Time for another catch-up on what I’ve been doing lately, and with this past week including Halloween, it was only fitting that I did a couple more things to celebrate the occasion, following on from the Ghost Bus Tour I did the previous week. But I’ve also been to a couple of other things too that aren’t related to it. All in all, I’ve been entertained at a museum, the cinema and the theatre, and tried another dining experience that’s new to me. So I’ve had a nice bit of variety, and I hope you enjoy reading about it.
The Chocolate Museum
I’d heard about The Chocolate Museum in Brixton once or twice before, and it naturally sounded very intriguing, not to mention tasty. So when I found out South East London Vision were organising a group visit there, I had to go along. And it was a lovely morning. It’s a very small place, like a corner shop that’s been turned into this museum. But it’s really good. Size isn’t everything, as some might say.
We all sat around a long table, and the lady there told us about the history of chocolate, how proper chocolate is actually very good for you, and the different uses that chocolate has been put to over the years. We also got to taste cocoa nibs and different varieties of chocolate too, which was great. It’s interesting to see the difference between proper chocolate and branded chocolate that isn’t quite the real deal.
And then we got to make our own chocolates too, cutting out our own shapes from fudge and making truffle balls, then ‘tempering’ a bowl of chocolate to cool it down ready for dipping our fudge and truffle pieces into, and then adding sprinkles of dark chocolate, white chocolate and hundreds & thousands over them. It got very messy, as you can imagine, but we loved that. It brings out the inner kid in you a bit. And my creations tasted very nice when I got them home. So the museum is well worth a visit if you have any interest in chocolate (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?). You can see a few photos by South East London Vision on their Facebook page.
Last Sunday I went with a few members of Thinking Bob to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, to watch the original 1978 Halloween movie. I’d never seen it before, so I was very intrigued to give it a go. It was shown as it would have been in the cinema all those years ago, as a 35mm projection, so it wasn’t remastered or in digital format. And that gave it all the more charm really, viewing as it as it would have been seen originally.
And I enjoyed it. It’s not the best horror film ever, sure – it’s a lot of suspense and tension which, while very nicely done and very effective, doesn’t really lead to much in the end. It feels quite tame these days. And it even made all of us in the cinema laugh a few times, when it probably wasn’t meant to! But when it originally came out I expect there wasn’t much like it, so people’s reactions may well have been very different. And I still really liked it. It was a great way to kill an afternoon, so to speak.
I do want to make a habit of going to the cinema regularly, as it isn’t something I’ve really done for ages. It’s very tempting to sign up for a Picturehouse membership for instance, as I have one of those near me in Stratford. And now I have a blog of course, I can write reviews of any films that I see. So I will look into that soon.
Halloween Afternoon Tea
Despite living in the Westcountry for 3 decades, I’ve never had an afternoon tea before. Seriously. Nobody I knew went to them, so I wasn’t going to bother doing it on my own. My mum and dad didn’t do them, and if I ever met my friends for a drink, it was in the pub. It wasn’t the kind of thing that interested us. It’s perhaps one of those stereotypical misconceptions that only older people do those kind of things – and where I lived that seemed to be true, as the only person I knew who did that kind of thing was an older work colleague. Plus there’s also the fact that I’m not a tea or coffee drinker, I’ve never been a big fan of either – hot chocolate’s fine, I like hot drinks like that. But tea or coffee I’ve always avoided, so afternoon tea never grabbed my attention for that reason either.
However, since moving to London, it’s become very apparent just how widespread and popular they are here, with people of all ages going to them and plenty of options for things to drink even if you’re not much of a tea or coffee consumer. I’ve heard about many of them through Emily’s Fashioneyesta blog, especially the themed ones like Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Beauty & The Beast and Alice In Wonderland. These appear to be the most fun, as they’re something different from the run-of-the-mill afternoon teas that everyone else does, although I gather they’re still nice as well. So reading her posts, along with other mentions of afternoon teas in London guides that I follow, definitely piqued my curiosity. So I knew I had to try one when the chance arose.
So on Monday Emily and I went for the suitably themed Halloween Afternoon Tea at the Amba Hotel Marble Arch, which is a luxurious 4-star establishment, with very kind and helpful staff. Our menu consisted of:
- Roast beef horseradish mayonnaise and watercress on sourdough bread
- London cured smoked salmon and creme fraiche sandwich on wholemeal bread
- Classic cucumber and cream cheese sandwich white bread
- Witches fingers cookies
- Brownie with walnuts
- Mini muffin with Ghost meringue
- Chocolate milk shake with raspberry couli
- Freshly-baked scones with or without sultanas with a helping of clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam
- English breakfast
- Earl Grey
- Egyptian Mint
- Persian Pomegranate
- White tea with pear and ginger
- A glass of Bloody Mary
You can see lovely photos of the delights on offer on Emily’s Instagram.
