Tag Archives: London life

London from above – a trip on The London Eye

When you live in a major city it becomes a rare thing to check out the major tourist attractions. When it comes to the weekend most of the time you just want to chill out locally rather than taking on a gaggle of new visitors – especially in a city as vast as London. However, it’s definitely worth setting off on a touristy adventure on the odd occasion so you never forget just what an exciting and dynamic place you live in.

Last night I joined Mr O and Mr and Mrs O Senior for a trip on the London Eye. I have actually been on the Eye before when my dad made his first trip to London but that was almost nine years ago so I was excited to experience it again. Mr O works for the company manages the Eye so one of his key perks is getting a set number of annual free tickets.

The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel set on London’s South Bank and is currently the largest of its type in Europe. Interestingly it was supposed to be a temporary installation to celebrate the millennium but it proved so popular that it has become a permanent fixture of the London skyline. It’s no surprise because the view as you make a 40 minute journey around the wheel in a little glass pod, is unsurpassed. Like many European cities London is built on its largest river (The Thames) and the view from the Eye allows you to see up and down river as well providing a 360 view that goes as far as Wembley.

We were lucky enough to make our trip on a particularly bright evening which meant we could see for miles… and witness a rainstorm happening distantly in West London. I was excited not only by the fact that I could see major landmarks like The Shard, St Paul’s and Westminster but also that I could see my office building.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor I would highly recommend taking the time to see the city from above… so you can take cool pictures like this!

wpid-img_20150331_213013.jpg Read more…

Books About Town – Riverside Trail

Regular readers might remember that I sent off on a mission last week to complete the National Literacy Trust Books About Town trails with my friend, Em. We started with the Greenwich Trail last Sunday and this weekend did the Riverside Trail which runs along the South Bank alongside the Thames River. It’s one of the most exciting parts of the city where super modern meets ancient London in a vibrant swirl of business and leisure.

I was extra excited to venture out because my company will be moving offices to the South Bank in a couple of months’ time and I’m looking forward to really getting to know this part of town and what secrets it has to hide. We certainly weren’t disappointed when we came across the Hays Galleria, which houses a cute collection of bars, restaurants, boutiques and market stalls surrounding a crazy fountain.

Although Em and I had to do part of the trail during a downpour we still had a whale of a time and snapped 10 benches (plus the one I accidentally found in Waterloo Station).

The World’s Biggest Flipbook by Jeremy Banx

Shakespeare’s London by Lucy Dalzell

Please look after this bear. Thank you. by Michelle Heron (featuring Em in the background)

Great Expectations by Ivan Liotchev

From the Gruffalo to Scarecrows: The World of Alex Scheffler and Julia Donaldson by Alex Scheffler

The Librarian by Paul Kidby

Clarice Bean by Lauren Child (original illustrations) created by Jane Headford

Dr Seuss by Theodore Seuss Griesel

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (original illustrations) created by Gerard Strong

Through the Looking Glass by Ralph Steadman

War Horse by Rae Smith (original illustration) created by Gerard Strong

A return to the days when the wild things were actually wild

It’s been some time since I did a journal type blog about my weekend. Mostly because these days I generally spend my weekend pottering around in my PJs, but every now and then my inner twenty-four year old comes out and I end up having a couple of nights out that are worthy of the early years of Where The Wild Things Are – back when it was all stolen traffic cones and snogging… kind of like this weekend.

On Friday night Jen V and I were supposed to go to book club and go home. I am not going to pretend that our book club is something that it’s not. I mean we do all read the same book and talk about it but we do also drink a silly amount of wine and Friday was no exception. We had set up camp in The Porterhouse in Covent Garden, which is always very busy but perfectly pleasant – especially if you decamp to the basement. It was going well until a band of middle aged men set up and started doing David Grey covers (kill me now!). Laura and Emily sensibly decided to go home but Jen V, Jen P and I had the Friday feeling and Steve from work was sending Jen V cryptic messages that indicated that he and some others might be in the Endurance on Berwick Street.

Unfortunately our sojourn in the Endurance was short-lived, since they called last rounds just after we’d swiftly sunk our third (fourth?) bottle of cheap red. Jen P and I were (un)lucky enough though to find ourselves outside having a smoke with one of those South African guys who has decided not to give up a millimetre of his Jo’burg Northern Suburbs schtick and made a point out of calling us both bru and telling us that he still hadn’t acclimatised to London after eight years here and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to live here. I think I might have told him just to go back and stop whining. Oops. There’s nothing I hate more than an ex-pat with a chip on their shoulder. If you want to go home… just go.

