Monday 31 August 2015

My Month in Numbers [and Hamlet quotes] 2015: August

Hello, hello.

It's been quite the month here. So much so that for the first time in My Month in Numbers history [68 monthly installments and counting] I'm not only going to document my month in numbers [as the name would suggest] ... I'm also going to add in appropriately themed Hamlet quotations. Why?
  • Because, Hamlet!!
  • Because since seeing it live on stage 12 days ago I haven't stopped thinking about it. 
  • Because ever since I got back home my old, much scribbled on, copy of the original text has never been out of reach and ...
  • Because you can bet that, whatever it is you've experienced, Mr.Shakespeare's written about it already. So I'm going to let him pull some of the weight this month.
Now, when I said it's been quite the month here, 'here' isn't quite accurate. Of the 744 hours in August the most memorable, noteworthy, stuff took place not here, but there ...

"The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns." Hamlet in Act 3.1. [OK, I did return ... but only just ... you'll find out more later in the post ...]

71.5 hours = the time spent in London
Outside the National Theatre. 
And of those 71.5 hours spent in London it was:

The 2 hours 40 minutes spent watching Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre that were the most memorable.
If you've read or heard anything of the hoo-hah around the taking of photos / recording during the performance you'll understand why I have no photos of the occasion. They even sent me emails beforehand to remind me of the complete embargo. [Not that I would ever take photos mid-performance!].

And I was already anxious enough about:
  • getting there on time [We walked. Across London. One of us wearing wedges.Guess which.] 
  • of seeing both Cumberbatch and Hamlet in the flesh ... 
  • ... and of being thrown out or having to put a large bag in their cloakroom [as made clear in those emails].
... that I didn't even take my camera with me to photograph the theatre outside of the performance.

So the only photos I have of the entire evening are these, taken by James. But hey, at least my body language didn't give my anxieties away ...
"My fears forgetting manners" Hamlet in Act 5.2.

And as if all the emails, news reports, and signs the ushers were holding above their heads, didn't impress upon me the fact that photos weren't allowed ...

12 inches away = the distance, for the play's entirety, between me and a Barbican employee whose job it was to sit and monitor the audience.
I thought I'd done well selecting our seats, I'd sit at the front, no heads to block my view, and I'd be able to lean right up to the railings for a better look ... and no one would see me crying. [Because, let's face it, I was always going to be overwhelmed. Hamlet means such a lot to me.]

But I'd been eyeing up the stool from the minute we arrived. 

I even said to James "Someone's not going to sit there are they?". And then ... around 3 minutes before curtain up I got my answer. 

The usher approached me to say "I just thought I'd better explain, I'm going to be sitting there. They give me a wooden stool. So comfy!"
And I spent the next 2 hrs 40 watching the stage while being well aware that the watchers were also being watched!

"For some must watch, while some must sleep." Hamlet in Act 3.2.

From Act 3, to the very 1st line then to Act 2 = where the infamous "To be or not to be" soliloquy was moved, and moved again. 
While I'd tried to avoid any reviews about the production beforehand I did hear the furore about how, in the first previews, the most famous lines had been shifted from their original place in Act 3 right up to the very first words out of the gate.

And so, as I sat there in anticipation, as the curtain rose, as I saw the top of Hamlet's head as he sat on the floor directly beneath me ... I was fully expecting him to bust forth with one of the most iconic lines in dramatic history.

But he didn't.

Instead those lines didn't appear until later on - although still not exactly where you'd expect to find them. And while I hate to agree with the critics [I disagree with them about several other aspects of the production] I'm really glad it was moved from the opening scene to a point in the play where you'd had time to really care about whether Hamlet wanted to be ... or not. And I did care.

I always do.

Now here's where, if you're playing a drinking game where you down a shot every time I mention crying, then you get a step nearer inebriation, because it was during that speech that I had my 1st sneaky weep.

Followed swiftly by my first attempt to surreptitiously wipe tears away with a complete stranger [almost] sitting in my lap.

"What would he do had he the motive and cue for passion that I have? He would drown the stage with tears". Hamlet in Act 2, Scene 2. 

