Archive for November, 2007

London Excursions Part III

I mentioned we had several visitors. Well besides Ganga, we had a surprise visit by Ernest! Early morning on 24th Nov he gave us a ring, and told us he was heading down to London from Exeter! He arrived late at night, and we were up late chatting away :) Had to drag ourselves to sleep else we’d not be able to do anything at all on Sunday!

Ernest had not been to London before, and Jon hasn’t really done a lot of sightseeing, so we planned a full day of major sights!

First up – Piccadily Circus! We took a bus there and walked the rest of the day.

A quick walk through Leicester Square, past the National Portrait Gallery, and we were at Trafalgar Square :)

This particular photo was actually taken on a previous occasion. I thought it’s appropriate to add it in now to show the square and the crowds there :)

Down Whitehall to see the Horse Guards. Such wonderful creatures! The horses I mean, not the guard ;)

Since it was still November at that time, Jon still had his Mo :) But it’s gone now!

This is the sculpture of Women in World War II along Whitehall.

The walk along Whitehall brought us to Downing Street – where the British Prime Minister stays! I never knew it was caged up behind a high fence. Everytime you see it in the news it looks like it’s just along the road. But I have wondered about the security of the place before. Now it makes sense. The whole street is safely behind bars..

This is the Cenotaph commemorating citizens killed in the two world wars. The red wreaths were from Remembrance Day, where the Queen, Prime Minister, and other representatives from various countries and groups, place wreaths in remembrance of those who lost their lives.

Here comes Big Ben!

And the Houses of Parliament!

We popped by the river Thames to take a look at the London Eye :)
Then we decided to head to Westminster Cathedral. Ernest and I were just discussing how wonderful the choirs are during Evening Song, and it’ll be great if we could catch the service at Westminster, but it was supposed to be later in the day and we were too early. But as we passed a notice board,

we saw that for that day it was to be held at 3pm..and it was 3pm! So we ran excitedly to the entrance to catch Evening Song :) Made it just in time!

Some famous writers buried at Westminster

A quick walk through St James’s Park (to see the Palace from the bridge in the park) and we were at the Mall.

Then another quick walk through Green Park (the sun had set by then) and a further walk, and soon we were at Oxford Street to see the Christmas lights!

Well, after a whole day of walking and sightseeing, we were ready of a good hearty meal. And since Ernest hadn’t eaten Singaporean food for several months, we brought him to Nyonya, a restaurant that serves Singaporean/Malaysian food at Nottinghill :) Rachel had introduced us to the restaurant previously, it’s quite good. So between the three of us, we had a ton to eat, and I was sooo full after that!

Too bad Ernest had to leave that night! But that certainly was one fun-filled Sunday!

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The lot of us went to watch Monty Python’s Spamalot on 29 Nov. From what I’ve heard of Monty Python, I thought Spamalot was going to be a riot! But unfortunately, or maybe that was the idea, it was mainly slapstick. Compared to Avenue Q, I thought Spamalot paled in comparison. The humour was less witty, and just..less. Wasn’t laughing as much, nor as hard as when we were watching Ave Q.

But still, it was entertaining enough :) More enjoyable when you just switch your brain off and enjoy the slapstick ;)

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Here are more pics of the various places Ganga and I visited :)

On the way to Leadenhall Market we stumbled upon a second-hand book shop set in a church where we picked up some cheap reads! Beautiful place for a bookshop.

Leadenhall Market all decked out in Christmas decor:

Patisserie Valerie – Ganga was looking for this place cos it was recommended by her friend. The cakes and pastries did look good, and some were just so cute, like this hedge hog!

And this was an interesting find! Wedding couples of all orientations, races, and ethnic groups :)

One of the nights we decided to have a potluck of sorts at Sat’s and THH’s place. Ganga made some curry, Sat did stir-fried beansprouts, and we brought some baked salmon, and 2 veggies. Quite a healthy meal :)

We were taking the chance to discuss and plan our road trip to Cardiff and Bath which was that coming weekend. And also to decide on a musical to watch! We decided on Spamalot! So Ganga and I were tasked to go grab some tickets the next day for the night’s performance :) Yay more musicals :)

More on Spamalot…next.

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I’ve been slack in updating the blog! Between planning for holidays, running around London, and reading some super engrossing books (more on all this later), there hasn’t been much time for blogging!

There’ve been several visiters to London! Ganga came up to visit Sathia, and together we’ve been wandering some bits of London that we’ve both not seen (she’s visited before) :) We explored places like Petticoat Lane, Spitalfields Market, Leadenhall Market, British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum Christmas Market, and a spot of shopping (well maybe several spots, heh) at Oxford Street :)

The visit to Petticoat Lane was unplanned, but a good find! I managed to find some good buys there :) I had thought it’d be mostly household items and bric-a-brac, but the part that we came across was like high street but half the price :) Didn’t go crazy shopping (I seldom do), but did get two really good fitting pants there! I was so pleased! :)

Sculptures outside Liverpool Street Station

Some British Museum exhibits:

An interesting piece. Turning weapons into works of art, this chair is made from machine guns!

