On the Trail of Wenlock and Mandeville

Well, there is no doubt about it, the Olympics coverage on Emm in London was slightly lacking. Part of that was down to an intentional lack of planning. Being married to a sports addict tends to lessen the appeal of sports after a while and I didn't buy any tickets. What I was looking forward to was crowds of tourists and lots of people I could photograph and guide around town but London was eerily quiet during those two weeks.

One aspect of the Olympics that I wholeheartedly embraced was the mascots. I absolutely fell in love with Wenlock and Mandeville and embarked on no less than 3 walking tours in the hopes of tracking them down. On this, the first day of the Paralympic Games, I'm going to take you on a trail of Wenlock and Mandeville. This is the first of two posts and I hope that by the end of it you will share my love for these quirky mascots.

This article gives an excellent background on the concept behind Wenlock and Mandeville. They are truly British mascots and their design is meant to signify two drops of steel from a factory in Bolton. They are named after the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire where a precursor to the Olympic Games was held in the 19th century and Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire which held a precursor of the Paralympic Games.

And now for less talk and more mascot-spotting.


The first mascot we spotted was the original Wenlock and strangely enough, the very last one I spotted was the original Mandeville. We spotted him just outside Spitalfields Market. He has the 2012 Olympic Games logo on his tummy.

Spitalfields Wenlock

Just inside the market we found Spitalfields Wenlock whose colourful design is meant to represent the variety and rich cultural heritage of the area. You will notice that all Wenlocks have the Olympic rings on their wrists.

Pearly Mandeville

Our first Mandeville was Pearly Mandeville, designed to represent the Pearly Kings and Queens. You might remember that I spotted a real life Pearly King one Sunday morning in Greenwich.

All Mandevilles have a helmet that splits into three tails, often coloured in red, green and blue and it is to represent the symbol of the Paralympics, the Arigato. You can currently see the Arigato suspended from Tower Bridge.

Spice Wenlock

As we made our way off Brick Lane into Hanbury Street, we discovered Spice Wenlock, a colourful young chap meant to represent the Bengali culture in Brick Lane and the numerous curry houses. I really like this one!

Bishopsgate Wenlock

The Bishopsgate Wenlock is kind of special because he welcomes visitors through one of London's original gates through the London Wall. Sadly, London is no longer a walled town and Bishopsgate is now a street best known for some prestigious new skyscrapers going up along it.

That brings us to the end of our first walk. Now I know that I am missing some key Wenlocks and Mandevilles along this route but fear not, they appear in my next post when I revisited the route.

Next I took a walk from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Road and back down again to Victoria Embankment Gardens.

Trafalgar Wenlock

First on our trek, we spotted Trafalgar Wenlock who was pretty thrilled to be standing with Nelson's Column over his shoulder. You can spot Nelson's Column on the left side of his head, too.

Filmstar Wenlock

We spotted Filmstar Wenlock in Leicester Square. Surely I don't need to explain why he's called Filmstar Wenlock? Well, just in case you didn't know, all of the major cinema franchises have a theatre in Leicester Square and this is where all of the film premieres take place.

Chinatown Mandeville

Just behind Leicester Square, you will find London's Chinatown. Strangely enough, we spotted Chinatown Mandeville a street or two east of China Town. Nevertheless, I just loved his China white and blue design.

Performer Wenlock

We spotted Performer Wenlock on Long Acre, Covent Garden. He pays homage to all of the wonderful performers, mine artists and entertainers you will find in Covent Garden. He stood almost as still as them too.

Busker Wenlock

If you've ever travelled the London Underground, you will have listened to a busker at one point. They range from the spectacular to those that have room for improvement and Busker Wenlock stands for them all. He is located just at the edge of Covent Garden as you exit towards the Strand.

And now for our final three, all located in Victoria Embankment Gardens. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I like to spend my lunch hours in Victoria Embankment Gardens, sitting in the sun. I was pleased that I had only actually noticed one of these young chaps prior to discovering them on my walk.

