March 2016 Archives

Many times, street art carries a political or humanitarian message that the artist is passionate about. This is certainly the case for the striking new mural on Hanbury Street, painted by Dale Grimshaw and assisted by Mark Hat and street art collective Global Street Art. This is the first time that Grimshaw has painted the wall at this location, but I've captured a few pieces by the artist in Shoreditch over the years (Dale Grimshaw and others).


The image of a young boy in tribal costume is done to draw support of the "free West Papau" campaign. The people in this area wish that their part of the country was independent, and they have tried to enable this to happen and have suffered. More about this cause can be read here:




The mural is completed in Grimshaw's signature portrait style with blurred background. Grimshaw's work often features tribal portraits. This one has a bright red background with gold detail and grafitti tag. It is certainly an eye-catching piece and one of the better pieces that we have seen on this wall. I always enjoy seeing new work by this artist as his work is realistic and artistic with extra attention given to detail.

On Saturday, I watched the first showing of award-winning theatre company Antic Disposition's "Henry V" play at Middle Temple in London. "Henry V" is one of the events in the series of events taking place in London for Shakespeare400, which marks the centenary of World War 1 and 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare. (A few weeks ago, I went to see the light show on the Guildhall in the City, which I previously covered here.) The play has returned to London to Middle Temple off of Fleet Street.


The play is set in World War 1 in France. It takes place in a hospital that contains both French and British allied troops. Of course, the original play is about King Henry V and the enemy France. The play is told through the soldiers and nurses in the hospital, and it is a blend of modern and medieval times. We really enjoyed the play, and photographs from the play can be seen on the threate company's (Antic Disposition) Facebook page here:


In addition to watching the adaption of the Shakespeare play "Henry V" during this important year, I also got to go inside the beautiful Middle Temple Hall. This venue was chosen in order to add to the atmosphere of the small and beautiful venue, and Shakespeare knew the hall. In fact, "Twelfth Night" was performed here in early February in 1602.



Middle Temple is one of the four associations (similar to guilds) of barristers in London. The area around the hall was where the barristers lived and stayed, and the hall was the meeting place for dinners, seminars, and other functions that the students were required to attend. The hall maintains its appearance from the time when it was built; it was built in the mid-1500s.



The interior of the hall has beautiful wooden carvings, stained glass, and paintings of kings and queens, such as Charles I, Charles II, Queen Anne, Queen Elizabeth, and William III. The pop-up bar was located in another room of the hall, and that meant that I could wander down and check out more of the beautiful building. 


The pop-up bar was down a corridor with paintings and wooden panels. This led into the most beautiful room with carved ceiling and paintings. I ordered two glasses of Cava for the intermission, and bottles of wine, beer, fruit juice, and confectionery could also be purchased immediately or for the intermission.


After the show, we walked back out to Fleet Street. We arrived via the Thames, but I wanted to head to Covent Garden so walked out via the Fleet Street exit. A wooden door can be opened to access Middle Temple Lane. There are quite a few narrow walk-ways and streets off Fleet Street. This was the area for the newspapers and publishing and courts with the Royal Courts of Justice virtually across the road. The London School of Economics is also near. 


"Henry V" is being shown in Middle Temple Hall until April 6. This is a fantastic way to admire the beautiful building and to watch a magical play in the beautiful setting.

On this blustery morning, the bloke and I headed off to the City in order to do some walking and mudlarking with a group on the foreshore of London's river Thames. This morning and last night, the wind was howling so we were not sure if the walk would be cancelled or not. It wasn't, so we made our way into central London. The walk was led by Thames Discovery, who are a group who record archeology and history of the river and its finds. 


The meeting point was an area that I am all too familiar with because I worked only a couple of buildings away for nearly two years, and the pub was the one I would frequent with colleagues because it was the closest one and there's not a lot of choice for pubs in this area. The pub is known as "The Banker", and I suspect that many people who have worked in this part of London do know of it. The stairs to the foreshore are literally right next to the pub.


After a health and safety discussion, we descended the stairs to the foreshore.


We were shown a few items along the river and were told the importance of preserving the brickwork to hold the walls up. The group of archeologists is currently recording some brickwork on the wall closer to the modern day London Bridge where the walls were constructed at different times and were boundary lines. In many places, it's easy to spot where the brickwork finishes or a different colour of brick is used in order to determine these boundaries, so they were mapping that out.


We were shown a drain, made of what looked like carved stone, and also the remains of a wall to keep the river back. At some point, this will need to be repaired before it damages the main wall. This section between Cannon Street Bridge and London Bridge is very damaged.


Not long after we descended, the weather became sunny, and we did not feel the wind here.


Everyone started to look for pottery and other items. In the past, I looked at a couple of websites so could date a couple of pieces (medieval green pottery shards and, of course, the more modern-day ceramics), but it was good to confirm this and to have the other pieces dated by the expert. The bloke found a Bellatine jar piece, which we were told was from Germany.


We were shown an area that had a set of stairs suspended on the wall above us, but the pair of steps on the ground of the foreshore would have been too steep and must have come from an earlier staircase. The brickwork was then examined to be from different periods, and they needed to use guess-work and educated guesses to determine how the site was developed. In addition, a couple of hundred yards away, is an area with different types of brick and block. The archeologist thought that the larger white bricks were possibly re-purposed from an older building as it matches other bricks near the Tower of London.


The foreshore wandering took place between Cannon Street and London Bridges. There's a dock in use on the other side of Cannon Street bridge, so you cannot go further along. Just before the modern London Bridge is where the foreshore ends. I asked about the medieval London Bridge and how it is a pity that no one could look for anything there as there must be a lot of items dropped from the bridge. Apparently, they did a lot of artefact-hunting when they built the new bridge. The lower parts of the medieval London Bridge can be 'seen' by looking at the waves. The water is a little choppier there. In the photograph above, the location of the buoys is where the old London Bridge would have been.


In the above photograph, these were the walls being examined to see when they were built and to mark off property lines.


I spent a lot of time looking at the ground where we could see all sorts of items - industrial by-products, shells, chalk, stones, pieces of brick, clay, animal bones (and possibly human bones), metal work, glass, pottery pieces, animal teeth, flint, nails, gemstones, and so on. Common finds included pieces of broken clay pipes and pottery. We also found newer glass as well as older/thicker glass that we were informed changes into a range of green-blue-florescent colour when it starts to break down. Pottery comes from different eras - Roman, medieval, Delft, 1800s, Victorian and modern. The highlight was discovering garnets and metal pins.


When I got home, I photographed the pieces that I took away. I found some clay pipe stems (top left), a nail that was probably used in a boat (top left), medieval green pottery (the topmost piece being the oldest piece dating from the 1400s and not glazed particularly well), brown pieces from the period after, Delft (top right blue), modern (thin blue), some random bricks and stones (bottom left), a large animal tooth (probably a horse), some clay and clay handle for a pot), a piece of glass, and some additional pottery pieces from the 1800s and 1900s. (I read somewhere that animal bones were thrown into the river when the animals were butchered or the horses died; we were also told today that bones were used as filler to built up the bank.)


