Posts Tagged ‘London’

St Paul’s sunrise

January 10, 2015
St Paul's sunrise

St Paul’s sunrise

Sunrise St Paul’s Cathedral a few days ago.

To the left, the Central Criminal Court, known to most as the Old Bailey. Justice, her arms outstretched, holds her sword and scales.

Trafalgar Square

October 18, 2014
Whitehall as seen from Trafalgar Square 1839.

Whitehall as seen from Trafalgar Square 1839

Whitehall as seen from Trafalgar Square 1839.

This one of the earliest known photographs.

East London from the air

May 22, 2014

A unique and fascinating look at East London from the air.

Music ‘Stratosphere’ kindly donated by David O’Brien / Gareth Johnson.

Victorian London

October 21, 2013
the London of Charles Dickens

the London of Charles Dickens

Judith Flanders signing The Victorian City

Judith Flanders signing The Victorian City

A talk by Judith Flanders at The Electric Theatre, part of the Guildford Book Festival, scouring through the programme, one of the few events it looked worth going to.

And yes, it was well worth going to, a fascinating speaker, only a pity she did not have longer than an hour, and several minutes were taken up at the beginning with introductions.

I have never understood why I have to be told how eminent or erudite a speaker is, I can draw my own conclusions. And why do we have to have the ghastly TV format, let a speaker speak.

Judith Flanders started off by defining the period her book covered, 1812-1870, the life of Charles Dickens, this was pre-Victorian which meant she could show how the Victorian city had evolved, and the late Victorian was not so interesting.

Victorian London, was not just special to England, it was special to the world, it was the largest city the world had seen.

Cities, until then, we know their size, the walled city. There were various factors that controlled the size of the city, how to you get the food and goods in, how do you get the sewerage out?

Her starting point was a line by Dickens, the dead were elevated to waist height. She had read this many times, and it suddenly struck her, what did this mean?

Note: This is not an exact quote.

The cemeteries lacked room. This was solved in two ways. Dig the bodies up, break them up, and dispose of the bodies. This could be a short a period as four weeks had elapsed, before bodies were dug up and disposed of. The other, was to keep piling the bodies one atop the other. There were graveyards as tall as a one storey building. Hence the line the dead were elevated waste high. Readers of Charles Dickens would have known what was being spoken of, but it has become lost to us.

The city would awake in the morning. No alarm clocks, arrangements would be made, to be knocked up. No time for breakfast, cooking breakfast would have meant lighting a fire, too costly in time and fuel.

Public transport was available, stage coach which was expensive, and the omnibus, which was extortionately expensive, later had the tram, which was affordable, and special fares on the trains, which enabled people to commute. There was also steam ferries plying up and down the river.

Lacking any means of affordable transport, the only alternative was to walk. People came in waves, the workers, followed by the clerks, earlier were the drovers bringing the animals to Smithfield market.

The roads, or what passed as roads, were chaos, horse and carts, carriages, stagecoaches, all over the place. The walkers on the other hand were very disciplined, Dickens described them as a black line.

Having had no breakfast, this was picked up on the hoof as they walked to work.

Street sweepers, swept the streets clean.

As the clerks neared their place of work, shoe shine boys, who cleaned their shoes, brushed down their trousers.

Life was lived out on the street. Dickens was a journalist, he recorded what he saw on the street.

Trafalgar Square built, Regents Street. Regents Street was a destination, not a place to pass through.

A fire would be street theatre, everyone would come to watch. The firemen would call upon volunteers to man the pumps, the water was literally pumped. Very hard work, had to change manpower every ten minutes. The volunteers would be paid, and fed and watered.

One coffee stall, we know his shift, from his accounts. He would set up at nine o’clock at night to serve the theatre goers, then those worse for wear from a night out drinking, then the waves of different people coming in to work, the drovers, the workers, the managers. During the night, he would let the prostitutes huddle around his stall to keep warm. At nine o’clock in the morning, he would go home.

At night, the prostitutes would walk in for the night shift. We know where they lived from the Census. Houses where there were girls in their twenties, houses where there were no men.

A city of water shortages, water available for only a few hours, that is when it was available.

We can map when clean water and sewerage systems were connected as the rate of disease dropped. Before connected to mains water, the water had to be collected from standpipes in the street.

