Christmas is over, roll on the new year!

My Christmas was excellent. I ate too much, saw most of my family, received awesome gifts and completed all daugtherly/sisterly duties with top marks. I do miss my family when I am away but, mostly, I was gagging to get back to London. I’ve been here two years now and it really does feel like home. It’s expensive, dirty, crowded, most of the people are rude but I adore it. I wouldn’t change it for anywhere else. Anyway, what did I do at Christmas? Well I’ll tell you.

I shopped for some very expensive chairs for my Mum. I must have sat in, reclined, read about, researched, prodded, stroked and measured more chairs in 2 days than I have done in all my life. Some were more expensive than others and, naturally, my Mum liked the most expensive of all. No purchases were made but many seeds were sown. Hopefully, there will be a nice new chair in the living room next time I visit because you won’t get me back in a furniture shop for a good while.

I also performed IT Support duties. I reformatted, defragmented, check disked, CCleanered, Anti-spywared and Anti-malwared my way through three PC’s. I successfully restored files to the reformatted PC and only had to provide nominal support when my sister was being a little dippy. I will forgive her though as her Wii provided much entertainment on Boxing Day.

Now the Wii has been a revolution. Anyone who owns one knows just how silly people look when they play it. The amazing thing is that no one seems to care. It’s completely acceptable to get yourself into some really rather unsavoury positions in front of relatives you see once a year and in-laws you’re supposed to be charming. The oddest thing of all is that, when you get them going, the adults enjoy the Wii far more than the kids. Of the nine people at my sister’s house on Boxing Day, it was the over 25’s who had the most fun on the Wii. The under 25’s were much more interested in photographing and videoing the ridiculousness that was going on infront of the TV screen. I think this video will testify to that.

That was my Sister spliced in with my Brother in Law. I can’t embarrass them exclusively so I’ll crack on with embarrassing myself and other family members. This first picture is proof that we didn’t steal the Wii off the children for the day. They were welcome to play too, we just happened to play more than them. This is me and my youngest niece having a go at Wii dance (which is pretty difficult if I am honest). The song was Katy Perry – ‘Hot ‘n’ Cold’.

Next I’ll aim sights at the brother in law not featured in my charming video. I believe he was trying to fly around dressed as a bee using Wii Fit Plus here. If I remember correctly, he won.

Lets go back to a more obvious action shot. This is my eldest sister and I dancing to Kylie Minogue – ”Can’t get you out of my head’ via the magic of Wii Dance. I have no idea how the Wii works out who danced the best, and therefore wins, but I can assure you of this, I am a sore loser. The sorest kind of loser. My attitude to losing reminds me of a friend who insist the only reason I wipe the floor at SingStar is because the game favours a female voice. Not because I am singing in the right pitch or anything, no, it just likes my voice better. By the same token, the Wii likes the way my sister throws shapes better than the way I do. It doesn’t mean she is the better dancer, it just means the Wii is biased. Anyway, here’s the snap

Finally I will just skip back to my other sister because this picture is priceless.

So, many games were played over Christmas. The innocent, just good fun kinds of games that are lost for the rest of the year.  I am resolved to host a board game night at some point to try and recapture some of the Christmas merriment in a non festive setting. I’ll report on how badly it falls on it’s face.


How different the festive job season becomes.

As anyone who does not live in their home town will be able to corroborate, when you return ‘home’, there is a list of jobs you need to do and people you need to see waiting for you. It’s the same list of both jobs and people every time you go back. It doesn’t matter what the occasion is. The lists don’t discern if it’s a birthday, anniversary, Christmas or ‘I missed everyone’ type visit. They’re consistently identical no matter what and you must start ticking things off the list the second you arrive or you will never get through thm.

