October 2015 Archives

Happy Halloween

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Happy Halloween to all of my visitors. This time of year is one of my favourites as I always enjoyed Halloween. My Halloweens as a child were spent in America where my brothers and I would dress up in costume and be driven to the nearest village where we would walk around as a family and ask for candy. I do remember feeling sad when I could no longer trick or treat; I am fairly tall, so I would never have gotten away with it, even if I was covered with a costume.


I always enjoyed trick or treating and seeing all of the costumes that everyone wore and all of the other people who were out doing the same. Halloween has always been much bigger in America than it is here in England. In America, there are set rules for trick or treating. No one ever tricked anyone (at least to my knowledge as it is considered rude), and we knew which houses were giving away candy as they had their porch lights on. England doesn't know these rules yet, and you do hear of sad stories where people have been mean to others. 


I am staying in and not celebrating this Halloween, despite it's a rare one in that it is on Saturday this year. In fact, I may be a little quieter over the coming months as I get settled in the new house and the new area. In addition, work is also continuing to be busy for me. I will have a lot of different tasks to focus on over the coming months. 

Street Art: Ben Murphy and Pang

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Previously, I covered artwork by Ben Murphy, who creates his artwork using electrical tape. I've also covered artwork by Pang, who create various doodles of ashtrays and figures around east London. Last year, the artists collaborated on some artwork. This post will showcase some of their recent art in London in addition to the collaborations. 


The first piece is created using electrical tape, with Pang's ash tray in the middle of the image. Last autumn, I also noticed this sign on Hackney Road. It is another collaboration by both artists Pang and Ben Murphy.



On Great Eastern Street, I captured work by Pang and additional work by Millo, who was in London last summer and painted a few walls.


I found what looks like an older piece by Millo next to a piece by Ben Murphy.


Last summer, Pang created the image below on Hackney Road. Artista and USArt also appear next to the Pang piece.

Artista, Pang and USArt

Ben Murphy often adds his work to this window on Boundary Street.


Pang painted a few bits and pieces last summer and autumn, including this piece on Sclater Street.


On the return from Orkney Islands in 2013, I stopped at the Grey Cairns of Camster. They are located in Caithness in the highlands of Scotland. Scotland is rich in Neolithic history that has not been altered too much, and the Orkney Islands were filled with cairns and other very important sites. (You can read some of my posts on Skara Brae, Hoy Island, Kirkwall/Italian Chapel, Birsay, Cairns and Roussay by following the links.) We'd also just spent the morning at the Castle of Mey, which is on the mainland of Scotland and isn't too far from the ferry to Orkney.


The Grey Cairns of Camster are located in Caithness in Scotland, an area that was once populated with people who created these Neolithic tombs (cairns). In those days, it was fertile farmland and probably had a large population, but as we learned in Orkney, something happened (we're not quite sure) to cause the climate to change and people left. The area became peat land in the Bronze Age.


These cairns are over 5,000 years old, and they contain a long chamber (Camster Long) and a round cairn (Camster Round). They have been reconstructed.


I was able to get inside the Round Cairn on its own, so I crawled inside. I did the same in Orkney in a couple of different cairns, and there's not much room. I literally had to lie down and crawl inside the opening, which consisted of a tunnel for a few feet (or yards) until I came to the chamber opening where there are partitions where the bones were kept.


Once inside, I took a photograph out through the main entrance/exit. For those who dislike small places or those with mobility or health issues, crawling into a cairn is not recommended.


Once inside, the tomb opened into the below. Round Cairn has a passage that is 6 metres long that I had to crawl through before the opening. As you can see in the above and below photographs, the earth is black. There was actually a foot of burnt bones and black ash along the floor of the cairn. It is thought that bodies were placed in a sitting position but without leg bones for some reason (1).


I headed back out to the main cairn (Camster Long), which contains three entrances. Camster Long was thought to have consisted of two round cairns which were later joined by passages. The tomb contained human bones that were mixed with pig, oxen, deer, and horse bones. 


Camster Long's doorways are fenced, but the fences are open for anyone to crawl inside. Unfortunately, I felt that these were too narrow for me to crawl through and I wished that I was a child again so I could crawl through the very long and narrow tunnel. The passage went on a lot further than the round cairn, so I did not attempt to crawl inside. I actually could not even see where the entrance to the tombs was to see exactly how far that I would have to crawl, but the passageway went on for several meters.


