In the meantime…

Hi all – further update – it’s cold and dark again and we’re huddling up inside getting some new posts ready. In the meantime, why not check out some of our posts we had the most fun writing – our guide to afternoon tea, a recent gumtree experience, our favourite cafe, and a London ipod playlist.

C and A

have never seen Camden as un-crowded as in this video, but hey – London Still:


Where did the summer go

Sorry everyone for being MIA since June. Shame on us. I guess we have been enjoying the nice weather and fun London summer things and not actually writing about them. C and I have been meaning to update but she is on holiday back in the States and I’ve been loaded down with work. We have some great ideas to bring back the blog so hopefully some of our readers haven’t completely jumped ship at this point (totally understand if you have though). We’ll get crackin’ in the autumn with some good londonness soon!

C & A

Last few weeks: Wellcome Collection’s Art and Mental Illness

Guest post from our resident art expert, M! Enjoy:

The Wellcome Collection exhibition – art and mental illness


Nothing helps put your neurosis in perspective quite as successfully as considering those of others.  The Wellcome Collection currently offers two exhibitions to this end – Madness and Modernity, which explores the development of artistic and medical interest in psychoanalysis at the turn of the 19th Century, and Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings, a series of notebook sketches tracing the artist’s slow recovery from an almost complete mental breakdown.  These shows juxtapose the treatment of nervous disorders in terms of both time-period and perspective.  The former demonstrates the 19th century’s growing interest in introspection and the attraction of turning to sanatoria to cure nervous disorders brought on by the stresses of modern life, whilst the latter offers a most personal account of a patient being turfed between doctors and day centres in the hope of regaining her sanity.

Neither show is extensive, so a visit will not be a whole afternoon event.  In its limited space, however, Madness and Modernity manages to explore both the medical world’s almost cataloguing approach to mental illness, in which they saw afflictions of the body as indicative of the physiological condition, and the ways in which artists interpreted this new awareness of the psyche.  This is best demonstrated here by a focus on portraiture, a genre which previously relied on the artist’s adherence to aesthetic precision and the demonstration of wealth, fame or position.  Now, in this “nervous age”, artists such as Egon Schiele and Max Oppenheim were turning recognisable sitters into monstrous personifications of inner turmoil with twisted hands and staring, vacant eyes.  The only shame here is that none of the Schiele self portraits are originals, as this slightly diminishes the impact of the works.  Nonetheless, they still convey the unique contradiction of Schiele’s art; the low internal worth needed to convey the self as emaciated and contorted, and the incredible narcissism that led the artist to show the public over and over again just how low he was.

In contrast, Bobby Baker is open and articulate about the ways in which her illness manifested itself.  She has divided the exhibition into stages, so helping the viewer to understand how different treatments and events led to her recovery.  The majority of the sketches are self-portraits in different scenarios, but there is none of Schiele’s self-importance here.  Nor is there a sense of performance from this usually performance-based artist, save for a short video clip at the show’s entrance in which Baker welcomes her visitors.  This is mirrored just a short distance away in Madness and Modernity by a video of someone pacing the corridors of Vienna’s Purkersdorf Sanatorium, passing cabinets of human and animal skeletons that were as much a curiosity as the living patients behind the closed doors.  Whereas this highlights the claustrophobic nature and aesthetic control imposed upon these complexes, Bobby Baker’s welcome adds to the sense of the viewer being invited and encouraged to explore the very corners of an unhinged mind.  At times both moving and shocking, Baker provides a view into a world few of us will enter, and in doing so campaigns for a better understanding and acceptance of mental illness in public life.

For anyone with an interest in the age of Freud and in the changing nature of the medical and public view of the human condition, and especially for anyone who has ever contemplated their own sanity, these exhibitions will both eliminate the sense of being alone in neurosis and raise any number of questions.  Leave your preconceptions at the door, for some of this madness is in all of us.

Madness and Modernity runs until June 28, and Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings is on until August 2nd. It’s FREE. The Wellcome Collection can be found just across the street from Euston station off Euston Road.

See Stonehenge the right way: up close and personal in a druid party

If you’ve been to Stonehenge already, you’ll know it pretty much completely underwhelms expectations. We’ll all seen the glorious pictures, the video from helicopters of the stones standing out starkly against the landscape, unearthly and mysterious. Then you get there and it’s a giant car park, a depressing visitor centre, and then the stones very much roped off. You can walk around them at some distance, which is mildly cool, but that’s about it.

