Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Brick Lane Graffiti Tour, Vintage Markets, Billy Elliot & A Delightful Day with Old Friends

Vintage Style photo: Sneha, Sapna & Arjun at Billy Elliot
Friday was an incredible day with Sneha and Arjun. Sneha was visiting Arjun, who is doing his Masters at Leeds, so they both came down to London for a few days.
 It's always amazing when childhood friends see each other again - friends that you've known since you were five years old.  It's a lovely, conversational combination of old times and new adventures, of old dreams and new aspirations, of old recollections and new memories.

We met up just after noon (to make the 12:00 noon Alternative London Walking tour we booked). Reason I was late? The Circle Line to Liverpool Street comes every TEN MINUTES from Victoria. TEN MINUTES. And takes almost 30 minutes to get from the centre to the east end.  Now, all of you Edmontonians are all like, uh, hello, that's twice as fast as any mode of transport I've ever heard of, but over here in beautiful London most tube lines come every ONE minute. or TWO minutes. Or, at non-peak hour, THREE minutes. So, my "careful" planning to ensure I left my house in Oxford at 8:45 am and was at Liverpool Station by 11:30, resulting in my arrival at 12:02. 
Flexible rules...

Luckily, the guy in charge of the two hour Alternative London Walking Tour (Josh Jevins) was still introducing himself when we arrived. Then, we took an eclectic look at "street art" (ie: graffiti). He pointed out the works of famous street artists (now showing their work in high end art galleries worldwide), like Banksy and ROA. It was freezing cold, so we left half an hour early (Josh was not so happy about that, despite the very generous tip Sneha gave him!). One comment he made bothered me a bit - he said that London opened up immigration in the 70s to re-inhabit derelict areas by providing cheap accommodation to immigrants, hoping they would kickstart the textile industry. Why do they always hate on immigrants here? Oh, and we went for lunch at Dishoom - an Indian restaurant I would definitely recommend! We almost missed that, too - since the front door looks like it, too, is graffiti art! 

Check out Brick Lane's "street art"! (The last picture I took is my favourite, due to the juxtaposition of the two worlds of London's rich and poor coming together at the site of new retail and residential developments on the edge of Tower Hamlet).

A ROA Crane (Jevins claims the artist painted it at the request of the Bangladeshi community, as it is a symbol important to their culture)

Random lego xmas tree (artist unknown)

Racial Harmony

Juxtaposition of the rich and poor (The cartoon caption says "We're gonna need a bigger gun, love"

Vintage Markets

The best part of Brick Lane is definitely its markets. Especially the GIANT vintage market with many vendors which we almost missed because it's down a flight of stairs. Despite my derelict financial condition (c'mon, job market!!!), I spent 50 quid. What I got for it was wonderful --- a pair of black leather boots, an olive green corduroy coat, a pair of button shaped earrings (those were new) and a warm beige scarf. The funniest part was when we came across a Scouts Canada hat. I would have bought it as a joke, but it was 10 quid!

Cream Tea

Sneha and Sapna
Neither Sneha nor Arjun had had cream tea before (though Sneha marvelled about the scones she had the previous day; much better than Canadian scones!). So, before the show we stopped at a pub that was (luckily) serving cream tea until 6pm. We do have a pic of this on one of the phones (coming soon). I can't seem to remember the name of the pub, though and google is not helping. Mousseau? Something like that...

Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot was one of the highlights of the day. It is a beautiful musical full of tap and ballet dancing, well co-ordinated routines, and an engaging plot. Many of you will remember that I DID NOT LIKE Wicked. Yes, I said it.  It lacked plot, the characters were not convincing, and you had to suspend your disbelief much too much. If you want to read my rant about it read the bottom of this post.  Billy Elliot is a must see --- and it's incredible how the lead actor (actors, I'm sure) is about 12 years old and puts on an incredible acting/singing/dancing performance. The story is set at the time in England when Margaret Thatcher was in power and shut down coal mines/unions to privatize them.  It is basically about a young boy whose father works on the coal mines and forces him to take boxing lessons; he discovers dancing lessons at the same community hall and decides he wants to be a ballet dancer (much to his father's horror).

All in all, a lovely day ---hope to see you again soon, Sneha and Arjun! 

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