Hello again, and welcome to my latest monthly roundup. I’ve continued to settle in well and enjoy a variety of experiences in London over the last few weeks, including more social events, museum visits, festivals, walks and tours, plus I’ve taken a trip to see my old friends in Devon. So there’s loads to get through, and I hope you enjoy reading about it all!
- Settling Into London
- Visiting Torquay & Totnes
- Thinking Bob
- Other Socials
- Festivals & Museums
- TV & Radio
Settling Into London
Things are still going well for Mum and I in our new inherited home. For starters, we’ve now got the gas, electricity and water accounts transferred from my Aunt (who was looking after them) into Mum’s name, with my name then added on as well. Plus we’ve signed up for the gas and electricity priority registers, as Mum’s eligible due to her age and disability. That means we should be prioritised for help if there’s ever a problem, and it also ensures that any visitors to the door have to give a password so we know they’re genuine, as we can’t see their ID cards.
We’ve also had valuations done on the house, because it’s currently owned by my Mum and my Aunt (as it was passed on to them jointly as sisters when Nan died), and my Aunt is happy to sell her half to me, so that Mum and I own it together.
Apart from all that, we’ve registered with our local GP surgery and had initial health checks, we’ve continued to clear out some more old stuff of Nan’s that we don’t want, I’m being kept nice and busy with my homeworking (especially election jobs like pollcards, ballot papers and postal voting materials), and I’m doing some work with James from the Aniridia Network to prepare for Aniridia Day on 21 June. So everything’s ticking over nicely.
Visiting Torquay & Totnes
I made a return visit to Devon at the very start of the month to see the colleagues I’m now homeworking for and an old school friend. It felt strange going back as a tourist instead of a resident, but I had a nice time, and the glorious weather made it feel like the middle of summer.
I stayed in the Premier Inn in Torquay for a couple of nights, which is just a short walk down the road from the train station. And I was very happy there. The receptionist was very helpful, giving clear directions to my room, which is in the newer section of the hotel near the back. It’s just as well she told me, as it would have taken a little while to figure it out otherwise. And the room was nice and comfortable too.
Likewise the staff were also very happy to assist when I came down to have a cooked breakfast each morning, telling me what the items were and dishing things up for me. It makes things a lot quicker and easier to get help like this, as it would take me longer to work out what things are available at the buffet by myself, and I might make a bit of a mess when trying to serve it up.
On my first evening I had dinner in the Beefeater restaurant attached to the hotel as well, which was lovely. I had beer battered haddock with chips and peas for my main course, and then Mississippi mud pie for dessert, which was a wonderfully indulgent treat with lots of chocolate!
Meanwhile it was wonderful to go into the office and catch up with various people. A few things in the department have been shuffled around, taking advantage of the extra space left by my absence, but I was still able to do a bit of work, using a desk that was vacant due to a colleague being on holiday.
I also had a bit of time during my stay for a nice walk around Torquay, to enjoy the warm sunshine and take some photos, including around the harbour, the big Riviera Wheel, and the beautiful views from Royal Terrace Gardens (Rock Walk) up on the cliffs.
On my second evening, meanwhile, I went down to Totnes to meet an old friend from school. It’s easy enough to get there on the Gold bus from Torquay, especially as I get free travel using my Freedom Pass from London (as it’s part of the national concessionary fares scheme). It’s not the most frequent bus though. The number 12 between Torquay, Paignton and Brixham runs every 10 minutes, but the Gold bus only runs every half an hour during the day – and then there’s a big 2½ hour gap in the evening where it doesn’t run it all! So I had to plan my travel to and from Totnes a little bit carefully. But I got there without any problems.
After having a little wander around and taking a few photos while I had time to spare, I met my friend at a restaurant called Little Asia, where we both had crispy pork in a honey and lemon sauce, which was really nice, served with special fried rice, mixed vegetables and prawn crackers. I had cider to drink with mine, while she had a Tiger beer, and then we went to a nearby pub for one more drink. So we had a really nice evening together.
All in all, therefore, it was a very worthwhile trip, and it was great to see everyone again, as I do miss being around them. My colleagues and I are all keen for me to keep popping down there every so often, so hopefully it won’t be too long until the next visit. At the very least I’ll go down there for our Christmas meal, which isn’t really as far away as it might sound, the time soon goes!
