Wednesday, 25 February 2015

February 2014: This Time Last Year...

2015 hasn't been that exciting if I'm completely truthful, so with that said its time to flashback to this time last year! How I did I get so lucky with my food and lifestyle blog publications during February 2014? Chinese New Year was celebrated with my friend Kelly in Birmingham's Chinatown for the year of the horse! How time changes our situations in life! Oh, February!

Yes, I can be a cheeky sod, after dining at Coast To Coast American Restaurant on Broad Street I had to tweet all about it! With a bit of luck and negotiation I secured an evening at their Birmingham Broad Street location one Saturday night in February 2014. I choose my friend Kelly as my plus one so we could spend some time away from the stresses of our dissertation and for me to compile a food orientated publication that would feature on my blog. Choosing from the vast menu we both enjoyed the hospitality of Coast To Coast that winter night. I ordered the pulled pork burger that was served with coleslaw and fries, a tasty component to my American infused evening. Both me and Kelly sampled a few cocktails before we sat down for our evening meal. I was tripping, I had been given the chance to blog about a restaurant and enjoy a great meal in the process! Let's just say I was very happy to be a part of that!

Newly opened on Birmingham's entertainment avenue, Coast To Coast's opening beckoned a new start for Broad Street due the many vacant outlets that took the life out of my student city. Even students need treats that don't incur vile hangovers so a new place to have a bit to eat acted as the perfect antidote to mine and Kelly's final year university commitments. I was on the frontier of my final semester at University College Birmingham so I wanted to get the best of what Birmingham had to show me this time last year. It was great to be getting recognition for my blog, first and foremost I never set out to be a paid blogger because for me its all about my own personal adventures that contribute to each post. Back to the food, we sipped our mixed drinks and moved on to desert before calling it a night. I chose the peanut butter cheese cake that was served with ice cream, Kelly enjoyed the chocolate brownie so all was sweet! We both left feeling full and happy indeed B!

Februrary 2014 was a month of surprises, well even more so when I got an email inviting me to spend one night at the Rotunda. The view from my Staying Cool serviced apartment was out of this world! Birmingham never looked so good! I lounged around for the evening, enjoying the amenities and of course marveled at the view of Birmingham's Bullring and Eastside. Like my food review I had never before been asked to stay in a lovely apartment to then publish a publication for it. There must be something Birmingham, because it looked damn good from the top! Chilling out I made the best of the Sky television that posed as a luxury for I was currently living in student halls of residence at that time so that was lovely. I had the kettle boiled several times, the wide selection of tea, coffees and hot chocolates had me hooked! There was one thing that I didn't want to miss, I wanted to see the sunrise! It was beautiful!

Taking a brief interlude I accepted an invitation to review a new show concept at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre. Brought by the English Touring Theatre I enjoyed the performance of Eternal Love that bitterly cold February night. I had the chance to revisit the backstage to see the different set and props, I'm sure the trees were from Blenheim Palace? I met a whole host of bloggers and tweeters that evening, plus I had the chance to be part of a question time with a representative from the show to find out more about the history of this alternative love story. Aside from my blogging pursuits I was busy with the joys of final year, my Dissertation took up a ferocious amount of my time due to its enormity of 10,000 words and all the 'academic' reading I had to undertake! Well in a manner of speaking! Birmingham looked good to me for once, through the year I was away and since my return from Newark my opinion of my former student city was fine with me! So, what's next?!

As if our American chow down at Coast To Coast wasn't enough! Me and Kelly made it for Chinatown the next day! Chinese New Year had arrived so we reconvened and headed for Birmingham's Chinese Quarter to join the festivities. Waiting in the dodgy conditions was worth it because we caught the opening ceremony and the releasing of the firecrackers! No Chinese New Year is complete without a parade of dancing dragons, I left the photography to Kelly for she can snap a photo without stress! In between the festivities we ran for cover in Caffe Chino, we had a Bubble Tea to pass the time before the dragons and fireworks. I didn't appreciate those tea drinkers who didn't favour an Oolong brew or something more Oriental! Toasting the day we dined on some crazy Dim Sum dishes at Ken Ho on Hurst Street. I put my trust in Kelly to order some out of the ordinary dishes for us to dine on, I was impressed Kelly!