Level 9 = the hotel floor we stayed on. 
And this is the globe sculpture we passed every time we went to and from the lift on our floor:
"The earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire." Hamlet in Act 2.2

And yes, it did spin, like a real globe. Thinking about it we really ought to have got on and off at every other floor to check out the other sculptures! Maybe next time ...

The morning-after-the-Hamlet-before my friend, and erstwhile blogging collaborator, Kirsty Neale, travelled into the city to meet me beneath one of the legs of the London Eye [like spies, or people on a blind date].

"But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you to Elsinore?", "To visit you my lord. No other occasion." Hamlet + Horatio in Act 2.2. 

And from there we packed James off to the Imperial War Museum then made our way to the Royal Academy to indulge our mutual love of Joseph Cornell's work. 

80+ = the number of Joseph Cornell works featured in the'Wanderlust' exhibition:
It was well worth the trip as it was a beautiful exhibition filled with collage, collections of  'things' in boxes and amazing uses for ephemera. If you think mixed-media loveliness and assemblage art is a recent artistic development ... then a trip around Cornell's works will relieve you of that: he was born in 1903 and worked throughout the 20th Century

If you're going to be anywhere near London before it ends on September 27th I can't recommend a visit highly enough.  And if you can't make it there Google him instead ... and be inspired.

But if you do manage to get to the RA then, after all that looking and absorbing, you might want to boost your blood-sugar levels by hopping across the road to The Parlour - "a truly decadent ice cream experience" -  inside Fortnum & Mason [established in 1707!]...

2 scoops each = the ice-cream treats Kirsty and I indulged in: 
Kirsty had 1 coffee and 1 salted caramel scoop, while I had 1 honey-comb and 1 rose-violet [oh my goodness .. the rose-violet was delicious. Jean ... you know where you need to go. And Helen ... will ice-cream do instead of cake this month?]

And if 2 simple scoops may seem a little conservative to you then ... you probably haven't seen the price lists! While I was there I also bought 25 Fortnum & Mason 'Queen Anne' tea bags to take back for James as a paltry "sorry I saw Joseph Cornell and ate expensive ice-cream without you" gift.

After the art and the ice-cream Kirsty and I went on 2 boat trips - one to and one from Greenwich - and you can catch up on my river Thames photos in this post from last week  ... here's an appropriately watery-themed Hamlet quote to bear in mind while you do:

"But if the water come to him and drown him, he drowns not himself." First Clown Act 5, Scene 1.

... and on the evening James and I ate in the pop up restaurant I talked about here, in a different post. Then, after all of that, it was time to go home ... 

"My necessaries are embarked, farewell" Laertes Act1.3.

3 days earlier the train from Darlington to London took just 2.5 hours ... yet our return trip was quite a different story ...

12.30pm = the time our train was due to depart.

"So fare you well. Upon the platform 'twixt eleven and twelve I'll visit you." Hamlet Act 1.2. [To be fair ... Hamlet isn't talking about a train platform here. Trains weren't invented until 200 years after the play was written. But hey ... I'm doing my best here ...]

12.15pm = the time our train was cancelled due to overhead line failures!
We had been anticipating problems as we'd heard about earlier trains being affected but right up until 'Cancelled' appeared on our section of the board we thought we were going to be OK! 
So we sat there, with no idea what to do next -although Kirsty almost had two house-guests for the weekend ... not that she was aware of that fact!

Virgin didn't announce anything other than an apology and our only consolation was watching writer, and national treasure, Alan Bennett take a seat 2 rows ahead of us!
Then, at 12.45pm I heard them announce ..."The train on Platform 1 is the 13.00 Virgin  East Coast to Edinburgh. Passengers please note that there are no longer any seat reservations on this train".

And I realised that, while this wasn't our train, it was going in the right direction and, if there were no seat reservations that meant they were expecting lots of people to get on board. And boy did they ever!!

3 times the regular number = how many additional - otherwise stranded - passengers boarded the train. 
By the time we reached the train all the seats were already taken. Not that that stopped us, or dozens more, from boarding. It turns out that that one train ended up with 3 trains worth of passengers [its own load plus that of the 2 cancelled earlier]!!

4 = the number of bottles of water James and I had accepted from the Virgin East Coast staff who were handing them out in the station.
We ended up travelling alongside a thankfully well behaved, middle-class, stag party and I heard one of them say: "You know something's wrong when they start handing water out". 

