Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Longer Life

So, one in five of us currently living in the UK are likely to survive beyond the age of 100. I didn’t sign up for this kind of nonsense. If I were still active, independent and financially viable (all three, of course, two out of three is not acceptable) then I suppose that I could live with it, but that seems increasingly unlikely. Housing and employment (yes, employment, we are surely going to be expected to work longer) issues are bound to raise their ugly heads. Plus, pensions and NHS resources are already stretched to the limit with no great prospect of things improving.

I think, perhaps, that the biblical idea of “three score years and ten” is cutting things a little too short in the modern era, “and twenty” seems more reasonable, but “and thirty” is really starting to push your luck.

Who knows what the overall impact will be in global terms and, more importantly, what knee jerk reactions will be contemplated by the authorities of the future. The realities of Soylent Green and Logan's Run are beginning to seem less and less outrageous as the years march on!

Interestingly, it seems that Japan is already experiencing problems related to excessive longevity. Is this something that we will all have to live with in the future?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

10 Rillington Place

There have been a number of notable killers associated with the Royal Borough of Kensington (and Chelsea!). From the John Haig, the Acid Bath Murderer to Neville Heath, the sadist but perhaps the most famous of all is John Reginald Halliday Christie . Even if you’re not familiar with the name you will probably know his address.

10 Rillington Place is one of the most notorious locations in London and was the scene of eight murders between 1943 and 1953.

As a local, I have always been fascinated by the events that took place in this house. Despite the fact that much of the story predates my birth and that Christies life ended on the gallows in Pentonville Prison before I reached my second birthday, it was still part of the local folklore when I was at primary school. That was probably helped by the fact that my school was not much more than a 10 minute walk from the scene.

In the 1961 book of the same name, Ludovic Kennedy publicised what he saw as the terrible miscarriage of justice associated with this address. Although the true facts are still unclear, this did eventually lead to the posthumous pardoning of a man executed for one of the murders.

I have deliberately avoided going into the details of this fascinating, and controversial, case. If you are at all interested, I would recommend reading 10 Rillington Place by Ludovic Kennedy. Plus there is a great deal more information (and, of course, misinformation) available on the internet.

For a very real sense of the time and the place of these events visit 

Thursday, 9 December 2010

John Lennon

Just a thought………………..on this day, 30 years ago, I was in Indianapolis, Indiana. on the final leg of a two month trip around the States. I woke in my motel room to hear of the death of John Lennon. I had, inevitably , been a fan of the Beatles (the Stones too, just to destroy the myth that you could only like one band or the other) and I also liked much of his solo work, but I wouldn’t have described myself as a hardcore Lennon fan.

A little while later, I found myself driving down the road with tears streaming down my face, not entirely for the death of the man but, perhaps, for the death of something much deeper. At that point I was no longer a youth, in fact I was rapidly approaching my 29th birthday, but the shocking news seemed trigger the realisation that things had changed and would never be quite the same again.

So, what’s my point? Nothing of any significance really. It’s just that in recent years I had always
 believed that I had become sentimental as I’d grown older. Perhaps I was wrong and, in reality, I always have been.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

One New Change!

I really don’t want to go over old ground as my opinion of this developement has been covered here and here but I just wanted to round things off by commenting on the view from the building rather than the unredeemable view of it!

I think that I was particularly lucky with the timing of my visit. I had intended to get there in full daylight but best laid plans and all that………..the light was rapidly fading by the time I walked in between the legs of the building. I took the glass lift, conveniently located in the building's crotch, directly up to the terrace area.

The southern area is relatively small and disappointing It has a quite tall and steeply angled glass wall, presumably to prevent you throwing yourself off in desperation. However, the northern section is something else altogether. Angular and sloping down towards St Paul’s, it really is quite dramatic. As you walk down towards the west, the focus of your attention really is the great dome of St P’s but there is so much more. The wall on this section is of a much more manageable height and, although you do get a view to the north the thing that really grabs you is the vista to the south.

As I said, I was very lucky with the timing. It was very cold, the sky was crystal clear, deep blue and heading towards black. South London was lighting up and never looked better. It really was something to be seen.
I suppose that, at some time, I will have to go back to see what it looks like in broad daylight, but I doubt that it will have the impact of that first visit.

