What to do in the doldrums between Christmas and New Year – Museum of London

Friday, 29 December, 2017

Right after Christmas, it’s nice to have some sensible eating days before the New Year’s Eve celebrations – whatever they may be this year. So we’ve been having our customary plates of raw vegetables, cheese, and hummus. This is a staple throughout the year. One of us will think of having dinner and proclaim it to be raw veggie day, and it’s always a roaring hit even it occasionally becomes dinner for company! (We snuck in some pakora from Ambala, lest we feel too healthy!)

Raw veggies

Yesterday, Thursday, Krish announced that we should go to the Museum of London to see the performance of The Christmas Carol. It sounded like a great idea. The sun had finally started to shine, no rain in sight, and it’s one bus the whole way.

There’s only one lane in each direction but we were in the doldrums and things moved along pretty quickly. We went from the flat land of Dalston towards the increasingly high rise area around the Barbican. As you get closer, there’s one of my favourite views from the top deck of a bus (third photo)

Exodus from Hackney along Balls Pond Road
Exodus from Hackney along Balls Pond Road
Roseberry Avenue
Roseberry Avenue

The Barbican, opened in 1982 to replace slum dwellings, is brutalist architecture at its best, having been voted London’s ugliest building. Its mass is pretty stunning.  It actually is on multi levels with numerous entrances from ground level, with staircases and walkways to join the whole. There is a theatre and exhibit spaces, and various community areas contained within this estate. Walking around here can get very interesting as long as you don’t get lost along the way.  From a distance there are two tall buildings, from close up it’s a more practical hive of flats.

The Barbican from the walkways
The Barbican from the walkways

But today we weren’t lingering. Maybe I’ll take more photos another day. Continue reading “What to do in the doldrums between Christmas and New Year – Museum of London”

Jolly old Christmas

Saturday, 24 December, 2017

I feel very fortunate not having to deal with rushing around to buy lots of presents, not having to visit too many people, and generally not needing to stress about Christmas. I also greatly appreciate the British sense of humour at this time of year, or any other for this matter.

When grocery shopping is a Must, the humour on this list is very much appreciated.

And, in case, I get weighed down by the issues that face the world these days, it’s good to be reminded of the really important problems reported on the front page of this newspaper:

We braved the damp, chilly weather for a visit to Walthamstow. Alas, although determined not to give in to the possible depression these grey skies may bring, our exploration fizzled rather than sparkled. Walthamstow put on an amusingly tacky show – it doesn’t look as hokey in the photo below!

And we watched the very British tradition of queuing to jam into the shops before the general closure of shops and transportation on Christmas Day.

Things were coming along in the flat, though. Just a bit more cleaning and it may even feel like Christmas.

And some Christmas eve baking – of mince tarts, sausage rolls, and anchovy cheese straws definitely helped things along. (My baking style is rustic!)

On Christmas day, Krish made dinner (something that has always been my domain but happy to give it up this year.

Dinner was pork tenderloin, stuffing balls, roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts, some apple sauce, cranberry sauce ( like both!) and some kosher pickle. It may look beige, but it was truly delicious!

A hot water bottle each, some hot chocolate with liqueur and the night was complete.

Winter Solstice at Newington Green

Thursday, 21 December, 2017

Today was the Winter Solstice, shortest day of the year. They are indeed short days now, the sun rising around 8 and setting before 4pm

Every Solstice and Equinox for many years I’ve taken part in a Flickr photo group called Day in the Life of. It’s now called Another Day in the Life of. At any rate, I rarely miss it even if my photos of the day are all taken inside my flat. Trivia: The tag we have to use – DILO – is the source of amusement to my friends. Dilo, guys – there is no extra D in there.

I thought I’d share the photos of the time I spent in Newington Green, meeting my friend, Juliet. Let’s make it a photo essay but read to the end where I’ll put a little bit about the fascinating history of the area, first mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086.