"We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart" Hamlet Act1 Sc2 175

And that 'something wrong' ... looked like this ...

10 = the number of us who spent the journey STANDING in the wobbly section between carriages C + D: 
Which meant that I spent 3.5 hours on a train ... standing here, in front of the toilet
Fortunately the train was so completely jam-packed it made it near-impossible for anyone to move up or down the aisles to reach the loo anyway! Meaning only 3 people 'paid a visit' all the time I was there! [How's that for a silver-lining?].

And in that small space there stood:
  • James and I.
  • The aforementioned stag-party [drinking beer, red wine and Pimms while talking about volunteering for Water Aid and the best dim sum restaurants in Paris. See? I told you they were middle-class!].
  • A nice, lone, stranger. 
  • Plus all our respective luggage!!! 
Halfway through the trip the nice stranger gallantly offered me his makeshift 'seat' - his large, solid suitcase. I declined, but it was a very nice gesture. The kindness of strangers eh? [And no ... it didn't make me cry ...].

7 hours plus one night's sleep = how long it took for my  head to finally stop feeling like it was in constant locomotion.
All evening, while sitting, then laying, the back of my head continued to feel like I was moving from side-to-side!

But yes, eventually we made it home safely, only to discover that ...
4 screws had been removed from a door lock ... and our garage had been burgled while we were away!
But, it wasn't as bad as it sounds ... fortunately, we keep nothing of any worth in there and only 1 item was stolen. Plus my Dad had secured the doors in our absence and had decided not to tell us about it earlier so as not to spoil our stay. [We've since upgraded our locks, and kept my Dad!]

"Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter? [...] a grave-maker: the houses that he makes last till doomsday". First Clown Act 5.1.

And finally ... so as not to end on a tragic note [although, hello, I am under the influence of Hamlet!] let's finish my August round-up with a bit of fun we had the day after our train trials!

After 3 days in the big smoke I needed some of this:
So we took a trip to the coast where on a whim - although we've been walking past it our entire lives and, to our knowledge, have never been in - we decided that this was the day we visited the Zetland Lifeboat Museum. And the moment we stepped inside one of the volunteers set us a challenge:

How can you balance 6 flat-headed nails on top of 1 flat-headed nail?
We didn't know. But we could have as many attempts as we liked and ... if we wanted to know the answer ... all we had to do was donate £1.00 to the RNLI [the lifeboat charity]. So with nothing to lose, and only charity to gain, James gave it a go. And failed. Lots of times.

In the end he gave in [although goodness knows men don't like to be beaten do they? I thought we were going to have to move in so he could keep trying until he worked it out], we paid our £1.00 and the volunteer took him through it step-by-step:
And here's how it's done.
Apparently there's lots of tricks like that on Youtube. And, apparently, the museum have landed on a great way to raise funds!!

"I shall the effect of this good lesson keep". Ophelia Act 1.2.

And on that positive note ... I'm bowing out of this post, and of August. [This month has taken me almost as long to write about as it did for me to live!].

You're welcome to:
  • join me with your own numbers, 
  • OR to read this post and and smile
  • OR to read this post and question just how much free time I must have
  • OR to read this post today and then join in with a comment and a quote of your own. [Quotes are optional.]
So, that was my August 2015, in numbers ...  "The rest is silence." Hamlet Act 5.2.  [Unless of course you do leave a comment ...].

Julie :-)

Saturday 29 August 2015

Portable Magic: 'The A-Z of You and Me' by James Hannah

Hi you.

Now, here's a thing to admit in a book review: I don't want to tell you about this book:
Not because it's isn't worth talking about. Far from it.

And not because I'm being precious and I want to keep it all to myself. It's just ...

I want you to come to it as I did: oblivious.

Oblivious to its depth; to its craft; to it's well tuned tone but, most importantly oblivious to its plot; especially to the predicament of the narrator who we gradually get to know inside and out.

Gradually. And that's the point.
  • I don't want to tell you the plot of this book right here, right now before you've even had a chance to crack its spine for yourself.
  • I don't want to tell you about what is happening to the narrator throughout the novel.
  • I don't want to tell you because, trust me, it's quite the experience when it just unfolds before you. Line by line. Page by page, in an organic unfurling of detail, of location, of situation. 
Because if you don't know any solid plot 'facts' from the start, if you don't know any better, you can sustain yourself by speculating on what's happening, or what might happen, and even on what part of you knows probably can't happen ... but you still hope that it can.

