Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Another minor mystery

A week ago, there were tens of thousands of people running past here, and leaving however many squillions of water bottles, sweet wrappers and assorted other detritus. A miracle of cleaning-up gets under way almost before the last dogged competitors have staggered past, with most of the rubbish gone before dark the same day; but some odd freelance signage, like this, survives.

At least, I think this was something to do with the marathon - but whether it was a message of encouragement to a runner, or to do with some music promotion, it seems unusually small and discreetly tucked away under the foliage.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A giant inflatable lobster may not be the most obvious of sights to expect on an Easter weekend, but this year Greenwich town centre hosted all sorts of activities as part of the Tall Ships Festival.

A concert stage alongside the Cutty Sark was belting out sea shanties and assorted Victorian comic songs, there were fishy-themed acrobats, no end of food stalls, and promotional stands for the lifeboats, marine conservation, boatbuilding and other aquatic pursuits: and to keep the children entertained, a Punch and Judy, a pirate ship - and the lobster.

A reminder that this new-fangled photography was a Victorian craze
Not to be outdone, there were costumed volunteers outside the National Maritime Museum explaining some of their collections and the stories they could tell about life on the old sailing ships, all under the watchful eye of Sir Walter Raleigh, who could probably add a lot more lively detail.

But of course, the event was mainly all about the ships, some moored here at Greenwich and others further downriver at Woolwich before setting off for a series of races from here across the Atlantic, this year to Quebec to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.

The queues for a ticket to board the ships open to visitors were horrendous, and I've plenty of photos from previous tall ship visits to the area, so photos from a distance - and a video of the final procession as they set out -were all that was practicable:

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Up on the ceiling

This is as much as most people are going to see of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich for the next couple of years, unless they pay for a guided tour of the current restoration work.

One phase of the project was completed some time ago - the far end section, glorifying the Hanoverian monarchs George I and II and their Navy's triumphs. This you can contemplate while the guide introduces the tour and the history of the hall.

Now the conservators have moved on to the main part of the Hall's ceiling, and to see anything, you follow the guide up through the scaffolding to a platform right underneath the ceiling, for an explanation of the painstaking work of cleaning and repairing the painting, and the extravagant iconography.
Everything revolves around the central figure of William III, with his wife and co-monarch Mary seated beside him, she popular, lively, pretty and cultured (and credited with the idea of setting up this home for retired seamen in the first place), he dour, withdrawn and suspicious  - but, like Mary, a legitimate Protestant grandchild of Charles I, and even more attractive to Parliament - a history of successful generalship defending the Netherlands against Louis XIV. So while she sits to one side (with, as the guide points out, some daring workman's signature across her bosom, dated 1797), he triumphs over Louis XIV and the Pope, receiving an olive branch of  Peace and delivering the red cap of Liberty to captive Europe.

They are surrounded by images of the virtues defeating vices, approving figures of classical legend like Neptune, Juno and Hercules, the seasons, cherubs and roses and assorted images of naval grandeur and Greenwich's importance to astronomy and navigation.

At a less exalted level, the figure of Winter represents the retired seamen for whom the building was created - and the model chosen was the oldest pensioner of the time (and, it would seem, a somewhat rambunctious one).

Suitably equipped for health and safety, a tour party examines some detail
A confident - and accurate - prediction of the date of the solar eclipse due the year after the ceiling was finished

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A taxi marooned on a roundabout...

.... with a metal tree sprouting through its roof is probably a sign of artists somewhere in the undergrowth.

Sure enough, down a road bordered by anonymous walls and what look like sites just awaiting the latest batch of expensive rabbit-hutch flats is Trinity Buoy Wharf, once the home of a shipyard and the base for Trinity House and its lighthouses, but now an enclave for arts and crafts, and seemingly holding another open weekend.

