Monday, May 26, 2008


Atonement is about the good old days of British Class separation and London during the Blitz. It is a standard issue costume drama about star crossed lovers tore apart by a lie and than a war. With the exception of a couple of racy scenes involving a rail thin girl in love with a rail thin boy-this is mainly a story of sorrow and regret. Everyone has a sad/determined look on their face, even when soaking wet or making love.

There is a lot of blood and a bit of gore-war and all that. Lots of time spend wandering around the French country side. Lots of time spend wandering around London. Lots of time spend thinking about London and the French Country Side. Maybe this was just too much of a chick flick for me.

This film won an Oscar for music- and I did like that whole bit of business with the typewriter. This was a serious movie. The look and feel and pacing all designed to win Oscars and other critical awards. And there is nothing wrong with that. A car chase through London with a smashed up flower cart would have been out of place. But for me the pacing was so slow as to induce a gentle slumber.

Many of the reviews I have glanced at say things like this is the best movie they have seen in years and how amazing and awesome it was. I tend to watch any movie with London and Brit Accents playing a major role, but Atonement was ultimately disappointing as the villains in the piece is never punished while the heroes suffer and fall by the wayside.

It is not just that Atonement doesn't have a happy ending, but that it goes out of its way to insure that there can be no happy ending. The movie ends with one of the villains as an old, and very successful woman, telling us she is dying and wants to get what she did off her chest.

Yes it was a pretty film and yes it sounded pretty as well. I am in a clear minority in not liking it-in not loving it. But I didn't like it. The whole pointlessness of it all was too much for me.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Wapping Project-East London

Wapping Food is a one off and there are few of those left in London.

Well, you just have to love something called Wapping. It has a nice visceral sound to it, doesn't it? The Wapping Project is a former hydraulic plant which is now a bar/restaurant/gallery. The Wapping Project is an idea consistently in transition-whatever that means. Sounds like a cool place though. The website has a couple of odd little films and a few interesting images.

It seems that Kate Moss is going to be married at Wapping Food, which is part of the Wapping Project. Just a small intimate affair that requires the use of the entire space. Of course, Kate isn't the only one who likes the Wapping Project. There just seems to be something profound about eating next to old hydraulic pumps-being in a large industrial space that is now put to uses it was never meant to have.

The Wapping Hydraulic Power Station (built 1890) was originally run by the London Hydraulic Power Company in Wapping, London, England. After it was closed as a power station 1977 it was reopened is 2000 as the arts centre and restuarant of today.

Lola is Beutiful thought the Wapping Project was ok, in an altering life for the better kind of way. I didn't find anyone that didn't like it, but hey, what's not to like?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bicycle Touring in London

London. One of the world’s great cities. We know it, and we show it.
-London Bicycle Tour Company

Enjoy London from a different perspective with an exhilarating London bike tour from the London Bicycle Tour Company at Gabriel’s Wharf near Waterloo Station. London bike tours are free with the London Pass – at nearly £18.00 for an adult ticket-this is one of the best savings with the London Pass.

The London Bicycle Tour Company lets you see London in a unique way. Choose a mountain bike or a traditional bicycle and enjoy a guided tour of London attractions. Cycle with an expert guide and stop at intervals to hear about the history of London around you. I've always been big on cycling and I will have to think about getting on a bike once I am in London again. Of course, just walking in London was often an adventure with all the Look Left, or Look Right signs.

All the bike routes are designed to keep you away from traffic and take you to areas you wouldn’t normally see by car. Helmets and insurance are included. The traffic in London is pretty impressive-but I never drove there, just rode buses and walked all over the place. Riding a bicycle would have been nice at a couple of spots. But I would need that guide as I can get lost in a phone booth.

With London Pass you can get free one-hour London bicycle hire on weekdays OR a free tour at weekends (tours are only available on Saturday or Sunday).

There more than just the London bike tours-with London Pass you are entitled to a range of offers on other tours that can show you a totally different view of London. If you enjoy your London bicycle tour then why not try a Thames boat tour with City Cruises, discover Regent’s Canal with Jason’s Traditional Canal Boat Trip or enjoy a legendary London sightseeing trip with Evan Evans Tours.

London Pass also gives you dozens of other special offers and discounts in shops, restaurants and bars and free entry to London attractions, museums and historic buildings.

All London Pass Attractions & Offers

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Crumbs and Doilies-It's All About The Cupcake

Crumbs and Doilies Cupcakes takes the idea of the cupcake to new heights. Like all modern food prevayors they use the words like organic and natural rather a lot in their descriptions.