The Thames was much wider. The Embankment was built to house the sewers.

Women were on the streets, even those who stayed at home, interacted with the street, as there could be as many as twenty or more deliveries to a house, including the postman who managed a dozen deliveries in a day.

The rich lived almost cheek-by-jowl with the poor. The rich lived on the main street, the poor in the side streets.

The poor would live a whole family to a room, everyone would work, they earnt enough to sustain life, but nothing more. If one of the family fell ill, they would fall into destitution.

A city of people, not a city of buildings.

One Tree Books were running the bookstall. A pile of books. I did not think they would sell, neither did they. Only a couple were left. This must have had everything to do with the calibre of the speaker.

Book signings of The Victorian City.

Trans-Siberian journey

October 20, 2013
trans-Siberian journey

trans-Siberian journey

trans- Siberian journey

trans- Siberian journey

The popular vegetarian restaurant ‘Food For Thought’ is now showing an exhibition of work featuring illustrations inspired by the journey I took across Siberia by train in May this year. — Meredith Owen

An exhibition of art by Meredith Owen at Food for Thought in Covent Garden, inspired by a trans-Siberian journey.

The paintings could have been larger, and the artist doing himself no favours by hiding his art behind glass.

Aleph, is an account by Paulo Coelho of a journey on the Trans-Siberian railway.

Pleasant autumn day in London

October 20, 2013
London Eye

London Eye

What was to have been a day in London, was more of a late afternoon and evening.

On the South Bank a food market. The whole area very busy, and walking over Hungerford Bridge. But nothing like Covent Garden. Could hardly move, was like the pre-Christmas crush, only it was not pre-Christmas.

Lunch at Food for Thought. An art exhibition inspired by a trans-Siberian jornu.

It was jammed outside Covent Garden Tube Station. It would have taken half an hour or more. I decided to walk to Holborn. There would normally be few people, but even this was packed.

I passed little coffee shop called Salt. Had the time, I would have investigated further. I was told later by a lady on a bus to Hackney, excellent coffee shop, a small chain of indie coffee shops.

From Holborn, Tube to Mile End. I would have walked, but a stunning Indian barrister, said hop on the bus. It was only one stop.

I got lost wandering around the Queen Mary Campus, alongside the canal.

I finally found the Anarchist Bookfair. It was not worth the effort of attending. Very packed, very hot.

A party at 195 Mare Street in Hackney.

I was told the wrong bus, which did not exist. I get a different bus, the driver told me where to alight, and get the 245 to Hackney.

I am not sure if I was at Bethnal Green or Whitechapel. Long wait for the bus though I think that was because delayed not because infrequent. Lots of people milling around. I felt I was in a foreign country.

Not sure where to alight for Mare Street. People on the bus helpful.

Strange, you think of people in a big city being rude and unhelpful, especially when that big city is London. And yet I found the exact opposite. People very friendly and helpful. Even the bus drivers went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. I felt like a stranger in a foreign city. Maybe that is how they saw me.

I alighted too soon in Mare Street. I hopped back on the bus. The bus passed a few stops. I thought I had gone too far, but no, I had a little way further to walk. I also learnt I could catch a 26 bus to Waterloo. I was wondering how I would get back to waterloo, especially as the Northern Line was not running.

I passed an interesting restaurant on the way, The Advisory.

195 Mare Street, where the party was being held, is a massive Grade II listed Georgian building, set back from the street, guarded with iron gates, with a sentry guarding the gate with chain and padlock. Their approval gains admittance.

I could not stay long. There was due vegan food, but it never materialised.

The Advisory, the restaurant I had passed by earlier, I had something to eat. I thought would be too late, but they said ok, they closed at 11pm.

I could see buses passing by, No 26 seemed to be every ten minutes. When I was at the bus stop, it seemed to have changed, as 20 minutes wait. Luckily one came within ten minutes.

Interesting passing through the City of London by bus at night. Very large building being built. Passed right outside St Paul’s. I should have been on the top deck.

Gone eleven o’clock at night, traffic jams. The streets packed with people.

Crossing Waterloo Bridge, stunning view down the river.

I arrived at Waterloo Station in time to miss the fast train, I would have to wait for the slow train.

