Whatever good things we build end up building us.

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I hate the Keep Calm trend, but I’ll give this one a pass. Because Lego.

A few weeks ago, I was walking through Brick Lane with a friend who was visiting from the Frozen North, when we stumbled across a picture of this guy

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outside the Truman Brewery.

Although I’d never heard of this exhibition (finger on the pulse, as always), my friend – showing her particular foresight and excellent organisation skills – had read about it in TimeOut and suggested we check it out. It being a particularly rainy and downright gloomy day (Oh Hai winter) – and having failed to book a manicure – we decided to spend our Girly Day Out looking at a bunch of lego men.

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Don’t tell me I don’t know how to live.

The exhibition Art of the Brick shows off a large number of lego artworks (yes, really), by NYC-based artist Nathan Sawaya. The sculptures are really something to behold – I think my favourites were the re-creations of famous artwork, especially the Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai, which is getting a lot of mentions in this blog so far.

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The most impressive piece of work is the T-rex, which contains over 80,000 bricks (I got a picture, but it was rubbish, surprise surprise), but even without this behemoth, everything in this exhibition is really breathtaking, and must have taken an astounding amount of work and patience to put together.

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Not a T-Rex.

I was less impressed with the video installation – it told a sweet story, but had a kind of homemade soft p*rn aesthetic. Perhaps he should stick with the plastic bricks.

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The show is on at the Truman Brewery until January. It’s a bit pricey to get in – especially if it’s a family trip – but I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. There’s even a playroom at the end where you can channel your inspiration and get creative! Check out the website for more details.

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Just don’t knock anything!

Today’s quote is from Jim Rohm

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Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.

Yesterday afternoon I went to my first ever Knitting and Stitching Show, in Alexandra Palace.

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Wowsers was this a big event. I thought I would share a few tips if you’re planning to go, either to Ally Pally or at one of the other events around the country.

1. Book in advance.

I only really decided to go a couple of days ahead of time, so I missed out on any special offers or coupons or money off offers that were going around. As I could go on the Thursday afternoon (Thursdays are open late, till 7 – all other days, they close at 5pm), I got a cheaper “late entry” ticket at 8 pounds, which is half of the usual entry fee, and totally worth it. I had a good couple of hours of wandering around, and it was quieter than it would be on the weekend (Saturday tickets sold out at some point last week I think – so I can’t imagine how busy that would be!)

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How cute is this little blue-tit?

2. Book workshops if you can.

I didn’t – as I said, I wasn’t organised enough and so didn’t book into any workshops. This is a real shame, as I think that’s where the real value of the event lies. Next year I will definitely get myself organised and get a couple of workshops in the diary.

3. Wear flat shoes.

A lot of walking. A lot. Trainers are a must.

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Knitted love-birds, guys. KNITTED LOVE-BIRDS.

4. Wear layers!

Because of our crappy weather I was wearing a massive raincoat (to be honest, I love my big yellow raincoat, so I have been wearing it even when the sun is shining, but I digress), and by the end of my visit I was sweltering. Yes, I could have taken it off, but I am a bear of small brain. Also – HYDRATE. Poor yarn decisions are made when under-watered. It’s a well known fact.

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Ok so this may be one too many pictures of knitted birds.

5. Plan ahead, and know what you want to buy

I tried to do this, I really did. I had notes and everything, on what I needed, and how much. But when I got there, it kind of all went a bit wrong and – ooh shiny!

I didn’t buy anything I don’t have a plan for, so I wasn’t too bad – but there’s still a list of things I need, and it just means my to-do list is only getting bigger.

6. Get a map

Yeah, yeah like anybody needs telling to get a map. Turns out I do. I told you I was a bear of small brain, right? The list of London exhibitors is here, if you want to be really smart.

Anyway. Don’t make the same mistakes I made – but even if you do, you’ll have a great time.

So, you want to know what I bought, right? Prepare yourself for some poorly lit photos (it was a long day). Ready? Ready.

First off: 3 magazines for a tenner from the Practical Publishing stall – two sewing (with patterns) and one knitting. Have already made a start on the cute little fox that came with Knit Now.

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Oh you like your blog photos blurry AND badly lit? Well you’ve come to the right place my friend – take a seat, rest your feet.

Bargain, right? I think so.

