Hand it to Trump

For the last year or two, I have been known to make use of these virtual pages to protest political developments, deviants and disaster. There’s much to protest about at the moment. Although, perhaps, if you are a Trump loving Brexiteer, you might think I doth protest too much. But regardless, I do protest. I’m not, however, a protester. I have never actually attended a protest march, gathering, sit in, commune or other type of mass event that actually requires my physical presence. In part it’s because I’m lazy. It’s also often Continue reading “Hand it to Trump”

Overnight in London

London is a huge metropolis, not the sort of city that can be seen in a day. Indeed, you could live there your entire life and not see the half of it. But in lieu of residency, I’d recommend a hotel stay. Perhaps Hotels In Acton like Holiday Inn London West would suit you, or maybe a Hyde Park Boutique Hotel Like The Westbourne London is more up your street. Alternatively, you could Book Hotels in Paddington London and see if you can track down the area’s most famous bear.

Notting Hill Carnival

I’ve grown to really enjoy taking photos with my iPhone. More so than I do taking photos with my Fuji. I guess there’s a couple of reasons for this. My iPhone is a more convenient tool. It’s more instant, in that snaps are sent straight to the cloud and are ready for processing and sharing straightaway. The quality in good light is also excellent these days. I’m really looking forward to seeing what advances the iPhone 7 will bring when Continue reading “Notting Hill Carnival”

Farewell London

Tonight the baton will be passed by London to Rio, and the British capital will no longer be the current Olympic city. It scarcely feels like it was 4 years ago that Mrs P and I took our seats in the Olympic stadium in the revitalised east London borough chosen for the site of the games. It was a fabulous day and, though I may be biased, a fabulous four weeks of sports and entertainment. Continue reading “Farewell London”

The Hooligan Years

A couple of weeks ago I took a walk through a past life. A quarter of a century ago I was still a teenager, albeit approaching the end of those years. I worked for a posh convenience store called Cullens in Gloucester Road, Kensington. And for a while I had a very posh address on Oakley Street. The actual accommodation that I called home was anything but posh. A bedsit with a communal toilet and shower room a couple of flights Continue reading “The Hooligan Years”

Lucha Libre in London

This is Year of Mexico here in the UK. To celebrate, there have been plenty of exhibitions and events organised. Most of which we’ve missed – they are largely London centric, and it’s a bit of an expensive trek to get up there every weekend. But we weren’t going to miss what we consider the big double header. First up, a Lucha Libre event at the Royal Albert Hall. In a couple of weeks, the Mexican Folklore Ballet company are putting in a performance.

The Royal Albert Hall is a somewhat posher venue that the Luchadores are used too. If they feared the atmosphere would also be somewhat politer than is normal, then they were in for a pleasant surprise. A packed hall featured plenty of Latinos and Latinos who provided the profanity. And a couple of Englishmen dressed as nuns provided the luchado baiting. Frankly, us Brits do comedy drag better than anyone. Finally there were some masked up Aussies behind us who provided enough politically incorrect wrestling suggestions to last a lifetime. In short, the atmosphere rocked.

Lucha Libre is great fun. It makes no pretence as to what it is. It’s theatre, comedy, light entertainment. With some gymnastics thrown in for good measure. Even those who think that it’s not going to be there cup of tea are usually pleasantly surprised. We had some pretty good seats, just four rows back. But it’s tough to photograph from a few rows back though. You can check out my efforts on Flickr though, just by clicking here

The Castle of Bad Decisions

The Castle was as traditional a London pub as you could wish to find. Late Victorian, the exterior had a green and white facade, colourful blooms flowing over the edges of a half dozen hanging baskets and an interior boasting many original interior features. Including the characters that kept the pub in business. There’s Martin the Telly. He dealt in stolen televisions when he wasn’t not pulling pints. Everyone knows him as Martin the Telly. Including the local constabulary. Not a good thing. His annual vacations went on longer than most.

Irish Paul played Sax. His dad, Murphy the landlord, played accordion. Picking a fight with either of them was a bad decision that would ruin your Friday night. They weren’t to be messed with. They’d both play a good bit of marimba on your ribs with the leg of a bar stool if the occasion called for it. As a general rule of thumb, never antagonise anyone called Murphy in London. Mary would patrol the bar, fag in mouth, coaxing coins from punters in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Whether or not any of the guide dogs ever saw the cash remains unknown.