The range of medieval green pottery is above. 


The bloke found two really nice pieces of pottery - the German pot already mentioned and shown in a photograph and R. White's (of the lemonade and soda fame) stoneware bottle fragment.


Last but not least, I managed to wash off the garnets that I discovered, and these came with some pins. Apparently, many of these garnets can be found in the same area on the river, and they range in different sizes. They're not great quality of gem, though, and they've been cut crudely. No one knows why there are so many of them, but it could be that ther were sewn into clothing. As they were all found in one place, they may have been inside cloth bags that have now degraded, or perhaps they were on some cloth. I also came across this article (1), written by the lady who conducted our walk, and she mentions that the stone is thought to have protective powers. In reading upon Thames history in the past, I know that the most common crossing was by water because London Bridge was the only way across, and it was so congested (and probably more expensive). There were boats that would ferry people across from one side of the river to the other, but it was dangerous to do this. There was a lot of river traffic and strong currents. Perhaps the stones were sold as 'good luck' charms before people got into the boats. I also read (2) that the stone was regarded in Greece to keep children from drowning, so perhaps little bags of these pinned shut were bought by the parents for their children.

I am sure we will never really know their purpose, but I would have loved to have seen how they ended up in the river or see what London was like during the different periods in history.

If you are interested in mudlarking or the Thames and want to take part with the group of others, then visit Thames Discovery's Twitter page at and drop them a message to find out how to get involved. They are doing more foreshore walks in the coming weeks to Greenwich and Rotherhithe, and each of these areas will have different importances and finds.



Easter Afternoon Tea at Corinthia Hotel

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This was not my first visit to the Corinthia Hotel (near Embankment Station) for afternoon tea. I had previously visited to try their Festive Afternoon Tea and their Halloween Afternoon Tea, but I wanted to try their Easter Afternoon tea. Each Easter Afternoon Tea purchased during the Easter weekend receives a golden chocolate egg, and some of these contain gifts. (I thought all of them contained a gift in past years, but that's not the case this year.)


When we arrived at Corinthia Hotel, the lobby was decorated with beautiful multi-coloured pastel flower vases. The Lobby Lounge, where the afternoon teas are served, also had a large spring arrangement with beautiful flowers, stuffed chicks and hens, and plastic eggs to celebrate spring. 


The centrepiece for The Lobby Loungue is a beautiful and enormous light, and this fills the dome. The beautiful flower arrangements are underneath this.


We got straight to business. I ordered the Rose Pouchong tea, which is a rose-flavoured tea with a strong rose taste. This was good, but I was a little tired of the flavour of rose after I finished the teapot and opted to try the Prince Alexander Blend. This Chinese black tea is inflused with chocolate and caramel to celebrate England winning rugby over New Zealand in 1936, and it's considered to be one of the great teas. I found it a little too bitter for my taste. The thid teapot I had was the Bert Firman 1921, which I remember ordering previously and enjoying. This Kenyan tea is infused with mandarin and cornflower.


Just a note that we did not have the champagne option, but there weren't any prices for the standard no-champagne option. I assumed it came with it, but it did not; the menu was not clear. The standard option without champagne is £50.00 each, and service charge is added at the end. With the champagne, the tea is £55.00 each. This is on the expensive end for afternoon tea in London, although you get asked if you'd like more sandwiches or pastries, but there's so much food already that I'm sure many do not take up this offer. 


Next, we had our sandwiches. The selection included the following: dry cured ham with tomato and English mustard, prawns in Marie Rose sauce, organic egg and mustard, cheddar cheese and pickle, roast Cumbrian beef and horseradish, Wye smoked salmon and cream cheese. All of these were served on different flavours of bread. My favourite was the egg.


We were then broguht the remainder of the afternoon tea - the pastries and the scones. We had scones first. We had two fruit and two plain, and these came with clotted cream or a choice of raspberry or strawberry jam.


We received eight separate pastries, and each of these were inspired by spring and/or Easter. The first (above) is "Beautiful Blooms", which is dark chocolate, raspberry mousse, and pistachio. I love pistachio, dark chocolate, and raspberry, so this one was a winner. The other items are included below with a description, starting from top left.


"Green Gardens" - These are miniature profiteroles with pistachio and a green 'sprout'

"Spring Showers" - Mascarpone, coffee, and chocolate are the ingredients of this piece presented with a chocolate and caramel egg and two edible daisies.

"Easter Basket" - This is a coffee, banana, and mango eclair. I'm not a fan of coffee, so fortunately, it didn't taste like coffee.

"Babies Bonnet" - This oddly-shaped pastry, which I thought looked like a butt, is actually meant to be an easter bonnet. I don't see it, but anyway, it's a mango panna cotta and passionfruit lime glaze.

"Peter Rabbit" - This chocolate mousse, carrot cake, and candied apricot looked like it would be nice, and I do enjoy carrot cake. However, this was my least favourite. The cake was too dry, and the 'chocolate mousse' (which did not taste like chocolate) was too rich. It did not really work for me.

"White Lily" - This is a white chocolate with vanilla cream cheese, and cassis pastry.

"Chick Egg" - This is a lemon and Yuzu Tart, and I enjoyed this one.


At the end, we cracked open our golden chocolate egg to reveal -- absolutely nothing. We did not win a prize. The chocolate tasted pretty nice, though, but it was very quick to melt. Touching it was enough to cause it to start to melt, so it was messy.


Before we left, we enjoyed the beautiful spring flowers. Happy Easter and Happy Spring to all of my readers.

clueQuest is a live escape game designed for three to five people to take part at a time to escape a locked room. These games encourage visitors to use teamwork in order to piece together the clues to allow them to escape the room. There are currently two games on offer (Plan 52 and Operation BlackSheep) with another one opening soon. Booking in advance is essential for weekends and peak times, and I booked in the three of us nearly four months in advance to secure the date that we had in mind. (I can see that about six weeks in advance is enough time for a Saturday, and availability on Sundays and other days is easier to book.)


We were booked for Plan 52, which is the first quiz. The quiz stories do go in an order, but you don't necessarily need to follow it. Unfortunately, we were called on the morning and told that somehow they had over-booked the Plan 52 rooms. They gave me a free voucher for a free game for up to five people to use and booked us in to trial the new 'Revenge of the Sheep' game that will be launched soon.

I was told over the phone that 'Revenge of the Sheep' is more technical and not a linear game. It's actually not too technical and you're not expected to do any programming. We found it fairly easy, but there were some points we fed back to improve based on complete newbies to this style of game. 

I cannot give too much about the game away as I don't want to spoil it, but it involves being locked in a room and having to locate clues in order to escape the room. Ours was to deactivate the "sheep mutator" as the evil sheep was turning humans into sheep, so the objective was not about escaping. 

