Saturday, July 31, 2010

Doctor WHO?

Confession time.

Doctor Who.

I just don't get it.

I've been here for six years and I've tried and tried to understand. Why the obsession with bad sets, clunky costumes and strange skinny men? Every time I try to watch, I cringe and turn it off. There's something in my genetic programming that simply doesn't understand why so many are obsessed -- to the point that last weekend, the Proms held two dedicated Doctor Who concerts.

Can anyone provide illumination? Am I alone in this?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Makes You Smile?

A few days ago, I got an email asking if I'd like to take part in The Science Museum's latest project, Who Am I?

Since The Science Museum was one of the first museums in London to stock my book, 24 Hours London (followed by the British Museum and the London Museum of Transport, yay!) I was definitely keen to help return the favour in my own small way.

More details of the project here, on their Facebook page or on Twitter.

Just leave a comment on my blog or send them a tweet (@sciencemuseum; hashtag #smwhoami) telling them what makes you smile.

What makes me smile? A nice long bubble bath at the end of a productive writing day. And wine.

Your turn!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Yer Bike!

Ping-pong aside, it's now my turn to be excited! Because finally, London's Cycle Hire Scheme is about to begin! And even more thrilling, one of the rental docks is just around the corner from where we live.

The empty rental docks in Kensington.

I haven't had a bike since my uni days (and I'm not going to say how long ago that was). Although I've contemplated several times buying a bike in London to glide through the pathways of the park, I've always come up against a typical London problem: storage. But now -- starting on Friday -- I can round the corner, pop in some change, and cycle my rented bike all the way from Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park and beyond!

The cycle hire sign, ready for its debut this Friday.

Since I'm terrified of traffic, I definitely won't be going on-road. But come next Friday, if you see a blonde streaking past you (not that kind of streaking!) in the park, I'm finally on my bike!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

As Promised: Ping Pong!

The Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens.

Who knew the potential of playing ping-pong could be so exciting? Certainly not I, but when The Man found out the new Serpentine Pavilion featured ping-pong tables he was practically salivating. Having grown up playing the game, he was now itching to put his skills to the test again.

The beautiful game.

Desperate to stop his bragging at just how good he really was, on a hot and sunny day we marched through the park and over to the tables. The two of us playing any game is usually a recipe for disaster -- we'll practically kill each other to win -- but we'd be in public so I was confident we could control ourselves. That, and we'd sipped a glass or two of wine while waiting in the shade for our turn at the tables.

Thankfully we were both a bit out of practice and the only thing heating up was our bodies under the beating sun. We soon retreated back to our shady patch, wine in hand... until the next match!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Parks, Ping-Pong and Paris

I had an exciting post planned today -- all about my ping-pong exploits in Kensington Gardens -- but a technology fail means they'll have to wait until another day, sadly!

However, three very nice things happened over the weekend:

1. My article on surviving jet-lag in Paris appeared on Bonjour Paris, which has already boosted Kindle sales of 24 Hours Paris;

2. Polly-Vous Francais did a great review of 24 Hours Paris, listing 24 reasons why she likes the book! You really can't get a better review than that! and

3. I had this lovely blog post pop up on my Google alerts!

Oh, how I love nice surprises.

Coming soon, when technology decides to co-operate: ping-pong in the park!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Prom -- Or Not to Prom

Me and my dearly departing Canadian friend at the opening night of the Proms last night.

It's my favourite time of year: Prom time!

No, it’s not a graduation dance for freedom-drunk teens – it’s one of the biggest classical music events of the year. Started in 1895 with the goal of bringing classical music to the masses, the BBC Proms is an annual eight-week series of concerts by symphonies and orchestras from around the world.