Then there was Dick the Brick. In a pub full of life’s bad decisions, Dick pulled rank when it came to making a poor choice. But he was an amiable sort. A raconteur. Every pub has a Dick. You’ll find him, all hours, propping up one end of the bar. Red cheeked, often the worse for wear by evenings end. But always good for a funny tale. Dick had served in the navy when he was younger and had plenty of fishy sounding tales to tell. His sole piece of action came against Icelandic fisherman in the infamous Cod War. So his tales are fishier than most. But the navy didn’t suit him. He bored easily. So off he went to the merchant navy. Which soon bored him too. He decided the life of a land lubber was for him and did a course in brick laying.

By all accounts, he did a decent job when he put his mind to it. Which wasn’t often. His mind was, he decided, better off pickled with the local draught in the Castle. He spent more time propping up the bar than he did supporting his wife. Bad decision. She left him. Still, Dick dreamed big. One day, upon hearing that an old best friend had passed on, Dick packed up and went to Glasgow. The only decent thing to do would be to step into his old friend’s shoes and take on his wife and child as his own. It would be a turning point in his life. A new beginning.

His grand plan did not, alas, go down well with the recently widowed lady. She sensibly declined his generous offer and sent him packing back to London. It was a nice gesture by Dick, but one made through an alcoholic delusion of grandeur. There was no new beginning for Dick. He went back to the Castle and drowned his sorrows. He made another life changing decision. The bell for last orders came and went, he drained the last drops from the bottom of his glass and Dick stumbled back home. He opened the door at the third attempt and stepped over the piles of clutter than lay about over his floor. He picked up his old tool bag, and slumped down in his saggy old armchair.

He unzipped the bag. The interior of his tool bag was undoubtedly the cleanest thing in the flat. But then, it hadn’t seen the light of day in a while. Inside the bag he found what he was looking for. He clicked it open, placed the blade to his throat, just under his left ear. With one swift, determined, forceful movement, he pulled the knife across his throat. He gasped as the shock of the incision registered. He gasped again for air as blood flowed down his windpipe. Did he gasp a third time, as he wondered to himself… had he made yet another bad decision? We’ll never know. Dick’s life no doubt flashed briefly through his mind as his life quickly spilled away onto the fabric of his well worn chair. Briefly, because his life was brief. Dick was but 50 years old.

Dick was quickly missed. Takings at the pub take a hit when someone like Dick goes awol. Two days later, the police and a few regulars bust into his flat and found his blood soaked corpse. There was no note. None needed. Everyone knew Dick’s story, and it’s the sort of story that has a predictably sad ending. His funeral was attended by his pals from the Castle. He was missed. Later, a group of them bought him a bench. To remember him by.

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The story is fifty per cent true. Maybe sixty per cent. I never met Dick the Brick. But I sat on his bench for a while to rest at the weekend. I wondered how many Dick the Bricks could there be? I Googled him.With success. And let my imagination fill in the gaps. I like the little memorials on benches. There’s a story behind every one of them. Sadly, the plaque is just a tease and the story is hidden from view. Usually. Not so for Dick the Brick.

It gave me an idea. Why don’t these plaques contain a scannable Q code that leads to a memorial web page? After all, most people these days will park their backsides on a bench and spend a few minutes staring at their screen. Perhaps I should pitch this on the Dragons Den.

The Sky Garden

I don’t entirely like heights. But I like lofty views of my surroundings. It’s a conflict of emotions I’ve had to endure for…well, ever since an incident at Cheddar Gorge when my age was measured in single digits. Fortunately, my desire to enjoy the latter is more powerful than my fear of the former. I’ve clambered atop, or at least on, many high spots in my life, including a few structures that have once claimed the title of the tallest in the world. The pyramids at Giza (I was told off and ordered down), the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar, The Willis Tower (nee Sears) all spring to mind.

In London, I’ve been up to the highest gantry above the dome of St Pauls and to the top of the nearby Monument. A couple of years ago I visited the viewing gallery at the top of the Shard. They all have unique views of varying quality. But I have a new favourite. High enough to provide a grand vista. Not so high as to turn the city into a tilt shift style toy town. It’s a building you may have heard of, but for different reasons. It can magically melt expensive cars that dare park in the wrong place.

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Know colloquially as the Walkie Talkie Tower, but more formally as 20 Fenchurch Street, this is one of London’s latest breed of skyscraper, soaring nearly 40 storeys into the capital’s skyline. It blossoms outwards as it goes, cleverly increasing its square footage of office space as it goes. Its magical car smelting properties have been tamed with webbed netting on the south face of the building. One hopes that they will eventually implement a more aesthetic, permanent solution.

Like most modern buildings in ancient surroundings, the tower has its detractors. I am not one of them. I like the blend of old and new. Or more properly put, new, old, older and oldest. This building is in the newest category, and it has a most modern feature which is the reason for this post. It has a sky garden. Frankly, this is a little bit of an exaggeration. It is a large open space at the very top of the tower, with a choice of posh dining and drinking options and two strips or terraced bushes at either side.

