Eve of departure

Thursday, August 27th 2015

We have done a lot of travelling over the last few months with some more to come in the next couple of weeks. Last Saturday we spent the day in Deal, in Kent, and on Tuesday, paid a visit to a fine museum and art gallery in the ancient university city of Cambridge. Tomorrow, we board the Eurostar for a trip to… somewhere I’ll tell you about later! In fact, we are visiting two locations in two different countries.

Apart from anything else, this busy out-and-aboutness has meant that I have fallen seriously behind in keeping the blog up to date and there is a backlog for me to dissolve as best I can in the coming weeks and months. In fact, I am not sure that I will manage to cover everything and that I will not have to discreetly set aside some of our outings. We will see.

As you may know if you have paid more than a cursory glance at the blog, since 2005, I have been living in the intriguing and ever fascinating borough of Islington with my beloved partner Tigger. Many of my blog posts have been about Islington and one could easily devote an entire blog to this borough and its inhabitants. In fact, someone has. It is called Islington Faces Blog, and provides fascinating portraits of people who live, work and carry out their various activities in this historic borough. Islington Faces Blog has with permission kindly republished one of my posts, together with a bit of blah about me. For what it’s worth, you will find it here.

In times past, today would have been the day when Freya and I would have taken the bus and train to Chingford, where I would have left her at the cattery. Neither of us would have enjoyed it much and would have been looking forward to her happy return home after the trip. I no longer need to make the Chingford run but today’s circumstances recall them and my thoughts are very much on Freya and our times together. She is loved and missed and always will be.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Travel | 6 Comments

Birling Gap and Belle Tout

Saturday, February 11th 2015

We thought it would be a simple, pleasant outing but in that we miscalculated. But let me tell the story, with my usual diversions and meanders.

Birling Gap on the map
Birling Gap on the map
Click for the Google Map

The Eastbourne International Air Show was being held this weekend but, rather than go to Eastbourne itself  and fight the crowds, we thought we would go to Beachy Head where we could enjoy the beautiful scenery and perhaps catch sight of at least some of the aircraft performing their manoeuvres. This, of course, turned out to be a bad idea, as you will see…

Here comes the train
Here comes the train
St Pancras International Station

The journey started comfortably enough. We breakfasted at King’s Cross and then went across the road to St Pancras International Station where we caught a train for Brighton. We chose Brighton as our destination to avoid the inevitable crush in Eastbourne. On a warm and sunny day like today, you expect trains to Brighton to be crowded but we managed to find seats and everything seemed to be going well.

At Brighton, we took a coffee break at Divall’s Cafe near the station and then went to the bus stop to wait for the 13X bus to Eastbourne. We were not actually going to Eastbourne, for the reasons given, but to Beachy Head. All went well until the bus left Eastbourne and ran into heavy traffic. Thereafter, speed was reduced to walking pace. I tried to console myself by looking at the scenery but the cramped seats and the uncertainty that we were ever going to get to anywhere began to wear me down. When the bus crawled to the stop for Birling Gap and Tigger proposed that we disembark and have lunch at the pub there, I was only too happy to agree. Was this a good decision? Read on and see…

Birling Gap, looking west
Birling Gap, looking west

Birling Gap is a strange but beautiful place. The scenery consists of sweeping views that conventional photos cannot capture. Panorama shots are necessary and even then can give only an impression of the views. As you stand on the cliff, looking over the waves, you are caught between three immensities: the immensity of the sea, the immensity of the sky and the immensity of the green land behind and around you.

Birling Gap looking east
Birling Gap, looking east

The casual observer may notice nothing unusual about this place. What he sees is a line of cliffs with a shingle beach below, an ideal spot for sun and sea bathing. But this is a place of drama: the scene is continually changing because of erosion of the cliff face. Where you see the building with three chimneys there was once a row of houses. One by one they have fallen onto the beach or been demolished as the cliff dropped away and undermined them.

To give you some idea of this continuous destruction, here is, first, a video sequence showing part of the cliff falling away: Cliff collapse at Birling Gap caught on camera. And, second, here are ‘before and after’ photos, taken a century apart, showing the area of the houses as it was then, compared with now: Britain’s vanishing coastline. That will give you some idea of the drama of the place.

The place was pretty crowded
The place was pretty crowded

On a fine day, you expect to find visitors enjoying the scenery and the beach but today it was pretty crowded. We managed to get a lunch of sorts and then considered what to do next. By now, the road was becoming jammed in both directions. Partly, this was because of the large number of vehicles but also because of the typical selfishness of car owners. Despite the notices telling them not to park on the verges, that’s precisely what they did. With cars parked on both sides of the road, this was reduced to single file in places. As a result, traffic moving in one direction would be blocked by oncoming traffic and would have to wait for a rare gap in this in order to move.

Crowds everywhere
Crowds everywhere

You may wonder where the name Birling comes from. I wonder that too. I do know that there has been a manor here for several centuries called Birling Manor. It appears in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book as belonging to Odo, Bishop of Baieux, the king’s half-brother. The name, however, obviously predates the Conquest and its form suggests that it is Anglo-Saxon. This leads me to make the following tentative suggestion.

English place names ending in –ing or –ings often reflect an Anglo-Saxon place name composed of a personal name plus -inga, meaning ‘folk’, ‘followers’ or ‘people’. Thus, for example, Hastings was founded by a man called Hæsta who was head of a group of followers. So, my suggestion for Birling is that it was settled by a man called Bærla with his people or followers. That is pure conjecture, of course, but it seems plausible to me, if lacking in historical detail.