Then, there is this completely other thing that happens during the summer solstice, in June. Suddenly, the Stonehenge owners (I think it’s English Heritage) for night only open up the stones for free and a peaceful party, complete with druids, occurs all night until the sun rises. You literally are amongst the stones, can touch them and appreciate the whole mystical nature of them. This year, I’m going to risk the weirdness and check it out – I’m sure it’s going to be pretty unforgettable. It’s all going down next Saturday night (June 20) to Sunday morning (June 21). See this link for more details, including the mild respectful rules about the stones and the night.The car park opens around 7pm and closes around noon the next day, with sunrise at 4:45am.

As public transport out to Stonehenge is unfortunately pretty challenging (buses schedule from Salisbury is appalling), I recommend you find someone with a car or rent one, as I’m going to do. Round trip cost for two people to rent car plus petrol is around 50 pounds – split both ways that’s 25 pounds, which is probably cheaper in the end then a train ticket. See you there! Don’t forget your pagan goddess fancy dress outfit!

From the festival website

From the festival website

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Don’t miss open garden squares weekend – it’s on now! A ticket is 8pounds but that gets you entry to all of the gardens Saturday and Sunday. Most of the gardens open are ‘private’ gardens not normally open to the public, which of course makes them well worth checking out! With over 190 gardens open, this one takes some planning, but the best strategy is probably to pick an area or two and just garden hop for a few hours. I think my strategy will be to go out to Kensington and Notting Hill tomorrow, where there are a slew of private gardens open for display (and of course they are all quite nice, given that area!). On the website, click on ‘the gardens’ to peruse by area what’s open, with each area having a helpful little map. See the map for Kensington and the map for Notting Hill area. Be sure to start your journey at a garden with a pound sign – that means you can buy your tickets there. Most gardens appear to be places you can do this.

And the garden I’m definitely going to? Lloyd Square, (click on list of gardens – islington – lloyd square WC1) a private key entry only garden for residents around the square that I walk by every single morning on my way to work and wish I had access to every single morning. And though I the residents take great care of it to be honest I never or hardly ever see anyone in there enjoying themselves. Unlike me, who would be in there reading a paper or some such every morning. So there. No bitterness here, no…


Story of London

Have slacked a bit on the two week challenge as A is now on holiday and C is ill, but will post a few extra today and tomorrow to get back up to 7 posts for this week!

In case you haven’t heard of it, there is a massive month-long collection of events happening all over London in June call the Story of London. Each area is holding a slew of local events, most of them free. Check out the website ( and type in your postcode or area for a look – the problem is it’s almost overwhelming how much is happening.

For example, it’s film weekend at the moment and the amount of things to check out is rather making my head hurt. That could also be the flu I have at the moment, but you get the idea.

If you’re into costume dramas and people dressing up and re-enacting things, then don’t miss next weekend – living history weekend!

Or check out other weird and wonderful or cultural things – such as tomorrow night (June 14) the Wellcome Collection is leading a free walk around the West End called Pox and Pleasure about medicine, disease, and sex in Victorian London. Most boroughs are hosting walks around their borough that cover history and architecture – I’m thinking of attending Islington’s changing architecture walk in a few weeks, so see if your borough is doing it as well. Or snap up one of the free evening event gems, like this reading in Bethnal Green – London on London: London writers read their favourite London scenes.

Postman’s Park

May I recommend a slightly famous but often overlooked little gem of a park, Postman’s Park. Literally one minute walk from St. Paul’s, it’s well worth a look (it was also featured in the movie Closer, if you happened to have seen that). Postman’s Park is a tiny oasis in the middle of the city financial institutions. It was established by a Victorian guy who wanted to celebrate ordinary men and women, so in one corner there are all these tiles that celebrate ordinary heroes, mostly people who saved others from drowning or from fires. Their deeds are described in duly lurid Victorian prose, but it’s touching nonetheless. The park is a charming little spot – go on the weekend, when it’s not crowded with office workers on lunch – and the unique tiles (handpainted by the Victorian man who set up the thing who was an artist) are truly worth a gander:

Tile 1



Victorian quirkiness and sentimentality at its best. To get there, leave St. Paul’s tube station (or just leave St. Paul’s cathedral area, if you happen to go tomorrow while the tube strike is still on) and walk towards the Museum of London (should be signs). Postman’s Park has an entrance that is hard to see until you are right up on it on the left, just as the Museum of London comes into sight.

