Joined August 2018 Message
  • Day366

    The year round, round the Shard

    March 7 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    It's been a full year since my return from Mexico, and quite an extraordinary one. Lockups, lockdowns.....spring is arriving and with it, some hope that the plague that has impacted so many people and the restrictions that have affected all, may be receding.

    Going round in time as we have, I decided to go round in place, seeing the London Bridge Tower from all angles. Now known as the Shard, it was completed in 2012. The tallest building in the UK and rising to 1,012 feet (310 metres), its pencil-like profile punches the skyline from all points of the compass.

    It's nice to position it with other tall buildings, new and old. No. 1 is a view from Waterloo Bridge, including another nicknamed building, the Boomerang on the left, and the Art Deco Oxo Tower. In 2 it rises behind the Greek Revival tower of Trinity Church in Southwark. No. 3 is a view from the waterfront of the City, and 4 is from Tower Bridge, itself a monument of great appeal. No. 5 returns me to Leathermarket Gardens in Southwark, which I found last spring when the trees were in blossom, while 6 is downstream in Rotherhithe which used to be an important shipping quarter and now provides a pleasant amble along the Thames Path.

    Yes, 2020/21 has been a most peculiar year but not all bad: I've discovered a lot about myself, and others........and London.
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  • Day354

    Green shoots, yellow blooms

    February 23 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    We are almost in full circle and the seasons pass with proud unconcern for lockups and lockdowns. Earlier in the month we had what was dubbed (why do people only write "dubbed" but never say it?) the Baltic Beast. Now in late February the weather has become much milder---practically spring already.

    My local area is not shy to proclaim the approach of spring. Walcot Square (which is actually triangular) has a lovely collection of what would have been artisans' cottages. They are now much sought after, in estateagentese, even though they come down with a bump with the big high-rise at the Elephant at the end. Courtenay Square (no. 2) is another exquisite little garden that looks Georgian but is actually an Edwardian revival. No. 3 is a detail of Bonnington Square, an oasis of peace from the traffic horror of Vauxhall Cross. For 4 and 5, the camera is poked wistfully through the fencing to show an allotment for local gardeners.

    It comes to an end at this former churchyard, the wonderfully named Old Paradise Gardens, but even here there is life and the promise of spring.
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  • Day324

    January brings the snow

    January 24 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ❄️ 1 °C

    January is always a time for reflection on the past and planning for the future. Books are tremendous companions and I have used the hidden walks guide for many finds in forgotten corners of this city. "Leadville" is a quirky account of a road-widening scheme to Western Avenue, in which the author interviews the residents of houses along its route who were blighted by fears of a development which took years to happen. "Estuary" and "Mudlarking" reveal hidden treasures of our river---anywhere from Teddington Lock to Canvey Island. And the David Gentleman book has been an inspiration to explore the stucco terraces of Camden Town.

    The recent snowfall was a relatively mild one but shows a very different room with a view from my window, to that of last spring. Usually this weather brings on the fear of travel disruption but this time we're deeply in lockdown and there's nowhere to go outside one's immediate locality. But a five-minute walk takes me to the beautiful Cleaver Square, with residents and visitors making the most of it.
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  • Day301

    2020 revisited: Mexico comes to London

    January 1 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    2020 has finally been binned but the days of fledgling 2021 have been anxious too, with Covid cases rocketing and the hospitals under great pressure. Help is on the way with the Oxford vaccine joining the Pfizer jab into willing arms, if only it can come fast enough. The country is in a third lockdown with schools closed and all but essential shops open. It's going to be a hard grind to recover any normality.

    So a bit of nostalgia as I return to New Year 12 months ago with the annual parade in Westminster. Countries of the world proudly showcase their cultures: an Afro-Caribbean group here, a Chinese procession there. Latin America is prominent, with a Bolivian team giving a surreal but colourful air to the sober Houses of Parliament. And finally Mexico, a foretaste of the carnivals I am due to see only a few weeks ahead. Let's hope that next year they'll be able to perform again, both in their home country and in London.
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  • Day293

    London: Christmas past

    December 24, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    And now for something completely different. These oldies were taken in 1972 and 73 with a medium-format Rolleiflex---which I still have. The black and white film brings out the bleakness of the surroundings. They show a London which has changed in some ways while others have stayed the same. Thus the world-famous landmarks are intact but many of the surrounding scenes have gone.

