REX Welcomes Fortnum & Masons – Winkleman Turns on the Lights

Nicole T Raleigh

If November has you already all aglow with nostalgia for that particular forthcoming holiday in December (what’s it called again…?), then be sure to bookmark Wednesday 21st November in your diary, hurry to highlight in pen the day upon the calendar; for the Christmas tree lights are being lit at the Royal Exchange and, further, a new Fortnum & Masons will be celebrating within. Twinkling lights? Check. Potential presents galore? Check. You couldn’t keep us away! Sleigh bells ring…

With a magnificent tree decked out resplendently by F&M itself, the luxurious lights upon the 25ft spruce will be switched to illumination by “Guest of Honour”, the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing Presenter Claudia Winkleman, with all festivities beginning at 6pm (what point fairylights in the daytime, eh?). This will include carolling by the East London Chorus, and the serving of complimentary mulled wine, hot chocolate, and minced pies to attendant crowds by F&M’s “iconic red coated staff”. Sounds perfectly fancy and Christmassy to our liking. Bring on the indulgent “seasonal ambience”, please.

From there, the crowd is to be invited into REX’s iconic central courtyard for pop-up Christmas shopping and aptly seasonal masterclasses (think wreath-making, for one thing – due to here be taught by well-known London florist Jamie Aston). However, the celebration is essentially all about bidding adieu to those establishments of old that had become synonymous with a visit to REX – to The Gallery, to the Grand Café, and to the Threadneedle Bar – welcoming in their stead Fortnum & Masons.

Open Monday through Saturday, Grind is your go-to for that morning pick-me-up (whether it be caffeine or a vibrant juice), as well as an after-hours, sneaky-yet-satisfying coffee-infused cocktail, too. Nevertheless, generally within the central courtyard of REX in the weeks to come there will be a rolling schedule of new pop-ups, including Christian Louboutin’s men’s shoes and women’s capsule collection, and leather goods – a product also to be sold by Bucklesbury & More when they, um, pop-up, so to speak.

Emma Bunton turns on the Christmas Tree lights at The Royal Exchange in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 22nd, 2017. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.

But, of course, the key shopping experience of 21st November lay within the bounds of the evening’s grand opening of the new Fortnum & Masons within REX itself. Whether it be something sparkly from Tiffany & Co., or something more satisfying on a gastronomic level in the form of F&M’s renowned festive hampers, or even something as elegantly simple as divine stationery from Smythsons (if you’re keen on penmanship, you’ll know the beacon of an option for you…) – as ever, F&M offers something quite literally for everyone.

That includes corporate shopping, in addition to personal. Tailored gifting services are available from boutiques such as Penhaligon’s, Sage Brown, and Smokers Paradise London – all very old school sounding, but oh so very classically luxurious. Halcyon Days also offers such services for festive gratitude to clients. Self-explanatory.

Emma Bunton turns on the Christmas Tree lights at The Royal Exchange in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 22nd, 2017. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.

Please note that when you arrive (in time for the 6pm start of it all), it is requested that you gather on the front steps on the western side of the Royal Exchange.

With thanks and, of course, optimistically snow-strewn seasonal tidings.

The Lord Mayor’s Show – A Celebration of Modern London

Nicole T Raleigh

Otherwise known as London’s “Big Day Out”, this year’s Lord Mayor’s Show marks the 803rd year of the celebratory event of the city as she stands in her modern guise (and the 691st election of a Lord Mayor for the City). Nonetheless, the newly elected Lord Mayor of London, Peter Estlin’s progression to “the distant village of Westminster” will have changed very little in that considerable time, though his means of transport to swearing his loyalty to the Crown could take multiple forms, it having varied within that period, of course – from rowing to riding to simple marching, and beyond.

On 10th November this year, make sure that you and your loved ones be in and around Bank, St. Paul’s, and the Royal Courts from 11am on what is hopefully to turn out to be a very fine Saturday of the autumnal season, in order to soak up this “unique spectacle of pageantry and pomp”.

Led by the Band of HM Royal Marines (HMS Collingwood), the running order of the procession is a list gargantuan (and far too lengthy to go into detail here). Nonetheless, highlights include fifth in line, the Royal Marines Reserve (City of London), which were founded under a mile from the procession’s start and are celebrating their own 70th anniversary this year; forty-second in line, the Blenheim Chalcot, who follow through the Lord Mayor’s 2018 theme of ‘Shaping Tomorrow’s City Today’, and bring to a wider audience (i.e. the young) the key roles automation and AI play and will play in careers of today and the near future; as well as ninety-third in line, Create, the UK’s leading charity to empower lives through the creative arts. In short, a little bit of something for everyone.

That’s not to say, out of the one hundred and forty-eight taking part in the Lord Mayor’s Show, there aren’t others worthy of mention too, but this blog is short and the day itself will exemplify its own promise. What should be mentioned – if there yet be space available – are the two grandstand stalls outside St. Paul’s for more comfortable viewing of the procession. Tickets cost £40.00.

