Good Morning, it’s been a while since I tapped letters to life, September to be exact. I’ve had a break from writing recently for personal reasons and a lingering hiatus developed.
Yet I enjoy writing here and the theme which has developed over time is one I am passionate about, so time to cease my procrastination, dust off my old notes and breathe life back into my words, share some less than adequate photos and see if there is anyone out there still listening?
A personal reflection of my ongoing UK adventures …
Part 1 of a 3 part series
Note: Not including my home city of Leicester as I will do a separate list for local places of interest. Also, not including London, as that will possibly cover several such lists because the capital is so vast and rich with hidden treasures. Northern Ireland isn’t on my list I’m afraid as I’ve not been there (yet) but you will find Scotland and Wales included.
I feel mildly obsessed with Edinburgh, despite it being a new city upon my ‘ticked done’ list. I long to return and would gladly go tomorrow if I could without hesitation, as I know that there is so much more to discover and explore and I have only just scratched the surface of the hidden treasures to find there. So I keep finding out little snippets of information, saving details for future visits for I know that it won’t be too long before I shall be back there.
Earlier this year, I was determined to go by an exhibition of Ray Harryhausen and his creations, someone I have admired since childhood and I was not prepared to miss this and as the exhibition entered it’s last few weeks, I made the step into the unknown and booked tickets! Ironically it was cheaper for me to travel from London to Edinburgh than it was for me to try and get from Leicester, so I had a cheeky stay over down the old smoke first. However it was upon this first solo trip to Edinburgh where I not only got to see the creations of the late great Ray Harryhausen, that I also got drenched to the skin and fell head over heels in love with the city.
Prior to this year, I had only ever visited Edinburgh on day trips usually as a passing stop when travelling elsewhere. This year I faced a difficult decision, push myself out of my comfort zone, step away from my usual obsession with London and travel to Scotland for an exhibition – or miss the exhibition …
Following my late Father’s funeral, I returned to Edinburgh once again as I just needed to get away by myself and travel to ease my aching heart. This second trip to Scotland opened my eyes to just how much more there is to explore, despite having crammed as much as I could into four days, at least this time it didn’t rain.
I have a permanent scar on my ankle from when I first visited Yorkshire as a child, carelessly wearing flip-flops in bracken I was bitten by an Adder, the UK’s only verminous snake (having a whole week off school as I recovered). Needlessly to say, York had left it’s mark on me and I have returned various times throughout the years, most recently in June. I am attracted to the history, the Vikings, Tudors and legendary Highwayman Dick Turpin. I admire the architecture of York Cathedral and the small rambling Shambles. The air feels thick with ghosts and near every pub you enter has it’s own spooky tales as they’re rich with history and local ales.
York is also home to the impressive Railway Museum – Here you will find a small part of my own family history – The Swannington Incline winding engine is preserved here. Doesn’t sound too exciting I realise, however there is/was a huge wall sized image of the old pump house and cottages, where upon my Mother loudly declared during one visit: “I was born in that window” … This maybe worth a blog on it’s own?
My Dad’s ancestors came from Yorkshire, so there is a little of this district within my blood and just as Edinburgh I feel drawn to return and explore more. I am returning at Christmas for a day trip on my way to Whitby, which brings me nicely to my next place upon this list …
To this day the Whitby Goth Fest still remains on my to do list, however I have had the pleasure of finally getting my dark little heart to the North Yorkshire seaside town in true Bram Stoker homage. I am drawn to many places for many reasons, history and literature are significant interests which guide my wandering soul to various locations throughout the world and for Whitby it was the whole Gothic subculture alongside the alluring pull of the Dracula myth (I have since took this passion one step further and journeyed to Transylvania – but hat’s a blog for another day).
Whitby is beautiful and relaxing, a quirky English seaside town with all the trappings you would expect at the coast, fish and chips, seaside rock, arcades and souvenir shops. It holds a special place in my heart because for a long time, it felt like a dream, like it was somewhere way beyond my reach, somewhere I would never be able to get to … My doubts were cast aside as I found the first steps towards embracing adventure and travelling and Whitby was my first goal, giving me confidence and freedom!
For Christmas this year I am going away alone to Whitby, to get away from painful memories and to create new happy travelling adventures instead.