We got out with about two and a half minutes (out of an hour) to spare, and we were being watched on camera and listened to so we could be led in the right direction, so help was on hand for us for a couple of the tricky areas. At the end, photographs were taken and we received free magnets with our photographs in the venue and signed the guest book.

We actually did have a lot of fun, and we are looking forward to returning in the next few months to complete the Plan 52 with additional friends. I recommend it as an activity with friends, hen or stag 'dos', or team-building events with colleagues.

An Afternoon at Tintern Abbey, Wales

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Many years ago, I visited Tintern Abbey. In fact, I have visited it twice now. My first visit was in July of 2005, and the photographs in this post date from that visit. Tintern Abbey is located in Monmouthshire in Wales, close to the border of England. I visited the abbey after visiting Chepstow Castle, which is only a few miles away. Both attractions can be easily-visited in a day.


Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 along the river Wye. It was only one of a couple of Cicestcian order monasteries in Britain. The monastery would have been its own little community, and the site did change a lot over the years. The existing ruined structure of the abbey actually dates from the end of the 1200s. The site was a successful monastery until it and all of the monastaries were dissolved by Henry VIII. It became a ruin shortly after that time, and the lead was removed from the roof and sold.





Due to the Wye valley's beauty, tourists often visited the area, and the ruins were one of the attractions to visit. The ruins were used and romanticised about in fine art, poetry and in books. This brought people in to look at them and for the ruins to be better-preserved.

Marshmallow Peeps

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When I was younger, the tradition was to go to my grandmother's, and my brothers and I would be presented with our own Easter basket. I loved Easter because the first signs of spring were showing with baby animals, flower blossoms, and chirping birds. I always wanted asked for a chocolate lamb for my Easter basket; chocolate rabbits are common in the states and I don't think I ever saw a chocolate egg until I came to Britain. Little marshmallow sugar-coated 'Peeps' (from the company 'Just Born') were also always present in my Easter basket. I think you either love them or loathe them. I'm actually not fond of the taste, but I think they look adorable. 


They only came in two shapes then, and were only sold at Easter at first. I think they became more popular in the later 1990s and started more ranges of their products at different times of the year. Now, you can buy them for the major holidays and they come in a wide range of shapes, flavours (such as fruit punch, cotton candy, and lemonade), and colours. But, when I was growing up, I remember a couple of colours - bright pink and bright yellow, but then they brought out bright blue and green later on. They had the rabbit-shaped ones and my favourite chick-shaped ones for Easter. 


Today, they have at handful of shops in the USA that just sell Peeps and Peep-related merchandise, and I really want to visit one the next time I am in the states. I assume that they are copying the success of M&Ms business model.



The Peep has cult status of people performing experiments on it, such as putting them in the microwave. Yes, they do taste a little stale a couple of days after you open the packet, so microwaving them makes them soften up again. They also host their own annual diorama contest, and some of the past entries looked very good. (You can read more about the diorama contests here:

A host of wonderful recipes can also be followed to create your special 'Peep' treats, which look beautiful and creative. I want to try some of these out.

Images and recipes from:

A quick look at Pinterest reveals even more creative Peeps-related recipes and even a Peeps-scented candle:

On Etsy, a variety of handmade goods can also be purchased. I purchased miniature chick Peep earrings last year.

A gallery of Peeps in different artistic representations can be seen on this website: 

The official website of the Peep:

Street Art: WORDSMITH & C3

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Toward the end of last year, street artist WRDSMITH visited London. The artist hails from California (he was actually born in Ohio, which is the same state I was born in) and is a Hollywood writer for television as well as a street artist. He pastes up or stencils artwork onto buildings. The artwork is normally accompanied by a vintage typewriter stencil and contains a quote or a thought.

We should be somewhere in London. We could be loving our life in the rain.

I came across several pieces from the artist toward the end of last year or beginning of this year. Some of them were paste-ups on walls in east London, but I also saw a couple of red phone boxes in west London with a panel of the artist's work. (Unfortunately, I cannot locate my photographs of those.)


The writing is often witty. 

Truth told, I only put this here because I'm hoping you Instagram it.

I couldn't resist adding the image below as it was in some of the other pieces of street art and blends so well together. The female with the umbrella paste-ups on old newsprint are by the artist C3, whose work I have seen in London a few times previously. The above two pieces were a collaboration between both artists. I believe that C3 is based in London, and she has been inspired by street art since 2011. 


More information about C3 can be seen here:

WRDSMITH's page can be viewed here:

"Game of Thrones" Embroidery

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For two days only (yesterday and Friday), a super-scale embroidery of a scene from the television series 'Game of Thrones' was on display at the old Grainary Building and Arts College just north of King's Cross Station. I actually happened to be in the area on Saturday, so I checked it out. I did expect a larger crowd and people dressed up in 'Game of Thrones' cosplay, but there were only a handful of people admiring the piece while we were there.


It really is a fantastic work of art. It features the battle of Hardhome from last season and the 'white walker' characters. The main character is three-dimensional with a two-dimension background. The artwork was created with fifty different textiles from different locations in the UK and is on display in the area between the old Grainary Building at Central St. Martin's School of Art.


The piece was created to tie into the sale of the fifth season video release. It took fifty people over 30,000 hours to create, and Anthea Godfrey was the creative director which helped to bring several textile, embroidery and needlework groups together.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Soho branch of cupcakery Crumbs & Doilies. They are located in Kingly Court off Beak Street. They sell coffees/sodas and cupcakes, and they also make cakes to order. I popped in this busy little cafe in order to see the flavours of cupcake on offer. I admit that I was in the cafe a week before, but I actually failed to find any cupcake flavours that I would have eaten or wanted to try. I think a standard vanilla should always be offered as it's always the default flavour. (I know that makes me sound boring, but vanilla is always a good option.)


This branch of the cafe is new to the area. It only opened recently, and there's another branch at King's Road near Sloane Square.


Each day, there are new flavours of cupcake in the shop. I was happy with the flavours of cupcake in the cafe when I visited. I ended up ordering the vegan vanilla, key lime pie, and maple and bacon. The maple and bacon was a little bit of a gamble.


The maple and bacon was delicious, and it just worked. Of course, it *would* work. Pancakes with maple syrup and bacon are always great together. The key lime pie had the perfect crumble texture and the right combination of sweet and sour, and the vegan vanilla was delicious. The sponge was not too sweet but tasted like vanilla, and the icing was not too sickening-sweet or over-powering.


The cafe is open from 11:00am-7:00pm on weekdays and Saturdays and from 12:00pm-6:00pm on Sundays. There's limited seating, but it was not too busy when I arrived. They also sell their cakes to order, and I love the look of the Unicorn one and a couple of others on their list. For more information, see their website at

One of London's more unique street artists, based on the medium he uses, is Ben Wilson. He is also known as the "Chewing Gum Man" because his medium of choice is used bubble gum. He paints miniature paintings on top of used bubble gum that has been trampled into pavements. I first came across the artist's work (and the artist himself) at 'Baroque the Streets' in Dulwich a few years ago. I've also happened to come across one of his miniature paintings in Shoreditch, but after working in the area for nearly 2.5 years, that was the only piece I discovered.


