Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Shadwell: Barbershops, Kebab Houses & Halal Couture...

Shadwell looked good to me, there's too many people talking down Tower Hamlets! For that reason, I wanted to visit one part of that London borough. I'm tired of people telling me that I shouldn't visit communities that supposedly have bad reputation's because I'm all about finding realness! Shadwell showed me that London's East End deserves a little respect! What's good E1?

There's no doubt in my mind that London is a city that's rich with cultural diversity that's infused with a strong sense knowing itself. Shadwell caught my eyes for many reasons, its Bangladeshi and Pakistani community took me to the heart of London's East End. I had previously been to E2 but wanted to trust the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to prove the haters wrong! Watney Market served Halal Couture for certain due to the majority of the women in the streets donned their Hijabs or Burkhas. The market stalls were simple, selling fruit and vegetables and textiles only an Arabian fashion house would approve of. London for me isn't about the Queen or the Houses of Parliament because that's much too predictable for me. Shadwell showed nothing but honesty with its council estate high rise developments that painted my desired expectation! Ditch your tourist maps and take a chance on E1! I did that! 

The produce that was on sale at Watney Market looked just fine, it was a typical East London hangout for the people of E1 who went about their business. If truth be told I didn't see an awful lot of Christmas decorations around the streets of Shadwell and at Watney Market, for that reason my inner Scrooge was very pleased about the Islamic presence. Just over the road the bordering neighbourhood of Wapping stood with its developed Tobacco Dock and warehouse apartments but I didn't want to partake in that business because I was all up in Shadwell's Halal realness. Put that in your pipe Wapping and smoke that on your Tobacco Dock! I'm learning to respect London because she might not be a predictable city, she's sure got some interesting quirks that set this English capital aside from the rest. You could say that Shadwell mirrors the likes of Leicester or Bradford? I've not been to those Muslim infused areas so that's not up for discussion! Watney Market deserves respect! Go E1!

I needed a touch up on my latest hair do, but I wasn't going to spend my pennies in Bilston! Shadwell being an Islamic area of London meant that it had an abundance of no-nonsense barbershops on each street corner. I made my way from Watney Market to Shadwell's vibrant town centre where it meets with Cable Street. Choosing Shadwell Gent's Hair Stylist because I know these types of Barbers always make the right cut! I waited patiently for my turn in the chair watching some dodgy Bollywood music videos so I was very grateful for my turn in the chair. My side style was sorted and I even made some small talk with the barber who cut my hair. Amazingly enough I only paid £7.00 for my hair cut, for London prices that's a criminally cheap cut! It had clicked that the men in the community take a pride in their appearance for all the Barbershops were strictly for guys, so move over ladies! You've got to make the chop, now!

Staying connected in London is no laughing matter, so it's handy that Shadwell has both a Docklands Light Railway station and a London Overground station connecting with the City and the former Olympic Park. I ditched the public transport that freezing December day, walking over Tower Bridge and bearing a right at Tower Hill it didn't take me too long to reach the Halal end of London's East. Back to the street! I know that the Islamic faith forbids the consumption of Alcohol so I was confused when I saw two pub like buildings, both fooling me for a split second to think that they were functioning pubs! Those suspicious pubs ended up to be a fried chicken shop and the other a convenience store. I recognised that those Muslim ladies take their devotion to Halal Couture like no other! I don't think Shadwell could be gentrified, its current community will keep it Halal for a while longer. Regeneration seems to be the potion for Shadwell, just don't go overdosing! London is changing! 

I was hungry! The Lahore Kebab House looked like the right place to have a late lunch. Taking my seat I could hear the busy chatter of several London office types, they all sounded in good spirits seen as a it would be Christmas in the following days. My table sat next to the kitchen, I peered through the glass to see a busy kitchen that looked scorching hot! I didn't know what to order so I took a leap of faith by trusting the waiters recommendation of the Karachi Chicken. My Karachi Chicken looked just like a Chicken Tikka Masala but had more of a fiery kick! The blend between sweet and spicy made my taste buds conflict with each bite of my curry, it was fulfilling for sure! My meal consisted of my curry, pilau rice and a garlic naan bread. Honestly, for Kebabs and Curry's I was simply spoiled for choice in Shadwell! Do I really have the knack for finding nice places to eat? You can be the judge of that! I loved my food!

Shadwell allowed me to pursue a new side of London, well new from my point of view. London might be a rich man's game but I found a corner of East London that's just getting by in the best way they know. Watney Market serves realness, its simple intent to serve the community of Shadwell was conveyed to me effortlessly. I'm learning to get my camera out in areas that aren't so Halal, I believe I got some good snaps for this East London blog. Shadwell isn't the most flashiest part of London, that's why I was intrigued to visit to see how a normal part of the city operates. I got my side style cropped at a simple and cheaply priced Barbershop, by that experience the only way to go is East! Going hungry in Shadwell is a damn crime so get your Kebab or Curry game on! I'm understanding that East London has a difference vibe within each of its postcodes. Shadwell surprised me good that December day, I saw all I wanted and that's the end of that! Shukran Shadwell! S, I'll keep on moving! 

Serving Halal Realness!

Joseph Harrison 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Borough Market & Bermondsey Street, London

London is a city that's been trading for a long time, for how long I can't give that answer. Southwark has changed rapidly but parts remain the same since the 1200's, I don't think the hipsters had pounced just yet? Bermondsey serves a certain sophistication even though it sits within a myriad of council flat projects. L, Borough Market and Bermondsey regrets nothing!

Noted as far back as 1276 London's Borough Market has been serving the city with fresh fruit, vegetables and much more for a very long time. From the authentic English food stalls I saw a strong presence of International delicacies ranging from Tapas to Ethiopian street food. London beats its own drum, transforming the timeless Borough Market bridging the gap from yesterday to now! Food has become fashionable all of a sudden with a new wave of artsy food on offer at London's number one market. Join the hype! Won't you? I did! Restaurants aren't my scene at all, I enjoyed a gourmet chicken and leek pie from one of the open air speciality food stands. Standing cheek to cheek with Southwark Cathedral the infusion between the two formidable structures sets the perfect spark completely! Truth be told the Borough Market is worth a look around even if you don't buy anything. Watch out for the crowds! Really!

I'm no stranger to fancy food markets because I trusted the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria in Barcelona, I dined on freshly fried fish, washed down with an ice cold glass of Spanish Cerveza. London's Borough Market served me a simple food experience with my gourmet chicken and leek pie but it was so super busy it was a challenge to find a seat or a pocket of calm. Denoting the craziness I know that atmosphere was there 100% in London! Barcelona's market being away from home showed me some spice but London won hands down because I was in and out without hassle. Oh those crowds on a Saturday afternoon are a challenge to say the least but nothing in life is given to us easy. Stand your ground, that's the only way to get what we want! Protecting Borough's Market has been in place since 1832 when the market's building's were declared as a Grade II listed property. In my mind market's don't have anything on Bilston but I'll give Borough Market a positive shout out!

SE1 officially made her comeback! Once an area not to regard highly Bermondsey has been transformed with a tonne of trendy developments, restaurants and boutiques that are right up my street. Known for the location of Guy's Hospital, this corner of South East London is branching out into the big time! Touching the clouds with her razor sharp design the Shard added a luxury flair to Bermonsdey to build a new image with a brand new Shangri-La Hotel with its five star service it shines above the council estate projects to show that the Southside can be chic! I don't have that five star reservation fee so I'll just marvel at the Shard from a distance amongst the ever-changing SE1 neighbourhood. Let's give a big up to Bermondsey! Keep your hustle sis!

Bermondsey has a great mix between up-town yuppie realness and council estate grind, I took some time during my last two visits to London to appreciate that there's another kind of Londoner who lives in the shadow of the Shard and Bermondsey Street, playing by the rules I respected that. If I lived in London I would choose Bermondsey but being a part of 'generation rent' I wouldn't be able to afford a redeveloped warehouse apartment, I would be be serving Southwark Council Estate overness! There's nothing wrong with being normal but with a city wage I'd quite fancy myself as a city yuppie type! Check out Bermondsey for yourself, its just down the road from London's Borough Market so there's no excuse. I know that the Shangri-La takes an interest in SE1, hustle your grind!