Somerset House Mandeville

Somerset House Mandeville represents the famous Somerset House arts and cultural centre on The Strand. I have to admit that I have never been inside but now that I have looked it up, I am definitely going to make a plan! It is also round the corner from my office, so no excuses!

Cleopatra's Needle Wenlock

Perhaps the favourite of all of the Wenlocks I discovered on this walk was Cleopatra's Needle Wenlock. Cleopatra's Needle is one of those landmarks that I can't help photographing time and time again (the first time was here) and I just love this little thing with hieroglyphics all over his tummy.

Embankment Wenlock

And our final Wenlock for today, Embankment Wenlock represents the Victoria Embankment Gardens and it beautiful sculptured gardens and the Embankment that was constructed to tame the north bank of the Thames during Victoria's reign.

So have I convinced you yet or do you still find Wenlock and Mandville creepy, ugly and slightly frightening? Well, I hope you won't mind too much when I take you on a Wenlock and Mandeville tour of Leadenhall, St Paul's Cathedral and Bankside.

Featured Photo: The Paralympic Agitos on Tower Bridge

Paralympic Agitos on Tower Bridge

The Agitos are the symbols of the International Paralympic Committee and were unveiled at Tower Bridge on Friday.  The Agitos will remain on Tower Bridge until 12 September so make sure that you go along to capture them! 

Did you know that the term “Paralympics” means that they run parallel to or alongside the Olympic Games?  The Paralympics will run from 29 August to 9 September and will hopefully run smoothly following the trial run last month.

A Visit to the Garden of Tears: Highgate Cemetery

John Brown Meharry

It has been a long time since I’ve been in touch with my inner Goth but yesterday I visited Highgate Cemetery on a cold and rainy summer afternoon.  The rain and shadows, sadness and decay, angels and tears would have made for a very happy Mandy in the mid-1990s, that is for sure. 

Highgate Cemetery is split into the West and East cemetery and it lies on either side of Swain Lane in Highgate.  You can only enter the West cemetery as part of a guided tour which costs £7 but you can guide yourself around the East cemetery for £3.  I went with Greg and Mela from Pincushion Treats and we decided to visit the East cemetery on this occasion.

Corin Redgrave and Jim Stanford Horn

Highgate is a place of contrasts.  There are great mausoleums close to the entrance, so dark and foreboding that you feel almost obliged to divert your eyes away from them.  Perhaps that assists in warding off evil spirits?  There are some interesting and modern gravestones but on the whole, Highgate cemetery feels quite ancient, full of symbolism of death and the afterlife.  There are crosses of al shapes and sizes, of course, but there are also weeping angels, clasped hands and strange Masonic symbols.

John Wheeler

Perhaps most significant is that the cemetery is overrun with ivy and situated beneath towering oak trees.  Oak trees signify strength, honour and longevity while ivy signifies immortality, rebirth and regeneration. 

Martha Hill

Of course, many cemeteries opt for likenesses of ivy carved into tombstones because as Mela explained to me, Highgate Cemetery is struggling to keep the ivy under control!

Bertha Richardson

It seems at times that our grief is muted in the modern era.  I always wonder at the depth of emotion that inspired previous generations to erect great statues and monuments to the dead.  The world ceased to spin at that times as communities came together to support the living.  That certainly doesn’t happen now.

Douglas Adams

I am so grateful that Greg pointed out the gravestone of Douglas Adams to me as I did not know that his ashes had been buried here.  Adams wrote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a trilogy in five parts) and the Dirk Gently series and if I have to explain to you why there is a towel there, then I’m really not even going to try.  I find it bizarre that he has such a plain gravestone but interestingly enough, I found it almost impossible to take a creative photo of it.

The Beauty of Highgate Cemetery

It seems strange that three London residents would go out on a summer’s day with only one umbrella between them but that is exactly what the three of us did!  My umbrella has been mortally wounded by the winds of Windermere and finally gasped its last breaths on Friday evening.  It still doesn’t explain why I didn’t immediately replace it but it does explain how the three of us found ourselves huddled under an umbrella for 15 minutes during a massive cloudburst.  Just as we were beginning to abandon all hope, the rain cleared up and we continued through a very wet and quiet cemetery.

