Books About Town

When I read about the Books About Town benches that were going on display all over London, I knew that I would have to try and find as many of them as possible. In case you don’t know, The National Literacy Trust got together with Wild in Art and commissioned artists to design sculptures shaped as books, celebrating famous novels. They are placed as benches across London, and there are different trails that you can follow to find them all!

I love a quest like this, I was always quite jealous that I couldn’t go and find the Gromits in Bristol, so I was all over this! And it’s a celebration of books, and as you probably know, books are my favourite thing.

I headed into London on Monday with my friend Hannah; we were going to a gig in the evening and we decided to make a day of it. We hadn’t really made any plans, but I decided that it might be a nice idea to try and find some of the benches, and Hannah agreed, so we did! I checked out the website, and made a note of the ones that were close to where we were going to be. I was hoping that there would be an app that would give you the location of each bench in relation to where you are, but sadly that’s not the case. You can download a map to print off, but as my printer isn’t working, I had to resort to a pen and paper and my trusty London A-Z!

I took quite a few photos (as did Hannah, and some of these are obviously hers, as I am in them!), but I had forgotten my camera, so had to rely on my phone! As such, they aren’t the best photos in the world, but they’ll do. There are a lot of them too, so be prepared!

Books About Town bench Books About Town
Books About Town

First up, we found the Jeeves and Wooster bench at The Brunswick. It was designed by Gordon Allum, and it’s rather fetching! It was in use when we arrived, but when I went to read the information next to the bench, the girls on it got up and moved! I felt a bit bad, because I didn’t want them to think that I was forcing them off, but I was glad of the opportunity to have a photo!

Books About Town Books About TownBooks About TownBooks About TownBooks About Town

As you may be able to tell from the number of photos here, I loved the Narnia bench. It’s so pretty! It’s in St George’s Gardens, on the Bloomsbury Trail, and there was someone on it when we arrived, but again, he moved on after a little while. I was really conscious of not crowding people who were sitting on the benches; although I really wanted photos on them, I think it’s rude to force people to get up. There was a family that we saw later doing exactly that, and I didn’t like it. Luckily we managed to get photos of this one, which was designed by Mandii Pope.

Books About Town Books About TownMrs Dalloway bench

The Mrs Dalloway bench is in Gordon Square Gardens. When we arrived, we were expecting the Sherlock Holmes bench, because the map confused me (make an app!). I am not terribly familiar with Virginia Woolf, so the bench didn’t mean a lot to me, but it’s still beautifully designed (by One Red Shoe). I might try to read it now.

Books About Town Books About Town
Books About Town
Books About Town

We did eventually find the Sherlock Holmes bench, it’s in Woburn Square Garden, opposite Golden Square Garden. Using the website on my phone made it look as though the bench was in the same park as the Mrs Dalloway bench, but it wasn’t, and we found it in the end! It is designed by Valerie Osment, and there was a lady sitting on it eating her lunch. She got up for us, and said that we were the third people to come along and take photos! She was very nice about it, and we were telling her about all the other benches around the city.

Books About Town

Books About Town

We did head over to Queen Square Park and Garden to see the Pride and Prejudice bench, but there were some people on it, and although we waited around for a while, they weren’t going anywhere. I couldn’t even get a photo of the back of that one! We moved on to Bloomsbury Square Gardens to find the James Bond bench (designed by Freyja Dean) and the Agatha Christie bench (designed by Tom Adams), but by this point it was a sunny lunchtime, and there were so many people about, there was no chance we were going to find empty benches! I’m sad we didn’t get to see the front of these benches, as they look great, but I am planning another trek at some point, so I’ll try again!

All of the benches that we saw are on the Bloomsbury trail, and there are four others – Greenwich, City and Riverside. There are a few benches that I am desperate to see, Mary Poppins being the main one, so I am definitely planning another trip before the benches go up for auction in October.

Have you seen any of the Books About Town benches?

My Thoughts On… Monsters

Just a reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to Why Should I See This Film? which is spoiler-free! (This post definitely contains spoilers, so avoid if you haven’t seen the film!)

Synopsis
Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border. (via IMDb)

