Like the Colour…

I have a pretty common surname.  Sometimes I get asked how to spell it in full and sometimes I’m just asked if I spell it with an “e”on the end…. but I’ve not seen it spelt this way before.


The Good Life

Who remembers the 70s TV show ‘The Good Life’?  With Tom and Barbara Good, played by Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers and their neighbours, Margot and Jerry Leadbetter played by Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington.  Well… this show was set in the London suburb of Surbiton.  The same suburb that my friend, Saskia lives and I went over there for a visit and a little look around.


It’s a lovely area south west of London – only 15 minutes out of Waterloo Station and is full of shops and restaurants and Saskia lives right near the train station. How lovely is this art deco building?


Surbiton is also right near the river Thames and has a great walking/cycling path the whole way along.


Another famous Londoner, Boy George once made a film clip for one of his earliest songs, Karma Chameleon.  Here is the video just in case you haven’t seen it lately.  It is meant to be set in the deep south of the USA…..

But actually it was filmed right here on the Thames between the suburbs of Surbiton and Kingston on this Turks river boat.  Watch it – it’s terrible!


Ever the tour guide, seriously Saskia, you should look into doing this professionally!  We walked along the river until we hit Kingston which has a fabulous ye oldey worldy village feel about it.  So old in fact that this bridge was built prior to 1293!!!


Here’s the proof.


Just checking out the weekend market in the square.


A lovely part of town and a super tour!

Sheridan Smith – Funny Girl

Today Tans and I hit the matinée scene at The Savoy Theatre to see “Funny Girl”


the musical made famous by the absolutely fabulous Barbra Streisand.


The story of Fanny Brice and how she rose to stardom.  This version was staring Sheridan Smith in the lead role as Fanny and I couldn’t wait.  I fangirled a little because not only do I love Babs, I also love Funny Girl and Sheridan is one of my faves.  Win/Win/Win.


You might know SS from shows such as:

Love Soup


2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps


Gavin and Stacey, as Smithy’s younger sister, Rudy


Jonathan Creek




and now on the stage in the West End as Fanny Brice


The show was fabulous, and Sheridan was awesome. The only thing that could have made this day better if is Babs herself showed up.


A Day of Kulcha

There is a new kid on the block in the ‘places to go and have a drink with an awesome view’ campaign.  The newest and hippest place to be is at the top of the Walkie Talkie Building – so called because it’s the shape of old fashioned walkie talkies….. good luck  explaining that to the kids of today.


Anyway – the official name is Sky Garden @ 20 Fenchurch Street.


You have to make a booking to go up to the top where the cafe, restaurant, bar and view is situated.  And a fabulous view it is too – 360º


The Shard and London Bridge over the murky brown water of the Thames.


Looking east over the Tower Bridge and Tower of London out towards Canary Wharf


Looking out to the South West


Can you see the Eye?


Looking around for Tanya


The bar area


Can you spot me in amongst the plants?


Looking out to the north past The Gherkin


Looking out towards the west….. passed this woman, who stood right at my shoulder until I stepped back so she could get in close to the window to take her photo’s head.


And there’s Wembley Stadium….. Can you see it?  It’s just there.


This is cafe where you can buy take away coffees and light snacks.


Seriously, I keep losing Tanya.  It’s like she’s wearing camouflage.


Next stop on our day of kulcha was at the Natural History Museum which I’m embarrassed to say that when I got there realised that I had never been there before.


The outside of the building is pretty amazing



but the inside gives the outside a run for its money as well.


The special exhibition on at the moment is about colour and vision – the evolving eyesight of animals.


There were quite a few specimens on show like Charles Darwin’s pet octopus.  I wonder what sort of pet they would make?  I can’t imagine they would be terribly cuddly… although they do have quite a few arms.


Out of all the animals on Earth, human eyes are apparently quite uncomplicated and our brains fill in a lot of the blanks that our eyes can’t handle.


This is eye ball of a hedgehog.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.


This chap is an artist who was born with no colour vision, so he has this permanent antenna attached to his skull!


Who is seeing an angler fish?


No museum of any kind is complete without crazy mirrors.  This was Tanya’s way of cloning me so one of me could go home and the other could live in London forever.  My top self doesn’t look too sure about the results…. my bottom self doesn’t seem to be able to see at all.


I’m a little concerned as to where my bosom is sitting… but compared to the chin on the girl next to me, it’s the least of my worries!


I’m not sure I know what’s going on here.


There is nothing that is not funny about this photo, but at last, I have long fingers and they don’t look creepy at all!


The last section was the stuffed birds.  Why does this Harpy eagle look so perplexed do you think?


We both approached the Dodo showcase and both sighed and gave it an “aw” when Tans added, “Well, they don’t look like the sharpest tool in the shed, do they?”


