london

London Summer

Summer is my favourite time of year anywhere. Autumn isn’t far behind, providing that the autumn in question is an Indian Summer sort of autumn, rather than an early winter sort of autumn. But summer rules supreme in my book. Especially in London. Some may disagree, and declare it to be a sticky, muggy and dusty time of year to be in a heaving metropolis. But those are small prices to pay for weather than allows you to go for ridiculously long walks through ancient winding street, manicured parks and along the river, old Father Thames.  Who doesn’t love to sip a cold drink out front of a trendy establishment in a chic part of town and watch the world go by?

Alas, in London during the summer, the stickiness and dust are the only small prices you will generally pay. The city gears up for a huge influx of visitors, ready to relieve them of every hard earned dollar, euro, yen or (these days) yuan that they possess. Tourism is big business, and London is an international magnet. If you include business visitors then the UK capital sees more overseas visitors than any other city in the world.

But London doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive to visit, if you plan things properly. Ideally, you wouldn’t come in summer. Many visitors have kids though, and even domestic visitors like myself and Mrs P don’t want to be excluded from the capital for the three best months of the year. There are four big costs to any visit. Accommodation, transport, food and entry charges. For a family of three or four, they add up really quickly.

First tip – instead of seeking out bargain hotels outside the centre (which are still rarely cheap!) try and look for hotels near the London Eye.  There are some very central hotels to be had at reasonable prices. But best of all, you’ll be so close to centre that for at least a couple of days of a five day vacation, you’ll be able to save on London Underground tickets. There’s so much close by. The houses of parliament, Somerset House, the South Bank, the Tate Modern, Trafalgar Square, Banqueting Hall, Churchill’s War Rooms, the National Gallery and so much more.

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A lot of ‘doing London cheaply’ guides will now direct you to lots of alternative venues that, although good, aren’t really what you came to London for. Unnecessarily so. Besides all the main museums which are usually free of charge to enter (the British Museum and the Natural History Museum are absolute musts) there are some ever so traditionally British events that can be done on a shoestring.

Let’s start with the Proms, a musical extravaganza put on in the Royal Albert Hall every evening from the middle of July into early September. Standing tickets can be had for five pounds each, and it’s the perfect way to end a day. Don’t like standing so much? Go mid week, and there’s usually plenty of room to sit down on the floor. Or lie down. I’ve seen some people get  themselves pretty comfortable.

Then there’s the Globe Theatre, with standing tickets again available for as little as a fiver, although it does get packed and the shows do go on a while. So plan something for after the performance that’s easy on the back. A lot of people might head to the Shard. I’ve done it. It’s an impressive view up there, as it should be for £25 a pop . But the restaurant at the Tate Modern has pretty decent views of St Paul’s and the cost is whatever drink you buy.

The last big cost is eating. It might also be the one side of London you aren’t looking forward to, given the UK’s rather poor reputation for cuisine. It’s a false reputation. London has more Michelin starred restaurants than Paris and cuisine from every corner of the globe. Hit Brick Lane for a decent curry at a sensible price. Good old fish and chips, pies, bangers and mash and other traditional English food can be had at excellent prices from many pubs. But if it’s a nice day, find a local supermarket. Food off the shelves isn’t expensive, and what is more traditional than a feast of a picnic in one of London’s glorious, green and pleasant parks?

London 1927

A few years ago I posted some old colour videos of Mexico City in the 1940s and 1950s. They were fascinating glimpses into the past of the city, and the colour reproduction just made them so much more…je ne sais pas quoi. But you probably know what I mean. I haven’t ever posted any videos of London. Partly because there isn’t an awful lot available in colour. Partly because there something of a proliferation of London videos. Partly because London, when colour film became more common, was a bombed out war zone.

A few days ago a friend emailed me a link to an old London video that’s somewhat unique. It’s old. Real old. As the title of the post suggests, it’s 1927 old. But it is colour film. All of the most famous sites are covered. It’s an awesome video. Fancy a trip back to 1927? Here we go then. Check out just how filthy all those monuments and buildings are though!

Shard and the Skies of London

If you’ve been to these parts before, you might remember my rather scathing post regards the pricing of the Shard for a ride up its elevator, the Shark of Glass. If you’ve been reading my blog for long enough, you might have guessed that eventually my contempt would wilt and I’d cough up. I do like going up things, whether it’s a tower, a monument, a mountain or anything else that offers a view.

