Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty – spectacular

It’s Easter Saturday, April 4th (strangely quiet in London) and we’ve got tickets for the exhibition Alexander McQueen – Savage Beauty at the Victoria + Albert Museum.

“The first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented
in Europe, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty showcases McQueen’s visionary body of work. Spanning his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection, McQueen’s designs are presented with the dramatic staging and sense of spectacle synonymous with his runway shows” – source: V+A.

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Savage Beauty exhibition sponsored by Swarovski – photo of promotional booklet
 


 

It’s extremely well organised, with a restricted number of people being able to enter the exhibition at 30 minute intervals to prevent over-crowding. It’s very well produced, spectacular, an emotional experience, mind-blowing. Immense.

From the moment we step into the darkness of a small entrance room (an interim space that serves to eradicate, or neutralise me from the more traditional V+A museum space I’ve just left behind) I’m intrigued by the loud music and film I can hear emanating from the first display room I’m about to enter. Suspense – heightened.

Turning the corner into the exhibition, my attention is actively sought by video footage playing on a giant screen on the back wall, music pounding, and Alexander McQueen’s 1992 MA graduate collection before me. Where to look first? It’s a feast for the senses.

 
Photography and sketching are not permitted in the exhibition.
See the V+A’s photos Inside The Exhibition
.
 

While the display items are from 1992, the story starts in 1985 (the written texts are – in part – hard to read, poorly lit, and sometimes don’t accurately depict the garment they refer to; it’s the weakness of the exhibition but even so – it doesn’t detract from the overall, powerful and mesmerising experience) when McQueen began a Savile Row apprenticeship, developing the tailoring and cutting craftsmanship that would serve him well in later years.

Already I’m transported back to 1985 – a time when I was studying dress and design at school and would bunk off classes I didn’t like, to put in extra time in the sewing room (my *lovely* sewing teacher, Mrs T, covered for me when I got found out and would otherwise have got in trouble. By the by). A time of outlandish New Romantic/futurist fashions when, as a teenager, I loved making my own, unique clothes (think zips, big clasps, double breasted shirts, pencil skirts, balloon pants, adapted men’s clothes) from what seemed like an endless supply of beautiful cloths that came my way from my granddad who worked in a Huddersfield wool mill (truly bringing out the Taylor in me).

But back to 1992, to McQueen’s St Martin’s College graduation collection Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims inspired by McQueen’s East End London upbringing, and with hair locks sewn into each garment.

 
“London’s where I was brought up.
It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration”

– Alexander McQueen, January 2000
 

Savage Beauty is all about (L.) Alexander McQueen the designer, not Lee McQueen the person (personal relationships remain unexplained; it’s objective, you don’t get a subjective narrative of his complicated relationship with Isabella Blow who bought his graduation collection in 1992 and effectively launched his career). And if you ask me, that’s a good thing.

Each room conveys a different – perfectly staged – sense of theatre for each very different collection (which surprises and pleases). Yet, simultaneously, some common themes run throughout his designs (such as nature and Romanticism).

Collections from the 90s include the controversial Highland Rape of 1995-96 (despite saying he wanted to empower women, the disturbing torn clothes and bloodied flesh in this collection were seen as misogynist at the time though McQueen claimed the story here is embedded in the history of the Scottish Clearances by the English, rather than the rape of women, and pays tribute to his Scottish ancestry) also featuring bumster designs that draw attention to the lower back (acknowledging the lower spinal area as “the most exciting part of any person’s body, whether male or female”. I like that) and outlandish but meticulously tailored Dante of 1996-97 (his fame grew in the Britpop and Cool Britannia era).  

 
“I want to empower women.
I want people to be afraid of the women I dress”

– Alexander McQueen
 


Dress no.13, spring/summer 1999

 
So what do I like best? What really grabs me?
This is where I wish I’d been able to snap some photos:
 
1. an ostentatiously big, black, fitted/shaped dress – all rips and buckles, erotica-stylie (from the graduation collection I think, certainly the 90s) – as with many of the dresses, I *really want* to try it on

2. black cashmere wool trousers (beautifully cut, with red piping on shin-high roll-ups and a vertical trio of buttons under each hip, from late 90s – either Dante or Joan)
no image available

3. that he always cut his clothes to suit the wearer sideways-on (sideways-on being where all the lumps and bumps are)

