30 September 2014

No Immunity, Alan Hunt

If you were to turn my family into a shelf of books, we'd have every genre covered.

Dad would be a military/crime novel, layered full with sharp humour, brooding twists and turns, my Mum a supernatural romance novel full of outlandish ideas and fantastical dragons. I would be a travel book, pages brimming with promises of exotic destinations and delicious meals voluptuously described. My sister is a sweet romance novel, full of promise and a wonderful denouement you may not expect. My brother loved Manga comics, but currently he & his partner are side by side how-to-be-parent books, idly leafed through before my lovely nephew makes his way into the world (whereby the book will barely have to time to be read). And last, but certainly not least my Mr Kiwi is an autobiography, usually of the rock star variety.

As kids we grew up in houses bursting with books, and although our personalities uncannily reflect our favourite reading genres, we all turned to one anothers' favourite books to leaf through. Perhaps we even learned a little about each other. Who knows. Why am blathering on about all about this? Well, the minute I picked up No Immunity, I knew my Dad will love it.

Luckily, these childhood influences left a lasting impression on me, and a love of John Grisham's intrigue, Jeffrey Archer's complex character relationships and a fascination for legal entanglement dancing across the pages of a thrilling novel; all still reach far into my adult life.

No Immunity's surface plot is about a young man in the British diplomatic service, who is inexorably drawn into investigating the murder of the UK's Ambassador to Argentina. With a fascinating pace, beautifully evocative South American landscapes and believable characters, this fascinating novel charts nuances and intrigues lacing the inner-world of international diplomatic relations and the affect on the racing personal lives of everyone involved. A debut novel written by a former diplomatic servicemen, the book was a swift page turner on a recent holiday and had wonderful aspects subtlely pulled through the plot. I can't wait to see his next release.

Ps. Dad if you're reading this, look away - Santa might just need to make a delivery from the UK...

29 September 2014

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House

As important to the British psyche as Tea, wellies and apologising for other people bumping into you, the Royal family is an institution. Britain (/England/the United Kingdom/whatever) simply wouldn't be the same without the bastion of the eccentric royal family: the Queen's imperious waves, Prince Philips gaffes, Charles & Camilla's love affair and Kate and Williams rock-star icon just adds such a soupcon to the mystique of Britain.

So, on our epic Tourist day where we began by climbing Big Ben, our next item simple had to be exploring Buckingham Palace. Aka. the Queen's house. After a wee lunch break, and mad cross-town dash in a black taxi (as someone had left the tickets where we had partaken of lunch) we lined up in eager anticipation. Sadly we weren't personally escorted as the Queen was on her Scottish Summer Hols, but we made do with the audio tour headphone thingees they kindly left for us. I'm a little saddened as they didn't leave handwritten notes or anything, but in the packing for their holidays they will have been busy, especially with the Corgi's milling. I'm willing to forgive them, but I will make a note to ask her to speak with her secretary about the laxity.

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

It was everything thing I thought it would be - ostentatious, sumptuous and amazing. Just what a Palace should be. (Nb: you aren't mean to take any photos in the palace itself, but I managed to sneak a few in. Don't tell anyone, ok? It's our little secret...)

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

We were amazed at how many familiar places you get to see on the tour. Whilst you don't get to see where her Madge actually lives, you get to see loads of other places;

The infamous entrance they use on official occasions (for instance Kate & Wills' wedding before the photos)...

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

... and the throne room where they took the actual photos. I can't tell you how tempting it was to vault over the wee guide ropes and jump onto the throne, just for the photo opp. Even though she would have disapproved I'm sure Liz could have had a word with her security, convincing them not to throw me out or give us a lifetime ban! (As an aside, I would look good sitting on a luxuriously appointed throne I think - one definitely needs to be installed for receiving guests in my future home/castle.)

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

There was also the White Reception room where the Queen meets with officials and the Prime minister each week, complete with secret entrance leading from the Queens personal rooms. Whilst were there, a special Diamond exhibit was on, celebrating the Queens' Diamond Jubilee (which I will definately blog about in the future - it was AWESOME). The sheer beauty and size of the diamonds on display was staggering.

I loved the rocco decoration throughout the Palace. Though us plebs can't get away with them as easily, everything was beautiful to the point that they had gold power sockets;

They had me laughing for hours. I'm just sad that I couldn't get a photo of them (security was pretty darn tight) so I had to nick one from the interweb. After the beautiful suites and exhibition (which change all the time) we decided it was high tea time on the south lawn.
Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

On the way out of the Palace, the grounds are perfectly kept specimens of British gardens - Downtown Abbey look on in shame. (In case you wondered what the lawn looks like during an actual Garden Party, check out my wrap up of the one I was invited to this year(!))

