Alice in Wonderland is such an incredibly unusual read, a surreal journey, filled with logic, subtle political commentary, and a great deal of silliness. Along with its sequel it is truly one of those books that defies categorisation and brings ones imagination alive with the incredible possibilities of existence. In reading these books, the assumptions that underlie our day to day operations are constantly challenged by a fictional reality that has rules drastically different to our own. I’m particularly fond of the passage in which Alice pontificates whether she’s really Alice or another girl Alice knows called Mabel. It is completely absurd and so deeply philosophical as to leave my mind utterly discombobulated. A mental state I’m surprisingly fond of!!! The message you take from wonderland, is truly a matter of interpretation, for me it is a tale that highlights the importance of retaining a childlike perspective in one’s life. I recently found myself re-reading this classic in preparation for attending Alice’s Adventures Underground an immersive theatre experience located at the Vaults, Waterloo. Curiouser and Curiouser…
I think it’s a sure sign that you’re in for a good evening when it begins with a spot of flamingo croquet. Standing around the bar section of the Waterloo Vaults, I soon happened upon this entertaining and most welcome of distractions. I did not have much time to master this gentle game however as only a little after I started playing I was called forth for an adventure in Wonderland. I was incredibly excited and just a tad apprehensive as to what lay in store for me…
I’m incredibly tempted to recount in painstaking detail every single delightful event that transpired on my journey through Wonderland. However I do not wish to ruin the novelty of the experience for others, so I will keep myself to brief snap shots of what transpired and hope that this does not reveal too much. In a delightful and somewhat creepy study, I found my way into Wonderland in a most peculiar and frightful manner. Next I beheld a classic optical illusion, in the form of two doors, one where the people approaching grew incredibly large and another where their approach turned them terribly small. After choosing a door, I soon found myself being processed by Wonderland customs and being assigned a suit of cards. As a Diamond I was soon taught to look up to Hearts and mock the lower cards, Spades and Clubs. This political designation would prove the glue that held the disparate elements of the story that followed together. On a side note, it was remarkable how quickly everyone took to their assigned ideologies and I thought it one of the most intriguing parts of the performance.
However it wasn’t all political intrigue in Wonderland. The adventures that followed saw a merry conversation with Humpty Dumpty, a disturbing encounter with the unhinged Tweedledee and Tweedledum, a most excellent tea party, a sombre and touching moment with the Mock Turtle, not to mention a suspense filled trial. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that I had a bloody brilliant time and that this show was truly a spectacle to behold. The references to the books were numerous and beautifully chosen. The puppetry and set design were all first class. Finally the actors that guided us through Wonderland all gave incredible high energy performances, bringing this most impressive show alive. Here’s hoping that this second run of the show isn’t its last.
There are now quite a few pubs in London with a video game theme, but my favourite by a considerable margin is The Four Quarters in Peckham. For the simple reason that it is a no frills no nonsense classic arcade. Other pubs I’ve been to let you play games with your friends on flat screen monitors, undeniably fun, but The Four Quarters invites you to play with friends upon the mystical cabinets of awesome that robbed an entire generation of their precious pocket money during the 80s and early 90s.
As a very small child the bright dazzling lights and the odd beeping sounds of these gaming monoliths beckoned me to partake in an otherworldly adventure. As a teenager I eventually got to join the legions of zombified gamers that huddled around these magnificent machines in neon lit rooms. I had an absolute blast wasting my life away in this manner. Unfortunately by this stage in time there were barely any arcades left in London and I only very rarely got to visit the Trocadero (now closed) for some gaming fun. Despite this the Arcade left a lasting impression on me and I always felt it was more exciting than sitting around the house and just playing games on a console. What can I say I’m a sucker for some glitz and glamour! Thus my imagination has continued to hold on to the magic of these retro gaming machines with some reverence.
It came as a fantastic surprise then when I randomly came across a low key pub filled to the brim with classic gaming machines. I was on my way to visit a friend and was a little early when I walked past a rather tatty looking bar with an odd name. Noticing the video game theme I couldn’t help but have a quick look inside. I instantly beheld so many classic gaming machines, there was Pac Man, Time Crisis 2, Golden Axe, Street Fighter 2, and good lord is that the legendary Simpson’s arcade game. I never stood a chance!!! To make matters worse they had an extensive range of whisky to boot, the owner being a big fan of the amber nectar. Suffice it to say I met my friend a good deal later than intended. As an hour plus of button smashing went by in a minute. A return trip is definitely on the cards this week, as I had a super nostalgia infused whale of a time. If you live in South London and are in the mood for a mellow night of classic gaming The Four Quarters is where it’s at.