Bermondsey Street is my kind of hipster London! I love Spitalfields and Shoreditch but Bermondsey Street had me stunted from the second that I first saw it in June 2014! Keeping it on the one concentrated street, she serves full reinvigorated architectural gems realness! Original features glowing with perfection, I bloody loved it! Chic restaurants, boutique retailers and much more hipster goodness lines Bermondsey Street, anchoring a new generation of cool to this part of SE1. Word on the street is that Bermondsey Street wasn't the safest place in the area before the abandoned warehouses and outlets were snapped up by developers but nowadays its the place to be seen! Fuckoffee served me up a more than lunch, I felt part of a movement of New London with an unapologetic free vibe that felt amazing! Choosing a fresh smoothie and a hot spinach and butternut squash soup, it was worth my coins! Tasty!

Make your coffee time different with a bit to eat and a chat at Fuckoffee?! It's a stunning place in more ways than one! Did I see that correctly? Bermondsey Street caters for the fashion conscious pooch with a dedicated doggy boutique and if children were on the cards I would take a look at that other store, no child of mine would look shabby! Time moves forward with a new trend, I hope the hipster vibe of Bermondsey Street digs its heels in good and proper! Staying overnight can be done along the Bermondsey hangout because the Bermondsey Square Hotel looked good to me. I might well catch a film at the Shortwave cinema in the square because it looked positively en-trend indeed. Affirmative! Trust and believe Bermondsey, I know you will stay fierce to be the top French Bulldog of the street! Endorse the Borough Market with its gourmet bites, historical worth and crazy vibe. SE1 is my hipster hangout, hustle 'generation renters' we can live excessively! B, you need to Fuckoffee right now!

Why Don't You Fuckoffee?!

Joseph Harrison

Monday, 24 November 2014

Back To The Beginning... London, England!

Where do I begin? Upon my previous visit to London I revisited the place where I grew up to the age of five. Going back to Ealing in London had to be done, it was like tiding a cupboard that's been avoided for some time so I felt the need to get the task completed. Let's just say it was a day that I won't forget for a while! Would it feel strange to go back to the beginning? 

Catching the London Underground to Perivale didn't take much thought but as soon as the Tube had left the tunnel it was apparent I was almost back onto home turf, a place I hadn't been for at least nineteen years. I wanted to make the trip back to the place I grew up for many reasons, I don't feel the are right to share that now. It's my drama! Born on the 14th of November 1990 I grew up in Perivale, West London until I moved up to the West Midlands when I was around five or six years old, I was half hoping things would  not of changed in the surrounding area. To my delight nothing much had changed as me and my mum exited the Tube station. Seeing the larger suburban homes from the Tube station started to bring slight memories of my early childhood back. The weirdness hadn't kicked in at that moment. It's mad to think I have lived in Bilston for over eighteen years so returning back to Perivale felt really strange!

So out of the Tube we made our way through a park that I spent a lot of time as a young boy, I had to take a few minutes to take in the sight because I knew it registered a memory of some sort. That park saw some drama from when I was three years old, I was playing on the climbing frames with one of my aunties when I broke my arm for the first time. It was bizarre to think that the same climbing frame was remaining, I suppose it wasn't that long ago? It took me back to a time when I remembered going to nursery and reception, early childhood memories that I look back on fondly. I know deep down why we had to leave but like I said that's classified information! Bilston got me thinking mad, I appreciated being back in that scene for the short time we passed through. People always say to me that I sound too posh to be from Bilston, I just say oh I'm serving you my telephone voice. Maybe I'll go back one day? Let's all go back to the beginning! UB6, I found you Perivale! Yes!

We've all got that first home you sort of remember if you haven't lived there for a while? If you still live in your childhood home I'll try not to throw you evils! Tees Avenue was literally where it all began. It was crazy mad when my mum said we had made it to the street where we once lived. I do have memories of going to and from reception school and spending long summer days playing in the garden with my friend Barney. If I'm honest its like a delayed reaction thinking about these things. Life gets crazy so we all have to make our movements onto our next thing, I'm grateful for those fond memories but whatever really. So much time has gone past I connected certain emotions with my former childhood home but not enough for me to want a tour around to see if the kitchen look the same, it was good to go back. Life takes us in many different directions but its funny that we always go back to the start. It felt right! 

Some spend the afternoon at Madame Tussaud's with the waxworks or take a stroll down London's Thames Path but I was all about reconnecting with yesterday. Cards on the table I would say I'm from the West Midlands with a twist, its been my home for so much longer than Perivale but I always have that UB6 town printed in my Passport. Since moving from Tees Avenue me any my brother went back a few times but then life decided we wouldn't return until I choose my West London day of reflection. What would of life been like I still lived there? Would my jobs prospects be better being by the City of London? I need to take this towards a different avenue! Leaving the street behind us it was a shock to the parade of shops look so down-trodden and out-dated when I remembered them how to be when I was a boy. Do you have somewhere to return to? I say go go! Tees Avenue was part of my past so I'm going to leave it. We went forwards without a second glance. No mistakes, UB6! 

Adding some Eastern promise to our day of discovery me and my mum took the E5 bus towards Southall Toplocks estate. Southall Broadway looked good to us, if you didn't know Southall is a diverse neighbourhood with a large Asian population from the Indian Subcontinent. You know I'm all about that International hype! I'm a sucker for some Indian food so I bought two veggie samosas to munch on. I loved the vibe of Southall's bustling high street with its abundance of sari fashion stores and curry houses. Leaving a spicy meal for another day I bought five pounds worth of Indian sweets because I love that Besan muchly! Southall is about ten minutes away from London Heathrow Airport so if I ever work at the airport I shall be looking for a flat to rent in that part of town! Our time in Southall mixed things up, for seeing those ghosts wasn't as cute as I thought it would have been. It was a life lesson to go back to the start. 

I couldn't get any closer to the beginning than see the hospital I was born at! Passing through on the bus to Ealing Broadway we saw the Ealing General Hospital and I even caught a glimpse of the maternity wing. It was strange to not remember somewhere when you know you were there once before, I definitely underestimated the day because it was down right crazy to see Perivale, Southall and Ealing once again after such a long time. I don't remember much from Ealing but it wasn't really Polish when I lived there, I suppose that European Union is the cause of that? So, its true that London means a lot more to me than I thought and I can identify why I strive to find interesting and alternative corners of London that are away from the central tourist traps. On a deeper level I recognise that I can enter the next phase of my life with the knowledge that I know the area where it all began. Thank you Perivale, Southall and Ealing for taking me back to the very start. That's it, I'm done! 

Never Forget Where You Come From! 

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Peckham, London: No Fools, No Horses!

Only fools and horses? Peckham showed me something quite the opposite, now who's the blinder fool?! How many times, how lies? I must put the blame on the media and the lack of exposure on lesser known parts of London especially in the South East of the city. I know full well that London has many different sides but Peckham opened up my eyes! Peckham kept it vibrant! 

Tower Bridge and Oxford Circus are okay but I challenge myself constantly each time that I visit London. After a recommendation I trusted the 78 bus to Peckham to see the fictional home of Del Boy and Rodney from Only Fools and Horses but was I mistaken? Yes! A fusion of Nigerian, Ghanaian and Jamaican culture fronted me without any warning, you know I favour some flavour in my life! I was left hungry after my visit to Woolwich in June 2014 so no one could test me! Absorbing the pumping Naija beats along the high street corner shops I loved life because that's my jam! I wasn't looking for a perfectly gentrified area because I know what that story looks like boy! Peckham, gave me nothing less than what I wanted. The new library looked swish but I was all about the unique shop fronts that served African fashion houses fit for an African bride. SE15, London's African-Caribbean corner. 

My inner African queen knew where to go for a new fashion forward hairpiece or weave, save your drama for this South East London town to serve your legendary style! Someone told me a big fat lie, the television show Only Fools and Horses was actually filmed in Bristol but that didn't make any difference during my time in Peckham. The high street towards Peckham Rye served South East London realness with its infectious beat of people making their way around the town, I didn't see many yuppie types so that impressed me much! Whereas in Woolwich I felt a more laid-back vibe even though the streets resonated a vibrancy that Woolwich possessed. Crossrail and the Docklands Light Railway has unevenly transformed that SE18 part of South East London so I saw the difference in Peckham for sure. The landscape changed so much from my Bermondsey beginning to Peckham High Street, it was ace to see the message unfold that alternative London works. I stepped outside, SE!

I worked up a hearty appetite when I saw JB's Soulfood and Jerk Chicken Takeaway, it was a done deal. I ordered Jerk Chicken, rice and beans served with a side of coleslaw. Being greedy I opted for the large portion because I loved my soulfood! Captured to the right is my food, I didn't fancy any juice so I went for a vanilla Nourishment can. As I unassumingly enjoyed my Jerk Chicken I couldn't help listening to the conversations that were going on around me. Let's just say that Peckham mom raises her boy with a non-nonsense parenting approach! One lady just wanted Peppered Prawns! She was told to chill and come back a little later to get her dish. I tell you I couldn't finish my dinner but I made damn sure I enjoyed the rest a little later on that day. I appreciated the uncomplicated vibe of JB's Soulfood Takeway on Peckham's High Street, who really needs fancy food? For my lunch it was about JB's! Recognise! 

