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Ekte doesn't pitch itself as a seafood restaurant — and there are plenty of steak, lamb or chicken options on the menu ready to lure you off path. But the seafood dishes are where all the best things on the menu are happening (sidebar: that's not counting the gin menu, which is short, splendid and Scandi-slanted).

The terrace seating, in the foothills of the Bloomberg Arcade, makes for better people-watching and outdoor space than most venues in this part of the Square Mile. Water features babble away around us as we plough through smørrebrød, the open sandwiches nailing that proper balance of delicate but piled high, of simple but satisfyingly rich. The roast beef smørrebrød is a perfect mix of fried onion crunch and silkily rare meat, but it's eclipsed by the punch of wild garlic and toasted nuts on the celeriac sandwich.

The fried pickled herring smørrebrød is a surprise hero dish. We'd both been herring sceptics, but you can't stay sceptical faced with these: small, crispy curls of fish stacked on onion, carrots and dill, with a faint memory of the fish's pickled past coming through underneath the crunch.

It’s a smoked trout kind of day! #🐟 #Nordic #SmokedTrout

A post shared by Ekte. Nordic Kitchen (@ektelondon) on Jun 27, 2018 at 5:10am PDT

The rest of our dishes are consistently good, but it's the smoked trout salad and crab toast that stand out — the latter with an egg yolk sitting on top of it to be stirred through, turning the crabmeat creamily rich. The beef Rydberg is a steak tartare-ish dish of lightly seared cubes of meat, rare inside, and with another egg yolk to be stirred through. It's a big, bullish dish in a generous portion, but it's on the tough side in places and feels, overall, like table space we should've saved for more seafood.

So Ekte caters for your more decadent impulses, for the steak-seekers and gin-lovers, as well as the hygge-supplying comforts of simple, lovely sandwiches and cinnamon bun ice cream. If we're honest, it's the latter side they're really nailing — creamy though the crabmeat is, and rich though we'd be even happier with just a long stroll through the smørrebrød menu. And because man cannot live on smørrebrød alone? Maybe a bowl of their cinnamon bun icecream, coolly bready and velvety thick, to finish off.

Ekte Nordic Kitchen, 2-8 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR.  

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Join us to chat about all things related to London transport on our new Facebook group, Londonist Roundel Ramblings — everyone welcome.

We suggested it a week ago, while Gareth Southgate's England were still contenders to win the World Cup. Since then, they've lost two games, and the whole notion feels a bit stale. But anyway. Southgate station has been renamed Gareth Southgate station. On selected signage. Until the end of Tuesday. Visa and TfL were so holding out for a third place play-off win, weren't they.

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Discover poisonous plants in the Royal College of Physicians garden. Photo: Discover Medical London
What we're reading: Things to do:

KARL AND ELEANOR MARX: Explore the roots of Marx's ideology at the British Library, where the philosopher worked on his most celebrated book, Das Kapital. You can see his Reader Ticket, as well as one of only 25 surviving first edition copies of the Communist Manifesto. Plus, discover how his daughter Eleanor followed in his footsteps. British Library, free, just turn up, until 5 August

A NEWER PERSPECTIVE: British surrealist Patrick Hughes' mind-bending paintings have come to Mayfair to screw with your sense of perspective. His illusory interiors will be available for you to mull over all summer. Flowers Gallery (Mayfair), free, just turn up, until 1 September

PLANTS, POISON AND POIROT: Nature is healing, but it can also be deadly. Learn about the dangers posed by certain plants, particularly those utilised as a method of poison in Agatha Christie's Whodunnits. You'll get a chance to explore some of the plants discussed in a tour of the RCP garden. Royal College of Physicians (Regents Park), £10, book ahead, 1.30pm-6pm

HYDE PARK YOGA: Just another manic Monday? Find a moment of calm in Hyde Park where Ashtanga and Vinyasa specialist Avni Dhanani is hosting an alfresco flow yoga class. Hyde Park, £15, book ahead, 6.30pm-8pm

MARKETING MAVERICKS: Looking to get ahead in the big bad world of marketing? Giles Lury, Director of The Value Engineers, makes a case for being rebellious by showing off marketing strategies that go against the grain. Your ticket includes a drinks reception. Museum of Brands (Notting Hill), £39, book ahead, 6.30pm-9pm

A flow yoga class that's a breath of fresh air.

