June 2017 Archives

A Day Out Sailing to the Isle of Wight

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Earlier this month, I got to go on a sailing trip from Hamble in Hampshire (England) to the Isle of Wight. The bloke's brother placed second in raising the most money for charity at his workplace, so he and the winner got the chance to go on a one-day sailing trip and invite along a few friends/family. We met in Hamble in Hampshire at the harbour in the morning yo get the sailboat, and we had perfect weather throughout the day. We were shown how to operate the sail boat, including lowering the sails, tying the boat to the dock, and how to navigate. This area is perfect for sailing because of well-marked waters and other boats using the area, including the ferries to the Isle of Wight and cargo ships.

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The ship we sailed on is "Solent Hero", which is a boat that is used to help teach people how to sail.

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There is a wheel on both sides of the end of the boat to control the boat's direction. A compass, depth of the water, and navigation system is provided. The water is not too deep around the land with an average depth of about 5-6 meters. The middle of the solent gets deeper with 20 or 30 meters in depth.

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Actually, the most comfortable seat (before we put up the sails) was the front of the ship.

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We could sit below deck, but none of us did. There is a kitchen, seating, and three rooms with double bunks.

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After the sails went down, we sped up.

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I caught glimpses of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.

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Finally, we arrived at the northern shores of the Isle of Wight. We caught glimpses of Osborn House, which is where Queen Victoria often visited.

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A little way further, we came to Old Castle Point.

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Then, we came to the opening of the river into the harbour of Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

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We saw the car ferry, which I've used in the past when I've visited the Isle of Wight by car (or used the pedestrian service).

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Then we sailed down the River Medina. We attempted to get close to the Isle of Wight Festival, but we actually could not go all the way down as the water was getting more shallow, but we did make our way down quite a bit.

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We then stopped and had food (sandwiches, fruit, snacks, and biscuits) and wine/beer on the deck, which was the perfect weather with full sunshine. After we finished, we headed back. The weather clouded up in a couple of places on the way back, but it was still lovely.

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We then "parked" the sailboat back in Hamble docks.

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We had a lovely trip, and it was a lovely day to sail around Port Solent and the Isle of Wight.

At the end of last year, Russian street artist Lora Zombie visited London for the first time in many years and painted a few new murals in London. I covered these murals here. Lora Zombie's artwork style is grunge, and she is influenced by comic illustrations; she is a self-taught artist and has exhibited her work all over the world. This week, Lora Zombie made a return to London and left behind some striking pieces. The first piece, painted on Pedley Street, features a group of bright pink kittens in a transparent pill capsule. The word "ANTISTRESS" is written behind the kitten-pill along with "MEOW". 

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The mural seems to suggest that cute kittens act as pills to help people de-stress throughout the day. I guess that this is true in that there are many videos and images of kittens looking cute and being "kittens".

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The next piece is located on a wall that Lora Zombie painted on the last time she was in London. The wall is located at the end of Hanbury Street and features the character Groot, who is a humanoid tree creature, from "Guardians of the Galaxy". Groot's catchphrase is "I am Groot"; in fact, that is the only phrase he says. The "A" in "am" is replaced with an anarchy symbol.

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I enjoyed discovering these new murals by Lora Zombie after a quiet few weeks of very little happening in London's street art scene. More Lora Zombie street art can be seen in my posts below:

Lora Zombie Street Art in London

Bournemouth & Poole, 17 Years Ago

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Seventeen years ago, I visited Bournemouth in Dorset, England for the first time. I visited it with my ex-boyfriend who lives in the New Forest and would visit Bournemouth often. Before this, I had never been to a "beach", so this trip to Bournemouth to see the sea and a sandy beach was a first for me. Overall, this was a lovely (and summery) day out in Bournmouth and one of my favourite days of 2000 and my short visit to England as I was only staying for six months on a work exchange visa. A few years later, I would move to Bournemouth for a short time to go to university. 

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The visit to Bournemouth was by bus connection from Ringwood. We stopped to see the beach and the pier. At the time, there was an IMAX cinema and restaurants on the seafront. We had a quick visit there, and we did see a show in the IMAX. (Later, I would visit a couple of the restaurants in this seafront area, but they have since been taken down.)