However, I'd made my way across the Millennium Bridge by St. Paul's Cathedral a few times in 2014. Each time, I noticed Ben Wilson's artwork and also saw the artist painting there on one occasion. Of course, the tourists were asking him about his work and having a chat with him and having their photographs taken. I didn't speak to the artist this time as I was in a little hurry myself to get back to the office from lunch. 


It appears that the artist created some of the paintings based on the people he met and their requests as I noticed that some of the paintings contain initials and names.




I've included a range of gum paintings below, but there are so many of these all along the bridge. Some of them have been faded, and others are freshly-painted. The gum trampled into the metal frames of the bridge creates unique shapes that the artist has fun with. He uses the shapes to create creatures.






For more information about the artist and an interview about his work on Millennium Bridge, see:

For the first time this year last Sunday, the weather felt like spring. In fact, this year is already flying past and we will soon be in April in a couple of weeks. Last Sunday, the bloke and I headed back down to near Basingstoke in Hampshire (where I used to live) in order to meet a group of friends for Sunday roast lunch at a pub. Because of busy schedules, we booked the day toward the end of November. One member of the group is going back to China this week for approximately a month, and the others are particularly busy with their young children. Seeing everyone again was very nice, and we had the loveliest weather on Sunday to top it all off.


The day before, one of my university friends from America flew over for work and seminars. We met up in the evening, and I would have invited him to lunch if I knew we would be able to get an extra seat on the reservation. Every visitor to the United Kingdom must experience a traditional pub Sunday roast. 

The pub we visited is located in Odiham in Hampshire, and it is called "The Waterwitch". It's located in a beautiful listed building from the 17th century with little nooks and wooden beams and a lot of natural light. Each litttle area was decorated in its own style with a different beautiful wallpaper section that was either vintage or country-themed. I loved some of the wallpaper patterns here. 

The pub is also located along the Basingstoke Canal and has a beautiful and large garden at the back. I lived in Basingstoke for ten years, and I regret that I had never walked along the Basingstoke Canal or paid a visit to this pub. We actually did not eat out too often, but we were located in the centre of Basingstoke so always opted to dine on our doorstep.


The bloke and I are always the first to arrive. I hate being late, and 'on time' means ten or fifteen minutes early to me. When everyone did turn up, we opened the Prosecco to celebrate my citizenship that I received a few days prior to our get-together.


I also ordered a cheeky cocktail, which was called "Winter"-something. I forgot the name, but it contained cranberry, Vodka, and another type of juice. It was refreshing.


I ordered the roast turkey, and the bloke had roast beef. Two of my friends are vegetarian, so nut roasts and alternative vegetarian options were catered for. The other two ordered fish dishes. The roasts came with all of the vegetables and were tasty.


To start, I had a tomato soup, which I had started to eat before I realised I should take a photograph, and I also had the 'chocolate dream' for dessert.


During lunch, one of my friends mentioned that he and his girlfriend intended to go for a walk after lunch. I invited myself along because a walk is always a great idea. I didn't even know there was a canal behind the pub, and a castle was mentioned. At understanding castles and a canal walk was in order, I was 'in'. I did not have shoes suitable for walking in the mud, but I love walking and castles, and I just wanted to get out and enjoy this beautiful spring day.


The first glimpse of Basingstoke Canal included seeing many visitors rowing boats and a walking trail along the side of the canal. A map of the walking trail is located at the bottom of this post. We had a leisurely stroll along the canal for approximately half an hour before we arrived at Odiham Castle. We saw many visitors in the row boats, fields of sheep, ducks, spring flowers sprouting, and an abandoned and rusty old canal boat.








At North Warnborough, we passed a few back gardens of houses and came to a lock where swans were swimming and where we saw a pony and a horse. A lot of people were giving the horse attention.



We walked for another couple of minutes before we saw a glimpse of Odiham Castle in the spring sun. 


Upon arriving at the entrance, we saw that we were not the first visitors. A local company conducts canal boat charters to/from Odiham Castle, and they were stopped in front of the castle to have a look.


Odiham Castle is an octagonal castle and is also known as King John's Castle. It was built by King John during his reign. He only managed to build three castles, and he chose this spot as he had visited it in 1204 and it was halfway between Windsor and Winchester. It is now a ruin.


The castle took seven years to complete and has a two-storey keep (the ruin) and a square moat. It was completed in 1214. The following year, King John either rode from this castle or one at Windsor in order to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Last year was a big year for the Magna Carta, so the castle received a couple of plaques to commemorate it.


The castle suffered damage by the French in the 1200s. It was granted to King John's daughter. It became a prison and it was used as a hunting lodge in the 15th century. In 1605, it was described as a ruin. In 1792, the Basingstoke Canal was built through the castle grounds and bailey.


The archways and remains of the grand fireplace could be seen as well as the location where the wooden floor beams would have rested.


The castle is made of flint.



The castle was free to visit, and we probably spent twenty minutes walking around it and reading the information panels around it. 


On the way back, we were greeted by the horse. We decided to take a different way back to the pub where our cars were located. Most of the trail along the canal was fine, and we managed to dodge the mud puddles, except there was one large area of mud about three metres long that was impossible to avoid, so the bloke and I did get our shoes muddy. 


Walking back through the town of Odiham enabled us to see the town and see a different view. I'd driven past and through Odiham before, but we never stopped although I had been tempted to explore it. Odiham has many attractive Georgian buildings.


One red door had a fantastic doorknob and letter box, and the house was named "Christmas Cottage".


I was also happy to see the spring flowers in bloom. Daffodils and tree blossoms are common here.



Right before we arrived at the pub, we passed a couple of residential streets that were named after people who had served in the military and had won medals. I thought this was a nice monument to them.


When we arrived at the pub, we stepped inside to have a pot of warm tea before parting our separate ways. Although the day was beautiful and I was kept warm by walking, a pot of tea helped to warm me and give me some new energy.


To enjoy a pleasant circular walk along the Basingstoke Canal to Odiham Castle, you can follow my crude drawing in black line on the map below. This is the route that we walked. We headed clockwise along the canal to the castle and then walked back through North Warnborough and Odiham High Street before returning to the pub.


Let me know if you know of any nice country walks around Middlesex or London that involve a nice pub/restaurant or afternoon tea as I would love to try them out.

After work earlier this month, I headed over to One New Change to have dinner at Barbecoa, one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants, with the bloke. I used to work a five-minute walk from the restaurant, and it's been on my list to try for the past five years. Now, the bloke works about five minutes away, so I got the tube and met him here outside of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Barbecoa was founded by Jamie Oliver and uses fire-based cooking methods. The kitchen has pit smokers, tandoors, fire pits, grills, and wood-fire ovens.


