Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sherlock Holmes and the CGI London

Sherlock Holmes as an Ultimate Fighter? Professor Moriarty as a shadowy terrorist? Irene Adler as a super con artist? Yes, and the city of London as it was in the good old days of Queen Victoria. Or as close as you can get with a lot of computer generated images.

Victoria's London was as much of a star in Sherlock Holmes as Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law. The cobblestones themselves spell out the opening credits as we follow Lestrade and Watson to the scene of a crime. The back alleys, the sewers, the river Thames, the Tower Bridge under construction, and all the great landmarks make their small appearances on screen.

Oh sure, the story of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson saving the world take center stage, but the stage itself is London. It's a perfect film for my London Thoughts, as it is not quite real-and much cheaper to get to.

The London of Sherlock Holmes is amazing and beautiful, and since it is set in the 1890s or there abouts, there is a lot of smog to help trick the eye over the details. Unlike, say Avatar, where every frame was a special effect and looked like a special effect, the London of Sherlock Holmes often looked like London. Some of the more gimmicky shots had that latent oh-look-CGI feel to them, but they were not enough to be a problem for me.

The story is pure Scooby Doo, but I still liked it. Robert Downey, Jr is great as Sherlock Holmes, even if he can't really be bothered to put on much of an English accent. I liked Sherlock Holmes, and I liked the CGI London at the heart of it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

London Gazetteer

There comes a time when my London Thoughts are no longer satisfied with tour books and picture books of all the common stuff that tourist like to look at. I like the occasional book that takes me a little farther afield, and I hope that next time I in London, I will go a little farther a field myself.

With this thought in mind, I found Chambers London Gazetteer. Here is a nice thick book which has over 1,300 entries covering all manner of places that I would have never known of otherwise. Oh I suppose I could chat up some other London blogger and arrange to met and get a proper tour of the city-but the odds of that happening are pretty slim. Besides, I can enjoy the company of the book at anytime, not just when I am in that grand old city of London.

The London Gazetteer has a couple of sections of photos, mostly of places I have never heard of, but which look very interesting. For example, Ash Tree Cottage and Old Keeper's Cottage have that nice thatched look I associate with Standford Upon Avon. While places like BedZED and the Halls of residence for the University of East London remind that London never stops growing and changing.

The entries are seldom very long, but still long enough to give their subjects a good going over. In addition to the text of the articles, there are also web page addresses when applicable, postal district, bus and underground routes, riverboat piers, populations, and books to look up for further reading. They also help on pronunciations such as Euston-pronounced yoostan.

Right, reading the London Gazetteer is not going to let me pass as a local, but it might help me figure out what the people on Masterpiece Theater are on about.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two Ways to Make Tea

My London Thoughts tend to lean a bit toward a nice cuppa tea now and then. Nothing as fancy as that famous High Tea at 4 in the afternoon, but just a proper cup of tea. Heading over to YouTube finds a lot of people who seem to have an opinion on what makes the perfect cup of tea. Here are two that I liked.

I'm not sure if this is the way they make tea in London, but I'm guessing it must be the way some people in London make tea.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Middle Temple, London

Legal history: The Middle Temple Gardens, London, has had lawyers rushing around its beautiful buildings for centuries.

Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court which have the exclusive right to Call men and women to the Bar, ie to admit those who have fulfilled the necessary qualifications to the degree of Barrister-at-Law, which entitles them, after a period of pupillage (vocational training) either to practise as independent advocates in the Courts of England and Wales or to take employment in government or local government service, industry, commerce or finance.-Middle Temple

Lots of dark woods and white plaster ceiling and portraits of important people. In short, another one of those wonderful places that takes you back in time to the London that was. The Middle Temple Hall was built during the reign of Elizabeth I, in 1576, as a dining and assembly hall. The Middle Temple Garden is a lovely spot as well, with all those windows and all that fine brickwork as a backdrop.

Being a bit of a bibliophile I was interest to find out that The Middle Temple has a Rare Book and Manuscript Collection with over 7000 early printed books, and approximately 200 Manuscripts. Access to the Collection is by appointment only, but if you are interested legal documents this is worth seeing. The regular library holds about 150,000 books of one sort or another, again mostly legal in nature.

Library Opening Times:

Monday to Thursday
- 9.00 am to 8.00 pm
- 9.00 am to 7.00 pm
- 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (every 4th Saturday)
Monday to Friday
- 9.00 am to 5.30 pm
The Library also opens every fourth Saturday on a
rota with the other Inn libraries from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm

Friday, November 20, 2009

Slow Down London

Slow Down London is a new project to inspire Londoners to improve their lives by slowing down to do things well, rather than as fast as possible.

I love the idea of Slow Down London, take the time to look around and see the city. I've always been a fan of Mindfulness and taking a moment to see where I am. I don't always succeed, and I must admit that most of my time in London was spent looking through a camera lens, but then, I tend see most of the world through a camera lens. I also like Tai Chi and the idea of doing Tai Chi on a busy spot in London.

I've never been a very good slow tourist, I'm more one of those that loves hop on and hop off bus tours and getting in as much in a day as I can. But I have started to slow down in my own life and I really like all the articles and slide shows I find on Slow Down London.

I like this slide show of The Slow Exposure Competition, an easy way to fuel my London thoughts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

London's Blue Plaques

The blue plaques scheme has been running for over 140 years and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. The idea of erecting ‘memorial tablets’ in London was first proposed by William Ewart MP in the House of Commons in 1863. It had an immediate impact on the public imagination, and in 1866 the Society of Arts (later Royal Society of Arts) founded an official plaques scheme for the capital. The Society erected its first plaque – to the poet Lord Byron – in 1867. In all, the Society of Arts erected 35 plaques; today, less than half of them survive, the earliest of which commemorates Napoleon III (1867).-English Heritage

Blue plaques seem to be everywhere in London, and with about 800 blue plaques floating around it's no wonder. The London Blue Plaques are sort of like The Hollywood Walk of Fame-except they are a tad more prestigious. There are a couple of books on London's Blue Plaques and there is a website where you can go and make your own Blue Plaque. There's also a pretty nice blog dedicated to the topic of Blue Plaques, called Blue Plaques of London. Like a lot of Blogger taking on a large topic he seems to have slowed down a bit.

