Friday, 27 September 2013

Anna + Elena Balbusso

Anna, Elen Balbusso, V&A, Alexander Puskin, Eugene Onegin, fiction, illustration, award, 2013, tree face, dapper, gentleman
picture taken from here
cover for Eugene Onegin
The Balbusso twins are illustrators, I saw a sample of their work on a recent visit to the V&A. They have won the 2013 V&A Illustration award for their illustrations for Alexander Pushkin's book, Eugene Onegin. 

Anna, Elen Balbusso, V&A, Alexander Puskin, Eugene Onegin, fiction, illustration, award, 2013, dress, woman, forest, dear, sun
picture taken from here 
Having a gander at their website, Anna and Elena have also illustrated few other books including Beowulf  and one of my favorite novels The Handmaid's Tale, by Margret Atwood:-
Anna, Elen Balbusso, V&A, Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's tale,fiction, illustration, award, 2013, pregnant, red dress, uniform, Offred, jealousy
pictures taken from here 
Anna, Elen Balbusso,  Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's tale,fiction, eys, illustration, guardians, daughters, wives, blue, white, uniform, dictatorship, march, ceromony

Anna, Elen Balbusso, V&A, Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's tale,fiction, illustration, 2013, scrabble, forbidden, words, Offred, commander, illicit

The Reading Girl- Theodore Roussel

lady, book, naked, The Reading Girl, Theodore Roussel, art, painting, literature, kimono

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Freemasons' Hall, The United Grand Lodge of England

London, Freemasons, Lodge, hall, London, Openhouse, 2013, United Grand lodge, symbolism, conspiracy, architecture, visit, day trip, hoborn, things to do
United Grand Lodge of England 
We went inside the Freemasons' Hall as part of Open House weekend. I've been wanting to go for a while as secret societies and conspiracy theories fascinate me. Plus when I used to work nearby I would often see men with matching ties and briefcases go inside the Hall for clandestine meetings.

Freemason lodges in England 
Actually the Freemasons' Hall was disappointingly un-secretive, the Masons were very welcoming and inviting towards visitors. There's even a museum an information booklet and regular tours. So much for conspiracy theories and world domination plots. If you want to know more about the Freemasons their website is suitably vague/informative or you could always read Freemasonry for Dummies which was available to buy in the gift shop.

Symbolism is important to the Freemason society, five and six pointed stars can be found all over the building.
United Grand Lodge London, Freemason, seven pointed star, floor
floor of the United Grand Lodge 
The five pointed star,the 'pentalpha', represents the five points of Masonic fellowship. For Pythagoras (an important figure to the masons) it was symbol of perfection and the universe. The Pentalpha is also an ancient emblem of good luck and health.
United Grand Lodge London, Freemason, seven pointed star, celing
Celling of the United Grand Lodge 
The six pointed star, the 'hexalpha', (common also in Jewish faith, the star of David) is for Freemason known as the Seal of Solomon and is the badge of Royal Arch Freemasonry.

Other important Masonic symbols include:-
wheat = resurrection
lotus = waters of life
irises = eternal life 
doors to the Grand Temple, each door weighs 1¼
   tons and depicts the building of Solomon's temple 

The Grand Temple 

Open House London

It is Open House London this week, which means building of historical, cultural or architectural importance open their doors to the public for free. Loads of properties take part, from tower blocks to embassies, from churches to the Bank of England. At most locations entry is at  first come first served basis, but for others it is pre-book only, or a lucky dip ballot.

Obviously some properties are more popular than others, like thousands of other people I wanted to see inside the iconic Battersea Power station, but we quickly gave up on this plan when we saw the massive queue.

Bank of England, fish eye, London, visit, OpenHouse, property, perception, framed
The Bank of England 
Other properties were equally busy, like the Bank of England, again the queue was huge so we just had to be satisfied with seeing the outside.

We did manage to make it inside the Custom House. Which rather interesting history was enthusiastically told by a current employee, it's always nice when you can tell someone genuinely loves their job. The custom house used to be very  important as it was here that revenue from ships from all over the Empire would be collected. They officers where also responsible for preventing smuggling and things used to get pretty rowdy as they used to carry muskets.