I love the views of the cathedral, and I found that Barbecoa is the perfect place to see the great dome and be able to enjoy it without too many tourists, noise, and poor weather. 


We had a perfect view of the cathedral from our table.



We were given the menus and decided which drinks and meals we wanted.


As it was in between lunch and dinner, I went for the lunch menu and orderd the vegetarian option (potato cakes). This is a set menu which can come with two or three courses. I opted for the starter instead of the dessert, and we shared the chicken wings with hot sauce, peanut and coriander. These were very tasty and presented well.


Our cocktails that we ordered came after our starter for some reason. I had the "coming up roses" cocktail, which is on the £5.00 offer after 5:00. "Coming Up Roses" contains vodka, rose liquer, cranberry, sugar, and lemon. It was served with a rose petal on top. The bloke had the Charles Dickens. This included port, amaro, and rye whiskey. Barbecoa also has a very large range of whiskey on offer, so if you do like whiskey, this is a restaurant that you will want to check out.


I also ordered the virgin cocktail, appropriately named "St. Pauls." This came later on, hence the different photographs. The cocktail contains grapefruit, bitter lemon, and marmalade. It tasted refreshing. 


We were then informed (after we were told they did have potato cakes) that they were out of potato cakes. This was the only vegetarian option on the menu, so it's not good really if you've come with a group and you're vegetarian. Because I do eat chicken, they made me a special dish. So, we had to wait a bit longer for our meals. They do have a chicken dish that needs to be shared between two, but the bloke had already ordered and I did not want him to be disappointed; it's disappointing when you agree what to have and then have to change it.


The bloke had lamb rump, which was served with creamy mushrooms and thyme. He also ordered a side of the beef-dripping chips. 


He said the lamb was very good. 


My meal consisted of seasoned chicken with onion and a variety of mushrooms. This tasted yummy and tender. It's not on the menu, though, so I am not really sure what the seasoning was. Because of this, I also needed to order a vegetable or potato side, so I opted for the coal-roasted sweet potato. This was very tender and coated with sage, garlic, and chili.


We were asked if we wanted another cocktail, and we both said we were. I had the Barby, which is made with London Dry gin, lemon, sugar, rhubard bitters and Prosecco. 


The bloke had the Chartreuse Daiquiri. It is made with Chartruese, lime, and white rum, and sugar.  


We watched as dusk fell over the great dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.


Then, it was time for desserts! I ordered the Barbecoa Brownie, and this was served with malted ice cream, puffed grains, and caramel. The brownie was delicious, and I'm a fan of Jamie Oliver's brownies which I sometimes bake based on his recipe in one of his cookbooks. The dessert was delicious, but I am not a fan of salted caramel sauce as I find it too bitter.


The bloke had a selection of ice creams/sorbet. He had chocolate, vanilla, and a raspberry sorbet. These tasted wonderful and is among the best ice cream that I have ever had.


Because of the problems with my main meal, we got the starter for free, and I also got my main meal discounted. I could not fault the place at all, and the service was very attentive and friendly. I'm also happy that they were able to accommodate me due to the problem with the main.


I will definately go back to Barbecoa; I really want to try the beer can chicken main.

A major life event has recently taken place for me, and I'm excited to share it: British citizenship! On Thursday, I had to return to Basingstoke in order to obtain my British citizenship certificate at the citizenship ceremony. This is the final step in the citizenship process and has been a long time coming for me. My story is below with some tips on the process that showcase my experience from the start of my British experience.


I was born in America (United States), and after a visit to the UK with some university professors and classmates in the spring of 1998, I dreamed of returning. I was able to join the BUNAC student work exchange programme, and I used this as part of my job experience that was required for my university degree. By the way, BUNAC stands for Britain/United States/New Zealand/Australia/Canada, and it's a work exchange programme for six months for students of these major English-speaking countries to go to another country to live and work. I was in the programme in 2000 for six months, and I moved over to the UK by myself; I did not know anyone.

I enrolled at Bournemouth University to return to the UK and obtain my Master's degree on a student visa. From there, I had a visa extension and was sponsored for two separate visas by two employers. In addition to this, I obtained my own visa under the HSMP (highly skilled migrant programme) and extended it twice, which was the limit that it could be extended.

I had to wait a month before my last visa extension expired before I could apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which was the next step. You were not allowed to apply until a month before the visa expired.

Before actually making this part of the application, applicants need to take the 'Life in the UK' test, and those from non-English speaking countries must also take a language exam and go through a few more hurdles. I spent the spring studying for that test and took/passed the exam in the early summer of 2012.

Once those hurdles were finished, the ILR visa can be applied via post or in person. I did look for available applications in person as you can apply for the ILR in person or via the post. Biometrics are also a part of the process, but this is submitted upon request by the Home Office.

I checked availability for face-to-face ILR submissions a few weeks before my visa expired, but there wasn't availability. The post way had always been fairly quick for me, so I opted for that and thought that it would not take long. (Actually, the lack of no spaces for face-to-face availablility I later learned was due to dodgey people outside the UK buying the spaces up to sell at a premium!) When applying for ILR, you have to submit a tonne of paperwork, and you also have to surrender your passport. You cannot get these documents back, and you just have to play the waiting game. I honestly didn't think it would take so long as my visas were very quick to process, and I received them back in a short time. My brother was getting married in January, so getting the documentation was very important. I honestly believed that I would receive it back in time for my brother's wedding.


I did not get my documentation back. I missed my brother's wedding. I was very upset about that. In fact, it took all of nine months to get my ILR approved and the documentation returned. There were known backlogs in processing applications at this time.

Please do not make the same mistake I did (although it was not my fault about the lack of availability). Always apply for the ILR in person. If you need your passport back suddenly, then your submission for ILR becomes invalid. Don't chance it. Most face-to-face applications for ILR are made the same day. Sure, it costs a little more, but then you have peace of mind and your documentation and passport in your possession.

I received my ILR in April of 2013. After two years of holding an ILR, you can apply for citizenship as long as you have met the additional requirements, such as not being out of the UK for a long period of time. I could have applied a little earlier than I did, but they are constantly brining about changes to the system and increasing the fees, so I decided to do it. Another major factor was that the last company that I was working at wanted me to go out to their European branch every now and again. I wanted the ability to freely travel in the European Union, and the queues for the "All other passports" was really wearing on me. 

I started the application process for citizenship last summer. The Home Office took approximately five months to make the decision about my citizenship. (Upon receipt of the paperwork, you are asked to get your biometrics done at one of the special post office branches, and I also had to do this for the ILR too.) If the application passes, you are sent the details about the ceremony. The ceremony is the last step. (Of course, you still have to apply separately for a British passport.)