There is also a nice little Blue Plaque Map of Central London where you can click on the shadows and pull up buildings that have Blue Plaques. Clearly a work in progress, but I like what they have done so far. This is a fun way to while away the odd moment. In real life the Blue Plaques are a little on the subtle side and it is easy enough to walk past them all without noticing them. That's when those handy people with umbrellas called Tour Guides come in handy, they point out the little Blue Plaques and tell you who they are for.

Blue plaques are placed on buildings - occasionally grand, often ordinary - where famous people lived and worked. Sigmund Freud lived and worked in fashionable Hampstead; Charles Darwin in central London’s university campus; Isaac Newton in Soho; Charles Dickens in private street of Camden; Mozart composed his first symphony in the elegant neighbourhood of Chelsea. As with all fame, of course, many of the Blue Plaques of London commemorate people the average person don't know. British Heritage has kindly composed a list of the many names and a brief bio for those interested.

So be sure to look up for a bit of blue once in a while in London, you might see a Blue Plaque telling you that someone important once lived there.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

London Designers

London is one of the world's great fashion Meccas, and it is marked by it's creativity and eccentric flares. I am not much of a fashionista myself, but I do like to look at the new styles once in a while and see how far behind the time I really am.

All of these London Designers are fun and interesting and most are far beyond my meager means to afford. That doesn't mean that a bit of window shopping would not be worth while when in London, and who knows, maybe I could buy some tiny little thing and get a nice designer label shopping bag.


The famous Burberry check may have become a chav favourite, but the high-end Prorsum range has retained its exclusivity. Christopher Bailey has won British Designer of the Year for his work on the label.

Cath Kidston

Cath Kidston Ltd was founded in 1993 when designer Cath Kidston opened a tiny shop in London’s Holland Park. She began by selling the vintage fabrics, wallpapers and brightly-painted junk furniture she remembered fondly from her childhood. Her clever, witty re-working of traditional English country house style meant that her shop soon became a cult success.

Jasper Conran

A bit of an institution these days, Jasper Conran offers beautifully classic garments as well as homewares, jewellery, scents and a more affordable range of designs for Debenhams. This label provides fantastic smart casual wear.


Joseph's signature look is smart, tailored and modern. Shop here for beautifully made classic items that you just can't do without. The Fulham Road flagship store carries ranges of other top European designers as well.

Paul Smith

The king of British men's fashion is Sir Paul Smith and his label celebrates classic British tailoring injected with a twist. The trademark bright patterned shirts and loud cufflinks, wallets and accessories are instantly recognisable. Pop into Paul's for fun shopping and great men's gifts.

Pringle of Scotland

This traditional clothing label has worked hard in recent years to become one of Britain's hottest fashion brands. The Scottish company has shaken off its old golfers' image and Pringle now offers colourful and creative ranges of knitwear and cashmere.

Stella McCartney

Since leaving French fashion house ChloƩ, Stella McCartney has gone from strength to strength. She is now Britain's hottest celebrity designer and owner of one of the UK's most envied labels. Her high street range made exclusively for Hennes sold out across the country within hours of hitting shop rails. However for classic Stella chic and a more relaxed browsing experience, visit the Bruton Street flagship store.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood has been revolutionising the British fashion industry since the label's early days in the 1970s. She continues to lead the market with her bold designs today. Peruse the rails of her flagship store to take in her Red, Gold, Man and Anglomania labels.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The London Cabbie

In London, hackney-carriage drivers have to pass a test called The Knowledge to demonstrate they have an intimate knowledge of London streets. There are currently around 21,000 black cabs in London, licensed by the Public Carriage Office.

Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists at University College London had a larger hippocampus compared with other people. This is a part of the brain associated with navigation in birds and animals. -BBC News

London Cabs are one of those icons of the city, famed for being used by the well to do, like Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Well, maybe that was before London Cabbies had to learn The Knowledge.

I'm more of a Double Decker Bus kind of guy, but I do like the look of the London Black Taxis.

Fares are metered, and there is a minimum charge of £2.20. Black cabs are licensed to carry up to five people (six in the special Metrocabs and Mercedes Vitos) plus luggage. There are no additional charges for extra passengers or items of luggage within these limits. There is a £2 charge when you take a black cab from Heathrow Airport and also a £2 charge when you book a black cab by telephone.

London Taxis - Useful Information

  • Call the Taxi One Number to book a licensed taxi, no account needed - passengers simply pay with cash or by credit or debit card : +44 (0)871 871 8710
  • Be Cabwise, text HOME to 60835 (60TFL) and get black cab and minicab numbers sent straight to your mobile. There is a charge of 35p plus your network charge for this service, if you are on 3 or an overseas network you will need to text your location (street name and partial postcode e.g. Victoria St SW1) to +44 07797 800 000
  • Findaride – find details of licensed private hire and minicab operators in any part of London -
  • To comment or complain about taxi and private hire services email visit or call TfL on 0845 300 7000
  • London Travel Information (24 hrs): +44 (0)20 7222 1234
  • Lost property. If you have lost something in a black cab then call 0845 330 9882 or visit If you lose something in a private hire vehicle or minicab then contact the operator you made the booking with.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

London's Theatreland

West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's "Theatreland". Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking world. Seeing a West End show is a common tourist activity in London.

