Apologies we didn’t post a new instalment in our Wednesday series yesterday – it will resume next week!

Inspired by a spectacular month of partying by King William III in December, 1699, Kensington Palace is celebrating Christmas with a month of family-friendly entertainment in the Georgian State Apartments. Historic Royal Palaces has joined with games makers Hide & Seek to create Game of Crowns, transforming Kensington into a play palace with games, mummery and the chance to proclaim yourself king or queen for a day. On the weekends, there’s also the chance to join in parlour games from 1700 onward and a Christmas Day sensory room which brings to life King William III and Queen Mary II’s Christmas morning (by which time they must have been exhausted!). The palace will also play host to its largest ever Christmas tree – 30 feet tall – and on December 16th, you can join in Carols by Candlelight. Admission charge applies. Runs until 6th January. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/.

Epping Forest is expanding and this weekend, you have a chance to help by planting some new saplings. The City of London Corporation, which runs the forest, is creating a new area of woodland, named Gifford Wood in honour of former Lord Mayor Roger Gifford, after purchasing 30 acres of land at Upshire last year. Members of the public are invited to join City of London staff and the Friends of Epping Forest at Upshire Village Hall, Horseshoe Hill (EN9 3SP) between 11am and 1pm on Saturday to plant 2,000 new oaks and hornbeam as well as a mix of alder, birch, beech, cherry, field maple, rowan, small lime, wild apple, wild service, holly and yew. Bring your spade. For more, phone 0208 532 1010 or email epping.forest@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

A memorial to the Long Range Desert Group was dedicated in Westminster Abbey this week.  The LRDG was formed in 1940 by Major Ralph Bagnold to act as the forward intelligence arm of the British army in North Africa. The group later shared their expertise in desert navigation with the fledgling SAS (Special Air Service) who also carried out offensives in the desert from 1941. The memorial is located in the west cloister below that of the SAS. For more, see www.westminster-abbey.org.

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Regent Street is showcasing a number of architectural installations created by architects in an initiative being conducted in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Now in its fourth year, the Regent Street Windows project can be seen free in store windows including those of Topshop, Espirit, Jack Spade, Ferrari Store and Moss Bros until 6th May. Participating architects include Carl Turner Architects, naganJohnson architects, Gensler, Mamou-Mani, and AY Architects. Free 45 minute to one hour walking tours of the completed installations will be conducted by RIBA representatives at lunch time today, midday on Sunday and at 5.30pm next Wednesday. Prior booking is essential – email antonia.faust@riba.org for details.

The Queen’s Orchard has reopened in Greenwich Park having been restored with the addition of heritage fruit trees, new gates, pathways and ponds. The orchard dates back to the 17th century  – its name has been found on a records dating back to 1693 and now features on a new metal decorative gate which, as well as a well cover, was designed by local artist Heather Burrell along with local school students and the Friends of Greenwich Park. The heritage fruit trees, which have a provenance dating back to the 1500s, include apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, apricot, nectarine, quince, and medlar trees. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk.

The first woman to qualify as a dentist in Britain has been honoured by English Heritage with a blue plaque at her former home in Islington. Lilian Lindsay (1871-1960) lived at the house at 3 Hungerford Road, Lower Holloway, from 1872 until 1892 when she decided to become a dentist. Refused entry to the National Dental Hospital in London, she trained at the Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School (where she also met her husband Robert) before setting up a practice in Upper Holloway. Following her marriage, Lindsay relocated to Edinburgh where she and her husband ran a dental practice, only returning to London after their retirement in the 1920s. Both were actively involved in the British Dental Association. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk.

A 13-year-old photographer, Gideon Knight, is holding his first exhibition, ‘Wild About Photography’, at The Temple, Wanstead Park in Epping Forest. Self-taught, Knight has drawn on his passion for bird-watching in capturing a series of images of birds and other wildlife in a range of natural environments – from the forests of Essex to the countryside of southern Ireland. The exhibition is free. Open on weekends and bank holidays until the end of June, between noon and 5pm. You can follow Gideon at  http://earlywormbirder.blogspot.co.uk.

On Now: Patrick Heron: Studies for a Portrait of TS Eliot. On display for the first time at the National Portrait Gallery, the 10 paintings and drawings were completed in preparation for a 1949 modernist painting of the poet. They include two oil studies which have never before been seen in public. Heron secured permission to paint Eliot in January 1947 with the first sitting held two months later. Runs until 22nd September. For more, see www.npg.org.uk.

Both of the next two are from our Thursday updates – Around London…

6. Around London: Olympic Torch Relay hits London; mascots pop-up all over the city; and Shakespeare at the British Museum – not a surprising mention, given the Olympic theme;

5. Around London – Butler’s Retreat reopens in Epping Forest; Designs of the Year; and, Lucian Freud’s last work. The reason for this update’s inclusion remains a bit of a mystery – but it was a big year for the late Lucian Freud.

