Royal Albert Hall, London

The Albert Memorial at night - Kensington Gardens

On Saturday evening, we made our way to the Royal Albert hall to watch Editors in concert.  I had never been to this venue before and was quite unprepared for just how exquisite and intricately detailed the architecture is.

We had to wait in a long line to get in to the venue so for once in my life, friends and spouse did not complain as I went around to the front to get some decent photos.

Above is the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.  It is quite beautiful and looked magical in the dusk lighting.  (Click on the photos for a larger resolution).

The Royal Albert Hall By Night

The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria and the first performed was on March 29, 1871.  I wonder if the patrons on that evening 140 years ago were as excited to see their performance as I was to see Editors?

The Entrance to the Royal Albert Hall

I’m just writing up my review of the concert and should post that later this week. 

In the meantime, I’ll take this opportunity to mention that I am having a couple of problems logging in to Blogger since my password was hijacked a couple of weeks ago.  I can’t moderate comments or log in to my dashboard and it tells me that I am no longer following any blogs.  I also can’t click on my followers to see new people without getting a nasty error message. 

Now is not the time to encourage me to move to Wordpress, I was on that finicky and troublesome platform before moving over to Blogger, but please be patient for the next couple of weeks until we get this sorted.  Google is aware of it and is trying to solve the issue.

Arreton Old Village, Isle of Wight

Wherever we ventured during our time on the Isle of Wight, we passed by Arreton Old Village in the heart of the island.  I am so glad that we finally made the time to visit on our last afternoon there as I was utterly taken by this quaint little village.

Arreton Old Village - Isle of Wight

There are several quaint and utterly charming shops in the tiny little village including Lavender and Lace country accessories, Sweet Memories traditional sweets and homemade fudges and the Vintage Penny Arcade.  All of these shops are housing in ancient little houses, completing the authentic visit into yesteryear.

Arreton Church of St George - Isle of Wight

Of course, the highlight for me and the absolute reason we had to visit was the ancient Church of St George.  This is a fabulous, old medieval church which was first built in the Norman era with the tower built in 1299.  It is in fantastic shape and it was a real treat to see such an old church still intact.  It won’t surprise you to know that the church is Grade 1 listed.

Arreton Church of St George Graveyard and War Memorial - Isle of Wight

This is the graveyard and the war memorial.  The war memorial was dedicated in 1920

to remember those brave men that died in The Great War.  Like so many memorials, it had to be tragically altered several years later to include the names of the World War II dead.

The White Lion - Arreton - Isle of Wight

Arreton Old Village has a superb pub called The White Lion.  They have a great pub menu but we warned: the portions are gigantic.  You most certainly won’t be needing to order starters, desserts and extra vegetables like we did!  We shared a curry and a pie of the day and it really warmed us up after a chilly day exploring Carisbrooke Castle and The SeasideTown of Cowes.



This photo epitomises everything I don’t like about zoos.  Monkeys should barely know what barbed wire feels like, never mind be left grasping it in boredom and captivity.  I thought I’d post this photo separately, along with my negative sentiments, because I did go to an “animal world” with my god daughter in South Africa and wouldn’t want to ruin the entire post with my whining.

I liked this photo because it came out exactly as I wanted it to.  I wanted to focus on the monkey’s little hand and I had taken it with this exact sentiment in mind.

I also like that I resisted the urge to touch the monkey’s hand.  As cute as they look, they are more vicious than you can ever imagine and I would not have fingers with which to type had I given in to temptation.

Not to mention that wild animals and monkeys should not be subjected to the random touch of inquisitive humans.  The only time that has felt right is when I’ve been in animal rehabilitation, conservation or breeding centres.

Novi Sad: Sunset Over the River Dunav

It’s taken me a long time to post this final post about my visit to Novi Sad.  As unbelievably hackneyed as it will sound, I simply didn’t want the sun to set on my Serbian trip. 

