Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Street Art Snapshots From An Unseen Tour of Shoreditch

I love street art and the east end of London has some of the best street art in the world. There are many excellent tours, some of which I've written about here under the street art tag, but I'd always wanted to go on an Unseen Tour. The Unseen Tour model is impressive; the guides are formerly homeless individuals who take people on tours of their home neighbourhoods. Unseen Tours are a not-for-profit social enterprise and sixty percent of the ticket price goes to the guide.

We joined Henri on the Unseen Tour of Shoreditch and these are my favourite sights.

The photo above features a fake blue plaque to Ed Seymour, the inventor of the aerosol spray paint can. All hail Ed!

Shoreditch is experiencing heavy gentrification with the area becoming much too expensive for average Londoners to live in. It would absolutely suit developers if all the poor people left quietly.

This stencil really resonated with me (I think it's a stencil). Depression is a huge part of my life but something I'm learning to work alongside and accommodate. Sometimes we simply need to be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves to have off days.

Interesting appropriation of one of the most evil dictators in history.

I loved this piece. I wish I could have gotten up to a higher vantage point to take a better photo of it.

This was a very funky piece and it took up over six metres of a wall.

Cereal killer, a scathing indictment of a place that charges £6 for a bowl of cereal. What utterly needless gimmick marketing.

I have no idea what this was all about but it was very trippy and reminded me of old London texts and legends.

Do not trust robots. Say no more.

I love Phlegm's work and was delighted to discover this piece on the Foundry.

Visit the Unseen Tours website to book a tour.


Saturday, 5 March 2022

Adventures in Leeds Castle in Spring

Leeds Castle seen through an explosion of cherry blossoms | Leeds Castle in Spring

I'm at the 'will it ever end' stage of winter which is why I tend to count the spring equinox as the official start of spring. While it is cold, wet and grey outside, I know that spring will eventually arrive and it will be glorious when it does. In fact, when spring is late, it often results in an explosion of blooms because flowers that normally bloom weeks apart now bloom all at once. I can't wait!

Leeds Castle and moat | Leeds Castle in Spring

While I'm (im)patiently waiting for spring to arrive, I'm dreaming of the visit I took to Leeds Castle in spring 2019 with my amazing nieces. It was back in the days when I wasn't updating this blog but it's one of the experiences I most wanted to share.

The moat and castle walls of Leeds Castle | Leeds Castle in Spring

We were blessed with warm, sunny weather which of course felt sub-Arctic to my nieces who'd arrived from a South African summer.

Geese at Leeds Castle in Spring

When you arrive at Leeds Castle, you take a long, meandering walk through the grounds before seeing the castle itself. The grounds are immaculately maintained with an abundance of wildlife including swans, geese and ducks.

Leeds Castle in Spring

There are idyllic scenes such as this and I imagine many of England's more shy species come out when the grounds are less busy.

A bedroom at Leeds Castle

While many castles in Britain were never lived in or never quite completed, Leeds Castle has a rich and varied history dating back to 1119 when Robert de Crevecoeur built the first stone castle on the site.

It was fun exploring the inside of Leeds Castle and it should surprise no one that the library was my favourite room! I was thrilled to see real, antique books in the library - nor props - and former residents at Leeds Castle enjoyed Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare.

The dining room at Leeds Castle

Did you know that you can get married at Leeds Castle? It's certainly out of many people's budgets but what a dream it must be to get married in such a beautiful location! Many of the packages include a overnight stay for your guests in the castle so that is certainly appealing!

Falconry display at Leeds Castle in Spring

While my nieces found the castle interesting, they loved the falconry display! It was thrilling to see their collection of hawks, eagles and owls in action and we got to learn a lot about these majestic birds of prey.

The maze at Leeds Castle in Spring

We finished off our visit with a circuit around the famous maze. I can confirm that it looks easier than it is and there were a handful of tense, claustrophobic moments when I wondered if I would escape!

Leeds Castle
ME17 1PL

Tickets cost £28 for adults, £27 for seniors and £19.50 for children. Your ticket enables you free entry for a full 12 months so you can come back in summer, autumn and for the Christmas markets too.


Saturday, 15 January 2022

The Art of Banksy Exhibition, London

The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

One thing I've learned about the new world is that we spend an awful lot of time planning and looking forward to things through delays, false starts and eventual happenings. This was especially true of London's The Art of Banksy exhibition. I recall waiting a very long time for the exhibition to finally open in May 2021 but by the time it did, I had much more important things on my mind as I lost my father in July. Not going to lie, last year was a tough year but it's strengthened my desire to live every minute to the full and to celebrate life in honour of those who have left us.

