Saturday, 23 July 2016

Must See: Power UP at the Science Museum

I can remember the first time I ever saw a computer game. My mum has a Sinclair ZX80 which allowed us to play an infinitely frustrating game of tennis with controllers that could move up and down the screen and nothing else. By the mid-80s computer games were everywhere and if I wasn’t playing in the corner shop then I was trying unsuccessfully to beat my brother at Super Mario Brothers. I never did finish the game but he did.

Imagine my geeky fervour when I heard about the new Science Museum exhibition Power UP. Billed as a ‘hands-on, fully interactive gaming event’, the Power UP exhibition is an event for the whole family and features the very best in video games and consoles from the past 40 years. The event promises to pique the interest of everyone from casual gamers to serious addicts and I went along on Thursday night to check it out.

Power Up at the Science Museum

We were greeted at the entrance by a rather formidable set of opponents. Thankfully they were in attendance to take photos with kids and not steal them aware to their hidden lairs. I saw one little girl particularly thrilled to take a photo with the princess – she had the most gleeful look on her face.

Competition at Power Up at the Science Museum

Once inside the exhibition, I was in a large room with rows and rows of game stations. Along the left wall were some of my favourite games: Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog and a series of Batman games. To the right were Lego and Disney games, plus driving and rhythm games while in the middle we saw Xbox One and PS4 games plus educational and family games.

Gaming at Power Up at the Science Museum

As I approached the Halo station, I took a moment to examine my surroundings. With the dim lighting, loud music and sound of computers games and excited chatter, it occurred to me that this was exactly like a nightclub for children and I think I would have loved this experience as a child.

A Classic Super Nintendo at Power Up at the Science Museum

I then spotted what, for me, was the most interesting part of the evening: the video game timeline. Spread along the entire far wall of the room was a series of consoles ranging from the Binatone TV Master (1977) to the more recent releases of the first Xbox, Playstation and Wii. I even spotted a Nintendo Gamecube which I’d completely forgotten even existed!

My interest was in the Super Nintendo. I’d played games for years but the Super Nintendo was the first console I truly fell in love with and I played my brother’s machine whenever he was out of the house. I think I was more devastated than he was when it was stolen!

Crash Bandicoot at Power Up at the Science Museum

I also headed for the very first Sony Playstation and played some Crash Bandicoot 2. It was exactly how I remembered it but somehow I couldn’t make it past the first level,

The Crowd at Power Up at the Science Museum

Power Up at the Science Museum is more of an experience than an exhibition and it will definitely appeal to lovers of gaming. The game stations were extremely busy, especially the multi player cubes and the Halo station and I can see why the event has strict timed entry.

Turtle Power at Power Up at the Science Museum

I’d definitely recommend Power Up if you’re looking for an event where children will entertain themselves and parents are free to take a trip down gaming memory lane.

Concentration at Power Up at the Science Museum

Leaving the event, I took a moment to appreciate the quiet and emptiness of the Science Museum at night. It is not often we get to see it this way.

The Science Museum at Night


Power UP at the Science Museum runs from Friday 22 July to Sunday 7 August 2016 and will take place daily over four 90 minute sessions starting at 11.00, 12.45, 14.30 and 16.15. Tickets cost £8 for adults and £6.50 for children but visit the Power UP site for family tickets and day passes.

Entry to the Science Museum Lates on 27 July will cost £5 for a 60-minute session with entry at 18.15, 19.30 or 20.45. This is for over-18s only.

There will also be three special adult only evening sessions on  29 July, 30 July and 5 August. The sessions will run for 3 hours from 7pm to 10pm and will cost £12 each.

The Science Museum
Exhibition Road
South Kensington


If you’re visiting the Science Museum, be sure to also check out the Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius exhibition which ends on 4 September and the Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph exhibition which ends 11 September 2016.


Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Medieval Weekend at Lullingstone Castle

Helmet at the Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

I love Lullingstone and Eynsford. It was one of the very first areas of Kent that I ever explored and I’ve been back many times since. The minute I discovered that they were holding a Medieval Weekend at Lullingstone Castle over the May bank holiday, I firmly marked it out in my calendar. The last time I visited Lullingstone Castle, it was the dead of winter and we’d walked there from the High Street only to find the gates firmly shut. Needless to say, I was quite eager to get inside those gates!

Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

Like many English castles, Lullingstone Castle is not actually a castle; it is a historic mansion that was built in 1497. Quite incredibly, it is still owned by the same family, the Hart Dykes, and King Henry VIII and Queen Anne were known to be regular visitors. The grounds are also home to the World Garden of Plants which contains plants from around the world – definitely click the link to read about how Tom Hart Dyke came up with the idea for the garden when he was kidnapped by Colombian rebels! On this occasion though, we were not there to visit the gardens but will certainly return soon.

A canon at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

The Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend is an annual living history event that allows visitors to step into the world of medieval England. It is clearly an educational event meant for children which meant that I was in my element.

Gauntlet at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

There were many examples of suits of armour, including the gauntlets featured above. If you’ve ever explored European castles, then you’ll be familiar with suits of armour but what was nice about the fair was that it had a definite focus on the normal, everyday life of peasants.

Arrow heads at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

I had a nice, long chat with a fletcher called Jim who you’ll meet below. A fletcher is a person who attaches the fletching to arrows and he was very sad to admit that his surname is not Fletcher but he has been a seven time longbow champion so at least there is that. Jim explained that there were four main types of arrowheads used but in the very top photo of this post, you can see that there are scores of different types of arrowheads.

A quiver of arrows at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

In case you were wondering what ‘fletching’ is, it is the aerodynamic stabilisation in arrows, usually feathers. Jim handmade these arrows which I found really impressive.

Weapons of war at the Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

Moving on, we got to inspect these rather evil looking axes and wandered around the stalls chatting to more storeowners. I really rather wish I’d spent more time doing so because they were each fascinating in their own right.

The Lullingstone Castle Medieval Weekend

Nuts and grains at the Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

There were a number of stalls focusing closely on food consumed during the medieval period, especially by peasants. We noticed the distinct absence of meat, of course and the presence of some rather unusual types of grains and nuts.  In the foreground of the photo above, you can see Kentish cobnuts which are apparently quite delicious and behind that to the right, acorns, which really aren’t.

Beetles and dragons blood at the Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

We also spent a long time talking to a lovely young man at his stall of exotic medieval spices which peasants would certainly not have been able to afford. He had frankincense and pine resin and several types of peppers. Above you can see actual cochineal beetles to the left, and dragon’s blood to the right, both rich red dyes. Why did I take a photo of these and not the frankincense? Well, I was fascinated - I am allergic to cochineal, which is used as pink food colouring in ice creams and milkshakes – but had never actually seen them up close.

Lullingtone Chapel

We noticed that people were rapidly disappearing behind the church and after a quick peek inside, I followed them to the reenactment area. The church is properly known as St Botolph's Parish Church and it is of Norman origin.

Inside the chapel at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

St Botolphs Church Lullingstone Castle

A sword in the grass at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

The archery and gunnery displays were presented by the Woodvilles medieval re-enactment group. I loved how they were all firmly in character and the small details in their costumes.

Fletcher and archer Jim at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

This is Jim, the fletcher that I had met earlier, firing his longbow. Doesn’t he look impressive?

Archers at Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

We spent some time watching the archery and gunnery display. Those guns were really loud! I overheard a really interesting conversation regarding the licensing for these guns and how they are allowed for reasons of historic preservation.

Gunnery display at the Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

Gunnery at the Lullingstone Castle medieval weekend

As lovely as the original 1497 gatehouse is, it was lovely to finally get inside the grounds of Lullingstone Castle and not be stuck outside. We had a fantastic day out at Lullingstone Castle and I will definitely return soon to see the World Garden.

