How do you read ebooks?

I remember when, some years ago, the idea of the electronic book was first mooted. Nominal plans showed a box-shaped object, unlike the wafer-thin "ereaders" of today. There was a good deal of scepticism as to whether such a device would prove successful commercially, let alone replace the traditional paper book. Then it seemed to slip from public notice.

Now, a few decades later, we find ourselves in the midst of what might be called the "eBook Revolution", when, for the first time, sales of books in electronic form are reported to have overtaken paper book sales. It would be hard for even the most hardened sceptic to retain his scepticism in the face of the current success of the electronic book. Like the PC and the mobile phone before it, it is here to stay and, though we might enjoy the feeling of novelty for a little while longer, we shall soon find ourselves wondering, as we do with those other devices, how we ever managed without it.

Looking on Amazon and other booksellers’ Web sites, I see that prices of ebooks have fallen, sometimes quite dramatically. In fact, the electronic version of a book is often cheaper than the paper version. But that’s not all: the ereader provides us with a comfortable way to read all those free books out there. Organizations like Project Gutenberg have been labouring away for years transposing out-of-copyright books into electronic form, but reading them was always slightly inconvenient in that you had to read them off the PC screen or print them out on paper. Now, suddenly, with the ereader, they have come into their own.

Even if you do not possess an ereader, you can still read ebooks: many sites offer you free ereaders that you can install on your PC, laptop or tablet PC. This isn’t as good as it sounds, however, for most of these are designed to get you to buy books from the company concerned and will let you download books from elsewhere only reluctantly or not at all. What we really want – and what we should insist on – is a reader that can download from any site and read books that have been stored on our computers and other devices.

I was fairly sceptical about ebooks until recently. I still believe that you cannot beat a "proper" book on paper. The look, the feel, the fact that you can flick back and forth between text, illustrations, index, etc by simply sticking your finger between the pages are qualities that the ebook cannot match. Not yet, anyway. However, if your book consists of a straight narrative without pictures or diagrams, then the ebook is perfectly acceptable.

Having obtained your ebook, though, what is the best way to read it? One obvious answer is by buying one of the electronic ereaders currently available on the market. Their prices are fairly modest (depending on how well stuffed your wallet is, of course) but you may still hesitate to fork out the money if you have little experience of ebooks and are not sure the expense will be justified.

This was the question that I faced myself. Initially sceptical about ebooks, I now wanted to try them out but was not ready to buy an ereader until I was certain that the expense was justified. There was, however, a solution. It was sitting on my desk in front of me: my smartphone!

In a previous post I mentioned the Ibis Reader. This is an online reader and provider of free ebooks. The list of available titles is not impressive but Ibis Reader has qualities that make it stand out from the crowd. It ought to be better known. As with most online facilities, you start by creating an account. All this requires is a username and password. This is simply to gain you your own bookshelf where your uploaded books are kept.

Once you have your account, you can load your bookshelf with books. You can obtain these from anywhere. There are books available on the Ibis Reader site but you can obtain books from other sites. The easiest way to do this is to download a book in epub format onto your PC, and then upload it to your Ibis Reader account. Then you read it!

The disadvantage of this system is that you have to be online to read. No reading on the London Underground, then. As long as you can get online, though, you can read your books without let or hindrance. Ibis Reader remembers, without prompting, where you got to in the text and obligingly opens it at that spot next time.

The advantage is that Ibis Reader is designed the work in any device. It will certainly work on you PC and laptop and on your Android tablet PC. It claims to work even on your smartphone. So, does it?

Well, yes it does! At least, it works perfectly on my Blackberry Curve. While Ibis Reader formats the text to suit the kind of device you are using, the final result will depend on the device itself. For example, I have two browsers on my Blackberry, the native RIM browser and Opera Mobile. Both display ebooks, but do do slightly differently. The native browser shows the text in a fairly small font. I can enlarge this by zooming but this also expands the width of the page beyond the edges of the screen, making it necessary to scroll left and right as I read. The Opera browser, on the other hand, show the text in larger print but still keeps it within the borders of the screen. It is thus the better option for reading ebooks.