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

We popped into the Queen's local, the Bag O' Nails for a quick refreshing beverage, but seemed to have just missed her again... next time, Liz, and the round is on me!

Buckingham Palace: Tea at the Queen's House - Adventures of a London Kiwi

We had such a great time, there are so many things to see - check out their website for details. Just to be clear, we weren't sponsored in or anything, we just loved it so much it has to be added to any summer itinerary!

Now, if you could be a Princess/Prince (Disney or otherwise), which would you be? I think maybe I would be Princess Anne - she looks like good fun but doesn't have the pressure the rest have.

27 September 2014

Friday figments and photos

This week the clock seems like it's been a beat behind - you know, that feeling that life is a milisecond out, good overall but something missing. I believe the culprit is that wil'o 'the wisp creature called wanderlust.

Fortuitously, a long weekend away from the big smoke of London, exploring the canals and history of Amsterdam was just what the doctor ordered.

Adventures of a London Kiwi - Life lately

Adventures of a London Kiwi - Life lately

Adventures of a London Kiwi - Life lately

I combined my love of coffee and smooth rum into inventing a cocktail (and don't forget there's a chance for a goodie bag to end up on your doorstep...)

Adventures of a London Kiwi - Life lately

Obeyed random signed around London a little too often...

Adventures of a London Kiwi - Life lately

Ate cake for charity. Oh yes indeedy.

Adventures of a London Kiwi - Life lately

Before topping it all off with ending up in the wrong county on my way home one night - but hey, look at that stunning sunset that would have been missed...

Adventures of a London Kiwi - Life lately

Snuggled with the cat on the sofa I've also just caught my first ever show of Goggle box. Good lord, watching people watching TV.

26 September 2014

Castle hunting: Gloucestershire princesses for the night

Once upon a time, two Kiwi girls voyaged across the globe in search of adventure, exotic climes, unbelievable history and the occasional good quality Flat White. Years pass, each settling at opposite ends of the M25. Having grown up in the same small town they were fortuitously destined to meet over the clinking of beautiful London fine china to discuss the finer vagarities of blogging, shoes, life in England and taste-testing arrays of gluten-free dining.

Road trip: Castle hunting: Gloucestershire princesses for the night - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Roadtrip: Castle hunting: Thornbury Castle- Adventures of a London Kiwi

Some might say that destiny pre-ordained their mutual excitement at the thought of a weekend living like Princesses (well, that, or the eye-rolling of their respective spouses). Henceforth, many lunchtimes were spent Google researching the rolling English countryside in the hunt for the most beautiful room in all of christendom. No stone (or URL) was unturned with the ferocity of their fervour.

24 September 2014

Old J Spiced Rum - Goodie bag giveaway and recipe competition NOW CLOSED

Rum, oh how I love thee (responsibly of course). Beach sunsets, winter afternoons, tipple-laced truffles and of course as a port-work prandial. I'm not sure what it is that attracts me the tittivating temptation - it's probably the smooth flavour reminiscent of a spiced cake or gingerbread cookie combined with a smooth liquer. Old J is divine, like sipping fragrant cake, perfect in a take on Espresso Martini: A shot of good coffee, mixed with a tot of Old J, and mixed with warm frothy milk softly spiced with cinnamon. Autumnal heaven.

There's even a touch of historical fascination to this spirit - in 1740 Admiral Edward Vernon enforced a reduction in the strength of the British Navy´s rum ration. When his men complained, Vernon suggested the addition of limes and sugar to make the drink more enjoyable. This is a 21st Century refresh of the concept, and it is delicious.

The kind team at Old J have teamed up with myself and a few handpicked bloggers to roll out a nationwide competition for the best recipe using rum (with an initial goodie bag for one of my lovely readers simply for taking part). They want to end up with a bevy of delicious recipes (one from each blog) to culminate in a final in Manchester to be judged by a panel including Debbie Halls-Evans, winner of The Taste and Dave Marsland aka The Drinks Enthusiast. The blogger and the winner of the final will each win dinner for two at Manchester House, UK travel and accommodation in Manchester.

If (like myself) you're not a cook, don't worry you can still enter the initial Old J goodie pack draw and we can use my delectable chocolate rum truffle recipe that I have always adored. So simple, and yet such melt in the mouth deliciousness.

Excuse the terrible photo, they never ever last long enough in our house to get a decent photo...