So how did I come to be so in the dark about it? How did I come to it blind? Why I didn't intuit the true nature of The A-Z of You and Me at the start? Well ... it all started in the library ...

I picked it up from the shelf not knowing anything about it, turned it over in my hands, and read this blurb:
And what did I pick out?
  • 'wonderfully quirky', 
  • 'contemporary', 
  • 'love story', 
  • 'funny and sweet'. 
Couple that with the pretty, swirly, blackboard-chic, cover design and I stood there thinking "Mmm ... OK, looks like some light summer reading, I can do with something a bit breezy." [I'd just finished reading about the persecution of Jews in Edmund DeWaal's exquisite The Hare with Amber Eyes].

And so I popped it on my pile of books to borrow.

Reading light fiction is more of an exception rather than a rule for me and the library is the ideal, commitment-free, place for me to indulge in it. And I don't mind admitting that I can be a bit of a literary snob, often preferring something I can really get my linguistic teeth around, tending to treat lighter fiction like I do custard slices: wonderful to drop my face into for a top up of something sweet, but, equally, no way to feed my brain on a regularly basis.

But if, like me, you pick up The A-Z of You and Me thinking you'll be getting a custard slice then, be warned, you're not. That element, picked out in those quotes is much more of a side-serving to what is essentially a meal of beautifully rich writing, and bittersweet storytelling with a garnish of salty tears.

It's certainly not as light and casual as some of those review phrases and jacket design would suggest and whether later/alternative editions [it came out in paperback this week] come closer to presenting the real marrow of the book, I can't say, I haven't seen those copies.

For me though, this disconnect turned out to be a positive experience. I was pleasantly surprised that I found myself reading something far more stylish, literary and deep than I was expecting ... and maybe it's the exceeding of my expectations that's been a part of the reason the book has endured in my mind after reading.

But I'm getting ahead of myself talking about having finished the book ... here's a glimpse at the opening lines, so you get a feel for the prose yourself:

It's Hannah's debut novel and, like so many first novels this feels like a beloved collection of ideas, thoughts, phrases, distilled into a rich and satisfying end result.  Distilled, not condensed.  This isn't a novel over-crammed with plot twists or research or high concepts - it's a novel of clarity, focus, and immediacy which while you might not want it to, puts you right there on that bed, in that room with it's narrator.

And that's where you stay from start to finish. Inside his life, his room, his head; meanwhile you learn about his wider life, his past, his story beyond the room through the conceit of him listing body-parts, A-Z, attaching a story to each one. For example:
And that's probably the first time I've seen the word 'chesticles' written down! [A recommendation in itself, surely?]
And with that ... that's all I'm going to say to whet your whistle, to stir your curiosity, to tempt you to add The A-Z of You and Me to your 'To Read' list because, remember, I don't want to tell you about this book.

What I will tell you is that it made me cry.

And I feel I can tell you this because I say that so often here, about so many things,that perhaps you'll write it off as nothing noteworthy. I'm quite literally the girl who cried wolf. [And then cried because no one believed her that there was a wolf in the first place, and then again worrying if the wolf was OK out there on its own and what would happen if they did believe her and then go and kill the wolf ...]

So yes, I'm easily moved, but the emotional reactions it stirred in me were not cheap, easy ones. The tears were drawn from my eyes not jerked

Some were to be expected, others came in waves, [the scenes with the girl with the yarn-bombing for example] and they kept coming, gently, until the final page.

So, make of this review what you will because that's it, I'm not going to tell you anything more about it ... in fact I've probably already told you too much, and I didn't want to tell you about it in the first place ...

But if you do want to know more then:
  • find a copy of the book and push your nose firmly into it! Or ... 
  • there's currently an official blog tour happening which you can follow by heading to the #AtoZofYouandMe hashtag on Twitter. Within those tweets you'll be able to find plenty of other reviews which give more of the game away. [I'm not part of the blog tour, I'm just gate-crashing! It just happened to coincide with my just having finished the book].
  • And for further details you can find the author - James Hannah - on Twitter here 
  • or on his website. 