All Crumbs & Doilies cupcakes are freshly-baked using organic free-range eggs, organic Doves Farm flour and other top quality ingredients. Our vanilla cupcakes are made using real Madagascan vanilla, our chocolate with real Valrhona chocolate, lemon with real organic lemons, carrot with real organic carrots and coffee with real Arabica coffee. There’s no additives, preservatives or funny stuff.

Well, they sound good to me. But then I am a cupcake kind of guy. I have always been a big fan of small cakes with large amounts of icing on them. Bright colours and strong flavors have always been a good working combination for me. Of course, I have not actually eaten any Crumbs and Doilies Cupcakes-but I have eaten plenty of other cupcakes.

Crumbs and Doilies can be found hanging around Partridges Food Market on the Kings Road every Saturday from 10am until 4pm-or so it says on their website.

For the more creative type they have a little Name that Cupcake contest where you can win a box of 24 mini cupcakes. I wonder if they would ship them to Texas if I won?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flapper or Slapper?

slapper n person on the prowl for anything they can get. Anything. The word is applied more often to females, arguably because it is a built-in function of blokes and doesn't deserve a separate word. "Slappers" wander around the dance floor looking for the drunkest blokes and then, when they've found them, woo them by dancing backwards into them "accidentally". The are invariably spotted at the end of an evening telling the bouncer how lonely they are and trying to sit on his knee.

Dr Who is a great show and it is often filled with a bit of British slag which leaves the average American dazed a confused. In the recent Dr Who episode, The Unicorn and The Wasp, featuring Agatha Christie, we are treated to several bits of Brit Slag from the Doctor's most recent companion-not his girlfriend-Donna Noble. When she sees a man she suspects is gay she tells The Doctor-All the decent men are on the other bus. When she emerges from the Tardis dressed in 1920s fashion she asks the Doctor-What do you think? Flapper or Slapper?

Donna also makes reference to Noddy-and while the Teletubbies have established a stronghold in America, Noddy & Friends has not really caught on. It is still good to know that Noddy is not real.

There was also the wonderful bit of business about The Colonel being killed in the Library with a Lead Pipe. And it is always good to see Felicity Kendal. This may be the best of the New Dr Who episodes so far-well, except for that silly giant wasp.

The Natural History Museum, London

London's Natural History Museum has the feel of stepping back in time. It's High Victorian architecture makes the Natural History Museum a cathedral of science and history. A majestic building filled with the odd and the unusual-the Dinosaurs have to be my favorite.

There is just something about these old bones with their black paint that seem to better fit the mind than more modern plastic models and scale replicas. Though the Natural History Museum has more modern Dinosaur exhibits as well. Well, as modern as something a hundred million years old can be anyway.

The Natural History Museum in London is also one of the spots that I missed on trips to London. They do have a nice website though and while there is no virtual tour, there is a lot of info on hand. It even tells you what kind of jobs are open at the moment-900 odd jobs about the place, hey, you never know.

Make sure that you take some time while your there to go on the tensile walkway and take the rare opportunity to look down on a dinosaur. This is an wonderfully dark and shadowy place, or so I am told. Lighting plays a big part in making the dinosaurs of the Natural History Museum just a tad scary as well as educational.

The Natural History Museum in London is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 70 million items within five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology. The museum is a world-renowned centre of research, specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin.

It's not just giant skeletons hanging about the lobby, but even if it was, that would be enough for a visit to a free world class museum wouldn't it? As with all the great London attractions there is far too much to see-but it is fun trying to see everything, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

London's St Paul's Cathedral

One of the most amazing things about visiting London is how close together all the major attractions are. St Paul's Cathedral is not too far from The Tower of London-and of course, visiting London for the first time everything was worth stopping and looking at. Old London is quickly disappearing, as London is a lively city busy remaking itself all the time. But St Paul's Cathedral will likely be around for the long haul.

St Paul’s Cathedral is the masterpiece of a genius, Britain’s most admired architect, Sir Christopher Wren. St Paul's Cathedral is also one of the world’s best-loved buildings. As the 300th anniversary approaches-St Paul's Cathedral was completed in 1710-the Cathedral is undergoing an historic £40 million restoration campaign to mark the anniversary and to prepare the Cathedral for its next three hundred years.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married here and the Duke of Wellington’s tomb is in the Crypt. You can easily walk to St. Paul’s from the St. Paul’s Tube stop which is two blocks from the cathedral entrance.

It is an impressive place and deserves a good look. The problem is often one of time. There is so much to see and do in London that St Paul's Cathedral often gets a low spot on the Must See lists behind flasher items like The London Eye or the British Museum. St Paul's Cathedral is well worth seeing, it is amazing and listening to the audio tour is a good way to soak it all in. Be prepared for a workout when you take the full tour, this is a large building with a lot of stairs. But the views from the top are not to be missed and the level of detail work is beyond belief.

