30 August 2011

Notting Hill Carnival 2011 - what a blast!

Notting Hill Carnival is two days of madness around the streets of this lovely part of London. You'll find: hundreds of thousands of people; amazing costumes in the parade; incredibly loud sound stages; lots of dancing; a fair amount of drinking (!); quite a lot of police; great Caribbean food; stalls; something for young and old; and,  a huge amount of fun!
Enjoy the photos and look out for yours truly with a festive face painting!

Bye for now,

15 August 2011

3 top London markets!

My 3 favourite markets in London are Camden, Portobello and Spitalfields. They have a different feel and are in different parts of London but beware, don't ever try to do more than one in a day or you will have a severe case of market overload!
Let's go to Camden first. It's in north London and is made up of several markets that cover a huge area around the Grand Union Canal's lock which is why you'll see many references to the lock and this can be another name for the markets. Camden market grows every time I visit and has mushroomed from being some stalls around the canal area to the massive redeveloped Stables area which is full of huge bronze horse statues as it was once a stable and horse hospital. There is always something new and one area which burnt down a couple years ago has been rebuilt and incorporates a fun cafe of Vespas (see photo)
One thing hasn't changed in all the years I've been coming, is Camden fashion's love of black and leather and outrageous visuals. There are tons of food stalls, clothes stalls, jewellery stalls but most of all clothes stalls. My last visit was rather sad as the news of Amy Winehouse's death spread through the crowd while we were there and as fellow local, the stall holders felt a great affinity with her.

Camden is full-on over the weekend when they reckon 100,000 people visit, especially on a Sunday, but you can visit during the week tho' don't try going in the morning as no one is up! The streets leading to the market are amazing too, trading on the image of Camden of black leather and tattoos - see photo
Photos are: the lock and the market; Vespa cafe; classic shop entry!; Camden fashion; and, the street leading to the market.

Next we are off to east London to Spitalfields market where Sunday is the big day, tho' again there are some markets during the week but unlike Camden, they are much smaller. On Sunday the square is humming with stalls manned by new designers just starting off with their creations - mostly clothes but other items too. They are always keen to tell you about their work and tell you about the creative process. Of course there are the food stalls and stalls with stuff you'll see elsewhere but there is still a good selection of one offs. This market has grown recently and is now surrounded by large shops and well known restaurant chains but it has kept its buzz and is a great Sunday out.

There has been a market on this site since 1638 when fish, fowl and roots were sold here. The original market, specialising in wholesale fruit and vegetables was moved to new premises out of central London in 1991 and now it is at the centre of a busy market area. Close by is Brick Lane, Petticoat Lane and Truman Brewery so on a Sunday you can wander from one to the other and experience the amazing range of cultures and styles in London.

A key landmark in the area is the beautiful  Christ church built in the early 1700s which is the first photo. The others show the busy market trading .

Our final stop today is my favourite market because it is round the corner from where I live - Portobello Market. In fashionable west London this market is best visited on Saturday, as the other days of the week are a shadow of the bustle of the main day. The market lines both sides of Portobello Road and it changes character as you move down from antiques at the beginning, to fruit and veg, to general items, to a new designers section, a major second hand clothing section, a farmers market (with a seasonal pop up cinema!) and finally to the north African/Portuguese/Spanish section as you get to Golborne Road. The area where the antiques are is where you see the classic views of the brightly coloured houses that typify the road.

Portobello Road was the setting for Notting Hill the film and we still get lots of visitors trying to find the famous blue door and the travel bookshop. The market is also famous as a favourite Saturday activity for Paddington Bear who lived locally! Trading however dates back to the early 1900 when it was mainly fresh food with the antique traders arriving in the late 1940s and 1950s. 

Photos are: busy market day ; a quieter day with the food stalls and the Electric cinema; the beautiful coloured houses; and, the famous travel bookshop.

I hope you've enjoyed my favourite London markets - there are loads more, but that's for another day.

Bye for now,

11 August 2011

What a performance!