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So what’s the ride up the Shard’s elevator like? It’s as ear-popping as the price is eye-popping. It’s a two lift ride that climbs into the sky at 14 miles per hour. It’s a slickly organised ride as well, I might add, with an attractive foyer and well managed queues. Before you know it, you’re climbing a few wooden steps and out onto an enclosed gallery with 360 degree panoramic views across London.

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But the best view is yet to come. There’s another staircase that leads on to a higher viewing gallery, which is partly open to the atmosphere. It was a nice day, not too much wind. But at this height, the winds are that much more fierce, and it’s quite a noise. The video I took, which is below, was shot from a compact camera. So noise is easily picked up. But don’t be fooled into thinking what you can hear is just down to cheap mics. It really does blow a right racket up there.

So. Was it worth £25? It’s a tough call. I don’t think it offers value for money, that’s for sure. But they do seem to be selling plenty of tickets easily enough, for the moment at least. I guess it just comes down to how much you want to see that view. It is a very special view. Unique. On a nice day, perhaps it’s just about worth the entrance fee if you’ve got plenty of time to spare and have seen everything else you wanted to see. I pity those who book well ahead and get nothing but a view of the clouds that regularly inhabit this capital city extraordinaire.

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If you don’t want to pony up quite that much money? There’s always the London Eye. I did that this weekend too. Or St Paul’s Cathedral. Oh yes, I really did treat myself. Thank you Auroras Encore. The London Eye isn’t much cheaper at about £18, and you only get half an hour in a capsule, once you’ve battled through the queues. Although we got an hour long ride this weekend, because we’re special it broke down. Whilst we were at the top. Bonus.

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St Paul’s Cathedral is the shortest building in this trio, but still offers a fairly lofty perch to shoot a photo or two from. Of the three it is the only one where you don’t have to shoot through tinted glass, which helps. Although truth be told, the view from St Paul’s isn’t quite as dramatic. Not least because it’s the one place where you can’t see the most beautiful building in the whole of the city….St Paul’s. But you can’t have it all.

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Rather disappointingly, photography is no longer allowed inside the cathedral, due to crowds gathering under the dome to get their snaps. That’s such a shame. It’d be nice if they’d operate a more friendly photography policy. Perhaps allow people to shoot on weekdays when it’s not so busy. Or place a charge for photography, like many European venues do. I’d have paid a few pounds extra. It;s a win-win situation, for both the visitor and the treasurer.

I did however, take a whole bunch of photos from the three venues. Some of the shots are just so-so. Others are a bit meh. But it’s tough shooting through tinted glass at full zoom to pick out distant objects like Wembley Stadium. Still, the Shard photos are here, the London Eye photos here and the Cathedral photos are here.

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I had been thinking of going up the Shard tomorrow. But as one of my previous posts suggested, I was having second thoughts. The pricing, you see. Extortionate. I can confirm, I am not going to go. It turns out that the forecast for tomorrow is cloud. I’m not terribly keen to spend £25 per person to have a close up encounter with cloud. I’m not that fond of seeing cloud from ground level, to be completely frank. I’m not a cloud fan. So no Shard tomorrow. Perhaps another time? Perhaps. The urge to see that view is in strong competition with the urge to boycott the place on principle. But then just look at that photo below. That really is one hell of a view. The Guardian have an interactive 360 degree panorama taken from the Shard. The word spectacular doesn’t come close to serving it justice. This doesn’t surprise me. Views from tall buildings are always spectacular.

London is an incredible city in so many ways. The wealth on show in this snapshot is beyond comprehension. Riverside apartments cost millions. But you can pan left and right and see many different Londons. You don’t have to walk far from Tower Bridge to find yourself in dirt poor London. In a walk of just seven minutes you can go to an area where average life expectancy decreases by seven years compared to that of residents at your starting point. That’s pretty dramatic.

The view from the top of the Shard  London panorama of sights and sounds – interactive

Gentrification has been going on a long time. Notting Hill and areas of West London became hip in the 60’s and 70’s. The view points east, down the river. That started to get the treatment in the 1980’s. All those towers of Canary Wharf didn’t exist when I was a child. It was all wasteland, abandoned warehouses and rotting docks. Further away from the river, in the East End stood horrific, crime ridden concrete blocks, built in post war London for the masses. Just a few short years ago this view housed hundreds of thousands of hard up families struggling to stay afloat, browsing the Sun or Mirror in between reading about debt management terms.