Cathedral is open to sightseers from Monday to Saturday between 8.30 - 16.00 (last admission).
Adults £9.50 Concession £8.50 Family Ticket £22.50 Children (7-17) £3.50
Tickets sold between 15.30 - 16.00, will be for the Cathedral floor and Crypt only, and will be charged at a reduced rate.
Guided and audio tours, see Web site

Traveling To London? Check How to Save Money on London Sightseeing

Sunday, May 11, 2008

London's Best Sausages

It's possible to visit London without eating a good sausage, but it's not a good idea. Bangers are a good old fashioned London, well, Enland kind of thing. The Sunday Fryup is gaining in popularity, though it is not quite as big a deal in London as it is in the States. A proper Sunday fryup has to have a good solid banger and a nice tomato-Happygrub has a good recipe.

The Indepence published a list of the Ten Best Sausages a couple of years ago-the winner? Tesco Finest Pork and Stilton-hmm, a sausage with blue cheese. I've had similar sausages, but never one with actual Stilton. Sounds like that's worth a try. Richard Woodall's Waberthwaite Cumberland sausage also makes the list-you just have to have a Cumberland sausage.

Sausage Fans has a list of 53 spots to get sausage in London.

Wilson Meats lists such items as Wild Boar and Cider Sausages, Venison Sausages, and North African Sausages.

The Ginger Pig has a great website, with a Hog Blog, Recipes, and information about their London Shops.

A. A. Fisher is at the top of the list and their famous sausages are made on site - right in front of your eyes. Not really sure about that bit, but at least you know what's going into it.

Biggles Gourmet Sausages has a nice website-I like the flying pig myself. There are three ranges of sausages. Traditional like Honey & Lemon Pork, Lincolnshire Pork, and Bailey's Irish Beef. Continental includes items like Toulouse, Green Orange, and Apple & Stilton. The Specialty Range features all kinds of wonderful sausages such as Venison, Wild Boar, and Pork & Chestnut.

William Rose The Butcher is a great name, isn't it? They are also big on being Organic and Traditional Free Range. Fowls such as Pigeons, Grouse, Widgeon, and Teal. Meats such as Sirloin, Force rib, Aitch bone of beef, and Wiltshire cured ham. And of course, homemade sausage, black pudding & Haggis.

Mrs O'Keeffes Sausages is another great name with another long list of great sausages. Cancun Salsa Sausage sounds kind of interesting. They also have all the Regional Sausages you would expect from a London Sausage Shop-like Prince of Wales Leek, Tewkesbury Beef & Horseradish, and O'Grady's Porker.

London and Sausages go well together-be sure to check out one of the many fine Butcher Shops while you are there.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

London Highgate Cemetary

Highgate Cemetery is considered by many to be the finest of London's 'Magnificent Seven' Cemeteries for its Victorian funerary architecture and landscaping. Two buildings are listed Grade I, two Grade II* and over sixty Grade II.

I have always had a weakness of cemeteries. My mother used to drag me to graveyards and we stopped by some of the more famous Civil War battlefields/graveyards when I was a kid. My favorite of these was Vicksburg-but that is another story.

There are a lot of famous people buried in the varied and sundry Cathedrals around London-Shakespeare's tomb in Westminster Abby. London is full of history and it makes sense that her graveyards would be full of famous and important people.

Highgate Cemetery is London's most famous graveyard and well worth a visit. Split into two halves the sadly neglected Highgate Cemetery West is only available by tour, so that you miss out on the fun of wandering around aimlessly amid the stones. Highgate East has not such restriction and you can wander to your heart's contentment.

The whole post-Gothic Victorian necropolis of Highgate Cemetery is under siege by nature with plants and animals running rampant about the place. For a fan of Infrared Photography such as myself, this is the best of new. Graveyards with overgrown plants and tilted monuments make for great images.

Opened in 1838, the 37 acres appears more extensive. There are over 168,000 names buried in more than 52,00 graves, of which at least 850 are notable. Highgate Cemetery is unrelenting in surprises at every turn. There is the resting lion, Nero, in honour of George Wombell, proprietor of England's largest traveling menagerie in the early 19th century. He was one of the first to reap the rewards of displaying exotic animals to people who would otherwise never see them.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Full English Breakfast

I stayed at pretty nice hotel on one of my trips to London, and it came with a breakfast. So the Wife and I had high hopes as we walked toward the restaurant in the morning and saw the makings of a Full English Breakfast laid out on a serving table-for 15 pounds each.

