UK

Commonwealth Flags

Mrs P and I happened to be strolling up the Mall over the weekend. There’s a big Commonwealth of Nations Heads of State conference going on, so the Mall is lined with the 54 flags of the Commonwealth and a small army of police and other security personnel. A particularly astute reader might want to stop me there and add a correction – there are only 53 members of the Commonwealth. But he or she would be forgetting that the Commonwealth itself has a flag. And he or she would no longer seem quite so astute.

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Transport

Black Beauty

There’s a lot to like about this car. It’s a McLaren, so it’s a British car. A real British car, as in it’s owned, designed and built in Britain. Or so I thought, but it seems there are some Middle Eastern pistons in this pie. It’s also a Brexiters dream company, what with Bruce McLaren being Canadian – we’re all for the Commonwealth again. Or Empire 2.0, if that’s your cup of delusion. It’s also a fantastic car. Mrs P and I have driven past their HQ a few times in Woking. We like Woking. We could even live in Woking one day. Will that ever happen? Well, if my ambition to become a train driver comes to pass, then yes.

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Photography

A Face in the Crowd

The London market place, where time stands still. Years, decades and centuries pass it by. The produce and faces change, buildings come and go, but the location stays the same. The centre of the community. Those that idle and stop to stare stand out like the masts of wrecked ships in a raging sea. This is where you find the colours, sounds and smell of the city. Where new meets old and the latest fads mix and melt with antiquity. Where cultures collide and create a place in which the known world exists. Continue reading

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Terrorism

Borough Market

London has a multitude of famous old markets. Our favourite is Borough Market, near London Bridge. It’s a great place to go at any time of year for a bite to eat. You may know it from movies such as Bridgit Jones Diary. Or, sadly, from a news report last year. We went recently, on a frosty weekday morning in the middle of winter. Hardly peak time. It was packed with people. The simple presence of every single one of whom is a two fingered salute to ideological idiots. On every side. Continue reading

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Photography

Leicester Square

Once upon a long ago, I worked in central London, in a posh convenience store frequented by the wealthy residents of Kensington. And tourists. Horses of them. Many of whom were also on the wealthy side of stinking rich. Tourists will often ask for directions to the most famous parts of the city. And they would rarely come even close to pronouncing Leicester Square correctly. On a slow work day, one would take a perverse pleasure in feigned ignorance when asked Continue reading

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Politics

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

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Tourism

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. Flying in or out of London? Check out Holiday Inn Luton South for  Luton airport accommodationContact SCL Wills And Probate, for experience probate lawyers in London, dealing with all aspects of Wills and Probate law.

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Celebrations

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

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Olympics 2012, Uncategorized

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

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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

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Mexico

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

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Life

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.

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London

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.

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