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Green fingered citizens of London might be disappointed by what they find up there, butI didn’t come for it’s horticultural delights. I came for the views. And what views they are. It’s not just that you’re at the perfect height. Location, location location! The Walkie Talkie has the location. On one side, you overlook Tower Bridge (old), the Tower of London (older) and the Roman Wall (oldest).

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On the other side you have a view along the River Thames, with Parliament and the London Eye clearly visible. And right across the river to your front, the towering Shard. There are a few things to note about these views though. Trying to photograph them at night through rain spattered windows is not conducive to satisfying results. There is an outdoor terrace, but it closes at 6pm, which is a shame. Perhaps it will remain open later in the summer. And finally, whilst entry to the Sky Garden is free, you have to book your tickets. And they get booked up quite far in advance.

I have more photos of our jaunt up to the Sky Garden, naturally. Click here and you will be whisked over to see them on Flickr, as per usual.

London Fireworks

On the 31st December 2004 I took the then Miss P to see the New Year firework display in London. Traditionally, the London authority responsible would put on a very feeble display in Trafalgar Square. Quite frankly, it was more entertaining watching people jumping into the fountain pools in sub zero temperatures. There were always a few hardy souls who were stupid enough to take the plunge. But in 2003, the display was held by the London Eye, with crowds assembled across the other side of Old Father Thames, and it’s stayed there ever since. Fortunately, no one, to my knowledge, has been quite stupid enough to jump into the Thames for a splash around.

The fireworks were an improvement on what used to be passed of as a display. But they were still all a bit ‘meh’. We’d wish for the sort of show they put on in New York or Sydney. In 2012, however, things changed. Big Ben chimed in London’s Olympic year, and they did something a bit special with the fireworks. They’ve been doing it ever since. Perhaps New York and Sydney natives wish their cities did the sort of show we have in London.

In 2004, Miss P had been in the UK for little more than 24 hours. It seemed appropriate to go for a repeat visit on the 10th anniversary of her trip, along with a couple of friends. This year the show was ticketed, with a fairly reasonable price tag of £10 per person. It’s normally free, but I can understand the logic behind the decision to charge. It’s a pretty expensive show. But there is a bigger issue. It could get a bit dodgy when half a million people stroll up and try and cram themselves onto a small stretch of embankment. If anything were to go wrong….

The charge and quality of the display weren’t the only things to have changed of course. Miss P is now Mrs P. We are both ten years older. Hopefully we are similarly wiser. The show was fantastic, and well worth the money. The weather was kind too. It was a crisp and chilly night, but above zero and dry. We had the perfect spot, directly across from the London Eye. The coloured explosions completely filled my field of vision. And that of the other 99,999 ticket holders. Well, those that weren’t watching it through their phones, anyway.

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Watching it on television is great, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the scale and intensity of the display. Not least because the finale seems to burn out the television camera lenses and the last few cataclysmic seconds of it all disappears into a white blur. The finale is dramatic and almost overwhelming when viewed from the embankment.

Getting away after the final rocket had detonated was easier said than done. The five minute stroll back to Westminster station took fifteen minutes. Not that you could catch a train. The station was closed. As was St James Park. On to Victoria we went. Two hours had passed by the time by finally stepped on the tube. Another two hours driving down the motorway and were were in bed by 5am. Photos? Of course. Click here.

A London Christmas

I love Christmas. I love London. Most of all, I love a London Christmas. The streets are busier than ever, but full of laughter, jingles and twinkling lights. The infamously cold and dour Londoners manage to turn frowns into smiles, and it is entirely possible that you will witness that rarest of events – a conversation spontaneously break out on the Underground. This is often known as ‘Festive Cheer’ and whilst it is highly contagious, fear not, it will pass. The cure to this seasonal disorder is commonly referred to as January. So make the most of a happy London while it lasts!

I jest, of course. London is a great place to visit at any time of the year, and the locals are much friendlier and more helpful that their international reputation would suggest. Except on the Underground. It really is bad form to attempt to chat to the person next to you! But I digress. Christmas is an excellent time to visit London.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s an expensive city at the best of times. At Christmas, it must be completely unaffordable. There’s no getting away from it. London is a very expensive city to live in. But to visit? It is almost certainly a lot more affordable than you think. Traditionally, one of the most expensive aspects of London is accommodation. But times have changed and a combination of an increasing number of hotel rooms, greater competitiveness and some very intelligent online booking sites means that prices have never been more affordable. Venere is an excellent example of a hotel search website that provides market leading rates across a wide range of hotels for every budget.

