Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday, 7 February 2020

This is St Anne's churchyard in Limehouse this morning, just the right distance for a gentle bike ride to see how the spring bulbs are doing (just as they do year after year, it seems).

There would have been some words about global warming and the seasons being out of joint (we have had sudden snow storms in the first week of February in the past), but I see much the same pictures were possible about this early at least 8 years ago.

So that's one pontification the less.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

I learn today that there is a thing called the genetic isopoint, a point in time where anyone then alive who had any descendants at all must (at least statistically)  be an ancestor of everyone alive today. And apparently it's more recent than you might think, less than 15,000 years or so.

Which means, of course, that we're all a mixture of some sort.  No secret to me, since discovering some ancestors in Jamaica half a dozen generations back who included both slave-owners and enslaved Africans. 

Friday, 31 January 2020

One chipped and battered mug, somewhat over-scoured inside, and ready for recycling. I bought it on my first trip abroad after my father died, to Brussels, on the then newly-opened Eurostar train service, so the mug's been with me 25 years.

It came with the EU flag on it, from the EU souvenir shop, but the flag wore off in the dishwasher some years ago.

Some sort of a metaphor there, as the clock ticks down to our formal exit tonight (not that we shall awake to any immediate difference, let alone to an end to the conundrums of trying to have cake and eat it).

Thursday, 16 January 2020

This tree graces the playground of the primary school over the road.

The old-style building remains rather forbidding-looking, despite the play equipment outside (and when one sees inside on election days, the walls are full of cheerful artwork): but in a rather dull and wet January, the early (very early) emergence of flowers makes a nice surprise on the way to the paper-shop.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Contemporary etiquette

If you're in the loo of a pub, and someone else in there answers a phone call, is it rude to use the (very noisy) hand dryer?
(Asking for a friend, obvs).

Friday, 13 December 2019

Those election results in full

Ah well. At least I have the paperwork lined up to prove I had a Scottish grandfather. It may not be long before that makes a difference.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Election day

In this rushed general election, the campaign(s) on the ground haven't exactly been noticeable around here. It's a fairly large Labour majority in this constituency, and in my neck of the woods, many of us live behind entryphones and some of us in gated-off developments, so even if the parties could get people to come out canvassing on dark, damp winter evenings, you can see why they might not expect to gain much from trying to doorstep people around here. Until yesterday (two days before polling day) I had one leaflet from the Greens early on, and since then nothing. Then the bulk of the one free leaflet delivery by the Royal Mail turned up (and even then, the Liberal Democrat leaflet wasn't there - whether they're gambling on getting to be the last arrival, or just got the set-up wrong somehow, I don't know).

Since I made my mind up quite some time ago and the actual voting means a five-minute (if that) detour on my way to pick up my morning paper( or to the bus stop for my commuting neighbours - the turnout did seem to be quite brisk around 8.30 this morning, with small queues building up), any excitement is safely confined to the TV.

As it happens, of the six candidates here, three are women (Labour, Conservative and -despite  the cover photo of Nigel Garage - the Brexit Party) and three are men (Green, LibDem and the independent). While it's no surprise that the new Labour candidate here is of Bangladeshi heritage and making much of her record as an activist with Momentum, the local Tories have chosen an immigrant from Nigeria, which isn't quite what one would expect from a lot of the national rhetoric.

Clockwise from bottom left: Greens, Labour, Conservative, Brexit Party, and a local independent still campaigning over the fallout from from shenanigans of our previous, disgraced, borough mayor

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Sunday, 27 October 2019


The morning the clocks go back, and one wakes up to find an extra hour available, it seems natural to reach for the internet-abled devices, whether it's the radio stream on the phone (with headphones, so as not to annoy the neighbours) or the computer. So it was not the most pleasurable of surprises to find no wifi connection (and on the fancy fibre-optic network so many of us have signed up on in this development, too), still less to realise how temporarily bereft I felt.