After spending most of the morning traipsing all over London, we refuelled at My Old Dutch pancake house in Holborn. Me and my sis both opted for banana, chocolate and nut pancakes. Before heading on to the Freemasons' Hall.
My Old Dutch, pancake, banana, cream, chocolate, nuts
pancake with chocolate, nuts, banana and cream. 
If you're thinking of doing Open House next year here are a couple of top tips:

  1. Pre-book and enter the ballots in advance. We were very disappointed we were too late to enter the ballot for 10 Downing Street. Pre-booking also means guaranteed entry, I'm sure many people didn't even get inside the places they spent hours queuing for.  
  2. Plan your route carefully. If you you go to the popular properties, you may be limited to only seeing one building and you can expect long queues so bring a book. 
  3. Go off the beaten track. We didn't have to queue at all to go to the Custom House or the Freemason's Hall
  4. Bring a map or a smartphone. A lot of the buildings are not signed posted. As both my sister only have ancient nokia's we had to rely on our own dodgy sense of direction. We got lost a lot. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Wrest Park Library

Wrest Park, library, books, bookshelf, English Heritage

Though most of the rooms at Wrest Park are currently out of bounds, luckily the library is accessible and  full of lots of lovely, musty books.
Wrest Park, Library, Stately Home

After visiting Wimpole I  really appreciate how much time and effort it takes to care for and maintain a library of this size. 
Wrest Park, Library, bookshelf, vintage, candlestick

Man Booker

It's been announced today that all novels written in English will be eligible to win the Man Booker Prize, currently only authors from the commonwealth, Ireland or Zimbabwe are considered. There has been some controversy over this decision, as it may be difficult to decide on which books are nominated.

Personally I think it's a good thing, by opening up the entry requirements it ensures that the prize remains relevant and the winner is of the highest caliber. By not allowing countries such as America to compete, it send the message that the organisers are threatened by US talent. There was a suggestion that a parallel US only prize would be introduced, but I'm really glad that they scrapped that idea.

According to the BBC website Hillary Mantel sold 1,846 copies of Bring up the Bodies in the UK a week before the Man Booker Prize was announced, and sold 10,605 copies the week after her win. Clearly the prize has a lot of influence, so I think writers from all over the world deserve the same opportunity.

What do you think? Should the Man Booker Prize go global?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Wrest Park

Wrest Park, flowers, English Heritage

Home to the De Grey family for more than 700 years, Wrest Park is currently undergoing an intensive restoration plan by English Heritage. The project is expected to take 20 years and was started in August 2011, so most of the house is off limits, but the gardens are spectacular.
red flowers

The French style château was built in 1830's by Thomas Earl de Grey a politician and first Lord of the Admiralty (not to be confused with Charles Earl of Grey of tea fame). The house remained in the family until 1917, when the 9th Baron Lucas, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps was killed in action.  

Wrest Park, English Heritage, flowers, sunflowers, visit

Wrest Park, building, urn, gardens, English Heritage, visit


Saturday, 7 September 2013


"In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera implies he feels ashamed at having to name his characters [...] what could be more vulgar than to arbitrarily give- from a childish desire for verisimilitude or, at best mere convenience- an invented name to an invented character?" 
- Laurent Binet, HHhH

Phlegm Comics

Phlegm is my favourite street artist. He is based in Sheffield, so I used to walk past some of his work when I was at Uni. I recently bought a book of his pen and ink illustrations.

Phlegm comics, book, reading, street art,

Phlegm comics, book, reading, street art,

Phlegm comics, book, reading, street art,  embossed

Friday, 6 September 2013

Retro from Scratch

Thought I'd share this with you Retro from Scratch, handmade stationary and bunting made from up-cycled vintage books.
picture taken from here

With the new school/ uni term just starting the bunting would be a good idea to jazz up your dorm room or use one of the notebooks in your seminars.

Etsy shop

Margaret Atwood- MaddAddam

review, MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood, book, flying pig, hardback

As I mentioned here I'm a big Atwood fan. Her dry wit, clever word play and vivid imagination all appeal to me. Plus she's a feminist hero and an environmental activist.

MaddAddam is the third in Atwood's apocalyptic trilogy is is preceded by Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. A man-made plague has wiped out most of humanity, but a small groups of survivors remain; the genetically manufactured Crackers, members of an eco-cult God's Gardeners, and vicious criminals known as Painballers. Genetically spliced animals roam the remnants of human civilisation, including Pigoons, pigs with implanted human stem cells.

In  Oryx and Crake, the story is told from the point of view of privileged compounds, which is controlled by the powerful and sinister CorpSeCorps (Corporation Security Corps). Set in the pleblands, a lawless area outside the jurisdiction of the CorpSeCorps, The Year of The Flood, introduces the God's Gardeners, a political religious cult with a growing following.  MaddAddam, ties the two previous novels together, expanding on why the plague, known as the 'waterless flood' occurred and the consequences of armageddon.      

If you like dystopian/ apocalyptic fiction such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road or films such as Children of Men, give this series a try.

I really recommend this trilogy, and I don't want to give a way any spoilers, so my opinions about MaddAddam are under the cut.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cookies

These are so unhealthy, but never mind they taste delicious! Nutty, slightly sticky and sweet. They can be eaten cold, but they are best eaten straight from the oven when the chocolate is all melted.