Your turn ...
  • Have you read The A-Z of You and Me? How would you tell someone about it without telling them too much?
  • Or are there other books that you'd love other people to read ... but you don't want to spoil the plot before they begin? 
Do share your thoughts and experiences. 

More book talk

Thursday 27 August 2015

Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt 2015: The London Edition

Hi hi. 

Did you catch my post earlier this week, the one where I blurred the lines between rational adult on holiday and complete Sherlock super-fan? A post which, for balance, also involved gnomes and black-bean burgers?  Well, if you didn't read it, you'll want to go catch-up ... because that's quality journalism you're missing out on right there..  

But not so quick! Because I've got more scavenger hunt photos to share as I'm almost finished my version of the 21 items we needed to find! 

So, have I mentioned I've been to London? Once or twice? Well, ever since I knew I was headed there I'd been holding off photographing this next particular category as I thought a snapshot of the Thames would make the ideal document of my mini-break.

The thing is ... as you'll see, I didn't really stop at ONE photo ...

20. A natural body of water
The Thames, glittering in the morning sunshine:
The thing we came to realise about the Thames is that it's so ubiquitous you can see it from all kinds of locations throughout the city.

So much so that while our hotel sat right on the river with the front door being just metres away from the water's edge we could also see it from our room located at the back of the building:
And we couldn't really go far without bumping into [although, happily, not falling into] it. So here are a few additional takes on my chosen 'natural body of water ...

... with essential London landmarks in the background:
The London Eye:
Tower Bridge:
And while we're on the subject of bridges here's a glimpse of the Thames taken...

... while on a bridge:

... and while under a bridge: 

... then with the tide out: 
It was a little strange to hear the tidal lapping of the water, a familiar sound from closer to home where the coast is just a few minutes drive away, but not necessarily something I thought I'd hear in a city.

And from moving with the tides we go back in time to  ...

...when it froze over:
 One of a series of plaques depicting the frost fairs held between the 17th and early 19th Centuries when the Thames would freeze over.

And while we're on the subject of doing brave things on the river [I'm much more of a landlubber] ... here's a view of the Thames ...

... from the back of a boat:
 My friend Kirsty and I took a trip up and down the river, to and from Greenwich, and it was on our return that we sat in the splash zone, with various small boys and other people who didn't mind getting wet when the engines were going full speed.

While I was there I took this photo as proof that, this summer, I did at least one activity that required the creation of an official 'Escape Plan':
Makes me feel almost adventurous. Almost.

And finally, for today, here's yet another shot of the Thames, again with an famous London landmark in the background [the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben] only this time, in the foreground, I've sneaked in another Scavenger Hunt category:

21. A photograph of you with a sign reading "2015 Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt".
I'll admit that I did worry if I'd feel silly holding that up while on a very crowded bank-side footpath; then I saw just how many tourists were selfie-sticking with gay abandon. And I got over myself!


I've now got just 2 categories left to find and my summertime hunt will be at an end!

Is that autumn I can feel in the air? *starts thinking of what to document as the days begin to darken *


p.s: If you'd like to catch up on my discoveries then do drop by my other Scavenger Hunt posts here:
And if f you wanted to join in the hunt then you still can, it doesn't end until summer does. Just visit Rinda as it's her brainchild and you can share your discoveries either via your blog, or on Instagram with the hashtag  #‎rindas2015photohunt or even join the Facebook group and make sure to visit Rinda's blog to catch her regular round-ups and link posts.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

If we've popped-up and setlocked ... then this must be London.

Hi you. I'm back.

I'm now post London. Post Hamlet. Post Cumberbatch. Although, as you'll see from where this post finishes up ... it's fair to say I'm never entirely post-Cumberbatch; I'm more a case of 'permanently in between Cumberbatches'.

But until the next batch comes along [a few paragraphs down in fact] ... let's talk about the serendipity I stumbled over in the big smoke; let's talk about things that pop-up with the power to delight, and let's talk about finding gnomes, and Holmes, where you'd least expect them ...

The Popping-Up:
While I may not live in or even particularly close to a city I still like to think of myself as pretty up-to-date with what's what, with what's on the up, with what's going down.

