Word on the Water

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If there’s one word I’d use to describe ‘Word on the Water’, it would be charming. There’s something incredibly magical in the simple idea of combining a canal barge with a book shop. You look at the barge and go wow, it’s quaint, eccentric, and oozes character. Like Herbie the Love Bug, you can’t help but think that it’s alive. You can just picture this beautiful rickety barge in a fantastical story and yet here it is in dull old reality beckoning you to partake in a literary reprieve. It’s not complicated, and one could just write it off as another bookshop with a gimmick. But as a frame for emphasising the wonders and endless possibilities that reading has to offer, I think it is hard to deny that it’s perfect. If I had children this is the first bookshop I would want to take them to. I’m really glad I dropped by this charming bookshop today. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit this place but given that it’s so close to some big attractions, platform nine and three quarters anyone, I can find no reason why you shouldn’t swing by. On a sunny day it is truly sublime.

I’m completely exhausted after a most hectic day, so I’m afraid to say that I’ll just let the photo’s do the rest of the talking for me today.

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London’s Monster Supplies

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One of the things I love most about London is the way it can remind you at practically any moment of the sheer wonder and absurdity of existence. Such occurrences are infrequent enough never to be considered dull and yet somehow simultaneously manage to be frequent enough to be considered a regular fixture in one’s life. Bored out of your brains, desperately trying to write something for your blog, you look out the window completely lost only to see a grey hound dressed as an AT AT walker from Star Wars go by. You slip out the door for a closer look, and chuckle as you consider if it’s possible to get arrested for stalking a dog. You don’t get anything written that day, but now you’re armed with a spectacular excuse. Or, there you are on a beautiful summers day, drinking coffee with a friend, completely content, when out of nowhere a hundred odd people dressed as zombies suddenly go by. A brilliant day made brilliant-er by the oddest of occurrences. Or, it’s been a hard day, you listlessly stroll along, deep in thought bemoaning your lot, when suddenly a part of your brain pipes up to inform you that you have just walked past an abandoned Russian tank.  How it got there and who painted it pink, you ask, but there are no immediate answers. Face to face with the inexplicable, all you can do is smile, as whatever you were worrying about suddenly evaporates. No matter ones mood, Lady London will always find ways to interject and remind you of the, sparkling, majestic, joy, that life can offer if you just look around once in a while.

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Quite recently I took the liberty of giving the world a good old look around, and to my considerable good fortune spied a most excellent little oddity. I was in Hoxton market minding my own business when my mind was set ablaze as I beheld a monster supplies shop! Flabbergasted, I quickly checked I wasn’t in Diagon Alley, and once assured of this, simply stood in awe as a sense of childlike wonder came over me. The shop, with the exception of the signs, had the appearance of a painting and decorating supplier. As I entered I noted that the sign outside permitted only one giant to enter at a time. Inside I found a host of interestingly labelled tins and jars. The items had some truly marvellous balderdash written upon them. Having annoyed the invisible cat Wells, I grew concerned that the overly friendly staff might eat me. Fortunately I managed to appease the despicably friendly fiends that managed the shop by making a few purchases. For the record I bought a vague sense of unease and some salt made from the tears of boredom.

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I cannot express the pure whimsical delight that I found myself experiencing on suddenly discovering this place. I later learned that this inexplicable store with its strange supplies helps support the Ministry of Stories, which is an organisation that pairs professional writers with children so as to induct them into the great art of yarn telling. If you’re ever in Hoxton market I strongly recommend you check this place out and while you’re at it be sure to buy some overpriced knick knacks and help this fantastic enterprise out.

In the meantime be sure to keep your eyes peeled for life’s pleasant surprises.

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The Marvel that is God’s Own Junkyard!!!