LONDON CRAFT CLUB: Store your sunnies, beach read, and SPF in style with the help of this summer beach bag workshop. You'll start off with a plain straw bag, and then decorate it with whatever you want — pom poms, ribbons, paint — with the help of an experienced tutor. Drink, Shop, & Do (King's Cross), £49, book ahead, 7pm-9.30pm

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN: It's alive! See Hammer horror classic The Curse of Frankenstein, starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing at The Institute of Light. Author Dr Kathryn Harkup will introduce the monster flick with a primer on the science behind the original novel, including a practical guide to collecting, assembling and reanimating your own Frankenstein’s monster, 18th century-style. The Institute of Light (Hackney), £6, book ahead, 7.15pm

JOHNNY PELHAM AND HARRIET KEMSLEY: Taking inspiration from the Cornell University study where two fictional women named Joan were judged by female students, comedian Harriet Kemsley takes on slut shaming in a deeply personal hour of stand up. She's joined by BBC Radio New Comedy Awards finalist Jonny Pelham, who returns with a brand new solo show. Battersea Arts Centre, £8, book ahead, 7.30pm

THE MILLENNIALS: Ah, Generation Y. Charged by the tabloids for offences ranging from killing the napkin industry to a gluttonous avocado habit. Isn't about time we saw what millennials make of their own generation? That's exactly the point of this showcase of new writing — see the eight works by new up and coming playwrights on the theme of disconnect. Pleasance Theatre (Islington), £12, book ahead, 7.30pm

SHOOT FROM THE HIP: Angel Comedy Club's resident improv troupe is back at The Camden Head to bring you some of the UK's finest acts in the biz. The Camden Head (Islington), free, just turn up, 8pm-10pm

Good cause of the day

How does a 540 foot abseil down Broadgate Tower sound? If you're scared of heights, you've got about a month and half to overcome your fears and prepare to catch some incredible London views. So start fundraising for the Epilepsy Society today, and get ready for your big moment on 2 September.

Fun things to do with our friends and sponsor Funzing...

A Gentle Introduction to Kink & BDSM

Get tickets

Zip Line Over the London Skyline

At 225 meters long - and the height of 9 double-decker buses - this isn't one for the faint-hearted. Are you brave enough to take on London's longest zip line? Take in spectacular views of the city skyline before zipping down one of three exhilarating wires with your mates.  Get tickets

Hidden London Tour

Visit old pubs, even older churches, hidden rivers, mysterious tunnels and more on this tour of hidden Londo. You'll hear tales of the myths and legends which made the City of London what it is today, and find out the area's links to nursery rhymes and literary figures. Get tickets

Lost London Walking Tour

London is a city of incredible transformation. With structural remains that date back to ancient history still in existence, this unique walking tour takes in Lost London in all its former glory. From the Titanic booking office to the graveyards of man's best friend, you'll discover the weird and wonderful places that used to exist in the capital but are now only committed to memory. Using old photographs, newspaper cuttings and stories from the past, you'll be amazed at what has largely been written out of our history books...   Get tickets

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All week
Life's a beach at the Royal Docks.

BANKSY'S GREATEST HITS: You might be surprised to discover the work of the undisputed king of contemporary street art adorning the walls of a Mayfair gallery, but Banksy and Lanzic co-founder Steve Lazarides actually go way back — with the latter having photographed the elusive artist in '97. This new exhibition brings together an eclectic array of Banksy's work; from stencilled canvases, to unique paintings, limited edition prints and more. Lanzic (Mayfair), free, just turn up, 12 July-25 August

JUST BEACHY: Grab your sunnies and get ready to catch some rays at the Royal Docks urban beach. There's tonnes of golden sand, an outdoor pool and a floating sun deck —best of all, though, entry is free. Royal Victoria Dock, free, just turn up, 10am-6pm, 18 July-2 September

EVOLVING LANDSCAPES: From abstract imagery to urban snaps, contemporary landscape photography boasts a wide spectrum of interpretations. See how the genre has grown over the last 25 years in this exhibition featuring the work of over 20 photographers. gallery@oxo (Oxo Tower Wharf), free, just turn up, 11am-6pm, 18-22 July

Monday 16 July
Laugh your socks off with Alex Edelman.

