Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Cycling Fatalities by Country

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Brick Lane Area, East London

The streets around Brick Lane in east London are a world away from the nearby glass and steel skyscrapers of the City. With period lampposts, timeworn brick buildings, venerable old shopftronts and the odd stretch of cobbles, this area conjures up Dickensian London.

Pancake Races on Dray Walk, Shoreditch, East London

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Book or Mormon, the Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, central London

A highly energetic and entertaining parody of both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and western preconceptions of Africa, the Book of Mormon somehow manages to be both a feel good and a feel bad musical. It opens in the mission training centre in Salt Lake City with the trainee elders, complete with gleaming all-American teeth, practising ringing door bells and introducing the occupants to the book that will change your life. This well choregraphed scene also introduces the audience to the high-tempo music, edgy lyrics, comic timing and highly-expressive acting that are the hallmarks of this extraordinary production. Soon afterwards, the two lead characters - Elder Price and Elder Cunningham - are saying goodbye to their parents as they prepare to board a plane to Uganda to begin their mission. Suddenly, the parents leave, the lighting changes and a black woman in tribal regalia, complete with leopard skins, appears on stage and belts out a powerful African anthem. Moments later the parents reappear and thank the singer, who has never been to Africa, for giving their boys a fine send-off.  By the writers of irreverent cartoon South Park, the script mixes this kind of subtle and unexpected humour with crass obscenities and school-boy style-repetition of the earthy line: "I have got maggots in my scrotum."

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Smithfield London, Watling Street, central London

With a meaty menu and diner-style decor, Smithfield London is targeted at the legions of local office workers looking for a substantial change from Pret or Eat. You can get a decent (spicy or herby) chicken salad sandwich for £6. A topping of melted cheese costs another quid. There is also a steak sandwich for £7, plus a range of carnivorous salads and soups. But breakfast here may be the best option. You can get a truly memorable and mouthwatering bacon sandwich, packed with delicious smoked meat, for about three quid. Unfortunately, the coffee is less exciting, the rock music a bit loud and there can be a disconcerting shortage of punters. Still, the staff make you welcome and you would be hard-pressed to find a better bacon sarnie. 7/10

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Brawn, Columbia Road, east London

A rustic French restaurant in a fashionable part of London, Brawn tends to easily fill all its tables, particularly at weekends. With whitewashed brick walls, battered Gallic posters, bare wooden tables and a wine list as long as your leg, Brawn is one of a small chain of earthy eateries renown for interesting victuals and vino. If you don't want a full bottle, you can get a 500ml carafe of Bellotti Rosso, which is billed as spicy, for £18.50. But it isn't great. The menu changes daily, but you can count on Brawn serving rich, rich food. The rillette (£6) is delicious, but is so fatty, you might see your life flash before you. The balls of mozzarella (£7), served on a smoked aubergine base, are less appealing. For a main course, the oxtail with polenta (£16) has a good, salty flavour, but it isn't special enough or large enough for the price tag. The pork sausage (£14), served with some carbs, also feels like poor value. Much better is the baked vacherin (£36 for two) - a warm camembert-style cheese, served with potatoes, bread and cold meats.  If you want something lighter, there may be a seafood option, such as five fat king prawns for £11, and you can get a green side salad for £4.  The service is pretty good, justifying the optional service charge of about 12%. But Brawn's kitchen may be at the top of a slippery slope. It feels like this neighbourhood restaurant may have gained too many pretensions. 6/10

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Trek District 2010 Single Speed Hybrid - Four Years On

A customised and revitalised four year old Trek District

After 5,000 miles plus on the road, the 2010 model of the Trek District Single Speed carbon may need a replacement belt. If you get in touch with the belt manufacturer Gates, it can point you to a local dealer. It is tempting to upgrade the original CDC system to the newer CDX system, which is supposed to be stronger, lighter and more reliable. Crucially, you can also speed the bike up by 10% by installing a 20 tooth rear sprocket, in place of the original 22 tooth sprocket. Note, you can't change the size of the front sprocket (which has 55 teeth) because there isn't enough clearance.

The Art of the Brick Exhibition, Old Truman Brewery, Loading Bay, Ely’s Yard, Hanbury Street, East London

Featuring more than one hundred sculptures made from more than one million Lego bricks, the Art of the Brick Exhibition (adult tickets start at £14.60) will captivate grown-ups and kids alike. Nathan Sawaya’s first wave of sculptures are inspired by works of art. He has used tens of thousands of grey bricks to painstakingly reproduce everything from Roman statues to contemporary paintings, such as The Scream, which is represented by a kaleidoscope of brightly colour tiles in both 2D and 3D. The next set of exhibits are models of seemingly random objects, such as a massive pencil writing the word "yes", giant chess pieces, a surprisingly curvaceous red apple, the planets of the solar system balanced on top of each other and even a cello, which looks like it could play a tune. The third phase of the exhibition turns a little darker, with a series of angst-ridden monochrome sculptures examining the human condition. These models include a very blue swimmer with limbs and lego water protruding from a piece of glass and the widely-advertised statute of a yellow man ripping his chest open. Many of these psychoanalytical  sculptures are either cracking up or missing key body parts, neatly capturing the modern-day struggle to hold it all together in an increasingly frantic world.