio, Senna and others. You can see those pieces here

The first mural appeared on some gates on Hanbury Street, an area already popular with ever-changing street art. The title is "Racist Bear" and features one bear being waited on by another and several slave bears with chains around the legs. Unfortunately, the middle bit of the gate was open, so I was unable to get a good photograph. The next time I went back to see about getting a better photograph, another street artist had tagged over the section.


The second wall artwork shows a monkey on a cloud with several other smaller monkeys with several bananas floating around. A speech bubble above the big monkey reads "Oh god, please tell me there's bananas in heaven." This one made me laugh. 


I hope that we will be seeing some more work by the artist before the end of the year.

Two weeks ago, I made a visit to "Tina We Salute You", a cafe in Dalston. I paid a visit twice that same week during my lunch hour as I had to do errands, and I had heard good reviews about the cafe, which often has street art painted on the outside walls. My visit was in the run-up to Halloween, so pumpkin desserts were on the menu. On my first visit, I had the chocolate meringue cake, made with pumpkin-spiced meringue (picture at the bottom of this post). This was tasty. 


On my second visit, later in the same week, I visited the cafe and had the place to myself. I decided to try one of the lunch/breakfast items on the menu. I had the bubble, cheddar and bacon sandwich. 


After the sandwich, I decided to take away a slice of chocolate and pumpkin bread, which had just come straight from the oven and was still warm. It was the perfect temperature by the time I completed my errand in Dalston and got back to work on Brick Lane. It was the perfect afternoon snack. 

Tina We Salute You is located at 47 King Henry's Walk, Dalston, N1 4NH.


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