I’ve enjoyed a couple more events with the social group Thinking Bob this month, the first of which took place at the The Railway Tavern near Clapham North station, one stop away from the Pub Quiz we did in April. It’s a very similar station to Clapham Common too, with narrow island platform between the two tracks.
Bobily Fortunes was a version of the TV show Family Fortunes, as you’ve probably guessed by the name (or, if you’re American, Family Feud). If you’ve seen it then you know how it works, and it was much the same here, with only minor tweaks to the rules. We had two competing ‘families’, who were twice as big as those in the TV show, as we had 10 people in each team. Members of my team included Sara (who was on the Pub Quiz team a couple of weeks ago), Shannon (the American lady I met at the New Members Social in January), a girl called Pippa and a guy called Ed.
The idea of the game is to guess the most popular responses that people have given to different survey questions. The top responses are hidden on the board, and the more popular answers are worth more points. On the TV show the number of points reflects the number of people who gave each answer in the survey, but here the host set arbitrary values of 30, 20, 15, 10 and 5 points across the answers, thus giving a total of 80 if you got them all. We had the board on a screen, which was being output from a laptop, and we also had the sound effects from the TV show for the right and wrong answers.
At the start of each round, one contestant from each family goes up to the front, and they get asked one of the survey questions. Whoever gives the most popular answer at that point gets to choose whether their team tries to guess the rest of the answers on the board, or if they want the other team to have a go instead. The latter option can be a good tactical move if you suspect the other team will struggle.
Either way, whichever team is put into play then has to guess all the other answers, of which there were 5 in total for each round in this case. And unlike the TV show, where contestants in each family answer individually, for our game the teams were able to confer throughout and agree on each answer, and the host would see if it was on the board.
Our game also differed in that each team only had 2 lives per round, rather than 3 as on the TV show. You lose a life each time you get an answer wrong, and losing all your lives means the other team has the opportunity to steal the points earned up to that point by naming just one of the missing responses.
It means you have to think hard to get all the answers on the board, which is surprisingly tricky sometimes. And some of the answers can seem a bit random. But if you know the show, then you know how fun it is when people give silly answers, it’s part of the charm of the game.
There were 11 rounds altogether, meaning everyone on each time got the chance to stand up at the front at the start of each one, then one person had to go up again for the last round. Just like on the TV show, the points available were doubled after the first few rounds. However, we didn’t bother having a final jackpot round with an individual from each family pitted against each other. All the rounds were played in teams.
There were a good variety of questions too, as you can imagine. One that particularly stumped the room was about things that happen at a wedding, because things like the Best Man’s speech, cutting the cake and dancing weren’t in there. Instead, the answers were confetti, throwing the bouquet, exchanging vows, crying, and new relationships forming! Other questions asked us to name vegetables that weren’t green (e.g. sweetcorn & radish), things wives do that annoy their husbands (e.g. nagging, spending money & taking ages to get ready), reasons for getting undressed (eg. going to bed & skinny dipping), and things you wouldn’t want to sit in the front row for (e.g. a comedy gig & a funeral).
And, to our surprise, my team actually won! Only by a slim margin of 15 points as well – 525 against 510 – so it was close. Especially when you consider that 10 points of that was actually a bonus I had earned – and it was the only bonus handed out during the night, so without it we’d only have won by 5 points. The bonus came about at the beginning of one round, when I had gone up to the front to face a contestant from the other team. The question was “Things that you can see and not touch”, and typical of my sense of humour, I gave the answer “other girls that aren’t your partner”! Well, it’s true, right?!
It got a big laugh from everyone in the room, 10 bonus points for our team, and one of our team members bought me a drink. So, even though the answer wasn’t on the board, it was worth it! The other person gave a more sensible answer, but it was also wrong, so I got another go – and this time I got the top answer! So it all paid off.
In terms of prizes, the guy who had been operating the computer had to run out to get something, as he hadn’t had time before the quiz! So he came back with some jelly babies and a box of chocolates. We gave the chocolates to the other team as a friendly gesture, as they’d done very well too, and had the jelly babies for ourselves. We then just sat around and chatted for a bit, until people gradually started going home.
