Monday, 21 September 2009

Look, Skyrider!

That has to count as one of my weaker puns ever...

Sorry - couldn't resist.

Yesterday here in London was the Mayor's Skyride day - and several of London's main roads were shut to traffic for 8 hours and opened to us mere mortals on our two wheeled vehicles. (OK, to be honest, some had more than 2 - but all were pedal powered)

But what is always good is when there is corroborative evidence of the event, something that proves you were there, and something from a third party, not from your own source. So thank you must go to the Mayor of London who provided the following photographic evidence that I was at the SkyRide...

Just in case you wondered - I am the one with the sunglasses and the cap - not the one with the helmet, blond hair and lovely smile.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The clue is in the name

Imagine if I told you that "British Airways" was a train company, or that "Barclays Bank" was a sweet shop. You wouldn't believe me. Not just because you recognise the brands, but because the name and the enterprise don't go together...

So you'd expect a government agency called the "Health Protection Agency" to be an AGENCY that PROTECTED our HEALTH.

Well you try explaining that then to the mother of 2 twins boys who are in hospital with e.coli after contracting it at a farm in Surrey. And the Health Protection agency have today admitted that they could have acted quicker in closing the farm, given that the first case linked with the farm had in fact been reported nearly three weeks previous.

So far around forty cases have been linked with the outbreak at the farm and 14 children are in hospital being treated.

The head of the HPA has apologised for the tardiness of his agency in reacting. Sadly, his apology is just a statement and won't help the parents of those 14 youngsters, some of whom are suffering from kidney failure as a result.

Health Protection Agency....
The clue really ought to be in the name.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Hockey in the Surrey sunshine

Hockey is usually a winter sport, but just on ocassion you end up playing a game in lovely sunshine.

However, when that "game" is a pre-season tournament, and the "warm" day is a glorious autumn day and you find yourself playing three shortened games on that day, then you start reconsidering your enthusiasm for the coming season...

Still, it was a great day out. However, having previously thought I was enjoying some degree of fitness, my laboured breathing and impersonation of a puffing steam engine (lots of noise, and not much puff...) I soon realised that I need a lot more fitness work before the season proper gets going.

That was Saturday.
Sunday was what is known to athletes as a "rest day". In truth however, just about every muscle in my legs has gone on strike. They are very annoyed at the trauma I put them through yesterday...

My biggest worry is that it usually takes two days for muscles to fully reach their most painful.
That means tomorrow is going to be anything BUT a good morning.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

A lost part of London

I love finding these types of bits of information...

It would appear that something that has been a core and central part of London since Roman times is now no more than a little know piece of rock behind a metal grill - the London Stone.

I found the story of the London Stone a few days ago and, almost more out of disbelief than anything else, had to go and find it for myself. How many times must I have travelled past the London Stone without ever noticing it, let alone knowing it was there.

And yes, there it was, mythical, legendary, known to greats like Shakespeare and Dickens, unknown to millions of Londoners.

I just hope that this piece of London's history isn't lost to us all!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Change is in the air - almost...

It is September, the Southern Hemisphere just rejoiced at the advent of Spring, so I assume we here in the Northern Hemisphere should have celebrated the advent of Autumn.

And yet, today was absolutely beautiful. Once the cloud cover of the morning had burnt away, we rejoiced at a truly beautiful day, with a rather warm and lovely temperature.
Ideal therefore to take a late evening cycle through Wimbledon Common...

What is happening is that the sun is setting much earlier now, so by 8 this evening the sun was starting to set over the last golfers on the Common Golf course. Despite this in other parts of the Common the sun managed to stay up just loing enough to show that Mother Nature, despite a Summery day, was of the opinion that Autum was arriving... Some trees are starting to change colour, their leaves having become a brown or red, the start of the Autumn colour change that will precede the mass leave disposal that happens every year...

And yes, London, that means just one thing.
Anytime soon the Tube will stop due to "leaves on the tracks"!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

South West London has something X to shout about

It's been a while, but finally South West London has something to shout about on the X-Factor.

last night a pub singer from Putney blew the judges away with a fantastic performance of "Sex on Fire" by the Kings of Leon.

With confidence and personality exceeded only by his hair style, Jamie "Afro" Archer had the audience in a frenzy and, for what must be the first time in television talent show history, even had Simon Cowell signing along.

