30 December 2014

Shadwell: Barbershops, Kebab Houses & Halal Couture

Shadwell looked good to me, there's too many people talking down Tower Hamlets so 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, it's Bangladeshi and Pakistani community took me to the heart of the East End of London. 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 as 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 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?

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 Chrismas decorations around the streets of Shadwell and at Watney Market so 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!? 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 the respect that it's entitled to! 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 a Islamic area of London meant that it had an abundance of authentic 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 I paid £7.00 for my hair cut, for London prices that's a super 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!

Staying connected in London is no laughing matter, so its 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!

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! OK B?

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!

Serving Halal Realness!

Joseph Harrison 

17 December 2014

Wolverhampton: The Next Chapter!

Can Wolverhampton rewrite its book? Has this West Midlands city really been dealt a bad card? Whatever the case may be I took the liberty to see what new businesses are being championed and to see where it all went wrong. Talk may be cheap but money talks louder than any joker, let's rewrite that book to see Wolverhampton return to a better day! Come on WV1!

Kabanos Polish Delicatessen sure had my attention! The resurgence of independent businesses opening in Wolverhampton's city centre allowed Kabanos to make its stamp on Cleveland Street. After seeing the store in the Express & Star I wanted to see what all the fuss has been about! Wolverhampton's newest Polish food store sells a range of freshly baked treats, cold cuts of Polish sausage and hams and extensive range of Polish supermarket favourites. Time is money so it was great to see Kabanos busy with chattering customers supporting a independent Wolverhampton  business. Making my purchases, I bought gingerbread chocolate cakes, a bottle of minty apple juice and two sachets of Barszcz soup. After visiting Krakow, Poland I've been intrigued about Polish food and with stores like Kabanos its easy to source such items! So, Barszcz also known as Borscht translates as beetroot in English. Tak!

It's no secret that Wolverhampton's city centre has seen numerous outlets close and businesses cease trading completely. I learnt that Wolverhampton campaigned for the Portas Pilot bid to help breathe some new retail life back into our city, evidently winning I'm aware of Kabanos Polish Delicatessen and the Hungry Bistro so with that knowledge and my blog I wanted to investigate and give something back to my home city. The recession hit Wolves bad but like a phoenix I know that this West Midland city will prosper! Thanks Mary Portas for helping the city of Wolverhampton get back its dignity through your retail project! Back to Kabanos, I noticed a lot of different Polish products stocked such as Polish medicine, gossip magazines and other products made the small store feel authentic for the European market. I'm partial to Polish vodka so I may well be back to get myself a bottle, that reminded me I need more minty apple juice. Keep going Kabanos! Dziekuje K! 

Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre is rising, only looking better with age after 120 years in the business this theatrical powerhouse keeps on! I got the chance to review Eternal Love from the English Touring Theatre in February 2014. In 2015 the Grand Theatre will be welcoming the Bodyguard Musical National Tour starring Alexandra Burke as Rachel Marron. After its latest renovations Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre dazzled the afternoon I spent in Wolverhampton for this blog. 2014's pantomime reportedly sold £1m worth of tickets the weekend before the shows first performance. Throughout the years I have been to countless shows at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre to see Blood Brothers, Hairspray The Musical and several pantomimes when I was a boy. Have you supported your local theatre? We all know that Wolverhampton wouldn't be anything without its theatre! Oh, yes WV1!

It's been a tough few years for Wolverhampton if we're honest about things. Having somewhere to see a show to leave your problems at the door, take your seats and enjoy the show! I think the shows that Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre are pulling in of recent are getting bigger and better! It's no secret that Birmingham is our biggest competitor whilst being a close neighbour, but we shouldn't let the Hippodrome snap up all the top musicals?! No! The arts have been good to me in Wolverhampton as I was a member of a Youth Theatre Company that was known as Kuumba Arts Movement, my final show was at the Grand Theatre for one night only so I've experienced a show from both sides of the curtain! Away from the Grand I witnessed Wolves Pride put on a great event in September 2014 for the LGBT community to raise awareness and to celebrate our city. I have every faith in that rainbow focused event, four years in the making I know 2015 will see a bigger celebration!