4. that there *is* a coherent and thoughtful story to his designs when individually, they often seemed crazy and way OTT

5. the sheer scale of talent and success (massive!) by someone who achieved so much and died so young; it’s mind-blowing to see it all in one space

6. the huge central room packed with exhibits (dresses, accessories, screens playing video) floor to ceiling on all four walls and – in particular – the robot-spray-painted white cotton muslin dress centre-stage (ie. dress no.13, spring/summer 1999)

7. animal shapes incorporated into designs (eg. Thomson Gazelles in It’s a Jungle Out There, autumn/winter 1997–98)

8. the blend of east and west (in both the VOSS, spring/summer 2001 collection and It’s Only A Game, spring/summer 2005 (eg. Japanese kimonos morphing with the padding of American football strips)

 
“There’s blood beneath every layer of skin”
– Alexander McQueen
 

9. those armadillo shoes

10. the abundance of corsets (sigh)

11. the swash-buckling ‘kings of the wild frontier’ tailored jackets in the Dante collection autumn/winter 1996–97

 
“I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes, which is important to do before you can deconstruct them”
– Alexander McQueen
 

K too is hooked: he sees the influence of an early Final Fantasy costume in a particular McQueen design from the noughties. But then again, I can’t see how anyone couldn’t be hooked by this exhibition – there’s something for everyone. The experience is an hour of pure sensation.

 

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Reasonably priced tickets @ £16.00 each

 
Further reading + viewing
 


V&A on Savage Beauty
 


Vogue’s Inside Savage Beauty

 
 
BBC documentary

 
Intrigued? Want to know more? Check out these links
~ Met Museum NYC: Savage Beauty USA – select items
~ V+A: Museum of Savage Beauty
~ V+A: Inside The Exhibition
~ The Guardian: Savage Beauty review – superficially magnificent
~ Collections (images): on Culture Whisper website
~ Collections (images): The Widows of Culloden
~ Collections, including: Graduation collection images
~ Savage Beauty photos: exhibition collages
~ New York Times: Timeline of McQueen
~ Bio: See Alexander McQueen’s timeline
~ Vogue: Alexander the Great
~ Michelle Olley: Box naked and all those moths

 

A pequeno piece of Portugal in Lambeth

Sunshine in the Ol’ Smoke
This post first appeared 13 Aug 2013 in The London Diaries

London, in Summer 2013, is a special place to be. In tennis, Andy Murray finally won the men’s singles championship for GB at Wimbledon; there are London 2012 Olympic anniversary events; a royal birth and perhaps best of all – a heatwave. And I mean a proper heatwave, with temperatures reaching over 30°C!

Now the UK isn’t very well equipped to cope with such temperatures and travelling on the tube can be akin to melting in a bath of sweat with strangers. But on the plus side, there are plenty of cool places to go and hang out in the sunshine.

…If you know where they are.

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Clapham Common – paddling pool


1. London parks
Londoners are spoilt for choice when it comes to parks and green spaces – it’s probably one of the greenest cities in the world. Parks in zones 1 and 2 include

  1. Hyde Park
  2. Kensington Gardens
  3. St James’s Park
  4. Green Park
  5. Regent’s Park
  6. Hampstead Heath
  7. Battersea Park
  8. Clapham Common

The moment the sun comes out, Clapham Common (where parakeets are sometimes spotted, reportedly descended from escapees while filming The African Queen in the 1950s, or so the story goes) is transformed into a mass of picnic parties with internationally accented folks organising rounders, throw-the-flipflop and even poking a toe in the paddling pool. With so many good traditional pubs nearby, the Common is a great place to chill out and watch the world go by, before heading along Old Town to seek a cheeky beverage or two.


2. Nardulli ice cream – Clapham Common
Don’t even think about joining in any antics on Clapham Common without a visit to Nardulli, a new gelateria with 24 flavours to choose from including cookies, fig roll, macadamia, nutella, cardamom and all the usual suspects too. At only £2.30 for a small cone, it’s well worth every penny.

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Three Nardulli ice creams, right (top to bottom): peanut, nutella, macadamia


3. Little Portugal – Lambeth
So we’ve spent most of the year complaining about the cold weather in the UK. And now it’s hot, we want to enjoy the sunshine but stay cool at the same time.

Perhaps you’d like to sip a chilled vinho verde Portuguese wine, part-shaded by some big old trees, and munch on salt cod, grilled sardines or king prawns piri piri, in a fairly tranquil location that isn’t overcrowded?