We decided that we would walk up to the lighthouse and then take the bus back to Brighton. This seemed reasonable because, at this point, though the traffic was slow, it was moving, and there seemed no reason to doubt that there would be buses, the service here being quite frequent.

We started up the hill
We started up the hill

We climbed up from the car park and looked back. The land undulates here, rising to high cliffs with low gaps between them, the highest being Beachy Head, a favourite place for suicides. The height provides splendid views which, of course, is why they had the idea of building a lighthouse here. (Click on the panorama shorts to see larger versions.)

View west along the cliffs
View west along the cliffs

In fine weather this is a beautiful place and you can walk for miles and the views are spectacular. Just don’t get caught out in rain or storm. There is no cover!

Sun on the sea
Sun on the sea

As the clouds pass overhead, the light continually changes and so does the colour of the sea, now green, now blue, now reflecting the sky like a mirror. The sun shines on the water and makes a dazzling continent of light.

To the Lighthouse!
To the Lighthouse!

We walked up towards the lighthouse which is called Belle Tout. Why? Well, I hope to explain that in a moment. If you click on the above image, you will se a slideshow of six pictures taken as we approach the lighthouse.

Belle Tout Lighthouse
Belle Tout Lighthouse

There seems to be a certain amount of disagreement about the details of the lighthouse’s history, so let’s start with a definite fact: Belle Tout Lighthouse is a Grade II listed building. Other details are disputed. According to English Heritage, it was built in 1831 by [Robert] Stevenson. According to Trinity House (and surely they ought to know, oughtn’t they?), it was erected in 1828 by James Walker.  According to Rob Wassell, who has written a book called The Story of Bell Tout Lighthouse and runs an informative Website on it, ‘Belle Tout was designed by William Hallett and James Walker in 1831. Construction commenced in 1832.’ Take your pick.

The lighthouse was called Belle Tout, sometimes Belle Toute, because that was the name of the area in which it was built. This name is the result of a process called popular etymology, whereby people change a name that means nothing to them into one that has a meaning, albeit the wrong one. People thought the name must be French, like that of the nearby Beachy Head1 and that it meant ‘beautiful everything’ – clearly nonsense. Hence, too, the reason for the intrusive ‘e’ of Belle Toute, as a result of people thinking the word ought to be ‘corrected’ to agree with ‘belle’, which is feminine in French.

The name in fact derives from an ancient hill fort that was once here and goes back possibly as far as the Neolithic era. It seems that this was dedicated to Bael (also known as Bel, Belenos, Beli Mawr and other names), the Celtic sun god. The Celtic name meant Bael’s Lookout.

The lighthouse was not a success and was abandoned in 1899 (Trinity House) or 1902 (other sources). The main reasons for this were that it was often hidden by fog, because of its elevated position, and was threatened with collapse by the erosion of the cliff. It was for a while a private home and is now a bed and breakfast place. How did it survive collapse?

In 1999, it was pushed in one piece by hydraulic jacks along greased steel-topped concrete beams 50ft (70m) away from the edge. The building’s new foundations have been designed to make it easier to move if this should prove necessary in future.

Looking towards Beachy Head
Looking towards Beachy Head

The above view was taken just past the lighthouse. We are looking towards Beachy Head. If you look down at the lower centre of the picture, you can see that the road is now fairly clear. A red tour bus is moving along it. This made us optimistic that the buses to Brighton would be running and we would have no trouble boarding one. Were we right?

Beachy Head Lighthouse
Beachy Head Lighthouse

Belle Tout Lighthouse was replaced in 1902 by the red and white striped Beachy Head Lighthouse (also Grade II listed) which was built at sea level. Originally, three lighthouse keepers were assigned to maintaining and running the light but in 1983 it was fully automated and is now monitored remotely from Trinity House Operations & Planning Centre at Harwich. In order to save costs, it was proposed in 2011 to stop painting it red and white and to allow it to revert to its natural granite finish. In response, the Beachy Head Lighthouse Campaign was formed in order to raise money to maintain the red and white paintwork of the lighthouse. As you can see, it has been successful so far.

Silhouette of Belle Tout
Silhouette of Belle Tout

Taking a last look at the lighthouse, we descended to the road and made our way to the bus stop at Birling Gap. By now, however, the traffic was building up again and although it was flowing fairly well in the direction of Eastbourne, in the direction of Brighton (where we needed to go to catch the train for which we had tickets) the flow was reduced to less than a crawl. We debated whether it would be better to wait for a Brighton bus or take a bus to Eastbourne and travel from there.

At last a Brighton bus appeared so we opted for that. The queue at the bus stop was long and, just as we reached the door, the driver decided the bus was full and drove off. We stood and waited and waited. We were now at the head of the queue but what if the bus were already full when it arrived or if there were no buses at all, all being blocked by the traffic?

After an hour or so, we saw a bus coming in the opposite direction and decided to go for it. We pushed across the road, sprinted across a car park and got to the stop in time to board the bus. We even  got front seats upstairs!

Eastbourne was crowded and every cafe and restaurant we tried was accepting only customers who had already booked tables. In stead, we found a little coffee shop and made do with coffee and cake. Not exactly a hardship Smile

At the station there was a queue but it moved fast and we were able to board a train bound for London Victoria. At Gatwick we changed to the Brighton to St Pancras train that we were supposed to travel on. I thought it would be packed but it wasn’t. We easily found seats and finished our journey in comfort. It seemed only right to reward ourselvrs with dinner in an Indian restaurant!