An eyesore or a piece of retro architecture? Wolverhampton's high level railway station has had shade thrown from every avenue, its grey and quite frankly belongs back in another decade. Wolves was finally given a new bus station in 2011 so talk of a new railway station is rife! I'm a firm believer that if our gateways are fresh, modern and inviting the passengers perception of their destination improves, its true Wolves is in dire need of a new high level railway station. One different mode of transport the Midland Metro has prospered with extensions being built from a new Wolverhampton transport hub to the all new Birmingham New Street Station. It sure looks like the much anticipated second stage of the Wolverhampton Interchange project that's set to be completed throughout 2015. I want to see the Metro linked with a new railway station to increase Wolverhampton's connectivity! Let's do this Wolves!

Let's rewind the clock back to 1854 with the advent of Wolverhampton's low level railway station transforming rail travel from our city to London and beyond. A few years down the line or so longer the high level station pushed the orginal station to one side, eventually closing in 1981 with only services to Birmingham Snow Hill. Grand Station, once part of the low level station now serves as a wedding, conference and function venue breathing new life into Wolverhampton's Eastside. Adding to the low level station site there's a Premier Inn hotel, Bluebrick restaurant and modern apartment developments. Good! To cut a long story short its great to see some good come out of the dismal state Wolverhampton has been left in by the recent economical mess, there's more to be regenerated and identified. When all is said and done, we can say that with improved and modern transport links Wolverhampton's image will improve sooner. Do keep moving Wolverhampton forwards!

Heath Town, Wolverhampton usually makes the papers for all the wrong reasons but I was approached to publish a blog to raise the profile of this colourful estate, I only endorse something that I can believe will work so with an air of caution I made my way down to the Heath Town estate to see what's changing. I noticed a new development site that was cordoned off beside the Chervil Rise housing project, judging by the building site it looks very positive for the neighbourhood. Heath Town has an edge about it that's for certain, giving the close proximity from Wolverhampton's city centre and Bentley Bridge it looks to be a promising situation. Who knows? I learnt that West Midlands Police are based in one of the flats at Chervil Rise and actively take control of any suspicious activity, bolstering the changing positive way of the Heath Town housing projects. Keep the fire way from this town for the future!

Throughout the process of this blog I have seen places in Wolverhampton that I hadn't before, well I wouldn't exactly go out of my way to see Heath Town as close as I have done but I've learnt not to judge the situations of others. I know that Wolverhampton's next chapter will be prosperous and the changes that this West Midland city will see even better days compared to the last few years. From my Polish purchases at Kabanos Polish Delicatessen to understanding more about the Portas Pilot Bid that is helping Wolverhampton's retail sector getting back on its feet. Wolverhampton will experience the glory days that it once did before the economic downturn changed things. Transport is improving in Wolverhampton each year but more needs to be done because we can't move forward without what I've expressed! If the arts has anything to do with Wolves's next chapter we're in for a laugh! Are you ready for Wolverhampton's next chapter?! On to pastures new WV1!

Onwards and Upwards WV1!

Joseph Harrison 

12 December 2014

Bilston: People Like Us!

People like who? I don't care who you are or where you are from because there are places that rise above the struggles of today without serving you any attention! Bilston has been my hometown for over eighteen years, I went around Bilston to see what was going on. Bilston serves no attitude, we're all about the truth! I want a pork and stuffing sandwich! Tar very much!

Bilston was once a industrial powerhouse, full of industry supplied by the steelworks but those times have passed, now its a whole other story for some of us. I finished university and moved back to Bilston with a plan but like most things in life it didn't work like I had visualised it. Waiting on my papers I had six weeks until my graduation so I got myself down to the Job Centre to make a claim. It wasn't my finest moment and I put my hands I to say I didn't do it by choice. I couldn't push my graduation forwards to get my degree so I played the game and got through the week to receive my bi-weekly Universal Credit payment. I saw some scenes every Tuesday as I waited for my appointment for my claim to be reviewed. I knew I wouldn't be there for long but the system is getting a harder game to play with tougher sanctions and penalties for tardiness. There were some characters so each week I sat back to watch the show!

Many of the vulnerable don't choose benefits, its created a culture in its own right with new documentaries that try to show the truth about life on the dole, I used my time on benefits to listen and appreciate that my next step would hopefully to a new continent. Giro day usually falls on a Friday so the pubs would be packed to the rafters, let's face it if I was on benefits for a lot longer I would be living in the pub! Unemployment in Bilston is another story because other nearby areas aren't overflowing with job vacancies. I believe if used correctly claiming benefits for a time acts in the same we would use the NHS if we have ill-health. My advisor called the shots but boo don't ever tell me to 'get my life!' After painting a facade I was like a firecracker, that jumped up trick wasn't getting away for throwing shade at me! Hell no! I sincerely hope I don't return to that place but for the people who rely on that service I wish them well in life. Remember that respect is due in any case! Don't D! 

