Londonist Mapped – AA Publishing

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all having a really super weekend. The weather here is gorgeous! It’s definitely giving me summer vibes. I’ve been doing a little indoor gardening and making the most of the weather despite being a little poorly. Hmm.

Anyway, I’m super excited to share with you a really quirky book I found when I was in London last weekend! It’s been created by Londonist which is a website showing you all the different things that are on in London and featured events they’re promoting; an online tourist information, if you will. Working with a number of illustrators, the book Londonist Mapped includes a number of hand drawn maps for the ‘Urban Explorer’. This book is an absolute treat!

What’s it all about?

What fascinates me most about this book is the wide range of topics it spans. I also love the origins of the book.

“It’s Monday morning in the Londonist office. Someone sips their first coffee of the week. Then they frown. Scratch their head. Open their mouth. Look around the room. Close their mouth. Pause, as if concerned they might be about to say something stupid. They then say it anyway…”

The collection of maps all stem from curious minds. It ranges from, Secrets of Buckingham Palace, to A brief guide to London’s docks’ and London’s longest roads just to name a few. Spanning the history, length and depth of London, this book is the perfect addition to any book collection.

For me, it’s the 37 illustrators that have taken part in this project as well. I always have a massive respect for anyone who can draw because I am rubbish at it. The appreciation from myself is real. I’ve included my three favourites below.

My first choice is lost London Victorian buildings. I’ve got a huge interest in the Victorian period, specialising in this when I was at university. Without them, we wouldn’t have the London Underground. I always think of those pioneers whenever I’m mooching around London.

Following on from my summery vibes, I picked a map showing hidden gardens in the city. I’m so tempted to try and find these when I’m next there over the Whitsun holiday. I also really love the illustrations and the font of this map too.

My final choice is the most impressive map I think. I’d have this across a whole wall in my house I think. It’s just that good. I’m in awe of it actually. This map features all the unsung museums of London. I hadn’t quite appreciated how many there are! Just look how beautiful that is!

Final Thoughts

I think for me this book is perfect for finding out about hidden gems within London, the secrets that are there just waiting to be found. I absolutely love it! The illustrators are truly talented and I’m really impressed with the variety of different styles. Each map is unique and you can tell so much work has gone into it. It’s one of my most treasured finds in London.

Until next time!

Big Love xxxx

Reading Challenge 2023: England Poems from a School – Kate Clanchy

Hello Loves!

It’s May! For those in secondary education it’s the time where exams loom and it’s the final push to get our students over the line. I’m definitely feeling the countdown in the background! I really hope for all of you it goes well. It’s also a month of seeing a lot of shows which I’m super excited about.

Anyway, I’m slowly but surely playing catch up with the posts I’m behind on! I just lost my way a bit and time ran away with me. I know we’ve all been there and the support from you all has been lovely. I’m blessed.

Today I want to share with you my book choice for my reading challenge. April is a strange period of time: rain, sunshine, hail, frost. It has it all! The theme from my reading challenge that I chose was: Read a collection of poetry. I have to say, I absolutely loved this and found a theme close to my heart: education. I picked England: Poems from a School edited by Kate Clanchy.

What’s it all about?

Rather than spoiling this collection and revealing details of all of the poems, I’m going to share with you my favourite three. These three stood out to me for a variety of reasons: the content, the emotions and the age of the writers. I said before that I was completely blown away by this and I really hope you can see why.

The first poem I’ve chosen is The Doves of Damascus by 14 year old, Abou Kerech. This poem made me feel really emotional and grateful at the same time. It speaks of missing home, of missing what you’ve ever known despite being in safety now. Simple things we take for granted, like snow, flowers and grapes all feature here. It made me reflect on the fact that the longer you spend somewhere, the more you rely on memories of home. Memories are literally all some of these children have of their old lives.

“I lost my country and everything I had before.

and now

I cannot remember for sure…”

My second choice is by 12 year old Mohamad Assaf called Where Are My Unnumbered Days? The only way to describe this poem is to say it’s a poem all about longing for home and losing what it used to be. Displacement is a feeling that I’d never want to wish on anyone. However, for a 12 year old, I found that this poem really tugged at my heart strings. Imagine feeling like you’re just a number, a statistic. I can’t begin to comprehend it.

“I lived in a house with a name:

And now, I am just a number.”

Finally, I chose a poem by 17 year old Rukiya Khartun entitled Silence Itself. This one called out to me because it just felt like the embodiment of loneliness. The wonder, beauty and yet sometimes pain of silence means that silences are hard to read. Is it isolation? What does silence give to us? Here, the silence is a friend, an opportunity for reflection and acceptance. For a 17 year old to write like this, it’s powerful.