My list of Jobs reads as thus:

  1. Take all Mum’s bins out to the bins (it’s hard for her to do herself) – this visit she’d saved me a normal bin bag and 2 recycling bags, more than the average!
  2. Assess Mum’s PC health – The last visit her HDD was cheerfully warning her it was failing at start up. She had been ‘F1’ing it instead of telling me about the error. Her HDD was eventually and successfully swapped out in record time. An external HDD was sorted too as when I asked her where her back up was, she sighed wistfully.
  3. Assess the loft/garage – There’s nearly always something that needs to come down or go up into the loft. Same with the garage.
  4. Visit relatives including as many Sisters, Nieces, Nephews, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and extended family members as is humanly possible. Special time is ALWAYS made to visit my Grandmother. This is for 2 very specific reasons. The first being she is now 93. The other is that her ‘getting drunk and falling down stories’ bear a striking resemblance to my own. I’ve been known to wile away many hours sat at my Grandma’s, listening to old tapes of Dolly and Johnny and discussing getting drunk and falling down.
  5. Asses Sisters PC health – this is always the trickiest IT support. Both of my sisters have horrible habits of installing conflicting software that slows down their machines and generally hogs all of their adequate system resources. I plan an entire afternoon of uninstalling, Spybotting, CCleanering, defragging and check disking for each sister. I think one sister will actually get a whole day this visit as she needs a reformat. Joyous!
  6. Generally running errands my Mum doesn’t want anyone else to do – for example, this time round I have been and purchased a suitable microwave, completed suite shopping and finally ordered her a suitable LCD TV for the front room.

Having described that little lot, during the Christmas visit, all these ‘jobs’ don’t feel like jobs (the IT issues do still make my soul die a little as I do not understand the need to download multiple different anti-malware/anti-spyware/anti-virus software and that is what I am faced with on each sister’s computer). The standard list jobs are transformed, from being a crazy rush to tick items off before it’s time to head back, into a series of various dinners and teat time visits. The purchasing turns. from fighting with crowds and queuing because the store is understaffed, into bargain hunting with fellow shopppers in the sales and general bartering with good willed sales people.

The Christmas season does something quite remarkable to most of the population. It makes everyone feel like they’re in soft focus. Everything appears more pleasant than it is the rest of the year. It’s a remarkable thing and I hope I’m not the only one who notices it.

So there is a downside! To the snow that is….

The snow has made an awful lot of people’s travel plans pretty jolly miserable over the last week or so. I will admit to simply enjoying the fun or it all and generally throwing disapproving glances at the grumblers. I did have maximum sympathy for those caught in airports. I had to spend a rather uncomfortable night in Frankfurt airport recently when a trip to Prague was foiled by snow. It gets cold, uncomfortable and you lose your sense of humour about 18 hours into your stay. I expect it’s not as hideous if you are waiting to leave but if you are stuck in transit between connections or diverted, I think I would cry. It’s one of the least fun things I have ever done and I’ve done some pretty un-fun things!

So anyway, I wasn’t getting too worried about my journey home to Lincolnshire for Christmas as it’s only 150 miles or so up the road which leaves me with plentiful choices for deserting shiny London for a brief escape to the Countryside. I booked my train tickets home way back in October so I knew I had a seat and all the rest of that malarkey you worry about when using public transport in peak season. This was all fine until overhead lines came down across the main east train line. It halted all trains from London Kings Cross to Peterborough on Monday, today (Tuesday) and looks like it will halt them tomorrow and Thursday too. The reason? The snow is preventing the teams needed to fix the lines getting to them. I am also presuming that once it is fixed they’ll need to clear snow off the tracks to enable the trains to run. I think it’ll be a lengthy process and some very nice overtime packets for the guys and gals involved in getting it sorted.

This situation sort of left me a bit buggered for getting back to Lincolnshire. I tried to book a coach with no success, I also called local car hire companies with very limited success (the best they could manage was a £198 per day family saloon turbo diesel thingy). I forgot that the rest of the City who might have planned to travel to anywhere north easterly is going to have the same issue as me. I was getting into a little bit of a pickle, especially with more heavy snow forecast. Luckily for me, I have a sister who loves me enough to drive a round trip from Lincs to London (see what I did there?) on her day off and a Mother who loves me enough to pay for said sisters petrol as neither of us can afford this extravagance. I believe my payment for this will consist of sorting out software conflicts on various family members computers, a fair amount of washing up and many hours of distracting the children whilst NOT getting glitter glue in their hair.