Then I focused on getting my yarn supplies. I first hunted down the huge piles of yarn from the Black Sheep Wool stall – I’ve bought from them online a couple of times, and it’s a great range and a very speedy service. Although I do think you need to squeeze a few balls before you commit to buying, amirite ladies.

I bought 10 balls of this lovely lovely Sirdar Click yarn for £16 instead of RRP £32. The only plan I have for this is to get nekkid and wrap myself up in it’s soft squeezy loveliness  make unidentified (as yet) Christmas presents*.

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This is possibly the most sinister photograph of a ball of yarn ever taken.

You can’t really see the detail of the colour in that photo, so lucky for you…

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…I took an even worse photo! I assume the colour is discontinued, and that’s why it was so cheap. It’s a lovely soft grey with speckles and will make a great scarf. Did I mention that it’s lovely? It’s totally lovely, guys.

I should stop there before I embarrass myself further, but I’m kind of committed to this now, so.

Next stop on the yarn trail was a pattern and two (massive) balls of Rustic Aran yarn from James C. Brett. This cardigan is going to be SNUGGLY. Pity it’ll be mid-summer by the time I finish it. Together this all came to £21, and I have no idea whether this is reasonable or not because I forgot to hydrate.

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I then bought three fabrics. A lovely spotty cotton poplin from Abakhan (£4.99/m) and then a cotton lawn (£6/m) and some grey wool (£9/m) from M. Rosenberg & Son.

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I can only apologise for these photos.

The poplin and lawn will be blouses/shirts, and the wool is going to be a shift dress (I have a new job and gleefully declared that I would make myself a dress to celebrate. I may have been drunk. Or dehydrated. Possibly both)

So there you have it! That’s my take-home from the 2014 Knitting and Stitching Show. Main lesson learned – I need to take better photos of my stash.

How did you find it, and what did you buy?

Today’s quote is from Elizabeth Zimmerman, knitter-extraordinaire.

The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as the wall.

Monday saw the opening games of Wimbledon, and in a typical Kirbyesque last minute rush, my parents decided to travel down on Sunday night, on the overnight train from Edinburgh (which sounds more romantic than it is), to join the queue at 8am, hoping to see a few games and eat a few strawberries on Murray Mound.
 

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Queue ready.

I had to work that morning, unfortunately, but managed to join “The Queue” at about 1pm. Luckily, the sun was shining and I’d brought The Goldfinch along with me, which meant that the 4 hour wait to get in wasn’t too painful at all.

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I sat next to this hippo for near enough an hour, but still have no idea what it means.

It was a great atmosphere whilst queueing – the marshalls were full of the joys of spring, reminding me of how much fun I had as a Gamesmaker in 2012. People were chatting to each other and playing cards, and generally making the most of the chance to just relax and do nothing (I myself got through over 200 pages of Donna Tartt, so I consider that time well spent). They were even handing out free coffees and squash to keep our energy levels up (I particularly enjoyed the bafflement of the American tourists next to me when they were offered a paper cup of squash).

I got in just after 5, probably due to a max exodus of fans following the Murray match, and duly paid the entrance fee for the grounds (£20 before 5pm, £14 after), and rushed to join my family on outside court number 16 to watch British hopeful Naomi Broady beat Timea Babos from Hungary. I didn’t know this at the time, but Naomi’s entry into Wimbledon was on a wildcard, so she did fantastically well to win this first game – and a tense one it was too, going to tiebreak in the second set, and almost ending early when Naomi slipped and fell, injuring her wrist. It was a very tense game and, although this might be a stupid thing to say, it really made a difference watching a match with a British player – I was so tense, and I hadn’t even heard of the players beforehand! (Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about tennis).

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After this match, we had a quick Pimms break, which took a while because I had to go via the bank to get a second mortgage on my house (£7.80 each. Even as a Londoner used to sky high prices, my jaw dropped), and then visted Murray Mound to watch the big screen which was showing Centre Court, where Djokavic was in the process of winning his match against Golubev.

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The big screen announced the availability of returns for seats on Centre Court and Courts 1 and 2 – and after consulting the boards to see who was playing we decided to catch the end of the Tsonga-Melzer match on Court number one – at only £5 per return ticket (£10 for centre court, all proceeds go to charity), who could say no.