Peckham's other foodie options consisted of a selection of Nigerian takeaways and Persian infused cafes but I wasn't on that hype one bit. Flashing back to my experience with Nigerian food in Woolwich I have to say I had my adventourous palate to cope with the spice! I was served an intense plate of Jollof Rice and Beef at Tasty African on the Plumstead Road. Peckham came to the rescue with my Jerk dish because I wasn't up for trying something called 'Suya!' I now know where to satisfy my cravings, getting down to Peckham for a wide choice of Caribbean and West African dining options wins! Have you tried anything daring from the Caribbean or the African continent? It doesn't take a mug to see London's West is getting more costly to consider property, a new movement of living has transcended upon neighbourhoods such as Peckham. I think a spot of regeneration would push Peckham in the right direction. I blog about places that have flavour for this reason! It's all irie SE15!

Peckham had me spoiled for choice when I was looking for some Jamaican Spice Bun! After pacing the high street and having some lunch I took a chance on Zara's Tropical market. I knew exactly what I was looking for, I'm no un-educated fool! Not lying, Zara's reminded me of a South American bodega with the selection of Hispanic food and drinks products. Finding my bun didn't take much thought because it just looks like a dark loaf of bread. Do I wish that I lived closer to one of these Afro-Caribbean food stores? Of course I do because I'm a lover of a wide range of foods from around the world. Zara's would be somewhere that I would chose, I don't take kindly to the international aisles that have been fashioned by the big supermarkets, I prefer to keep it local. That wasn't a question! Thanks Peckham for reuniting me with my favourite Spice Bun! I needed some cheese to go with my Bun loaf! Oh, Jamaican Spice Bun! 

My day in Peckham left me with a feeling of hope and expectation for the future of the SE15 area. I adored the original Afro-Caribbean vibe that engulfed the busy high street that chilly November afternoon. The energetic and infectious Naija beats that filled the main road to Peckham Rye made me want to Azonto! Going hungry would have been a crime, that being a testament to my delicious and spicy Jerk Chicken dinner from JB's Soulfood and Jerk Chicken Takeaway hit the spot! I have to say the conversations I listened to gave me jokes because I've heard that real talk before! Get your lives together whilst in London, I don't have time for your feeble excuses that you don't trust places in London that are off the tourist map! Peckham just gets on with its grind! Who needs Del Boy or Rodney because those jokers haven't got a clue! Like I said Woolwich has its own hype but I still feel blessed that both SE London communities serve a flare of West African realness! London serves more! 

No Fools, No Horses! 

Joseph Harrison 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Next Stop... Oxford, England!

Sign me up for a day in Oxford! I wanted to see how the other half study! I was quite awestruck because it was a regal university city. Home to the oldest university in the English speaking world the University of Oxford surely stands above the competition! Unknowingly, Oxford's grand libraries and institutions showed me a few Harry Potter filming locations. Yes, OXF!

Like my usual pre-trip routine I didn't do much research for my day in Oxford but I found the Bodleian Library to check out. Rocking down to Oxford from Wolverhampton didn't take too long so I made it to the library within enough time to book up a tour. Might I say Oxford, you look amazing for a medieval city! I prefer to visit places that have an element of danger but Oxford's regal flare impressed me much! A students paradise? Only if you have the money for it honey! Back to Bodleian, returning for my tour that afternoon I was ready to catch a glimpse at the bookshelves of yesterday. First opened to scholars in 1602 this vintage house of books could only be accessed if one had a masters degree! I was astounded because I've only got a undergraduate degree but that was in the 1600's. Religion affected this aged library, precious materials were destroyed by King Edward VI in 1550. The shade of it all!

Photography was strictly prohibited in the upper library to my dismay but I took knowledge from the tour, we have a history to be immensely proud of in England so let us teach and prosper from it. Every cloud has a silver lining, investing financially was Sir Thomas Bodley who had been an informant for Queen Elizabeth I. Mr. T wanted so badly to help the library recover from its trouble. Replenishing the books and materials and working towards a larger extended space of learning. Under new rules the books weren't permitted to leave the library, even royalty were denied to take books from the Bodleian Library. I didn't do much academic reading whilst at university but the stature of the Bodleian Library would put the pride back into the books. Do, I need that masters degree? Housing sculptures, manuscripts and much more this Oxford library is a wealth of knowledge. Talk's cheap but the oldest relic, an Egyptian marriage certificate dates back 2,000 years! Big up, house of books! 

Who said Harry Potter? From the Bodleian Library I checked out Christ Church College and Cathedral to find myself in the Great Hall that was featured in the Harry Potter films. Opened in 1546 this college has been teaching Oxford's elite since the break of light, something told me that you would need some serious student funds to pay the tuition fees at Christ Church. To have your own Cathedral at uni? That's crazy Oxford! Without a shadow of a doubt the feel of the Great Hall and main courtyard had a feeling that wouldn't have suited me whilst I was a university student. Don't get me wrong it was out of this world but I was born with no silver spoon! Essentially, Christ Church sets the tone for Oxford due to its remarkable architecture but give me back the Maltings. Take what you want from Christ Church, it is quite bizarre to think I've seen the Great Hall from Harry Potter up close and personal. Yes Oxford!

Making my way around Oxford I felt a quintessentially English feeling with the bicycles passing through the city centre roads it really didn't feel like a conventional city. Famous for its university and colleges this South-Eastern city of education has taught some of the greats including Oscar Wilde and JRR Tolkien. I suppose great people deserve exceptional universities? Away from the universities and colleges of Oxford I adored the  the open green spaces of the Christ Church Meadow,  it effortlessly merged with the winding streets of the city. Choosing to have a pub lunch for my dinner I didn't waste any time for I only had a few hours in Oxford to see as much as possible. An international honey pot? Yes, like London and Cambridge I saw hundreds of tourists who had a foreign nationality so that could have explained the appeal of this middle class study mecca? Correction, I haven't been to Cambridge yet but in the stakes of the original university cities I had to use it as a prime example.Yes, OX! 

Did some mention punting? I didn't think so! I stumbled across the quieter side of the River Thames quite soon after my train arrived in Oxford. Being on a budget I wasn't looking to spend a whole lot because I just don't have it right now. Anyhow, I returned to the canal towpath to round off my day of discovery and historical education to be met with a serene setting that felt faraway from the tourists. After stumbling upon a sign that I saw by one the main canal bridges I learnt that Oxford benefited from the canals, being located close to the beginnings of the River Thames may have helped trade be navigated to London easier. Weather wise Oxford had served some warm temperatures with no rain, a rare sight for the October weather we've experienced so far in the West Midlands. Canal or no canal it was lovely to take a quiet stroll past the narrow-boats, if truth be told it was a nice way to end the day. Bye, OX!

If you are ever short for somewhere to visit, I suggest you trust in Oxford because no one wants to be stuck in a bad circumstance. I have expressed my allegiance to my working class upbringing due to the feel of Oxford's exclusive student price tag and visual being but I'm not a hater one bit. I didn't marry the night but the afternoon I spent in Oxford showed me the wonder of a library and the lengths people would go to educate themselves. The sheer passion for a place that Sir Thomas Bodley had for Oxford to invest and empower the aptly named Bodleian Library. I am no longer a university student but I saw how the other half study within the confines of Christ Church, yes you would need more than mommy and daddy's allowance to fund that champagne lifestyle! Oh the shade! I have been saved a visit to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter tour because I saw two filming locations that day in Oxford. So, it goes without saying, thank you very much for educating Mr. Oscar Wilde! 

No Shade Oxford! 

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 19 October 2014

England: Coventry & Warwickshire

England is full of wonder, let's celebrate some more shall we? People have very different opinions about three places in Warwickshire for many reasons but one of those places brings us some serious paper! Don't be a snob because that style doesn't stick with me, I said we need to see the wonder! Coventry, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick you best be ready! Go! 