The Gatehouse Lullingstone Castle

Lullingstone Castle
Tel: 01322 862114 


Thursday, 7 July 2016

June: The Month That Was

Nationale-Nederlanden building on the Rašínovo nábřeží

Have you ever had one of those months where you get to the end and wonder what the heck was that? June was that month for me. It was crazy and cool and went by in a kind of blur. Still feeling dizzy at the end of it, I took a look at an old blog posts and noticed that I used to do really fun recap posts of what I’d been up to.  A lot of bloggers still do this – I particularly enjoy the Life Lately posts and I thought that now would be the perfect time for such a post.

What I Got Up To

The Woolwich Vintage & Craft Fair

If you follow The Only Way is Woolwich, you’ll know that Woolwich might have its problems but it is an up and coming area with lots to do. That is why one Saturday morning I dragged my mum and Stephen off to Royal Arsenal for breakfast at the Cornerstone Café and a wander around the Vintage & Craft Fair. I enjoyed our breakfast enough that I’m trying to arrange a visit to the sohMARIE supper club that is held at the venue every month.

Cornerstone Cafe, Woolwich

The Derelict London Tour of Limehouse & Poplar

Churchyard of St Anne’s of Limehouse

I had been looking forward to Paul Talling’s new tour since I’d been on his Derelict London Tour of Silvertown last year. It was an interesting tour with a mix of dereliction and new developments and I’m having such problems choosing my photos that I think I’m going to have to spread it out over two blog posts. The photo above was taken in the churchyard of St Anne’s of Limehouse.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Dartford’s Central Park

I have a strange relationship with Shakespeare. After studying Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth in school, I thought I was a fan and so naturally jumped at the chance to buy tickets for the David Tennant production of Hamlet in 2008. But then disaster stuck – not only did David have to pull out of the tour due to hurting his back but I did not like the production at all. I thought I knew the play really well but could not follow along and my mother-in-law, somewhat of a Shakespeare expert, admitted that they were switching scenes around and even she was struggling to follow it. Imagine how our long-suffering spouses were feeling? So we did the unthinkable and left during intermission.

Fast forward 8 years and I avoid Shakespeare like the plague but recently found myself dragged along to a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Dartford’s Central Park. And I absolutely loved it!  This is my new favourite Shakespeare play after Hamlet and has inspired me to catch all the films and plays I can in future, secure in the knowledge that I actually do like Shakespeare despite one bad experience.


Just a tip should you ever find yourself at an open air theatre event in England in June – take a thermal sleeping bag and portable chair. I did and was as snug as a bug while people around me were freezing.



Once upon a time, on the day that I turned 18, a friend at university gifted me Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Not only did that change my view of literature from that moment on and lead to discoveries of Margaret Atwood and Michael Dibdin, it also made me want to visit Prague. In June, that dream finally came true.

We had an incredible trip and I can’t wait to start telling you all about it.

Life, Studies and Work

I wrote an exam exactly a month ago today and it took me a very long time to get my life back into order after that. Part of me is so eager to get this interminable qualification done that I was planning to study two discursive subjects for the September exams but to do that would have meant that I would have needed to start studying again immediately and that was never going to happen. The first thing I realised was that after writing two exams, moving house and changing jobs in the first six months of the year, I was well and truly burned out.

What that means is that I’m not writing any exams in September and it looks like I won’t be finished my qualification until the end of next year at the earliest. The only upside of that is that I absolutely made the right decision changing jobs and am progressing steadily there. Steadily enough that I’m working a lot of evenings and weekends but that is standard for an accountant at year end.


We’re settling into our lovely new home – slowly – and we’re having our first guests over on Sunday. It has taken a long time, over three months, mainly because of our snag list and the fact that the developers (Barrett) have been so slow to fix them. An example? Several months ago, they made a botched attempt to replace some broken tiles on our bathroom floor. The job was left unfinished and the borders were never finished off because the tiles were sitting more than 1cm from the wall. They are finally fixing that tomorrow. I’m a patient girl but it is not easy to see ugliness in your brand new home.