If you like to read books in French, however, you will probably find that Ibis Reader lets you down. This is because the French seem not to use the epub format at all. Their preferred format for ebooks is PDF. Ibis Reader, unfortunately, cannot read PDF files.

I found the solution to this quite serendipitously. I had Documents to Go installed on the Blackberry and recently updated it. Included with the update was… a PDF reader! So I can still read PDF files on my phone though I have first to load them into memory. On the other hand, I don’t need to go online to read them.

There are now many sites online that offer to convert files between all the different formats. In theory, you could convert a PDF into an epub file and read it in Ibis Reader but in practice that is not very satisfactory. The result is never perfect and the faults in formatting may make to text difficult to read.

Now that I have perfected the art of reading ebooks on my Blackberry, an even better solution has come along. Before I say what it is, let me make a further point. The explosion in electronic inventiveness has brought a problem in its train: a proliferation of devices. With regard to portable devices, we first had the laptop computer; then we had the mobile phone; this was followed by the PDA and, more recently, by the tablet PC. And now up pops the ereader. The way things are going, you will need a special bag to carry all these devices around with you. What is the solution?

The solution, of course, is consolidation, the creation of devices that are multi-purpose. This has already happened to some extent with the mobile phone and the PDA becoming parents of the "smartphone", which is not only taking on the functions of a computer but also adding to this many entirely new functions such as that of the electronic wallet.

The only difficulty with this is one of the main virtues of the smartphone: its tiny size. No matter how good the screen resolution, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to surf the Web or read ebooks for long periods at a time on a smartphone. That is to risk eye-strain. In response, enter the tablet PC which, with its larger format provides a much pleasanter experience for surfing the Web and for… reading ebooks. It just so happens that, thanks to Tigger, I have joined the ranks of the tablet PC owning classes. Once I have got to grips with it, I will be able to say more about it from the point of view of reading ebooks.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Multi-cultural and artistic Folkestone

Today we are off into Kent again by the HS1. Grabbing tickets and a take-away breakfast, we boarded the fast train to Margate. We will not go to Margate, however, but will change trains at Ashford International for our final destination.

Ashford International
Ashford International
”International” because the Eurostar stops here

It is a day of cloud and sun so far, with pale blue sky between tumbled heaps of white in which it is tempting to see mountains and mythical castles. A day, in short, to go lightly clad but with a spare jumper in your bag.

Sparrow Sparrow
Sparrows
We met these appealing little fellows on Ashford station

At Ashford, we transfer to the Ramsgate train. This train splits in two parts that continue on to different destinations so you need to be in the correct section. In our case, that is the front part, consisting of four carriages, that will take us to Folkestone, our destination for today.

Walking to town
Walking to town
Sunshine but a threatening sky

It’s a bit of a walk from Folkestone station to the town centre but we undertook it in good heart. You can see from the above photo, though, that in spite of the sunshine, the sky had taken on a more threatening expression.

Sandgate Road
Sandgate Road
One of Folkestone’s wider streets

Folkestone has some wide streets, like Sandgate Road, pictured above, and…

Church Street
Church Street
With the quaintly named Rendezvous Street on the left

…it has a lot of narrower ones, such as Church Street, which is shown above where the picturesquely named Rendezvous Street meets it.

Old Town Hall
Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall, now a retail outlet, dates from 1860

Folkestone has its share of older, nobler buildings, such as the 1860s Old Town Hall, but most of these look as if they have seen better days. (Come to that, many of the modern buildings look as if they have seen better days…) This was previous a Waterstone’s bookshop and the current tenants seem to be on the point of leaving.

Market day
Market day
Saturday is market day in Folkestone

On Saturday the market is held in Folkestone and this creates a lively and colourful scene, especially when the sun shines (which it did, intermittently).

