Activity evening: Lady Chastity’s Reserve

London is widely agreed to be one of the greatest and most exciting cities in the world, and I’m inclined to agree, yet sometimes I feel like I don’t make the most of it. I spend evening after evening in my flat, or in a bar or restaurant, but rarely venture out into doing anything else. As a result, I decided to steal an idea I heard and start an ‘Activity evening’ with my friends from work.

Essentially, once a month one of the group will arrange a, you guessed it, activity for the others. The appeal of this was partly that I was fed up of feeling like the group social sec (and secretly concerned that I was dragging my friends to things they don’t really want to go to), but also because, since it’s a different person arranging it each month, it basically ensures that we’ll do a range of things. And each month, I have decided to write about it.

So, January (yes, I’m late on this). My friend booked Lady Chastity’s Reserve, an escape room-style game, based in the Four Thieves pub near Clapham Junction. I say ‘escape room-style’ because although you are locked in a room and have to solve a series of puzzles, the aim is not to get out of the room, but instead you have an hour to get your hands on some wine. Which was great as I’m perfectly happy to be stuck in a room as long as there’s wine.

Lady Chastity’s Reserve claims to be (that buzzword) ‘immersive’. Now I’m a big fan of anything immersive, but only when it’s done well. Basically when it’s not half-arsed (and there’s a lot of that about). But I would say that Lady Chastity’s Reserve actually does a pretty good job of it. The room is set up well, and you are greeted and introduced to Lady Chastity’s story by a character called Gabriel, who is also there to help should you require it.

I won’t give too much away, but it was really fun and well put together, although I do wonder if it is possible to solve some of the puzzles without help from Gabriel or waiting to hear additional clues from Lady Chastity herself, which you may not get to hear in time. But we succeeded in the end with only seconds to spare.

In all, it was a much more exciting Thursday than usual, and winning the wine was a great bonus. I’d really recommend it as something to do that is a little different. It is also worth noting that the Four Thieves has 2 rooms for this, we split into groups and used both rooms, and from discussions the rooms were at least slightly different.

Name: Lady Chastity’s Reserve

Location: Four Thieves pub, Clapham Junction

Price: £22pp

http://www.handmademysteries.com/lady-chastitys-reserve

How’s it been, 2016?

It’s a cliche, but 2016 has been a bit of a tough one. Brexit, Trump, celebrity deaths, etc., but I thought I’d carry out a selfish exercise, and do a review of the best and worst bits of my 2016.

Soundtrack: Flight Facilities

As an ordinarily classical / jazz / classic rock fan, naturally when I get into electronic music, it’s because of an act who does collaborations with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I first got into Flight Facilities because of this song (I’m a big fan of the choreographer), and then discovered the rest of their music through Spotify. Still struggling to find similar acts, so am very open to recommendations.

Biggest achievement: Passing CFA Level 2 

Difficult to explain, even more difficult to pass. Have to include it as this qualification essentially took over the first half of 2016. 5 months of studying every evening after work, and using my actual holiday as study leave luckily paid off. Only 1 level to go!

Lowest moment: Brexit

There’s nothing quite like waking up at 4am in a Frankfurt hotel room to find that your country has voted to leave the EU, then being laughed at in the lift by some Asian tourists before being looked at by a German receptionist as if you’re a boyfriend who wronged her.

Highest moment: Getting Friday 40 tickets to Harry Potter

Because getting £20 tickets for 2nd row stall seats to the hottest play in town should have you literally jumping up and down at your desk.

Best play (West End): Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Perhaps it had flaws, but don’t tell me about them. I thought it was magical. Plus it explored a theme I really wanted but that had never been explored in the books – how would Harry as ‘The Chosen One’ react in the situation where he had to sacrifice someone he loved for his own survival? Okay, so not specifically explored, but it was close enough for me.

Best sporting event: Watching the Maestro at Wimbledon

A day of queuing in the rain and burning in the sun, all worth it. Also excellent to hear rousing renditions of “Shoes off if you love Willis” as Marcus Willis beat Lithuanian, Ricardas Berankis (even if I was sitting with one of the only other Lithuanians in the crowd).

Best play (off West End): Much Ado About Nothing in a pub in Camden

My mum, in her own special way, found us a fringe production, set in the ’80s, in the Pack and Carriage pub near Mornington Crescent. It was great fun. Also, introduced the Lithuanian to Shakespeare in the least classical of ways.

New hobby: Painting things gold

Post to follow

Saddest death: Leonard Cohen

I saw him perform in Manchester 3 years ago. 3 weeks before his 80th birthday, he was the best live performer I have ever seen. I was hoping to sing So Long Marianne with him one last time, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Memorable events: Cahoots, Django Bango, Piano Works, Multi-Storey Orchestra

Constantly looking for anything which really is that overused buzzword ‘Immersive’ and Cahoots was the closest I was able to find in London, and it’ll do for now (until theatre company Punchdrunk decides to do another London production).