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Turns out we made the right choice. The match between Tsonga and Melzer was a blinder. Melzer seemed beset by bathroom troubles (hey, we’ve all been there right?) and received a warning from the umpire after his second hasty mid-set exit, and both players seemed determined never to let a shot pass them by as they played rally after gripping rally – Tsonga even attempting to make a shot from the floor after taking a tumble.

And then, from nowhere, the rain came.

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What a shame! There was only one game left for Tsonga to win before he took the match, but Mr Weatherman had other ideas, and the covers had to be swiftly pulled over the court – so swiftly even, that the players hadn’t managed to get off the court yet.

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But what an end to a great day. Even for a non-tennis fan as myself, I got swept up in it all and had a blast. If you don’t mind queueing, have an umbrella (even if it has been 25 degrees and sunny  for the rest of the day, you can’t guarantee anything in this English summertime of ours), and have a soft spot for Pimms and strawberries in the sunshine. Oh, and like watching sport, I guess. Then Wimbledon is worth a visit. Come on Tim!*

*I know, I know. But this will never stop being funny to me.

 
Today’s quote is from Mitch Hedburg

PS My internet at home is down so this was written and edited on my phone. Apologies for any spelling and grammatical errors, and most likely I will change my choice of photos when I can see them on the big screen!

Life is a theatre set in which there are but few practicable entrances.

Last week I went to see Punch Drunk’s latest show The Drowned Man at Temple Studios near Paddington.

(Image taken from the National Theatre website)

(Image taken from the National Theatre website)

I was filled with trepidation before I went, for a number of reasons. Firstly – immersive theatre. I had no idea what to expect, I was kind of thinking along the lines of The London Dungeon with some interpretive dance thrown in for good measure. What if they jump out at me from behind a curtain? What if they – god forbid – make me join in? I’m not a joiner. I prefer passive participation to getting up on stage and improvising a moving scene with nothing but a stranger and a prop for company. Secondly, I had heard some mixed reviews from friends about the show. Some people seem to have found it completely transformative, practically giving up all other social interaction in favour of going to see the show as often as possible, ekeing out as much meaning from it as they could. Others, however, were more lukewarm – one saying that the shoe was so busy they could never shake the other audience members and it didn’t feel like an intimate show as much as a bunch of people in masks straining to hear what was being said by people they could barely see. And another just felt kind of baffled by it all, not knowing if the people they were watching were the right choices, and always feeling there was something better they were missing just around the corner.

But mainly the London Dungeon thing.

When we first arrived at the venue – a huge ex-postal sorting office set over 5 floors – I was nervous to say the least. This wasn’t helped by the fact that almost immediately after entering my sister and I lost the rest of our group. No matter, we thought, we’ll just simply don our Eyes Wide Shut-esque masks of doom and carry on. Almost immediately we lost ourselves in this strange world of film studios and dive bars – and when we emerged  -separately –  blinking into the bar three hours later we couldn’t wait to find out what we each had discovered and how it added to what we had learnt on our adventures

I don’t want to give much away, because most of the joy in the evening is in discovering it for yourself, but briefly – the story is based on Woyzeck – a stage play by Georg Buchner – and tells two mirrored stories of adultery and murder.

As I said before, we spent 3 hours in there, and the time just flew by. I started off going around with my sister, but when she got taken into a room by the mysterious (and very creepy) doctor, I spent the rest of the time choosing my own path, and it’s this way I really think you get to make the most of your time there.

Punchdrunk: Sophie Bortolussi in The Drowned Man

(Image taken from theguardian.com)

It’s hard to describe what you see when you’re in there, as everyone has a very different experience depending on which characters they choose to spend time with (and there are a lot to choose from – 40 in total I think, although doubt I even saw half of them) – but the atmosphere really is everything, with the lighting and music and dark corridors all adding to the impending sense of tragedy.

And it’s very easy to find yourself alone. Completely alone. Some of those rooms, man. Nightmares are born in there.

The dancing and choreography was spectacular – particular standout moments for me were William and Mary’s duet on the car, Dwayne’s descent into madness in the desert and Wendy’s beautiful and moving solo dance through the forest. This was so beautifully lit , with the lighting coming from behind putting her in silhouette as she danced through the trees it was almost magical.