 My opinion of the rest of the building has not changed. There are shops and restaurants, if that is your kind of thing, but I can only recommend the terrace as being worthy of your time. If you are passing, do go up and take a look.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Take Your Camera Out At Night

Cameras are not just for sunny days, high days and holidays. They are for use all year round, at any time of the day or night and this is the perfect time of the year to use it on the streets and after dark.
I suppose that if you want to do this properly, you really need to give it a great deal of thought, work out exactly what want from the shoot, plan your locations and equip yourself with a tripod, cable release or remote control and half a dozen other “useful” accessories ………………….. but to hell with that. Just get out there and shoot stuff!

 London is a fantastic place for night photography, although calling it night photography is a bit of a misnomer, sometimes twilight is the best time as the residual light gives some definition to the sky and helps to make the subject stand out from its background. Look around you as the light begins to fail and you will soon see suitable subjects appearing just about everywhere. Buildings illuminated either internally or externally. Featured lighting and at this time of year, in particular, Christmas decorations. Reflections in windows or on shiny surfaces and, of course, the river and its environs.

Start out just by using your camera’s auto setting and see how things work out. Then move on to trying the various program options.. Virtually every camera will have a night option, an obvious starting point, but try the other settings too. This is digital, you are not going to do the camera any harm, it won’t cost you anything and you can delete all of the pics that just don’t work.

A tripod is, of course, the ideal accessory for this kind of photography. As the light fails, shutter speeds inevitably get longer, and equally inevitably shaky hands begin to come into play, particularly as the weather gets colder. As useful as tripods are, they are a bit of a pain to haul around with you. Very often you can get away with hand holding (try breathing in deeply and slowly exhaling as you release the shutter, it sounds strange, but it really can help!). Otherwise try wedging yourself into a corner, resting your elbows on a wall or actually resting the camera on a solid surface. A small bean bag (either a purpose made item or a home made job) or even a rolled up wooly hat or a pair of gloves will help you to move the camera around to enable you to frame the shot properly. Just use a little imagination and try different ideas, you will eventually find what suits you. A small point to remember if you are shooting on a bridge is that bridges move and this movement will result in the blurring of your photograph. As heavy traffic passes you will feel the vibration under your feet just wait a few seconds until that traffic has passed. And then fire off the shot.

It is also worth considering what you intend to do with the photograph. If you only need small or low res images you can get away with a lot more than if you intend you intend to print at large sizes or view at full screen on a decent sized monitor.

The best thing to do is just try it. You’ll get some good shots and you’ll get some very bad shots but when you’ve had a few decent ones you may well find yourself hooked.

Have fun!

For more night shots click here

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Peeping Tom

There has been a great deal of fuss recently about the film Peeping Tom, mostly centred around the fact that its new release has been championed by Martin Scorsese. As I had only ever seen it on TV, I thought it would be a good idea to see it on a bigger screen, so I went to see it at Screen 5 of the Empire, Leicester Sq.

In a theatre of only 51 seats, I probably had the best. In the middle of the back row (there were only 5 rows!) with an aisle in front of me, so no heads to get in the way. The seats reclined backwards and were very comfortable. Initially, I thought it was going to be fairly empty but the punters spilled in during Pearl & Dean and in the end there were only a couple of empty seats. It was, however, at £12.95, vastly overpriced.

Despite being so small, the relative size of the screen and the seating positions meant that it was actually very similar to watching on a "proper" big screen.

It was pretty much as I remembered it. Very period, very stylised, even comic bookish (in fact it has the look of a graphic novel but from a time before such a thing existed, let alone a time when the cinema industry relies so heavily on them as source material!) and is somewhat overacted by modern standards. The colour process was extraordinary, adding to the overall sense of discomfort.

The film itself is an interesting idea, deeply flawed by the fact that this was a clearly unbalanced young man who insisted on drawing attention to himself by whipping out his cine camera at the most inappropriate moments It took most of the film before anyone noticed either of these things! Also, he had already moved far beyond being a peeping tom by the beginning of the film and had become what I suppose you could call a homicidal voyeur, but, then again, that wouldn’t have made such a snappy title!

The German accent of Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is unexplained and inexplicable as he grew up in the same house in which he eventually died and the sheer naivety of Helen Stevens (Anna Massey) would be unacceptable were it not for the fact that in the real world there are something like 150 British Women engaged to men on Death Row in the US! All other cast members played their parts with varying degrees of subtlety, but none of them played the parts with too much! Moira Shearer just looked great!

Extremely controversial in its day and resulting in the end of director Michael Powell’s, previously illustrious, career. It remains an interesting, though uncomfortable, film.

