Thursday, 31 May 2012

Jubilicious Confusion.

I’m confused by the Jubilee. Or, more to the point, I’m confused by the general perception of the Jubilee. I’ve found that many people seem to think that they are celebrating the anniversary of the Coronation and in a way they are…………..but not its 60th.

QueenElizabeth II ascended to the throne, on the death of her father King George VI, on the 6th February 1952 and this is what is being celebrated this weekend.  Why did we not celebrate in February? Well, street parties and river pageants don’t really work in the dead of winter, do they? So it was shifted to an extended weekend in June which aligned it with the 59th anniversary of the Coronation which took place on the 2nd June 1953.

This confusion also seems to have engulfed the media. Earlier this week the Daily Mirror produced a facsimile edition of their Coronation edition and this evening BBC4 had a new documentary covering the event. Surely both of these would have been better saved until next year. Perhaps we’ll get them all over again in 2013!

Anyway, none of that really matters, the Jubilee weekend is nearly upon us. The weather may not be quite as good as that we’ve been  grown accustomed to over the last week or so, but there is a lot going on if you want to become involved.

Personally, I’d quite like to see the river pageant but I suspect that finding a decent view point is going to be tough without camping out overnight or getting up at the crack of dawn. In all honesty, I doubt that that is going to happen. As to the rest of the weekend,  I haven’t got a clue but I’m pretty sure it’s going to include a lot of relaxing.

For the record, I was around at the time of the ascension (just!) and the Coronation. Here are a couple of photographs  of  the children’s party held at Oxford Gardens School………….and yes, I am in there……somewhere!

Whether or not you are not interested in the Royals and their celebrations, at the very least, most people will get an extra days holiday. Either way. Enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, Oxford Gardens School is still celebrating............what a great time to be a flag maker!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

It Pays to Look Around

Everyone loves 30 St Mary Axe, don’t they? I certainly do. The  Gherkin, as it is popularly known was  designed by Norman Foster and Arup, and built by Skanska. Completed in December 2003, it was built on the site of BalticExchange which was destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1992.

However, this is not about the building itself, but how it interacts with its surroundings. If you are a fan of reflective surfaces, then the City of London really is a place you should explore. There is a lot of glass in a relatively small area, and everything seems to reflect everything else, but 30 St Mary Axe is slightly different.


Buildings in the City tend to sit cheek by jowl with their neighbours. Those neighbours can be 21st century skyscrapers, Wren churches, 19th century banks and more besides. Due to the City’s street map being largely unchanged from its pre Great Fire plan, the City is a mass of irregular plots, which has led to some really creative work being required by architects to make use of the available space. However, sometimes that leads to it being difficult to see where one building ends and the next begins.

The area around the Gherkin is quite different. The size of the original plot and the building’s relatively small footprint means that there is a now a quite spacious “plaza” area surrounding it. 

The creation of the plaza has the added advantage of opening up the view of the wonderful Holland House, a very fine early 20th c office building which had previously been hidden away in the narrow Bury St behind the old Baltic Exchange. Holland House also offers our first unusual interaction. Because it has conventional windows, rather than the glass walls of a modern building, with the right lighting conditions it gives the impression that there is another gherkin hidden behind its windows!

Obviously, its corpulent shape and triangular windows means that the reflections of other buildings are uniquely distorted, which is always a joy to us happy snappers and it does look good reflected in the single plane surfaces of its neighbours, but he thing that really interests me though is the way it casts light on to its surroundings. 

When the sun is cooperative 30 St Mary Axe throws diamonds, triangles and bow ties of light on the ground and onto the surfaces of the adjacent buildings. Maybe I’m easily pleased but it’s a sight that always makes me smile.

Finally, just a few more of my pics , which really begs the question “can you ever have too many photographs of 30 St Mary Axe?“………

………obviously not!

As an interesting post script,  I was delighted to find that the story of the Baltic Exchange didn’t end with its demolition. It seems that much of the interior and exterior found there way into the architectural salvage market. Having changed hands and locations several times the remains eventually ended up in Estonia where, apparently, the intention is to reconstruct the Exchange somewhere in Central Tallinn. I suspect that the story doesn’t end there!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Your New Leicester Square

There can be no doubt that Leicester Square needed a make over. Despite being the go to location for just about every major UK film premiere, and despite being dominated by the art deco splendour of the Odeon cinema, the square itself was run down, scruffy and down right seedy. Now, there is not too much wrong with seedy,  it does tend to go hand in hand with areas of entertainment like the Square, but the powers that be obviously decided that something needed to be done and in December 2010 work commenced on a complete revamp.

As Dylan Thomas once said “time passes”, and I found myself wandering and wondering thorough the square. Wandering because that’s what I do and wondering, not for the first time, if it would ever be finished. The hoardings declared “Your New Leicester Square, Opening April 2012“. I’m no expert but given that there were only four days of showery April remaining and a considerable amount of work still ongoing , that date seemed a little optimistic.

