Sunday, 30 November 2014

One woman's struggle with a train window

'Escaped to the country' for a spot of Christmas shopping when the mere thought of attempting it in London gave me severe palpatations.

I haven't visited Cambridge in such a long time, and I missed it. Just under 50 minutes on the train (and only 20 from my front door - train (I timed it, because I was late as ever)), I figured I could spend just as long travelling to various shopping areas in the capital, so a spontaneous decision was made!

Even more spontaneously, I text mother on the off chance that her and dad weren't already headed for an incredibly busy weekend, only to discover that their Saturday was also clear of any social events, so we arranged to meet!

After my panicking that I was going to be the last person to set foot on the train, probably as the doors were closing, despite waking at an unearthly time on a Saturday, I actually made it in good enough time to walk allll the way to the front so that I'd have less walking to do at the other end (genius).

The journey was beautiful; forgotten music from the depths of my SoundCloud in my ears, magical colours in the sky and a distant mist making for a very pretty vista. Directly opposite me sat a woman beneath an open window which shewas trying desperately to close to no avail, to my left (I sit sideways on trains; naughty) two suited men discussing photo shoots and football, and on the 4 seats in front of me, a middle aged lady with a foul mouth and a lacy jumper I'd probably wear too if I were 20 years older.

I arrived only fifteen minutes later than mum and dad, but already they had gone ahead and found a place for a hot drink. So I joined them, and we said our hellos, caught up on important events from the past week or so, and decided on a plan of action for the day!

Admittedly, on my last Christmas shopping excursion, I left feeling a strong sense of alliance to Norwich. I feel as if I might have actually written about it a year or two ago! I decided that Cambridge did not feel quite as festive as it should, and that the lack of independent shops made finding small and unique gifts quite difficult. 

Nevertheless, it felt so good to be back in the city; it's definitely still one of my favourites, at any time of year! I walked through all the little back-streets to meet mum and dad, admiring unusual door knockers along the rows and rows of cute terraced houses. No twinkling lights on trees in windows yet, but a wintry chill in the air still had me feeling festive.

A second mug of Earl Grey to kick-start me again after my early start and hypnotic train journey, and we were off! One thing Cambridge certainly is equipped with is an abundance of Charity shops. So while mum and I were actually managing a 'sweep browse' of Primark, dad was browsing in charity shops along the road. When we reconvened, he produced a Moomin book to add to the collection; I do adore Tove Jansson! This might even mean I actually get around to doing some reading over Christmas (I doubt I'll get beyond children's literature, but it's a start at least?)!

It's not usually necessary to spend much time at the Grafton Centre end of Cambridge, but we lost ourselves in Hawkin's Bazaar for a good amount of time; me dropping almost everything I touched, mum making cringe-worthy jokes about her purchases to the shop assistant and dad trying his hardest to pretend he wasn't with us (not really, we're all as bad as each other)! Playtime over, we popped in and out of a few more shops via biscotti and olive tasting before making our way to the city centre.

One huge advantage Cambridge does have over Norwich is Fopp. Fopp! I love Fopp! In fact, I could spend a lifetime in Fopp. On this occasion I had a time restriction in the form of our lunchtime reservation, but I still managed to make three film purchases. A notorious film novice, I have recently been expanding my film horizons, and Fopp is a place I like to buy the ones that jump off the shelf at me (sometimes literally) because they're often only £3, so even if I discover they're not for me, I've not even spent the price of a cinema ticket! Elf, I'm sure will be watched within a matter of days, but I think I'll save the other two for more dedicated film-watching time.

Once upon a time there was a Christmas hat impaled on that chimney.

Lunch was at Pizza Express, in the most fancy Pizza Express I have ever set foot in! Set in the historic building of Pitt Club, this restaurant did not even have signage outside, so it was very quiet indeed. There was no piped music, the floors were carpeted and books and black and white photographs of club members lined the wooden panelled walls. We all said as we sat there that we could quite easily forget where we were (and on a side note, the Christmas menu looks amazing)!