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1What is today Beachy Head was called by the Normans Beau Chef (‘beautiful headland’). This became Beauchief (pronounced ‘beecheef’) and then, by popular etymology, Beachy with the addition of Head to replace the now missing Chef.

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Folkestone and the sea

Saturday, February 11th 2015

Folkestone is an ancient settlement whose origins go back at least to the Mesolithic era. There was a town here in Roman times and later, the Anglo-Saxons chose it as the site for a nunnery built for Eanswith, the daughter of King Æthelberht of Kent (c. 560 –616 AD). The origin of the town’s name is uncertain and appeared in many versions until it was fixed in its current form in the 19th century. A mention in the 7th century of Folcanstan leads linguists to think that the name derives from Saxon words meaning ‘Folca’s Stone’, though who Folca was and what role his stone played in the community remains a mystery.

In 1843, a steam ferry service was opened between Folkestone and Boulogne. This developed in the 20th century with the addition of Calais and Ostend as destinations and the introduction of car ferries and, later, hovercraft. Folkestone was always under the shadow of Dover, however, and the introduction of Eurostar international rail services through the Channel Tunnel came as a further blow. Cross-Channel passenger services finally ceased in 2000, leaving Folkestone to reinvent itself as a town of art and culture, a project in which I think it has been increasingly successful.

Cheriton Road Railway Bridge
Cheriton Road Railway Bridge

We arrived at Folkestone Central Station and descended to Cheriton Road whose bridge is looking spick and span with a coat of fresh paint. There were once three stations here but only two now survive. The earliest, built in 1843 no longer exists, leaving Folkestone West (1864) and Folkestone Central (1884). This was originally called Cheriton Arch, presumably after the bridge which must already have existed by then.

View of the Leas
View of the Leas

This time we didn’t go into town but headed for the cliff-top where there is a broad thoroughfare consisting of a road for motor vehicles, a pedestrian footway (unfortunately also open to cyclists) and, between them, a central strip of parkland. It is called The Leas.

The beach seen from the Leas
The beach seen from the Leas

From the Leas you have dramatic views of the beach far below and of the sea and sky, an immense panorama. The beach along the coast is mainly shingle, sand occurring only in patches, sometimes having been imported specially. There are no facilities for bathers, tourists or day-trippers along this section of seafront. People still seem to come here, however, perhaps because they thus avoid the crowds and the din of the conventional seaside resort.

Looking towards the Harbour Outer Pier
Looking towards the Harbour Outer Pier

Looking east, the sightline ends at the Harbour Outer Pier (as it is now called), the harbour itself being hidden by a bend in the coastline.

Elegant (Victorian?) terrace houses
Elegant (Victorian?) terrace houses

A setting such as this with fine views is an obvious place to build houses for those who can afford it. I think this terrace, whose  design is reminiscent of many seaside squares and terraces in favoured watering places, may date from late Georgian or Victorian times. Several houses on the right of the block have been combined to make a hotel.

Modern apartment block
Modern apartment block

The process continues into our own day, of course, and beside the older terrace is a sizeable modern block but of apartments, not houses. (We may live more luxuriously than our forebears but we do so in a smaller space.)

THe Leas Pavilion

The Leas Pavilion
The Leas Pavilion

One of the more intriguing buildings in this area is the Grade II listed Leas Pavilion designed by Reginald Pope. Its peculiarity is that it is somewhat like an iceberg in that only the top part shows above the surface, its bulk being below ground. Its low-slung shape and terracotta tiling make it unique among the neighbouring buildings. Today it looked empty and abandoned but perhaps a new purpose and life can be found for it. A plaque tells its history:

This building was constructed underground, so as not to block the light to the hotels then on either side of it. Opening in 1902 as a tearoom, with luncheons costing 2/6s and afternoon tea sixpence1, the lease required that it be used for “the highest class tea and refreshment trade with a view to securing the best class of visitor only.” In 1928 a stage was built for theatricals, becoming well known for its tea matinees where the actors had to compete with the noise of clattering tea cups.
In the 1960s it was home to the Arthur Brough Players. Arthur was a local actor best known for his role as Mr. Grainger in early episodes of Are You Being Served?

Leas Cliff Hall
Leas Cliff Hall

Another ‘iceberg building’ is Leas Cliff Hall. This extraordinary place of entertainment, now Grade II listed, was built into the face of the cliff and so only the top part is visible from the Leas. To see the main part of the building, you need to descend to the shore or take a flight in an aircraft, neither of which we were in a position to do. A picture will be found here. Designed by J.L. Seaton Dahl, it opened in 1927. The part of the building with a pointed roof serves as a cafe and we had a cup of tea here before  continuing our ramble.

Flower beds on the Leas
Flower beds on the Leas

After our tea break we turned back east along the Leas, stopping to admire the colourful flower beds.

The Step Short Centenary Arch
The Step Short Centenary Arch

The point of transition from The Leas to a thoroughfare now called the Road of Remembrance is marked by a metal structure called the Step Short Centenary Arch. It was erected as part of the commemoration of the First World War as a memorial to ‘the millions of men and women who passed through Folkestone in the service of their country during the first world war’.

RFC and RAF Memorial
RFC and RAF Memorial

Near the arch stands this small memorial. I have not been able to find when it was erected or who designed it but it is quite recent. Memorials to to RAF are often found but one that makes reference to that service’s forerunner, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), are less common. It’s good to see the RFC remembered here.