‘Genuine’ East Londoners aren’t there in such numbers these days. I’d like to report that the well being and wealth of Londoners is improving. Sadly, the truth is that Londoners are simply being moved out. If the poor were a race, we’d call this ethnic cleansing by economic means. There are a huge number of options for people in debt to utilise these days, plenty of new rights and a lot more support. But that’s come too late for most of them. These days, the view houses people reading the Times or Guardian and writing up debt management plans, ready to sell on the market.  East End apartments are actually excellent value as far as London goes. You can rent a pretty nice, modern one bed for little more than £1000 a month. But a grand is still mightily expensive.

Realistically, for the most basic place, you’re going to need an income of £30,000 as an absolute minimum. The average income in the UK is £26,000. It definitely pays to be a couple. I do wonder if the tightening economy might be the best tool in reducing the divorce rate? Want to see that panorama and go look at the view yourself? Click here, and have a look to see what you can spy hiding behind the palaces, towers and Victorian grandeur along the river.

The Shark of Glass

I watched the progress of the Shard, soaring into the London skyline, for about a year. It was half built by the time I first clapped eyes on it. But still, it was fascinating to see how it grew that little bit, each time I visited London. Until progress finally stopped, as completion arrived, not so many months ago. I watched its construction with a tinge of sorrow. I love tall buildings. More to the point, I love being at the top of tall buildings. I have a very healthy fear of heights, but also a desire to clamber on top of things.

I’ve climbed some of the worlds tallest buildings. The Great Pyramid of Giza, in 2000. Well, a few blocks up it. Until a policeman with a gun asked me not to. My journeys up the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Mexico were more successful. The Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpar, as far as the sky bridge. The Willis (nee Sears) Tower and Hancock Centre in Chicago. The Empire State Building. The Angel of Independence, Torre Mayor and Torre Latinoamericano in Mexico City. And more. If it’s there, and if I’m allowed, I’ll climb it.

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Yet, even as I watched the crane lift the next piece of the puzzle up to the summit, I knew I’d not get to see the top of the Shard. They did build a viewing gallery. A generously proportioned gallery – why not? It’s not like they’re going to sell or rent much of the place in the current economy. But it’s opening date was so far away. Further away than my departure date. Or so I thought. The latter has been delayed, repeatedly. And now….the Shard is just a couple of weeks away from opening. I’ll be here. It was clearly meant to be.

I’ve been to the website. Clicked on the ‘Book tickets’ button. Entered all my details. Typed in my card number. And then pressed submit…paused. It costs £25 per person. That’s absolutely extortionate. Seriously. Let me put that into perspective. It costs the equivalent of about £13 to go up Willis Tower. The Hancock Centre is free – you just have to buy a drink at the bar. A coke will do. The Empire State Building is a shade over £16. Before anyone mentions any of the more expensive tickets available at any of these locations that surpass the Shards, you should know that if you turn up at the Shard on the day to buy a ticket, you’ll be charged a cool £100.

The capitalist in me accepts the right for a company to charge what it feels the market will pay (although I suspect as time goes by, they might find the market won’t pay), whilst the commie in me finds it just slightly bothersome that a company can get away with such extreme overpricing and social exclusion. The plain old non-political Gary just baulks when he feels he’s being ripped off.

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The Shard is the tallest building in Europe, let alone London. It’s also perfectly placed for decent views of the best of London. It’s unique. But, there are other London summits to ascend. All of them are unique in their own ways. There’s the Harvey Nicks restaurant at the Oxo Tower (photo above). Eat cheap and you’ll get your views of the Thames from the South Bank for £20 for two, plus a little feeding and watering. The active and adventurous could climb over the O2, properly climb over it, for £22 a person.  The famous London Eye is less than £18 per person. Best views of Westminster. Worst queues.

The Nat West Tower, or Tower 42 has some seriously lofty views that are free to see. Providing you book in advance and buy a drink or two. The best value in my list would have to be the Monument. Decent views, a good healthy climb and a certificate at the end of it, all for £3. Lastly, but perhaps the most easily recommended building with a view, is St Pauls Cathedral. Not just a view, but a glorious piece of architecture that oozes history, an enormous whispering dome and it has a crypt full of the good and great to boot. And all of that for a trifling £13. They all put the Shard’s pricing into context. I might just re-christen it the Shark.

