Highgate Village in the evening

Sunday, January 8th 2017

The morning was taken up with an expedition to Bloomsbury where resides the launderette we patronize, followed by the usual shopping trip to Sainsbury’s. We spent the afternoon lazily because we thought we deserved to rest from our labours. When evening came on and once supper was dealt with, Tigger proposed an outing to Highgate Village as we had not been there for a while and she would like to photograph the lights.

We took the single-deck 214 bus which trundles slowly through Camden Town, Kentish Town and Hampstead then climbs the long hill to Highgate Village. This topography explains the ‘high’ in ‘Highgate’. The ‘gate’ is explained by the toll gate that once stood here to exact money from travellers. There is, however, a rival theory claiming that the village was separated from the Bishop of London’s hunting ground by a fence in which there was a gate and derived its name from this.

We have of course visited Highgate Village before. See, for example, H’ is for Highgate and Hampstead, where you will find a brief history of the area.

Inside the Gatehouse
Inside the Gatehouse

Our first stop was at the Gatehouse, a large but rather snug pub with a theatre on the upper floor. We found comfortable chairs and spent some time here drinking tea, relaxing and watching the people.

Then we set out for a short ramble so that Tigger could photograph the lights. The name Highgate Village may give the impression of a small country town, perhaps with the occasional tractor rumbling down the high street. Possibly it was so in the distant past but, if so, it is no longer. Today it is a typical London suburb, though a rather exclusive and somewhat posh one.

During daylight, one can look at the boutiques and the expensive houses but at night there are the lights. Pictures of a few of these appear below.

Illuminated trees
Illuminated trees

These trees, decorated with lights, are in the grounds of Highgate School, beside the school chapel.

Highgate High Street
Highgate High Street

Here we are looking down Highgate High Street. Highgate deserves its name: all roads lead downwards from here.

Pond Square
Pond Square

Pond Square is so called because there were once ponds here. I believe they resulted from the digging of gravel. There are no ponds now, just a square with buildings around a central garden with trees. Some of these have been decorated with lights.

Parish Church of St Michael
Parish Church of St Michael

At the end of our tour we walked down the road to the bus stop, passing St Michael’s Church which was also becomingly and dramatically illuminated. It was designed by Lewis Vulliamy (1791-1871) and opened in 1832.

We reached the bus stop and while waiting, observed the endless streams of cars running up and down Highgate West Hill, most containing only one person, the driver. We really need to do more to get these lazy and selfish people out of their polluting motor vehicles and onto public transport.

Copyright © 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Southbank

7th 2017

It was rather a dull day (well, it is the winter, after all) but we went for a little ramble along the Southbank.

Shops and cafes in front of the Royal Festival Hall
Shops and cafes in front of the Royal Festival Hall

In front of the Royal Festival Hall is a row of shops and cafes. We stopped off in Giraffe for a late breakfast. On the other side of the bridge (see below) is the big Ferris wheel called the London Eye which you can see to the right of the picture. What sort of view people were getting on a dull day like this, I don’t know. As it happens, I have never taken a turn on the London Eye. The thought of queueing for ages to be locked in a capsule with strangers for 30 minutes is not appealing. We did, however, visit the local branch of Foyles bookshop.

Hungerford Bridge
Hungerford Bridge

The Southbank Centre and Royal Festival Hall are beside the Hungerford Bridge. This is the second bridge here, the first being the 1845 suspension footbridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Then along came the South Eastern Railway Company to build Charing Cross Railway Station. They bought Brunel’s bridge and replaced it in 1864 with a wrought-iron railway bridge with a footbridge running alongside it on the downriver side (the side you see in the photo).

The footbridge lasted until the turn of the present century and I have walked across it many times for both business and pleasure. It often became rather crowded, especially during the tourist season, and so the dear old footbridge was demolished (though parts of it still remain, attached to the railway bridge, like islands, providing a refuge for gulls and pigeons) and a pair of footbridges, one on either side of the main bridge, opened in 2002, called, for want of a better name, the Golden Jubilee Bridges. Those sloping white poles you see in the photo provide support for their respective bridges.

Modified Social Bench
Modified Social Bench
One of a set by Jeppe Hein

The Southbank is a place to see curious and comical things, and nothing is more curious and comical than the set of objects produced by Danish artist Jeppe Hein. They are officially called Modified Social Benches and are obviously based, if loosely, on the concept of the conventional park bench. Each, however, is deformed in an individual way and can only marginally, if at all, serve as seating. Is it a piece of expensive nonsense or a clever and meaningful art project? We will each form our own opinion about that and this page might help you make up your mind.

Pigeons playing mudlark
Pigeons playing mudlark

The Thames is tidal at this point and the beaches expand and shrink as the water level sinks and rises. All sorts of interesting things turn up on the exposed mud and the wildlife is quick to claim its share. I watched these pigeons dancing back and forth as the wavelets came and went, revealing morsels for them to eat.