The image below shows one of the entrances.


The cairns do look picturesque against the rugged countryside.


We had a good day to visit as the weather was nice at the cairns, but we'd just come from a rainstorm after Castle Mey, where we had light rain, and entered another one a couple of miles down the road. The Grey Cairns of Camster in Caithness can be visited and they are open to visitors. A large parking area is available, and the cairns can be seen from the road and are located along the road.

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Cairns_of_Camster

Those who know me in real life know that I was born in the state of Ohio and lived most of my life there before I moved to the United Kingdom. I've also never been to a football (American football) game. A few months ago, however, I was told that the Ohio State University Marching Band would be performing at Wembley for an NFL game - the Buffalo Bills vs the Jacksonville Jaguars. So, the bloke and I got tickets and hoped we'd be on the right side to watch.


NFL and American football is actually becoming quite popular in England and is establishing a larger fan base each year. One of my English friends started a British fan club for the Giants and watches games and has met some managers and players in NFL. Wembley stadium can take 90,000 people, and over 84,000 watched this game.


We turned up early to spend the whole day around Wembley. Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, Krispy Kremes (the ones with vanilla cream are my favourites but they do not sell them except for special events), popcorn, American pancakes, and bacon were all on offer to cater to Americans. The area was filled with British and American fans.


Although the Jaguars were considered the 'home' team (and every seat in the stadium received a free Jaguars flag), I mainly saw Bills fans. A lot of Bills fans from New York came to see their team play, and we spoke to a couple of fans in the queue for merchandise.


We actually had decent seats. We made sure we arrived and sat in plenty of time.


The Ohio State University Marching Band were up first, performing a special "British Invasion" theme. This started with the NFL logo and then morphed into Big Ben and time travel as we were taken to various stages of British music from 1965 to the present. 


This morphed into The Who, Rolling Stones, iconic London buses, Abbey Road, a guitar, a rock singer with a microphone, the Tower of London, the London Eye, and a crown before reverting back to Big Ben. 







The script Ohio was also performed, and we heard many good comments about the performance around us from others watching the show.


After the performance, the players came out into the stadium as did the Jaguars' cheerleaders and two of the Jaguars' mascots. 



The national anthem for America and then the UK was sung, and heroes were welcomed and remembered on top of a giant poppy. The Ohio State University Marching band performed again and transformed into the stars and stripes and the Union Jack for the anthems.



Then we watched the game.



A camera inside an NFL ball kept floating about the lower seats. We also managed quite a few Mexican waves around the whole stadium. It was a good atmosphere.


Bills scored the first goal, but the Jaguars caught up and got several in at once. Each time they scored, the flames would light up and flags waved.




At the end, the Bills were ahead and looked like they would win it, but the Jaguars got in and scored again. They won by three points.


So, this weekend was a first for me and a little bit different as I've never been to a game before. It was nice to see some other people with Ohio State shirts on in the crowds at Wembley too, and I also saw a few with Bengals shirts (another team from Ohio, and they played earlier in the year at Wembley) on. The European fans seem to wear whichever team's shirts they like to go to the game, regardless of who is playing, which made a good atmosphere with people sharing a common interest in sport. 

Street Art Round-up: Spring & Summer 2015

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Over the past few months, some amazing street art has been painted in London. Although I am not in east London every day like I was before, I have managed to go back to visit every now and again and take some photographs of what I see. Below are some of the better pieces that I have managed to photograph before they have been painted over.

RIP Ben Naz (street artist) - Trust Icon

Trust Icon


Senor X

X-Funk by Shok-1

Canadian artist Ryan Smeeton

Plastic Jesus





Vibes Odisy



Airbourne Mark



Captain Kris, Thieu, Spzero, Tommy Fiendish

Tommy Fiendish



Belles et Buth

Himbad & Spzero



Lost Souls




Senor X

Father Ted steert art - Jb(?)




InkFetish and Julian Mts

Julian Mt


Ar and Joysee


Deam Gina

City Hack

Bunny Brigade and others






Unknown and Lomin




Captain Kris

Anna Laurini

Unknown Princess Leia

Otto Schade

Otto Schade

Otto Schade


Nathan Bowen

Mr Shiz

Of course, I will continue to post as much street art as I can, even though I am not in the area as often as I was before or often enough to get photographs of a piece before it changes or has been painted over.

