24 September 2009

Summer came back and we loved it

What a glorious week and weekend for us sun lovers. Late September often brings a burst of sunshine and this year was a really good one. So, there was sitting out with Sunday papers, country walks and even some gardening.

The big events this week included Tent, an design exhibition which was part of the busy London Design Festival. Why 'Tent' you may wonder - Tent is an event consultancy and apparently the guys who run it, started off in a tent in the Kings Road. It was held at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in the East End (no longer a brewery tho') and we had lunch sitting out at Patisserie Valerie on the way. Lots of groovy designs and new designers to chat with but not sure how much of the work would really suit my flat.

London has been jam packed with style this week as we've had London Fashion Week and the Design Festival, both with multiple venues and lots of press attention so there's no excuse for frumpiness or ordinariness but it's a bit hard to keep up with it all.... I'm told that the main fashion statements were ' big curly hair and expensive looking cardigans' so let's see what happens this autumn.

It was BookSlam at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill on Thursday evening with William Boyd reading a fun short story and from his new book, Don Patterson reading rather gloomy poetry(my view but some folk liked it) and Netsayi who is a great singer from Zimbabwe. The Tabernacle site is wonderful and their outside courtyard was humming before it started and here's a photo of it. It's the home of the Notting Hill carnival and is now hosting a wide range of cultural activities and is almost on my door step.

I spent the weekend in Bristol visiting friends, seeing a great up and coming jazz performer called James Morton at the Bebop club in Bristol and visiting the Georgian splendours of Bath. Bath is a lovely city and has wonderful surroundings including Prior Park Gardens where we walked through the dramatic landscaped grounds and sat in the hot sun. Bath is an easy trip out from London and rewards with its beautiful buildings made out of the fabulous golden stone, the Roman Baths which you can tour and then go the spa. There is also the Pump Room where Jane Austen used to take tea and where you can taste the spa waters - not very tasty unfortunately but I'm sure therefore that it does you good, but I just have a cup of tea instead, like Jane!

Bye for now.


21 September 2009

Open House weekend, please show me the money!

Open House weekend in London saw hundreds of properties, normally closed to the public, throw open their doors for 2 days. This is so popular that many are booked up as soon as the programme is announced and others just have huge queues all day.

I decide to brave the Bank of England as it seemed rather topical given the economic crises they have been at the heart of recently. This definitely fell into the 'queues' category but I stuck it out and had a fascinating tour of the rooms such as the one where they meet monthly to decide what's happening to the base rate. It's all so ornate that it's hard to imagine it's a working building. And no I didn't get to see any money! I took a photo of the queue as it looked like there was a run on the bank....

Saturday night was comedy night as Mark Thomas was performing at the Tricycle. He's very funny and political and this year's tour is about coming up with a manifesto for change. The audience write out a new policy they'd like to see introduced and he bases his show on these including a vote for the best one - ours was a new law to ban MPs from lying (interesting to think that the audience assumes they won't stop unless it's illegal)! He's managed to persuade the GLA (London's governing body) to debate the top ones with him after the tour, which should be worth seeing. We bumped into him as we arrived and had a little chat - what a nice man...

We had fun at a local restaurant despite the enormous torrents of rain coming down all evening. Pix joined the Notting Hill restaurant scene and is very welcome. They are offering pintxos - Barcelona style tapas served on bread and secured with a skewer - in casual, comfortable, lively surroundings. You help yourself to skewers off the bar and they count them all up and charge you £2.50 each and they soon mount up as the food's very tasty and the owner John has done a great job bringing us something new.

On the food and drink trail, we had a good meal at the Butler's Wharf Chop House on the river and drinks beforehand in the cool bar at the nearby Gaucho. An added treat was a sight of Tower Bridge raised up to let a sailing boat in - see photo. I've only seen it raised a couple of times and it's amazing how quickly it works so you've got to be ready with the camera at all times!

Bye for now,

16 September 2009

Promenading and visiting the Royals

Last week started with a visit to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall (see photo) , my only concert this year which is a bit of a shame given that the season has over 70 to chose from but it's been a busy summer. We saw a Mendelssohn Piano Concerto and Mahler's 10th symphony which was completed after his death. I preferred the concerto tho' the symphony had some great percussion - drums, symbols and gongs all together at times.

