Tag: Travel

Baby’s first second piercing

“Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!”
― James Oppenheim

When I was in New York over the summer, X and I got second piercings together–an extra hole in one lobe each. We decided to do it almost from the moment we started planning the trip and even picked out the piercer we wanted to use.

So much, so high school, you may be thinking. Why is this, the tiniest of body modifications worth a write up? Well, a third hole punch in my frame may be a rather dinky example of self actualization, but it’s important to me.

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Body modification was not an option growing up. LDS teachings place a high amount of reverence on the human body and care of it, which is also why there are the famous dietary restrictions Mormons are often noted for: no coffee, tea, or alcohol, and (supposedly) meat in moderation. Raised LDS, I grew up with a lot of presentation expectations around hemlines, sleeve lengths, hairstyles, tattoos (hard no), and piercings. The formal advice, though it can be enforced in some circumstances, being none for boys and one hole in each ear permissible for girls. There were a lot of rules for girls.

You can find this referenced and cited multiple times in official church literature. I went looking for a link reference for this blog post and ended up with the following, which is instructive in its own right.

I started typing in the words “women should” in the website search bar, and the auto fill in immediately supplied “stay home” on my behalf. Thoughtful of it. But there, right beneath the advice of “women should be women and not babies” (a baffling admonition), and “women should follow their husbands and he follows the counsel from god” (to which, no), is the statement, “women should only wear one pair of earrings.” It’s a bit hard to read, but it’s there, right above “women should avoid paid employment.”

 

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This direction about earrings is something I heard specifically and multiple times growing up, and I experienced dress codes enforcing the one earring rule (among other requirements) which are in place at most church activities, and at its institutions like universities. I adhered to these expectations and didn’t think too much about it. I wasn’t particularly bothered about strictures on earrings and didn’t even get around to having my ears pierced until I was 13; I believe my sister still hasn’t at 19 simply because she doesn’t care to.

But as time went on and my opinions developed, I came to see this rule as a very minor cog in a much larger and troubling context of women’s and gender issues in the church and its culture. These eventually led (through a long and complex route I won’t bore you with again) to me deciding to leave the church and renegotiate my relationship to its organisation and teachings. I’ve since felt the need to review a lot of my notions about my body and what I choose to do with it. It’s not in my nature to be impulsive about my corporeal form, a lot of the reverence I was raised with still lingers, but getting a second piercing was something I’d wanted to do for a long time–since my early 20s and then largely due to a misguided belief that it would look “rebellious.” Oh, youth.

And so, I made a decision to get another hole punched, and plotted and planned with my best friend–who has written publicly and far more eloquently than I have ever managed to about her own faith transition–to do it together. We made a girls day of it, shopped, got bespoke lipsticks, sat next to each other in the piercing studio, had a long and winding talk about faith journeys afterwards at brunch.

It’s tiny but it was a gesture that made me feel as if my body was really mine in a way it didn’t before. Not a loan from on high, not a meat house for the soul, but genuinely something that belonged to me in my own right.

Having the unexpected experience of seeing how many other gender admonitions are connected to such a trivial thing during a website search on jewelry was just reconfirmation that the issues I found so upsetting are still there. Possibly getting worse as strict concepts of bodies and purity and gender roles continue to be emphasized in the way that the organization does, and in some cases such as LGBT issues, is doubling down on.

Out of interest and fairness, I decided to check the auto fill on the site again more recently in drafting this post. The mention of earrings was not longer suggested. However there are now two references to women “hearkening” unto their husbands, one to dressing modestly with two about specific dressing standards, three references to either “staying” home or not working outside of it, and the most troubling suggestion which seems to be a variation on a statement on rape from a book by a prominent former church leader published in 1969–that it’s better to die fending off rape than live through it. I myself heard variations on this theme throughout youth and young adulthood and though I don’t believe it’s claimed as a public position anywhere in the church today, the fact that mangled versions of this idea are common enough to still being generated by algorithmic search suggestions is pretty disheartening.

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I also checked again today, out of morbid curiosity at this point. An auto fill suggestion about earrings is back–the problematic suggestion about rape survival remains.