Southbank Christmas Market
Southbank Christmas Market

The area underneath the Hungerford Bridge is rather gloomy but at least provides shelter that is put to good use at various times during the year. The Southbank hosts several markets, some permanent like the famous Southbank Book Market and others more transitory like the Christmas market.

One of the stalls
One of the stalls

During the run-up to Christmas and the New Year the market is crowded as people peruse the displays of jewellery, ornaments, artworks and many other types of goods. Today it was less crowded and the stall keepers had time to read their newspapers or, perhaps, reflect on the ups and downs of the retail trade.

London Eye and Dolphin Lamp
London Eye and Dolphin Lamp

I had meant this to be a artistic rendering of the London Eye caught in the branches of the trees but it didn’t really work out. I also captured one of the Dolphin Lamps that adorn the Embankment and which are beautiful and interesting for their own sake.

The base of the lamp features two dolphins curling around the lamp and one another. These are not realistic dolphins but look rather like big fish or like the heraldic dolphins commonly seen in coats of arms. The lamps were installed on the then new Embankment in the 1860s and were among the first public lights to be powered by electricity. They were designed by George John Vulliamy, who became superintending architect to the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1861. He derived his inspiration from artifacts he had seen in Italy. He could be proud that his lamps continue in use and are well loved a century and a half later.

We now walked upriver towards Westminster Bridge, passing the London Eye, the Sea Life Aquarium and County Hall. It was abominably crowded, making me quite grumpy and so I didn’t take any photos.

Tunnel under Westminster Bridge
Tunnel under Westminster Bridge

We wanted to go onto Westminster Bridge but access is on the upstream side and so it is necessary first to pass under the bridge. The path leads through this unprepossessing-looking tunnel. The notice welcomes cyclists, something that I consider a bad idea as I think it wrong to mix pedestrians and cyclists. Experience on tow paths and other places where both are allowed convinces me that they need to be kept apart.

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull

Wild creatures started infiltrating towns as soon as there were towns for them to infiltrate but there seems to have been an increase in the wildlife population of towns and cities in modern times. Perhaps this is because city expansion is destroying natural habitats so that there is no option but to move into built-up areas. Also, humans are so messy that they leave plenty of food lying around for wildlife to eat. Pigeons were always the archetypal town birds but in recent decades, herring gulls have moved into towns and cities in large numbers and more recently still, I think to have seen increasing numbers of black-headed gulls. Smaller and less aggressive than herring gulls, they are expert and acrobatic flyers and can even hover when facing into the wind. This one seemed quite at home and watched me with interest as I took his photo. As it is winter, his chocolate-brown head feathers have yet to reappear but his red legs and the smudges behind the eyes show what species he belongs to.

Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster
Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster

My last photo of the ramble was this rather touristy shot of what is probably the most famous clock in the world. Part of the Palace of Westminster, the clock tower has inescapably come to be known by the name of the great bell that sounds the hours, Big Ben. Pedants grumble at you for calling the clock Big Ben but they’ll just have to lump it.

Sadly, the chimes of Big Ben are to fall silent and will remain so for several months as essential repairs are carried out to the tower. We will of course manage in the meantime but a resumption of Big Ben’s triumphant peals will be awaited with anticipation!

Copyright © 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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New Foyles

Monday, January 2nd 2017

So this is AD 2017. So far it looks very much like the late – and for many of us, unlamented – 2016. Will this year bring a change of fortune and usher in a new and better world with better and more understanding and humane people to direct the affairs of nations? Probably not. I think the adage that applies is ‘Hope for the best but prepare for the worst’.

Ed's Easy Diner, Moor Street
Ed’s Easy Diner, Moor Street

This evening we popped down to Soho for a stroll and to look for supper. This is Ed’s Easy Diner on the corner of Moor Street and Old Compton Street. It was all lit up but that is not where we supped. That was at Bistro 1 in Frith Street, though I didn’t think to take a photo of it.

Afterwards we walked into Charing Cross Road to view the new premises of one of its most famous inhabitants.

Foyles Bookshop
Foyles Bookshop

I speak, of course, of Foyles1 Bookshop. Foyles began in 1903 and moved to Charing Cross Road, on its corner with Manette Street, in 1906. There it remained, apparently immovable, until 2011. Between 1945 and her death in 1999, Christina Foyle was in charge of the bookshop. Its idiosyncratic and old-fashioned modus operandi became legendary and Foyles became an institution that book lovers both loved and hated but could not do without.

Things changed in 1999. The shop and its operating procedures were modernized to the general satisfaction. Then, in 2011, the unthinkable happened: it was announced that Foyles was to move to new premises! And move it did, all the way from 135 Charing Cross Road to 107 Charing Cross Road. You are hardly likely not to find it.

We went in to take a look. If you ever thought that electronic books were the future and that books made from dead trees were heading for extinction, visit Foyles and think again. I cannot find adequate adjectives to describe the modern Foyles. You just have to go in and see for yourself. Everything you ever dreamed of to do with books is found here and much you would never have thought of. Foyles is, more than ever, the bookshop you cannot do without.

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1There should clearly be an apostrophe in there somewhere but no one ever puts one so who am I to play the pedant?

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