Thursday 19 November 2015

Fireworks in Victoria Park

As I mentioned in my last Wanderings post, I love fireworks night, and really enjoyed going to watch them when I was small. My memories of this are from the town Scout Hut, trying to get close to the front to see a Catherine wheel get going - definitely my favourite firework! I loved swishing around a sparkler, attempting to write my whole name before the beginning part vanished, actually fairly easy for me with my short name! Having my Mum bang on about not holding a sparkler without gloves on, and having to watch out for them on the floor. There was a definite heightening of the amount of damage a finished sparkler could do!

The last firework display I went to at Victoria Park, the year before I left for China was epic. It was all set to music, and ended with a fantastic fire-picture (not sure how else to describe it) of Big Ben and a skeleton Guy Fawkes setting fire to the Big Ben. The clock turned into a Catherine wheel and then Big Ben took off like a rocket (to the Bowie song Space Oddity). You can see some photos here:


This year was also a great display. Unfortunately for me it didn't surpass that show in 2007, but I was really glad to be there and watching the fireworks! Since we don't get to see Catherine wheels much anymore, my new favourite has to be the one I like to think of a popcorn rockets, they explode all colourful in the sky and then the bits that come out also explode (like popcorn in the microwave!). There were plenty of them, and lots more! The only other disappointment was the oversight of using Katy Perry's 'Firework' as one of the background songs... surely that's a given for Bonfire Displays?!

Well Done Tower Hamlets Council, I can't wait for next year and I hope it's just as good (or even better) than this year!

For anyone who isn't familiar with Firework's Night (or Bonfire Night as it's also called). This happens every year on the 5th of November. It comes from a foiled plot by about 10 Catholics who wanted to kill the Protestant King. They planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament whist the King was visiting. Somehow the authorities found out (betrayal/whistleblower?) and Guy Fawkes, one of the 10, was caught red handed underneath Parliament in a room full of gunpowder. He was tried, found guilty and killed. The following year, the King decreed that everyone in the land light bonfires to celebrate the discovery of this plot and the preservation of his life.

We have continued this tradition every year since. I don't know exactly when fireworks were added, but it's in the last 10 years that we've started to move away from having actual bonfires and just stick with fireworks now (probably health and safety of having thousands of people near a massive fire!) 

Guy Fawkes has gone down in history, probably better remembered than the King (James I - which I just had to check) There's no doubt that in British minds he was bad - although after explaining this story to some of my student recently one asked whether he is a hero. 

Here's a little rhyme that we learnt as children so as never to forget Bonfire Night!

Remember, remember the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason, 
why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot!

Thursday 12 November 2015

Wanderings Lately :: November

This fortnight my wanderings have been many and fairly varied. I began the two weeks temping at a language school near Holborn, working only in the mornings and enjoying my last couple of weeks before jumping back into full time work. I then started my new job this week, and so far am really enjoying it. The people are exceptionally nice and I feel like I've slotted in well straight away which is great. The first few weeks are my induction, learning all the procedures and promptly forgetting many people's names. I've been at home a lot less so boring jobs like washing and food shopping have taken a hit, so it'll take a while to get back into a routine but that's something I'm very much looking forward to! 


After our chocolate disaster, we all met for drinks at Hawker House, which is being held really near my house. A bit of a hipster place - street food stalls and an over priced bar but great fun at the same time. As Jasmin and I had eaten just before we got there we didn't really eat anything so we're heading back this Friday (celebration of my first week at work) to sample some of the food. It was Halloween which is why we're wearing some homemade 'costumes' for anyone who, like me, doesn't get the jokes the hat is a 'party animal' and the glasses 'eye candy'...

Lunch and Dinner

Whilst I was off I met a few friends for lunch. Siobhan works at City Hall so I got a sneak peek into the lobby/cafeteria there and we explored this cool floor map of London. It doesn't go quite as far out as my house in Essex, but my Nan's house was on there in Loughton!

I met a friend for dinner last week, where we went upmarket and had dinner at the Four Seasons. We had a deal through 'book a table' so it was on a deal but the food was suitably delicious, the restaurant fancy and the cocktails tasty (but over priced)




This month has my favourite 'festival', Bonfire Night. Although it's only one night, and really only tentatively a festival or celebration, I really love going to watch fireworks. When I was little this was a freezing cold night where you'd be wearing gloves and you could see your breath, so now that it's positively balmy weather it's lost a little of it's sheen. I spent my time teaching students about Bonfire Night when I was abroad, and in doing so learnt a lot more about the actually story behind it. 