And I really enjoyed it. I went for the pomegranate tea, as I like fruit drinks, and it was very good. The scones were amazing, and the sweet treats were really good too. I’d never had a Bloody Mary before either, and it was stronger than Emily and I had expected, but it was also very nice. So I really enjoyed the meal, and I definitely want to go to more afternoon teas if further opportunities arise, because it’s something fun and different from a standard pub or restaurant meal,
Emily and I walked off our food with a stroll through Hyde Park, so that her guide dog Unity could be let off for the lead for a run around. It was a nice birthday treat for Unity, as she had turned 7 years old that day, and she clearly enjoyed herself. So thank you to Emily and Unity for another lovely day out!
Reasons To Be Cheerful
Finally, on Wednesday night I went to see the musical Reasons To Be Cheerful at Theatre Royal Stratford East. When I was a child, I used to come to this theatre with my family for pantomimes at Christmas, it’s always been great for those (indeed, Mum and I going to see Rapunzel there in December). This is the first time I’ve been to the theatre as an adult though, so I don’t really remember it after all this time. But it’s a lovely venue, with very friendly and helpful staff.
Reasons To Be Cheerful is basically a story built around the music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads. And it was an amazing show. If you’re aware of Ian Dury’s music – and most people know a few of his biggest songs, including the title track, and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – then you’ll know what a great talent he was. And there were plenty of his greatest hits in here, performed brilliantly by the cast. And we were all standing and having a good sing-along with the cast for a few songs in the encore, it was great.
It was a very lively and happy atmosphere, just like singing along with the guys in the pub. I have got a greatest hits compilation for Ian Dury, but I’m very tempted to check out the actual albums as well now, as there were one or two songs here I didn’t know that were good fun.
The show has been produced by The Graeae Theatre Company, who put disabled actors centre stage, including amputees and deaf performers, and it’s fantastic. Everyone in this show is absolutely great, it really comes across that they enjoy what they’re doing. And the energy they have to summon up for every performance is incredible.
It’s basically a play within a play, whereby professional actors are pretending to be a group of people putting on an amateur production. So, you as the audience are guests in the pub where the characters hang out. The characters are putting on a play for you that they’ve made, about their attempts to see Ian Dury perform live, and they perform lots of his songs throughout. And consequently they use elements of the pub to represent other locations during the play. It’s very cleverly put together.
One aspect where it gets particularly creative is how accessible they’ve made the show. This isn’t something they’ve just tagged on – it’s a central and important part of the piece. So for the hearing impaired, one of the characters was putting up slides on the back screen, with full captions for all the spoken parts and song lyrics, along with imagery relating to the time period, people, locations, etc that were being referenced. And another character was interpreting the spoken parts in sign language as well.
And for me, I had the audio description, which was particularly well done. One of the characters was using the phone in the pub to talk to those of us who had headsets on. And he stayed in character throughout, so he was basically a mate on the phone telling me everything that was going on, so I didn’t miss out. Consequently, not only was he describing what people were wearing and doing (and getting some of the cast to introduce themselves early on too), but there was banter there as well. He was regularly throwing in jokes and funny comments relating to what was happening, which nobody else in the audience knew about. So those of us using the headsets were getting something extra special out of it. It was very effective and unique, and blended into the show seamlessly.
The cast also came out for a post-show chat afterwards, which was very kind of them, and it was very interesting too. On the accessibility front in particular, one of the cast (to everyone’s agreement) said that all performances of theatre shows should be accessible, not just selected ones like we get with organisations like VocalEyes now, or that theatres do in-house. And she was absolutely right of course. It would be great if you could get audio description or captions at any show, not just on specific dates. Whether that will ever happen in practice, I don’t know, but with this show they’ve proven that it’s possible, as it’s purposefully built into every performance from the outset.
The tour is now coming to an end, but I strongly recommend you keep an eye out for its return, and I’m sure it’ll be back again. It’s been going for 7 years as it is, and has toured the world, so it’s clearly very popular. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it appeared again. And I also recommend checking out the new song they’ve included in the show – If I Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong – written by two original members of the Blockheads group and performed by the cast. It’s a protest song against austerity cuts, and it’s very catchy and timely.
And that’s it for now. It’s been another fun week, and over the next few days I’ve got more exciting things planned as well. I can’t tell you about all of them, but I can say that I’ll be going to the free Sight Village exhibition on Tuesday 7th November, which I first attended last year. If you’re visually impaired, or have any interest in accessible technology and services for visually impaired people, it’s well worth a visit either then or on Wednesday 8th. In addition, if you’ve got aniridia like me, or are the parents or a partner or a carer of someone with the condition, then you’re very welcome to join us for the aniridia meet-up afterwards that day.
I’ve also got a bunch of blog posts that are pretty much ready to go, I just need to sort out a few videos to go with them. I’ve got a wealth of things to post about at the moment, partly as I’ve had a few ideas of my own, but especially because of the response I got after the RNIB kindly shared a couple of my recent videos. Thank you to the people that have got in touch with me as a result of that, it’s been great knowing that the videos went down so well and that you’re interested in hearing more about my experiences
So keep an eye out over the coming days and weeks, as there will hopefully be something to interest you coming very soon. And in the meantime, I hope everybody has an enjoyable and safe Guy Fawkes weekend! 🙂