Since moving back to Birmingham from Newark, NJ in early 2013 it was mad to see Centenary Square look like a building site, the new Library of Birmingham took a long time to finally be built but it now stands proud! I took some time away from my Dissertation during 2014's throw of February to capture this icon for a blog publication, I saw the view from the top that looks over Birmingham's growing skyline to think that I've been very lucky to experience such a experience over the last four years. I look back on February 2014 with a smile because I was afforded some great opportunities during that month, I didn't stress about having more blog ventures because I was busy with uni and going on day trips! Chinese New Year was cool, Kelly's now in Hong Kong so I look back on those times fondly because I don't know when I'll see her again! I wouldn't mind Staying Cool again! February 2015 wasn't so bad really, I got a job at long last! On-wards and upwards February! Let's move on!

Fabulous February!

Joseph Harrison

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Thames Path: Rollin' On The River!

Rolling on a river?! The Thames Path is independent, connecting London's iconic sights along that legendary riverside! I previously stopped by Tower Bridge, the Shard and the Tower of London so I'm going to get back to Richmond and Greenwich amongst other places to see what else the Path serves! Thames Path keep on serving, let's all keep rolling on that river! Yes!

Stretching its source the Thames Path stretches from a quiet corner of the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in London, I couldn't resist serving a second helping of this South Eastern icon! Bringing one heck of a university challenge, Oxford showed me the fashion of England's premium higher education institutions along the Western corner of the Thames Path. Remembering that reading is fundamental, its key to pay a visit to the Bodleian Library to appreciate the legacy as one of the oldest libraries in Europe, schooling the greats from yesterday and to this very day. The Oxford branch of the Thames Path is a sedate affair compared to the hustle and bustle of London's winding waterway! I made damn sure that I took a stroll alongside the riverside to take solace from the environment, there wasn't a soul to disturb my brief acquaintance with the Thames Path. Oh, the best things in life are free!

Call me stupid? Before my visit to Oxford in October 2014 I didn't realise this legendary city sat on the banks of the Thames River, may it only be a tributary no one can deny that London lay just around the river-bend. I didn't indulge in the punting, I wanted to seek greatness during my Oxfordshire day. Birmingham treated me well as a university student, but at Christ Church College those students lived in a whole other world with a their grand banquet hall that resembled the one that was featured in the Harry Potter film series! Children, I'm more than you'll ever be without that silver spoon that I never had! Know yourself! I had been schooled in many respects whilst I was in Oxford but I admired the authentic side streets that told me so much more about this historic university city, I would never have the nerve to read Oxford in such a shady way! Take me back to the chilled out flow of Oxford's branch of the Thames Path already! Trust and believe! From colleges to palaces?

Hang on in there Proud Mary! Winding closer to the city of London, lets take things on a palatial hype? The Thames Path has many faces so in January 2015 I took the liberty to escape the craziness of London for Richmond-upon-Thames to experience another chilled out perspective of the Thames Path away from the big smoke. Hampton Court Palace showed me royal highness and so much more, beautifully located beside the River Thames that portion of the river flowed free of stress. Taking it back to Richmond, I found Rich's Riverside on a cold January day to see a whole different section of the mighty Thames Path. People were just chilled out, some were at the riverside pubs and cafes or taking a stroll along the rivers edge. Central London happened to be down the tube line but Richmond served complete chill! Leave your good job in the city, that Thames Path keeps rolling on baby! Yes, I know Richmond!