Time for lunch!  We wandered up the street passed this very unassuming Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…. do you think the the person who first started this religion is regretting giving it such a long name?


We weren’t planning on having lunch at the CoJCoLDS, we were merely walking passed on our way to Kensington Gardens


Whilst studying the map it occurred to me that I might have never seen Kensington Palace.  Can you imagine being Kate and Wills and having your house plans up of the general public to see?  Also, what would it be like to have statues of your relatives around your garden?  Most people just have photos in frames.


Just a little memorial for Prince Albert…


And Princess Diana’s memorial… a little more tasteful and quite a peaceful place for all your contemplating.


And that’s enough kulcha for one day.

Kew Gardens

This is my last week in London, England and Europe so my lovely friend Tans has taken the week off work so we can spend some quality time hanging out together.

Across from Tanya’s flat in South West London is a great park, complete with its own cafe.  One of the owners went to Melbourne and brought back with her the recipe for a dish consisting of toast with Marmite, avocado, then scrambled eggs with sweet chilli sauce.  She calls it “Aussie Eggs” – seriously, try it!

Check out what is written down the black section of the wall – I felt a kindred spirit connection when I was in there.


So today’s adventure took us slightly further afield from the park and cafe across the road from Tanya’s house.  Today we were going to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew – South East London.


The day was quite chilly and yet blue skies – which was perfect.


This is ‘The Hive’.  It’s a light and sound installation in the gardens that is representative of a proper working bee hive.  When you walk inside, you can hear the sound of bees working and the lights intermittently flash as if they were working bees.


Robin at first was pretty unimpressed, but once he got out of his pram and got to walk around and play with the lights, he was very excited and very sad to have to leave.


This is me getting arty with photography….


I thought this was quite reminiscent of the John Lennon “Imagine” memorial in Central Park in New York.  What do you think?


More artsy fartsy stuff.


Robin realised that he could actually control the light in front of him going on and off by sticking his finger into the 12 IND. Hex Washer Selfdrill screw which was underneath the lightbulb.  Every time he stuck his finger in it, it turned on.  Genius!


What do you mean it’s not me controlling the light?


Pretty happy with his achievements.

“I controlled the whole hive with this one finger!”


You can spend a whole day just wandering around these gardens.  There are ponds and hot houses …


 Exhibitions and cafes and ducks and geese…. and peacocks!  Well, just one peacock to be exact.


This is the tropical palm house.


Which, funnily enough, is full of palms.


There is also a rose garden with two of the prettiest blonde flowers in all of the UK!


As the day went on it just got better and better and the sky got bluer and bluer.


There is an awesome vegetable patch with huge pumpkins and tomatoes in it – amongst other veggies, but my favourite bit was this secret garden door…. now where did I put that key?


Robin’s highlight of the day was sitting on this bench. Seriously, he was so happy to be sitting there!


I love this kid!  He can’t quite say “Shell” yet, but he does have a crack at “Sh” every now and then though which is a start.  I think he’s holding out on me…. I bet he waits until the day I go home before he says, “It was great spending time with you Aunty Shell, see you next time.”

Robin with kisses.jpg

Two Ladies and a Gentleman

100 years ago when I lived in London my flatmate’s circumstances changed leaving me a bit high and dry on the “someone to live with” front.  So I set out looking for ‘flatmate wanted’ ads.  After going to visit substandard houses and meet dubious housemates I came across an ad that seemed too perfect to be true.  A share house with three ladies, near Greenwich and near the train line, and it turned out, near the best Nepalese restaurant you’ve ever been to outside of Nepal!

So I turned up at this house to meet the ladies…


I have to say that when the ladies lived there, this house was colourful and decorated and had lovely things hanging on the walls and from the ceiling…. and that’s just the outside I’m talking about.  The inside was an eclectic visual bombardment of beautiful things.  Esther and Angela, the original tenants of the house were collectors of beautiful artifacts, appreciaters of art and curators of artworks.  There space was a little like the Louvre in that you could never see every piece of artwork in your lifetime.

Saskia, my Liverpudlian friend was the third housemate and she, just like I marvelled at how you fit all that art in one house.


You remember Saskia from the last blog post.  She’s the lady who introduced me to “Gin in a Tin”

The ladies asked me to join their household and I jumped at it – moving in the next weekend.

These ladies taught me to appreciate good cheese;  they taught me that expiration dates on packaged food was merely a suggestion and they showed me what kindness really looked like.

Each time I come back to London I make it a priority to come and visit them and their now 4 year old son, Josiah.

So lovely to see you again ladies…. and your gentleman








The things you have to do when you have kids!


Liverpool, the Best City Outside of London

This weekend, my lovely friend Saskia showed me around her hometown of Liverpool.  The home of the Scouser.  The birthplace of The Beatles. The city that has the biggest Chinese arch outside of China.


