Springing into Friday Fun

Kicking off these week’s fun are a few more London delights. Firstly, a mental challenge for all those who consider themselves to be London aficionados – can you identify 21 London ‘landmarks’? Now, the definition of ‘landmark’ is rather broad, but it’s a diverting 5 minutes! [I scored 16 out of 21, my incorrect answers largely being the result of mis-identifying glass windows and spurious statues…]

Another challenge (or a sheer delight) are these hand-drawn maps of Westminster by Jojo Oldham, who’s embarking on a project to map each of London’s boroughs, as well as one to map the ‘people’s Britain’. So much detail…

Jojo City of Westminster 5This illustration demonstrates just how close to the Camden-Westminster border I live.

Talking of maps, there is a huge amount of (educational) fun to be had with the fabulous addition of the Ordnance Survey town plan of 1893-6 to Google Maps. Choose your location, and see it transform from 2014 to late 19th century. Utterly fascinating. Here’s a snapshot of my current parish, which on the one hand doesn’t seem to have changed much, yet really has…

Holborn, 1890sHolborn, 1890’s

Obligatory London Transport fun is provided this week by Tubographical Transactions by Yangchen Lin, a photographic exhibition on show at the Subway Gallery 14-22 March. A host of photos that take a slightly different perspective on life on the tube, including tube pants (not a photo I’m sharing here). Londonist features several of the photos, of which these were favourites:

Damian_Lewis_Covent_Garden_station-L-749x500

Oval_tube_station_spiral_stair-L-750x500

Finally, some Oscars-related fun. Amusingly, I had something in this theme ready to share last week – but when compiling last week’s Fun, I became the second person in my family to succumb to the mistake of thinking that the last weekend in February and first weekend in March were not the same thing. [i.e. this time last week, March 2nd seemed a lot further away than 2 days, what with my brain forgetting how short February is.] So, first off, here are children recreated the key plot points of each of the films nominated for Best Picture:

I particularly loved how they chose to deal with 12 Years a Slave…

As for the night itself, obviously there was the most-retweeted-tweet-ever, but for me, there were two key moments. One was obviously what has now become known as the Cumberbomb, which prompted a brilliant article about how Cumberbatch basically ‘won’ the Oscars – which a classmate showed me during Monday’s lecture, but which I now cannot find, despite scouring the internet. Trust me, it was excellent…

The other was John Travolta incomprehensibly getting Idina Menzel’s name badly, badly wrong when announcing her performance of what ended up winning Best Song (Let It Go, as featured here a couple of weeks ago). Since his gaff, we’ve been able to Travoltafy our names and Idina has soared to the level of fame she ought have had some time ago. (Some argue that this gaff will be the making of her.) She responded to interview questions about it simply by saying “Let it go…” and the Broadway production in which she’s currently starring did this:

Adele Dazeem on Broadway

Adele, sorry, Idina also went on the Jimmy Fallon show and performed the aforementioned song with him and the Roots band – it’s worth watching, it may not be quite what you expect:

Wintery Friday Fun

(I started writing this on Thursday night, intending to finish it on Friday for its usual publication – but life got in the way and given as the Olympics ended on Sunday, I figured there was a need to publish this soon rather than later!)

The Winter Olympics are nearing their inevitable conclusion, but it’s not too late to have some fun with them…

For starters, obviously the best part of any winter games is watching the ice skating. (This is apparently not a universal opinion, but this blog sticks with my opinion.) You can derive further pleasure by browsing this awesome collection of ‘Faces of Olympic Figure Skating’.

Faces of Olympic SkatingI imagine that’s pretty much the face I’d make in that context too.

The same site also brings us ‘Olympic skiers photoshopped onto toilets’, which is exactly what the name suggests.

ski8

If you have some spare time on your hands and some suitable craft materials lying around, you may want to engage in a Winter Olympics themed activity. My sister discovered this clothespin skier craft while preparing for our circle of friends’ day of fun last Wednesday – but as she had pipe cleaners, not clothes pegs, to hand, we used those instead. No, this is not a typical afternoon activity for a group of women aged 30ish, but it was raining outside and we had a surprising amount of fun. Honest. [We also considered doing skeleton bob races on the stairs, using trays, but decided against it in the end.]

