Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Culture Post: 5 Things to do in London

London is so vibrant and full of things to do on a weekly basis that it is easy to just give up and do the same old instead of being faced with endless possibilities to choose from. Being indecisive is a particularly annoying first world problem after all.

So, here is a list of five things I would recommend you do this week. They have all been tried, tasted and enjoyed by me, so they have earned their seal of approval from a particularly picky person...

See Ryan Hewett: UNTITLED at The Unit London

With the crazy amount of galleries in London, there is always a new exhibition or ten opening during the week. However, quantity does not stand for quality. There are the good ones, there are the bad ones, there are the exciting ones and the boring ones, the high teas and the day-old coffees. The question is which ones are which?

The Unit London is a very cool, very exciting place. This contemporary gallery situated in Covent Garden is founded by two young guys and is aimed at younger audiences who want to enjoy art without feeling out of place. In this, the Unit succeeds. Moreover, the new solo exhibition that the gallery hosts until 24th May is by renowned South African painter, Ryan Hewett. Stroll down the gallery, admire the portraits of those very familiar faces, and after that you have plenty of choice with where to grab a bite between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. And here is why I think this is the one exhibition in London not to be missed this month.

Watch Spooks: The Greater Good

Oh, don't I love a good film? When there is a long weekend ahead thanks to a lovely bank holiday, hitting the cinema is the perfect thing to do (especially if the weather fails to cooperate and chooses to be grumpy instead). 

Assuming you have already seen Avengers: Age of Ultron, why not opt for something as fabulously British as Spooks? Needless to say, I was a massive fan of the series, and with the period drama likes of Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Penry-Jones and Richard Armitage, who wouldn't? 

The Greater Good sees Harry back in business as there is a new crisis in MI5. This time, Peter Firth is joined by Game of Thrones' Kit Harington who still knows nothing, but looks good while (not) doing so. 

Spooks: The Greater Good won't hit UK cinemas until 8th May, but you can already read what I thought about it here

Visit the London Coffee Festival

People, this is not a drill! London Coffee Festival opens this Thursday (30th April) and goes on for the rest of the weekend as a launch event of UK Coffee Week.

So if you are a coffee addict with a bank holiday on the cards (check and check), Shoreditch is the place to be. The Coffee Festival is based in Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane and celebrates London'd coffee culture with more than 250 artisan coffee and gourmet food stalls. I will try my best to visit and if you are interested, too, here is where you can get tickets from.

Have a day at the V&A 

Personally, the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of my go-to places when I want to be on my own with my thoughts, while also admiring some great art. Why should you visit it this week in particular?

Firstly, there is obviously the hugely anticipated Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition that will be on till 2nd August - if you want to visit, you have to be fast and snap some tickets here. Alternatively, there is another pretty interesting exhibition dedicated to McQueen at Tate Britain:  Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process.

Secondly, there is another great little alternative on the ground floor of the V&A: What is Luxury? is a small, free exhibition that evaluates what "luxury" really means, and how many different things it could stand for. More on why you should visit: you can read my opinion here (shameless journalist, I know). 

Listen to some new music: Harris Adams

Finally, here is an alternative for you even if you are not in London. Born near Sheffield, Harris Adams is a British songwriter who revels in blending the old with the new. His debut single Ring Ring does just that, by harking back to Ray Charles classics where he would ‘call and respond’ to his backing vocalists The Raylettes. It is a classic trope that adds a fresh dynamic to a track, giving it a real sense of fun.

Adams' debut single Ring Ring was released on the 28th April so it is red hot! You can give it a listen here. *

And to finish this post off, here is a hilarious video involving some serious biceps content to put you in a good mood!

What are your plans for the weekend (regardless of where you are)?

*I was contacted by Adams Harris' publicist regarding his debut single. However, this post is not sponsored in any way: these are all my personal opinions, I gave his song a listen and decided it would be good to share it :)

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Would You Rather: Travel Edition

So, I saw this lovely tag over at Tea Was Here  and really liked the questions, so thought I should give it a go, too! If you want to get to know me a bit better travel-wise, then keep on reading.