The free breakfast consisted of all the toast you could eat-and it was mounded up in the center of the table like a small Everest. There was also several of those small little tubs of jams and jellies. Not wanting to spend 30 dollars for breakfast, we ate a lot of toast.

But just because I didn't eat a Full English Breakfast doesn't mean I don't know what one is-it's the kind of thing you can make at home if your a mind to.

The Full English Breakfast


2 links good quality sausage
2-3 slices bacon
2 flat mushroom
1-2 ripe tomato
1 large egg
1 slice bread

Optional Extras

1 slice black pudding (optional)
baked beans (optional)
cooked potato, thinly sliced (optional)


Heat the flat grill plate over a low heat, on top of 2 rings/flames if it fits, and brush sparingly with light olive oil or vegetable oil.

Always buy sausages with a high meat content. Cook these first. Add the sausages to the hot grill plate/the coolest part if there is one and allow to cook slowly for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden. After the first 10 minutes, increase the heat to medium before beginning to cook the other ingredients. If you are struggling for space, completely cook the sausages and keep hot on a plate in the oven.

Choose between back or streaky, smoked or unsmoked bacon; generally, dry-cure has the best flavour. Snip a few small cuts into the fatty edge of the bacon. Place the bacon straight on to the grill plate and fry for 2-4 minutes each side or until your preferred crispiness is reached. Like the sausages, the cooked bacon can be kept hot on a plate in the oven.

Brush away any dirt using a pastry brush and trim the stalk level with the mushroom top. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little olive oil. Place stalk-side up on the grill plate and cook for 1-2 minutes before turning and cooking for a further 3-4 minutes. Avoid moving the mushrooms too much while cooking, as this releases the natural juices, making them soggy. (Alternatively, you can slice your mushrooms, as shown in my photo.).

Cut the tomatoes across the centre/or in half lengthways if using plum tomatoes , and with a small, sharp knife remove the green 'eye'. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place cut-side down on the grill plate and cook without moving for 2 minutes. Gently turn over and season again. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes until tender but still holding their shape.

For 'proper' fried bread it's best to cook it in a separate pan. Ideally, use bread that is a couple of days old. Heat a frying pan to a medium heat and cover the base with oil. Add the bread and cook for 2-3 minutes each side until crispy and golden. If the pan becomes too dry, add a little more oil. For a richer flavour, add a knob of butter after you turn the slice.

Break the egg straight into the pan with the fried bread and leave for 30 seconds. Add a good knob of butter and lightly splash/baste the egg with the butter when melted. Cook to your preferred stage, season and gently remove with a fish slice.

Once all the ingredients are cooked, serve on warm plates and enjoy straight away with a good squeeze of tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce or brown sauce, and don't forget the toast and marmalade with a pot of good English Breakfast tea.

Black Pudding.
Cut the black pudding into 3-4 slices and remove the skin. Place on the grill plate and cook for 1½-2 minutes each side until slightly crispy.

Baked Beans.
Heat up the baked beans in a saucepan and serve on top of the fried bread, or on the side.

Fried Potatoes.
Fry the sliced cooked potatoes in a little butter until crispy and golden brown. Season with a little salt and black pepper.

Enjoy and then go for a brisk walk-pretend your in London and in really big hurry.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

London's Theatreland

On 20 February 1908 a group of London theatre managers came together to form the Society of West End Theatre Managers (now renamed the Society of London Theatre, or SOLT). In doing so, they ceased being just separate theatre owners working in London and created an industry that has grown into the exciting, colourful and vibrant arts scene known as London’s Theatreland.

Taking in a show in London's West End is one of those things every visitor to London should do. I didn't-but it is on my list of things to do the next time I am in London. I have always been a big fan of Musicals, and the London Theatre Scene has it's share of great musicals. From Classics like Cabaret and Gigi to more current fair like Disney's High School Musical, there is something fun for everyone.

Among the Now Showings that I would see if I could is The Year of Magical Thinking-25 April 2008 to 15 July 2008-by Joan Didion and starring Vanessa Redgrave . This was an amazing book about the sudden death of Joan Didion's husband and what she went through as a result. The subject of death is explored in great detail and it was a very moving story.

There is no dress code for most theatres, however be would advised that customers dress smart-casual. As a general guide, it is recommended that you make an effort to look smart, but be comfortable.

There are a lot of shows and a lot of theatres in London. Here's a list of the Top Ten London Shows at the moment.


Any of these London Shows looks good to me, well, except for the Phantom of the Opera, I never cared much for that one. Spamalot, that's more my speed.

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