Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris & His Legacy

 

William Morris (1834-96) is known for many things. He was a gifted poet, architect, painter, writer and textile designer. He wanted everyone to have access to beauty as he felt beauty could transform lives.

William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884    Filename: NPG_889_1328_WilliamMorrisb.jpg    Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London

William Morris by Frederick Hollyer, 1884
Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London

Morris, and his legacy, is the subject of the latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It explores the ‘art for the people’ movement and at least half of the exhibition is about his legacy as he died in 1896 and it features designers up to 1960.

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The exhibition has 70 portraits and 70 objects – unusual for the venue. On display is the only oil painting he did of his wife, Jane Burden, and he felt he couldn’t make paintings move as he could with words. Do note he was considered as good a poet as Tennyson or Browning.

La Belle Iseult by William Morris, 1858    Filename: NPG_889_1329_LaBelleIseultb.jpg    Copyright: Tate 2014

La Belle Iseult by William Morris, 1858
Copyright: Tate 2014

This satchel is a good example of the everyday functional design that he admired.

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And this is Morris’s own gold-tooled hardbound copy of Karl Marx’s Le Capital as he strongly believed you should “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.

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At the preview for this exhibition I saw odd socks art critic again and ‘photo complainer’ who wanted to take photos inside Buckingham Palace in rooms where it wasn’t allowed and today wanted to not be photographed taking a photograph.

This is a one room exhibition and for that reason I think the £14 admission is quite steep. Also, because I know the collection at the William Morris Gallery well and know I can see many of the exhibits for free again when they return. My recommendation would be to go to the National Portrait Gallery for the Late Shift on every Thursday and Friday when there’s a nice atmosphere at the gallery and your admission ticket to this exhibition comes with a 2 for 1 drinks offer.

Full details on the National Portrait Gallery website.

King’s Cross Light Tunnel

 

This is an interesting addition to the transport network and navigation at King’s Cross Station. Instead of just having a subway to add another entrance for One Pancras Square there is a 90 meter lightwall tunnel leading into the Underground station.

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It is one of Europe’s longest lightwalls and was created by The Light Lab and Spiers+Major. The tunnel has a gentle curve and the walls are lined with repeating panels, backlit with LEDs, along the full length so there are no shadows.

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The lightwall contains 190 controllable vertical pixels set behind 12mm toughened glass and the idea is for the lights to create a soothing, relaxing journey.

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The flooring has long triangles in ceramic tiles to echo the ‘fin’ sections above.

The tunnel itself has been designed by architects Allies & Morrison and links St Pancras International and King’s Cross St Pancras Underground stations to the new public spaces, restaurants, offices and homes at King’s Cross.

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The tunnel’s entrance is in the north-east corner of the One Pancras Square building, accessed via an escalator hall.

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The lighting effect is in constant flux but it is quite soothing to watch. See a video here.

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The tunnel is open to pedestrians Monday to Sunday from 7am until 8pm.

Nearby: Pancras Square Swimming Pools

 

Little Blue Men

 

Last week, there was a temporary art exhibition at The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology which chose to integrate with the exhibits in glass cabinets instead of a display in another room. This was  ‘Nu’Shabtis Liberation by artist/archaeologist Zahed Taj-Eddin of Egyptian Faience.

Ancient Egyptians believed that putting little figurines in with them when they died would give them these little people to work for them in the afterlife. Or something like that. Anyway, these modern day little shabtis decided to rebel and assert their freedom so could be seen protesting, using a mobile phone, going shopping or walking the dog. I found them really funny and it was addictive to try and find them in the long rows of cabinets. And it did make me look at more exhibits than usual and make me want to return soon to have another look around.

Anyway, here are some photos and I hope they make you smile too.

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And this is the kind of thing I found while looking for the little blue men!

And this is the kind of thing I found while looking for the little blue men!

Big thanks to IanVisits for highlighting the exhibition.

106 Baker Street Cafe Review

 

Not just an address, this is the name of a new cafe which opened in London in August 2014.

They also seem reluctant to conform to other eatery ‘rules’ such as letting potential customers know about what they serve instead choosing to simply say there is a “seasonal all day menu”. And that menu can’t be listed on their website as it changes daily. 106 Baker Street chooses to be represented instead by a series of bespoke illustrations allowing the food to speak for itself, I’m told.

Let me interpret some of that for you as how do you know if the cafe has something that appeals to you? The focus here is on healthy dishes and there is a choice of salads each day. Expect to see quinoa, pearl barley and kale. Quiches, sandwiches and baked goods.

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The cafe is located next to the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street but there is little else of note on this stretch of the street. Of course, Madame Tussauds is on Marylebone Road around the corner. It’s within the Baker Street Quarter Business Improvement District which hopes to raise the awareness of the area.