All in all, therefore, I really enjoyed it. I got on well with my teammates, and was able to suggest answers while we were conferring that were indeed on the board. So I felt involved and had a good laugh, it was a great way to spend a Friday night.
National Gallery: Renaissance Event
The National Gallery host a selection of themed evening events, called National Gallery Lates. So I decided to attend one about the Renaissance period with a group from Thinking Bob, as it seemed like a good opportunity to visit the gallery for the first time. It was quite difficult to find my fellow Bobbers at first, in amongst the big crowd of people attending, but thankfully one of them recognised me as I was hunting around, so we were all able to go in together as planned, though we then split up into smaller groups to explore.
There were various special things going on at the gallery that evening, and I went with a few members of my group to a storytelling session about Michelangelo’s life. It was only a quick overview for about 20 minutes, but the lady was a very good storyteller, with very animated delivery, as she told us various interesting things. A couple of the girls we were with wandered off partway through, and a guy I was with got a bit bored and started looking at his phone, but I listened to the whole thing. It is a long time to stand there and listen to someone talking though, so I can’t blame them.
There were also things like Renaissance-style selfies, where they put a bit of costume on you to give you the look of the period, but we didn’t do that. So apart from the talk, me and my little group just had a general wander around the gallery looking at some of the art. It is a massive place, and the paintings are very impressive. I must go down there and have a proper look around for a day or two, when I have the time to do so.
After a little while though, we all ended up going to the bar downstairs, where there were photo booths to have group photos done if you wanted, with a few props to make them more comical. But you could only get 4 in there at once, so 4 of the others did it, but the other 5 of us didn’t, as we couldn’t be bothered to split up! So instead we all just sat around having a drink and a chat.
We stayed there until the event finished at about 9pm, then we went to a big pub on the other side of Trafalgar Square for more drinking and chatting. After that, some of the others went on to the piano bar in Embankment that I keep hearing about, but myself and a couple of others decided to go home at that point.
So it was a good evening altogether, it gave me a good sense of what the National Gallery is like. I don’t know if I’ll do many of those late evening museum events with Thinking Bob, as I think it would work better if I went on my own to do those things, so I can take my time to look at what I want to without having to tag along with others to avoid losing them. But I had a nice time all the same, it was well worth trying.
Smudged Lipstick: Spelling Bee
As well as the Thinking Bob events above, I also went to a Spelling Bee quiz by Smudged Lipstick. This was basically a game where people were called up to the microphone one by one and asked to spell a word. If you got it right, you went into the next round. And if you got it wrong, you were out. Simple as that.
That might sound an odd thing for a group of adults to go to. You hear about children doing spelling bees, but why would a group of adults get together to do such a thing? Because it’s great fun, that’s why, especially with drinks and comedy involved.
The event was held at Drink, Shop & Do in Kings Cross again, which I had already been to in April for their Dirty Scrabble dating event. They do use a variety of venues, it just happens that I’ve been to two in a row at this particular establishment. Thankfully we weren’t in their domed room this time though, where the acoustics aren’t conducive to conversation when loads of people are gathered together. Instead the game took place in the area by the bar, which is very handy of course.
Everyone was given a number, and each person in turn was called up to the front and given a word to spell. You could ask for the definition and its origin (e.g. Latin, Greek, English, etc), in case they were helpful. And you could ask for it to be used in a sentence, which was often worth doing even if you didn’t need it, because they were always funny and often a bit rude!
It was strange getting up in front of a big group of people just to spell words, and I did feel a bit nervous initially. But the atmosphere in there was great – everyone was having fun and supporting each other, Jordi the host is a great guy, and of course having drinks on hand helps too, so you relax into it quickly. It was therefore a lot of fun on a social level too – which is the whole point of the event – and I enjoyed chatting to a lady called Sally who I was sat next to, just as everyone else was interacting with their neighbouring contestants.
I didn’t win, but I managed to get through a few rounds unscathed, spelling Bethlehem, cajole and malapropism correctly. I fell down on funambulist though (a tightrope walker apparently – it was an educational night as well!). But I’m happy I got eliminated then, as the rounds got really hard after that, to the point where no single person won outright in the end. The words in the last few rounds got so ridiculously difficult that nobody could get them, so the prize was divided up between the two last contestants, which was very fair.