Come closer and I’ll let you into one of London’s better kept secrets…

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Casa Madeira on Albert Embankment

I visited Portugal (Lisbon) for the first time last year in May. The hospitality, cuisine, wine, glorious weather, sights and culture were so impressive we returned to experience a different part (Porto) in October. And so my love of all things Portuguese began.

On my return from Lisbon, I set myself the task of finding a Portuguese bakery in London selling pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). It wasn’t hard.

It turns out that Lambeth (you know, the borough that brings us the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks from the London Eye, and covers the area from the South Bank down to Clapham Common) contains Little Portugal, an area near Vauxhall where an estimated 27,000 Portuguese people live (probably the largest Portuguese community in the UK).

So it’s hardly surprising that there are several Portuguese bakeries and restaurants here. I chose Luis Deli out of convenience. It’s a two minute walk from Vauxhall Station, situated in the arches on Albert Embankment, selling Portuguese tarts/cakes, cheeses, meats, a good selection of wine (for example, Esporao Reserva at about £10 a bottle) and more.

Luis Deli is part of the ‘Madeira London’ group, comprising Cafe Bar Madeira, Casa Madeira (restaurant) and Pico Bar & Grill. They’re all in neighbouring arches, with plenty of outdoor seating on all-weather plastic grass stretching along the embankment in front of them.

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Pizza + grilled salt cod from Casa Madeira, tarts from Luis Deli


At Casa Madeira, there’s a happy hour on wines and beers from 3 to 7pm on week days (about £2 for a pint of Portuguese lager or about £2.70 for a large glass of wine), very friendly service and an extensive menu (tapas and starters from £2.50, and main courses from various grilled fish or meat dishes to pizza and burgers).

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Meatballs and chargrilled burgers


Madeira London really utilise their outdoor space. There’s nothing pretentious about this place so if you’re after a sophisticated, gourmet dining experience (and real grass), then this may not be for you. But if you’re after an uncrowded, leafy and relaxing space in which to drink and eat good value food with friends, that’s close to public transport, why not give it a try?

With Barclays cycle hire expansion into Lambeth and Wandsworth from Spring 2014, getting to – and exploring around – South West London should be even easier for Summer 2014.

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Seal of approval – from The London Diaries + LardButty


Casa Madeira restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Portuguese
~ Address: 46a-46c Albert Embankment, London
~ Postcode: SE1 7TL
~ Tel: 020 7820 1117
~ Nearest station: Vauxhall
~ Menu: Casa Madeira restaurant menu
~ Photos: Casa Madeira on flickr


Related links:

~ Madeira London website

~ Award-winning Portuguese wines

~ The London Diaries blog – great blog by Steph-in-London


Cafe Madeira on Urbanspoon



		

	

London 2012 Anniversary Run – supporting RLSB

Burning off the lardbutties at the QEII Olympic Park
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As the anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games approaches, I’m reminded that this time last year, I was one of the many apprehensive Londoners/Brits who thought the Games would bring chaos to the capital (though I tweeted that I was looking forward to London 2012 back in 2008 on the closing of the Beijing games). I’m so glad I was wrong about the chaos.

Any concerns I’d initially had, evaporated on watching Danny Boyle’s wacky Opening Ceremony on Friday 27th July 2012. I was immediately hooked. Cynics all over the UK heaved a collective sigh of relief – it was going to be amazing. And in a bonkers British kind of way.

From there on in, I couldn’t get enough of the Games – totally addicted to TV coverage, iphone app updates and going to whatever live events I could (in streets, in parks, in squares, in shops, at BT London LiveExCel, and the Olympic Stadium) right through to the ‘Greatest Team’ parade on Monday 10th September (all compiled in this YouTube Olympics + Paralympics 2012 playlist).

There was no ‘chaos’. Just six weeks of unblemished, festive atmosphere created by excitable, friendly, chatty folk – friends and strangers alike.

While I was gripped by the Olympics, the Paralympics really was the main event for me. This advertising campaign succinctly said it all:

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Thanks for the warm-up to the Paralympic Games

Paralympic athletics just blew me away, particularly F11 (blind) & 12 (visually impaired) long jump. From my own school days I remember how difficult the long jump was – the fear and anticipation of flinging yourself forwards as far as you possibly could into a sandpit only to get sand stuck in your clothes and shoes and everywhere. I can’t begin to imagine the challenges of doing that without, or with limited, sight.