The Fruska Gora over the River Dunav

These photos were taken on my last evening in Novi Sad.  I was attending a special event at the Petrovaradin Fortress, which is where the Exit Festival is held each year and was looking out over the river.  Looking to the east, I saw the Fru┼íka Gora mountain range over the Dunav river.  You might know the more popular name of the Dunav river: the Danube.

That is Liberty Bridge that you can see there in the middle of the photo. It is a cable-stayed bridge that was rebuilt between 2003-2005 following the NATO bombardment of Novi Sad in 1999.

Sunset over the River Dunav

Looking straight ahead, I could see the city of Novi Sad over the river.  (You can click on any of the photos for a higher resolution).  The prominent spire in most of the photos is the famous catholic church in Trg Slobode (Liberty Square).

A Blazing Sunset over the River Danube

My eyes were streaming with tears as I looked straight into the sun to try and take these photos.  Seeing this blazing sunset over the Dunav river will possibly remain with me to the end of my days.

To the right of the photo is the Varadin Bridge which was built in 2000, again following the NATO bombardment which specifically targeted bridge among other targets.

Novi Sad at Sunset from the Petrovaradin Fortress

I love this photo with the pink-orange sky and the sun peeking out to the right.  It absolutely captures my mood at that moment as I realised that I simply had to return to this country and this city.  I still intend to return, both to visit my friend Maja and to show it to Stephen but also as part of a bigger goal of extensively travelling across the countries that comprise what was once Yugoslavia.  My friend Nina has already begun to scheme with me to visit Croatia in August. 

Old Clock Tower Petrovaradin Fortress

This is the famous clock tower at the Petrovaradin Fortress. It was visible from the river the guide sailors and is distinctive because of its larger hour hand.

Novi Sad at Sunset over the Dunav River

Love.  That is all I have left to say about the city of Novi Sad.

Crieff: Drummond Castle and Gardens

Beech Avenue Drummond Castle Gardens

I love castles. The idea that these magnificent stone structures were built hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago and continue to dominate the countryside around them intrigues me. Drummond Castle in Crieff, Scotland was built in 1490 by John, 1st Lord Drummond and went through major transformations and remodelling around 1630 and 1890.  The imposing Drummond Castle Keep is the first part of the complex that you see from the car park, after driving down the exquisite Beech Avenue which is over a mile long. 

Drummond Castle Keep

Drummond Castle is not open to the public but that is not the reason you visit here anyway.  The major reason to visit here is to see the exquisite Drummond Gardens.

The Drummond Gardens are laid out in the design of a St Andrew’s Cross.  These formal gardens are expertly divided into sections with shrubs, deciduous tress, maples, topiary, coniferous trees and twenty-one types of apples but I realised quite quickly that I was out of my depth.

I’m certainly not an expert on fauna and plant life so I took a relaxing walk around the gardens and just appreciated all of the sights.  Click on any of the photos for a better resolution.

John Mylne’s Sundial (above left and centre) lies right in the middle of the St Andrew’s Cross and was erected in 1630.  It is known as a multiplex sundial and apparently shows the time in different countries.  I can’t comment on that because I have never, even managed to tell the time on a sundial! 

I loved the detail on this arch that formed the bottom boundary of the garden, leading to the rose and vegetable gardens.

In the bottom photo here you can see the copper beech tree that Queen Victoria planted when she visited in 1842.  It is strange to imagine that this magnificent tree must have been a mere shrub 169 years ago!

I really love this photo and it shows what a gorgeous day it was when we visited.  It occurs to me that I managed to get no pictures whatsoever of the grounds people.  That is quite a feat as there were so many of them!They work nearly every day and it takes them a full year to complete a maintenance cycle!  They are obviously very talented!

It said in the brochure that the bridge in the photos above was the original drive.  I guess that means that we came in through the back entrance and that the gardens were once to the front of the castle as opposed to the back.  That makes sense really.

This is Drummond Castle and was largely remodelled and rebuilt in the mid-19th century.  I saw this particular style of architecture, which I believe to be Scots Baronial Style, all around Scotland and I really love the creepy haunted house look.  If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see black birds flying around the turrets of the castle above and they certainly added to the eerie sense of foreboding!

