29 March 2010

World's longest toilet queue!

This week started in a big toilet queue - the world's longest queue in fact! No, there's not a sudden horrific shortage of toilets in London but an event for WaterAid to highlight the appalling number of people in this world who do not have access to a safe toilet. We queued outside Parliament in Gordon Brown masks to make this point and queues formed all across the world to lobby their own governments - altogether we were making a Guiness Record attempt on the length of the queue. A very important cause so have a look at their website http://www.wateraid.org/.org and there's a photo here from the queue.

The National Portrait Gallery has a couple of special exhibitions on at the moment. One is the glorious portraits of Irving Penn who had access to an amazing range of famous faces, from Wallis Simpson to Greta Garbo and Rudolf Nureyev. The exhibition follows the development of his work over the decades and you can see some people photographed twice. His early device of photographing people in the corner of rooms moved on to photos of subject somewhat hidden - by clothing or by the closing one or both eyes. Also there is a small show of photos by Jane Brown who worked in black and white and only using available light which I really admire. Here's the poster shot of Irving Penn and a sneaky shot of Jane Brown's Mick Jagger I took some while ago at a foyer exhibition at the Guardian. A second Jane Brown was the irresistible shot of Henri Cartier Bresson taking a photo of Jane taking a photo....

We had a bit of rain this week but there was a warm welcome at St Martins-in-the-Field church who had a Vivaldi concert including his 'Summer' concerto. Wonderful music in a fabulous setting. 2 photos to give you the idea - one inside the church and one exterior view on a sunny day to show it at its best.

We were looking forward to seeing 'Little Dog Laughed' but it was not all we'd hoped although Tamsin Grieg was brilliant and worth the trip. The play just didn't add up to enough, perhaps it was the anticipation? Looking to go next week to see a matinee so am on the look out for some bargain tickets.
Not so much eating out this week but if you find yourself looking for a coffee on Portobello Road I can recommend Gails but only if you are strong enough to resist all the cakes! Good coffee and a jolly atmosphere. Then if you are near Notting Hill Gate tube station, head for Pain Quotidien for coffee and snacks and you'll not be disappointed. Today I'm off to a soft launch of a new Raymond Blanc restaurant so watch this space next week for reviews...
Bye for now,

21 March 2010

Last week was British Tourism Week and there was a major show at the Olympia Halls called Best of Britain and Ireland, so I went along for the trade days, being the Director of a tour company for visitors to London (see website address at the end of the post). There were loads of stands from all over the country reminding us of all the great things to see outside of London. As ever food tasting was on offer and I admit to passing by the Melton Mowbray pork pie stand quite a few times and have several cream scones from the Susses by the Sea folk!
It was St Patricks Day and we were treated to a performance from a wonderful Irish Harp orchestra. There was a lot of talk of the Olympics and one of my sporting heroes, Jonathan Edwards did a turn (speaking not jumping!) Jonathan set a world triple jump recored in 1995 and it still stands today. So here are photos of Jonathan, the harpists and the Visit Britain stand looking very jolly.

A friend was exhibiting her glass sculptures one evening so I went to support her talents and see the other work on display but of course hers was the best! You can see for yourself how good the work is although apologies that the photo is not one of my best!

So, what about restaurants this week? Quite a lot going on..... I had lunch at the Cow, a local gastro pub run by Tom Conran who has a few establishments in Notting Hill area including a mexican, a diner and a deli. To celebrate the end of the week we tried out a new place called Dock Kitchen at Portobello Dock which is a new urban regeneration project of refurbished and new buildings one of which, the wharf is owned by a furniture and lighting design company, called Tom Dixon. A pop up restaurant started last year and is now a permanent addition. They have themed nights and we went for Iraqi night which was good and tasty, especially the slow cooked lamb which was super soft and infused with delicate flavours. It's a wonderful setting as the photo shows with a leg of the Grand Union Canal coming alongside the building which is wondefully lit and decorated. Drinks beforehand were had at the strangely named Paradise By Way of Kensal Green! For those not familiar with the area, Kensal Green is a place in London north of Notting Hill and as for the name, it comes from a poem by G.K. Chesterton where he says: " For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green"! It's a fine bar with restaurant and private rooms which have seen several parties I've been to over the years.