Folkestone War Memorial
Folkestone War Memorial
F.V. Blundstone, 1922

At the top of the Road of Remembrance stands Folkestone War Memorial. By F.V. Blundstone and erected in 1922 it is a Grade II* listed building. As with many monuments of the period, the figure at the top is allegorical. I am not sure what she represents and English Heritage describes her simply as ‘a bronze female figure’. She is probably Victory or Peace or some variant of these. The railings were a later addition, perhaps when increasingly heavy traffic suggested a need to protect the monument.

View from the Road of Remembrance
View from the Road of Remembrance

We walked along the Road of Remembrance which slopes down to the shore. I looked over the rooftops to the beach and the sea as many must have done who marched down here on their way to the ships that would carry them to war and perhaps death. Today the scene was peaceful but the knitted poppies that decorate the railings are a reminder of those terrible events.

Out of Tune
Out of Tune
A.K. Dolven, 2011

We walked to the beach where stands this interesting structure, officially called Out of Tune. As you can tell by comparison with the couple below it, it is huge in size. Two tall steel posts hold between them, strung on a wire, a 16th century bell. This originally belonged to the Church of All Saints in the village of Scraptoft in Leicestershire but was discarded because it was deemed out of tune with the other bells. The installation is by A.K. Dolven and a commentary on it by the artist will be found here. If truth be told, however, it seems that this installation results from ‘recycling’ a previous project entitled Untuned Bell.

Elegant houses of a previous era
Elegant houses of a previous era

Down here on beach level we also find elegant dwellings from a previous era when Folkestone was a resort for that ‘best class of visitor’ sought by the Leas Pavilion tea room in its heyday.

Walking on the beach
Walking on the beach

We wanted to visit the Outer Pier and thought you could get to it by walking along the beach. It turns out that you can get to it by this route but not onto it. After crunching our way across what seemed acres of shingle dotted with sea kale, we found that the pier presented itself as an impregnable wall. Fortunately, what I might call an unofficial path, made by people bursting open a wire fence, provided a route to the harbour from whence we could access the pier.

Folkestone Harbour, western end
Folkestone Harbour, western end

The harbour (see this map) is protected at its eastern end by the East Pier (designed by Thomas Telford in 1829 and Grade II listed) and crossed, near the western end, by a railway line which, unfortunately, is no longer used. The small arches render this part of the harbour accessible only to smaller craft. When we passed, the tide was out and the boats where sitting on the mud.

The Harbour Station
The Harbour Station

This is the station at which trains crossing the harbour arrived to meet the above mentioned steamer service to Boulogne. Apart from interruptions caused by two world wars, this popular service managed to continue until 1980 when it finally succumbed to competition from roll-on/roll-off ferries. The infrastructure remains as a sort of open-air museum exhibit of railway history.

Outer Pier Lighthouse
Outer Pier Lighthouse

What is known these days as the Harbour Outer Pier was also known as the Railway Pier. It was built for the steamers that carried passengers between Folkestone and Boulogne, many on the famous ‘no-passport’ trips. The first pier was built in 1861-3 and extended in 1881-3. A final extension, creating the pier as we know it today was added in 1887 to 1904. The lighthouse (Grade II) was built as part of this project.

The wording ‘WEATHER IS A THIRD TO PLACE AND TIME’ is a quotation from the works of artist and writer Ian Hamilton (1925-2006) and is one of the artworks displayed around the harbour and the town.

A view from the Outer Pier

A view from the Outer Pier

A view from the Outer Pier
Views from the Outer Pier

Having explored the pier, we returned to land once more.

Folkestone Harbour
Folkestone Harbour

As we passed beside the harbour again, we saw that the tide was coming in, restoring to the boats their normal element.

As it was a hot day and there would be a climb to the station, we went to a cab office and enquired for a cab. We were told there would be a wait of 25 minutes, so we decided to walk. By the time we reached Rendezvous Street, we were ready for rest and refreshment. We found our needs met in a Baptist Church.


The Samuel Peto
Once a Baptist Church

The once Baptist Church, built around the 1870s by Joseph Gardner and now a Grade II listed building, has been taken over by Wetherspoons and converted into a pub called the Samuel Peto. Here we enjoyed a cooling drink and rest for our weary legs before confronting the last slopes to the station.

Though not so popular as some of its flashier neighbours, Folkstone has a charm and an interest of its own and is fast becoming a centre for art and culture (see Multi-cultural and artistic Folkestone). We are fond of it and will certainly back be for more of what it has to offer.

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1These amounts in pre-decimal currency convert as follows. 2/6, “two and six” or “half a crown” (i.e. two shillings and six old pence) would be worth 12½ modern pence and sixpence, 2½ modern pence.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Around Trafalgar Square, then Camden Town

Saturday, August 1st 2015

We didn’t have any special plans but took a bus to Holborn to look for breakfast. We found a French restaurant and thought we would try it. As I stepped through the door, I somehow caught my foot on something and fell, crashing spectacularly into some chairs. The day had started well!

Happily I was not hurt, though I have achy ribs on the right side. I was surprised at how concerned and helpful the restaurant staff were but later I thought, a little cynically perhaps, that they were worried that I might sue them… I have no intention of doing so because, though I have no idea how the fall occurred, I am satisfied that it was clumsiness on my part.

The London Coliseum
The London Coliseum

The restaurant was in St Martin’s Lane and when we left we continued walking along that street towards Trafalgar Square. The picture shows the London Coliseum with its globe-topped tower and the spire of St Martin-in-the-Fields. (The church is still there but the fields are long built over.)