Who's hungry? Bilston might be small market town with an honest crowd but we have some authentic food gems to be proud of! People like us know how to appreciate the simple things in life, obviously the good things like a hot pork and stuffing sandwich from Dixon's Butchers. Those hipsters would kill for a cut price Black Country sandwich that would cost around £4.50 from London's Borough Market or anything other hipster food hangout. Bilston serves a sandwich of that kind for only £1.80 so think about that LDN! I usually harp on about Major's fish and chips but why always sound like a broken record? Pork Scrathings define Bilston food for me, teamed with an ice cold pint of cider its a winner! Cut the snobbery fool because its the best way to enjoy a hearty snack on a budget! So, remember Dixon's Butchers on Bilston High Street for that delicious pork and stuffing sandwich! That's one less problem for Bilston! 

Bilston gave me a life even though I'm less than complimentary about it sometimes. It might not change your life but I will always remember where I've come from, I finally respect the hustle people do to get by in life. These observational documentaries make me laugh oh they really do, bring your cameras to Bilston for that good good! We must be doing right because both Bilston's Outdoor and Indoor Markets are still thriving throughout this so called recession, endorse the small time businesses to help them prosper big time! I've wrote several blogs about Bilston but this will be the last for a long while, my life is going to be on another hype soon so I wanted to make the most of my West Midlands town. I'm hoping to see some difference the next time I visit Bilston in the future, the long awaited development of the High Street has finally broke soil! Get those hipsters to sample our food because we know we've got something be endorse! Serve onwards Bilston! Hometown! 

After much deliberation I bit the bullet to see have a drink in one of Bilston's town centre pubs, first choosing the Horse & Jockey on a rainy Friday afternoon I used the weather as my chance. I couldn't judge the pub from that afternoon refreshment so I went back on Saturday afternoon to the Market Tavern, I had saved some giro from September so I wanted to be a part of Bilston's pub scene. It was quiet at first but as time moved on I continued observing the local drinkers who made me laugh with their explicit conversations that served Bilston realness. It was like a scene from 'Shameless' reminding me of the 'Jockey' pub but the drinkers caused no stress whatsoever. Looking back I didn't know what took me so long!? OK! Drink up now, Bilston! Help me!

Not feeling content with my afternoons worth of drinking I grabbed some food and more money to revisit the Horse & Jockey. The locals paid no attention to me, a fish swimming out of water but I thought to myself I have as much right to be in this pub as anyone else had. Enjoying a few more ciders I relaxed into the general vibe of the pub, there was a uncomplicated vibe about the place that didn't omit any attitude! I don't usually go to pubs because I love to get crazy in a nightclub but I appreciated the change of scenery that I experienced in Bilston that Saturday night. I will now put my judging ways to the side, take everyone's journey as a new experience to realise we all have our own lives. Bilston has showed me that people like us must keeping hustling our grind and stay true! It's home!

Chill Your Drama... Bilston Serves! 

Joseph Harrison 

11 December 2014

Christmas: Past, Present & Future...

Play on, another year has almost finished so its time to get excited for the Christmas period. I have to admit I'm quite stressed at the moment with job rejections and shady broken job offers so the holidays haven't been my priority. Looking back on Christmas's past and present I can't grumble! I know the real workings of Christmas now! Has the magic changed?

Turning back the hands of time to Christmas 2012 I feel its only natural that I flashback to my New York City experience. I embraced a Filipino take on Thanksgiving, dined on some Peruvian food with my girls and welcomed another Virgin Atlantic flight into Newark Liberty! I was quite frankly dreading the festive season because I had never experienced the festive season away from home, but I learnt being away can be just as good during Christmas time. October showed me Thanksgiving, my friend Leah took me under her wing by inviting me to her food fueled celebration. I met her extended family, ate some lovely food and had a great time! Through my fear I knew that my Christmas in NJ would be far from miserable!

