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Showing posts from 2012

Bow Riverside, River Lee Navigation, East London

The footbridge at Bow Riverside on the River Lee Navigation, near to the Bow Interchange. It was on Saturday 20th October , a somewhat murky afternoon, that a group of us decided to walk the towpath of the Lee Navigation from Hackney Marshes to Limehouse Basin. The Lee Navigation itself is a canalised section of the River Lea and forms a part of a complicated network of rivers, cuttings, overflows channels and streams - one of which runs past the rear of my flat - that dominate the geography of the local area. About 3½ miles into the walk, with the rain beginning to fall, we reached the point where the Lee Navigation meets Bow Back River.  I immediately fell in love with the  relatively new bridge that crosses the river at this point. I think what fascinated me about it wasn't so much the angular design of it, but more the way in which it blended perfectly into this strange urban-rural hinterland - or ' edgeland ' as some have called such landscapes. The

The Austerity Olympics by Janie Hampton

Cover image © Aurum Press. Having moved to one of London’s Olympic boroughs during the 2012 Olympics, it has been hard to escape London 2012 fever. Indeed, it has even affected me and I am now the proud owner of a road bike in my vain attempt to be like Bradley Wiggins.  With the infection still coursing through my veins, I stumbled upon Janie Hampton’s The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948 whilst wandering through a Waterstones in Cardiff.  The book tells a tale of striking contrasts and remarkable similarities with the 2012 games. Sebastian Coe, who was seemingly everywhere before, during and after London 2012, sets the tone in his foreword to the book, stating, “That London managed to stage the 1948 Olympic Games so soon after the Second World War is remarkable enough.”  The most heart-warming thing about this book is in its tales of a much simpler time. A time where amongst the bomb damage of the WWII, young boys would sit looking wistful ou

Iglesia de San Pedro, Gijón, Spain

The church of San Pedro, overlooking Gijón's long bay, in the Asturias region of Spain.  On the last Saturday of September, I was fortunate enough to be strolling along the long sweeping sands of Gijón's largest beach. My friend was getting married in the Iglesia de San Pedro later in the day and consequently an area of Spain I had perviously no knowledge of was opened up to me. The wedding was simply fantastic. The ceremony started at around 8pm and the festivities, for me at least, finished around 4.30am. There was great food, great wine and even better company, all from the beautiful art deco setting of the yacht club on Avenue de La Salle that overlooks the bay. Gijón is a gem of a place, with its sidrería's, fantastic and reasonably-priced seafood, and generally laid-back vibe. On the strength of this short three-day visit I am sure to be returning there -  frankly I think I could happily live there!

Airbnb: Where Hospitality Meets Social Media

Earlier this year, I was privileged enough to get an invite from a close friend to attend his wedding in Gijón, in the north of Spain. He’s a private kind of guy, so let’s just say he’s an Englishman and his bride to be is Spanish and leave it at that. I’m not a rich man, so wisely I booked all of the different components of the trip in stages: first stage, beg my boss for a day off work during term time; second stage, book the flights; third stage, book the transfers from the airport in Santander to Gijón; finally, book the accommodation. Other than the obvious disappointment that my tight budget meant I had to book a flight with Ryanair – an experience I won’t be repeating any time soon – most of the components were booked easily and at a reasonably cost, but I was struggling to find suitable accommodation. Drinking in the atmosphere at a local sidrería. Doing what I often do, I turned to the internet and to Google to see what I could find. Almost purely by accide

Brompton Cemetery, Kensington and Chelsea, London

A headstone, amongst the tasteful foliage, in Brompton Cemetery, London. In a busy, sprawling metropolis like London, people are always trying to find a little something somewhere to hide away from the world, often just for a few minutes of quiet. One such place that I chanced upon recently is Brompton Cemetery in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, west London. The cemetery was consecrated in 1840 by the Bishop of London and features long Italianate colonnades, a chapel, bell tower and catacombs, all to recreate the feel of an open-air cathedral. Indeed, when viewed from above on a satellite map , the outline of the shape is clear to see. To the sides of the main colonnades run two paths. Walking along one of these smaller paths, the sense of seclusion from life in the capital is profound. From in-between the headstones and monuments grows an abundance of vibrant green bracken and other foliage, making the path seem isolated, even from the other pathways inside t

On The Beach by Nevil Shute

Cover image © Vintage. Those who know me well will know that I seldom act on book recommendations made by family or friends and that I often judge a book by a cover. Luckily, when my mother recommended On The Beach by Nevil Shute, after I had told her that I’d recently read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine , I found the book reissued with a great cover. Published in 1957, On The Beach tells the story of a small group of people in Australia in the post-Apocalyptic world of 1963. World War III has been and gone with territories in the northern hemisphere having destroyed each other with hydrogen and cobalt bombs. Those who had survived the direct attacks were then  eventually wiped-out by the slow movement southwards of the radioactive fallout cloud. The novel mainly centres on the lives of five individuals. Peter Holmes lives with his wife Mary and their baby Jessica. Peter works for the Australian Navy and despite their lack of functioning ships, is called back to work to

