Monday, April 14, 2014

London's Waterways - the Thames River and the canals

London's Thames River and canals make me smile. From seeing a ship called The Tolkien to watching a bird taking a bath.

The river is 346 km and features throughout english literature. The clay deposits suggest it may be as old as 50 to 60 million years old!

Taking a walk along the southbank, crossing over one of London's magnificent bridges, you can't help but feel proud of one of London's greatest treasures.

You shouldn't swim in the river, though some people do and then need rescuing. The river is not just home to sea life but raw sewage finds its way in there too.

Keep an eye out when you're by the river. You never know what you might see. In 2006, there was a whale which sadly died. Its remains went to the natural history museum for research.

This spring, take some time to discover London's Thames River and canals.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

London Book Fair 2014 - Indie writers, social media and words of wisdom for aspriing writers

On Day 1 of the London Book Fair 2014, Indie Writers talked about making millions, publishers defended the longevity of print content and book sellers talked about reduced shelf space.

The exhibitor stands were busy. All the big publishing houses - Harper Collins, Penguin and Random House looked glossy.

Non-fiction, educational and international publishers were all there. Earl's Court was brimming with networking, deal making and seminars.

According to the indie writers, word counts are coming down as reader's attention spans become shorter. They crow about all the money they are making, that they don't want or need the traditional publishing route. They call themselves CEOs and are proud they retain control of book covers and pricing.

Self-published NY Times best seller, Bella Andre, talked about making business decisions. She's an authority on the book market, but also a woman who struggles with the challenges of balancing marketing and writing.

Social media was lauded for creating communities, helping marketing campaigns and a critical tool for all writers.

There was lots of wisdom sharing. Helen Dunmore who has successfully written poetry, children's and young adult fiction, talked about the trappings of researching. "It's easier to be a writer who researches than a writer who does a first draft," she says.

Usborne Deputy Fiction Director Annie Finnis says for children's books, they are looking for good writing and a set of characters the audience will identify with.

Deputy Editor of the Word Factory, Paul McVeigh's final words to aspiring writers is to write like you'll never write again, as if you'll die tomorrow. It could happen, he adds.

On that note, if you're a writer, get writing. If you're interested in the book industry, go to the London Book Fair 2014 which is from 8 April to 10 April this year.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Hidden Talent in London's Local Music Scene

Tucked away behind busy Limehouse's Commercial Rd is a local London music spot in Cable Street Studios. I wasn't expecting much from the Jamboree Collective (, but to my surprise thought this is the sort of place I could happily spend a Friday night.
I've gone to over a hundred music events in London and around the world. New Orleans is still one of my favourite places for brilliant music. Rio for Carnivale has the most amazing vibe. Word on the street these days though, is that London's local music scene is pretty awesome.

So people tell me about Dalston which is a hub of activity. I hear that for years Adele performed in her locals in south London. A friend mentioned this place called Jamboree and we thought we'd take a look.

What impressed me was the intimate surroundings and it was a change from the typical bars, pubs and clubs which litter the street. It was a great place to go for a drink and a bit of decent music. 

One artist in particular caught my attention. That night Josienne Clark shone briefly in her floral print dress. She was part of an ensemble country group. This girl, her voice was magic. 
In fact, the BBC think so too. According to her website, she is BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2014 Nominees ‐ Best Newcomer (Horizon) and Best Duo.

Josienne Clarke is the sort of singer you stop and listen to. When you hear her singing live, you simply want more. Check her out. she has tge potential to be a star one day. Her website is -
Incidentally, there's all sorts of history and shenanigans at Cable Street Studios, where Jamboree resides. Timeout has written all about it. If you are interested,  take a look at - Time Out - Limehouse's Cable Street
London's local music scene is a change from the pubs, bars and clubs littered on every street. They're off the beaten track and they're usually by word of mouth. Whether you live in London or here on holiday, it's worth a night out in a local music spot.  Who knows what you might discover.

For other live London gigs, take a look at

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Voice UK Season 3 - Why We Love Kylie Minogue

The Voice UK
Thinter Voicein UK season 3 has been pulling in millions of viewers. What producers realised was that Simon Cowell's little secretyou wasn't that we want to see the next big artist or  karaoke renditions of pop songs. 