GO BANANAS: Experience the decadence of a central London taxi ride without the eye-watering fare. Simply grab a Chiquita-branded banana and keep your eye out for their yellow cabs stationed around Covent Garden Piazza. If you manage to flag one down, you'll be ferried to wherever you like in Zones 1 and 2 for free. Covent Garden Piazza, free, just turn up, 9am-5pm

SLEEPING TREES: From scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, to trekking the ancient Inca trails of Peru to, er...dogging in Blackpool — the comedy troupe Sleeping Trees have done it all. Now, the trio of tricksters return to Islington with an adventure so daring they promise it'll make Indiana Jones look like Emmerdale. The Bill Murray (Islington), £5 to reserve a seat/pay what you want OTD, book ahead, 6.45pm-7.45pm

ALEX EDELMAN: Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Alex Edelman takes on jigsaw-loving Nazis and tribalism in his third solo show. See the Boston native perform live ahead of his return to the Fringe. Pleasance Theatre (Islington), £5, book ahead, 9pm

Tuesday 17 July
A swimming gala for dogs makes a splash in Hackney.

DOG SWIMMING GALA: Yep, you read that right — a pool party for your loyal hounds is coming to Hackney. There's canine-themed inflatables, icy dog treats and even a game of pooch polo for your four-legged friends to enjoy, courtesy of Rover.com. West Reservoir Water Sports Centre (Hackney), free, book ahead, 4pm-5.30pm

MUSIC AND MORALE: From hymns at church parades, to satirical concert parties, music was a vital spirit-lifter for servicemen fighting in the first world war. At this lecture, you'll learn about the tuneful pastimes that became a staple of RFC and RAF life from 1914 to 1918. Museum of Croydon, free, book ahead, 6pm

LOST IN THE MANOR: Hear Aussie singer-songwriter Ben Salter perform for free at the Finsbury Pub. Having toured with the lies of Cat Power and Counting Crows, his work ranges from acoustic ballads to avant garde soundscapes. The Finsbury Pub (Harringay), free, book ahead, 7pm-11pm

Wednesday 18 July
Discover emerging photographic talent while raising money for charity.

A DISSONANT HARMONY: What happens when two artists with two completely different painting methods collaborate on the same canvas? Find out at this exhibition from Robinson & McMahon. One Paved Court (Richmond), free, just turn up, 12pm-5pm, until 28 July

GUANGZHOU LIWAN YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: London's amateur youth music festival for choral, orchestral, instrumental, and dance ensembles presents a free concert in Southwark Cathedral. Entertaining your ears today are the Guangzhou Liwan Youth Symphony Orchestra, all the way from China. Southwark Cathedral, free, just turn up, 3.30pm

PLATFORMS PRESENTS: Promoters of underground artists, Platforms, presents a night of photography and vinyl spinning, with the aim of engineering collaboration. All the proceeds from tonight's event go to youth mental health charity Happy Space. Gallery Cafe (St Margaret's House), £1, just turn up, 7.30pm

Thursday 19 July
Discover That Old Black Magic with Cathi Unsworth.