Then again, it’s hard to imagine doing any sports, or most things actually, without being able to see.

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Oksana Zubkovska (Ukraine), F11/12 VI Women’s Long Jump gold medallist


This Sunday, 21st July 2013, the National Lottery (a sponsor of the 2012 Games) is organising an anniversary run – a 5mile (8k) course around the re-developed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. And I’ve been lucky enough to get a place through the ballot (green wave, no. 8601).

So ten months on, I can’t wait to go back and see the Olympic Park & Stadium. But more importantly, I want to do this anniversary run for a charity that helps people with sensory impairment to do sports and other activities – that’s why I’ve chosen the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and their Great Greenwich Give campaign, which is on 24th July. Great timing.


Text-to-Give
If you’d like to help me support RLSB’s services for blind and visually impaired people (no matter how small the amount) simply text RLSB99 £2 to 70070 to donate £2 (or an amount of your choice) or visit my JustGiving page.


TEXTTOGIVE_to_RLSB


Why support RLSB?
RLSB exists to stop childhood blindness becoming a lifelong disability. Their amazing work includes:

1. helping young people cope with being blind and live beyond blindness through an expert blend of education, sport, creative and developmental services, delivered in local communities in London and the South East

2. pioneering projects like the Conversational Internet, a smart solution enabling visually-impaired (VI) people to interact with information on the internet benefitting VI people world over

3. providing tailored learning and development at a residential college in Kent (where the likes of Darren Leach, paralympian swimmer, studied), and – in 2013 – expanding services to support VI people to live life without limits in their own communities across London…

RLSB’s ‘Great Greenwich Give‘ campaign aims to raise an ambitious £24k in 24 hours on 24th July, to continue expanding services for blind people age 0 to 90 in the Greenwich borough area. Find out more here.


Anniversary Countdown

Right now, it’s…

~ one day and 16 hours until the start of the Anniversary Run

~ eight days and three hours until the anniversary of the Opening Ceremony

And if you happened to notice the absence of LardButty blog posts last summer, my fixation with the Olympic & Paralympic Games may now go some way to explain that. But hopefully you didn’t, and were pre-occupied too. We’re London 2012 +1.


Related links:
~ My JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/LouTaylor2013

~ The Guardian’s coverage of the Paralympics 2012

~ My BackToTheStadium photos on flickr

~ RLSB’s Great Greenwich Give campaign (on Storify)

~ YouTube:Olympics + Paralympics 2012 playlist

Highgate cemetery – a ‘must do’ in London

HighgateCemetery_DouglasAdams_DEADscultupture_WordTags
East Cemetery graves: pens for Douglas Adams, DEAD sculpture and word tags

“Some of the older visitors who come here remember playing with the dead bodies like dolls when they were children…”

“Only six people came to Karl Marx’s funeral…”

“Thomas Sayers, an incredibly popular sports star, had the best attended funeral in 1865 – it took three days for more than ten thousand mourners to pay their respects…”

These are just some of the fascinating facts our guide, a former reporter, is sharing with our small group as we trek around the West Cemetery at Highgate.

The first thing that struck me on my approach here this morning was the lack of a church, a clue that this isn’t consecrated ground. The second thing that struck me was the multi-cultural feel of the place – graves for people of all nationalities and all religions and denominations, in many alphabets; truly representative of Londoners.

Our guide elaborates on why this is: London, in the early nineteenth century was growing massively with migrants from all over the world (in 1801 Europe’s largest city had a population of 1 million, doubling in only 50 years, source here) and dealing with the dead had reached crisis point. The vast majority of the population was poor and often unable to afford a church burial for a family member (cremation was illegal so not an option at this point) – the alternative being to keep the corpse at home and cover it with onions to cover the smell of decay, while toxic gases added to the already polluted air.

The government had to act. And so in 1836 the London Cemetery Company was formed to create seven private cemeteries in the countryside around London. This cemetery in the elevated countryside at Highgate opened in 1839. Here, there were no trees, just an open view across London from vast, tranquil (although peacock populated) grounds.

173 years on (including many of neglect) you can barely see the panorama of central London for trees. It’s a beautiful time of year to be here, with leaves of gold, bronze, reds and greens changing on the trees and carpeting the grounds, now containing some 53,000 burial plots (about 170,000 bodies).

