Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Domine dirige nos

Lord, direct us - the motto of the City of London or the crie de coer of the hapless tourist, lost in our one maze of one way streets. However, some people took it seriously because (little bit of trivia for non-Londoners, most Londoners probably know this) the City of London is only about 1 square mile in size, and each entrance to the city is signed on the roadside by a gryphon, like this one.

But, who knows which major entrance to the city has a somewhat different marker and a a chequered history? Altogether more challenging. I'll post the follow up in a few days time.

posted by Ham at 00:02 -- Comments here: 9

Monday, January 30, 2006

Happy New Year

There are a lot of photos around of the Chinese new year, so I wanted to try to give you a flavour of what it was like to be one of the 200,000 thronging the narrow streets of London's Chinatown, as the dancers performed to the crash of cymbals and drums. This is Lisle Street, many years ago it was full of strange war surplus and electronics stores, but now it has been swallowed up by Chinatown.

I'm guessing, but the dancers appeared to be bringing something to the shopkeepers - luck, maybe?

posted by Ham at 00:02 -- Comments here: 6

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Spot the point of interest in this photo

There's a prize if you get it.... a big star and ten house points.

Want a clue? You are looking at the south end of London Bridge, away from the city... and remember I promised you a juicy bit of trivia.

Give up? Look for the spike. Is it just another sculpture? No. In the middle ages London Bridge used to have a drawbridge. And, on the far side, they put people's heads on spikes as a warning. This sculpture was designed in memory of those times. Nobody seems too worried.

(Alternative views on My Other Stuff.)

posted by Ham at 00:42 -- Comments here: 8

Saturday, January 28, 2006

London Bridge isn't falling down....

At least, this one isn't. The last one (built in 1831) was slowly sinking through the weight of traffic, although the song refers to the bridge that was there around 1100AD. Anyway, we sold that bridge to the Americans, in the Arizona desert no less. Rumour has it that they thought they were buying Tower Bridge which would make a lot more sense out of hte purchase price in 1968 of $2.5M. They bought the water later. The 1830 bridge had replaced the medieval one, which had many arches, blocked the flow of the river and was very dangerous to navigate. (By special request for Andy)

Come back tomorrow for a juicy bit of London Bridge trivia.

posted by Ham at 12:05 -- Comments here: 9

Friday, January 27, 2006

London trivia - The Woolwich Free Ferry

I'd be surprised if very many non-Londoners could answer the question, "How can you cross the Thames if you don't use a bridge or a tunnel?" Even Londoners are not that likely to have travelled across on the Woolwich Free Ferry, but if you get the chance, it's a welcome change. It was first opened in 1889, and runs morning till night every day except Christmas and new year, except if its foggy and the captain can't see the far side. It used to be the most eastern crossing and very busy, you can still expect to see lorries queueing to cross, but cars don't normally have to wait that long (except in rush hour).

posted by Ham at 00:17 -- Comments here: 4

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Speakers - or Standers - Corner

Today we are in Hyde Park at Speakers Corner where the unfettered right to free speech was won back in 1867. This chap, though, didn't have anything to say, but did a great line in standing. I really don't understand his message, though.

posted by Ham at 00:22 -- Comments here: 7

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Your car, sir.

For whatever reason, Park Lane is the home of exclusive Hotels and also the showcase for the swankest garages, Cadillac, BMW, Porche - you'll find them all there. They have all been whingeing because they are on the very boundary of the Congestion Charge zone, which means that when they move a car between their showroom (in Park Lane) and their Garages (behind) they have to pay £8. My heart bleeds.

Still, just for you, I have found a Porche you can afford, presented here in its spotlit glory: the soft option Porche can be your for a mere £50.

By the way, have you heard that so many middle aged men are buying Porches trying to recapture their lost youth, they are going to bring out a new model? It's going to be called the male menoporche.

Toot toot!

posted by Ham at 00:14 -- Comments here: 1

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Animal VC - because they had no choice

At the top end of Park Lane, near Marble arch is a most beautiful and moving monument to the animals who have died in war - "because they had no choice". Since 1943, sixty animals have been awarded the Animal VC, a Dickin medal, the equivalent of the military Victoria Cross or the highest award for gallantry.