“I know I always felt like a ghost:

observing the world and myself…”

Final Thoughts

Working in education provides me with such highs and real lows. There’s rarely a day where there’s anything in between. However, it’s really easy to forget that there are places in the world where children do not get the same opportunities as everyone else. There are also children who are displaced, leaving what they know and love for safety. The children in this anthology are real hero’s in my eyes. The collection oozes talent and personality. I’d be really proud to have these students in my class. I’m also really pleased I branched out into poetry too. It’s something I don’t spend a lot of time reading but with children writing like this, the future of poetry is looking really bright.

See you all next time lovelies!

Big Love xxxx

Poems in Progress – Alexandra Ault & Laura Walker

Hey Loves!

It’s Easter weekend! I wish you all the Easter blessings in the world and hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend.

Today I want to share with you one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read: Poems in Progress: Drafts from Master Poets published by the British Library. I’m very aware that I teach poetry but don’t actually spend a lot of time reading poetry for myself. With a rich and diverse collection, this book is the perfect anthology. It’s truly inspiring to see the starting points of some of the most influential poems of the world. I really hope you like it as much as I did!

What’s it all about?

This whole collection is structured into different themes: epics, fantasy, the senses, place, the natural world, imbalance and inequality, family and friendship, conflict, death and reflection, love, spanning the history of poetry. You’ve got writers from 500BC to now so there really is something for everyone. There’s also a range of languages too and different formats of poetry. It’s the perfect book to dip in and out of.

Each poet has at least a double page with some historical information followed by an image of the manuscript. I find these absolutely fascinating because I love to see the handwriting (I think it’s the teacher part of me!) and I love to see the edits too. What a fascinating insight into how these poems have evolved from first draft to the ones we know and love now. I said before that a little favourite of mine was written on toilet paper (see below). Sylvia Pankhurst, well known for campaigning for women’s rights along with her family also campaigned in her later life about war too. She spent time in prison to write. The only material she had was toilet paper. You can see the editions too. To feel so strongly about writing that you’d do whatever it takes to continue, really inspires me.

It isn’t just the poems that fascinated me. A number of writers also included little sketches. We’re seeing a really intimate side of poetry here I think. This example from John Betjeman and Evelyn Waugh stood out to me. The poems were found in personal papers and it’s clear that the friends took inspiration from each other. Betjeman has added the illustration of the houses to Waugh’s poem. I personally love the little teddy bear illustration too.

The last example I wanted to show you is of a modern poet I absolutely love: Benjamin Zephaniah. There’s really no reason for me to explain it when he does so much more eloquently than me. However, modern voices in poetry are keeping this artwork alive and books like this mean that we can see, forever more, how poetry has evolved over time.

Final Thoughts

If, like me, you’re wanting to branch out into more poetry, I’d definitely recommend starting here. From a historical perspective I also love the fact that there’s different languages and also different materials. Any and every writer you can imagine is in this collection from Beowulf to John Milton, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde to Holly McNish and Benjamin Zephaniah. If you’re interested in getting your hands on this beautiful edition, please click here. You can also find out more about the British Library on their website.

I need to review my book choice for March but I’ve misplaced my copy so I’ll get to that and hopefully get through more books and reviews for you after the Easter break. Have a good one everyone!

Big Love xxx

Pretty Woman – The Musical

Hello Lovelies!

How are you all? I’ve started my Easter break with a quick trip to London to see Pretty Woman the Musical at the gorgeous Savoy Theatre. I saw it last year and loved it. I knew I had to see it again before it heads off on tour around the country. There was another pull: Danny Mac. I’m a huge fan and always have been since Hollyoaks so the fact that his run as businessman Edward Lewis was ending at the start of April, I had to see him one last time! To be perfectly honest, this cast is one my of all time favourites.

The Plot

A chance encounter between Vivian Ward, a prostitute, and Edward Lewis, a wealthy businessman begins the story of a most unlikely couple. After picking Vivian up for directions on Sunset Boulevard, Edward proposes a business deal where Vivian will accompany him for a week. The two become closer as the week progresses and both learn that they cannot possibly live without each other.

The Cast

I said before that this is one of my favourite castings. The absolute powerhouse that is Aimie Atkinson plays Vivian, Danny Mac (now Oliver Tompsett) plays Edward Lewis. Courtney Bowman (what a talented woman!) plays Kit de Luca beautifully. Matt Bateman is also a stand out star. I’ve seen him play Happy Man and Mr Thompson. I have so much love and respect for this cast. A special shout out needs to go to Alex Charles for his character, Giulio. Absolutely first class! You can see the full listing here.

