Thursday, 10 April 2014
Remarkable how you don't realise just how much you needed new glasses until you put them on.
The bright sunlight helps, too. This ceanothus in a local garden has always put on a good display, but the intensity of colour was really striking yesterday. Pity my phone camera wasn't quite up to capturing all the fine detail.
And this morning, the sun made the leaves of a quite humble pot-plant something rather more noticeable:
Monday, 24 March 2014
Sunday, 23 March 2014
But I did get to see some of my arteries on an ultrasound monitor (the excitement soon wears off after that first "Well I never" moment). And then there was over an hour of enforced relaxation, holding my breath when told to, inside an MRI machine. Since one's enclosed in a plastic-lined pod (rather as one imagines some airlines might dream of using, to squeeze more passengers in), there's nothing to look at and nothing to listen to, Except, that is, for the ongoing cacophony of beeping, whirring, chugging, humming and blaring, interspersed with A Voice instructing "Breath in - breath out - stop" from time to time. The electric trains of my childhood tended to make similar noises, though not in surround-sound, and often providing similar opportunities for mind-wandering as they stopped for no apparent reason in the middle of nowhere.
Well, that's another of life's less risky adventures de-mystified. They'll want to do it again in a few months' time. Better take care of my heart in the meantime, I suppose.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
A letter out of the blue from a rebranded version of a bank I haven't been near for over twenty years tells me I still have an account there, but since I haven't been using it I'll need to identify myself to them again. So off I trot with all the necessary documents to find out what it's all about and to make sure the account's properly closed this time, and emerge with my unexpected riches in my hand.
But the celebrations were muted. You don't get a lot of bunting and frolic for 76p.
Saturday, 22 February 2014
And here are two very different places of entertainment:
On the one hand, the 19th century's idea of solid worthiness for great music at the Concertgebouw (happily more relaxed and informal these days):
And on the other, the bordering-on-bonkers 1920s exuberance of the Tuschinski cinema, about which I've posted before :
Thursday, 20 February 2014
The first, though a rare burst of sunshine, lines up the expected trams and bikes. No surprises there - but what's happening in the other?
Was this for publicity for the café in question, or was this some local celebrity "seen enjoying a coffee in her favourite café" for some magazine profile, I wonder? You can make up your own stories.
Wednesday, 22 January 2014
And such is the facility with languages here that they'll have a go in English as well. I've noticed a chain of places selling fried potatoes called Chipsy King.
Sometimes it doesn't quite work, though. Decades ago, I couldn't work out why anyone thought this a good name for a business (apart from the curiosity factor), and I still can't.
And I can't help thinking that even the most down-to-earth and unpretentious Dutch customer would expect a bit more from a beauty parlour on a fairly posh street than just the soap treatment:
Monday, 20 January 2014
Friday, 17 January 2014
Some in the series are ordinary paving stones themselves, just of a different colour, but there's a definite regular sequence.
So, some guerilla paving artistry, or what?
Tuesday, 14 January 2014
Thursday, 2 January 2014
Saturday, 21 December 2013
Interesting piece in the Guardian a few days ago comparing the TV schedules for Christmas week 1978 with the current fodder - interesting particularly that so much was crammed into just the two BBC channels (why he omits ITV, I don't know).
However, he's not really comparing like with like. Christmas week was special, after all, and he doesn't mention the deadening effect of repeats on the usual weekly schedules in those days. One thing about the multiplicity of digital channels, catch-up and PVR services these days is that the repeats are available elsewhere (if and when you choose to have them, and frequently I do, since there was so much I've missed in the past or forgotten about). I can remember that for every moan of "It's just repeats" there was one of "Why can't we have X back?". And now we can.
The technological advance of digital TV would have happened anyway, Thatcherism or no, whether through some farcical period of "pirate" satellite broadcasting or in the way that it has developed. We might be sorry that public service may seem to have diminished in terms of the diversity and variety in any one channel's offerings: but the increase in channels has allowed the recent success of foreign language series, available almost all year round, rather than the occasional worthy movie.