Pipe Cleaner SkiersNot too shabby. Mine is the one with the helmet & red skies – a Tonga skier, to join the Tongan luger.

Talking of ice, have you seen “the best Disney movie since the Little Mermaid” [Mark Kermode] aka Frozen? I actually haven’t, because I’ve been spending money I might have spent on stupidly pricey London cinema seats on only marginally pricier West End theatre tickets. But, thanks to enthusiastic friends, I do know its Oscar nominated best song, Let It Go, very well – sung by star of the West End and Broadway, Idina Menzel. [Who I once met on one of my geekiest musical theatre days…] This song has gone down very well with a lot of people – not just Oscar judges – resulting in myriad versions appearing online. But there is a stand-out favourite as far as I’m concerned, in which one woman sings it in the voices of several divas:

Finally, in Cumberbatch Corner, is something that has nothing to do with winter, other than it’s the season in which awards season takes place. Awards season, as far as men are concerned, means suits – and we all know that a good suit on a good man is an excellent thing. Thus, my offering this week is Buzzfeed’s ’18 Times Benedict Cumberbatch Looked Like an Absolute GOD in a suit’. Leaving aside the obvious idolatry issue, it is worth a browse if you’re a Cumberbatch fan, and can’t get enough of Cumberbatch GIFs…

Sherlock Bow Tie

Friday Fun with transport, Lego and a shot of espresso.

I have pressing things to get to this morning (like meeting 2 week old babies), so let’s get straight into some fun…

Firstly, in the London Transport department, we have a collection of 1920’s posters which are simply lovely and serve as a reminder that you really should check out the LT Museum’s shop for examples of these things that you can use to adorn your own home. The link will take you to a plethora of brilliant examples of Art Deco design, but this proved to be a favourite for me, largely because it’s so true, 90 years later…

LT Diagram 1920's

Continuing the ‘things you can do with the tube map other than simply showing where the tube goes’ theme that so many people seem to love, some incredibly hard-working person has put together a coffee lovers tube map. The premise is simple – instead of a station name, each stop features the name of an excellent coffee shop nearby. Incredibly handy and, conveniently for me, demonstrates that I have excellent taste as I’ve been to many of them. In fact, several are places I would suggest if I knew someone was going to a particular area.

Coffee Map London

May I highlight:
Holborn – my own local beauty, the Espresso Room. A tiny shop opposite GOSH, but serves coffee that’s apparently incredible and awesome brownies.
Farringdon; Liverpool St; Oxford Circus – Department [of Coffee & Social Affairs]; Liberty of Norton Folgate; Speakeasy. Three Coffeesmiths establishments and three favourite spots of mine for working/meeting/generally socialising.
Marylebone – Providores on Marylebone High St. Kiwi run, fabulous coffee and they do an excellent Boiled Eggs with Vegemite Soldiers on their breakfast menu. (Oh, and I once had lunch there while Bill Bailey was also eating lunch there…)

I now have a long list of others places I feel I should check out! [I feel it’s necessary to point out at this moment that I am still a non-coffee drinker, but I have several reliable sources of coffee recommenders on which I base my own reviews. All their teas are great too.]

Not London, but still in the realm of public transportation – maps that show where the subways in DC, New York & Boston really go. People have already done it for London, but these are similarly fascinating.

NYC Real Map

Moving on from transport, how about some fun with Lego? Presumably, if you’re a Lego fan you’ll have watched the Culture Show Lego special? And if you’re interested in equality and want Lego to return to their non-gender specific days, you’ll have read the article about the girl from the 1981 advert? But how about witnessing the Crossrail project in Lego form? [Ok, so we haven’t quite moved on from transport.] This video depicts the boring machine – that is, a machine used to bore holes, as opposed to a machine that’s rather dull:

And how about some mind-bending Escher inspired Lego?

lego_relativity

Finally, in what I hope might become a regular feature entitled ‘Cumberbatch Corner’, we have a couple of things that may delight those of a Cumberbatchian inclination…

Obviously, most people will have seen the video which demonstrates what happens when you bring together a smart man and two Muppets, but it’s always worth watching again (and is educational). But, I also have some aural delights for you, that I discovered quite by chance on Spotify. Honest. [There is a musician called Benedict whose work I was searching for. In typing his name, I noticed that Cumberbatch also came up – which intrigued me. Ok?]