Staging, Singing and Dancing

The show features some absolutely brilliant songs. The obvious to mention is the Roy Orbison classic song, Pretty Woman. However, there are some excellent songs. I love the soundtrack so it’s hard to pick a couple. Aimee Atkinson is a supreme talent and her solo songs really shine. My favourite is I Can’t Go Back. I love Edward’s solo Freedom too. There’s some great numbers featuring a number of the cast. Long Way Home, Together Forever and Never Give Up on a Dream are some highlights.

The staging is really clever too, seamlessly moving between Sunset Boulevard, the Penthouse Suite and various business settings. The lights and set up were really attractive.


I cannot gush about this enough. I love it. It’s uplifting, the cast are excellent, it made me laugh and smile and I was totally onboard for the singalong to Pretty Woman at the end. What an amazing show. I’m more than likely to go and see this when it’s on tour. However, if you’d like to see this phenomenon cast at home in London, please click here.

What a super start to the holiday! Here’s to more reading and watching! I can’t wait to catch up with you all.

Big Love xx

The Art of Buying Books part 4

Hello loves!

Am I glad it’s the weekend! I’ve got myself in a bit of a black hole. Maybe that’s too deep… but there’s definitely a fog in my head. I’ve really struggled to read, write, focus. Some of it is exhaustion but some of it is that I feel like life is just a challenge. Work is hard, too hard. We don’t live to work surely? Anyway, with good people by my side, I’m trying to find my way through the fog. The weekend always acts as a natural breaker.

As you may know, I was trying to be really good with buying books but actually, today I went on a huge book buying spree and I loved every second of it. It gave me a sense of purpose, it made me want to read again (I’ve been reading the rest of the day) and made me come back to my ever faithful blog. Here I am!

I started my little spree at my local Salvation Army. They are a cause close to my heart so I was there to drop a donation off. Books were not on my mind. However, I saw a sign on the door saying they can’t take any books as they had ran out of room. Well, this really was my time to shine! I had to step up. It was for charity after all. I had the overwhelming need to save as many as I could.

11 books for £2.75. I would have happily paid more but what an incredible bargain. There’s some great looking books here and a good mix too. I also got a stunning copy of The Girl on the Train which is going to dazzle on my shelf.

Isn’t that gorgeous? It means I can also gift the copy I’ve got on. Win-win! I also toddled along into town where it got me thinking about what other books I like. I used to collect fashion books (many moons ago) because I loved the pictures. I really wanted to be a fashion journalist at one point but I found that the books were enough for me. It was a strange thought it coming back to me. I felt foolish for forgetting about it. It dawned on me because I found this beautiful book on Coco Chanel. It’s even got silver sprayed edges.

This then got me onto another train of thought: cookery books. I love everything about food. Another idea for a career I had was a food journalist but that didn’t last long because I’m allergic to fish. It kind of narrows down the market! I did consider just cakes but that’s a hobby, not a job.

Anyway, I do like to collect baking and cookery books. Back in 2019, Penguin published the first five of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks in their classic cover colours for their 20th anniversary. At £26 each, I knew I’d have to save hard. But then they just ebbed from my mind, until today…

At £5.99 each, I couldn’t ignore them. There’s just two more to find but hopefully, one day I’ll get them. However, they’re visually stunning and I can’t wait to see them with my other cookery books in the kitchen. So much so, I’m considering getting a floating shelf to pop them on!

It’s the first time for a little while that the fog lifted. I came home and had all these beautiful books around me and I couldn’t wait to start reading. Then, I just wanted to write about it. I’m sure this isn’t the best post I’ve ever written but I hope you’ve found it to be full of truth, admiration and purpose. If you’re in a fog like me, I hope it helped.

I’ll see you very soon for my reading challenge book for January. I hope you’re all well.

Big Love xxx

Unwrap It! December 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th

Hey loves!

This post today comes from London as I’m here this weekend to get some Christmas shopping sorted. It’s been a bit manic at school (one week to go – I can totally do this!) so I’m a little behind with the unwrap it posts but there’s been some excellent books in the advent calendar that I can’t wait to share with you!

December 7th:

December 8th:

December 9th:

December 10th:

So far I’ve not managed to guess any of the books from the clues but that’s ok! I’m really enjoying seeing what’s wrapped up. I’ve taken so much pleasure from it and it’s something I want to do again, for sure.

Sorry there’s so many in this post – I’ve well and truly fallen behind but that’s ok! I hope you’re all enjoying the unwrapping with me. Do continue to let me know which ones you’ve read and enjoyed. It really does help me decide where I should go next on my reading adventures!

