Christmas in London

December 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm | Posted in London, Out and About | 1 Comment
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Did a few things in London over Christmas in 2012 and 2013.

Winter Wonderland – Hyde park has a large fun fair and market, Winter Wonderland from November to January. We were there on a rainy day, which meant attendance was down so walking around was easier. It was pleasant to wander and see what was happening, drinking mulled wine and eating. We didn’t go on any rides, the ones that looked most fun predictably had lines and that wasn’t enough incentive to pay and stand around for a while.

Geffrye Museum – is a museum that showcases the home through the centuries. Over Christmas the rooms are decorated as they would have been in the different eras. So if you’d like to see how past generations celebrated the season this might be a good thing to check out.

Smithfield’s Auction – on Christmas Eve morning if you still haven’t bought your turkey you can pick one up at the famous auction at Smithfields. If you’re planning on buying (instead of just watching) make sure you get there early and probably do some reserch about the etiquette/rules. I’ve no clue!

Wandering around on Christmas Day – in 2012 and 2013 I lived close enough to central London to ride in and walk around without having to worry about public transport being shut. In 2012 it was rainy and I had to wait for a friend before we could start. By then it was around ten and a few people were about and by the time we arrived at Trafalgar Square at 11 there were a lot more tourists. A quiet Sunday and not at all eery. 2013 was a later start and I started at St Pauls at 11 so by the time I arrived at Trafalgar about an hour later it was very busy. There were also plenty of shops open. If you want to try and get a quiet Christmas experience try and get things done by 10:30 at the latest. Photos from 2012. 2013 doesn’t have anything particularly different (and I’m lazy and won’t add to flickr for a while).

Lastly, there are also a quite a few markets around town.

Gaming: Dishonored

December 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Posted in Gaming | 1 Comment
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So I played Dishonored and while it’s been well received I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s a stealth game set in a steampunk world suffering from a plague and an assassinated empress. You’ve been wrongly accused and spend the game seeking out the conspirators and putting the rightful heir onto the throne.

The game promotes stealth (which is a game style I’m not a fan of) but also offers many different violence options and upgrades for those too. However using them could impact the chaos level which leads to a “bad” ending. Throughout each mission there’s no indication of how close you are to tipping over to a higher chaos level so for me I opted to be more cautious which led to way too many restarts in an attempt to limit confrontations and ultimately reduced the flow and fun of the game.

A twitter friend advised after the fact that they’d used a mix of violence and stealth and still got the “good” ending which further reinforces the need to have something show this chaos level inside each mission.

Secondly there was a key mechanic allowing you to travel great distances and at least for me it never seemed to “lock on” to the correct spot. Of course this could be a poor player but as I’m the player I’d like to say it’s a limitation of the device. Even making it glow a different colour when it was “safe” might have been useful.

OK so there are issues but generally the story is interesting and I was happy to proceed and find out what was happening. Although it suffers from the same problem as many games where characters start talking but are drowned out by other ambient noises or generally can’t be heard. Presumably an audio option could fix it here and on other games I’d just like the defaults to work better.

Would I recommend it? If you’re a fan of stealth and steam punk sure. If you’re keen to try a more aggressive approach then maybe google what the chaos levels are or just do whatever you want and watch the endings on youtube.

Lastly, if you don’t like rats then this may not be for you.

Gaming: XCOM Enemy Unknown

December 28, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Posted in Gaming | 1 Comment
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Played XCOM Enemy Unknown. It was a fun turn based strategy game although I did it wrong by re-loading my games frequently when my characters died off. When you name them it’s easy to get attached! Some of the elements could have been clearer particularly using Satellites for money but all worked out in the end and I saved the world. I guess.

Theatre: Noises Off

December 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Posted in London, Theatre | 1 Comment
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Went to the Old Vic and watched Noises Off and it was a great farce set behind the scenes over the run of a theatre show. How very meta. The first act was funny but not necessarily consistent. However the second act had set all the pieces in motion so the physical comedy and jokes could run thick and fast. Thus ending on a very strong note and allowing the audience to leave with a grin on their faces (and mine).

Theatre: The Ladykillers

December 28, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Posted in London, Theatre | 1 Comment
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Went and saw The Ladykillers after getting some reduced tickets from Tkts in Leicester Square. The theatre wasn’t packed which was a shame as the play is a fun black comedy of a doddering widower who gets inadvertently involved in a criminal gang’s heist and the subsequent deaths as the gang turns on each other. Not constantly laugh out loud but certainly a pleasant evening out.