As is always the case with these shows, there is a mixture of the talented, and the talentless. (or would the politically correct say "talent challenged"?) But what is fair to say is that those we have seen go through in the first two rounds are very talented, and Jamie and Danyl Johnson will be just two of a talent studded cast featured in later episodes.

Enjoy Jamie's audition below - and look out for the fantastic crowd interaction - and Simon singing along!

Apologies for the poor picture quality.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Smiling can be infectious - pass it on

I found this video purely by chance.

Be warned - it is a long watch, but it is well worth the viewing...

When I found it, it was being used to promote "commenting" on blogs, and you can see the link. But I think it is just such a good story and can apply to so many areas.

I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

High Speed Rail Link to Scotland announced

It is odd to think that the United Kingdom only has one High Speed Rail link, and that was only recently completed, linking St Pancras to Folkestone, and allowing the EuroStar to journey between London and Paris in less than 150 minutes.

However, today Network Rail has announced plans for a High Speed Rail link between London and the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, passing Birmingham and Manchester en route.

This line, estimated to cost £34bn, is a significant step forward for the UK, and will surely be welcomed by road and air users alike.

Currently the air journey from Heathrow to Manchester takes 65 minutes, but that does not include additional time requirement for checking in and getting your luggage on the other side, nor the travel to get from Central London or Manchester to the respective airports. Compare this with the anticipated 66 minute rail journey between these two cities.

For business users, consider also the fact that travelling along terra firma allows you to continuously utilise such things as your mobile phone or Blackberry, and be less concerned about use of a laptop en route on a train than you would be in a plane.

If you have ever tried to travel by car between London and Manchester, you would quickly realise that it might take you 66 minutes from London just to reach the M25 - let alone get anywhere close to Cheshire!
beyond the traffic, the anticipated speeds of 180mph that the high speed train is expected to achieve is two and a half times faster than the motorway speed limit.
Oh - and you are likely to miss the nasty traffic on the M40, M42 and the lovely M6.

It appears that national Rail's research into commuter preference supports the fact that commuters are likely to embrace and switch over to the high speed route, were it available, preferring this to the road or air options.

But there is a down side.
One report I have seen this morning refers to an anticipated construction time of 20 years to complete. I find this mind boggling, given that in the Middle Ages great cathedrals took that amount of time to be built. I cannot fathom how in our advanced age we cannot get it right to construct a railway line in a reasonable amount of time.
Secondly, it was announced yesterday that the upgrade work on the Jubilee Line of the London Underground system is running late, and is not likely to be completed by the 2009 year end deadline. London Mayor Boris Johnson has branded this "unacceptable" - but regardless of what you call it, we still won't have the Jubilee line back in January of 2010.

And that begs the question - will a project of this magnitude ever be able to be completed within the schedule and on time? It took several years more just to complete Wembley stadium.

So whilst the high speed line north from London would appear to be the cleverest idea that anyone has come up with since Richard Trevithick put a steam engine on wheels, it might be some years - even decades before you or I get to benefit from this.

In the mean time, I suggest you check the travel information for details of what traffic jam is currently holding up the M6.

For more see:
BBC Business News
Evening Standard

Monday, 24 August 2009

Thriller dance world record attempt

I am not sure how "flash mobs" work, or whether one is supposed to advertise these things, or pass on the details.

Regardless of the etiquette involved, I am going to pass these details on...

This Saturday, 29th August, there will be an attempt to break the Thriller World Record, currently standing at 1,500.

The event gets going at 12:30. For more details see the Facebook event page here.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A (last) day in the Sun

Once it gets to September, every day that is sunny and warm always feels like potentially "the last day of Summer" and seems figuratively welcomed with more open arms than its predecessor.
Today was such a day. The mercury touched the nose bleeding heights of 28 degrees (that is degrees Celsius) and you felt like you simply had to be outside the house enjoying the sunshine.