Coventry is a city that is seriously misunderstood, I kept my opinions to myself and trusted the city of Lady Godiva. Once the manufacturing powerhouse during WWII this Warwickshire city took a battering by the Nazi German Army, leaving the 14th century cathedral in ruins. Upon visiting the remains of Coventry's original cathedral I had respect for the city of Coventry during that bleak time of destruction, if truth be told the new cathedral didn't impress me much! From rags to races, I paid a visit to the Coventry Transport Museum to be enlightened about Coventry's rich past, present and future contributions to the automotive trade and manufacturing. Since 1896 Coventry has been working in the motor car industry like many other central regions in England. I noticed that Muriel Hind was the first woman to own and ride a motorcycle, she must of been Coventry's 19th century female boss? C, Start your engines!

Talking about female role models, Lady Godiva rode her horse naked through Coventry's city centre in the 11th century because she didn't agree with a tax charge her husband had introduced to the county. In my book Lady Godiva is another female boss! Get out of the city limits! I had been to Coventry once or twice before so I had a place in mind that I wanted to explore. I chose to visit the Foleshill area of Coventry for some Indian food, I tell you the Foleshill Road showed me a variety of grocers and interesting looking eateries. Doing my research before my visit I had the Panjab Sweet Centre & Curry Hut in mind. I left my comfort zone! Above is Broadgate, Coventry's main shopping realm where you can see the statue of Lady Godiva, I loved the concrete appeal that Broadgate served to me but it's a controversial topic. Could regeneration be the key to Cov's future? I reckon the concrete facades will be replaced with a futuristic plan! You should all be 'Sent To Coventry!' Oh!

Stratford-Upon-Avon must be the most famous place to visit in the county? Being the birthplace of playwright William Shakespeare its a clear winner for foreign tourists who are seeking some culture, let's face it we have some great people and places to thank for bringing some serious cash money to us. Tourism may be the biggest draw for Stratford-Upon-Avon but I was just looking for an alternative day out, yes to take in the Shakespearean tones of the town but to laze beside the River Avon had to be done. Have you seen the birthplace of William Shakespeare? I have! Chill your beans because we all can do that! Like Coventry its easy to reach Stratford-Upon-Avon due to convenient and fairly priced day return tickets from Birmingham Moor Street and Snow Hill Stations. Yes, we live in a very celebrity orientated world but was Shakespeare himself ever hounded by medieval paparazzi in the 1500's? OK then OK Magazine!

There's Anne Hathaway's Cottage & Gardens, which is a fair walk from the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon's town centre but its worth the trip because its really quite something special. I didn't play the fool by purchasing the Shakespeare pass because I was only there for the afternoon, plus it didn't agree with my student loan either. Me and a friend rented a rowing boat but it looked easier than it actually fared to be! Pay your respects at the Church of the Holy Trinity for its the resting place of William Shakespeare, he many have been buried there on the 25th of April 1616 but it's still a place of  great significance today. I took one day in the town of Shakespeare's birthplace but you could easily spend two days there nonetheless I was impressed! There's also New Place & Noah's House but I didn't get to that Shakespearean house because I wanted to capture the essence of the town rather than just 100% Shakespeare, you can't judge me! Get your life, visit Stratford-Upon-Avon! Go!

Who's got that castle? That must be Warwick?! Take a chance on Warwickshire's most famous castle because there's more to know! Managed my Merlin Entertainment the modern day castle acts as a wannabe Disneyland but I was more interested in Ethelfelda's mound because that Anglo Saxon princess slayed here corner! Check out Warwick Castle for yourself to find that invasions didn't really happen so that explains why the castle walls still look in good condition. I appreciated the castle for I had been there twice before but just wanted a simple day out in Warwick. The main castle buildings have been preserved and the showcase staterooms make it look like Downton Abbey! Yes, I could live in a house like that! Get to the castle early because those tourists do drag their feet, plus nobody likes to wait in line! What else is there to be done in Warwick? I enjoyed the castle nonetheless. Warwick sure served!

Aside from Warwick Castle the town of Warwick deserves a look in, I took some knowledge from the Market Hall Museum in the centre of Warwick to learn about the Great Fire of Warwick. The 1694 blaze started from one spark, hurtling through the town at a great pace destroying a large part of the town centre. The Sheldon Tapestry showed me the expanse of the four counties aside from Warwickshire. I also learn that the city of Coventry was once spelt 'Coventrie' and was walled city that was protected by the River Sherbourne, which has down been paved over by the modern layout of Coventry. The Lord Leycester Hospital showed me something different, once a military hotel that was best known during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I to house certain injured military to aid their recovery. To learn something different about Warwick was worth finding that hospital, I visited more the castle! Coventry and Warwickshire never looked so good! That was different. Yes, EN!

Who Said 'Royal Leamington Spa?'

Joseph Harrison 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Destination: Europe!

London, Paris or Milan? I'm not going to serve those destinations any attention, let's save those pennies and enjoy four destinations within the European continent for a lot less money? Yes! I'm a city boy at heart, so if you share that state of mind then stick with me! Will you let me show you the way? Newcastle, Amsterdam, Istanbul and Hamburg are all waiting for you!  

Newcastle, some call it the Geordie Shore but I won't allow that chat! A city like Newcastle keeps quiet throughout the day, saving its energy for the twilight hours. Resting your head in this North-eastern city will not bankrupt you, just choose the Backpackers Newcastle to make the best of a cheap bed in a spotlessly clean dorm that's has the location factor fulfilled. I stayed in Newcastle in August 2014 for two nights, I really enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the city. Get on that Hostelworld hype to find your dorm with ease, I even got a cup of tea made for me on arrival! Newcastle is accessible by coach, rail and air, getting to the Toon doesn't have to be a chore! I took the Megabus from Birmingham city centre to Newcastle within six hours because of that £6.00 bargain! Trains take the biscuit so don't bother with that business, would you still class yourself as a backpacker? Newcastle won't be waiting for you! No! 

Take what you want from Newcastle! I did! Grey's Monument demands your attention because the Tyne Bridge doesn't need be arrogant! Take the city in at your own pace, the Geordie vibe will stop you from doing anything in a rushed nature. I had put off my visit to Newcastle, I had to break free! Sydney might well have the same bridge but Newcastle's Tyne Bridge came first, it still stands strong as the prototype for the once growing Australian continent. Built from cast-iron is the Angel of the North, she stands strong like a glamazon over the peaks of Newcastle and Gateshead. Take the 21 bus from Newcastle city centre to bow down to the North East's female phenomenon? Newcastle has a compact Chinatown but you can grab a tasty meal for a few pounds to save your paper for the nighttime. Dress to impress, sure the Pink Triangle brings the beat when the sun sets. Promise this, Newcastle's a keeper! Yes, London might have the Queen but you can see Beauty Killer at Eazy Street pet! Toon!

Hallo Amsterdam! Spend a day or two in the liberal city of Amsterdam where the grass is greener on the other side. Tulips might not be the native plant because they are Turkish but this Dutch city has enough canals to last a lifetime! If your travelling from the United States or further afield then trust in Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport to get you to the Dam! My September weekend in 2013 served me and my brother a glorious sunny weekend. The Red Light District really deserves more respect, so show it some appreciation because those working girls command their windows like a businessman would run his office. I must say it was really quite something to see some of the women wave at me and my brother, trying to suggestively coax us to their windows but that's not my cup of tea. To the right the canals along Oudezijds Achterburgwal looked every inch the Amsterdam scene I wanted to see. Mary Jane, who?

The sale and consumption of Cannabis may be legal in The Netherlands but stringent rules must be abided by otherwise its curtains for you! Me and my brother favoured GOA, it had a young and current feel with a low drone of hip hop music playing whilst the customers blazed throughout the day. It's no joke in Amsterdam you can legally buy an abundance of kooky looking drug paraphernalia but we left the habits of Coffee Shops in the Dam. Nieumarkt and its square is cute and hispter at the same time, lined with lovely cafes and restaurants its not difficult to find a tasty Full English Breakfast in a fully Dutch environment. Take a canal boat trip to experience the life blood of Amsterdam's famous canal ways, its best when the weather plays ball because its a sight to treasure. Get Dam Square to go, morning time serves this Dutch focal point because people flock to that Amsterdam sight. Take a deep breath, Amsterdam doesn't do stress so blaze the day away! Dankuwel, A! 

Istanbul, Turkey is where east meets west with its inter-continental connections its a sure winner! Take Istanbul on, embrace the craziness of the Grand Bazaar because nothing else really matters. I'm not a shopper but you can try for yourselves. Be greeted by a former Catholic Church that also served as a Mosque, the Hagia Sophia puts the cat amongst the pigeons when places of worship are concerned. Sultanahmet takes you back to the days of the Ottoman Empire where the Blue Mosque rubs shoulders with the Top Kapi Saray, words don't do it justice but I'll do my best! During my two visits to Istanbul I managed to capture the same amount of craziness, Istanbul doesn't waste time! Are you intrigued by this Turkish mega-city? Leaving my family in the Southern Turkey had to be done, I wanted to seek the sights of Istanbul on an independent hype! The category was the Bosporus! Yes, that waterway served the views, T! 