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We also had a really lovely walk and chat around the gardens in the centre of Bournemouth, admiring the beautiful flower beds and the little stream that winds its way down and through the lower gardens. In the gardens, there is a lantern festival that takes places in the summer months, which I covered here. Balloon flights also launch from the gardens and provide great views over Bournemouth. I never did get a trip up in the balloon, but the balloon can be seen towering above from miles away. The design has changed a bit now, but below is what it looked like seventeen years ago.

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I loved walking around the flower gardens. They were really pretty in 2000. A couple of years later, they did not get decorated as beautifully or even compare to the way they were during my first visit. I think a lot of cuts were made after 2001. The world changed then.

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We also had a trip to Poole, although I never realised that I had visited there until I was looking through my old photo albums. I suppose that my ex-boyfriend and I had just got the bus further down and then spent a very short time here. Perhaps we were just waiting for a new bus connection. I thought that I would have remembered visiting, but it completely escaped me, so it must have been a quick stop-off. I have a photograph of the high street with the Poole Aquarium.

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I also saw the marina and got a photograph of one of the pubs on the seafront. I have visited Poole probably half a dozen times now as they host car shows here in the summer months on Friday evenings. (Visit my post to see pictures of MINIs in Poole.)

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Lucky Cats in London's China Town

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Four years ago on this day, I was hanging out with some of my good friends from the USA. I had taken off a week so that we could hang out, and one of the places that I took them was to Chinatown in central London. The "lucky cats" were a hit, and I am sure that most readers recognise the "lucky cat", which has a paw that moves up and down. I snapped a nice photograph of the "lucky cats" that we found in one of the shops in Chinatown. (The shop in question is being renovated currently, and I am unsure as to what they will be building in its place, but these cats can be purchased in other shops around Chinatown.)

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The Chinese "Fortune Cat" (Maneki Neko, translated as "beckoning cat") is used as a charm in order to attract good fortune. The cat's paw is raised on the left or the right to attrack customers or good fortune.

DavidDavid Street Art on Bethnal Green

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Earlier this year, I was walking down Bethnal Green Road in east London when I spotted this new street art of a man riding a bicylce with a bucket on his head. Now, I have not often visited this part of Bethnal Green Road for a little while, so I am uncertain of its age. The work is by French artist David David, who paints and creates sculptures. He uses the tag "For You" in his work.

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This is a large-scale piece on the side of a building on Squirres Street.

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I am unsure if the artist painted any additional pieces in London during his visit.

Memories of the Millennium Dome

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At the end of June 2000, I visited the then-called "Millennium Dome", which has now been rebranded as "The O2" and is a popular music and entertainment venue packed full of restaurants and a cinema. The "Millennium Dome" began its life as a project to mark the millennium, similar to the London Eye and Millennium Bridge; unlike the Millennium Bridge (opposite St. Paul's Cathedral), it opened in 2000. The project had funding from the lottery money and housed different scientific and environmental 'zones'. I believe that it tried to be a modern version of the Crystal Palace and State Fair. I'm not sure if there were ever any plans for the dome after 2000, but I do know that they did not wish to dismantle it and tried to find a buyer for a good few years before it became the venue it is today. Overall, the project lost money.

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After 2000, the zones were stripped out. Some of it was auctioned off, and other parts went into a landfill. The most iconic and famous piece, "The Body Zone" was mainly sent to a landfill and what could be recycled was recycled. Several years ago and when the venue was kitted out with restaurants and an auditorium, I noticed a last replica of the original interior. They were curving white sculptural benches, and they were located near the middle of where the restaurants and the VIP area are now at. The last time I visited the venue, I did try to find them but could not. I imagine that they eventually got ripped out.

On that day toward the end of June in 2000, I remember my visit to the Millennium Dome. I went with an ex-boyfriend, and I regret that I did not purchase more souvenirs, though I was a student then and money was tight. At the time, I was actually living in Finsbury Park at that time and working in Highbury and Islington for six months on a work exchange programme. I became aware of the exhibition through the news and through my ex-boyfriend mentioning that he would like to visit it. Seventeen years later, and I can see how much London has changed.

