Christmas Cheer and New Year Magic

•03/01/2011 • Leave a Comment

So yes its been cold – very cold, distracting us from our duties. Anyhow taking advantage of the weather before Christmas, we got in the mood for some ice skating, over at Tower of London, with my baby brother (just turned 21 lol), who put me to shame on the rink. He can skate backwards and he kept taunting me as I attempted too. Still the smarty pants fell over more times than me, and that is all that really matters, hah.

Mark at Tower of London Ice Skating

Challenge 679, 181/1000 complete

Last New Year, Claire and I were kept apart, as I was working all night in the hospital. This year there was none of that, but we were not really up for a full-on event. We decided to head up Primrose Hill, 1/365 1st January 2011first cycling to the Zoo using the very handy Boris Bikes. There were streams of people heading to the top of hill (literally thousands), and so we camped out with some hot chocolate just down from the top, but where we still had a great view of the London Eye. I do not think I have seen so many fireworks go off in all my life, what a spectacular spectacular, and that was from over 3 miles away. Well worth the trip – and keeps us fit too :).

Challenge 931, 182/1000 complete

Today we have just started getting back well into the groove with this project. Claire wanted to go to the Japan Centre on Regent’s Street to get some remade gyoza wrappings for making lunch box snacks with – unfortunately not on our 1000 things to do, but is great if you love making Japanese food. We made a convoluted route, first taking in Fitzroy Square, a fashionable square unsurprising in the middle of Fitzrovia, associated with a number of literary greats. Nothing much special here, though an interesting piece of modern art caged within the gardens is worth a look.

Fitzroy Square

Challenge 575, 183/1000 complete

From there we headed south over Oxford Street, looking for something to drink. Luckily we stumbled on one of the Coffee shops from the book on Ganton Street (just off Carnaby Street) – Sacred. A delightful New Zealand inspired place, with delicious hot chocolate, cute tea pots, and yummy scones with cream and jam. It is very close to Regent Street, a great little place to get away from the chaos that can be found there. Roll on the New Year…

3/365 3rd January 2011

Challenge 852, 184/1000 complete

Kruger National Park

•16/12/2010 • 1 Comment

I think the photos will say it all – well worth a visit… Kruger National Park.

More can be found here:

Elephant 2




Wild Dog 2


Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill


Giraffe drinking.CR2

Thames Path – Barrier to Tower

•07/10/2010 • Leave a Comment

So one of our challenges is walking the Thames Path from the Thames Barrier to Hamptom Court – a good two day walk, but one we plan to complete over 3-4 days along with any other challenges we can discover along the way.Thames Walk Part 1

So for our first part, we started at Thames Barrier Park on the north side of the Thames which is a lovely way to begin the walk (even if the walk to and from it was quite industrial). The park is quite young, so has an open feel about it due to the trees not being very tall – it will certainly change over time. Also the paths are a bit too straight – bit continental to be honest. Still the views of the Barrier are fantastic, and if you live nearby this would be a great place to relax.

Challenge 109, 173/1000 complete

Thames Barrier Park

From the park we headed to Woolwich Ferry past the massive Tate & Lyle factory that dominates the area. We got to the ferry just in time for its crossing, though considering it only takes 5 mins from side to side, it is so efficient there is hardly time to take it all in. Although this is a car ferry, there was a huge amount of passenger space (enough for 500 people), showing that this would have used to be a very important transport link for commuters to the Royal Docks.

Challenge 413, 174/1000 complete

Thames Barrier

Now the walk started proper on the south side of the Thames. We headed past the Barrier, which certainly is impressive, and up the Greenwich Peninsula – which of course has expansive views of the north side of the Thames, the 02 Arena and the Isle of Dogs Sky Scrapers. Our next stop was the Greenwich Peninsula Park a small wetlands site next to Greenwich Village apartments. We had a quick wander through, and though it was pleasant with its lily pads and ducks – it was nothing too special. Although Claire and I have enjoyed much more wilder green spaces, I suppose it is great that London has these places for education and relaxation.

Greenwich Penisula Park

Challenge 431 and 817, 176/1000 complete

Next stop was Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum. Before we could get there, we had about a 2 mile diversion away from the river. This was extremely frustrating, especially as the signposting for the diversion was poor. Still it put good use to the GPS on my new phone :) :). Once at this free national museum, we were in good need to a break and a rest. Once this was achieved we enjoyed a quick exploration of this large museum – from ship building to fishing, from toy boats to Nelson memorabilia. This is one which Claire and I certainly want to come back to and spend sometime looking at properly.

