Category Archives: Things I love

Paperman: cute

Some lovely animation, courtesy of Disney.

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I’m late to the party here by some years but these London offices are so cool they have to be shared. Anyone venturing East in London in the last few years may have noticed a few stray Tube carriages roosting above the brickwork. Village Underground in Great Eastern Street became the new home of four retired Jubilee line trains in 2007, born of a need for cheap office space (for creatives, naturally) and a passion for reusing before recycling. Today they’re home to 50 musicians, artists, writers, designers and film-makers.

That’s just on top of the building. The warehouse below is a cultural centre for gigs, concerts and exhibitions.

If you like these, you can tap into a whole honeypot of similar cultural centres through Trans Europe Halles. I feel a tour coming on…

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Can’t decide which is my favourite pumpkin of the day. Villafane Studios lead the pack…

This one…

Or this one?

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#good read

Just finished my latest book. It’s so good it must be shared.

Mahbod Seraji’s Rooftops of Tehran is a story set in 1970s Iran and tells of the relationships that develop between a neighbourhood group of teenagers, circling around two best friends: Pasha and Ahmed. The description and explanation of Persian culture is absorbing. The author is Iranian by birth and uses the book to describe some of the cultural differences he remembers when he moved from Iran to the USA aged 19. He remembers how odd he found Western funerals given that Middle Eastern cultures are so outwardly emotional, illustrating how readily they tend to cry or express feelings. He provides an intoxicating account of the rich comradeship of a small neighbourhood in the capital.

All this set in the political scene of the 1970s where there was strong anti-American sentiment for the foreign power’s support of the reigning Shah, and therefore tacitly his secret police and reign of terror. America had supported the Shah in arranging a coup to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minster in the 1950s. Paradoxically, many Iranians in the story are yearning to leave for the safety and educational prospects of America.

It’s great. Should definitely feature on your ‘must read’ list. I think I’m adding it to my ‘top ten favourite books ever’. Ooooh, there’s your next blog.

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Leaf watch: they’re turning!

I’ve taken it upon myself to track the progress of the trees as they don their autumnal livery. Today I went up to Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, the ultimate tree-watch location in the South-West.

It was owned by Robert Holford in the early Victorian age when it was the height of fashion to own a large country estate and plant a collection of trees from around the world. He went for the ‘picturesque’ style of planting, which is designed to enhance the appearance of the natural landscape using the same principles as painting.

It’ll be a few more weeks until they’re in their full regalia, but the acer/maples are well on the way. Simple pleasures. 

Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury, Glos, GL8 8QS

Adults – £9 (in autumn); Concessions – £8.

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I’m a fan

Quite a fan of this Emily girl and her ’10 reasons’ videos. Straight shooting, funny and becoming a bit of a sensation.

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Some awesome German has invented a game that you play while waiting at traffic lights (see the vid). Please can we have a big hand for Streetpong! Passers by on opposite sides of the road play a computerised round of Pong –  that ancient computer game – using the specially adapted button-box as a controller.

Every crossing should be like this.

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Aqua superhero

Yesterday, down on Cavalaire Beach here in the South of France, I saw a man showcasing one of these:

Zapata Flyboard

It’s a Zapata Flyboard. It makes you look like you’re straight out of a Marvel comic. It works by channelling high-pressure water from your jet ski to your jet boots (amazing) and stabilising jet hands. It looks awesome. It’s yours for $6,600.

Hungry for more? Here’s the promo vid.

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I think I might move here next…

Nowhere island

Yes. Nowhereisland.

An artist in Devon, Alex Hartley, discovered an island that had been revealed by a retreating glacier in the High Arctic. This fella chopped a bit off, sailed it into international waters and declared it a new nation. Now he’s towing it around the South-West, accompanied by a onshore van – ‘Embassy’ – which will “take on the conventional role of representing the visiting nation (Nowhereisland) to its host nation (the UK), a place at which citizenship can be conferred, [and] ceremonial duties undertaken.”