Like the Taoists, the ancient Egyptians also believed in providing for their dead by making replicas of houses, food, providing servants, etc. But instead of burning these, the ancient Egyptians left these replicas in the tombs of the dead.

The Rosetta Stone! This is a really important piece of history! This stone bore the inscriptions of the same message in three languages – Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic, and Greek. Because of this stone that the ancient hieroglyphic script was deciphered.

850BC relief of Osorkon II

This is one grumpy bird. C’mon, give a smile!! :)

Ancient sculptures belonging to the Babylonian Empire. These used to stand at the entrance of city gates, their respective pairs being located at the New York Metropolian Museum.

[ps: will add more comments and photos when we come back from our trip! we’re going away for Christmas!!]

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Christmas Light Up!

It’s quite Christmassy up here in London, I think mostly because of the cold. Walking along Oxford Street with steel drum bands and brass bands playing christmas carols, with Christmas lights along the relatively narrow street (compared to Orchard Rd), and the cold weather, it really feels very Christmassy :)

Can’t wait to see the Trafalgar Square christmas tree as well :)

There are also outdoor ice-skating rinks, which I plan to go to one of these days! How nice to skate in the open and in the naturally cold environment with trees and blue skies around, not a closed up ice-skating rink at Jurong East.

It was quite funny. At the Natural History Museum Christmas Fair ice-skating rink, there was a bunch of school kids who went for an ice-skating outing, and I’m not sure if it was because the surface of the ice was very wet, or because most of them weren’t too good at skating, but there were kids falling every few seconds ;) Painful, but funny to the bystander :)

But I better not laugh too soon, maybe when I go ice-skating it’ll be me falling around :)

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National Portrait Gallery

I’ve visited the National Portrait Gallery twice now, and have seen practically the entire permanent collection (it’s not a very big museum) :)

It’s an interesting place, especially if you take time to read the history of the people painted. I especially enjoyed the older portraits from the time of the Tudors to the early 19th century paintings.

I found it thrilling to walk among these great people – kings, queens, princes, princesses, mistresses, advisers, etc., of a by-gone era. There was this one room where I felt especially small. It was a section on the theme of scientific discovery, and there staring at you were the likes of Joseph Priestly who discovered oxygen, and Robert Boyle who came up with Boyle’s law (P≈1/V). All these brilliant brains in one room.

Also interesting was to see the real faces of Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, William Cecil, and Sir Francis Walsingham, especially after having watched the movie “Elizabeth” on tv during our Cornwall trip. So the reality of the tv characters was emphasized by seeing these portraits of them, portraits which were present at the time of Elizabeth’s reign, portraits which were only a few metres away from these famed people!

There was a painting of Elizabeth I the illustrated the importance of images as propaganda even at that time. She was in her late 40s or early 50s, but in order to sustain her ‘Virgin Queen’ image the painter smoothed out her wrinkles, and painted her in a low cut dress – the kind of neckline that only younger women wore. Also to give her a more authorative presence, the dress she wore was extravagant and over-the-top, with huge shoulders and an immense skirt. I thought she looked a little bit preposterous, but well, who’s to say anything about the Queen’s choice of attire? And yet more propaganda: she was pictured standing on the map of England, with her back turned away from the dark storms and facing the bright blue skies, illustrative of the still positive times ahead.

Anyway the funniest thing that happened in the museum was this. I was in one of the rooms, and as I glanced across to the other side of the room at one of the paintings, the first thought in my head was “Sir Stamford Raffles!!!”. And true enough, when I walked over to read the tag, it said “Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles”! My history teacher/s will be so proud of me. He wasn’t even in his famous standing, arms crossed pose, like the sculptures you see in Singapore. He was just sitting down. And I couldn’t see any distinctive features that made me know it was him. I think maybe his face is just imprinted in my mind after all those lessons on him since primary school during Social Studies classes, all the way to secondary school history lessons. Anyway, kudos to me! haha ;)

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Food Update

Think I had too much Moroccan food. I decided to make more western and other flavours :)

Thai green curry with beans and chicken (no lah I didn’t make the sauce. Took it from a bottle, heh)

Cream pasta with brocolli and tomatoes, with breaded fish.