The last couple of years I've not managed to actually get to a fireworks display, but this year I noticed that Victoria Park had re-introduced their free display I dragged Jasmin along to watch it with me. It was also quite significant for us, as we met, through our mutual friend Macey, at the same display 7 years ago. We'd never have guessed all those years ago that we'd become much better friends in the future but it was nice to share that moment again this year and celebrate our 'friend-iversary'

I also realised this week that I've been a Facebook user for 9 years this month. One of my favourite apps is timehop, which lets you look over your social media posts for the same day in years past. I like to look at this every day and see what I was up to one, two, three etc years ago. Sometimes I don't have anything much, but other times I get a little reminder of past events. It can also startle you when a photo of an ex-boyfriend pops up unannounced! This was from my friend Hannah at university and the first person to write me a message on my wall - a feature that I think they may have taken away now.


This fortnight I finished my 'Winter' cross stitch. I've been working on this for quite a long time, since I tend to go in stages of either working on it a lot and to then ignoring it for ages. I've now completed 'Spring', 'Summer' and 'Winter' and will begin work on 'Autumn' very soon. Once I've got a full set I'm going to try and make them into something worthwhile, probably a cushion.

As I mentioned in the intro, I started my new job this week and on my first day I had to travel from my main office in Bloomsbury to our other base in West London. Gloucester Road tube station looked lovely in the dusk light and I loved the old signage of metropolitan railway on the side so I snapped a quick photo. Although I rarely travel to West London, I enjoyed wandering around the streets this day, taking in the typical 5 storey London town houses and wide streets around the station.

Lastly I spotted this sign recently which made me smile and it reads:

'On your 100th birthday, you'd be disappointed if the Queen only sent you an email,'

So true! I think technology is great and has made it so easy to communicate and keep in contact with people we would usually have lost touch with very quickly in the past. However, I still love to send and even better, receive proper mail through the post. So keep on sending! :-)

::This week I'll be enjoying food at Hawker House, spending the day with my church on Saturday and getting all Christmassy with my mum this Sunday in Essex! What plans do you have in store? ::

Saturday 7 November 2015

A chocolate making let down

Last weekend Jasmin and I attended a chocolate making class in Paxton Chocolate in trendy Shoreditch. This was one of Jas' 30before30 experiences and I was happy to help out with ticking it off! 

After booking the class, we didn't get any instructions sent to us about the class, I only had a reciept to prove I'd paid. I would have expected an email with travel instructions and things we might need on the day - or just to say that we don't need to bring anything. Anyway, using our own initiative we found the shop on the Saturday.

The class started well. The classroom was in the basement of the shop, quite compact but well equipped. Our teacher was friendly and all seemed good. Seven people were scheduled to come, although one person didn't turn up at all. 

Our first demonstration was ok, our teacher gave us a demonstration, and then we were given time to do it for ourselves. We melted the chocolate over a double boiler, warmed some cream and then mixed it all together with some cognac. This we poured onto a metal baking tray and put in the fridge to set.

We were then supposed to make hand-rolled truffles. However, when the ganache we were to use came out of the fridge, it hadn't set. So handling it and rolling it into balls was impossible. At this point I felt bad for our teacher. It was clearly quite an embarrassing thing to happen, since she had made the ganache the night before and explained to us that she must have used incorrect measurements. As we couldn't do this part of the class, and our chocolate mixture had only just gone into the fridge and needed more time to set, we basically had nothing to do but wait. 

After switching our baking trays into the freezer to try and speed the process up, we had a practise of piping the gone-wrong ganache into spare chocolate cups. This in itself was ok, piping isn't the easiest thing so it was good to have a go. What I didn't realise was, that this was exactly what we were going to do with our own chocolate. 

So after doing this is a big group, we then split into our pairs, took out our chocolate from the fridge and started the whole process again. After filling more cups, organising these into a box and tying a ribbon around it, we were done.

I was really disappointed with this experience. Although this was a simple mistake that isn't something deliberate. Our chocolate making class, costing £35, to learn how to pipe and make hand rolled truffles ended up being half of what we were promised. I really thought our teacher would offer an alternative for us to take with us - since we had paid for two different chocolates to take away from the class. At the end of the class however, she quite awkwardly stood by waiting for us to leave. Barely even acknowledging that we'd missed out, except to admit this hadn't happen in any of her other classes. So we left knowing that everyone else who'd been had recieved double what we had.

I've contacted the shop to explain what happened at our class and hope that they come back with a solution to raise my opinion of the company. So far I just feel short changed.

This was us with our gloves on, ready for the hand-rolled truffle making...

Edit: I contacted Paxton Chocolate to explain our experience and how disappointed we were and they immediately offered us a 50% refund on our class fee.