Street Art: Jekse & Cines

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

'Un Kolor Distinto' is a team of two street artists known as Jekse and Cines. The duo (Sammy and Cynthia are their real names) are both from Chile, and they recently visited London and painted a few walls. The artists use vibrant colours to create feminine-style portraits and birds. They have been sponsored by the city to paint their city's walls. Both studied art and illustration, and Sammy is also a graphic designer. I captured a few of their murals scattered about the city below.





More information about the street artists can be seen on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/unkolordistinto or their website http://www.unkolordistinto.com

Street Art: Zabou

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Zabou is a street artist who started creating her murals in 2012. Originally from France, she has painted striking stencil-based murals across London. The murals are typically witty and made with bold lines with splashes of colour. I really enjoy seeing new work from this artist and watching her evolve over the past couple of years.


One of the first murals that I discovered by Zabou was located on Old Street in east London and featured a girl in a raincoat and a bicycle. I discovered this in 2013.


The artist has been very busy in London this year, so many of the images below have been taken over the course of the past year.



















The artist has also collaborated with other street artists, such as the two pieces below featuring Zabou and Saki and Zabou and Senor X.





For more information about the artist, visit their website http://zabou.me or Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/zabou.artist.

A few months ago, I promised I'd write a review of Secret Cinema's new big summer venture, "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back". Now that the screenings have come to an end, I can provide as much information as possible without spoiling the fun for anyone. For those who are not familiar with Secret Cinema, Secret Cinema is a company that provides an immersive cinema experience. Before the film, the viewers are immersed in a world created and inspired by the film. During the film, actors dressed like the characters in the film take part to bring the experience to life. (Photographs were not permitted at the venue.)


The last two major events have made it into the mainstream. Last summer was "Back to the Future" (covered here), which also has a revival this year with its 30th anniversary. This summer was "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back". I am really not sure where they go to from something as big as "Star Wars".

I've always been a huge fan of the film "Star Wars", back when it was not considered to be cool, and everyone in the past few years seems to love it. It's particularly popular at the moment with the new film coming out in December, so everyone is getting in on the marketing.


"Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" isn't my favourite of the original "Star Wars" trilogy. I've always preferred the first film, "A New Hope", but "The Empire Strikes Back" is often cited by many as their most favourite. 

In June, I visited the Secret Cinema Secret Cantina. This nightclub is themed on the cantina from Mos Eisley in the first film. The following weekend, I made my way to the secret location (Canada Water) to be transported to a galaxy far, far away.


The quest started out with some exercises to transition from the real world to the "Star Wars" world. Each guest was provided with a new character name and role. The role I received was "Galactic Explorer", and there was a set of ideas for a dress code. The bloke received the equivelant of the Jedi (they called it 'Creative Council') and his brother received the Pilot but decided to go with the Jedi. Each guest was told to wear a scarf, and this scarf would allow the actors to know the guest's faction. Each faction also had its own role or quest, but everyone's experience would be vastly different.

After the military-style training and interactions with actors, we made our way to a mock Tatooine and Mos Eisley. The model houses were made to look like Luke's farm, the cantina, and Obi Wan Kenobi's house. The Mos Eisley area had a market with sights and sounds similar to the world of "Star Wars" universe. In addition, there were smells of dust and food to heighten the experience. Landspeeders, aliens, the Huts (Jabba), and droids all wandered around the massive set. Also, parts of the film were acted out by actors in various stages.

The objective was to trade to receive a shuttle ticket to the training area. We did this and were led through a mock shuttle journey and captured and taken in on the Death Star. The Death Star was the second large area. We witnessed Princess Leia being captured and held in a cell here with others also being held in cells. 


At the end of the journey, we were called into the main room where the end of the first film was re-enacted with a lightsabre battle with Obi Wan adn Darth Vader and then the Death Star became the trench with an almost-to-scale X-wing suspended above to fire the shot into the port to blow up the Death Star. Afterwards, we made our way into the theatre to continue to story from "The Empire Strikes Back".

We nearly finished our quest, but we ran out of time as we spent a little too long at Mos Eisley, and the experience went so quickly. Actually, I wish that we could have started the experience a little earlier than 5:30.