SARNIES IN SOHO: A fiver for a sandwich might not sound like much of steal, but considering these ones are being rustled up by two of the world's best deli chefs, Hellman's new pop up should be worth your dough. Try Mogg's iconic salt beef, or plump for the Sandwich of the Year — the Menage a Trois — from San Francisco institution Ike's. Hellman's Deli Exchange, 3 Bateman Street (Soho), £5, just turn up, 10am-5pm, until 21 July

FEELING CHILLI: Spice up your lunchtime with the help of Radical Kitchen — the Serpentine's series of lunch time talks. Today, it's the turn of researcher and east African supper club founder Fozia Ismail, who'll be considering the story of the humble chilli. Serpentine Pavilion, free, just turn up, 1pm

CATHI UNSWORTH: If you're a sucker for an unsolved mystery with a whiff of the supernatural about it, Cathi Unsworth's pop cultural crime novels might just be your new addiction. Discover her latest work, That Old Black Magic, which interweaves the true stories of the Hagley Woods mystery of 1943 and the trial of the last woman to be prosecuted for witchcraft in the UK. Conway Hall (Bloomsbury), £5, book ahead, 7.30pm-9pm

COMEDY SHOWCASE: Forget pricey train fares and booked out B&Bs, Piccadilly Comedy Club is conjuring up the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe in the heart of the Big Smoke. Basically, it's a free entry comedy show with a collection at the end. Tonight you'll see Daisy Earl (The Scotman's Scottish Comedian of the Year), Sunil Patel, and many more. The Comedy Pub (Piccadilly), free, just turn up, 8pm-10pm

Friday 20 July
Those three magic words: free cookie dough.

FREE DOUGH DAY: If you were (or still are) the kid that preferred licking the mixing bowl to the actual cake, we've got your dream event. Naked Dough are giving away free scoops of their cookie dough all day to celebrate the launch of their new Camden cafe. Naked Dough (Stables Market), free, just turn up, 11am-8pm (or until the dough runs out)

FEMINIST LIBRARY ON LOAN: Curl up with a good book or three from the Feminist Library's collection. There's comfy seating, kids' activities, and everything you need to make a decent cuppa. The Showroom (Marylebone), free, just turn up, 12pm-6pm, until 11 August

LUNCHTIME HARP RECITAL: Three of Europe's most exciting classical musicians are coming to Spitalfields for a concert of music for the voice and harp. Soprano Héloïse Werner, mezzo-soprano Lucy Goddard, and Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales, Anne Denholm performing celebrated works by women composers beats your date with a supermarket meal deal any day. Draper's Hall (Spitalfields), £4/£5, book ahead, 1pm-1.50pm

KATE HUTCHINSON: Broadcaster and music journo Kate Hutchinson takes over the decks at the Tate Modern as part of her summer DJ series. She claims to have got stoic C4 newsreader Jon Snow shimmying, so she's bound to get you onto the dance floor. Terrace Bar, Tate Modern (Bankside), free, just turn up, 7pm-11pm

Saturday 21 July
Boogie with your babies at a family dance day.

FAMILY DANCE DAY: From face painting to a pop up ping pong performance, there's plenty to keep your tots entertained today at The Place. You can even pick up a racket at have a go bouncing some balls yourself. The Place (Euston), free, just turn up, all day

ELSYNG PALACE EXCAVATION: Take your  tiny Tony Robinsons to find out what archaeologists have dug up at Elsyng Palace this year. On this kids' picture trail your 4-11-year-olds will learn all manner of fun facts about these royal hunting grounds that once hosted Henry VIII. Forty Hall (Enfield), £3/£5, book ahead, 11am-3pm

CIDER DOG: Normally, you'd have better luck looking for a needle in a haystack than finding a pint of decent cider for less than four quid in Zone 1. But for one day only, Ciderdog is bringing over 100 British ciders and perries to London Bridge for just £3.50 a pop. The Solid Steel Band will also be there to get you grooving. The Miller (London Bridge), free entry, just turn up, 12pm-1am

SLIP 'N SLIDE: Fingers crossed for decent weather this weekend, because an epic Slip 'N Slide event is coming to Lambeth Country Show. So pack your swim stuff and prepare to plunge 50 feet down Vita Coco Coconut Water's inflatable slide. Lambeth Country Show (Brockwell Park), free, just turn up, 12pm-8pm, until 22 July