It was certainly worth seeing on the big screen during this 50th anniversary season.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Another Royal Wedding

It was announced yesterday that Prince William is to marry his long term girlfriend Kate Middleton (now to be referred to as Catherine, apparently. As if that’s going to happen!). I wish them both well but what a terrible situation to be in. He has grown up with the inevitability of this thing happening but just how prepared can she be for taking on this job, because a job is what it is.

The intense curiosity of the public and the intrusive probing of the press has already gone into overdrive and will only get worse as the event approaches and that, of course, is just the beginning. The pressures on the relationship are, and will continue to be, immense. William has had a privileged, though very public, upbringing and by all accounts Ms Middleton hasn’t done too badly in that area either, but I doubt that anything could really prepare her for what is to come.

 It does appear that William is a very different man to his father and seems to be more grounded in reality. He also has the dubious advantage of witnessing, first hand, what media pressure did to his parents relationship. In hindsight, of course, it is clear that that was never a marriage made in heaven. I just hope that all of this will help them find a way to get through the next few years. 

Don’t make the mistake of believing that I’m overly sympathetic to their situation. Nor do I have a strong opinion, either way, about the monarchy, but you certainly can believe that I am glad to have never been in a similar position to this particular couple.

They really do have an incredible challenge facing them, but us lesser mortals also have to face up to a major reality. We are all going to have to live with this thing being thrust down our throats every day until they eventually trundle down the aisle and even then, the media machine will simply change gear and stride off in a slightly different direction.

There is a precedent!

Oh well, we can at least hope that the day of the wedding will be a public holiday and that is always something to look forward to.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

St Paul’s……and One New Change, Revisited

Yesterday I visited St Paul’s Cathedral, which was allowing free entry as part of the celebration of the Lord Mayors Show. In a former post, I complained about being charged for entry whilst, at the same time being denied permission to take photographs here. With the exception of the Whispering Gallery, photo denial had been suspended for the day, which made me very happy. The day was also enlivened by several recitals of Peter and the Wolf narrated by Jo Brand to a very appreciative audience.

I’m not sure what the problem was in the Whispering Gallery. Perhaps they thought we would be so overcome by the view that we would throw ourselves, or our cameras, over the guard rail, thereby spoiling the day for some, or livening it up for others. Whatever the reason, it was heavily policed by the red coated guardians, one of whom even suggested that I might like to desist from texting until I was back outside the building!

Although we were denied access to the Golden Gallery, the Cathedral’s highest viewpoint, we were allowed up to the Stone Gallery, which encircles the base of the Dome. Despite it being a generally gloomy day, the views from there are breathtaking (quite literally, for the less fit amongst us!). And well worth the effort. There is, however, a fly in the ointment. Looking to the East, you find your self gazing down on the building that calls itself One New Change.

I have said before that I do not like this building here, I can now confirm, that it looks even worse from above than it does from ground level. Uncompromisingly ugly and with no symmetry or grace. It has been suggested that it’s two pronged ground plan is an open legged gesture, flashing it’s private parts to it’s surroundings. Or perhaps it’s a cuckold gesture relating to it’s relationship with the City and the Church. To me, it just seems to be sticking up two fingers to all of us. Perhaps it's just an elaborate and very expensive joke. Whatever.  It really should not be there.

Enough of all that, I think. I was pleased to visit St Paul’s again, It is a beautiful building and, niggles aside, should be seen by everyone.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

I Love Fireworks

Last night I went to see the firework display in Battersea Park. I have to admit that I still have a childlike love of fireworks. I can’t really see the point of a back garden display, unless of course you have a garden the size of Alexandra Park. I suppose that kids like to see these things in a familiar environment but there really is nothing to compare with a good organised display.

At the end of September, the closing act of the Thames Festival was an after dark carnival parade finished off with fireworks over the Thames (a brilliant event, well worth putting in your diary). Displays over water are, I think, particularly effective, you not only get the air bursts but you also get the reflections on the water surface. On our river, you can also throw in the way that the familiar buildings are lit on either bank, to me that make things pretty well perfect.

The other thing about organised displays is that they are amazing value for money). I don’t know what a box of Standard or Pains fireworks costs these days, but what ever it is you really don’t get many bangs for your bucks. Many organised displays are free, and usually with some sort of charity collection associated with them, but even if you have to pay they represent a good a return for your cash. The Battersea display had an adult entry price of £6.00 and the display lasted 20 minutes. Even with my rudimentary grasp of maths I have been able to work that out as 30p per minute. Who can complain about that?