The pool of London hasn't always been a tourists playground, its been a hype of industry and activity since those early days of trade! Rotherhithe saw the Mayflower set sail for the New World in 1620 from the docks of Rotherhithe's patch of the River Thames, opening a new chapter for a land that would become the United States of America in time. I admit the Thames Path has a few non-riverside twists and turns but I've never got lost! Head for Tower Bridge and Shad Thames to carry on with the winding way of the mighty Thames Path walkway, I mentioned before its like being schooled all over again! Marry the night to see London's growing skyline alongside the former docking point of the Mayflower with a pint in hand, formerly named 'The Shippe' that London pub has many a secret to tell us all! From Richmond to Rotherhithe the fabric of London's skyline changes considerably but the Thames runs through the of my capital city with the same pace and status! I do love London!

With Oxford seeming like a distance memory let's take this to South East London! That wasn't a question! Paying a visit to the Royal Borough of Greenwich allowed me to see a section of London's iconic riverside from a higher point of view. Maritime Greenwich lies east of Rotherhithe along the Thames Path to prevail the Greenwich Royal Observatory, a part of London that's always right on time! I was blessed with views of Canary Wharf and the O2 Arena as I sat amongst the many tourists at the top of the Observatory. Now, that's where 'GMT' time originates from! Going back to reality I found Goddards at Greenwich, serving me an authentic portion of Pie and Mash during my summer 2014 visit. This time I saw fit to feature sides of the Thames Path that don't fit within the centre of the River Thames, to offer a variety to keep my interpretation of the Path fresh. No, I didn't indulge in any jellied eels!

Woolwich's Royal Arsenal is firing its artillery once again in another sense, for a new chapter beckons for this side of the Path! Splitting the town centre into two, the former artillery barracks have been transformed into a new urban riverside community with its own view of tomorrow's London! Crossrail is coming to Woolwich Arsenal in the coming years so a new wave of urban craze has been ignited to transform a sleek new Eastern terminus of the vast Thames Path. I have love for Woolwich's West African influence, I know that in time the two sides of Woolwich's town centre will be looking on point! Will the Thames Path be extended from Woolwich through Thamesmead to furthest Erith? There might be plans but when I get back to the big smoke I'll put my best foot forward to look East along a unknown side of London's iconic riverside! When all is said and done I know that Oxford, Richmond, Rotherhithe, Greenwich and Woolwich all serve Thames Path Overness! I'm out!

Keep Rolling On That River!

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 9 February 2015

My Hometown Glory...

Where is your Hometown Glory? I had to leave my home country of England to realise that my Hometown Glory is Bilston, an ex-mining town that's close to the city of Wolverhampton. Along with Bilston I'm going to focus on two other ordinary places that I have lived in over the years. Where does my allegiance lie? Bilston, Birmingham and Newark, I want answers right now!

Bilston brings the first installment of Hometown Glory, its purely by default that this contender is in the mix! I've lived in Bilston since the age of five after relocating as a boy from Ealing, London. It's got its charms but as a university graduate its become a place that I have found myself back at the beginning. I have published numerous publications about this West Midland town but it leaves me wanting more! The weekly market is Bilston's saving grace because despite the economic hassle its still attracting people from the region. Where I am at the moment needs no introduction, I look to other graduates who live in towns like I do, towns that don't have much to offer when I studied for four years at university. The saying goes that we are a product of our environment? I'm not sure if I wan't to answer that question because I want to get my money and go travelling for as long as I possibly can! OK?

That felt good! It's not all bad in WV14, no I sampled the nightlife in Bilston in December 2014 to find that the pubs of Bilston's high street resembled the 'Jockey' pub from the Manchester based show 'Shameless!' If truth be told I have championed Bilston through my publications as I mentioned before because its a quirky place that could be popular with the American tour market! Aside from the shade and negativity its difficult to be hard on Bilston, let's just say a pork and stuffing sandwich makes all the difference! There's no place like home so I guess its like an annoying sibling that just gets on your nerves? I like the sound of that term of phrase! I still have plans to spread my wings but Bilston is the base for the moment, its the way its got to be right now. This town is my waiting room, I'm hatching something grand, I have Bilston to thank for giving me the thirst to get up and get out! Bilston is a compulsory Hometown Glory of mine, need I say anymore?!