After lunch, we wandered along the most historic part of Cambridge, past the different college buildings which looked particularly glorious in the winter sun! Another point to Cambridge comes in the form of Heffer's bookshop, where mum and dad lost me in the children's section as I spent Christmas money on a plethora of picture books (perhaps for school, perhaps for my own reading pleasure).

We definitely picked the right end of the day to be in the area, as the setting sun behind the buildings made for a very beautiful skyline above the market. Before I knew it, it was time to head back. Of course we stopped for a final tea along the way, and to give me chance to sort my mass of shopping bags. Absolute saints that they are, my parents took most of my purchases home with them to avoid me having to take them on a million train journeys back and forth between Cambridge, London and Norfolk. So I left with two small bags; my DVDs, school milk bottles with paper straws for future cocktail drinking, my Moomin book and a Christmas present to pass along.

Despite knowing that I'll always see them again relatively soon, saying goodbye to my parents is always sad, and I don't know why but saying goodbye at train stations always seems that little bit more moving. Films have dictated that time will pass in slow motion, and tears will be shed (they weren't, but you get the scene I'm setting). A fond farewell said to Cambridge, mum and dad, I headed back to the Big Smoke for an evening in the cinema with my dear cousin; I just never stop!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

London Aquarium on a 'relaxing' weekend

What better way to spend a Friday night than with fish (and champagne)?

Last Friday saw my first 24 hour stint in a long time with farewell drinks for my TA, carol singing at Leadenhall Market for the Christmas light switch on, dancing my heart out to Anile, Etherwood and Keeno at MedSchool in Elephant & Castle and then finally rolling into bed at half 5/6am, having woken up at a similar time a full 'day' before. Feeling a little too 'old' (at least on a Friday) for all that these days, I was rather looking forward to a quieter time this weekend, and very excited for fish!

I've probably been to the London Aquarium before, but when Hunstanton Sealife Centre (please imagine I said that in my overly enthusiastic with a hint of sarcasm voice) is on my doorstep at home, we've probably never felt the need to journey to such a place; I certainly didn't have any recollection of a visit anyway. After my incredibly fun experiences of Zoo Lates at London Zoo, and Science Museum Lates at (you've guessed it) the Science Museum, I decided that London Aquarium must be done as soon as it caught my attention!

Gone are the days when you could stroke these guys...

A complimentary glass of champagne upon arrival, I was more than happy! There is something truly wonderful about not feeling obligated to move aside for small children struggling to peer into tanks! Instead it was initially a little more like the battle upon entering an already sardine-like tube train, elbows out and everything! However as some people raced ahead to find the next bar, we decided to take our time.

So stingrays evolved from sharks. Who knew?

Determined to get our money's worth, we oggled at the weird and wonderful in every tank, waiting patiently to read signs that would inform us what said 'weird and wonderful' were actually called (the Fox-faced-rabbitfish had to be my favourite name, although I wasn't entirely sure where the name came from...)! It transpired that shark tanks are pretty hypnotic, and before we knew it, it was twenty to ten (we had arrived at twenty past seven)! So we tore ourselves away and went to find the penguins!

Drunken seahorses.

Pretty piranhas!

Unanimous oohs and ahhs echoed around the crowd as we eagerly anticipated their descent into the pool for a swim. Sadly it never came, but they still looked sweet waddling around their enclosure (if a little trapped; the murals on the walls of the world beyond where they now live seemed a little cruel)!

Penguins waved goodbye to, the rest felt like a come-down (although a fish swimming through a tiny tube adjoining two tanks was a pretty entertaining highlight (perhaps the alcohol was kicking in by this point)). Before we knew it, we found ourselves exiting and we came out by the arcade and McDonalds; quite the opposite to the inviting entrance!

More sharks...

... just because they're sharks.