So it was a fun night, and I’d definitely recommend giving it a go if you like the sound of it. There is a video from the night as well – which you don’t see me in, but it does accurately reflect the atmosphere and the enjoyment of the evening.
I had a nice afternoon meeting up with some members of the VIPON (Visually Impaired People Of Newham) group, which is connected to East London Vision. We got together to hear a talk from members of the local Sensory Team – different people to who my mother and I met in February when we had our assessment with them, and I already know much of what they do because of that, but it was still interesting nonetheless.
There was also talk amongst the group about future outings that are planned. And it was just nice to talk to fellow members and the volunteer helpers in general, as there were some people there I hadn’t yet met. One in particular gave me some very kind compliments about my blog as well, so it’s humbling to know people are reading and enjoying it!
Festivals & Museums
Imperial Festival & Science Museum
I spent a couple of hours having a look around the Imperial Festival this month, which is Imperial College’s annual display of the research they’ve been doing into science, medicine, health, robotics, etc. There were various rooms to go into, along with a few dancing or musical performances outdoors, and I did capture a few video clips while I was exploring.
On the whole though it wasn’t particularly fascinating to be honest. The different zones were a bit like trade fairs, where you have to go up to the people at desks for them, and it wasn’t easy to see or hear what was being explained when stood behind all the other people. There were lots of children who were enjoying themselves though. The central street area was lined with food stalls as well, but the queues for those were quite long too, and it wasn’t worth waiting for an expensive burger or hot dog.
So once I was done there, I then went next door to the Science Museum for a couple of hours. I started by having a look around the Energy Hall, which is all about the history of steam power. It was quite easy to see the exhibits, from the massive life-size machines to the smaller models, and the text on the boards was easy to read with my monocular. Then I had a walk through the Exploring Space gallery, which is darker by its nature, thus making it harder to see things. But there was a big round ball that had things like the Earth, moon and other planets projected on to it, with a voiceover telling you about them. And there were other things in there that I could see too, some of which I got photos of. So it was all interesting and enjoyable, and I’ll definitely have to go back to the museum again to look around further. I loved going there as a kid, and it’s just as fascinating as an adult!
I spent the final weekend of the month at Alexandra Palace, because I’d never been there before and they had a couple of events going on. And it was well worth it. Alexandra Park is a beautiful space, the Alexandra Palace building is very impressive, and the views of the London skyline are absolutely incredible, especially in the gorgeous summer weather we had on both days, with the rain only creeping in on Sunday evening.
So the event they had going on outside Ally Pally (as the building is affectionately known) was StrEatLife. This a 2-day street food and entertainment festival, which they hold once a month over the summer. And despite this one taking place just a few days after the horrific attack at Manchester Arena (and thoughts go to everyone affected by that atrocity), it clearly hadn’t put people off, as the place was jam-packed and everyone was having a great time. The police were visible and were searching bags as people came in, but they weren’t intrusive. So there was a great atmosphere.
And of course I tried some of the food. Across the two days I had sausage and chips (called Bob’s Inches) from Bob The Griller, a Hawaiian (ham and pineapple) pizza from the Wood-Fired Pizza stall, a cheese and bacon burger from the Backstreet Diner, an ice-cream from The Ice Cream Cab, and a Classic Waffle with white chocolate sauce from The Waffle Float.
Meanwhile for drinks I tried Cheddar Valley Cider and Jake’s Kentish Cider, neither of which struck me as being great but they were ok, certainly very refreshing on such warm days. And finding the toilets was very easy too, as the signs had really big and clear white text on a dark blue background, which made them stand out well.
There was entertainment too, including a stage on which bands were performing every so often. I caught a brass band called Brasstermind, who played a lot of covers of well known songs. In the video below, you can hear extracts from Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This by The Eurythmics, Master Blaster by Stevie Wonder, and Let’s Dance by David Bowie. They also played songs by The Kinks (All Day And All Of The Night), Michael Jackson (Human Nature) and Rihanna (What’s My Name?). So it was a very lively way to finish off the Saturday, the crowd loved it.