Short for Promenade Concerts, Proms refers to the walking or strolling some audience members used to do inside the hall. Now, it refers to the standing areas in the hall, where you can buy a ticket on the day for only £5. Queue up for access to the Gallery – where you can lounge on the cement floor high above the Royal Albert Hall. Or, you can stay standing at ground level in the Arena. Either way, you can’t get better music at a better price. (Extract from 24 Hours London)

With yet another expat friend heading back to Canada after a three-year stint in London, we decided to mark her departure with a final dose of British culture at the Proms. I've been to loads of Proms -- and the final night at Hyde Park, which has an atmosphere all its own -- but I've never been to the opening night. Due to broken trains, though, we didn't join the queue until around 6:45 pm, by which time it stretched outside the Royal Albert Hall, down a small side street, and back again.

The queue outside the Royal Albert Hall.

Sadly, we didn't get in -- we weren't even close! Still, we managed to drown our sorrows with a final pit-stop in Soho, so all wasn't lost.

The ornate facade of the Royal College of Organists.

The side of the Royal Albert Hall.

The Albert Memorial and the top of the Royal Albert Hall.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Surviving a Conference!

Happy Bastille Day! 24 Hours Paris was just named a hot July read by Girls' Guide to Paris, so I'm having my own little celebration! If you're on Twitter, tweet me any time before 9 pm GMT today to be entered in a draw to win a copy of 24 Hours Paris.

As you know from my previous post, I've just returned from the wonderful Romantic Novelists' Association Conference. It was my first writing conference and I thought I'd share a few tips for survival!

1. Don't wear high heels. Seriously. I attempted to do so on the first day and I paid the price, big time. It was the hottest day of the year, my feet were swollen, and several lovely little blisters quickly sprouted. Just... don't.

2. Take Nurofen, just in case. The first day of the conference (and the second, but that was due to, ahem, too much champagne) I had a brutal headache. Honestly, if I didn't have my trusty Nurofen, I'm sure my head would have exploded.

3. When there's food, eat it! Due to nerves and the heat, I wasn't really that hungry during the day which meant by around 4 pm, I was almost ready to fall over! While eating usually isn't a problem for me, I would have been able to concentrate better if I'd chowed down when I could.

4. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to people. I'm usually the sort who slips off into the corners when faced with a large group of people I don't know -- particularly if that involves big-name authors, editors and agents. But if you're friendly and don't interrupt them mid-conversation then they're usually very open and friendly themselves!

5. Take business cards/ promotional postcards, etc. I had some postcards done up for The Hating Game just in time for the conference, and I'm glad I did. It was great to be able to hand people something so hopefully they'll remember me when the book comes out.

All in all, it was a fantastic conference and I'm so glad I went. Next time: no high heels, lots of chowing down, and boatloads of Nurofen!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hidden London: The Old Royal Naval College

While you could hardly say it's 'hidden', this collection of Baroque buildings is a world away from the hustle and bustle of maritime Greenwich. I've been to Greenwich several times but never had I thought about wandering into the campus of the Old Royal Naval College, just a five-minute walk from the Cutty Sark DLR.

Last weekend, I attended the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference held within the grounds of the College. As nervous as I was, as I approached the building where the conference was being held I couldn't help but look around me in awe. Every building loomed over me with perfect proportions; it was almost like wandering around the Vatican!

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren as a hospital for pensioners, the College took over the buildings after the hospital closed in 1869. Admission is free and you can take a wander around the grounds -- including the chapel and the Painted Hall -- anytime between 10 am and 7 pm. For information, go here.

If you want to here more about the conference and see a few extra photos, head over to my Talli Roland blog.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer in the City: What to Do?

This year -- for the first time in many -- we're having a proper summer. By 'proper summer', I mean that it's not raining every day of the week, the temperature's above 15 C, and you don't need to head out swathed in scarves to brave the elements. (I'm not joking. One year, I didn't even unpack my summer clothes.)

So to celebrate, this post will be all about my favourite summer things! (Apologies to followers of my Talli Roland blog for the duplicate, but I thought this post worked well for both my blogs!)