London Pleasure Gardens, Pontoon Dock

Sun beginning to set over Pontoon Dock with Canary Wharf in the distance. Since July of this year I have been experiencing something of a renaissance in relation to my opinion of London. A couple of well-timed documentaries focussing on elements of London's social and architectural history have really caught my attention and have already inspired me to go off in search of some of the hidden gems I knew little about before. My recent move to Walthamstow in east London is likely to encourage this trend. On Saturday 21st July 2012 , I headed out east to a place called Pontoon Dock for the BT River of Music Africa Stage . The weather was great with sun beating down from the direction of the City. The music was of course fantastic and featured Angelique Kidjo, Hugh Masakela and Baaba Maal. Shortly after Angelique Kidjo's set, I took a wander around the grounds of the short-lived London Pleasure Gardens where the concert was being hosted. The sun was still very warm,

Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming

Cover image ©   Penguin. As has become a tradition over the last three summers, I always read at least one James Bond novel during the summer break from work. This summer was no exception. With the beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer as my deckchair and yachts floating on the Mediterranean Sea as my backdrop, I started the fourth novel in the series, Diamonds Are Forever (1956) . The story begins in the nighttime darkness of rural French Guinea, ten miles north of Liberia, and 5 miles from the border with Sierra Leone, and hints very early on that this story is going to be one that carries Bond across vast distances. Out of the night sky comes a helicopter, landing on a makeshift helipad to facilitate the exchange of a few precious rocks. Back in London, Bond has been tasked by M, after a tip-off from Special Branch, to explore a diamond smuggling ‘pipeline’ that is taking Sierra Leonean diamonds to America, by way of Europe. Central to his mission is the necessity to d

Nuruddin Farah @ Southbank Centre

My copy of Crossbones , signed by the author. Nuruddin Farah is someone who has only recently come onto my literary radar. I was gripped with the savage honesty with which he portrayed the struggles of a female in late-fifties and early-sixties Somalia through the eyes of the simple nomad girl, Ebla, in From a Crooked Rib . Once again, the blessing of living in London meant that mid-week there was the opportunity to see him speak about his  latest book Crossbones and about Somalia in general as part of the Africa Utopia season at the Southbank Centre. Even though I originally missed the advert for the talk, my eagle-eyed friend Nasri Adam of Safara Trust informed me of it in the nick of time. Sat patiently with Nasri, her colleague Elizabeth, and a diverse audience composed of many colours, creeds and nationalities, Farah’s entrance seemed so unassuming for a man who blatantly confronts the injustices of his own culture and the injustices inflicted upon his culture by

York Watergate, Victoria Embankment Gardens

The York Watergate, Victoria Embankment Gardens, London. Recently I caught the end of a BBC documentary called 'The Bridges that Built London' presented by Dan Cruickshank. Quite simply the documentary reaffirmed my love for London and in particular the rich history that flows through every street, alleyway and building, all leading to Father Thames. One part that really interested my revolved around the The York Watergate. This watergate, built in 1626, once directly bordered the Thames, but following Joseph Bazalgette's construction of the Victoria Embankment between 1865 and 1870 it became marooned a few hundred metres from the current bank of the Thames. After learning this, I went looking for the watergate when walking back from a training session in central London. Its historical use is obvious when you see the shell details over the gateway, hinting at a more maritime past. The watergate is located in what is now Victoria Embankment Gardens. The ga

Zopa and Social Lending

 In a manner not unlike most former university students, my finances suffer from a number of perennial hangovers. Firstly, there is the student loan that we’ll all be paying of ad infinitum ; secondly is the all the money we spent on our student overdrafts and credit cards with their foolishly high limits of the early noughties. Initially, back in 2007, when aged 23 and quite miserable working my first proper job after university, my finances were a disaster. I was employed in Croydon and commuting from Farnham five days a week as a lecturer. The wages, travel costs and rent just did not add up and I found myself floundering. Luckily for me my bank were able to help, albeit with an interest rate on a loan that reflected my poor credit status, but I was grateful they helped at all. After my one-year contract in Croydon finished, I moved to my current job in Hammersmith. My finances looked up thanks to much lower transport costs, much better wages and living shared accommod

The Shard

The Shard, or Shard London Bridge, nearing completion, in the London dusk. One of the perks of living in London is there is always plenty to do. After watching a midweek open-air performance of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest  near City Hall, I passed by the Shard. At this time of the night the light had already left the streets, but at the top of the shard, in its nearly complete state, there was still plenty of daylight left to reflect off the steel and glass rising up over the south side of the Thames. With this particular filter on the Instagram app, there was something reminiscent of the early 1970s colour photographs of the World Trade Center as it was being constructed.