I may live 250 miles from the capital but, for several reasons, I don't live under a rock with a whippet for company. Heck, I read; I can use a hashtag; I have at least 5 kinds of tea in the cupboard, I watch SkyArts documentaries for pleasure and I can even use the manual settings on my camera.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is, as my Grandma would've put it: I'm not as green as I'm cabbage-looking. And yet, until last week I'd never been to a pop-up restaurant [they tend to be such city-style phenomena don't they?] so when we stumbled across one in 'real life', in the OXO building on London's south bank, just metres from our hotel, dare I admit that I really felt I had to go? Perhaps so that, at the very least,  I could later proclaim, like, in a blog post or something [ahem] that: "I went to a pop-up restaurant ... in London".

And while I was really looking forward to it I found myself being slightly unsure at the same time ... and began to feel like maybe there was slightly more green around my cabbage leaves as I'd been willing to accept!

Which was only appropriate considering the theme of this particular pop-up:
The Garden Gate at OXO2 [open until August 30th] is decorated like part summer fete, part English garden, part woodland picnic:
Its laid back atmosphere [there were people playing table tennis and jenga] was just what two tired, achy people needed who'd been walking around London for 3 days,  one of whom may or may not have been so emotional that they wept in a theatre one night and then again over breakfast the following morning [For the record: that last person wasn't James. But then you'd guessed that already hadn't you?].

And what's better for lifting a crafty, kitsch-loving girl's spirits than sitting her on a gingham covered tree trunk next to a wall of fake hedging and artificial flowers?
Not to mention the fact that if I'd had the foresight to bring a garden gnome with me I apparently could have bagged myself a free drink in exchange. [And I ever-so-nearly packed one too ... just in case. But, it was that or my make-up ... and needs must ... ;-) ].

You can just make out here - behind me - the shelf where the donated gnomes end up:
And to continue the theme, cocktails [which I didn't have ... like my heightened Hamlet-influenced-emotional state needed any alcoholic encouragement to tip over into hysteria ...] were served in watering cans. And the food  ... well ...

... my black bean burger with guacamole [which was the best thing I've eaten all month] was presented in a wooden garden crate complete with fries [again, amazing] in a plant pot! 
While James's steak arrived in a terracotta plant pot saucer:
And as if the experience couldn't get any better the price for both main courses came to just £18.00. I know!

After having paid £80.00 elsewhere for our first meal in the big bustling we-can-charge-anything-if-you-can-see-the-Thames-while-you're-eating-it metropolis, this couldn't have been a more pleasant and welcome end our stay.

So, if you're anywhere near the south bank in the next 5 days I can't recommend a trip to The Garden Gate highly enough. And don't forget to take a gnome with you!

And, while you're there you - like James - can look out for this ...
Sherlock: The Great Game. Season 1 Ep. 3. BBC
Before you get too excited on my behalf this is NOT a holiday snap shot taken by me! [Just as well really as there's a dead body laying just out of shot!]

No, it's a screenshot of a scene in 'The Great Game' ,Season 1 Episode 3 of Sherlock, which was filmed on the south bank. A fact which ... thought I'm not entirely sure why ... had been lodged in James's head all the time we were there. And so ...

The [accidental, after-the-fact] Setlocking:
For the uninitiated 'setlock' is the hashtag used by those people who trek around London seeking out, finding, and generally loitering around the set of Sherlock while it's being filmed.  And, while I love the show, I'm not so obsessed as to do that. Heck, we were in London for 3 days and I didn't even insist we go to Baker Street so, y'know, I'm not that much of a crazy-fan-girl ... [maybe next time?].

And so ... as we'd been walking along the riverside path each day James had been convinced that the scene, which he could clearly picture in his head, must have been filmed fairly near our hotel and/or the pop-up restaurant nearby.
  • He knew you could see St.Paul's in the background and that there was a wooden jetty/wharf in shot.
  • Meanwhile the main thing I could remember about the scene was a  play on words between Lestrade and Sherlock [Sherlock: "Meretritious". Lestrade: "And a Happy New Year."] which had made me laugh. [Still does].
[BTW: that fact - that one of us remembered buildings while the other honed in on the word play - tells you all you need to know about our respective differences!]