1. Pimms. Pimms is a yummy liqueur that you mix with lemonade, cucumbers, strawberries and gin. I know it sounds strange but it can actually be very refreshing. And lethal. A friend of mine once streaked through Richmond after consuming too much Pimms.

2. Proms. Every night from mid-July to mid-September, you can attend wonderful classical music concerts at the Royal Albert Hall for only £4!

3. The Serpentine Pavilion. Each summer, a new architect is commissioned to design a pavilion in Kensington Gardens. It's up for about two months and then they dismantle it.

4. Stripy deck chairs in Hyde Park. Plop one down by the lake, lean back, and watch the trees sway above your head. Bliss!

5. Regent's Park Open-Air Theatre. The only permanent professional outdoor theatre in Britain, Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre holds over a thousand people. With its pitched seats, though, you’ll feel like you can practically touch the actors on stage. Founded in 1932, the resident company is the New Shakespeare Company. At least two Shakespeare plays are performed each summer – one of them usually A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which lends itself perfectly to the park’s leafy environment.

6. Swimming in the ponds at Hampstead Heath. Bizarre but true - if you fancy a dip in a secluded pond, head up north to the Heath. There's a men's pond, a women's pond and a mixed pond.

7. Opera Holland Park. Every summer, a massive open-air opera stage is constructed in Holland Park. Tickets range from £10 to £57 and if you're a young person (not me...) then you can get free tickets here.

8. Pavement Caf├ęs. Being able to sit on the street and eat probably doesn't seem that exciting, but when you live in a country where the sun rarely makes an appearance then it's downright intoxicating (in more ways than one).

9. South Bank Stroll. I may have mentioned several thousand times that The Man proposed and we got married on the South Bank, so it's no surprise strolling along the Thames when the sky is brilliantly blue is on my top 10 list.

10. Sun. SUN! SUUNNNN! Although technically, I'm not sure sun can really be classified as part of a British summer, when it does make an appearance we appreciate it that much more!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Guest Post and Giveaway!

Happy Monday!

Today, I'm over at Hell or High Water talking about how I attempt to juggle fiction with non-fiction!

And if you're in the UK and you'd like a chance to win a copy of 24 Hours Paris, head here to enter.

Happy Fourth of July to all my Amerian friends! Hope you're all enjoying the long weekend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day!

It's July 1, the one day Canadians feel it's actually OK to show we're proud to be Canadian. So what is Canadian?

I have pondered this question several times during my six years living in the UK, and my two years in Poland. What is it that makes us so different from our unforgettable neighbours to the south? And are we really that different?

I'm often mistaken for an American, due to my accent. I'm always quick to point out that I am, in fact, from a completely different country. But when people ask me what's the difference, I'm at pains to answer succinctly. Is it that we like hockey? No, Americans have that passion (obsession, some might say) as well. Tim Horton's? Nope, it's spread across the States. Crazy cold winters and lots of snow? Again, it's like that in the US, too. Perhaps it's the way we say 'about' (I've never understood that one, but apparently it's different!).

I'm not sure Canadian is something that can be defined. Perhaps it's in the way we react to events that find their way through to our little peaceful piece of the world. Like the 9-11 tragedy, when the people of Gander, Newfoundland -- a town of only 9,900 people -- took in 39 trans-Atlantic flights forced to land there, with over 6,600 passengers and crew, opening up their own homes and even organizing sight-seeing outings for those stranded.

Or, indeed, in the referendum of 1995, when the Quebecois voted on the possibility of Quebec independence. Over 100,000 Canadians from across the country travelled to Montreal to show their desire for Quebec to stay Canadian. And it did, with a narrow majority voting to remain in the country.

I don't know what it is but I do know this: I'm proud to be Canadian! And many thanks to Lynn for making this Canada Day particularly special by mentioning me on her Great Reads by Canadians post! I'm so honoured and thrilled to be in such great company.