Making back over the 'Golden Horn' I fronted the Galata Tower, my breakfast had disappeared rapidly, getting a Turkish bake and some Ayran was the right thing to do! Heading over to Taksim Square calms the crazy down, its a modern yet authentic hangout for the young Turks of today with the usual Turkish tea shops and Topman fashion stores. Istiklal Caddesi is the international infused streets that I'm introducing, its completely bizarre if I do say so myself. My hostel was located in Taksim Square on a side street that oozed Istanbul city realness not for the faint hearted but life is all about drama. Going hungry in Istanbul is a lie because the International pallet can be satisfied with the small Kebab cafes on one corner next to a KFC restaurant, so all parties can be happy. The Bosporus Strait defines the European and Asian borders, separating the two continents. Take a stroll along the Galata Bridge over to Beyoglu, barter the best price for a fish supper!? T, you can do it all! 

I don't do Hipster but Hamburg, Germany sold that sub-culture to me good and proper. Hamburg stands as Berlin's little sister close to the North Sea, take a detour from the next one to spend some time in this Hipster like dwelling that plays Industrial regeneration just right. Embrace the Rathaus, Hamburg's council house serves face in all respects with its grand chandeliers and onyx bathrooms. Getting around Hamburg can be done by the city's Underground system that has links with Hamburg Airport so from beginning to end you can ride on time! HafenCity stands strong, breaking the dawn with its changing dockyards that are being transformed into trendy dwellings. Don't be a hot potato in Hamburg just have one for lunch, dine out on a hot Kumpir for a few Euros to fuel your sightseeing quest. You can rely on Deutsche Bahn to get you to Hamburg on-time for a great price. Germany, I'm so jealous! 

Even though Hamburg's city centre had be at 'Guten Tag' I wanted some down time, choosing the St. Pauli Backpackers Hostel I made the best of my time in a trendy and historically rich part of Hamburg. Located close enough to a Underground station I was still connected to the action, anyway I embraced the Hispter charm of the outdoor bar/cafes and restored clothes stores during my early evening discovery. Lamachun anyone? Germany is the second Turkey so that boded well for my search for Turkish food on the run. Dining alfresco with a ice cold jug of Ayran suited me just fine. I can endorse Turkish Hipster life completely! Whether it be England, The Netherlands, Turkey or Germany I love my continent and then some B! Travelling on a budget in Europe is number one, you know it's my first love! Hostels hold the key to a comfortable, compact and affordable stay wherever in Europe, don't be a hater! Don't just think about London, Paris or Milan! Let us love Europe the right way! OK!

Europe Shows You More! 

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 6 October 2014

2012 - 2014: Pride's Best Of Three!

Somewhere over the rainbow? With the skies becoming blue I dare say we can dream further than we first thought that we could. Before my lifetime it wasn't a bunch of roses to be a friend of Dorothy but now we celebrate what equality has been achieved with Pride. So, here goes my best of three! New York City, Birmingham and Wolverhampton are you ready? Yes god!

NYC Pride 2012 turned up in May for me to experience my first Pride celebration. I had never been to a March before that beautiful sunshine afternoon. Meeting up with friends in New Jersey, we made our way over to Christopher Street in New York City to wait for the NYC Pride March. Pop icon Cyndi Lauper acted as Grand Pride Marshal for the 2012 Pride event, yes girl she was out to have some fun! I had turned up two chances to see Birmingham Pride for myself before I embarked on my Industrial Placement in 2012! I wasn't going to let any work schedule stop me from seeing that Pride parade in Greenwich Village, NYC! I am telling you that I wasn't going anywhere, I stood in my space before the barriers waiting for the parade to begin! No! Honestly, I really did not know what to expect but I knew it would be worth the wait in the heat! New York City Pride 2012 was ready to come out in all of its glory! Oh, I loved it!

Cydni Lauper opened the parade as we could see her car bring here closer to Christopher Street, she was looking good but her rainbow flag was dreadfully plastic! Drag Queens of all races and styles graced the parade, commanding the pride goers with their beauty I tell you no woman could have looked better! The lavish Pride floats that made floated down Christopher Street possessed colour and creativity, each blasting an iconic Pride anthem for the crowd to practically Vogue to! Flaming Saddles bar made their way through, serving Cowboy realness in a fashion I loved! Could this really be?! I was amongst the beautiful people of NYC for Pride is just like a Gay Christmas falling only once per year. Puerto Rico did it so much better! The Enchanted Island served Boricua realness with their booming music and Transgendered ladies all curvy and beautiful! I didn't go to 'Dance On The Pier' but the March itself served enough sass and excitement! I saw Manila Luzon and her Drag daughter! 

I didn't celebrate Pride in 2013 but I vowed to attend at least one Birmingham Pride before I concluded my studies in Birmingham. Through the rain we danced on, being a part of UCB's LGBT Society enabled me to walk in the Parade during the 2014 event. We celebrated and then some but we remembered the true cause of the day, to understand that not everyone in this world has the freedom of being true to who they are. Big name acts performed throughout the two day Bank Holiday May weekend, I viewed the event from a critical point of view. My Dissertation topic lies close to LGBT tourism and the attitudes of Pride. Stooshe and Fuse ODG both played blinding sets, I left my judgement there. I didn't appreciate the Monsoon weather! With my time almost up, living in Birmingham for those final few months with Pride on the cards was so very exciting! My dissertation had a Pride theme, I was ready for everything and more! Go!

Drag means a lot to me, it makes Pride that little bit more camp! The Village Inn Cabaret Marquee turned it up with a top billing line up of class Drag acts. Sandra worked the crowd with her cut throat comedy and side splitting gags that I belly laughed to! 90's pop icon Angie Brown made a comeback with her chart topping single 'I'm Gonna Get You', she was amazing! Security was at the forefront of Birmingham Pride 2014, I had no problem because yes I behaved myself. Manchester duo 'Queens Of Pop' performed their 'Atomic Kitten' themed set at Eden, I especially loved their Girls Aloud tribute to Cheryl and Nadine. The 'Queens Of Pop' may be controversial but they are so funny! My Birmingham chapter has finished now but I'm really happy that I experienced one amazing Pride celebration in Birmingham! Keep on celebrating Southside! To toast my Birmingham experience, I made sure I enjoyed the second night of Birmingham Pride even more! Yes, I'll be back soon! Sure! 

Wolves Pride 2014 came around in late September, I had to know was going on in my home city! No, I'm not going to throw shade on Wolverhampton because she's rising like a phoenix! Pride celebrations raise funds for worthy causes so a £5.00 donation was more than OK with me, don't be shady because that's ugly! Wolves Pride served a favourable March with several supporters showing their rainbow Pride, I tell you for Wolverhampton that was inspiring for me to see. In its third year Wolves Pride had the voices of Gay activist Peter Tatchell and Wolverhampton City Council so kudos to you WV! The ethos of the event screamed 'community' whilst for a modern day Pride I was thrilled to see that one event hasn't sold out to the big name acts and Disney like commercialism, let's remember those activists who sparked a Gay Pride Liberation in the 1980's! It wasn't about sponsorship deals, it was about the community! 

Entertainment was served upon the Main Stage for all to enjoy, I've been missing Birmingham's Gay scene so I couldn't wait for Sandra grace the stage with her scandalous sense of humour along with Drag duo Glitter Lips. Headlining the event was X Factor finalist Lucy Spraggan, she arrived on stage to a rapture of applause and adoration from the audience. Aside from the big names a range of upcoming artists and groups showcased their talent, Little Jack and Vois impressed me much! Drag performer Baga Chipz made an appearance, singing a few tracks with a certain swagger she wasn't too far from her hometown of Wednesbury. The Voice finalist Jenny Jones performed her heart out, she was amazing on that Wolves Pride 2014 stage! Pride in Wolverhampton was crafted by the hard work of LGBT Network Wolverhampton, in its third year I know that with continued power of support the event shall prosper ever more! That's my Pride best of three, where will the next Pride be?!

Let's Have Some Pride! 

Joseph Harrison 

Friday, 3 October 2014

2012 - 2014: Those September Days...

Summer has gone and autumn now stands before us, the month of September has continued to be a treat. Those September days from 2012 to 2014 have been eventful yet relaxed so for your entertainment I'm going to throwback past months because I can! From Wolverhampton to Amsterdam via NYC are you ready for this? I really loved my Septembers! Did you love yours? 