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I’m sitting in a café enjoying a rather splendid hot chocolate. All around me is a delirious, dizzying, neon dreamscape. David Bowie songs play out in the background, while a bizarre spectacle of sights slowly make themselves known. There’s so much going on here that my mind can’t take it all in at once. Instead my attention picks out broad themes one at a time, my environment shifting like a kaleidoscope as, religion, sex, and advertisements, all come in and out of focus. Hope, hedonism, and the promise of convenience all fight for my attention. Meanwhile macabre notes lurk, Jesus is packing heat, a shark is devouring a teddy bear, and behind me is a garden shed with a car on top of it running over a goblin. I’m in God’s Own Junkyard and it’s bloody marvellous.

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Located in inconspicuous surroundings, God’s Own Junkyard is a one of a kind with quite a history behind it. The oldest neon sign makers in London, three generations of the Bracey family have worked in the business of neon signs. From the lusty streets of 1970s Soho to the film sets of Hollywood this place has done signs for everyone.  For instance, Professor Green, Kate Moss, The Dark Knight, and Blade Runner, to name but a few. What’s more I hear that they will quite happily do one for your living room without costing you an arm and a leg. I must say that I’m quite tempted to get one.

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It’s almost time for me to head back to the real world. I take a few moments to really take in the glitz and glamour that I’ve suddenly found myself in. Sometimes I wish there was a lot more of such unrestrained eccentric flamboyance. Then again, that might amount to a dystopian nightmare with a federal bureau of sparkle. That’s what I love most about these incredible signs, they have a dual personality. They’re captivating objects of incandescent positivity. Yet as I stare spellbound at them, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m a moth unable to detect a malignant power that spells my doom. The result of this combination gives God’s Own Junkyard a truly otherworldly feel. As shops with twinkly lights go, this one is absolutely mind blowing.

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Amazingly I had never ever heard of this place until I started blogging. Please check out the review that inspired this trip here.

Yum Yum (The Clue Is In The Title)

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After several days filled with pure undiluted skippity hoppity joy, last week the empire struck back and my arch nemesis ‘Darth Real Life’ returned to the fore. Suddenly I was in a world of necessary, dull as ditch water, irksomeness. Life’s little tasks called, dentist appointments, internet providers, family occasions. Good lord I forgot the mountain of dirty dishes!  I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point it appears that society revoked my child status and stuck a grown up badge on me. I won’t lie, it’s been downhill ever since. Returning to the particularity of my troubles, suddenly, within this maelstrom of the mundane, I sensed a brief opening in the force, a teeny tiny patch of that rare commodity, free time! Thus at lunchtime today, I decided to take it easy with a brilliant meal at one of my favourite restaurants and so restore balance to the force.

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Yum Yum is a Thai restaurant located on Stoke Newington High Street and its simply goodness I tell ya.  Located in a gorgeous Georgian house the environment is low lit and delightfully mellow. It serves nutritious and delicious food that always proves uplifting. They also do magnificent cocktails, but I swear I didn’t indulge on a weekday, even if they are purely medicinal. The staff are the most remarkable feature of this restaurant, wonderfully unobtrusive and yet simultaneously such, cheerful, charming, caring, people. I spent a little over thirty minutes here today and without fail Yum Yum worked its magic. I left feeling most calm and relaxed. I have no doubt that if this restaurant was located in Shoreditch it would be better known and queued out the door. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t hesitate, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It is an absolute delight.

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Attitude of Gratitude

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Unfortunately I’ve come down with the flu this week and have been put well and truly out of action. It is a well-known fact that a regular weekly tipple renders one impervious to the diseases of mere mortals. Thus when I say I’m sick, one is left to wonder what strange herculean germs could have brought about this diabolical condition. I’m currently rocking a high fever that is off the charts, my hallucination of Doc Brown is currently screaming ‘one point twenty one Gigawatt’s’. So you know it’s bad. As a result, foolhardy escapades, rumbustious shenanigans, and flights of fancy to London’s hidden gems, have all been rendered out of the question.  My stock and trade dear reader, ruined. An expert at feeling sorry for myself and a champion at reading tragedy into the smallest of setbacks, I knew this fine publication was done for. I had failed, all I had left to write was an obituary for my blog. It was at this stage in my ruminations that the doorbell rang.