Finally, three weeks into May, it has happened. The hoardings are down and no doubt the crowds, encouraged by the warm weather, are already filling the space, leaving their litter and scrawling their names on the freshly hewn granite but hey, that’s life.

I haven’t yet seen the finished product, but I suspect that when I do I’m going to find it just a little too clinical but not to worry, it’ll soon gain the patina of the masses and will eventually reacquire that touch of seediness that it really needs to become London’s premiere entertainment district. Enjoy!

 All photographs, except the banner and the Odeon, predate December 2010. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012


Firstly, I should make my position clear. I’m not a fan of the Olympics. No one asked me if I wanted them inflicted on me. No one asked me if I wanted to be paying for them for the rest of my life. No one asked me if I was happy to put up with the disruption. No one asked!

This morning the 70 day Torch Relay kicked off from Lands End and the news coverage sparked the following text conversation………

Friend: What is the point of this torch thing? Why why why? And why are so many people enthused by it? What am I missing?

Friend: They are just talking about it but I have seen no actual footage of any actual torch carrying. Oh I am confused. It’s a PR exercise.

Me: The point is to try to drag in the needy, the misguided, the provincial and the indifferent into the Olympic Party. To unify the nation behind the Olympic ideal and to induce councils to spend money they haven’t got to prove what a great deal we are all getting out of this event. I think propaganda would be an appropriate word.

Mind you, the best thing about the last Olympics was Konnie Huq and the Torch Relay being attacked by Chinese dissidents in Ladbroke Grove. I can’t remember why the torch was in Ladbroke Grove in the first place but then again I DON’T CARE!

To be honest, my tongue did venture into my cheek during this statement but only to the extent that I wouldn’t have wished this  experience on Konnie Huq, or indeed anyone else, she seems to have had a tough time from both the Pro Tibet protesters and the Chinese torch guards. The rest of it really does reflect my opinion.

These are troubled times both with regard to the economy and the political situation. We are spending vast amounts of money on a few weeks of  “fun” and we are inviting those with an axe to grind to treat this event as a stage on which to forcefully present their views.

I’m not convinced by the legacy arguments. On the sporting front, history has shown that events like this do stimulate some people to take up some of these activities. Sadly, history also shows that it doesn’t take long for the vast majority of those people to fall back into their naturally lethargic state. As far as the social legacy is concerned, the basic fact is that if  “they” wanted to revitalise the East End, then “they” should have spent the money that has, suddenly and miraculously, become available for the Olympics directly in the area.

Of course we have gained a great deal from the Olympics.

Disruption to public transport.

Large payouts to transport staff for extra duties.

Disruption to local businesses.

Postal delays and surcharges on Parcelforce deliveries.

A proliferation of rather tacky imported Olympic souvenirs.

A confused and vastly overpriced ticketing system.

Sponsorship deals that are seemingly restricting the publics personal freedom to wear what they like, eat what they like and drink what they like.

Sponsorship deals that are seemingly in conflict with the spirit of the Olympics (burger and chips anyone?).

Sponsorship deals with organisations that some consider to be socially and politically incorrect.

Huge increases in private security including, according to many reports, the use of heavy handed and seemingly poorly trained operatives.

More armed police on the streets (and the river!) with heavy military backup..

Typhoon jets on standby.

Surface to air missiles on the roofs of residential and commercial premises.

Snipers on the ground and in helicopters.

The opportunity to pay through the nose for something many of us didn’t want.

The worst Olympic logo of all time.

……….and so much more.

Finally, I consider myself to be a tolerant person. If people want to support the Olympics, that’s fine by me, but tolerance goes both ways. I am tired of “personalities” and “celebrities” telling me to get off of my backside  to show my support for the whole show. I do have a mind of my own (after a fashion!) and am well able to form an opinion without their assistance and, although it’s too late to do anything about it, my opinion is……..

…….Not In My Back Yard!

I have no Olympic photographs to accompany this post.

No sportspersons, celebs, personalities, security operatives, military personnel, sports fans, games officials or politicians were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Other opinions are available.

I dedicate this post to the Grumpy Old Men of this fine nation.

That’s it, there is no more.

Friday, 11 May 2012

I've been grilled.

The guys over at Radio Cabs (the best cab company in the world, according to their site) have a blog that is authored and edited by David Styles.

In addition to regular London related posts on a wide range of subjects they run a weekly article called the London Grill. This comprises of a series of questions about London put to a Londoner! The victims of the Grill, so far, have included cabbies (naturally), bloggers and politicians, specifically Boris Johnson (I think he qualifies) and Jenny Jones.

This weeks victim, for reasons beyond my me!

Check it out here and, while you are there, take the time to look at the rest of the site.