Sunday 22 July

MINDFULNESS IN NATURE: Wrap up the week with a moment of calm amid the natural beauty of Springfield Park. Mel Sutton will show you a mindful approach to every day living at this Mindfulness in Nature walkshop. White Lodge Mansion, Springfield Park (Clapton), £5, book ahead, 11am-12.15pm

JAMES OSTRER: It's your last chance to see James Ostrer's latest exhibition in collaboration with African curator Azu Nwagbogu. See his unpacking of racism, greed, self-loathing, and the cultural context from which they arise, through his installations, bawdy sculptural works, and video. Gazelli Art House (Mayfair), free, just turn up, 11am-7pm

FULHAM PALACE ARCHAEOLOGY: Get stuck into the rich history of Fulham Palace — from Neolithic settlement to medieval manor and beyond — at  hands on archaeology tour suitable for all ages. (Fulham), free, just turn up, 1pm-3pm

ROB AUTON AND STEVE BUGEJA: Comedian/thespian/spoken word artist Rob Auton is ready to talk about talking in his aptly named Edinburgh preview The Talk Show. He's followed by BBC New Comedy Award Winner Steve Bugeja. Pleasance Theatre (Islington), £5, book ahead, 7.45pm

Fun things to do with our friends and sponsor Funzing...

Zip Line Over the London Skyline

At 225 meters long - and the height of 9 double-decker buses - this isn't one for the faint-hearted. Are you brave enough to take on London's longest zip line? Take in spectacular views of the city skyline before zipping down one of three exhilarating wires with your mates.  Get tickets

Hidden London Tour

Visit old pubs, even older churches, hidden rivers, mysterious tunnels and more on this tour of hidden Londo. You'll hear tales of the myths and legends which made the City of London what it is today, and find out the area's links to nursery rhymes and literary figures. Get tickets

Forgotten Old London

Have you visited London's Roman ampitheatre? What about London's Medieval market places? Hear weird and wonderful tales of our beautiful city as you take a walking tour, seeing everything from centuries-old churches to the hanging place of William Wallace. Whether you've lived here all your life or are visiting for a few days, you're sure to learn something new about London. Get tickets

Paddle Boarding in East London - Beginners

Take to the waters and glide about in this beginner paddleboarding session. By the end of it, you'll be standing up and paddling solo, and there's plenty of help on hand to improve your technique. Change of clothes required.  Get tickets

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Steve Manktelow, drink expert from Goat Chelsea, teaches you how to make a cocktail fit for an admiral.

Berry nice indeed

In 1600 a group of coffee merchants gathered in London to form the British East India Company. Its purpose? To comb the globe for the source of nutmeg — then the most precious spice on the planet. Nutmeg wasn't just valuable as a source of flavour; it was also believed to protect you from the plague (a fairly large concern in 17th century Europe).  

A couple of years later the source of nutmeg was located on a couple of tiny islands in Indonesia — a nifty six-month voyage. Arriving a little later than the Dutch East India Company, it wasn't the smoothest of landings.

Admiral Edward Russell. A man how knew how to partay

What followed was years of hostilities, making the whole expedition seem a little futile. However what the British East India Company did discover on those long voyages was that alcohol made bored, unhappy, mutiny-prone sailors a lot more relaxed. It turned interminable sea voyages from a vocation one step above galley slave, to more of a pleasure cruise (albeit with shocking dining options, and the constant threat of death by pirate, Hollander or kraken).

This was really the first time we saw people mix spirits with other flavours and record the recipe

Beer stopped being an option pretty quickly. It took up precious space that could be used for a more saleable cargo, so spirits became the drink of choice, and these were served to the crew from giant puncheon barrels, with citrus added to prevent against scurvy, sugar to make it palatable, and some of those precious spices thrown in to dissuade the crew from theft. Voila! Punch was born.

This was really the first time we saw people mix spirits with other flavours and record the recipe for posterity, essentially the birth of mixed drinks, or cocktails as we know them today.

