Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

The Tower of London is currently host to a poignant reminder of the futility and horror of war as a sea of poppies gradually turns the green moat into a blood red sea.

888,246 ceramic poppies are gradually being placed around the tower and each one represents a British fatality in the First World War. A visual, heart breaking remembrance to the fallen of just one tiny corner of the globe.

The impressive installation is called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, taken from the title of a poem by an unknown soldier.

The first poppy was placed on 5 August to mark one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War. The last poppy will symbolically be planted on 11 November 2014

The poppies are crafted in my home county of Derbyshire by artist Paul Cummins and the poppies are being arranged by stage designer Tom Piper.

You can buy one of the poppies here and all money raised is going towards six service charities.

Here’s the poem that inspired the incredible poppy sea.

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red By Anon – Unknown Soldier

The blood swept lands and seas of red,
Where angels dare to tread.
As I put my hand to reach,
As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,
Again and again.

As the tears of mine fell to the ground
To sleep with the flowers of red
As any be dead

My children see and work through fields of my
Own with corn and wheat,
Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting
Fields so far from my love.

It be time to put my hand up and end this pain
Of living hell, to see the people around me
Fall someone angel as the mist falls around
And the rain so thick with black thunder I hear
Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss
The flower of my people gone before time
To sleep and cry no more

I put my hand up and see the land of red,
This is my time to go over,
I may not come back
So sleep, kiss the boys for me

Girly weekend in London!

Let’s take a detour from me droning on about Central Europe as I’ve just got back from a whirlwind trip to the capital city.

Me and the bestest gal pal have been talking about a girly trip to Camden and its associated markets for years but never quite made it, until now.

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So, men free, wine bottles in hand, cash cards at the ready and all thoughts of financial solvency cast to the four winds, we trundled off for a couple of nights in the big smoke.

Dropping the bags off at our base for the trip – the Tower Hill Travelodge – we first headed to the bastion of cheap consumerism (Oxford Street Primark) before enjoying a tasty meal at The Minories

But the main event was the quirky destination of Camden Town, with its tacky London souvenirs, Cannibis themed clothing / lighters / tea towels / bongs etc, goths, bovver boots and antiques.

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Not to mention the moped seats, bunting, food from every corner of the globe, feather boas, carpets, wood carvings and nail art.

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Basically it’s a tourist mecca crammed full of things to buy, stuff to eat and people to goggle at.

In the Stables market, antique mirrors and suitcases are cheek to jowl with retro record players, vintage clothing and boxes of old book pages. Naturally I have to check out the wares!

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Colourful incense sticks, hippy tie dye and endless food stalls assail the senses and tempt the wallet. Head spinning neon and cyber punk sit side by side with Mexican tacos and Banksy wall art.

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It’s all a little too much! We have to stop for a bite to eat and a rest from the relentless pace of Camden.

With a mind boggling array of cuisine to choose from though it’s not a straight forward process! There’s Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Italian and more.

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Once we’ve scoured the Stables market we pop over to Camden Lock for a look at the moped seats and the canal.

I think they could make better use of the waters edge personally as it’s a bit run down and rather a lot of dodgy looking characters hanging about (not including us naturally).

Next on the tour we’re off for a posh meal at The Dickens Inn on St Katherine’s Dock, yet more markets on Portabello Lane and a sobering reminder of war at the Tower of London.

Old, new, war and peace

So after a whistle stop tour of central London on Friday we head to the Imperial War museum close to our travelodge in Waterloo.

Four stories crammed full of machines, planes, tanks, and other weapons of war. A truely saddening experience that shows how proficent mankind is at killing each other.Ranging from ancient conflicts to upto date war fare such as Afganistan.

Here Neil is in front of the museum with some of the long range guns that can fire upto 16 miles. Frightening.

The only aspect of the museum I enjoyed was the old war time propaganda posters, such as the one above. The Loose Talk costs Lives posters featuring cartoon Hitlers popping out of phone boxes and other places, and are still an amusing yet effective marketing campaign.

But on a darker note is this warning that still has as much resonance now, if not more, than when it was first uttered.

Moving quickly away from the horrors of the past we head to the more vibrant and lively setting of Camden Town, one of my favourite bits of London.