Once we were back along the Southbank, we decided to venture into the festive enclosure where this year's Winter Festival awaited us. We discovered a Christmas tree maze (magical), a 'lodge' serving all the Rekorderlig, and an incredible array of inviting Scandinavian food stalls. After a wander around to make sure we were about to make the best drink (and maybe food) choice, we settled on a table and chair straight out of Ikea in the lodge for a tipple. As we sat there, our minds turned to the intriguing food stall situated right outside the lodge, and before we knew it we were tucking into a mighty burger and a meat ball sandwich with lingonberry jam and some sort of gravy; yum!

The rest of the weekend was pretty restful; on Saturday evening we returned to Southbank to try out another food stall and to catch up with friends not seen in far too long (I even managed to get a little something for Christmas while we waited)! On Sunday I finally saw The Shawkshank Redemption (in bed, of course), and loved it, before my 'relaxing' weekend was topped off with Linkin Park at the O2 Arena; so much nostalgia!

I'm definitely starting to feel fully festive!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A part of me restored

Last Tuesday, I had my first choral audition in 5 years. No doubt I have moaned before about not performing at Christmas for the past two years, and this festive season I could take it no more; I had to join an ensemble! So I took to Google and found the City Chamber Choir, based near St Paul's. In an over-enthusiastic moment, I thought I'd get in touch, just in case they were looking for any rusty second sopranos (at least at this point I hoped I could still call myself a second soprano)!

I had a realisation the other day, which still seems most odd to me, that I have not been in an ensemble the entire time I've been writing this blog. Two long years have gone by, and I am sad to have spent so much time apart from musical performance. However, this year sees a shift, and with carols only two days away, I am beyond excited!

The thought of an audition after a day raising my voice to project across an enormous classroom, let alone after two years of no choral singing left me rather weak at the knees. Fortunately, with half term the week before last, I had requested that mother dig out my old music for us to bash our way through, first to discover whether I could actually still sing, second which therefore would make a good audition piece.

We settled on an old favourite, Adam Lay Y Bounden, and the day arrived. Voice lost part way through the day, I wasn't particularly full of hope. On the other hand, I wasn't feeling as nervous as I knew I should have been, either. I guess it had just been such a long time since anything of the sort that I'd forgotten about nerves! It was an atrocious day for the weather, raining continuously meaning that my feet were soaked upon arrival. Umbrella up, ducking and diving between speedy city slickers, I frantically followed Google maps (as is my style) to find my destination, hardly allowing myself to believe that it could really only take twenty minutes to reach from school.

Nevertheless, at quarter past (due at half) six, I found myself outside the door of a church half melded into an office building; The Gresham Centre. Lights were on, but nobody was home. Having walked around the sides I could access, I finally admitted defeat and called the lady with whom I had been having email contact. I discovered that they were meeting in an alternative location before the rehearsal, but would arrive in a short while. Not fancying the thought of standing outside the door in the rain (I hoped that if my singing did not sound at all up to scratch, I might at least be looking like I knew what I was doing), I found a cup of tea and a soft seat to shelter with for the time being.

My audition went past in rather a blur. I have never sung a scale in my life, yet there I was, singing scales as though it was all completely normal. Next came my prepared piece, and the acoustic was very flattering indeed (despite the fact that by this point, choir members were descending and I was definitely shaking like a leaf). Finally, the sight singing. After the sheer comic value of mine and mum's afternoon of singing, I was full of suspense, wondering (but probably not actually wanting to know) what on earth was going to happen. Praised with 'well you obviously know what you're doing' as the piece (and the audition) came to an end, I suppose I must have made it through without too many rogue notes!

I was asked to stay for the rehearsal, so took my seat amongst the second sopranos.

It's been such a long time since I've been in a choir. As I sat there (on the front row, which I'm usually known to avoid), I was thrown back to university choir and Kings Lynn Festival Chorus before that; to my antics, incessant texting, giggling and 'subtly' drinking red wine. I knew this rehearsal would be of a different nature, but I was still feeling highly nostalgic and completely in my element.

It probably sounds strange, but I love the way that singing feels to me like I'm 'playing' your voice, like I'm actually pressing keys somewhere inside me to produce the notes, and the way harmonies come together in a full choir is such a lovely feeling. I'd also begun to forget what it was like to spend time with other classical musicians; quite the stark contrast to the circles I now move in (of course I was the youngest by about 10 years, as usual)!

