Sunday, October 31, 2010

Remember, Remember

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

While it's not quite yet the fifth of November and time to 'celebrate' the infamous Guy Fawkes' attempt to overthrow Parliament, a balmy Saturday night before Hallowe'en provided a great excuse to head over to Notting Hill for a bonfire with friends -- and a few hundred of their closest neighbours.

Me in red, standing by the hottest bonfire ever! My face was burning (or maybe that was from the mulled wine...).

A fireworks show went on for a good ten minutes or more.

Happy early Bonfire Night!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hidden London: Lamb's Conduit Street

As the nights draw in and the days get colder, I confess I find it harder and harder to budge from the cozy confines of my flat. But yesterday, the chapter meeting of the Romantic Novelists' Association motivated me to move from my sofa and head down the Central Line to Bloomsbury -- to The Lamb pub on Lamb's Conduit, to be precise.

Although I've been to Russell Square countless times, I'd never been down this small stretch. Partly pedestrianized and lined with independent shops and galleries, it's a feast for retail-hungry eyes. The street is named after William Lambe to recognize the donation he gave to rebuild a nearby conduit in 1564 (source: Wikipedia).

At the end of the street, The Lamb (photo: Wikipedia) is chock full of charm. Built in the 1720s, Charles Dickens is said to have been a frequent punter. What better place, then, to hold a literary lunch?

Take a stroll through the street with Monocle.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: Mrs P's Journey

Embroiled in the final edits for my novel The Hating Game (out as an e-book December 1; sign up for my web splash here), I've been shying away from fiction and towards non-fiction. As such, I turned to Mrs P's Journey which, shamefully, I've had for almost a year.

Here's the blurb (from Amazon):

Disproving the theory that women can't read maps, this is the story of Phyllis Pearsall, the eccentric British artist who single-handedly mapped London's A-Z and created a publishing phenomenon. Born Phyllis Isobella Gross, her lifelong nickname was PIG. The artist daughter of a flamboyant Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and an Irish Italian mother, her bizarre and often traumatic childhood did not restrain her from becoming one of Britain's most intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires. After an unsatisfactory marriage, Phyllis, a 30-year-old divorcee, had to support herself and so became a portrait painter. It is doing this job and trying to find her patron's houses that Phyllis became increasingly frustrated at the lack of proper maps of London. Instead of just cursing the fact as many fellow Londoners probably did, Phyllis decided to do something about it. Without hesitation she covered London's 23,000 streets on foot during the course of one year, often leaving her Horseferry Road bedsit at dawn to do so. To publish the map, and in light of its enormous success, she set up her own company, The Geographer's Trust, which still publishes the London A-Z and that of every major British city.

Most Londoners are familiar with the trusty A-Z map. In my first weeks here, it proved invaluable as I shunted from one side of London to the other in my daily supply teaching duties. I have no idea how I ever would have tracked down some of the hidden-away schools I voyaged to without it!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this engaging story of Phyllis and her family. Her determination and ambition -- despite a pretty terrible childhood -- are incredible. The book reads like a work of fiction (and the author has taken certain liberties, of which she warns us) but it's a fascinating biography of talented, driven woman.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Anish Kapoor sculpture in Kensington Gardens.

To all Canadians near and far... Happy Thanksgiving! I actually forgot it was this weekend until a blogging buddy (thanks, Jemi!) reminded me yesterday. To that end, The Man and I took a wonderful jaunt through Kensington Gardens in the Indian-summer air, then over to the local Tesco's to buy a bird. Despite trying to explain what 'traditional' turkey means (i.e., plain) The Man still insisted on stuffing the fowl with cracked wheat -- but I'm not complaining, at least he's doing the cooking!

Have a great gratitude-filled weekend!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

I'm back! The vacation was glorious, but it's good to be in my other home -- London. We flew in early Friday morning and after paying a £600 fine and picking up the car at the Chelsea pound (don't ask), we settled back in to our London life!

It was great fun touring around the Maritimes (Nova Scotia and PEI, anyway) and everywhere we went, The Man kept exclaiming: 'It's like a different country!' The last time he went to Canada, it was covered in snow and -40 C, so fair enough!

There's something very endearing about showing your partner from a completely different culture the customs of your homeland. From ceilidhs and run-drinking to lobster-eating and sea shanties, I can definitely say The Man now fully appreciates Maritime culture. I'll leave kissing the cod and Newfoundland for another visit!

In Websplash news (I've changed it from Blogsplash since I want to also incorporate Facebook and Twitter), I'm now up to 298 people participating! With two months remaining, I might just makes my goal of 1000. You can join the Facebook Event Page here, read the recent Websplash email, or sign up if you haven't already. All you need is a blog, a Facebook page or a Twitter account!

And now, a couple more photos...