It was around November that my lovely friend Sarah reminded me that we promised to go to The Art of Banksy together and fresh from my fabulous day out at The Beautiful People exhibition, I went ahead and bought us tickets.

It will surprise exactly no-one to learn that I loved the exhibition. Street Art features so regularly on this blog that it has its own label and Banksy was one of my first loves. You learn very little about the elusive street artist himself but you do learn about the famous and often notorious works he has completed and the exhibitions he's put on. This exhibition was very much unauthorised but Banksy's touch was unmissable.

These were my favourite pieces.

Visit Historic Palestine

Visit Historic Palestine | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

Girl With Balloon Tee

Girl With Balloon Tee | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

Love Is In The Air

Love Is In the Air | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

I Fought The Law

I Fought The Law | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

No Ball Games

No Ball Games | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

Authorised Graffiti Area

Authorised Graffiti Area | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

Album covers, posters and magazine covers

Album covers, posters and magazine covers | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

Laugh Now

Laugh Now | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

Brace Yourself

Brace Yourself | The Art of Banksy Exhibition | London

This last one was interesting. When Banksy released his Oscar-nominated film Exit Through the Gift Shop, there was already a band with that name. They agreed to change their band name to Brace Yourself and sign over the trademark to Banksy and he painted them this backdrop as a thank you.

I don't agree with everything Banksy has done. He infamously staged the Barely Legal exhibition in Los Angeles in 2006 which featured a live, painted Indian elephant. Not cool. For the most part, I think he's one of the most important activist artists of our time and I'm dying to know who he is.

The The Art of Banksy exhibition has been extended to May 2022. Tickets cost £25 Monday to Friday and £29.50 on weekends with concessions and family tickets.

50 Earlham Street

Note: The Art of Banksy exhibition is right across the road from the Seven Dials Market, one of my favourite places in London, so be sure to stop by for yummy street food greatness.

Monday, 18 October 2021

The 'Beautiful People' Exhibition at London's Fashion & Textile Museum

It's Monday morning and I'm sitting in bed with a cup of coffee, celebrating one of my last days off before I start a new job in November. I'm reminiscing about the perfect weekend just gone, where I met up with old friend Mo for a day of exploring and walking around London.

Our first stop was the Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture exhibition at London's Fashion and Textile Museum.

This exquisitely curated exhibition includes authentic clothing from the late 60s and early 70s, as well as photos, fliers, posters, magazines and album covers from the era, displaying how music, fashion and celebrity became intrinsically linked in the counterculture movement.

I've always adored sixties and seventies fashion and long felt that I'd been born in the wrong era. If I could go back in time, I would absolutely go to Woodstock in 1969. My obsession was influenced in part by my parents' love of music from that time as well as my mum encouraging my hippie phase.

Suffice to say, I absolutely adored this exhibition and highly recommend a visit. Read on for my highlights from our visit.

It All Began at Glastonbury

The party to end the 1960s and the beginning of the Glastonbury festival.

The Apple Boutique

Clothing from the Apple boutique. I love their long, sleek lines.

Granny Takes a Trip

I'd never heard of Granny Takes a Trip before but I think I would have loved their clothing, especially their mini-skirts and mini-dresses.

Mick Jagger in Military Jacket

A young Mick Jagger wearing a then-vintage military jacket in 1966 (c. late 19th, early 20th century). He sparked an anti-establishmentarian trend of wearing of military clothing which really reminded me of young South Africans in the late 80s and 90s wearing their army fatigues to clubs, complete with band t-shirts and long hair.


One of my enduring memories from the early 70s is my godmother Helen and her sister Marcelle visiting us in England. I clearly recall them wearing outfits like this with knee-high boots. They must have loved the boutiques in London!


This was my favourite of all the boutiques shown, especially that exquisite mini-dress.

Mr Fish

The rise of velvet. I confess to owning a pair of velvet knickerbockers in the early 80s. It was my favourite possession, second only to my Adam and the Ants Prince Charming LP.

Music and Art Deco inspired clothing

While rock music and celebrity were the most prominent themes of London's counterculture, there was also an Art Deco and 1920s / 30s revival.

Eastern Influences

With The Beatles pilgrimage to India and the rise of the sitar in rock music, the Western interest in Indian clothing began. I myself was a slave to this trend, buying many silk shirts, skirts and dresses from the Oriental Plaza in Johannesburg in the 90s.

Althea Porter

This last piece caught my eye. Althea Porter dresses retailed for an eye-watering £100 to £1000 in the late 60s / early 70s but were absolutely worth every penny. Look at the incredible quality in this piece that is evident 50 years later!

The Beautiful People exhibition runs to 13 March 2022. Our tickets cost £13 each including booking fee and museum donation.