I shall be evacuated from my beloved London tomorrow. I’ll be pleased to go, but not very pleased if I can’t get back on the 28th.

Family, I wouldn’t change any of them for anyone else in the world ever (I think my sister would probably trade me in for Robbie Williams).

Obligatory Festive Post

For those of you who missed it, it’s been snowing. London saw about 3 inches of snow in as many hours. It settled beautifully so, naturally, we had to go and play in it. We started with a walk to fetch supplies for our impending ‘Christmas at 109’ roast extravaganza. We threw multiple snowballs at each other on the walk. I took a snap of my friends using my HTC Hero. It does take a nice picture but only if you stand still like a snowman.

As we walked, the snow crunched underfoot. It really is the most satisfying sound to walk on fresh snow. We skipped, bunny hopped and generally frolicked through the streets of East London. We saw quite a lot of people milling about in much the same fashion as ourselves so didn’t feel too self-concious with regard to our child like excitement.

Once we had successfully prepared ourselves for the roast, we headed home to build a snowman. We toiled for about 40 minutes before we were satisfied the proportions of head to body were acceptable. Decorations were added (brussell sprouts for eyes, carrot for nose, velvet queueing rope for scarf and a selection of twigs for arms and smile) and a rather juvenile photo taken to commemorate an attractive creation.

As the sun set, I recalled a house close by that had over the top and Blackpool esq decorations so decided to capture them in all their glory. I waited until it was good and dark before heading out. At this point I would like to tell all the home owners who pour water on snow to clear paths that all the water does is freeze to ice. This makes people (mainly me) fall over on it. These people (mainly me) do not enjoy your attempts to clear snow from paths. Please use salt or grit in future, thanks. Anyway, back to the house! You can’t see on the picture very well but they have a ‘Days Till Christmas’ counter on their door beneath the wreath. This house is truly a sight for sore eyes. I dread to think what the electricity bill will come in at.

As I only saw the snow in East London, I have stolen an old school friends picture of the scene just off Picadilly Circus. Many thanks to Cat Burton for the picture. She has a pretty good stock of brilliant photo’s on her Flickr site. Take a look here if you get the chance.

Finally, I will share with you a snap of an ale. Now I don’t drink ale, but the name of this was almost enough to make me buy one.

My day today really has got me into the festive spirit. I am quite excited about cooking a roast of epic proportions for friends tomorrow, but this is mainly because I know I won’t be washing up afterwards!

The 2010 Music Bit

I’m going to begin with the musical event which brought me the most joy. It’s Jimmy Eat World at Brixton Academy.

This year, I ticked of fmy list somethingI have wanted to do for 5 years. I saw Jimmy Eat world play a headline show. I got wind that they were releasing a new album. This means a tour. The second the tickets went on sale, I snapped mine up. When it arrived in the post, I danced around gleefully as I imagine the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow dances around his pot o’gold. When the day actually arrived, I was ready to wet my knickers with excitement.

Jimmy Eat World are one of the two bands that have persisted and remained relevant to me for more than 10 years. You do not get that kind of band coming along very often. I have loved them since they released ‘Clarity’ in 1999 and they have never disappointed me. A great band of honest and genuine guys. There are actually no words to describe just how much seeing them play live meant to me. It wasn’t just something off my ‘to do’ list. It was on the ‘to do before you die’ list.  Anyway, enough gushing about Jimmy Eat World. Let me tell you about the gig.

Being as excited as I was, I went straight after work and stood in the queue. Unbeknownst to me, if you are on the O2 mobile phone network, you get priority queuing and entry to Brixton Academy. I got to skip past a load of people with a quick flash of my phone. This meant I got very close to the front without any need to push through bodies. Brilliant!! I was really close to the front and excited as hell. Excellent combination. The first thing I took a photo of was the sparkling drum kit. Check it out!