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Alexander Litvinenko’s grave

Our guide takes us past the grave of Alexander Litvinenko (ex Russian spy, poisoned with polonium-210 in 2006) before leading us up the impressive Egyptian Avenue to the tombs in the Circle of Lebanon (built around a Cedar of Lebanon, this place will be recognisable to Spooks fans as the location where Lucas North would go to meet Elisabeta in series 7). For me, it’s a timely Hallowe’en excursion as the Circle was an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

And, as we’re led into the pitch black catacombs, there are tales of grave-robbing (bodies were in demand for medical experimentation and so the locked catacombs were built to deter body-snatchers) and mummified corpses being used as play-things by children in the decades following WWII (the London Cemetery Company went bankrupt, so our guide tells us, and the cemetery went through a long period of decline, until the Friends of Highgate took over its upkeep again, voluntarily, in the 1970s).

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Egyptian Avenue

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Terrace catacombs in west cemetery

We pass the stone dog of Thomas Sayers’ grave (reputed to have been more faithful to him than his wife) and hear how Tom popularised the illegal and fight-to-the-death sport of bare-knuckle fighting, to the extent that rules had to be introduced and ‘boxing’ legalised (the first popular sport watched regularly by the masses in Britain). On retiring from this dangerous sport aged 37 the hero moved to London, only to die two years later from TB.

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Tom Sayers – popularised ‘boxing’

There’s a story behind every grave and you could spend all day – and many a day – here. Another volunteer describes how the landscape changes in the different seasons of the year and I can imagine the cemetery being particularly appealing covered in snow, when the trees are bare and the view of central London beyond can be seen.

At only £10 per adult (£3 to wander around the east cemetery and £7 for a fascinating guided tour of the west) Highgate Cemetery is well worth a visit.

And you can always combine it with a trip to the lovely old Flask pub nearby…

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East cemetery: Claudia Jones, mother of Notting Hill Carnival + Karl Marx

Further info::
~ Highgate Cemetery history
~ Wikipedia entry on Highgate Cemetery
~ Cemetery photos on flickr
~ Monument Repair Programme on YouTube
~ London in the 19th C – Urban contexts of crimes tried at The Old Bailey
~ The Flask pub

I can’t strebbing wait for one extraordinary day

But when will that day be?

If you haven’t heard already, extreme action acrobats are going to perform outdoors across London – jumping off structures, flying through the air, challenging gravity. And it’s all a big secret.

The eclectic space that is London is being put to creative use with street installations, big dance events and pop-up performances, ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games which will – inevitably – create chaos for Londoners and tourists alike trying to manoeuvre around the capital.

One of the pop-up performances is the brain-child of artist, dancer and performer Elizabeth Streb who has deservedly earned a reputation as an ‘extreme action choreographer’ in the States, with her groundbreaking performance at New York’s Whitney Museum in 2011. Other performances by her Brooklyn-based dance company include human fountain and ascension.

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Pop-up performance, Streb: One Extraordinary Day

This is no ordinary dance company though – Streb is to dance what parkour is to running. Her urban troupe are known more as ‘daredevils’ than dancers: “If you want to be an action specialist,” Streb says You have to agree to get hurt!

This imagery is spectacular. You can’t fail to be impressed by the prospect of ‘extreme action’ dancers diving in the sky over Tower Bridge.

If Streb lives up to her Evil Knievel reputation and these events live up to the marketing (and if it stops raining) it’ll be awesome.


More:
~ About Streb: Streb’s bio + achievements
~ Book by Streb: How to Become an Extreme Action Hero
~ Evening Standard article, 21 Jun 2012:
London 2012 Festival – Streb extreme action hero
~ Culture Show: See Streb dancers rehearsing in London
~ Culture Trail – Sun 15 July: Free Culture Trail with AMAZING SURPRISES
~ What is Streb extreme action? Find out about Streb extreme action

Past performances:
~ Whitney Museum Groundbreaking – May 2011
~ Streb – Ascension at Whitney Museum, Human Fountain etc (First 3 mins are the best)
~ Streb Vs Gravity
~ Streb performs Man Walking Down Building or Man Walking – with voiceover
~ Streb – Human Fountain (short)

All the fun of the foodie fayre – Battersea

Can anyone explain why snails (rubbery gastropod mollusks) and oysters (grey, slimey, mucus-textured bivalve mollusks) are considered a delicacy to eat?