It was a very fine display orchestrated by Pains, accompanied by good music, a very warming bonfire and in an excellent location. A splendid time was had by all!

Sadly, some excellent displays have dropped off of the calendar over the last few years. One of my lost favourites being Primrose Hill, a fantastic location. With the backdrop of our favourite city, to my mind it couldn’t be beaten. Inevitably, some more displays have been cancelled this year due to the current economic situation and this may become more of a problem as time goes on.

 Apologies for the sound quality!

On the 13th November, the Lord Mayors Show takes place in the City of London. This will also be rounded off by a free firework display, launched from barges on the Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge (the same location as used for the Thames Festival)

Guess where I will be next Saturday?

 ............and then, end the day with a bang, always sound advice in my experience!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Experiments In Light and Motion

Pretentious title, oh yes, but not a pretentious subject. There are all kinds of arguments among “serious” photographers, for and against digital cameras, but as I don’t fit into the serious category I won’t be going into them here.

For me, digital was a revelation and rekindled my interest in photography. It gave me the freedom to wander the streets taking pics of anything and everything that catches my eye without spending a fortune on film and processing and most importantly without having to wait to check the results. It also gave me the freedom to experiment.

All photography should be fun and as well as taking conventional pics, I do like to play with light. It doesn’t take a great deal of effort and , providing your camera has some form of manual control, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Any SLR and many compact cameras will allow you to set a long exposure time. All you need then is a dark place and a light source.

Forget the rule book, point your camera at the light source, press the button and move the camera while the shutter is open, simple. If you have a manual zoom, use it while the shutter is open. Be adventurous and do both at the same time. You can even hold the zoom ring steady and rotate the camera instead. Experiment with different shutter speeds and apertures. It doesn’t really matter, providing you don’t drop it, none of this is going to do the camera any harm, and if you don’t like the results just delete them.

If you want to go a little further, try using your camera in a moving vehicle, or fix the camera on a tripod and move the light source instead. The possibilities are endless

On the whole, the results are unpredictable but that is part of the fun and with some practice you can give the pictures some sort of form.

Just try it, you might like it!

There are more examples in my Motion Set here

Thursday, 28 October 2010

One New Change

The City of London’s first large shopping centre opened today. It is situated at the eastern end of St Paul’s Cathedral and is, to my mind, an eyesore. Completely disregarding its surroundings, it squats there, a mass of uncoordinated angles and, dirty looking, brown glass. 

I have no problem with modern buildings. The blend of old and new is part of what makes the City such a wonderful place to explore, but I have watched, with dismay, this thing growing, like some kind of fungal infestation, along side one of the Worlds greatest buildings, What can the planners have been thinking?

Is a shopping centre really needed here, I’m not really qualified to comment, but I suspect not. The City is really quite well endowed with shops serving the needs of its denizens. Lumping more of them together under one roof probably isn’t going to improve their lives.

I have been told that “hate” is a word I use too freely to describe things that I really don’t like and that is a fair comment, but I am very close to hating this building. In deference to the sensibilities of my friend, I will just say that I intensely dislike One New Change.

Of course there is a ringer in the camp, isn‘t there always? It does appear to serve one useful purpose for someone like me. There is a roof terrace with, apparently, excellent views of the City and St Paul’s. Will I swallow my pride and actually visit this roof terrace. Of course I will, I can’t resist a high view point and have a very basic need to point my camera at everything and from every angle, well, almost everything, but is it likely to change my view of the whole development? I very much doubt it.

I suppose the clincher is that it’s there. I don’t wish them ill, nobody wants to see a business fail but on the whole I wish it hadn’t been built.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Turning The World Upside Down Revisited

This visit took place on a changeable day and immediately after a short, sharp rain shower. The result of this as that the character of the pieces had changed. 

On this day, the least interesting of the group was, surprisingly, the large Sky Mirror. Although still impressive in itself, the even sky tone left it looking a bit flat.

In my last post I suggested that Non Object (Spire) was the least successful of the four pieces. I was wrong. Perhaps it’s just growing on me, but I now think that it actually sits very well in it’s surroundings and that it’s complex shape throws up some very interesting reflections. It even has the ability to reflect itself.