I ended up doing something which felt quintessentially English, I had an afternoon picnic in a local park. It felt very much like the Village Green, though it wasn't near a village - else I would have been pronounced Village Idiot.
But there were two local cricket games happening, and dotted all around were families and couples and groups of friends all enjoying the sun. Some were lying tanning on the field of play, and would scuttled like startled birds when the ball would occasionally be struck in their direction. An Ice Cream vendor in their little colourful van scurried from one gate to the other, noisily playing their little tune to give notice of their presence, and with every chord of that little tune, you seemed more drawn to the idea of a soft serve in the warm sun.

There was something remarkably English about today, a remarkably "non-English" day, in terms of the weather.

And given that the forecast for tomorrow is for light rain, who knows, we might well have enjoyed our Last Day of Summer.

But, if so, then what a day to end Summer!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

X-Factor : Danyl Johnson

I must admit - I don't often watch the early episodes of an X-Factor series. I very often find the auditions cringe worthy, and find myself hiding behind the couch as some poor soul tries to battle through nerves and indescribable lack of talent, attempting to woo the judges and audience with a song that God himself would find difficult to master.

However, I seem set to be in for the long haul in this series, having already been enticed in to what quickly became an X-Factor evening in my house this evening.

And yes, I found myself cringing, I found myself hiding behind my hands, wishing that a hole would open up under the contestant or our TV and that the pain would end. "End the suffering!", I found myself saying, wondering what I had done in the last 24 hours to deserve this.

And then, quite out of the blue, Danyl Johnson walked on to the stage and I realised why I had spent 54 minutes of my life in agony. he delivered one of the best ever auditions, and I think, even at this stage, he must be one of the favorites to make the final. Even if he doesn't - his will be a name that you will become far more familiar with, as this guy has a future in entertaining us, his audience.

Remember his name, Danyl Johnson is going to be famous!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Brightening the gloom of the recession

It's not often that someone happily gives money away, but that appears to be exactly what is happening in London for the rest of August.

Talk Talk, a british mobile phone and broadband supplier have enlisted the help of 20 former pick pockets and converted them into "putpockets" and for the rest of the month these 20 convertees will be "putting" money back into unguarded pockets and bags in busy spots around London, including Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Westminster, Oxford Circus and the South Bank.

Having spent this evening in several of those spots I can tell you that I was not a "victim" of any "put-pocketing" - where Londoners could find themselves with anything from £5 to £20 more in their pockets.

The premise from Talk Talk is that they are the best value for money product on the market - literally putting money back into your pocket.

The idea will run throughout August in London, before being rolled out to other UK cities. In all, it is anticipated that £100,000 will be "put" into pockets.

That's assuming they aren't pickpocketed first.

For more read the Talk Talk blog here.

Monday, 17 August 2009

On a sombre note

It is sad when something serious becomes so mundane, so normal and accepted - almost anticipated, that it loses its sting, its ability to get us to sit up and take notice.


No, that's not the Ashes cricket score.

That is the number of British troops that have been killed in Afghanistan.
What is really sad is that just a few weeks ago that number stood at 150, but over recent weeks almost like some kind of morbid role call, the daily evening news has informed us of another 2 or 3 troops killed in a foreign land, in some foreign war.
And every night the photograph shown is of a young, fresh faced soldier, cut down in their prime. Another family told that their son or daughter will not be returning home, another gap in the ranks to be quickly filled by another young, possibly fresher face.

I am not advocating one side or another in the war. I am not supporting or arguing against the war.

But every day more and more families receive the devastating news that their loved ones have fallen, have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and tragically, as the list of dead soldiers gets longer and longer, that country for which they have fought and died becomes more and more desensitised to their death and less and less appreciative of their sacrifice.

Sky News Roll of Honour

What's happening in Blighty...

One of the principles I learned in radio was to only say something when you have something to say... Well, the recent radio silence means I haven't had much to say...

But now I can at least bring you up to speed...

Football season has started once more. This means that finally loads of British men have something to do with their Saturday afternoons and the garden and other DIT projects can be neglected until next May, the end of the season.
It also means that Autumn is starting to take a foothold. Well, that's not entirely true. Whilst the long days are becoming shorter, the temperatures are still mild enough to allow shirt sleeves to be rolled up and fleeces and jerseys are still safely locked in cupboards.

The country continues to endure a recession. Well, that really depends on who you talk to. Apparently France and Germany have recovered. In truth, it doesn't feel like the recession is lifting too much, and the increasing number of unemployed people seems to simply underline how bad things are. That, and the increasing number of empty shops on the High Street.