Assorted: Royal Institution of Great Britain, Proms, Zoroastrianism & Olympics

December 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Posted in London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel | 1 Comment
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More assortments:

Royal Institution of Great Britain – They have a small exhibit space covering scientific discovery, particularly the work conducted at the Institution. It’s in central London and relatively fast to get through. Apparently no photos of this 😦

Proms – Went to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time and for my first Proms. This was #5 Lachenmann / Mahler. The Hall was smaller inside than I expected but it’s a beautiful venue with predictably great acoustics. The Lachennmann piece was a premiere and seemed to divide the audience (at least those near me), although got a rousing applause. Perhaps it because it had ended? From what I gather it was a piece highlighting the sounds that you normally don’t hear. I get the premise but ultimately it didn’t work for me (though all the people near me who were unimpressed made it more challenging to get into). The Mahler piece was much more accessible and crowd friendly and so a great way to end the night. Would definitely try and see more proms next year. Can’t seem to find the photos 😦

SOAS Zoroastrian exhibit – The SOAS gallery has an exhibit on Zoroastrianism, which for the uninitiated offered a good starting point to learn more about it. No photos of this either.

The 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics – I was very lucky and got the chance to go to a number of events at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics: Men’s football (including a match with GB), Women’s Gold final football, BMX riding, Judo, a sampling of paralympian events at the Excel Centre like powerlifting, judo, ping pong, wheelchair fencing and sitting volleyball. One of the best times was definitely being at the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. Very cool. Generally speaking all of the events had an awesome attitude that made it incredibly fun and I was happy to be part of it. Photos.

Athletes parade. After the Olympics ended there was a celebratory athletes parade through London. We walked down to Fleet Street to watch some of it. It was a fun afternoon seeing all of the athletes and the medals. Photos.

Assorted: Brighton Equality walk and London Pride

December 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Posted in London, Out and About, UK | 1 Comment
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More assortments:

Brighton Equality Walk – participated in the equality walk to raise money and awareness for anti-lgbt bullying. Other than one unfortunate random yelling out “bender” our group made our way along the route until we reached the end at the beach. It was a good day with nice weather and pleasant company. Not one I’ll do again but glad I did it. Photos.

London Pride – Through work got the chance to walk in the march for London’s LGBT pride march. It was interesting and cool to be in amongst it but not necessarily something I need to do again. Photos.

Assorted: Marathon, St Paul’s music, Thatcher funeral & St Patrick’s day parade

December 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Posted in London, Out and About, Tourism | 1 Comment
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More assorted activities:

London marathon – On the day of the London marathon I walked down to Westminster and took some photos. It was only a brief wander but the weather and atmosphere were great. Everyone was cheering on the runners and giving them plenty of support. I don’t think I could ever run that long and am impressed by those who did. Photos.

Music at St Paul’s – On 23 May 2013 I went with some friends to St Paul’s for a Beethoven concert. It didn’t touch my soul but sitting in this epic cathedral listening to music is definitely an experience and one I’d like to do again. Photos.

Thatcher’s funeral – when former Prime Minister and Baroness Margaret Thatcher died, her funeral procession came along Fleet Street on its way to St Paul’s for the ceremony. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go down to the street for the procession (BBC footage certainly showed a lot of people). I did manage to take a walk at lunch to see what was left over. Photos.

St Patrick’s day parade – Went and watched this year’s parade for the first time. It was fun, there were a variety of floats and they moved past at a reasonable rate. Probably better to watch with friends and then head off to a pub for a pint. Photos.


Assorted: AFL, Rugby, Jewel Tower and Oktoberfest

December 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Posted in London, Tourism, UK | 1 Comment
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Assorted bits and pieces:

AFL – By random chance I was walking near Oval and saw a bunch of Australians sporting AFL team colours. A quick google later and and it turned out there was an exhibition game. Called a mate who knew about AFL, we bought tickets and I went to see my first AFL match. It wasn’t a great first time, even my mate who’s a fan thought it was lack lustre. According to wikipedia there were 10,000 people but it definitely feel like it. Pretty sparse. Still wouldn’t mind seeing another match sometime, maybe back in Australia one day.

Rugby – Continuing the sporting them I went to see another first, my first live rugby game at Twickenham on 29/12/12. The Quinns vs the London Irish. It seemed like everyone was still suffering from post-Christmas sluggishness and my rugby mates were less then impressed so my own lack of attention was well placed. Happy with the company though! Would like to get the chance to see another match too.

Jewel Tower – An English Heritage property opposite Parliament. It doesn’t take too long to walk around and gives a quick snap shot of the democratic process in the UK.

Oktoberfest – Another 2012 item. Went to the Oktoberfest in Kennington with some friends and it was random but good fun.

Photos at flickr.

Jubilee regatta

December 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Posted in London, Out and About, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In 2012 it was the Queen’s diamond jubilee and to celebrate there was a regatta along the Thames river.

Got there an hour or so before it was meant to start with my friend. Even then we were two people deep from our chosen spot on the river. Luckily I’m tall enough to see over fairly easily. Failing that the randoms near us with their cameras out (or in one case a streaming video from BBC) helped to get a closer view of the activities.

It was good seeing all the vessels and the atmosphere was friendly and fun. I guess there was information about each section but you didn’t need it to enjoy it. As the rain started to fall we headed off to a pub for food and to watch the remainder on TV (it definitely seemed like everyone was watching it).

Now when’s the next one?

Assorted photos at flickr.

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