This last photo was taken from the top and Ste was looking down over the gardens.  The scenery was breath taking (as it so often is in Scotland) and we had a hard time tearing ourselves away. 

Street Art London: Stik

There has been some debate in recent weeks as to the nature of graffiti: is it art or just plain vandalism.  Griff from Street Art London is a strong believer that street art is indeed art and has kindly agreed to write up a guest post for me.  All photographs in this post are copyright of Street Art London.

We thought it would be a good idea to offer an insight into the work of one particular street artist whose work us Londoners are becoming more familiar and gaining a greater affinity with. This street artist is Stik, and if you have taken a stroll around East London recently then you will probably have noticed his 'Stik People' hanging around on the walls of derelict buildings and sleeping on shop shutters and doorways.


Stik People originally began to appear in Hackney Wick but have, in recent times, been steadily on the march towards Central London. At present, Stik is one of the most prolific street artists in London and is always putting up new work – 2011 being no exception. There are even a number of Stik People just off Shaftsbury Avenue.

Stik himself has spent a sizable portion of his life living on the street and in squats and such themes of human vulnerability trace through in his street art. Although they are androgynous and constructed out of very simple shapes Stik People are nonetheless capable of conveying complex emotions. In Stik's own words:

Beauty is in movement. That’s what it’s about. Beauty is about the way that someone moves their body. You can tell by someone’s walk if they’re angry, whether they’re happy or if they’ve just eaten. You can tell a lot about someone just by the way they’re moving their back or their eyes. There doesn’t need to be a great deal of detail there. You can see it from across the road. You can see someone silhouetted against a white wall in the night and check whether they’re walking in an aggressive way or if they’re someone you know. That’s what I’m trying to capture in my work – that direct recognition.

Read the full interview on Street Art London.

For more street artist news visit us at Street Art London and check out our Facebook community. We also do walking tours around East London and would love to show you all of Stik's work (and more from the likes of Banksy, Eine, C215 etc. etc.) up close.

If any of you are interested in going on one of the walking tours, I was thinking of going in April.  Let me know if you’d like to join in!

The Vaal River at Emerald Palace

We only stayed one night at the Emerald Palace Casino and resort in the Vaal River in December.  After the brilliant African sunset of the previous evening, we woke up to a typical, cloudy summer’s morning.  In the summer months in Johannesburg and the province of Gauteng, it is the rainy season and all of that beautiful greenery you see in the photo above is courtesy of the incessant rain!  If you enlarge the photo above (by clicking on it) you can just make out the Vaal River winding past the boat house.

It didn’t look to bad from our vantage point up in the hills but the Vaal River was filled to capacity in December.  Just before Christmas, news had broken that the Vaal Dam was overflowing and that it was 101% full with four sluice gates open.  Well, by the time this photo was taken on 27 December, it was more like 110% and all five sluice gates were open.

Being of a daring nature, we decided to walk on down to the river and spot this hadeda (a kind of ibis).  Hadedas are known for their obnoxious and loud cries as they fly over people’s houses at 4am in the morning and they also lay their eggs in the most inconvenient of places.

It was both thrilling and frightening to see the Vaal River this full.  It hadn’t burst its banks at that stage but it is certainly not safe to play any water sports on the river or the dam when it is in this state.

Of course, my four-and-a-half-year-old godchild is infinitely braver than I am and she took a nice walk right along the bank while I got dizzy and sea-sick.

This is one of my favourite photos of all time and I might print it out and frame it.  There is just something so South African about this scene.  I could have focused more on the house and brought it down to a third of the picture but then you wouldn’t be able to see just how much sky there is in Johannesburg.  Well, this homesick meisiekind is going to make some nice English tea and watch some nice American tea and glare at the not-so-nice cold weather outside.

That reminds me.  The major difference between English and South African cloudy weather and rain?  It is cold in England! What a shock that was to my system to not see steam rising up from the pavement when it rained!