Marrying the night I, Fiorella, Valerie and Leah reunited for a pre-Christmas meal to remember! Choosing Pio Pio in Hell's Kitchen, we blagged a lovely quiet booth in the middle of that bustling restaurant. Our food was beautiful, but the company was truly priceless so I'll keep that memory close. Christmas Eve served Chinatown overness with a healthy serving of Asian food and Bubble Tea to complement my visit to the world famous Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center! Valerie shared her Christmas Day with me, we enjoyed a cosy Christmas afternoon with her friends family. Closing our big day we welcomed the VS17 Virgin Atlantic flight into Newark Liberty, I never got paid double! I won't say nothing but I hope to spend another Christmas in New Jersey and New York City!

I know the festive period is all about being merry but I took that the next level last Christmas in 2013! Family sure comes first so I travelled back from university to enjoy the Christmas holiday because final year was taking the Michael! I didn't ask for a lot that Christmas but as per usual my Nan and Granddad's living room was bursting with presents that Christmas morning! Having missed the previous Christmas I was very excited to see my new cousins enjoy their day, I dare say they had a great time. I had asked for a few bits and bobs, including Icona Pop's new album and a book about the hermit kingdom of North Korea. I thanked everyone for their kind gifts but appreciated one thing a little bit too much that Christmas Day! Filling my cup from dinnertime I indulged in two litres of Gin mixed with Tonic! Eating my Christmas dinner was a winner but I couldn't a word together! I was very merry B!

With age I have realised that Christmas isn't about the lights or the presents its a stressful day and the build up to the day is crazy for those who trudge around the town looking for the perfect gifts. Having  my Christmas of independence I appreciated the calm that I experienced, fast-forwarding one year I was surrounded by a sea of stress and wrapping paper so I hit the bottle big time! I can understand why Christmas is dubbed one of the most 'stressful' holidays of them all! Kids in general go mental with the excitement of the day and the build up isn't that calm anyway! I loved my Christmas's when I was a boy so I know I'm partial to some alcoholic beverages to dumb the crazy! Christmas 2013 taught me nothing new, I'm a sucker for a drink because you know I love my liquor! I still need to watch my Cabaret DVD! My younger cousins enjoyed their presents last year and I know through the crazy I'll be waiting for the hangover for the next one. I do love Christmas lights!

Needing something to take me away I'm looking to London for Christmas 2014! I shall be hitting the capital city up from the 22nd of December for the holidays, as per usual I'm seeking a new corner of London to discover for myself. Once I'm settled I reckon I'll hit up Shadwell and Tower Hamlets because I'm all about the London people don't care to visit during their stay, once I've got a fresh haircut and refueled with a Halal Kebab I am going to trust E17. Walthamstow looks good to me because its been re-branded as 'Awesomestow!' Those darn Hipsters have been making some changes so I have a duty to be nosy! I shall look at Christmas with new eyes this year, focusing on what I have not what I want. Let's keep walking onto something new!

I honestly thought I wouldn't be in the country for this coming holiday season because boo I had plans! Life can be a real pain in the behind so I embraced I would be opening presents and drinking with family on December the 25th, I'm quite looking forward to my London town festivities when I think about the stress this job seeking business has thrown. I won't be blogging about this Christmas in the conventional way but I'll be serving some gems during my time in London. I'm gagging for some Chinese Mooncakes! Oh I forgot to say! How are you spending your Christmas? Do you love it?! Please don't break the dawn because I'm all about that booze and juice! Let's break from tradition, forget that Turkey and open a bottle of fizz because life is a celebration! Oh yes!

Chinese Christmas in 2015?!

Joseph Harrison 

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. 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! Will you? 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!

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 a 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 has made its 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 B!

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 something that I respected. 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 so hustle your grind!

Bermondsey Street is my kind of hipster London! I love Spitalfields and Shoreditch but Bermondsey Street had me from the second that I first saw it in June 2014! Made up of one concentrated street full of architectural gems that have been reinvigorated to perfection I bloody love 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! Fuckoffe served me up a more than lunch, I felt part of a movement of New London with a unapologetic free vibe that felt amazing! Choosing a fruity fresh smoothie and a piping hot spinach and butternut squash soup, it was worth my coins! You need to Fuckoffe!

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 becasue it looks positiviely 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!

Why Don't You Fuckoffee?!

Joseph Harrison

24 November 2014

Back To The Beginning... Ealing, London!

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

23 November 2014

Peckham, London: No Fools Or 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 for sure! 

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 are full of African fashion houses fit for the West African bride to be. SE15 this is the New Africa! 

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! Compared to 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, its always good to see the message unfold that alternative London is cool. Step outside?