Another good thing about these cookies, is that they can be gluten-free, as gluten-free peanut butter is available.  They are also really simple to bake.
Peanut and chocolate cookies, recipe, food, treats, baking
Peanut & Chocolate Cookies 
Recipe under the cut:-

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Roald Dahl T-shirts

TruffleShuffle have got some awesome Roald Dahl T-shirts for adults and children. They're going on my wishlist and would be perfect as gifts for fans of Dahl's delightfully funny and wicked children's books.

The BFG was my favourite Dahl book
picture credit
 but I think my favourite T-shirt design is for Matilda. I really like Quintin Blake's illustrations   
Picture credit

painting on books

Perusing the internet I came across this, amazingly detailed pictures drawn on the edges of early 19th century books. The pictures only appear when the pages are flicked, they disappear when the book is closed.    

picture credit

Aspley House & Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch, London, visit, horse, statue, day trip, admiral, Wellington, victory, architecture, arch, Napoleon, Duke, commemorate
Wellington Arch 
I recently took a quick trip to Aspley House and nearby Wellington Arch, both are maintained by English Heritage, so as I member I had free entry. Aspley House, was former residence of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. The arch commemorates the Duke's defeat of Napoleon.

Aspley House, Number One, London, visit, English Heritage
Aspley House also known as 'Number One, London'. Addresses don't get fancier than that.  
Unfortunately I couldn't take any pictures inside the house, English Heritage are really stingy about that. Some of the House is off limits, as the descendants of the Duke still have private apartments inside.

The first thing that is noticeable about the interior of Aspley is, Napoleon seems to be the main inspiration of the décor, there are pictures and statues of him everywhere! There is a there is a two ton, naked statue of Napoleon dominating the hallway. According to the audio tour, the floor underneath the statue had to be specially reinforced with a brick column, and if the statue is moved just by a couple of inches it'll come crashing through the floor! It is seems very egotistical (and weird) to me to decorate your house with images of your defeated enemy.
red bus, Aspley House, Hyde Park, London, Duke of Wellington, visit
Aspley is in Hyde Park, so I suggest you bring a picnic 
Wellington was also a massive fan of the colour yellow. Apparently he demanded that the walls were hung with yellow skill wallpaper, against the advise of his architect who was worried that the gilded picture frames would clash. The architect had a point.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

English Literature Degree: Reading List

So you've started Uni, and you're in the middle of freshers week- no doubt you've drank way too many jagerbombs, already had an argument with one of your new housemates over the washing up and blown most of your student loan.

No worries, the next three years of doing your English Literature degree are going to be awesome- here's a list of books that might just help get you through: 
English Literature, graduate, reading list, books

1. Compact Oxford English Dictionary for Students (ISBN: 9780199296255):  Trust me, you're not going to know half the words your lecturer says, but that's ok with a good dictionary you can soon swot up and get developing that pretentious self-conscious English Lit student vocabulary. 

There are a ton of of dictionaries out there, but I favour this one as it tells you how to phonetically pronounce the words. I know some people thing dictionaries are obsolete because of spell checker etc. but dictionaries do give a lot better definitions.    

The downside of dictionaries, is of course, that they're bloody enormous. You might want to consider investing in an electronic dictionary. They can be rather expensive, I have a Franklin Collins Paperback Dictionary/Thesaurus, which retails for around £48.00, although I got mine for free through my Disabled Student Allowance. The best thing about this electronic dictionary is its phonetic spell-correction, an absolute god send if you're dyslexic. 

2. The Adventure of English, Melvyn Bragg  (ISBN: 9780340829936): The English language is constantly evolving, just last week 'twerk' and 'selfie' were added to the dictionary. This highly enjoyable and accessible book takes you through the origins and developments of language. My favourite chapter is about dialect, as I speak with a pretty strong (and often mocked) regional accent.   

Monday, 2 September 2013

Currently Reading

I've got some pretty hefty books on my reading list at the moment;-
deckchair, Max Hastings, sunglasses, reading, garden, books

1: Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots (ISBN: 9780826480378): There's an old theory that there are only a small number of 'basic plots', and all stories are a variation on these. This whacking great tomb of a book tries to put this hypothesis to the test and determine what these 'basic plots' are. It's a very interesting theory. The introduction included a discussion about the global similarities in fairy-tales in a lot more detail and with far more eloquence than I did here.

2: Max Hastings, All Hell Let Loose (ISBN: 9780007338092): This is an in depth look at World War Two by a respected historian. I was inspired to read it as I've been watching a really informative documentary series, The Untold History of the United States.

What do you think of my choices? Any recommendations please ping me an email of leave your suggestions in the comments below