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Will I or won’t I? I honestly haven’t decided. Can you imagine the views, and the photographic opportunities?! Awesome. Equally, can you imagine the look of disappointment on my face if I existed the elevator to be greeted with enveloping cloud cover? I have time and sufficient funds. At the same time, my time and funds are limited. I do need to choose what I do carefully, and want to get maximum value. Heck, the Shard should just give me a pair of tickets in exchange for the post I’d write, which by it’s very nature would be as good as an advert!  We’ll have to see. If I go, it’ll be on Monday November 4th. You won’t find out till the following Sunday though. When Mrs P and I return from our holiday. When you’ll also find out if we chose sand or snow

Goodbye 2012

Stately homes, various castles, film sets, Prince Charles, the graves of Lawrence of Arabia and Jim Morrison’s, Paris, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Hitler’s writing desk, fields of snowdrops, bluebells and other English flowers, Lord Mayor Shows, a thousand miles on the London Underground, Romans in Bath, King Arthur in Winchester, skating in Hyde Park and Somerset House, ancient stone bridges, 80’s racing cars, abandoned WW2 towns, legendary warships, Admiral Nelson, rugged coastal landscapes, funky Halloween/Day of the Dead fusion, Christmas in London. Have I forgotten anything? Oh yeah, just one more thing. The Olympics. Twenty twelve, it’s been a blast. Adios amigo. May twenty thirteen be just as good. My high point of all those London trips? That’s yet to come. Keep watching. I hope your 2012 was memorable, and I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Cheers!

You can click here to go see all thirty photos in the video above a little bigger. One thing I noticed when choosing them. The colours and exposure are all off. Not as I remember them when I did them. That’s the price of a burned out laptop monitor. I have a new laptop. Gotta remember to replace it before it gets too old. All the calibration in the world won’t overcome duff equipment.

One thing that was as good this year as last year? London’s fireworks display. London has long put on a few fireworks, but never anything too special. Nothing that could compare to New York, Paris or Sydney. In fact, London was embarrassing by comparison. Last year they put on something special to see in the Olympic year. And last night there was something just as special to see it out again. I hope they keep this up every year. Viva Londres!

Merry Christmas

I wish ye all a very Merry Christmas. Or Happy Holidays for the atheists. Or Happy Tuesday for all you of other faiths. What’s it for me? Food and Freebies day. It was good. Hope yours was too, however you like to celebrate it. Or not. I wish everyone well, every day. Mostly. Except for a select few – a very select few – whose absence from planet Earth would be a benefit for mankind. But that’s not an avenue to go down today. Today is all about goodwill, is it not?

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This is my second Christmas since returning from Mexico. I grew to like Mexican Christmas’, even though they were far from what I was used to. I loved the food served up in Mexico. I wasn’t so fond of the midnight starting time. I’m not a night owl. By midnight I want to have been asleep for at least half an hour. I also like a traditional British Christmas dinner. Nothing beats pigs in blankets. Christmas lights work better in the UK’s bleak midwinter darkness too.

I have never been to church over Christmas, in either country. My Mexican relatives would have been and said their prayers,made their confessions and otherwise played their part in their local religious communities before I and Mrs P arrived for feast time. I always assumed so, anyway. Perhaps they assumed the same of me. I don’t know. I never really got into religious discussions with the extended members. I expect my agnostic outlook might not have won their approval. At the same time, I don’t think many, if any, would have held it against me.

My Mexican relatives and friends would probably find one of our traditions, the Queen’s Christmas Message, a little peculiar. It is a little peculiar. A little old lady who lives in a palace with servants, countless diamonds on hand for every occasion and a property portfolio that would many any corporation blush, presents herself on television to report on the world this year. What, one wonders, does she know of our world? Still. It has a quaint and charming appeal. It lasts just a few minutes. We’re stuffed full of enough turkey to forgive her for her indulgences. But yes, most Mexicans would find the message peculiar. Perhaps they would prefer my set of photos of London at Christmas – click here.

RIP Jack Klugman. I loved Quincy. A loved all those 70’s and 80’s American shows. Dallas, Cagney and Lacey, Magnum. But Quincy played perhaps the best character of them all.

