Mims' Musings

Posts Tagged ‘London

Tim Peake’s Picture of London from Space

I have lived in South East London (right inside the green circle) for my whole life. It’s a 25 minute overground train journey to Central London (referred to as Central for short). The squiggly black line in the middle is the River Thames (pronounced “Tems” – please note my pronunciation guides are half serious, half satire on my own ridiculous accent). 

When I travel to other countries, I seek out the places the residents love to spend time, so I thought I’d share with you my favourite 5 London spots. Please feel free to comment with your favourites- either in London, or in your hometown!

1. Greenwich (pronounced “grenitch”) Park

Greenwich Park is just 15 minutes drive from my house and I’ve always loved it. My Dad always drove me here when I was feeling anxious, we used to pick chestnuts there in the autumn (I still try to) and it still makes me feel calm, like a landmark touchstone. Apart from beautiful views, I love visiting the Royal Observatory (where I used to work), and walking down the hill into the town and visiting Greenwich Market or walking by the river. 

2. Borough (pronounced “burra”) Market 

Food heaven, what more could you want? Endless stalls of enticing produce, my favourites are the Thai coconut pancake stall, and the cheese stall. There’s also a great takeaway pasta place which can’t be beaten. Plus there are brilliant restaurants around the market too, including one where everything on the menu involves chocolate! 

3. Southbank Centre 

There’s so much to do here, some of the best theatre, author talks, free art installations, a shops which are great for presents that are a bit unusual, endless restaurants, but my favourite thing is how much of the building you can access and just relax in. One of the top floors has a children’s library play area where little ones can crawl and run around, and another floor has sofas overlooking the Thames where I’ve spent hours reading a book, I’ve even fallen asleep there and no one has bothered me. 

4. Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop (Covent Garden)

I love the buzz of Covent Garden, but this toyshop is so special. At the back of the picture you can see their speciality- cardboard pop up theatres, I love just going and looking at the craftsmanship of them. Plus there’s always a selection of toys which feel nostalgic but are still fun today, and you wouldn’t find them on the high street. 

5. Cecil Court

Visiting this road is a must-do for any book lovers. It’s lined with shops rammed with antique books, first editions, as well as old second hand books at reasonable prices. There are also shop fronts with antique trinkets and a costume jeweller which has provided bling for films and tv shows, including Downton Abbey if you’re that way inclined. My favourite shop on this road is Marchpane, which specialises in children’s books, my most treasured copies of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales First Editions are from there. It’s rumoured that the road was J K Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley of Harry Potter fame, I’m not sure if it’s true but it feels magical anyway 

If you visit any of these places on my recommendation please do comment and let me know! 



My Mum is an extremely cautious person. Telesales are lucky if they get more than 10 seconds on the phone with her.However, yesterday she fell victim to a credit card scam which was extremely well thought through. In hindsight there were several clues which would have alerted her to it being a scam, but it was executed in such a way that it played on her confusion, and manipulated her psychologically so that it seemed like a convincing situation. I’ve decided to write about it here in case anyone reading this finds themselves in a similar situation.

Yesterday afternoon, Mum received a phone call from a man who called himself ‘Martin Benton’. He claimed that he was from her bank, and alerted her that two large transactions had been attempted using her card. He asked her if she had used her card that day, then said that someone had used her card to spend £245 in Argos, and that the bank had stopped a further £500 from being taken by a camera website.

Here’s the clever part, he then told Mum to call the number on the back of her card, and gave her an extension number which would bring her straight to his direct line at the Fraud Department.

Mum called the number straight away, another man answered, he asked her for the extension number and then ‘Martin Benton’ came back on the line. He told her to cut her card in half and put it in the envelope, and gave her a reference number to write on the front of the envelope. He then said that they would send a courier to pick it up and bring it to the Hertfordshire headquarters where they could then investigate what had happened.

The next part I didn’t hear about until a few hours later, but as soon as Mum said it alarm bells rang VERY loudly in my head:

‘Martin’ said that in order to verify the card, Mum should enter her pin number in the phone keypad. He told her to leave one second between each button press. Once she had done this, he said that the courier was nearer to our house than he thought and to look outside. Mum confirmed that there was a silver car outside and Martin said that it must be the courier.

A heavy set man with thick dark hair, who looked mediterranean in ethnicity, approached our house wearing a leather jacket. He was reluctant to come close to the door. Mum tried to hand him the envelope, and he said ‘What’s this?’ Meanwhile ‘Martin’ was still talking on the phone, distracting Mum from how dodgy this all seemed. She asked the man at our door if he was the courier, then ‘Martin’ asked to speak with him on the phone.  Mum passed the phone to the courier, who then nodded at whatever ‘Martin’ said, and took the envelope and drove away.

