Looking out over London

It was OH's birthday a couple of weeks ago. My present was going to be taking him up the Shard which had a view platform high up but when I went to book it found that it wasn't actually open until February 2013! So plan B - someone suggested going up Tower 42, what used to be the NatWest Tower to the champagne bar which had glorious views and although it was a champagne bar was pretty relaxed (as I'm not the smartest of people at the best of times).

So booking made we turned up after a torrential down pour. I was worried that it was a huge mistake and the weather meant we wouldn't see anything but someone must have been looking down on me as the sun came out just as we arrived.

 So we grabbed a bottle of champagne (well it was his birthday after all) and sat back to enjoy the changing light
 At first it was cloudy and we could see rain over in the West
 But then sun came out. Below is the same shot of the BT tower taken over about an hour
 It was phenomenal to watch and almost magic!
There were other views though for some reason the light wasn't as amazing. Here is St Paul's with a glimpse of the river in the corner (if you look close enough.....)

 But the champagne couldn't last and when we left I managed to get this shot of the Shard just before the rain started again....
Blimey I've had a busy few days. And it doesn't stop there - out and about again on Monday so watch this space....



Changing of the Guards though not at Buckingham Palace this time....

Now if you're a regular to this post you will remember that I have met up with the Blues and Royals on a few occasions now (see A Unique Opportunity and Trooping the Colour) and they've provided me with unique photo opportunities.

To make the Bank Holiday Weekend stretch a little longer I took Thursday and Friday off and on a whim decided to see if the guys were doing any ceremonial duties on either day. I was in luck, Martin tweeted back to say that they were doing Changing of the Guard in Windsor and that they could get me into the Castle.

Now I remember going to Windsor when I was about seven but don't remember much about it. I went about 12 years ago when I was taking my niece, who was then four, to Legoland which meant going through Windsor but not actually seeing it so I was looking forward to seeing Windsor in all it's glory.

Martin had told me to meet him at  the gate of the barracks so I dutifully turned up to discover that I was to be escorted into the Castle with the wonderful Greg along with many of the partners of the band and their children with an amazing view:

This is the band arriving with the crowds in the background
As you can see the crowd is big!
And this was my view - not a crowd in sight! Amazing
As always the band looked and sounded amazing. Even did a great arrangement of 'It's Not Unusal' by Tom Jones - how could that not make you smile!
And here is the actual changing of the guard. I've been to Buckingham Palace but due to the huge crowds of tourists have never actually stayed for the full ceremony (as you can never even get close) but here I had the best view ever!

In return for getting me such great access the band asked if I could take a photo of them leaving the castle. They had to get special permission from the Police to allow me to stand in the road and even then I had to kneel so as not to obstruct the views of the tourists who had been waiting patiently on the pavement for a long time.

I hope I did them proud though....
I need to mention this policeman who looked after me from barracks to castle and even lent me his pen at one point.
And finally here they are taking the guard back  to the Barracks.
Again the band gave me another opportunity and was well worth the journey. Special thanks to Martin, Greg, Fraser and the nameless policeman for looking after me! If you ever get the chance do check the band out. They look and sound amazing and will make you proud to be British but also put a smile on  your face!! 

Things that go bump in the night, day, evening.....

If you've read my previous post 'Walking to Dulwich' you'll know that I spend the morning at Dulwich picture gallery. If you haven't read it stop reading now! Go back and read part one of  this day's post!!!

Finished reading part one? Right so you'll know that I didn't know what to do on my day off until I looked at Time Out's website and felt Christmas had come early. The fabulous Cabaret Mechanical Theatre was having a pop up exhibition and in South London no less. If you have never heard of this they had an amazing collection of automata in Covent Garden which I visited numerous occasions during my student days and then early 20s. I could spend hours in there and it would always make me smile if I was feeling out of sorts.

But as is always the things nowadays rents were raised and eventually they had to close down in 2000. It was a sad day.... They did a pop up exhibition in Spitalfields near Liverpool Street a couple of years ago and it was bliss. So I jumped at the chance to see some old friends again.

I was happy to see there were some new automata which I've never seen as well as old friends which instantly brought a smile to my face!

This is an incredible exhibition for young and old. The humour and colourfulness of the automata will bring a smile to your face and on the whole is free (though bring a spare 20p x 2 for 2 of the exhibits). All and all I had a great day out, saw fantastic art work and in total spent 40p! And as I walked back as well lost a 1lb... Result all round!





Walking to Dulwich

So I've had a few days off work which was very nice but what to do. Wednesday evening I didn't have a clue so checked out Time Out and hurrah, not one but two things to see over in Dulwich.
I'm trying to be healthy at the moment and dare I say it trying to loose weight so I was up bright and early and enjoyed an early morning stroll through a gloriously sunny Brockwell Park over to Herne Hill.  

