Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 19 April 2018

Broadway Market revisited

I suppose this sort of juxtaposition is bound to happen where a good old-fashioned high street hardware shop manages to survive.

Once you're past that, Broadway Market on a Saturday afternoon is even more of an ultra-cosmopolitan food court than the last time I visited.

If you don't want to buy some kisses to follow your pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi (relax, they mean meringues), you can eat your way around the world from Argentina to Vietnam  by way of Ghana, Iran, and Gujarat, not forgetting the inevitable cupcake, to go with your Spanish ham.

Perhaps some fudge off the block, a brownie or an eclair for later? And don't forget your furry friends.

There are still some of the worthier sorts of craft stall one might expect from Hackney, as is the sight of ladies' scanties side by side with (do knickers rub shoulders, or could one say they abut?) dungarees; while others aim a bit further upmarket.

But as times change, so, inevitably, there's a smart estate agent's next door to the traditional pie-and-mash shop, offering the opportunity for that other middle-class pastime, tutting over the prices (£1 million plus, or thereabouts, for the kind of house that was being torn down in my childhood, or £500k for a two-bedroom modern flat).

And here's another sign of the changing times - hardly the house journal of the alternative society:

Sunday 8 April 2018

Nice day for a bike ride

Well, it was last Thursday (how soon one forgets once it starts to rain again). Opportunities like that need to be seized, so it was time to aim to ride up to town and through to the parks.

The route passed Trafalgar Square - and the latest occupant of the Fourth Plinth.

This solemn creature is a reminder of the decidedly nasty: a replica of a lamassu, a particular sort of chimera guarding the gates of Nineveh, which was blown up by the iconoclasts of IS.

And it's all (including the cuneiform inscription) made out of date tins, dates being once Iraq's principal export industry, also now severely damaged by conflict over the decades.

What a contrast from the swagger of the memorial at the end of the ride: Prince Albert gleaming through the magnolias:

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Well, there's a thing

After months of not finding anything that novel to say about the usual annual round of events, what does it say that inspiration strikes at the sight of a load of old muck?

The Museum of London has a new section on the monster fatberg of Whitechapel, a vast conglomeration of (mostly) fat, setting to concrete as it accumulated around various sorts of undissolvable waste, grit and calcium in the sewers underneath an area with a high proportion of takeaway food joints.  As you enter,  a display cabinet shows you the sewer workers' protective suit - and the shovels they had to resort to at times to dig it out.

There's also an informative video, complete with questing rat, showing just how huge the problem was, and outlining the facts and figures, together with the issues in creating a museum display (how to protect conservators and public from potential infection, not to mention the pong, and will it gradually break down till there's not much left to show anyway?).

As is traditional in high-profile exhibits, the headline item is reserved for its own special spotlit case within a darkened inner sanctum: no more prepossessing than a piece of rubble on a demolition site, but what lump of gunk could be anything else?

It serves as a warning of the damage simple carelessness can do, and a reminder of the things so many unseen workers do to keep the city going. There is some good news : it can all be used, refined for fuel for buses, with the residue burnt in power stations.

And, of course, the museum shop serves handy mementoes: badges, T-shirts, shopping bags, cuddly toy rats, and should you feel like a themed snack, a bag of toothsome "Fatberg sludge".