This dates back to my teenage years, so forgive me if there are no recent photographs, neither have I visited Wales in such a long time. Yet it holds a nostalgic place in my heart and therefore made it onto this list to share with you. I feel this ache within my soul when I ponder over old memories of Wales, another me, younger, fitter, keen to try mountain climbing and various other outdoor pursuits that I think now I would struggle with (but would still try). We, my school friends and I, would visit the stunning Aberglasslyn Hall each summer for a week of activities, packed lunches and late night pub crawls, somewhere between a child and adult. Collecting experiences and memories along the way.
Having climbed Mount Snowden, Hiked the Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr & Tryfan trail and visited Gelert’s Grave in Beddgelert, among other activities. Snowdonia National Park is full of rich wild nature, steeped in legends and history. Hopefully one day I would like to return once again and re-visit this wonderful part of the country and awaken happy memories along the way.
Aberglaslyn Hall – Picture from Wiki
A close neighbour to Leicester, a mere 20 minuets upon the train. Nottingham is a frequent place to visit, having only just popped there on Monday to visit on my day off work and planning on a return trip to catch up with friends in two weeks. This city holds a fond place in my heart for many reasons, from gigs at Rock City – back in the day when this nightclub hosted some huge names in the metal scene, to it’s quirky ancient pubs, great dining and it’s rich history, thick with the folk law of Robin Hood and his merry men.
Beyond the city itself you will find Wollaton Hall, which is also known as Wayne Manor in the Christopher Nolan Batman Films. The Castle has had a recent facelift, meaning visitors are finally able to return to this historic landmark after being closed for so long and the entire city is built upon a vast network of caves, these have had various uses throughout history from wine cellars to air raid shelters. Nottingham also hosts (one of) The oldest Inn in History ‘Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem’ which too leads to the caves.
There are many places and many good friends within Nottingham which keep drawing me back regularly, which is why Nottingham has made it’s way upon this list. I shall be covering a few places within Nottingham in their own blogs in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
For now I’m going to wrap this list up there, as I failed to narrow this list down to a top 10 and decided to make this a three part blog which 5 locations explored in each part.
Hopefully this will serve as a good way to get myself back into blogging once again and I’m looking forward to sharing more of my favorite places and near adequate photography. – Until next time …
Sometimes you don’t have to go too far or take too long for shenanigans to be had. As local establishments have their fair share of hidden treasures to explore and it just so happened that on Saturday morning, I happened across (by that I mean finally got round to) attending the ‘I Grew Up 80s’ at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.
Born in 1973, the 80’s have held a very soft spot in my heart since that era. For me it was a time of change and development, finding out who I was forming my own interests. It was with this passion for nostalgia that I found myself bouncing around the exhibition as though I was a giddy teenager once again as I was greeted with toys and memories from my childhood, which felt just as fresh on Saturday as they did all those years ago.
I admit that I don’t feel old enough to view a huge chunk of my life on display in a museum, I’m 50 next year, I can’t wait, I’m comfortable with my age and looking forward to this event with enthusiasm. It was exiting to see so much that I had thought lost to the dusty recesses of my mind.
Some were such simple items; A MacDonald’s ashtray, a pound note, football cards, fashion, videos, movie posters, games and puzzles – a whole range of artifacts, some of which I actually still have in storage personally – I considered the realistic possibility that I could put on such a display myself with my horde I store, or at least very nearly…
One thing I had noticed, as more of a personal observation than anything else, is that all the toys and games which I held dear to my heart were all aimed towards boys. Everything from Star Wars, to Lego, to He-Man, D&D, Transformers and such were usually marketed towards little boys. I had no interest in Girls World or Barbie, I found (and still do) Cabbage patch dolls quite cringe. I have to thank my parents for allowing me to be one of the boys, a shameless Tom Boy growing up and in these latest years of my life discovering more about myself and becoming at peace with who I am.
Just a short blog while it’s fresh in my mind – I hope you welcome this trip down memory lane as much as I have experiencing/writing about my little adventure back in time.
Back to work this week after four days in London to attend Hyper Japan 2022 Festival and other wonderings around the capital.