Surely something that‘s so chewy, tasteless and inedible that it must be buried in garlic butter or another overpowering flavour before you can force it down your throat, is best avoided?

Deriving any pleasure from eating (gargling on) either of these mollusks is beyond me. I’ll never be converted to snails but I do wonder if I’m missing out on something where oysters are concerned. They’re expensive and popular – there must be something special about them surely?

I’m keeping an open mind and would genuinely like to be converted. So where better to try than in the beautiful – and surprisingly scorching hot – outdoors of Battersea Park? I’m at the Foodies Festival, a festival which celebrates the “finest in local, seasonal produce, speciality food and drink, culinary and restaurant talent”.

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Bennett stall serving mini fish + chip portions, oysters and more

There are stalls of local restaurants offering taster portions of signature dishes (including Bennett Oyster Bar), a Harvey Nichols food market, a hugely popular Hendrick’s gin stand and other stalls serving Thai, Caribbean, Spanish and Indian food as well as all types of British. There’s also a Great Taste Market (for stallholders who’ve been awarded a Great Taste Award by the The Guild of Fine Food, for their produce in the last three years).

My friend H – who, it turns out, loves oysters and rises to the challenge of converting me – puts in an order for some. The stallholder asks which type we’d like: there’s one type from the Thames Estuary that she describes as “wild” and “exciting”, the other from the Jersey sea which is “classic” and “milky”. I know which I like the sound of most and it doesn’t involve anything out of the Thames.

H orders a portion of each while I refresh our prosecco glasses from Gastro Nicks.

The oysters are served in their shells (sliced and ready to slide), in a little salty water, covered in pickle and with a wedge of lemon (to take away the bad taste afterwards?).

I slip down a Thames oyster first. It’s not an enjoyable experience. It just tastes of swallowing a mouthful of salty sea-water with something latex caught up in it…

BEFORE
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Thames oysters (front) + Jersey Rock oysters (back)

Swiftly moving on to the Jersey Rock oyster, this is abundantly more pleasurable. The taste is less harsh, less rough (or am I just getting used to the flavours – is it an acquired taste?), and, as the lady said, more milky.

AFTER
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Maybe I was the last to know but I’ve learnt that there are different types of oysters and that they vary in taste, texture and quality/ grade. I’m not claiming to be converted yet but I will keep an open mind.

I would have Jersey Rock again and anything a grade or two above (probably Scottish).

Venturing from liquids to solids, there are a couple of enticing pie and meat stands. And Orchard Pigs has the edge, with their tractor wheel pork pies.

I’m not a huge pork pie fan but I fell in love with the Druids pie (pork, Druids Ale, mustard seed, sage, pepper and nutmeg) the moment I saw it. Not only is the pastry less thick and dry (no lardy jelly either) than regular round pork pies but there’s a wonderful mix of ingredients complementing the premium pork.

Best pork pie in the kingdom
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Druids pork pie with lots of mustard seeds – unbeatable.

I swear I can smell this pie just by looking at the picture. It was absolutely delicious and quite probably the best pork pie in the kingdom. (I also bought black pudding and apple pork pies for another day – these tractor wheel pastry edges and different flavours may have revitalised the traditional old pork pie but nothing beats the Druid).

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A good few hours very well spent. As are the contents of my purse.

Watch out for Foodies Festivals and other food shows and exhibitions from The Guild of Fine Food around the UK.

Foodie info:
~ What: Foodies Festival website
~ Where: Battersea Park, London
~ When: July 19th, 30th + 31st 2011
Types: British, Spanish, Caribbean, Thai, Indian, seafood – many varieties!
~ Nearest rail stations: Battersea Park, Queenstown Road

Great Taste Market – select stalls:
~ Bennett Oyster Bar + Brasserie – Thames oysters (nay!) + Jersey Rock (yay!)
~ d Vine Wine
~ Gastro Nicks – prosecco, wines, olive oil + balsamic vinegars
~ Orchard Pigs – pork pies with a difference
~ The Guild of Fine Food + Great Taste Awards

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Bennett oyster bar
Bennett Oyster Bar and Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Will and Kate get hitched – Or, a right royal wedding

A party atmosphere dominates London today and it’s been building for weeks. Thousands of visitors from all over the world have descended on the capital to be a part of the royal wedding celebrations.