What I Liked

  • Monsters is another one of those films that I have been wanting to see forever. Or at least for the last four years since it came out. I listened to all the chatter about it in the months leading up to the its release, and then it came out to rave reviews. I don’t really know why it took my so long, but I finally saw it a couple of months ago when it was on the television in the wake of Godzilla’s cinema release. It was definitely worth the wait, because I loved it!
  • What I loved most about Monsters is that it’s essentially a character piece, with the odd monster popping up. The film is about Andrew and Samantha, two people who are trying to make their way from Mexico, home to the US. The initial invasion of the monsters is long since over, and the film takes place in a world that has, to a certain extent, normalised the existence of these creatures on earth. Monsters is therefore really a film about a romance, which just happens to be set against a slightly unusual backdrop.
  • The dialogue is really natural, it genuinely does feel totally real. It’s really odd that this would be the case in a film that is telling the story of a monster invasion, but it’s true. I am not always a fan of this kind of dialogue; if it feels too improvised, I think it can sound a little contrived, but I think there is a good balance being struck with Monsters.
  • Monsters was famously made on a shoestring budget; director Gareth Edwards seems to have just gone out with his camera, filmed the scenes, and then taken to his laptop to create the monsters. For all we don’t see an awful lot of them, they are there, and they are, of course, brilliantly rendered. I’d honestly rather watch a film like this than most of the huge budget blockbusters that seem to have more money than sense.
  • Although the film received pretty good reviews, all of the complaints that I have read seem to dislike how slow the film is. I’m actually a fan of a slow, quiet film, so I don’t have this complaint. I thought it was paced well, and for a film that is only 94 minutes long, I think the slowness builds to a decent climax.
  • The film is beautifully shot. It just goes to show that you don’t need a huge amount of money to make a film that looks really good.

What I Didn’t Like

  • It’s been a while since I watched the film, but as far as I can remember, there wasn’t much about the film I didn’t like. I’ll definitely be watching it again!

Why Should I See This Film?
I would definitely recommend this film, though it’s important to know what to expect. Although it’s called Monsters, this isn’t your usual monster film. It’s not all about big creatures terrifying huge cities. It’s a road-trip movie, about a pair of characters who are trying to get home, and who encounter various troubles along the way. The special effects were famously created on a shoestring, but the monsters, when they do appear, look just about as good as those created in many blockbusters. If you get a chance and you haven’t seen this already, I’d say give it a go.

Mondaying

Right now, I am mostly…

Visiting : Last week Hannah and I took trips to both Mersea Island and Maldon after work. It’s nice to spend some time outside, when the weather is so lovely, rather than going straight home and sitting watching the television! Maldon never fails to look anything other than lovely, especially in the sunshine, and Mersea Island was equally delightful. The evenings are the best part of summer, for me, because the temperature drops just a little bit. I can’t be doing with the heat during the day!

Playing : I went to a family picnic on Saturday, and I spent a large amount of time playing handclapping games with my seven year old cousin. It was actually quite fun, and I got quite fast at them!


Watching : I went to see Boyhood last week. After a fair amount of time bellyaching that none of my local cinemas were showing it (including writing a letter to Wittertainment to see if they could shed any light on the matter!), I noticed that the Odeon in Chelmsford had a couple of showings, so I hotfooted it there. I was so excited to see it, because everyone else who has seen it has waxed lyrical, and I wasn’t disappointed by it at all. There will be a My Thoughts On… post as soon as I get around to writing it!

Reading : I recently got sent a book to review for my Essex Life column, and I can’t begin to describe how much I love it. I’m planning on writing a full review once the magazine has been published, because I only get a really small amount of words to eke out between three sections on my page, and I have to much I want to say about it! It’s called XY, and it’s by a local lady called Shanta Everington.

Enjoying : I am loving watching the Commonwealth Games. It fills the void that London 2012 left two years ago, and while there’s not quite as much sport on offer, there’s an awful lot, and I love being able to watch it from early in the morning until I go to bed! And the home nations are doing very well, which is a bonus!

I Watched That 001

Since the start of 2013, I’ve been writing My Thoughts On… posts about each and every film I see. I decided that I wanted to write about each film, and in the order that I saw them. I don’t know why I thought putting so much pressure on myself was a good idea; it really doesn’t matter to anyone else if I write these posts or not, but it mattered to me.

Now, however, I’ve reached the point where I can’t really maintain this level of commitment! I wish I could write about every film, but the truth is, sometimes I watch a film and don’t really have much to say about it. I’ll enjoy it, but beyond that, there’s often not much more I have to say!

So I’ve decided to remove this self-imposed pressure, and not feel obliged to write an individual post about every single film. Instead, I’m going to do a regular roundup of the films I don’t write about.

Annie Hall

I watched Annie Hall months ago, and I know it’s probably hard to believe that I would find it hard to write about this seminal film! But I did just enjoy it, and although I could have eked out a post about it, it doesn’t feel right to do that. I sometimes find it hard to watch a film that is considered a classic, because it feels as though there is a lot of pressure to enjoy it, and to appreciate why it has become a classic. I enjoyed Annie Hall, but I only laughed out loud a  couple of times (mainly when Allen sneezes into the cocaine). it’s beautifully shot, and New York in the seventies is a place I want to visit. Diane Keaton is obviously amazing, and a style icon to boot.