I would have loved to have gone back to re-live the experience and finish the quest that we had started. I've had a lot going on this year and tickets were costly, so I never got to go back. I'm not sure that Secret Cinema will be able to top "Star Wars", but I am curious to see what they do next year. 

Over the weekend, I visited French restaurant Balthazar in Covent Garden to indulge in afternoon tea with the bloke. The current theme for afternoon tea at Balthazar is based on British fashion designer Matthew Williamson's autumn/winter 2015 designs. The pastries have been designed to mimic the designer's collection.


Matthew Williamson's fall/winter 2015 collection is inspired by amethyst and sapphire and other richly-coloured jewel tones. Bright pink, purples, and golds are some of the colours used, and these have inspired Balthazar's head chef Régis Beauregard to create the pastries.


In addition to the afternoon tea, a glass of champagne or signature cocktail could also be purchased. The cocktail was designed by Matthew Williamson and the bar manager of Balthazar, and it's called the Cosmic Cocktail. The cocktail (the pink one on the right in the image above) contains Campari, Mandarine Napoleon, and a cube of sugar. It is topped up with champagne. 


Our afternoon tea arrived, served on three-tier plates. On the bottom tier, we had the sandwiches. They included cucumber and pea purée with mint, smoked salmon with crème fraîche, coronation chicken, and egg mayonnaise and watercress.


The restaurant forgot to give us the pulled ham hock in mini fougasse sandwiches. I had to ask them for the sandwiches.


All of the sandwiches tasted good with fresh ingredients, and we liked the fougasse (bread for the ham hock sandwiches).


Scones followed, and we received two plain scones and two fruit scones. Clotted cream and strawberry jam were provided. The strawberry jam was a little too runny and kept sliding off of the scones, but otherwise, they tasted good.


Last up, we had the pastries inspired by the autumn/winter 2015 collection.


First up was the choux pastry (eclair) filled with fresh yuzu curd. The top is decorated with a wood-grain effect thin chocolate layer with an additional design using white chocolate.

After this, I tried the bright pink pastry - raspberry and hibiscus baba, which was a light sponge with a fruity raspberry flavour. The top was decoated with fruit (I think it was raspberry coulis) and a white chocolate leaf.


For the third item, we had a glass decorated with a chocolate bird and raspberries. This is the gooseberry and yoghurt roulade. A mousse-yoghurt was layered underneath raspberries, followed by the gooseberry and a light sponge. I'm not a fan of gooseberry, so this was my least favourite of the pastries and I did not finish it. 


We then moved on to the almond and hazelnut rocher. This contained a design with a sculptured sugar hard sweet on top to make it appear like a flower bloom. The bottom third of the pastry was covered in cereal flakes. This was my favourite of the pastries and did not taste too rich. 


The last pastry we had was the macaroon with blueberry and violet consommé jelly and white chocolate Chantilly. 


The Matthew Williamson afternoon tea is served until February 5. Afternoon tea at Balthazar is served from 3:00pm until 5:00pm. 

My Dog Sighs on Rivington Street

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Earlier this summer, street artist My Dog Sighs painted a mural on a high-profile wall on Rivington Street. The mural features the artist's trademark eyes with reflections and droplets of water (or bubbles). I'm always amazed at how realistic the artist's technique works. His talent for eyes/droplets and the cute 'Hug' figure, which I have included in past posts, is making the artist more well-known in the world of street art, and he's already got a lot of fans.




This is the second wall that I've seen the artist paint in east London, and the artist has had much exposure this year. His work was highly-publicised during Bristol's Upfest, which I covered here and here. Last year, the artist painted a mural in a hidden alley in Blackall Street, which did not last long before the building was demolished. Previously, he has also collaborated with street artist Midge.

Hopefully he will be returning to create more artwork in London in the coming months as I'd love to see more of his work.

Discarded London

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

When I used to work on Brick Lane, I would spend my lunch breaks exploring the streets. The streets always offered something new; something had always changed from the last time I visited. Normally, it was a new paste-up or street art mural. Sometimes, it was interesting discarded items or rubbish. Even before Francisco da Pajaro (also known as 'Art is Trash', who I covered here and here) came to London and decorated these piles of trash or 'found art', I saw the 'art' in the discarded items. Many of these were placed randomly and in obscure places. Sometimes, the item was altered with a message from someone else who happened to come across the item before me. This post showcases only a small selection of items that I found and photographed on the streets of east London.