Along with all the other pieces, C-Curve was covered with an even coating of raindrops. This had the effect of softening the reflections. The wet concrete plinth also became a reflective surface, giving another aspect to the whole thing but the most interesting result of the wet surface was that, with a bit of a squint and a lot of imagination, the convex rear surface gave an almost pointillist view of the world. Seurat would (possibly) have loved it!

C-Curve continues to be the most entertaining. We never seem to tire of seeing ourselves in a mirror, and if that mirror gives an unreal view, then so much the better. There is much fun to be had here!

Lastly there is Sky Mirror, Red. By the time we reached the Round Pond the sky had changed to a cloudless blue. This resulted in the mirror turning from a searing red to a far more subtle purple. I’m not sure why this surprised me………….but it did. It wasn’t an unpleasant surprise!

This exhibition definitely rewards multiple visits.
An Afterthought Revisited

In my original post, I complained about the Hi Viz jackets that had been issued to the security guys. I’m very pleased to say that my advice has been heeded and that they are now wearing, far more acceptable, black jackets. OK, it may not have been my advice that they were taking but who cares, the end result is a definite improvement.

After the Afterthought Revisited

The maintenance vehicles were also out of sight. Again, I suspect that this had nothing to do with my earlier comments but they were worth making anyway!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern

Has the World gone mad?

On Tuesday the latest exhibition in the Tate Modern’s Unilever Series opened to the public. The piece by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei consist of 100 million hand made, hand painted, porcelain sunflower seeds spread over the floor of the Turbine Hall. Unusually for an artwork, visitors were able to touch, walk on, sit on or even lie on this extraordinary installation.

Sadly, it seems that there is an unanticipated dust issue and, in the name of Health and Safety, we are no longer able to interact with this artwork.

At the time of posting, this was the latest statement from the Tate’s website

Update: Friday 15 October 2010 

Although porcelain is very robust, we have been advised that the interaction of visitors with the sculpture can cause dust which could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time. In consequence, Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow members of the public to walk across the sculpture.

The installation is currently viewable from the Turbine Hall bridge. Revisit this page for updates.

Please do not remove any of the seeds.

The request not to remove any of the seeds seems slightly superflous, given that if you are not near enough to breath in the dust, you are probably not near enough to grab a handful of seeds and leg it out through the doors, avoiding rugby tackling security bods on the way!

The problem, if there actually is one, would largely apply to the staff who spend their day raking the thing into shape. They have been supplied with masks to protect their health. I suspect that the average visitor would inhale less dust than they would walking along Oxford Street………..and would spend less time doing so!

It seems to me that if you are not allowed to make any kind of contact then all you are left with is a statistic. I accept that 100 million hand made items, spread out before you, is pretty impressive, but it is just a statistic.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able see it yet, but a friend, who visited yesterday, made the point that looking at it over a barrier was like “looking at an empty parking lot”.

Updates and more information on the artist and his work can be found here

To return to my original question. The answer is, of course, yes!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Does Anyone Really Understand The London Postal District Boundaries?

The boundaries are a bit of a mystery. Sometimes they make sense but quite often they don't. They frequently meander around with no apparent regard for development or geography and occasionally they rampage across the landscape , cherry picking specific locations for no apparent reason. Perhaps there are logistical requirements, spreading out the workloads of the poor beleaguered posties. Or perhaps it's all a big Post Office in joke. Who really knows?

You do have to ask yourself, just why it is necessary for Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to be in five different postal districts? Surely, it would have made sense for the boundary to follow the perimeter of the parks. It was hardly going to tax the resources of any one district, but no, the parks are unevenly divided between W1, W2, W8, SW1 and SW7, with the lines curving and twisting through the parks. The Serpentine, for instance, largely belongs to W2, but SW7 takes a bite out of its southern shore. The main north south boundary on the western side of the parks deviates to take most of the Round Pond into W8 but still manages to leave part of it behind in W2!

There are examples of this strangeness all over London, if you care to look. In reality, of course, it makes very little difference to our lives, but it is nice to know that this City so often seems to find a way to avoid conforming to what most people would consider to be logical…………….and I like that!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Thoughts From the Launderette - Pt 1

Why the launderette? Well firstly, my washing machine has had enough and is refusing to wash another load, Secondly, I have no enthusiasm for shopping for white goods, thirdly, the launderette is close to home, clean and I’ve never had to wait for a machine. So, why the thoughts? I usually bring a book but 30 minutes is a frustratingly short time with any book that’s worth reading, so I thought I’d try something different to pass the time.

