Wednesday, 23 July 2014

london love: a midsummer night

Last week I persuaded (bullied) a number of my acquaintances to come out and play with me on Monday night. Not for frivolous reasons of fun but for intellectual purposes. And character strengthening.  Plus it is impossible to say no to free outdoor theatre.  So Monday evening found a colleague and I dodging out of work as soon as humanly possible (once various school faffing and coach duties were complete). We sped to the tube, acquiring a picnic on the way, and landed on the grass in Canary Wharf, a long way from work and just as the commuters were starting to do their thing.  We were here to see A Midsummer Night's Dream (one of my top two favourite Shakespeares) and the only instructions were "It's free, you don't need a ticket, but turn up early to get a good spot and bring a picnic".  Being teachers we know all about following instructions and so we did indeed have a good spot and a picnic.  The grass was damp and slightly muddy, but my trusty picnic blanket has a plastic underside and was unfazed.  It's from Marks and Spencers' after all...

Once the next of our merry band arrived, we felt almost obliged to begin picnicking.  Three being the critical mass that starts any good picnic going.  It's also a good point to disturb your neighbours perched on other local picnic blankets and get them to take your photo.

It was warm and sunny and yes, a bit damp, but this is England.  And, y'know, plastic undersides.  It's not just a picnic blanket.  It's an M&S picnic blanket.  

In the interests of gender balance, it only made sense to have a chap come along.  There were also lots of other people there too, but as I didn't ask them along, I felt no compulsion to share our picnic. I was glad we had secured our perch nice and early though as it was pretty packed about 20 minutes after we arrived.

Gender balance appropriately accounted for, we tucked into our food and our little band of six enjoyed a really wonderful performance.

The actors were fantastic - a cast of six managing all the roles - and there was a lot of highly entertaining double entendre. They would take a little wander through the audience every so often, playing their tunes and stealing picnic items where they could.  But I suppose as the show was free, they've got to eat somehow.  Having said that, I would happily have paid as the production was excellent.   Witty, well-paced and with whip-smart improv at times it was altogether a great way to bring Shakespeare to life.

A little toast helped to smooth along the interval.  But we didn't actually have toast.  Just wine.

The evening cooled a little as we embarked upon the next act, but I had my trusty camp blanket stashed in my bag which caused embarrassment in some quarters but as I was neither embarrassed nor cold, I didn't really mind.  And if Girlguiding gets a little free advertising, why not?

We sniggered and chuckled and laughed our way through to the end of the play.  And as the fairies flitted away, dusk drew around Canary Wharf.  It's a strange place: a little patch of green nestled among towering, glass-fronted monoliths.  It doesn't quite seem like the real world.  But it is beautiful in its own way, when the waters are still and the lights twinkle.  And it's also clearly a good time to pop to a bar.  But that's another post for another time.

Kisses xxx

P.S. The #500snapsofsummer picture count now stands at 52 with only 448 still to go.  That's over 10% complete!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: portraits

I love to take portraits.  In fact, photographing people is a big part of what makes photography special in my opinion.  Lovely landscapes are photographed over and over, and will be there for may years and will populate pictures that are very likely better than mine.  But with people, I am the only person there licking the camera at that moment.  I am the only one who can catch that smile or expression.  I particularly enjoy filling the frame with faces and getting close up.  I took a series of portraits at the hen party ( this is the final post on that, I promise!) and I printed them up for the bride so she had a decent picture of everyone there.  Each one is posed, but I don't mind that.  Because I think the smiles are genuine, that everyone was happy and that by having a giggle with the photographer makes people relaxed and the photos look natural even when people are grinning into the lens.  So long live portraits!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I appreciate that this may be a tedious post if you don't know any of the people involved, but each one of these counts towards my #500snapsofsummer total.  Which now stands at 42 photos taken and 458 still to go.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: hen party photo shoot

A hen do is, in my opinion, a perfect photoshoot opportunity.  And as I just happened to have my camera on hand, and as I just happened to drag the whole party to the Royal Albert Hall to pose on the steps, it seemed silly not to exploit the opportunity.  I had provided the Bride with a disposable 'Bride Cam' to use up the for the day, challenging her to use it wisely. As I know she love snapping away and posing as much as I do, I also issued a few photo-based challenges.  She had to arrange everyone into a group shot - an awesome group shot - in order to complete her goal. While we began with some lacklustre jazz hands, the group soon warmed up and did indeed get some awesome group shots!  Challenge very much complete!

