29 April 2015

Painting Paradise at th Queen's Gallery London

The British are famous for their love of gardens and the Queen's Gallery has picked up on this theme to bring us their latest exhibition Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden. In these sumptuous rooms you are taken through 600 years of garden history through paintings, tapestries, books and even chandeliers. 

All the work comes from the Royal Collection, one of the world's great art collections, which our Queen holds in trust for the British nation. The Queen's Gallery showcases the Collection through its annual programme of temporary exhibitions. I was fascinated to read that following the execution of Charles 1 in 1649 the majority of the King's possessions were sold on the order of Oliver Cromwell, so the current Royal Collection has been formed since the monarchy was restored in 1660. Given the size of the collection, the royals have been very busy since then!
one of the sumptuous room

Another view of the gallery rooms

The exhibition follows the history of garden painting showing how gardens have changed over time and how they have inspired artists and craftsmen. Gardens as earthly paradise in Persian manuscripts is where we start our gallery tour and the theme of religion is clear in the wonderful Rembrandt on display. This masterpiece from 1638 shows Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene as a gardener.


Leonardo da Vinci's plant studes are among the first botanical drawings ever made and their delicacy and accuracy are stunning to see in these two works dating from the early 1500s.

Job's Tears - a cereal

Seed heads of two rushes with notes

The large tapestries are impressive and this piece, woven in around 1650, depicts' boys among apple trees' and is one of a four-part series of The Playing Boys which adorned the new country houses of this age.

Tapestry with the curator in shot!

Gardens were becoming ever more elaborate as new species came in from all over the world and garden designers became famous and sought after. This painting of Hampton Court shows the layout and extent of the gardens, designed to impress visitors with the status of the owners; tho' no one would be in any doubt about the inhabitants of this grand palace!

Hampton Court 1703
Craftsmen took up the horticultural theme and in some cases possibly a little over the top as you can seen with this asparagus tureen from 1755 and the elaborate plate covered in flowers.

Glass chandelier makers also took up a flowery theme and produced this wonderful piece whose provenance is not completely known but dates from the mid nineteenth century.

The education room at the end of the exhibition has some fun activities for adults and children alike and we enjoyed checking out our ability to identify horticultural smells but with little success.  Once you start checking the little boxes and testing your sense of smell, you have to try them all!

The tray of smell boxes

You can visit the Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden until 11th October 2015 and find out what you need to know here. 

(I was invited to view this exhibition by the Gallery but my views are not influenced by this)

Bye for now,

16 April 2015

There's some great stuff happening in London, April to June 2015!


 It’s Your London has been away for a few months volunteering in Swaziland (see my last blog post)  but I’m back and catching up with all things London. Newsletters come with each new season full of great info but not too often clutter in your inbox!

Here’s your Spring 2015 newsletter giving you a taster of the exciting events coming up in the next 3 months in our capital. If you want to hear more about anything listed (or other things you’ve heard about) send me an email (sue@itsyourlondon.co.uk) and I’ll get right back to you.

Have a look a Sue’s blog on the website (www.itsyourlondon.co.uk) to read about what I’ve been up to lately – a peek into life in London. I’m also on Twitter at @itsyourlondon so do join my 3600 followers for the latest news!

Hope you enjoy your newsletter; let me know what you think!

Best wishes,



  •  April The  massive London Marathon takes over the streets and the nation’s hearts as  thousands struggle past the sights of London to raise incredible amounts for charity long after the elite runners have reached the end on the Mall. The crowds are huge and it’s great fun to join in.
  • May The magnificent Chelsea Flower Show is the greatest flower show in the world and it gets us in the mood for gardening with all that fabulous colour and design. Let’s hope we get some London sunshine too.
  • June We have a royal event called Trooping the Colour which marks the Queen’s official birthday, she has 2 birthdays (of course) but this is the public one. You can see the royals if you get there early and don’t forget to take your flag.  The end of June sees the start of Wimbledon when we all go tennis mad for 2 weeks and SW19 is the place to be.