Programmes such as How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do boosted attendances across theatreland.

The Society of London Theatre questioned 716 people about the influence of TV talent programmes on the productions they were likely to see.

Nearly half said the shows made them more likely to see the musical involved. Reality programmes landed Lee Mead, Connie Fisher and Jodie Prenger lead roles in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound Of Music and Oliver!

The Ipsos Mori poll also found that after watching the TV shows, a third of people were more likely to attend any musical - not just the one they saw on television; and nearly a quarter would consider a play or comedy as well.

The talent shows were broadcast between 2006 and last year. They coincided with record years for theatre audiences, which rose from 12.35 million three years ago to 13.6 million in 2007 and 13.89 million last year.

Book London theatre tickets - exclusive half-price and discount tickets from Official Agents Book London Theatre Tickets now!

Planning on taking in a Show while your in London? You might want to check out Society Of London Theatre Google Maps which has the seemingly endless places to watch a show mapped out for you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Battle Over London Tipping

I've always found tipping to be an odd business. The Wife tends to tip everyone 15 percent, no matter what. A couple of friends tip everyone a dollar, no matter what. Some people just hate the idea of tipping and don't do it at all on general principals. I have always been against forced tipping, which is standard practice at very expensive restaurants where they are charging far too much for food anyway. But then, this is usually only done with large groups.

In London tipping it a bit different-tipping has often been covered with a service charge.

Diners at Le Pont de la Tour, Quaglino's and 18 other restaurants established by the designer Terence Conran will be presented with a bill making clear that a service charge is not included and leaving a blank space for any tips.

The move to discretionary tipping – cash that would be shared by the staff – represents the latest attempt by restaurateurs to win back diners who have deserted them in the recession. Top London restaurants have already slashed mark-ups on fine wines and hundreds of establishments are offering "two-for-one" meals or 50% off.

D&D London, which co-owns the chain with Conran Holdings, has good reason to act. It saw its profits fall by a fifth last year to £6.5m.

I like tipping, as it is one of the few chances I have in life to be a big shot and show some generosity of spirit at the same time. But I know that not everyone tips well, and I have never been a huge tipper myself. My brother always likes to do a bit of math and say there X number of people here and if we all tip Y than that's a good day's wages.

There is something to that kind of logic. Surely no restaurant would voluntarily pay their waitstaff what they make in tips on a good night? There are so many flavors of restaurants out there that it is impossible to make a definitive answer as to what a good tip should be.

I have always been in favor of the idea of a living wage-plus tips. That way there will still be some incentive to give good service, but the waitstaff doesn't miss a car payment if they have a bad week. It seems that 15% is the standard in the US, but people unused to voluntary tipping in London might lowball that number and tip more along the lines of 8%.

A standard argument against any plans to change the tipping system, as no one likes any kind of change whatsoever, is that if they don't like the system as it is-they can go get a job doing something else. Or at the very least, try to get a job at a better restaurant where the tips would be substantially better on expensive meals than on cheap meals. Or so I might assume, as I say, I don't really know.

Times are hard all over, maybe doing away with tipping altogether would be a good idea.

Read more about Tipping in The London Evening Standard. For a few London thoughts against tipping, see Citywire.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The London Pass Top Ten London Attractions

Top 10 Attractions

The Tower of London
The Tower of London
The ancient stones reverberate with dark secrets, priceless jewels glint in fortified vaults and pampered ravens strut the grounds. The Tower of London is one of the world's most famous fortresses and has seen service as royal palace, prison, armoury and even zoo! It is still home to the Crown Jewels and Beefeaters.

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the Throne, a stunning exhibition of the famous monarch's personal arms and armour ever shown in the UK is included in your admission to the Tower. Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill includes original artefacts never previously displayed in the UK and is included in admission until 17 January 2010.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £17.00
Normal Entry Price: Child: £9.50

Thames River Boat Cruise
Thames River Boat Cruise
A Thames river cruise is without doubt one of the best ways to see London, weaving through the heart of the city and past so many of its most famous attractions. See and experience the sights and splendour of this great city from the relaxed comfort of a City Cruises modern, all-weather boats with open upper decks and spacious lower saloons with panoramic windows.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £11.50
Normal Entry Price: Child: £5.75

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul?s Cathedral
Come and experience the majesty and glory of St. Paul's Cathedral, it's iconic dome dominates the London skyline. Built between 1675 and 1710, St Paul's Cathedral is widely considered to be crowning achievement of the glittering career of Sir Christopher Wren.

The Whispering Gallery at this London cathedral is famous for its acoustics and is 30 metres above the cathedral floor, while below, in the elegant and spacious crypt, are the tombs and memorials of such historical luminaries as Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke Of Wellington
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £11.00
Normal Entry Price: Child: £3.50

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
A must see for London visitors, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and official residence her majesty the Queen. The magnificent State Apartments are lavishly furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection, including masterpieces by Rubens, Holbein, Brueghel and Van Dyck. You can get there from London Paddington in around 30 minutes
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £15.50
Normal Entry Price: Child: £9.00

Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower Bridge Exhibition
One the most impressive structures and sites in the capital, Tower Bridge in London has stood over the River Thames since 1894 and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

Learn about the history of the Bridge and how it was built. Interactive displays and videos provide an entertaining and informative guide to Tower Bridge in London and its place in the history of the River Thames.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £7.00
Normal Entry Price: Child: £3.00

Kensington Palace and The Orangery
Kensington Palace and The Orangery
Generations of royal women have shaped this stylish palace and elegant gardens from Queen Mary to Victoria and, more recently Diana, Princess of Wales.