Last week this Blog turned one!!! And in typical fashion I’ve only just got round to celebrating this momentous event. Started on a diabolical whim, I certainly would not have predicted that one year on I would still be writing for this fine publication. Let alone that some people would have actually bothered to read it. To all you wonderful people that have read commented and seemingly enjoyed my random musings, I truly cannot thank you enough! It has been an absolute joy to witness this half-baked idea rise to the lofty heights of a fluffy Victoria sponge. Admittedly in the last six months my posts have become rather sporadic but I solemnly swear that in the coming months I’ll pull up my socks and get back to blogging form. In the meantime I hope you will join me in celebrating this anniversary dear reader and by spontaneously breaking into dance to this awesome tune from Kool and the Gang. Now that I’ve finished getting my groove on around my living room, allow me to present…
My Top 5 Moments of the Blogging Year
I think it’s safe to say that epic feats of daring do have been few and far between this year. Nevertheless I think I made up for this in one fell swoop, by falling out of a plane in the most awkward manner imaginable. Against all odds I loved every second of this experience. Read on here!
The Harry Potter studio tour quite simply set my imagination ablaze this year. From the moment I found myself standing in the great hall of Hogwarts I was off in a world of my own. I left pretending to ride an invisible broomstick, which says it all really. Read on here!
I had a delightful moment of Zen in the Kyoto Garden this year. Located within Holland Park this Japanese garden may be tiny but it is absolutely stunning and I’m very pleased with some of the photographs I got on my trip. Read on here!
I love those random moments in adventures that you could never have predicted beforehand. I was dumbfounded this year, when swimming in ice cold waters on Hampstead Heath I suddenly found myself being lapped by old age pensioners. However my absolute highlight of the year came when some lovely people ensured I had a blooming marvellous time playing crazy golf. Read on here!
A surreal neon dreamscape where you can sip a coffee, I was truly blown away by the spectacle that is God’s Own Junkyard. Located in the back of beyond (Sorry Walthamstow), this is the very definition of a hidden gem. Read on here!
So that in a nutshell marks the end of my first year of Blogging. Here’s to many more years of London, Whisky, and Adventure.
Oh and to talking even more Bollocks!!!
Mayhem Paintball is a huge site for big kids to play, it provides carnage on a truly epic scale, and you’ll leave with a big grin on your face thoroughly prepared for the coming zombie apocalypse! Located on the edge of London, it is very easy to get to via the central line, with the company taking you the rest of the way with a pick up at Theydon Bois station. There are sixteen arenas here which are wonderfully constructed containing, tanks, crashed helicopters, and the like. The staff are super friendly thus ensuring a good day out. After a week littered with WTF moments, I was just about ready to drive out to a serene waterfall and drown someone in it. Thus as another fraught week loomed I prepared by booking some kick ass paintball action with a group of friends. The days went by like a cool summer’s breeze; people irritated me, annoyed me, and exasperated what little patience I had left for the so called rules of civilization. Yet every time I approached breaking point I found hidden reserves of equanimity, as I simply meditated on the happy go lucky image of blasting random strangers to kingdom come with balls of paint. If Marcus Aurelius grew up in the 90’s and was around to behold my stoicism, he’d say ‘dude, that guy’s, like, totally chilled dealing with those fart-knockers’.
Then the day finally came, fuelled with pent up rage and randomly giggling like a megalomaniac/teenage girl I boarded the train, destination fun. Only for disaster to then strike! Everyone faces that moment in their life when they suddenly realize their frailty in the face of time. For me, there’s also that time I sat down so rapidly on an improperly cushioned seat that I rendered my bum entirely numb. Sitting on the train I writhed in agony as all happy go lucky images of briefly becoming death incarnate evaporated. I arrived at Mayhem Paintball dilapidated and only able to hobble. The first two games went by in a flash as I was taken out rapidly, a fainting goat among the dogs of war. Yet the rage of several mental weeks could not be tamed and in an adrenalin fuelled frenzy I staged a comeback. Game three saw some mild improvement but the best was yet to come. Game four; I became the terminator, slickly dispatching five enemies in rapid succession all while unintentionally imitating the juddering movements of a chicken. It was glorious! After that I returned to hobbling form for the rest of the games, but having had my moment is the sun, I ended the day as happy go lucky as I went. Quite simply, Mayhem Paintballing is an ace form of stress relief and I thoroughly recommend it to all.
There’s nothing quite like an attraction with a long winding queue to dampen ones adventurous spirits and make one mildly cranky. The only thing worse in fact is to stand in said queue for twenty minutes and then have a member of staff approach to inform you that you need to leave the queue in order to buy a ticket in the shop. This is precisely what happened to me when I went to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street. I can tell you that when I finally re-joined the queue from the very start, I was somewhat aggrieved, things went from bad to terrible when I suddenly realized I needed the toilet. I was now well past mildly cranky and into the nightmare realm of Grump Hog Day! So if you go, remember before you join the ginormous queue, go to the gift shop next to the entrance as that’s where you buy your ticket. Having groaned on a fair bit and hopefully elicited some small sympathy; allow me to get on with my review which is only slightly tinged by this considerable trauma.