The Lord Mayors Show

London is exhausted. We kicked the year off with the best New Years fireworks display ever. We bumbled through a deep recession. But we got on our glad rags for the Queens Jubilee. The partied with the world at the third London Olympics. Then we sat back and relaxed. But wait. This is an ancient city, built on centuries of tradition. New York may be the city that never sleeps. Perhaps London is the show that must go on. And on, and on.

This weekend was the Lord Mayors Show. A three mile parade, of floats, marching bands, military machines, worship companies of something or other, and finally the new Lord Mayor in a fancy gold coach. So a few hundred thousand Londoners and visitors (which one of these exactly am I?) took to the streets once again, plastic Union Flags in hand, brollies at the ready.

The Lord Mayors parade is only a decade or two away from it’s five hundredth anniversary. It was about time I saw one. Other than the pantomime version, with Dick Whittington. Was it good? Like I said, London is exhausted. The traditional fireworks display was taken off the programme this year. We’ve had out fill of fireworks this year. Some of the participants were fun. Some were interesting.

A few too many were dull and self promoting. Pimlico Plumbers driving in vans with their radio advert blasting over loudspeakers? Really? Enjoy my photo set of the day on Flickr – click here – the vast majority of which I ran through Lightroom presets. Free ones by onOne and a bunch I actually paid of few dollars for on Stuck in Customs. I’m having a lot of fun with my growing collection of presets. Hope you like the effects.

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Musicals and Memes

Weren’t the Olympics great? Unless you were a London hotelier, restaurant owner or theatre company. In which case, it seems the Olympics weren’t so great. Empty beds, empty plates and empty seats throughout the grand sporting event. I have to say I didn’t quite get why this happened, even though it is a common trend in recent Olympiads. London’s airports shipped jumbo loads of extra visitors, putting a huge strain on the capitals airports. Where did the all sleep and eat? And surely they must have gone into town when not watching the games? And what sort of London visitor would want to miss out on a West End show?

I love the theatre. Especially musicals. I went to see Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway in NY – my favourite show ever. Singing in the Rain is full of cheese and as equally full of fun – I saw that in Bournemouth at the local theatre. And who didn’t love JC Superstar? I saw that on television. It’s now been turned into a live show, which I’d rather like to go and see at the O2 Arena. There’s not long left as it’s ending its run soon, so I guess I’d best get myself some Jesus Christ Superstar tickets fairly soonish.

It’s a good time of year to take in a show too. The evenings are drawing in, and the air is chilly. It’s time to get inside somewhere warm after dark. And even if the theatre companies suffered during the summer, I’m sure they will see a rebound heading into Christmas. By the way, I know Emm in London went to see JCS recently, so I’m sure she’ll have a review up on her blog soon.

Before any trip to London though, I have another musical event to attend. They guys has become this centuries ultimate internet meme. I’ve been sat here for what seems an eternity (about 3 minutes) straining my brain trying to work out how to insert a literary version of this viral video. And I’ve failed you. I’ll have to leave the video to reveal all. Yes, Mrs P and I are going to step back into the 80’s and go see him…

 

A Hollywood Moment

There’s a famous film star in this photo. Mrs P noticed the person strolling by, not I. It made her day. Who is he or she? Typically, in  Brit quiz style, you’d be asked to send in your answers on a postcard. But today, you can post your entries in the comments and I’ll send a London postcard to the first person who guesses correctly. You haven’t got the faintest idea? Have a wild stab in the dark anyway. For every wrong answer, I’ll provide a clue. You can keep making guesses, there’s no limit.

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The Mexican Winner

I’ve been looking out for Mexican dining options since arriving back in the UK in 2011. Sadly, most of the restaurants I’ve found purporting to be providers of fine Mexican cuisine are non-starters. I won’t even waste my time in walking through the door. The menu displayed on the window or door tells me all I need to know – Tex Mex. Which is not, of course, Mexican. It might be a good Tex Mex restaurant, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

I held out hoped for Wahaca, following the owners TV series. But that turned out to be 99% Tex Mex too. Not real Mexican food. I’ve since discovered Benitos Hat, but the atmosphere was a little dull. And Mestizos, but the staff aren’t the friendliest and the £55 Independence Day charge was extortionate.