Fashion and Textile Museum
83 Bermondsey Street


Friday, 19 March 2021

Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

Tonbridge Castle | Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

Look at that beautiful blue sky! Barely a cloud in the sky and where there were clouds, they were cute, fluffy and simply idyllic. We've had horrible weather in Kent this week with heavy showers and constant grey skies. Imagine how pleased I was when the sun decided to return today when I'd planned a socially distanced walk with my friend Sarah in the Kentish market town of Tonbridge.

The View from Tonbridge Castle | Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

We parked at Tonbridge Castle and enjoyed a delicious cheese, fruit, cold meat and cracker graze box from Gourmet Grazing. Satisfied and with full bellies, we walked through the gatehouse of Tonbridge Castle and into the grounds.

Tonbridge Castle | Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

The history of Tonbridge Castle is fascinating. It was initially occupied following the Norman Conquest but burnt to the ground in 1088. Construction of the surviving gatehouse took 30 years from 1230 and the mansion was built in 1793.

Tonbridge Castle Gatehouse | Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

The castle mound (or motte) also still survives and you can take a zigzag path up the mound and walk beside the moat surrounding it.

Tonbridge Viewed from River Walk | Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

After exploring the castle, we walked along the River Walk into Tonbridge market town.

Yarn Hearts | Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

Many of the shops were closed due to lockdown so we walked along the other side of River Walk towards the park. Tonbridge must be glorious in summer when you can take boat rides along the River Medway.

Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

Our walk took us past the Tonbridge swimming pool and sports fields. There were loads of people around although most were socially distanced.

Riverboats on the River Medway | Exploring Tonbridge Castle and Surrounds

I loved the look of these riverboats on the River Medway. Tonbridge looks like a lovely town to live in and there were lovely new-builds along the river banks. I imagine the crowds could get unpleasant for residents in summer though!

We ended our walk with iced cocoa from 65mm Coffee on River Walk. We loved exploring a new (to us) town and will definitely return to Tonbridge again when things get back to normal.


Sunday, 21 February 2021

A Spring Walk in Lullingstone

Oh! Glorious spring! I’d been planning a socially distanced walk with my friend Amanda for several weeks but January and February were bitterly cold, with several instances of snow. As you can imagine, we both bounced out of bed on the morning of Sunday 21st February when one of those perfect spring days bloomed, the type with blue skies and sunshine where you can’t imagine there will ever be a cold day again.

Spoiler warning: it was short-lived and as of 6 March, it is bitterly cold and grey again.

We met up at Lullingstone Country Park, which has ample parking and toilet facilities. There were many other people about, so I kept my mask on until the crowds thinned.

We walked to Lullingstone Castle which you might remember I wrote about previously when we enjoyed the Medieval Weekend and the World Garden.

Lullingstone Castle and The World Garden reopens on Easter Sunday, 3rd April 2021.

We walked under Eynsford viaduct which you can see in the first photo above and into the meadow where you can see the woolly cows.

They are very cute but obviously we gave them their space.They remind me of the Highland cattle we saw on our visit to Crieff Visitor Centre.

We decided not to walk into Eynsford, mainly because some of my favourite pubs and restaurants are there and they are all closed at the moment. I can’t wait to go back to the Plough Inn or Riverside Tea Room this summer.

I want to move to Eynsford eventually or another small Kentish town near it. I’m not ready to move out of my house yet though – we have been here five years this month!

Today marks one year since I last went into London. Life has definitely changed in the past five years but never so much as in the last twelve months. Here in my sunny corner of England, we’ve been in some form of lockdown (or tier 4 restrictions) since the 4th of November. I’m not complaining but even the optimist in me has to admit that this is a long time to be without restaurants, cinemas and non-essential shops. What is most important is that my loved ones have mostly survived this pandemic although I lost one of my oldest friends Vicky to a heart attack in June.

Despite everything the pandemic has brought us, I am lucky to have this on my doorstep. Kent is a wonderful place to live and explore and one day I’ll get back to exploring London again.

I’m still not completely set up to post on this blog again. I don’t have the right photo editing software since the Great IT Failure of 2018, I rarely use my proper camera and using Open Live Writer isn’t as easy as it used to be. I do all my Addicted to Media posts on my iPad but that isn’t as simple with photo-heavy posts. I will continue trying to find something that works. I’ve kept diaries and journals since I was twelve and not keeping up Emm in London since 2016 meant that I lost five years of chronicling my life story and I’m really feeling that at the moment. I’ll keep randomly uploading posts from the last five years (on the dates that they occurred) but I’d like to start updating this blog in real time again going forward.

How are you? Are you still in lockdown in your part of the world?

© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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