Kisses xxx
P.S. The total for #500snapsofsummer keeps going up and up!  This takes me to 34 taken with 466 still to go.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: afternoon tea

I promised that I would share a little more about the lovely afternoon tea we had at the hen party.  She chose to go to Bea's of Bloomsbury, and the spread they laid on was really wonderful!  Instead of the usual finger sandwiches, we had tiny baguettes of delicious, crusty bread and a variety of fillings.  The cake selection speaks for itself!

While they did not actually provide umbrellas, they were fortunately in the guests' goody bags and we were able to improvise. We kept up appearances by drinking the tea with pinkies properly extended (another wedding challenge) and there were teapots of every hue for us to play and pose with!

Delicious, a lovely place and a great way to pass an afternoon!
Kisses xxx
P.S. With 5 more pictures for #500snapsofsummer, I have now taken 28 and so have 472 to go...

Friday, 18 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: the hen do plan

Planning the hen party initially seemed a bit daunting.  How do you arrange a wonderful day out for a group of someone else’s friends, some of whom you’ve never met?  So I sat down with the Bride and we talked.  She eventually abandoned the idea of a foam party and settled on afternoon tea.  I sent her a list of possible venues and she selected the delightful Bea’s of Bloomsbury.  Yum! More on that another time. 
The rest of the time was mine to plan in secrecy.  I enlisted the help of Google and some London entertainment sites and put together a day out that I hoped she would love.  She arrived at my flat on Friday evening and we watched Gilmore Girls (a favourite pastime from our university days), munched pizza and had a lovely catch-up.  I explained the challenges, invited her to complete the first, which was to pop the cork on a bottle of pink champagne.  Once she’d got the foil off and was poised for explosion, we realised it was a fake cork and you could actually twist it out.  Mission accomplished and we rounded off a lovely evening by staying up far too late and sipping the pink bubbles from teacups.
Saturday morning saw us riding the tube, attempting to get her personalised hen-do hashtag trending, failing spectacularly, and meeting up with another Bridesmaid.  We headed to the first secret destination: the Thermal Spa at the Ironmonger Row Baths.

We emerged three hours later feeling fully sauna-ed and steamed and tingling from ice-cold plunge pool dunkings.  And craving chips.  We had an hour or so before afternoon tea, so chips seemed like a plausible option.  It wasn’t long until we were settled in a restaurant sipping a strawberry daiquiri each and muching our way through a bowl of chips.  And some nachos.  And some loaded potato skins.  So much for saving room for tea then!
We met the other hens before tea and I handed round goodie bags and matching accessories.  Disappointingly, the only chap in attendance had decided not to wear a dress as specifically requested.  But he did wear his headscarf, so all is forgiven. 
Matching wire-and-ribbon headscarves was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself.  Not only did it add a nice little touch of coordination to the group, they look cute in the photos and made it really easy to keep track of everyone on London's busy Underground.
There's always someone else who wants to wear the veil. And dragging the entire party off for a photoshoot post-afternoon tea only makes it more likely that posing will occur.  We rounded off the evening with drinks in the fabulous and terribly secretive cocktail bar named Evans and Peel Detective Agency.  The door is a bit shabby and non-descript, off by itself in a residential street.  But if you ring the bell and request an appointment with the detective, and if you can state a satisfactory case, then you won't be disappointed!
It was a great day and we landed back in my flat feeling tired but happy.  A cup of tea and a bit more time spent in the company of the Gilmore Girls, and it was time for bed.  After all, we had to be up early to get to the wedding of another friend!
Kisses xxx
P.S. That's another 6 pictures bringing the #500snapsofsummer total up to a rolicking...23.  Still quite a way to go, with 477 pictures left to take.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

hen party planning

When my lovely friend asked me to be a bridesmaid for her wedding, I was delighted.  It' so amazing to be part of such a special day, and I felt so honoured to asked. Plus who is going to say no to a pretty bridemaid dress?  Not me!  With bridesmaiding, often comes the planning of the hen party, and given that it was all set to take place in London, I opted to organise it.  The bride chose to go for afternoon tea which was duly arranged and the rest was a complete surprise and totally up to me... Suddenly hen party party planning seemed pretty darn exciting!
I wanted the day to be special and very personal to the Bride.  And so I came up with The Challenges.  I hand decorated 16 envlopes and inside slotted a little card with a task designed for her to complete; something that would be entertaining and amausing and meaningful to her. I handed each envelope to her at strategic points during the weekend.  For each one she completed, I ticked the "challenge complete" box and promised her a treat if she could complete them all.