That leaves just Lupitas, behind Charing Cross Station on the Strand. Not cheap, but not expensive either – a fair price. Genuine Mexican food. And a Mexican atmosphere. Mexican staff! It’s a real little piece of Mexico in London. We had a booking for last night at 9.30pm, but our plans changed and we had to do dinner earlier. They were heaving, but still managed to smile and find us a table for four. Look no where else for your Mexican experience in London!

Viva Mexico  Cabrones! I hope you all had a jolly good time if you were out celebrating Hidalgo’s big night.

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Taming of the Shrew

Yesterday, the Globe Theatre in London was graced with the presence of Viscount and Lady Denness. Disappointingly, there was no red carpet awaiting us. On the plus side, we weren’t arrested for attempting to pass ourselves off as nobility. We simply had to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi and watch the show alongside everyone else. The show was Taming of the Shrew – a Shakespeare play, of course.

There are two ways to do Shakespeare. As he wrote it then, and as he would have written it today were he alive. These are two very different languages. It should be said that old Willy created hundreds of brand new words during his career – so even if he were a 21st century bard, there’s no guarantee it would make any more sense.

The play is performed in olde English of yore. I’m in two minds about this. On one hand, the Globe Theatre is a reasonably accurate recreation of (one of) the original theatre. It’s meant to enable us to travel back in time for a few hours, to hear and see it as it would have been done. On the other hand, the audience is far more cosmopolitan that would have been the case in the 1500’s. And I suspect many come for the occasion as much as the play and may get a bit lost in the language.  There are digital displays on a couple of walls, which run through the script, to allow us all to keep up. Although perhaps a translator would be a better idea. Having said that, I did keep up with the storyline and I suspect most others there did too.

Mrs P and I went to the show with a little trepidation. Neither of us are Shakespeare fans. And we had standing tickets. Neither of us are fans of standing still for hours either. Other reviews, admittedly of other plays, weren’t all positive. But was the play any good? Fantastic. Brilliant. Hilarious. The actors were superb and their performances blew us both away. Anything lost in language was more than made up for by the acting.

I throroughly recommend going to see the Taming of the Shrew. I cannot speak of any of the other plays which are regularly put on. The big decision is whether to sit or stand. By choosing the standing option, you do pay just a fiver, as opposed to a score. And, if you’re early you can lean on the stage. Plus, the actors regularly charge through the yard, so you might even get to participate. But then….standing for three hours is pretty tough!

Photography is allowed, but only during intervals. I got told off for taking the snap below, when the minstrels took the stage prior to part two beginning. But then, I’m used to being told off. I have a shrew of my own. Be in no doubt, I went to see this play to take notes and learn, not solely for purposes of entertainment! The other handful of photos are on Flickr.

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Free Brainwashed Postcard

I am no art expert. I couldn’t tell you the difference between brush stroke and splatter. I do know that it’s best if you cut off an ear before you start painting, and that it helps further the value of your work if you die. Preferably young, in a bizarre and painful manner. Extra dollars are added if there’s a whiff of conspiracy, I believe. But that’s your lot. My knowledge of art is exhausted at that point.

But that’s not to say I don’t like a bit of art now and then. I do appreciate a good piccy. What sort of art tickles my taste buds? I like something creative. Colourful. Imaginative. Different. I like stuff I can relate to. Be it a person or a place. The status of the artist usually means little to me.

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I first saw the image above on Facebook. Except someone had added ‘the people of Mexico’ to it. At the time, I had no idea the Mexican reference had been added. I assumed it was a bizarre, but brilliant, piece of graffiti someone had seen in DF. But I bumped into it again last weekend, without the Mexico part. It turned out I had stumbled across the latest gallery of Mr Brainwash.

The gallery is situated in the Old Sorting Office, just around the corner from the British museum. You can’t miss it. The exterior is plastered in giant pieces of his stuff. It’s a mix a graffiti, art and funky sculptures, and not everyone appreciates it. But it ticks all the boxes listed above, plus one more. It’s fun. Why do art critics have to drivel on about techniques, how many assistants an artist has and the qualifications the artist boasts? Why can’t art just be fun sometimes?