My piercing has healed now and I don’t regret it in the slightest. In a twist of fate, the same piercing studio has now set up shop on the ground floor at Liberty and has begun singing a siren song to me to get another. I’m probably going to give in eventually.

 

Monday Links

“When Adam and Eve were dispossessed Of the garden hard by Heaven, They planted another one down in the west, ‘Twas Devon, glorious Devon!”
-Sir Harold Edwin Boulton

Hi, kittens! Your links are a day late this week, and that’s because I spent the weekend in a tiny village on the Devon coast with very little wifi. It was delightful, I’m not a bit sorry to be tardy. Full post coming eventually, but in the meantime, enjoy your links and let me know what the week holds for you. Ours holds a move…wish us luck!

Clearly, the view was hideous. HIDEOUS.
Clearly, the view was hideous. HIDEOUS.

Pockets for all, votes for women!

This longform piece really hit me as I have noticed an increasing fractal pattern to my attention span and way of thinking that I feel can be at least partially attributed to the media world and age we live in. It’s everywhere and it’s nearly impossible to shut out…and I agree that the culture of always being “on” and “accessible” has consequences.

Nothing says SDS clickbait like ancient archaeology.

A surprisingly good deep dive into the end of Brangelina.

Honestly, you couldn’t make this shit up in a sitcom generator.

Achieving a new museum.

Let me sing you the song of my people. Apparently.

Beauty PSA, people! Ilia lipsticks have arrived at Sephora. If you are looking for an ethical brand, I’ve found the pigment load is worth the price tag.

I’m both intrigued and repelled by the notion of communal living.

Finally, major fistbump to not just Gigi Hadid for standing up for herself both physically and verbally, but all the journalists and People Online who called BS on a sexist headline and situation.

Services at the Tower

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love getting in when or where others can’t. It’s not a noble confession, but it’s an honest one. And if you want a fantastic private peek into what is normally a very public space, make some time in your weekend calendar to attend Sunday services at the Tower of London. The main doors don’t open until after the first of two services (one communion, the other a sung matins), though a side gate admits service attendees without a ticket, and it’s an amazing chance to see this world heritage site nearly free of people. Redcoats excepted.

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The Tower still functions as a military fortress, though the vast majority of its activities are understandably ceremonial. The Beefeaters may wear Tudor era uniforms but their assignment is a proper posting and a detachment of the Queen’s Guard stands sentry over the Crown Jewels.

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However like all military bases, there’s a cottage community thriving here. Beefeaters live at the Tower, often with families, and there is also a small but famous Royal Chapel still in operation under the pastoral care of a military chaplain. St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains) is a Tudor church famous as the resting place of Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Katherine Howard, Lady/Queen Jane Grey, St Thomas Moore, Margaret Pole, and others.

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Attending a service here has been on my list of things To Do since moving to London, but I just never really got around to it. Then I went through the death throes of a faith crisis and didn’t really want to do anything more church-y than Christmas–which I still love and always will–and it fell off the radar. And then a friend friend from the MoFem (Mormon feminist) community invited me to attend on September 11th and it seemed a fitting thing to do.

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One of the ravens stood by as a small group filed in for services, beak wide open and likely expecting one of the familiar uniforms to provide him breakfast.

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Katie and I attended both the communion service and the sung matins, which I particularly enjoyed. Between the sessions, we wolfed down croissants and chatted about faith, community, expat life, and the nerdy history of the Book of Common Prayer. Totally normal touristy stuff.

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The congregation was not large, but we weren’t the only Americans there and as a military brat, it was nice to hear a few words on the day from a chaplain whose career was focused in and around active service. The fact that he managed to tie in references to Poldark and Great British Bake Off, before circling around to familiar parables was just icing on the cake. In spite of the day, and the remembrances of the day, the whole experience felt friendly.

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It may not be your usual cup of tea, but it’s worth trying, even if just to sit in stillness in a lovely place for a while.

Lipstick Pilgrimage

“All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red.”
—Diana Vreeland

One of the highlights of my trip to New York was the day X and I spent out and about indulging in some beauty therapy of the old school variety: cosmetics. Custom ones at that!