The cultural hub that has more museums and galleries than anywhere else in the UK outside of London.  This town also has the most blue plaques on buildings and Grade II Listed buildings outside of London. Seriously, there are 2,500 listed buildings and 250 public monuments!


Liverpool had the world’s first passenger railway line. It was built in 1830 and travelled from Liverpool to nearby Manchester. A local member of Parliament was killed soon after, in the first ever railway accident.

Speaking of railways… Saskia and I met at Euston Station at 12.38pm.  I had left home earlier than usual, taking into account possible tube closures, bus detours and train delays to make sure that I was there on time…. I arrived at 11.00am, giving me much opportunity to check out the station, visit all the shops and watch all the people…. ALL of them.  It also gave me time to go to Marks and Spencers to buy some “Gin in a Tin” for the journey.


Saskia had done the right thing and reserved our seats as this train can get very busy, but without realising, she booked seats that faced backwards and had no window!  This was my view of the country side as we headed north.


One of our reasons for heading to Liverpool as a) I had never been there before and b) a local band, The Zutons were playing at the student guild.


The Zutons

I was super excited about this because…. Oh, I can’t lie.  I’d never heard of them.  Saskia suggested that I checked out some of their music on iTunes before the gig and as I read down the playlist of songs I noticed  the title “Valerie” and when I listened, it was indeed the same tune made famous by the late Amy Winehouse.  I immediately text Saskia and asked if she knew that they did a cover of “Valerie”…. horrified, she replied, “Yeah, they wrote it!”

So after a delicious Japanese dinner with a lovely group of Saskia’s childhood friends we all made our way to the gig.  We stood shoulder to shoulder with other Zuton fans staring into the back of the head of the person in front of us.


It got so hot and loud that this old sheila had to take a breather for the second half of the show in the comfy chairs where there was a nice cool breeze blowing threw.  I could still heat the music that I didn’t recognise, so at least there was that.

DAY 2:

The Grand Tour of Liverpool with Tour Guide – Saskia.

Naturally, on the only day we had to do our grand tour, it was raining Liverpudlian cats and dogs…. but we cracked out the brollies and soldiered on.

First stop was the St George Building which we couldn’t go into because there was a beer festival being held there, but we did stop outside next to this statue of Queen Vicky.  Check out the look on the horse’s face!  I wonder what was happening when they were posing for this?


Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery is the National Gallery of the North and apparently houses one of the best collections of European art outside London.

This chap in the painting looked like he’d had quite a fright which makes me wonder if somebody was perhaps doing what Saskia is doing when he posed?


One of my favourite buildings was the Picton Reading Room at the Central Library.


It was absolutely glorious on the inside and reminded me of something out of Harry Potter with its ornate spiral staircases and elaborate lighting.


They have built a new library right next door, but this building, being heritage listed had to be left alone.  Thank goodness for Heritage listing!


We walked around the room taking in some of the old classics along the way.  (I don’t mean Saskia is an old classic!)


Next it was down to the docks which plays a pretty important role in Liverpool’s history.

This is the Liver Building (pronounced liver as in fiver, not liver as in Liverpool… I don’t know why, that question was not answered on the tour.  Anyway, the building is a-topped with 2 liver birds.  One faces out onto the Mersey River keeping all those who sail safe from harm and there is one at the other end facing the land, protecting all the families of those sailors who sailed out from the Mersey.


Legend has it that were these two birds to fly away, the city would cease to exist.  Another local legend says one of the liver birds is male, looking inland to see if the pubs are open, whilst the other is female, looking out to sea to see if there are any handsome sailors coming up the river.

The birds are apparently as tall as two double decker buses on top of each other…. also the clocks are bigger than those on London’s Big Ben – phew, Liverpool can finally claim something over London!


There are three very important buildings at Pier Head and they are referred to as The Three Graces.


You’ve got the Liver Building, which you now know all about.  The Cunard Building which was the former headquarters of the Cunard Shipping company – they were the ones who ordered the building of the Titanic from White Star and the Port of Liverpool Building which is the former home of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board – not as famous or interesting, but they come as a trio, so…..

 In 2004 the whole waterfront became a World Unesco Site.  The World Heritage Site stretches along the waterfront from Albert Dock, through The Pier Head and up to Stanley Dock.  This area was bombed heavily in the war and they lost the railway line that used to run the entirety of the dock.


This is what it would have looked like back in the day.

Now this is almost too obvious to even mention… but heck, it needs to be said! Liverpool holds the Guinness Book of Records title for being the Capital of Pop. More artists with a Liverpool origin have had a number one hit than from any other location – even London.

Being the home of the Beatles, it was hard not to have an ‘Accidental Beatles Tour’


I’m so much shorter in Liverpool!



What do you think Paul? ….. Paul?