The Voice UK has got a diverse range of judges that appeal to different age groups and fans of Ms Minogue, an icon that brings a down to earth family quality to television, is the right ingredient.

The Minogue Factor
Minogue has been around for decades. She has a loyal fan base. Minogue captures the hearts of those that grew up with her. As one contestant said, she has been an inspiration. She is the girl next door who achieved success, but remains one of us. If you haven't guessed, I am a fan. 

In 2013,  she signed on to Jay Z's label. The Voice brings her back into the limelight, following sister Danii's footsteps. It's a brilliant move by Minogue to go back to television.  That's where she became a star. That's where she has an edge over artists. An audience of 10 million tuning in to see you every week and getting paid for it, with a new album on the way, she will be singing I should be so lucky all the way to the bank.

I was at Earls Court at one of her concerts shortly before her cancer diagnosis. Through her ups and downs in love and acting, trying to make it in the US, the little pop princess has kept her head held high and a smile on her face. Is it any wonder that the contestants all want her, even those who might be better fitted with other judges?

The Contestants

The contestants, though they lack the wow factor, are not so painful to watch and there is a certain genuine integrity that you feel this might be wholesome and undemanding viewing.

The Voice UK might not make one hit wonders. They don't have the money and marketing to make it happen.  But its audience doesn't feel it is being manipulated to call and vote for their favourite. It gives some new talent the opportunity to make their dreams come true. It is a show about hope and simply tries to make you feel good. Three cheers for going back to basics.

The Voice - looking forward
Minogue brings a fresh fun vibe to a show which was becoming a little tired. She can tone down her enthusiasm a little. The dynamic with the other judges works and that too is important. 

The contestants have room to grow and they are a good mix. The Voice UK is not compelling viewing yet. Bring in a few dynamite voices and personalities to shake it up. 

This season is on its way to becoming massively big.  Well done BBC. We love The Voice UK and Kylie Minogue so far - the ratings prove it.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Amsterdam - a European city to revisit and love

I didn't expect to love Amsterdam, afterall I had been there before and my memory from more than 10 years ago was a seedy cold place that was like most other European cities. However, visiting in the middle of Winter doesn't really allow you to explore and appreciate Amsterdam in quite the same way that a few relaxing days in Spring does.

The canals are lovely and it has a very different feel to Venice, though you do derive the same delight in getting lost as you cross bridge after bridge.

The street art above shop fronts and on market sheds was fascinating. Bright splashes of paint compliment the charm of the vibrant city. .

One boat owner decided to construct his own art with bottles. The Dutch aren't just clog wearing, cheese eating bicycle riders. They have flair, treasure their gardens and enjoy simply sitting on a bench outside their apartment to watch the world go by.

The flower market is extraordinary and full of colour. You can pick up trinkets, seeds, bulbs or just go to marvel at all the different flowers that you can buy there.
Several stalls are set up and I confess that I couldn't help but spend a small fortune on bulbs. I was inspired. Sadly only a handful of my bulbs actually rewarded me with plants, and I am yet to see any flowers. It is possibly my own ineptitude as a gardener. It was fun to bring home a small piece of Amsterdam in any case.

Rembrandt's house was worth a visit. You step back in time to see how the artist and people of his time lived. I spent several hours wandering through the house.

My top tips for Amsterdam:
  • do not go in Winter! It's cold, grey and miserable.
  • Visit the flower market and Rembrandt's house. I previously had been to Anne Frank's house and that is definitely a must see, though you should plan ahead as it can be very crowded.
  • Spend a few hours wandering around the canals. Get lost in Amsterdam and enjoy it.
  • I didn't visit any sex shows, the red light district or try any of the other recreational legal activities that Amsterdam is also well known for. If you do, just remember to be careful.
  • I stayed near the new museum and spent some time walking around a beautiful park, It was a very safe area and I even passed my a hotel that Justin Bieber was allegedly staying in. (There were teenage girls screaming outside a building at 10pm at night.)
Amsterdam is a remarkable city. It has a character that you can easily be charmed by so that you may be tempted to revisit it again.