As for the souvenirs - I bought a mug or two (one for my father and one for my ex); I remember that my London A-Z (which we carried around before Google maps) had advertising for the Millennium Dome on the backside of it. I remember finding and walking a few steps of the Meridian Line, which is the imaginary point where Greenwich Mean time begins. It was located outside of the structure and near the Thames. I remember the gift shop where I bought a few souvinirs, including the yellow mug. I remember a little bit about the different zones inside.

The interior of the Millennium Dome was organised into several 'zones'. The dome itself acted as a canvas (made of plastic or some other similar material) over the top in order to protect the exhibits, and I remember thinking of how big it all looked and how high the ceiling was. Of course, the most iconic piece was "The Body Zone". This was a large model of two bodies, and the bodies could be entered to see the different areas, such as the stomach, the brain, and the heart. I remember a large beating heart in the middle and then sperm fertilising an egg before we went to the brain area and then out of the zone. We did not have to queue long, and the zone did not take long to go through; I believe it was also self-guided.

The Play Zone featured different games that could be played, and I remember going to look at this but finding it a bit too busy; I remember that this seemed to be more of an area for children but also with a lot of technology and some innovating ideas. I'm not sure if it was in this zone or another one, but there was an exhibit that would scan your face and you could change the filter on it to change your age, race, and gender. I also remember something about looking up other locations of the world to obtain information, but we tried to do this and some of the technology did not seem to work properly. This may have been in The Talk Zone.

The Money Zone let us see one million pounds on display. I also remember that there was a little bit of a queue, and we also saw the diamonds that some gang of robbers tried to rob. This was another of the areas that I do remember pretty well because there was something to see and I found it interesting.

The Relax Zone was very surreal, and I have a lot of memories of this because I found it a little too odd. I remember entering a room; I remember that I had to crawl around. Inside the 'tent' area were other people, and strange noises were being emitted from the zone as well as dimmed colours; it was almost psychadelic. 

One of the highlights was the show; I remember seeing actors dressed up in different costumes where the cinema was. They were entertaining us while we got our seats for the show. The short film "Blackadder Back and Forth" was shown, and this featured the actors from the original television series and a plot that enabled the characters to go back and forward in time. I found it very funny.

I remember that we did not have nearly enough time in order to see everything, but substance felt a little lacking. I understand that it was a very ambitious project and seemed to lack some direction perhaps and was at a time when a lot of uses for technology were being experimented with. Technology and artificial intelligence was fairly new then, and it was really the key to the exhibition, although interacting with technology is not a "material" or tangible item and varies depending on each user's experience. It's also an area that I do not remember too much about, and in some ways, we are further ahead. 

The diamonds, million pounds, body zone, Blackadder film, and the "relaxing" zone were what I remember the most about my day out. I do wish we would have seen the other show with the arobatics and performers as I had heard that it was worth seeing. 

Did you visit the Millennium Dome? What are your memories of it?

Soft Serve Society Ice Cream

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The weather today was quite warm. Several of my colleagues and the bloke were complaining that it was "too hot" *gasp!* today, but I enjoy this weather. This is the perfect temperature for me. I love the sunshine and not having to cover myself in many layers to try to keep myself warm; winter, on the other hand, I'd rather skip. This is the perfect weather for ice cold lemonade (or lemon water), sorbet, ice lollies, and ice cream. Ice cream is the topic of this post, and I chilled off with one of these today. The venue is Soft Serve Society, located at BoxPark in Shoreditch. 

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The Instagram-able ice creams are the current London rage with Milk Train (which I visited earlier this spring and covered here) being another popular ice cream venue. The craze at the moment is to put cotton candy (candy floss) around the ice cream. Of course, the two do not mix, but it looks awesome.

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Soft Serve Society have a range of different ice cream sundaes and milk shakes (which they call Freak Shakes) available to purchase. The ice cream flavours are vanilla or matcha, but they do sell a "flavour of the day" too. The Freak Shakes go all out with many of them including toppings such as slices of cake, cotton candy, popcorn, jumbo marshmallow, chocolate shapes, cookies, and more. I dislike milk shakes, but I managed to get a sneak peek of a couple of Freak Shakes that a couple of other girls ordered.