Karl Marx

We soon found our way to the grave of Karl Marx.  I read Das Kapital at university (it was a pretty revolutionary time in South African history with the fall of Apartheid and all) but I have to say, I do not think he would have liked his ostentatious tombstone.  He must be turning in his grave!

Otto Kamp

We soon found our way back to the entrance and were quite proud at having braved the rain and cold.  I’d definitely like to visit again and attempt some more creative photography where I’m not shivering or drenched!  In any event, I’d like to go on the tour of the West cemetery.  Perhaps the best part of the experience was relaxing with hot chocolate, chai tea and biscotti in Cafe Nero afterwards!

Anna Mahler Sculptor

Exploring Britain By Rail

Whoever said that life is about the journey and not the destination certainly wasn’t a frequent traveller.  It seems that the more you travel, the more arduous your journeys become until you would rather not see another plane, coach or car ever again.  That certainly doesn’t apply for my favourite mode of travel though: rail travel

You’d think that I’d get tired of train journeys seeing as I commute every day but I don’t.  While I look to plane trips to South Africa and car trips up to Liverpool with a sense of dread, I still get excited about long journeys by rail, such as the one I took up to Scotland in 2010.

Rail travel around Great Britain is incredibly easy and it can be quite cheap too.  Not only that, but you can see some of the most incredible views and scenery from trains.  I’m going to tell you about some of my favourite rail journeys and others that would have been far more fun by rail.  Make sure you check out my five top tips for rail travel at the end of the post!


London to Liverpool Lime Street

Liverpool Lime Street

With the exception of my daily commute to work, my most frequently travelled route is between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street.  Since 1993, I have been taking this train up north to see my father who lives in Rainhill.  It is one of my favourite journeys and I have fond memories of travelling through cloudy and moody landscapes as I listened to equally gloomy music on my Walkman. 

Liverpool also happens to be one of my favourite cities on earth, in fact it was my favourite until I visited New York in 2009.  Advance tickets start at just £12 and you can be in Liverpool in just two hours.


London to Betws-y-Coed via Chester and Llandudno

Betwys-Y-Coed station clock

Our journey to Betws-y-coed in Wales last year was eventful.  We drove over a nail on the way up and did not realise it for a really long time, which makes sense as it is a really long journey by car.  Imagine my chagrin then when we finally got there and I realised that there was a rail station across the road from our hotel?  While there are no direct trains to Betws-y-Coed from London, you can get there via Chester and Llandudno in about 4 hours.  Chester is one of my favourite towns in England so I would recommend spending a night there and exploring this fabulous walled city before making your way to Betws-y-Coed.


London to Bath

The Roman Baths at Bath

Rail tickets to Bath are ridiculously cheap, starting from £9.50 one way for Advance tickets.  Once in Bath, it is possible to explore this whole town by foot and to visit the exquisite Roman Baths.  We visited Bath back in 2008 and of all the places I’ve visited in Britain, this is the place I most want to return to.  Considering that it takes just 1:30 hours to get there from London Paddington, I’d say it is definitely time we planned a day trip!


London to Ryde Pier Head, Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight

One of the best rail experiences I have had was on the old Isle of Wight Steam Railway but did you know that you can travel from London to the Isle of Wight by train?  In under 3 hours you can travel from London Waterloo to Ryde Pier Head and the cost of your rail tickets includes your ferry crossing from Portsmouth to the island.  Once there, it is really easy to travel around the island by bus or train, making this one of the most accessible of England’s islands. 

Tickets cost from £27.45 one way.


London to Gleneagles via Edinburgh

Gleneagles Rail Station

Without a doubt, the best journey I have ever taken by train was the one from London Kings Cross to Gleneagles in Scotland on East Coast Trains.  The journey is quite long at just under 6 hours but it was so exciting that we didn’t notice the length.  Our journey took us through York (where we tried in vain to spot York Minster), via Newcastle with its bridges and unique architecture (I’ve wanted to visit ever since), past breathtaking coastal scenery at Berwick-upon-Tweed, up through Edinburgh and finally onto the gorgeous Victorian rail station at Gleneagles. 