And when I think of the times we used to joke "Just get them to hold it there for a minute" while we popped out to the loo or to make a cup of tea - well, with the pause button, now we can.
But I think he's right about the dumbing-down effect of endless copycat formats, property shows, and the apparent sheer terror among producers of just allowing someone to talk, uninterrupted, without people in the background acting out what they're talking about, irrelevant background music tinkling away to no great purpose, and so on (imagine if we couldn't have a real-life conversation without all that).
Friday, 13 December 2013
(Time for a deep breath before resuming the shopping fray).
Meanwhile, in other news, I see Covent Garden and Seven Dials are - in the spirit of the times - thriftily re-using last year's decorations.
Trafalgar Square is of course, unchanging:
Monday, 9 December 2013
even species, with sundry non-traditional variations on the costume, collecting for all kinds of charities - medical, social, environmental - and many of them had set up booths and banners for their groups.
posing for group photos, they all flooded towards the start point, and set out round the edge of the park.
The fastest of the serious athletes among them were back at the beginning of the 5km course within a quarter of an hour, and from then on a mixture of fast runners, joggers, people with dogs and pushchairs on a family amble came through. Clearly one child could not be parted from her scooter, but there was one little lad, who can't have more than about 7, who ran proudly home with his dad, grinning from here to Christmas. Somehow they all managed not to bump into each other as they either collected their medal with relief or ran straight on to make it up to 10km. Apart from a few late stragglers, it was all over in plenty of time for lunch.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Grappling once again with the sinking feeling that comes from a new gizmo not working quite as expected, frustration isn't exactly lessened by the added gush in this helpdesk response:
Thanks for reaching out to us! This is a quick confirmation to let you know that we've received your mail, and will be working as quickly as possible to respond. If it takes us a bit longer to respond than you'd like, we apologize for any convenience. We’re working tirelessly behind the scenes to get back to you.
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Strolling along past the shopping mall entrance at Canary Wharf, a man with a fearsome-looking hawk on his arm.
A live one.
On reflection, I suppose the management may think this the answer to some sort of problem with birds roosting where they don't want them, or something of the sort. But no-one who passed them seemed to take a blind bit of notice.
Saturday, 19 October 2013
This building abuts the old railway bridge supports that house the tube trains that are now offices, and are regularly decorated by different artists.
Someone placed the insect on top years ago as some sort of comment on the banking crisis, but now that the building underneath appears to be out of business and all locked up, the painters have extended their empire.
Friday, 18 October 2013
Inside the special exhibition gallery, despite timed entrance tickets, it could still feel crowded. Since the special beauty of so many of the pieces on display is in how small they are - this scent bottle is barely an inch high, for example - you had to lean over the case with the borrowed magnifying glass, blocking the view for anyone else behind. And it only took a couple of vocal and scampering toddlers to cause a fair amount of tutting.
But with a little patience, detachment and observation, it was possible to see the seemingly miraculous fine details, explore where the jewels come from, and how the pieces were made - together with the beliefs around different jewels and the illnesses they supposedly warded off, the iconography of the way they were worn, even have a sniff of the sort of scent the bottle might have contained. It was particularly powerful and pungent, but it probably would have had to be to cope with the stink of London - and Londoners - of those days.
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Kunsthalle's large collection containing some of the best-known Caspar David Friedrichs, which was a bonus for me. Not far away, the Kunst und Gewerbe Museum is a smaller version of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has a large collection of musical instruments, including the weird and the wonderful; and on this occasion a special exhibition devoted to what constitutes bad taste - with an opportunity for members of the public to contribute their kitschy items (on condition that they take one of someone else's away with them).
The purely functional has its decorative element too. Not a few old office blocks still retain some art nouveau decorations and entrances; someone's used an escalator in the underground to create a scrolling thought for you to ponder.
massive lifts for cars as well as pedestrians is lined with ceramic panels depicting its marine environment, including rats chasing round a workman's boot):