Sunday, 31 July 2016

Neck Straining

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!  

Saturday, 30 July 2016

A Day Out

Last night I decided I needed to go somewhere to refresh the mind and take some pictures.  So at nine this morning I was aboard the Liverpool Street train and heading for adventure.  I have passed through London on occasions heading elsewhere but as far as I can remember I have only been back once since then.  So I wandered from the station around the city engulfed by cyclists having some sort of parade come protest while I took pictures of the appalling architecture that towers above us.  It was a good day.

Liverpool Street Station, being one of London's busiest, was once a grime covered dark cavern of a place of which I have vague memories.  Today it is light and airy with a myriad of grossly overpriced shops willing to rip you off for a variety of things you really don't need. 

I ignored the delights of donuts (doughnuts surely?) and other tempting specialties on offer from people who failed to learn English before starting their job and went looking for the Great Eastern Railway Great War Memorial, one of our boys is on there.  Fascinating to think that he once worked on the Permanent Way, the rail track itself, and when he died of TB his wife was still allowed to make use of Free travel for the rest of her life.  Railways were indeed a family at that time, I wonder if such would happen today?

Outside we find this statue which I think represents refugee children worldwide beginning with those evacuees who were forced out of cities during the war.  A touching subject that gets admiring glances from many and if you look close the odd empty coffee cup from more cynical people.  The Station inside is clean but the area outside is far from this state. 

High above the road the Great Eastern Hotel as was displays proudly the railways logo 'GER.'  This 1884 hotel has been much renovated and I am not sure if either of the two masonic lodges still exist or whether the trainload of sea water brought each day still arrives for bathing, I suggest the latter no longer occurs.  Now owned by Hyatt the outside is very much Charles Barry's work and remains an outstanding and still expensive hotel.  I didn't go in.

In all those years I spent in London I canny mind seeing one of these.  A police call box for public use. No doubt I must have seen them but they do are not recognised by my mind.  There were several still to be seen and it is possible they are only found withing the City of London and the special City of London police deal with these.

London traffic remains the same, ghastly!  Being Saturday I thought it would be quieter in this part but I was to be proved wrong.  The buses may have changed, and absurd they look, but the rest is similar.

Just down the road began the neck straining day.  High above disgusting buildings filled the sky in an attempt to launder someones stolen Roubles.  This was the first of many difficult to photograph glass fronted mistakes, each and everyone a tower that reaches up to heaven so that someone can make a name for themselves.  

I preferred this little chap, once a famous and busy establishment belonging to some group or other as each church was in the past in the city.  Like almost all I passed today this one was closed, this is a pity in my view as tourists need the space as much as city workers, it is sad so many are closed.

Oh and I took 272 pictures, so I may post the rest from tomorrow...what?  Oh!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Summer, Rain and Old Man

Summer is with us, I can tell by the rain!
I have an old tape of a series of 15 minute programmes re King George V diaries.  These cover 1914 and the year leading up to war.  In all he details the weather first, he was after trained by the Royal Navy and weather watching comes natural to those working outside let alone at sea.  From January right into July his comments almost always feature cold winds and rain!  On occasions it is warm enough to set up the tent and work outside in the garden but even by July 22nd he is complaining of 'Rain again' and 'You would not believe it was July.'  
When war erupts (the UK war began on 4th July) the weather was lovely and people had a days holiday to scamper down to the s ea or head for country pubs.  On returning they discovered they were at war.  No doubt it rained again after that.
Now being officially old I had to confirm my details with the local council and posted the details in their letterbox this afternoon.  I then walked in the cloudy sunshine around town looking for bargains and got caught in the rain.  Innit though? 
The details posted show I am now officially too old for anything but voting Conservative and visiting the 'Derby & Joan' club.  For the past 15 years I have however been officially able to buy one of those retirement properties for the over 50's (not that I have money) and wonder why 50 is still seen as old?  With my good looks people often mistake me for someone in his twenties (oh yes they do) and I am amazed at the aged faces around me who are considerably younger and often more unfit.
One postie I have known for about 15 years has always looked to be on the verge of retirement yet she is still not of that age!  Incredible!  Next door the two folks I once thought had retired are only around 55!  They look much older but I suppose that much alcohol can have that effect.  In the museum we allow old people to enter at half price and on occasion I have to guess carefully what the age is, it is not easy to tell.  I have got into trouble once or twice this way unsettling a woman or two who was touchy about her years.  Most of course are happy for me to argue they are only 39 and chancing it.
There are times in your life when age matters.  Being a teenager, reaching 18 and officially allowed in pubs or to drive or whatever you have been banned from until then, although in other nations the age may differ of course.  Waking up one day and realising you are the age you always considered 'old' or 'Granddaddyish' and realising you are now old is another!  Now I have reached 65 and the paperwork says 'You are now useless, just death to come, please move quickly to Bournemouth or Eastbourne.'  Rejoice!  Rejoice! 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Star Wars Day