Nowhereisland’s Embassy

This is what the makers say about it:

Nowhereisland began in a place far from the noise of the urban centres of the Western world. Far (it would seem) from the passport controls and security checks of our journeys across national boundaries. Far from the riots and protests of our streets. Far from the ringing of our phones, the buzzing of our cash points, the tapping of our keyboards. The island also carries with it the aspirations of its growing nation of citizens from across the world and in doing so, becomes not simply an imagined place – a nowhere or ‘utopia’ – but a tool for imagining our world ‘as if things were different’ and an urgent call to action.

This bizarre project forms part of the the UK’s cultural Olympiad, which ran alongside London 2012.

I still don’t really get it, but I’ve signed up for citizenship anyway.


Bendy and balanced

One sultry summer’s evening last week I went to see Cantina. I highly recommend getting yourself tickets before the run finishes on 30th September. It’s hosted in a Big Top (actually the mirrored Speigeltent) on London’s South Bank in the middle of Wonderground, this year’s temporary summer space made of wood and styled as a glamorous, eccentric 1920s cirque. You can find it by locating the enormous, phallic swing currently probing the London skyline.

It’s difficult to articulate exactly what it is: part-cabaret, part-circus, part-contortion, it is a medley of deeply impressive tricks brought to you by a travelling troupe of Australians. And sexy too, with more than a sprinkling of underwear, stilettos and nudity. They balance on empty champagne bottles, perform creepy hangman tricks spinning from the ceiling, risk damaging themselves with acrobatics on roller-skates and general caper pliably around.

I was spell-bound – not just by the crown jewels. You have to show admiration for a girl who can walk a tightrope in 3 inch heels.

Quite a party trick. Applause.

Painfully impressive (and easy on the eye)

So impressed was I with their strength and skill, in fact, that I googled some courses and momentarily thought about signing up for cord lisse classes. It’ll be some time yet before I’m ready to run away with the circus but it has to be better than pole dancing.

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Sunnies at the ready

No, I really don’t need these ‘fluro yellow chinos’. I’m not even sure if they’ll be bearable when they arrive, let alone wearable.

But I think I love them. They’re a strong contender for my new favourite party pants.

Topshop's finest sale item

Yellow. Very yellow.

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Be Happy

Arms in the air

There was a curious stall at the Harbourside Festival in Bristol this weekend. Riddled, swarming with volunteers, it was bedecked with banners offering simply ‘more happiness’. And stickers.

What did it mean?

A leaflet drew back the curtain… “Happy City exists to help demonstrate that being happier needn’t cost the earth. It’s a radically simple plan to grow happiness – one city at a time, starting right here. The world needs a new story. Less ‘stuff for stuff’s sake’ and more ‘life for life’s sake’. A story that redefines what it means to be happy.”

Oh, warm fuzzy glow! It’s a Bristol initiative, an NGO established in the recession to help the city’s people and communities focus less on consumerism and more on happiness. It’s hippie, but not too hippie. Very Bristol.


They say:

Happy City challenges the mindset that says short-term consumption is the primary route to happiness. Instead Happy City promotes a view of happiness that focuses less on what we have, and more on what we do and how we are together. Happiness. It’s not fluffy. It’s radical.

They used the Harbour Festival this weekend as an exucse to bring folks together and introduce the idea. The ‘Happiness Zone’ was created in just 18 days by a band of crowd-sourced volunteers who provided expertise and man power for workshops, entertainment and fun. Besides this, a treasure hunt was organised around scientifically* (*ahem) proven ways to boost happiness:

  • Connecting with people
  • Noticing stuff
  • Learning something new
  • Being active
  • Giving

The organisers reckon that with greater personal happiness the programme could also bring environmental and social justice and a stronger economy. A big (but noble) claim.