Django Bango was another immersive attempt, building a wild west town for food, drinks and dancing. It was a bit rough around the edges, and could definitely have been more immersive. However, it was great fun, and I have to applaud the ambition in the scale of the thing.

Piano Works – good idea but the queue for the bar was way too long. Kept on thinking people had left when they’d only gone to get a drink. I think ‘Piano’ on Kensington High Street does a similar thing in a more personal way.

Further introduced the Lithuanian to classical music as the Multi-Storey Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony in Bold Tendencies car park (the one that houses Frank’s). Strangely, and quite wonderfully, intimate, with a great introduction. The orchestra were dotted around the car park telling us the background to the piece, Beethoven and classical music in general. A much more interesting alternative to programme notes.

Best purchase: These

Image result for miss selfridge embroidered boots

http://www.missselfridge.com/en/msuk/product/athena-floral-embroidered-boot-5704632

 

London: A Review

I have lived in London for 6 years, and in that time I have moved even more times. Once again, I am looking for a place to live, and am being super picky on the area this time. This is because one of the good things about my previous vagabond-like existence is that I now know, in some depth, the pros and cons of a number of parts of London. So I thought I’d share my experiences of each of the 7(!!!) areas I’ve lived in. Below is my rundown of each place, in chronological order…

1. Bloomsbury

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I studied in London and, fairly ridiculously, the first place I lived was slap-bang in the centre – Bloomsbury. My halls were right across the road from the Brunswick Centre (a small shopping area). Bloomsbury is great if you’re new to London, just because you can basically be a tourist (and Bloomsbury is full of them). In half an hour, you can reach Covent Garden and Waterloo Bridge, and usefully for me (being from Manchester) it was a 20 minute walk to Euston station too. There are cons too however, firstly, due to its central location, it is expensive. Really expensive. (I mean we’re not talking Chelsea here, but still…). Also, despite the ample supply of chains in the area, there aren’t as many cute little bars and restaurants as there may be in other places, although places like Lamb’s Conduit Street offer some alternatives.

2. Angel

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I lived in Angel for my second and third years of uni, with three of my closest friends. We moved to Angel by chance, having chosen it simply because it was vaguely close to Bloomsbury. We only discovered later, by accident, that a few streets away was one of the most vibrant and buzzing areas of London. Angel has the perfect mix of centrality (especially if you live South of it, as we did) while still feeling like it’s its own little village. It has a great mix of chains and more independent restaurants, a range of shops and some great bars. Upper Street is a brilliant place to be in the evenings, and houses one of my favourite restaurants in London – Cafe La Divina, a very cute Italian place, which is ridiculously cheap (especially if you have a Tastecard). We also lived near Exmouth Market, which was always kind of awesome, but seems to have become an even bigger deal since we moved out. This is a lovely little street which is almost European with its fairy lights and on-street seating. Despite being able to yammer on for days about my love of Angel, there is a fairly significant negative: unfortunately, a place this awesome doesn’t come cheap, and it seems to have gone up in price exponentially over the last few years. All this means that while I could live there as a student, I can no longer afford to do so now that I have a proper grown up job. Balls!

Oh, also, the Northern line in the morning is a bitch.

3. Queen’s Park

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The prettiest flat that I’ve lived in was in Queen’s Park. I lived here for about 9 months when I started my first job out of uni. I chose it because I was working in West London and decided this was my perfect opportunity to live near Notting Hill, which had been a dream of mine since I was about 17 and got obsessed with the vintage binoculars you can buy at Portobello Road market. This place wins the prize for the best commute – it was fairly glorious, I was working in Hammersmith so I could just jump on one of the new Hammersmith and City or Circle line trains (complete with air conditioning and actual space) from Westbourne Park. Also, the journey was all over-ground, with its sun and outdoors. South of Queen’s Park station is great for accessing Notting Hill – I lived about 15 minutes walk away. It has good transport links too: Queen’s Park itself has the Bakerloo and Overground services, as well as the previously mentioned lines at Westbourne Park. On the other hand, I felt a little cut off from central London (mainly because for me ‘central’ equals Covent Garden), but it was only half an hour or so’s walk to Paddington station. I also felt that Queen’s Park itself was perhaps a little old for me, at the age of 22. There were lots of yummy mummies, and the places that cater for them. I perhaps didn’t make the most of the area, never going to Kensal Green, which is close by and apparently has a number of bars.