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 desired 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? It's all about JB's!

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!' If you need some food therapy I say get down to Peckham for a wide choice of Caribbean and West African dining options. 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. See what happens when I  blog about places that have flavour! 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. If you're used to your weekly humdrum shop to ASDA then I suggest you step away from the International aisle and get your life by choosing somewhere like Zara's. That wasn't a question! Thanks Peckham for reuniting me with my favourite Spice Bun! I just needed some cheese to go with my Bun loaf!

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 of 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!

Peckham Is Only Getting Started! 

Joseph Harrison 

21 November 2014

My Birthday Flashback: 2012-2014!

Happy Birthday to me! Birthdays are cool but I got bored of a cake with candles, after all its one day that deserves a few strong drinks as time goes by! Seeing a new place sounds cool to me rather than asking for x,y or z for that b'day? Yes! I'm going to flashback over my over last three birthdays but did anything stand out?! Where will my next birthday take me?! 

Feeling reckless I booked two Canadian trips in 2012 to Toronto and Montreal so I could celebrate my 22nd birthday twice. October brought my whirlwind weekend in Toronto, touching down at Toronto's Billy Bishop Island Airport  was a comfort to say the least! I saw the CN Tower from top to bottom, I was almost tripping from the viewpoint because I don't have a head for heights. Getting lost afforded me the chance to see Toronto's Chinatown and Harbord Village, offering me a fresh vibe compared to my New Jersey morning. Toronto took me by the hand, reuniting me with my Disney co-worker Alexandra who showed me a stellar night out! After our meal at Jack Astor's we pre-drank some more then hit Fly nightclub in the heart of Toronto's vibrant Gay Village. I had an amazing night but I'm not going to be trashy because a gentlemen never reveals that kind of information! Oh I also saw the Niagara Falls! 

November 14th 2012 arrived, I boarded my Air Canada Jazz flight from Newark to Montreal, Quebec. French Canada called me for a reason, the language didn't sound very modern but the French that I heard sounded good to me. Staying at L'Hotel I had booked a luxury room with a budget price tag that happened to be located in the heart of Montreal's Old Town known as 'Vieux Montreal'. Contrary to belief certain parts of Vieux Montreal date back to the days of 'New France' you know I'm all about a vintage vibe! Getting to know the city didn't take long for I had discovered the Metro so getting to Rue Sainte Catherine took a quick minute. My birthday celebrations were great if not a little random, well no one ever passes up a free dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant so yet again Canada loved me good! The Notre-Dame Basilica took me away from the North American continent if only for a moment, American life had got me crazy to see something European. Merci Montreal!

Time doesn't have to be an issue, I see those turning hands as a challenge to see as much as possible. My 23rd birthday beckoned as I had almost finished the first semester of my final year at University College Birmingham. I embarked on an overnight trip to Liverpool and Chester to catch up with my favourite North West city. That time Liverpool showed me the RopeWalks and the historic Chinese Quarter opposed to the iconic sights like the Liver Birds or the Albert Docks. I returned to Liverpool because I love that Scouse city, I always make time for my Disney friend Kat who lives in Southport. Her Disney Princess is growing into a beautiful girl, making our Disney summer seem like a while away! Liverpool sure brings the comedy!

Fresh from my second Scouse outing I took the Merseyrail down to Chester for the afternoon. As mentioned previously my previous birthday had been spent in Canada so I wanted it to be quintessentially British. The Clock Tower reminded me of the time element of the day so I made damn sure I covered as much as I could whilst in Chester. St Werburgh Street and the area around the cathedral took me back to the United Kingdom Pavillion at EPCOT's World Showcase. The Medieval architecture gave me a sense of disconnection with the city hype of Liverpool so I appreciated that tonnes. With the Welsh border close by I took a slow walk along the waters of the River Dee, I fancied seeing the borderline! Through my time spent in Liverpool and Chester I had a really good birthday! Yes!

London called me for a second time in 2014, I had something to celebrate this time though. My 24th birthday was very fast approaching and I had nothing planned so I was packed off to London. I'm not one for shopping but I really enjoyed getting spoiled by my mum with my Primark fashion purchases I liked that shopping trip. My actual birthday started with a terrible hangover but that didn't dampen my day one bit, or did it? Chinatown called for my usual Soho Bubble Tea and Dim Sum fix but that hangover sure returned like a reoccurring nightmare! Piccadilly Circus called me, I was on a mission to get some snaps because the early November sunset worked for me. Yeah my birthday was cool but I treasured the time I spent with my mum, we don't see each other as much now because of her work so that time was nice. With my new threads I had some work to do! Trust and believe London!