By the time I thought it not too early to call their customer support, they had already put up a recorded "We're on it" announcement, and - anticlimax of the year - it was back on again reasonably quickly. But it's just another reminder of how we take so much for granted: as are so many old and recycled TV series, on the multiplicity of digital channels, where assorted plots and jokes would be impossible now, with mobile phones and the internet.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Another day, another demonstration

And it was a big one:

A family day out for quite a few:

Still some jokey signs, but some were more aggressive than others:

And the odd placard abandoned and forlorn in the passing rain:

Sunday, 13 October 2019

I am counted

Today is census day. That may come as a surprise to some in the UK, but this is one of the areas chosen to test out an online census form as a rehearsal for 2021, when the next full census is due.

It probably took me about ten minutes to do, but then it's all very simple for just me. I can't remember exactly what was asked in previous censuses, and therefore what's different in this survey, but I don't think we had something asking us about what we think our "national identity" is. It'll be interesting to see what that turns up when compared with the answers to what passport(s) we hold and what our primary language is, as well as the questions one might expect on housing, work patterns and caring responsibilities. All useful for screening for comparative advantages and disadvantages, and potential discrimination, I suppose.

One thing I did notice is that we're no longer asked for a more detailed place of birth than just the country, which will probably upset keen genealogists. But who knows whether anyone will still be interested when the records are made public in 2121, even assuming anyone's still here?

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Harrumph (II)

The first (or the first to impinge on my consciousness) Christmas advert* has arrived. It would be for Disneyland.

*(overt - the perfume ads have been running since September: we all know they're aiming for the Christmas shopper, but of course they just show "aspirational" fantasies of one sort or another with brand names that don't seem to mean very much on their own, and certainly don't conjure up images of Santa and all that)

Friday, 4 October 2019


The thermometers say it's not that cold, but the weather maps on TV showed a pretty blue plume of polar air descending on us. It's definitely felt like time to dig out the warm winter jacket, turn the heating on, change over to the thicker duvet, and swap over the curtains so that the thick and heavy ones no longer block out the early morning light  (such as it is) from the bedroom, but now trap colder air by the living room window, while the thin light ones stand a better chance of letting the morning light wake me up.

Which probably means it will now get warmer for a while, and there'll be the usual period of taking jackets on and off, and fiddling with the radiators to get a comfortable, even temperature.

Oh well, only three months till the days start getting longer.

Monday, 30 September 2019

It's a wise child

There was a family party over the weekend - a special birthday for someone (not me), but if the mood was nostalgic for some of us, casting back decades and generations, the children, though showing polite interest in great-great-grandparents even I never knew, soon brought us up to date by trying to bamboozle the Google Assistant device:

"Google, who is your mother?"

"My engineers are always there for me"

As to asking who its father was, the resulting schmaltzy PR guff about Google's merits put me off trying to remember it.

Monday, 23 September 2019

What I did not on my holidays

In between trips to the Continent, I needed to fit in some shifts as a volunteer London Ambassador - those people in strikingly stand-out pink shirts at various key points handing out maps, giving travel directions and answering (or trying to) assorted questions about London. In hindsight I kicked myself for not having done it at the time of the 2012 Olympics, since I spend some of my spare time doing just that sort of thing on internet messageboards - and why not do it for real? It's a way of making sure to get out of the house and actually talk to people, after all.

Perhaps 2012 was too soon after retirement to think of taking on new work-type commitments - but subsequently, either they weren't recruiting any more people to the scheme until this year, or I didn't see the announcements in time. But this year, I duly ended up accepted, briefed and kitted out (two shirts, hat, fleece waistcoat, a very handy fleece-lined rainproof and a backpack), and needing to squeeze the minimum number of shifts into the end of July and early August. It turned out you have to be quick off the mark to book in, as the locations closest to me had already been filled by the time I got round to it.

Not that Piccadilly Circus and Parliament Square are hard to get to, nor, as it turned out, was it that demanding an exercise - my first day was the hottest day of the year, and even for that we all seemed to manage OK (slightly dispiriting, though, that so many people thought we were trying to sell them something, but that's central London in the height of the tourist season, I suppose). There were enough people on each team to cover for each other, and all the support materials were well thought out (though it seems as though there's some sort of rule that the wheels on things like their information stands or "pods", just like supermarket trolleys, must have a mind of their own as to where they will go, which added a certain excitement to pushing them up or down any sort of slope to and from their storage spots). Not that there wasn't the odd unexpected question: any camera repair shop near Parliament Square? Are there any, anywhere, nowadays? All things considered, it was actually quite invigorating, even - or especially - on the day when the weather changed and gusts of wind and rain threatened to play havoc with the maps.