Although I don’t think I’m a confirmed groupie, I definitely want to see this again, following different characters and seeing what more I can glean of the stories. From talking to my friends at the end there were whole character arcs and plot points I had missed – just as there were for them when they heard my experience. Things like my tales of the sound effects girl who takes her job a little too seriously were met with blank looks from my friends, whilst I was just bemused when they all started talking about the postcards they’d seen get passed around. It’s all part of the mystery.

If you haven’t already seen this, I highly recommend that you do so. Get tickets from the National Theatre website here – the prices start at 35 pounds, and it looks like it’s on until July. Don’t be put off by the “immersive” tag, just take a deep breath and go with it – it’s worth it, and the more you put in, the more you get out of it. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes – if you do it right, you’ll cover a lot of ground while you’re in there. And maybe come out of the other side a changed person.

Today’s quote is from Victor Hugo in Les Miserables.

The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.

A little while back I wrote about my struggle to get up off my backside and move my legs – well, I thought I’d give a little update on how that was going! Last Saturday was the night me and my friend were aiming for – the Nike women’s run We Own the Night. Just a short little 10k around Victoria Park.

Like my sexyface?

This is my race face.

The training had gone pretty well – giving myself something to aim for, and something that I couldn’t just dismiss as not requiring training, meant that I had run out of excuses – and even got out and about in the pouring rain, which quite frankly shows a keenness beyond all normal bounds of sanity. The picture below was taken on my rainiest run in the 18 months I’ve been visiting Judith.

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Turns out I love a peace-sign selfie.

My friend Nat and I had got out once to run together, which went pretty well (we found the optimum running speed which meant we could keep up a good gossip at the same time. There’s probably a scientific formula for it)

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Surprisingly chipper for two people about to run over 6 miles.

Before the race, the longest distance Nat had run for was about 5k, and she was expecting to keep up a routine of running-walking throughout the race, so she was feeling nervous before the start. The atmosphere was great though, with music playing and MC-ing by Daddy Dark from Run Dem Crew – and everyone was chatting to each other whilst we waited for the start. We spoke to two other ladies who were also just hoping to get around, and the lady to the other start was covered in fairy lights. Not like any other race I’ve been to!

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Everyone loves a high-five.

The course was also great fun – and the friendliest I’ve ever done. It’s the only run I’ve ever done where you could hear people chatting all around you, and we even chatted to a few people as we went around. Throughout the course at various places there was music playing, bands, and disco tunnels of light to keep us entertained. And dancing (like our legs weren’t suffering enough). There were people cheering all the way around, making us feel like a million dollars (“Who owns the night?” “We do!”) – and we managed to see our boyfriends twice on the way round for a sneaky high-five to keep us going.

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Victory is ours!

Nat was an absolute machine. At about 4k I said to her “I reckon you’re going to run this all the way round” and she just smiled and said “I am! I’m going to run it!” And she did! Ran all the way – I was so proud of her. We even managed a sprint finish over the line, which is the only way to end a race in my view.

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We totally did.

The race was great fun, although I think Nike needs to rethink the course a little bit. We were the last pen to start, and by the time we got going, the fastest wave were on their second lap. I don’t mind being overtaken, but I think we all got in the way and might have prevented a few PBs. Next time they should cordon off a separate lane for the faster runners on their second leg. Or just get us slower lot started a bit earlier, as there was a lot of hanging around at the start, without much of an idea what was going on. We didn’t get much of a chance to check out the food and tents after the race, because the rain – which had luckily held out for the duration of the run – started coming down, and we were getting cold. We did manage to get the free glass of Prosecco though. Obviously.

I’ll definitely do this race again next year – it’s practically in my backyard, after all – and Nat and I are already checking out ParkRuns and future 10ks. Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have a runner.

Today’s quote is from John Bingham – a marathon runner and writer.

Take this sinking boat and point it home, we’ve still got time.

Last night,  I went to see Once – the musical based on the 2007 film starring (and with songs by) Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Having been initially reluctant when I first heard that this bittersweet love story was being made into a stage musical, I had resisted going to see it – but then my friend waved some free tickets in front of my face and I couldn’t resist! (I am a northerner, after all…)

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And I’m glad I went. The musical is pretty faithful to the original film, telling the story of Guy and Girl – a broken-hearted Dublin busker, and a young Czech woman who hears something in his music – but with the addition of some “zany”  characters, like the music shop owner and Girl’s flatmates, who were included presumably to add some laughs to what could be quite a morose night at the theatre – but funny as their antics were, I don’t they were really needed, and they seemed to just pad out what could have been a more tightly woven tale.