Multi-cultural event Multi-cultural event
Gurkha food stall
Multi-Cultural Festival
Folkestone’s Multi-Cultural Festival, June 11th-12th

Folkestone was enjoying a Multi-Cultural Festival over the weekend and there were street stalls where all kinds of goods were on sale and various activities of a more or less cultural nature were taking place, all very animated and colourful.

Cruising gull
Cruising gull
The gulls were of course cruising about keeping an eye on things
(especially eatable things!)

Folkestone is a seaside town and on a clear day you can see France on the other side of the Channel. Gulls are plentiful in the town, entertaining or annoying, depending on your outlook and mood.

Lenberg College
Lenberg College
Was it Lenberg or have letters been lost from the name?

I was intrigued by the name “LENBERG COLLEGE .” with its emphatic full stop. I don’t know whether that was really its name or whether some of the letters have been lost as a result of the building having been damaged and partly rebuilt. The building is Victorian and the inscription looks original so may well date from then.

Two pigs One pig
Blue-eyed pigs
Was this once a butcher’s shop?

We walked along Bayle Street, where we saw these colourful blue-eyed pigs looking down at passers-by and I wondered whether this house was once a pork butcher’s shop. I hope not. I hope it was simply decorated by someone who liked pigs.

Mence Smith
Mence Smith
Once a retailer of art materials, today an art gallery

Next to the pigs’ house stands this old art shop with intriguing representations flat fish and a sword fish (round the corner) attached to the sides. The shop is on the corner with what is sometimes called “High Street” and sometimes “The Old High Street”. This is one of the streets belonging to what has been designated the “Creative Quarter”.

(Old) High Street - looking down
The (Old) High Street – looking down
The street slopes quite steeply down towards the harbour

The big arched sign “Creative Quarter” stands at the beginning of the sloping (Old) High Street, which curves becomingly as it descends. This was once a main shopping road but seems to have got left behind by passing time.

(Old) High Street - looking up
(Old) High Street – looking up
Many premises are boarded up but are being refurbished and readied for use

Folkestone used to have a cross-Channel ferry port. Even though it always played second fiddle to Dover, many of us remember travelling to France from here. The ferry port closed in 2000 and when we visited Folkestone a few years ago, it looked like a town on its uppers, with many shops and businesses premises boarded up. There was an air of desolation to the place.

A coffee house
A coffee house
Somewhere to dodge the rain

At first sight, the High Street, despite its “creative” new image, seemed to fit into that pattern of decay. To add to the mournful feeling, it began to rain, so we quickly took shelter in a coffee bar. Whether it was “creative”, I cannot say, but it was handy.

The sun shines
The sun shines
Sunlight presented an altogether more optimistic outlook

When we emerged, the rain had gone and the sun was shining. Looking with more cheerful eyes, I could see that the shops were not merely boarded up but that they were workshops: work was going on refitting them and preparing them for new occupants. There was an air of optimism and productive bustle.

Silver tiger on a tee shirt
Silver tiger on a tee shirt
They must have known I was coming

This year, the town is celebrating the Folkestone Triennial 2011, with plans to create art works and put them… well, everywhere, really. Is that such a good idea?, you naturally ask. (Or you do, if you’re me.) I suppose each of us must answer that according to our individual taste and preferences. Here are a couple of samples.

Hare and hound (Unknown artist) Horned head (Unknown artist)
Public art
These works are perhaps part of the Triennial project

These objects are perhaps part of the Triennial but there is no information to confirm or deny this, no artists’ names. The horned beast made me think of the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Folkestone Harbour
Folkestone Harbour
A sandy bed for the boats when the tide is out

At the bottom of the Old High Street, we crossed to the harbour and walked along the quay. The harbour itself was quiet because the tide was out, leaving it dry. We had lunch in a cafe called The Captain’s Table before continuing.

A sandy beach
A sandy beach
On the hill you can see a member of the chain of Martello Towers (painted white)

On the other side of the harbour is a broad sandy beach but it was virtually deserted. Beyond this, on the cliff top , you can see a white-painted Martello Tower. I think this one is available to rent as a holiday cottage.