This was, I think, my fifth time attending the Hyper Japan Festival but the first time visiting Evolution London as a venue. As in previous years this event had been held at The Olympia or The Tobacco Docks, prior to the pandemic. Obviously this was the first such festival since the plague and people were very keen to attend over the three days it was held.
A Brief Overview
“The UK’s biggest J-culture event, launched in 2010. The event introduces the diversity of contemporary Japan, from manga and anime, to music, fashion, food, traditional culture, gaming, technology, tourism and more. In addition to a fantastic line-up of exhibitors (companies and Japanese local government), the event is jam-packed with individual exhibitors, stage performances, workshops, seminars, and more.“
Naturally, me being me, arrived in London in eager anticipation before the event opened , so while I waited for my partner in adventures to arrive I took a walk to this big posh house, hopefully for a cuppa tea, but obviously they didn’t get my fax. So I sat on the steps in a deliberate attempt to get into as many tourist photos as possible.
However my side quest was not in vain as I discovered an interesting exhibition nearby, I made a mental note of this, made my way to greet my friend from Lincoln and finally to Hyper Japan 2022.
I have been ridiculously excited about this event as there are a lot of features I love, there is usually a whole food hall with tasters and samples to enjoy, a huge Nintendo presence, a lot of information on travel and tourism and a large focus on Japanese Culture, history and Sake. None of which (apart from the Sake) where there! … I am going to give the organisers the benefit of the doubt as this was the first festival since lock down, I also have the experience of previous events for comparison and this was nothing like previous years.
To begin with the venue of the event was really dreadful to find, with no nearby tube stations and no parking. I felt that the place lacked basic requirements; no water, no WiFi, no ATM, no charging points, no inside seating areas, no space around the stage, no on site catering and aggressive security staff… However these are are issues I feel relate more to The Evolution London and not necessary Hyper Japan organisers.
Having said that, I felt that there was a lot missing from the actual event itself. with only a few food stalls, with 45 minute queues, no Nintendo, very little relating to Japanese Culture, history or travel. The majority of the stalls were all kawaii pinky products, funkos or plushies. I felt like there was very little variety and the whole set up felt more like a large market than an event.
But that didn’t stop me having fun, I was with good company after all and we enjoyed people watching, admiring the cosplayers and making the most of a weekend in London. Even though we had brought ourselves a three day ticket. I felt we had covered everything on the Friday afternoon and we started to look at other things to do over the weekend.
Keeping with the Japanese theme, we discovered a Miffy pop up event at Ichiba Japan Centre, so seeing as we were in the neighbourhood, it would be rude not to pop in to a pop up event and (as usual) we were there early! Far be it for us to sit and twiddle our thumbs while we wait, there’s more shenanigans to be had, even within half an hour… So it just so happened that Ichiba is situated right near the Upside Down House and it had just opened, clearly this was a side quest that was just meant to be.
Inside the Upside Down
By the time we had defied gravity the Miffy event had opened up and we took our seats to learn Origami, eat Japanese food meet Miffy and spend way too much on Washi Tape, which became an ongoing theme.
In the afternoon we returned to Battersea to Evolution for the afternoon session of Hyper Japan and this is where things got messy. The gates were locked, long before the morning session was due to end, meaning that we were kept waiting outside in extreme heat for what turned out to be nearly two hours, instead of 30 minuets. We were in the 3 day ticket line, meaning that this was actually a short wait in relation to those who had just got a Saturday afternoon ticket, who were left circling around the park for hours as the organisation collapsed into chaos with some people reporting on social media that they were still waiting at 5pm, when the event closed at 7pm. There are a lot of complaints online, which are quite valid due to the circumstances – most of which I could write a whole blog on alone.
So we made the most of the afternoon, once we finally got in, watched some sword fighting, met Hello Kitty and spent way too much money on more washi tape.
Before retiring to a pub to make plans for Sunday Shenanigans …
After the previous days mayhem, we decided to go early for the last day and this turned into a final shopping spree, with a last look around to buy items which have caught our attention. Say our farewells to friends we had met up with, grab some Japanese food for lunch and even more wahsi tape!
Finally leaving the 2022 Hyper Japan around 2pm, with the event finally closing that day at 5pm.