Italian chef Daniele Pampagnin is behind 106 Baker Street and he already has TOZI Restaurant & Bar in London and 5&33 in Amsterdam so I have to presume he knows what he is doing. There’s certainly a mediterranean influence to the dishes on offer.

For a London cafe the space is surprisingly large with a wide aisle well-suited to the yummy mummy customers and their Bugaboo buggies. There’s room for 20 to eat in which includes a couple of great tables in a small secluded courtyard at the back (although next to the ‘sauna chalet’ toilet) plus further outdoor seating at the front for the smokers.

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When I visited at 10am on a weekday there seemed to be a mix of business meetings and mother’s meetings inside.

10am was probably a bad time to visit but for a cafe promoting an all-day menu I didn’t think that would be a problem. Yet all that was on offer was baked goods: a variety of croissants, muffins and cakes.

Gradually more plates started arriving from next door as the 106 Baker Street kitchen is actually based at the hotel next door as it is part of the same company. I have been informed though that the brand is independent and the food is prepped in the morning every day. Still messes with my head on the “freshly made” claim that was bandied around so much.

But before anything else arrived we had to place an order so I went for gluten-free carrot cake, a Sicilian watermelon juice and a tea. My friend chose a blueberry muffin, the pink grapefruit juice, and a cappuccino, and then a sausage sandwich/muffin appeared so she added that too.

You place your order at the counter and then take a seat and it’s brought to your table.

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As there is no actual menu with prices – no, not even when you’re there – I’m trying to remember some prices for you. Tea was Harney & Sons teabags and £2 for a pot, the cappuccino was £2.20 and the watermelon juice was £3.75. There was “cantalup melon juice” on offer too but I pointed out twice this was spelt incorrectly and couldn’t bring myself to try it after that (spelling nazi that I am).

So what was the food like? The gluten-free carrot cake had an unappealing flatness which is not something I’d encountered before in my recent venture into gf cakes. But taste-wise? Nah, sadly it was too dry and too sweet. Maybe it just wasn’t what I wanted at 10am.

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The blueberry muffin fared better and was tasty with some sort of gooey centre. The sausage sandwich had been popped in the sandwich toaster so was warm on the outside but still cold inside.

When it was time to leave there was a much better array of food on the counter so maybe the time of my visit wasn’t the best. I saw two sizes of box for takeaway salad (£4.50 and £7) so the prices were fine.

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We decided to get another pink grapefruit juice to take away – yes, that really was a hit – and I was persuaded to take the bottle of green liquid as I had pulled a funny face when I spotted it in the chilled cabinet. OK, I can tell you it was celery, cucumber, spinach and lime and while I generally take the healthy option and I don’t like food waste I had to throw this away.

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I’ve seen other reviewers truly raving about this place (see this one, and this and here’s another) and, I guess, lunch seems to be where they excel. But I will stand by my point that an eaterie website which chooses black and white illustrations over a real menu or actual images of the food they serve is selling themselves short.

I’ll leave you with the window slogan:

  • Good stuff
  • Freshly made
  • Every day
  • All day

And here are the opening hours:

  • 7.30am-7pm, Monday – Saturday

Website: www.106bakerst.co.uk
Twitter: @106BakerSt
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/106BakerSt
Instagram: http://instagram.com/106bakerst
Address: 106 Baker Street, London W1U 6TW

pod Food

 

Lately I’ve been trying to be more inventive with takeaway lunch options than just another cheese sandwich. As a vegetarian, that was the default choice for a long time but now there’s a lot more variety on offer.

I’ve been trying to find alternatives to sandwiches and have a bit of a thing for the chop’d tofu salad so was pleased when pod got in touch and asked if I had tried their salad boxes. I hadn’t but now have and can tell you they are just as delicious.

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My daughter and I decided to share a Mango, Noodle & Cashew Salad (£4.99), a Purple Grape Juice Yogurt Pot (£2.60) and a Caribbean Blitz smoothie (£3.50). The salad and yogurt pots are ready to take away in the chilled cabinet and the smoothie ingredients are in a cup but you take it to the counter to be blended. It’s a good way to know exactly what’s inside your drink.

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pod has 23 locations across London and their freshly-prepared range changes every few months according to what’s in season. (I chose from the summer menu.)

During breakfast they serve scrambled eggs, porridge and energy-boosting smoothie blends. The lunch menu includes innovative salads, a variety of hot dishes, whole-grain baguettes as well as specialised lunches such as the detox, protein and gym boxes.

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pod is a great place to know if you need a gluten-free, wheat-free or dairy-free option or just a healthy and nutritious meal.