Today a unique collection of dresses worn by Princess Diana, including some never before displayed at Kensington Palace are shown in Diana Fashion and Style, an exhibition that charts the early days from the 1983 silk evening dress by Donald Campbell to the full blown style icon, demonstrated by the sleek black Gianni Versace cocktail dress, worn in 1995.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £12.50
Normal Entry Price: Child: £6.25

Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace
The flamboyant Henry VIII is most associated with this majestic palace, which he extended and developed after acquiring it in the 1520s. Its many royal occupants have ensured the palace has fabulous furnishings, tapestries and paintings. It is set in 60 acres of formal gardens, which include the famous maze and the Great Vine.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £14.00
Normal Entry Price: Child: £7.00

London Bridge Experience and The London Tombs
London Bridge Experience and The London Tombs
The London Bridge Experience is a two-part tourist attraction situated within the arches of London Bridge.

Firstly enjoy a fascinating trip back in time as the London Bridge Experience delves through the history of the bridge, from Druids through to Victorians, meeting Vikings, Romans, and some creepy medieval characters along the way. Featuring real life actors, stunning special effects and animations, this is unique interactive adventure really does takes you back in time.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £21.95
Normal Entry Price: Child: £16.95

Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms
Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms
The Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms are dedicated to the life of the ?greatest Briton', Sir Winston Churchill, and the secret underground headquarters that were the nerve centre of Britain's war effort.

The first London museum of its kind, the Churchill Museum covers all ninety years of Winston Churchill's life, divided into five chapters: his early year's as British Prime Minister starting May 1940; his later years; his childhood; his early political career and the period famously known as the ‘Gathering Storm’.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £12.95

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Tour and Exhibition
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Tour and Exhibition
London sightseeing visitors can enjoy a trip back in time with a visit to the spectacular Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Situated on London's Bankside, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre reconstruction the original building that housed Shakespeare's theatre in London, an open-air playhouse where the playwright penned many of his greatest plays.
Normal Entry Price: Adult: £10.50
Normal Entry Price: Child: £6.50

Would you like to Save Money While Visiting London? Check out the London Pass

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Best Barbecue in London

To a native Texan the idea of the Best Barbecue in London is sort of like looking for the best Pub in Dallas-you might find one, but even the best might not be that great. But the world is smaller than it once was, and London welcomes all kinds of diverse people and foods. So why not The Best BBQ in London?

Rather than do the actual research of wandering around London and eating bbq myself, I decided to just take the Top Ten according to Google. If they care enough to get top rank in Google, they must be good at something.

All the Barbecue Places in London look good to me, but then, I never met a plate of barbecue I didn't like. As always, these London thoughts are a means of narrowing down the vast and impenetrable city of London to places I'd like to go-or in this case, eat.

Top Ten Barbecue Restaurants in London-

10. The Vibe Bar finds itself at number ten. When you click on the Food tab, it tells you they have some tasty Jerk Chicken and BBQ Grills. One of Brick Lane's finest and most interesting destinations, The Vibe Bar packs in a trendy indie crowd of musicians and fashionistas keen to enjoy cheap drinks and pounding hip hop and house music. Maybe the food is not why you go to The Vibe Bar-but I'm sticking with my Google plan.

9. The Chicago Rib Shack-Now this sounds more like what I had in mind. Ribs and Brisket and Whole Piglets and Steaks and even stuff for that poor vegetarian you dragged along. These are people that set out to create London's Best Barbecue place and judging from the website-they may have done it. Seems some people think it's not as good as the original, but then, what in life ever is?

8. Big Easy-The best Cajun restaurant in London? Could be.
Over 15 years ago, Paul Corrett, our founder, opened Big Easy’s doors in London. And right from the beginning, it’s been the food, family, friends and music that have exhilarated guests and kept them coming year after year. BBQ Ribs and Chicken seems to be the barbecue of choice at Big Easy-with an all you can eat Barbecue Pig Gig every Monday. Looks like my kind of place.

7. The Ship-The Ship has been supplying fine ales, wines and food to its surrounding residents since 1786 when it was founded as a Thameside Waterman’s Inn. The BBQ Menu has burgers, pork belly, and steaks. There's also the intriguing sounding Smoked Bacon and Red Onion Marmalade Sandwich. Crispy pig tails and ears with Aioli sounds just odd enough to whet my appetite. The Ship in Wandsworth has a beautiful outdoor dinning area, making it one of the best places in London to spend an afternoon.

6. Goodman Restaurant-This is a steak house, with such standbys as Irish Black Angus, UK Grass Fed, USDA Beef 120 Days Grain Fed, and Australian Grass Fed-these are some top quality steaks. Goodman might be the Best New York Steakhouse in London. Or maybe that should be the best Moscow Steakhouse in London. In either case, this seems to be the best steak to be had in London.

5. Cargo-Seems to be club that serves food, not that there's anything wrong with that. The menu has a few grilled items and the usual suspects of a free range jerk chicken sandwich. A couple of burritos mingle freely with the pasta dishes-nothing seems out of place here. Seems they have a barbecue in the beer garden. I'm sure Cargo is far too hip for the likes of me, but then, I never was all that trendy.

4. Bodean's BBQ-
Back in 2002 Andre Blais had a dream - to bring the taste, the style, the soul of his beloved Kansas City barbecue to London town. Now this is what I had in mind-great KC BBQ in London. I wonder if I could get a work permit and work at Bodean's BBQ? I always wanted to be a Pit Boss when I grew up. Bodean's menu is straight out of any barbecue joint in America-burgers and hot dogs, ribs and pulled pork, and even burnt ends. Things like cole slaw, fries, corn bread, and BBQ beans round out that whole real barbecue feeling. The Best Ribs This Side of The Atlantic-so says Time Out.