For some context, apart from sharing what is now pushing two decades of inside jokes, adoptive family titles that we take very seriously, university experiences, spiritual journeys, unexpected career paths, and any number of binding overlaps, we also share an unholy love of lipstick. It is a rare text or email chain that does not include a close up image captioned with the make and model of whatever shade we happen to be wearing that day. So obviously, in planning our NYC itinerary, there was one spot we had to go: the Bite Beauty Lip Lab.

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X was in need of a true coral color, I was on the hunt for the perfect blend of berry and fuchsia. Both of us wanted a highly editorial gray/greige shade that we decided to double up on because if you can’t do a custom best friend lippie than what is the point of life, I ask you? X prebooked our appointed (required) and Jeff bowed out to go hang with a university flatmate currently getting a masters at Columbia…and to do some shoe shopping.

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It’s a thing of beauty to be able to mix your own shades and amazing to see the Bite team whip up your requests expertly. I had a bad moment of doubt or two when a seemingly odd color was dropped into my swirling mash of pigment but inevitably it was precisely what the concoction needed. Shut up and let the pros work, C..

The Bite team are fantastically enthusiastically patient, mixing and tweaking and allowing customers apparently unlimited time to stare at their lips in the mirror and waffle on whether you need to go a touch warmer, cooler, redder, bluer, or whatever. It’s a good thing this place is 1) not entirely cheap, and 2) in another country otherwise the amount of my money it would otherwise suck down would be dire indeed.

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It’s not just the colors that are fun, it’s that you can customize everything from the texture to the scent using oils. I went for a creamy semi-gloss for my purple shade, and X and I decided on a matte finish with a unusual mix of oils for our scent to keep it weird, gorgeous, and unique

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If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect red (or gray, or green, or goodness knows what shade) it’s absolutely worth a visit. Plus the tiny thrill of being asked where you got your lipstick and being able to respond that it’s a creation singular to you is not to be discounted. Couture we cannot have, custom we can!

So, we went to NYC

‘The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere elsewhere have to be, in some sense, kidding.”
– John Updike

Since we had previous travel plans (understandably) disrupted, we decided to go to New York instead–theoretically in honor of my 30th birthday, but in fact mostly because I just really, really wanted to visit my best friend and surrogate older sister. It was a three day jaunt that was over too soon, but was very much needed.

X lives in the Upper East Side with two hilarious cats that provided the majority of our at-home entertainment (I now want a cat in spite of a mild allergy) and generously provided our base of operations. The goal was to see the “real” New York as both Jeff and I had only ever seen the moderately touristy bits and what fun is that?

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In fact, the only moderately touristy thing we did was the Met, due largely to our shared love of museums. Everything else was wandering the city with a native guide, a girls’ day whilst Jeff met up with an old university flatmate, dinner with a good friend and her husband, an unholy binge of a Sephora excursion, second hand shopping, and more food.

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My favorite girl in front of one of my favorite paintings.

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It’s hard to be away from friends and family. On our recent trip to Utah a friend asked what I missed most about the States and without any hesitation my response was, “My people. Friends.” Growing up as we did, I think my family and I are used to the notion of kin being distant and, while not being easy, it’s certainly manageable. I don’t feel particularly distant from them or their affection, which sounds odd but by which I mean I feel very secure in those relationships. I have a harder time with the fact that my best friends live in massively different time zones and small things like phone calls require pretty significant coordination. My friendships really feed me and keep me balanced–shout out to Katarina who gave me one of the most useful external party insights to my character I’ve ever received recently–and while I have close, close friends here in London, I miss the girls with whom I literally came of age. Over and over again.

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I also forgot what unrelenting sunlight felt like, as a side note. New York was blazing!

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Reader, I ate it. What, you ask? Everything.

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The benefit of having a local guide is that you get a first hand introduction to the best eats. Apparently Midtown Bagels East is something of an institution which I can enthusiastically endorse as a reputation earned. According to X, the queue at the weekend is ridiculous. We, savvy tourists that we were, went on a weekday.