Hamley’s for all your summer fun

Now that we are into June we can almost officially call summer.  The weather here has sure felt like it lately, with just a few exceptions here and there.   With great weather comes the great outdoors.  For Londoners (those without cars or means and ambition to travel outside of their zone) this means tromping to your local park for some sunning, picnics and playful games with friends, families and even strangers.  For all those park outdoor activities i.e. frisbee, cricket, football, american football, etc, why not head to Hamley’s–the most famous toy store in London, located in the middle of Regent’s street almost equal distant from Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street.  If you go into Hamley’s, you will quickly see it is not just for kids.  Last year, my friend and I went there and bought our first frisbee of the season.  There are plenty of toys, games and outdoor play equipment to suit any fancy and even a broad selection of board games for that ever expected rainy day.  My next purchase I think will be a cricket set or maybe a croquet set.  Summer is just beginning, so go to Hamley’s then head straight to the park for a perfect afternoon.

Fancy a Run?

In London there are many different outlets for exercise–anywhere from the cheap and natural way of running outside on the streets to becoming a member of any of the hundreds of gyms or even taking part in any of the running events that are held year-round throughout London.  You can even decide on the intensity of the events–anything from a 5k for charity to the rigorous but world-renowned London Marathon.  But more on those later.

So fancy a run outside?  There really isn’t much to explain here.  Just put on some running clothes, find some shoes and grab that iPod and head to the streets, park, river, canal, etc and just go for it.  Up in Angel, I prefer to jog either down to Clerkenwell up to King’s Cross then back to Angel or I like to run along the Canal.  I’m trying to work my way up to running to Broadway Market and back.  So far I’ve made it halfway there before I desperately need to turn back around of fear of imminent collapse.  Either way, mix it up so you get to see new streets and new places that you wouldn’t have known existed before.  You can also track you run, get ideas for new runs or find running groups or clubs in your area at any of these websites:

Nike Plus


Map My Run

Now on to the gyms.  C and I also belong to a gym–Fitness First.  One thing to know about London is that there are the chain gyms and then there are you local independent gyms and then you have you council leisure centres.  As you probably can guess the price will go down from the chain–independent–leisure centres in most cases but so will the quality of equipment and facilities.  My dream gym would be the Virgin Active gyms.  These chain gyms just have that something extra to make the whole pain of going to a gym bearable.  There are pools, saunas, steam rooms, and a wide variety of classes and equipment.  The only downside is that the price is not for those sticking to a budget at all and you may need to provide your own lock for a locker.  Oh there is also a cafe and wi-fi.  Fitness First on the other hand has a diverse set of classes and loads of equipment including cross-trainers and treadmill with personalised tvs so you’ll never miss an episode of the Apprentice or Britain’s Got Talent.  However, only a handful of them have pools if you the type who prefers to do your exercise in the water.  C and I are still quite please with the gym and really don’t have any complaints and the price is still reasonable for us.  Another chain is LA Fitness but I really don’t know anything about the quality or membership price.  However, you can also try a local independent gym…just do a google search or take a look a this Time Out list of the best gyms to see if there are any near you.

Time Out Best Gyms

Lastly, the leisure centres.  In most cases these will be the cheapest but depending on the council and the quality could go either way.  So make sure you do research before committing to a membership by checking out all the options and prices and think rationally about how far you are willing to travel to go to a gym.  Also, it is worth waiting to get a promotion, so keep your eyes peeled!

Ok, now we are on to my favourite part–the events!!!!!!  Fancy a 5K, 10k, mini-triathlon, full triathlon, half marathon or full marathon?  Well London has it all.  I’ve never participated or even competed before in any fitness event in my life but this year I will do the Adidas Women’s5k  Challenge in September for a charity and today I just signed up for the Tree-athlon at Battersea Park.  Maybe next year I’ll work myself up to doing a half marathon but we’ll see.  Below are  just some of the many events you can get involved with or look into running on behalf of a charity.  If you’re a true champion you might want to enter the London Marathon which runs in April.  It is one of the top 5 marathons in the world raising millions for charities and with over 35,000 runners and celebrity runners and those running in full out costumes (enjoy the pictures at the end).  The 2010 London Marathon will now by sponsored by Virgin and the ballot has already closed for next year so if you fancy running you’ll have to wait to 2011. To check out some of the events see the list below.  Good luck!

Adidas Women’s 5k Challenge


London Marathon

Cancer Research UK 10k

London Triathlon

Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon


















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July 2020

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