3. City Inn-Barbecue seems means grilling to a lot of people in London, so I am guessing that the City Inn has a grill somewhere where they heat up some veg and cook the odd burger. But my idea of BBQ is Bodean's.

2. The Rising Sun, Epsom-Also has a grill where they do a nice barbecue, though I didn't much info on it. Maybe Google isn't always right after all.

1. Best Mangal-I have to admit that I like a bit of Turkish BBQ now and then as well. Mangal is the Turkish term for an open charcoal fire for cooking food on (a kind of brazier), and little brother to the ocakbasi, which is a long trough full of glowing coals with an extraction canopy overhead. The menu is long and filled with the usual suspects of a Turkish restaurant. Kabobs and hummus and salads and meats of all kinds on sticks.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Garrison Girls Calendar

Garrison girls are TRI- SERVICE wives and families, all ranks and units together. The idea of Garrison girls first saw the light of day in spring 2008. The driving force behind the Garrison girls is Sarah Bennett Thurston whose husband, like so many others, has served in many of the world's trouble spots. Sarah wanted to raise money for two charities: Combat Stress and Help For Heroes . Her idea was for wives of all ranks and all units from the three services to pose nude for a professional fund raising calendar. -Garrison Girls

The fine art nude calendar as a fundraiser has been pretty popular the past few years. The Garrison Girls calendar is made up of art prints that might be suitible as office artwork. Saves a trip to the art gallery if you have the art poster right there on the calendar. Many of the images are lovely and have a painting like feeling to them.

And at just £10.00 the Garrison Girls calendar is pretty cheap artwork. They can also be viewed as motivational prints-shows that you support the troops and like that. I like the soft focus and smooth lines of the photography. I have always been a fan of black and white-and a bit of nudity now and then. You can find all kinds of art online-art prints, canvas prints, fine art prints of one sort or anther-but The Garrison Girls are for a worthy cause. The main focus is to raise money and awareness for Combat stress and Help for Heroes.

The Garrison Girls also have a number of other items for sale, such as mugs, t-shirts, wristbands, and fridge magnets. But if you want the fine art nude photos, you'll need to buy the Garrison Girls Calendar.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

London's Top Ten Fun Museums

London is full of museums, some famous and on everyone's must see list, some not so well known but still a bit of fun to stop by for a visit. I tend to like all London attractions, even the ones that may not fit on a tight schedule of things to see in a week. My London travels my London travels have not taken me to the small and out of the way museums, but now that I have the major sites out of the way, maybe I can work in a few of the these little gems.

London's Top Ten Fun Museums

Cartoon Museum
Cartoon Museum
This highly entertaining London tourist attraction covers the history and development of British cartoons from the 18th Century to the present day. The Cartoon Museum is dedicated to preserving the best of British cartoons, caricatures, comics and animation, and to establishing a museum with a gallery, archives and innovative exhibitions to make the creativity of cartoon art past and present, accessible to all for the purposes of education, research and enjoyment
Usually: Adult £4.00

Firepower Royal Artillery Museum
Firepower Royal Artillery Museum
Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich tells the powerful and dramatic story of artillery, scientific discoveries made through warfare and human stories of courage and endeavour. The ‘ground shaking' Field of Fire audio-visual show puts you in the midst of battle as shells whiz overhead and guns roar.This engaging weapons museum shows every gun up close and details in which conflicts it was used in and with which ammunition. You can also watch videos demonstrating the pieces in use and see how each works. It's a fascinating London attraction that looks at how military personnel use armoury today - even in peacekeeping missions.
Usually: Adult £5.00
Usually: Child £2.50

Florence Nightingale Museum
Florence Nightingale Museum
From Florence’s slate she used as a child, her pet owl Athena, to the Turkish lantern used in the Crimean War, the collection spans the life of Florence Nightingale, the Crimean War and Florence’s nursing legacy up to the present day.As one of the most famous women in British history it is not surprising that Florence Nightingale should have a museum dedicated to her memory. The Florence Nightingale Museum celebrates the woman who almost single-handedly created the modern nursing profession in Britain following her experiences during the Crimean War.
Usually: Adult £5.80
Usually: Child £4.80

Guards Museum
Guards Museum
If you're in London on the 24th of September then don't miss the opportunity to attend a unique London event. The Coldstream Guards Band (who have just signed a £1million pound record deal!) will be putting on a concert at the Guards Chapel to raise money for this unique museum. The concert will be held on Thursday 24th September at 19.00 and tickets cost just £10 for London Pass holders (normal price £15) - saving you £5 per ticket! The price also includes a complimentary glass of wine before the concert starts. It is sure to be a great event and a great way to help support a fantastic cause! The London Guards Museum is a fascinating insight into the history of the military in the capital and is unique among London museums as it was not originally intended for public view.
Usually: Adult £3.00

Handel House Museum
Handel House Museum
The Handel House Museum was home to the baroque composer George Frideric Handel from 1723 until his death in 1759. This landmark address is where Handel composed some of the greatest music in history including Messiah, Zadok the Priest and Music for the Royal Fireworks, and died on 14 April 1759. One of the many specialist London museums, Handel House Museum celebrates Handel's life and works, as well as his contemporaries in what many consider the golden age of classical music. The beautifully restored interiors give a sense of what life must have been like for this hugely influential composer at the peak of his power.
Usually: Adult £5.00
Usually: Child £2.00

Household Cavalry Museum
Household Cavalry Museum
The Household Cavalry Museum is a living museum about real people doing a real job in a real place. The Household Cavalry Museum is unlike any other military museum because it offers a unique 'behind-the-scenes' look at the work that goes into the ceremonial duties and operational role of The Household Cavalry. From a glazed screen inside the Museum, visitors can view into the working stables of The Queen's Life Guard.
Usually: Adult £6.00
Usually: Child £4.00