    This was when I started to be fascinated by buildings ravaged by time, some of them so much so that they had to be destroyed. One can still find places like this in England but only in the north. Most of these were taken around what was then Docklands---Southwark (numbers 1 & 2) and Wapping (3, 4 & 5). Of course the sites have now been converted into shops, restaurants and bijou apartments. No. 5 shows a warehouse in St. Katherine's Dock where the fire might have been an insurance job. The final image is from Islington. The "LEB OFF" notice is not a command but advice that the electricity supply has been turned off.
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  • Day279

    Living up to its billing

    December 10, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    It's nice to spend a few days in a part of the country much less infected with Covid than the London area. The disease is still out there but the fear factor is reduced. Public transport is a safer option here and I take to the country buses---which are nearly empty anyway. So I board the X53 north-west towards West Bay from the previous trip. The first stop is the bucolic-named Burton Bradstock, a pretty village in warm-coloured stone. A track leads down to the beach, on the famed Jurassic coast. No fossils today, and an incoming tide that washes over my feet as I search for a composition, but a pleasant walk. Back towards Weymouth is another attractive village, Abbotsbury, known for its swannery (closed for the winter) and some more historic buildings making the best of the overcast weather.

    It's always nice to find something unexpected, as I do the next day on a bus ride towards Portland Bill, the southern tip of the Isle of Portland. Linked to the mainland only by the causeway of the Chesil Beach, Portland isn't quite an island but gives that feeling of being on the edge of the world that always fascinates me. On the eastern side of the peninsula, a path leads past huge boulders lie around from former quarries that used to furnish many London buildings in the famed Portland stone. And out of nowhere looms an enormous baroque chapel, St. George's, guarding a cemetery over the western clifftops. Like the chapel, the ornate headstones look as if they've been transplanted from southern Europe or even further afield. If it wasn't for the December chill, Portland could feel halfway to Italy or Spain already.
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  • Day276

    Dorset again

    December 7, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Seven weeks after my previous visit, I'm making use of a temporary reprieve from lockdown and am back in Weymouth for a few days. It's not quite in the same league as Cuba where I was this time last year but I've got to like it. The elegant terrace along the seafront is a good introduction to the town's attractions.

    Weymouth marks the start of the massive Portland Harbour and the clear morning affords impressive views over it (the alleyway in image 2 is called Lookout). There's a pier which may have been active in days gone by but in low season is deserted, and a bollard designed as fishermen's wellies. There was once an active brewing industry in Weymouth (5th image) but the bottles in the final picture are from breweries west of here (Jail Ale from Dartmoor and Proper Job from Cornwall).
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  • Day251

    Autumn colours

    November 12, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    Lockdown 2.0 is upon us, provisionally for 4 weeks until early December. With the rising infection rate over September and October, it's not exactly surprising. Restaurants, pubs and coffee shops are closed---a huge hardship to both businesses and customers---but it's somewhat looser than the spring lockdown at its depth, with schools and essential businesses still open.

    None of this can take away the beauty of the autumn colours. Doorstep Green, the irregular space on my own doorstep, is becoming Doorstep Yellow, while the pattern of fallen leaves, is psychedelic. Into Southwark, Red Cross Garden allows a view of the Shard poking through the diminishing foliage.

    Crossing the river, I find some deserted tennis courts at Lincoln's Inn Fields in the heart of London's legal quarter. And further east, I rediscover this magical enclosure near St. John's Wapping.
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  • Day234

    My South Bank

    October 26, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Living as I do, close to London's South Bank, I've become quite possessive about it. The arc between Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges is the most familiar, with the Royal Festival Hall and other centres for the arts (sadly closed for now). For countless years it has hosted a second-hand bookstall, ice cream vans, a skateboard park and numerous street entertainers and musicians. If Amy Winehouse had been a south London girl, she might have started out here. Since 2000 the South Bank has been the home of the London Eye and a varying cast of aquariums, Disney attractions and who knows what else.

    The stretch between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges (images 1 to 4) is scenic too. It's favoured by TV channels interviewing politicians in front of their workplace the other side of the river. Image 4 shows some graffiti aimed at our country's leader!

    Downstream is scenic too, with a golden-hour view of St. Paul's at low water while the final image, while not strictly on the South Bank, also catches the last rays of the autumn sun.
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  • Day228

    Durdling in Dorset

    October 20, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌬 14 °C

    Time to take to the local buses again, and I head east to Lulworth. It's a breezy walk along the South-West Coast Path (which I met a few weeks ago in Cornwall) along the cliffs. Nearby is Durdle Door, which in the spring became too famous for its own good as hordes flocked to this beauty spot in possible violation of social distancing rules. Not being a lover of crowds anyway, I don't overstay my welcome.

    A couple of days later I'm headed in the following direction to West Bay, where the cliffs are no longer chalky white and while popular, is less hectic than Lulworth. A few miles back east I get off at the village of Swire and walk to the shore. The shingle is coarser here than at West Bay and it's said that as the pebbles graduate in size down the Chesil Beach from here to Portland, a blind person can tell to the nearest mile where they are.

    And now it's a trip up memory lane as I hike up a track in search of the cottage where my family spent a summer holiday in 1953. Sadly there's no trace of the house, Greenleaze, but it's set in attractive countryside seemingly a thousand miles from the world's worries. The place names seem to reflect this, starting with the nearest village, Puncknowle (pronounced Punnel).
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