Friday, 17 October 2008

Bond Fever

It's been a busy month - hence the total lack of attention I've paid to London Ding Dong. Apologies to my regular readers who must have begun to wonder if I'd disappeared into a black hole somewhere!

Unfortunately since I rather prematurely wrote "normal service is resumed" (oops!) I have only been to London twice and spent both days in a studio! So no lovely tales of sightseeing to report or any London-specific gossip I'm afraid. When I'm visiting London for work I tend to switch to auto-pilot and just want to get to the studio, do my job and get home again! I don't look around, don't soak up the atmosphere and don't notice the world whizzing by! I'm totally focused on work and twelve hours later am back home having barely registered I've been to London!

Recently I've spent several days working at the World famous Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, just outside of London. The UK's equivalent to Universal in Hollywood has been a hive of activity with the completion of the new James Bond film "Quantum of Solace" among many other film and TV productions. There have been various rumours that Pinewood were planning a theme park similar to that of Universal Studios in the USA but, despite recent refurb work, I can report that there is no sign of a theme park yet!

A couple of weeks ago I'd finished work at Pinewood for the day, was walking back to the parking lot and passed a group of people attending a "Health and Awareness" Day. Standing out from the crowd with his arm in a sling was James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. The very handsome Mr Craig received a number of injuries while filming "Quantum of Solace" but the sling didn't detract from his wonderful ruggedness! James Bond is a constant presence at Pinewood even when Daniel Craig isn't there: the picture above shows one of the "street" names on the film lot and one of the massive sound stages is actually called the "007 Stage" (you're not supposed to take photos at Pinewood so I had to sneakily take this one with my mobile!).

It's a magical place to visit and I feel fortunate everytime I work at Pinewood Studios. There is nothing quite so bizarre as sitting in the canteen surrounded by actors in full costume and make-up having their lunch! There is a limit to what I can share with you about my voice over work but one of the productions I have been working on starts soon on BBC television and is a fabulous new Dicken's adaption. The world of film and TV is an exciting one but if you knew what went on behind the scenes to produce the finished product then you wouldn't think it was quite so glamorous!

I am planning a big day out sightseeing in London with some friends from Ireland at the end of the month so I'll look forward to sharing that with you. I haven't forgotten my promise of some more London restaurant reviews and other London bits and pieces - they'll all appear soon! In the meantime, feel free to leave your comments or email me at

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Normal Service Resumed

Thankfully, it hasn’t taken too long but I’m reasonably happy with the changes I’ve made to London Ding Dong over the last week or so. Some of the changes like the new colour scheme are purely for the sake of it and, frankly, because I get bored with the same old thing indefinitely! If you are having any trouble viewing any part of the blog as a result of the new template or colours, please please do let me know.

As for adverts, affiliate programs and so forth, I’ve kept it simple:
The London Pass is a product that I’ve often written about and thoroughly recommend it to visitors to London. Please do click on the banner and have a look around the London Pass site – there are loads of sightseeing ideas and, if you go ahead and purchase, there are loads of extras thrown in including theatre and restaurant offers, plus discounts on shopping, cycling and walking excursions and open top bus tours. It really is a genuine time and money saver and takes much of the hard work out of your London holiday, leaving you more time to enjoy what you came to see!
Evan Evans Tours are another company well worth knowing about if you are coming to England. They don’t just offer London sightseeing tours (including the famous Big Bus Company open top bus tours!) but will also take you outside the Capital for a day of English history and heritage. The Roman city of Bath and ancient Stonehenge are just two of their popular stop-offs and Blue-badge Guides tell you all you need to know. If you are curious to know more then click on the banner and you’ll find much more on the Evan Evans website.
At a time when budget airlines are dropping like flies then it’s probably a good idea to play safe and choose an established company who are not likely to leave you in the lurch! Monarch Airlines are competitively priced but still provide those “little” touches that budget airlines ignore such as well trained cabin crew and a decent hot meal on every flight! I am not adverse to cheap flights when I’m popping over to Spain for a short break but if you want to start and finish your holiday in style without breaking the bank then check out the Monarch site. They also offer holidays and hotels so if you’re planning a London holiday then don’t forget to see what Monarch and Cosmos Holidays have to offer by clicking on the banner.