Even locals like to get in on the act!  Saskia is quite short in Liverpool as well.  Either that or The Beatles were really huge!


Just as is started pelting down, we took cover in the Liverpool Museum where we learned all manner of things.  Now, I’m not entirely sure what this Liverpudlian dock worker’s statement means… perhaps the parrot was to make sure the little Mrs didn’t have any special visitors whilst he was away?  I don’t know.  Any guesses?


We learned that Liverpool is a film industry hotspot.

Films that have been shot there include The Hunt For Red October,  Shirley Valentine and some others that I had never heard of. The city was used as a location for more than 140 films last year and has doubled for Moscow, Dublin, Paris and even Venice – they must have CGI’d the canals in.

Remember Shirley Valentine?  She was the original Eat, Pray, Love girl.


Not everybody was as taken with this wondrous place as we were though….. or maybe she couldn’t handle all the chaos and madness.


Liverpool was voted the European Capital of Culture in 2008. The European Capital of Culture is a city chosen by the European Union and for one year they organise a series of cultural events. Liverpool beat five other hopefuls – Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle and Oxford – to win the coveted prize. You beauty!

Earlier, in 1998 a Japanese artist, Taro Chiezo designed a sculpture called the Lamabanana, which is meant to be a cross between a lamb and a banana.


It was both a comment on the dangers of genetic engineering and also heavily influenced by the history of Liverpool’s dock trading products.

So, In 2008, as part of Liverpool’s year-long position as European Capital of Culture, 125 individually designed miniature replicas were created. 


Did anybody know that ‘Flock of Seagulls’ were from Liverpool?


The Museum also boasts the best view in Liverpool overlooking the Three Graces, The Mersey and Pier Head.  This photo doesn’t quite do it justice.  It really was lovely.


Have you ever wondered what Scouse was?  Or why Liverpudlians are called Scousers?  Well…Scouse is a type of stew. It was eaten by Liverpudlians living in poverty before the 1900s. Ingredients include lamb or beef, cabbage, carrot, potatoes and onion.  Who knew?


Ferry Across the Mersey

by: Gerry and the Pacemakers

Life goes on day after day
Hearts torn in every way

So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
’cause this land’s the place I love
and here I’ll stay

People they rush everywhere
Each with their own secret care

So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
and always take me there
The place I love

People around every corner
They seem to smile and say
We don’t care what your name is boy
We’ll never turn you away

So I’ll continue to say
Here I always will stay

So ferry ‘cross the Mersey
’cause this land’s the place I love
and here I’ll stay
and here I’ll stay
Here I’ll stay

And…… this is the ferry that you’ll catch today, painted as such in case you can see it!


I think this might be the best food truck idea I’ve ever come across.  Cheese on toast.  That’s it.  That’s all they sell.  Cheese on toast.  Well done.


My ever optimistic tour guide showing me that the skies were indeed clearing up and the blue was pushing her way through.


Every city has got one of these now I think.  I’m not sure who was the first – probably Liverpool.


And I think the Parisians probably took this idea home with them after a visit to the docks in Liverpool.


The Mersey is quite tidal, as you can see.  Tides can reach up to over 10 metres and as low as 1 metre.


It is suggested that you don’t swim here…. good suggestion, thanks.


The city has two cathedrals, one situated at each end of Hope Street. The Anglican cathedral, which you can see her near the large rat, is one of the world’s largest religious buildings; it has the world’s heaviest bells and its tower is more than 100 metres high.


The Catholic Cathedral, is a very modern building that I first thought was some sort of gas works building, but those poles at the top actually represent the Lord, our King’s crown.

We couldn’t go inside this one because we missed the closing by 10 minutes.  Isn’t it always the way when you want to go to church?


See what I mean?


This is a gas works….. not a cathedral.


This is the Cathedral.

And this is a very modern door decoration.  Is it Jesus?  I don’t know.


There is a very important piece of art in Liverpool…. in fact, its in this photo below by Tracey Emin.  Can you spot it?


It is a small bird on top of a four-metre high bronze pole and it is a tribute to the city’s famous symbol the Liver Bird – even though it’s obviously not a liver bird.

The sculpture was commissioned by the BBC as part of their contribution to the art05 festival and Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008.  Apparently it represents strength and femininity.

The bird, which is the size of a sparrow, disappears when viewed from the front and only reappears as the viewer moves left to right.  A bit like the Mosa Lisa following you around the room.

There are other art installations all over the city, like these piles of cement suitcases that sit in front of the Liverpool School of Art.  If you look closely, the cases have names of famous Liverpudlians on them.


So with that our tour came to a sad close.  It was an awesome tour and I would highly recommend anyone heading to Liverpool, they should contact Saskia first.

Dinner that night was with Saskia’s family at one of Liverpool’s top tapas restaurants, which was lucky because when I went to the train station the next morning, this travesty happened!