 And what good is a wedding challenge envelope that isn't filled with confetti? No good at all, so I made sure that each one was filled with pretty, punched paper sprinkles. I thought it might be funny to have the bride periodically cover herself in confetti. Now that it's all over my flat, I'm slightly less convinced :D

Of course, she accomplished her challenges and has earned her treat.  But, dear reader, both you and she will have to wait to find out what it is!
Kisses xxx
P.S. I'll share details of the party and the obligatory photo shoot next time.
P.P.S. And that's another 5 pictures for 500 snaps of summer.  Total now stands at 17 complete and only 483 to go! #500snapsofsummer

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: weddings

This might seem an unusual photo for a post labelled weddings, but stick with it...

Over the last two weekends, I have attended a hen party of one very close friend, organised the hen party of another, and attended the wedding of the first.  As the official photographer.  I am so unbelievably happy for these women who I feel lucky to count among my best friends, and I look forward to attending the second wedding at the weekend. It's been a wonderful, whirlwind fortnight and I am very excited to share a few pictures here. It goes without saying that I wish a lifetime of happiness for both couples.
So: to business.  Hen Party number one.  Organsied by the bride herself as she is someone who knows exactly who she is and exactly what she wants.  And she also organises a fabulous weekend while she's at it.

And element of healthy (or lethal) competition is important bewteen friends.  So of course in the morning we had a go at archery - harder than it looks and I somehow got worse - and an assault course.  Full of mud.  Mud, teamwork and competition!

So when you're exhilrated and tired and grubby, you want three things: a shower, afternoon tea and a drink.  And that's exactly what our bride had prepared for us. Pimm's was in abundance, and properly gushing with fruit and the tea flowed freely with a perfect array of sanwiches and cake.

Once tea was complete, it was time to assume character for an evening of murder and mystery and dressing like a Roman.  Armed with my trusty tunic (which I knocked up at midnight the evening before out of 2 pillowcases) I transformed into chariot racer Speedius Ryder and we spent the evening investigating a most suspicious death over nibbles which culminated in a Roman banquet.

Sadly in my dash from setting the camera on the floor to self-time to being in the photo, my sandles collapsed around my ankles.  You'll have to imagine them in: they were impressive.
It was a wonderful weekend, and I loved catching up with friends.  We laughed until the tiny little hours of the morning, entertained a lady from Ann Summers who arrived with her 'box of tricks' to amuse us and collapsed exhausted into bed. Truly fantastic :D
Kisses xxx
P.S. This increases my 500 snaps of summer count with 12 complete and only 488 to go.  Instagram and Tweet with #500snapsofsummer if you want to play along!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

one photo and twenty words

This took three goes; grass got in the way, dresses are impractical for scrambling around. We laughed; I love it.


I'm actually going to cheat a little bit.  I won't say any more about this picture, but I do want to write a few thoughts down about the day.  I took this on Friday.  A special and lovely day because we both had the day off work.

We put our heads together to come up with plan.  He suggested going to the cinema during the day so we could have the screen to ourselves and sit wherever we liked.  I quickly concurred and added that I also believed brunch to be an essential component of a day off.

Brunch was delicious: a flour tortilla topped with fried eggs, chorizo, melted cheese, avocado salsa, black beans and sweetcorn.  Plus some potato wedges, because YUM. We were able to sit outside in the sunshine and watch the world go by before heading off to catch The Edge of Tomorrow.  We had the entire theatre to ourselves...until another couple arrived.  I scowled, grumbling that it was extremely rude of them to interrupt our private viewing. But as they came up the steps, they waved cheerfully, and called to us, “We’ve come to ruin your sceening! And we’re going to sit right next to you even though the whole place is free!”  Safe to say they didn't and we grinned back and decided that they were clearly very nice and that they could stay. The film was appropriately silly and hugely entertaining and had aliens and time travel and robot battle suits and the odd gag and we enjoyed it a lot.  Even with the plot holes.

We left the cinema in search of Pimm’s and having walked past 3 underground stations and being still unable to locate that most British of summer beverages, we hopped on a tube to Russel Square, imbibed a Pimm’s each outside a pub and then spent a blissful afternoon lazing on the grass in Russel Square garden.

One Photo and Twenty Words is hosted by Abi over at Creating Paper Dreams. Pay her a visit (she's brilliant!) and see others' pictures.