Tuesday saw the museum graced by the gracious visit of Lord Darth Vader, some Storm Troopers and a few of his friends and enemies (you name them I couldn't without a nine year old to help me)  from the Star Wars films.  He towered amongst us making strange noises and as far as we know managed not to kill anybody.  Kylo Ren, another baddie however I managed not to mention that word in his presence, stands next to him while Chewbacca hid indoors at the time.  Also there in attendance were two men who played Storm Troopers and other parts in the original movie, they sold many signed pictures of themselves and spoke to a great number off their experiences in making the film.  I wish I had time to listen in!  

This was the busiest day I can remember.  It began before the doors opened and families, granddad and child, single individuals and friends piled in through the doors long before the actors had got their outfits out of the vehicles.  On top of that we had a Jedi Training class for 5-11 year old's, Light Sabres supplied I think though many brought their own.  As always a dozen or so arrived not having booked and luckily several who had did not turn up so all was well.  The shop was crowded with mums and kids ready to scream with disappointment or glee for quite a while while that was sorted out.  It was non stop all day until about three in the afternoon.

 Kylo Ren, he has the 'force.'

The morning flew by with piles of money coming in to pay for it all and lots of dads claiming to come 'for the kids' but we all knew better.  The T-shirts bearing pictures of Darth Vader and the legend 'I am your father' kind of gave it away.  We were short of £1 coins and while we scraped them up from here there and everywhere the boss went to the bank for £20s worth. (It is hard to get change from banks these days), later he went and got £100 worth but as folks offered £10 & £20 notes they were running out by days end.  My shop boss was working herself into the ground on the till so I did the gentlemanly thing and let her.

It is only when you see Chewbacca in the er, flesh that you realise how tall he is.  This huge gentle giant towered over the kids, many of whom ran when he approached, as indeed did the adults!  One lad, himself dressed as a Storm Trooper, was encouraged to be photographed with Chewie.  He was extremely apprehensive and backed off.  Chewie, in kindness reached out his hand towards the lad and he almost ran for the door.  Mum eventually persuaded him to pose but he was not keen.  Chewie was, like all of them, great with kids.  They all posed for pictures with young and old and answered questions if they could, if they could speak that is, and dressed in those fabulous costumes with a high temperature outside and in it must have been very hard for them as it was steaming indoors!  We were struggling all day, sweat lashing from us and these guys did a great job.

Even Sand creatures and , er...the other one, need to sit down and admire the view now and again.  The Sand Creature had a lad playing around near him so he banged his weapon on the floor sharply and the kid took off quick time.  A great laugh for everyone.  I wonder if the kid has come down from that ledge yet...?

This was the moment our wee Storm Trooper was waiting for.  The Troopers had gone in for a cup of tea and a flapjack to keep them going but came out early just for him.  He was desperate to see them and compare notes.  He tapped their hard defensive armour so they tapped his, it was not quite so strong.  he loved it and these two Storm Troopers were great with him and all others.  Any camera pointed towards them and a suitable pose was adopted immediately, great stuff.  This wee chap will spend another seven weeks on holiday but when he returns to school his 'What I did on holiday' will begin with 'I met Storm troopers!'  That is what such days are for.

The Sand Creature is he one on the right, the other creature might be one of the hideous beasts from a new film.  Oh hold on that's John who volunteers here, my mistake.  There is one out now, Number 7 possibly and another 'one off' arrives in December, then next year Number 8 appears.  Ten new films in all producing amazing creatures with strange weapons and vast talents yet the main characters fight with laser swords!!!  

The chap from a local shop took a desk and sold quite a number of items.  I was glad as sometime these 'pop-up shops' fall flat but he said he had done well, good for him!  I wish I had bought something now!  Being one who ignores such stuff I am now finding I wish to know more.  Good grief does this mean I am becoming a Jedi!!!!

Alan Flyng had part in two of the first three films and had a constant stream of folks questioning him while he signed their pictures.  His site tells something of the joys of film making and the other aspects of his life.  Well worth a read for the Jedi viewer.  I forget the name of the other chap who is seen second picture in however I suspect any site of his it would read in similar fashion.

A day enjoyed by all and profitable for the museum, once we have paid for this lot of course.  It is expensive but brings the museum to peoples attention, the kids will not forget this.  The whole set up is run by a 'Mr Luke Skywalker' who provides us with the characters and various other items.  It is his collection and yesterday it worked very well.  The best day the museum has had for a long time.  Of course not much actual history but enough historical items round about for the interested to notice.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Little Hell, Great Hell & Damnation.