In case you are interested, the above photo is a composite made by stitching together two photos that I had not taken for that purpose. The stitcher – MS Image Composite Editor – managed to combine them. The resultant photo had some garbage in the top right corner but I was able to cover it up.

Carved door, London Coliseum
Carved door, London Coliseum

The London Coliseum was built 1902-4 and was designed by perhaps the most famous of theatre architects, Frank Matcham. Today it is the home of ENO, the English National Opera and the building itself is Grade II* listed. I don’t know whether the doors are original but expect they are. They are fine pieces of work.

Brydges Place
Brydges Place
Reputed to be London’s narrowest public passage

Brydges Places was named after Catherine Brydges (1580-1656 or 1657), daughter of the 3rd Baron Chandos and wife of the 4th Earl of Bedford. (Brydges Place runs into a street called Bedfordbury which in turn runs into Chandos Place.) For modern urban explorers, the most interesting feature of the passage is that at its narrowest point it is just 15 inches (38 cm) wide. Have I been through it? Yes, but not today – see From Holborn to OXO for a description of the experience and more about Brydges Place.

Edith Cavell Memorial
Edith Cavell Memorial

The modernist memorial to Edith Cavell, by Sir George Frampton, was unveiled in 1920 and is today a Grade II listed building. Edith Cavell was a British nurse at the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussells. When the First World War broke out, she treated wounded soldiers irrespective of which nation they belonged to. She assisted Allied sildiers to escape from Belgium, then under German control, and for this was court-marshalled, found guilty of treason and executed by firing squad on October 12th 1915. The inscription quotes Cavell’s own words:

PATRIOTISM IS NOT ENOUGH
I MUST HAVE NO HATRED OR
BITTERNESS FOR ANYONE

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Nelson’s Column and statue of George IV

We walked along the northern edge of Trafalgar Square. We had intended to catch a bus and continue our journey but were stymied by the Prudential Ride London cycling event. Why they have to schedule these self-indulgent but otherwise pointless events in the centre of London, I don’t know. Why can’t they hold them on the periphery or better still, send them to some other town that wants to get noticed? Just because the Mayor of London is a keen cyclist and likes to promote himself as such, we have to put up with blocked streets and disrupted bus services.

The National Gallery
The National Gallery
From Trafalgar Square

We popped into the National Gallery while thinking what to do next. The Gallery originated in 1824 when the House of Commons agreed to purchase the art collection of banker John Julius Angerstein. The collection soon outgrew its original accommodation and the present building, designed by William Wilkins (and now Grade I listed), opened in 1838.

Interior, the National Gallery
Interior, the National Gallery

The above picture of the interior of the gallery is no doubt a less than conventional view.

Wheelbarrow art
Art at the Wheelbarrow

In the evening, we paid a visit to Camden Town and took a look at the current street art works on display beside the Wheelbarrow pub. We have already been here and I wrote a post about it, Street Art at the Wheelbarrow. I have described street painting as the ephemeral art because works, no matter how good, enjoy a relatively short lifespan before being over-painted with new works1.

Art at the Wheelbarrow

The alley does not show a name but it may be a continuation of Miller Street. Then again, it may not. I therefore group these paintings under the name of the pub, whose wall forms part of the collection. I am still referring to it as the Wheelbarrow though I think it has been renamed the Beatrice – I’ll check next time.

SArt at the Wheelbarrow

As an example of over-painting (partial in this case), you may care to compare this scene with the one taken in February.

Art at the Wheelbarrow

Street paintings vary greatly in size. We can compare the above painting of two men apparently engaged in a furious dispute and which scales the ground and first first levels with the following pair of faces that are roughly life-size.

Face in relief Skull face

Or with the following that is just a few inches tall.

Jester on a skateboard

This appears to be a court jester on a skateboard, a rather intriguing mixture of symbols.

Eau de Pardun
Eau de Parfum
Endless

Street art is produced by a variety of means. While direct painting onto a prepared surface is the most usual, we also find reliefs (like the face and skull above) and paste-ups. The latter are paintings done on paper or similar material and then glued to the wall much as advertising posters are affixed. The paste-up allows the artist to proliferate a given image in many copies over a wide area. Sometimes, all the images are identical and at other times they differ from one another. The above bottle of ‘Eau de Pardun’ is by Endless. I posted a photo of another similar work of his – see Heat wave Sunday or click here. The similarities and differences are easy to spot so I won’t catalogue them.

Arlington House Arlington House
Arlington House

Still in the category of art, albeit in a more formal vein, I photographed the entrance to 220 Arlington Road, also known as Arlington House. It opened in 1905 as one of the chain of  Rowton Houses. It has been refurbished several times since, as you might imagine, but still merits a Grade II listing. It has terracotta ornamentation and above the entrance arch a sculpture of the putto supporting a globe. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the architect or of the sculptor. It’s possible that the figure comes from stock architectural ornaments but I rather think that, given its quality, it was sculpted specially for the building.

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1It seems the only works the general public gets into a tizzy about ‘preserving’ are those by Banksy. One wonders why. Is it because Banksy is the only street artist the general public knows about? Banksy may have caught the popular imagination but he is in reality only one street artist among the many.

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Some Shoreditch street art

Friday, July 31st 2015

Tigger had noticed some new street art in Shoreditch as she went by in the bus on the way to work. So, this evening, on our way home, we decided to leave the bus in Shoreditch and take a look – and perhaps some photos – of the street art.