For the last couple of weeks I have been carrying around paper and a pencil. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have this idea that there is an artist hiding in there, struggling to get out. A friend assures me that, with patience and care, anyone can produce an acceptable sketch but so far there is no evidence that this is true. I have tried landscape, architecture, still life and figure (the last from memory, but my memory isn’t that good ;-) but they all seem to come out looking more or less the same. If any of them came out looking like any of the subjects it wouldn’t be too bad. Sadly that isn’t the case. It’s said that there is always an exception that proves the rule. Well, I think that I am it.

So for the time being, I will be content to snap a few snaps and scribble down the odd piece of nonsense, in the hope that the artist will one day make an appearance.

By the way, did I mention that there is also an author and a musician lurking in there. That’s more people than there are in this launderette at the moment……………strange huh?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Turning The World Upside Down

On Monday I went to take a look at the new exhibition in Kensington Gardens. Turning The World Upside Down consists of four, highly polished, stainless steel sculptures by Anish Kapoor. I have to confess that I have a large dollop of magpie DNA somewhere in my genetic make up. I love shiny things, not your common or garden bling you understand, but reflective surfaces that disturb and distort the world around them. I can’t pass a convex security mirror without pointing my camera at it, so it was inevitable that this would draw me in.

Two of the pieces are concave mirrors, angled slightly upwards, they are designed to suck in and concentrate the sky. The larger Sky Mirror is around 10.6 metres in diameter and has formerly been set up in New York and Brighton. In London, it’s placed on the east bank of the Long Water where it can take advantage of the setting sun, and even in Mondays watery overcast it was reflecting a constantly changing pattern of light and shade.

The smaller, east facing, Sky Mirror is set a couple of metres into the Round Pond. It has been given a red coating which seems to improve the contrast between sky and cloud (a bit like using a red filter with B&W film perhaps). As well as reflecting a rosy sky, it looks pretty good mirrored on the surface of the pond and stands out beautifully against the backdrop of Kensington Palace.

Non-Object (Spire) is a tall, concave sided, cone. For me, this was (marginally) the least successful of the four pieces. Undeniably beautiful in its own right, I found its reflective qualities a little lacking, although I suspect that a blue sky and some autumnal colours will pretty quickly demolish that opinion.

The final piece is the 7.7 metre wide C-Curve. The convex outer surface gives you a mighty, slightly curvy panorama, dotted with tiny figures and with Kensington Palace in the far, very far, distance. The concave inner surface is a whole different ball game. The images are largely, though by no means wholly, inverted. The landscape is compressed. Figures are stretched and distorted. Moving a foot either backwards or forwards, of from side to side, will change the view completely. It’s difficult to walk away, just in case you’ve missed something……………………but perhaps that’s just me.

Monday was not the day to see them at their best, yet they were still impressive. They will remain in Kensington Gardens until the 13th March, so it will be interesting to see them on blue sky days, autumnal days, winter days, sunset evenings and sunrise mornings. Not to mention the effect of the reds and golds, bare branches and fresh green growth.
I’m lucky, I live near by and I think that I’ll be a frequent visitor. Maybe I’ll see you there!

An Afterthought

In the unlikely event that someone from the Serpentine Gallery or the Royal Parks should read this, could you please do something about the Security Guards. I accept that, sadly, it is necessary to have security, but given the nature of the works would it be possible to provide them with more subdued jackets!

After the Afterthought

Hiding, or disguising, the maintenance vehicles parked by the Sky Mirror would also be greatly appreciated!

There are more pics on my Flickr photostream.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Open House and the Pope

I hadn't planned to comment on the Pope's visit to London, after all I'm really not really qualified, either by religion or interest, to do so. However, it turns out that the timing is appalling for London fans.

The 18th and 19th  September is Open House London. Probably the most important weekend of the year for anyone with an interest in the buildings of the Capital. It's your chance to dip into the realms of big business, the law, education, religion and government. To step through the doors of large organisations, to see the glory of the Livery halls and to peep behind the curtains of private dwellings. It is a brilliant event.

The really difficult thing is to plan  how to make the most of each day. Some locations are only open for a few hours, or for only one of the days. Some need to be booked in advance and some are so popular that you need to be prepared to queue, or to have a back up plan and perhaps try again next year!

The fly in the ointment this year is the Pope's visit. Saturday in Central London is likely to be a bit of a 'mare. Road closures and transport diversions in the Victoria area during the day will have a knock on effect on the surrounding areas.