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Just to add to the visitors experience, you get a free poster and postcard when you exit the gallery. Free entry, free poster and free postcard – what’s not to like about that?! I’m easily pleased, of course. I’m keeping the posters – Paola and I picked one up each. But I’d like to give away the postcard. I used to enjoy popping postcards off to strangers who’d stumbled across my blog, back when I was in Mexico.

Do you want this postcard? It can be yours! Write a note in the comments to claim it, and then send me the address I should post it to using the Contact page. The rules regards eligibility? Simple. You must be outside the UK, and mustn’t have received one of my postcards from any of my old giveaways. If you’ve misssed out and the card has already gone, you can always check out my photos from the exhibition on Flickr by clicking here.

The Diamond Jubilee

I’m a bit late with this post, seeing as the Diamond Jubilee celebrations were a couple of weeks ago. But  better late than never. Mrs P and I did go up to see the sights and soak up the atmosphere. And soak up even more rain. We were just in the right place at the right time at a street party in Piccadilly – Prince Charles and Camilla appeared from the doorway of a hotel and had tea. Just a few feet from us. It made Mrs P’s day.

A little later, during the river pageant, we found ourselves in just the right place at the right time again – in a French restaurant watching it on television. We were just metres from the Thames and could hear the boats and crowds. We had a great view and completely avoided the thorough drenching that afflicted everyone else.

We hadn’t planned to go all that way just to sit in a restaurant, of course. I had assumed that, as the pageant was to sail along seven miles of river, we’d find a decent viewpoint. I mean, seriously…how could we not, with 14 miles worth of riverside to find a spot? It turns out that 1.25 million people is actually quite a lot, and every vantage point was taken hours before it even began. That is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. By far.

We did get a nice spot for the concert on Monday night though – the video at the bottom of this post shows the finale – a bit of Paul McCartney, the national anthem, lighting the beacon and then a pretty spectacular fireworks display. We weren’t that close to the front, but we had a good view of a big screen, the sound system was excellent and the atmosphere was great. Best of all, it didn’t rain.

We really enjoyed the weekend. It made having a Royal Family worthwhile. Briefly. I have one thought on how it can be improved any future jubilees she may choose for us to celebrate. The next one, incidentally, would be her Platinum Jubilee in ten years time. Assuming she gives the 65th, Blue Sapphire, year a miss. Assuming that jubilees follow the same pattern as weddings, which they seem to be doing.

But back to my thought. In the UK, when the national anthem is played, we play just the first verse. That’s it. There are five verses, but we stick to just the first verse. Everyone knows the words to the first verse. Good save our gracious queen, long live our noble queen, god save the queen. Tra la la la la, send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us, god save the queen. We stop there. For good reason. No one has any idea what the words to any of the other verses are.

But for some strange reason,  it was decided that two verses would be played throughout the jubilee celebrations. Which lead to awkward moments. Firstly, at the end of the first verse everyone would start cheering and clapping. And then abruptly stop, a little embarrassed, when it was realised the band had struck up again.  Followed by an awkward silence. Followed by mumbling and miming. Followed by more embarrassed clapping at the end. So next time, dear Queen….just one verse. Please. I have a few photos on Flickr here, and a load more on Instagram here.

 

The Closet Monarchist

I returned home yesterday to find Mrs P had draped bunting across the exterior of the house. Who’d have imagined? A closet monarchist indeed. Alternatively, she just enjoys a party, the colours and the atmosphere. There’ll be plenty of that in London when we arrive on Sunday, I’m sure. I’ve always found the word ‘bunting’ to be rather peculiar. There was boy at school called Bunting. He was exactly as you’d expect someone called Bunting to be – rather weird. An oddball. Still, it was a rather a well-to-do school, so he’s probably now Sir Bunting. Although, on second thoughts, he wasn’t terribly smart. Quite the opposite in fact. So perhaps he is Lord or Baron Bunting of Somewhere or Other. That’s how we roll here.

We’ll be leaving by bus at the crack of dawn tomorrow and shan’t return till the early hours of Tuesday morning. We have another trip which requires us to depart on Tuesday afternoon – three nights in Paris, which I’m sure will be very nice. So there may be little chance of blogging or uploading to Flickr for some while. But fear not, you can follow me on Instagram and get on the spot photo updates. Or, if you prefer your digital content on the PC rather than the smartphone, there’s my Tumblr blog, Instagary. All my Instagram photos go there at the same time, plus there’ll be a few videos too I dare say.

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