The Most Beautiful Puppy in the World


You’ll have to excuse me in this section because I’m entirely not objective. While we were in Prague, the Most Beautiful Puppy in the World became ill and had to be transported by the vet in the pet ambulance. (I mean, look at the size of her, it’s not as if my mum could have carried her to the car). She had been healthy for exactly 12.5 years but two weeks ago began vomiting a lot. Her condition deteriorated on the day we were flying back from Prague and by the time we arrived home, she had curled herself into a ball, gone to sleep and stopped breathing. We missed her. We rushed to the vet to say goodbye and it did look like she was asleep. The rational side of me is happy we said goodbye to her in such a peaceful way, the other part of me is in bits.

That’s all from me for now. I’m probably going to take a couple of days to get back on the blogging wagon so please bear with me. I have a post scheduled on the Medieval Weekend we went to at Lullingstone Castle and then will dive right in with posts on Prague and the Derelict London Tour.

I’m linking up with Angie, Jessi, Emma and Polly for the travel linkup on ‘Home’. This was a different post than the one I thought I’d be writing but after being a nomad for most of my life, I finally feel at home right where I am.

How are you doing? Tell me one amazing thing that has happened in the past month – I genuinely need cheering up.


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Where to Stay in Norwich: The Old Rectory, Thorpe St Andrew

Old Rectory, Thorpe St Andrew

I held my breath when our car turned off Yarmouth Road into the long driveway of the Old Rectory. It had been a long day and I was eager to settle into our accommodation for the evening. My heart began to soar when the grand façade of the Georgian house peeked through the long avenue of trees; the Grade II listed building is beautiful.

We met our host Chris in the reception and he showed us to the Deluxe Double room on the second floor. Ours were the two top-left windows in the photo below.

Old Rectory, Norwich

When we stepped into our room, we were immediately transported to a different era, a time of elegance, style and understatement. Almost as if they knew that this was to be a weekend of writing, the room was perfectly set up with desk and wingback chairs to accommodate my writing needs.

A room at the Old Rectory, Norwich

The Old Rectory is nestled in an acre of mature gardens and our room had a view of the impressive greenery below. The bathroom featured vintage porcelain fittings and I was thrilled to discover the corner bath. There was also a separate shower for those of us who need to shower in the morning.

Bathroom at the Old Rectory, Thorpe St Andrew

After settling in, we decided that it was time to explore our surroundings.

Thorpe St Andrew

Thorpe St Andrew is an old town. It featured in the Domesday book as ‘Torp’ (meaning village in Scandinavian) and there is evidence of Roman occupation in the area. Today it is a riverside village with plenty of river- and roadside establishments lining Yarmouth Road where you can eat and drink the night away. On a pleasant summer evening, you’re best advised to leave your car at your hotel and take a leisurely twilight stroll down the strip.

The Old Rectory itself was built in 1754 by the vicar for the Thorpe St Andrew church. It remained with the church for many years before being converted to a hotel.

After a long day of driving, exploring Felbrigg Hall and Retro Dining at Grosvenor Fish Bar, we finally fell into bed for a very deep and very comfortable night’s sleep.

Drawing Room, The Old Rectory

We were up early the following morning for we had a full day of exploring and dancing ahead of us. I decided to take a tour of the grounds while Stephen relaxed with a newspaper in the drawing room.

The Old Rectory Hallway


The Gardens of the Old Rectory

Once I was certain that I’d built up enough of an appetite, we enjoyed a full English breakfast in the dining room.

Breakfast at the Old Rectory

Dining Room

Our stay the the Old Rectory was far too short and I would love to return soon. There is no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Norfolk the whole year round as you can see on the Old Rectory What's On page. I’d be especially interested in going back for their dinner, bed and breakfast offer for £210 for Valentine’s Day 2017.

The Old Rectory
103 Yarmouth Road
Thorpe St. Andrew

We stayed at the Old Rectory during our visit to the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, one of the UK’s longest-running and largest international arts festivals featuring film, dance, contemporary music and a host of other events.

I’d like to thank Visit Norwich, Look Sideways–East and The Old Rectory for inviting me to stay at the Old Rectory. Our visit was complimentary and as always, all views, enthusiasm and nostalgia are entirely my own

© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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