Let's rewind back to September 2012 a time that seems a world away, yes a world away! Throughout my eighth month working in Newark, New Jersey I got up to quite a lot of exciting things indeed! I showed my love for the theatre when I saw 'Evita' on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre, there's nothing quite like the bright city lights of New York City's Times Square! Pop sensation Ricky Martin played the part of Che but I wasn't bothered what part he played because he was in the show. Madonna called me to the Yankee Stadium to 'Get Into The Groove' for her MDNA 2012 World Tour, she sung 'Holiday' and 'Like A Prayer' amongst her new material but her original hits made the night unforgettable! Apart from my fun times I want to look back at my time working at Newark Airport when I was a Passenger Services Agent for Virgin Atlantic, I hated the hours but I loved the drama. Oh Brit, those September days in the USA! 

The North East coast of America can get mighty cold in September so I packed my carry on bag, trading the autumn chill for the sunshine of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. I missed the birth of my two youngest cousins that summer so I wanted a little holiday to recharge and to take the stress away from having no sleep whatsoever. Discovering the old forts of San Juan's colonial past, finding out the 'rich port' was fought over viciously I appreciated the time capsule atmosphere of the Spanish architecture that has been preserved. Taking a trip to Escambron beach I encountered some San Juan realness, I was in the hood for sure but I loved it really! My placement year in New Jersey afforded me the chance to experience some sketchy neighbourhoods, it meant I didn't have a problem upon my arrival back to Birmingham for the new university term. I know in my heart I'll return to Newark and NYC in when the time is right, I have other continents to explore! Thank you so much, USA!

What difference a year makes? Tell the truth! September 2013 took me to the greener side! Getting our lives together me and my brother spent a mint weekend in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. We spent time at the Coffee Shops and even took a river cruise through the winding canals of the Dam! We saw what wanted from the Red Light District, don't be no fool! It was it all just an illusion? Wolverhampton served some serious fashion faux pas but I'll let it off the hook only this time! Back to reality, back to Birmingham for the final year of my university studies was a sobering moment, I had peace to make with my student city. I wanted to be back in the Dam! Starting a fresh me and a friend took a chance on Cannon Hill Park for the afternoon to catch up after the break. The Indian summer vibe washed all over Birmingham that Sunday afternoon, I guess some friends don't deserve my time!? Felicia, l said goodbye! I did! 

I said 'hello' to my final year at University College Birmingham, I had the chance to be a Fresher one more time! My younger brother had started his studies and was out on the student scene so I had to join the brotherhood out on a few nights out! September 2013 gave me the boost to see a new side of Birmingham, after trusting a Google Map I managed to reach Birmingham's famous Balti Triangle that took me to Sparkbrook. Choosing Shabab Balti Restaurant for a Kashmiri food experience. Being a frugal soul I dined on a sumptuous Balti three course extravaganza. Getting back to the Village Inn from September 2013 again gave me the chance to serve some fierceness on the dancefloor to my favourite music! Back to Wolverhampton for one moment, I had a mooch around the town in between changing the Euros for Amsterdam to find that WV needed some love! Amsterdam loved us and Birmingham embraced me for my final year of uni. Yes, I was down for that!

The efforts of yesterday brings me back to today, what do you say September 2014?! Bringing some royal highness to my life I discovered Warwick and its Medieval Castle, I had to see what my inner Queen thought about it! Ethelfelda's mound stood as the original barrier for Warwick, that Mercian Princess began the fight against the Vikings! Slay! Warwick had several endearing qualities with its market square small town feel, I was impressed! Trying not break any dishes I chose Stoke-on-Trent for the day to see the Pottery legacy of the Industrial Age getting to know the Gladstone Pottery Museum suited me just fine. You know I was craving a Staffordshire oatcake with bacon and cheese! Hanley served me with a whopper of an oatcake that I fell in love with! I'm easily pleased! Concluding my day at Trentham Gardens, I appreciated the grandeur of the gardens but hadn't I seen you Trentham? I need to leave! 

Stepping back in time to experience the Back To Backs in Birmingham's Southside showed me how Hurst Street's finest used to live, I was astonished by what had been bought back to life by the National Trust! Memory, I wasn't alone in the moonlight because I had booked a ticket to see Cats The Musical at Birmingham's Hippodrome Theatre. The feline themed show didn't impress me much, I had seen it better done in the West End when I was a boy. Donning my graduation cap and gown on the 22nd September it was time to graduate from University College Birmingham with a 2:1 Honours Degree, I worked! I said 'Sissy That Graduate' as I made my way to the stage to accept my degree certificate, I had waited for that mother for a long time! The summer of 2014 took a lot of waiting but September made its appearance eventually, the house down! Wolves Pride concluded my September 2014, it was a day to celebrate LGBT power! Let's be all proud! Yes, I'm proud of you Wolves! Done! 

September ... Not Just Any Month! 

Joseph Harrison 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Wolves Pride 2014: Rising Like A Phoenix!

Wolverhampton have some pride! Like a phoenix rising from the flames, its been a long road but out of the ash came a celebration for Wolverhampton's LGBT community. Wolves Pride 2014 being in its third year put its best foot forward, showcasing a worthy day of entertainment, reflection and empowerment. Wolverhampton didn't throw any shade for once! 

With the Pride summer calendar coming to a close it was time for Wolverhampton to bring it! Wolves Pride was first unleashed on this West Midlands city in 2012 so I wasn't going to judge, its staggering to think that the whole value of Gay Pride has been transformed into a cash cow but let me finish. Set up in all of its rainbow design the Community Stalls brought a sense of simplicity to the LGBT focused event, can you see what I'm trying to express? Ranging from information from the University of Wolverhampton, advice stalls from the Terrance Higgins Trust right through to the sweet treats of 'Sally's Sweet Oasis' a mix bag of local faces served the event with a pride. My most recent Pride was back in May 2014 in Birmingham, a Pride weekend that's been going for seventeen years so I looked at Wolves Pride from a neutral view, keeping an open mind. Truth be told, it was a Wolves first! No NYC Pride in 2014!

I thought I knew Wolverhampton before the 27th of September 2014 but something changed, in one way I was at peace with Wolverhampton but always remembering Pride comes in different forms around the world. Wolves Pride 2014 made me realise that it's OK to be from Wolverhampton? Thankfully there was a trusty burger van within the Community Stalls area, I was hungry! Whatever's said about the Black Country its been a tough road for our communities due to the recession, but we all love a bit of rainbow power even if you can't admit it! My university days might be over but it was great to see the Birmingham LGBT network present at their respected stall, I promise to stay away from the Birmingham Pride hype. Was it your first Wolves Pride? I had been in contact with Martha Bishop, the Manager of LGBT Network Wolverhampton to see about publishing a blog about the event. It was an opportunity throughout a time of change, finishing uni with an abrupt return. Yes!

The clock struck 1pm, initiating the beginning of the Wolves Pride 2014 March through the streets of Wolverhampton. Beginning from the Main Stage area in Fold Street around the city centre the procession made their way with some serious colour and vibrancy! Leading the way was the 'Someone At The Door' samba group, followed by LGBT Network Wolverhampton who are the driving force for LGBT awareness in WV. Like any fabulous Pride March the famous rainbow flags fluttered proudly within the procession. Gorgeous Club showed their support for the cause as well as Wolverhampton Homes representing their division. The key part of the March was that everyone believed in the cause, raising the awareness of our modern day fight for equality. After my Dissertation I don't agree with the term 'LGBT' its a sweeping statement that categories a margin of society, I'd prefer not to be a letter! No, we aren't statistics! 

The Pride March matched the progression of the event, in its third year Wolves Pride 2014 had an energy that gave the onlookers hope for the future impact of this Wolverhampton Pride event. It didn't cost the earth to be part of Wolves Pride, for only £5.00 I was able to contribute to the Wolverhampton's LGBT Network and have a great day and night. Many Pride events nowadays make the best of the Pink pound but I didn't get that feeling because you didn't have to be a scene queen to be a part of the hype on Fold Street. People do complain about parting with their cash to attend a community event but the origin of Pride hones back to the days of the 'L.G.S.M' where funds were collected through the hard work of the Lesbian and Gay activists during the Miner's Strike of the 1980's so bare in mind that its not all about the sparkle and campery or the booze because Pride always has a cause. Wolves Pride March served Wolverhampton realness, people marched proudly for the city!