4. Canada Water

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I only lived in Canada Water for a month (I did a short let when I started my second job), but decided that still counts enough to be mentioned here. I have to be honest, I wasn’t a massive fan of the area. It’s fairly central, although I never really walked anywhere properly central from there. I chose it due to its proximity to Canary Wharf (where I work),  but I just felt there wasn’t really anything there. Which is perhaps the reason that I felt a picture of the station best represents my time in Canada Water. True to its name, it’s an area full of water – there are lots of really pretty quays – however, I completely failed to find a decent pub or restaurant in the area. On one occasion, a friend and I decided to go for a drink there; we walked around for a while then gave up and decided to shoot zombies and eat chips at an arcade instead, in the end. Maybe it’s unfair to include Canada Water on this list, as I lived there such a short time and maybe this was the reason I wasn’t able to find much to do close by. However, there’s a reason I didn’t want to stay after my month was up.

5. Old Kent Road

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It’s a fairly notorious place, and to be honest, before I moved here I only really knew it as being the cheapest street on the monopoly board – but I’ve always had a fairly high tolerance for supposedly ‘rough’ places. I can say, however, that in my time here (which involved a number of 2am walks across the Elephant and Castle roundabout) I had no trouble at all. The pros of this area include the price and proximity to central London. I am actually concerned about the impending gentrification of the area (which I know I am a part of), because once it starts to lose its bad reputation, prices will go up enormously. Where else in London can you live a 30 minute walk from Waterloo cheaply? The cons were the standard lack of restaurants, etc., however Bermondsey Street isn’t far and has a number of lovely places. In fact, this is the only place on this list that I would consider moving back to.

6. Peckham

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Peckham will always have a special place in my heart, as it’s one of the only places that remains authentically what it once was, but with some hipster infiltration. It’s actually fairly ridiculous. Peckham is full of cash for gold and pound shops (I love a good pound shop), but then if you go down a side street or an alley, you’ll probably find some sort of organic coffee shop and an art gallery (this is based on actual experience). Peckham is really hipster, which in a way I’m a bit ashamed of. On the other hand, what hipster often means is that it is something that will appeal to a middle class 20-odd year-old, so I’ll take it. Peckham is the only place I know of that will host a version of Titus Andronicus in a car park. There are a couple of good roof bars (obviously, Frank’s), good cocktail bars and really nice independent restaurants. It also has the cheapness of an area that hasn’t become overly gentrified – the Peckhamplex is great and shows new films for £5. Cons of Peckham mainly revolve around its location. I know that it’s still Zone 2, but I’ve been spoilt in my time in London and I like to be able to walk places. Also, it’s nice to have a rail service running more frequently than every 15 minutes. Okay, yes, I’m really spoilt…

7. Canary Wharf

Image result for canary wharf

I have spent the past month living in Canary Wharf. When I had nowhere to go following the end of my lease in Peckham, my boyfriend very kindly took me in. That doesn’t, however, stop me from complaining about where he lives. For a start, no one should live this close to the office, unless the office is in a really awesome location. Canary Wharf, in my opinion, is not. Canary Wharf has everything a young professional could possibly need, and that’s kind of the problem. It’s so purpose built that it lacks soul. It pretty much contains only chains, and small versions at that. Someone described the shops to me the other day, as smaller versions of major shops that only take in the worst stock. I won’t be too negative, it’s super convenient and Canary Wharf is impressive – the view from my boyfriend’s window is pretty awesome. But I feel like work and personal life should be a little more separate, especially when work is located basically on an island.

 

So that completes my very long, and completely unfactually based review of places in London. On with the flat-hunt!

 

Autumn Style Idol – Rachel Green

For me, this autumn is going to be all about layering, dark-colours and mini skirts (and of course tights because, you know, practicalities), and I’m looking for inspiration from one of TV’s most famous fashion-lovers: Ms Rachel Green.

Below are a few of my favourite looks.

Phoebe & Rachel Friends TV Show:

Now this one is pretty simple, as it’s basically just a plain black outfit. But the genius is in the details. This would be too much with opaque tights, but the translucency of them is perfect to provide a contrast to the skirt. Plus the buckled shoes provide an almost school uniform-like element – a quintessential part of a number of Rachel’s outfits, especially in the early seasons, and something I am definitely hoping to bring into my wardrobe this autumn. She’s also a perfect role model when it comes to how to add these elements to an adult’s wardrobe without edging into ‘creepy’ territory.

 

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Again with the monochrome and the mini skirt – but she sure knows how to layer.

 

This is probably my favourite example of Rachel Green layering, as she demonstrates with ease how you can wear that cami-dress you bought for summer all year round.

 

I love this dress so much, from the mesh, to the slip, to the delicate embroidery contrasting with the dark background. Unfortunately, unlike Rachel, I cannot wear this sort of thing to work. I do, however, think it would be great for a party.

 

This outfit is a classic. Note the pleated tartan skirt, once again very schoolgirl-esque without looking childlike, or just plain weird. The jumper is also perfect for autumn. However, I would probably swap the long socks for something which provides a little more leg-coverage with the oncoming cold weather.

 

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And finally… I am not a waitress, so this will not make it into my autumn wardrobe, but I have to commend Ms Green for using even her aprons to make a fashion statement. Teaching us all that we should never let workwear be boring.