All in all, a glorious feeling. After the rehearsal I was told they'd love to offer me a place, so I beamed and maybe even sang a little all the way home! Now after my first proper rehearsal, I can officially say I am so pleased to feel like I have got a missing part of me back. Also, I am beyond excited for my first performance of Christmas carols on Friday (never too early)! Life in London really is coming together!

Monday, 3 November 2014

God's Own Junkyard

Long-overdue hair cut, lunch with my Hugh, a journey on the X1, games, walking and talking with family, new house-friends, London walks, pumpkin carving, Halloween fancy dressing followed by much needed bed/home-made pizza recovery and a day of antiquing, tea & cake, Brick Lane browsing and roast dinner eating; it's been a busy half-term week as always.

In a quieter moment I found myself re-visiting posts from a year ago when I finally moved into London properly, and they got me thinking; I haven't been on so many 'proper' Laura adventures recently! This sudden realisation meant that the thought of a full week to myself was almost a little daunting. Nevertheless, at the same time I suddenly became very excited indeed, and a plan was formulated for Friday (a week 'to myself' was not lonely at all once I'd filled it with people, so Friday ended up being my only day alone)!

I discovered the existence of God's Own Junkyard in an article I read in the Evening Standard on the train back to London from Kings Lynn. It was literally just referred to in the article, but the concept of a gallery full of neon signs was more than intriguing, and when the website talked of

'New & used neon fantasies, salvaged signs, vintage neons, old movie props and retro displays',

I knew I had to see it for myself! The 'wonderland of creativity' (as it is also described) is located in Ravenswood Industrial Estate in Walthamstow, so even my route there was full of excitement! Going Northbound beyond Seven Sisters felt very strange indeed, but once I had alighted from the train and began to follow directions from the very lovely lady of Google Maps, I found myself in Walthamstow Village and forgot all about my disconcertion. From Central to the Village, it was as though I had stepped through some sort of teleportation device; an absolutely magical and surreal place, and as it transpires, the perfect place to find a treasure trove of neon! As I practically skipped along, truly in my element (I really do love anywhere with a faint likeness to home), I came close to my destination, taking a final left turn down the road claiming to provide me with pedestrian access to the industrial park... instead I was confronted with a very large, very locked gate. Not wanting to look too shady, I gave it a very meagre nudge and nosied through to ensure I was in fact in the right place before dashing off in my usual manner of 'I know exactly what I'm doing/where I'm going' and abandoning Google Maps to find my own way round to an alternative access point. 

Finally, I found my way in, and just... wow! It was so much more than I could have ever imagined, neon heaven! I was so overwhelmed by the entrance alone that it took me a moment or two to recover myself from temporary paralysis on the doorstep. Upon finding use of my legs again, I made my way inside very slowly, not at all sure where to look; neon covered every surface from ceiling to floor, creating the most magnificent blend of light and colour. Next thing I knew I found myself sitting in the café (yes, there was a café, as if I wasn't already happy enough!) for a cup of Earl Grey. I say I 'found myself' there, by this point I was in such a hypnotised state, I was glad of somewhere to sit down and to take in my surroundings in more detail at a slightly different angle. I became particularly entranced by the bright green bulbs above my head which reminded me very much of sitting on rides at the fair when all you can do to avoid absolute terror is stare at the bulbs as you whizz around and around or up and down. They were still calming when sitting still. An hour later and I finally mustered the will power to stand up again and take one last gentle wander around, just in case I'd missed anything (or mainly because I didn't want to leave) before thanking the salesman who informed me that the gallery was currently looking pretty empty (!?) and tearing myself away. 

