Category Archives: London

London

Houses of Parliament tour

​You know those really annoying people who say they would rather spend money on experiences than buy loads of stuff, just after you’ve bought a YouTube-worthy haul of make-up in Boots? Sometimes they have a point.*

That’s why for the last few years my brother and I have chosen to I.O.U. a day out rather than give our Mum a gift on Mother’s Day.

The I.O.U. for Mother’s Day this year was for a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament, so that’s why we paid a visit to one of London’s most historic buildings a couple of weeks ago (somehow it’s taken us four months to coordinate schedules and deliver our promise, but better late than never I say).

You have a few options available to you if you’d like to visit the Houses of Parliament. You can either book an audio tour, book a guided tour or contact your MP in advance to arrange a tour through them.

We went with the guided tour and my expectations were high. There’s a steep £25 admission fee – always a shocker when most of London’s buildings and museums are free to enter – but it was worth every penny.

We were escorted by a blue badge guide who answered every random question thrown his way with confidence and who really brought the history of the place to life. His repertoire of Dad jokes was second to none, and his topical ‘we may have left Europe but please stay to the right’ comment won me over from the start.

The tour takes you through buildings of various ages. Some parts are 1000 years old whilst others are relatively new, rebuilt after numerous fires and bombings.

Other highlights included standing inside the
House of Commons and the House of Lords. Oh, and the fact that photos are banned and therefore I didn’t have to go off on a mumbled rant about how much I hate the selfie stick.

All of us enjoyed the tour and we left with a better understanding of the history of Parliament. And once again we stood amongst tourists who’d travelled from afar, and marvelled at the fact that when abroad we visit all the tourist attractions, yet in our own city we rarely do.

*I’ve always been more of an experience kinda person but what can I say, I’m a sucker for beauty products.

P.S. I know that’s a photo of Big Ben and not the Houses of Parliament…

​​The Botanist Wild Cherry cocktail

The Friday Night Cocktail is back! It’s been a while but I promise this week’s offering is a good one.

I can make such a lofty promise because I didn’t create this cocktail myself… this week’s cocktail is a yummy little number that the clever people behind The Botanist gin created.

The Botanist is a new gin that is handcrafted on the Island of Islay. Yes, really. That little island may be more famous for its whiskey but it’s turning out some really decent gin too.


Funny story – apparently nearly everyone who lives on Islay works for a distillery. An insider tells me that nobody has ever gotten together sober on the island! Post work Friday night drinks must be on another level.

Back to the gin… the Botanist is made with 31 botanicals, including 22 hand-foraged botanicals from Islay. I’d never usually list a bunch of botanicals in a Friday Night Cocktail post but just look at this list! Apple mint, chamomile, creeping thistle, downy birch, elder, gorse, hawthorn, heather, juniper, lady’s bedstraw, lemon balm, meadowsweet, mugwort, red clover, spear mint, sweet cicely, bog myrtle, tansy, water mint, white clover, wild thyme and wood sage. It’s bringing back memories of the gin and making me giggle at the same time – bog myrtle and lady’s bedstraw have to be two of the best names of all time.


The Botanist Wild Cherry cocktail

Ingredients

25ml The Botanist infused lavender, rosemary, long peppercorn and pink peppercorn

17.5ml The Botanist Gin

15ml elderflower cordial

½ lemon juice

4 x black cherries, muddled

Top up with ginger ale.

Garnish with a single mint leaf and one black cherry and enjoy.

Although there are a fair few ingredients in this cocktail, the ingredients enhance the flavour of the gin rather than hiding it. I think you can test the quality of a gin best through a simple gin and tonic, and the Botanist certainly makes a delicious one of those.

Have a great weekend!

Could you help your local London Foodbank this summer?

tomatoes

Nobody living in the UK should have to worry about putting food on the table or have to use newspaper as a sanitary towel. However with 1 in 5 of the UK population living below the poverty line these are both realities for many.

Foodbanks are there when people really need them. They provide three days of nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to people referred in a crisis to ensure nobody in the UK goes hungry.

Over the last few years I’ve spent time with Brent Foodbank, meeting volunteers and helping to run a drop-off point from our office. They do a fantastic job but right now they really need some help!

There are two events coming up that they need volunteers for, National Rail Foodbank Friday and their Summer Food Drive.

National Rail Foodbank Friday

Could you spare a few hours on Friday 24th June between 7am-7pm? Volunteers are needed to help with a bucket collection at Kings’s Cross Rail Station.

Summer Food Drive

An annual Tesco collection where volunteers are needed at their local store to receive donated food items from customers. Brent Foodbank need volunteers in Harlesden and Wembley on Thursday 30th June, Friday 1st July, Saturday 2nd July and Sunday 3rd July between 9am and 10pm.

If you have any questions or are keen to volunteer please email info@brent.foodbank.org.uk to register.

Commuting

london underground tube train on platform

Some people love commuting, some people hate it. You probably enjoy commuting more if you love your job. It also helps if it’s not too long. And apparently those that commute by bike are pretty happy regardless.