Please be aware that every road within the City of London is closed for the day, and every parking space too, due to security concerns. Tube and train services will be the only means of transport to stations along the event route. Bank is middle ground, while St. Paul’s is the stop for the outward leg. Return-wise, Blackfriars and Mansion House are what you’ll be looking for.

However, aside from the procession, Paternoster Square and the St. Paul’s area will be offering a festive fair, art installations, street theatre, and artisanal food stalls, while Bloomberg Arcade near Mansion House will err on the side of the technological bent of the Lord Mayor’s message in 2018.

©Clive Totman 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Moral rights asserted: Must credit / byline photographer. LEGAL NOTICE: Image is licensed for EDITORIAL USE ONLY . It is the sole responsibility of the distributor/client/user/publisher to seek all permissions/releases BEFORE USE.

Melvyn Bragg perhaps summed up the spirit of the show best in his introduction to the anniversary book on its 800th year:

“The Lord Mayor’s Show enthusiastically embraces the Shakespearean view of life, a particularly English phenomenon founded in literature by the London Poet Chaucer, and described by another London author Dickens as “streaky bacon” […we…] put the comic and the tragic against each other, we do coarse and we do grandeur. We do bawdy and we do elegance. In the first two or three hundred years after his death Shakespeare was heavily criticised by Classicists especially in France for this mixture. Well, the Lord Mayor’s Show perpetuates it. There is splendour and there is a knees-up.

We’ll be there for both.

Best Green Spaces in the City for an Autumn Stroll

Nicole T Raleigh

“Green” may be somewhat of a wishful word choice at this time of year, and perhaps unsatisfactory too, given the glorious golden palette and its myriad burnished hues that autumn permits arboreal landscapes (when intermittent blue skies allow, amidst the low-hung lingering days of drizzly grey). However, whichever choice of adjective or pick of colour you opt for, it could be said that such can be enjoyed throughout the British Isles at this time of year. Nonetheless, there is a special beauty, a particular magic (if you will) that lay in strolling through an unexpected pocket of Nature in the City. Therein lay an intake-of-breath and sigh-pleasure moment indeed (amidst the hustle and bustle and general technological whirl of urban life). Here are One City’s favourites this October:

1. St. Andrew’s Gardens

Right off Gray’s Inn Road and Wren Street, St. Andrew’s Gardens “are laid out as two rectangular lawns bisected by a central path with mature London planes and an ancient weeping ash” – a perfect setting for an autumn stroll (whether that be hand in hand with a significant other or alone, who’s to say?). What we do know is that with the addition of its “granite drinking fountain and a small red brick lodge date from the C19th”, this is not a green space to be sniffed at when craving somewhere particularly non-urban in the big city.

2. Postman’s Park

Amble a little north of St. Paul’s Cathedral and you’ll find yourself (eventually) at Postman’s Park. Surrounded quite literally by “Little Britain, Aldersgate Street, St. Martin’s Le Grand, King Edward Street, and the site of the former headquarters of the General Post Office”, it is (as you might expect) one of the largest of the City of London’s parks. And it’s wonderful for an autumnal ambulation, if you’re of a mind to chance the temperamental British climate. We know we are (what be the purpose of a handbag brolly otherwise?).

3. Fann Street (or Barbican) Wildlife Garden

A Grade II-listed Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, not only is Fann Street Wildlife Life Garden a truly peaceful sanctuary of a green City space to get lost in at any time of year, let alone the season of mists, but this delightful spot has won awards for its promotion of biodiversity within the urban bounds of London’s City self at large. Bravo, Barbican.

4. Cleary Garden

Named after Fred Cleary – an inspiring individual who was most instrumental in populating the Square Mile with Nature, be that the simple planting of new trees or the development of gardens from where before nothing was. The purpose was to eradicate all signs of the Blitz after WWII; to heal the urban landscape and set about tending to the spirits of the City’s inhabitants. For years it stood as Cleary’s vision has formed it, but in 2007 “the garden underwent major re-refurbishment as the Loire Valley Wines Legacy Garden with vines and aromatic plants evoking the wines of the Loire region”. It really is delightful, whether you be an oenophile or not!

Halloween is Coming… Some of the Spookiest City Places for a Scare

Nicole T Raleigh

For some, Halloween is all about the fancy dress and nocturnal fun and frolics. For others, however, All Hallows Eve is much more to do with the purely frightful (and, for some, utterly delightful). They want to be truly, appropriately scared; almost to the point of petrification. It just so happens that the City of London has a long (and chequered!) history, and within that history lay many a gruesome, horrific tale. So, why not take the opportunity to become more au fait with the capital’s spooky spots this year? The (not too tiny, please) kids will have goosebumps and be shiveringly impressed – and grown-ups can always grab a themed cocktail at a nearby bar after to take away the taste of fear…

1. Ghosts, Ghouls, and Graveyards – The Original Haunted History Tour @ Various

If you are literally seeking The Hidden Horrors of Haunted London, then this walking tour is for you. Beginning at 7pm on Friday 26th October outside The Lord Raglan Pub, the clocks won’t yet have gone back, but this spooky stroll will still be dark. One for urban history buffs, as well as budding horror writers seeking some aptly timed inspiration, the tour promises “churchyards to plague pits; hidden courtyards and narrow alleyways; haunted pubs to Roman ruins; not to mention execution grounds and time-worn churches”. We’re sold. Costs £10 per person.