So my official birthday had been and gone but I saw my London trip as one complete celebration so I had a plan to execute! Dressed to impressed in my new city chic threads I made it to London's former Olympic Stadium to see what was going down, followed by a gourmet pie from Borough Market and finally a stroll down Bermonsdey Street to be with the yuppies. The sun had set, I was ready for the night and I didn't plan on returning home anytime before the morning light! The London Underground took me to my kind of London, you've already guessed Soho haven't you? Hitting up the Village in the heart of Soho I made the most of the cheap drinks, I wasn't going to take that for granted on a Saturday night in London! If you're not ugly then you should recognise your good looks so I made the most of my genetic gain whilst at Village, mama didn't raise no fool! Were you at the National Theatre? No but I'm glad I looked cultured enough boo! Let's just say 24 is working for me B!

Keep Your Cake & Candles! I Just Want The Party!

Joseph Harrison  

20 November 2014

London With The Lights On!

London is the late night lady that you won't recognise, with that prospect I got myself down to London last week without hesitation. Within the madness of the capital I always return to London with a new thirst for adventure, intrigued to see what the next hype is! The Tower of London planted the poppies to remember the fallen, so London what's good treacle!? 

London put on a fine show for this years Remembrance to recognise the fallen and heroic souls who fought in the Great Wars. I got crazy when those volunteers started uprooting those ceramic poppies, I hadn't been on my travel grind properly so I booked a train without haste to see those specials. I was determined to get a few snaps with my new camera and to give respect to the fallen. My Great-granddad Tom fought in World War II in the British Army so I took a moment to remember him. It didn't take a fool to see that millions had come from far to see the sea of blood red poppies as they rested around London's Royal Tower. I wasn't about the Tower of London because I had done that all before. As I took my photos I got speaking to a couple that were admiring the open air exhibit to think how much revenue could have been generated if a fee was taken to access the site. Yes LDN, I know the cause was served. 

Every time I love your design, London is a shady lady who dishes out some dangerous love! From the poppies I didn't have a lot in mind to see because I had been down in the big smoke just a couple of months ago in June 2014. Would I be seeking for the New Africa again or something more hipster? Yes, please! Having no plan is better than having great expectations! If the truth be told I never thought I was going to see the poppies at the Tower of London because funds have been low and the monotony of applying for jobs in China had got me down! 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted to remember the servicemen of the British and Commonwealth Armies so I guess the endless sea of red justified the queue I had to wait in order to see them. Londoners generally don't have patience to wait but when tourists are blended into the mix I got mad B! Let's take more than two minutes to remember those servicemen, those poppies brought something lovely for the cause! 

Ready for Olympic gold I wanted to see the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London. Yes, the games didn't last for very long back in 2012 but the Stadium is being modified to become the new home of London's own West Ham United Football Club so that impressed me that a new tenant for the gargantuan sporting facility had been secured. Aptly located in E20, a postcode that is shared with the fictitious EastEnders set from the BBC soap. The whole Stratford complex had me from the moment I stepped from that Docklands Light Railway train at Stratford International, that station had body for sure with its many platforms. In the midst of a reboot the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has reportedly become the largest park in England? Nevertheless I did feel a sense of belated Olympic pride for London secured the bid and that probably won't happen again! Keep that E20 torch burning bright! 

Seeking something new I closed my ears because people had said Stratford lacked in excitement since the games closed but I was amazed by the expansive Westfield shopping complex, that huge lifestyle development took some going to walk around but I couldn't help feeling a number of the stores weren't meant for the average person? Call me critical I sensed that a new wave of living is coming to Stratford with a more business type vibe so I guess time may only be the test? Getting to and from the city to Stratford International didn't take much thought, I took the DLR from Canary Wharf through the heart of the East End of London then returning on the Jubliee Line to London Bridge. London is throwing a new kind of shade to the East End, reigniting a new alternative to city living without the insane rents of the central locations. Whatever happens I suggest a jaunt over to the Olympic Stadium and Westfield complex in Stratford because its major! Just go for Gold already!