  • April If you are looking for big names on the stage, look no further than American Buffalo at the Wyndham theatre starring Damien Lewis, John Goodman and Tom Sturridge. Bang up to date is The Vote at the Donmar Warehouse tracking the political events of the moment and will be playing in real time on May 7th when the election takes place, with a great cast including Timothy West. Golem at the Trafalgar Studios faces the issues of man and machine and who controls who in an innovative production.
  • May One of May’s big openings is The Elephant Man at the Theatre Royal Haymarket starring Bradley Cooper in the lead role.  I’m not sure if this comes under the ‘theatre’ heading but Al Pacino is on stage at the Apollo Hammersmith, in an ‘Audience with...’.   A lesser known Shakespeare play – King John -  has its first outing at The Globe. Noel Coward’s ever popular Hay Fever opens at the Duke of York starring Felicity Kendal.  At the London Palladium, Beyond Bollywood looks great fun, promising to be a dance extravaganza around a theatrical storyline!
  • June.  Another play or film turned into a musical hits the Phoenix. Theatre with Bend it Like Beckham the Musical, keep your fingers crossed that Beckham himself might turn up!  In a strange football co-incidence, the National Theatre is showing The Red Lion, about the passion that football inspires and stars Daniel Mays.  In the hope of fine evenings, the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park brings us Chekhov’s The Seagull.


  • April A Sonia Delaunay exhibition arrives at the Tate Modern, her first UK retrospective of 60 years of work. The Royal Academy hosts the London Original Print Fair where work is for sale as well as viewing. The Deutsche Borse Prize shows its entrants at the Photographers Gallery
  • May Photo London at Somerset House is London’s first international photography fair, looks like being a major event. Not many new openings this month but shows to catch which close in May are: Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden at the Tate Modern: John Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends at the National Portrait Gallery; and, Inventing Impressionism at the National Gallery. .
  • June A key art event happening in June is the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show, is open for anyone to submit their work, few however are chosen to hang alongside some top names. The Tate Britain’s Fighting History explores conflict in history painting from the 18th century to the present day. Somerset House has an exhibition of The Jam: About the Young Idea examining their influence on music, style, politics and culture. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion will open for inspection from Spanish due SelgasCano, I hear it’s plastic!  Last but absolutely not least is a new Barbara Hepworth show at the Tate Britain.



  • April Borough Market, the ultimate foodie destination is holding a special St George’s day event which sounds English but we share our patron saint with many places including Catalonia so look out for a great mix of stalls and events from Spain and Britain. Just opened in March but worth a mention is the world’s first Google shop on Tottenham Court Road!
  • May.  Carnaby Street will host a Shopping Party with 20% off in many shops alongside music and generally good fun.  This area is now buzzing again so worth a visit any time.
  • June The Spirit of Summer Fair at Olympia exhibition centre has everything you never knew you needed for your home and garden and yourself London Jewellery Week sounds dangerous, showcasing big names and bright new talent at exhibitions, shows, and launches. Graduate Fashion Week at The Truman Brewery could offer insight into the next big thing in fashion.


  • April  The British Museum’s spring blockbuster exhibition is Defining Beauty: the body in Ancient Greek Art, but opening in April is Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation. This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the history of this 60,000 year old civilisation, one of the world’s oldest continuing cultures. Apsley House, the former home of the Duke of Wellington, reopens this month so you can enjoy these fine historic surroundings again as the anniversary of Waterloo is marked.