Once we'd settled back in at home we re-watched the episode so James could settle with himself, once and for all, if his savant-like location hunting had been correct ... well ... here's the scene again ... and there's the dome of St.Paul's on the left ... and the wharf on the right ...
.. but wait ... isn't that? And that? Why ... yes, yes it is ...
And with that, James was vindicated!

And wouldn't it have been even more entertaining, and indeed a bit strange, if, entirely coincidentally, we'd walked along that very same wharf on our first night and if, James had stopped to take a photo of our hotel, and me [hoping my skirt didn't whip up in the breeze], while we were there?

Well, yes, that would be strange ... and yet ...
As much of the series is filmed in and around the city I don't doubt that we'd inadvertently done lots more after-the-fact 'setlocking'. We just don't have the photos to back that up. Which may be just as well ...

... otherwise you'd be beginning to think by now that I was a little bit of a Sherlock geek ... and, goodness me, we couldn't have that ... could we ...?


Thanks for taking time to read me today. Do feel free to:
  • share your own experiences of pop-ups, or ..,
  • let me know if you too have visited The Garden Gate, or London's south bank,  or ... 
  • dare to admit you've setlocked ... 
  • or maybe you've visited locations where your own favourite shows/films were filmed. Whether you were aware of it at the time or not! 
I'll be here, waiting to hear from you, mulling over my time in the big smoke, sneakily wiping away the Shakespearean tinged tears ... 


Monday 17 August 2015

Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt 2015: Architectural Columns or "how I even found a way to get old books into the hunt!"

Hello hello. 

We seem to actually be having a summer here - which is better late than never - and it means there's still time for me to complete my Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt 2015! 

After I've shared today's item I'll be left with just 4 categories to find:
  1.  a natural body of water
  2. a photo of me with a sign reading Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt 2015
  3. someone walking a dog / other animal and
  4. people playing a board/card game.
While I'm pretty hopeful I'll find most of those, just in case, I've already secured one of the 'alternatives'. But now on to today's find, my architectural columns. 

I was planning to leave this category until I take a trip to London thinking there'd be more than plenty iconic buildings there whose columns I could capture ... but something nearer to home has grabbed my attention first.  And ... when you see what, you'll know why ...

5. Architectural columns
Imagine my delight at coming across these beauties made from old books inside the new-ish Teesside store of furniture retailers Barker and Stonehouse

And people think I buy-up / misuse lots of old books!!!

I have no idea of they were all stuck together or if they're just free standing a la dry stone walling.

And, with my history of clumsiness there was no way I was even tempted to go and remove a single volume 'just to see' ...
And while were on the subject of piles of old books ... here's another [of many] occasions they've made their way into my summer ...

A few weeks back I was in a charity shop [so what's new eh?] and while I was wanting to browse the book shelves in my way stood a young woman and her friend gathering toward them armfuls of old, hardback, books similar to those in these columns.

When the lengths of their arms, from finger tip to armpit were filled I heard them counting up to at least 12, calculating the cost, then taking them to the till.

There the young woman explained to the shop assistant that she planned to use them as centre pieces for her wedding tables and the assistant sounded delighted and effused over the idea wishing the bride-to-be all the best for the big day as she left the shop.

So far, so sweet. [And so very Pinterest-y too!]

And then, as I took my rightful place at the book shelves [Yes, I did buy a book, of course I did. You wouldn't expect anything less.] a second shop assistant emerged from the stock room and the first began to fill her in on this tale of nuptial creativity ... only this time she wasn't quite as enthusiastic and supportive ...

"She said she's going to use them as centre-pieces or something. Like sort of open, around jam jars [see, I told you Pinterest must have been involved somewhere], I don't know really. A bit weird."


And if she thinks that's weird .. goodness knows what she'd make of those fabulous Barker and Stonehouse columns! 


So those are the latest spoils of my hunt but I'll be back before Autumn with the remainder! 

See you soon.

Julie :-)
If you wanted to join in the hunt then you still can, it doesn't end until summer does. Just visit Rinda as it's her brainchild and you can share your discoveries either via your blog, or on Instagram with the hashtag  #‎rindas2015photohunt or even join the Facebook group and make sure to visit Rinda's blog to catch her regular round-ups and link posts.

