Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday, 23 April 2016

"How heavy do I journey..."

That was the greeting from a cycle delivery courier on London Bridge: but this wasn't an unexpected outburst of cultural zeal, it was an actor reciting Shakespeare's sonnet 50 at yet another stop on the Globe's annual "sonnet walk" to mark the great man's anniversary - in this case, the 400th of his death.

At first, somewhat disconcertingly, it appeared we were all being sent off with just a printed guide to find our own way in fairly persistent rain, starting in this case at St Leonard's Shoreditch. Near this church the first theatre in London was built, and in it some of the great actors  in Shakespeare's day chose to be buried (and, as it happens, one set of my great-grandparents were married).

But we got the point as, passing along what is now a workaday side street with nothing of great interest in it, other than that the original theatre had once stood there, what looked like a ranting street person treated us to "Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame...", and so it went on. Just as Shakespeare brought to life no end of ordinary people in his plays alongside the kings and nobles, so apparently ten ordinary people of the present day appeared up side alleys and in hidden churchyards to deliver sonnets, some very familiar, and some not so much. We had an antic fool, a lovesick young man, a street campaigner for refugees, what seemed like a voluble tourist having a row on a mobile phone but turned to deliver "When in disgrace in fortune and mens' eyes....", and a city worker in Leadenhall Market competing with the Friday afterwork drinkers and a rock band to give us, of all things, "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought....."

And we didn't get lost: assorted stewards seemed to pop up at points of potential confusion, and since we had all been issued with red roses, it was easy to spot the group. And at the end, we were invited to use the roses to decorate the ornamental gates at the Globe:

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

How quickly one forgets. Months and months of first focussing, and then trying not to, on a persistent sciatica, both of which made it a first consideration most of the time - and now that all those stretching exercises and tentative experiments on exercise bikes and in the swimming pool have finally worked, it's as though it never was. Well, almost.

But at last there's a bit of mental energy and willpower to spare, so it's back to digitising old photos (nearly up to, ooh, about twenty years ago). Here are some from Scotland in 1997:

From the top of Ben Nevis, looking down Loch Linnhe to the sea:

The Ring of Brodgar on Orkney:

Somewhere near Durness, along the northern coast of Scotland:

And the obligatory hairy coos:

Friday, 19 February 2016

Someone at our local arty bar must have been a bit bored...

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Hip Hip

..but not yet quite hooray.

For some time I've been annoyed by sciatica, and for longer than if I'd been a bit more systematic about professional advice. Now that I have, the NHS has ruled out all the potential slippery slopes into really nasty infirmities (in less than a month, three GP consultations, blood tests, X-rays and a check with a vascular specialist - perhaps London may be a little better provided for than elsewhere in the country), and the various exercises and so forth are starting to loosen things up a little. At last the slightly more comic (though perhaps no less annoying) side of it comes to the fore. It's long been a commonplace that once you reach about 50, it is the law that you can't bend down and pick something up without a satisfying "oof!". But that's nothing compared with the variety of flinching, wincing, huffing, puffing, moaning, groaning, gurning and even occasional yelping that comes with a sore hip and an inflamed sciatic nerve: and what's even odder, is that all this is wasted on the desert air, since it's hardly the done thing in company. A pained smile, in moderation, is about as far as one can reasonably go. Even when the man in the paper shop asks if it's the shrapnel that's giving me trouble.

But at least I'm no longer walking as though I'm about to serve two soups (though it may be a while before I'm ready to gallop).

Thursday, 11 February 2016

If winter comes...

As the poet says, can spring be far behind? Except that winter didn't come this year, and spring seems to be a bit ahead of itself. This local display cheered the eye about this time in 2014; but we've already had this year's - before Christmas.

And Limehouse churchyard's spring show has been in full swing for a week already:

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Saturday, 14 November 2015

If it's not too soon to say so:

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Secrets of movie-making

If you want a steady shot of a horse-bus rattling along, get a shiny car to pull it along.

Another day, another camera crew using the Old Royal Naval College as a backdrop for a period piece. It's turned up as the backdrop to films and TV programmes set at the time of the Great Fire of London, in Jane Austen dramas, and now in something evidently late nineteenth-century, complete with a hansom cab, assorted other carriages, a rather comedy-looking bobby and a rather rickety-looking tricycle.

Note, by the way, how the extras have to sit in the bus waiting for the shot as lunchtime rolls around, but the crew behind the camera tuck in. At least the hansom cab driver got something to eat while waiting.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Higher and higher

My long-awaited new mattress arrived this morning. Remains to be seen if or how it will help assorted aches and pains, but one thing is clear: it's a good 6cm deeper than its predecessor (which was also deeper than what I moved here with).

I suppose I could say my bed has been getting nearer to heaven, but these days that is less promising than it sounds.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The joys of old movies on daytime TV

Knowing wife insisting to her musician husband's latest infatuated conquest that she's telling the truth about the last lady friend in the series:

"My dear, no-one could possibly invent Myfanwy's vibrato!"

Monday, 12 October 2015

Sciatica is a pain, and a tedious one, but even though I need to keep trying movement of some sort to try to loosen things up, I don't think Prancercise* would be quite the thing (and certainly not in those leggings):

*No honestly, it appears to be entirely genuine. Well, meant to be.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Language notes

According to the statutory planning application notice attached to our riverboat pier, we are to have, not just a signpost or an information board, or a map, but..

an "interchange totem".