No need to go to Indonesia for this now. They've probably got it in Lidl

94 years later, one Admiral Edward Russell was commanded to remain in Spain over winter to trap the French fleet in the Mediterranean. He was less than happy to miss Christmas in London: "I am at present under a doubt with myself whether it is not better to die" were his exact words. To make a point, he petulantly threw the grandest party of the time on Westminster's account, the focal point of which was a tiled fountain filled with punch, and a small boy in a boat floating in the middle serving it to his guests.

An aptly sized fountain may prove difficult for you to source, so here's a scaled down recipe…

Admiral Edward Russell's Punch (for one)
  • Brew some earl grey tea, remove the tea bag after a minute or two so it’s nice and light.
  • Mix 4 parts of this with 4 parts any brandy, 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part sugar syrup and 2 parts of Oloroso sherry.
  • Grate in nutmeg to taste.
  • Stir with ice and strain over ice into a short cup, garnish with berries and you’re ready to party like an admiral.
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As protesters descended on central London to protest Donald Trump, and everything he stands for, we couldn't help noticing that these protesters have the BEST signs you ever saw. Bigly.

WARNING: contains naughty words. Sad!

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This is a sponsored article on behalf of Wood's Navy Rum.

We like rum cocktails. We also like cruising down London's canals. So we're pleased to see that the bright sparks at Wood's Navy Rum have added the two concepts together, and created their very own rum boat tours. Your ticket includes an hour-long tour and complimentary Wood's cocktail — you can even learn to make your own bespoke rum beverages.

The Wood's Navy Rum Boat will be moored at Bar 90, Hackney Wick from Monday 2 July to Wednesday 25 July 2018. It then sets sail for Granary Square, Kings Cross, where it'll be moored up from Thursday 26 July to Wednesday 22 August, before returning to Bar 90 for a special closing party.

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Octopus sandwiches. Churros. Tequila cocktails. Not what you normally expect to find in an afternoon tea at a swanky Kensington hotel. But The Franklin's gone bold — and it's worked.

The Mexican afternoon tea pays homage to artist Frida Kahlo, tying in with the current Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A across the road. What could have been a token attempt at jumping on the Kahlo bandwagon — after all, we've already had the house, the mural and another afternoon tea — is a perfectly executed, stunningly presented meal that marries English tradition with Mexican culture seamlessly.

Among the muted, monotone dining room, our table really stands out. A South American style woven table runner adds a splash of colour, accompanied by a potted cactus duo to really drive the Mexican theme home. The food is served on a long platter, rather than the traditional afternoon tea stand, which really makes the colours pop. A lot of thought has gone into the presentation, but can the taste match up?

OK, so those octopus sandwiches aren't for everyone, but there's plenty to please seafood swervers. The chicken and guacamole sandwiches are somewhat moreish, and even the ricotta and pepper sandwiches manage to turn this lifelong pepper hater with their creamy-crunchy combo.

Deliciously crumbly to the point of biscuity, any attempt to the slice the warm scones is a futile one. Instead, let them crumble and melt the lemon curd onto the lime scones, before moving onto the chocolate and banana offerings with your more traditional jam and cream.

Forget cupcakes and Victoria sponges — the desserts here are far from tame. The psychedelic fruit salad, painstakingly finely chopped, is the ideal palate cleanser before moving onto the deliciously sticky flan de cajeta, a dulce de leche type pudding that oozes toffee goodness.

The churros bring us firmly back into (messy) Mexican territory, and even the chocolate canvas — printed with an image of Kahlo herself — have a kick provided by the chilli praline.

Whatever your thoughts on the idea behind a pricey afternoon tea dedicated to Frida Kahlo, the team at The Franklin deserve recognition for flawlessly producing a traditional afternoon tea with a Mexican twist, presenting it beautifully and without a single dud note.

Frida Kahlo afternoon tea, The Franklin London - Starhotels Collezione, 34 Egerton Gardens, South Kensington, SW3 2DB. Booking required. £35 per person, or £50 including tickets to the V&A's Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up exhibition.

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A library near Leicester Square will lend you a telescope, free of charge, for up to 14 days.

Westminster Reference Library will hand over the instrument to anyone who pre-books, and is aged over 18 with a Westminster library card.