The ceremony is a formal process where you state a pledge and invite a couple of friends or family to share your experience. Photographs are taken that you can buy (or take your own), and you really do not need to speak that much. It was all formal but done in an informal way. Each person is then called up to sign the document. We were told at the beginning about where everyone in the room was from, and a list of countries were rattled out. It was an easy process, and you don't need to prepare for it. You just need to bring a form of identification and the invitation to the ceremony. You receive the legal document, a certificate, a small gift (we got pens at Basingstoke) and additional paperwork about what you need to do after the ceremony. (You have to send your biometrics back to the Home Office and apply separately for your passport, for example.)

I am glad that this final step is complete, and it really has taken a lot to get here. It caused me to miss my brother's wedding (one of the most important family events that I don't think anyone should miss), and it cost a lot of time, effort, and money. It is not a step to take lightly. Particularly if your nationality does not allow you to have dual citizenship. (I personally think they could have given a better gift than a pen; a gold medal would have been nice!)

The cost of immigration is expensive, and I've probably spent around £20,000 in total. That includes cost of visas, photographs, biometrics, fees to the Home Office, solicitor fees, the exam costs, postage, and this does not include the time it takes to get all of your documentation together.

I hope that this guide has helped others know the involvement of what is required to obtain citizenship. Have you been through the process or are you currently going through the process now?

Chocolate Overload at Paul A. Young

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Paul A. Young is an award-winning chocolatier who set up a brand of shops of the same name (paul.a.young) across London. He uses pure ingredients to create chocolate in small batches so that each piece is perfect. Today, there are three shops in London of the Paul A. Young brand. I've previously been to the one at the Royal Exchange in the City of London, which is a tiny shop. There's also a shop in Islington and one in Soho. I recently visited the shop in Soho on Wardour Street, which is larger. I actually arrived just before a large tourist group, so the shop went from empty to packed in a matter of a few minutes. I take it that this is one of the stops that some of the London chocolate walks or general sweets/foods walks take you to see.


This branch of Paul A. Young make hot chocolate. There's no seating, so the hot chocolate should be taken away. The hot chocolate is made in the traditional method (known as Aztec) with water only so that the pure cocoa taste is highlighted. The Aztecs used this method to create hot chocolate as adding milk would detract from the flavour. The hot chocolate is also constructed depending on the weather; purer chocolate is used on cold days. In additon to the hot cocoa-water mix, a flavouring can also be added - chilli, cinnamon, mint, and cardamon were a few of the flavours on offer. I had cinnamon in mine.


The hot chocolate is semi-thick, but it's not the consistency of liquid chocolate. It's not too sweet, and the cocoa can really be tasted and enjoyed without the excess sugar and creaminess of milk.


Now that my favourite brownie has disappeared from London (I actually don't know why, but the shop was closed up and seems empty on social media too), Paul A. Young's is back to being my favourite. (If you know of any really good ones, comment below please.)


The shop also have a large display of chocolates in different flavours in the middle of the room, and they really are good quality. I had a fruit-flavoured one and a dark chocolate truffle. Chocolates are £2.00 a piece, so they are expensive, but you really can taste the good quality and smooth texture and flavours. Above, I explained that they are hand-made in small batches so that they can be guaranteed to taste perfect. 



It is a little expensive, but if you love quality over quantity, then this is the place to go to buy chocolates. I don't know about you, but I prefer to have a little of something with good quality than a lot of something with poor quality. Let me know if you have been to Paul A. Young and tell me what you thought.

Paul A. Young in Soho is located at the corner of Wardour and Broadwick Street. It is open daily from 10:00-8:00 on Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays-Saturdays. Thursday, it is open and hour longer. The hours on Sundays and Bank holidays are from 12:00-7:00. The nearest tube stations are Tottenham Couty Road, Oxford Circus, or Piccadilly Circus.

New Chrome Street Art by Fanakapan

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Fanakapan is a street artist who was busy painting in London last year, and last year's subject was all about the silver foil balloons. (One of these foil balloons can be seen at the bottom of this post, and this foil "7" balloon was located near Cambridge Heath station a couple of weeks ago and may still be there.) I covered his work here with the "STAR" balloons off Brick Lane, and he also created some large murals and collaborated with Cranio. This year, the artist seems to be trying out a new style of 'chrome' street art.


It features a chrome baseball cap, sunglasses, headphones, spray paint mask, and can of spray paint. A blue 'smoke' or haze adds an extra dimension to the piece.


I enjoyed the foil balloons last year, but I overheard the artist say that he was tired of working on them, so I assume that he's trying out these new styles. The above piece replaces the "STAR" balloons, which miraculously lasted for a few months. I'm looking forward to seeing more work by Fanakapan in London.


The "number 7" balloon is from the artist's previous style in the shape of silver foil balloons.

Brunch @ Blixen

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On a recent Saturday mid-morning, the bloke and I headed over to Blixen restaurant in Spitalfields market to enjoy brunch. Brunch at Blixen can be easily-combined with a trip to Spitalfields Market, Sunday Brick Lane Market, or Columbia Road Flower Market (Sundays only). Blixen only opened in February 2015, so it's not been on the restaurant scene for long. Despite that, it has already become a firm favourite with bloggers and foodies as one of the places to go to get brunch. With all of the raving reviews, I wanted to try it out for myself, so I booked a table.


The restaurant is located on the edge of Spitalfields Market and has the benefit of the large windows on the side of the building, flooding the restaurant with light. A bar is situated along the side wall, and the kitchen and food is prepared toward the back of the restaurant, which is open with a bar area where diners can sit and watch the kitchen. 



Garden plants also feature prominently around the restaurant, and the back area (which unforutnately was closed when I visited) has more plants and more of a garden theme than the front room. Another theme of the decor was the 'seaside' or ship theme with some of the lighting dotted around and also the bathrooms downstairs.


We were shown a table near the front of the restaurant. We ordered our drinks first. All of the drink flavours consisted of fruit and herb ingredients for alternative flavours.


The grapefruit and coriander soda tasted refreshing. The bloke had a fruit juice known as "Good Times", and this was made with pear, pineapple, and ginger. I am not a fan of pear, but pear fans would love this. It also contains ginger, which is a perfect ingredient to warm up on a cold day.


Our meals arrived, and the bloke had the "Everything Breakfast". The breakfast consisted of baked beans, bacon, sausage, egg, tomato, mushroom, and toast. The bloke did not want egg or beans, so he received some extra meat. I did not hear any complaints about the breakfast.


I ordered a side of potato rosti and scrambled eggs side (shown below). The scrambled egg was delicious, but the potato rosti was horrible. I could not finish it all. I did inform the waitress that it had too much oil and tasted of oil instead of potato. I only ate two spoonfuls of it, and the remainder stayed on the plate.


My main was the pancakes with blueberries and mascarpone. This tasted nice, and the mascarpone made the pancakes taste not too 'heavy'. The layers of pancake had a spoon of blueberry between them. I cannot fault this dish as it had a good flavour and was not too 'heavy'. I normally like syrup to give the pancake flavour, but this was fine with the blueberry and mascarpone.


