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My first experience of Battersea Park was in July of 2009. I was in London for a day and looking for something to do. I didn’t want to go to a typical site like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace and the weather was too nice to spend inside a museum. I was craving an authentic London activity, something that a Londoner might actually attend. I ended up at a Bastille Day celebration in Battersea Park. A party in the park to celebrate another country’s independence day? Sounds perfectly London to me. Plus there was French food, wine, sunshine and music. Sold.

 

Bastille Day 2009

My next run in with Battersea Park was when Husband and I were scouting potential homes. We found the most lovely place overlooking the park with loads of natural light and a rooftop terrace to die for. Husband’s commute to work would have been atrocious and there’s no way we could afford the place, but we were starstruck.

Thankfully we came to our senses before our rental bid was accepted and settled for a much more sensible but extremely nice garden flat elsewhere in London. It was still close enough for frequent visits to Battersea Park.

With the weather as great as it has been this week, I made some time to spend at Battersea Park. Many London locations tend to be swamped on sunny afternoons, but understated and overlooked Battersea park was perfect for finding solitude amongst others.

 

 

Brown Dog

Anti-vivisectionists commissioned a bronze statue of this dog as a memorial to a University College London controversy . A brown terrier was illegal dissected with questionable levels of anaesthetia in front of an audience of 60 medical students. The statue was taken down in 1910 due to political pressure. A replacement memorial was placed behind the Pump House in1985 only to be taken down in 1992. The replacement statue was put back up in 1994, but this time it was hidden away in the Woodland Walk near the Olde English Garden.  I guess it gets less notice and therefore less controversy there.

View across the Thames from Battersea Park

Peace Pagoda

I took some time to meditate near the Peace Pagoda before leaving. Cliche, but I couldn’t resist.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, Battersea Park hosts the Affordable Art Fair March 10-13th. Tickets run from £8 – £15. 120 galleries will be exhibiting art all under £4,000.

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Sometimes I get caught up in London life and forget to explore the rest of England and the UK. Of course there are the normal places that attract global tourists like Bath or Stonehenge, but the lesser known locales give you an opportunity to understand the region in a totally different way.

OK, I have to admit that if we hadn’t been out visiting Flora and Jam for the weekend, we wouldn’t have gone out of our way to go to Lyme Regis. But we were having ourselves a city break in that area anyway, so it seemed like a great place to explore.

The town is located on what is known as the Jurassic Coast and is famous for fossils. Some of the first dinosaur skeletons discovered in Britain were found here in the 1800s and today you can see people combing over the shores for a great archeological find. Or a lost contact lens. Whichever.

The town is a touch of kiss me quick with an arcade and sea side dining but interesting for a wander.

Seaside snacks

Colorful spaces for rent along the shore.

Docked boats

Lampposts advertise fossil heritage.

I watched several people head off to the waves with their wetsuits and surfboards from beneath my many layers of winter gear. Amazingly, surfing in the UK seems to be a well participated activity. I suppose the temperature is what creates a divide between the mild enthusiasts and the passionate. I love water sports, but there’s no way you are getting me into the UK seas in winter.

Crazy person enjoying water sports.

We shifted through rocks in a bit of our own fossil hunting. We came across loads of pieces of broken pottery, beautiful stones and a touch of asbestos, but nothing of which to make our millions by selling to museums.

Flora on the search

Hooray! I think we found a fossil?

Walking back through town, I seemed to be the only one interested in things like the door to the old lockup. It gave a very medieval and quintessentially British vibe to the experience. I’m always amazed at how small the doors are and hence how short the population was.

The door of the old lockup

Well Lyme Regis, it’s been fun. Perhaps one day we will meet again.

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Husband (did I mention Boyfriend has been upgraded?) wanted to see Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seed exhibit at the Tate Modern. This was an easy sell for me. I am a sucker for modern art museums.

Unilever has commissioned Ai Weiwei’s brainchild: 100 million hand crafted porcelain sunflower seeds displayed in the Turbine Hall. The colors of the concrete floor blend with the small porcelain seeds like a slight ripple in the floor’s texture continuity. As you approach you notice the individual pieces making up the whole until you eventually realize the small tiny pieces are sunflower seeds. At this point you want to pick one up and bite one, but the sunflower seeds are not real and the exhibit has been deemed non interactive for safety reasons. The dust from the porcelain is easily kicked up and can enter the lungs.