Challenge 754, 177/1000 complete

We left the museum and headed through Greenwich. It was a bit to busy for comfort, so it was great when we got back on the Thames path. Next stop was Deptford and the Deptford Project there. Suffice to say this is an artist hangout and workshop type of place, with a cool cafe in an old railway coach for refreshments. I got to sit in the Naughty Chair and enjoy a hot chocolate which I managed to throw mostly all over my lap – very apt.

Challenge 499, 178/1000 complete

We were now on the last leg of this first day, leaving Deptford and heading for the posh residential area around Surry Docks. Ignoring the boat yard that looked a bit like millionaire’s row, we soon got to our next challenge which was infinitely more fun, Surrey Docks Farm.

Claire and I equally loved this urban farm. Unlike the one just off Brick Lane we visited, here you were free to wander into the main area with goats, pigs, sheep and chickens for company. There were lots of children enjoying the experience, which was especially good as interacting animals was obviously a complete change for them. These type of farms must be great in the education of urban kids, though they are of course great for us adults too :).

Dock Farm Goat
Dock Farm Sheep

Challenge 308, 179/1000 complete

We left the farm reluctantly, but with a with a few miles left to walk there was no time for another break. We soon entered Rotherhithe and we got increasingly good views of the city. Brunel Museum and Rotherhithe Tunnel were are final challenges for the day. A very small but interesting museum documenting this “8th Wonder of the World”. Probably not worth going out the way the to see (unless you are an engineer of course), but interesting never-the-less.

Brunel Museum

Challenge 903, 180/1000 complete

Now it was just a hope skip and a jump and we were at Tower Bridge – a third of the route done – and our feet were certainly happy for the rest. Roll on the next stage of the walk – though we do not know when we will do it yet. Chris

Towe Bridge

Rock, Sing and Swim

•24/09/2010 • Leave a Comment

We’ve just completed a beginners climbing course at Mile End climbing wall as Chris’ Grandad bought us vouchers  for lessons – thank you! The course was 3 evenings starting off practising with knots and harness safety we then got onto climbing with and without ropes and covered some basic technique. So now we are signed off as members and are allowed to climb there alone so as we both really enjoyed it we hope to get back there soon before we forget it all!

This is a substitute for Battodo – a Japanese martial art involving swords as I can’t see us really getting into that and rock climbing is something we really wanted to do.

Challenge 709, 170/1000 complete

Dublin Castle Poster 1 One of the gig venues on the list was Dublin Castle so we went there the other week. It was a really odd night. A combination of pretty good music, metal that was a bit too heavy for us and then some Christian rock. This was the weirdist bit and came totally unexpected. The headlining act Firefalldown suddenly decided that they needed to preach to the audience and pray for any non-believers. This left me surprised and annoyed – no matter what my beliefs are I don’t want to be preached at about any religion at a music gig and it pretty much spoilt the night for us.

Challenge 244 & 642, 171/1000 complete

I was at a conference in quite near to Hampton outdoor swimming pool the other week so popped in for a swim there on my way home on Friday morning. We’re a bit spoilt really we are members of the lovely Central YMCA which has excellent facilities and very good changing rooms so its always a bit of a disappointment going to somewhere where the changing rooms aren’t quite up to scratch. With a bit of TLC this place could be great. The staff were very friendly and the pool itself was nice but the surroundings felt tired and a little uncared for. I enjoyed my morning swim outside though and was pleased to have timed it just right so that I left before the children’s swimming lesson started!

Challenge 831, 172/1000 complete


Getting Back in the Groove

•09/09/2010 • Leave a Comment

So we have been back from our holiday in Scotland now for 3 weeks, and been busy catching up with some challenges. We started off soon after returning with a trip to Caffè Vergarno 1882 on Charing Cross road. This is a coffee shop for real coffee lovers. Admittedly I had a hot chocolate (because I do not like coffee) which was beyond divine, but Claire had a caffè macchiato which was equally superior. Really this place is a gem.