How To Enter: 
  • Simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below to verify your entries 
  • Entries can be via blog comment, Bloglovin' Twitter etc 
  • Leaving a blog comment is mandatory and failure to do so will void any other entries 
  • Closing date -  midnight 10th October 2014

*Terms and conditions*
  1. One initial prize winner of one pack of Old J Spiced Rum goodies.
  2. The winning entry will be verified and if not correctly actioned the prize may be redrawn.
  3. Entries must be made by readers 18 years or over.
  4. The winner will be contacted by email within 36 hours of the end of the competition requesting contact details and the initial parcel dispatched by the Old J Rum company (and affiliates). Subsequent events and dates will be confirmed by the Old J Rum team. Adventures of a London Kiwi accepts no liability on behalf of this competition, but will endeavour to assist in any way possible.

How Entries and Rafflecopter works:
  • You will need to complete the mandatory entry first by making a blog comment. Click 'leave a comment' at the bottom of the post and leave your reply. The comment won't show immediately as it needs to be moderated, however rest assured it will appear on the site, so carry on with rest of your entries.
  • Go back to Rafflecopter and click the green button to tell me you have made a comment, this will unlock all the other options. All entries are checked to see that the mandatory question is answered, if its not all bonus entries will become void.
  • Rafflecopter will tweet, like and follow on your behalf.
  • For information on how to find the URL of your tweet click here.
  • For bonus entries you can return to this page and enter the daily bonus entries.
  • If you are still unsure as to how Rafflecopter works please do check out this short video.

23 September 2014

My passport to explore the world

Asked the other day for my favourite book ever read, I was utterly stumped. Does one pick a lofty tome to suggest culture, a favourite pick-me-up-whenever-blue book or an inspiring biography?

After much deliberation, I realised it was actually a non-fiction compilation, a small embossed account of international travel, expeditions to foreign lands, and the occasional luxury day trip.

My passport.

Travelling by train through several countries this weekend (England to Amsterdam via France & Brussels) it struck me how much I adore brandishing my little black and silver book. Not just a record of any old journey, it's a series of travel diaries charting adventures in far-off lands. Each stamp is irrefutable proof of another country conquered, another way to remember.

Every new country is another lesson learned, an additional culture experienced and more tastes of a different way to live life. Perhaps I'm being overly sentimental, but I don't really want new-fangled technology to replace my dog-eared record...

22 September 2014

Climbing to see Big Ben - a room with a view

When people think of London and British landmarks, what top three come mind? People normally say Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.

Well a couple of years ago, Mr Kiwi, my brother-in-law, a very good friend and I played London tourists for the day. It was awesome. I think I'll have to split the day into 3 posts, or you may curse me for the sheer length of time it takes your computer to load!

It doesn't look THAT tall.. I think...
Firstly we climbed about 210 feet high (the total tower is 96.3m, roughly 16 storeys) tower, by way of of a 334 step spiral staircase. Not just any fly-on the wall, blase turn-of-the-century run-of-the-mill tower, but up the big daddy. Elizabeth Tower (previously St Stephens Tower & renamed in 2012 to celebrate 'er madge's Diamond Jubilee) is known to the World at large as Big Ben, and you get to see the fascinating mechanism and clock face that comprises the world famous icon, then the enormous bell himself.

With this looming, I've been in secret training for this, and it's had me on the stair machines in the gym for a while, building up to 10 minute sessions (you may think '10 minutes? That's nothing!' try it, I dare you. It's surprisingly hard!), and I am so glad I have been. As a bonus our guide said we were a rather fit group, and because of such we were up there in double quick time, meaning we spent more time listening to the beautiful bells up close. I've never been called 'fit'! The guides do this climb 3 times a day and 15 times a week - they definitely aren't gym Turkeys. 

We got to watch all of the mechnisms at work, see the famous pennies keeping the pendulum ticking regularily, check out the 32ft clock faces and best of all see Big Ben himself. It was such a fantastic thing to do, a moment that you never forget methinks.

I'm not going to bore you with all of the geeky fun facts, like the bell is a bit cracked, all 13.7 tonnes of it was winched up the Tower by 8 men, taking them a total of 32hours, and the E note Big Ben is famous for, is now E flat.. Go, I implore you. Or, check out Big Ben's official website for more info than you can shake a stick at. Big Ben also has Twitter. Awesome.

The tours are (as of writing) free, and can only be done by UK Residents, but it's so easy to do. Check-out their website and let me know what you think. Do it, it was amazing. I was only able to take a couple of very very sneaky pics, but we left grinning ear to ear.

Are you a UK resident & did you realise that this can be done? For free?