After being booted out of the Endurance we surveyed the nearby gay bars – Soho is Soho – but everyone was charging way too much entrance, leading to my cunning plan of heading to Crobar and waiting from Jen P’s boyfriend, Rob, to meet us. Crobar only charges £2.

When Rob found us we were squashed into a very damp corner with Jen P being chatted up by Thor. Well, chatted up is possibly too strong a description. He was just sitting next to her with a longing stare on his pretty Nordic face. He was way too drunk for actual words. He was so smitten that even the arrival of Rob failed to oust him and his friend and to come and gently shepherd him away.

By the time I eventually stumbled into the night, I was a bit sick of metal (although I was still recovering from the fact that they played Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi at one point) and came up with the genius idea of streaming Call Me Maybe on my iPad and dancing to it on the night bus… I am the coolest person that ever lived.

After all that you’d expect a quiet Saturday night in, but Jen, Karen and I had promised ourselves a girls night out and dutifully chucked some slap on and headed back to Soho for an impressively odd night at Thirst.

The first thing that struck us was that there wasn’t a single man in the whole place. In the (somewhat inappropriate) words of Gary from Geordie Shore, “wall to wall clunge.” I have never seen anything quite like it. Of course, I am married, so lack of men has no impact on my night, but it was weird. We went as far as checking the bar’s website to see if we had missed a memo on it being lesbian night but at about midnight, we realised we hadn’t – as a sudden horde of “men” magically appeared from wherever else they’d been warming up.

The most amusing example of the rather pathetic specimens on show, were a group of guys who had obviously been watching too much Made in Chelsea. One was clearly supposed to be a cut price Spencer, the other a bargain basement Hugo and the third… maybe their butler. They immediately marched into the bar and pitched up in front of the mirror fixing their hair, before congratulating themselves on their obviously amazing looks. We imagined the conversation to go a bit like this:

Tesco Spencer: I want to jizz on you.
Asda Hugo: No, I want to jizz on you
Tesco Spencer: No, I want to jizz on you.
Asda Hugo: No, I want to jizz on you
Tesco Spencer: No, I want to jizz on you.
Asda Hugo: No, I want to jizz on you
Tesco Spencer: Or maybe we could jizz on this stupid looking blonde girls
Asda Hugo: You are so smart. I really want to jizz on you…
Butler (to himself): I wish one of you would look at me. I want to jizz on both of you

While these two rejects tried to charm the girls sitting next to us, a group of very drunk teenage boys wearing sunglasses and letting their Primark labels hang out, arrived and alternated between trying to make eye contact with us and dazzle us with their brilliant dance moves.

As more and more posers rolled in, there was a moment of tension when a second round of MIC wannabes turned up and threatened to usurp Tesco Spencer and Asda Hugo through the power of better suits, but everyone stayed in their own territory and no one’s hair came unslicked. However, the threat of unwanted male attention became so present that we had to resort to tag team smoke breaks out of fear of leaving any one “team” member alone and open to threat.

This backfired on me, when I headed out alone, only to be propositioned by a fifty year old Frenchman, with a jones for tattoos. He seemed completely affronted when I told him I was married and acted as if I had made an advance on him. Sigh.

We left not long after that. Despite the fact that we had had rather a lot of cocktails, we were not drunk enough for the rigors of late night Thirst. This was probably a good thing, since  we needs or wits about us to get home. There were no night buses and we weren’t able to get a cab until Karen reserved one using her Addison Lee account. We later found out that there was a massive accident on Aldwych, which had closed the roads for two hours. When we zipped past the bus stop on The Strand next to Trafalgar Square in our taxi there were still about 300 people waiting for a bus. I do home they all managed to eventually get home.

So after feeling like I was twenty-four over the weekend, today I feel like I am seventy-four. To think I did this every weekend for about four years…

Clowns, Wantons and the monster in the office basement

Today was another fabulously random London day. I cam out of the station at Tottenham Court Road only to be met by The Joker and his henchmen in full make-up and costumes handing out Batman playing cards with the release date for the Dark Knight DVD on them. Despite the fact that the clowns were pretty scary, it was still cool.