The major road closures around Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch and Knightsbridge are not due to kick in until 5.00pm but be prepared for the problems to start earlier than that!

About 80,000 "pilgrims" are expected to gather for the vigil in Hyde Park. That's a lot of extra coaches coming into town and a lot of extra bus and tube travellers coming in on an already busy day for the transport system. Check the TFL website for (hopefully) up to date information.

So be aware. Be prepared for the disruption, but most of all, don't let the Pope's visit spoil your enjoyment of an awesome (did I really say awesome :-) event.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Chinese Birth Signs

Prompted by seeing Bringing the Bones to Life, a project by artist Mark Coreth, details here . A friend mentioned that she was a Tiger and a Leo.

I knew that I was a Capricorn as far as western astrology is concerned, not too much to be excited about there, but had no idea where I fitted in with regards to Chinese tradition, so I thought that I’d better check it out. I had visions of being something powerful and magnificent, yet strangely vulnerable, a rhino perhaps or a blue whale. Imagine my disappointment when I found that I was born in the Year of the Rabbit! Fine creatures though they are, cute, cuddly and a fantastic ingredient for a stew, they really don’t sit well with my own, obviously, inflated vision of me!

It does seem that rabbits do have many redeeming qualities, horoscope wise, but to be honest I care as much about that as I do about being a Capricorn. It’s all nonsense to me. So why do I now feel oddly deflated and completely let down by both eastern and western traditions.

Will I learn to live with it………..probably. Will it forever sit in the back of my mind waiting to hit me on a particularly bad day…………….possibly, or will I forget about it by the end of the week……….most likely.

Catch me on a that bad day to find out!

My photographs or the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei can be found here.

There is a great deal about the Chinese Horoscope on the internet, but for a quick run down click here.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

St Katherine's Dock

Today I am at St Katherines Dock For the Thames Revival. This is a jolly affair, part of the two day Thames Festival. The dock is full of classic  sailing boats and cruisers and there are lots of people about dressed in period costumes getting fully into the spirit of the thing, but this is not what I'm writing about today.

The thing is, I thought I was at St Katherine's Dock, but as a friend pointed out this morning, it's not St Katherine's Dock at all. In actual fact these are the St Katharine Docks. A small point perhaps but one that goes to show that I'm not anywhere near as knowledgeable as I  thought  I was. To be fair, my friend, who is probably the most observant person I know, only uncovered this piece of information recently. So I don't feel that bad about it

I was born and have lived in London all my life and I'm still only scratching the surface of this incredible city. As I've got older every trip out has become an adventure. There is always something new (or better still, old) to see and so much to find out

Everything  to learn and so little time to learn it in.................but it is exciting....................isn't it?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

St Paul's Cathedral

I'm posting this from the steps of St Paul's where, once again I have baulked at spending £12.50 to go into a church. I completely understand that these places cost an arm and a leg to maintain and I don't object to making a voluntary donation to help to maintain the fabric of the building but I think it's fundamentally wrong to charge entrance to a place of worship.

I should make my position clear. I don't have any personal religious beliefs, but I do like a church! I like the look of them and I like the feel of them and I like the history associated with them but really it stops there. If I had religious conviction, I'm pretty sure that I would object to an admission charge! Apparently, genuine worshippers do get in free, although I'm not sure exactly how you prove that you are genuine!

I haven't been into St Paul's or Westminster Abbey for many years, which is a real shame, they are both beautiful and fascinating buildings and I have no doubt that I will put aside my principles, hand over the cash and step over the threshold again...........eventually.

I do have another issue with both Westminster and St Paul's. The powers that be don't allow photographs to be taken within their walls. Is it because they want us to buy postcards, slides and books at the inevitable gift shop or is it that the taking of photographs in some way desecrates the sanctity of the building. I don't know, but if it's the latter, there does seem to be some inconsistency within the Church of England. Most churches have no problem with photography. Some of the other Cathedrals charge a modest fee for a "licence" to take pictures, which presumably offsets the losses in the gift shop as well as dealing with the issue of desecration. I don't have a problem with this. I do have a problem with not being able to take photographs at all. I'm a compulsive snapper. I like to record where I have been. This is not for glory or financial gain but in effect records the passage of my life. It is important to me.

Perhaps that is what really niggles me about paying to visit St Paul's. All of the pain, but none of the gain!

