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Monthly Archives: January 2011

If we only had a heart

The famous Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz used to say he’d be tender, gentle, and awfully sentimental if he only had a heart. This is also true for Londoners.

Photo by Brian Negin on flickr

I spend a lot of time raving about this city to family, friends, and anyone who will listen. It’s a great place to be. It’s a great place to live. But it never ceases to amaze me how city life can so quickly drain all kindness and emotion from a person.

They looked the other way

Everyone in this city has busy lives. I get it. The tube isn’t always reliable, taxis aren’t always available, and it’s usually quicker to walk than take the bus. We are constantly rushing from one place to another, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. But where do we draw the line? When does our 2pm meeting begin to take precedence over an elderly lady who needs help with her groceries or a blind Londoner who needs guidance to the nearest crosswalk?

Sadly, I witness more acts of appalling selfishness than I do kindness. Sure, there is that occasional person who will always help out in any way he can, but most of us simply avoid eye contact and look the other way when we are really given the chance to help someone.

I was riding on the 393 bus from Islington to Camden one day when a woman who must have been in her mid eighties stepped on with three bags of groceries. She only came up to my shoulder, and a lifetime of laughter and tears were shown through the wrinkles on her face.

The bus was completely packed. Many passengers including myself were forced to stand. By my calculation, there were approximately 30 seats on the lower level of the bus which were all occupied by young, healthy commuters. Imagine my shock when not a single person volunteered to give their seat to this sweet lady. Instead, they raised their newspapers to cover their faces so they wouldn’t have to watch her struggling to keep her balance whilst holding her weekly shopping in her arms.

Photo by Ian Kershaw on flickr

This is just one of many examples that I witness on a daily basis. I could have chosen to talk about the blind lady at Baker Street who was pushed and shoved all the way down the platform until I led her to the nearest exit. Or perhaps the man who was recently killed in front of a full bus of people after being kicked in the head too many times by a fellow passenger who was upset by the amount of space he was using. Once again, a bus full of people and no one offered to help. Not even the bus driver.

It’s a double standard

If the aforementioned lady was our grandma or someone who was dear to us, we would be disgusted to hear that no one volunteered to give up their seat for her. If the man killed was our brother, we would beg for witnesses to offer their testimonies in court. So why do we think it is acceptable to treat other people’s loved ones this way?

I am convinced that some of us are innately selfish, while others unknowingly become this way when they move to a city like London or New York. I admit it’s sometimes difficult to share this cramped city with 7 million other people. I get just as frustrated as you do when I’m caught behind the world’s slowest moving person on a narrow pavement or get stuck underneath a hairy man’s armpit on the tube (I’m only 5 feet tall, so this happens a lot). But let’s not forget that we’re all human beings. We’re no better than anyone else, and we all need help sometimes.

To my fellow Londoners: I would like to challenge you to make a difference this week. Use your Starbucks fund to buy a sandwich for a homeless person. Sacrifice your seat on a train for someone who needs it more than you do. Take a blind person by the hand and lead him to his destination. You’ll still make it to work on time, and you’ll feel better for doing it. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to earning a heart without having to visit the Wizard. After all, it’s quite a long journey from London to Oz.

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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Lynsey Free

 

Prince Charles: not just a royal anymore

Be brave. Take a walk through Leicester Square. Dodge the tourists who are taking photos of themselves inside phone booths. Avoid the souvenir shops trying to sell you thongs with the tube map printed on them. Although these could prove to be useful on those drunken nights when you just aren’t sure where to go, it’s ill advised to unzip your trousers to decide whether you need to take the district line or the circle line home.

The Prince Charles Cinema

Now pause, take a deep breath, and pat yourself on the back for getting through this part of London without killing a tourist. After you‘ve done this, find a little side street called Leicester Place. Situated on this short street, halfway between Chinatown and Leicester Square, lies London’s best bargain. The Prince Charles Cinema is on the corner of the street, standing tall and proud with its bright, retro marquee.

A+ for style and originality

Where can you go if you want to see a silent movie with live music accompaniment or swoon over the late Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing? The Prince Charles Cinema. What if you want to go to a Grease sing-a-long or watch stand-up comedy before your film begins? Go to the Prince Charles Cinema. What if you want to have a cheeky pint before or after your film? Well, my friends, you can go to the Prince Charles Cinema for that.

That’s right. The Prince Charles specialises in all things awesome. This includes cheesy 80s movies, cinema classics, and sing-a-long films. I have had the privilege of watching The Wizard of Oz and Ghostbusters at the Prince Charles, and I promise you that no matter how many times you have seen these classics, they are different here. You find yourself laughing at parts you never even thought were funny, thanks to live commentary from fellow cinema-goers. There’s always someone dressed up in movie inspired clothing, which makes it that much more fun.