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Today was actually my second visit to Soft Serve Society. I also visited it on Easter Weekend. The weather was a bit grey, but it was warm enough to enjoy ice cream. I had one of the pre-made ice creams this time, dubbed the Cloud 9. The Cloud 9 consists of vanilla ice cream with a cloud of cotton candy floating on top. Popping candy and Pocky biscuits were placed on top of the ice cream with strawberry pieces floating on top of the sugary cloud. It looked very pretty.

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Today's visit inspired me to purchase an ice cream cone in a black cone. Yes, they have black cones. The image is at the top of this post. I choose vanilla ice cream with strawberry pieces and a chocolate shape. It was delicious and melted very quickly in the temperatures today. 

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Soft Serve Society have a loyalty card, so I can imagine trying a few more of these in the coming weeks, as long as the nice weather is here to stay. Also, there is a range of toppings available, including: biscuit pieces, nuts, bubblegum, sprinkles, meringue, waffle, granola, honeycomb, caramel, pastry, flake, ginger, popping candy, and more.

Street artist Pyramid Oracle (originally covered here) started to paste up artwork in London a couple of years ago. In 2016, he pasted up several new pieces around east London, and although most of these have now gone, a couple of them can still be seen. The artist is originally from the midwest in the USA, and a lot of his work has been placed in several major US cities. Animals and abstract portraits are two subjects that he covers. I recenly have uncovered a few new pieces that he pasted up in the past couple of weeks. 

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The tiger, located off Commercial Road, is my favourite of the new pieces. Another, also located on Commercial Road, is of a toad. The third is on Fashion Street and features an older man.

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More of Pyramid Oracle's work can be seen here:

Street art: Pyramid Oracle
Pyramid Oracle pastes new street art in east London

Last month, I posted some ceramic mask street art that I discovered around Brick Lane. It does not include a name or tag of the artist, but I discovered a couple more pieces around Brick Lane. My original post is located here: Ceramic Street Art Masks and Skulls. Please let me know if you know who the artist is. 

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Lunches at Dinerama

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This is Dinerama's third year running at the eastern end of Great Eastern Street. (The closest tube station is Liverpool Street Station or Shoreditch High Street.) In 2015, Dinerama gained a lot of attention as a popular place to visit for after work drinks and street food on weeknights and weekends. The location suffered a fire that summer, but it was quickly rebuilt. The venue also does open for the winter months, and the outdoor section gains a roof. Anyway, I am now working again in Shoreditch for the first time since the beginning of 2015 and have finally made it to Dinerama. I've been out with colleagues to Dinerama during the day when it's not as busy. The images were taken across a couple of different visits.

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Dinerama has something for everyone. In terms of bars, there are several located across the venue with three or four upstairs and a few downstairs. Tables are communal, and the downstairs is busier than upstairs....mainly because it's difficult to carry different food and drink up the stairs. 

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One of the bars upstairs had a wall of shelving with plants, and this is an idea that I've wanted to do for the house renovations but have not quite got there yet.

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In terms of food, there is a large variety, but sadly a few of the places are only open for dinner. Fundi pizza and You Doughnut are the ones that I'd love most to try, but they are closed at lunch. Club Mexicana sells vegetarian Mexican street food, Yum Bun sells soft steamed buns, Thunderbird sells chicken and spicy wings, seafood, dumplings, burgers, and barbeque are all on offer. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options and plenty of bars.

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I do hope to visit the venue again for a taste of what is in store in the evening, but so far, I have tried to barbeque chicken and Mexican. The chicken wings looked and smelled good with the spicy sauce and were a hit with colleagues, and there's plenty of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to try.

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Dinerama is open from Thursday to Saturday from 12:00 noon until late.

Birthday Brunch at Chiltern Firehouse

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This morning, I headed over to Chiltern Firehouse to have birthday brunch. Chiltern Firehouse is located on Chiltern Street, a short walk from Baker Street tube and not too far from Selfridges. Before the building became a hotel and restaurant and celebrity hang-out, it was a former fire station (known as Marylebone Fire Station). The hotel and restaurant is owned by Andrew Balazs (who also owns hotels in NYC and California), and the head chef is Nuno Mendes.