It's been a difficult week in London with the riots in several areas of the capital but we are really hoping these disturbances have finished now. Londoners are carrying on as usual as much as possible - it's the way we do things here!
I've been going to the theatre several times recently and there are some great performances to tell you about. Firstly there was the trip to Shakespeare's Globe, the extraordinary building which is a faithful representation of the original Globe where Shakespeare's plays were performed in the early 1600s. The American actor Sam Wannamaker launched an amazing campaign to build this theatre on the South Bank as he was astounded there was nothing to mark the site of the Globe. After overcoming major battles the work started although it was not completed in his lifetime. The result is wonderful from the outside and also as a place to perform - only the sound of passing planes disturbing the sensation of being back in history. You can sit in the wonderful galleries or stand as a 'groundling' for just £5.
We went to see Ann Boleyn, a riveting play which kept us royally entertained and made us forget the strain of standing for 3 hours! Incredible performances from all the lead characters and a fascinating telling of a familiar tale. By standing you are so close to the stage you really feel you are in the action. Before the performances start, you can take a tour of the Globe to learn more about its history and workings and I took one a few weeks ago which was fascinating, especially to hear about the awful conditions of the groundlings - open to the elements and no toilets!! I'll say no more... You can also see the actors warming up for the performance, testing their voices and positions on the stage which is a real treat.
Photos are: the evocative exterior of the Globe; the wonderful galleried seating and standing areas; the actors warming up and a scary noose (!); and, the stage set for Ann Boleyn,
Performance is not just theatre! I was invited to a private evening of performance typewriting - how amazing is that! The talented Keira Rathbone was doing live typing of people's eyes - you just sit in front of her and using an old manual typewriter she will skillfully and rather mysteriously manage to type your eye so you can recognise it. She also does more substantial work such as a triptych of Hammersmith Bridge or whole faces. Have a look at the photos showing Keira at her typewriter in front of a subject and an eye emerging on the typewriter from the flying fingers.
Some theatre is staged in the most unlikely settings and this was certainly true when we set off to see an outdoor performance of The Tempest in Coram's Fields. This is no ordinary park and during the daytime you must abide by the sign which says ' Coram's Fields is not a public park and adults may only enter if accompanied by a child'! Thomas Coram was shocked by the state of children in London and in 1739 set up the Foundling Hospital to care for their health and education. The site of the hospital is now a huge 7 acre space is the park which is also used for theatrical performances and a makeshift set of tents became the backdrop for Shakespeare's The Tempest, although the cast also ran around the park and at times through the audiences by climbing over the seats. Photos show the stage before and during the performance which was full of fun. One more performance to tell you about, but without photos this time, is War Horse. This is the story of a horse and a boy who trains him and what happens to both of them in the First World War. It is amazingly told using moving models as horses - a small one for the pony and a huge one for the fully grown horse which is strong enough to carry riders. The life sized model has people within it so it can move around the stage and they make the horse noises too. It's a sad and shocking tale of the horrors of war but well worth a visit for the brilliance of the horses which really get to you. Tears have been known all around the audience...
Bye for now,

4 August 2011

Standing on the home turf of cricket

We had a special treat this week thanks to a friend who is a member at Lord's - a trip to the famous 'home of cricket' and a chance to nose around the private members' areas.

It was Ladies' day and Middlesex were playing Derbyshire and it must be said, the match was a bit one sided in favour of Middlesex. However, we were excited to be there and have a tour around this iconic sporting venu. The day started with champagne in the outdoor garden area and then we were allowed to walk onto the hallowed turf, once play had stopped for lunch! It was amazing to walk around and see the ground from pitch level and get very close to the wicket. These first photos show you what we saw: the very proud score board; the wicket with the amazing JP Morgan media centre behind; and, the original Victorian stand - built in the shade as those good folk were so heavily clothed they couldn't manage any direct sunshine!
After a spot of lunch we had a wander around and even got to see the famous 'Long Bar' where I took a quick photo as I'm not sure it's really the done thing...... Until relatively recently the only women allowed in were the Queen and the cleaners but things have moved on, not least thanks to the lure of lottery funding, and since 1999 as long as you have a member is there to sign you in, women can wander freely! We stood on the balcony which is reputed to have the best view of cricket anywhere in the world and also has the bell which starts the play. Have a look at these photos: the Long Bar (quick snap); the great view of the ground; a match in play - bowling and batting; and, yours truly ringing the bell (almost)!

The current venue has been the home of the MCC since 1814. MCC stands for Marylebone Cricket Club and the ground is called Lord's after Thomas Lord who established the private ground for them although this was originally where Dorset Square is now. The MMC set the laws of cricket for the world and still retain this role The wonderful Victorian pavilion dates from 1890 and the ground has seen many developments since then including the JP Morgan media centre in 1999. I'm sure they are already looking forward to celebrating an incredible two centuries on the present site in 2014!

You can have your own tour of Lord's by contacting them directly on www.lords.org - tho' yours won't be a free visit with champagne - sorry!
Bye for now,