Shapes of London by Yoni Alter

Quite some time ago, I featured the artwork of Yoni Alter on Is That You Darling, having fallen in love with his cityscapes when I discovered them on Etsy. I love cityscapes, and Alter’s range really celebrates the wonderful architecture on display in cities across the world.

Yoni has now updated his iconic London design to include the Leadenhall Building and 20 Fenchurch Street, known as the Cheesegrater and the Walkie-Talkie respectively. This particular design also features the London Air Ambulance, and proceeds from the sales of the limited edition print will be donated to the charity.

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Coming up with the idea after a medical student emailed him suggesting the idea, Yoni says, “It’s a privilege to be able to utilise my talent for good causes and I was very impressed when I learnt about the charity and its team members. These people truly are heroes.” The helicopter is drawn to scale against the city’s iconic buildings, and the position is true to the height that it regularly flies at.

The limited edition prints are available to buy from Yoni’s online shop, priced at £45 each, with £7 from each sale being donated to the London Air Ambulance.

Blue Plaque Quest #2

Way back when, I set out on a quest to photograph as many blue plaques as I could manage. I did a blog post with the two that I found on one trip to London (black plaques actually, but still official English Heritage plaques), and then I stopped. I carried on noticing them wherever I went, but I stopped photographing them and posting about them. The main reason for this is that I don’t have a decent enough camera to be able photograph them; they are up high, and require a better zoom that most of my cameras have!

But when I went into London last weekend, Hannah was kind enough to lend me her camera, and I managed to find some plaques. The truth is that none of these are official English Heritage plaques, but I decided that doesn’t matter – I want to share them with you anyway, and try and make this into a regular feature!

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‘Ziggy Stardust’ ~ Musician ~ 23 Heddon Street

This is definitely not an official English Heritage one, being as it commemorates a famous alter-ego! It marks the location of the cover photograph of the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

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Joseph Haydn ~ Composer ~ 18 Great Poulteney Street

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John Stephen ~ Founder of Carnaby Street ~ Carnaby Street

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John Snow ~ Epidemiologist ~ 54 Frith Street

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Charles Bridgeman ~ Landscape Gardener ~ 54 Broadwick Street *Official English Heritage*

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Antonion Canal (Canaletto) ~ Venetian Painter ~ 41 Beak Street *Official English Heritage*

Quite a nice little selection, I think you’ll agree! I can’t wait to find some more now.

Five Things I Want to do in London

I love London, and I’m lucky enough to live close enough that I’m able to pop in and out fairly easily (if not cheaply). But I feel as though I always end up doing the same old things, every time I go. So every time I see something a bit different, I make a note of it, and I’m planning a trip in the spring that will take in at least a couple of these things!

Go to the opera

I’ve never been to the opera, but everyone I know who has just raves about it. Most importantly, it’s the people who think they won’t enjoy it that seem to be most blown away by it! I know nothing about the opera, but I love stories, so I’m pretty sure that I would love to see a performance. I’ve got my eye on Queen of Spades by the ENO, taking place throughout June at the London Coliseum.

Visit the Camera Cafe

I want to visit the Camera Cafe in Museum Street and take a look at their camera collection. I know vintage cameras are a bit hipster, but they are so very pretty! And I love any opportunity to sit down and drink tea and eat cake while I’m wondering around London!

Visit Erno Goldfinger’s house

This is the house of a noted 1930s architect (rather than the James Bond villain), and is described as a ‘unique and influential Modernist home’. Sounds absolutely delightful, and it only costs £6 for a guided tour!

Visit Ruby Jean’s diner

I think that diners are my number one place to eat, so I am always on the lookout for new ones to try. Ruby Jeans food looks AMAZING, and the decor is beautiful. They have various London restaurants, so I’m going to try hard to eat a burger here.

See a film at The Luna Cinema

It’s on my 33 Before 33 list to see a film outdoors, and having had a little look around, I think I want to do it with The Luna Cinema. The locations look stunning, so as soon as they release their screening dates for 2015, I’m booking!

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An Evening With Itchcraft

Last Saturday night I went along to the Royal Institution in London to be at the launch of Simon’s Mayo’s latest book, Itchcraft. I reviewed the book a couple of weeks ago, and loved it, and I had been lucky enough to meet Simon the weekend before at another Itch event that he did in Chiswick. That was just a warm up though; he burned a €100 note (though of course it was a fake one planted in the audience), but he saved all the big explosions for the Royal Institution event.

Sadly, I didn’t get much of a chance to look around the place before the event started, though it’s a lovely building. It’s somewhere I would like to go back to, and I think listening to a lecture there would be really interesting. Science can be an awful lot of fun, particularly when someone is standing in front of you making things go bang, and I’m all for learning more about it.

Simon had a couple of special guests with him to help launch the book. Professor Andrea Sella from University College London was on hand to provide the aforementioned explosions, and Show of Hands made a cameo to sing a song called Cousin Jack. I had never heard of Show of Hands before, and I certainly didn’t know that mining songs were a thing, but they stood right in front of me (I have the type of friends that ensure front row seats are a guarantee), and sang and played beautifully. It’s another step on the road to discovering wonderful new music that I knew nothing about. They were a part of the evening because there’s a character in the book called Jack, and she’s Itch’s cousin, and given the book’s links to mining, Simon named her after the song and puts her dad in a Show of Hands t-shirt at one point. Do you expect anything else from a music DJ?