The next thing I got excited about was Jimmy Eat World coming on stage. Honestly, I have never been so close to not knowing what to do with myself because I am so excited. My brain could not process all of the emotions. I didn’t know if I should cheer, jump, clap, cry, or what. It was the most blissful feeling. And then the music started. I will confess, I took 3 photos. That’s all I could manage. I was too busy fulfilling part of my life’s wish for the rest of the show. One of the shots I got get Jim in all his glory!

They played every song I could have wished for. I also stood in the crowd and sobbed unashamedly during ‘For Me This is Heaven’ and ‘Hear You Me’. They played the full 8 minutes of ‘Goodbye Sky Harbour’ and all of my favourite songs from ‘Clarity’. The only song I missed was ‘Lucky Denver Mint’. Considering I was not expecting to hear anything from ‘Clarity’ I was just the happiest girl in the world. If I had walked out of the Academy and been hit by a bus, I would have been ok with it. It was an evening of my life that I will have fond dreams about for the rest of my days. A gig that I will tell people about in 40 years time as one of the best moments of my life. To cement my jubilation, Jimmy Eat World posted a picture of the crowd on twitter after the gig, and I’m in it. I circled myself as I am quite small.

I believe the next event of note would be the Lost prophets CD signing and gig at Brixton Academy. They were very good and I enjoyed them immensely. Here’s a snap of Ian Watkins I managed to get whilst in the middle of the mosh pit.

One poor boy actually fainted right in front of us and we had to do the obligatory “GET HIM TO THE FRONT!!!” yelling before he got trampled on. I don’t know, these young’uns just don’t have the stamina. I saw ‘Kids In Glass Houses’ as their support for the first time at this gig and I was pretty impressed. I went to see them later in the year with a friend when they played Koko in Camden. I didn’t take any photo’s of that gig though so you can see one from the Lost Prophets gig instead. Again it was mid mosh pit and therefore the quality is dubious.

I think it’s time I took you out of London just for a while. Those of you who know me will know that my Brother in Law and I have identical musical tastes. This results in us going to a lot of gigs together. This year, we have been to four events together. The one I will recount now was our jaunt to see Green Day at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester. I travelled over from London to Lincolnshire and then we drove to Manchester. I was incredibly excited. I had seen Green Day three times previously and they had blown my mind every time so I was expecting something really special from them in such a huge venue. I was not disappointed.

First of all, both support acts were fabulous. Frank Turner first, then Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Thoroughly entertaining. Frank Turner really made an impression and I saw him play a headline show at Brixton Academy very recently.

Frank Turner

Frank Turner

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

When Green Day eventually hit the stage, we knew we were in for a real treat. We got pretty close to the front at one point and I managed to grab this blurry picture of Billy Joe but I will confess, Green Day mosh pits are the most mental mosh pits I have ever been in (and I’ve been in a lot of pits). I think we lasted 5 songs or so before we had to bail out.

The guys were up to their usual tricks during the show. They had people from the crowd on stage with them singing whole songs, dancing and generally whipping the crowd to fever pitch. They are masters of making everyone feel like they’re part of the show. At one point a hose pipe came out. it was shortly followed by an American Baseball style Tee-shirt gun. The whole band and their extra musicians looked as if they were having the best time. They all laid down for an entire song. They all dressed up for several songs.

They swapped instruments for a song.

Tre’s bonnet is particularly fetching.

They just had a blast, and everyone in the crowd was right there with them. Green Day remain the kings of live shows fr all out entertainment. I have never been disappointed when I have seen them live and I doubt I will be should I see them again.

The drive home was really on our minds so we left before the encore but we could still hear them playing 25 minutes after we left the stadium with final fireworks going off about 40 minutes after the encore started. Green Day are crowd pleasers and have lost nothing since I saw them for the first time nearly 6 years ago. We arrived home very late after the car had burnt all it’s oil and we replaced it with automatic transmission oil. It was eventful and enjoyable. That was my jaunt to Manchester!