However, this doesn’t mean our weekend was over. Remember the exhibition I noticed at the big shiny house I popped by on Friday? Well this turned out to be the ‘Japan Courts and Culture’ exhibition at The Queens Gallery Buckingham Palace. It would be rude not to attend, after all it fitted in with the whole theme of the weekend and gave us one final adventure.
What a truly magical way to end the weekend, with such an incredible collection of beautiful Japanese craftsmanship and not a single roll of washi tape in sight.
Took me a little while to find my mojo to write again after an unpleasant encounter with the global lurgy, yet here I am, one day being back at work and already itching to travel. I guess that’s a side effect from being confined to my little home while I got myself better.
Now rewind to the beginning of the year, usually I don’t bother myself with New Year Resolutions, I find them all very similar and impossible to maintain when lacking any real motivation. Basically I give up before I start. However this year, after the chaos of recent events, I wanted to do something different, something I knew I would want to do and not quit so easily.
The Resolution: To visit a different city, outside my home city once a month for a whole year. So basically 12 trips this year to somewhere other than Leicestershire.
That was the idea – This is my mid-year review …
London – Sistine Chapel Exhibition & British Museum for Hokusai Exhibition
Nottingham – Nottingham Castle
London – LUX at 108 The Strand – Albrecht Dürer at The National Gallery – Francis Bacon at The Royal Academy of Arts
Edinburgh – Ray Harryhausen Exhibition at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – Surgeons Hall Museum (no photography allowed in the museum to respect human remains)
York – York Minster & The Shambles
Oxford – The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology – The Oxford University Museum of Natural History – The Pitt Rivers Museum – Hertford Bridge, better known as the Bridge of Sighs.
Birmingham – Kitty Cafe
Lincoln – Lincoln Cathedral & Coffee Cats
Lincoln – Gaia Exhibition at The Collection Museum & Lincoln Castle
York – Clifford’s Tower – Dick Turpin’s Grave – York Castle Museum – Van Goth Immersive Experience – The Tyburn – York Dungeon – Jorvik Viking Centre.
Nottingham – Wollaton Hall – T-Rex Exhibition
June / July
Edinburgh – The Writers Museum – St Giles Cathedral – National Museum of Scotland – Scottish National Gallery – Museum on the Mound – Greyfriars
Nottingham – Nottingham Contemporary
PHEW … What a ride (so Far) who knows what the rest of the year has in store for me … Apart from London on Friday! I will revisit this resolution and the final results of my travels at the end of the year.
On Wednesday 29th June 2022 at 11:30am after 2.5 years after his death, I finally was able to attend the funeral of my Father. He had donated his body to medical science and due to Corona, instead of the usual year at University for the Body Donation programme, Dad was kept longer as resources were affected.
On Thursday I decided to travel to Scotland, to get away from work, from Leicester and from everything for a few days of solitude, exploring a city that shamelessly stole my heart earlier in the year.
Upon my wonderings around various locations, upon an expanding list of to-do’s (that I very much doubt I’ll get to-done before I travel home tomorrow) was the National Museum of Scotland, which I spent a good few hours exploring yesterday.
It was here I noticed an advertisement for a forthcoming exhibition upon Anatomy and the opening date? July 2nd… Well, I was back here at 10am this morning (as I’m still seated here with a cuppa and their WiFi) to attend the newly opened exhibition a mere few guests old.
It didn’t take long for me to question, whether or not this was a good idea under the nature of current circumstances as you can’t study anatomy without dissection!
I had tears in my eyes as I read through neatly presented texts from medical learnered gentlemen from yesteryear. All stern faces and furrowed brows… All lead the way in the medical discovery of anatomy.
Some darker parts of history I shall skip here, as I don’t feel they connect to my story, but what did was the final section of the exhibition on display. A section covering the Body Donation programme.
I shamelessly cried freely as three accounts were dictated upon a video loop. A lecturer, the wife of a doner and a medical student.
I don’t know what fate guided me to this exhibition, a mere few days following Dad’s Service, but it helped me understand the role he has been able to perform over the last 2.5 years as a ‘Silent Teacher’ at Leicester University. It helped provide me with some closure all wrapped up in an unyielding pride for my father.