Once you’ve arranged a place to lay your head, what else is there to do in London? So, so much. If you fancy putting on some skates and hitting the ice, you’re spoiled for choice. Do you choose the glamour of Somerset House? Or how about skating in the shadow of the gothic wonder that is the Natural History Museum? There are also rinks at the Tower of London an Canary Wharf. But the finest place to skate in my opinion is at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Which is far more than just an ice rink.

You should also go for a walk along the South Bank, starting from the London Eye Ferris wheel. There’s a whole Christmas Market going on there, with roasted chestnuts and mulled wine being served at multiple huts along the way. There are other markets well worth visiting of course.

There’s all the shopping too of course. Oxford Street is reputedly the world’s busiest shopping street. I can believe it. Pop into Selfridges for some serious glamour. Or, if you are just window shopping, stay outside and marvel at their legendary window displays. Fortnum and Mason isn’t too far away just off Piccadilly Circus. Then there’s the uber famous Harrods, which is a veritable institution in shopping. Last, but not least, pop along to Covent Garden which has been rejuvenated in recent years and houses saome fabulousb boutique shops, and undercover market and a huge selection of places to sit down to eat, drink and get merry.

Finally, just like any other day of the year, except for Christmas Day itself, there are some of the finest museums, castles, palaces, cathedrals and galleries in the world for you to explore. The British Museum, the Natural History Museum, Hampton Court Palace, St Paul’s, the Tower of London, the National Gallery, the various Tates, the Victoria and Albert…the list goes on and on. So what are you waiting for?

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Timelapse Photography

Who doesn’t like a well done timelapse video? They add a surreal touch to the everyday world. I have three to share with you that I think are absolutely fantastic. The first is a visual representation of the invisible architecture above our heads that ensures aircraft don’t (often) fall down on our heads. The second is more of a tutorial, but it starts off with a cinematic timelapse of the milky way. I’d like to do some astrophotography. Maybe soon. And finally, with Mr K particularly in mind, is a very creative layered timelapse of Boston. All three videos are really well worth a few minutes of your busy day.

And all three videos are well beyond my budget and skill level. Still, I have my iPhone 6. I have the new-ish Hyperlapse app, And I recently had a front seat on the top of a double decker bus in London. I quite like the results. I’d like to do something a little more complicated. Maybe I will. Until then, here is the (rather short) effort I produced. Will anyone name that street without peeking a look at the video’s title? Alas, the video will start in low quality. You’ll need to click on the settings cog and select HD. Does anyone know a trick to embed YouTube with an HD default?

Hampton Court Palace

We went to Hampton Court Palace. It’s big. It’s grand. There’s a rotund chap strolling the corridors playing Henry VIII. I loved the painted ceilings, especially the way they wrapped around soft corners. But. But, but, but. Although it was a nice day out and although the palace is a ‘must see’, it just doesn’t have the pizazz of Windsor Castle or some of the other Royal Palaces and Castles we have visited. I’d like to tell you more about our day. But it just didn’t inspire a story. Maybe it’s just me and not the palace. One can only have a certain amount of enthusiasm, and I may have burned through my store of the stuff.

On the plus side, it was a lot better than Kensington Palace. And it’s another of the Royal Palaces on the list that we’ve ticked off. There’s just one more of the London pack to visit now. Roll on Kew Palace. If you’d like to see the photos click here. If you’d like to see the photos of Mrs P and I, then click here too.

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The Flying Carpet

Mexico City was not awash with flash cars when I was there. Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugattis aren’t the status symbol in DF that they are elsewhere in the world. They’re a ‘come and get me‘ sign to the more dastardly sections of the community.  In London, owning a pricey motor is unlikely to get you kidnapped. The worst that might happen is that some jealous passer-by might rake his keys along the flank of the beast, scarring its expensive paint job.

What to do? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it. Do away with the paint. Carpet your coupé instead. As well as preventing the hoi polloi from gouging the car there are a plethora of other benefits. Worried about parking under the Walkie Talkie Tower? That’s no problem now. On hot days you won’t even burn yourself when opening the door. Fancy a picnic? Get yourself comfy on that spacious bonnet. Has Jeeves got the weekend off, and you really need the car as clean as a whistle, but….well, washing with a hose and bucket is just so messy? And just so not you, sir? Fear not. Fetch the hoover.

But let’s come back down to earth. What this carefully coiffured Rolls Royce really tells us is that if you have the money, then every dream, no matter how fanciful or whimsical, can be turned into reality. And that no amount of money can buy good taste.

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