What I’ll do now then, is tell you about what I did in the 4 days before Green Day. I was at Download festival. What a weekend! I will admit, I was drunk for most of it so there aren’t many pictures. What I remeber about Download 2010 the most are the following:-

How much I enjoyed Billy Idol when I really didn’t expect to

How good Switchfoot were

How surprised I was by ‘Napalm Death’

AC/DC and their own stage

The rain!!

Rage Against the Machine

The festival was well organised as usual and I had a fabulous time. We had upgraded the tent somewhat since last year and now had a very comfortable sleeps four in three rooms almost house sized tent. It served us so well. My stand out performance of Download 2010 was Rage Against the Machine. I will admit to being a little biased as I had seen them play their Christmas Number 1 celebratory free gig in Finsbury park the weekend before Download with friends and was on a little RATM high. They are just stunning live though. Tom Morello is the guitar equivalent of a mad scientist. He played a solo without touching his guitar. Crackers! Here’s a snap I got of them on stage.

I always forget how many people there are at festivals. This year, I made sure to take a picture of the crowd behind where I was for RATM. I think you’ll agree, it’s mind boggling.

My biggest disappointment of Download 2010 was ‘Them Crooked Vultures’. Let me explain. I am a HUGE Foo Fighters fan, a MASSIVE Queens of the Stone Age fan and a FAIR Led Zeppelin fan so how could they possibly be a disappointment? Well, basically, they didn’t do enough to make their presence felt in such a big place. I feel as thought I could have sat in a field with a hifi and their CD on at full blast and had the same experience. Technically, they were faultless. Dave Ghrol is a metronome and the guitar work was superb but show wise, they didn’t have it. I think they would probably have it in a smaller venue, but in a forum as monsterous as a festival, they couldn’t pull it off. Sorry boys!

I think it’s time to try a different festival next year. I have done Download two years on the trot now and feel ready for a change. I wish I had tickets for Glastonbury 2011 but feel that’s a pipe dream.

So onwards, or backwards, in the year. I can’t remember which. This is not a chronological blog, it’s a ‘How it comes out of my brain’ blog. Oh, I know, a quick ditty about seeing Good Charlotte. I didn’t know who they were but the ticket was only a tenner so I went. I am pleased I did because their support band ‘Canterbury’ were blooming brilliant. I took a photo of someone in Good Charlotte. I’m not sure who it is. They were rubbish.

I’ll move swiftly on to some of the amazing music I have heard at Open mic nights this year. The Open Mic nights that I frequent happen in The Victoria near Mile End tube, The Ship near Kennington tube, The Grosvenor near Stockwell tube, The Imperial just off Leicester Square and The Embassy in Islington.

I will reel off my favourite finds who also happen to be amazing people. The first has to be Mr Andy Sharrocks. His blend of dirty blues gets your foot stomping and your hand slapping your thigh. He plays as ‘Andy Sharrocks & The Smokin Jackets’ with a variety of other members. I have only ever seen him play with Husky Jack and Captain Bliss. I purchased his CD ‘Dirt’ and I have not regretted the readies I handed over for it. My favourite tracks are the title song ‘Dirt’ and also ‘Davey’s Blues’. More than one of his tracks have made it onto my cycling playlist. They keep the legs going. Here’s a shot of Andy, Captain Bliss and Panama Dave at The Victoria Open Mic. You will discover who Panama Dave is in just a moment.

So next, I present to you a guitar virtuoso that makes my knees go a little weak every time I see him walk into a venue because I know just what’s coming. Panama Dave. He plays solo guitar pieces and he plays them exceptionally. His CD ‘Panama’ is simply the most beautiful Sunday morning sound track. Actually, just any morning soundtrack. You should absolutely listen and appreciate his skill. Here’s a shot of him playing at The Imperial’s ‘Secret Sing for Your Supper’ event hosted by the delectable Carl Chamberlain.