Come join the party! I heard it through the grapevine that the Main Stage at Wolves Pride would be welcoming X-Factor's Lucy Spraggan to headline the event that night. Welcomed by important faces from Wolverhampton City Council opened the show, local MP's spoke their words but I'm not one for politics. Wolves Pride had nerve, built from humble beginnings to now host a formidable Pride celebration, I was proud! Packed to the brim with music acts from across the region it was a celebration! Drag duo Glitter Lips opened the festivities, I hadn't seen anything quite like it! Drag sensation Sandra graced the stage with her razor sharp sense of humour, damn you watershed! Local songstress Jenny Jones sang her heart out! Little Jack and Love Beats Riot worked it as well! Who needs pop royalty or a money hungry diva, Wolves stands above! How about another track Rose Redd?! Another pint of Cider boy! Yes, I'd need more!

Vois smashed their set, boy they have some talent! Above all I loved seeing the progressive acts because like the event they are all on a journey, fighting for the next level of their careers. Fresh from the Big Smoke had to be Baga Chipz, queen of the battered sausage who originally hails from West Bromwich! After seeing Baga on London Live's Drag Queens of London I couldn't wait to see her candidly honest set at Pride. Baga performed her set wearing a scantly clad Union Jack top, she represented her region with a strong drink in hand! That's our girl Baga Chipz! What Pride was best? NYC, Birmingham or Wolverhampton? That's a tough question because Wolves Pride served urban realness in its city centre location, I have to hold the torch for my home city to support a growing event that showed me a bostin' day! Wolves Pride, I have faith and wish you every success for future projects. After the show the Bond Street Tavern complimented my day and night. Wolves has a Pride?

Thanks, Wolves Pride! 

Joseph Harrison 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Back To Birmingham... Theatre Shows, The Back To Backs & Graduation!

I've been in a state of delusion, like I mentioned previously that my life is in transition well its moving forward! The previous chapter of my life has been written and closed firmly, ready for me to move on because it's been a strange couple of months. Good things do come to those who wait! Birmingham, let's get this clear because it's now time to say goodbye! Let's go, go B! 

Birmingham called me back three final times this month, firstly to the Birmingham Hippodrome to see the hit musical Cats. I saw the ticket release date for the show and jumped at the chance, we have to treat ourselves once a while! I hadn't been out in Birmingham for a while so the theatre borrowed me some time back in the second city. Getting my Chinese food fix was quite underwhelming, not tarnishing all the restaurants in Birmingham's Chinatown but I've ate much better at the other restaurants, especially Dim Sum. I literally couldn't spend my money as I've been on the hunt for a new pair of trainers, I would be damned even if I tried harder! At least the pint of Cider I had at the Village Inn was nice, it brought back some memories of my Uni days but those nights are done! I suppose we should get back to the show? Would this touring show match my childhood West End experience? A memory?

Let me begin, I first saw Cats when I was about four years old in the West End so I had a high expectation because shows lose their edge when they tour. The iconic 'Jellicle Ball' theme song was dragged out for the first half of the show, I already knew the show lacked in dialogue so I took that into consideration. Grizabella, the glamour cat will always be my favourite member of the show but she didn't have the age that needs to be portrayed. I had the opportunity to see Elaine Page play the role of Grizabella, she wasn't that old but her rendition of 'Memory' was more than outstanding. The part of 'Rum Tum Tugger' the ladies tom cat was played the best along with 'Mr. Mistoffelees' so that impressed non the less. I half enjoyed the show, that emotion was shared with a fellow theatre-goer who agreed with me. I last saw 'Singin' In The Rain' at the Hippodrome in March 2014, it was a very good performance! With one curtain call its time to compose the next chapter! Birmingham, I'm waiting! 

Throughout the years I spent in Birmingham as a University College student I never got to see the Back To Backs! Nestled deep in the heart of Birmingham's Southside stands the only remaining block of back to back terraces in Birmingham. For a small cost I was able to see the forgotten way that inner-city Brummie's lived through the 18th and 19th century's. Three restored houses stand with a thousand memories and stories that were told to me and my tour group by the knowledgeable tour guide. Ranging from 1830 to 1930 the three houses have been brought back by the National Trust, I had relatives who lived in a back to back terraces within the West Midlands. I never knew that Southside and Hurst Street was once a thriving Jewish community, boasting a Synagogue and Kosher bakeries. Only Block 15 remains today but its a must to witness the Back To Backs that have been reborn in Southside. Loved it! 

Birmingham's Back To Backs aren't for the faint hearted, I even had a challenge navigating the stairs in the vintage housing project. I also learnt that in the 1960's the Back To Backs in Birmingham were condemned unfit to live in but Block 15 survived due to the existing businesses that once faced Hurst Street. I loved seeing something different within Southside, after all it was part of my night scene of nightclubs and bars throughout my University days. One of the couples in my tour had stopped in Birmingham to see the Back To Backs on their way home from the Cotswolds, I apologised on-behalf of the dreary weather because Birmingham didn't look at its best. Throughout the tour our tour guide showed us a photo of what Birmingham's Hippodrome theatre looked before its major revamp, I was saddened because it looked very grand with its eccentric brickwork. See something new or something borrowed at the National Trusts Birmingham Back To Backs! I do love you, Brum!

Now, Sissy That Graduate! On the twenty second day of September I donned my cap and gown at Birmingham's Symphony Hall. I graduated with honours, against all the adversity I faced as a school boy I got my hustle game on and achieved a 2:1 degree after completing my BA Hons Hospitality and Tourism Management course. University College Birmingham took me places that I never thought I would ever go! I worked at Walt Disney World in the summer of 2011 and I experienced one year out on placement in Newark, USA for Virgin Atlantic Airways. I didn't want to get a First Class Honours because I worked my hardest at uni and partied in Birmingham during my student life. I never planned to attend my graduation ceremony but it was such fabulous day, my cap and gown annoyed me but I won't forget strutting across the stage in front of an enthusiastic audience! I brought the house down, the house down B!

It was great to finally face the day, I tried my best to fast-track my degree because of securing a Chinese visa but I faced facts because it was something I couldn't control. Celebrating the event with some of my classmates was great, we've all change but it's been a while since we all embarked on the beginning of our course. Donning our cap and gowns we chatted about the good times, looked towards the future and compared the results of our degrees but most of all it was a great lasting memory. The last few months have been strange, I felt a sense of accomplishment as I made my way back to my seat with my degree in hand! People come and go and with each friendship remaining makes everything worthwhile, I know who'll be on my Christmas card list in the future. The next chapter has only just begun, I look forward to the next phase of my life and to embark on my Chinese year of discovery! Quote Rupaul's 'Sissy That Walk' to understand my opening word. I will get to work! 

Birmingham... You've Still Got It! 

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Serving It Up... Stoke-on-Trent, England!

Ey up mi ducky? Stoke-on-Trent, the world's ceramic leader took me by the hand to teach me a thing or two. Don't you go about breaking any dishes! Oatcakes were on my mind the whole time until I got my hands on one! Trentham had my attention also but let's be serious, I don't appreciate posh, I wanted nothing but Stokey realness! Somehow, Stoke's still got something!

Pottery has been a part of Stoke-on-Trent's soul for thousands of years, making the most of the rich source of clay, water and coal sparked the early Pottery trade. Established in 1774 the Gladstone Pottery Workshop worked through a thousand arduous days until 1970. Thankfully the 17th Century site was saved from demolition to be preserved as a working museum. Located in Longton, one of the five towns that historically made up the city of Stoke-on-Trent. If you couldn't stand the heat you wouldn't make it as a pottery worker, all 700 degrees in that kiln! It's believed that half of Stoke's population made their money in one of the pottery works, it was a family affair! The Gladstone Pottery Workshop boomed through the late 17th century through to the industrially rich 18th century period. Gladstone Pottery Museum tells the truth, celebrating the legacy. Let's bring more pottery back to Stoke-on-Trent! 

Stoke had some bottle! I mean the bottle chimneys that once littered the skyline of that North Staffordshire city, but the pollution plagued the people of the city with health problems so eventually newer equipment was used during the 1950's and beyond. Call me crazy? I wanted to learn something about the pottery works in Stoke because it's rare that positive things are said about the city on the Trent river. Have you heard of Josiah Wedgwood or Henry Doulton? Josiah and Henry paved the way to become two of Stoke-on-Trent's most famous produces of fine bone China. Several top ceramic works have been commissioned to make products for the British Family to serve Great Britain and the Empire. Keep your opinions to yourself because they won't make a difference! Hanley, Burslem, Fenton, Stoke and Longton now work as one, things haven't been rosy for the Potteries but demand for British made ceramics is picking up now. Stoke-On-Trent, you better well work it mi ducky!