There is a lot of building work going on in the area and there is a large number of sites closed off with wooden fences. Street artists have obviously been busy and all the fencing is covered with paintings. I suspect that in many cases, these fence paintings have been commissioned and as a result, instead of the usual acres of boring black or grey, we have bright colours and lively designs – definitely an improvement in my view.

On the other hand, though the paintings were expertly done, I was disappointed with the results. Much of the pieces were abstract or lettering. I got the impression that the work had been done in a hurry without the artists having time to think up themes or subjects. Here and there, a better painting emerged from the mass but in many cases, these were paintings that had been done some time ago, apparently in response to artistic urging and not just in order to cover another acre of bare board.

I have chosen a few items from the works I photographed and post the pictures below. You should not think I particularly like any of these or chose them as being ‘the best’. Rather, they are the ones that, to my mind, produced viable photos. Anyway, see that you think and form your own opinion. Not all the paintings I photographed were on building site fences. Four come from from walls, a boarded-up window and a door. Some paintings have been partially overlaid or have been ‘tagged’ with graffiti.

Our decision to take a look was impromptu and I didn’t think to switch on my geotagger, so I cannot say exactly where I found the individual paintings. Nor have I taken time, as I usually do, to work out the names of the artists. Some of the paintings may be signed if you look closely but most are not. I have not added captions or any comments of my own except briefly at the end.

 

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

Street painting, Shoreditch

In the last picture, lovers of silent films will recognize Charlie Chaplin as he appeared in a film poster for The Adventurer – for example, see here. That and the reworking of Van Gogh’s self-portrait (sixth picture down) are examples of street artists ‘quoting’ existing works. Rather than plagiarism, we might call this paying tribute to admired artists of the past.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Serpentine Pavilion 2015

Saturday, July 25th 2015

We thought we would take a look at this year’s episode of what has become an annual event in London. You might regard it as an art event, as it is sponsored by an art gallery, or you might consider it an exhibition of architecture by a single contributor, given that it is a building designed by architects. Perhaps we might see it as art and architecture combined.

Alexandra Lodge, Hyde Park
Alexandra Lodge, Hyde Park

We took a bus to Kensington Road and entered Hyde Park by the Alexandra Gate. Beside the gate is a small building set in a well tended garden. It was built some time in the early to mid 19th century and served the purpose of the gate lodge. Did a uniformed servant once stay here, supervising the coming and goings through the gate? If so, that is no longer the case. I don’t know what purpose the Grade II listed building serves today, perhaps just that of a glorified garden shed. Would it be possible to live here? Probably not, but the thought is intriguing.

Bumblebee
Bumblebee

The lodge is surrounded by beautiful flowers and where there are flowers, what do you also find? Well, yes, various species of insects but, with any luck, bees. The decline in the bee population is a cause for concern so the sight of a number of bumblebees busily collecting pollen was reassuring. We spent some time trying to photograph them. This is difficult because they flit about so fast, in and out, under and behind the flowers, that it is nearly impossible to capture their image.

Bumblebees are favourites of mine. Once, when I was a child, I found myself wondering what their fur felt like. So I stretched out a finger and stroked a bumblebee. The bee didn’t seem to mind but ignored me and went on working. I still stroke the occasional bumblebee if it stays still long enough.

The Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial

What from the air looks like a roughly rectangular park is actually two parks, divided by the road called West Carriage Drive which runs from Alexandra Gate in the south and crosses the Serpentine lake by a bridge. On the right (east) of this road is Hyde Park and on the left, Kensington Gardens. The lake runs across both parks and is usually known as the Serpentine (even if its gentle curves hardly merit that name) though, in fact, it is only the Serpentine on the east side of the bridge, becoming the Long Water on the west side. I mention this because the art gallery in Kensington Gardens is called the Serpentine Gallery when, strictly speaking, it’s on the wrong side to be called that!

From the road, you get a slightly distant view of the Albert Memorial, the symbol of a Queen’s grief at the loss of her beloved consort. Depending on your taste, you will find the monument either splendid or over-elaborate. I admire it and consider it one of London’s treasures.

First view of the Pavilion
First view of the Pavilion

Continuing along the road, we gained our first view of what we had come to see. It appeared as a colourful giant sausage or perhaps a collection of inflated gaudily coloured plastic bags.

Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015

Coming closer, more details are visible but it is hard to discern a coherent plan. The structure looks like a collection of separate bits, each with its own quirky design. It is certain colourful, much of the skin being made out of iridescent plastic that changes hue bewilderingly as you look at it. An important feature of this is the way the colours shift and change, something that a photograph cannot adequately show. It turns out that the parts are all connected and you can walk through from one end to the other. The interior is divided into sections, which are quasi rooms or halls, and there is seating and a cafe.

As mentioned, there is a pavilion every year and this is the 15th in the series. The pavilions are designed by leading architects and built under the auspices of the Serpentine Gallery. The architects chosen for the project have a limited time in which to design and erect their creation. A succinct description of the project as a whole and of this pavilion appears on a board beside it. This gives you a good introduction to the subject and I reproduce it pictorially here.

Below, without captions, are more pictures of the pavilion, inside and out.

Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015
Serpentine Pavilion 2015

As a novelty or an experiment in design, I found the pavilion ‘interesting’. I cannot imagine buildings of this sort finding a permanent place in our environment. The architects possibly perceived some design in it but I did not. It looked like a lot of separate bits individually thrown together with a ‘Right where shall we put this one?’ If the London Underground really was an inspiration for this, then I think the design of the Underground, labyrinthine as it is in places, gives one a more purposeful sense than this structure does. A fun venue for a summer party, perhaps, but not much more than that.