Brewery Tap
Brewery Tap
A fine example of an Edwardian pub, now refurbished
for other uses

We turned back through the town, where we stopped to photograph this rather fine Edwardian pub now being diverted into other purposes) and take a look at the public library and museum.

Public Library
Public Library
Built in 1886, it also houses the museum

The library contained a rather pretty glass screen dividing a smaller study room from the main room. We also went upstairs to have a rummage around in the small museum.

The Leas Cliff Lift
The Leas Cliff Lift
This 19th century lift is of traditional design and is still functioning as intended

We went up to a road or promenade that runs along the cliff and is called The Leas. We here encountered the Leas Cliff Lift, which was just closing for the day. This originally opened for service in 1885 and is still going strong, carrying passengers up and down the cliff. It is of a traditional design, using water to weight the upper car for descent.

View from the Leas
View from the Leas
Looking east towards the harbour

It was becoming rather cold and I was feeling somewhat grumpy because of this. I would have been happy to go to the station but Tigger wanted to wait for an advertised fly-pass of the Red Arrows. As they were coming from a previous engagement they were late and my mood was not improved by the suspicion that they were not coming after all.

Local hero: William Harvey
Local hero: William Harvey
Discoverer of the circulation of the blood

While waiting, I photographed this pigeon besmirched statue labelled simply “Harvey”  (referring of course to William Harvey, local boy and discoverer of the circulation of the blood),…

Lion frieze Lion head
A frieze of lions
This decorates the viewing platform where we waited for the Red Arrows

photographed some lions,…

Gull lit by evening sun Gull lit by evening sun Gull lit by evening sun
Gull
Lit by evening sunlight

and a gull faffing around in the evening sunlight. (I like gulls, as you have noticed.)

The Red Arrows turned up just as we decided to leave. I didn’t bother photographing them as all there was to see was a group of 8 planes which flew straight over and just farted some black smoke before disappearing beyond the horizon. I blinked and almost missed it.

Christ Church Tower
Christ Church Tower
All that remains of the church

We walked back across town now, heading for the station, but still ready to take in anything of interest. There was plenty of interest too. For one, here is the tower of Christ Church. It is all that is left of the church that, consecrated in 1850, was destroyed by enemy action in 1942. God must have looked the other way for a moment.

101 hands 1925 hand
101 hands
A century of hands and the hand of 1925

As you approach the station, you encounter another piece of public art and I have to say I rather like this one. It consists of 101 hand prints, one for each of the years from 1900 to 2000, each the hand of a person born in that year. This too is a project developed by the Folkestone Triennial. (See Update below.)

Tiled panel Detail
From the Prince Albert Hotel
An early Victorian pub now in a rather parlous condition. Strangely,
the face resembles someone I knew years ago.

Why go to Folkestone? Actually, Folkestone, as I hope you can see, is not devoid of interest. In fact, it contains more interesting things than you can conveniently see in one day, at least if you are serious in your interest-taking. And shall I tell you a secret? This is that our first Christmas together was spent in Folkestone, so it retains a certain appeal for us. I hope the old place gets on its feet again and we shall certainly come back from time to time to see how it’s getting on.

Update July 27th 2014

The hands were made as a project for the Millennium by Strange Cargo and not by the Triennial as stated in the original text. See the comment below.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged | 10 Comments

To Covent Garden for tea

I do like my tea. (I like my coffee too, but that’s another story – see The Little Man with the Moustache.) I drink my tea black and while I’ll take “English Breakfast” or “Yorkshire Tea”, if that’s what’s going, I prefer something a little more special. The sort of tea I like is not to be found in the supermarket – I have to go to one of the specialist tea importers.