On the up side, Britain has a World Number 2 tennis player. Apparently for the first time since the ATP rankings were first used (which is just a grand way of saying "in the last few years") Britain has a World Number 2 - Andy Murray. Scotland must be SO happy that England are claiming Andy as British. So cue uninhibited public pressure and tabloid pressure on the young chap to perform in ways no British tennis player has performed before.

Yes, it's been a busy old time in Blighty... Just not busy enough to shout too loudly about...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Reflections of London

We experienced another very sunny day today in London - the kind of day that couldn't be ignored, nor spent on the sofa.

So I headed to Canary Wharf and the City of London, and rather than looking around me at road level, looked upwards.

London is such a mix of architecture, and the more recent building that has taken place has seen far more glass and steel being used, and this gives a whole new feel to the area - modern, dramatic, and rather reflective.

What's more, in amongst this dramatic "glass jungle" an atmosphere has been created that draws one in, rather than scaring away. So today, on a Sunday, the business district of Canary Wharf, with it's mega glass towers and centres of financial business were awash with people, families, couples enjoying the sun, enjoying the parks and the fountains - Canary Wharf was not dead - it was alive and almost vibrant with activity.

London City centre was quieter - more deserted. A mix of stone, concrete, steel and glass, but no less mysteriously attractive.

And whilst the deserted streets might have left you feeling alone, and the surrounded, though bathed in sunlight, just a dreary black and grey monotone of theatre of financial endevour, it was only when you lifted your gaze and looked aupwards that your heart was lifted, as if you were staring up at some angelic masterpiece.

London weddings...

It is true to say that in London, sometimes things are not done in a "usual" way - normal does appear to sometimes give way for simple abnormality...

So I shouldn't be surprised by two wedding entourages I have seen over the last few weeks.

The first was in London Central, close to Oxford street. Thank goodness that not every Route master red bus has disappeared from the streets.

And the second was seemingly a far grander affair - needing not one, but no less than four limousine 4x4's, including 3 Range Rovers and a Hummer.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Wild Life in London

Despite there having been several complaints recently about the weather, the lack of Sun, the end of "Summer" and it starting to rain once more, Friday evening was a fantastically sunny evening, and even the call to the gym had to be ignored. I took myself rather into Central London just to mosey around and explore.

I ended up enjoying a fantastic evening in the company of some Inner City Wildlife.

From Westminster tube I strolled past Parliament and through the grounds of Westminster Abbey, with the massive stone buttresses towering above me. From there I walked past the Methodist Hall towards Horse Guards, passing the the Cabinet War Rooms, the back of Downing street and the Bali Bombing memorial. Just then St James's Park caught my attention and I went to explore...

I was amazed at the amazing wild life I found, and how people and animals were just kicking back and enjoying a fantastic summery evening in the shadow of Central London's most well known buildings.

Apparently someone had gone and stolen either the map for where the nuts had been buried, or the nuts themselves, as every squirrel on display seemed to be lost in the task of digging and then digging some more in search of some kind of nut product. A few had taken it upon themselves to beg from the passers by, using no more than cute looks as bait to unwitting humans. While taking photos one even came right up to me for a closer look, placing a small paw on my know to get close enough to ensure that I had no hidden food that I was keeping back.

Having enjoyed the little squirrel performance, I walked around the lake and took in the mass of bird life, all starting to get ready to settle down for the evening. A final bath, a quick paddle or simply paddling across the lake, there seemed to be masses of birds of all varieties.

And every so often this panorama of wild life had a fantastic backdrop - either Buckingham Palace or Horse Guards Parade or even the London Eye.

It really is amazing how much there is to see and explore right in the middle of London, and by no means is it just a stony, cold concrete city with no personality. London invites you in, you just need to listen out for the invitation.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

London 2012 - Get involved in the Open Weekend

It might just be me, but I was not aware that this weekend is the London 2012 Open Weekend.

A series of events celebrating arts, culture and sport are taking place through the Capital and the UK this weekend, and people are being invited to participate and experience the growing excitement of London 2012.

There is just one day left of the Open weekend, but in order to see the list of available events taking place in London on Sunday, 26th July, click HERE.