Watch out for war-dancing commuters.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Another day....

...another river spectacle. September is the month for Thames-based events. We've already had the start of the round-the-world-race, a tall ships festival, and a visit from another tall ship from Colombia to mark their national day. Today, a flotilla procession was to mark the Queen's record reign.

There hasn't been the most successful record of flotilla events, over the years. There was a spectacular number of boats for the Diamond Jubilee, but it poured with rain; there was a decidedly underwhelming procession to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII.

 And, in the event, this was a very small procession: the replica royal rowing barge donated for the Diamond Jubilee, the Port of London Authority's Havengore and a modern and a historic fire vessel making a bit more of a splash.

But they all had to swerve to give pride of place to the refuse barges muscling through on their way down-river.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Bring out your dead!

Not what the tourists and office workers in Minories would have expected to hear this morning, but to mark the opening of a weekend of events commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Great Plague of London, a small troupe of actors was re-enacting one of the dismal processions you could have seen in London that hot and fetid summer.

There were a couple of labourers to draw the cadaver-filled cart, a couple of doctors in sinister masks and capes, a couple of healthy-looking near-dead to hand out flyers, and for added colour a tavern "hostess" and Daniel Defoe (somewhat a-historically, since he would actually have been a toddler at the time, and created his Journal of the Plague Year from other sources much later).

As it set off, the traffic nearly drowned out the performance, but in the quieter parts of the street it came into its own, even if the participants were almost outnumbered by photographers and cameramen. By now, though, it was taking on some features of music-hall repartee with the people in the office windows or walking unsuspectingly out of a sandwich shop - "Got any dead, missis? Shall I take this one off yer hands now to save time?" (gesturing to the lady's unfortunate husband) and "Look at the pustules on that one!".

Which does make you wonder, especially with all the horrors in the world just at the moment, how long does it take for "horrible histories" to become something one can laugh at or with?

The procession broke up when it reached St Botolph's church, with its exhibition on the event, and even the corpse got to give an interview for the TV.

Monday, 31 August 2015

August Bank Holiday

So much for this morning's leisurely walk to the DIY shop:

Friday, 28 August 2015

Obituary of the year

My newspaper has marked the passing of an evidently fertile musical legend:

"He is survived by four wives and 42 children, many of them percussionists."

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The downside of home exchanges


The laundry you hadn't time to do before you left, plus the laundry you didn't feel like doing in someone else's machine, plus the linens your visitors used in your place.

And that's just for me. Imagine if it were for a family. Heigh-ho.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Paris again

Six hours on a train may sound like a throwback to the days before cheap flights, but on a TGV through southern and central France six hours pass quickly enough. Even if you haven't brought enough to keep you occupied in the way of books and electronic entertainment, there's plenty of scenery to look at, and it's a very comfortable ride: to my mind, far more so than two hours in a plane. You can get up and walk along to the cafeteria car (not exactly a gourmet experience, but still a change of scene); and one advantage most people won't (I hope) have to experience is that if something you've eaten or a touch too much sun and heat have left you, as they did me, in a state of some intestinal uproar, then the double-decker TGVs have two loos per coach and lots of coaches. These things count.....

Planes turned out to be slightly on the agenda in Paris, though. I've been through the strikingly Jules Verne-ish Arts et Métiers metro station often enough, but I have no recollection of visiting the museum for which it's named. Although, literally, it means "Arts and Crafts" it's in fact a historical survey of scientific and industrial innovation in France - hence the place of honour for Blériot's cross-channel monoplane, not to mention an earlier bat-inspired, steam-powered plane that, well, didn't manage to cross the Channel.

The Vélosolex, on the left
Plenty of other forms of transport on display, including an array of bikes from different periods, among them a Vélosolex, with a little engine mounted on the front wheel. I remember riding around on one very nearly 50 years ago. Mind you, it was all fields then.

But just to show it wasn't just a relatively old-fashioned set of display cases and ancient relics, they had an interesting temporary exhibition about the impact of technical innovations on the process of design - and what does a designer do in the age of open source software and 3-D printers? All sorts of interesting new products and ideas on display, and more re-imagined bikes - some more practical than others:

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Barcelona by the sea

For all the sights and attractions in the city centre of Barcelona (one of the first things I saw was a gleaming display, all black glass and steel, enticing the tourist in to the Jamon Experience - I passed), you can't escape the sea. As well as a huge trading port and several marinas, and what with the 1992 Olympics and such-like, it has miles and miles of beaches within a few minutes walk of the centre, or at least, bus and metro stops, which become packed with people as the working day ends.

So with so much of the city's prosperity depending on the different uses of the sea over the centuries,  it's no surprise that one of its biggest old churches is Santa Maria del Mar. It's dominated by soaring gothic columns, relatively austere with the usual Spanish baroquery confined to side chapels, and just a few painted ceiling bosses, some striking stained glass and the (relatively discreetly placed) votive candles to add a bit of colour.

And it also has a maritime museum. There are some video animations to tell you the stories of various developments in sea transport, illustrating the models and artefacts on display, and a fair range of different types of boat, but apart from the replica of the admiral's galley from the Battle of Lepanto, and this modern replica of a real nineteenth-century attempt at a submarine (apparently it did work), it's a little underwhelming.