The more we thought about it, the more the whole situation seemed suspicious. I started googling if this was usual protocol for Natwest. Meanwhile, Mum started seeing holes in the whole situation. Firstly, Mum and Dad hold a joint account, with the exact same card number, yet the man on the phone had insisted that Dad’s card would have a couple of digits different, and evaded any of Mum’s attempts for him to deal with Dad instead of her. Secondly, he had used the name which Mum is known in informal sitatuions, it’s a contraction of her official name which appears on her bank card.  Thirdly, she realised that he hadn’t identified himself as being from Natwest, she soon realised that through clever questioning she had given him all of the information he needed. As soon as she ran through the events again in more detail, and mentioned entering the pin number on the keypad, it suddenly became very clear,

The whole situation had been a construct, one huge hoax to get hold of Mum’s card.

After some further Googling, I found an article about credit card fraud which listed the exact thing which had just happened to Mum, you can read it here: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-2045512/Conmen-send-couriers-collect-bank-cards-nabbing-PIN-surge-phone-fraud.html

Unfortunately by the time we had realised this for definite, it had been 3 hours since the courier left. The only reason we hadn’t realised earlier, was that we couldn’t work out how someone would have intercepted a call to the official number on the back of Mum’s card. We later realised that all that the conman would have to do is stay on the line whilst Mum called out again.

Mum called the Fraud Department at Natwest straight away. They refused to deal with anyone apart from Dad as he’s the account holder. This confirmed in our minds that it was a credit card scam. Once Dad spoke to Natwest, they confirmed that someone had attempted two withdrawals of £300 at a cash machine in a post office in Euston. Luckily their transaction had been blocked. We called the police straight away, they booked an appointment to send an officer over at 8pm the next day. Mum typed up a full transcript of what had happened, and we explained the situation to the officer, who said that he hadn’t heard of anything like it in this area.

We are lucky that no money was taken from us, but the whole thing has left our family shaken. The more we think about it, the more we see signs where Mum should have realised this was a scam, and she is quite weary of everything.

I urge you to report it straight away if anyone calls you and attempts a similar scam. I hope that writing this article at least helps you and your friends to avoid being conned in the same way. Please spread the word and make sure people like this don’t succeed in preying on vulnerable people.

Sunday mornings are usually a slow news day. Almost as if the whole world takes a break for a day, and loose ends from the previous week’s news are tied up.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I woke up this morning to find that overnight major riots had taken place in Tottenham.

I drive through Tottenham to Haringey on a regular basis, so I was trying to work out if I recognised any of the pictures coming through on the news. Although I couldn’t place them I was struck by certain images that are a familiar part of everyday life in London:

A burning double decker bus
Looted high street shops, like JD Sports and Comet
An Aldi dramatically set ablaze.

The riots are said to have broken out after a peaceful protest over the fatal shooting of a local man, Mark Duggan, by the police.

As last night’s events are revealed I find myself having an overall feeling of, ‘i’m not surprised’, as if this was going to happen somewhere in London eventually.

There are many issues that span across several communities in London, which have built up over the last few years to a point where you can see how riots like this can happen.

In this case the main issue seems to be the way in which the police interact with young people. It seems that there is a feeling of ‘them and us’ between the community and the police that is felt strongly, particularly amongst the younger members of sociey.

In communities where these tensions are simmering just under the surface, it’s easy to see how if a small number of people began to riot, it could errupt into the scale of events seen last night.

Part of me hopes that when the investiagtion takes place, the riots aren’t completely blamed on the youth of London. With events like this there will be several people to blame, and in these situations it’s easy to make scapegoats of ‘young people’.

As there started to be a trend of violence during protests earlier in the year, let’s hope that this weekend’s events don’t start a trend around London.

As part of the Summer Play Festival, the Donmar Warehouse hosts a Writer’s Residency, in which an SPF Playwright is selected to spend two weeks in London immersed into the world of London theatre, making connections with industry professionals.  This year the chosen playwright was Ken Urban, whose residency culminated in a staged reading of his play, “The Awake”.

On Friday the 24th of June, I had the pleasure of attending the rehearsed reading of “The Awake” at the Donmar Warehouse, which was directed by Seth Sklar-Heyn.

As I’d never attended a rehearsed reading before, I wondered how it would differ to a fully performed play, and whether anything would be lost by the actors reading from the script. However, within a few minutes I was completely captivated by the plot.

Despite tackling themes which are often difficult to convey successfully on stage, such as dreams and imagination, the play developed at an organic pace. The structure allowed for a sense of shared overlapping between each character’s dream, whilst dipping in and out of each individual’s story, resulting in a piece which was hypnotic and absorbing to watch. 

Michelle Fairley gave a performance which was both highly entertaining, as well as poignant. Her portrayal of Gabrielle, the Eastern-European housewife, provided several laugh out loud, comical moments at the start of the play, and equally poignant moments as her story was revealed.  She held the audience’s attention beautifully throughout and was a delight to watch.