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She also has the best recommendations for the weird and wacky shops for planning your next gallery wall.

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One of my favorite excursions was to the justly famous Bite Lip Lab where we were able to make custom lipsticks. A pair of self-proclaimed lippy fanatics, this was closer to a pilgrimage, really. Pricey. Worth it. Expect a full post on this in its own right.

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To be honest, before this trip, I didn’t really “get” New York. I have never romanticized it the way a lot of people do (hell, I didn’t even romanticize London so much as I just knew in my bones it was where I wanted to live), and I’ve always rather thought it was overhyped. Well, I still might not love it as much as London, but I finally get some of the appeal. It’s fast, it’s awake, and it’s almost a minor world in its own right in terms of what you can see and do. I have no idea if we’ll get to “try it out” someday as a home or a regular haunt, but I’m far more open to the idea now.

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X lives close to Central Park (her life is a trial, truly) and we took full advantage–prior to it being overrun by Pokemon Go enthusiasts. The view was…not bad.

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We ended our visit in Brooklyn at the pizza joint reputed to be Beyonce’s favorite. It’s like she’s known me for 17 years, or something.

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Pretty sure we’ll be back.

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Dublin Pt. 2

“My heart is quite calm now. I will go back.”
― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

We only had two days to enjoy it, but we rung a lot of pleasure out of 48 hours in Dublin.

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We ate at pubs specialising in traditional music (referred to as “trad”), and wandered Temple Bar following the sound of fiddles.

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We stumbled upon hidden gems. Outside of Queen of Tarts we found a very small market where I fell in desperate love with a stall that sells old maps and reproductions with an appropriate name and signage…

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When not at Cow’s Lane, he’s found just outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Which is great because I walked away from a glorious reproduction map of an late 19th, early 20th century publication detailing “Dublin’s Greatest Evil” and marks every then-operating pub in the city. I immediately regretted this decision and so when we quite literally stumbled upon the seller again in another part of the city, I parted with some euros gladly.

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Even better, we happened to be in town on the right day to enjoy a once-a-month flea market that I fully intend on going back to enjoy someday because it was stuffed with treasure. London is great for antique or vintage shopping but it can get pricey really quickly. This place by comparison had some really good deals and I had to restrain myself from making furniture purchases because at the end of the day, we still live in a shoebox. But someday…

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The market has an indoor space as well for food, books, prints, and collectibles that was also great to explore. Dogs were everywhere which on the one hand was a lot of fun and on the other, exacerbated our puppy lust something fierce.

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48 hours flew by and Kelsey and Cody had to jet off to the Isle of Man to enjoy the grand prix (as one does, darling), but we naturally had to first repair to safe ground for a fortifying snack pre-flight…

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Before catching a flight a la James Bond, by walking out on the tarmac. In the still (not to harp on this, but seriously) gorgeous weather.

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We’re planning a return trip, obviously.

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Dublin Pt. 1

“…I live in Ireland every day in a drizzly dream of a Dublin walk…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

The one thing Jeff and I are constantly berating ourselves for is the fact that we live in one of the major international travel hubs of the world, and yet we do not do a fraction of the traveling we should. Even within the UK there are countless adventures to be had, and yet we find ourselves pretty London-focused. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a fabulous city, but it’s pretty shameful how little we get out of it.

Speaking frankly, for the first year and a half, this was largely down to finances and the constraints of freelance life. Despite that I was growing as a freelancer almost exponentially year to year, the currency conversion was backbreaking and I didn’t feel I could take a break. Meanwhile Jeff was putting in the first two years of his career with all the hours that implies. However in the past year, with new opportunities and smarter time management, many of those constraints have lifted and we’re now trying to make a conscious effort to travel more. After all, it’s one of the reasons we moved here!