London 2012 stadium takes shape

I must admit to never venturing further East in London than Greenwich. Somehow my London experience to date has been very "western". Until today that is...

I took myself out toward Stratford, to the enormous building site that is where the London 2012 Olympic Park and Stadium are taking shape.

The size of the construction site is breathtaking, and as you look out over it, it almost seems to spread out Biblically, as far as the eye can see.

At the moment, the most dominant feature of the site is the Olympic stadium itself, which given that the Olympics are still more than 1,000 days away, appears to be coming along very well. (By comparison to when I have seen preparations for the 20120 World Cup in South Africa. Although at the moment it looks more like a dinner plate in a metal cage, it is easy to see how this structure will become the centrepiece of the Olympic Park come 2012.

Also clear to see is the Aquatics centre, though not as accessible at the main stadium.

What is apparent is that this is not just a building project, this involves all manner of engineering projects under a single banner. It is obvious that transport, utilities, infrastructure and community projects and developments are all taking place and contributing to the development of the East End of London.

And say what you will about what may become of the Olympics, or the legacy they may leave after 2012, it is clear that in the current economic climate, a massive construction project such as this one, which cannot be stalled, halted or delayed in any way, is driving the manufacturing and construction industry in the local London area, and probably reaching out throughout the UK. Right now the employment and economic development that this project is providing the people of London is probably immeasurable, and you shudder to think what unemployment and growth statistics might be without this project.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Beware the repairman - shocking under cover investigation

Sadly, not all repair men and repair shops can be trusted.

Beware if you have to send your laptop or PC away for repair. This story is running on SKY news this evening and makes for some very nasty viewing...

Doing something outrageous

Let me start this by saying.... I don't do jogging!

I can run around a hockey field, I can cycle a bike for a fair distance, but some how running on a road has never interested me...

Yet, despite this, I find myself completing an application form for the London Marathon in 2010, to be run on April 25th. That makes it 9 months away.

I will only find out in September if I actually have a place secured in the starting field, and I then commence my preparation and my fund raising. And that's the point of this exercise - fund raising...

So we wait and see....

Monday, 20 July 2009

Videos from Fairford

I managed to sit myself down and put a montage of some of my photos together from yesterday's air tattoo.

First up, the Avro Vulcan and the B52 Bomber

And then the Red Arrows performing and closing the afternoon.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Flying visit to Fairford

Today I went to my first Air Tattoo. I had known about this annual military air show, having lived close to the Gloucester air field where it is held, but had not previously made it. This year I was determined.

With experience from the Biggin Hill air show recently, I knew that traffic would be my biggest problem, and so I set out at 05:30 from London, and made good time through to Fairford. Once I had cleared the entrance gate and mandatory military search, I was overwhelmed.

Static Air Display

I have been to both Biggin Hill and Farnborough air shows before, but the static air display at Fairford was probably bigger than both of those combined. Literally the full 2 mile length of the taxi way had doubled as a military aircraft air park, with dozens of machines from various European and the US air force on display. The fact that Fairford doubles as a US air base, meant that the US contingent represented the majority of the planes on show, but German, French, Finnish, Dutch, NATO and several other national air forces were well represented.

Strangely though, despite the massive number of planes on show, the Avro Vulcan parked up at the East of the run way seemed to attract the most attention.

Flying Display

The weather was best described as "changeable" and probably more honestly described as "bloody awful". Several heavy showers swept across the air field, and the strong cross wind created some interesting take off and landings for the various display teams. But the teams were magnificent. Their ability to switch from normal diplay to flat display to accommodate the weather was brilliant, and the show generally was unaffected by the weather conditions.
If anything, the wet runway often lead to some fantastic photo opportunities, especiialy when the fast jet displays were oeprating at low level. This Swedish Airforce Gripen had a particularly spectacular take off.

There were several Air formation displays, including the Breitling Jet Team, the Red Arrows, the Swiss Airforce (I learnt that today... Didn't know they had an airforce, let alone they possessed F18 Hornets). However, the Italian Il Frecce Tricolori representing the Italian Air Force were very memorable, complete with Italian commentator and the sounds of Nessum Dorma for their Finale.

Late in the afternoon we were treated to some Cold War icons, not only displaying, but actually sharing the same piece of runway at the same time.

