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Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace – exhibition notes

Food is a recurring theme in this artist’s portfolio, and last Sunday, when a friend and I visited the Ai Weiwei exhibition at Blenheim Palace, we were treated to a feast for the mind. Continue reading

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Singles’ Day: The origin of the craziest shopping day of the year

Singles Day Supper Invitation

A supper at St. Peter’s College to celebrate being single

While 11 November is known to the West as the day on which WWI officially came to an end, in China it is celebrated as Singles’ Day (光棍节, guāng gùn jié, ‘bare branch festival’). If you think about it pessimistically, we singles are trees that have yet to flower; alternatively, we are trees that are not yet weighed down by all those leaves and fruit! The custom originated from Nanjing University, so how apt that my first experience of it was at university. Thanks to the Chinese eCommerce platform Alibaba, it has since evolved to become the most important online shopping date in China, bigger even than the American Black Friday. On this day it is customary for single friends to gather together and eat four fried dough sticks (油条, yóu tiáo) and one steamed bun (包子, bāo zi), which represent the numerical form of the date, 11.11. Each person pays his/her own part of the bill, to show their independence.

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Chatime: ‘The place to go for wacky combinations’ – café review

Chatime Hot Bubble Tea

A Taiwanese bubble tea franchise

The UK’s first bubble tea store opened in London in 2011. Since then bubble tea has taken the country by storm, and soon no British city will be complete without one.  What the West knows as ‘bubble tea’ we Chinese call ‘pearl tea’. The pearls refer to the dark, chewy tapioca balls inside the drink, while ‘bubble’ refers to the froth created by shaking the tea before serving. Last week, I paid a visit to the Chatime café in Oxford, which opened in September this year. Continue reading

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Lod Mosaic – exhibition notes

Lod Mosaic

A 4th century Roman mosaic from Israel

A Roman mosaic from 300 AD found in 1996 in Israel was finally exhibited last year. Having been displayed in Paris and Berlin and toured the U.S. while its home is being constructed, the Lod Mosaic made its first appearance at Waddesdon Manor in June this year, and I managed to hitch a car ride there to see in the final week of the exhibition. If it’s coming to a museum near you, I would recommend a visit! If you have missed the opportunity or it has missed you, check it out here. Continue reading