Brighton II: A Rusty Winch

An idle winch spends its retirement sat on Brighton beach in Sussex. After taking some considerable time eating lunch on Jubilee Monday at Terre a Terre, a group of us went for a stroll along the seafront at Brighton. Whilst the girls went into the Brighton Fishing Museum, I went looking for something rusty to photograph. I found an old winch, presumably once used to pull the fishing boats ashore, sitting on the beach as a testament to Brighton's once busy fishing industry. Using the Instagram app once more, I selected a filter that darkened the grey clouds in the sky, but kept the real subject of the photo light. For more information about the Brighton Fishing Museum, visit: http://www.brightonfishingmuseum.org.uk/

Brighton: from Inside Terre à Terre

The view from inside Terre à Terre, Brighton, looking out through the skylight. During the four-day Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, a small quartet of us took the train down to Brighton for lunch and some sea air. A friend of a friend, led us to the vegetarian and coeliac-friendly Terre à Terre on East Street in Brighton for lunch. The weather had spent most of Monday looking decidedly moody, but in the middle of lunch the clouds cleared and sunlight came flooding through the skylight. The photo was taken using the Instagram app for iPhone. The filtering effect was designed to washout some of the colour and give the cleanliness of the white and blue an effect like a 1970s Swedish design photobook I once flicked through. Terre à Terre comes with my highest recommendation. For more information:  http://www.terreaterre.co.uk/

The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

Cover image © HarperCollins. After watching a couple of films, Chocolat (1988) and White Material (2009), directed by Claire Denis, a French director who spent part of her childhood in colonial West Africa, I went in search of more information about the films' settings. In doing so, I discovered an interview with the director saying that the latter was inspired by Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing . The novel is set in rural, 1940s Rhodesia, although confusingly the setting is referred to as ‘South Africa’ throughout. Lessing said in an interview that there wasn’t “very much difference between the Rhodesian experience and the South African experience,” although, “The Grass is Singing is very Rhodesian because it was based on the life of the district which I was brought up in.” The focus of the novel is on Mary Turner, whom we discover at the outset of the novel has been murdered at the hands of her houseboy, Moses. The first chapter deals with the people of the dis

Looe Harbour

Looe harbour, Cornwall, as seen from the bridge. Over the May Bank Holiday weekend, I was lucky enough to go camping in Cornwall. Our campsite was actually the large garden of someone’s parents in Liskeard. Using quite possibly my favourite iPhone app, Instagram, I set about capturing the slowly darkening skies over Looe harbour whilst we returned back to camp after an afternoon of beach cricket.  The wonder of the Instagram app is that it allows you to place a variety of different filters and frames over the photos. In this case, the filter helped to emphasise the contrast between the slowly approaching dusk and the little remaining light hitting the water. For more information about Looe harbour, visit:  http://looeharbour.com/

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Cover image © Penguin Classics. When it comes to literary genres, I am the first to admit that Science Fiction is simply not something I ever even think twice about. I’ve never really liked Star Trek or Star Wars, and could just about muster the energy for one episode of The X-Files annually back in the 90s.  With this in mind, I decided that if one is to start anywhere with Science Fiction, one should do so with the grandfather of modern Sci-Fi, H.G. Wells – also the new cover art for the Penguin Classics reprint appealed to me! First published in 1895, the novella is told by an unnamed narrator who is friends with an inventor, enigmatically referred to only as the Time Traveller. A week after discussing the theoretical possibility of time travel, the Time Traveller invites the narrator and a group of friends to dinner at his house in Richmond, but is conspicuous in his absence. Midway through the dinner, the Time Traveller arrives looking dishevelled, tired and cover

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Cover image  ©  Penguin Modern Classics. It’s hard to believe that a book could anger me quite a much as Wide Sargasso Sea did. My anger may well be completely unreasonable, or indeed it may be borne of the exact frustration that Jean Rhys wanted a reader to feel. The novella commences not long after the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act has come into effect in the British colony of Jamaica and follows the life of a young white Creole heiress, Antoinette, from childhood into adulthood. The story is supposed to be that of the mad woman in the attic in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre . As the novella begins, in the faded colonial plantation estate of Coulibri, the sense of a world already falling apart is overwhelming. Our narrator draws attention to the decaying grandeur early on, notably focusing on her mother’s horse: “I saw her horse lying down under the frangipani tree… he was not sick, he was dead and his eyes were black with flies.” Being caught between the haughtiness

A Small Slice of Africa in Snowdonia, Wales

A South African Railways class NG G16 in Beddgelert, Wales. The best way to describe many days in the Welsh summer is 'murky'. Simple as that. So it was, with the rain drizzling slowly down, that I embarked on a walk accompanied by a small group, from our base at Snowdon View in Plas Gwynant to Beddgelert around five miles away. Armed with food, flasks of tea and water, an Ordnance Survey Landranger map and a compass, we set off in a direction that took us away from the main road and around to the rear of Llyn Dinas - a lake in the middle of the Snowdonia National Park. In spite of the aforementioned murk and the slight sensation of feeling like a sponge absorbing the fine rain, the walk was exceptionally pleasant and tranquil. Only the occasional rustling of leaves on the trees disturbed the quiet. From a promontory about half way into the ramble, it felt as if we had left the modern world well and truly behind – there is no doubting that this landscape is typic