With so much festive love from London, until next time…

Big love xx

Windsor Castle

Hello Loves!

Well, what a week this week has been. I’ve been absolutely floored by flu I assume (7 negative Covid tests – no fear) but I can honestly say I’ve never been so poorly. It’s the first time ever that I’ve had time off school too. But, I’m coming round the other side now which is good. If you hear someone sounding like a seal, that would be me coughing haha! Anyway, onto more pressing matters and a very delayed explorations post!

Anyway, I want to share with you today the final part of my journey for honouring the late Queen. You’ll remember from a few posts ago that I was part of ‘The Queue’ (you can see that post here). There was just one final part I needed to do and that was pay my respects at St George’s Chapel which is within Windsor Castle. This is the Queen’s final resting place where she has been reunited in the royal vault with her beloved husband Prince Philip. My dad and I queued together and it was time for us to say bye together. My mum was also here for this too!

Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. Originally founded by William the Conqueror, it’s been home to 40 monarchs which is incredibly impressive. The State Apartments are sublime, the contents are wonderful and I really liked seeing the different gifts received throughout the reign of Her Majesty the Queen. Photos are only allowed of the outside which I totally understand. You have to see it to believe it really. The one thing that has stayed with me from these state rooms is the colours: bold, vivid and flawless.

Naturally, there was a huge queue to be able to get this photo. It’s the closest you can get but we’ve all seen this on the television screens. It made me think back to the funeral of Prince Philip. The view of the Long Walk was one of my favourite bits but because this was inside the castle, you weren’t able to take photos.

It’s really quite hard to comprehend how lucky we are to have this amount of history around us. I’m fortunate in that my dad is just as interested as I am – it’s something that has been passed down through our family. It felt fitting and right to see the final resting place and to thank the Queen once again for all she has done.

I hope this little snippet has tempted you into visiting. The amazing thing is, your ticket can be validated for a whole year! And I can confirm, the gift shops are excellent. For more information on visiting, please click here.

Until next time!

Big love all xxx

The Queue: London

Morning all!

I hope you’re all well. This week I’ve been really reflective because of the events in the UK. The sad passing of our dear Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th knocked us from our core. For me personally, she’s the only Queen I’ve ever known. She’s always been there everywhere we look: on passports, stamps, money and postboxes. She’s come to feel like everyone’s grandmother. So one week ago, I joined the queue to see the Queen lying in state. I knew it was going to be an experience but I didn’t expect it to be like it was…

Midnight, Saturday 17th September, Southwark Park. After obsessively watching the live tracker all day, this was where the starting point was. There was a buzz and a sense of electricity in the air with everyone having their own reasons for this journey. All I know is, I felt an overwhelming sense of needing to be there, like it was the right thing to do. The queue constantly moves which isn’t so bad and at 2:41am we had obtained the elusive wristband. The view was equally as fitting!

In my foolishness, I hadn’t realised that the park was the queue to join The Queue so the journey hadn’t actually really begun. Regardless, considering I’d done a full day at work I was feeling positive and very much like the hashtag ‘let’sdothis’. I knew it was going to be hard so I made sure I spoke to every single marshal on route. I mean, those in the queue were constantly moving but they had to stand in the same spot, all night. They were very positive and smiley too which helped.

I love Tower Bridge but I saw this bridge for 4 hours of the wait time. It was freezing cold but thankfully blankets were being given out. Later I saw a news report saying they were from the fire brigade – so thank you for that! Regardless, this was the lowest point. When the cold gets into your bones and you question why you hate yourself so much to have done this. The queue quietened and increasingly looked crestfallen and beaten. I dread to think how I looked. I’d been up since 6am so approaching the 24 hour mark was something I’ve not done in a long time. But then, 6:30am, a miracle was performed: the sun was rising and a coffee cup was spotted. I’ve never experienced a mood shift so rapidly. People went off to find hot drinks, the queue was moving again. Onwards! 6:15am.

This is my favourite photos of the whole queue experience. The best thing was that we were moving again. Feeling buoyant, the hubbub of the queue was increasing now everyone was warm and filled with coffee (hot chocolate for me) and the can do attitude from the marshals meant that everyone felt better. Of course we can queue and keep going – it’s the British way after all! The next stop: The Globe. I cannot thank the staff enough here. They’d opened the toilet facilities for those of us in the queue. I nearly cried (exhausted, emotional, grateful tears) because they had soap and hot water. I can only imagine what we all looked like, but it gave the queue another boost.