Next, I will move onto Mark Harrison. He plays blues that speak to the soul. His tunes are superb and when he plays with his entire ensemble, it is truly mesmerising. In this shot, you can see him with Captain Bliss (Mark is playing the resonator guitar in the background) as part of a duo. Mark also hosts a couple of roots music nights around London that I must make it too very soon.

My final discovery is the afore mentioned Captain Bliss. I first saw him play solo at The Victoria and was lost for words. I had never heard a mouth harp sound like he made it sound. He is often found touting his skills alongside Andy Sharrocks or Mark Harrison. When he plays solo, he can hold the entire room to attention. No one speaks, no one drinks, some even forget to breathe because listening to his harmonica skill is simply unmissable. I captured him playing at The Imperial.

None of the acts above should be missed. if you can make a show they are playing at, you should.

I need to report on seeing Linkin Park at the O2 and seeing Paramore at the O2. I’ll start with Linkin Park.

To say I was excited about seeing Linkin Park is an understatement. I loved them from the first second I heard Hybrid theory and I never really stopped. Seeing Linkin Park play live was one of the things that had been on my ‘to do’ list for far too long and I was irrationally over the moon that the day had finally arrived. My Brother in law was just as excited as me. We both stood through the one support act who I quite liked (Does it Offend You, Yeah?) and then it was time. The lights went down, the drums started and from that point on, I was completely underwhelmed. The only truly and breathtakingly remarkable thing about the show was the drummer. Rob Bourdon is a drumming machine. His skill behind the kit is unquestionable. Unfortunately this is the best shot I could get of him.

They all played well but it wasn’t what I had built it up to be. I was expecting a high octane roller coaster and instead I got the Cups and Saucers ride. There’s nothing wrong with the cups and saucers but it’s always a let down when you thought you’d been queuing for the roller coaster. The crowd was tame which meant we got to the front very quickly and felt under no pressure to move back. Being at the front meant that I got some amazing photographs of the guys. We were to the right side of the stage which is where the bassist (David “Pheonix” Farrell) stood for most of the gig. Here’s a shot of him.

The singer, Chester Bennington, moved around the stage somewhat and I managed to get a pretty good close up of him when he ventured over to our side of the stage. You can even see Rob Bourdon a little in the background.

Finally, I got a pretty good shot of Brad Delson, the lead guitarist.

I really didn’t manage to get any good shots of the rest of the band as they didn’t come and say hello very often. If they did, I couldn’t whip my camera out in time.

Overall, I am definitely pleased I saw Linkin Park and if I had a DeLorean I wouldn’t go back in time to stop myself buying the tickets but I do remain a little deflated by the experience.

Finally, I will tell you about seeing Paramore at the O2. I don’t really have much to say about this gig as it was full of teeny boppers who didn’t seem to understand the concept of a gig and the pushing/shoving that occurs at one. All we received from the kids were black looks and elbows in ribs for absolutely no reason. It was very reminiscent of the Fall Out Boy gig I went to last year. We soon got bored and bailed out right to the back because the little so and so’s had irritated us. That’s where I took this shot from.

Paramore played very well and boy that girl can sing. I couldn’t fault their stage presence or performance at all. They really were excellent fun to watch and dance to. Would I go see them again? No, because most of their fans are rubbish.

So, all in all. A blinking tip top year guvna.

It’s been a long old time in lincstolondon land………

I would just like to assure everyone about what an amazing City London is to live in. Looking back on what I have done this year, I am fully aware that 90% of this would not have occurred if I didn’t live in this amazing, dirty and rude City. I would not swap it for all the clean air and manners in the world. I finally feel like I have found the place for me.