What impressed me most about this journey was the fast wi-fi, the comfort of the seats and the journey (it is not a Pendolino train) and the handy trolley service which you don’t get very often on train journeys anymore.

Did you know that you can book train tickets for any journey in the UK at EastCoast.co.uk? Unlike other sites, they do not charge booking fees or fees for credit or debit cards and they allow you to easily search between the fastest or cheapest journeys.


Five tips for rail travel in Britain

Always book your tickets in advance. The best time to book rail tickets is three months in advance but you can buy Advance fares as little as two weeks in advance.

Buy two single fares instead of a return ticket.  For some reason, Advance fares are available on tickets for single journeys so you may make the greatest savings if you book two single fares rather than one return fare.  Always check both options.

Always arrive on time. Trains in Britain wait for no one so always arrive with at least 30 minutes to spare.  If nothing else, it will give you time to secure a good seat and stow your luggage close to you.

Don’t use credit card pick up.  There is a nifty option to swipe your card at the station and pick up your tickets on the day you travel.  Nifty, that is, if your card isn’t lost, stolen or replaced by the bank in the meantime because when that happens, your booking pretty much becomes void and many a traveller has been forced to buy new tickets.  Have your tickets posted to you.

Use a railcard.  Network Railcards cost from £28 a year and offer 1/3 discount off most rail fares.  Therefore, by my calculations, you’d just need to spend £84 on rail travel in any one year to make this a worthwhile purchase.  Not only that but up to three adults can travel with you and they will also get 1/3 off their rail fare.  If you have a Gold Card (annual season ticket) like me, you also get 1/3 discount on rail journeys for groups of up to four adults.

Featured Photo: Union Flags in Long Acre

Union Flags in Long Acre Covent Garden

I’m a great fan of flags and I’ve just loved seeing all of the Union Flags around the United Kingdom in the past 18 months or so.  It used to be that the British seemed embarrassed of their flag but the Royal Wedding, Diamond Jubilee and Olympics have seemed to change that.  I hope the flags are here to stay because it is such a beautiful flag.  Not as pretty as the South African flag, naturally, but still one of the best. 

Which is your favourite flag and which do you like that are not your national flag?  I’m quite fond of the American flag too.

This photo was taken in Long Acre near Covent Garden on Saturday.  Always look up.

A Glorious Saturday Afternoon in London’s Southbank

It has been four months since I began working right in the centre of London and I am pleased to say that the thrill has most certainly not worn off.  I still take a couple of photo walks each week in the mornings before work and I really enjoy exploring Southbank, Waterloo, Westminster and Embankment.  Despite all my exploring, there is only so much you can do in the hour before work and lately I have found myself quite envious of all of the festivities taking place at Southbank this summer.  So it was that we went into London today so that I too could play!

The Starflyer at Wonderground

The first thing we did when we arrived at Waterloo Station was head straight for the Wonderground at Southbank so that I could have a go on the Starflyer.  The ride is really smooth and takes you up really high (60 metres high, in fact!).  We could see for miles in every direction and it was lovely to feel the wind in our hair on such an incredibly hot day. 

We didn’t really feel the height until right at the end where we were flying almost parallel to the ground and I reminded myself that I’m meant to be scared of heights.  Stephen muttered in my ear that he was quite ready for the ride to end at that point and then it did. 

I loved it and am secretly planning to go again with my colleagues in the week.  The Starflyer costs £7 and there is a very scary looking Cyclone rollercoaster which costs £5.  We can hear the people screaming on the Cyclone across the river in our offices so I didn’t need first hand experience of that one to know how scary it is.

The Speakeasy at Wonderground

After our ride, we shared a quick cider in the Speakeasy of the Wonderground.  We managed to find a spot in the shade but I could just tell that this area must really come alive at night.

We could smell pork belly roasting but managed to tear ourselves away just in time as we wanted to go take a look at the Real Food Market at Royal Festival Hall. 