The sense of being 'back to reality' when I sat on the train again was more than depressing. I have never been made to feel so happy by something so unexpected, but I absolutely intend to return soon now I do know what to expect (and come on, there's TEA. As if I can resist)!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A 'Week' of Wearing Makeup

I've always been terrible at getting ready in the mornings, but lately in addition to cats sitting in my porridge and knocking, so spilling my tea in my crotch as they fight for lap space, I have found myself addicted to trawling through BuzzFeed. In doing so I recently saw an article where one of the writers stopped wearing make-up for a week, which made for a very interesting read.

So I got all inspired and thought I'd have a go at doing the opposite. Fortunately, it just so happens that this week is half term, so I avoid setting myself a new standard of appearance for work; to think I'd have to wake up when my alarm sounded at half 5 instead of snoozing for half an hour... unimaginable!

I've never been a big make-up wearer, but then neither is my mum, so apart from my Nan's garish pink lipsticks covered in dust that I occasionally decorated everything but my face with, I never had any make-up to experiment with until I could afford to buy my own, at which point I was far more interested in music, stationery, painting my nails and reading magazines. I do slap a bit of slap on for 'special occasions' that require me looking a little less exhausted, but I have at no point in my life worn make-up on a day-to-day basis.

In one sense, I think the problem lies in the fact that I am completely clueless about how to actually apply make-up effectively; I always feel like I am literally painting my face. I also have no idea about what products to use, I am worried that the colours I do use are not quite the right colour, I find make-up too expensive, I prefer sleep to painting, and worst of all I worry that even after application, make-up will still not improve my appearance.

It is always a mystery to those who know me and my self-confidence issues that I am actually 'brave' (or stupid) enough to go bare-faced almost every day. However, I think I see it a little differently to those on the outside. I figure that if I'm not wearing make-up on a 'bad face day' (I have lots of those, alongside the bad hair ones), at least I know I could improve the way I look with a little cover... if I could be bothered. I also like wearing make-up to be a bit special; I don't want to get used to my made-up face, I want people to notice when I'm wearing make-up and to tell me I look pretty (cheesy, I know, but we all need a little boost).

The basics; bronzer, blusher, foundation, mascara & lipstick (and my teeny tiny make-up box in the background).
Day 1: applying make-up on a train.

As I briefly mentioned, sleep is a wonderful thing, and something I'm extremely fond of. For this reason, if I do happen to wear make-up during the day, I do my very best not to include application in my morning routine as this would mean waking up earlier. Instead, I make use of journeys on public transport where I have all the time in the world to make a mess of my face. While I always think it's a brilliant idea, particularly as the train initially crawls out of London, the moment we depart from Stratford and I begin prodding myself in the eye with every jerking movement, I am less enthused.

To be honest, visits to Norwich are now one of those 'special occasions' where I do wear makeup anyway, so Day 1 was not too difficult at all... until I decided that re-application on my next leg of the journey (sat on the top deck of the X1 to Kings Lynn) was a fun idea. Thankfully it was dark upon my arrival, but I do wonder whether I would have given my family rather a shock had it been daylight hours.

Day 2: battered by country air.

In stark contrast to visits to Norwich, visits to home are a time when I very rarely even take make-up with me. Since moving to London, time spent at home involves lots of walks along the beach or through the countryside followed by endless cups of tea, good food and lounging on the world's comfiest sofas to play card games. What with not really venturing into the public eye, make-up application is something I don't even consider.

With nowhere to travel this time, I had to incorporate face painting into my morning routine, which apparently renders the morning a complete write-off; it was midday and time for lunch before I knew it! After lunch we headed to Wolferton Woods for a bracing walk across the bog. Despite not really knowing what constitutes a 'good' make-up product, apparently Clinique survives a good fresh-air battering very well indeed; next challenge is finding a fool-proof hair product or two.

Day 3: facing the public.

Three days in and I was already beyond bored of wearing make-up; it is officially far too much effort! I was also having a 'bad face day' (probably the result of smothering my skin for two days) where I would have much rather been bare-faced so it was absolutely clear that I wasn't trying to look good. At this point, I was also beginning to forget that I was even wearing make-up and kept getting a shock every time I came into contact with my reflection.