As I write this the bells have just started pealing, a wonderful sound..............or it would be if the joker accompanying the Mayors Skyride, which has swamped the City with flourescent clad cyclists, hadn't turned up the volume of his sound system to compete with them.

Oh well, time to move on.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

It's All Over...................

...............for another year and, I think, a great time was had by all. The crowds turned out, the weather eventually came good and the masqueraders had a ball. What more can you ask?

Carnival is an organic thing. It changes from year to year. This pleases some people and upsets others, a bit like real life really. The route is no longer circular but has a defined start and finish. It now travels clockwise instead of anticlockwise (I still can't get used to this!) and there are now definite start and finish times. The days when bands were still circulating and the sound systems were still grinding it out at midnight are now long gone.Whether any of this is a good thing depends on your point of view but it seems to me that there is a danger of it becoming too sanitised.

Plans to move the whole thing  into a park have been, and should continue to be, resisted. It is what it is and what it is, is a street festival (that's a lot of it's and is's, but you know what I mean!). Taking it out of it's natural home would kill it.

Yes, it causes massive disruption. Yes, the streets are filled almost beyond their bursting point. Yes, it is seriously inconvenient for some residents.............but Yes, it is a fantastic event and long may it continue.

For more photographs, go to my Flickr Photostream and click on the Notting Hill Carnival 2010 set in the top right hand corner.................and while you're there why not have a look at some of my other pics. You never know, you may see something else you like!

For more videos of the Visual Sound of Carnival go to

Monday, 30 August 2010

Monday Morning At Carnival

It's a little after 11.00 on Bank Holiday Monday and I can hear the first of the Mas Bands approaching, the static sound systems haven't started up yet but that's not far away, from then on it's visceral sound and colour for the rest of the day.

Sunday, as usual was a slightly lower key affair. Traditionally known as Childrens Day, it has smaller crowds and less restrictions on pedestrian movement and is a good day for the smaller masqueraders to strut their stuff on the streets. The weather was a bit changeable and we had some rain but it didn't seem to dampen anyones spirits.

It is no less noisy and colourful than the Monday event and if, in the future, you are thinking of coming to Carnival for the first time, consider coming on Sunday.........especially if you have young kids or are worried about the crowds.

I was out earlier today and preparations were already under way. Ice was being delivered, food was being cooked. Bars, barriers and sound systems were being set up. The weather looks as if it's going to play the game. It should be a good day.


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Carnival - A Jurassic Park Moment

I like Carnival.............but sometimes when you are indoors and the whole place is vibrating, it is nice to fight your way out through the crowds and find somewhere quiet to sit and think.

This is not a complaint, I have lived just inside the Carnival route for over 25 years (I was born and grew up just outside of it's western fringes). It was here before me and hopefully will still be here after I have passed on, but I can understand why so many long term residents don't like it. If you are an outsider you can chose to come. If you live here, it comes to you whether you like it or not.

For many older or less able residents the weekend becomes something of a siege. If they are inside they can't get out and if the  are outside they can't get back in!  It is a difficult time for them.

What does p... me off  though is someone who has recently moved into the area, knowing this is an annual event, but still complains about how inconvenient it all is. I do understand, of course how frustrating it must be not being able to get the massively oversized 4x4 up to the house so that the nanny can load Tarquin and Penelope in and take them out of your life for a couple of hours, but that is a fact of Notting Hill life!

These people remind me of the types who buy a house under the flightpath to Heathrow and then complain about the aircraft disturbing their peace and quiet.

The video was shot, in my flat, during last years event and was an attempt to show just how visceral the whole thing is. You really don't just see and here Carnival, you feel it too! If the video won't play, try viewing it here -

Anyway, as usual, I will spend some time out in the crowds, some time indoors trying to stop the books falling off my shelves and some time somewhere a little more peaceful.

If you come along, have a good time. If you don't, then at least think of coming next year. You should experience it at least once in your life.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The first post, better than it being the last I suppose.

Well, Carnival is nearly upon us. The parking restriction signs have been up for a while now, shops are being boarded up, traffic islands moved, stacks of steel barriers are appearing on street corners. Vast quantities of food and drink have been bought and every masquerader, band member, stallholder, food seller and party goer is  just waiting for the weather to cooperate.

Some people move out, the majority stay and others just have no choice. It's not a simple as loving it or hating it, there's more to it than that.

Enough for now. I've popped my blogging cherry, which is a bit of a relief but I'll be back with more to say about Carnival very soon.