20 September 2014

One lovely blog award

The One Lovely Blog Award is given to bloggers by fellow bloggers. It’s designed to promote up-and-coming blogs, and to highlight those blogs that are thought to be “lovely” by the person nominating them – travel-awe inducing Molly has kindly nominated me - sharing the love.

One Lovely Blog Award 

The rules are pretty straight forward;
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post (or elsewhere on your blog).
  • Share 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate some other blogs to receive the award – blogs that you admire for sharing stories in a “lovely” way.
Thank you Molly!! Mwah!

So, seven facts about me…… 
  1. I can listen to a song that gets into my head 10 times in a row. I'm currently listening to Rather Be by Crazy Bandit.
  2. I'm not keen on shoes. At any given moment at work they are kicked off.
  3. I rather enjoy toast, and challenging myself to write creatively.
  4. I dance like no-one is looking too often when people are looking.
  5. Too many sentences that being with "I" frustrate me.
  6. I can rewire a ceiling light.
  7. I don't have a favourite colour - I've never felt the need.
 I choose...

I adore her smile, and envy her incredible photography
Her joy of London life and fine dining is inspiring (and continually expands my 'must visit' list'.
Whose GBBO recaps are the highlight of my week.
'Cos I love her adventures in suburban Sweden.
Who is having a rather rough week but always leaves such lovely blog comments.

19 September 2014

Friday figments and photos

"It's a moment that I'm after, a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment." - Andrew Wyeth 
Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Friday figments and photos - Adventures of a London Kiwi

What's your favourite moment of the week? (PS. no GBBO spoilers - please!)

17 September 2014

An Ode to Toast.

Oh, toast, how I love thee. Your singed, crispy exterior blushfully hiding a sinfully soft inside. Hot buttery toppings pooling on a naturally uneven surface, crying out to be crunched, dipped or simply transport a plethora of possibility.

An Ode to Toast - Adventures of a London Kiwi

You are a fickle creature, at times indecisive and turning no-point of return devilish shades with no more warning than a nostril flare of burning. I do so adore you with just a spring time blush; your coat just turning a beautiful golden brown. I will guiltily confess to turning away if you are sporting a summer tan, deep and too crisp.

An Ode to Toast - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Heavy German Pumpernickel, cloudlike white bread, nutty wholemeal, Italian fancy breads kneaded by Nonnas or simply complete with jewelled hunks of softly sweet fruit. I love you all.

An Ode to Toast - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Hunks of yeasty leavenings carved, then fired by temperamental machines of gleaming chrome.
You are the punctuation to mealtimes; morning toasts with a gloriously runny egg, english muffins conveying opalescent eggs and rich hollandaise, club sandwiches beefing out lunchtimes, sneaking into afternoon tea carousels and heroically rescuing late dinners scooping fiery chilli or as toastie pies.

The simple act of toasting can even make gluten free bread taste good. Well, better in most cases anyway.

An Ode to Toast - Adventures of a London Kiwi

You are the hero of mealtimes. Anyone who doesn't enjoy you slathered in a topping of their choosing is just uneducated.

An Ode to Toast - Adventures of a London Kiwi

In fact, toasts, you are the best thing since sliced bread.

Ps. I swear I haven't lost the plot...

16 September 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird, Regents Open Air Theatre

Harper Lee's evocative telling of life in a small American town is stunning on the page; stirring turbulent emotions surrounding the racial prejudice in tight-knit communities during harsh financial times.

But how on earth do you go about re-reading a eponymous classic that you studied as a schoolkid? Do you try to dig out the notes, hack it alone with vague memories or hope you've forgotten everything and will discover the writing anew? How about sitting in Regent's Park open-air theatre on a crisp autumn evening, cocooned tightly in a coat and scarf?

Shoe props kindly donated by a puzzled husband.

Luckily, that's exactly where I found myself last week. I spoke recently with a friend about the danger of overusing superlatives, but it's impossible not to be drawn into the spell woven about the audience. Clever, clever choreography, odes directly to the text, engaging actors, a fantastically simple set - no wonder they have had rave reviews. Whilst we were there we noticed several school groups, learning viscerally rather than through ink and page; oh to have had that opportunity.
Through courage and compassion, lawyer Atticus Finch seeks the truth, and his feisty daughter, Scout - a young girl on the cusp of adulthood - brings new hope to a neighbourhood in turmoil.

Instead of throwing away the book and producing a movie-like setup of seamless changes and plot alterations, the New Shakespeare company begin the play immersively, drawing you deep into the storytelling - but I'm not going to tell you how.