A view of Kensington Gardens
A view of Kensington Gardens

We took a last look around at the park and then started back the way we had come.

Exhibition Road
Exhibition Road

Opposite Alexandra Gate is Exhibition Road. This takes us, as the name suggests, into the museum quarter. Here we have the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, various institutes and, for good measure, the Royal Albert Hall.

Controversially, Exhibition Road is one of a new breed of roads called ‘Shared Space’, invented by some genius who thinks that motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians can all use the same surface without conflict or accident. They will no doubt go on thinking that until the number of fatal collisions causes a rethink.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Slotted awkwardly into a quarter in which academic and intellectual prowess is celebrated, we find the South Kensington representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known more familiarly as the Mormons. It seems quite out of place here somehow.

Thurloe Place Mews
Thurloe Place Mews

My last photo was of this charming street called Thurloe Place Mews. It seems a very pleasant and picturesque place to live, right in the heart of London.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Sculpture in the City 2015

Sunday, July 19th 2015

For the fifth year running, we can this month enjoy a much anticipated exhibition of sculpture in which the streets of the City of London serve as the gallery.  Admission is therefore free! Sculpture in the City 2015 presents 14 works by contemporary sculptors and all are now in place except one: Ai Weiwei’s Forever will be installed only in September in an event intended to coincide with his September exhibition at the Royal Academy of London.

If you live in London or within easy travelling distance, I encourage you to grab the free sculpture map and chase down the sculptures for yourself. If you are unable to do that, I present the 13 extant sculptures below so that you can get some idea of them. I hope to add Ai Weiwei’s sculpture when it at last appears.

I have taken several photos of each sculpture and combined these into a GIF slideshow, so click on each static image to see the whole set. As with all art, but particularly with modern and contemporary art, it is helpful to have some notes of guidance on what you are looking at. As I am no art expert, I will spare you are own maunderings on the works and reproduce the notes  supplied by the City of London on its page entitled About the Artwork and Artists. I have put these commentaries in italics to remind readers that they are copied text.

Altar
1. Altar
Kris Martin

Kris Martin’s Altar is a metal replica of the multi-panelled, fifteenth-century Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. Also known as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, the work was seminal to the development of North Renaissance painting and the landscape genre, and is still visited by countless people each day in the Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent, where it is located. The artist re-presents this famous work with a twist, however: he has reproduced only the frame, leaving it bereft of its twelve folding panels. Rather than marvelling at the sumptuously painted religious scene, in which flora, fauna, and figures are depicted with astonishing accuracy and jewel-like colours, we are invited to look through an open structure to the real world beyond. In this way, Martin asks us to re-focus our attention on the cityscape we know so well, and to forge a new sense of curiosity, devotion and wonder from this humdrum, everyday view.

Bells
2. Bells
Kris Martin

Kris Martin’s work often consists of a presentation of found objects that have been altered or repositioned through minimal means. In Bells II, Martin conjoins two ornate church bells at the mouth, locking them into a symbolic kiss that carries with it the notion of silence, as sound can no longer escape from the hermetically sealed fusion.
The artist’s fascination lies in the way such small rearrangements can dramatically alter how we see the world around us, and understand our place within it.

Days of Judgement - Cats 1 & 2
3. Days of Judgement – Cats 1 & 2
Laura Ford

Laura Ford is well-known for her portrayals of animals, with which she explores aspects of the human condition. Her bronze sculptures presented here are from a recent series called ‘Days of Judgement’, for which her starting point was Masaccio’s fresco ‘The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden’ (1425) in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence. In Ford’s postlapsarian vision, however, Adam and Eve are reconfigured as a group of very tall, skinny cats. Pacing around in various states of deep thought, these cats appear like existential poets gripped by their own inner anxieties; with their featureless faces they have an uncanny blankness onto which we can project our own fears and concerns.

Ghost
4. Ghost
Adam Chodzko

Adam Chodzko’s, Ghost, is a kayak, a sculpture as vessel, a coffin, a costume and a camera rig. He designed the kayak, to have a paddler in the back and a passenger – a member of the public – in the front. The guest is reclined, stretched out like a body in a coffin, with their head slightly raised. Through each journey for Ghost, the artist and the passenger are on a metaphorical and mythological journey to the Island of the Dead. A camera, mounted on the bows records the journey of each passenger, thus creating an archive of their experience.
Since 2010, Ghost has travelled along the River Medway, Kent, the River Tamar, Devon, through The Olympic Park, London, and along the Tyne, Newcastle. In each location members of the public were ferried along these stretches of water.
In ‘Ghost Archive’ (2015), two journeys were made, both from Bankside to Deadman’s Hole. The first passenger was Karina Isajeva, a caterer at Hiscox, the second was Robert Hiscox, Honorary President of Hiscox. Although these two journeys were consecutive and took place over less than two hours, Ghost Archive replays them as fragmented sequences.

Old DNA
5. Old DNA
Folkert de Jong

Dutch artist Folkert de Jong is internationally recognized for figurative sculptures that mine issues of empire, trauma and myth. Originating in a 3D scan of a suit of armour belonging to the aging Henry VIII, Old DNA (2014) is a psychological portrait of power and the way it can endure and decay. As a public monument, it occupies a peculiar factual space: “the scene De Jong creates does not feel like an official history,” writes curator Sam Lackey of the Hepworth Wakefield museum, “but rather a hidden or unseen moment—an uncovered conspiracy from the past.”

