Posts Tagged Lawrence of Arabia

Old Westminster by Gaslight

Its seven o’clock on a Monday night and people begin to gather around Exit 4 of Westminster Tube Station, who will be our guide?

No big signs, no fanfare, our guide appears holding a London Walks leaflet up just enough to draw attention, and off we go on a very pleasant two hour amble about Westminster.

Now I’ve been on many a tour, from the plain ridiculousness which is the Ghost Bus, to the endurance challenge of an open-top Thames Tour boat in a rain storm, to the amphibious fun of the Duck Tours, however it is the walking tours that give you a real feel for this amazing city and this was no exception.

This tour centres around the City of Westminster which is the bit of central London where you find Big Ben, the bell of the infamous Bongs and the Houses of Parliament. Like many areas of this enormous city, Westminster has a fascinating history and is lucky to be blessed with beautiful, ancient and imposing architecture. This coupled with a well spoken and informed guide whose information and delivery were perfectly tailored to the crowd without sounding the least bit tired made for a delightfully atmospheric walk.

Thinking I already knew it all, having been quite attentive in my studies of law making and porevious tours of the city, I was most impressed to be shown the house of T E Lawrence, yup good ole Lawrence of Arabia, and slightly shocked to learn that there are Division Bells installed in not just the Parliamentary buildings but all of the local pubs which give the MPs 8 minutes to rush in and cast their votes!

And the gaslight was beautiful, the milky glow giving the streets a clean hazy feel, though the smell of gas along the embankment did make me glad I have given up smoking… the fear of going kaboom seemed quite justified!

Unfortunately as Parliament is not in session I didn’t get the opportunity to see the MPs yawning and shouting at one another, I do however intend to get there sometime.

Well you have to really don’t you?

I would definitely recommend this to people who would like an introduction to the centre of government and the history of Westminster in a gentle and interesting way. If you aren’t really into the history and want mad crazy japes around town, you’d probably be better jumping onto something with a motor.

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Secret Cinema September 2010

Secret Cinema has been on my radar for years, however due to unforeseen circumstances I had never had the opportunity to attend one of their mysterious events, that was until this weekend.

Excuse me whilst I pick my not-so-easily-awestruck chin off of the tarmac and try to explain what happened:

A couple of months back tickets for a Secret Cinema event went on sale, previous reviews of Secret Cinema have been almost evangelical, so we snapped them up and the anticipation began to build.

What was it to be, where was it to be?

There was talk of tribes and many people, given the increasingly blatant clues cottoned onto what the main attraction was going to be, you couldn’t help feeling sorry for those who had avoided all rumours and guessed we were to see Life of Brian.

I, not being on top form and not comfortable dressing as a Bedouin and walking through North London, went for what I thought would be a subtle jeans and jumper combo.

Boy did I look out of place.

Arriving at Alexandra Palace station, in their hundreds, was what must have looked like the largest nativity play in the world. En masse we set off across the railway bridge following rags of material tied to the fence.

And so it began.

To the uninitiated Secret Cinema is mind-blowing event, for attendees, and possibly one of the most confusing sights for bystanders, if you go by the semi-hysterical but smiling faces of the picnicking party at Alexandra Park who were suddenly surrounded by around 400 people dressed in “tribal” outfits being herded by mounted tribesmen:

Yes there were tribesmen on horses in the park, in full regalia, with rallying high pitched shreiks. Oh, and there were real goats and sheep being walked by peasants, and there were camels and donkeys and the very British army circa WW1 keeping the rabble in order.

We were at Alexandra Palace to see Lawrence of Arabia!

In we went, walking past the British Army offices where frightfully important business is being carried out in frightfully proper surroundings. Now and then they attempt to recruit a Brit they have seen in the crowd. Grabbing drinks at the bar we expresse our genuine chuffedness that they have gone to such effort; little do we know what lays behind the mirrored doorways.

A souk

As crazy as this may sound, there was a souk right there smack-bang in the middle of Alexandra Palace:

Its full of stalls of curiosities and clothing and food and an en suite mini-desert for those wishing to get the full arrgh-I-have-sand-in-my-socks experience.

By this point we are wondering can this get any better? As a day when apparently anything is possible, and in order to find out it seems prudent to follow the signs to The Palace.

And lo, there is a belly dancer, with a snake unintentionally, but quite determinedly caught up in her hair, dancing in front of a full band. Oh, and there, another three ladies dancing for our entertainment.

This.Is.Awesome

The final leg is to step through the huge doors to the main hall.

Initiate jaw drop sequence alpha.

About us hang the standards of all the tribes, there is drumming and the smell of food wafts from the chilli lamb and falafel stalls as a gentleman cycles about with an icecream cart, the thousands begin to enter the hall.

Its a long wait, the floor is cold and hard and few people make new friends, but the spectacle continues as the tribesmen meet and make proclamations, as belly dancers continue to jiggle across the hall.

Much is drunk and many pillows and inflatable objects are brought forward to be sat upon, and we wait.

We wait on the floor, we wait in huge queues for food, and still the drums bang and the tribesmen and army chaps wander amongst us:

Finally it starts.

Its astounding.

Its loud. (A bit too loud, but the acoustics are a bit odd)

Its epic.

Its been an amazing day.

We leave at the intermission, tired, happy and enjoying the sight of London lit beneath us.

If you ever get the chance, go, go to a Secret Cinema and embrace the experience, go the whole hog and savour every moment. Its magical.

No it wasn’t perfect, but if the film had started sooner it would have come damn close.

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