More bang for your buck

Welcome to the Prince Charles Cinema

The cinema has two screens; one upstairs and one downstairs. The downstairs room sparkles with charm. It comes complete with red velvet curtains which pull back before the film begins, just like you’re back in the 1950s.  The upstairs screen is more modern, and significantly smaller. The old classic films will always be played in the downstairs screen, while the upstairs screen will play current hits (I recently watched The Social Network and Mirrors 2 here).

It’s pretty great that the downstairs screen is cheaper and cooler than the upstairs one. It’s a win-win situation for anyone looking to watch 16 Candles or Rocky in style. Prices vary based on days and times, but you should expect to pay around £5 for the downstairs screen and £8 for the upstairs screen. You can’t grumble at that, especially when a film just metres away will cost you £14.25 at Vue and £15.60 at Odeon. That’s highway robbery and I will never pay those prices. Instead, I have traded in corporate cinemas that lack character and charm for a dazzling cinema that I proudly support with my ticket fees.

It gets even better

Become a member of the Prince Charles and receive discounts on every visit. It’s completely worth the price of membership if you go to the cinema just a few times in a year. I purchased my student membership for only £5, and a regular adult ticket is only £10. Or alternatively, if you know you’re going to be in London for a while, purchase a lifetime membership for only £50.

I typically don’t enjoy weekly emails from companies, but this one is worth joining. You’ll occasionally have the chance to answer a trivia question to win free tickets (this is how I saw Mirrors 2). You’ll also be in the loop for members-only advance screenings.

If you’re up for a funky (and cheap) evening out, go to the Prince Charles. Visit the first Friday of every month for “Feel Good Fridays” which offer £1 beer, £2 wine, and £2 popcorn. Unfortunately, these films seem to be geared toward females (Pretty Woman and Flashdance are on the agenda for February and March), so good luck dragging your boyfriend. But hey – my boyfriend won’t go either, so call me if you fancy a night out.

Stay tuned in to everything happening around the Prince Charles Cinema by checking their website frequently. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Lynsey Free

 

Cruise on down to Camden

Walking along the canal to Camden

“Madame, come. Taste my delicious Chinese food. Only £4 for any dish. Come, Madame.” These are the sounds you will hear as you walk through Camden Market. The choices are overwhelming; every country in the world is represented and it all looks amazing. I am reminded of Disney’s Epcot as I make my way past the food stalls, allowing myself to get lost in the atmosphere.

Fill your stomach without emptying your pocket

Today’s culinary choice was a calzone from a stall called Napoli. I had not originally planned to have lunch at the market, but the temptation was simply too much. The tomato, mozzarella, and mixed vegetable calzone was easily as big as my head, and it was given to me for the low price of £3.30 – less than a Starbucks coffee.

When I placed my order, I was expecting to receive one of the many calzones in the display case (after all, how fresh can I really expect a £3.30 meal to be?) but imagine my surprise when the Italian behind the counter began to knead some dough and stuff it full of fresh vegetables and cheese. Five minutes in the oven and I was on my way to food heaven. Success.

Food! So much food!

Faux furs and fun

Camden Market isn’t all about food, although it would still be worth visiting if it was. You can get practically anything there, from  £10 dresses to antiques to highly inappropriate t-shirts.

My favourite part (as you might have guessed) is the vintage clothing stalls. Fur is in this season, and the stalls are at no loss for cheap fur coats from decades past. I even found some weddings dresses from the 60’s that would have been great for anyone seeking a “flower child” wedding. No matter what you’re looking for, they probably have it at Camden Market so skip the high street and get ready to rummage through some vintage treasures.

A lovely walk

If you want to make a day of it, I suggest you walk down Regent’s Canal to Camden. It takes you directly there, and if you live anywhere near King’s Cross or Maida Vale, you can pick it up quite easily.

Take some pictures of the canal boats along the way and bring some bread to feed the ducks. If you choose to come from Primrose Hill/Maida Vale, you will have the added luxury of passing an aviary (property of the London Zoo) on the way. You can also sneak a peek at the dingoes pacing back and forth in their enclosure, seemingly very angry for being trapped in the confines of a zoo.

I advise you to avoid the area near the underground station unless you have a particular interest in gothic clothing or piercings. However, I did once spot Kelly Osbourne at Offspring, so perhaps it’s worth your while. You may also catch a glimpse of Amy Winehouse drunkenly staggering around those parts. She’s been known to spin some tunes at The Monarch.

So there you have it. Cool clothes, awesome food, and the occasional celebrity. What are you waiting for?

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in Lynsey Free