From the bustling markets, tempting food stalls and piles of tat for sale to the oversized shoes and other items that adorn lots of the shop fronts, it’s a fun, colourful and hectic experience.

Grabbing a tasty slice of pizza and a disgracefully, fattening, wonderful cream and apple doughnut from one of the food stalls we browse The Stables market, an Aladdins cave of retro, vintage goodies housed in old catacombs complete with huge bronze statues of horses .

We then head to Camden Lock Village for a browse. Here’s Neil perching on one of the moped seats.

Next we head to Portabello Lane for a meander down the markets, check out some more graffiti and then head for the tower! More pics to follow . . ..

Alternative tour of London

So we’ve returned to the green hills of Derbyshire from the urban sprawl of the capital city which we have explored / endured for four days over Easter.

As mentioned previously we have done a far bit of London but we still managed a few firsts – Tower of London, Tate Modern and the War Museum.

Plus an impromptu graffiti photo tour of some of the seedier parts of the tourist trail.

Staying in Waterloo Travelodge we found a brilliant graffiti tunnel where artists have free reign with their spray cans and garish colours, here’s a few snaps.

Next up, a quick stroll to the Eye (London’s most prominant tourist sight, owned by a French energy company!!!)

And a stroll / dash along Festival Walk to look at / fear the living statue people. Here’s just one of them (from behind as I didn’t want to have to give him any money . . )

Then a mooch along to view the houses of Parliment, Big Ben and the big ole River. Here’s a panaromic view of the Thames complete with a boat that later stacked itself into the bridge and seemed to get stuck for quite a while!!!

Next up, Camden Town and the Imperial War museum. Plus the collossal waste of taxpayer’s money known as the Olympic Stadium . .. . . . .  .

Off to London for Easter break

Hello reader (s)!!

Not had much time to spend on the old blog recently as I am all tied up doing DIY on the house.

However I am off to London for the four day Easter break so on my return expect tales of my frustrations with city living, the tube, other people and anything else that grabs my cantankerous attention!

I was hoping for the unseasonably warm weather to continue till then, but alas, it has turned back into good old British gloom now . . .

Oh well, I keep my spirits up looking at what my desktop weather widget tells me the temperature is doing in my future holiday destination Italy (warming up nicely) and potential future wish list holiday Russia (cold / brass monkeys)

Long weekend in London

Putting aside thoughts of more exotic travel for the time being, we are heading to London over the long April weekend.

London is big. And confusing. Like this map that looks like coloured string in a washing machine spin cycle.

Being simple country folks based in scenic Derbyshire we do enjoy a trip to the big smoke at least once or twice a year.

Two or three days in the manic hustle and bustle of our capital city is enough to remind us of why we don’t actually ever want to live or work there – being stuffed into someone else’s armpit on the underground for any length of time is reminder enough!

Not that there’s anything wrong with the city, indeed we love it, otherwise we wouldn’t keep on going back. But this year I am not sure what or where we will see. We’ve been so many times . .. .

Last year we did some touristy things including HMS Belfast, walking over the upper gantries of Tower Bridge, visiting Kew Gardens, being terrifed by the mime artists on the banks of the Thames.

See this? We’ve over walked this.

So what this time? We’ve visited the boho, student chic of Camden, rooted through the retailer supplier shops on Font Hill Road, rummaged through antiques in the huge Portobello Road market. Spent time and money in Spital Fields and played spot the Monopoly streets.

We spent the hottest day of last year in St James’ Park and admired the royal wedding preparations outside Buckingham Palace.

Over the years we’ve taken in the Gherkin, Selfridges, Oxford Street, the Shard, St Pauls, the Tate, the London Eye and everything in between.

St James’ Park – quite sweaty last April

We’ve lounged around the V and A, gaped in awe in the Natural History Museum, hopped on and off the tube countless times and unashamedly laughed at Cockfosters and Tooting Bec.

Plus thanks to various hen parties I’ve mixed cocktails in a swanky club, had numerous kareoke sessions, posed on red London buses, with police men and Johnny Depp lookalikes.

So what now – any suggestions? I need London inspiration on a tight budget, no West End shows or Cocktail bars for me. Give me cheap, give me easy – GIVE ME LONDON!!!!