The Great British Tattoo Show
This was taking place inside Alexandra Palace on the same 2 days as the StrEatLife Festival outside, so I thought I’d check that out as well. I have absolutely no interest in getting a tattoo for myself, but it’s still fascinating to see the artistic creations of the tattooists, they’re very clever. There was even a taxidermy stall and a display of classic cars, and a few stalls selling t-shirts, jackets and other garments.
If the show had just been about that, then it wouldn’t have interested me on its own. However, there was a lot of other entertainment as well, which really made it intriguing and worthwhile. There were fashion shows of lingerie, urban clothing, latex and more, plus there were acts like the Circus Of Horrors (including a contortionist and a hula-hooping dancer), performers playing with fire (including Fire Man Dave), and burlesque dancing with Aurora Galore. And there were singers and bands, including a group called The Outers (who I saw covering a Radiohead song), and a lady called Bella McKendree (who had a nice voice and will soon be releasing her debut album).
There were also some ladies offering massages, where you sit on a stool and they massage your shoulders, back and arms. So I tried that too, and it did seem to loosen me up and ease a couple of areas that were aching a bit after all the standing and walking around I’d been doing that day.
It all worked well with the StrEatLife Festival just outside too, as you could go there for food and drink throughout the day. There were a couple of stalls inside the Palace as well, and I think there was a bar in there somewhere, but the main culinary delights were outdoors. That said, there was a Brothers Cider stall inside the venue, so I tried their Pear and Wild Fruit varieties, which were nice.
So it was a fascinating show, and a great weekend overall. The Tattoo Show and StrEatLife aren’t events I’d go to again necessarily, as I don’t need to see a tattoo exhibition again and street food markets pop up all over the place throughout the year. But it was definitely worth it as a one-off, as there was something for everyone there. And, as Alexandra Palace do a wide variety of events, there will hopefully be other reasons to pop back there again in the future.
British Museum: The American Dream
After my busy weekend at Ally Pally, I spent an enjoyable Bank Holiday Monday at the British Museum, exploring their American Dream exhibition. It only runs from 9 March to 18 June this year, so I wanted to catch it before it closed, especially as there was an audio described guide available.
The exhibition examines how American artists have responded to events covering 60 years of US history, including JFK’s assassination, Apollo 11, Vietnam, AIDS, racism and gender politics. The exhibition starts with pop art from the 1960s, then moves through the decades from there.
It was very interesting too, with so many different styles of printing and production methods, and the wide variety of subjects covered. There were a couple of video sections as well, showing footage from across the last few decades and interviews with some of the artists.
And the audio descriptive guide, which I downloaded from the museum’s website and listened to on my phone as I went round, was also very well done. It covers 12 of the exhibits (1 per zone), and gives very clear directions to guide you from one exhibit to the next. For each of them it then reads the introduction of the section you’re in, describes the artwork in great detail, and then tells you a bit about the artist that created it.
I also picked up the large print images book, which has simplified large black & white copies of each of the 12 artworks described in the AD guide, with the various features labelled. It’s a really useful visual accompaniment to the audio guide that helps to highlight details that I would otherwise have missed. So it enables you to look at each item more closely and fully take in what it’s about.
There was also a large print guide with enlarged versions of the text for all the exhibits, but I didn’t fancy carrying two books while trying to use my phone for the audio as well. I was happy enough using my monocular to read some of the panels or just bend down close to them. You were able to step quite close to the artworks in most cases as well to get a good look.
All of the artworks in the guide were interesting, but I think the most striking ones were Marilyn by Andy Warhol (consisting of 10 multi-coloured images of Marilyn Monroe) and Restraint by Kara Walker (a silhouette image of a slave girl’s head chained up in bridles with bells hanging over her head to hear her if she moved, and hooks near to her mouth to make her bleed if she spoke or ate). They stick in your mind for very different reasons, that’s for sure!
I slowly went around looking at everything else along the way too, not just the artworks discussed in the AD guide, so I ended up spending over 3 hours in there, which is longer than I’d expected. Unsurprisingly the exit takes you through a special shop for the exhibition, with books, DVDs, mugs, bags and all sorts of other items. Nothing particularly caught my eye to take home though, except for the confectionery. I ended up getting a Retro sweets mixture (an American style pick and mix bag of sweets) plus a couple of chocolate bars (Cookies and Creme, and Maple Bacon Pancake), so they were nice to try.