We both enjoyed our takeaway lunch although I’ll make sure I’ve got dental floss with me next time as I had lots of bits stuck in my teeth. But that point aside, I want to go back and try the hot meal options soon.

Official Website: www.podfood.co.uk

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The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face

 

Yes, that title got my attention too!

It’s an immersive experimental theatre experience by Shunt – a collective of artists creating and curating live performance in unusual locations within London.

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This new project has been commissioned by The Jetty – a former coaling jetty on The Thames at Greenwich Peninsula. It’s actually really easy to find and is only a 10 minute walk from The O2 and North Greenwich tube station.

The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face is performed in a temporary space made out of shipping containers. Up to 30 people enter together and progress through the containers to different surreal scenarios.

Everyone has to take off their shoes and socks and go barefoot which only adds to the weirdness. You also have to carry your footwear with you in a white shoebox.

As the door shuts behind you, each room reveals a performer who does their best to make you feel somewhat squirmy and awkward. I’m not normally good with this kind of close arty theatre but I totally gave in to it as it is over far too soon. Be prepared for latex masks and an outdoor finale that surprised me again.

It’s bonkers but recommended and costs only £10 for 45 minutes of hypnagogic entertainment.

Do plan to stay longer at The Jetty as there’s excellent street food (I had the Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Dirty Beans) and the bar has some warm cocktails as it can get a bit chilly later in the evening. There are blankets available and heaters so don’t be put off. We met lots of nice people who also had a great evening.

TheJetty

The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face is only on for six weeks (14 August to 28 September 2014) but The Jetty will stay and host all sorts of unusual and fascinating arts events.

Do note, The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face is only suitable for people aged over 16.

Mysteries of the Unseen World 3D

 

I love seeing films at the Science Museum IMAX cinema and their 3D choices are usually outstanding so I was pleased to be invited to see Mysteries of the Unseen World 3D.

Mysteries of the Unseen World3D

It’s a National Geographic film, narrated by Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, featuring the work of acclaimed cinematographer Louis Schwartzberg, who is the only cinematographer in the world to have been shooting time-lapse film footage 24 hours a day, 7 days per week continuously over the past three decades.

In this film you can discover things that are too fast, or too slow or too small to see with the naked eye. Using time-lapse photography, electron microscopy and nanotechnology, you can take a closer look at a universe of creatures, processes and phenomena you never even knew existed.

You get to see the flight of a dragonfly – four wings all working indepently. Did you know a dragonfly can fly upside down? Nope, me neither.

Actually this film is full of ‘did you knows’. Did you know mosquitos see infrared vision so they can go to the warmer parts of your body to drink blood? Did you know bees see using ultra-violet (UV) light? Did you know a butterfly’s wings are covered in scales?

You’ll see the invisible rays of light all around us and the bacteria living on a human body. Yes, that means you and me. My favourite fact is that there are 1,000 bacteria in our belly button. Yeah, bet you feel itchy now.

We got to see what’s in the air, and, therefore, what we’re breathing in. We saw bugs with smaller bugs living on them. We saw close-ups that went in to the cell level.

I have to say this is my favourite 3D film I’ve seen at the Science Museum IMAX as it leaves you knowing there’s so much we never get to see and it changes our view of the world forever. Seriously, awe-inspiring stuff. Recommended.

Mysteries of the Unseen World 3D (U) is suitable for children aged 8+. To see a trailer and for booking information visit: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/mysteries

Steam Train on The London Underground

 

On Saturday 2 August 2014, I was lucky enough to not only see a steam train on the London Underground but to also take a ride from Moorgate to Hammersmith and back. And don’t worry, you’ve not missed out as there’s more to see on Saturday 9 August 2014 too.

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This heritage outing day was part of the 150th anniversary of the Hammersmith & City Line. Special steam train journeys were slotted in between the normal tube service which made a nice surprise for those on the platforms waiting for their usual train.

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The Hammersmith & City railway opened on 13 June 1864, just over a year after the very first underground railway opened in January 1863 and at a time when horse drawn omnibuses were still in use and the world had yet to see the invention of motor car, television and telephone.

The line was part of the Metropolitan Line until 1990 when it was given its own identity as the Hammersmith & City Line.

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Metropolitan Railway Locomotive No.1 was the very beautiful engine that pulled our train. This dates back to 1898 and was restored for the 150th anniversary of the Underground in 2013.

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At Moorgate station, we were greets by a brass band and actors dressed as Victorian characters who were happy to chat and pose for photos.

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The public got to travel in the Chesham set coaches which were built in 1898 and 1900 and are on loan from the Bluebell Railway. The carriage I was in was from 1900 and was withdrawn from service in 1936. It was the same as the one in the London Transport Museum and was sold to the Bluebell Railway for £65. It was used in the Clockwork Orange film and was restored over the last ten years.