Perspectives installtiona art Royal Festival Hall Southbank

We made our way through one of the pieces of installation art on display at Royal Festival Hall. This one is called “Perspectives” by Trey Watkins and Cameron Brown and is part of the Festival of the World taking place this summer.  These over-sized children’s letter blocks were installed in answer to the question, “Can Art Change the World?”.  The blocks have been changing over the summer and I captured them on Instagram.  If you click on the links, you can see that it it initially spelled out Smile and Dream Big and now it spells out Embrace and Change.

Real Food Market at Royal Festival Hall

I love the variety of the Real Food Market and have been lucky enough to catch it on more than one occasion.  Today we wandered around the market twice but sadly it was just too hot and we opted to head for one of the air-conditioned restaurants facing the river instead.

Olive Oil and Bread at the Real Food Market

Thankfully the market will be held from 12pm to 8pm every day during the Paralympics (24th August - 9th September) and hopefully I will get another chance to visit before it ends.  Who wants to join me one evening after work?

Brutalism at the Southbank Centre

As we made our way to the riverside, we walked through Southbank Centre.  Southbank is the area that lies roughly between Westminster Bridge (where Big Ben is) and Waterloo Bridge.  It is where you’ll find the London Eye, SEA LIFE London Aquarium, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, BFI and the National Theatre.  It is also home to some of the ugliest Brutalist architecture anywhere in the world.  So if you’re a fan of concrete, come to Southbank.  If you a fan of art, culture and culinary delights, come to Southbank anyway!

From Exile Mvula Ya Nangolo

This summer, they held an international poetry festival at the Southbank Centre called Poetry Parnassus.  Poets came from all over the world but they decided to brighten up the Brutalist walls of the Southbank Centre and feature the works of those artists that could not make it to the festival this year.  They have called it Poetry of the World and this was my favourite piece, “From Exile” by  Mvula Ya Nangolo of Namibia.  Do click on the photo to read the poem, it is really powerful!

The Southbank

We finally made it to the air-conditioned bliss of Yo Sushi on the Southbank.  We hadn’t intended to eat at a place like Yo Sushi but the service was fantastic, our food was delicious and the restaurant was blissfully cool on this scorcher of a day.

Of course, our adventure didn’t end there as we walked up to the West End to watch The Bourne Legacy (love Jermey Renner) and then went on a trail of the Olympic mascots but that is the subject of a whole other blog post!

Do you live in the United Kingdom?  If so, you must enter my fabulous competition to Win a Fantastic Night for Two plus Dinner at The Tower Hotel, London.  The competition closes on Wednesday and is super easy to enter.

The Alternative London Walking Tour

It is no secret that I am a massive fan of street art.  I love pop art, surrealism and other forms of modern art too, so street art is not too much of a stretch from what I like anyway.  I like the irony and the irreverence of street art, the risks the artists take to paint their pieces. Most of all, I’ve actually picked up a can of spray paint before and I know just how hard it is get the paint to do anything remotely reasonable once it gushes out of the nozzle so I have great respect for street artists.

Two weekends ago we went on The Alternative London Walking Tour with Ben Slow from Alternative London.  These 2-hour tours are conducted on a pay-what-you-like basis and they are absolutely fantastic. 

I went on one of their tours last year (and I’ll likely go on another one next year) and I took tons and tons of photos.  In the end, it seems that I took too many photos and I never really blogged about it.  This time I promised myself that I would be a Better Blogger™ and so I took less photos and have managed to narrow it down to… 20 of my favourite photos.

Honestly, if I procrastinate about it any longer, I’m still not going to have written a post before I go on the next tour.  So I’m going to split this between two posts and without further ado, here are my first ten favourite photos from that day.

Fashion Street

The Alternative London Street Art Tour takes place in London’s East End.  We all met up at Spitalfields and wound our way through Fashion Street, Brick Lane, Hanbury Street, Chance Street and beyond.  This is a fantastic area steeped in history and the best thing about the tour is that you learn a little bit about that history too.  Of course, that is the subject of a whole other blog post.