Primer

The reason I didn’t write about Primer was because I didn’t understand it! It’s a really complex time travel film, and I do think the point is that you aren’t supposed to fully understand it, but it would have made writing a whole post about it rather challenging. The two main characters, Abe and Aaron, create a time machine, and not only is the viewer treated to a lot of techno-talk that will go over most people’s heads, the final act of the film has so many different versions of the characters, and so many different timelines, that it becomes almost impossible to follow. It doesn’t make it unenjoyable, it just leaves you scratching your head and wondering what has just happened. At some point I’d like to watch it again, to see if I can make better sense of it.

Network

I watched Network because I thought it was on the AFI 100 Laughs list, and I’m way behind on my attempt to watch ten of those films. After having watched it, I realised that it wasn’t, it was merely shortlisted, and I felt as though I had totally wasted my time, as I didn’t like it at all. It’s another one of those films that is considered a comedy classic, but I can promise you that I didn’t laugh once. It’s not supposed to be straight comedy, it’s a satirical film, and I got the message that the film was trying to put across, but I didn’t find it entertaining or enjoyable at all. If I’m going to watch a television-based comedy from yesteryear, I’ll pick Broadcast News every time.

Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona is a film that actually is on the AFI 100 Laughs list. Would you believe it’s the first Coen Brothers film that I have ever watched? I need to remedy that! I enjoyed it well enough, it was funny in places, and I can totally cope with 80s Nicolas Cage. Holly Hunter is amazing in everything she does, so she’s always good value. I do find though, with these comedy films, that I just don’t laugh as much as I am clearly supposed to. This was another one that was never laugh out loud funny to me. Do I have a tin ear for comedy?

Super 8

I have wanted to see Super 8 since I saw the trailer at the cinema in 2011. That’s not a huge amount of time, but it’s definitely long enough for me to have built it up a fair bit in my mind. I’m a big fan of Kyle Chandler, and I think I could watch Elle Fanning in just about anything, so I was really excited to finally watch this. In the end, I was ever so slightly disappointed. I can’t even really put my finger on what it was, because it’s a perfectly decent film with solid performances, and even has an ELO song on the soundtrack. I guess it just didn’t live up to my expectations, though I loved the mini-film over the end credits.

So that’s that, a little roundup of all those films that I don’t want to write full posts on. It keeps my completist nature happy!

Review ~ Cybercandy Exclusive Chocolate

There are days when I just love being a blogger, and when a Cybercandy package drops through my letterbox, it’s particularly amazing.

Cybercandy are well known for their huge range of sweets and chocolate from around the world, but did you know that they now have their own range of goodies? Of course, being Cybercandy, this isn’t your general, run of the mill, plain chocolate. You can choose from the likes of Coffee and Pear, Wookies and Cream, or Doctor’s Orders Fish Finger and Custard. When CyberCandy asked me to choose a couple of flavours, it was tough to narrow it down, but in the end I decided against Fish Finger and Custard (I’m not that brave), and chose Brighton Rockolate White Chocolate, and Brown Sugar Cinnamon.

Cybercandy chocolate

The packaging is fairly basic – nothing too fancy. Inside the cardboard outer cover the chocolate is wrapped in plastic, which is resealable, just in case you manage not to eat the entire lot in one sitting and want to save some for later!

Cybercandy chocolate
The Brown Sugar and Cinnamon bar is really tasty. The brown sugar gives the bar a really nice crunchy texture, and I’m a big fan of a bit of crunch in my chocolate. The cinnamon flavouring can be a little overpowering, to be honest; I love cinnamon, and even I found it quite strong, so if you don’t like it, I would advise to steer well clear. Generally, however, I really liked this bar.

Brighton Rockolate
It was nothing compared to this beauty though! The Brighton Rockolate bar is just delicious! Firstly, it’s white chocolate, which I think is probably my favourite kind. It looks amazing, with the bright pink rock showing through. And it tastes AMAZING! I don’t know if anyone has ever thought of putting rock in chocolate before; it seems so simple and yet it’s so effective! The rock is mint flavoured, as is traditional, and it’s hard but chewy, as rock tends to be. The texture of the rock and the chocolate works perfectly together!

I took the bars to share with my friend Hannah, and she loved them, especially the Brighton Rockolate one! She spent a large part of the evening browsing the Cybercandy website, muttering “I can’t wait for payday.” I think she’s a convert!

The bars are priced at £2.99 for 100g. It’s a bit more than you would pay for 100g of chocolate in a regular shop, but when you are getting such distinctive and tasty flavours, it’s worth paying a little more. Next time you put in a Cybercandy order, add one of the handmade exclusive chocolate bars into your basket, and let me know what you think. Especially if you try the Fish Finger and Custard one!

* All photos are my own. As a member of the Cybercandy blogger network, I was provided with these items free of charge by Cybercandy for review, but all reviews on Is That You Darling are fair and unbiased.

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