I finally managed to have lunch with Fabio after not seeing him for almost a month. His hair has gotten insanely long but it really suits him. He looks like some kind of wild indie urchin. We headed down Wardour Street for crispy duck and Wanton soup in a tiny little Chinese restaurant. We were the only white people in there and the staff were not impressed by our arrival. The grumbled at us continuously and one of them even tapped me on the shoulder, pointed at Fabio and yelled something at me in Chinese. We made a swift exit as they yanked our Wanton bowls out from under our noses… before we finished the soup. He will not forgive me if I don’t mention that his new boots are the sex. I want to steal them… if only his feet weren’t so big! On the way back a tramp complimented my hair. I think it was probably more that he wanted money from me than that he was trying to chat me up… I hope…

Our office is already descending into pre-Christmas mayhem. Today we not only had a remote controlled plane flying (read crashing, they haven’t got the hang of it yet) display, there was also an argument about who had taken a bite out of whose birthday cake and a half an hour discussion about the best episodes of Doctor Who… ok that one might have been my fault… Now if we could just figure out why the air-conditioning is making such a weird rattling noise. I’m starting to wonder if my concerns that our building is alive and possessed are actually warranted.

You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you…

I am an avid people watcher. There is nothing I like better than observing the passing human traffic from whatever vantage point I am fortunate enough to have. I don’t think this is a particularly unusual trait. Most people enjoy a little observational entertainment. The problem is that I tend to be a starer. If I spot someone that is worth ogling it’s very hard to avert my gaze.

Working around Soho, there is a lot to stare at. Tartan-swathed, Doc Maarten-wearing, old school punks hanging around the tattoo and merch shops. Eye-linered, hobo-gloved, skinny-jean wearing emos clustered around Zavvi. Long-haired Goths in sky-high boots and trench coats appearing from the shadows between shops. And of course bowler-hat wearing, many-scarfed indies in check shirts and pointy brogues… EVERYWHERE!

I never thought much about the staring until I caught the look I got off a Goth in a crazy military uniform at Waterloo Station. I was carefully inspecting his perfect make-up job and he was cringing away from me, eyes-filled with distrust. I realised he thought I was staring at him because I thought he was a freak. It’s not massively surprising. I got a huge eye-opener watching Scene Stealers and seeing the constant abuse that Goths get, from taunts to being pelted by various random objects. The thing is that’s not why I was staring at all.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give up the habit so I wanted to make this statement:

People of London,

If you find you are being stared at by a girl with mad red-hair wearing a tartan coat that makes her look a little bit like a Japanese schoolgirl and blue cowboy boots, she is not staring at you because she thinks you’re a freak.

I am staring because I think you are beautiful and fascinating. I am proud that I live in a city where we can be who we are. I am proud of you for embracing your individual style and for standing out from the grey hash of all the “normal” people. I am staring because underneath this coat, I am one of you (if only a very watered down version) and I’m trying to pick up make-up and fashion tips.

Much love
Anime Girl

P.S. If you are picking your nose at the time I am staring, this statement is void. In that case I am staring at you because you’re gross.
P.P.S. Wanna see me with a moustache? Donate to the Movember fund now!

Goth dolls

Disappearing penises, flaming tour buses, Satanic Sluts and more

My return to London has made me realise some of the things I missed the most when I was in SA…

–    Psychotically unpredictable weather
–    Soho, with all its insane weirdness
–    Indie boys
–    Music that was not picked by some lame radio station
–    The banter in my office
–    Scurrilous celebrity gossip

I’ll explain…

I knew I was back at work when I handed around the Cadbury’s Top Deck I had brought back from SA in an attempt to prove that SA chocolate is tastier and was swiftly slated by half the team. An argument about chocolate ensued in which it was declared that Galaxy is akin to crack in addictiveness. This was swiftly backed up by the comment, “yes, crack is rather more-ish”. Office banter, a reason for living.

I spent the evening with Josh and Sanna. Josh is giving Sanna her first tattoo as an 18th birthday present and they invited me along to Self Sacrifice as, I guess, a sort of facilitator. Tattoo artists tend to talk to “normal” people as if they are a bit random but since I now have a giant tattoo on my leg, for the first time I was regarded as “one of them” and the tone of conversation completely changed. We even did that thing that tattooed people do where they compare art. Everyone was very impressed with the one on my arm and Maio got a lot of pats on the back for it. Tonight Sanna will be getting some words of wisdom from Bob Dylan inked on her hip and I will be getting my apostrophes that Maio forgot the first time around. We are both swooning at his loveliness.

When we went into the shop it was cold but clear. When we came out it was hailing, like mad. No warning… just hail. The atmosphere was a bit loopy. Everyone was tearing around, the shop owners were trying to lure people into their shops and really it all just looked quite beautiful. We took it as a signal to retire to the Royal George. The George is always packed with weird and wonderful Soho-ites including lovely indie boys. In SA a kind of hyper, rugby-playing, beer swilling masculinity reigns supreme. It completely puts me off. So to be surrounded by lanky boys in skinny jeans with wild hair, crazy scarves and pointy shoes was a return a warm joyous place packed with eye candy.