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We started the brunch off by having a spritzer. We both had the strawberry and basil, topped with champagne. 

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We ordered the starters. I opted to try the Bacon Cornbread, which was served with chipotle-maple butter. (My palette loves spice and cannot detect it, so I did not taste the 'kick' of the chipotle.) The bloke wanted to have sourdough bread. 

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For the main, I ordered the buttermilk pancakes. These were topped with blueberries and creme fraiche, and a small pot of maple syrup was provided on the side.

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The bloke had the saddleback pork chop, and this was served with sauce ravigote and seared carrots. He also ordered chips.

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The food was very tasty and very filling, and we both struggled to finish our plates. We sat near one of the areas where the food is prepared, and the most popular item appeared to be eggs benedict. This always seems to be a popular Lodon breakfast and brunch dish, and it does sound nice indeed with a cheese biscuit and glazed ham.

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I saved some room for dessert and opted to try to lighter option, English raspberries, which came with a cream and mint granita. 

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I was also brought a miniature birthday cake, lit with a silver candle.

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After we finished, we left with full bellies to wander back to the underground station. I really liked seeing this classic Ferrari parked outside.

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Food was good with a different/creative twist so that it was not boring, and I could tell that fresh and good-quality ingredients were used. Also, staff were attentive to the presentation of the dishes before they were taken to tables. Staff were friendly and courteous to make my birthday visit special. 

Birthday 2017

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Yesterday did not go as planned. I was meant to take a half day holiday to make up for all of the overtime that I have been doing, but I had to help sort out some issues at work and assist others. As a result, I ended up working my total daily hours (then had to tell colleagues I really needed to leave and that I'd already put in too much time already). With that, I headed home. As a result of the busy day (which is common at the moment for me), I didn't get to call up and book a new local restaurant in Ruislip Manor that I've heard is good and that I really wanted to try. The bloke and I tried to get in after work, but it was booked full, and they would not let us in. We ended up going to another nice established local restaurant instead; this is one that we have been to once before with friends and has the best reviews in the area: Zaza Ruislip.

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Zaza is an Italian restaurant located in Ruislip at the end of the High Street near the barn and Manor House. The food really is delicious, but I didn't take any photographs this time. I told them that it was my birthday, and they brought out my dessert (a creme brulee) with a candle and birthday message. This was a perfect end to a busy day.

My life is a bit of a blur at the moment. Work has been extremely busy, and changes are happening at the moment. I'd been putting in a lot of hours; this has mainly been due to assisting juniour developers who are also new to the project; many of the tasks are very complex, so they had many questions and needed a lot of help, which has taken up my time as I've had to take on extra tasks. The processes are not the greatest; tasks were approved and then suddenly I had to make changes at the last minute, after it had been approved by several people. (That defeated the purpose as I raise things well in advance to avoid last-minute issues as I am not a procrastinator; disorganisation irks me.) 

I've also been unpacking and sorting out bits with the moving. (Yes, I moved at the end of 2015, but I was living out of boxes because the house needed renovations; after just over six months, those came to an end and I've been unpacking and tidying bits away since then.) I'd like to have a house-warming party in early July, but I am not sure if that will happen. That is my target to get things sorted anyway.

On Saturday, the bloke and I took part in the special event MINIs at Dunsfold, which raised money for children's charity, Variety in association with The Italian Job Mini rally. The last time that this event was held at Dunsfold was in 2009. After a short break, the organisers have put the event on again this year, and this will be the final year at this track as it will be developed on and the site of a new housing estate. Dunsfold (near Guildford) is where the car enthusiast television show "Top Gear" is filmed, which we got tickets to go to for the filming earlier in the year. The test track is located here, and it is used in the series to test drive cars and to have celebrities drive cars around the track. 

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The event enabled groups of MINIs (approximately twelve at a time) in different groups around the track in five laps. There was a slow group, a fast group, and a group in between; there was a queue for each speed. All cars drove behind a safety car so that you couldn't overtake and crash out. We drove in the fast group for a few sessions, and this properly tested the car's boundaries. We had beautiful hot weather for it.  