I have been a bad blogger. The worst kind of blogger there is. A blogger who does not blog. I have no excuses. I’ve just been rubbish. I won’t make any promises about how good or bad I will be in the future either. I just don’t know. I’m that kind of flakey person. What I can do though, is write a little something about some things I have done, the music I have discovered and the friends I have made in the past year. I am going to need to split them because the draft of the blog is running at 4500 words. I will do a section on being ‘Out and About’ and a section on Music. That should even it up. Let’s begin with being ‘Out and About’.

The prudent place to start is how I brought in the year of 2010. I trekked off to Southbank to enjoy the amazing fireworks that go on every year. They were a spectacle. I captured a few images of the eye before the fireworks. Unfortunately, I planned very badly and had a flat camera battery so I didn’t get any of the actual fireworks. Here’s one I particularly like of the London Eye beforehand. It is blurred but I think it adds to the overall effect.

Next, I will entertain you with a picture of one of the best busking mascots I have ever seen. It was a Monster who really drummed as the guy played. Genius!!

Moving swiftly along, I’ll put in my little jaunts to places that happened at some point but I can’t really remember when. Firstly, The Royal Observatory at Greenwich Park. There is a little background to this day so I’ll elaborate. I had set off with no real intentions for the day other than to wander around after seeing a Rolf Harris art exhibition near Green Park. I enjoyed Rolf’s art immensely and would have relieved him of a few pieces had I any money whatsoever to spend on art. It was still early by the time I had viewed the exhibition so I decided to saunter around Green Park. It really is a lovely Royal Park. The leaves were still on the trees and the sun was shining so the light on the paths was dappled and beautiful to walk through. As I was so close to Buckingham Palace, I decided to go take some tourist photos. I actually happened upon a parade with lots of guards, Scouts and Girl Guides. I’m still not sure what was going on but I took a photo or two.

After Green Park, I wasin the mood for more green space. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and head to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. I’d never been round the Observatory before and am fond of Greenwich so could not go wrong. I headed off. Words to the wise, just because ‘North Greenwich’ says ‘Greenwich’ in the station name does NOT mean it is anywhere near Greenwich itself. It’s a good 15 minute bus ride form North Greenwich to main Greenwich. The stop you need for the interesting part of Greenwich is the Cutty Sark stop on the DLR. Don’t be fooled. A lot of people are. Anyway, Greenwich Park is my second favourite in London (my top being Victoria Park) so I enjoyed sitting beneath a tree and watching the people go by for quite some time before deciding it was time to haul myself up the hill to the Observatory. The hill is not for the faint hearted. The view form the top is worth it.

The Royal Observatory marks the place that Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is calculated from. It’s an awesomely cool thing to behold. It is the single point on all the planet from which time is calculated. Stunning! The buildings are also lovely to look at and around.

All the exhibits are free except for the Planetarium. I didn’t go in but I did take a picture from the outside.

I really do enjoy just pottering around the City by myself. You get to just stand and look at things without worrying about anyone else being bored or needing more entertainment than you. Most people would have been agitated with my 5 hours spent in Greenwich Park just looking and walking. Sometimes solitude is everything you need in life.

I’ll chip in with a generic tourist photo of Tower Bridge. I cannot remember where I was, who I was with or when I took it, but it’s a nice shot.

Next, gosh what did I do next…….. Oh! We went ice skating with my nephew at Alexandra Palace. You weren’t allowed to take photographs at the ice rink so I do not have images to share with you other than the view from just outside the entrance to Alexandra Palace.

I am much better at Ice skating than I remembered being! I will probably try to get to another rink in London over the remainder of the festive season. It was good fun. We all had an enjoyable time. With a little encouragement, my nephew even managed a little skate all by himself.

Let’s move out of London for a little while. My job this year has taken me to Budapest. It was pouring with rain on the one night I spent in Budapest but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see a little of the City. It is vastly different to London in every way. The streets are open and wide with few shops present on them. The air smells vaguely clear and the people are polite.

The hotel I was staying in was close to ‘Heroes Square’ so I took a walk around. I got some great shots of the square.

The flash on my camera caused a gorgeous effect on the rain drops in the photographs. I captured as much of the square as I could. It looked truly magnificent in the dark.