Now for the verdict. Would I visit Blixen again? I would not visit it again for brunch as I was left feeling underwhelmed from my expectations and the rave that I have read about it, and the potat rosti was really horrible and just a ball of oil. I may visit for dinner at some point, but I would not rush back. Have you visited, and what did you think?

Street Art: Ador & Semor

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I'm a little bit late posting up these photographs of street art by Ador & Semor, a pair of street artists from France who started painting their murals in 2012, but as I was writing my post, I discovered that (thanks to Facebook) one of the artists is back in London again and painting walls. Ador was back in London a week and a half ago and painted the wall at the corner of Pedley Street and Brick Lane with a blue-haired archer character and a giant carrot.




On the previous trip to London at the end of 2015, Ador and Semor contributed on a few murals around London. Ador's adds shadow and dimension to his work by shading and blending, and Semor's work is more detailed. In the image below, the subject is a boy blowing up a balloon in the shape of an elephant. The boy is the work of Ador, and the purple-pink elephant is the work of Semor.


The next piece was located around the corner and features an older man sitting in his chair with abstract art painted on the wall behind him. 


The third piece features a person sawing down a tree with flowers and other creatures around as the tree is sawed into a stump. Perhaps this highlights the reconstruction that is taking place in the vicinity. This piece was being painted over when I was in the area on Saturday.


For more information about Ador, see the Facebook page at

Melt Room, located in Soho, is London's first grilled cheese sandwich shop. Grilled cheese sandwiches were a staple of my diet for many years because they are so easy to make and taste good, but I've not had one in ages. When I learned that London now has a cafe selling just grilled cheese sandwiches, I knew I must check it out. So I headed to Noel Street in Soho to visit Melt Room.


Melt Room has been serving up grilled cheese sandwiches with cheesey service since last May. It is inspired by the grilled cheese sandwiches of New York City.


Melt Room isn't limited to the simple grilled cheese sandwich (dubbed 'The Classic') that we all know and love. They also sell other grilled cheese sandwiches with other fillings. They have a lamb shoulder one, pulled pork one, mushroom one, BBQ chicken one, beetroot one, and there's also one with nutella that looks like it could be a dessert. I also wish I had tried the dessert one.


Inside the cafe are cheesey photographs and a "wall of fame" which promises a free sandwich to those whose photos have been put onto the wall.


I ordered "The Classic" grilled cheese sandwich and had onions for an extra 50p. I also ate inside the small cafe for another 50p, but I noticed a lot of others inside had take-away bags but were eating inside. Maybe it makes sense to charge when some of the patrons are studying for exams and chatting while occupying the table after having long finished, but I wasn't in there for more than twenty minutes as it was not the most comfortable and was continuously busy. When eating inside, you still are given the sandwich in a bag and do not have a plate or cuttlery. But I'd been walking around London so much that day that I just needed to get off my feet.


The Classic grilled cheese is made with a blend of five different cheeses. What's my verdict? Service and staff were very friendly to the point of being 'cheesey', which is the point of Melt Room. My sandwich was good, but it was not the best grilled cheese sandwich. I can make a better grilled cheese sandwich, and my favourite grilled cheese sandwich is made from a restaurant near my local hometown, so I rarely get to enjoy them. I would have to say that this grilled cheese sandwich is average, which defeats the purpose if you specialise in grilled cheese sandwiches. Would I go back? I would go back, but I would not rush back. There are some other items on the menu that I would try.

Street artist Stockholm-based Amara por Dios has returned to the streets of London to paint a tribute for International Women's Day, which takes place tomorrow. The mural was made in collaboration of the luggage/bag brand EASTPAK with the hashtag #sheWears. The artist is a regular to London's street art scene, and her recent works included a large glow-in-the-dark ultraviolet piece on Great Eastern Street and a collaboration on Bacon Street. Last year, she painted the huge wall on the Village Underground


The artist's new piece features one of her feminine portraits with braided hair, and it has been done completely in varying shades of pink and purple. It really is an eye-catching piece on Great Eastern Street.



I always enjoy seeing work by Amara por Dios, and I enjoy seeing street art painted for a good cause.

Lush Spring 2016

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This spring, bath and cosmetic company Lush have several new products, some older favourites, and some re-imagined products for this season. I am combining the spring, Mother's Day, and Easter products in this post as I recently visited the shop with all of the items on display. I also bought a few, but I admit that I have not had the time to try them out yet. 


Bunch of carrots bubble bars: These bubble bars came out last year, but they were re-imagined this year and come in different colours. Last year, they were just a bunch of orange carrots. This year, you get pink, purple, and orange in a bunch. These lasted ages when I bought them last year. I must have got over a dozen baths with them.


Lush Mechanic soap: This soap helps to get the grease out of skin and helps to moisturise it. It is marketed to people who do a lot of work on mechanics and whose hands need the extra care. It comes with a cute little silver wrench baked into the soap bar. There's also a version for gardeners with a watering can instead of the wrench.


Golden Egg Bath melt: This is a sweet-scented glittery gold egg that can be put into the bath. This smells of orange and caramel. This returns from last year and was a favourite of mine last year because it is such a pretty product.


Unicorn horn bubble bar: I have not seen these before, so I had to purchase one. They are colourful and contain lavender and ylang ylang.


Ultraviolet bubble bar: This purple and green bubble bar contains violet and jasmine scents and makes the water purple.


Rose Jam bubble bar: This is a very floral and sweet-smelling bubble bar, which really does smell like rose and jam. It is very shimmery with pink glitter and looks like a macaroon.


Mmmelting Marshmallow Moment bath oil: This bath oil smells of marshmallow and is yellow on one side and pink on the other side.


Fluffy Egg bath bomb: This pink and flowery egg has a sweet scent.

Ladybird bubble bar: This ladybug/ladybird bubble bar contains geranium oil and peppermint oil to revive and uplift.

Which Came First? bath bomb: This egg-shaped bath bomb comes in pink and yellow and yellow and pink colours. It has a sweet and citrus scent.

You've been Mangoed bath oil: This green mango and avocado bath melt moisturises.

Big Bang bubble bar: This blue bubble bar has a star on top surrounded by yellow circles. It contains grapefruit and lemon.

Lavender bubble bar: This lavender-scented bar is perfect for relaxation as lavender helps relax.

Razzle Dazzle bath oil: Raspberry and bergamont moisturises the skin; this product has a tendancy to melt just when touching it, so I am expecting it to be amazing in the bath. It is a bright shimmery pink and the same colour as the rose jam bubble bar.

Floating island bath oil: This yellow-white bath oil bar is made with vanilla and shea butter. This is a good one for those who like the vanilla scent.

Humpty Dumpty Egg Bath Bomb: Bergamont and Brazilian orange oil-scented Humpty Dumpty has an inside that looks like a perfectly-formed fried egg.