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The inside of the track was a haven of wildflowers, which were filled with butterflies and bees. It's sad that this land is going to be developed on.

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We even got to see a plane doing tricks in the air above us in the afternoon.

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At the end of the day, those who were still around were asked to participate in a photo shoot on the way out. Photographs of our cars were taken as we drove around the track, and the final photographs included all of the cars in front of the iconic plane on the track/runway. There were so many MINIs that I could not even attempt to photograph them all; there were also a few rows back to the plane.

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Over the course of the day, over 2,000 pounds were raised for charity. This included the price of tickets, the donations made by the refreshment stands, raffle tickets, and merchandising.

Urban Solid Sculptural Invasion

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Italian street art duo Urban Solid have returned to London in order to display their sculptures at Brick Lane Gallery. They are noted for their street art urban sculptures, and they pasted up "Audio Surveillance" scuptures a few years ago and also place people's faces coming out of television sets. They've recently started to create life-size "Adam and Eve" sculptures and retro gaming/casino plaques with "1Up" and "5 Points" on them. Their sculptures were on display in an exhibition entitled "Sculptural Invasion" for a week from 30 May until today (June 5). I had the chance to check out their work as well as to discover new artwork that the duo put up on the street.

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Toward the end of last year, they placed their "Adam and Eve" sculptures just off Brick Lane, and these had been a big hit with tourists posing for photographs. The two figures were painted like tourists. This time, the two figures are painted completely in gold with bright neon pink and green sunglasses.

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I also wandered the streets to look for more items left behind and discovered two on either end of Grimsby Street and one in Star Yard and the final on Whitby Street. 

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I also popped into Brick Lane Gallery in order to see the exhibit, which I got photographs of below. 

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For previous posts about Urban Solid on this blog, visit:

Street Art: Urban Solid
Urban Solid duo put up new London Street Art Installations 

In light of the increasing threat of the losers who are terrorising our cities, I have decided that today was appropriate to post new street art by Fanakapan that appeared last weekend in Star Yard off of Brick Lane. The artwork was actually painted for the events and those that lost their lives in the terrorist events that happened in Manchester a couple of weeks ago. 

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Previous work by Fanakapan that has appeared on this blog can be seen by looking at the below links:

Fanakapan Paints Shoreditch Clowns
Chrome Balloon Dog in Star Yard

Fanakapan Paints "Power Tools" on Village Underground Wall

Fanakapan Paints "Drunk Glass Elephants"
Fanakapan, Horror Crew, & Jerry Rugg
Louis Masai and Fanakapan: "Freedom?"
New Chrome Street Art Mask by Fanakapan
Balloon Animal Street Art
Cranio & Fanakapan
Fanakapan and Horror Crew

Dreph "You Are Enough" (Part 2)

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Street artist Dreph is currently painting a series of inspiring and community-oriented black women across London in a work titled "You Are Enough". Each features a female hero subject. The last that I photographed a couple of weeks ago appeared in Star Yard and featured a friend of the artist, Myvanwy Evans, who currently works in marketing and is an artist. The most recent edition in the series was painted at the end of last week and features Tracy Blackstock, the mother of Dreph's son.  

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Tracy is the youngest of 9 children born to first generation Jamaican parents, and she works with people on probation and resettlement for offenders. She also helps children and youths who have been abused and wants to prevent them from abusing others in the same way that they have had to endure when they were younger. 

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More work by Dreph can be seen on my blog in the following posts:

Dreph 'You Are Enough' (6th Edition)
Dreph Paints Holly Oluwo

New Street Art Portraits by Dreph
Street Art: Dreph

Chess-Playing Monkey Street Art

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A couple of weeks ago, a new large-scale mural appeared on Pedley Street. The mural features a chess-playing monkey in the shadows. (I don't know if anyone else had a difficult time putting this one together, but for the longest time, I did not see the monkey and tried to find something in the shapes; it only came together after a handful of visits and when I was standing from afar.) The image is painted using black and white paint and is void of colour.

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I'm actually not sure who the artist is as the work is not signed, so do put the artist's name in the comments if you know.

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