If you would like to find out more, do listen to the BBC series of radio programmes. (follow this link to listen on line)

posted by Ham at 12:16 -- Comments here: 4

Monday, January 23, 2006

Only in London....

The London Taxi Drivers' Fund for Underprivilged Children is a charity run voluntarily by the London Taxi Drivers themsels, to benefit all manner of underpriviliged children. Today, they hosted the Mad Hatters Tea Party in the Grand Ballroom of the Grosvenor Hotel, Park Lane, for hundreds of them. There were all manner of entertainers, and the kids had a thoroughly good time. That's one more thing that sets the London Black Cab Driver apart.

posted by Ham at 00:18 -- Comments here: 2

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Fast food breakfasts - London style

(apologies to everyone - I wasn't able to get a whale photo)

Porrige may be a Scottish dish, but I've never seen another porrige stall outside London. For those that don't know, porrige is what you get when you cook up oats and milk. After adding a little butter and honey, raisins, you have a breakfast that will really stick to your insides.

This enterprising company in Leadenhall Market sell it to passersby.

posted by Ham at 00:37 -- Comments here: 3

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Archeology the easy way

Do you remember when I said that the tide rises and falls 30 feet (9m) in London ? The Thames is continually churning the river bed, currents can be flowing one way on the surface, and the opposite on the bottom. The result of this is that objects are always being thrown up and all you need to do is walk along at low tide and you can pick up objects hundreds of years old - quite a few people do, just like here.

The artist Gary Phillips collects these ojects and puts them together into works of art, to quote: "In my work I try to reflect at least 300-700 years of English history". You can see his Last Gasp (what a name!) Gallery here.

posted by Ham at 00:02 -- Comments here: 9

Friday, January 20, 2006

After the Wave

Today I visited the Oxfam After the Wave post-tsunami exhibition on the South Bank. I suspect that we've had too many disasters since then, which is why I've posted two pictures.

posted by Ham at 00:14 -- Comments here: 2

Time has passed.....

posted by Ham at 00:13 -- Comments here: 2

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Golden Hinde

And today we have the Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake's galleon in which he sailed around the world, pillaging in the name of the Tudors. It is in a dock just by Southwark Cathedral.

This ship is a reconstruction, but it has sailed around the world and covered 150,000 miles, so I suppose that's OK then. But compare this war vessel to the Tea Clipper yesterday - this is a third the size but carried twice as many men. If you have read any historical fiction about the Royal Navy, such as Patrick O'Brian's, it is entirely fascinating to come here and see the words come to life. It is very hard to imagine what it would have been like for about 100 men to live on this 70 foot boat.

posted by Ham at 00:10 -- Comments here: 3

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark was the last ever Tea Clipper made in 1869, moored in dry dock inGreenwich. She is quiet beautiful and surprisngly large. The Wikipedia article has the background, including the overall length of 212 feet. This may be of interest tomorrow .....

(A little off topic addition here - checkout Defective Yeti's post today I haven't laughed as much in ages.

posted by Ham at 00:42 -- Comments here: 3

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What did you see, Mr Churchill?

When I saw this, sad though it is, I knew it had to appear here. This police appeal is for information about an attack and robbery on a seventy year old woman on New Year's Eve. This is in Woodford Green a leafy and quiet suburb. Winston Churchill was the MP here and his statue stands watching over this corner. I cannot help but consider and compare the bravery and courage he saw in his life. I will try to find out for everyone how the lady is - that this appeal is here, makes me fear the worst.