I thought I wouldwalk back along Waterloo Bridge, but too far.

Train was standing room only. Appalling, almost midnight, only five coaches and the train standing room only.

I arrived home, not long after one’clock in the early hours of the morning.

London 1927

May 4, 2013

Amazing rare colour footage from London in 1927. Music by Jonquil and Yann Tiersen.

Incredible colour footage of 1920s London shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Frisse-Greene, who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William – a noted cinematographer – was experimenting with. It’s like a beautifully dusty old postcard you’d find in a junk store, but moving.

BA Flight 632 London to Athens

March 16, 2013

Attrocious driving conditions on the M25, lots of surface water, very bad spray from vehichles.

Not been to Heathrow Terminal 5 before.

On landside, a bit futuristic, rather what one imagines a spaceport to be like as in the first book of the Isaac Asimov Foundation series. Though once through to airside and the departure gate, much of a muchness, long time to board.

Flight uneventful, food reasonable.

Landing at 1800, was in a the airport a few minutes later, the first luggage was on the belt 1809 (if the sign to be believed).

It was then out catch a bus or metro into Athens.

Bomb Site

December 7, 2012
St Paul's surviving Blitz of WWII

St Paul’s surviving Blitz of WWII

One of the iconic images of London during the German Blitz of World War Two is St Paul’s Cathedral surviving in the midst of bombed out ruins.

Winston Churchill had ordered that St Paul’s be saved no matter what the cost, even if it meant all the surrounding buildings were burnt to the ground.

He issued this order because he believed that if St Paul’s was destroyed, the morale of Londoners would collapse.

What was not reported at the time for obvious reasons, morale was close to collapse, and had the German bombing raids continued, it would have collapsed.

Bomb Site maps all the bombs that fell on London during the Blitz.

You can pick a day, or the entire period of the Blitz, and it will map where the bombs fell.

With Bomb Sight you can discover what it was like in London, during WWII Luftwaffe Blitz bombing raids, exploring maps, images and memories. The Bomb Sight web map makes use of bomb census maps, previously available only by viewing them in the Reading Room of The National Archives.

You can interrogate and learn more information. You can type in a specific location. You can go to an area of London for example Hackney, or an area within Hackney for example Dalston or Hackney Central, see where the bombs fell, see pictures, read accounts of the time. But what does not seem possible, is once in one of these areas move around the map, though you can do this from the main map, by moving around, then zooming in.

The London Blitz took place from 7 October 1940 until 6 June 1941.

Bomb Site only went live 30 November 2012. They had not expected the level of interest and the server is unable to cope with the demand. Be patient.

More information on this project, a joint project between the University of Portsmouth and the National Archives, can be found on their blog, Mapping the Blitz Bomb Census.

Dinner at Food for Thought

November 21, 2012
quiche and salad

quiche and salad

strawberry, kiwi fruit, banana and blackcurrant scrunch

strawberry, kiwi fruit, banana and blackcurrant scrunch

strawberry, kiwi fruit, banana and blackcurrant scrunch

strawberry, kiwi fruit, banana and blackcurrant scrunch

The plan was Wimbledon, then Putney for a concert, but it was awful day, change of plan, Charing Cross Road, hit the bookshops (the Quest for NeverSeconds continues), eat at Food for Thought, then Putney for Il Siglo d’Oro.

I had wanted stir fried vegetables with rice, but either they had run out or did not have. I settled for quiche with salad. Only you could not have quiche with one salad. It was ether no salad or four salads. A bit of flexibility is needed. I was allowed as special dispensation quiche with one salad.

Both the quiche and salad were very good. The quiche excellent, best quiche I have ever had.

For dessert strawberry, kiwi fruit, banana and blackcurrant scrunch. I could have had fresh fruit salad, a scone, flapjack.

Plus a small pot of tea. The tea as always awful.

Having had no lunch, I ate early. As I was leaving it was getting busy, a queue backing up the stairs.

I am pleased to say it was better than when the week before I had lunch at Food for Thought which was something of a disappointment and not up to their usual high standard.

To Covent Garden Station. I thought I might have time for Piccadilly, but no time. It was time to set off for Il Siglo d’Oro in Putney


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