Olympics…. only 73 days to go!

The start of Olympic Games is only 73 days but many of us are focusing on the Diamond Jubilee at the moment. The build up the Jubilee is very exciting, especially as we look ahead to the River Pageant. This is going to be the biggest event on the River Thames for 350 years (since Charles 11 if you like to know) with over 1000 boats forming a procession that will be 7 miles in length taking 90 minutes to pass by. There will even be a boat as a belfry with newly cast bells on ringing all the way and being ‘answered’ by bells in church towers along the route. The Royal Family will be on a boat and your blog writer will be in the Tower of London on the day so expect lots of photos and excitement in future blogs!

Olympic clock 73 days to go!

As well as the build up to the Jubilee, the Olympic preparations are all around us. I heard that the wonderful viewing platform and cafe by the Olympic Park was closing as the area will be an access route to the Park, so I headed down there to bring you the last photos of the venues.  Stratford is the main gateway tube station for the Olympics and you can see their signage is up and ready! 


Stratford station

There are 2 key places to view the Olympic Park in Stratford, the first being an indoor viewing area in John Lewis which gives you the chance to see the stadium and the wonderfully curved aquatic centre, on the left of this photo.

View from John Lewis

Across the other side of the park is the Greenway with its View Tube Cafe where you can see the stadium and Orbit right in front of you and they serve a great cup of coffee too!

View Tube Cafe

The stadium looks wonderful and will be the centre piece of the games and the park, seating 80,000 spectators for the much anticipated opening ceremony which has Danny Boyle (director of Slumdog Millionaire) as its Artistic Director . The red Orbit tower is impressive, looking like a crazy helter skelter and was designed by Anish Kapoor.

Stadium and Orbit


Olympic Stadium



The Orbit tower has a viewing platform that will open during the games and will be accessible by a lift or by the 455 spiral staircase if you are feeling very energetic!  At  376 feet/114 metres it is Britain’s tallest sculpture. It is made from 60% recycled steel to reflect one of the key themes of the London Olympics. It is a controversial structure but I love it, it is crazy and wild looking but has energy and distinctiveness.

Orbit viewing platform

The great views from the View Tube cafe will be closed from 18th May but will reopen later in the year so I will keep an eye open for this news. Soon, however, you’ll be able to see the park from the inside as, after all, it is only 73 days to go!


Bye for now,


London is full of surprises!

London is full of surprises even when you think you know it very well! We found a new local theatre hidden away and I had the fun of visiting Kensington Gardens to show a friend a hidden away restaurant and the wonderful art on show in the trees. One other very surprising find was the Mediatheque, a place you can watch films about London for free!


Just around the corner is a row of former shops and something that looked like a run down workshop which we’ve always ignored and then we heard that a new theatre had opened there so we had to go and explore! They were staging A Snake in the Grass by Alan Ayckbourn and had some pretty good names in it so we ventured into the alley way with curious excitement! We entered an amazing room which had the full set for the play in the middle of the audience. This play is centres on a disused tennis court so there in front of us were the remains of a tennis surface, an old net and a run down umpires chair. The play was really good and the cast featuring Susan Wooldridge and Sarah Woodward were excellent. The smallness of the venue added extra atmosphere and we are looking forward to their next production. Added fun came from meeting Susan Wooldridge afterwards as the cast were drinking in the Commander opposite – the theatre doesn’t have its own bar so gives 15% off vouchers for the Commander so everyone decamps there before and after the show.


Photos: the outside and the tennis court set.


What to do if you have a spare hour on London’s South Bank? Why not pop into Mediatheque which is part of the British Film Institute (BFI) and is a hidden treat. You go in, they ask if you’ve been before and how long you want to spend there and then patiently explain how to you it and you sit in a comfy seat with you own flat screen and off you go. The archive is all yours and they have thousands of films and documentaries to chose from. I looked for old film of London and saw; post war workers’ day trips to London from the Midlands and was amazed at how much they managed to pack into one day; turn of the century views of the docks in full swing; and, clips of the bomb damage immediately after the Second World War. I was overwhelmed by the choice and quantity of material and will definitely go back and yes, it’s free!

Hidden art treasures and a restaurant tucked away are my last two treats for this blog. In Kensington Gardens just by the Palace is the Orangery which dates from the 18th century and is the former garden ballroom for the palace. It is a beautiful building, now a cafe serving wonderful snack and cakes with a terrace which is a delight in the summer. We were there on our way to enjoy the Anish Kapoor outdoor pieces, tucked into the ponds and trees of the gardens, before they were due to depart in the next few days. There are 4 pieces in all and a previous blog featured a couple but we explored them all again as they are so good. The 4 are: the reflective World Upside down which reverses the audience on one side; the triangular piece which reminded me of a witch’s hat; a red circle; and, some way away, a silver disk. These disks reflect the sky and you watch the clouds move across their faces and see birds pass through the disk too. We found them mesmerising and they seemed to attract the swans too!


Photos: Anish Kapoor’s 4 pieces; a beautiful swan; and, the Orangery exterior and interior (including cakes!)

Enough secrets from London for now!

The ayes to the right!

A big event in my week was a tour of the inside of the Houses of Parliament. A pre-booked 75 minute tour led by a very well versed Blue Badge Guide (Noel) took us into the very heart of this extraordinary building. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages so we very pleased to finally poke my nose inside this seat of power. You can visit any Saturday at the moment as they are trialling Saturday opening in addition to the usual summer recess visiting days. You can walk through the route that the Queen takes when she opens Parliament past amazingly ornate decoration, huge paintings and numerous statues. The interior of the building was designed to tell the story of the country and, as the guide said, you could study the contents and designs for years. We spent some time in the House of Lords, resplendent in gold and red and then in the less flamboyant House of Commons in green. We saw where they vote in new laws, the 2 rooms to the right and left where the ‘ayes’ (the yes’s) and the ‘noes’ (the no’s) go and heard tell of the rush to get all the MPs into the house in time for the vote.The tour concludes in the Westminster Hall, an impressive and precious remainder of the original Palace of Westminster, built in 1097 with changes made in 1245, but which burned down in 1834. The building you see now is a Victoria edifice except for this huge Hall. which now used for receptions and layings in state – you may have seen pictures of the Queen Mother’s coffin there as the most recent. You can’t take pictures during the tour, just of the hall so you have to remember the rest! I’ve added an exterior shot across the Thames as it’s one of the great sights of London.

It’s a big time of year in London for art lovers with so many fairs and exhibitions and Hyde Park didn’t want to be left out so has set up a few of pieces from Anish Kapoor to delight us. The main piece is wonderful – a curved mirror which sits amoung the trees and reflects back toward Kensington Palace and catches the viewer in shot (yes that’s me with the camera!). The reverse is concave and reflects one back upside down. Kids and adults alike were having great fun with this work – what more can you ask from an artist? He’s also got a reflective witch’s hat in the park. I’m sure that’s not the real title but that’s what it looked like to me! As you can see from the photos it was a wonderfully sunny October day in the park and the deck chairs were full and many visitors had arrived on the new ‘Boris bikes’. These are bikes you can hire by the half hour from stands all across the centre of London. At the moment you have to subscribe online to use them but they plan to offer the option to just turn up and hire one and hopefully that will come in very soon as I want to have a go! Lots of photos posted in to try to show you the Kapoor work and a day in the park.


My weekend continued the art theme with a visit to Palace Art Fair, held in the wonderful Bishops Palace in Fulham, followed by Art London held in the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital. We saw some good stuff, some hideous stuff but mostly enjoyed the browsing and the sunshine.
Bye for now,