Covent Garden tube station
Covent Garden tube station
stands on the corner of James Street with Long Acre

My current favourite tipple is a blend called “Russian Caravan”. A good blend of Russian Caravan is strong and has a smoky flavour. At least, that’s the sort that I like. The problem is that I don’t think there is a specific recipe for this blend and tea retailers make up their own, often without being very specific about what they put in it. I suspect that they sometimes palm off their leftovers and less satisfactory teas by mixing it up as “Russian Caravan”.

Not my bookshop
Not my bookshop
I used to work here but in those days it was a bookshop

I discovered Russian Caravan by accident. I had bought a lot of different teas to try and one day decided to mix the remnants all together to use them up. By a sheer stroke of luck, the result was wonderful. I decided to try to recreate it and by a process of trial and error came up with a blend of three teas: Keemun, Formosa Oolong and Lapsang Souchong. It’s the latter that confers the smoky taste to a good Russian Caravan blend.

James Street
James Street
Looking down James Street towards old Covent Garden Market

Buying several packets of tea, mixing the contents together and then spooning the mixture back into the packets and resealing them is not difficult but if it can be avoided, well, why not avoid it? I have been ordering and trying the different “Russian Caravan” blends sold by a number of importers without finding one that satisfies me. So I have gone back to buying the ingredients and mixing them myself.

The old market building
The old market building
No longer a fruit and vegetable market but a fancy goods market and shopping centre for tourists

You can buy tea online, of course, and I have a list of firms that I have bought from. When you buy online, you usually have to pay postage on top of the price of the tea so it’s an advantage if there is a shop you can visit. The nearest one I know is the Tea House in Neal Street in Covent Garden. And that is where I went this morning.

Neal Street
Neal Street
Neal street leads you to the heart of “alternative” Covent Garden

I started out quite early, hoping to get the shopping done and leave the rest of the day free for other things I had to do. I took the Piccadilly Line from King’s Cross to Covent Garden station (see above). Even though I was in a hurry, I couldn’t visit to Covent Garden without having a little look around.

Still closed
Still closed
I’m too early: the shop doesn’t open until 10 am

There is a slight sense of nostalgia because I worked in Covent Garden for a few years. I was a bookshop assistant for a chain called Books etc which occupied the premises on the corner of James Street and Floral Street which is now a branch of Dune. The chain was taken over by Borders, and this company collapsed a while ago so “my” bookshop no longer exists.

To fill in time until the Tea House opened, I went on an erratic tour of the area, often crossing back and forth over my own tracks. Here are some of the things I saw.

Seven Dials
Seven Dials
So called because seven roads radiate out from the centre marked by a clock tower which is currently in swaddling;
let’s hope it recovers its rightful place again soon.

Eterno coffee bar
Eterno coffee bar
I love the optimism of the name: they obviously expect to be here for quite a while…

Your skin reborn?
Your skin reborn?
Can your skin be reborn? Is someone awkwardly mixing metaphors?

The Astrology Shop
The Astrology Shop
Religion and magic (is there any difference between them?) find a natural centre in Covent Garden; it is all too easy
to delude those who already delude themselves

Mysteries
Mysteries
With some mysterious people looking in the window

The lights are on
The lights are on
Back at the Tea House, the lights are on; they’re open!

My walk filled the interval nicely and prevented me feeling that I was wasting my time while waiting. Inside the shop, they are still vacuum cleaning the carpet and tidying up. I step over the trailing cable of the cleaner and go to the corner where the packets of tea are kept. I make my choice, peer at the pretty tea sets and the exotic tea pots and then make once more for the tube station, safely provisioned with tea for the next few weeks.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Around the Isle of Thanet

Today promises to be the "scorcher" that the forecasters have promised, a good day for a trip to the seaside. From my point of view that is both good and bad. It’s good because fine weather is obviously desirable for a day out at the seaside; bad, because it means that whichever seaside we visit, there are likely to be crowds on arrival and packed trains there and back.