We began the tour by learning that street art is illegal which I was very happy to discover as I hadn’t previously known that.  Just kidding.  We also learned about the various techniques including stencils, paste ups and free hand painting.  Above you can see a paste up to the left, and stencil to the right and nasty, equally-illegal-but-not-as-aesthetically-pleasing promotional posters below.

Conor Harrington's Horse

I can certainly see why people would find street art distasteful but when a certain area gets a reputation for street art, it is often representative of great political and social change.  That is Conor Harrington’s Horse and Cavalryman you can see to the left above.

C215 woman Fashion Street

When I went on the walk last year, my favourite artist was Roa and I did manage to post about Roa's Crane.  This year, my best discovery by far was the street artist C215.  I had to come dangerously close to a discarded pair of underpants to take the photo above but this lovely woman is absolutely worth it.  You can see the artist’s signature to her bottom right, it looks like a cube.  I took some more photos of his work below.

Pablo Delgado's Miniatures

It is always a thrill to spot some of Pablo Delgado’s miniature figures.  You can see just how tiny they are as compared to the bricks and paving stone in the photo above.  This was also taken in Fashion Street.

C215 Nina

The photos above and below are both from C215, real name Christian Guémy (my New Favourite Street Artist™).  In the photo above, our tour guide Ben Slow stands next to a stunning rendition of the artist’s daughter Nina.  He told us a story about how he split up from Nina’s mother and began to paint Nina’s portrait on the streets on her way to school so that she would see them and know that he was still thinking about her.  Apparently she wasn’t too impressed at first but in this interview by Stephanie Sadler (of Little London Observationist fame), he says that Nina is now a street artist in her own right.

C215 Boy

And here you have Roa’s Crane.  While we were standing here, the owner of the establishment came out to speak to us.  He said that he was in negotiations with another artist to paint the space to the left of the crane which should be exciting to see.

Roa's Crane Hanbury Street London

Our guide Ben was very unhappy to see that Fin DAC’s A Pleasure Unknown had been tagged over.  Now there is no denying that this piece was just incredible and the detail in the girl’s eyes was stunning, but I kind of like how it looks now.  Oh look! It looks like the artist agrees with me and if you click this link, you can see before and after shots: The Changing Face of A Pleasure Unknown.

Fin Dac A Pleasure Unknown Hanbury Street

And this piece… how magnificent is it?  It was done by none other than our guide Ben Slow and it depicts a white nationalist from the English Defence League (EDL) and an Islamic Extremist.  To each other, they are worlds apart but in the end they represent the same thing.  Intolerance, hatred, racism.  They are as bad as the other and anyone who does not conform to their narrow view is an enemy.

Ben said he had expected more of a backlash with this piece but was surprised at how well people have embraced it and understood its meaning.

Ben Slow Hanbury Street

One final photograph for this post before I take you on to see a real Banksy in the next post!  These alternative road markings can be found outside the Widen + Kennedy offices at 16 Hanbury Street.  I think they’re really funny and one day hope to take a decent photograph of them.  Next time maybe?

Alternative Street Signs

Featured Photo: The Olympic Rings at Tower Bridge

The Olympic Rings at Tower Bridge

It has been ten days since the Olympics began in London but the response in central London has been quite subdued.  I’ve taken to wandering around Trafalgar Square during lunch time or after work, and there is definitely more people there than usual, but other than that everything seems quiet.

Of course, that might be expected as the Olympic Park is seven miles away from central London and I believe it was absolutely heaving there over the weekend.  I was just kind of hoping for more tourists and excitement like we had with the Jubilee and the Royal Wedding last year.  One thing is for sure, London is far more quiet than it usually is during these key summer months and our businesses are struggling because of it.

I was meant to go into London this past weekend to meet up with Anni from This is Belgium, the lovely winner of my Thomas Cook Games Break Competition but alas, I have been stuck in bed for three days with a summer cold.  Surely there is some karmic law against summer colds?  And since when does a cold keep one down for more than 24 hours? Scandalous.

Anyway, do pop over to Anni’s blog to see some photos from their short break to the Olympics.