Rays (London)
6. Rays (London)
Xavier Veilhan

This piece is part of Xavier Veilhan’s ongoing “Rays” series. Designed for the Willis Plaza, the artwork frames and questions the views of the City opened up by recent construction activity. The artist has been working since 2011 on this series formulated as a tribute to Jesús Rafael Soto and Fred Sandback. Dealing with the possibilities of representation and the question of display —two important issues in his practice— these works create immersive and optical environments that play with scale, light, shadow and architecture. They have been presented in numerous institutions and public spaces, including Le Corbusier’s “MAMO – Cité Radieuse” in Marseille, the Sheats-Goldstein Residence in Los Angeles (USA), Hatfield House (UK), La Conservera in Murcia (Spain), and Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (Japan).

'O my friends, there are no friends'
7. ‘O my friends, there are no friends’
Sigalit Landau

With ‘O my friends, there are no friends’ (2011), Sigalit Landau challenges the concept of monumental sculpture choosing a traditional material such as bronze to celebrate the future.
The pedestal on which the sculpture stand represents an anti-monument; real laces, soft and vulnerable, link together the pairs of bronze shoes. As Landau states, the work is “a commemoration of the future, when we will be able to slip into these shoes and be part of a community that will create a better history, with more solidarity, more generosity and regeneration”. This work was first shown in the Israeli pavilion at the 54° Venice Biennale in 2011. This will be the inaugural presentation of this work in the U.K.

Red Atlas
8. Red Atlas
Ekkehard Altenburger

RED ATLAS is part of the on-going sculptural series ATLAS that deals with the subject of balance. RED ATLAS investigates our physical position in relation to the surrounding architecture.
In previous works, Altenbuger has used the appearance of architecture – a fallen arch or tipped plinth – for RED ATLAS he has stripped away the representational and made a sleek simple form from heavy architectural material. The sculpture leans gently on the wall, held firm by it’s shear weight; exploring the balance between object, architecture and ourselves, using this interplay to question the perception of our physical presence in an urban space.

Carson, Emma, Takashi, Zezi, Nia
9. Carson, Emma, Takashi, Zezi, Nia
Tomoaki Suzuki

Japanese artist Tomoaki Suzuki’s diminutive sculptures put a decidedly contemporary twist on the millennia-long tradition of Japanese woodcarving. Drawing on his life in London, Suzuki creates painstakingly detailed portraits of diverse urban youths at one-third their actual size. The five sculptures on view demonstrate a shift in the artist’s practice—they are his first works to be executed in bronze.
Suzuki maintains that by working in small scale he is able to focus his attention on the figures in a way that would not be possible on a larger scale. Plus, because of their size, the figures physically draw the viewer in and down to their level, and yet in spite of their size, the sculptures have a powerful presence.

Organisms of Control #8
10. Organisms of Control #8
Keita Miyazaki

After witnessing the 2011 tragedy, Keita Miyazaki felt the need to create a new ‘utopian’ vision out of the ashes of the ‘dystopia’ in Japan: artworks created out of the rubble; sculptures pointing forward to a new beginning.
Miyazaki marries traditional Japanese techniques with parts of old car engines to create a completely new visual universe. The particularity of his sculptures is increased by sound, which emanates strategically from various points. The jingles heard are original compositions inspired by music played in Japanese supermarkets; sounds of Tokyo and London; to the tunes played in the Tokyo public transport system. Miyazaki’s wish is to create a geographical connection between London and Japan.

Charity
12. Charity
Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and was brought up in Leeds. Since the late 1980s, he has used a varied practice of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to investigate the complexities of the human condition and the polarities of life and death. Hirst won the Turner Prize in 1995.
Charity (2002-2003) is a 22-foot bronze sculpture based on The Spastics Society’s (now Scope) charity collection box, which was commonly found outside local chemists and shops in the 1960s and 1970s. Aggrandised through scale and material, Hirst’s version has been vandalised and her contents emptied, a number of remaining coins lie on the ground next to a crow bar. Monumental yet vulnerable, the work plays on the art historical tradition of depicting the Virtue of Charity as a single female figure. The sculpture was originally installed in the park outside White Cube Hoxton Square London, as part of Romance in the Age of Uncertainty, Hirst’s solo exhibition at the gallery in 2003.

Breakout II
13. Breakout II
Bruce Beasley

Bruce Beasley’s intersecting cuboid forms are reminiscent of natural crystalline structures, with sumptuous patinas adding to their organic essence. Perhaps surprisingly, Beasley’s sculptures originate in digital three-dimensional design software, which allows him to devise his forms without the constraints of gravity; the shapes are later cast into solid bronze. Beasley’s impressive arch Breakout II epitomises the sculptor’s talent to balance the tension between precision engineering and organic form.
Today Beasley is recognized as one of the most noteworthy and innovative sculptors on the American West Coast. His monumental work has been exhibited worldwide including at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1995 and a major retrospective at the Oakland Museum of California in 2005.

Broken Pillar #12
14. Broken Pillar #12
Shan Hur

Site-specific installation Broken Pillar #12, is part of a body of work developed over the last five years, by Shan Hur. As part of the artist’s practice, Hur incorporates found objects, usually relevant to its location within these structures, encouraging the viewer to question the world around them and the objects hidden within it. Adapted to its surroundings at St Helen’s Churchyard, Broken Pillar #12 is a unique interpretation from the series, unveiled for the occasion. Hur’s previous public placements include ‘Berkeley’s tree’ – the façade of Berkeley Square House, London, UK and ‘A New Column for Manchester’ with the Arts Council of England – Manchester, UK, 2014.

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