I just can't resist the bright neon lights of Piccadilly Circus, the iconic logos just make me say 'Wow!' Embrace the electric love of London's mid point with Theatreland on one side and Regent Street beckoning close by its a hectic centre of energy. Part of my birthday trip I made sure I got a few close ups of the Coca-Cola infused lights for the November sunsets worked with me not against me. I wasn't looking for no million pound girl because London, she serves up something special unlike her American sister! New York City offers the craziness of Times Square, yes its an advertisers paradise but its overwhelming in one respect. London has to be my chosen city this time around! Yes, I remember now of course Leicester Square stands a short walk away from the vibrant shadows of Piccadilly Circus I love that side of town muchly! I spent my 24th birthday in London, I didn't want no cake with candles I loved LDN! 

Respecting the poppies gave me some focus to the cause and on a more personal level so I appreciated that to the highest. Being a part of my passport I regard London as a special place, it never leaves me no matter how much time I spend away from our English capital city. Going for Gold wasn't that difficult because I was fortunate enough to see the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford. Comparing to my last visit I felt more chilled out, I didn't have the summer temperatures like in June to guide me for long periods of time before the sunset. South East London will be on the cards, with a serious flashback to West London so keep your eyes peeled for my next installment of London blogs! London with the lights on sure looks pretty splendid, she's strong and a winner but above all London shines brighter than a diamond! Gentrification is happening in London so we need to shine a light back to the beginning. Piccadilly Circus you better keep your lights on all night long! Yes!

London ... She's A Shady Lady! 

Josep Harrison

6 November 2014

2014: Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?

Don't worry about me, in this very moment I'm plotting my next move in life. This year has been crazy and confusing but I know greatness has been achieved so far. 2014 has been the year that I rewrote the book in many ways but difference is showing me to embrace life in the moment. From Manchester to endless job interviews, it's time to set the record straight. 

Manchester came through at the beginning of 2014, I had some research for my Dissertation to carry out and I wanted to love life that January weekend. University was coming to the final frontier with my ten thousand word Dissertation keeping things interesting. I used the experience to my advantage, I needed some first hand field research for my paper. Canal Street hasn't seen the last of me! I wanted to graduate with honours but I was on a mad travelling hype during the final semester of my closing uni year in Birmingham. Bristol and Bath impressed me much with its realness, those Roman Baths served up exactly what I wanted. Birmingham life got me crazy, into the flow of my uni work I couldn't control that urge to shake my cakes on the dance-floor at the Village Inn within Birmingham's Gay Village! Downing another drink at the bar on a usual Saturday night, I wasn't ready to give up my nights out B!

It was a family affair due to my younger brother loving life in his first year at University College Birmingham, he enjoyed his first throw of university life but we turned it up every once in a while! The fire was burning bright in my eyes, I had a dream to become a flight attendant for Emirates. I obsessed with the application, driving everyone near me to distraction with the fine details because I wanted that gig so much. My friendship with Kelly grew with our Chinese New Year celebrations in Southside, she knows I will throw shade on others. February and March took a change for this blog, I fancied myself as a hotel, food and theatre blogger with the small writing gigs I secured during the first throws of my final semester at UCB. I stayed cool at the Rotunda, ate well at Coast To Coast and critiqued a show at Wolverhampton's Grand, endorsing those businesses through my independent hype! Graduation was in the back of my mind but I should have just stopped stressing! Let it will be.

This final modules kept me going, it was a celebration to hand in the next assignment. I chilled my approach towards lectures because I had my study game on! Cheltenham and Dursley took me away from Birmingham to reunite with a dear friend from freshers 2010, I will no longer desire the taste of Pear Cider. I don't brag, I serve and inform and if you don't like then get gone! OK, I got my European hype on because you know I was tripping when I got that bursary fund. Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen showed me a full packed five day city experience. I bow down to Germany, she's a fierce competitor who has a story I listened to. It wasn't a joke that I didn't get a job with Emirates, I'll stay nice for I had a plan to execute. I knew that 2014 afforded me the summer of experience with multiple foreign trips so I took a trip down to Stonehenge with a pit-stop visit in Bristol, yes I embraced my situation.