Ramsgate Station
Ramsgate Station
A pleasant absence of crowds

Following a familiar pattern, we walked down to St Pancras where I bought breakfast (porridge, croissants and coffee) at the Camden Food Co while Tigger queued for HS1 tickets to Ramsgate. Though on the Kent coast, Ramsgate is not such an obvious “seaside” location as, say, Margate or Broadstairs. It is a quieter place and still retains something of the atmosphere of a bygone age.

Wrought iron
Wrought iron
This house has nice old-fashioned wrought-iron work

Fortunately, there were no railway engineering works in that sector this weekend and the journey passed off smoothly. The HS1 travels at high speed to Ashford International, using the Eurostar track, and continues the rest of the way at normal speed. On arriving at Ramsgate we were pleased to find that it was not busy at all.

Ghost sign
Ghost sign
This is a a reminder of when there was a cross-channel ferry and hovercraft service from Ramsgate

We walked from the station towards the sea or, rather, the cliff. In West Cliff Road we saw this road sign, modified to remove the mention of the ferry port. Although you can still travel from Ramsgate to Ostend, the cross-channel service, including the red-liveried hovercraft, was killed off by the Channel Tunnel.

Approaching the cliff top
Approaching the cliff top
There is pleasant open parkland at the top of the cliff but not many people were out enjoying it

Our direction led us to the sea at the top of the cliffs and a pleasant green where people can sit and the children can play, though today there were not many here enjoying it.

Ramsgate sandy beach
Ramsgate sandy beach
Looking down from the cliff, you can see that there is a sandy beach

Visible from the cliff top is a sandy beach. There are no ice cream stalls or beach entertainments, just a plain beach, but a beach nonetheless. For whatever reason, it was deserted.

Ramsgate's freight terminal
Ramsgate’s freight terminal
From here you see container ships setting off for Northern Europe and Scandinavia

One reason why the beach is deserted may be the proximity of the freight terminal although the lack of the usual beach facilities obviously plays its part.

A whirl of excited gulls Feeding gulls
A whirl of gulls
A couple was feeding the gulls and causing a lot of excitement

A broad promenade leads along the top of the cliff towards the town, offering views of the sea, the port and the gulls riding the rising air currents and squabbling among themselves. People are tempted to feed the gulls though they shouldn’t because it makes them aggressive and causes conflict between people and gulls – something which is ultimately bad for the gulls. Gulls are very active birds and they can be enjoyed without throwing food at them.

Nelson Crescent
Nelson Crescent
This elegant stand of houses (now mostly divided flats) facing the sea was built between 1798 and 1801

collinsplaque

Many of the houses along the seafront are quite old and have retained such features as finely wrought iron balconies. They would have been owned by the wealthy class during the 19th century. Today most have been divided into flats but they are at least still providing homes for people. During the 1870s, novelist Wilkie Collins occupied number 14.

The old harbour
The old harbour
This is the old harbour which nowadays accommodates mostly privately owned pleasure craft

Nearer the town is the old harbour which these days seems to serve as a marina for private pleasure craft and perhaps a few working boats.

W Cliff Arcade
West Cliff Arcade
This picturesque arcade offers a range of eateries from Italian through Indian to Thai.

This attractive arcade, with the Royal Temple Yacht Club above it, today accommodates a set of small restaurants. We decided to have lunch here and looked at what was on offer. It wasn’t difficult for us to make a choice: Indian food is our favourite and the Baithak was ready and waiting!

Baithak
Baithak
We had a pleasant Indian lunch here

After lunch, we walked into the town centre and explored the narrow streets. It is quite a pleasant town with some interesting shops and cafes such as Corby’s Tea Rooms where we enjoyed a fine pot of tea on a previous visit.

Corby's Tea Rooms
Corby’s Tea Rooms
A good place to partake of a pot of tea

We now took a bus to a destination that Tigger knew and wanted to show me. The bus took us only part of the way and we then set out to walk. Much of the walk was through an apparently endless housing estate where we had to guess which way to go, and I didn’t enjoy that very much, I must confess. There was also a footpath which we followed for apart of the way.