London Canal Museum
London Canal Museum
At the London Canal Museum you can see inside a narrowboat cabin, learn about the history of London's canals, about the cargoes carried, the people who lived and worked on the waterways, and the horses that pulled their boats.During your London sightseeing visit you can see inside a narrowboat cabin, learn about the people who lived and worked on the waterways and the horses that pulled their boats. This is the only London museum of inland waterways and one of the best canal museums in the UK.
Usually: Adult £3.00
Usually: Child £1.50

Twickenham World Rugby Museum & Stadium Tours
Twickenham World Rugby Museum & Stadium Tours
The World Rugby Museum is the ultimate visitor experience for the world rugby enthusiast. Twickenham is the home of England rugby and also the World Rugby Museum - home to the finest collection of rugby memorabilia in the world. The Museum opened in 1996 and takes visitors through the history of the sport from its origins to the present day.
Usually: Adult £14.00
Usually: Child £8.00

Pollock's Toy Museum
Pollocks Toy Museum takes its name from Benjamin Pollock, the last of the Victorian Toy Theatre printers. Set up by Marguerite Fawdry who bought up the stock of Benjamin Pollock Ltd., after trying to buy one small item for her son’s toy theatre. Originally at Monmouth Street, near Covent Garden, the present museum has been at Scala Street since 1969. Nearly every kind of toy imaginable turns up here from all over the world and from all different time perods.
Usually: Adult £5.00
Usually: Child £2.00

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, London visitors to the Wimbledon museum can experience the atmosphere in the 1980's Gentleman's Dressing Room and watch John McEnroe guide you through normally off-limits areas and reminisce about how he first met Jimmy Connors and how he prepared himself for matches. The museum is open throughout the year, daily: 10.00am - 5pm. Last admission is 4.30pm.
Usually: Adult £10.00
Usually: Child £5.50

London Tourist Information - How to Save Money on London Attractions

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kensington Palace and Queen Victoria's Bloomers

The underwear — which has a 56-inch (142-centimeter) waist — has been added to Britain's Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Kensington Palace. The undergarments have a matching chemise, are embroidered with a "VR" and are believed to date from the 1890s.

The Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection is one of the must sees at Kensington Palace. Though I am not really sure that the Queen's underwear falls exactly under the heading of Ceremonial Dress.

The collection purchased the bloomers for 600 pounds ($993) earlier this summer. It's likely they were handed down to a servant after the monarch's death.

There are about 12,000 items in the collection-including photographs, prints, sketches, diaries — and famous outfits. A 12 million pound ($19.8 million) project, to be completed by 2012, is intended to allow more of the collection, including the underwear, to be displayed at Kensington Palace.

Kensinton Palace has a lot of history as well as a lot of clothes.

1605 Completion of the first house on the site of Kensington Palace. It was built for Sir Walter Cope, a businessman and politician

July 1689 William III and Mary II bought Nottingham House from the Earl of Nottingham for £20,000. This house would be transformed into Kensington Palace

8 March 1702 William III dies at Kensington Palace following a riding accident at Hampton Court

February 1722 The artist, William Kent submits his estimate for the decoration of George I’s new set of state rooms. He gazumped the King’s Serjeant Painter, Sir James Thornhill and won the contract.

Summer 1734 A delegation of Cherokee Indians visit George II and Queen Caroline.

24 May 1819 Queen Victoria born at Kensington Palace

20 June 1837 Queen Victoria receives the news from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain that her uncle William IV had died and she was now queen.

24 May 1899 The state apartments at Kensington Palace opened to the public for the first time

October 1940 Incendiary bombs damage the Queen’s apartments at Kensington Palace

7 September 1997 The funeral cortege of Diana, Princess of Wales leaves Kensington Palace for her funeral at Westminster Abbey.

London Tourist Information - How to Save Money on London Attractions

Monday, September 7, 2009

London Barge Living

With its well presented accommodation, substantial upper deck and scenic canal side views, this 55' steel hulled, two berth barge, offers both a peaceful and unique living environment .

And it only cost £140,000-which for London is not too bad a price, is it? Of course, there are numerous fees of one sort or another that go along with a narrow boating lifestyle. Some of the estimates I have seen say that you could live on a barge with a £14,000 annual income-so long as barge expenses don't go up too much.

I was watching Last Comic Standing last year, and one of the finalist was a Londoner who lived on a barge. This was a wonderfully odd idea to me. I live in a fairly dry part of the world and have not seen too many barges in my day. There was a travel show that was called Barging Through Europe, so the idea of travel by barge was not new to me. But living on a barge? That seems a tad odd though. There is something kind of romantic about the idea, if not the actuality.

One of the more unusual spots in London is the remarkable Garden Barge Square where a community of barge owners live right next to Tower Bridge. These historic moorings date back 200 years or more. Gardens have been created on the decks of many of the barges to form a kind of floating garden square. As with the rest of London, the Thames can be cold, damp and grey in winter-and the cabins are cramped.

Much more modern visions of barges were recently on display in a show called Barge — breathing new life into Docklands. Many of these barge designs are ultra modern and sort of hip-in a sci fi kind approach to barge design. They mostly remind me of the kind of free formed watercraft that have been popular around the San Francisco Bay area for the last fifty years or so. These barges would stayed where they are put, as they could never make it through the narrow passages that a standard issue canal barge has to navigate.