The Royals had the pleasure of my company twice this week - well, they were not actually there at the time but we only missed Princes William and Harry by a matter of an hour or two. Firstly we went to Clarence House which is the London residence of Charles, Camilla and the princes. An interesting and not too long a tour of this historic house - particularly good for those who have a penchant for the Queen Mother. Afterwards we had lunch in St James's park and strolled to the National Gallery for the Corot to Monet exhibition of landscapes There was time for afternoon tea (of course!) in the gallery restaurant with a great view of the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square so we could watch the goings on in comfort. We finished off the afternoon by dropping into the foyer of the National Theatre to see the photographic exhibition 'Public Faces, Private Places' and list to the free jazz - the Damon Brown Trio - who were really good.
More great photos at the Getty Images Gallery where I caught the end of their current exhibition - Londoners Through A Lens - wonderful black and white images of everyday Londoners mostly from the last century. It really made me think about using black and white more as I always go for colour photos (see my website itsyourlondon.co.uk for some of my images).
The other royal visit you ask? A weekend with the family in Norfolk was marked by a trip out to see the seals at Blakeney Point and then a drive over to Sandringham House. No sign of the royals to welcome us there either but the Game and Country Fair was full of tweeds, waterproofs, dogs, horses and hawk flying demonstrations. It's a different world.... Norfolk is about 3-4 hours drive from London and is a great way to feel a long way from a big city but it's good to be back!
Bye for now.

8 September 2009

How much can you fit in one evening?

This weekend saw some visitors from America who wanted to pack as much in one evening as possible, so I took them up on that challenge. Take a deep breath and here goes...

  • Early evening dinner at Momo getting the first table after they opened at 6.30. Yummy couscous and tagines with some good Moroccan red wine.

  • Off to the theatre to see Mountain Top at the Trafalgar Studios, a two-hander about the last night of Martin Luther King's life. Front row seats meant we were very much in the action including a covering of pillow feathers following an on stage fight! Wonderful play, truly excellent performances and unexpected plot lines. The experience left us buzzing

  • Walked through Trafalgar Square to show them the art project One & Other, also known as the Fourth Plinth. We saw 2 of the 2400 people who have one hour on the empty 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square to do whatever they want (if legal!). These people weren't doing much but good to see public participation and acknowledge the brilliant concept.

  • On to Pizza Express Jazz club in Soho for a show - Sarah Gillespie and Gilad Atzmon - he was particularly good managing to play accordion, various sizes of sax and the clarinet. We stayed on for the jam session afterwards and they were set for the night with some great sax players.

  • Home! Bit tired but felt we'd squeezed in as much as we could and got some great variety in there too.

Saturday and Sunday were brunch days and walks. Brunch number one was at the Waterway in Little Venice overlooking the canal boats followed by a London Walk around the area. Can't recommend London Walks highly enough, always knowledgeable and entertaining guides give you insights into an area even if you live there. Brunch number two at the Orangery by Kensington Palace which is such a beautiful terrace (see photo) followed by a walk around Hyde Park on another sunny day.

I'm currently battling technology as I can't update the rest of my website (http://www.itsyourlondon.co.uk/) so I'm currently still showing August on the front page which is very frustrating - hoping for progress soon.

Bye for now. Sue

1 September 2009

Even more madness - Notting Hill carnival!

The bank holiday weekend in England always feels like the end of summer and it certainly goes out with a huge loud bang in Notting Hill when the carnival swings into town. We are lucky enough to have 2 days of the world's second largest street party - I think Rio still beats us! The build up feels weird as they start boarding up shops and restaurants the days before and some locals rush away, especially if they are on the parade route. And the anticipation builds, especially for those in the parade who have spent all year making huge and elaborate costumes.

On the mornings of the event, all starts quietly and then the noise starts to crank up as the parade winds itself around the long route and the sound systems keep moving the volume button to the right. If you want to see the extraordinary bright colours of the parade costumes, smell the wonder of jerk chicken and feel your sternum pulsate to the rhythms, then this is the place for you! Several of my neighbours can't get far enough away as the hundreds of thousands of visitors make it a bit of crush at times but I love it. I really enjoy showing friends around which they appreciate as we pass endless lost people turning maps every which way to find out where on earth they are. The police patiently give directions and brace themselves for the later stages of the event when they have to try and get everyone on their way home after a few beers (the carnival goers that is not the police!).

The next day it's like nothing has happened as the amazing clear up puts us all back to normal and I spend the next day sorting through my photos to keep the few great ones and lose the rather blurry dozens and wonder if my neighbourhood is the same place that hosted the carnival madness.

Not much time in between for restaurants, bars or art etc but local eateries I've frequently this week were: Toms Deli for brunch in their lovely outdoor garden (a rare treat as they normally have a huge queue), and another return to Aphrodite for a pre-carnival fortifier.

One more thing to let you know about was the One Magic Summer event in Trafalgar Square, brought to us by the Mayor's Office (Boris Johnson). Rows of deck chairs in the middle of the square had been set out for anyone to sit in for free and chill out for a few minutes or even hours with entertainment laid on. It was a lovely day when I went down and the whole idea really brought smiles to a lot of people's faces, always a delight to see in a big busy city.

Bye for now.