I too have left my body to science and perhaps one day, in the very distant future, I too will be able to fulfil my role as a ‘Silent Teacher’ …
It is impossible to ignore a global pandemic that has affected us all over the last 2.5 years. For the intrepid explorer I can distinctly remember my heart sank into despair as news reports started to announce closures of museums and cancelling live music and events. I also acknowledge just how privileged that sounds and makes me feel bloody awkward admitting that fact.
By full lock down I had an impressive collection of tickets to cancelled events and as depressing as that sounds, it actually became a relief as I found myself able to slow down and take time out.
I missed travelling, so I started exploring my local area instead, sometimes getting up at 5am to avoid peoples. Getting to know the nature reserve upon my doorstep.
I watched as the Marina water became so clear and without the fishermen, large fish would bask in the sunshine freely. Deer came out of the woods and into the back fields. Nature started to reclaim the neighbourhood and despite the pandemic that haunted us all a sense of peace fell over the Marina and surrounding area.
Meaning that you can happily explore within the limitations of a lock down, nature is the most beautiful artist, freedom should never be taken for granted and sometimes it feels good to slow down.
Out of all the places I have visited, throughout all my years of travelling, London has got to be the City that I have been to the most – as I keep visiting over and over again – finding even more to do and see.
Generally it is exhibitions and events which keep drawing me back, meaning I’ve developed a keen familiarity with locations like The British Museum, National History Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, V&A and the National Gallery to name but a few. Places that I adore which provide inspiration and fuel my passion.
However as my trips became more regular (pre-pandemic and since lifting lock down) I started exploring more curious corners of the capital, submerging myself in its rich history from Roman Remains to following in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper. London hosts a wide range of hidden little gems, some you could just walk right past without noticing, if you never bother to look up from your screen.
I have an ongoing bucket list of things to see and do in London, beyond the obvious over priced tourist traps. Some time sensitive as exhibitions come and go. Some are simply little curiosities, such as a musical grave and a cafe created from an old WC. My list grows as my love for London grows, so expect more blogs from my various shenanigans in the capital forthcoming.
Until we cover this city again, I’ll leave you with some of my London photography to enjoy …
This is going to be gloomy and a little personal, so please bare with me, but there are moments in life where you change your view around because of tragic circumstances and this is one of those instances.
In 2016 my Mother was diagnosed with Vascular dementia, caused by a stroke, seizure and brain trauma. I won’t go into details here because that is personal, however suffice to say that was an unpleasant era.
One theme that haunts a person near the end of their days is regret, it eats away at any peace of mind for one dwells on what could have been and discarded dreams in favour of bitter isolation and negatively.
I made a promise at that point, to chase my dreams, to be live my life to the fullest (within the limitations of the mundane) so I can reach death and say, “I did that!”
The same year I booked a trip to Japan, throwing caution to the wind and embarking on an adventure that would kick start a passion for travel with no idea where that would lead me.
I miss my Mum, every day, yet this was one of the most valuable lessons she taught me. To pull myself out of my comfort zone, spread my wings and fly.
I don’t usually remember my dreams, usually they have fled my mind shortly after the alarm clock though those which do stick in my thoughts and linger frequently on the edge of my memories are vivid dreams of travelling. I’m unsure what this means, as I don’t follow dream symbolism translations. I don’t know whether the fact that I live on a boat has an affect on my dreams either? Subtle motions of my humble dwelling triggering a sensation of movement in my dreams.
I’m usually travelling my train while dreaming, or catching a train, or seeking platforms or waiting for trains to arrive. Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes with friends or strangers, but usually with one or both of my late parents. My Father especially being a keen vintage railway volunteer.
I usually find myself as a guide in such dreams, leading people to where they need to be, either by instinct or previous knowing of the location.
Dreams aren’t always limited to trains – I also dream of planes and large ships – I enjoying flying, both in my dream state and in reality, same goes for ships and trains. I have a deep passion for travelling and the fact that I’m finding my dreams echoing this passion only serves to inspire me to travel more physically.
Finding myself searching for adventures upon awakening, I know it’s not always possible to just zip off and head off to explore – I work full time and also finances are a limitation – but that does not stop me planning ahead and give myself goals to aim for.
So, in reflection, these persistent dreams of travelling are also fuelling my desire for travel, which leads to inspiration and a bucket list longer than my lifespan!