Japanese steak house Benihana is a restaurant that I've been wanting to try for a little while and decided to combine this with a trip to Her Majesty's Theatre on Haymarket to see "Phantom of the Opera". I've seen "Phantom of the Opera" before, but the bloke has never seen it so I took him to see it one afternoon. Admittedly, the play is not one of my favourites, but I like the music. We had a small bottle of Prosecco in the theatre before the show began and the show ended in time for dinner.



We walked over to Benihana just off of Piccadilly Street after the play.


We were a little early, so while we waited for them to set up, we had a couple of cocktails. They were a little too strong for me as I am not a fan of strong cocktails.



For those who are not familiar with the Japanese steak house concept, visitors sit around a table with a few other guests, and the table doubles as a large grill. Each table has a chef who prepares and cooks the meal in front of the diners. While the chef cooks, he shows tricks with the knife and other utensils, using fire and flames as a part of the show. This isn't the first Japanese steak house I've been to; they are more common in America.



The dinner started with miso soup, which was delicious, and a salad.



Sushi was also a course, and there were a few different varieties of fish sushi, but I asked for vegetarian sushi. 


The bloke wanted to order a sake, a Japanese alcoholic drink made with rice. I am not a fan of the drink as it's too strong, so he drank that himself.


We watched the chef cook using flame. At one point, he made a little mountain using onion and turned the onion slices into a smoking volcano. Very clever.



I had chicken teriyaki.


The bloke had seafood and steak.



The chef used the rice to create some artwork with a heart.


We both had dessert as well. The bloke had ice cream, and I tried the deep-fried banana.


Overall, Benihana was good but it was not nearly the best Japanese steak house I have ever been to. I actually prefer this style of food in America. Would I go again? Yes, but it would not be my first choice of venue not that I have been as it is also expensive.

Knowing that I would no longer have all of the shops on my doorstep after I moved, I spent the final week in Basingstoke wandering around the shops. I had to pick up some make-up and a cute London bag from high street shop Accessorize. Accessorize has launched a beauty line in its stores, and the packaging is quite cute for some of the items.


I opted for a selection of eyeshadows in natural shades, and this came in a cute London-print box. 


The second item that I picked up is a shimmery nail polish in a bronze-gold colour called 'Treasure'. I love the multi-faceted little pots, and there's so many colours and even glittery shades to choose from.


Thirdly, I had to buy this London bag. Accessorize had quite a bit of different shades of polish, lipsticks, lip gloss, blushers, eye shadows, and other make-up items. I loved the packaging. For more products, visit their online shop here: http://uk.accessorize.com/uk/beauty/all-make-up


Last but not least, a few weeks previously, I discovered a Model's Own kiosk of make-up and nail polish, designed like a giant nail polish jar, in Festival Place in Basingstoke. I assumed it was a limited-time pop-up shop, but the staff said that it was permanent and it's been in place for almost two months now.

I have tried Model's Own products before and found them to be okay, so I opted to buy some more nail polish on their offer. I selected a couple metallic shades (rose gold and a turquoise) and yellow, light purple, and peach. The metallic shades don't have much staying power and needed topping-up after a day, and I had to use a few coats of paint for the paler shades. 

Visit to Amsterdam

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

A couple of months ago, I visited Amsterdam. Readers may have seen my post about the Miro sculptures, Miffy Art Parade, SAIL 2015, or my visit to the Van Gogh Museum and House of Bols. The following photographs are a selection of what I captured on my camera of the city.














After sight-seeing, the bloke and I went to Trattoria Buoni Amici, an Italian restaurant based in Hoofddorp near to where we were staying. We had a very good meal there, so I would recommend it.


For starters, we had soup. I had the tomato soup. This was served with bread.


Next, we had the mains. I had a vegetarian pasta and the bloke had lamb.


This was followed by desserts.


We were offered a complementary orange-flavoured alcoholic drink.


I'm hoping to go to Amsterdam again sometime soon.

On Sunday, a group of us went to watch the final race for British Touring Cars at Brand's Hatch. We had VIP access to a private lounge with a balcony view over-looking the track. This also included our own small private lounge, breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea and as many alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as we wanted.

Unforunately, I realised that I left my camera at home after twenty minutes into the journey. I'll blame the fact that we've only just moved and I'm still very much unsettled and will be for some time. I even left the camera where I would not forget it but did anyway as I was distracted and it was very early when we left. Because of this, I did not get many good photographs and my mobile battery became very low in the early afternoon.