We ended our evening with a delicious Italian dinner in a hideaway restaurant on Goodge Street. The staff were quite mad. When Josh handed his card over to pay and accidentally keyed in his pin a little early, the waiter declared that he was slowing down the process and would render said waiter with not even enough time to go to the toilet. He finished this off by saying, “by tomorrow I will have no penis.” We giggled all the way to the tube station. By the time I got home it was snowing… in October.

At the moment the talk of the town is Russell Brand’s latest round of dodgy behaviour. During a BBC2 Radio show where he had Jonathon Ross as a guest the two of them rung up Fawlty Towers star, Andrew Sachs, who they were supposed to interview. When he did not answer they left him some naughty little voice mails, including one claiming that Russell had had carnal knowledge of Sach’s granddaughter. This has lead to a national outcry where even Gordon Brown is demanding retribution and Russ has once again been suspended. Personally I don’t know what all the hullabaloo is about. The granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, is outraged… despite the fact that she is currently on tour with a Burlesque group called Satan’s Sluts and actually DID sleep with Russell. She’s not exactly the virgin Mary now, is she? There is a massive financial crisis going on and the Prime Minister is focused on badly behaved radio presenters… I love this country. Find out more here.

And in closing, I am very excited as Barb and I will be going to see Kill Hannah at the Astoria 2 tonight with My Passion opening. It’s both exciting and a relief since the gig almost didn’t happen. While on tour in Switzerland last week, the two bands shared tour bus caught fire and was incinerated. Fortunately everyone is fine but they have lost virtually all their personal possessions and have been reduced to performing in their own merch. You can see actual footage of the bus in flames on singer, Mat Devine’s, blog. I can admit that any casualties or injuries of either of these bands would have left me in a state of disrepair so the fact that all is well is cause for celebration. I will be taking along some fingerless gloves to help the boys ward off the cold! This news of course was passed on to me last week by Jen since no one in South Africa has heard of either band. They’re not as radio friendly as the consistent mindless dance music that Highveld and 5fm pump out, I guess.

I don’t care what you think, as long as it’s about me

On my way to work today, I got stalled by some kind of stop and search operation that was going on. They do these at major stations in London. The police have the right to pluck you out of the crowd any time they like and go through your stuff. Today they were weaving in and out of the crowd and one of the cops almost stood on me trying to get to the poor guy behind me. For a couple of minutes I thought they wanted to search me. I was almost a little excited. Can you imagine what an awesome blog that would make? Unfortunately I don’t think I am what the police see as a threat. I have never seen them stop a woman… particularly not a white woman.

I’d prefer not to speculate on the Metropolitan Police’s search criteria but if I were ever wanting to perform some kind of explosive violence (completely hypothetically… for all the government authorities I have probably unwittingly alerted to this post… I am a law-abiding citizen with a heart filled with peace and love), I would recruit a middle-aged white woman to carry my explosive device. The British people here find it all a bit freaky and they go on about being made to feel like a criminal. They’re not wrong… but if you’d ever had to apply for a visa, while holding a South African passport, you’d be used to it!

As you all probably know, I will be heading off to the homeland AKA South Africa tomorrow night. I have not packed. I despise packing. I have a veritable phobia of packing. Also I am nervous because Iberia only allows 20kg of luggage. I know I’m only going for 10 days but I need to pack all the gifts for friends and family, including my cousin’s wedding present. Wish me luck!

Tonight Josh and I are off to see The Subways. I’m so excited. I’ve been in love with them since Reading. Even more exciting is the fact that my favourite Glaswegians, Twin Atlantic will be opening. SCORE!

Today’s obsession is the cracking new video for recently released Fall Out Boy single, I Don’t Care (off the upcoming album, Folie A Deux, which drops on 16 December). First of all the song totally rocks. Patrick Stump’s voice becomes bigger, richer and more gorgeous with every outing. Secondly the video is awesome. Not only does it feature a very badly behaved FOB (think stolen zimmer frames, shoplifting nuns and water balloons), Joe is naked for almost the entire video and face-morphing cameos include Pharrell, Gabe Saporta, Mark Hoppus, Spencer Pratt and a VERY convincing Sarah Palin look-alike who they are clearly taking the piss out of. There is some controversy since the band themselves are not happy with the mobile phone product placement that has been splashed all over the video and with good reason… BUT the video is so much fun that it must be checked out. Catch it here.