Maps and sneaky peeking on OpenHouse weekend

I love maps and can spend hours looking at even the most ordinary ones so the chance to go to an exhibition at the British Library called Magnificent Maps was not to be missed! The British Library is not somewhere I go normally as you have to have a readers’ pass to see most of the books but I think I should go more often as this exhibition was wonderful. They also have the most amazing permanent exhibition in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery of world class treasures (as they say) and I really didn’t have enough time to do them justice on this visit.

Back to the maps, which ranged from 11th century Mappa Mundi (my favourites) and maps from the first explorers to a Grayson Perry take off and the satirical map of London called the Island from 2008. They have 80 beautiful maps from tiny psalter map from 1265 to the largest atlas in the world. They explore the themes of maps as art, as propaganda for pride and expressions of power. I was amazed at the accuracy of some of the early works and the skill of these early map makers. The British Library itself is a great modern building and they claim to have 14 million books tho’ I wonder if they are all in this building. I’ve put in a couple of photos to show you entrance to this 1997 building and courtyard with its statue of Isaac Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi and one of the wonderful interior.


London threw its doors open this weekend so we could put our noses into buildings that are normally closed to the public. The brochure arrived a week ago and was overwhelming with the amount of choice so we had to put a programme together for the day and set off this morning to see some new sights. Three highlights are shown in the photos: a synagogue in Notting Hill, an old newspaper building and a great hall. The synagogue dates from the Victorian era and is grade 11 listed with magnificent, and newly restored interior mixing a range of architectural styles. We were given a talk and we able to walk around the interior floor which is normally only open to men, to see the Torah scrolls and ceremonial items. Our next visit was to the magnificent Art Deco foyer of the former Daily Express building on Fleet Street. It was all chrome with those wonderful art deco shapes including a snake handrail and it has a striking exterior. One more to mention is the Middle Temple Hall, described as London’s finest surviving Elizabethan hall dating from 1562 and is virtually unaltered today. A bomb fell onto the building during the Second World War damaging one end which has been restored but the wooden hammer beam roof somehow came through undamaged.





A couple of restaurants worth a mention this week were Hix at the Albemarle and Khans. Hix is another Mark Hix venture this time in the luxurious surroundings of Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair. His menu majors on British fare and we really enjoyed our Kent ceps for starters and our Hix cocktail with sparking wine from Sussex. Khans on Westbourne Grove is a contrasting place with pillars which turn into palm trees, countryside scenes painted on the walls and no alcohol but they serve a great curry so well worth the visit. One more fun thing on the eating/drinking/entertainment topic was a birthday do. A local gallery was hosting the first birthday party of West London Living, lifestyle magazine and this proved a fun evening with cocktails and entertainment including from a 40s styled trio called the Scarlet Starlets. Here’s a photo of the Scarlets and from the look you can imagine the sounds.



I think that’s enough for this week so bye for now.






Classical music, rain and bin bags!

London – so varied, so interesting, such unpredictable weather! I like to think it’s always sunny in London but we do have rain or our parks wouldn’t be so lovely and green. This week’s wet highlight was Kenwood – a series of open air picnic concerts set in the lovely surroundings of Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. We went for the summer proms featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which turned out to be accurate as we had sun, cold and the most amazing downpour I’ve been out in for a very long time. We were half way through the picnic when the heavens opened on us and despite enormous amounts of plastic we were soaked to the knickers! No photos of this as the camera was safely away in one of the few dry sections of the bag. Being British we ‘kept calm and carried on’, sat it out, finished the picnic and enjoyed the concert tho’ sitting in damp clothes is not my favourite feeling. Here’s a photo of the venue just before the rain…..

Trafalgar Square was hosting a pop-up maze with blue plaques all around inside the maze telling visitors all about the West End. It wasn’t large enough to get lost in but was good fun and in the middle were singers from Dover Street jazz and I read that there were different performers each day. Just a bit of fun and why not. A couple of photos to give you the idea, one on the inside and one of the famous lions taken in the queue – yes of course there’s a queue – surely part of the fun!

It was classical music week with a trip to the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall where we saw Elgar and Vaughan Williams performed by the Scottish Symphony Orchestra. It’s a beautiful venue and I love to hear music there. It was good to see it full as the Proms are a fabulous national treasure from the BBC – the world’s largest classical music festival with over 70 concerts spread over 3 months every summer. ‘Prommers’ queue on the day (queueing again!) for standing tickets at just £5 which makes it brilliantly accessible for the less well off but hardy folk. Luckily for me we had box tickets as I’m too short and too lazy to stand for a couple of hours! Here’s a photo of the inside of the wonderful hall, taken just after the performance finished in case you were thinking I’d taken in mid symphony which would be a major Proms crime…

One of my local galleries was holding their Summer 2010 Collection which was very interesting. Salon Contemporary on Westbourne Grove showcase the best of new British talent in this annual event in its 4th year now and new graduates get to show their work in the trendy gallery. It was invite only and was absolutely packed. The most eye catching was Hye Young Ku who works with bin bags and combines a static piece with performances and the photos shows her is in her bin bag bed creation within which she sang short sets. Salon Gallery has regularly changing exhibitions and is an important champion of new work. They also initiated a great new local initiative, First Wednesdays, where local galleries and fashion shops open late on the first Wednesday of the month (it was in the name I guess!) which just makes Notting Hill even better.

Eating and drinking this week – my fabulous picnic at Kenwood was a highlight! I love putting together my picnic with its massive over-catering and plenty of hot food. Also a trip to the refurbished Chepstow in Notting Hill and Smithy’s Wine Bar in Kings Cross where the Dover Sole was very highly recommended.
Here’s hoping for no rain as I’m off to the Edinburgh Fringe this weekend!
Bye for now.