Monday 29 June 2009

Little Bits of London (3)

Spotted on a bench in Walbrook between Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street - a little optimistic perhaps?

Sunday 28 June 2009

Just another British summer

As I was driving home from Kent yesterday evening the sky was getting darker and darker. Clearly a storm was on the way. Coming up the A20 I could see the rain falling over Bexley/Crayford way. As I came about the South Circular towards the A2 it started to rain, seriously. Motorbike riders were stopping under bridges, wipers were going double speed. Sitting in the traffic jam at Kidbrooke I could see lightning to the East; however the rain stopped and the rest of my journey home was uneventful.

When I arrived home I found the remains of a torrential downpour. Not rain though, hailstones. Hailstones the size of marbles. Just another British summer then!

Little Bits of London (2)

These bollards can be found at the back of Southwark Cathedral on the way to London Bridge station, many of them have been decorated with features to form faces with the reflective 'eyes' the sad one that has fallen over is particularly effective!

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Another 26 miles?

As I only read newspapers that I don't have to pay for it took fellow local blogger Darryl over at 853  (Hands off our marathon, Branson) to alert me to the latest attempts of the rich and famous to mess with fine London institutions.

The rich and famous in question is Richard Branson and his Virgin crowd and the London institution in question is the London Marathon. I'm not quite sure how it can be 'more fun and glamorous' other than possibly running round the centre of London in extremely small circles?

I've lived on the Marathon route for almost ten years now, and I enjoy getting up on a Sunday (come rain or shine) and joining a large percentage of my neighbours to cheer on the runners. Young and old turn out and support the runners from the competitive front runners through to the stragglers at the back. Yes, it is a little annoying when the streets are closed - but it is Sunday morning, which lets face it for most of us is the least inconvenient (some of my house isn't even awake until the roads re-open!).

I get fed up with everything getting 'fixed' all the time, even when it isn't broken. I urge you to suggest to Mr Branson that the best idea for the London Marathon is to leave it alone.

Monday 22 June 2009

Little Bits of London (1)

When you are familiar with a city and your journey through it you begin to spot little things...

This morning on just after crossing the Millennium Bridge (just by the City of London School) I saw this piano/street art - complete with a hoarding licence (!). If I hadn't been in a hurry to get to work I would have stopped and played a tune (one of the two or three that I can play without music!).
On my way home from work this evening I saw this pigeon perched of top of a signpost - until he started grooming himself I thought that he was decoration, so perfectly in keeping did he look!
They have already cleaned the south side of St Paul's Cathedral, now they are working on the north side (the central part, below the dome) - you can see what a difference the work has made to the grimy stone.

Friday 19 June 2009

London... at your feet

London as seen from the top of the Monument. This is a 360 view starting looking due south and turning clockwise towards North London, the City and finally Docklands. Click the image for a larger view.

Skywatch Friday (13)

Monday 15 June 2009

After the storm

London suffered the most incredible thunderstorms this evening (as any watching the Twenty20 will be aware).

I missed most of it as I was in the bath during the majority... although I took a damp trip down to the kitchen as Rich told me the frogs were making a mass exodus from the Fish Pond and hopping across the lawn to take shelter from the weather. I missed most of them and only caught one straggler leaping away. I don't know if it was the torrential rain hitting the pond, the rolling thunder or the forked lightning which scared them off... or perhaps an instict that told them a vast expanse of water isn't the best place to be during an electrical storm.

I had my usual failed attempts to capture photographs of the forked lightning streaking across the sky. Rich told me I ought take a video and capture the still - of course by the time I tried this the storm was pretty much over and the lightning was down to a few half-hearted flashes here and there!

I got to stand in the kitchen door and listen to the rain fall - one of my favourite sounds in nature... and then I walk in the wet garden - the rain has really brought out the smell of the honeysuckle... and a plague of snails!

New Occasional Tourist

Read about my trip up London's Monument

Sunday 14 June 2009

Summer in the garden

I spent a delightful couple of hours enjoying the sunshine this afternoon sitting in the garden. My company was a variety of birds and insects... a few frogs... a neighbour's cat.

The first bird I saw was one of the enormous wood pigeons sitting on top of the bird feeder at the far end of the garden. The frame is supposed to be (but isn't) squirrel proof... the poor pigeon couldn't figure out how to take advantage of the feeders which are made for much smaller birds.