Finally on the food theme was a meringue party at a friends where we consumed large numbers of plain, chocolate, hazlenut and almond merginues with cream and fruit. Not open to the public so a bit mean of me to mention it but I can highly recommend the idea with some crisp cava to wash it down!
Bye for now,

15 March 2010

Days in and days out

Picking up the extras that were bounced out from last week's bumper full list, we have days out in Cambridge and days in at the Cabinet War Rooms.

A day out to Cambridge from London is a great way to see a bit more of England and really do-able as the train takes about 45 minutes. You can see the famous colleges and can even go inside some of them, you can get run over by the masses of students on bicycles, go punting on the river and mooch around the old streets to your heart's content. Cambridge is full of wonderful old buildings and we really enjoyed the sunshine too! Another treat was to see the famous Harry Potter platform at Kings Cross as my train to Cambridge left from platform 9. Here's a selection of Cambridge photos and one from Kings Cross!

Back in London, Sunday was another beautifully sunny day so we walked along the Thames and then visited the Cabinet War Rooms where they have restored the actual rooms used by Churchill and the military to battle out the Second World War. They are marvellously evocative of a time of national peril and the courage of those who battled for our freedom. They've added a major Churchill exhibition making it a big visit. Here's one photo of the Thames at it sparkling best, one of the outside of the Rooms and one of the Churchill's underground kitchen - not sure he had much time for cooking though!

A couple of cinema trips this week to contrasting venues. One to the very newly opened Vue cinema at Westfields with spacious seats and a huge high quality screen (The White Ribbon was the film) and the other was the Coronet in Notting Hill, a independent cinema which began life as a Victorian theatre in 1898 (Shutter Island was showing here).
Restaurants visits this week included my local favourite, Aphrodite, where the Greek food is really high quality and the welcome is always warm. A trip to South Kensington saw visits to Brindisi for their tapas and to La Cave a Fromage for their wonderful smelly cheeses!
Bye for now,

8 March 2010

Busy week in London town!

So much to tell you about this week that I'm going have to keep 2 things til next week or this'll go on for far too long. So next week you'll get a day out in Cambridge and a London walk as bonus items!

This week started with a visit to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank to see a friend sing in the Bach choir in a wonderfully powerful performance of Verdi's Requiem. We had Prince Edward in attendance as he is a patron of the music school who were also on stage. Here are 2 photos - one of the outside and one of the musicians' final bow to a madly clapping audience and you can see just how many people were taking part in this magnificent piece.

Wednesday saw the lowest tide in the Thames for 5 years so I joined over 60 other volunteers at Hammersmith Bridge to collect rubbish for a couple of hours. It was a great thing to do as I hate to see the Thames with litter in it but was surprised to find how much cloth rubbish there was, I guess the plastic floats off to sea but I dug out 4 bin bags full of the stuff! It was fine but very cold and I needed a huge hot coffee to get myself warm afterward. Hopefully the Thames is just a little cleaner now. Here's a photo of the gang hard at work...

The following day I was outdoors again (with more cold weather clothing on!) on a photography course at the London Wetlands Centre to try to improve my wildlife snapping skills. The centre is an amazing place as it's within sight of London but is a great place for a whole range of birds to live or pass through these former reservoir waters. I took some good and some dreadful shots so here's just a few of the better ones - I just couldn't cut it down to less than 7 - sorry! Our teacher was Iain Green who is well known for his books of tiger photos from India, so our targets on this course were somewhat easier to find!

A big treat on Sunday evening was the chance to see Ngugi wa Thiong'o who is an internationally renowned Kenyan author. He was reading from his new book Dreams in a time of War, and being interviewed. He shared stories of his life and childhood and his fascinating views about the importance of indigenous languages over colonial languages. And here he is....

Phew - I'm off to enjoy this week which includes a trip out to Durham and some good London stuff too.
Bye for now,