Q: Have a $10,000 budget for a holiday and you can either fly first class for $5,000 and stay in mediocre accommodation. Or spend $1,000 on economy and stay in luxury accommodation?
A: I can definitely deal with flying in economy, I am used to it anyway. So, I will take the luxury accommodation, thank you very much. And that holiday will probably have to be in Paris - $9.000 seem about enough for a couple of days in luxury there. Seriously, the city of lights is what people mean when they say the best things in life are actually pretty expensive :P

Q: An all expenses paid trip to a small town in the UK with your best friends or an all expenses paid trip to your dream destination with your frenemy?
A: Sorry, my dear friends, but dream destination wins every time. An all expenses paid trip to a lovely place like the South of France, Morocco, or the Maldives - for some reason, I do not think that me and that frenemy of mine would have an awful lot to fight about (also, I obviously could not choose just one dream destination, 'cause I want to go everywhere so there is that). 

Q: Never take the train or never take the airplane again?
A: I can easily say goodbye to the train. It's nothing personal really, but there are only so many places where it could take me. For everything else, planes are a lot more convenient and fast. How else could I get to Australia?

Q: Spend a full day with a thief or with a beggar?
A: A thief - I can imagine it would be quite an enlightening day and I could always use a few tricks up my sleeve.

Q: You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in USA with a monthly stipend of 1,000. The second option is ten minutes on the moon. Which option do you select?
A: I love moving to new places, so going to the USA for a year, and getting money each month along the way, is what I would definitely go for. Ten minutes on the moon? It would either be amazing and then I would spent the rest of my life really disappointed that I was only there for a bit...Or it would turn out it's not such a great experience after all, and I will wonder what to do with the rest of the year I could have spent in the USA. Either way: no, thanks, moon, maybe another time.

Q: Wake up without your wallet or wake up without your passport and phone?
A: Bonus points if you wake up without your wallet, passport and phone. Yes, I have actually done it once after a heavy night of drinking at uni, when I *somehow* lost by bag in a club. So, yeah, waking up without any of those things, when you are studying abroad is not the best. No wallet, no ID, no phone. Bingo!


Q: Be left behind in the bush on an African safari or Be left behind in the water on a scuba trip?
A: Oh wow, how much was I drinking to get into a position where I had to choose between those two, possibly horrible deaths? I guess left behind on an African safari is a tiny bit better as I maybe stand a better chance of survival...maybe.

Q: Lose your luggage but land on time OR land 12 hours late with your luggage intact?
A: Easy: land 12 hours later with my luggage intact! I will find something to do with my time, like reading a book or two, and a magazine. Losing all my things? No, thank you, but this is my biggest concern when I travel.

Q: Bike across the US from New York City to San Francisco, or bike across China from Beijing to Tibet?
A: New York from San Francisco sounds better to me and my cycling abilities. I do not think I am fit enough to cycle to Tibet, although I am sure the spiritual reward would be far greater. Till then I will have to satisfy my consumerism needs and choose sunshine, smoothies, cocktails and shopping while cycling from NY to San Francisco.

Q: Be able to teleport to places you’ve already been or only be able to teleport to places you’ve never been before?
A: Ok, for me - this one is the hardest question. I think I would have to go with places I've never been before - that way I will get to teleport more and explore a lot more places. As for places I have already been to (looking at you, Paris), I will save a lot of money from teleporting to the new places, allowing me to travel the old-fashioned way to my old favourites ;)

Q: Be stuck on a seven-hour delay, or Turn up at the airport and realise your flight is tomorrow?
A: Hm I could imagine going to the airport the day before would result in a lot of unwanted hassle - like going back and worrying for a place to stay in for an extra night? Be stuck on the actual airport, but knowing my flight is in seven hours sounds more manageable - I can find how to entertain myself on the airport (ok, this did sound a bit dodgy).

Hope you enjoyed my answers, feel free to copy the tag and let me know in the comment section so I can read your answers, too :) So, what is your biggest travelling dilemma?

Here is the original post: Tea Was Here . 

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Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Perfect TV Programme According to Your Reading Taste

Groucho Marx once said that he found television very educating. For “every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Well said, Groucho Marx, well said!

However, even literature fanatics sometimes find escape in tv, and I am no exception. After all it is truth universally acknowledged that for every reality show of questionable quality, there is a great tv drama, that is going to enrich your mind as opposite to burning your brain. Furthermore, in my binge-watching experience, I have found that there are a few tv programmes that actually respond to some of my literature preferences. So, here I have come up with a list of some quality entertainment that fellow book readers could easily enjoy. With other words, for (almost) every literature taste there is a corresponding tv show.