On those days where you need a little boost, make-up is pretty good for giving confidence, but clearly that effect would be lost the moment you forget you're even wearing it; such a cynic! Even being out and about in town, I did not feel good. If anything I felt over-dressed and a bit silly.

Day 4: I gave up.

So I tend to be very resilient and determined, but I also believe in being happy, and not doing things that you don't want to if you don't have to. Back in London, I'd decided to head into work to sort out some practical bits and pieces that couldn't be done from home. This meant that my morning was just a slightly more laid-back version of my normal routine, but even then I couldn't be bothered to put any make-up on, or dry my hair (for some reason, on the few days I wore make-up, I also found myself putting in a little more effort with my hair as though they come together; like there's no point in my face looking good if my hair is letting the side down), and before I knew it I'd left the house feeling a tiny bit guilty for not being more committed, but not so guilty that I turned around and put it on after all.

Giving up actually had a much more profound effect on me than I realised it would. This time, upon seeing my reflection in the mirror that usually gives me nightmares as early starts, long days and children have resulted in my looking ghoulish and frizzy all through the week, I paused for a moment to look at myself when I suddenly remembered I wasn't wearing make-up. Then something very strange indeed happened. I found myself smiling and thinking (and I kid you not) "I love my face. I love my skin. I don't want to cover it up; I shouldn't cover it up!".

Therefore despite my not managing a full week, even those few days have taught me that I am actually a lot more comfortable in my own skin than I realise (so perhaps those on the outside were actually the voice of reason all along), and while I'm sure I'll be wearing make-up again soon for an evening out, I will be sure to embrace my face a bit more. I might even try to feel less repulsed when I catch sight of myself in reflections, having now discovered a true appreciation for my natural skin tone and those patches, lines and uneven parts that ultimately make me look like me!

The initial plan was to take a 'selfie' for each day, but I officially hate them.
So this is the first and only one, taken on the rickety bus with yellow sun streaming through the windows. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Holding me to account

One of the wonderful perks of blog-writing is the element of accountability (a word which when in the context of work makes me shudder with mixed feelings of disdain and fear) in that once I have shared my ambitions, hopes and desires (ok realistically just ramblings, but I'd like to think there's something behind them some of the time!), they are out there for people to see, and that very fact gives me motivation a-plenty to make sure I actually make things happen!

Another perk of blog-writing is that if I haven't written in a while, I have to go and do something exciting! Forever keeping myself busy, the only problem is that in recent times I seem to have forgotten the art of 'fun for free', and since living in London (not entirely (at all) true, I was heading in this direction in my final year of Norwich!) I seem to be living far beyond my means (and dragging others down with me... I mean, who wants to socialise alone?).

I just LOVE to spend money. I love to eat, to drink, to go to concerts and gigs, to visit exhibitions and attend themed parties, to wear new clothes and new shoes, to holiday and to be impulsive. But come November, I will be officially renting my flat alone, and I'm currently having a slight (ENORMOUS) melt-down at the thought of having to budget, cut back, slow down and worst of all, plan my spending in advance... WHAT IS THAT!? So, I am scribbling down my money ponderings in the hope that I will work out what to do, while at the same time sharing my burden with you, dear readers (that's a first...) as I'm sure that exposing my lack of ability to save money will absolutely motivate me to change my ways (if the thought of being forced to move home and commute isn't enough; mum isn't keen on me wasting my inheritance on survival, I think she has higher hopes for its eventual use)! I'm hoping it's a topic that others might be able to relate to? ... please someone make me feel better!

Today I sat down and actually had a little look at my bank account. While this is usually a terrifying experience as I never have as much money as I think I do, I got less of a nasty shock today as it seems that in my worrying about money, I have clearly just stopped using it wherever possible. Over the summer, funds ran remarkably low (I guess when my week usually consists of a return journey to work and a weekend splurge, my purse didn't handle daily splurging so well), and ever since I have been overly cautious with spending.