Kisses xxx

P.S. 500 snaps of summer goes up by another picture!  So that's now 3 down and 497 to go.

Monday, 7 July 2014

500 snaps of summer

Two and half more weeks of school; still working hard and breaking in new bridesmaid shoes.

Summer is here!  While there are still a couple of weeks left in the school term, the fact that it is a) July and b) sunny make me think of all sorts of lovely summery thoughts.  And the fact that I have finally finished writing reports and references for my students (297 in total) certainly helps.

I want to celebrate and embrace summer and record some wonderful memories.  So I have set myself a challenge.  Over the summer, during the months of July and August, I am going to take photos.  Lots of photos.  In fact, my goal is to take, sort and share 500 photographs that I really love which represent my summer.

Welcome to 500 snaps of summer.

500 good pictures might sound like a lot, and it is, but I wanted to genuinely challenge myself.  And with weddings, hen parties, Guide events, festivals, family, friends and all of London at my disposal, I feel ready to meet it.

I LOVE my camera.  And I miss it when I don’t have it and I miss having pictures that I can look back on.  So my beautiful camera will be going everywhere with me for the next 2 months and together we will capture the summer. As I blog the pictures, I will also aim to add a few musings where appropriate, and journal as I go.

If you’d like to join in, by all means do!  Share your summer!  You don’t have to take 500 pictures, but if you take a few pictures and are sharing them, whether on a blog, or Instagram or Pinterest, I’d love to see and draw inspiration, so let me know!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I also like the idea of collecting them altogether to look at, so I’m going to start adding them to a Pinterest board. You can find it here!

P.P.S. That's 2 down, and 498 to go.

Monday, 16 June 2014

creativity: a slow-moving blog hop

Hello everyone!  Today I'm taking part in the slow-moving blog hop that you might have seen floating around the internet.  The idea is to share a few of my thoughts on creativity, and then pass the torch on so we can all hear from more bloggers.  The lovely Abi over at Creating Paper Dreams invited me to join in and I accepted enthusiastically as her work is beautifully creative and inspiring and her posts are a joy to read. 

For me, when I think creative, I really think craft.  And I'm happy to embrace everything from stitching my own world map to a bit of knitting via photography.

Being a maths teacher in the middle of school exam season means that actually my life looks a bit like this at the moment.  And when I'm spending lots of time cooped up marking papers and writing university references and school reports, I really feel like getting out and about at the end of the day.  For the last few weeks, there hasn't been a lot of creativity, or creative time.

Fortunately, I am lucky enough to live in the greatest city in the world and so when I feel the need to shake off the working day, the metropolis beckons invitingly.  London is a constant inspiration; there's always something new to see and do! This weekend alone I was able to visit the Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library, try out a new Thai restaurant, and see a dazzling theatrical performance called The Roof at the National Theatre choreographed along rooftops outside while in the audience we wore headphones to keep pace with the action. When things get quieter, I really hope to have a little more time to share my London love and indulge in my favourite creative passtime: scrapbooking.

I love to scrapbook; it's a wonderful way to get my photos out of the computer and on display, and to tell the stories of the experiences behind the pictures.  I suppose what you'll see more than anything on my pages is writing.  I always have a lot to say to myself and I love recording the little details that might get lost in years to come.  

I adore taking pictures too, but tend to stick to smaller shots on a scrapbook layout and then let my photos shine in pocket pages.  I sometimes even blow prints up to 12x12 size, especially if I've travelled and have pictures of a new and exciting part of the world!

At the end of the day, it comes back to finding that lovely, quiet creative time.  There seems to be more of it in winter when the sun isn't beckoning, when we're not taking the Guides out on camp, when marking doesn't erupt from every school bag and when it's nice to be cosy indoors and remember the allure of the city and the world.

Now this is where you come in.  I'm looking for three bloggers who would like to share a little of their own work and some of their own thoughts; I know so many of you have beautiful blogs and I would love to hear your perspective on your creative side. If you would be able to put together a creativity post to go live next Monday, send me a quick email to journalofcuriousthings at gmail dot com.  I can send you a little more information and point people your way!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I truly did intend to arrange this more in advance, but if I tell you that I have written 147 reports this week, I hope you will forgive my lack of forethought.

P.P.S. Sadly that is not even nearly all the reports I have to write.

 P.P.P.S. If only I could scrapbook the reports, it might be a bit more fun!