A parcel had arrived, containing the insanely cheesy festive treat that is ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’. I beheld in wonder an early present. I wasted no time in sticking it on and after eighty six glorious minutes I arose the very definition of festive cheer, though the rosy cheeks were wholly down to the flu. It is ridiculous how easily I focus on life’s negatives, blowing them completely out of proportion in the process. It is my hope that in the coming year I really foster a spirit of appreciation for all the lovely things that life brings.

So the point of this post is a very simple one. To say a warm heartfelt Thank You, to you dear reader, who has viewed, liked, commented and followed this blog. The truth is that when I started this I never really expected anyone to be reading, it was after all just something I started on a whim. So it has come as a wondrous surprise to have received so many likes/comments and find people engaging with the blog. I’ve also really enjoyed reading your blogs and really am starting to feel that I am part of a community. It’s amazing how creative everyone is and it’s inspiring to know that in our busy hectic lives we can make time for something imaginative. I hope next week to be back in fine fettle and ready for another whirlwind adventure. Moreover in the coming year, I’m going to jolly well do my best, to entertain quaint notions, visit charming spots, drink sublime whisky, and partake in all that is silly.

In the meantime I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

P.S. Check out some Muppet  Goodness

A Light-Hearted Medley

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Fed up with news reports constantly indicating a looming apocalypse and filled with paranoid fears that the recent loss of, Bowie, Prince, and Ali, may well indicate the rapture. Last week I decided to partake in a day of pure undiluted whimsy. To this end I lined up a series of London curiosities that all invoked the spirit of silly and set forth on another whirlwind adventure.

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The Cartoon Museum

The Cartoon Museum is located near Holborn station.  As a person who absolutely adores comics and satirical cartoons in particular, this place proved well worth the trip. I dare say it was super fantastic wunderbar! It should be noted that this place has a clear focus on British comics, is fairly small, and due to the fact that it receives no funding has a seven pounds entrance fee. However I would urge you to support this fine enterprise as it really is a unique and marvellous addition to a brilliant part of London. The exhibition I went to see was a collection of satirical Punch comics that ran from 1841 all the way up to 2002. The style of humour in these pieces was for the most part a light gentle ribbing at the crazy events of the day as opposed to a full on roast. To give an example one cartoon has two ladies seeing the Beatles and the blurb that her doctor has suggested that from now on she mimes her screams. (Sadly this is another museum with a no photo policy). Occasionally however this light demeanour does give way to the incredibly macabre, such as a ‘funny’ from WW1 in which a young boy is training a toddler for the front line. It was truly amazing to see so many silly comics over an incredibly long period of history, each gently playing with the insane situations of the day, with many problems repeating over the century. It certainly gave one a sense of perspective with respect to the mad behaviours that humanity wilfully engages in. Yet it also left one hopeful both in the finding of the funny and the fact that against all odds many past blunders have been overcome.  I left with dreams of one day starting a comic of my own and the intention to visit again at the end of January when they’ll have a 2000AD exhibition.

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The Museum of Comedy

After the high of the brilliant cartoon museum, I walked for thirty seconds and arrived at my next destination which was sadly to prove more than a tad disappointing. Quite frankly, if this place was located in a hamlet with three residents atop a mountain in Nepal, it would still have trouble in claiming itself to be a museum. The truth is that this is a room filled with some insanely cool trinkets that will take all of three minutes to absorb. If you’re wondering whether I simply rushed through without reading any of the info blurbs, you’d be right, but only on account of the fact that they weren’t bloody there. I hate it when cynicism intrudes within these pages and I reveal a thoroughly grumpy side to myself, so allow me to mention a few positives. Firstly it’s free and in one of the most interesting parts of the city. Secondly this place is packed with obscure books about comedians that you can sit and read; this is undoubtedly a fantastic feature. Finally I have heard that they do some truly excellent comedy nights which are well worth seeing but unlike the trinket room this costs money. All of this is great. Nevertheless as a member of the secret order of anoraks I can’t help but feel that this place is a serious instance of false advertising. The fact is it’s a comedy venue with some very interesting touches and not a museum. If you go in the day you’ll be seriously disappointed. If you go to a gig at night I feel certain you’ll be blown away by a brilliant show in a place with awesome touches. Sadly I went for a day trip.