Nevertheless, I made it through the summer, and here we are in October, second pay-cheque of the academic year in, and I am surviving. So why the panic? Well I guess even after a year of residing in London, I can't get over the cost of living. I'm forever feeling like there must be a cheaper way! I would love, at some point, to save some money!? You might even say I'm feeling a little more grown up as I go into my second year and at this point want nothing more than to start working towards the own-home-goal (never in London, obviously, before I get laughed at too much)!

Theory is, if I want it enough then the expenditure adjustments won't seem so horrible. However given my wanting to weep every time I think of the contrast between my in and out-goings, I do wonder whether I'm going to cope at all well. Because, of course, my best method for cheering myself up is to go and spend in excess... gone is that boost.

So, expect future blog posts full either of strife and struggle, or thrilling tales of my weekends and holidays spent not spending. I have NO idea where this is going to go, but wish me luck!

My name is Laura Brockway and I am addicted to shopping (then posting pictures of my purchases on Social Media sites).
Vintage, children's books, wine & Tom Ford. Pay packet spent in a matter of hours.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Open House London 2014

This weekend was yet another where I ended up feeling rather like I was on holiday, not in London at all. I think this feeling has to be one of my favourite things about London; the way its cultural diversity means that you often find yourself stepping outside of 'England', just by stepping into a new or less familiar area.

Although this weekend may not have been spent solely in 'new' areas, it was spent discovering new places, and proved absolutely fascinating!

Open House London is an event across the city where more than 850 buildings are open to the general public for free. I was aware of it happening last year, but as it is only for one short weekend, it passed me by before I knew it and I missed the opportunity to explore! As soon as I saw posters appearing for this year's event, I noted the dates down in my diary and made the executive decision that I was going to get involved.

Between my own ideas and helpful suggestions from a Knowledge Boy, an extensive list was compiled and a route mapped out. So our journey began!

Saturday got off to a slow start as the dreaded Cold had struck me down at the end of the week. Nevertheless, not one to mope around and feel sorry for myself, I was determined still to get out and about! So I headed to the unfamiliar territory of Canning Town for our first port of call; Trinity Wharf Buoy/Container City.

Canning Town felt a little like South Lynn extreme; an industrial area with some houses and vehicles creeping by at a steady rate. The area was very sparce, and slightly tricky to navigate as a pedestrian, but we finally wound our way out in pursuit of the wharf (which I have only recently discovered stands for 'warehouse along river front'; mind blown). We saw where we were headed long before we reached it, as brightly coloured containers poked out above old warehouse buildings with the O2 standing boldly behind, the Emirates Airline running across the river to the left. After taking a little detour for a pretty view of the O2, we swiftly walked through an organised tour in order to discover the place for ourselves. Like a film set, there was plenty to catch the eye. Not only full of interesting things to see, the area also houses some sonic art installations; one that might be likened to a minature pipe organ, played by the tide, the other a computer run composition to last 1000 years. The latter was set inside London's only lighthouse which made for a surreal experience all round!

At least an hour later, we managed to tear ourselves away so to continue our quest. It was at this point (if not before) that we realised 13 ports of call was far too ambitious if we were going to be so enthralled by each of them! Nevertheless, we also decided at this point that we were already having a great day!

Our next stop (after a very tasty lunch break at Wahaca) was one of great interest; a partially-completed station at Canary Wharf forming part of the new Crossrail network. It was here that we encountered the very well-spoken adventurers, keeping us well amused with their ridiculous comments and expectations. Having spent many years (I think, or maybe it just felt that way) living in a building site when we moved into our current family home, there is something nostalgic about the smell and sight of bare materials. Getting what felt like a special preview of the station currently without its escalators, fixed lighting, working lifts (that was a little scary) and hoards of commuters, was a very special experience indeed. I can't wait to visit again when it opens for use!

Before heading for home, we made one final stop at Samuel Johnson's house, writer of the first English dictionary, and man whose quote I knew before I knew who he was:
'When a man tires of London, he is tired of life'

I think we were both a little disappointed by the way the house has now been gutted to accommodate the museum, but there were still narrow, rickety stairs and a sweet gift shop to keep us entertained. It is interesting to think of the power held by a man who writes a dictionary!