One thing is for certain though, and that’s that our commute looks a lot different today than it did just a decade ago.

Commuting today is a bit different than it used to be not very long ago. (And with the rise of working remotely, there is an increasing number of people who don’t commute at all.) Between 2004 and 2010, the number of British commuters who took the train reporting that they were wasting their time traveling fell by a little more than a third—a drop that researchers attributed to a sharp rise in the number of commuters using their phone to check email, browse the Internet, or listen to music or podcasts. Today, workers interested in further reducing their angst, then, can at least take solace in the fact that their forebears had it worse.

CityLab

P.S. how I spend my commute

God’s Own Junkyard

If I ever found myself in Las Vegas again I’d bypass the hotels, bars and restaurants on the strip and head straight downtown. Home to some of the liveliest restaurants and bars (and the best fish tacos I’ve ever had), downtown Vegas is a place I’d happily visit time and time again.

At night downtown is all great cocktails and live music, but during the day you need to find entertainment elsewhere. That’s how we found ourselves visiting the Neon Museum, home to hundreds of classic neon signs. Our tour of the Neon graveyard was one of the highlights of my California road trip as it gave me the opportunity to learn about the history of Vegas through its iconic signs.

A million miles away from Vegas (but just a short walk from our flat) is God’s Own Junkyard, London’s own neon mecca. Located on an estate in Walthamstow, next to a gin distillery and craft beer brewery, you could say it’s a little off the beaten track.

God's Own Junkyard walthamstow east london

Chris Bracey, otherwise known as the Neon Man, created neon pieces for 37 years before sadly passing away in 2014. His work lives on and God’s Own Junkyard is home to hundreds of salvaged and restored pieces he collected over his lifetime.

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From salvaged signs to vintage neon this Junkyard can’t help but make you smile. That flashing neon sign outside your bedroom window might irritate you but a room full of bright neon signs manages to put a smile on your face.

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After two laps of Gods Own Junkyard (one to take it all in, and another to take photos…) we took a pew in the onsite Rolling Scones Café. They serve a surprisingly wide selection of food and alcoholic beverages, but we settled on a pot of tea and a slice of cake to share. The cake was homemade, definitely shareable and very delicious.

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Quality of food aside, it’s definitely worth stopping for a drink just so you can sit in the cafe and take it all in from a different perspective.

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God’s Own Junkyard is a museum of sorts and like most good London museums it’s free to enter and explore. Walthamstow really isn’t that far away so definitely visit when you can.

5 things I learnt from the Women’s Equality Party manifesto for Mayor of London

london skyline mayoral election

The London Mayoral election is this Thursday and I’m yet to decide who I will be voting for.

This week I’ve been reading all the manifestos so I can make an educated choice. I think I know who will get my second preference vote (the one that ‘matters’) – but I’m keen to explore all options for my first preference.

The manifestos are rather glossy and fairly accessible, so if you’re unsure who to vote for it’s worth giving them a read. Sadiq Khan (Labour), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Caroline Pidgeon (London Liberal Democrats) and Sian Berry (Green Party) are the four key contenders but there are a range of other personalities and parties on the ballot too.

One party that caught my eye was the Women’s Equality Party. They obviously have a clear ideology and I was interested to see how that applied to more conventional policy topics like housing and transport. It was an interesting read – here are five things I learnt:

  • Founded in 2015, the Women’s Equality Party has over 45,000 members and registered supporters
  • 45 years after the Equal Pay Act the gender pay gap still exists
  • 5,500 rapes were recorded in London last year
  • 28,000 women in London work full-time but still provide 20 hours of unpaid care every week
  • Enabling women to work the hours and jobs they want would add an estimated £70 billion to London’s economy

Sophie Walker from the Women’s Equality Party is not going to be the next London Mayor, but I hope throwing her hat into the ring has captured the attention of Sadiq / Zac so London in 2020 is a safer and more equal place for women.

Soho in 1986

A few weeks ago I wrote about how special it is to go for a walk in London. Lee commented with his memory of walking in London in 1992, and now Simon has chipped in with his memories of Soho in 1986:

I worked in Soho in ’86/’87. I remember the old actor and his wife at number 40 Dean Street – George Munting, I remember Paul Raymond coming to check on his flats, I remember Derek Block getting angry with someone parking in his space, smashing the windscreen and then paying to get it mended. I remember Michael, I remember the gay pub on Old Compton Street. I remember the working girls and Dog Shit Alley. I remember the lump of lead the landlord at the Ship in Wardour street used to keep “just in case”. I remember “Just in case”.

I remember having a chat out of the window with a girl in marketing, 2 doors down and one floor up, I remember the offie in Old Compton Street selling the cheapest wine I ever bought outside France, T remember learning to juggle in Soho Square, I remember Rupert Rhymes (then head of ENO) bringing donuts, I remember being the only one in the neighbourhood that went into the bookshops for the books, I remember Ronnie Scott’s jokes, I remember a village. Good times!

Simon Harding

I want to say a big thank you to both Lee and Simon for sharing their memories and giving me a glimpse of a city I never knew. If you have a memory you want to share of London please do chip in.