We continued walking and queuing. I saw this now as a mission I needed to complete. I hadn’t lost the overwhelming pull towards the Queen but foolishly did wonder how on Earth I’d look when I got there. 11:24am (many hours later) we see the London Eye. Everyone outside of the queue is supportive of the queue. Strangers asking how you are, saying you can do this, helped. Kindness was at the core of the queue. 11:59am – Big Ben. Surely the end is in sight? I’d been in the queue for 12 hours at this point but the sun, the people and the pull was still keeping me going.

The Covid memorial wall generated another moment of hush. It was at this point that I too went quiet. I don’t think any of us realised quite what trauma Covid created for the world. The memorial means a lot to many people so I was thinking of them too. But then the queue stopped. If the cold of 4am was the worst part, the stopping of the queue came a close second. At this point, the world’s press were all standing there making me grumpy. How dare they look fresh and well slept. Irrational, but true. However, the stopping this time was for a very exciting reason. King Charles and Prince William had come to thank those who had queued overnight. It was incredible to be that close to royalty. You could see the pain and grief in their eyes. It was emotional to see them. But it gave the queue another boost to make it over Lambeth Bridge and to the other side where in Westminster Hall, the queen was waiting for us.

Still we progress. Over the bridge, through miles and miles of zig zag railings, excitement building because we are at the last part before Westminster Hall. We can see Westminster Hall, see the security tents. This. Is. It. And then silence. It’s very hard to describe the feeling inside Westminster Hall. It was like nothing else mattered. There she was, the coffin of the only queen many of us have ever known. The crown twinkled under the lights. The flowers stood proud. I had my moment next to her. I bowed my head, my thoughts between myself and her. I’ve never felt emotion like it. Silent tears, immense gratitude. I was proud that I did it. I stood for 15 and a half hours for this moment. I’d not slept for well over 30 hours. None of this mattered though. This woman gave her life to our service, it was the least I could do.

11 miles. 15.5 hours. One experience I will never forget. Thank you to the many many people from the queue, local businesses, police, marshals, strangers passing by and the staff guarding the queen. You’ve made the experience easier for those people in the queue. Once I’d left the hall, the lady at the gate said thank you. That’s still with me now and will be forever.

Telephone Box Libraries / Book Exchange pt 3

Hello Loves!

I hope you’re all well. I’m back in the UK now with a special post all about one of my favourite things: telephone box book libraries! I think the one I’m sharing with you today is my favourite so far! This one is in Snitterfield, near Stratford upon Avon.

What makes this one so special, I hear you say. Well, there’s books everywhere! But they’re organised and there’s a really good range too. So far, so wonderful. However, the keepers of this phone box have also added two plastic tubs for people to share seeds. I love this! I found some dahlia seeds (one of my absolutely favourite flowers) and planted them with my dad. I think it’s genuinely so lovely of people to share extra seeds that they’ve got left over.

I left a few books for people to hopefully read and enjoy but I’m super excited to show you how beautiful these dahlias are. Fast forward a few weeks and ta-da! Aren’t they just gorgeous? So whoever was kind enough to leave the seeds there, thank you. The colours bring a smile to my day, seriously! I always find it amazing that a little seed can flourish into such beautiful flowers.

These flowers are so lovely and the weather is divine. It’s made coming back to the UK a bit more bearable. The littlest things really can make the most difference. I hope these flowers bring you a little joy too.

See you next time for my book choice for August – spoiler – it’s amazing!

Big Love all xxxx

Explorations: Whitby Abbey

Evening all!

I wanted to share with you today a new explorations post! This time I toddled off to the beautiful seaside town of Whitby. I’ve never been and literally only know about it because of a) Dracula and b) Lucky Ducks made by the Whitby Glass Company. Therefore, I decided it was time for me to pay Whitby Abbey a visit and boy, it did not disappoint.

Standing tall for nearly 1500 years, this monumental ruin features everything you’d expect from a gothic abbey.

Whilst the history is fascinating, for me it was learning about the links between this abbey and Bram Stoker. In 1890, Stoker stayed in Whitby following a gruelling tour of Scotland. Whilst staying here, he absorbed the views that Whitby offered and excited writers, artists and ‘romantic-minded’ visitors for the past century.

Gothic Literature of the time was set in foreign lands with eerie castles and/or ruins and Whitby’s windswept headland with the ruined abbey meant that it gave its own sense of horror; perfect for any story.

You may have heard just this week about the Guinness World Record attempt at Whitby Abbey to celebrate 125 years of Dracula. The challenge: to get the most people dressed as a vampire at the abbey. 1369 people did just that. Impressive!

For more information on this beautiful abbey, it’s history and it’s heritage, please chick here.

Big Love xxx