So all in all it’s a really interesting exhibition and I got very absorbed in it, especially because the audio descriptive guide and the large print images book I used really helped to make the experience accessible and enjoyable. I didn’t take any photos inside the exhibition, because I was busy using my phone for the audio guide, but I’ve kept a copy of that guide so I can always be reminded of the key exhibits I saw.
All The Stations: Barking
I’m really enjoying a new series on Youtube at the moment called All The Stations, where Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe are travelling through every station on the UK rail network. They’re getting out and exploring several stations along the way, making videos and taking lots of photos as they do so – not every single one of course, as that would take forever, but quite a few of them. So they’re highlighting lots of interesting places and meeting lots of fun people along the way.
They were able to fund it through a Kickstarter project, which I was happy to contribute to, having enjoyed lots of their other Youtube videos. And in doing so I was able to adopt a station as one of my rewards. So I chose Barking station, as it’s the nearest one to me on the network. And consequently it was only right for me to go along to Barking, so I could have a look around the station and the surrounding area.
I’ve written all about it in a separate post entitled Barking Up The Right Track, including several photos and video clips that I captured during my visit. So do go and check that out for lots more details.
Cities Talking: Power & Palaces Tour
This month I also completed the Power & Palaces tour on the Cities Talking app, where actor Christopher Biggins talks you through a tour of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I wrote about my experience of using the app and shared some photos from the first half of the tour in last month’s Favourites post.
This time I started by the Royal Albert Hall, and from there the tour took me along the south edge of Hyde Park, from the Albert Memorial to Hyde Park Corner. On the way I did veer off to find the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, which isn’t particularly impressive but the kids like playing in it, and it’s a nice relaxing place to sit or walk around. But otherwise I stayed on the edge of the park near the road, before going through Hyde Park Corner, across the road and through Wellington Arch into Green Park, and from there past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall, getting the train home from Charing Cross station near Trafalgar Square.
There weren’t so many interesting sights this time, as I’d covered most of them on the first part of the tour. But there were still some interesting statues and plenty of nice greenery, and the Household Cavalry building with a Hall Of Fame of equestrian stars on the side. And Buckingham Palace always looks impressive of course.
TV & Radio
On TV this month, I’ve been enjoying the latest episodes of Doctor Who, Taskmaster, Have I Got News For You, the new series of the Last Leg that has just started, and the conclusion of Season 10 of The Big Bang Theory. And on the radio I’ve enjoyed The Unbelievable Truth and Just A Minute. They’re all shows that I’ve mentioned in previous Favourites posts already.
But there are also a few other series worth noting as well:
- Prison Break – This is another show I came to late, after I heard some friends liked it, so caught up with it on Netflix a couple of years ago. It had apparently ended with Michael’s death in the final feature-length episode, but it returned in April for a brand new series, bringing him back in a plausible and interesting way. So I thought I’d hold back commenting on it until it had finished this month. And while it wasn’t quite as good as the original series, it was still very enjoyable nonetheless, with plenty of great action and excitement, and it was great to see all the characters back together again. So I was very happy to see that return, it was an unexpected treat.
- Dara Ó Briain’s Go 8 Bit – I’m glad this show has returned for a second series this month. It’s all about comedians playing video games in a light-hearted competition, and they’re often old retro games too. So it’s a great bit of nostalgia, especially when you see games you used to like, and it’s always very funny as well, especially with Dara Ó Briain is the host. This year they’re doing a spin-off show too, called Go 8 Bit DLC, with Dara’s assistant Ellie Gibson talking about computer games with the team captains and a different celebrity guest each week. But I haven’t really got into that much, it just feels too random and silly really. The main show is far better, so I’ll stick with that.
- QI – I’ve bought the new DVD box sets for this hilarious and fascinating panel show, containing Series A-D & E-G plus lots of bonus material. I’ll have to save them until we get a new DVD player, but that’s fine, it’ll give me plenty to watch when the time comes. Hopefully the volumes covering series H-M will come out later this year.
So there you go, that’s it for another action-packed month! Well done if you made it this far, and I hope you enjoyed going through it all. Join me again next time when hopefully there’ll be plenty more to report on like this!