As it seemed silly not to explore this further, a Cumberbatch playlist has resulted, which includes a three-part story set in New Cross as well as the reading of some classic literature (including Jabberwocky). But the highlight, personally, is a song taken from the soundtrack of August Osage County – a film that I’d really like to see, but am conflicted because my favourite film reviewer didn’t rate it highly. This the scene in which it occurs:

You can thank me later…

When passions collide

WARNING: CONTAINS SHERLOCK SPOILERS

Few things have been so cemented into my diary in these early days of 2014 than the three episodes of Sherlock, beginning on the very first day of the year. Never has New Year’s Day been so eagerly anticipated by seemingly the entire country.

Come 9pm, I was settled on the sofa, all set (bar a drink which I had to dash off for in the opening credits – sometimes I actually wish the BBC had adverts!) for 90 minutes of televisual delight. I think that almost unanimously, Sherlock fans were not disappointed. Twitter was ablaze with activity and my phone beeped perpetually all the way through [it’s a good job I was alone in the flat] with tweets and texts that said edifying things like “Cheekbones!” and “LONGER CURLIER HAIR!”.

St Barts HospitalOne of the most famous rooftops in London…

I may have been a late convert to the church of Sherlock – after all, I’d only watched his momentous fall from Barts on Christmas Eve, having watched most of series 2 on the ferry to Dublin. (Where I had one lovely moment and one awkward one. Lovely: the old lady sitting next to me said, as we began to prepare for disembarkation, “What was that you were watching? It looked very exciting!” Awkward: Realising that episode 1 contained a naked lady for a long period of time, plus Sherlock clad in a sheet that then gets pulled away. Why awkward? See aforementioned lovely moment.) But my comparatively short-term commitment was richly rewarded by an episode that managed to combine two of my favourite things: Cumberbatch and disused tubes stations.

More than one person tweeted/texted me words to the effect of: “I think they wrote this episode of Sherlock just for you! Benedict Cumberbatch and the tube – perfect match!” I mean honestly! There really aren’t enough TV dramas based in and around the world of London’s ghost stations – a plot device I sensed might be on its way as soon as the tube cropped up. Brilliant.

What was not brilliant was the amount of bashing the episode received for its London Transport inaccuracies. Listen up tube geeks, if you were real tube geeks you would know two very important pieces of information:

1. There are only three places where filming can take place easily – the closed since 1994 Aldwych station; the abandoned Jubilee Line platforms at Charing Cross; and the Waterloo & City Line which is closed for longer periods than other lines. (There’s also the bit of track beyond Aldgate where Metropolitan Line trains could swap with East London Line trains. They no longer do that, so it’s closed.)

2. Londoners would NOT  be happy if their regular station was closed for a day just so the BBC could use it. Think of the lost revenue, inconvenience and general inadequacy of an excuse that would be!

Thus, Buzzfeed was probably quite right in this instance:

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 21.57.37

Yes, Watson’s journeying across London via tube was perhaps inaccurate. Yes, Sherlock’s mad motorbike dash to St James’ the Less (probably Pimlico) went unnecessarily over the river. But do I care? No. Because when it comes to creative, gripping and downright clever TV, I am perfectly happy to lay my geekery aside and just enjoy it – and I really wish some other nitpickers would do the same.

Returning to passions colliding. Hooray for opening so many TV viewers’ eyes to the world of disused tube stations. Now we can all be geeks together! (There’s been a fascinating increase in people sharing links to sites about them – lots more Friday Fun fodder.) Plus, anyone else notice that musicals even had their own role in the episode? Right towards the end, Les Mis – specifically Do You Hear the People Sing – playing at the start of the engagement drinks (at 1hr21 mins, if you want to go back and check).

Cumberbatch. Disused tube stations. Musicals.

Need I say more?

Well, just one more thing, and I’ll leave that to the lovely Laura who watched it at home with her family in Texas:

Lauren on InstagramWhat was she commenting on? This photo, of course:

Speedy's Sometimes, I like to take my runs along culturally interesting routes. (This is all of 15 mins walk from my flat.)