Appraching from Mildmay
Reflections in a pub window

Newington Green Fruit and Vegetables

Continue reading “Winter Solstice at Newington Green”

A fast visit to Spitalfields Market

Sunday, 17 December, 2017

On the run up to Christmas, there’s one place I wanted to visit and that’s Spitalfields Market. It was raining and cool but it takes only eight minutes by train from Hackney Downs, our nearest train station, to Liverpool Street, the closest station to Spitalfields. There’s so simply no excuse to stay away!

(This history: “Spitalfields takes its name from the hospital and priory, St. Mary’s Spittel that was founded in 1197. Spitalfields served as a microcosm of this polyglot society, the ‘melting pot’ fusion of east and west. Historically, it has played host to a transient community – primarily for new immigrants. From its small beginnings in the 17th Century, Spitalfields Market blossomed…trading six days a week. By 1876 the market had fallen into decline”…a former market porter called Robert Horner…started work on a new market building which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000. The market moved to Leyton in 1991 but at the end of 2005 the Spitalfields regeneration programme restored the original market area. Today it’s filled with “designers / makers and artists selling fashions, homewares and accessories or a treasure trove of vintage and antique clothing, furniture and other wondrous oddments!”

Bronze Sculpture
Bronze Sculpture – must find out the story behind this

This was going to be a whirlwind visit, and I’m sure I’ll be back many times to talk more about Spitalfields but today I walked through, had some lunch, looked at some stalls and left! I was puzzled to see that so many new official looking freestanding kiosks had sprung up and wondered why they were there and if they were permanent. While I love food, I’m not happy with how so many London markets are turning into overpriced food courts.  I didn’t let this take away from the charm of this lovely market, part old, part new, always thriving as it changes  day to day.

The market was ready for Christmas. In the bottom photo a large pile of Christmas costumes was ready for who knows what to come.

I had a coupon for Wagamama so had a small lunch, or at least I thought it might be a small lunch since I chose a child’s meal. Mistake! There was too much food. The ramen was way too big for a child and was bland , flavoured only with Sriracha sauce. The hirata buns (bao) were as nice (and as tiny) as always and could have been enough! Lesson learned. Not a huge fan of Wagamama but a coupon is a coupon and the service was fast and friendly. Free lunch!

Continue reading “A fast visit to Spitalfields Market”

Christmas in London’s west end – part deux

Friday, 15 December, 2017

My experiences of Christmas time in the city are diverse. I’ve spent time in London, Toronto, Budapest, Berlin, Birmingham, Lincoln, Bath, Orange County, and San Francisco – at Christmas or in the lead up to Christmas. Cities have unique ways to display their affection for the season and all of them have been magical in their own way.

I expected Germany to be go more spectacular and their markets were indeed quite lovely but surprisingly understated. On my list is a visit to the Nurnberg Christmas market, which I hear is the most famous of all German markets, dating back at least to the 17th century. I’ve been to Nurnberg and I know the setting would be perfect.

Budapest at Christmas has been the most special time for me, especially when the days are shared with Chanukah. Both festivals run side by side and intermingle.  Perhaps later this year I will go back there and travel on to Nurnberg from there.  On my list!

But I’m not here to talk about Budapest right now. London!

I wonder what New York City Christmas is like. Judging from previous visits, I suspect it’s pretty full-on and perhaps flashy. London is also full-on but in a delightfully understated way despite all the colour and light. Somehow it feels natural to see the Christmas scenes in a city that has no snow and can otherwise be shabby. And Christmas is everywhere. Turn a corner and there’s more. Overhead, along the streets on railings and windows, hanging from balconies, glimpsed through doors and windows. Christmas takes over.

I was determined to see the things I’d missed on my last visit. And, although I did cover quite a bit of ground, I know I still didn’t see it all. I did my best! Following are more photos than you may care to see…

Oxford Street lights
Oxford Street lights

Continue reading “Christmas in London’s west end – part deux”