Challenge 846, 156/1000 complete

Later on in the week, Claire and I met up to eat some takeaway curry from Rasa Express. Very cheap (£7 for two), filling and tasty. It came in a ready to eat plastic container, very convenient and now to be used as lunch boxes for the both of us. This ain’t high class cuisine but good rustic street food. If you are in the area of Charlotte Street for lunch – check this place out.

Challenge 513, 157/1000 complete

At the weekend, we headed over to the Isle of Dogs, to meet up with Brian and Mal for some dinner out (with one super crazy Italian waiter) and a film in their posh apartment cinema (Jambon, Jambon – quite lol in places). Earlier on, we took the opportunity to tick off some challenges, starting with a visit to Old China Town (near Westferry). This is the area where there used to be a vibrant and exotic Chinese community, now with only some suggestive road names and monuments of the culture (see our dragon picture), the place has moved on. Sadly it just seems like another East End low income residential area – nothing of note to be found.

Challenge 177, 158/1000 complete

Old China Town
We then carried onto canary wharf, and into the Docklands Museum (recently it has become free of charge). Now I was not expecting too much – but this museum had depth and breadth. Covering everything from Roman to modern day use of the Docklands, and looking into difficult issues such as the slave trade and local reaction to the commercial redevelopment I think sensitively, with plenty of information and context for you to develop your own conclusions. There is far too much to learn about for one afternoon, and so if you do plan to visit, have a think beforehand about what you really what to discover before you go. So yes, I do recommend.

Challenge 373 +485, 160/1000 complete

Once finished at the Museum, we had a wander around to Canary Wharf (staying above ground, as we always get lost below!), and to Cabot Square – to view the mighty sky scrapers. Some teenagers were playing in the fountain, and the roads were quiet – good place for a family.

Challenge 571, 161/1000 complete

Cabot Square

With the weekend over, it was back to daily drudge (okay it ain’t all that bad), so Claire and I are very happy to have taken up a new, fun sport – trampolining. Weekly Tuesday classes are part of the membership of our YMCA gym, and we plan to make good use of it – especially as it is a sport Claire and I can share without being competitive. Now though it is, as I am sure you can imagine, great fun, it is also really hard work. So much so that I really need to work on my core, otherwise I think I am always going to struggle.

Now trampolining is not in the book as a challenge, but we have decided that with a somewhat silly 10 martial arts to try, we will substitute trampolining (and maybe some other new sports we try out) for some of these. There is certainly some places in the book where quantity replaces quality in terms of experience, and we are not going to spoil our fun for the sake of rigidity.

Challenge 174, 162/1000 complete (replaces Karate)

To start the next weekend off – WOOT for the Bank Holiday – we spent some quality time with Claire’s parents – including a visit to the new Map exhibition at the British Library titled – Magnificent Maps: Power and Propaganda. Now there is a title to get one quite excited – and you would not be disappointed. Though the museum was unsurprising busy, these maps were very impressive – in size, scale and detail. A well laid out and thoughtful exhibition.

The problem is, is that I did not really engage and now I know why. I love maps, I can spend hours looking for places to discover, walking routes in the making or to reminisce of old haunts – BUT. I only like maps when I can engage with them, when I use them and can understand them. Maybe that is a great thing – maps are not just art, but powerful tools to be utilised to the utmost. I love my new phone, with Google maps easily accessible – but of course I only look at places I can relate to.

Anyway, away from all that, the British Library really is quite fantastic – well worth a visit. And its not just written documentation they keep of course, they have huge sound archives. These can be accessed via the internet here. Really it is one of, if not the greatest national treasure.

Challenge 124 + 611, 164/1000 complete

The following day, we looked to liven up this lazy Bank Holiday with some culture and more importantly tea. IMG_2447First stop was Bea’s of Bloomsbury a wonderful little tea shop, not 5 minutes walk from us. I have never seen it before, even though it is on the main road – surprising what you do not notice until it is pointed out to you. Now we were a little pressed for time, so we got take out – tea for Claire and hot chocolate for me of course. To sweeten the deal we got a bag of crushed meringues for 50p – yum yum yum.

Challenge 926, 165/1000 complete

Just round the corner and down the road was our next stop – the Charles Dickens Museum. Dickens' PlaqueNow if you have not worked it out by now, I am quite the critic of museums – and here was no exception. With a local authority feel, old fashioned typed interpretation (some even blue-tacked onto walls), and no real sense of purpose or place it failed to satisfy.