 • Cambridge took the line honours over Oxford in this year’s Boat Race on the Thames in what has been billed as one of the most dramatic races in its 158 race history. The race was interrupted when a swimmer, described as an anti-elitist protestor, was spotted in the water and, following a restart near the Chiswick Eyot, the boat crews clashed oars and one of the Oxford crew lost his oar’s spoon. Cambridge pulled steadily ahead with Oxford an oar down and was declared the winner by four and a quarter lengths. The presentation ceremony was subsequently not held after Oxford’s bow man collapsed and was rushed to hospital where was reported to be recovering well. The win takes Cambridge’s victories to 81 compared to Oxford’s 76. For more, see http://theboatrace.org. (For more on the history of the Boat Race, see our entry from last year).

Epping Forest’s bluebells are out in force and to celebrate the City of London Corporation is holding a series of events including an art exhibition at The Temple in Wanstead Park. The exhibition, Out of the Blue, celebrates the bluebells of Chalet Wood and features a “miscellany of bluebell images, artwork, folklore and fairies”. A free event, it runs until 27th May. This Sunday the Temple will also host an art afternoon with local artist Barbara Sampson and on 29th April photographer Robert Good will hold a course on photography around the forest. Both are free events. For more details, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/epping.

• “Porky pies” (lies) is the most used Cockney phrase, according to a survey of Britons on their knowledge and use of Cockney. The Museum of London survey of 2,000 people, including 1,000 from London, also found that “apples and pears” (stairs) was the most well-known Cockney phrase and that while a majority of people knew what common phrases like “brown bread” meant (in this case dead), only small percentages of people used them. And while 63 per cent of respondents believed Cockney slang was crucial to London’s identity, 40 per cent were convinced it is dying out and 33 per cent were sad at its passing. Strictly speaking, a ‘Cockney’ is someone who was born within the sound of bow bells at the church of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, but according to Alex Werner, head of history collections at the museum, “people from all corners of London identify themselves as being Cockney”. He said that while for many people “Cockney rhyming slang is intrinsic to the identity of London”, the research the Cockney dialect “may not be enjoying the same level of popularity”. The research found that among the least known Cockney rhyming slang phrases included “white mice” (ice), “donkey’s ears” (years), and “loop de loop” (soup). For more from the museum, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.

• The life of influential newspaper editor and Titanic victim, William Stead, will be celebrated at a two day conference next week. Hosted by the British Library, in association with Birkbeck College and the University of Birmingham, the conference will feature 40 speakers from around the world. Stead, who was editor of The Pall Mall Gazette, was a controversial figure who is credited with being one of the inventors of the modern tabloid. He died on the Titanic‘s maiden voyage – the 100th anniversary of which is being marked this month. W.T. Stead: A Centenary Conference for a Newspaper Revolutionary takes place from 16th to 17th April, 2012. Tickets (£45 for one day or £85 for two days) can be booked by visiting the box office in the St Pancras building or phoning 01937 546546. The programme for the conference can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/stead2012/.

• On Now: Titian’s First Masterpiece: The Flight into Egypt. The National Gallery is hosting a new exhibition focused on the then young artist’s creation of the magnificent painting The Flight into Egypt in the 16th century. The artwork, lent to the National Gallery by the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, has recently been restored and the exhibition represents the first time the painting has been seen outside Russia since 1768 when Empress Catherine the Great purchased it in Venice. Admission is free. Runs until 19th August. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

• Epping Forest’s historic Butler’s Retreat has reopened its doors as a cafe following a refurbishment project to restore the building to its former glory. The building was constructed in the 19th century and is one of the last remaining Victorian-era ‘retreats’ within the forest. Named for its 1891 occupier, John Butler, it was one of a number of retreats built to serve refreshments as part of the Temperance movement – said to have been “extremely popular” with visitors from the East End. The building, which now forms part of the Epping Forest visitor hub, is expected to host a range of events this summer and will have its opening hours extended with the slated opening of a restaurant upstairs in the evenings. Owned by the City of London, Epping Forest is the largest public open space in the London area, stretching across 12 miles from Manor Park in East London to a spot past Epping in Essex. The cafe, the refurbishment of which was carried out with funding provided via the Heritage Lottery’s Branching Out project, will be open from 9am to 5pm weekdays and 8am to 5pm weekends. For more on the cafe, see www.worldslarder.co.uk. For more on Epping Forest, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/eppingforest

• On Now – Designs of the Year Exhibition: The London Olympic Torch and the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress are among 90 objects nominated as one of the “best designs in the world” in this year’s Design of the Year competition. The objects, which go on display at the Design Museum today, have been entered in seven categories – architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport – with winners to be announced on 24th April. Among the other objects nominated are a wind-propelled landmine detector, a pop-up cinema in Hackney, the London 2012 velodrome and the first Tesco virtual store. An admission charge applies for the exhibition which runs until 15th July.  For more information, see designsoftheyear.com.

On Now – Lucian Freud Portraits. The last work of the late artist Lucian Freud is on show for the first time in this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The unfinished painting, Portrait of the Hound 2011, which depicts Freud’s assistant assistant David Dawson and his dog Eli, is a highlight of the exhibition which also includes works dating back as far as the 1940s. The 130 paintings and works on paper – which feature sitters including artists Francis Bacon and David Hockney along with the likes of Andrew Parker Bowles and Baron Rothschild – have been loaned from museums and private collections around the world. Runs until 27th May, 2012. Admission charge applies. See www.npg.org.uk.