What's up Hanley? Stoke-on-Trent has an unusual layout but I made it to Hanley after I learnt about the city's pottery legacy. Not being a bus person I put bigotry aside for the day because I didn't fancy walking from point to point! Hanley, you have such a personality! I wanted nothing but an oatcake! Stoke does them best, like a pancake but made with oaty goodness! Choosing a catering van outside the Intu Potteries shopping centre I indulged in a cheese and bacon whopper Oatcake! Duck, it was great! I didn't have time for clothes shopping, I just wanted my Oatcake from Hanley! If the truth be told I randomly decided to visit Stoke-on-Trent, I didn't take anything seriously. You already know that I appreciated the uncomplicated vibe that Hanley had that Friday afternoon, I should really look North more often. I have to eat an oatcake when I'm in Stoke-on-Trent! Oh no ducky, Hanley hadn't changed one bit!

Making sense of Hanley's city centre amenities I could tell that a few things had changed since my last visit some years ago. Hanley kept me on my toes! Well apart from the new bus station that served me well with my onward connections. My aunties both lived in Stoke-on-Trent for a number of years so it meant several visits to North Staffordshire. Throughout the years I had the chance to see Sneyd Green, Burslem and Talke, all showcasing something completely different. Sneyd Green and Burslem serve straight up realness with a no hold attitude about anything, both colourful neighbourhoods to say the least! Talke offered a slice of calm with the green fields and scenic views that I had the opportunity to witness. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, there's always time for an oatcake in Stoke-on-Trent! Not wanting to make any negative swipe at Hanley but after living in Newark, NJ I don't mind these places! Stoke in general has an edge to it, that's for sure! Just truth. 

The Trentham Estate took me by surprise! From the Gladstone Pottery Museum and Hanley City Centre to then end up surrounded by the grandeur of Trentham Gardens, I was very impressed! The formal Italianate gardens are set within a three hundred acres estate of parkland that dates back to 1758. Part of the wider city of Stoke-on-Trent the suburb of Trentham plays as the perfect contradiction. To the left stand the well manicured gardens, standing from the viewpoint gave me a whole new perspective on the Potteries. Aside from the grand gardens there's plenty to get up to around the Estate, shopping can be enjoyed at the Trentham shopping village that borders the garden's entrance. I took the 21B bus from Hanley bus station that took around thirty minutes give or take some traffic. I had seen the Monkey Forest on a previous occasion so I chose to visit the gardens entirely, S! 

Summer, Winter, Spring or Autumn I can be assured that the gardens at the Trentham Estate look amazingly regal! Trentham definitely has gardens to envy but what's going on with that five star hotel? Don't take this the wrong way, I always notice that there's a dreary look to the sky in Stoke, but as negative as that may sound I saw it as a benefit during my Stoke day! Don't judge a book by its cover because Stoke-on-Trent deserves respect for all of its industrial advances, it was just dealt a bad card. Word on the street is that the pottery trade is filtering back into Stoke-on-Trent, so far so good! Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and the rest of you pottery works, keep working on your grind! The Trentham Gardens give the perfect opportunity for rest, relaxation and a pleasing view. Like I previously mentioned I endorse the Stoke Oatcake, its best served with cheese and bacon! Hanley's city centre keeps its hustle true to the mark! Make no mistake, Stoke-on-Trent served me something! Yes!

Don't Go Breaking Any Dishes!

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 8 September 2014

USA: San Juan, New York City & New Orleans...

In my heart I will always have a place for the United States of America, its a place that's given me a lot that I can be thankful because of my placement. Serving my remembrance to my USA year, I want to pay attention to San Juan, New York City and New Orleans. From crystal clear Puerto Rican waters to an empire state of mind, there's always room for a Disney Princess, T! 

La isla del encanto esta esperando! Puerto Rico was for me! Leaving the mainland behind me to experience a hearty serving of Puerto Rican culture! I stepped back in time, choosing Old San Juan for a relaxing break to embrace the breathtaking colonial Spanish architecture. I chose wisely to see the cobbled streets of Old San Juan to relax and to see the castle forts that were fortified by the Spanish. I hosteled like a true backpacker on Calle de la Fortaleza, it didn't cost me the earth either! Both Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal served strong meaning business, protecting the rich port from invaders these fortification's are part of the U.S National Park Service. I had a valuable history lesson! A stunning U.S Commonwealth nation had me entering those Puerto Rican borders just fine, the island follows the same entry requirements as the U.S mainland. I was good with my visa, ready for PR!

Trading fast food for a meal at Cafe Puerto Rico! I was a must do to enjoy a freshly cooked Mofongo with chicken, served with a rich garlic sauce. I found out that Mofongos are made from plantains! Boricuas are proud of their heritage and love to express their allegiance to their island of Puerto Rico! I don't drive so I went on a day trip from Old San Juan to the El Yunque National Rainforest and Luquillo Beach. The rainforest transported me to a tropical oasis, reinforcing the hidden beauty of Puerto Rico! To conclude the trip a rest stop at Luquillo Beach where the Caribbean Sea hugged the Atlantic Ocean, it was a magical time relaxing on the golden sands in the sun with an ice cold Daiquiri in hand! I loved it! San Juan, Puerto Rico opened my eyes in the best way, I'll definitely return to the island of beauty and realness in the future! Learning a whole kind of Spanish whilst on the island along with the Spanglish phrases the Puertorriqueños used, it was the perfect Spanish lesson P! 

New York City baby! The city streets might be tough but feel the deal, NYC is real! From Downtown to Central Park I scratched beneath the surface, reading between the lines to capture the true essence of NYC! Chinatown NYC doesn't throw shade, I had some Vietnamese dishes to discover. I got down to a Broadway show, Evita gave me my Broadway experience. The New York Yankees played their game, allowing me to step into the Bronx! NYC will always be the queen of my dreams! I took solace from the struggle that the immigrants went through at Ellis Island. That island visit was the perfect opportunity to meet the Lady of Liberty. During my time in New York City I left my worries in Jersey, NYC was my playground! In the best way, New York City will always serve 'royal highness!' Yes, the view from the top of the Empire State Building put me in my place, I got over my fears! NYC had me feeling all kind of feelings!

Brooklyn didn't just show me its bridge, I found a rather mysterious corner of Williamsburg that held a big Jewish presence. Lee Avenue had me keeping things 'Kosher' within the hasidim population within New York City, I was amazed! Midtown Manhattan had me like 'damn' the first time but I discovered all kinds of fabulousness along Christopher Street, the NYC Pride March 2012 had me feeling all kinds of myself! As the winter months creeped in, the cold bit as I walked along the High Line during that December month. Times Square caught my attention several times, it was the first place that I saw in the city. Those lights and advertisements won't ever get repetitive, I'll be back one day to revisit that colourful corner! I didn't see Coney Island because Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey pulled me away, I'll be seeing you in a few Coney! From the Bronx to Midtown with Battery Park, NYC gave me serious life experience! New York C's Battery Park had me desperately seeking Susan!

I headed down to the Deep South to New Orleans alongside the rolling Mississippi River. I didn't get those Delta blues because the French Quarter brought me Disney's Princess and The Frog to life with the original buildings and Voodoo business! I wanted to take a boat trip through the world famous Bayou but Mother Nature threw serious shade on me and my sister friend that January afternoon. Digging a little deeper, we headed over to the Garden District to be transported back to true Louisiana realness with the regal houses that lined the streets. We enjoyed a triple chocolate brownie or two from The Grocery on Charles & 6th Street!  We left the crowded city streets behind us to experience an infusion of colonial American style because that was where New Orleans began before the stars and stripes! Fairytales really do come true, New Orleans was the sprinkle of pixie dust!  C'est vraiment incroyable! Tiana! 

St. Louis Cathedral gave us Jackson Square life, the French influence was unstoppable within that part of town. Looking out for the Fleur de Lis, that sight instilled the French history. Cajun cuisine broke all boundaries down, Cafe Du Monde coffee-house served up some delicious Beignets with coffee! Cajun cuisine impressed us much, we made sure that we both tried Gumbo and Catfish at least once to ensure our whistle-stop experience in New Orleans could be whole. Breakfast had to be enjoyed at Stanley's, myself and my sister discovered that French Boudin completed the perfect 'Orleans cooked breakfast! Bourbon Street served us with washing machines filled with iced cocktails that we simply had to try! The voodoo vibe was in the air, we loved our haters so no voodoo dolls were needed! The weather may have been terrible but we kept it going down in the Deep South! New Orleans had us rolling on the Mississippi River, so we loved that waterfront with its steamboat style! 

Get it, Get it! 

Joseph Harrison