*By the way, this is obviously not the type of list that goes “if you enjoyed reading A Song of Ice and Fire, you should watch Game of Thrones” – if you haven’t figured something that obvious out, I cannot help you. But keep reading, there might still be a recommendation for you.

If you like reading: Agatha Christie
You are into: crime novels dressed up in period clothing
You should watch: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries


Obviously I wholeheartedly belong to this category. I am famously familiar with Agatha Christie’s novels and they are my definite go-to read, no matter my mood, come snow and rain, I will be next to the fireplace and reading Christie. Which is why, when I stumbled upon Miss Fisher, I knew this was my tv-match-made-in-heaven. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is an Australian series set in the 1920s, following the many adventures of private detective Phryne Fisher. Not only do you get a new murder mystery in every episode, but also all the best of the twenties – Miss Fisher’s stylish bob, the perfection that was the jazz age’s fashion, and quite a lot of flirting, too.

Basically, it looks like what Miss Marple would have been up to in her younger days – solving crimes, sipping on cocktails, and shamelessly flirting with a man or two per episode (ok, maybe Miss Marple was never this outgoing). Honestly, I cannot recommend this programme enough – even though it is a crime series, it does not take itself too seriously and there is plenty of humour in it. If you missed some sexual appeal in Poirot’s cases, there is plenty of it in Miss Fisher. At least check it out for Detective John Robinson – he is one yummy Aussie (did I just type that?), and thank me latter for introducing you to this charming man.

P.S. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is available on Netflix US.

If you like reading: The Stranger by Albert Camus, Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O' Hara, and/or The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
You are into: existentialism, Albert Camus, stylish cocktails with a dash of philosophy
You should watch: Mad Men


Now well into its seventh and final season, Mad Men is one of the best tv programmes to grace the screens in recent years, largely responsible for the Golden Age of television. How did it achieve that? Great story-telling, brilliant directing, and original characters. To top it off, it has one of the most charismatic leading men and antiheroes – Don Draper.

Set in the 1960s, this stylish drama follows an ad agency based on Madison Avenue. Don Draper is the head of the creative department – sexy, charming, and utterly brilliant in his job, he sells his ideas with an ease to anyone – from serious businessmen to less-than-serious, flirty women. All in all, Mad Men is full of colourful characters and their endless stories never bore. Plus, you get some of the best acting on tv – led by Jon Hamm at his absolute best.

Now, apart from the amazing fashion that you get to witness (and that is definitely going to inspire your weekly wear – office inspiration to the max!), by watching Mad Men you are quite probably going to get your philosophical fix as well. Don Draper is the one character that truly believes in the existential ideas, but by watching the show as a whole, you might be able to find even more than this. This is one of those dramas that are built on a lot of layers – everything is in the details.

What does Don Draper read?  From Meditations in an Emergency to Dante’s Inferno – you might get out of Mad Men with a whole new reading list.

If you like reading: F. Scott Fitzgerald and/or Edith Wharton
You are into: a bit of American charm and a European setting, dapper men and classy women
You should watch: Mr Selfridge


So, you have already finished watching Downton Abbey and you need your 20s fix? Mr Selfridge is the perfect programme for you if you are into this time period.

Shopping, scandal, great fashion – what is not to love? If you are based in the UK, you would already know about this famous department store, but wherever you are, you possibly are not familiar with the full story behind its opening?

When rich American Harry Gordon Selfridge arrived in London at the beginning of the twentieth century he had a dream – to change the shopping world the way Europeans knew it. And naturally, in 1909 he opened Selfridges – England’s first modern department store. Starting this kind of business was not easy, but this drama is not just about the business part of life. Mr Selfridge himself had quite a few stories up his sleeve – a notorious womanizer and a passionate gambler, it is his persona that is in the heart of the programme.

If you enjoyed getting lost in the roaring jazz world of Fitzgerald, chances are, you are going to love watching Mr Selfridge, too!