(another shot of the statue on My Other Stuff)

posted by Ham at 00:13 -- Comments here: 1

Monday, January 16, 2006

Vinyl isn't dead

You're looking for that obscure Pink Faries EP ... what better place to go than Reckless Records in wardour Street. Of course these days you could do it online, but then you would loose the ambience.

posted by Ham at 00:03 -- Comments here: 3

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Life on a barge

One of my very favorite films is l'Atalante, by Jean Vigo, who died pitifully early. The film is about a bargees life in 1930's France - part of it is the sadness of a provincial girl who longs for the unatainable glamour of Paris. Moreover, each frame in the black and white film can be framed as a photograph. Today's photo is not of Little Venice, the glamourous part of London canal life, but of a stretch in on the River Lea - near Bow - where people live their alternative lifestyles in the shadow of council high rise blocks.

posted by Ham at 00:01 -- Comments here: 6

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Traffic Light Tree

I defy anyone not to smile at this. It is in Londons Docklands, just next to Canary Wharf. It is deliberately mimicking the Plane trees planted next to it. The lights change constantly - although they are mostly red! Most people driving through know about it but it us really worth waiting until someone who doesn't know drives up to it. Believe me, it is obvious! As ever another shot is on My Other Stuff

posted by Ham at 00:09 -- Comments here: 15

Friday, January 13, 2006

Scary Monsters!

There was once a rather good film maker, who created some very special films, and he went by the name of Hitchcock. He was born in London just up the road from me, and a local underground station has decorated the tunnel into the station with mosaics depicting him and his films. I may try to put a quiz together to see if you can identify the films - this one is easy. Another shot ot two will go onto My Other Stuff.

posted by Ham at 00:37 -- Comments here: 2

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Icing on the Cake

Hemmed in by buildings on all sides, this gem of a church is so easily overlooked.

St Brides in Fleet Sreet is where the first modern printing press came to in 1500. Milton lived here, Dicken up the road, and Pepys was baptised here. It is the the tallest spire built by Wren (he did St Paul's) and - what does that spire remind you of? Yes, that's right, this spire was the inspiration to a local baker to make the first tiered wedding cake, the rest is history.

Looking it up on the Internet, I have just found this reference, and I've learned something - I think it is fantastic that the person who set up the first press was called "Wynkyn de Worde".

I've put another couple of views on My Other Stuff. If you are in the area lunchtimes, do see if they have a concert - they often do, and can be really special.

posted by Ham at 00:11 -- Comments here: 4

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Turn again whittington....

Leadenhall market has a history going back over 600 years, when Dick Whittington (yes, that one, the Lord Mayor of London) was made the owner of it. It nestles behind the Lloyds Building, there are four arms, of which this is one. These days it has more cafes, restaurants and pubs than market stalls, although one remains - but I'll show you that tomorrow.

It is quite a delightful place, and blocked in as it is by offices, very easy indeed to miss.

posted by Ham at 00:14 -- Comments here: 3

Happy Eid

A second post for today.... wishing all Muslim readers a happy Eid

posted by Ham at 00:03 -- Comments here: 0

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Iron Duke - in bronze

Well, today we're back to trivia time. Who out there knew that, by convention, a military equestrian statue with one hoof off the ground meant that the person had been wounded in battle, and with two off the ground - killed in action?

This statue is of the Duke Wellington, and stands in front of the Royal Exchange in Bank. It was made from the canons captured in his campaigns against the French and very unusually, his feet aren’t in the stirrups.

He had the largest ever state funeral where two people were crushed to death because of the numbers. The tradition of having a dead commander's horse follow riderless behind the coffin was also observed, with his boots put in reverse through the stirrups of his saddle.

The museum of modern art in Glasgow has a much more fun version, see it here.

posted by Ham at 00:25 -- Comments here: 3

Monday, January 09, 2006

It may be winter outside....

Well, actually, it definitely is winter outside. It was wet and freezing today, but if you want to join the London cafe society, all you have to do is head for St Christopher's Place. This chique little street is set back off Oxford Street (a picture of the connecting alleyway is on My Other Stuff), and casual tourists (and many Londoners) will just pass it by.

But, if you go through, passing by the shops - like Mulberry, L'Occitaine en Provence - you will come into a small square with a fountain and five (good) restaurants and Bistros. You can sit outside in any weather, protected by heaters and canopies and watch the glitterati come and go. My recommendation is Carluccio's, the one in this shot.

posted by Ham at 00:35 -- Comments here: 1

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Milkman does his rounds

There can't be much more British & London that the sight of a milkman doing his rounds. I'd say they were fast disappearing, but their electric carts can't go faster than about 10 mph. Is there anywhere else in the west where milk is delivered daily, come rain, come shine?