Next visitor was a blackbird. He hopped around the shrubbery at the base of the feeder looking for scraps, which there obviously weren't as he left quite fast. I went to the end of the garden and scattered some seed on the ground for the larger birds.

Next a few great-tits arrived to feast on the fat balls... they studiously ignored the seed feeder - who wants seed when fat balls are on offer! They were followed by a robin who flew to the pond where he promptly sat on a lily pad to take a bath... he then flew into the tree next to where I was sitting where he and his mate looked quizzically at me before flying off.

The blackbird re-appeared and was joined by a friend and they had a feast of the seeds (and probably bits of fat ball dropped by the tits). One of the blackbirds then stopped to sunbathe for a while.

Meanwhile the wood pigeons were up in the big tree... falling off branches (as usual) and cooing loudly at each other.

'Old Croaker' is still somewhere in the middle of the fish pond calling to his friends. Rich and I saw him the other week and he isn't actually a very big frog. We were sure it was him as you could see his throat moving as he croaked! There were a few frogs in the Frog Pond enjoying the sunshine... most of them sitting on the bottom.

My final round of the garden was to enjoy the flowers which are coming into their own... this included dodging a good few bumblebees collecting nectar (right) as well as a few dancing butterflies and the dragonflies spendid in blue and green over the pond.

The honeysuckle (right) is at its best at the moment... especially around sunset when the scent reaches the patio!

The purple and pink flowers are well known for ability to attract insects and this certainly seemed true this afternoon as the far end of the shrubbery was fairly buzzing with bees, wasps and others (hornets?) that I didn't recognize (left).

I waited some time (in vain) to see a bumble bee crawl into the foxgloves. The foxgloves are a perfect example of nature at work as they weren't planted in the shrubbery where they are now found and the last time I saw one in the garden it was some feet away at the far end in a completely different shrubbery!

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Down the tubes

Last night it was as well to get home early as workers of the RMT union on the London Underground went on strike.

The misery has settled over London for 48 hours as although the strike officially lifts at 7pm Thursday by this time all the trains will be 'out of position' and normal services are not expected to resume until Friday morning.

The Jubilee and Northern lines have come out least affected report only 'minor delays' at lunchtime... although when I checked the live departure board the Jubilee was only running trains every 10 minutes... which I'd definitely class as 'severe delays'. The Waterloo and City line and Circle line are both suspended completely (generally voted as lines most likely to be supsended for any reason at all) and all other lines have partial suspensions; with very few services through the centre of town. Get the latest on TfL's live and interactive map.

Of course the chaos doesn't stop (nowhere near) at the Tube. I got a bus this morning and as I crossed the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel at around quarter to seven the traffic was already queueing back past the Sun-in-Sands towards the Kidbrooke Interchange - about an hour and a half early for that amount of disruption.

The buses weren't too bad until reaching central London (Elephant & Castle coming from the South) by which point the bendy-bus I was on had got so full it was only stopping if passengers wanted to get off. By the time I reached Whitehall it was obvious that if you weren't already on a bus it was probably going to be quicker to walk - it was still barely eight o'clock and queues at bus stops were significant.

Whatever the problems this morning these are nothing compared to the chaos there will be this evening. Morning rush-hour disugises the extent of the problem as passengers are coming from numerous diverse locations. Evening rush-hour will be horrendous as everyone tries to get out of Central London at the same time.

Friday 5 June 2009

Photo of the Week (Number 5)

I took this photo using an extremely long exposure to catch the moon (not even a full moon) shining through my bedroom window sometime around midnight.

Skywatch Friday (12)

The last of the summer's evening sunset catches the trees as the sun sets and the moon rises.

Monday 1 June 2009

Double strike

First there was the news that RMT workers on the Underground are to go on strike this month for 48 hours, which will likely cripple the transport system in London and bring the tube network to a virtual (if not complete) standstill. Until (and if) they find a solution avoid central London from 7pm on the 9th June to 11th June.

Then there is the news that postal workers (this time the CWU) have voted 9-1 in London in favour of strike action. The changes are necessary say Royal Mail as, apparently the mail volume in London has fallen by 10%. I don't find this surprising. Other offices in our company with larger mail volumes no longer use Royal Mail to deliver their letters; the alternative is cheaper.

At a time when people all over the country are losing their jobs, taking cuts in hours or taking pay freezes... these workers go on strike. I don't know the ins and outs of the issues with these unions and their bosses, but I know one thing. Right now is the time for people to pull together and to appreciate that times are tough... not to make everyone's lives more difficult by walking out on strike.