The lure of the Cumberbatch*

*Yes, this is as shallow as it sounds. I am but a mere human… 

“Don’t tell me anything else good about it him! I can’t like him even more than I already do!” 

Thus spake my lovely friend Katie when, apropos of nothing, we stumbled upon the subject of Benedict Cumberbatch during a conversation last Saturday. [Actually, there was a link – we’d been discussing New Year plans and her plan for January 1st featured the new series of Sherlock.] It emerged that this affection had only recently developed, almost entirely thanks to a recent video clip of Cumberbatch reading some song lyrics aloud.

These weren’t just any lyrics, they were words from R Kelly’s latest offering to the world of music, an album entitled ‘Black Panties’. That title, and the fact that R. Kelly has a shady past as far as sexual ethics are concerned, are clear indications that he’s not someone I’d usually have a lot of time for. Let’s face it, has there been anything decent since I Believe I Can Fly?? The title of the album also gives you a pretty good idea of what the song lyrics might have involved. Here’s the video, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…

If you are in the least bit attracted to men, I defy you not have been affected in some way by that video. Most women I know who have watched it go weak at the knees at the final wink to camera. Investing in R Kelly’s career is wrong (IMHO), but watching Cumberbatch act the heck out of his lyrics is absolutely ok.

Now, I was already a fully paid up subscriber to the wonder that is Cumberbatch prior to this video appearing in the world, but my friend Katie was not. I proceeded to tell her of other wonderful ‘batch moments one could enjoy on YouTube (such as his Chewbacca impression from a recent Graham Norton show), but she stopped me, insisting that any further motivation to enjoy his work would be a bad thing.

Explaining why this would be a bad thing would take too long (and was entirely irrational). But what is necessary is explaining why the lure of the ‘batch is so strong. People have asked (honestly, they have – some consider the attraction as mysterious as women’s love of Alan Rickman), so I feel it’s my duty to share…

Most people would begin with Sherlock. I do not. [Like so many hugely popular TV shows, I ignored it until one month ago. Having purchased seasons 1 & 2 for a bargain £10, I’m now saving the second series for my mammoth pre-Christmas train/ferry journey, ready for its 2014 return. Watching episode one in the bath earned the title of ‘Cumberbath’ from a fellow fan.] It is excellent, almost entirely thanks to man who plays the title character, but there is more to Cumberbatch than just Sherlock.

Instead, I begin with Parade’s End. Shown in the summer of 2012 and overshadowed by various high profile sporting achievements, it was a drama to warm the hearts of all those who know that the best episodes of Downton are in the first two series. Based on the Ford Madox Ford novel, Cumberbatch plays the misunderstood Tietjens [pronounced ‘Teejens’, obviously] and moodily marches through WW1 and emotional angst. It’s gripping, and rescued me from the otherwise unrelenting misery of being in bed sick while staying at a French monastery.

Then, there’s the fact that he’s simply a fabulously good stage actor. Frankenstein, anyone? (Movie version, directed by Danny Boyle, soon to come to a screen near you too.)

Plus, he’s an all-round good egg. Political activism in the right direction? Check. Good humoured interviews? Check.

Political Cumberbatch

Oh, and those lips…

And thus, I have reached the conclusion that I can watch pretty much anything, and enjoy it, as long as it features Mr C – including Star Trek films, or obscure TV series from early-on in his career. If you are anything like me, or my friends Katie and Lauren, you’ll appreciate the following:

Starter for Ten – Possibly the only film ever made about University Challenge, featuring BC as the incredibly nerdy team captain.
Fortysomething – Random TV series from 2003 starring Hugh Laurie. BC is his eldest son and really rather lovely. The whole series appears to be on YouTube.
Hawking – One of the brilliant BBC4 biographical dramas they’ve recently stopped producing (boo hiss) on the early life of Stephen Hawking. Cumberbatch *is* Hawking. (Worth searching for online.)
And, my favourite, this clip of Cumberbatch impersonating Alan Rickman. Enough said.

Finally, sometimes he looks like an otter:

Cumberbatch is OttersCredit.