A very different sort of trip, limited to London for the time being
Currently traveling
  • Day391

    Lives remembered

    April 1 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Something remarkable is happening on the South Bank. On the wall underneath St. Thomas's Hospital, scene of many Covid patients including the prime minister this time last year, thousands of hearts are appearing. To date there are an estimated 150,000. They form the National Covid Memorial which appropriately faces the Houses of Parliament. Most are anonymous but some commemorate the loss of a loved one and others are grouped into a pattern. An admirable way to reflect on the damage the virus has wrought over the past 13 months.

    Meanwhile Britain is still in lockdown but a road map provides a possible route out as vaccination proceeds. Much has been learnt since April 2020. Yes, it's been grim but there have been gains: keeping in touch on Zoom and for me, those little gems such as Red Cross and Tabard Gardens.
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  • Day367

    Onwards and eastwards

    March 8 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 8 °C

    Back to east London and forward into year 2 since the last stamp in my passport. But in this shrunken world, London continues to be fascinating, in fact delightful. The days lengthen as March advances and in gorgeous sunlight I cross the river and head east, enjoying the silhouettes of the Shard and Tower Bridge (although some other visitors seem more interested in what's happening on their phones---no change there). Since my visit last autumn, the churchyard at St. John's Wapping has shed its leaves but is magical as ever.

    With both the sun and the tide out, it's time to explore the foreshore. I climb down a wobbly ladder with the help of a kind person who's already down there and steadies it for me. Into my head swims a 1950s song "James, hold the ladder steady" by Sue Thompson (no, I hadn't heard of it until a friend told me but yes, it's on YouTube). As I write this, Thompson (b. 1925) is still alive. The things you find on Google!

    I've been reading the marvellous book "Mudlarking" by Lara Maiklem, who collects antique artefacts from the Thames foreshore, anything from Roman coins to Edwardian perfume bottles. At some sites she takes a portable ladder and waterproof clothing to get shoreside. While enjoying the book, I leave this to the experts but marvel at the other-worldliness 12 feet below street level. It's a fleeting world which can be appreciated only around low water, and preferably at spring tides. The architecture is fascinating too: most of Docklands has been flattened for post-1960s blocks but some of the ancient warehouses survive. The majority of these have been converted into upmarket apartments but a few pockets of 19th century grit remain.

    Wapping offers a view of the river's south side. I double back for an alternative sighting of Tower Bridge and the Shard but will leave the Rotherhithe foreshore for another time.
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  • 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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  • 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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  • Day201

    Amy and David

    September 23, 2020 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    The good weather is having a final fling as I head on a 59 bus to Euston and north to Camden Town. This was the home of Amy Winehouse---with her best looking-for-trouble face here---who died in 2011. To me she was the best singer of her time and although she cut only two studio albums, she lives on in memory as do those of others in the infamous 27 Club---Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison.

    Someone who has survived to the age of 90 is David Gentleman, whose book "My Town" was a present from one of my sisters and inspired me to visit the stately terraces dating from the 1840s. Gloucester Crescent. where he lives, featured in the film "The Lady in the Van" with Maggie Smith in the eccentric title role. Chalcot Crescent, pictured here, is a rare example of a double crescent. Oakley Square, a near-namesake of Oakley Gardens in Chelsea, could just as easily be sited there.

    Due to social distancing I give a wide berth to Camden Market, but the canal above Camden Lock has a dreamy appearance at odds with the bustle downstream. The final two images complete the theme of London greenery: St. Martin's Gardens with some dilapidated tombstones leaning this way and that.
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