The actors were wonderful, portraying the nuances of each scene with ease and humility - switching from local to American accents with ease, from storytelling to living the drama with each hop, skip and strummed guitar haunting us with soft lyricism. Atticus, and the three children (playing Scout, Jim and Dill) were especially haunting in their portrayal

The open air theatre creates an unusual larger world - the birds calling, the rustling of the trees, occasional wail of sirens and clever use of the audience as the jury during sentencing (not a spoiler by the way); but would work wonderfully in their national theatre tour if you missed out on tickets (they don't know who I am whatsoever - just Google them).

15 September 2014

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

London bucket lists simply never end. The city is so busy and vibrant that no sooner that you've ticked something off, several more dance their wicked way onto the lineup. Sitting on that list for far too long were plans to visit (always seeming to fall a-fowl (sorry) of something else) the luscious lilypads of Barnes Wildfowl and Wetland Centre.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Fast-foward to a conversation mid-last week at To Kill a Mockingbird (ironically enough) with my partner-in-blog-crime Ngaire, and we found ourselves on a sunny Saturday morning sauntering around pathways criss-crossing the reserve.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre
Two Kiwi birds, looking at more birds (with a few new blog friends).

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a conservation charity that saves wetlands, which are essential for life itself. Wetlands are the primary source of drinking water for people and wildlife. They also connect us with nature, and with ourselves, through beautiful landscapes and inspiring encounters with wildlife.

Barnes' 42 hectare site is a wildlife oasis among London’s suburbia. As the planes fade away towards Heathrow, listen for the wind through the rushes that are homes for nationally important populations of gadwall and grebes. Also listen for the boom of the regular bittern visitors. It’s one of the southeast’s top locations for bats, marsh frogs and moths.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Peter Scott was the son of Antarctic explorer Captain Scott who, in his dying letter, urged Peter’s mother to “make the boy interested in natural history”. Peter particularly loved the wild open marshes of Britain and the mysterious geese that visited from unknown shores. He started as a wildfowler but learned to protect first the birds, and then their wetland habitats. In 1946 he set up the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge as a centre for science and conservation. Uniquely at the time, he opened it to the public so that anyone could enjoy getting close to nature.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre
Our naughty sub-guide for the day... I'm really not sure she's meant to be there!

We also had an alternative reason for being there: to try out the cameras on Samsung S5 smartphones and push them to their blogging limits. I have a guilty blogging secret to fess up to - I don't own a camera, no DSLR, not even a point-and-shoot. Having lost it in Orlando airport last year, I blogged with my Samsung S2 for nearly a year, before upgrading to the S4 this year. Mr Kiwi has an S5 and loves it. I try and get my sticky mitts on his phone as often as I can...

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Escorted along the paths by Phil, volunteering in the center for c.16 years was an eye opener. He treated us to so many fascinating facts about the ecosystem, the carefully looked after plethora of wildfowl, animal inhabitants and incredible conservation work being carried out to save at risk and endangered animal species.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

We mostly listened in awe at his passion, cooed over the ducks and photographed anything that moved. If pushed to pick just one, my favorite photo of the day has to be this one, staring through the lens of Phil's telescope at a rather amused looking frog. You have to have a super steady hand to do this, but the results can be amazing.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

...or perhaps this one, a wee insect no more than an inch long in body, just minding his own business, sunning himself.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

We snuck into one of the many hides, quietly giggling at silly jokes about 'twitching tweeters' and enjoyed the views over the reclaimed marshland. I personally can't sit still for more than about 30 seconds, so take my hat off to the bird-fascinated enthusiasts who sit for hours just to catch sight of a rare bird, also aiming for beautiful images of these wild creatures, none of whom like to pose.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Arriving back near the entrance to the centre just in time, we watched the local family of otters inhale their afternoon feed. Those guys are divine, but can move like furry little sharks; on land and sea.

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre

I already want to return, having only seen a teeny taste (though we were there for nearly 3 hours - I can see how a visit could easily take the entire day). Just down the road (for the music enthusiasts of course) is the Marc Bolan memorial shrine - infamous for his tunes "Get It On" and "Ride a White Swan" (!) - set up by mourning 70's pop music fans, at the base of the tree where he sadly met his James Dean-esque demise in the prime of his life 37 years ago.

Marc Bolan memorial shrine - infamous for his tunes "Get It On" and "Ride a White Swan"

The Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre are a charity body making a real difference to the local and international wildfowl populations, whilst displaying their inhabitants with a lovely humourous flare.

Have you been yet or is it lurking on that London to-do list?