No I didn't regress to no high school student I loved my life down in Birmingham's Southside. After joining the UCB LGBT Society at the beginning of my final year at university I worked it out in the clubs that I approved of. Intermission, I hit Coventry and Lichfield for the afternoon to prove the haters wrong! Handsworth and Benefits Street opened my eyes to a side of Birmingham I had ignored. We celebrated the advent of the legalisation of same sex marriages in our rainbow style, donning our hen attire whilst marrying the night because we rejoiced. My workload from university needed some let up, I would work on 4,000 words then turn it up on a Friday and Saturday night at the Village Inn. Birmingham Pride 2014 beckoned, filling my cup I enjoyed my Pride weekend to the fullest with a class act hangover that lasted three days after the weekend. I wasn't looking for any approval, the hands of time moved faster than words could say, I was on to the next thing! Uni done!

Looking for the main attraction I took my life down to London for a quick minute, reconnecting with my parents and seeing another side to the city of my birth. School was out, the bags had been packed and my Thomas House room had been locked. London gave me some breathing space to seek that adventure out! My summer took me back to Bilston, living with my Grandparents until the next phase commenced. I called upon some sources to afford me a summer to remember. I got my 2;1 degree from UCB, I booked up a shameless weekend to Blackpool. I reported on the first arrival from China into Birmingham Airport, memories sure did reignite from my Newark placement year! Life changed so much but I wouldn't let it go up in flames!

I returned back to Birmingham in August prior to my Geordie getaway, I missed that trick! Student life disappeared without any warning! The Angel of The North showed me which way to go, her cast iron self instilled some strength within during that Newcastle time. I snapped a shot with Beauty Killer at Eazy Street and appreciated the Tyne Bridge with time burning like a raging fire. Feeling free for a small period of time I silenced the crazy with an afternoon in Shrewsbury, you know I was on that Ramen Noodle hype! Autumn pounded the alarm, I owned the streets but didn't break any dishes in Stoke-On-Trent. I had to challenge the ordinary because I was getting crazy as the month progressed. London I thought we had a deal?! You know there's always something new in my life! Get it B!

September brought my time, I had a duty to 'sissy that graduate' making my way across the stage at Birmingham's Symphony Hall to collect my degree. I had kicked up some fuss to get my paper sooner to get my ass onto the next hype. Striking up the band I said farewell to my university journey, making peace with Birmingham to realise the wait was completely worth the drama. Feeling like dancing I returned to Wolverhampton for Wolves Pride 2014 to enjoy a day and night of celebration for my home city. Since July I have blogged about the comeback city from my own perspective. Blogging has been hard due to my location and lack of funds but I have made my mark no matter what! This year might not be over yet and this entry isn't a sweeping judgement of what has already happened I just want to recognise whats gone down because I have a whole lot more in the pipeline! I've got this! Let get it!

The time is now for a change, I want to challenge myself with a new beginning. I worked in America without the knowledge of creating this blog. I have every intention of taking this blog to the next level in 2015 and beyond! I'm not sure which direction things will go but I have a thirst to get back out into the world. I seriously underestimated the prospect of looking for a job, my cushioned existence at university put me in dazed state of mind, it has been a bitter pill to swallow! I have love and admiration for Bilston but that West Midlands town doesn't inspire or give me life, so I best secure some employment then I'll have the funds to fly! Christmas 2014 looks to be a London thing because I shall be spending the festivities at my parents pub in the big smoke. London has been my crutch to escape to but I need to get my life already! 2014 has been a blessed yet stressful year with many twists and turns I wanted to serve this blog with truthfulness. Do you want the truth? So, that's it!

Trust and Believe!

Joseph Harrison

30 October 2014

Next Stop... Oxford, England!

Sign me up for a day in Oxford! I wanted to see how the other half study, I was quite starstruck 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, OXD!

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 the Bodleian 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 couldn't helped loving the open green spaces of the Christ Church Meadow as it 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 off 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, OXD! 

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, OXD!

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 shear 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

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 

15 October 2014

Europe... My First Love!

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. 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! As a city Newcastle keeps it quiet throughout the day so the city can party all night long, she knows how to throw a party for sure! 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 to really enjoy 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 so 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 I wanted that £6.00 bargain. Trains take the biscuit so don't bother with that business if you class yourself as a backpacker! 

Take what you want from Newcastle! Grey's Monument demands your attention for the Tyne Bridge thinks it better than the rest! Take the city in at your own pace because the Geordie vibe isn't of a rushed nature, I had put off my visit to Newcastle for so long I just 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 B, 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! 

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 left the canals along Oudezijds Achterburgwal looked every inch the Amsterdam scene I wanted to see. 

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! 

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? 

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!?

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! 

Europe Shows You More! 

Joseph Harrison