Except that not much seemed to be on view, apart from the cafés (where there's art, there's a catering opportunity), and these ladies. Still, it was a good excuse for a bike ride on a sunny morning.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

1.30pm 29 March

The biggest strategic error since -
1956? 1950? 1938? 1920? 1914? Take your pick.............

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Spring is sprung....

And with it, time for a long-overdue spruce up. Oh, what heavy weather looking for the replacement for the tired old beigey-peach coloured bedroom carpet. There was an obvious type and make, of more or less the same style and quality, but somehow nothing in the range seemed quite the right colour. Surprising how, despite repeated checks of just about everything else in the shop, the answer turns out to be the one you first think of: and in the event, once actually in place, it turned out to be just about right after all.
The floor scraped clean and re-screeded
The new carpet in place

Outside, the spring flowers are well and truly in bloom:

Blackthorn on the Mudchute City Farm
Back garden cherry blossom
Ceanothus - earlier than ever

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Just a reminder

Not one of my photos, but quick work, whoever it was....

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Leftovers jam

Most years, gooseberries have such a short season in the supermarkets that they need to be snapped up, even if they aren't always used up: which means there are usually some lurking in the freezer waiting to be turned into jam - when I get around to it. And last week, the round tuit arrived.

It occurred to me this might be a useful occasion to make use of some items from the back of the cupboard, relics of past Christmas goody gifts. The last couple of chunks of some preserved ginger seemed a good match for gooseberries, even after sitting in their syrup for a couple of years; and then there was a jar of black figs with some brandy in the syrup. Figs have never been much of a favourite on their own, or even in a fruit salad (the only other idea I'd had for them), but chopped up they might add something to the gooseberries, even if it's only some extra pectin to set the jam.

The result may look a bit murky, but tastes good (still not keen on figs, though).

It's taken a few days' wait after eating some to be sure it's a modest success because, as I was putting the fig jar into the recycling, I noticed the date on it was...... some time in 2008.

Sunday, 1 January 2017


No, not some long-forgotten variety act*, but (at the risk of bringing brassicaphobes out in spots) the offspring of an arranged marriage between kale and Brussels sprouts.

There was a brief glimpse of them in the BBC's Countryfile programme a few weeks ago, which sounded intriguing through the soporific haze of a Sunday evening's viewing. It seems they have actually been out on the market for quite a while, but it wasn't till this weekend that they turned up in my "selected retailer".

They're claimed to be a "fresh fusion of sweet and nutty". Well.. they're a pleasant enough variation, with neither of the potential disadvantages of either parent (but then, so are they, if they're cooked properly).

*They are, however. showbiz enough to have had their name changed from the more .prosaic "Flower sprouts", which would suggest a more down-to-earth sort of show.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

It's party time...

.. in fabulous Hackney - it must be fabulous because the Council says so, and here's their idea of why:
Click to enlarge
All good advice in theory, but the people who need to be told won't take any notice of notices, and those who don't need to be told might think twice about whether this is, after all, quite their sort of place.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Tip-top tap

If you're feeling a little over-full after the festivities,  and that your get up and go has got up and gone, here's some encouragement:

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas lights

This year, the main displays in central London seem to have moved away from the heavily commercial and promotional styles of recent years. Regent Street is all angels:

even if the crowd outside Hamleys looks like as mad a scrum as ever. The small streets around are getting in on the act as well, and Oxford St has gone to town on a starry theme as a charitable promotion:
Carnaby Street is reviving its 1960s reputation:
Not to be outdone, Covent Garden has seized on a mistletoe theme:
Seven Dials was severely modernistic for several years, but is now back with a more traditional sort of look:
but down on the Strand, they've gone for something more abstract, perhaps echoing the traditional austerity of the Norwegian donors of the Trafalgar Square tree:
 In the shops, some have gone for similar restraint, and John Lewis doesn't go much beyond imagining woodland animals' burrows full of everyday products:
 but Selfridges has Santa on an expensive winter sports holiday, which seems to include a hot tub full of champagne:

And up in Soho, your friendly neighbourhood sex shop is keeping up with the season:

Friday, 23 December 2016

More inches

How quickly the relief of taking a decision - any decision - in the fog of options gives way to a realisation that bringing in a larger TV screen demands a bit more thought.