A B-52H Stratofortress, returning from Spain, made no less than 4 low level passes, delighting the crowd with its sheer size and 8 roaring engines.

But more was to come. The moment everyone had waited for, the return of the AVRO Vulcan to the Royal International Air Tattoo after 18 years. The Vulcan rolled along the runway, and the crowd seemed to rise as one. Fortuantely the immense howl of the Vulcan engines managed to drown out the almost synchronised click of 50,000 cameras as XH558 took off.

Her display was breathtaking, but more was to come.
Having landed and slowly taxied in front of the crowd, the Vulcan waited at the west end of the runway, as the B-52 itself came in to land.

The plane is so wide, she hardly fitted on the runway, and at times I am certain her wing mounted side wheels made merry in the rain soaked Gloucester turf alongside the runway.

Even so, she then joined the Vulcan, and these two great ladies of the Cold War taxied together back in front of the crowd - a truly fantastic moment and very rare indeed.

The show was ended by the Red Arrows. Their performance was impecable, and words could hardly describe the fantastic art and skill that these pilots display in the flying.

The Roayl International Air Tattoo promotes itself as the world's biggest air show, and on the evidence of the static air display and the 6 hour flying display from across the world, it is easy to see how this label is justified.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Where the famous hang out in London

Google have launched a new section within their domain showing where some of London's more famous residents like to hang out.

They have consulted such names as Ken Livingstone and Kelly Holmes and lead singer of Madness, Suggs, and asked what their favourite places in London are.
Then, using Google Maps, these places have been set out and marked with customised "pins".

If you are familiar with Google maps you will immediately recognise the format, but what is really nice is to find out more about your own city through the eyes of these celebs.

Go see the celeb maps for yourself here.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Trafalgar Square Art

A few days ago I blogged about the new art display taking place at Trafalgar Square, Antony Gormley's "One and Other", taking place on the Fourth plinth.

So this evening I went in to London to see it for myself. I got to Trafalgar Square just in time for the 8 o'clock transition between participants.

The earlier participant was a Lollipop lady - someone who helps at pedestrian crossings, generally outside schools.

The next participant cut a lonely figure on the plinth. Dressed in a formal evening dress with elbow length gloves, she looked like she was the only attendee at a formal party. The dark clouds to the South of the City were a dramatic backdrop to her.

However, perhaps the most amusing sight of the evening, to me anyway, was when the participant whipped out a camera of her own, and suddenly the gathered crowd who were taking pictures of her, became a subject of her own enthusiastic photo taking.

Taking the trash out

The Thames has long been used as a transport artery for the Capital.
However, after the recent Expenses Scandal within the Government, the irony of seeing the trash being taken out by a barge in front of the Houses of Parliament couldn't be lost...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Getting Steamed Up in Hampshire

It is one of the amazing things about London that you can travel less than an hour down the road, and transport yourself back in time by decades...

Today I took myself south from London toward Southampton, but stopped at Alton, a small Hampshire town, and took in the Mid Hants Railway - more commonly known as the Watercress Line)

Running between the towns of Alton and Alresford, this Heritage Railway gives you a taste of what the mighty era of steam must have been like, as it muscles its way through 10 miles of beautiful Hampshire countryside, all the while chugging to the harmony of the steam engine.

Today the engine on duty was the Lord Nelson, a restored Southern 4-6-0 E850. And what a beautiful site she was (Trains are female - even the great Lord Nelson in this instance...)

I managed to catch the train both at Alton and then arriving at Alresford. The power, majesty and presence of the machine, originally built in 1926, is just awesome.

If you are in Hampshire, and in fact, even if you are not, a ride on the Watercress line is well worth making the effort for.

London after dark

I probably shouldn't admit this openly, but I have not often been out into Central London until the early hours of the morning. However, last night was an exception.

I headed out to Piccadilly Circus for the evening and enjoyed myself to such an extent that home time came long after the last tube had set off for the night. And so I found myself connecting Night Bus routes to get home.

While I regularly use buses, a Night Bus is a completely different creature. And the mix of people, all returning home after various degrees of frivolity, or in fact heading on to another venue for further frivolity, creates quite a melting pot of emotion, fatigue and edginess.