Packing up my suitcase I moved to Birmingham in September 2010 to begin my university degree at University College Birmingham. Taking a chance on Brum changed my life, I grew in confidence and commanded my own life that was full of independence and freedom. Residing in Halls of Residence took the mick sometimes, it enabled me to meet people from different places and social backgrounds, broadening my outlook on life, teaching me life lessons. Birmingham serves Hometown Glory for different reasons when compared to Bilston! Learning to leave my comfort zone didn't take much persuading. I saw Birmingham change from a city into a destination, appreciating the flaws I saw greatness in my student city! Yes B!

Yes, my studies challenged me for all the right reasons but in my defense I was in living a city centre environment so I had the opportunity to cut loose sometimes, that freedom was beautiful! When the sun set it was time for us to marry the night, well for the fresher period anyway! Over the course my time living in Birmingham I became familiar with Southside and its many nightclubs, breaking from writing my Dissertation would usually result in a crazy night at the Village Inn. Breaking from the centre I saw Handsworth and Bournville for myself because its all about testing those boundaries! It's said that all good things have to come to an end? I agree with that sentiment in one sense, I know that Birmingham will embrace me again in the future, there's no need to stress! Oh my life B!

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to reach Newark, New Jersey opened a whole new chapter in my life! I made the Ironbound District my home for eleven months until January 2013, I worked as a Passenger Service Agent for Virgin Atlantic at Newark's Liberty International Airport. Getting into the rhythm of Newark City Life was something else, I thought I had this but Newark's got a fierce edge! Getting to grips with the culture and Brazilian vibe of the neighbourhood was an immense pleasure, the food took me to new places that I had never previously been to! The airport grind exhausted me, I like my sleep but I soldiered through during my time in Newark, USA. I got on with my laundry and sorted my own bills out with my flatmates but I want to go back and slap my former self to just cut loose and trust the Downtown! I decided against investigating the CBD further, I missed that chance! Go plan BB!

I wasn't looking for love, I enjoyed my time stateside during my Industrial Placement so that's that! Was Newark ever one of my Hometown Glory's? Yes, that ratchet city built me up more than Birmingham could in a different sense! My airport days helped me develop an alternative personality, Britney Bitch didn't have time for any foolishness, she ruled her territory and didn't care who disapproved of her craziness! I miss that part of me, its not really the time or place to serve that kind of attitude but Newark is back on my radar after three years since my arrival I'm planning the extravaganza that shall be! I took the PATH train over to the Empire State of Mind to reach a higher point of being, New York City showed me so much more than I can express in words! Life moves on but I'm stamping NJ 07105 as the Hometown Glory I desperately sought adventure! I tell you for nothing Downtown Newark, I will make my comeback in the near future so watch out Brick City! That felt good!

Newark ... Eu Vou Estar de Volta!

Joseph Harrison

Monday, 2 February 2015

2015: The Hidden Truth!

What's the Truth? I hate it when there are a few things that I still need to blog about and I can't find a definite place for them. 2014's last bits have crept into the first quarter of 2015 because funnily enough I've been busy! Have you heard of the Well and Bucket? Have you rocked down to Brixton's Electric Avenue? Of course London's Shad Thames had my full attention!

Bethnal Green had my attention for some reason I'm not to sure of? Anyhow, I was looking to recapture my June 2014 experience of Shoreditch and its surroundings but the post-Christmas freeze turned me towards a renewed East London pub to warm up! I had trekked along Bethnal Green's vibrant high street before I found the Well & Bucket on Time Out London. Brick Lane had served me yuppie Realness but I wasn't on that hype compared to that summer day! Stripped back to its original state, the Well & Bucket pub gave me an infusion of old and new in one moment. Quiet during my visit I used the hushed environment to get to know this intriguing new-wave pub. I learnt that All Day English Breakfast's aren't the thing at Bethnal Green's revved up boozer, consulting the menu I opted for three different sliders and a pint of Estrella. Whatever happens just keep serving revved up E2 Realness! Go!