 I was then walking through residential streets over to the Dulwich Picture Gallery and stumbled across the entrance to the Herne Hill Velodrome - made more famous by the inspiring Bradley Wiggins. Now I'm not one for sport but OH has really got me into the Tour de France for the past three years and love both Bradley and the wonderful Mark Cavendish so it was great to see where it all started for one of them. .
 The same street had these amazing Holly Hocks (I think though let me know if I'm wrong). I love walking through streets that have well maintained gardens. Just lovely especially in late August. I then  got a phone call from my very clever niece who had managed to get mainly A's in her GCSEs - was so proud!!!
Anyway I digress this is what I'd come over to see. Life size sculptures by Philip Haas based on the series of paintings called the Four Seasons by Guiseppe Arcimboldo. Above is Spring
 This is Summer
Summer and Winter side by side. Winter reminded me of a character from Terrahawks - if you're of a certain age you might know what means...
And here is a view of all four. As they're in the grounds they are also free and I can't recommend them enough. They really made me smile and the blue skies certainly helped.
But I had to carry on as Dulwich Picture Gallery was only part of my plans so I headed out across Dulwich Park which I've never been to. Stopped to have lunch and had a great view of Crystal Palace. 
And wandered round the lake hoping to see some ducks. They were there of course but nothing that inspired but stumbled across three pigeons on a bridge that just seemed to be posing for me! I couldn't resist.... Anyway you'll have to read my next entry  to see where I ended up. It's somewhere I can't urge you enough to go and visit if you're in London.

Well I never knew you could do that

Apologies for  the delay in posting this, I'm not sure where time is flying at the moment but flying it is! Anyway on Sunday it was so muggy in London that it felt like walking through treacle. OH and I had planned a short excursion into town though before we knew it the heavens open and this happened:
Yes this is two wood pigeons having a bath in our car park - yes it rained that hard there were pools on the tarmac. But as soon as it started it ended so we jumped on a bus to Westminster

And we had a little wander up through St James Park (though we had to negotiate all the barriers that were still up following the Olympics - Horseguards Parades was the venue for the volley beach balls which the fabulous Band of Blues and Royals played at. I think they were quite chuffed to be involved.....Can't think why.

Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine both in St James.
But apart from a lovely walk in the park our final destination was this, Wellington Arch. I've only just recently discovered that you could actually go into and go to the top of it. Who knew! Certainly nobody I've told in London so far did. It's run by English Heritage and it's great!

There is a light and airy bookshop on the ground floor with an amazing range of books. Real books on London, not just Tourist tat which you normally find.

Then for four pounds you can take the lift (yes people you heard me a lift! How civilised!!!) up to the third floor to see an exhibition about.....
Blackpool! Bizarre but interesting. Can only assume it's to get the tourists interested in going up North. But then you went out onto a little balcony to come face to face with this:

Talk about crazy horses. They were practically on top of you!
Kicking and screaming!
The view wasn't amazing but interesting
But great close ups - everyone looked like ants from up above
It was a wonderful experience. The last time I walked through Wellington Arch I was running after the Band of Blues and Royals on their way to Trooping the Colour. I've lived in London for longer than I've lived in Cumbria and I love the fact that I still find things that I didn't realise were there even though I've walked past them millions of times. Can highly recommend it for an unusual day out.  

Oysters and Brainwashing

Well it's been a weekend of sunshine and contrasts. It's OH's birthday on Monday and so we went to Whitstable with his sister and brother in law for a wander and early dinner.

Now I've only been to Whitstable once before (one more than everyone else in the group) which was few years ago and I wasn't feeling great. Turned out I had swine flu and felt even worse the following day so was great to see it in full health and sunshine!

We had a mini picnic on the beach watch everyone else catching a few rays
Whitstable is famous for Oysters which are heavily protected
These are shells to be recycled and even these you couldn't touch
And of course there are the obligatory seaside beach huts. They look welcoming but I'm not sure I would want to sit while everyone and their dog walked past quite so close as they were right next to the path.
After a gorgeous meal at Zizzi's we went for a quick stroll down by the beach to watch the sunset before rushing back to the station and luckily catching our train back to the big smoke.

Now I thought that this was the excitement for the weekend but no, on Sunday OH announced he wanted to go out and have another meal. So we went up into town to catch the Mr Brainwash exhibition before getting dinner.
If you haven't seen the most fantastic 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' which started out as a film about Banksy but ended up being the creation of Mr Brainwash then you must. It's a brilliant film.
Now I was sceptical at first and wasn't sure if I'd like it but how could you not smile at this, one of the first exhibits you come across.
And it was pop art overload
There was this great image of Billy Holiday using recycled records.
And lots of horses splattered with paint
If you didn't know Mr Brainwash did the album cover of one of Madonna's greatest hits - Celebration. Lots of Warhol influence throughout the exhibition
And even outside was covered in artwork which is great to see - such interaction with people just walking past
With her Royal Highness looking down over proceedings.
And across from the venue a Banky's homage. I must say though that this little alcove stunk to high heaven, lets just say I think during day it's an art venue, at night it's a loo.....

So there we have Mr Brainwash in a nutshell. None of it is that original but it did make me smile, it was free and it was great to see such a great use of the space, even if it's just for a month. When OH and I stepped out into the sunshine I felt like I was in LA for a second. Great to see art in such an unusual venue and a great end to a great weekend. I wonder what next week has in store.....