You may also have noticed the shortening of the official blog title. Although I’ve always referred to it as London Ding Dong, the official title was significantly longer and a bit of a mouthful! But, of course, many of my readers come to me from Google and other search engines and I’m not sure London Ding Dong explains what the blog is about so we are now called <>.

I’ve limited the very very long list of labels to a more succinct inventory of categories which hopefully will help new readers find their way around the blog more easily. It also means that if you want to read a review of a London restaurant, find out more about particular London attractions or read what I have to say about London transport then you can find posts in specific categories more quickly.

I think those are just about all the non-technical changes to report. As I mentioned before, I may change the advertising banners periodically but will only publicize products or companies that I can personally recommend and would be happy to write about in the normal course of my blog writing.
I hope you like the new-look blog and that you’ll continue reading and sharing your thoughts and comments.

Friday, 12 September 2008

London Transport

Much is written about public transport in London, both good and bad. I, myself, have written about my preference for buses rather than the tube system which is nothing to do with the quality of service. My preference is largely due to my long-term phobia of being underground. I am not knowingly scared of going underground and I do not have any specific fears of travelling on the tube but I do, nevertheless, have these mini-panic attacks so I simply prefer to use the bus whenever possible.

In my opinion, as a person who uses the London transport services on occasion rather than on a regular basis, Transport for London is doing a grand job. I really don’t have anything significant to complain about as a London visitor. Sure, the tubes can be crowded at rush hour but stand back from the crowd and wait for the next one! Let’s face it, if you’re on holiday or day-tripping then there’s really no need to put yourself through the “trauma” of travelling at rush hour. If you are staying in central London then try walking instead – you will see a lot more of London that way and you can always hop on a bus if your feet start to ache!

As part of the latest changes to London Ding Dong I’ve added a handy little tool on the bottom left of the page. I generally use the Transport for London journey planner to check routes and also to get an idea of how long my journey will take once I’ve arrived in London by train. You can request route plans to and from stations (mainline train and underground), specific postcodes, addresses and even places of interest which is particularly handy when you’re sightseeing. The results give you various route options and include all forms of public transport as well as any walking required. Maps are also provided if you need them. This is a really handy tool if you are visiting London and certainly takes the effort out of journey planning!

I think, when you are visiting a strange city, whether it’s in your own country or abroad, navigating the public transport system is one of the most challenging things. So do your research before you leave home and when you arrive in London you should find getting around London a little less daunting!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Changes To London Ding Dong

As I mentioned a little while ago, I've been planning some changes to London Ding Dong and you may have noticed some of those changes already.

There are mixed views among the blogging community regarding advertising and, particularly, paid product placement. After six months of blogging, several people pointed out that I was spending a lot of time researching and writing my blog and was not getting anything in return. This is not entirely accurate as I really enjoy my "research" (which, for the most part, I would do regardless of writing a blog) and I also love writing and knowing that my modest number of readers return on a regular basis. However, knowing that I may be able to make a few pennies from my blog is very tempting so I have had a think, done my research and made some decisions.

I don't want to go down the route of writing posts on demand for unknown companies; neither do I want to endorse products that I know little or nothing about. There are plenty of opportunities to do both of these through the wonders of the web but I have opted not to go down that overtly commercial avenue.

I hope what I have decided to do will not "offend" the blogging community and, most importantly, will not alienate my readers. I have placed some banner adverts on here which are all companies or products that I am familiar with, have used and am happy to recommend to my readers. If you don't wish to know more about them then don't click on the banner. If you want to know more then click away and, if you go on to purchase, I will make a few pennies from your sale.

From time to time I may change the banners I display but I promise that they will always be relevant to my blog in some way, they will always be products or services that I have tried and tested and they will all be reputable companies!

Beyond this, I'm making a few aesthetic changes which will take a little time and I hope you will be patient while I concentrate my efforts on getting things right. I'm not the speediest blogger on the net but hopefully the changes won't take too long. In the meantime, if you have any comments or views about the addition of advertising banners please let me know!