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Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in the film

This is the most stripped back musical I have ever seen, and really captures the essence of the original film – which was ever so effective in its simplicity. (See the Wikipedia page for more details about the budget and how they shot it!) There is one set – a multi-mirrored bar – and all the actors remain on stage throughout the performance, staying at the side when they’re not part of the action. And the actors don’t just act and sing – they play all the instruments too.

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Blurry pic of the performers on stage before the show!

When sung on stage, the beautiful melodies and songs from the film were just as effective as in the film, and they had the power to raise the hair on the back of my neck. When the pre-show folk songs – sung by the cast on stage as the audience is seated – fade away to let Guy start the show by singing the heartrending “Leave”, it gave me goosebumps. I wasn’t sure anything would affect me so deeply as the Glen Hansard’s guttural cry of heartbreak from that song – but Arthur Darvill gives a similarly affecting performance. Falling Slowly – the song that won an Oscar – has the power to really transport you elsewhere with its words of love on the brink, and as soon as the chords started I began to wonder why I had ever taken the song off repeat on my iPod. Why listen to any other love song?

If you get the chance, do go see this show. It’s unlike any other West End musical, and it will stay with you (and be part of your playlist) long after the lights come up.

Oh, and be sure to head on to the stage for a drink in the interval. Best located bar in the West End.

Today’s quote is from Falling Slowly.

Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.

The other day, my sister and I went to the Royal Geographical Society to see the Intelligence Squared debate, questioning the statement “We’ve never had it so good”.

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Founded in 2002, Intelligence Squared events get together some of the biggest names in politics, journalism and the arts, to debate the hot topics of the day in front of an audience – in some of the most fantastic venues across London. Previous speakers include: Stephen Fry, President Jimmy Carter, Patti Smith, Richard Dawkins, Chris Anderson, Sean Penn, Germaine Greer, Werner Herzog, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Salman Rushdie, Eric Schmidt, Richard Branson, Professor Brian Cox, Nate Silver, Umberto Eco, Martin Amis and Grayson Perry. So quite a selection of speakers!

The debate we attended was chaired by Jonathan Freedland, who writes for the Guardian, and arguing the case for the motion was Rachel (brother of Boris) Johnson and Jesse Norman MP – with, perhaps predictably, the argument against coming from Will Self and Rod Liddle.

Before we went in, we were all asked to submit a vote on whether we were for or against the motion – both my sister and I said we were for – and then we settled in to be persuaded.  The debate started with Jesse Norman – who, I am sorry to say, gave a pretty much standard Politician Speech. It was well written, informative and funny. But nothing special. In stark contrast was Will Self, the very definition of lugubrious. And hysterical. And sometimes using such long words I didn’t have a clue what he was on about – but knew it was probably perfectly sensible. And none of it written in advance. I wish I had just half of his wit.

Rachel Johnson, up next, was a complete disappointment. Rambling, and, I’m sorry to say, very dull – not what I expected from the former editor of The Lady. She did give an excuse for this – apologising that she’s not at her best because she’s spent the last week living on a pound a day to raise awareness of food poverty. So I’ll give her some leeway! Finally, the debate finished off with a contribution from Rod Liddle – again, witty and entertaining. To be honest, as soon as Will and Rod came on stage louchely and grumpily chewing their nicotine gum, I think the jig was up for the “For” side.

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Before questions, the votes from before the debate were announced – 47% of the audience were “For”, 24% “Against”and 29% were “Don’t Know”. We then voted again with the cards they’d provided as we went in, and were given the results after questions and summing up. I’ll not spoil the results for you – you can listen to the whole debate by downloading the podcast from intelligencesquared.com – and they have archives of previous debates for you to try out too.

It was a really interesting and fun evening, and I’d definitely try another one. Future debates include “The English Language is Going To the Dogs” and they’ve started a series of “literary combat events”, starting with Austen vs Bronte which have actors such as Dominic West acting out passages from the books. If you fancy trying something a little bit different in 2014, check it out!

Today’s quote is from Desmond Tutu.