Footpath
Footpath
This footpath took us part of the way

Tea garden notice

At last we arrived within sight of our goal and there found a cottage with a tea garden to which we gratefully repaired for refreshment. At the door was a notice saying that you could be served in the garden only and that there were no tables inside. We enjoyed a nice cup of tea before venturing on.

Dormer Cottage
Dormer Cottage
We stopped for refreshments in the cottage’s tea garden

The tea garden belongs to the last house before our destination which lay a hundred yards or so further on. We crossed through a small car park and reached one of its two entrances.

Entrance to the bay
Entrance to the bay
I imagine the slope is top allow easy access boats and other heavy equipment

It is called Botany Bay and lies right at the end of the knob of land projecting into the North Sea – Kent’s most easterly point – on which Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate stand, and which is known as the Isle of Thanet. It is no longer a true island though it was once separated from the mainland by the Wantsum Channel. This became filled in with silt from the River Stour, reuniting Thanet with the rest of Kent.

Sandy beach
Sandy beach
The beach is made of fine soft sand but a stiff breeze comes off the sea

The Bay is enclosed by low chalk cliffs giving it a sheltered, intimate feeling. The beach, of fine, soft sand, slopes gently down to the sea which, being the North Sea, is quite cold – not many people ventured into the water while we were there though Tigger went in for a paddle!

Gulls riding the updraft
Gulls riding the updraft
In this windy place, the gulls love to ride the strong air currents

As you can tell from the number of windbreaks visible in the photo of the beach, a stiff breeze blows up the beach from the sea. This is something of a nuisance to humans (it blows sand into everything, including your ears), where it meets the cliffs it creates a strong updraft and the gulls love this: they hang in the air like kites, rocking as they adjust to the air movement, or they glide fast along the edge of the cliff, inches from the grass.

Chalk "gateposts"
Chalk "gateposts"
Two chalk “gateposts” stand at one end of the beach

At one end of the beach stand to columns of chalk, rather like massive gateposts. The sea has eaten around them and left them isolated from the land they were once part of. The further one (on the left in the photo) has a flat top covered with grass, much to the pleasure of the gulls who can roost there without fear of disturbance by humans.

Swept by the sea
Swept by the sea
This secluded stretch of sand is swept by the sea at high tide

Beyond the gateposts is a small, secluded stretch of sand. At high tide the water sweeps across it and so it is probably best to avoid being caught here by the tide, especially in rough weather.

Waves make spray
Waves make spray
Our visit coincided with the high tide when the waves gave off plumes of spray as they broke against the chalk columns

During our visit, the tide reached its high point and then began to recede. The waves hitting the “gateposts” often threw up plumes of spray. Because the beach slopes only gently, incoming waves would rush up the sand quite fast towards you. Standing there taking photos, I had to dodge the water a couple of times.

Cliff top view
Cliff top view
From the cliff top it can be seen that the beach continues beyond the bay

We returned to the cliff top by the second entrance which has a concrete staircase. From here you can see the tops of the “gateposts” (one is much more massive than the other) and how the larger provides a refuge for the gulls. It can also be seen that the beach continues beyond the bay to the west, though I have no idea of the terrain there.

Gulls on the beach
Gulls on the beach
The beach here is so undisturbed that flocks of gulls rested at the ease on the sand

We set off on foot southwards towards Broadstairs. The first part of the route lay along the cliff top and we could see that here the beach was so quiet and free of people that flocks of gulls felt safe to rest on the sand or bob about on the inshore waves.

Gulls aloft
Gulls aloft
There were also flocks of airborne gulls, riding on the updraft from the cliffs, wheeling and gliding in ever changing formations

Gulls also socialize in the air, wheeling and calling, and flocks of airborne gulls were doing just that, benefitting from the updraft from the cliffs, as though surfing the wind.

A ruin

As we went along, we passed a golf course with this ruin in one corner (I have no idea what it is or was – but now see Update below)

Another "gateway"

another cliff "gateway", this one a complete arch…

Lion and traffic cone

a lion guarding a traffic cone…

and the North Foreland Lighthouse.