  • May Museums by Night is a special event countrywide but London museums are joining in with fun events such as a nightime safari at the Natural History Museum, an event called Put that Light Out at the Royal Artillery Museum, simulating the blitz experience, a sleepover at the William Morris, Late Mad Men at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising and the rather scary The Night of the Bodysnatcher at the Old Operating Theatre! The Design Museum opens a new exhibition about shoewear -  Life on Foot: Camper at the Design Museum, looking at the impact of creative design and new technologies on shoe making.
  • June. Continuing the late theme from May, Sir John Soane’s museum can be visited for one night a month on a candlelit tour – it really is fabulous.  And continuing the shoe theme, the Victoria and Albert Museum brings us Pleasure and Pain – an exhibition about shoes! The Museum of London at the Docklands hosts Soldiers and Suffragettes, early press photography by Christina Bloom.
  • April  The foodie world is excited by the arrival of Le Chabanais from the people behind the famous Parisien restaurant Chateaubriand. More from Gordon Ramsay as Maze Grill opens in Chelsea where Aubergine was located and where he made his name. Tonic and Remedy claims apothecary inspired food with strong pedigree from the Great British menu chef Paul Welburn from Rhodes W1. Talking of strong pedigrees, Berber and Q is brought to us by Josh Katz and Mattia Bianchi whose priors include Ottolenghi and Galvin Bistro de Luxe.
  • May Wahleeah in Fulham will have a strong emphasis on cooking with beer. 2015 sees the 100th year of the Ivy so they closed in January to have a facelift and will reopen with a new menu mixing classics with a nod to southern European and Asian cuisines. They have also refreshed their art work so expect a whole new look focussing on British art, especially emerging talent.
  • June The Taste London festival comes to Regents Park with an enormous  annual gathering in Regent’s Park where ordinary food lovers get to sample small dishes from great restaurants at manageable prices. Jason Atherton’s new tapas wine bar opens in Marylebone called Social Wine – I do like the sound of this one. The famous Chutney Mary Indian restaurant which has been on the Kings Road is upping sticks and moving to St James. Focussing on sustainable seafood in the City, Bouillabaisse is brought to us by Kurt Dzesar from Chotto Matte.

  • April Chelsea Physic Garden opens a brand new area, the World Woodland Garden, and you can enjoy displays of medicinal plants from all around the world and be amazed that it was founded way back in 1673! Hampton Court Palace is celebrating its 500 years so they are putting on events to mark this milestone. 
  • May. Regents Park Open Air Theatre season starts, running throughout the spring and the summer including Peter Pan in the repertoire this year. The ultimate in gardening is the Chelsea Flower Show where you will be inspired for the rest of the year! St James’s Park is having Victory in Europe Day (VE) celebrations with a big party where performers will include Katherine Jenkins, Pixie Lott, Alfie Boe, Ian Lavender, Status Quo and Strictly Come Dancing – quite a line up.
  • June Taste Festival comes to Regent’s Park with the chance to taste small dishes from many of London’s top restaurants in the lovely surroundings of this famous park. The Hampton Court Festival hosts favourites such as Jules Holland, Burt Bacharach and Paloma Faith in the grounds of the Palace along with comedy shows and fireworks.


  • April The big deal is the London Marathon which is a huge event for elite and ‘fun’ runners alike. It takes over London and the television and we admire and weep with them. We also have County cricket at the Oval and the FA Cup semi finals at Wembley.
  • May The BBL (British Basketball League) playoff finals come to the 02.  20/20 cricket gets a new set of fans at the Oval followed by a more conventional test series against New Zealand with a game at Lords. It’s a big month for football with the FA Cup Final at Wembley and the Championship play offs which are always exciting.
  • June It’s tennis time with the warm up men’s’ events at Queens and then headlong into the start of Wimbledon when everything stops for 2 weeks especially when Murray is playing. Wimbledon is a wonderful event and although it’s almost impossible to get a seated ticket, you can join the famous queue for general entry and soak up the atmosphere.