The Sherlock Holmes museum is a delight. I’m a huge fan of Holmes and have very fond memories of reading the books at school during my formative years. Like my trip to the Harry Potter studios, I found myself experiencing childlike wonder on entering a place so familiar to my imagination. Each room in this museum is beautifully put together with lots of small references to the books. One cannot help but think that Holmes and Watson did once reside here solving baffling mysteries in Victorian London. My favourite part of the museum is an inconspicuous book on the top floor. It contains letters to Holmes from all around the world that have been sent to 221B Baker Street. One or two were artistic, some had fictional mysteries, and my favourite from Gao Kun in China implored Holmes to give up his cocaine habit for the sake of his health. I have no doubt that a fair few of these letters are the result of teachers and there confounded homework assignments. Nevertheless it is absolutely astounding to see first-hand the joy a fictional creation can exert in the world.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum, is tiny, a little overpriced at £15 a ticket, and comes complete with a deadly queue. However despite all these detractions, as a huge fan I think the decision of whether to go or not is elementary my dear reader.
This shall be a day long remembered! Only the most ardent of my readers are likely to have read my long winded first post, but to recap when I first embarked upon this blog I set myself the challenge of three, knock your socks off, are you out of your tiny mind, make you scream ‘I’m alive’ adventures. After several years of the boring and mundane I’d finally put my foot down and decided that this time it would be different. Having resolved myself to completing one every four months, I then entered into a rigorous regime of procrastination in which the wild side of life was forever postponed by the allegedly essential. Thus after a great deal of time passed, I suddenly felt a little low on realizing that this time it wasn’t any different. Only, as the totally crazy photographic evidence above shows, most unexpectedly and quite delightfully, this time it is different! I have undertaken a true out of this world worthy of a bucket list adventure. And as you’re about to find out I loved every precious second of it.
So there I am, strapped to a stranger sitting in a rickety plane flying two miles above the earth and I have to pinch myself it feels like a dream. There’s a red light that’s about to turn green and I can’t help but briefly imagine that I’m a commando on a super-secret mission in a war film. My imagination is working overtime, as I try to ignore the very basic mechanic that I will have to execute in order for this adventure to occur. I usually get a tad frightened on normal plane journeys and that’s without the thought that at some point during the ride I’m going to have to bloody well jump out of it. It turns out I didn’t need to jump, oh no! I had to cumbersomely sit down on the edge of the exit and then as I teetered on the abyss I had to cross my legs and wrap them around the fuselage. I then felt a light tap on my shoulders which was my cue to fall forward like an undignified drunk. Upon reflection, I think I would have much preferred a short swift jump.
Whoosh! The first few seconds of the jump are a total blur as a result of the fifty espressos worth of adrenalin that automatically pumped through my veins on account of me doing something very stupid. I came to my senses a little while in, to find the camera lady falling below trying to grab my attention, she was blowing kisses. I’ve desperately tried to avoid using this word, but it was truly surreal. It sounds mad but after the initial fright of exiting, the experience of falling was a wonderfully pleasant affair. A beautiful majestic scene before me coupled with the exhilarating and calming white noise of the wind gave me a brief moment of ecstatic clarity. It came to a close when the parachute deployed and I suddenly felt like I was pulled up to the heavens. Looking at the amazing higgledy piggledy farmland below, we now fell gracefully as we gently twirled our way back to earth. Arriving with a bump, I was brimming ear to ear with joy having experienced the extraordinary.
I can safely say that exiting a plane from extreme height is terrifying but I also cannot recommend this experience highly enough. After the initial shock, the fall is pure magic. I’d like to give a big thank you, to all the wonderful people at the London Parachute School who made this most excellent adventure happen.
A museum full of toys that has a name that rhymes with bollocks. It’s fair to say that Pollock’s was an easy sell for this big kid. It specializes in 19th century toys but has a wide array of playthings from all sorts of periods. Sadly a few highlight the offensive attitudes that Europeans have held at various moments in history. Thankfully the sparkling joy of childhood play makes up the majority of the items. Like so many of the unusual museums that are dotted around this part of the city Pollock’s is on the small side and some may be put off by the £6 entrance fee. I’m so glad I wasn’t one of them. It may be on the small side, but there are intriguing sights and items of interest everywhere in Pollock’s. Little gems included, the saucy Fraulein’s from 1925 with a string that lifts up their skirts, a four thousand year old clay rat from ancient Egypt that has moving wooden tail and mouth, and oh look Buzz and Woody are attempting to escape the museum! I also really liked the row of Russian nesting dolls that had Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin at the centre. It didn’t make my top three little gems though. It could have but alas where for art thou Putin?
My favourite section in the museum without a doubt was filled with giant toy theatres. They were so beautifully crafted, with such an amazing eye for detail. One could imagine what a delight to play with they were, and I could just picture kids putting on a play with cardboard cut outs for Mum and Dad to enjoy. A close second in the favourites department was a room packed to the rafters with exquisite and oh so creepy Victorian dolls. The creaking wooden floors of the museum added an atmosphere of suspense and for a moment I could not help but feel that I was in a horror film. I should also mention the awesome 1950’s alien, robot, spaceman, Goodness. How could I possibly forget that! As a child who was constantly pew pewing laser death at the world, these incredible tin toys were my childhood dreams come to life!!! At the end of the museum tour one is faced with the ultimate test of willpower, a shop full of toys. I was dismayed by how many grownups effortlessly succeeded at this ultimate test. Let me assure you dear reader that I was not one of them. All in all, I had a rather jolly and dare I say it fanciful hour of imaginary wondering walking round this museum. I definitely recommend the trip.