The neck straining began yesterday outside the station at the Great Eastern Hotel as was. London as folks know is a place where allowing the sky and sun to be seen is considered dangerous so narrow streets and high buildings are required. Victorians did indeed build some attractive creations and can still be found everywhere the skyscraper builders have not yet trespassed although some are a wee bit over the top for us today. Maintaining them must cost a bomb also, however that is probably not a phrase allowed in central London these days. This slab of a hotel does look good even if the street itself is a mess.
Sauntering down towards the river while London rushed past uncaring I managed to get two monstrosities for the price of one. There are as you know plans for a hundred towers more in the offing, another of Boris Johnson's plans to enrich himself and his friends showing success. Of the two shown the far away one is the most absurd, pointless in design, absurd in looks and built simply to launder cash, I forget who was behind it but I am sure 'Private Eye' will know. The one in front is known as the 'Walkie Talkie' although those who's cars were burnt and melted by the sun reflecting of the windows may have used other terms. The 'Shard,' for it is indeed he, in the distance is supposed to reflect on the many church spires of times past or a possibly broken glass. I think it reflects on the money grabbing con men who made money out of it.
The Lloyds Building which opened in 1986 remains the first of the absurd buildings that desecrate London. However according to Wiki 'The building is a leading example of radical Bowellism architecture in which the services for the building, such as ducts and lifts are located on the exterior to maximise space in the interior.' To me it looks daft. Naturally this is the youngest building to ever achieve Grade 1 listed status and the architect himself became world famous and was as such allowed to build more daft buildings for rich folks with no taste elsewhere. I prefer this false Greek frontage on the old building even though nobody realised the frieze ought to have been brightly painted as in Athens in times past. You can see the sewage pipes of the new building behind if you really wish to.
Opposite Lloyds stands St Andrew Undershaft. This church was recorded as far back as 1147 and has stood in its present form since 1532. While the inside has been renovated constantly the building itself has withstood both the Fire of London and the Blitz without problems. Now however it is surrounded by the towering absurdities on all sides. Just imagine for a moment the individual people who have stepped through that door over a thousand years! Consider their lifestyles, their position in society and the world around them as time flew by. I can easily imaginen their thoughts on seeing this lot today. The 'Gherkin' or 'Cheesegrater' behind may have had other names offered it since it was erected, I think my opinion may be guessed at.
The Great Fire of London in1666 began in a bakers shop, the Blitz had other causes, and this monument was subtly created to commemorate the fire. I suppose at one time it stood out above the crowd. Now it peers through the gaps in the buildings although it is itself lying lower down towards the river. Christopher Wren, who with Robert Hook (who done most of the work) created the Monument, put forward plans to create a London featuring wide streets and easier access plus less chance of fire damage but this fell apart as those who owned parcels of land wished to keep their hold on their spot. This is a shame as the new London would have been easier to pass through today had he got his way. However all those narrow alleys piled high with money grabbing uncaring Londoners going from wine bar to pub would not be an attractive romantic draw for the tourists.
Helpfully the monument describes how the fire started and other relevant details. I know you will take delight in learning the details.
Were the blueprints creased when they made that one? In the background stands another of Richard Rogers mistakes. His wife apparently called this one also 'Cheesegrater' and Rogers at least had sufficient faith in the thing to move his company offices into it. I say that serves him right!
Bring back the Luftwaffe to finish the job I say!
The Mayor of London had a cycle event on yesterday and a million bikes of all sorts went round and round each and every one determined to be where I was crossing the road. There were myriad stewards placed here and there carrying poles saying 'STOP' and by these controlling the traffic flow. I spoke to this chap as I passed encouraging him that he only had eight more hours of this ahead of him. He laughed and considered meaningfully walloping me with the pole so I moved on. The stewards were excellent folks, mind you some found English difficult, the locals like this chap were helpful and competent in there duties. The whole atmosphere was a happy friendly one, so unlike the London I knew.
Peoples of all ages, sizes and from many parts of London and around appeared willing to cycle around in circles on these normally 'death trap' roads. Cyclists are often treated badly by car drivers however when I used to cycle there (being younger) I managed by avoiding heavy traffic and using my head. This is not always the case and cycle messengers get the reputation they deserve. The heavy traffic full of lorry drivers who cannot possibly people up close and miss bikes that cycle right up under them, plus careless drivers and careless cyclists do not make for comfortable riding. The young girl killed the other day appeared to be in a position where the driver could not possibly see her and sometimes I wonder about cyclists in town. Common sense tells you to let big vehicles go first and stay clear of them. No problems yesterday as far as I could see and this was a well organised day and all appeared to enjoy. However I hear one or two accidents occurred in the 'Ride London' race which takes folks round London and out into the far suburbs today.
There were the tallest folks riding around and looking happy about it.
And this was the smallest! Whether he made it all the way round I know not but what a bike to have on a day like this? Surrounded by cycling family members he appeared happy enough if a little confused.
Looking up again at the Guildhall tower. The limp English imperialist flag hanging unhappily has been worn out by the noise from down below. This is where the cyclists were controlled from, stalls abounded, music blared, food smells rose along with the smoke of burning lunch and bikes were placed under the feet of innocent passersby as they forced their way through. Too much for little me.
Here too stewards abounded but it was difficult to identify the stewards from the riders wearing Hi-Vis vests. Were they all stewards or just using a vest to advertise 'Prudential' who were sponsoring the day? I know not. The newer guildhall buildings are seen behind and the place may have been open to visitors but I declined the opportunity if they were and looked for greener grass elsewhere.
At Bank this choir based themselves in the middle of the road and swung away throughout the day. They appeared happy enough as did the audience. However why female riders park their bikes so that I fall over them as I try to get away was a question that was not answered! Bah!