We arrived quite early and had our breakfast in the VIP lounge. Bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, mushrooms, tomato, baked beans, bread, and a selection of muffins were on offer. The food tasted delicious.



After we had our fill, we went out to explore the cars and pit lanes. I saw a car being spray-painted with street art, and it raced later on.



Our first stop was the pit lanes. We got to the pit lanes a little late as I was waiting on friends to finish their breakfast, and we did not have a lot of time. However, I still was able to meet Jason Plato and got a couple of autographs.


The races began, and the VIP lounge area became the scene of several spin-off cars. 




Lunch was served from 12:00, and we could pick what we wanted. Choices included beef, tuna, coronation chicken, ham, and pasta. I had the pasta and also tried the ham. The food was delicious. For dessert, lemon panna cotta with fresh fruit was served.


Right after we ate, we had the chance to see the Parachute Regiment. We watched four different parachutes jump and land around the 'X' and red smoke on the ground. Two of them had a flag, and one of the flags was a hude British flag.




Afternoon tea was served before the last race and consisted of pre-made sandwiches and carrot or Victoria Sponge cake. 

We had a good day out, and I watched the final three races of the day from the balcony. The weather was bracing with some wind (it is October after all), but I managed to watch from the balcony.

UK 2015 Glossybox Review: September

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Glossybox is a monthly subscription box that sends approximately five samples (or full size) makeup and skincare products. I've been reviewing my items in Glossybox since last summer. This month's theme is the "style edition" and features make-up and hair products.


My box included the following items:

Maria Nila Luminous Colour Hair Masque: This hair mask has a light scent and made my hair feel soft and hydrated. I'm not too fond of using it from a pot and prefer a bottle, so the packaging is the only negative aspect.

Invisibobbles: Every subscriber received a hair band, and the colour I received was grey. These promise to prevent your hair from breaking or becoming tangled in similar products.

Marsk Eyeshadow Brush Pro: I've used Marsk products before and have liked them. This brush helps blend eyeshadow, and I will be using this when my current brush needs replacing.

Nails Inc Polish (in 'Uptown'): Nails Inc polish is okay, but I really dislike this muted pink colour. I've actually got two pots of the same colour in a different brand that I bought a few years ago, and I hate the colour. This will become a re-gift. I wish that I'd been sent the other option, which appears to be a grey shade.

Bellapierre Shimmer Powder (in 'Whesek'): I received a shimmery silver shade, and I actually do have an identical or almost-identical product, which I do like a lot.


Also included was a voucher for BestSecret, which I also received last summer but never got around to using. I'm not going to get around to using this one either as I endevaour to save money going forward, and as I realised after moving house, I seriously need to de-clutter.

The Battle of Britain at 75 Concert

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The Battle of Britain took place 75 years ago on the 18th of September. The bloke and I got tickets for that day to go to a concert at Biggin Hill airport, which was a runway used in the second World War by the pilots who defended the country from the German planes. The concert was broadcast live in cinemas around the country and on BBC Radio 2 'Friday Night is Music Night'.


The event was hosted by Dermot O'Leary, Jeremy Vine, and Sophie Raworth. The concert included a live orchestra (BBC Concert Orchestra) and a selection of music of the era performed and sang by Pixie Lott and others. Archive footage was shown as well as new footage from RAF personnel and stories from those who lived through these times. Some of the letters and poetry written at the time was set to music. 


When we arrived at the hangar, where the concert was held, we admired a few Spitfire planes in front of the hangars. Two of these would be used in fly-past and a display before the concert. 


We walked around a couple of kiosks set up with Spitfire finds and another selling stamps. Live music was also taking place outside as well as a re-enactment of the camp. The area was cramped with only two food stands and a bar serving, so the queues were horrendous and they did not plan that correctly. We did not have lunch nor dinner as we had rushed around that day and got stuck in bad traffic.


When the sun was setting, we watched the two Spitfires go onto the runway so that they could take off.


We watched the displays.



After the display, we made our way into the hangar for the concert. We were sat far back and couldn't see the stage as there were too many heads in the way (the seats were not staggered), but I managed to get a couple of photographs. The sound quality also was not great in the hangar and I had trouble making out what was being said, but we did catch a repeat of it on television, and it sounded amazing.