Yesterday, this was no more apparent than in Green Park in the afternoon (full of freshly arrived people hanging out with their suitcases in the sun) and last night along Whitehall where people were camping out on the pavements. On my way home, I stopped to ask happy campers where they were from: some as far as the USA, others as close as London. Passing Westminster Abbey around 11pm, the red carpet was just starting to be laid out and it felt like something momentous was about to begin.

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Last minute preps outside Queenie’s yesterday morning on my walk to work

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Media village, Green Park yesterday – Ben Fogle’s back? and another

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Laying out the red carpet at Westminster Abbey last night

Every day, I walk to work through Victoria, past Buckingham Palace and across Green Park. When the media village appeared in Green Park a few weeks ago, it disrupted access for pedestrians, and it seemed just that – a disruption. Then, the construction of multi-level studios began directly opposite the palace, and viewing platforms sprang up by the Victoria Memorial, and the anticipation crept in.

It’s been an amazing experience to see my routine daily walk across London so totally transformed for this historic event. By the start of this week, everything had suddenly taken shape: The Mall area was ready for today and even more people than usual have been attracted to Buckingham Palace’s gates. The atmosphere around Westminster Abbey last night was one of excitement. And now the big day is finally here.

07:00 – A bit dehydrated and clumsy, I’m feeling the effects of last night’s drinks after work. Who’s to blame? Oh, me. I prepare a right royal breakfast that includes bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese and a bottle of sparkling rosé.
08:00 – It’s a chilly start to the day and we’re on our way by bus to Marble Arch.
09:00 – On arrival at Speakers’ Corner, people are making their way into Hyde Park – it’s still fairly empty. Souvenir sellers are doing a roaring trade – everyone’s buying flags. There are three 100m² screens in the park and we lay out a picnic blanket in front of the centre screen and bed in. Time for breakfast and a hair of the dog.
10:00 – The park’s filling up quite quickly now. I note the exact position of our picnic blanket and head off to the porta-loos before Prince William is due to make his appearance. On my return, I aim for the centre screen but can’t find our spot now the crowds are pretty dense. Minor panic. I try phoning and texting but no luck*.
I go to the front of the crowds to take in Huw Edwards’ running commentary for ten minutes before going to look again, successfully this time.



11:11 – The sun comes out during the first hymn, changing the weather from cold and grey to sunny and well – proper picnic weather. There’s a relaxed, party atmosphere here in Hyde Park with corks popping all around me. Everyone’s cheering and waving Union Jack flags and having a good time. When the service ends and the wedding bells start ringing on screen, confetti spews over us all in the park.


13:20 – The first public kiss between the Prince and Princess on the balcony at Buckingham Palace (how many millions of people around the world are watching? Could that be the most viewed, most public kiss ever?) followed by the fly-past. We see and hear the Lancaster bombers in the ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’ on-screen over Buckingham Palace first, and then – very excitingly – they do a lap above us, over Hyde Park.


14:00 – Live entertainment is well underway from MIB (they can really sing but are covering cheesey tracks of Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie, Aerosmith, etc). Still, it’d be rude not to shimmy, and Robbie Williams’ Let me entertain you goes down well.
*Texts and voicemail messages start to come through now – the networks have been jammed, unsurprisingly


Dancing in the park on a sunny afternoon

15:00 – Leaving the park on Park Lane, the crowds disperse quickly and – passing Grosvenor Square and the American Embassy – it’s eerily quiet by the time we reach Berkeley Square. It’s suddenly back to busy on Piccadilly, where more crowds are leaving Green Park and queuing to get into the tube station, where I notice that I’m burnt pink from my couple of hours in the sun. What an English rose.

And what a thoroughly wholesome and top day out.

More royal wedding info:
~ Official Royal Wedding website
~ GLA info on royal wedding screening at Hyde Park

More photos:
~ Monarchy’s Official Royal Wedding photos
~ GLA’s royal wedding photos
~ A right royal picnic slideshow
~ Royal wedding photos

Hyde Park video-clips:
1. Crowds gather in Hyde Park – 10am
2. First sight of the bride’s dress by Sarah Burton
3. It’s not just the crowd that’s buzzing – interference
4. Patriotism in the Park – loadsa flag-waving
5. Hyde Park’s sing-along to God Save the Queen
6. Signing marriage registers at Westminster Abbey
7. Confetti fountains
8. Hyde Park Sreening – Along The Mall
9. First public kiss + fly-past
10. Dancing in the park on a sunny afternoon