As with all my London thoughts, living on a barge would require my winning a lotto and landing a job with the BBC. But I do like the idea of living on the water. The brisk air would be good for a Voice Over artist, wouldn't it? It might inspire a writer as well. And I'm sure it would just a tube ride away from a discount portrait studio-where I would surely have my only real job. I wonder if a discount portrait photographer in London makes £14,000 a year?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shakespeare's Globe

The model was made from details found from historical etchings and prints of the original Globe Theatre. This required quite a bit of research as there were actually three Globe Theatre buildings, and inaccuracies abound. This model represents the Globe as it probably looked around the time that Shakespeare's plays were presented there (1599-1608).-Paper Toys.

Shakespeare's Globe is one the sights of London that I saw as a floated by on a boat. It is an interesting looking building, but to be honest Shakespeare's plays have never been my favorite. There is a little too much Old English for me, I tend to get lost in the soliloquies.

I like this little paper model of The Globe, it reminds me of those 3D jigsaw puzzles that were all the rage a few years back. It does take a bit of skill with a pair of scissors and a careful hand with the folding.

Bill Bryson wrote an excellent little book about Shakespeare, which talked about how little we actually know about the man. There are not plans or images for the actual theater that Shakespeare's plays were preformed during Shakespeare's time. No one knows how Shakespeare spelled his name, not even, it would seem, William Shakespeare himself. And it seems that William Shakespeare would have disappeared like all the other playwrights of his time had not a couple of gentlemen decided to publish a book of his plays. This has lead to all manner of debate about who wrote the Shakespeare plays and if Shakespeare was just a brand name like Warner Brothers. Good old Will is a source of infinite debate and argument.

As always, things are going on in the current incarnation of the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition and Theatre Tour will be open throughout the Autumn half-term (26 –30 October) and is a perfect destination for families wishing to discover more about Shakespeare and the London in which he lived and worked. During half-term regular live demonstrations such as swordfighting and costume dressings will give families a stimulating introduction to one of the world’s most iconic working theatres.

Open throughout the year, Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition and Theatre Tour is housed beneath the reconstructed Globe Theatre on Bankside. The exhibition explores the remarkable story of the Globe, and brings Shakespeare’s world to life using modern technology and traditional crafts with a range of interactive displays and live demonstrations exploring costume, music and special effects.

Also included with the exhibition ticket is a tour of the Globe Theatre that will bring the extraordinary home of Shakespeare’s theatre to life. The Guide-storytellers will take you on a fascinating half-hour tour of the auditorium, vividly recreating colourful stories of the 1599 Globe and the reconstruction process in the 1990s, and of how the wooden ‘O’ works today as an imaginative and experimental space.

Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition: Open all year round
Venue: Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition and Theatre Tour, SE1
Opening Times: 10am – 5pm (Last theatre tour is at 5pm)
Tickets: Adults £10.50; Children (aged 5 – 15) £6.50; Students (with valid ID) £8.50; Family (up to 2
adults and 3 children) £28

5% off the retail price of the LONDON PASS with this code: londpas05

Thursday, August 27, 2009

London to Scotland in 2 Hours

The route of a high speed rail link between London and Scotland has been unveiled by Network Rail. The proposed £34bn line will run from central London, via Birmingham, Manchester, Warrington, Liverpool and Preston to Glasgow and Edinburgh and could slash the journey time between London and Scotland to a little over 2 hours. But don’t expect it any time soon… the high-speed line hasn’t been given the go-ahead just yet and, even if it does happen, it will be 10 years in the making. Read more at The Telegraph.

My own humble experiences traveling between London and Edinburgh took about 8 hours, so a high speed train would be a nice alternative. Of course, the reason I rode the bus was that it was cheap. The Wife and I stumbled off a British Airways flight that last about 9 hours, rode the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station and then hopped on a bus for the 8 hour trek to Scotland. We went to Scotland to see Loch Ness and had a grand time, even though we did not spot Nessy.

I love the sci fi look of high speed trains, and I have always had a personal preference for the ones that use MagLev. There is that whole Disneyland feel to them and I like the idea of zipping along at 200 miles per hour.

The bus ride up to Scotland was pretty nice, we had most of the bus to ourselves and the view out the windows was amazing. Lots of yellow flowers we were told was rapeseed and lots of villages with lovely high streets. We were dead tired, but it was still not a bad trip.

Since we had scheduled something for every minute of the trip, we decided to take the last bus out of Scotland-which was at midnight. This would get back into London around 8 a.m. We sat in a Pub and waited for our bus to arrive, with The Wife looking out the window. As the time grew near and the Pub was about to close anyway, we headed out to have a look at the bus parking area. There were two or three buses sitting there, that we could not see from the Pub just across the parking lot. So we ran up to the one for London.

We handed the man our bags, which he promptly tossed into the storage area and told us to get on board quickly. We did. The bus was full-save for two seats. We asked a nice man to move so we could sit together. Then we sat there for a few minutes while less fortunate travelers went up and down the aisle looking in vain for somewhere to sit.

The trip back to London offered little chance for rest and nothing to see in the darkness. We stopped at about 3 in the morning at a gas station with a KFC, which was closed. I will never forgive the bus line and KFC for getting our hopes up. We did find a couple of sandwiches, but that was not the same.

So I would like to think that traveling by high speed rail would be a little more organized. That's what I'd like to think anyway. Of course, then I wouldn't have this story of the midnight not so express to London.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Black Pudding in London

Black pudding or blood pudding is a type of sausage made by cooking blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled.-Wikipedia

I'm reading the wonderfully fun book Eat My Globe- it's about one man's quest to eat the best of everything, everywhere. I love the idea there. Right off the bat our hero goes for the good stuff of the UK, one of which he considers to be Black Pudding. I have to admit that this is something that I have not tried, though I have heard of it. Like Spotted Dick and Clotted Cream, Blood Pudding is not a name that inspires confidence in an outsider.