The evening was a blast (literally); Professor Andrea demonstrated some scarily powerful magnets, and blew up various things (warning us first to look at the space above his head and cover our ears). As with the books, most of the science went over my head, but he informed me on Twitter that the showstopping final explosion was a mole of magnesium. It was quite spectacular too!

Simon Mayo is no slouch in the science department; he may not be the one creating the explosions, but he’s obviously fascinated by the subject, and it’s wonderful to watch children really engaging with the subject. The audience was full of youngsters, and they were so keen to get involved, asking questions and being generally wonderfully enthusiastic. He even got a load of them up to help him with a quiz he did about the current value of certain precious metals, and having seen him play the same game the week before, I had assumed it would be all kids again. Imagine my shock when he pointed straight at me and asked me to stand up – I wasn’t expecting it at all and must have looked like an idiot when I said, “Me?” In fact, I know I looked like an idiot, because the ever-wonderful Chloe took some photos of me to prove it!

 
(Rhodium is my new favourite element.)

Afterwards I joined a very long queue to get my book signed. I had already had Itch Rocks signed the week before, but I saved Itchcraft for this week, and though it was a very long queue, it gave me a chance to catch up with Chloe and spend some time bonding over the fact that other just people don’t get our love for Wittertainment. This time round, I wasn’t particularly eloquent when speaking to Simon, though I did say thank you for plucking me out of the audience. And I did get a photo with him, though it had been languishing on my camera for some days before I managed to liberate it because I couldn’t find the right lead.

I have Chloe to thank for this photo too; I wish I didn’t look quite so awkward, but hey, when you’re an awkward individual, that kind of thing tends to shine through in photographs.

I had a lovely evening; I got to meet some people that I previously only knew from online, and I got to catch up with Chloe. I’ve said it before, but whilst I am a huge fan of Simon Mayo, I’m a bigger fan of brilliant books, and I do truly believe that the Itch series is great. They are the best kind of children’s books, because they are as appealing to adults as they are to youngsters. We’ve been reliably informed that there’s nothing new until at least 2016, and given that Simon has confirmed he’s currently writing a non-Itch book, who knows when we’ll next catch up with the young element hunter? Whenever it may be, I’ll be keeping an eye out for release dates and details of another explosive launch.

The Shires at The Water Rats

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see The Shires in London. Sitting on Twitter one evening, I saw that Bob Harris had tweeted a link to their UK tour, and I immediately took a look. Having ascertained that they were playing a London date, I booked tickets immediately. I didn’t even check that my friend Hannah was free to come, I just thought that I had to have tickets straightaway! As it turned out, Hannah was free as a bird, and we went along at the end of July.

We decided to have a day off work and spend the day in London first, and I took full advantage to go on a Book Bench quest! After we had seen all of the benches that we could find in the area, we were struggling to decide what to do, so we decided to head over the river and visit Tate Modern. I’ve been a couple of times before, but Hannah wasn’t sure that she had been, so in lieu of any other ideas, that’s what we did.

I can’t honestly say that I know an awful lot about modern art. I know what I like – Mondrian, Picasso, Matisse – but I get overwhelmed by most of the art on display at somewhere like Tate Modern. I prefer an exhibition of carefully curated pieces, rather than being left to my own devices to browse. But it was a fun afternoon, and it gave me the opportunity to trot out the anecdote that I visited before it was officially open (and before the Queen), back in 2000.

 

Look, I’m a bloger – I took a photo in Starbucks! I never, ever go in Starbucks. Not for moral reasons, just because I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t really enjoy paying over the odds for an average cup of tea. But we had some time to waste, so I had a cold drink (too much orange, in my opinion), and some fruit toast. I’m always happy to see jam from Tiptree on my plate!

I’ve never been to The Water Rats, but my friend V, who used to go to a lot of gigs in London, had told me that it was quite small. She wasn’t exaggerating; it’s a pub with a back room, and it wasn’t very big at all! It was also the hottest room in the entire world; seriously sweaty and disgusting!

Before The Shires played, they had two support acts. Gary Quinn and Frankie Davis are both country artists, and they played a few songs each. They were both amazing, and I’ve been listening to them on Spotify since I saw them! I really, really liked Frankie Davis, and I’m waiting patiently for her album to come out, as she sang a couple of songs that I thought were really good.

But of course, we were there to see The Shires, and they finally came on. The Shires are Crissie and Ben, and it should be noted that they are both beautiful people. But it’s their music that makes me love them, and I wasn’t at all disappointed; they sang their first single, Nashville Grey Skies, which I have been playing over and over and over for months! They did a really long set, and I think they must have sung most of the songs from their forthcoming album. Their latest single, Tonight, is another great one, and it’s being played all over Radio 2 at the moment! The crowd were divided in two (and Ben looked right at me when he divided – swoon), and both halves had to sing along to different parts. If you’re at all interested, some kindly soul has uploaded the performance to YouTube; I keep watching it because it’s so great!

I tried to take a few photos, but I had forgotten my camera, and sadly my phone wasn’t up to the job. After a couple of attempts, I gave it up as a bad job, and just decided to enjoy the music. I’m now (im)patiently waiting for The Shires to release their album; after hearing so much good stuff at the gig, I want to be able to listen to it over and over!

I bought a t-shirt while I was at the gig, because I had seen some other girls wearing them and was jealous! You can’t be a super-fan without a band tee! I have already worn it a few times, but I’ll definitely be wearing it in November, because I’m going to see The Shires again! This time they are doing a joint tour with Ward Thomas, who are another UK country music duo, and whose album I adore. I think there are still tickets available, and they are all over the country, so book some. You won’t be disappointed, I promise!