If you like reading: The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and/or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
You are into: political thrillers, antiheroes, clever dialogue and struggle for power
You should watch: House of Cards

Source: Netflix

An intelligent programme with brilliant dialogue and some of the best cast around? Here, Netflix wins big as House Of Cards is the quality tv drama that you never knew you wanted, but it turns out is exactly what you needed. Of course, that is if you are into politics, the complex world of international relations and the ambition for power that moves us forward.

Frank Underwood is the star of the game, marvellously played by Kevin Spacey. An ambitious American politician who would not be stopped before he gets to the top of the system, Frank is deviously intelligent, ruthless and sharp. What makes House of Cards utterly enjoyable (apart from the great plot and acting), is the storytelling – in a now signature tool of the programme, Kevin Spacey looks directly at the camera, telling us exactly what he is thinking/what his true intentions are, while he is usually saying something diametrically opposite to the people in the room. Double-faced much? You have no idea.

If political thrillers are your forte, and you love reading about brilliant antiheroes who fascinate you with their endless ambition – House of Cards is your one true love.  

So, what do you think: do you agree with those choices? Let me know, and I am happy to keep making those kind of lists in the future! x  
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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Weekly Reading Inspiration

It's feeling so nice and warm in London at the moment that I thought I should share with you some equally as warm pictures! Here are some books & flowers that have made it into my spring-inspirational mood board this week. Hope they bring you some inspiration and good mood, too! Have a lovely weekend.

Picture sources: one, two, three, four, five, six and seven :)

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Friday, 10 April 2015

Twisted: Book Review

Author: Lola Smirnova
Genre: Fiction, dark, drama.
Pages: 314
Originally published in: 2014

A dramatic, dark story about sex work in Europe, Twisted had all the potential to be one of those depressing books that show some of the ugliest aspects of life, following truly disturbing events. Yet, it fails in this mission. Unlike other similar novels inspired by true events that can make your whole day miserable, Lola Smirnova’s Twisted is written with an effortless sense of humour, making the whole reading process an easy ride.

The story is centred on three young Ukrainian sisters – Natalia, Lena and Julia. Each of them completely different from the other two, what they all have in common is lack of opportunities within post-Soviet Ukraine. Dreaming of a better life and a job that can bring them quick money, the sisters set off to Western Europe, where they join the growing sex industry of Luxembourg.

The narrator here is the youngest sister – Julia – and she tells the whole story of how they decided to join the sex trade and what that life brought to them, from her perspective. Needless to say, Julia is not the most reliable of narrators, as she is just a naïve, teenage girl, quick to jump to conclusions. Her likeability is also questionable. I have to say I found it really hard to like her since most of her decisions were rather poor and her character pretty tough to connect with. Some might put this down to her young age, but this is certainly not an excuse of the way she treats other people, even her sisters. Anyway, I am not someone who needs to like the protagonist in order to enjoy the book, so this did not bother me at all.

Now, for the sex work and all the details. Twisted is very (very!) graphic – so, be warned! Smirnova definitely does not shy away from sharing with the reader sexually explicit images, and some of those images are going to be hard to wipe out, believe me! The way she describes the many sex scenes is very natural, making the scenes so alive that you can easily see them in front of you, even if you have never been in a similar position yourself (pun unintended). The descriptions come to live, the characters (the many clients that the girls see) – even more so. You might even get a little scared of visiting Luxembourg in case you run into one of those shady men (but then again, don’t forget that this is a beautiful, little European country!).

However, the strongest point to this novel is its humour. As Julia takes us on this ride, she speaks of all the things that happen to her (some of them truly atrocious) with such an easy-going tone and even self-irony, that she makes you feel as if she is telling you the whole story over a cup of coffee. The humour is what makes the book believable. After all, even in the darkest of times, the human mind manages to find some light. Maybe not immediately, but in time – definitely, by the time he or she, is ready to tell their story.

Finally, Twisted is a very interesting, fast paced book. Personally, I do not think it took me more than a couple of days to finish it – the story is too gripping to be put down. I wanted to keep reading and reading, and see what is going to happen to the girls; where is this life going to take them. Thanks to the easy language and the lightness of the prose, this was an easy task. As long as you know what you are getting into, and you do not mind some quite explicit content, you are probably going to enjoy it. And better make your mind up fast for Smirnova is preparing to turn this one into the first title of a trilogy!

I was kindly sent this book by Kelsey from Book Publicity Services & all opinions are mine. For more information on Twisted go here.
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