 What was the George Inn on the left and the Three Tuns on the right.

The bad reputation earned by New Street during the 19th century was a real one.  With great foundries producing metal items, a great many employed in agriculture around the town the centre attracted many men with money to spend into the public houses.  
This is not something to sneer at, many lived in accommodation which was far from ideal, often with families with several children and as is the way with many the attraction of drink in a war, gas lit, public house with in some places no women and others with plenty and an idea that the money they earned was theirs to spend pubs became their home.  
Single men, especially the young, have little concern for anything but fun as they have no obvious responsibilities and little sense.  Public houses became a place to find entertainment and fun from the friends with whom you may have spent a hard ten or twelve hour day.
The result was many of the towns pubs became places to avoid.

 Green Man
The 'Three Tuns' was as far as I can make out glancing at these books the 'Little Hell' of the piece.  This stood opposite a fourth drinking den called the 'White Horse.'  The 'George Inn' becoming 'Great Hell' and this delightful pink house, now used for respectable occupations was the 'Green Man,' the 'green man' being one of the pagan beliefs of times past or possibly referring to the many foresters dressed in green, Robin Hood' style to blend in with their surroundings.  Essex was once covered with forests.  This pleasant place was I believe 'Damnation.'


Just down from the 'green Man' stands the 'Cage.'  Most towns and villages had one of these for the local constable to lock up for the night any drunks who pushed their luck or any criminal caught pushing someone else's.  Many a drunk took one of the two cells inside just as many a man carrying someone else's chickens home for tea did likewise.
The introduction of what we now call constables arrived in 1829 and soon the town had a proper police station and suitable jail for such peoples, now we have an even better station with a great many less officers staffing it.  Isn't progress wonderful!  It must be said much of their time is spent outside pubs on a Saturday night.
These men, and here I suggest it was mostly men, have long gone, the majority sadly to discover Hell indeed is real and somewhat fewer finding salvation in Christ Jesus and land in a better place.  I wonder what the churches did for these people at the time?  Were they too middle class?  Many men joined the independent non conforming churches and would avoid such places.  But did anyone really speak to the heart of those who made New Street pubs their home?  
Of course not all local men left work and wasted their money in the pub, the majority tried their best for their families and worked hard to improve their lives as was the way in the 19th century.  Personal improvement, 'getting on' to better yourself and your position was common.  The local rich provided schools for kids and an Mechanics Institute for those willing to learn more.  This was common throughout the land and other public houses enabled such men to meet and drink in a more rarefied atmosphere.  
Looking at the paperwork it is surprising how many of these places were run by women.  Sometimes following on from a dead husband, sometimes from the father.  Some pubs were run by the same families for decades.  Now these three are very quiet, long since they were turned into housing or warehouses, long since they worried the constable or irked a wife with little money and a well bashed rolling pin.
The town has lost around fifty pubs in the last hundred years, the majority since the second world war.  After that major industry was threatened and defeated by cheap foreign imports, cinema and then television kept people away from pubs and the attitudes of men changed over the period.  While the majority carried on as normal the wasters were fewer in number and even today the last twenty years has seen a change in attitudes to pub behaviour.  While rowdy areas frighten people and the police are never in enough presence two town centre pubs have failed and one is for sale.  
I doubt those that pour lager down their throats today would consider the old local game of sitting on the floor and spinning round and round like a top.  Apparently this was a popular entertainment among the locals, but appears less so today.  Maybe too many mobile phones now...

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Sorry Sunday

Sorry Sunday.
I woke early but very tired.  This all day working is not good for my wizened bones.  I intended to go out but went back to bed until ten!  I spent the rest of the day ignoring the sunshine and stuffing my face or sleeping.  What a way to spend a Sunday.  On top of that there was no football to distract me, it's a disgrace!  I tried five minutes of Formula One but that was boring, the car that gets away first always wins, and I had the 'Tour de France' on for most of the day even though there was nothing to it being already won by the yellow jersey.  At least the views of the countryside were better than anything on other channels.
All this eating less to lose weight is making me ill.  All very well for wee girls not doing much but when you have to work in a museum all day (and listen to a woman talking all day also) it can be hard work.  She tired my mind, that has not recovered.  
Now clouds cover the earth again in what is a normal summer at last.  The temperature is still high but in Kuwait it appears they have hit 54C, that's about 130F in temperature.  Not even they like that!  The end is near!

Nothing to say so here is a 'selfie!'

Saturday, 23 July 2016