Baked sliced potatoes w cream of mushroom, grilled chicken & spinach

Pork loin with baked potato & brocolli topped with cheese

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A Clockwork Orange

This is one of those books I’ve been wanting to read for a long long time. I heard about it when I was in uni from a course-mate, who swore it was incredible.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess doesn’t disappoint and is a real horrorshow of a book. Narrated by Alex, who speaks with the Natsat slang, the initial pages you are trying to work out what the various words mean. But after a while you get the hang of it, and become real horrorshow. With his malchicks and devotchkas, droogs, moloko plus, veshches and all that cal.
The Ludovico Technique mentioned in the book bascially creates negative associations to ultra-violence, and any violence at all in fact, though conditioning. In their effort to employ aversion therapy on Alex, and make him sick with nausea to the point that he’d rather die when seeing/experiencing any violence at all, Alex becomes much like one of Pavlov’s dogs, unthinkingly reacting to stimuli. This is one of the questions raised in the book – is a human still human if he has no choice. Even though Alex is now incapable of doing evil, and is thus socially acceptable and law abiding, is it morally right for the state to create a clockwork orange? To deprive him of choice?
On a larger scale, the clockwork occurs on a societal level in general. In the last chapter, Alex ruminates about his life since leaving prison, and finds that in all likelihood, even though he grows out of his enjoyment of ultra-violence, the next generation of youths, and the next and the next, will also go through that whole stage. It cannot be helped, and will go on to the end of the world – like clockwork. A rather bleak picture, but on a less extreme scale, doesn’t that already happen now? The young have to still learn by making their own mistakes, even if their parents warn them and tell them the dangers. One has to go through the whole period of “growing up”.
Another interesting thing I found was the balanced point of view the book gives. That while the state was painted in the most horrible light, attempting to use inhuman techniques to rehabilitate criminals, the opposition was no better. When Alex was released from prison, and came across people who were strongly opposed to the ways of the government, they themselves were no better. They wanted to use Alex as a symbol of the state’s evil, but they felt he didn’t look ragged or tortured enough. They wanted to make him worse, to give their cause that extra oomph. They played on his weakness (which only came about because of the “rehab”) and drove him to the point where he tried decided to commit suicide. What better headline than “Government Drives Man to Suicide”?
It is clear to see that one can go too far in fighting for a cause, and forget the person at the heart of it. Alex kept asking “what about me?”, a question which was promptly ignored by all sides. After being a symbol, after the fighting, what happens to the person? I think that is a question that must seriously be grappled with.
The book is excellent in that it doesn’t give you answers straight out, but really provokes you to think about polemical issues like morality, choice, power and control, etc.
A highly recommended read.

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London TV is very…liberal.

At 8 plus on Mondays there’s this show called “Undress the Nation”, and one of the episodes was about how many women wear the wrong size bras, and they went on a crusade to get women to find the right bra. In the process, they somehow got many many women to strip off their clothes, and even strip off their bra on national tv! Well, first, the thing I find really strange is that they even show topless women at 8plus. Second, why did those women even strip when they know the camera is pointing at them?!?

And the best part, Trinny and Suzannah (the hosts) didn’t themselves strip topless. If they had to take off their bra they used a towel to cover themselves. Hmm..double standards?

And now I’m watching this programme on tv called “Autopsy: Emergency Room”, and they show a real cadaver being sliced open, until the entire front torso is flipped back onto the legs. They cut upon the skull and look at the ‘fresh’ brain. (I actually took some photos, but I think it might be too much to stomach for some of you :) ). But ok lah, though it still seems a bit much for tv, I do find this quite interesting, heh :) But again, they show women and men completely nude, in the name of education – for illustration purposes. They have an artist draw out the bones on the models, and show where fractures take place.

Anyway, one thing is for sure. If you are in Britain with kids, you better take note of what programmes they are watching on tv!

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Lord Mayor’s Day

Last Saturday was Lord Mayor’s Day – a day when the Lord Mayor of London (different from the Mayor of London) had a procession through the City of London to pledge his alligience to the Crown at the Royal Courts of Justice. It’s an annual procession complete with floats, people marching in costume, armoured calvary (horses!), and a grand fireworks display at the end of the day! We watched the procession on tv in the morning – initially we wanted to go watch the procession, but the tv commentary helped to add context to everything. But hey! Guess what? We saw the calvary heading back to the stables when we went out walking in the afternoon! And the main thing I wanted to see from the procession were the horses!! =) Thank God!

Here are the pics from the day, and some videos of the fireworks! :)

Look at the proud horses! It is evident that these were really well-bred horses. Regal and proud!

White horses

Check out the armour! I’ve not actually ever seen people in armour before :) They’ve even got the helmet with the point top and red tassels!

The grand Royal Courts of Justice. Nice huh?

Practising my skills of imitation, heh…

Views of the London Eye

The Eye up close

Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament

My favourite shot!

The first of 3 videos:


[Hmm..I’ve tried several times to upload the other 2 videos, but seems I can’t. Pity cos the climax of the show was in the 3rd video! But weren’t the rockets in the video above cool!!]

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