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The Play That Goes Wrong

In the evening I found time for a trip to the theatre to see ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’. This proved to be the perfect end to a day in which I was hell bent on achieving flights of fancy and uproarious bursts of whimsy. I do not wish to spoil a single thing about this play for my readers, as its construction is wonderfully meticulous and the plot twists are ace. I can honestly say that this is one of the best damn farces I’ve ever seen, I would put it right up there with comedy greats such as, Jeeves and Wooster, Le Diner de Cons, and the magnificent Fawlty Towers. The show as the name would suggest is essentially a terrible production of a murder mystery in which all rhyme and reason to the play slowly goes out the window. It has a fantastic slow build up, an amazing set which allows for all sorts of stagecraft wizardry, and a brilliant cast. I was laughing along like a maniacal super villain from start to finish, as layer upon layer of new inventive angles of pure ridiculousness were added to the plot. At the end I skipped out of the theatre, cheerful, carefree, and with an indefatigable joyous demeanour sure to bring much irritation to those of an overly serious persuasion.

How do you find the light hearted side of life?

A Moment of Zen at the Kyoto Garden

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London is filled to the brim with public parks and they may well be its greatest asset. In a chaotic city in which hustle and bustle are to be found in abundance, one finds that no matter where you are there is always a secret garden available to provide a much needed reprieve. The Kyoto garden is a particular favourite of mine, a tiny patch of tranquil Japan that can be found at the centre of Holland Park.

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The last week has been blooming mental. In the middle of it I found myself experiencing crippling fear in the face of complete life overload. I was chained to the oar of my work, running on empty, as the slave drum beat out an incessant rhythm of drudgery. Occasionally I looked out to the wider world in search of hope, only to find constant and irritating reminders that the world is absolutely insane.

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Suddenly remembering that I’m a wistful imaginative fellow with a penchant for the overly dramatic, it crossed my mind that I might be blowing everything out of proportion. Surely not I said to myself. Thankfully I gave it a second thought and quickly realized that all I needed was a break. Thus I hopped on the tube and was whisked away for a brief change of scene. In an instant I was experiencing a resplendent autumns day in a serene environment that came complete with dazzling fish and majestic peacocks.

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A great deal calmer and just getting over the fact that life had once again shown me to be the bigger banana head. I made my first few walks around this small perfectly formed gem with my camera in hand. In no time at all I got myself into a full blown tourist frenzy taking photos of everything. The Kyoto garden has so many hidden perspectives to find and many of them are spellbinding in their beauty.

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Many would criticize the modern day tendency to instantly grab a camera when beholding something wonderful. Such people undoubtedly have a point but I think they miss something as well. In my photo frenzy, it is true that I was in a mind-set that was both narrow in its focus and at a distance from its environment. Nevertheless there was something meditative about this intense search for an interesting perspective, the attempt to capture a moment and find something special and unrepeatable within it. In short the activity has a singular nature to it that in its own way was harmonizing.

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Of course I eventually put my camera aside and spent a full hour just taking it all in. It was here that a different form of harmonizing magic took place. The kind where the very structure of an environment somehow starts to anchor your state of mind and with nothing impeding it a silent joy just creeps in. The Germans have a wonderful word waldeinsamkeit, which has no equivalent in English, but refers to a state of deep solitude in the woods where you nonetheless feel deeply connected to nature. In its own way, the Kyoto Garden gave me a brief glimmer of this. I returned to the great hustle and bustle of the city with renewed vigour.

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I really hope I’ve inspired you to visit this beautiful park. It is best to go very early before it fills up with London’s very own Tibetan singing bowls, aka screaming babies in prams. Finally I wish to thank Marry at Still a Runner for inspiring this post, be sure to check out her article and blog here.