Did you watch the concert at Biggin Hill or see it in the cinema? What did you think?

A month ago, the bloke and I met up with two friends in Mattingley, a small 'settlement' near Basingstoke with a pub named "Leather Bottle", which was used as a coach inn in the old days. The name 'Mattingley' also has some family history as I have relatives (by marriage, I believe) with that surname who originally came from the area. Even before I knew this fact, I visited the "Leather Bottle" once before, several years ago before I bought my apartment in Basingstoke.


The bloke and I sat in the garden and had a drink while we waited for our friends to arrive. The weather was sunny but overcast in some places, so we had a cool breeze when the sun was hidden by the clouds. This still did not deter us from sitting outside to enjoy what was left of the summer.


We ordered our mains, and I opted for the chicken and ham pie, which was served with carrot and cabbage and mash. The bloke ordered lamb, and this came with potato dauphinoise and beetroot and broccoli.



My friends ordered salmon salad and Mayalsian chicken curry. I understand that all meals were delicious. My chicken was good, but the crust was a little too heavy and filling, so I ended up leaving a lot of it.


For dessert, I had the eton mess, which was light and hit the spot.


The others had a pot of English tea, which was served in blue and white china.


We stayed for more drinks and small-talk before we decided to head over to Silchester to have a walk around the ruins. The settlement was called Cavella, and it was an Iron Age settlement that was developed into a Roman town. It comprises of 40 hectares and was the centre of the Atrebates tribe around 1st BC. When the Romans took it over in 43AD, it became known as Cavella Atrebatum. For some reason, it was abandoned between the 5th-7th centuries, but it's one of the best-preserved Roman towns in the UK and excavations currently take place to find out more about the Romans and the tribes of England of that time.


We parked up and walked from the parking area down a small pathway with fields around. We came across some elderberries, blackberries, and I also pointed out some mistletoe on a large Oak tree. 


The acorns were also on display on the trees. This is my favourite time of the year, before the cold and dreary winter. The acorns bring back memories of my favourite time of the year on the farm.


The town of Silchester was arranged around a Roman grid layout, and we saw various signs around the area to describe the layout of the town and the features that were still visible. We headed toward the North Gate. We saw the main area of the town was still being explored and excavated, and new technology has appeared in recent years in order to study the ground from above to 'see' strctures or levels of ground underneath in order to provide some insight into the use of the ground.


We walked along the top of one of the ancient town walls, which had a large drop on one side with beautiful lush blackberries. I wondered how many people had fallen in attempt to pick from the bushes hanging off of the cliff-face of the ancient wall. That would have hurt as it's a pretty steep drop through the brambles.


At one point, the bushes disappeared so that we could see exactly how far the drop was. I loved the beautiful trees growing along this old wall. These trees must be hundreds of years old.


On the horizon and over the fields, we caught some glimpses of a church spire. The angle of the lighting on it made it look like a painting, and the clouds looked like a painting by one of my favourite artists, John Constable. 


Finally, we arrived at North Gate, and we saw a board explaining its use as lining up to the major roadway to Dorchester-on-Thames. We also saw an illustration of what it may have looked like. Today, you can see the stonework and where the gate slotted into it and the roadway with the grassy mounds on either side. It's covered with blackberry bushes too.


We decided to walk to the ampitheatre, so we followed the old wall.



The ampitheatre could hold 3,500 to 7,250 people. Horse bones were discovered nearby, so the ampitheatre probably had events involving horses.


After walking to the ampitheatre, we walked along the wall and entered the church yard before making our way toward the centre of the ancient Iron Age and Roman town.


If I did not know that there was an ancient town here, I never would have realised. The land is flat here with grass on top, and it is in the middle of a field. It certainly does not look like the place where you would find a thriving town.


Silchester ruins is managed by English Heritgage, and it's typically opened from dawn to dusk. There is not a fee to walk around or explore the ruins, and there's not a lot to see, but it's a pleasant walk. We didn't walk around the whole area, but we got a good feel for the place.

Goodbye, Basingstoke. Hello, Ruislip.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

I am going to miss Basingstoke. It's been 'home' to me for the past eight years. In December of 2007, I moved back to Southampton from Bath and Bristol (where I was working in a small village near Clevedon in Somerset) in order to start a new job in Basingstoke. My partner at that time, who was from Southampton, also started a new job in Reading on the same day, so we planned to move closer to our new jobs.