Now I am not a great Dickens fan, and so it was great that the museum did manage at least to spark an interest in me in reading more of his work but beyond that I, and dare I say we, were left disappointed. The museum did not really focus on being an effective historical house or a museum of his life, work or times. All this lack of ethos was all topped off with a temporary exhibition on Oliver – fine in itself – but advertised so garishly by its sponsor the current Oliver Musical that it was completely off-putting.

I’ll stop now before I really get worked up by this missed opportunity. Maybe with their purchase of the house next door and an upcoming complete refit it will all be sorted out.

Challenge 92, 166/1000 complete

We now headed back over to Convent Garden, which was as busy as could be expected on a Bank Holiday Monday. Now neither Claire or myself own a single piece of apple hardware – the closest we come is using itunes. Anyway we headed over to Apple’s swish new store in Convent Garden (and when I mean swish, this store looks more polished than a techogeek’s new iphone) and try out some of their gadgetry.

It was heaving, but we managed to get hold of one of their demo ipads (there was only like 50 odd that people were playing with it). I have been itching to have a close up look at one – and yes they are very sleek and very very fast. Apple StoreEasy to use, stylish and with a billion apps to play with I can see why people like them. Overall though I came away a bit perplexed – where do these tablet laptop toys come in the market? Too big to be used as a phone (no of course you need an iphone for that), no keyboard so typing work or emails or goodness me blogs are going to be always slower. I suppose it is a fun laptop for people who don’t need to do serious work on a laptop/PC. Until I see otherwise, I’ll assume that it is nothing more than a fancy tablet laptop, which taking the retail price is much less than the normal Apple laptops, it must be lacking somewhere in the hardware or software department (note I didn’t see any office type software on the ipad, though as I am not familar with Macs I may have missed it).

Challenge 902, 167/1000 complete


To round the day off we headed to the Trafalgar Hotel and its Vista Bar. As the names suggest this bar is high up, in the open air on the roof of the hotel – with fantastic views, especially of Nelson’s Column. So, yes, there is a £5 cover charge to go up, the drinks are normal Soho bar prices, and it would be a waste to go up in the rain – but its all worth it for the experience. While up there we  also ticked off a tour of some of Nelson historical artefacts from his razor (Wellcome collection) to the coat he died in (bullet hole included – National Maritime Museum). And of course one for the pub quizzes – what is Nelson leaning on in Trafalgar Square – no not his column, but a coil of rope!

Challenge 6 + 111, 169/1000 complete

Not London – Scotland

•30/08/2010 • Leave a Comment

Wow as Granddad has rightly complained it has been months since our last post. That is not because we have not been busy, the challenges are still being ticked off – and these will be updated soon as, but because this blogging lark is so time consuming. From uploading pictures, editing them, writing content, adding links, checking format – it is no easy matter. Makes me what to take up tweeting instead :P (something that may soon be on the way!).

Anyway we recently came back from a walking and camping holiday in the central highlands of Scotland, and thought that it would be great to share some of our fantastic photos (see below). This is both mine and Claire’s first trip to Scotland outside of the cities (apart from snow covered orienteering of mine), and it was fantastic. From the gorgeous Lock Lomond to the tip of the Cobbler (Ben Arthur) it was all fantastic. With generally good weather, beautiful views and challenging walks I wished we could have stayed longer. In particular we enjoyed a walk round the small island of Kerrera (near Oban) which comes highly recommended. All in all it was a cheap holiday, which much to do, that we found thoroughly relaxing – what more could one ask for :P.








Knitted pigeons (yes, really)

•22/06/2010 • 2 Comments

One of the 1000 things I’ve been really looking forward to in the book is number 884: ‘Knitting for nowt’. Over the last few years knitting has been becoming a bit of an obsession of mine. It is something I do pretty much every day and most of my non-working computer time is spent on the wonderful Ravelry.

Yesterday I joined Stitch London to knit pigeons in St James’ Park before taking them to Trafalgar Square to photograph them. This was in honour of the wonderful American toy designer Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land who was visiting London and had designed the free tiny pigeon knitting pattern.

Anna was lovely and it was exciting to meet someone who has inspired me to learn new techniques so that I can make her toys! I can’t wait for her new book to come out in the UK in August.

Here are my pigeons:


Anna’s originals!

And some group photos!




Challenge 884, 156/1000 completed