Sunday arrived, and after an unpleasantly early start to walk the dog (which was actually more than pleasant once I was out of bed and wandering around a still slightly misty Wimbledon Common trying to spot Wombles! Not to mention the Full English upon our return), this time we began in South London at a Buddhist Temple. The fact that 4 acres of land with a Buddhist Temple in the middle of it even exists in Wimbledon was quite astonishing enough! The temple in question was small but beautiful on the outside; brilliant white with red detail and gold which glinted in the sunshine. Off came our shoes and we stepped inside where we were greeted by a very friendly Buddhist lady who drew our attention to the most vivid murals covering wall to ceiling, and a huge shrine at the front of the room.

The murals were unbelievably hypnotic, and presented a mixture of Buddhist tradition with the modern world as machine guns were held in the trunks of elephants, the Mona Lisa hid in a corner, brightly coloured mohecans stood out above a crowd of robed monks and Maggie Thatcher sat on a chair in a corner watching a crowd of worshippers. We were told that as the temple was built in the late 70's, early 80's, the artist had decided to include a large number of references to life at the time so the place would also act as a time capsule. I think we could have stayed there all day.

However, we eventually tore ourselves away again and headed back home for a re-fuel before setting off into Central London again. Having learnt our lesson from Saturday, we only had a list of 3 this time. However I don't think we were expecting to be so absorbed by the temple, so number 2 was missed and instead the next port of call was a Livery Hall; the Barber-Surgeon Hall.

I'm still not entirely sure I understand Livery Halls, but I'm intrigued so may have to do a little bit of further research. On our way to the Barber-Surgeon Hall, we passed by a few others, and they certainly are grand buildings!

Too caught up again to think about lunchtime, our stomach's suddenly reminded us that heading straight for food after our visit was a good idea. So we ended up with picnic food which we ate at St Paul's; how idyllic!

After two full days of scaling London, we were ready for home, but not before locating a cosy pub in the Leadenhall Market for a drink or two (it was only 4 o'clock at this point, after all!).

Already counting down the days to the next Open House! Although the wonderful thing about the event is that it has also opened our eyes (or mine at least) to lots of buildings and points of interest around the city that we could actually visit at any time of year; how very exciting!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Breaking the silence

It's always so lovely to have positive comments on my blog-writing, particularly when I've gone a bit quiet and they're just to say it's always nice to hear what I'm up to!

Today's made me realise that despite a truly wonderful summer, I'm currently having one of those quiet moments. So before I get even more lost in the madness that a new school year brings, I thought I'd write a little something to keep me going!

This week I met my new class and had my first day teaching with new teaching assistants. I am very excited to see what the year brings with them; I can already tell it will be another year where there is never a dull moment! I warn you now that I have verbally threatened a few people that the blog may this year end up with school-related material making an appearance, but I promise it will only be in the form of funny anecdotes (although I probably can't promise that they won't be of the 'had to be there' variety)...

In the meantime, I wondered what I could actually write about today. So in the spirit of truly tenuous links, I turned to Instagram. I can always tell what kind of a week I've had by the photos that I've posted on my Instagram, and I'm ashamed to admit that this week has clearly been a lazy one. 

I present you with, food, food and kittens: 

1. A lovely quote from a friend that 'family bring flowers, friends bring wine'; although I think wine did cross my cousin's mind, but she decided to be good. We had a long-overdue catch-up over a very healthy dinner before I really went back to work!
2. Upon my return home from making my classroom finally looked like a classroom, on Tuesday evening I treated myself to the last macaroon (can never get the spelling right!?) purchased from 'Macarons and More' in Norwich over the weekend (would have been blog-worthy, but I do wonder whether I rather inundate you with them).
2. Thursday night was spent catching up with the kittens who upon my return to work are missing me during the day (she says. I'm sure they are really!).

So I shall endeavour to fill my weekends with things worth writing about over the course of September. But prepare yourself for school anecdotes and the mundane as well...