Sunflowers in my apartment

Things were going great then; my partner at the time and I were in the process of buying our first home closer to our jobs, and it was a new build and very closely fit the idea of my dream home. But then things took a bad turn - the chain fell through and then, I assume from the stresses of buying houses and responsibility, he split up with me as he became infatuated with someone he knew from an online forum; she didn't have feelings for him but liked the attention and led him on. (He was actually really abusive mentally and physically, so I don't regret leaving that chapter behind but only wish I could take back the many years wasted with this horrible person.)

At the time, I had only started my new job in Basingstoke in early December of 2007, and the split happened six months later. I enjoyed this job in Basingstoke very much, and a few of my colleagues were very supportive of me. With their help, I moved into a small rented flat and had a ten-minute commute to work as opposed to an hour or two hours one way, which is what I had to put up with for the past several years.

The bulk of my income was paid to rent while some of my items remained in storage, and I viewed it as a waste as I wanted to stay in Basingstoke and at at the company I was working at for awhile. I started to make permanent plans for purchasing an apartment, since everything (except for my job) fell through in my life, and this took all of the savings I had plus some help from the parents. My life slowly started to come together, and I completed on my apartment at noon in January 2010. However, there were talks about redundancies at work and I was at risk, so a couple of hours after I signed my completion on the apartment, I was told that my role was made redundant. This was not expected; I'd had communication from colleagues who also could not believe it. I'd had glowing appraisals and reviews from colleagues, was known in other departments for being helpful, and was working on several projects. By this time, I'd also been there for 2.5 years.

Afterwards, I ended up working in London although I had been trying to find a similar role in Basingstoke off-and-on without luck. After a short stint in a start-up company near Reading (which ended up taking the same amount of time to commute to as commuting to London), I became self-employed and realised that I'd have to move to London. My partner was also working in London, so it just made sense; we'd save money in the long term. 

Although I am sad to leave Basingstoke, I have a new area to explore in a suburb of London. It's also convenient to get out of London in order to visit other parts of the UK. I've also got the task of making my new home my own and decorating it, so readers will no doubt be seeing before-and-after photographs.

Until then, most of my possessions are still in boxes as we decide what work on the house we will have done first. I may not get as much time to post updates as frequently as I have in the past, until I get settled a little more. I only just picked up the keys on the late afternoon of September 30 and moved on 1 October, so it's been a very busy week, and I still have not been through all of the boxes.

Street Art: 0707

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Street artist 0707, is an Italian artist based in London. Although I have not seen his work in London before, he painted several portraits of women using black and white paint across the city early this year. The portraits are really stunning and have brightened up the walls.








For more information about 0707, see his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/0707ZerosevenZeroseven 

Street Art: Attai

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Street artist Attai (also known as Butch Attai) lives in London and has a fondness for painting houses on stilts. His artwork is typically found on shutters and scaffolding around the city. The houses are colourful and bring colour to the grey walls.





For more information about the artist, see his Twitter page here: https://twitter.com/butch_attai 

This summer, London and Bristol hosted sculpture trails 'Shaun in the City', and I spent time trekking around London and around Bristol in order to find all of the sculptures. I went to Bristol in August. A couple of years ago, Bristol hosted 'Gromit Unleashed' (here and here) and one of the Gromit statues was in front of a wall near the waterfront. Behind the sculpture, local Bristol street artist Cheo painted a wall with a very hip-looking Wallace and Gromit.


This summer, Cheo painted Shaun the Sheep with the dog Bitzer on a wall next to the original mural.


No sculptures of Shaun were placed in front of the wall this year, but both could be seen and photographed side-by-side in this prime location in Bristol.


The murals are still on display in Bristol and are located near the waterfront. My photographs do not really do them justice as the day was quite sunny with sun and shade from the trees obscuring the photograph.

Pastry chef Caitlin Freeman has created several desserts based on famous works of modern art by Mondrian, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, and others. The video (https://player.vimeo.com/video/63949405) describes how these can be created. I would love to have some time to create these edible masterpieces.


Ten Speed Press has published a book based on nearly thirty modern art dessert designs, "Modern Art Desserts". The video shows the Mondrian cake being created: https://player.vimeo.com/video/63949405


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