  • April Somehow, and wonderfully, still alive, Wilko Johnson plays at the 02 Shepherds Bush. Popular classical pianist Lang Lang plays at the Royal Albert Hall and in a complete contrast the same venue hosts Status Quo as part of their current tour! Catch Lynyrd Skynrd at the Apollo Hammersmith. The Blow Monkeys are Under the Bridge, Chelsea and Ben Howard is playing in Alexandra Palace.
  • May Boyz 11 Men bring soul to the 02 and Olly Murs also plays there but in the larger Arena, as are S Club 7 on their revival tour – their first for 10 years - and the great Mark Knopfler and Band. However, the big name at the 02 is Paul McCartney. Cult folk singer Rodriguez is on at the Royal Albert Hall and then Eric Clapton takes up his annual residence there and then the summer starts properly with the Beach Boys!  Also in the world of contrasts The Forum hosts Fabio and Grooverider in the same month as Billy Ocean.
  • June It’s a busy time at the 02 following May’s list with Fleetwood Mac, Take That, John Legend and Goldie Looking Chain. Head to the 02 Shepherds Bush for wonderful Hozier and to catch Holly Johnson too. Brian Ferry celebrates his new album at the Royal Albert Hall, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga team up for a charity event at the same venue. British Summer Time Festival returns to Hyde Park with The Strokes, Blur, Kylie, The Who and Taylor Swift over 2 weekends, with great support acts like Paul Weller, Kaiser Chefs, Ellie Goulding and Grace Jones.





*All listings correct to the best of my knowledge but exact details should be checked with each venue.

9 April 2015

It's good to be back in London!

After 9 weeks away it was certainly good to be back in London! I'd been to Africa, living a different life, meeting different people and having different experiences and landing back in Heathrow into a sunny spring day brought a big smile to my face. I love being away and exploring the world but it's always good to be home. 

Here's a whistle stop tour through those 9 weeks with just a few photos to illustrate my experiences, I will save you from the rest of the 3,500 photos I took!

The first 6 weeks were spent in Swaziland volunteering on a building project, helping to finish a school building for young children, many of whom are orphans. AIDS has had a devastating impact on Swaziland and many families take in children whose parents have died or are ill, putting great strain on them, so these children need somewhere to go during the day for food and education. Our task was to finish one large schoolroom, plastering it inside and out and laying the floor. That sounds so easy but with no power tools and having to fetch water from a tap across the field it was hard work, but we somehow managed to finish it and I gained all kinds of extra muscles!

Hard at work..
Even harder work!
Here are the kids we were building the school for

Luckily there was some spare time during the project to explore Swaziland and to take some side trips to Mozambique and Kruger National Park. In Kruger I was able to fulfil my long held wish to see a leopard and we managed a really close up and personal meeting with this most beautiful beast and to add to my joy we had the opportunity to see several rhinos, a real treat when I think of how few are still left in the world. 

My beautiful leopard

A pair of precious rhinos

One African country that has fascinated me for most of my adult life is Ethiopia with its rich history and fabulous scenery so I decided to spend a couple of weeks touring around after my volunteering. After waiting so long to go there was I disappointed? Absolutely not! Travelling through incredible mountain ranges, and climbing some of them (!); visiting richly painted churches and seeing the religious traditions; learning about their proud rich culture; and, eating their wonderful food - how could I be disappointed. It's hard to pick out just a few highlights to show in my photos but here goes....

Firstly the mountains:

Extraordinary  landscapes in the far north near Hawzen

The endless vistas in the Simien mountains
Churches and traditions:

Highly decorated church interiors are everywhere

Parading church treasures on a special day

The incredible St George's rock hewn church at Lalibela
The food and drink:

Tasty shiro
Everything comes with injera - a type of bread used to eat with
St George - the national and best beer

The people, I couldn't whittle these down any further....:

Deacons and priests chanting

At the cattle market

There are always people walking to and from market

Praying at St George's church on the saint's day

More walking...

Celebrations on a  special church day

School pupils all have uniforms and of course walk to school...

People arrived as if from nowhere whenever we stopped

And not to be missed - the highest bar in Africa!

In the Simien mountains - cheers!
I loved my time away, it was a fantastic trip full of fun, exploring and challenges. However, it was really good to be back in London!

Bye for now,