I'm not going to bring you flowers in the pouring rain! No! The Christmas period got me all confused, I had a plan to take one final chance on Bethnal Green to complement my outing to the Well & Bucket, I wanted to see the Columbia Flower Market in full bloom but I missed that Sunday time frame! Damn! Nevertheless, from what I saw of Columbia Road I liked but it would have been even better if I saw the market rather than a row of closed shops. I'll be back, no London you can get your own flowers! The quiet corner that I saw west of Bethnal Green did not lie, it was a stark change compared with the barrage of council flats, you know I'm not two faced E2. Don't get stupid! So, what else was new London? Shadwell showed me that Halal Couture is served in East London's new upcoming area! My parental pub crawl allowed me to discover Rotherhithe and the Mayflower pub for the first time. Find the well and full your bucket up, that London pub went back to the beginning B!

Like any trick London loved trading on the docks at Shad Thames up until the 1970's. Now a centre of chic boutiques and high end restaurants its where you need to be right now! When London had an elastic heart, tightening its firm grip of many overseas colonies it was the community of seamen that worked within this former South-East London powerhouse. Drop the anchor for a pint or two along Horselydown Lane at the Anchor Tap. The Tap was believed to be a favourite due to its close proximity to the salty waters of the River Thames. I usually stay within the Shad Thames area so each time I visit I endeavor to see more of this pillar of strength. Tower Bridge may be just a heart beat away, I'm all for Shad Thames warehouse sass!

The property prices in Shad Thames might sting like a wasp! How would Oliver Twist fair in modern Shad Thames? I first took a stroll down to Butler's Wharf in June 2014 to realise it was an area that Charles Dickens took solace from in-order to write his literature. Shad Thames shares the same postcode as More London Place and Bermondsey Street, making this corner of London's borough of Southwark an amazing part of London to be in right about now! Shad Thames keeps More London Place on its toes because that shiny new development will never top Shad's industrial Overness! This once overlooked part of South-East London captivates me each time! Horselydown Lane was a 18th century hot bed for port-side prostitutes and pickpockets! Shad Thames, you still be working?!

Brixton's Electric Avenue is all irie! The market stalls and food-stores gives this corner of Brixton life, a certain Caribbean vibe was in the air for sure! Located around the corner from Brixton's London Underground Station is Brixton Market with its wide array of colourful food stores staring right back at me, I expected more from that famous food market but all I saw was Artisan cafes and yuppie hangouts! I was right back to life, back a certain Electric Avenue. Darting for the first Caribbean grocery store I bought two boxes of Cerassie herbal tea and a can of Peanut Supligen. Gurr, you already know I was happy with my West Indian goodies. Brixton was alive with busy shoppers going about their business, I found an honest quality within Electric Avenue but imagined a different flavour for Brixton's Market. From the start it was plain to see that I would see authenticity in Brix! You should be representing SW9!

Shaking London off for the last time for now, I feel that these once stray segments have been given a shout out! London is a forever changing city, embrace the times! Honestly, Liz you need to face the facts that your corner of Westminster isn't the only place people should visit when London is on the agenda! Bethnal Green served me frozen Realness, thankfully my visit to the Well & Bucket gave me a chance to get out of the chill. The working girls of yesterday make me love Shad Thames because one way or another we serve Overness in our own way! Brixton has been spoken for Queen! What has 2015 got in store for me? That question I simply can't answer right about now!  Oh, shocks I never went to Walthamstow! Let's make this crystal clear, I won't be going back to London until the weather gets mild! I'm not serving frozen Realness again! Columbia Road I want your flowers, even if its in the pouring rain! The question remains, do you have a hidden truth?! What's the T?!

Honesty Is The Best Policy!

Joseph Harrison