I connected with my bus at Trafalgar Square - where half the nation appeared to get on. The resultant Sardine Can experience brought you much closer to your neighbour than you might have thought possible... Slowly we wound our way home, exchanging occupants at every stop, those getting off being replaced by a new and seemingly more obscure group of characters. At one time our driver refused to continue, as the bus was overloaded. This added to the tension slightly.

But despite thinking that the whole bus might erupt into some kind of warped "WWE Cage match", we managed to get home without incident.

Once in Wimbledon, I had to complete the last part of my journey on foot. And here you realised that you were in a safe environment.
My 15 minute walk included passing 3 girls who were walking themselves home alone. And this really did drive home the point of how safe things were and are.

The final highlight on a chequered trip home, was the site of an urban fox in the next road up from me. He stopped in the middle of the road, eyeing me up as if to question how dare I disturb him, before scuttling off into the darkness.

Sometimes I take the safety I feel in London for granted. It's only when you take a trip home in the early hours, and your experience tells you that this should be a harrowing experience, that you see how safe things can be - and are.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Where were you....?

I wasn't alive when Kennedy was assassinated, but I believe that people recalled exactly where they were when they heard the news of his death.

Strangely, I know exactly where I was when I first heard that Michael Jackson had been rushed to hospital and was seriously ill. I recall staying up until 3 in the morning enthralled, watching the news develop of his failing health and at first the rumours of his death, the unconfirmed reports, and then the sad news that he had been pronounced dead.

I suppose for my generation this was our "Kennedy moment" - I will always remember where I was at that moment. And I was by no means his greatest fan. I can only imagine how others must have felt.

And then this evening, I found myself transfixed to the TV, watching a celebration of his life, as icons of the music industry, headline acts in their own right, came together to support the family and celebrate the all too short life of what Berry Gordy described as "The greatest entertainer who ever lived".
Smokey Robinson also struck a chord in me when he said that he felt honoured to have been able to see Michael Jackson perform. Somehow, the ceremony made you realise that this was the end of something immensely special, that you had witnessed true greatness, and that it was now gone.

No doubt there will be millions of similar blogs circulating the globe tonight and in the days to come, and I am sure that many more devoted MJ fans will be able to share their personal experiences of Michael Jackson, attending a concert, buying his albums, hearing their favourite MJ song played at their wedding. For me, I have no such tributes, except to turn to nature, and a bird that Mother Nature has deemed so special that it too can moon walk.

So my MJ tribute is the Red Capped Manakin Bird;

Perhaps the most touching tribute was brought by Paris, his daughter:
"I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," she said.

"And I just wanted to say I love him so much."

Monday, 6 July 2009

Life imitates Art imitates Life imitates Art....

One of the things I love about Britain, and especially London, is the massive and varied mix of culture that appear to not just collide, but smash head on at high speed to create a wreckage - which itself becomes a brand new art form.

And in this fantastic City of London, all forms of art generate interest and appreciation. All are accepted and in their own way generate something new.

So you should not be surprised by the latest Art Work to grace Trafalgar Square. Starting this morning, the "Fourth Plinth" is home to Antony Gormley's "One and Other".
What is most amazing about this is that Mr Gormley himself has not seemingly created anything himself, other than an opportunity for others to become part of a living art work.
For 100 days members of the public have registered to take part, to stand themselves on the Fourth Plinth for an hour and take part of a Living Monument. The rules are simple - do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, so long as it is LEGAL.

This is fantastic fun and you can watch it from the comfort of your own home.
Just open this link:

You can just watch what is happening - 24 hours a day.
I have just been watching a chap now with a microphone, encouraging the public in Trafalgar Square to communicate with each other, to introduce themselves to strangers and to even go so far as to give another person whom they don't know some money.

It really is quite interesting.

As I say, in London, everything is Art, Life is Art is Life.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Holiday Pics - then and now

I was sifting through old photos on my laptop in the week and found these, from my December holiday:

Don't you love the feel of the African savannah?

So this morning I went back to the same place...

Yes, it's amazing...
All these photo's were taken within Richmond Park.

Often London is nicnamed "The Big Smoke" by locals, but perhaps sometimes we miss out the fact that there can be so many different facets to the City, and its parks and green areas are simply amazing!