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?

The Classical Spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall

Ages and ages ago (in March), I went with my dad and two of his friends to the Classical Spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall. My dad has been going for a few years now, he took my mum a couple of times, and he loves it, so when he said that he had a spare ticket and did I want to go, I thought I would. I don’t know an awful lot about classical music; while I would never claim not to like it, I am not particularly familiar with it, and I just like what I like. But I love hearing music played live, and I have never been to the Royal Albert Hall, so I knew that I would probably have a good time.

It’s taken me a while to write a post about it, but as ‘Go to a music concert/gig’ is one of my 2014 goals, I thought it deserved its own post. You’ll just have to forgive the quality of the photos, as they are merely phone images.

 

As you can see, we had seats quite high up in the theatre, but I have no fear of heights (unlike my sister), so I was fine. The stage was down to our left, and the view was fine. It’s all about the sound, anyway, and I don’t think there’s anywhere inside the Albert Hall that the music wouldn’t sound amazing.

The orchestra playing was the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and though I have no real frame of reference, they were very good. They played one of my favourite pieces of music ever, Rhapsody in Blue, with a solo by Jonathan Scott. It was amazing; I had no idea that they were going to play it as I don’t really think of it as a piece of classical music, because it’s so modern (comparatively – it was written in 1924). I also really enjoyed Land of Hope and Glory and the Hornpipe, because I love watching them on the Last Night of the Proms on the television!

 

I know it doesn’t look as though my dad is having a good time, but he was. He just probably wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the selfie nature of the photo. And at the end, hundreds of balloons came down, and I grabbed my phone but was just slightly too late to catch them actually falling.

As you can tell from the photos, it’s a very nationalistic and patriotic affair, with union flags to wave and red, white and blue balloons. They played Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia, but other than that, the rest of the music came from all over the world. It’s fun to wave a flag, but I felt slightly ridiculous doing it!

At the end, during the 1812 Overture, two cannons on either side of the hall go off, one of which was right above our heads! It made me jump each and every time it happened! And then there is an indoor firework display, which was very impressive.

I had a lovely day, and I made a Spotify playlist of all the music when I got home. One of the main problems I have with classical music is that I know I like certain pieces, but I don’t know what they are called, so listening to my playlist means I know their names!


Go to a music concert/gig

BEDN ~ Photo an Hour #4 ~ November 2013

Today’s post is actually answering Friday’s prompt, A Day in the Life. I had planned a photo an hour for Saturday, asking people to join in with me like last time, and it turned out to be ideal for the prompt.

Apologies for the quality of some of the photos; for reason I used my phone for some of them and it really shows!

8am ~ On my way with my dad and sister to pick up my other sister. We were driving to get the train to London.

9pm ~ A hot chocolate on the platform which wasn’t ludicrously overpriced. What a novelty.

10pm ~ We were a bit early, so we nipped into Westfield. Being early, it was still bearable. You would never catch me in there on a Saturday afternoon!

11pm ~ Sarah had to go into Sainsbury’s to buy something in order to get a plastic bag to replace her paper Primark bag, because it had started raining in earnest! She decided on cookies, and we all partook.

12pm ~ The reason for our trip to London was to see the Lord Mayor’s Show (I’ll be blogging about it later in the week). This robot was made of wheelie bins, and moved slightly ominously!

1pm ~ After the parade, we went to a little restaurant near Covent Garden for some lunch. There were some pretty lanterns on the wall!

2pm ~ Fish and chips for lunch. Rather yummy!

3pm ~ After a quick look around Covent Garden, it was time to head home, so back to the tube we went.

4pm ~ Back in the car (this feels a bit like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!).

5pm ~ My sister bought me some tights in Primark, so I got them out for a look when I got home. I honestly believe they may be the best tights ever.

6pm ~ Back in May, I went to see an episode of Pointless Celebrities being filmed. The episode finally aired last night, and I spotted myself in the audience!

7pm ~ My friend Vicky came to say and I had to meet her off the train, so I snapped a shot of a wall at the train station.

8pm ~ Going for a couple of drinks at the pub means that I have to reapply some makeup after a day in London.

9pm ~ Ready to go to the pub (after a couple of glasses of wine first, of course!).

That was a pretty long day! I am also really pleased that people decided to join in with my Photo an Hour again. I know that I am not the only blogger to do it, but I know that people like to join in and I think they appreciate the reminder!

Louisa at Duck in a Dress joined in on Instagram
Haydy at Squibb Vicious joined in on Instagram
Terri-Jane at {twoninethree} joined in on Instagram
Janet at Words That Can Only Be Your Own joined in on Instagram
Bev at Confuzzledom joined in on her blog
Charlotte and Sherbet and Sparkles joined in on her blog

I’m thinking about adding a Photo an Hour goal to my forthcoming 32 Before 32 list, and making it a monthly thing. I haven’t decided for sure yet, but I am definitely going to be doing one in December, and I decided to pick Saturday 14th December as the day. Let me know if you are joining in again!

An American President in London

I recently posted about my day trip to London, and about how the prime objective in going was to cross a couple of items off my 31 Before 31 list. However, I decided that it was a waste of a train fare not to fill my day while I was in the city, so I planned a few more things to do.