As it was pouring with rain and I don’t speak any Hungarian, I thought it was wise to simply eat and go to bed. I didn’t fancy getting lost in Budapest at 10 in the evening.

Returning to London again, let’s do some more museums! I have been back to the Science Museum since my last post and wanted to share just a few things which made me smile. One is a dress made of carpet

Another is a dress made of cans

Then there’s the chandelier made from biro pens

The final is my dearest friend, Maggie with whom I did all the fun learning.

The Science Museum is fun for everyone. Maggie and I paid a small fee of £5 each and had a go in a brilliant 360° flight simulator. I have to say, I was a bit of an adventurous pilot and chased the enemy bogies around whilst barrel rolling and loop the lopping. Maggie opted for a much gentler approach. When we were being shot at by an enemy from behind, I suggested she do a loop the loop whilst rolling and we’d come out facing the opposite direction and the right way up. Maggie however decided this was flamboyant and instead declared “I’m banking gently to the right”. It’s a good job she’ll never be in a dog fight isn’t it?!

That moves me nicely along to the other museum I have visited, the Imperial War Museum. I’ve actually been twice this year. I had not been to the Imperial War Museum since I was in the very early years of Secondary School so it felt like I was going for the first time. What a museum it is! It has become my favourite to visit in London. I do find myself saturated by the time I have spent four hours or so wandering around it. I need to do at least two more visits in order to take in the exhibits properly. For now I’ll share my two favourite pictures. The first is of my Nephew getting far too excited about the tanks

The second is of my house mate looking forlornly at toys he could not play with.

As the hub of England, London really does have some of the best parades and events to attend. This year, I attended Gay Pride and the Notting Hill Carnival. Of the two my favourite, by far, was Gay Pride. The only feeling amongst the thousands of people there was a mutual love of shiny things and each other. The floats were colourful, happy to a fault and friendly. I was particularly fond of the Drag’Queen’ on the top deck of a London bus.

The Notting Hill Carnival however, scared me. Straight out terror. I have never felt so intimidated and petrified by other people in my life. I don’t scare easy but the sheer volume of people shouting, yelling and getting angry with each other for the unavoidable pushing/shoving that happens in a crowd was awful. The crowd felt ready to bubble over into a fight at any point which made me very fearful. I will not be going again. I did take a photo of a steel band float though.

I have been fortunate enough to make a great set of new friends this year and I spent fireworks night with them in Victoria Park. The fireworks display was brilliant and themed on the World Wars. There were plenty of war tunes floating out of the speakers that I knew. I did take some good pictures but unfortunately, they were deleted in an editing accident. My friends did try to reenact the display but with varying level of success. This is probably my favourite shot of the reenactment. It’s nothing if not amusing.

I got my first tattoo this year. I have wanted this tattoo, in this location and in these colours since I was 16 years old. I think 9 years waiting is plenty. I know it’s not sensible but I did it anyway.

Being my first ‘ink’, I took moral support and he was kind enough to take a few photos of the work in progress. Here’s my favourite shot.

This year has been one for firsts. I had never really dressed up and gone all out for Halloween before but this year, I decided, what the hell! I modified some fairy wings so that had little light up ghosts stitched around them and went crazy with the make up. Dead fairy was my theme. How do you think it turned out?

Finally, I will recount my trip on the London Eye. My sister was kind enough to use some vouchers for us all to ride the Eye on their last visit. I will admit, had we paid the full fee per person, well, I wouldn’t have paid the full fee per person. it’s hideously expensive and I don’t think the view is worth the money but, if you can get vouchers that dip you under the £15 ish mark, I think it’s acceptable for 1 trip. Here’s a shot of the Houses of Parliament I took. I wondered if I could really squash it with my thumb……I tried but to no avail.

That about concludes the mischief I have been getting up to in the City these past 12 months. The next entry I will post is going to be dedicated entirely to the music I have heard this year. I’ll post it as soon as I can.