It's not what you might expect from a library off Leicester Square. The area is more often associated with stars of the red-carpet variety. The closest many come to astronomy in these parts is to lie in the gutter looking at the stars, perhaps after drinking a quasi-Stella object at the Moon Under Water pub.

Yet the library has strong and unexpected links to stargazing, for it is built on the site of Isaac Newton's house. Newton, who lived here from 1710 to 1727, was the first to construct a reflecting telescope. He maintained an observatory on the roof of his home — back when the skies of London were not so floodlit.

The idea of lending out telescopes comes from America, where amateur astronomer Marc Stowbridge launched a scheme that now runs across 100 libraries. Westminster Lending Library, with its Newtonian links, is an apt place to start a UK initiative. Just bear in mind that you'll need to lug the 8kg instrument home from central London.

For details of how to borrow the telescope, see Westminster Reference Library's website. Look out for regular astronomical events at the library.

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The master at work

Do you remember the last busker you saw on the tube? There's a chance they remember you. If you had any kind of interaction with me, I would. If you smile, wave, cover your ears or sing along, I'll record it.

One such notable interaction occurred at Leicester Square on a Saturday afternoon during a bog-standard rendition of Bruno Mars's The Lazy Song. It has a catchy chorus which is preceded by the line, "I said it 'cause I can!".

Just as I started the "...I can", I noticed a huge group of school kids approach my busking pitch, staring with huge grins on their faces. As they approached, I watched in slow motion as their mouths opened. They all took deep breaths and in a moment my one-man performance was joined by a chorus of voices in perfect sync and harmony and we became an unexpected choir right there on the Underground.

Afterwards, they told me they'd come from Croatia on a school trip. These kind of experiences are the reason I busk. But I'm also driven by the sense of accomplishment, encouragement, and extra pocket money that comes from a good session.

Outside of my day job, my extra-curricular activities are songwriting, stand-up comedy and playing music on the London Underground as a licensed busker. Like several buskers, I'm armed with a guitar, portable amp and microphone, and I spend two hours at a time playing a mixture of covers and original songs.

A small excerpt from my spreadsheet.

However, unlike most buskers, I make a record of every performance: details of each one goes onto a spreadsheet through a simple web form on my phone, which is on tube Wi-Fi and attached to my microphone stand. I record the song title, the performance quality (in my opinion), the number of people who tipped, and the total estimated value of all the tips to the nearest 50p. I also have a field for notes, in case anything interesting or unusual happens.

I've been recording this detail since November 2017, and in that time I've done 473 individual performances over 25 sessions, which means about 19 songs per session on average.

Amazingly, two original songs make this chart.

I've also played 29 unique tunes (covers and originals) over that period. Of those 29 songs, the three which perform best by average number of tippers are Yellow by Coldplay, Don't Look Back in Anger by Oasis and Torn by Natalie Imbruglia — pedants: I know her version is a cover.

All this data is heavily influenced by which songs I enjoy playing, as well as how popular a song is.

Torn makes up for 14.4% of my total earnings — not only is it a crowd-pleaser, but I really enjoy playing it. Yellow doesn't even get a label on the pie chart of total earnings as it's such a small contributor; I don't play it much.

I also rank busking pitches by their lucrativeness. South Kensington (Pitch 1), in the tunnel which leads to the nearby museums, has the best average hourly earnings. But Tottenham Court Road (Pitch 2) is responsible for the highest hourly earnings I've ever made at £32.72.

The difference between average and highest hourly earnings at a station can be huge.

It's early days, but I've played at 50% of the pitches on the network and I'm always trying to repeat pitches to build up a more representative sample. Nonetheless, I can already use the data I have to guide my decisions.

So, next time you walk past a busker on the tube, singing Yellow and Torn on an endless loop, consider that your interaction with them could influence the choice of song they play next. Smile, wave, cover your ears or sing along, and if you can, chuck in some pocket change.

You can find out more about Dan's busking adventures, via his blog, Youtube channel and tweeting @basicallydan.

By Dan Hough

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