A few months ago (I am shamefully behind…) one of my friends from university emailed me to say she and her husband were making plans to come to Europe and did we want to meet in Dublin? Did we! It took some coordination but we made it happen. On a side note, these friends succeed where we fail, they make it a priority to go on a trip at least once a year and have an adventure. We’re hoping to arrange a couple of future ones together because we had an absolute blast. Recapping on the flight home, Jeff and I got to talking and realised that almost all of the travel we have done in our lives has been with family–which is wonderful and I wouldn’t put it down for the world. But there was something so enjoyable about going on a trip with friends and we were glad to discover the pleasure of it. There was no “character building” to be done, or educationally required stops to make, we simply decided to enjoy the city in good company. While eating as much food as we possibly could.

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I’ve made an art of the travel capsule wardrobe. You are looking at the sum total of what I took with me and I felt downright smug about it until I caught glimpse of my travel partner on the train platform…

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Because Jeff was his irritatingly well-put-together self on just as little gear as I packed. The man is stylish, but infuriating in said stylishness.

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Somehow, the weather gods were with us. I have no idea how we lucked into such a gorgeous spring weekend, but it only rained once and that was while we were snug in a Spanish restaurant eating tapas.

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Seriously. The weather was freaky it was so lovely.

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Kelsey and I actually first met on a study abroad program at university and our first leg of that program was a week in Ireland. It was a delight to return to a place where we had made so many good memories, with a couple of good looking gents in tow who were enjoying it for the first time. Our first stop for food was the famous Queen of Tarts, which you must go to if you are ever in need of a munch whilst in Dublin. It’s a gem of a place and the food is seriously impressive. Cardamon cinnamon rolls, guys, just saying.

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Dublin is a very small city, but unlike many places in Europe, it’s remain largely untouched by the ravages of two world wars. Which is not in the least to say that it hasn’t had its share of troubles as a nation, but much of that history has remained available to view. Medieval, Georgian, Victorian, and modern architecture and design all live side by side and give you a sense of the depth of the past of the city.

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Again, the weather. Frightening in its unrelenting goodness! Kelsey and I dragged the boys around Trinity College simply for the sheer joy of walking the grounds in the sunlight.

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Dublin is a fabulous city for pedestrians, there is absolutely no need for public transport, which is something to take advantage of.

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One of the places we traveled in Ireland was the Dingle Peninsula, famed for its traditional music and use of gaelic, and the home of Murphy’s Ice Cream. The ice cream is made from the milk of a cow breed from the peninsula and found no where else in the world (according to Murphy’s there are fewer of this type of cow than pandas left in the wild), fed on Dingle grass, and raised by Dingle farmers. The flavours include “brown bread” and “sea salt” (made from Dingle salt, of course), and all of them are delightfully unexpected and lovely. Kelsey, doing her research, discovered that since we were last in Dublin, Murphy’s had opened a shop, one of only four in the world, and naturally we had to insist on a visit. The guys had no complaints.

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Friday Links (Triumphant/Slinking Return Edition)

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” 
― W.B. Yeats

Oh hi, kittens. Where have I been, you ask? Well, first Dublin, then turning 29, then working on a project I can’t talk about, and then working 14+ hour days this week on another project I can’t even talk about. You see my difficulty in communications, yes?

No? I am in disgrace? Very well, I shall try to begin making it up to you immediately. My first offering is an extra long Friday Links post for your delectation. Tell me what you’re getting up to this weekend, or offer your harshest abuse at my neglect, in the comments!

Dublin was a babe.
Dublin was a babe.

 

Where is everybody? An astrophysicist ponders Fermi’s paradox.

Why Addy matters.

Sensationalism of the Duggar case aside, sexual crime is so, so much more common than people thing. Sexual crime against children, horrifyingly so. And it hits far closer to home than most are willing to recognize.

This woman sounds like someone I’d like to have a long lunch with and just listen to talk.

Since I occasionally dabble in Mormon news, this story caught my attention.

Stop.

I have so many thoughts about this story, it may have to form its own blog post, but I’m curious as to how US-based minions are thinking about it. Weigh in in the comments for me, please.

Let’s fight about this! Ranked wrong, right, or totally off base.

Jerks.

Tumblr find of the week. A writers life for me.

Seen Mad Max: Fury Road? Read these reviews.

Grace over at Culture Life talks language!

Marian Keyes says the term “chick-lit” needs to go. Since she’s written one of my favorite novels, I think she may be right.