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A volunteer travelled in each carriage to keep us safe and to share information about the train and the line.

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I simply loved the sounds and smells. The whistle and the ‘chuff chuff‘ sounds of the engine raised a smile from us all. And the reactions of the people on each tube platform was fantastic. Some had been waiting all day and had top of the range cameras and others were caught by surprised and grabbed their mobile phone to get a quick snap while beaming with delight.

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The smell of the hot coal wafted into the carriage along with soot which also made us all grin. I think we all felt it was a bit more ‘real’ to get a little grimy on a steam train.

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The men working in the engine were completed blackened from working with the coal all day. My daughter thought it was all for effect as we’d just been with the Victorian actors until I explained what they had to do to make the engine work.

There were also heritage buses at Hammersmith station and I was thrilled to see the Battle Bus as it had visited my daughter’s school and I missed it! A quick chat with the staff and I discovered the bus was actually built just around the corner from my home.

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As I said at the start, you haven’t missed out as there are more heritage trains journeys on the Hammersmith and City Line on Saturday 9 August. There are also steam trains on the Metropolitan Line on 16 and 17 August. Find out more and book tickets.

If you aren’t able to book a ticket do check the timetable as you could still see the train along the route.

Royal Childhood at Buckingham Palace

 

Each year, the summer opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace has a special exhibition and this year it’s all about Royal Childhood. The exhibition covers 250 years of objects from the Royal Collection, the Royal Archives and the private collections of the Royal Family.

Soldier dressing gown worn by three-year-old Prince Harry, c. 1987.

Soldier dressing gown worn by three-year-old Prince Harry, c. 1987.

The exhibition is in two rooms including the Palace Ballroom. Some of the highlights include previously unseen photographs and film footage, as well as some of The Queen’s own childhood toys. Outfits worn by young royals and school work made me smile, while the official announcement of the birth of ‘Prince George’ displayed on the famous easel was popular with many visitors.

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Family-Friendly

As well as the usual audio guide, this year is more family-friendly as there is a Family Multimedia Guide for children under 12. I tried this with my daughter and friends and we enjoyed Rex the corgi giving facts about each room and the quizzes.

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There is also a new Family Pavilion on the West Terrace (opposite the Garden Cafe) at the end of the tour. Mar Dixon has written more about this.

Inside the Family Pavilion.

Inside the Family Pavilion.

Seating Added

I was also pleased to see seating had been added to many of the rooms which will help visitors of all ages to stop and enjoy the grandeur in the State Rooms. Previously, there has been nowhere to sit until the end of the tour which was gruelling for older visitors on crowded days.

Chairs belonging to the princes.

Chairs belonging to the princes.

Did you know? All Buckingham Palace menus are written in French.

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Did you know? Buckingham Palace has 20,000 works of art.

Three paintings by Prince Charles aged 8 and 9, 1957-58

Three paintings by Prince Charles aged 8 and 9, 1957-58

As with all good visitor attractions, you exit through the gift shop.

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Do look for this tree sign just by the gift shop exit.

Can you see the mistake on this tree sign in the palace gardens?

Can you see the mistake on this tree sign in the palace gardens?

Everyone gets to enjoy the palace gardens as it’s the only way to leave the grounds. We did the ‘Nature Trail’ and enjoyed looking for birds and special trees.

Visitors follow a path through the palace gardens to leave.

Visitors follow a path through the palace gardens to leave.

This year seemed to be a definite improvement in the appeal for families and we spent at least 2 hours on our visit – much longer than in previous years.

As expected, the special exhibition rooms were the most crowded and I know I missed a lot as I couldn’t see all of the glass cabinets due to the crowds. But I’m still glad I went and do think it’s a real treat to see inside this iconic palace.

Official Website: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace

A Dittea About Me

 

I met Elizabeth Darcy-Jones a few years ago when she was Tea Poet in Residence at The Chesterfield Mayfair. She is Britain’s Tea Poet and it was only a matter of time really before we would meet and become friends.

We got together recently – for tea, of course – at Camellia’s Tea House which I have to say is a real tea lover’s paradise. As well as serving a huge variety of teas they also sell blended teas to purchase and take home (I’m drinking ‘Beautiful Skin‘ while writing this) plus teapots, cups and all the other goodies that makes tea such a nice ritual. They also have cakes and snacks including gluten-free options.

Anyway, after our catch-up, Liz emailed me to say she had written a poem about me! I’ll admit I was shy about it but also thrilled as it’s such an honour. As I adore tea, to have a poem written about me as a tea blend is fantastic. I would love it if you would pop over to her site to read the ‘Dittea‘ there. Thanks.

TeaPoet