Liz Zeidler from Happy City:

“We’ve got a music stage under a solar powered geodome, some amazing bands, a speakers’ corner, a live art project, a street party, kids’ activities, food – the list goes on. You’d expect an event this huge to cost a fortune but the message is loud and clear. We can enjoy ourselves, celebrate our communities and work together without consuming tons of ‘stuff’. That’s our mission in a nutshell.”

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Where’s Wenlock?

London 2012’s mascot has popped up around London. Like the cow parade and every spin off since, they’ve all been decorated by different artists. Spotting them is my favourite new game.

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I’ve just discovered Ping! Bristol. It’s awesome. From the creators of Street Pianos (remember the photo in my latest London blog of a free-for-all piano on the South Bank?) and Talking Bins (no idea) comes… public table tennis!

“Ping! is an innovative three year street ping pong project which provides people with opportunities to play social and competitive table tennis, free of charge. The aim is to get as many people as possible across the whole of the UK playing – to bring about a sense of community spirit and get more people playing sport on the run up to the Olympics.” says the blurb.

Bats and balls are provided – I hope they’ve bought spares because that can’t last long in Britain – along with masterclasses and various complementary events. The Pingnic is inspired.

If only I wasn’t so rubbish at playing.

This copper loves it


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London’s best afternoon teas (in my opinion)

So many places offer Afternoon Tea these days that I found picking one a nightmare. My inner nerd instructed me to make a google map charting my preferred ones so I may as well share my discoveries with the world.

Nom nom!

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Big Len[in]

Lenin spotting, I’ll admit, became something of an infatuation…

With hat


Fat Lenin

Some variations on a theme…

And my personal favourite, found in Ulan-Ude…

Giant Lenin head

Bit boss-eyed?

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Moscow’s magical Metro

Moscow’s Metro is famous for its grand architecture and, having collared a French Canadian tourist in Red Square to highlight the best ones for me, I wanted to head below-ground to see them for myself. I was not disappointed.

Many of them depict triumphant scenes of victory and hard work; all of them celebrate the best of Russia in marble, iron and glass, the various styles reflecting the time of construction. Many stations have been added since it first opened in 1935. Stalin allegedly used them in his time to reinforce his socialist ethos as ‘palaces for the people’. Great article on them here, if you’re interested.

Metro map – where to go

Komsomolskaya Station, one of the most famous

This is why


Taganskaya station

Casual decoration

Novoslobodskaya Station

Mayakovskaya station

Smolenskaya Station

Teatralnaya Station

Ploschad Revolyucii Station (hope I remembered them right!)

Emerging to street level. Still bad ass.

The outsides are pretty cool too

By the library. Love the logos.



Ten reasons it’s good to be home

1. Proper, old-fashioned, feel-good letters

2. Drying washing on the line

3. Endless cups of tea

4. Bluebells in the woods

5. Blossom

6. Perfume (not a backpack staple)

7. Runs by the river

8. Steam trains

9. The English Riviera

10. Pissing about on boats(unintentional use of the boat as an arrow).

Oh, and friends and family etc. etc.

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I believe I can fly

Discovered AcroYoga in my readings this week. Acrobatics combined with yoga.

Well want to give it a whirl. Any volunteers?



Lemongrass House is a small Thai essential oils cum posh toiletries outfit based in Phuket and makes the most heavenly (yes, I just used ghastly beauty ed jargon) smellies. Bec introduced me to them a couple of years back so when we were back in town in January we beelined for the shop to stock up. I love the massage oil for slathering on and ousting the backpacker grime for a short while.

Fig tea oil. Don't knock it til you've tried it.

another 'mazin scent. Thai grapefruit, essentially.

At the moment they supply a handful of posh spas around Asia but – from the horse’s mouth – they’re currently in negotiations to launch flagship stores in major cities around the world. When they do, you can be sure that the reasonable £3-5 pricetags for bottles of wonder will disappear so get ’em while you can.

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