Woof… No further commentary.

Kate Beaton is on the Mary Sue! Make haste!

Moral of the story: “Wear comfortable shoes, square your shoulders, and walk like you’ve been sent to murder Captain America.”

And speaking of Avengers, Mark Ruffalo takes on the “I’m not a feminist” crowd, with some help from Libby Ann Bruce. One of my particular pet peeves is any phrase that begins, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then goes on to make some point about parity of opportunity, education, and rights. Hate to break it to you…

Discovered Up My Street

“And even this heart of mine has something artificial. The dancers have sewn it into a bag of pink satin, pink satin slightly faded, like their dancing shoes.”
― Edgar Degas

As a child one of my favourite films was “The Tales of Beatrix Potter.” A ballet film based on the works of the famous children’s author and illustrator, it was produced by the Royal Ballet and is an utterly charming piece of work to me even now. It was choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton and, true to ballet, there is no speaking. It’s just dancing and absolutely charming costumes based carefully on the drawings of the original stories.

It turns out, those costumes are now stored just a few minutes walk from my flat!

Sands Films studios is a famous costume making workshop, a small film studio operating since the 1970s, and also the home of a vast photo library open to the public that contains a vast collection of original images. Unlike a number of archives, it’s available to anyone who wants to use it for research and reference purposes. It is just behind St. Mary’s church and across the street from the notable Mayflower pub.

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The workshop has made costumes for a number of notable films over the decades, including recent ones like Lincoln, The Young Victoria, Marie Antoinette, and Les Miserables. They have also made costumes for TV programs, operas, and stage productions. If you’ve seen these or most major British/British made period films over the last handful of decades, there’s a good chance you’ve admired some of their handiwork.

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Though it’s operational hours clash with my work, if there is every a day that a holiday and an opening meet up, you can bet I’m finding a way to make a visit happen. I have no idea what I’m going to find, but I’m determined to talk my way into as much as possible. The worn out VHS tape in my parent’s basement demands it!

MEATliquor – not MEAT-licker it turns out

“When people pile seven things onto one burger, it drives me nuts!”
– Bobby Flay

Jeff is extraordinarily good at managing our culinary escapades here in London. A fair amount of the restaurants, markets, or goodies featured here at SDS are due to his fairly consistent research into the city’s food scene. I mean, I enjoy a good nosh and do my best to stay abreast of the food news, but for him, it’s more of a calling. So when he read about MEATliquor, conveniently nestled just behind Debenham’s on Bond Street, he immediately put it at the top of our To Try list. Our quest for London’s best burgers is never ending, after all, and it would be a shameful shirking of our duty to let a place as favourably talked about as this go untried.

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True to its name, the menu is divided pretty squarely into burgers and booze. Although, having been raised teetotal, its nomenclature caused a moment of hilarity. Until we set foot in the joint, every time I heard the name, what I heard and saw in my head was “Meat-licker.” When the menu was set down in front of me I had a good laugh at myself. Naivete notwithstanding, there are plenty of nice things to drink for the virtuous and I can particularly recommend the Brown Cow, a root beer float. And let the record show that is high praise coming from me as I traditionally have not been root beer floats’ biggest fan.

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The artwork is decidedly punk and not particularly child friendly, so I’d recommend keeping this a grownups only meet up place. However I can squarely assert that the soundtrack is fantastic, rock and blues without stop. We prefer not to deal with crowds when we don’t have to so we went during the lunch hour, but apparently at dinner the line can stretch down the street. There is a sign of hilarious “waiting line rules” that I failed utterly to snap a photo of but must try to nab on a future look in.

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This was our first visit to MEATliquor but not our last because the burgers really are very nice. And for my money, this place makes the best onion rings I have had in London to date, bar none. Jeff is a fan of the chili cheese fries but always manages to eat a suspicious amount of my rings anyway, the sneak. There are no napkins, just paper towels, the only mustard is French’s, and everything is served on a single tray when it comes to the table. It’s the precisely correct amount of gritty fun you need when you’re looking for a juicy burger on a weekend ramble.

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