Friday 7 August 2015

Type, print, handwritten signs, script, grafitti, holiday reading and Magna Carta: my summer break, in text.

I write a lot here. 

I find it hard to nip in, write a quick update, and leave. [You might have noticed that by now.]

I like stringing sentences together, weaving words, compiling paragraphs but today I thought I'd try to write a post with fewer words and more images which is ironic really as ... the uniting theme of the photos is 'text'.

While browsing through my recent holiday photos from Lincoln I noticed that there was a recurring theme of writing, text, type, scripts etc traced around them, drawing them together. 

So here's an alternative look at my break, here's my holiday - in text. 

1. An intriguing sticker on the walkway around the walls of Lincoln Castle: 
It turns out that 'All Type No Face' is some sort of graffiti group. Maybe? This quote from their About page doesn't exactly answer all my questions: "We stand by living a life from a path you create, rather than what is dictated to you by others." Why put the sticker there? Who knows?

Now, appropriately enough ...

2. The grafitti-style artwork on the 'Young Baron' one of the 25 'Lincoln Barons' on the Charter Trail [a kind of treasure hunt through the city]:  

3. A rather painful handwritten 'Dear John' note taped to a shop door:
A rather painful handwritten 'Dear John' note taped to a shop door
I spotted this on a Sunday evening. 

I can only imagine the embarrassment of this shop owner when he/she came to open up on Monday morning and was greeted with this. 

Imagine knowing that passers-by had seen this before you. [And some of them might even photographed it. Forgive me.] 

4.A rather more quaint sign in which some marketing savvy hens tap into Lincoln's history:
A rather more quaint sign in which some marketing savvy hens tap into Lincoln's history:

5. The two books I read while on holiday:
I took comedian and actor Rob Delaney's memoir 'Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage' along with me but, once I'd finished that, I challenged myself to find the remainder of my reading matter from second-hand / charity shops in the town. Which is where I found Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey; a book I've always intended to read but never got around to, and it made perfect light holiday reading. 

And while I was browsing for something to read I picked up two additional books, that I've since read on my return:
6. A window blind at Doddington Hall featuring the text of letter from 1762:
It's a blown-up, printed, reproduction of a letter sent to the Lord of the house informing him of the installation and mending of various tapestries in the house. In case you can't make it out it reads:
"Honorable and Most Worthy Sir. I am hanging the tapestry in the bed chambers according to Lady Hussey Delaval's orders. I have had a tailor all of this week mending the tapestry before we hang it up."
[You can read about the tapestries in question here].

*Makes a note to pick out a tweets/emails to have printed on my curtains ... *

7. Detail of an embroidery in the Doddington Hall 'Voices From the Inside' textiles exhibition:
I'm kicking myself that I forgot to take a photo of the details of this piece. The wording says "I can change my mind" and all I can remember is it is old, and was by a woman who I think was in a mental institution.  If anyone knows the full story please do let me know! 

Also at Doddington Hall ... 

8. A sample of the Cornelia Parker 'Magna Carta' embroidery project: 
The full work, exhibited elsewhere, is an embroidered reproduction of the Wikipedia page of Magna Carta sewn by prisoners, the Embroiderer's Guild and others, [including Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Jarvis Cocker who sewed the words 'Common People' of course!]

The democratic nature of Wikipedia is meant to reflect that of the original document but you can find out lots more in this video.

And, finally, on to the document in question:

8. The wall of the purpose-built subterranean vault in Lincoln Castle, home to one of the copies of  Magna Carta:
A version of the document is depicted on a vast, double-height, wall as you enter the building.
And while the guide informed us we couldn't take photos once inside the vault, he did say we could photograph the wall. And I don't need to be told twice! 
Some of the more famous, and important, phrases have been picked out in gold leaf: 
Now I know the Magna Carta wasn't perfect.

I know it didn't herald freedom and rights for all. [Those 13th Century law makers weren't exactly renowned for their feminist idealism or their concern for the working class] and yet ...

... it was a pretty good start. 
And well worth pausing to read a wall over.  [Find out more about the exhibition here.]


So, how did I do? Not sure I used a lot fewer words than usual. What can I say? I was surrounded by text and script in these photos so it was hard to resist rambling on about them!

Feel free to contribute some text of your own by leaving me a comment today.