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern

A fifteen minute video shows how these pieces were handcrafted in Jingdezhen, China. You get a glimpse into the lives of the 1600 people and two and a half years that the manufacturing took place. The people are grateful for the work but I’m curious to whether they find value in the project beyond a paycheck.

This reminds me of a story someone once told me about explaining the end use of  Mardi Gras beads to Chinese factory workers. “So… you toss this at someone out of a slow moving vehicle and girls will take their tops off?”

And perhaps that’s the point – to make me consider the “Made in China” label. Or maybe it’s a statement on how all these small pieces can make up a whole. How collectively we become something we could never be as an individual. The political weaves it’s way in and out of the display. There is mention of how the sunflower seed was once a symbol of goodwill between neighbors but was adopted and altered into kitsch and propaganda by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution.

Seems like a lot to say all at once.

“Did I get it all?” I asked Husband. He is standing on the bridge above the sunflower seeds looking down with awe that I haven’t seemed to muster.

Maybe I’m not suppose to be so worried about whether or not I got it right.

The exhibit is free and runs until May 2, 2011

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When my plans for Wednesday night were canceled at the last minute, I thought to myself “Hey, I wonder when those free outdoor movies at The Scoop go on?” A quick check of my email revealed that they started that very night in just a few hours. Even better, the movie that was scheduled (Up in the Air) was something that I wanted to see.  Although it was tempting to be lazy and stay at home, I knew if I got out I would be richly rewarded.

I decided to make the More London outing a 2 fold endeavor. I would walk there and that way I would get a good bit of exercise on the way. 3 miles? I could do it! I left with an hour of time ahead of me. On the way, I realized I didn’t have any cash. Maybe I should stop by the cash machine. And oh yeah, while I’m near the Tesco Metro, maybe I should pick up a tasty beverage.

All of this meandering ate away at my walking time. At about 7:05, with 2 miles to go, I started panicking that I wouldn’t make it on time and thus hopped on the tube. Exiting at London Bridge, I made my way toward More London. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Luckily, the area was labeled conspicuously. I was happy to find myself amongst a nice design of water features and sleek finishes wedged between buildings that overlooked the Thames and Tower Bridge.

More London

With only 5 minutes to spare, I rushed towards the outdoor amphitheatre, had my hand stamped by a staff member, and created a seat right up front.

The Scoop - the photo blurriness is quite accurate considering my rushed dash to find a seat.

Whew, I could now enjoy my cold beverage and relax. Next time I plan on bringing a full picnic, a friend and a blanket.  The weather is getting really chilly at sunset these days. I knew autumn would come, but did it have to come so soon? Can’t we negotiate on this?

Please be seated.

I enjoyed Up In the Air. The best parts? George Clooney (yum), loved Anna Kendrick’s character (as a former 23 year old fresh college grad I could relate to her annoying naivety), and the opening song by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. I totally forgot that their cover of Woodie Guthry’s This Land is Your Land got picked up for the opening credits. I’ve seen them jam out several times- at Austin City Limits festival in 2008, at a fundraiser for the democratic party of Tarrant County right as Obama was being elected, and at SXSW in 2010. They’ll be in London November 3rd at the Roundhouse. Go check them out. They put on a great show full of retro nostalgia, glamour and honesty. I couldn’t be happier for them for their success.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings + lucky audience member at SXSW 2010

When the movie was over, I was treated to this lovely view of Tower Bridge.

Backdrop

Free outdoor movies at the Scoop continue every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday throughout September and begin at 19:30. Here’s a list of remaining shows.

  • Fri 17 Sept – The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, Cert 12A)
  • Wed 22 Sept – The Hurt Locker (2009, Cert 15)
  • Thur 23 Sept – North by Northwest (1959, Cert PG)
  • Fri 24 Sept – Pretty Woman (1990, Cert 15) – celebrating 20 years since its release.
  • Wed 29 Sept – Invictus (2010, Cert 12A)
  • Thur 30 Sept – Up (2009, Cert U) – non 3D version of the superb animation.
  • Fri 1 Oct – Dirty Dancing (1987, Cert 12A) + a special Dirty Dancing workshop!

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