No surprise, perhaps, that it needs to be further away - especially when there are close-ups of talking heads that appear more than lifesize. The few inches further away of this arrangement aren't enough yet: it will need the courage to trust wall mounts on these walls.

It's interesting to see how much has changed in just a few years. The underlying concept of the latest smart TVs is that they are a sort of super-tablet; live TV may still have "channels", but streaming over the internet requires "apps", and the interface to get to them is kept simple (to the point of simplistic, with brightly-coloured and minimally-labelled buttons, which on a screen this size appear huge). What with that and the idiot-proof quick set-up, you don't need an eight-year-old to explain how to use it - you become one.

An additional surprise is that this particular manufacturer (Panasonic) has managed to secure access to apps for news in French and German from their primary broadcasters, and one for documentaries in several languages from Arte, the Franco-German culture channel. That's quite enough to explore without taking on the ones that require additional subscriptions.

Friday, 9 December 2016


This is not some overrated piece of modern art, simply an attempt to mock up different sizes of TV screen to see how they might fit in. The existing one (temporarily parked on the floor) has taken to grumbling and wheezing on being asked to start up. It's served me well for eight years, and plugging in a replacement digital recorder/tuner that can take high-definition channels and internet services has given it a new lease of life - when it at last settles down after a few minutes. Realistically, though, it may give up altogether sometime soon.

Looking for the next advance in technologies reveals that simply to replace what I have now and to add some on-demand internet services means upgrading from the old 26" to a 32" screen; but for the full high-def, scroll-back/catch-up set-up, there's nothing less than a 40" (and even then it may not have the connectors for all the old technologies I'd want to plug in). Do I really want a window on the world (especially with the world as it is) to dominate my living room to that extent? Would it help to mount it on the wall (if I trusted the wall to hold it), or would there be room room if the clutter around it were tidied up and rearranged? Talk about a First World problem.

Somewhere in the back of my mind there's the sound of Miss Jean Brodie on the opening of a more literal window - "Six inches is perfectly adequate. More is vulgar."

Saturday, 26 November 2016


Seen at our local DLR station. It remains to be seen whether any shepherds will be delighted. Definitely time for scurrying home to pull the curtains and butter toast.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

I seem to have missed World Toilet Day (which is probably just as well, as the temptation to ribaldry is too great for what is after all a serious subject), but today is a day for a different celebration, as the feast of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

She'd have to have the patience of a saint to cope with the output of an electronic keyboard that has just taken up residence in my flat - were it not for the fact that it comes with headphones (one has to think of the neighbours). Years ago I was "put to the piano", and lost touch with it, but now it's time to see if whether there's any satisfaction to be got from trying to take it up again.

So far, the ability to recognise what all that notation means has come back surprisingly quickly: and there's the additional toy factor of being able to switch the output sound to organ, harpsichord or vibraphone at the touch of a button, which adds a certain novelty. However, knowing what keys to touch when, and how, doesn't guarantee that the fingers will actually get there and on time - and yes, I do realise what will be needed to produce all the right notes and all in the right order:

Apologies for the advert at the beginning...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Saturday, 29 October 2016

If you say so....

Tube stations have developed quite a reputation, and a certain competitive spirit, because of the various uplifting or humorous thoughts written on their temporary announcement boards.

But at Tottenham Court Road, this vague but ominous statement has been sitting by one of the exits for several weeks.

Whatever it is we're enjoined not to do, nobody seemed deterred.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Season's greetings

One gets inured to seeing Christmas packages of chocolates and biscuits before the end of October (and after all, there's no close season on either of those) - but, really.......... Christmas-themed loo paper?