Flowering tea bubble bar: I had to buy this one as it is the first time I have seen it. This is a petal-filled bubble bar that contains real flower petals - cornflower and rosewood.

Have you purchased any of these products? Which is your favourite?

This year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death (1616), and the public can celebrate the famous bard through several Shakespeare-themed events (such as plays, walks, concerts, and discussions) throughout the country. April 23 marks the death date, and we were always told in school that Shakespeare died on his birthday, but I now see that his birthdate is unknown and his baptism date was April 26. One of the special events to celebrate Shakespeare400 is the 'Shakespeare woz ere' Shakespeare Son et Lumiere event. This free event is only taking place on two nights - March 4th and March 5th. Saturday night is the last chance to see it.


After work, I popped over to the Guildhall in the City of London to see Shakespeare Son et Lumiere. The lightshow is projected onto the Guildhall building. The first show was at 6:45, and they lasted twenty minutes each with a new show starting a few minutes later.


The lightshow commemorates some of the best moments in Shakespeare's works. I've only read a few of his works and watched the plays of a couple of others, so I could not make out which work the lines represented. The spoken word was performed with music and moving imagery projected onto the front of the Guildhall, and people of all ages were watching. It had attracted a fairly large crowd.


When watching the performance, I realised how influential Shakespeare's works were and how his use of story-telling is used today. Can this be credited to Shakespeare, or were there other playwrights doing this at the same time or even before? Metaphors, descriptive and flowing language, comic relief, and plot twists were used frequently and are still used today. For example, it's quite normal for a little bit of comedy in between serious scenes. 



After the twenty minutes of lightshow projections, we were free to enter the Guildhall Art Gallery and Heritage Centre in the Guildhall Yard complex. The galleries are not too large, so we quickly browsed through some artworks on display and went to the Roman ampitheatre located underneath the existing building.

Shakespeare bust at Guildhall

We also went to see Shakespeare's signature on a mortgage deed, which may be considered the most collectible signature in the world and is priceless (1). The signature was very hard to read. An image of it can be seen on the link at the bottom of this article.

Also on display is Visscher's original and detailed engraving of London, which was made in 1616. This view of London is rare as it depicts the city that was lost just before the Great Fire of 1666 and the old London Bridge with the buildings on it. (Readers may have seen my post about the model of London Bridge, which can be seen at St. Magnus near Monument tube station, and the it is worth a visit.)


In addition to this image of London, a modern image of London with the same view has been created this year by Robin Reynolds. The modern image has references to Shakespeare's works. 

If you are up for something free to do tomorrow evening, then give this a go. The Guildhall Galleries and Centre is open until 9:00pm, so that is ample time to see the light show and explore. The Guildhall is located in the City of London, and it is located between St. Paul's and Bank stations. 

1) Rare William Shakespeare signature to go on display in London. [24 May 2013].

Alice Pasquini is another female artist who is in London due to the all-female street artist exhibition at Saatchi Gallery 'XX: A Moment in Time'. Alice is a street artist from Rome and is not a stranger to London. She last visited in the summer of 2014 and painted a mural on Bacon Street, and you can see that piece and some of her other pieces from previous visits on my post here. Her work is created using stencils, and the subjects of her work feature portraits in a variety of poses but always showing expression and emotion, which the artist captures these moments in time very well. 


I always find her work a pleasure and the small 'hidden' portraits often make me smile. The image of the young girl above, with her tonque to the side of her mouth envokes playfulness of the subject and reminds me of a selfie picture that the younger generation are doing. 


The stencil in the most prominent place is of a pregnant young woman wearing a floral bikini and posing.


Another figure of a female appears to be dozing in a window. She looks care-free and seems unaware of anyone watching or looking at her.


Last, but not least, are these two young girls playing around; the angle is looking down on them so it appears that the viewer is the adult or parent and is a part of their interaction.

There is also a larger mural in Camden, which Alice has collaborated on that I have not seen yet. 

I love how this artist's work has evolved over time, and I hope that more artwork appears by this artists on the streets of London soon.

Street Art: HNRX

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I'm a little bit late posting this, but I captured several murals across east London toward the end of last year by Austrian artist HNRX. The artist creates his work under the tagline of "comic surreal"where he combines items of food and other objects mis-matched in surreal scenarios. For example, a leg of ham is a kiwi fruit and a skewer is comprised of fruit and meat or a banana is actually comprised of sausage meat. The juxtoposition is clever. In fact, HNRX does not consider himself a street artist but enjoys creating comical imagery.












For more information, visit HNRX's Facebook page here:

UK 2016 Birchbox Reviews: February

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I finally received this month's Birchbox a few days ago. Either they did not send it, or it got lost in the post. I subscribed to this month's box so that I could receive a few more reward points as I was just shy of enough to redeem a reward and I was at risk of losing my points as they are changing the way that the points system works.  

For those who do not know, Birchbox is a beauty and skin-care subscription service. Subscribers receive between four and six full-size or travel-size items each month. This month had a special theme "Shine bright like a diamond" (like the song), and the company promised that one subscriber would receive a gemstone in their box.


This month sees the launch of Birchbox's own beauty brand of product, known as LOC (Love of Colour). Each subscriber received a LOC product in a colour that they could choose - silver or gold. Below is a review of the items that I received in my box.

LOC eye shadow in "Perfect Cents": This is a metallic bronze-gold colour of eye shadow. It promises that you don't need to use a brush - just glide on the eyelids and smudge with fingers. The product is also water-proof and promises up to 11 hours of wear.

Spectrum Collections Tapered Powder Brush: This trendy-looking make-up brush makes applying make-up easy. The brush and tip are firm enough to avoid getting colour in the wrong spots, which I struggled with when I applied make-up with some of my older brushes.

Korres Milke Proteins 3-in-1 cleansing emulsion: This product promises to remove make-up without irritating the skin. The milk proteins nourish the skin. Cleanser is another product that I always seem to be lumped with in my boxes. I have so many cleansers to get through at the moment.

theBalm(R) cosmetic blush/shadow: I like this brand's cute packaging that it uses for its products. This product can be used as a blush or an eye shadow. 

Ayres Butter in Patagonia: This is a body lotion product that is lightly-scented and absorbed into the skin without feeling clumpy. It's probably one of the better body butters that I have used, but I am not a fan of body butters and dislike receiving them as it's a product that I don't use. 

BioNike defense xage lifting and remodeling balm: This moisturiser promises to firm, lift, and plum skin. It is meant to be used after cleansing. Again, this is another type of product that I don't like receiving and don't use.


I would have really loved to have tried the hair bands that a lot of the subscribers received in their boxes (instead of the body butter, cleanser, or the anti-aging moisturiser). I want to get back to the gym, and I constantly used hair bands to tie my hair back when I was running and on the toning machines. I got through these bands often and they never lasted long, so I was looking for a better product that would last and not damage my hair.


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