2. City of London Cemetery and Crematorium @ Manor Park

With a half century history of complaints about a strange light emanating from one of the gravestones at night, and all those years without solving the cause of the eerie sight, you can be sure the chill factor is set to ‘hellishly freezing’ when and if you elect to wander around the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium this fine and frightening October (make it of a darkening evening for an even more haunted feel). A free option for those seeking a scare this month, be careful not to spill a piping hot drink on yourself when you jump at the next tombstone around the bend… Of course, the cemetery and its crematorium are still operational and lovely and offer beautiful flower bed surrounds for the dearly departed, etc. But channel your inner thrill-seeking child for one moment: was that a ghost over there..?

3. Old Operating Theatre Museum @ Tower Bridge

Situated in an herb garret of St. Thomas’ Church roof, and originally built for poor women in 1822, the theatre has been restored down to every last, gory detail. Saw movie fans will delight at the faint-worthy operating implements on display (re-enactments are sometimes held, as well). A highly atmospheric experience in the days approaching Halloween (mad and murderous doctor, anyone?), if your heart wasn’t already beating faster, be aware that the theatre is accessed via a 52-step vertiginously steep spiral staircase. The Old Operating Theatre Museum holds “weekly talks on the weekends on Victorian Surgery (mock-up demo) and The Gore Tour (how surgical instruments were used in the past)” – so, if you’re into all that, make it a Saturday or Sunday.  Maybe take some smelling salts…

Frightfully Fabulous Halloween Parties in the City

Nicole T Raleigh

‘Tis a night that comes but once a year, when the sun’s gone down and the moon arises, and the heavy darkness spreads its cloak over the City streets – that’s when they appear. That’s when the ghouls and the witches and the vampires meet to revel in true London style – or something like that. You’ve carved the pumpkin and strung the faux spider webs: now’s the time to party. And what better place to lose yourself to the magic of the night than the City at Halloween? These are One City’s frightfully fabulous triple dose of top picks for the ghoulish week ahead.  In London, Halloween isn’t restricted to a singular evening…

1. Halloween Special (Day & Night Party) @ Jin Bo Law

If you like your frolics with the twist of an iconic view, then the Halloween Special (Day & Night Party) on the 14th floor of the Dorsett City Hotel in Aldgate is the one for you (and your companions!). Taking place in the Jin Bo Law Skyline Bar, taste a terrifyingly terrific themed cocktail while absorbing also the wondrous night-lit sights of “Tower Bridge, the Shard, the Walkie Talkie, the Gherkin and more”.

Starting at 2pm on Saturday 27th October and running in ‘Extended Party’ style until 4am Sunday morning (oh yes!), the event is sponsored by Patron and offers one free drink per entry. Think “Body/Face paint artists, Magicians performing the art of ‘Black Magic’ and sorcery, Vampire & Zombie blood tequila shots, scary decorations and lots more”. Tickets between £10 and £20.

2. Halloween at The Medieval Banquet @ The Ivory Vaults

However, you might like your Halloween revelry somewhat more immersive (we do costume ourselves fantastically for the night, after all). If so, then The Ivory Vaults are throwing a themed Medieval Banquet from Wednesday 24th October until Saturday 27th October. Set in the court of King Henry VIII, but with an undead twist, it is sure to be “the perfect location for witches, warlocks, zombies, werewolves and evil jesters” this year.

Tickets £50 per adult and £30 per child (yes, even the young enjoy All Hallows Eve…). This includes a 4-course feast with wine and/or ale and ongoing entertainment.

3. Halloween at Savage Garden @ Savage Garden

Halloween should be wickedly wild, of course. Concur, and you’ll most likely enjoy Savage Garden’s darkly themed offering on Friday 26th October. Taking place in this wonderful City rooftop bar from 10pm until 2am, Halloween at Savage Garden promises a “‘twisted circus’ party complete with evil clowns, circus performers, and even a human table” at its 12th floor location. Background music (provided by DJ Karistocat) will be of the “hi-energy club atmosphere with sets that blend on-trend tracks past and present with disco, hip hop, RnB gems and classic house”.

But it’s all about the cocktails really, isn’t it? If that be your focus (it might perhaps be ours – shh!), then SG is certainly the pick for you: just some of the options include Penicillin (made from a healthy dose of 10 year old Laphroaigh), Devil’s Advocate (two red chilli horns warn of its hellish beauty), and Wild Poison (Makers Mark bourbon, apricot brandy, apple juice, smoked pine syrup, Campari and ‘poison apple’). We know which we’ll be sipping through plastic pointed teeth… Tickets from £20 and far upwards.