By the way... if you are reading this, you are in good company...in just over a month, over 1,000 of you have dropped by and over 40% of you come back for more! My thanks to you all, I'm pleased you seem to like what you see. I hope to continue improving the blog, let me know what you think and what you like so I can do that.

posted by Ham at 00:27 -- Comments here: 5

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Memento Mori

Rememberance of mortality, or, "remember YOU will die". Muriel Spark explores this ambiguity in her eponymous book (Momento Mori) which I recommend thoroughly (it was she who wrote "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie").

This photograph is taken in one of my local cemetaries, Yesterday's post took me to a cemetary, that took me here, and that in turn completes the circle from a few posts ago.. I don't want to dwell in the morbid for long and it is not in the spirit of the London Daily to wax long and lyrical on one day's post. But, there is more to show and more to be said, so My Other Stuff will get all the postings. Click, if you'd like to find out. I hope you like this photo in any case.

posted by Ham at 00:03 -- Comments here: 2

Friday, January 06, 2006

In praise of local museums

Today, a word in favour of the little local museums in most London boroughs. They are often ignored, but can be little treasures in their own right. This is Vestry House in Walthamstow village, a house with links back to the early 18th century. This is a room setting of a typical Victorian Parlour. My Other Stuff has a picture of some artefacts. All the exhibits are sourced locally.

posted by Ham at 00:02 -- Comments here: 0

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mine's a pint

Don't know about you, but I'm ready for a pint. This shot is in my local, The Nightingale in Wanstead, and well does it deserve its rating of close to 10.

When pubs started - when ale was safer to drink in London than water - they were "Public Houses", private houses where a room or two was given over to the public as a drinking den. The posh bit - the Saloon Bar - was the best room, or saloon.

Cheers, folks!

posted by Ham at 00:12 -- Comments here: 3

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Diet? What diet?

All this exercise had made me a bit peckish. Where better to deal with the situation than in Patisserie Valerie Set up in London in 1926 to show the Brits what cakes should be like, it has become one of the most British institutions. In Old Compton Street, Soho (which is interesting enough to be the subject of its own post at a later date), it is one of the best places to sit and have afernoon tea. A favorite with students, you never get turfed out. Go on - have another cream cake.

posted by Ham at 09:46 -- Comments here: 2

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Come on! Get fit!

After the festivities, a little exercise rarely goes amiss. The South Bank at lunchtimes is so full of joggers, it can be a danger to life and limb. The statue is "London Pride" and outside the National Theatre.

posted by Ham at 10:49 -- Comments here: 0

Monday, January 02, 2006

A different slant on Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is the place where thousand upon thousands of people go to vomit in the fountains on New Year's Eve, but there is one corner of this public space that has a fascinating story. There are several statues in the square, but there is also a plinth that has been empty for years and years. In fact, it was empty since 1841 until a few years ago when it was decided to offer the space to exciting new art, rotated every few months, and now pieces have been commissioned for it. You can read about the project here.

The current statue is a nude of the pregnant, disabled artist Alison Lapper. It caused quite a stir when it was unveiled, but as you can see it now shares the pleasure of most pieces of art.... it is ignored by all. I hope it does not offend you, but if it does, ask yourself - why?

posted by Ham at 18:38 -- Comments here: 1

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Should auld aquaintance be forgot...

As I was not in London for the New Year (see My Other Stuff I was faced with a difficulty, what to blog for the first day of the New Year. I've chosen content over style, and present you with another little known scene. This tiled wall is part of a long series in Postman's Park, a stamp-sized piece of grass next to the central post office, EC1, where the postmen can sit for lunch. Within it is a fascinating record of lives lost to save others - ordinary people who would have received a couple of lines write up in the local paper, and then be forgotten. But here they are, more than a hundred years later. I don't know any of them..... but they could be my neighbour, or yours. It seems appropriate for today when we remind ourselves of friends and aquaintances past and present.

Happy New Year, to you all.

posted by Ham at 19:29 -- Comments here: 2

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