I doubt it even needs mentioning any more, but new readers may not be aware that I am a bit obsessed with American history, and specifically presidential history. When I went to the US Embassy a few years ago, I noticed a statue of Eisenhower, the 34th president. I knew that there were various other American history-related statues and sights in London, so I set about researching them and off I went!

JFK Bust Great Portland Street London

JFK Bust London Great Portland Street

First of all I went to Great Portland Street, to see the bust of John F. Kennedy outside International Student House at Great Portland Street. It was unveiled in 1965 by Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother.

Trafalgar Square Scotland

From there, I went to Trafalgar Square. There were a couple of things I wanted to see in that area, but as I came out of the tube station, I was greeted by thousands of Scots, who had congregated in the square. There was an international football match at Wembley in the evening, and evidently they had decided to congregate on mass in the afternoon. It was pretty incredible; I don’t think the above photo really does justice to how many people were there!

George Washington Statue National Gallery London

One of the things I wanted to see here was the statue of George Washington (first US president) outside the National Gallery. As one of the first great American patriots, George Washington apparently said “I will never set foot in London again!” So when they built this statue, they brought some dirt from his home state of Virginia for it to stand on!

As you can see, the statue had been temporarily embellished by some of the visiting Scottish football supporters. I don’t think Washington would necessarily have complained too much about it.

Benjamin Franklin House, Craven Street, London

Very close to Trafalgar Square, on Craven Street, is the former home of Benjamin Franklin. Some people mistakenly believe that Franklin was a president; he wasn’t, he is just a very famous American. He was a diplomat, statesman and a politician, but he was never president. He lived in London between 1757 and 1775; hugely important years in British/US relations.

Big Ben, London

From Trafalgar Square, I hopped on another tube and headed to Westminster. I never fail to impressed by the sight of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben* as you exit the tube station. It’s quite amazing!

Abraham Lincoln statue, Parliament Square, London

In Parliament Square there are a number of statues, including a famous Winston Churchill one, but the one I was interested in portrays the 16th President of the United States; one Mr Abraham Lincoln. He’s famous for many reasons, but most people remember him because he’s one of four presidents to have been assassinated. Did you know that three days prior to his assassination, Lincoln claimed (or his biographer claimed that Lincoln told him) that he had dreamed that he had died at the hands of an assassin?

Big Ben, London

London Eye, London

The London Eye is one of those things that I can’t resist taking a photo of when I see it.

I had planned a couple more stops, but along with visiting the British Library and climbing the 311 steps to the top of the Monument, I was tired. Also, my camera battery had died, and I really wanted to document my whole day, so I headed home (with a sneaky visit to Westfield on the way). The other two places (a pub and a bell foundry) aren’t going anywhere, so I will have to add them to the list for the next day trip, along with a few other statues and buildings.

* I know that the tower itself is called Elizabeth Tower and it is the bell that is named Big Ben. It’s the least interesting ‘interesting fact’ that you can share. Everyone knows it and nobody cares!

Paradise Will Be a Kind of Library

Last week I had a day in London. I’m always so excited to get into the city; I live really close and have been going for day trips all my life, but my excitement never diminishes. I love doing all the touristy stuff, and I feel no shame at walking around with an A-Z in my hand!

The reason for my outing this time was that I wanted to cross a couple of items off my 31 Before 31 list; visit the British Library and go to the top of the Monument.

First up was the British Library. I have been meaning to go here for years, so I knew that if I put it on my 31 Before 31 list, it should give me the push I needed to actually do it! It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of libraries. I just always feel so very happy in them and totally at home amongst all the books. My main purpose in visiting this time was literally just to cross it off the list, so I just took a look around the Sir John Riblat gallery and the gift shop, before moving on. Places like this intimidate me a little bit, so while I do wish that I had had a chance to do a bit more exploring, I need to go back with someone else, so that I don’t feel so conspicuous.

I was really impressed by some of the artefacts on display here, including Jane Austen’s writing desk and journal, and the Beowulf manuscript from the 12th century, that actually made me gasp audibly! Things that are that old simultaneously astound me and freak me out.

I went into the gift shop, and purchased a postcard. Obviously I wanted this bag (it could have been made with me in mind), but I couldn’t afford it.

Later in the day, I went to the Monument. Last summer, my dad took my nephew to London and they climbed to the top of the Monument, and I was immediately jealous, so I wanted to do it myself.

For those of you who don’t know, the Monument to the Great Fire of London is a column that commemorates the Great Fire of 1666. It is 62 metres tall, and happens to stand 62 metres away from where the fire started, in Pudding Lane. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was constructed between 1671 and 1677.

There are 311 steps to get to the top, and although it took me a while and I had to stop a couple of times (I’m none too fit), it was worth it at the top! Even if this was the point at which my camera battery decided to die!

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I got another postcard at the Monument, as well as a certificate to say that I had climbed all the steps and got to the top! It only costs £3 to enter, which I think is quite reasonable. It’s not huge at the top, there’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre, especially if it’s busy, and you wouldn’t want to spend more than about twenty minutes up there. But it’s great to see London from up high, and it’s pretty special to know that you are climbing steps that were first built almost 350 years ago.

There was a bit more to my trip to London, but I’ll share that in another post.

8. Visit the British Library
9. Go to the top of the London Monument