This weekend there was another opportunity, to do some ushering/doorkeeping/general dogsbodying for a special event at City Hall for EU residents in London.

It turned out to attract even nore people than they expected, and I believe they even had to shut the doors early.  The offer of free legal advice on the complexities of the government's post-Brexit settled status scheme (say no more) had most to do with that, no doubt.

But there were also some social and fun activities alongside, including concerts outside - and "crazy football" (something to do with the fact that London - or at least Wembley Stadium - is hosting parts, including the final, of the European Championship next year, though presumably not to these rules):

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

It may be a bit late to remark on Saturday's other big event, the Last Night of the Proms, but there are some bemusing, if predictable, comments on the BBC's Facebook feed of the moments where the guest star singer of the night, Jamie Barton, not only waved her flag but nailed her colours to the mast, changing a line of "I Got Rhythm" to "I got my gal", and, at the climactic moment of "Rule Britannia", holding high a rainbow flag. As one might suspect, the Daily Mail readers lined up the complaints about it being "too political" (though that complaint was as much about the prevalence of EU flags and gold-starred blue berets among the prommers in the Arena) and "rubbing our noses in it".

Quite how any of that is more political than the waving of Union Jacks (or any other national symbols), I don't know; in any case, the apparently patriotic elements of the Last Night have carried a strong element of ironic exaggeration at least since they started to be set in stone in the 1950s, and the enthusiasm for them is simply that community singing of belting tunes on a party night is fun. Nor is it obvious how it's any more ostentatious than the time, a few years ago, when a prommer threw a pair of knickers at Jonas Kaufman, only to have a pair of Union Jack boxers lobbed back in return, or the time (even more years back) when Anna Netrebko smooched her way around the orchestra, caressing the occasional male musician as she sang Lehar's"Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß".

And then there was the complaint about bringing foreign performers in for the last night (culminating in "Rule Britannia", of course) - but hadn't they actually picked up from the programmes for the other 90-odd concerts that the galaxy of overseas star performers (not to mention composers) is rather the point of the whole exercise?

Be that as it may, and controversy apart, here's Jamie Barton's performance on the night of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

Monday, 16 September 2019

Not what one normally expects to see while out to get the weekly shop. This Royal Fleet Auxiliary was in town for one big event, but on Saturday morning was joined by a couple of patrol boats, one of  which took up position as a lane marker for the Great River Race, the annual 20-odd mile procession race all the way from Greenwich to Richmond. With so many crews from outside London, a lane marker's important, to stop the inexperienced from succumbing to the temptation to cut corners on the inside of the bends: not only is it counter-productive (the current runs fastest slightly to the outside of the middle on a bend), for that reason it's also against the rule of the river, and would risk collision with oncoming traffic.

There might have been another reason for the patrol boats' presence. It's the custom for crews in this race to fly as large a banner as they feel they can (this is no race for high-tech Olympic-style craft stripped down to the minimum). There's a usually a fine display, creating no end of puzzles trying to recognise all sorts of county and local flags that we wouldn't normally see; this year I only saw one with a Skull and Crossbones, but it obviously did no harm to have the Royal Navy on hand. (Apologies in advance for the quality of the video: trying to zoom in across such an expanse of water pushed my phone camera's capabilities to the limit):

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Nature notes

Occasionally I'm woken in the night by a whimpering-wailing sort of sound that eventually dies away. I rather assumed it was a sound of animal pain and alarm, and therefore that perhaps one of our local foxes was earning its keep by catching a rat. It certainly wasn't the screaming bark of their mating call (the kind they use in TV dramas to signal that it's creepy at night in the countryside and Something Nasty is about to happen).

But one night I looked out to see a fox chasing another, and as they passed under my window it was clearly the chasing fox that was making the noise as it saw off an intruder. So it's presumably some sort of territorial warning, the vulpine equivalent of "Git orf moi land!": or - this being the East End - "Gerrahta my rubbish bin!"

Sunday, 8 September 2019


Canary Wharf now has a "grooming atelier".

It's a barber's.