Christopher Simpson’s performance as Edward/Nate was a great combination of contrasts. From a sense of wonderment to utter panic, and apparent innocence to what turns out to be complex.  Simpson seamlessly embodied all of these elements,  providing an engaging performance of a character with several facets.

Hugh Skinner gave a strong performance as Malcolm, the son caught between fantasy and the dilemma he faces in reality. Skinner gave a convincing portrayal of all the emotions involved in his character’s journey; from denial and escapism to acceptance, with a healthy dose of neurosis. The result was a wonderfully balanced performance, bringing the audience through every one of the emotions that Malcolm experiences.  Sorcha Cusack was a great counterpart as Malcolm’s mother, played with a great sensitivity and serenity.

Philip Joseph and Morven Christie executed the contrast between false sickly sweetness and dark sinister undertones with perfection. Christie in particular provided some great comical moments, delivered with confidence and timed perfectly.

Charlotte Beaumont conducted herself with professionalism throughout the play. Although she didn’t have any lines until toward the end, her presence on the stage alongside the other actors left the audience intrigued by the question of who she might be. A factor which would’ve been lost if this had been a full staging of the play rather than a reading.

At the conclusion of the play I found myself asking how one would even begin to think about staging The Awake, and whether it would work as well as a rehearsed reading.

I particularly enjoyed the way in which some of the actors used the music stand as a space which they could move in and out of, to signify a change in either physical or emotional state. I also felt that staging the play might distract from the essence of a strong piece. Minimal staging allowed the audience to focus completely on what was being said and speculate on what might be happening. When it was revealed how the three strangers’ lives were intertwined, I felt I was able to reflect on how intricate and clever the plot was.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I look forward to seeing what next year’s Summer Play Festival will produce.

It takes me two hours to get to uni. I live in South-East London and they claim that uni is in ‘West London’, although it seems to be nowhere near London once you’ve endured the Metropolitan line more than once!

Because of my lecture times this means I get to travel at every part of the day,  6.30am,  midday, and the evening. In turn it means I’ve met a ‘colourful’ variety of people in that time. So I thought I would write about what a week of commuting would be like encountering all these people! Enjoy and please feel free to leave comments (press the comment button just under the title).

Monday- Grumpy man with newspaper

Early Morning. No one’s particularly thrilled to be on a train and I struggle to fit in the middle seat between two inevitably grumpy, slightly portly, balding men, fearing that I will not be able to escape without the aid of a shoe-horn.

They already seem pissed off that they had to slightly rotate their legs for me to stumble past, and that I’ve stat on their row instead of opposite (I resist the urge to move and have them suffer the consequences of my motion sickness).

I  decide to check my phone and get a disapproving look from grumpy newspaper man because my elbow slightly infringed his personal space- despite him having a metre wide newspaper that I’m meant to just deal with!

I then spend 25 minutes sitting perfectly still with my hat over my eyes but can somehow still sense the disapproval through the wool!

We finally arrive at London Bridge and typically grumpy man with newspaper isn’t getting off there. So I clamber over his legs and he tuts at me.

I leave the train wishing I’d ‘accidentally’ stepped on his foot.

Tuesday- Creepy Conversation-maker

As a petite 22 year old female, being tapped on the shoulder by a middle-aged strange man who isn’t even sitting in the same set of seats as me is NOT a pleasant experience.

Him: *points at sign on the window*

Me: *looks at him confusedly then realises I have my foot on a chair*

Him: Well? Get your foot off the chair then!

Me: *not liking his tone* I have a sprained ankle, I need to keep it raised.

Him: Oh I’m so sorry I feel really bad now!

Me: It’s ok *hoping that will end the conversation I go back to playing Professor Layton*

Him: I know how you feel, I broke my finger! *he holds up a weirdly bent finger*

Me: Ok. *slightly distressed he’s still talking to me*

Him: *random talking about more random insignificant things*

It continues like this until it gets to my stop and I realise he’s still there. Worried that my lie about my ankle will be exposed and he will start talking to me again I put on my best fake limp and zig-zag up the high street until I’m sure he’s gone.

Wednesday- Staring Woman

Do I have something on my face?  No

Do I know you from somewhere? No

Then why are you constantly looking at me as if I’ve just murdered a bunny then eaten it in front of you! STOP LOOKING AT ME!

Thursday- Weird Drunk Man

There’s one seat left on the train. I take it wondering why no one’s taken it then I realise,

The man next to me is leaning heavilly towards me

He reaks of alcohol

That isn’t Ribena in his bottle.

The point at which he starts shouting to himself I decide to swiftly move to a standing position.

Friday- Seat Stealer

I stand on a crowded train with barely any room to stand, 15 minutes later a seat opens up and I go towards it, relieved that one’s appeared for fear that I would’ve been sick otherwise. Just before my butt makes contact with the seat I’m pushed out of the way and a total prick perfectly capable of standing sits in the seat.

Maybe chivalry IS dead!

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