According to Simon Majumdar, the best black pudding is from The Bury Black Pudding Company. Seems a lot of people agree with him on this point, if only everyone could agree on what exactly a Bury Black Pudding is. Black pudding is one of those items where cheap and horrible versions abound-but still have the words Bury Black Pudding on the label. Seems there are a couple of other good brands floating around-Chadwick’s Original Black Puddings and The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company.

I also like the idea of eating a black pudding as part of the Full English Breakfast at The Bleeding Heart Tavern. Great name that. It seems that good black pudding can be found at Borough Market SE1. Any excuse to head to one of London's best markets. Black pudding is definitely on my list of things to try next to I find myself in London.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Chance of A Lifetime

Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, or maybe not. I'm not as young as I once was. Among the countless things that I still want to do in the days that are left to me is spend a bit more time in London and do Voice Over work there. As we all know, no one from America moves to London seeking acting work, everyone from London moves to America to get a job. But one of my old Blog Buddies does voice over work and she invited me to London do a bit of Voice Over.

Well, this is the kind of thing that you can base a movie on-the poor sap's one chance at greatness, or at least mediocrity. This was some time ago, last year, in fact. I have had many months to save and plan a trip back that glorious place I so like to think about-London. But the rest of my life, well, it has not gone well at all. So there is no money, and barring something extraordinary happening, there will be no trip to London this October for me. However, it was so very nice of her to offer this chance to me.

I am still doing a few of the voice exercises and I think my voice is better than it was. But I have not put in any serious study of late. I have too many irons in the fire, as always. Ah but the idea of London and working, even doing background voices, would be amazingly cool. Of course, my London thoughts go beyond the work and into seeing those sights I missed last time and using my nifty digital camera that I did not have on the last trip. Blogging from London, well, the mind boggles.

If I still have any readers here-Hello! I plan on writing a few more posts over the next few weeks. But my plans seldom go as I expect.

Anyone who would like to donate to the Send Me To London Fund feel free.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Joe Queenan's London

The great cities of the world are best thought of in terms of flora and fauna. San Francisco is a hyacinth, Rio de Janeiro a bromeliad, Cario a flowering cactus, Detroit a burning bush. London, by contrast, most closely resembles a Venus Flytrap.-Joe Queenan

I just finished reading Queenan Country, about writer Joe Queenan's travels around Great Britain and why he likes the people of Great Britain while, at the same time, insulting them at every turn. Queenan's Country is filled with such sites as The Second Smallest Cathedral in England and The Worse Musical of All Time. He also prattles on rather a lot about Tribute Bands, which I have to admit, have always been a bit of a mystery to me as well. Elvis impersonators, sure why not, but fifty year old nobodys pretending their the 20 year old Beatles? I've never really liked that.

Anyway-Joe Queenan spends a bit of his book in London, mainly talking about how much he hates the likes of Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Andrew Lloyd Weber, but occasionally mention actual sites in the great city. So I thought I would look a few of them up and see what I could find out about them.

The Widow's Son-This curiously named pub has a sad story. In a cottage on this site lived a widow, her only son a sailor. He was due to return home on Good Friday and asked his mother to bake him some hot-cross-buns. Sadly, he never returned. Nevertheless every Good Friday his mother had a new bun waiting. Each year a new bun was added to ones she had kept from previous years. Sounds like my kind of place, old and kind of creepy.
Animal Burger

The Tea Hut on Blackheath
-Since the l950s the hut has been used by passing motorists, lorry drivers, cabbies, locals, suburban clubbers on their way home from town, courting couples and motorbike and classic-car enthusiasts alike, the latter on Tuesday and Thursday nights only. It's open 24 hours a day, and serves Builders' Tea and the kind of hamburgers Ben Elton once talked of, made of hooves, snouts and eyelashes but heavenly when you've had 10 pints of Old Peculiar down the hill in a Lewisham boozer.

Eel & Pie Shop in Peckham-Didn't find anything with a quick Google and it is possible that this shop has gone the way of all good things, if you consider eels and pies good things. I'm sure you can still shops selling these odd sounding bits of business if you tried.

Canary Wharf-Canary Wharf is a thriving space and vibrant business district-at leas according to their website. I'm not sure that Joe had redevelopment in mind though, I'm guessing he liked it the way it was the last time he saw it, and who knows when that was. Seem to be a lot of tall building in London's Docklands these days. Not that there's anything wrong with that. . .

Battersea Park-Any place that has a museum on the grounds called The Pump House Gallery desevers at least a smal side trip. My own memories of Battersea Park are mainly my surprise at seeing the Peace Pagoda, I like the whole idea of a Buddhist shrine in the middle of an English garden. There are also lots of plants and animals as one might expect in a large city park.

Elephant & Castle-Elephant and Castle has always been an important traffic junction and was once known as “the Piccadilly of South London”. Another place that a lot of cool stuff seems to be happening. Food and Drink, Entertainment, Dancing, Shopping and old buildings to look at, who could ask for anything more? Of course, to me it looks kind of scary on the map, TWO round abouts that close together-oh the humanity.

Southwark Cathedral-The Church of England, what a great sound that has to it. They say there has been a church on this site since AD 606, got love those Brits, always have to remind us that while we study history they lived history. But that's alright, I love old churches just as I love all old buildings. Of course, it's hard to take them seriously after watching shows like The Vicar of Dibly all these years.

The West End-which is funny as Joe Queenan hates musicals in all forms and fashions, yet seems to go out of his way to attend them. Me thinks he doth protest too much. London's West End is London's Theater District, where all the misicals that Joes loves to hate are playing. But there's all kinds of other cool stuff in the area, China Town with Lee Ho Fooks, Mayfair, and Soho, all the places any well dressed American Werewolf would want to be seen.

And that wraps up my little mini London Tour by way of Things Joe Queenan Likes in London.