North Foreland Lighthouse
North Foreland Lighthouse
Perched on a hill, the lighthouse flashes its light even in daytime

The lighthouse seems to be marooned, far from the sea, in the middle of the fields, but it is still a working lighthouse and even in daylight you can see that the light is sending out its coded flashes. You may just be able to see the red glow of the lamp in the above photo.

Stone Beach
Stone Beach
Reaching here, the last beach before Broadstairs, was encouragement that we were nearing our goal

The sun was sinking as we arrived at Stone Beach.  This is the last beach before Broadstairs and that encouraged us to keep going. (Not that we could do anything else, really!) Stone Beach too was remarkably empty for such a warm and sunny day.

Beach huts on Stone Beach
Beach huts on Stone Beach
Stone Beach is known for its rows of beach huts, many painted in bright colours

Stone Beach has a wide esplanade providing an area safe from rising tides. This is lined with beach huts, some in plain wood finish, others painted in bright colours or with imaginative designs and pictures painted by the tenants. Beach huts are still in demand in some places and change hands at sometimes startling prices. Today, we saw only one hut occupied at Stone Beach.

Viking Bay
Viking Bay
This is Broadstairs’ famous and much loved beach and harbour

Usually, I photograph Viking Bay from the cliff top, so it was a welcome opportunity today to catch it from a different angle. The bay was not named after Vikings stormed ashore to rape and pillage the local habitations. It acquired its name only in 1949 after a Danish re-enactment of the arrival of Hengist on the Isle of Thanet. Hengist and Horsa, you may recall, were allies of the British and were given Thanet to live on but later decided that they and their compatriots might as well take all the rest too. With friends like that…

Gull at Broadstairs Gull at Broadstairs
Gulls in flight
We had fun trying to photograph gulls in flight

We had a drink at the Pavilion, now a pub, but once the shipyard at Broadstairs, and then went up onto the cliff top promenade for a last look around. There we had fun trying to photograph gulls in flight because they come quite close to the cliff edge, wheeling and diving. They are hard to photograph, though, because they move so fast and have a habit of changing direction just as you press the shutter release, leaving you with yet another picture of blank sky!

Questing gull
Questing gull
Superb in flight, gulls are competent on the ground too and as opportunists, hard to beat

It was time to make a move. Cutting through the side streets to the main road, we caught one of the buses on the Thanet Loop. These are circular routes, running both clockwise and anti-clockwise, that connect all the main places in Thanet. The bus took us once more to Ramsgate station.

Ramsgate station concourse
Ramsgate station concourse
The unfussy but elegantly proportioned concourse at Ramsgate station

It had been a long day and we had covered a great deal of ground – even for us – and much of it on foot. Botany Bay was new to me and particularly interesting for that reason as well as for its natural beauty. Broadstairs is a favourite of mine even though we have visited often and will no doubt do so often in the future. It has been the sort of day after which one can retire to bed tired but content.

Juvenile gull, Ramsgate
Juvenile gull, Ramsgate
Yes, another gull picture. I can’t resist these beautiful creatures

Update June 9th 2011

The ruin in the corner of the golf course is apparently called Neptune’s Tower and it is what remains of a folly built by the first Lord Holland, probably in the 1760s.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A fan and some animals

I mentioned yesterday that we went to Kafe Neo in Covent Garden for breakfast. What I did not mention was that Tigger accidentally left something important there – her portable electric fan! This neat little battery-driven device is a boon in hot weather and Tigger goes nowhere without it but, somehow, yesterday it got left behind.

Kafe Neo
Kafe Neo
Nice cafe but did they find Tigger’s fan?

So today, first on the order of business was to go and recuperate the fan, hoping that they had found it and put is aside for us.

Earlham Street
Earlham Street
Covent Garden, eerily quiet now, but usually crowded with shoppers

So we took a bus down Charing Cross Road and walked into Covent Garden which was unusually quiet. It would wake up later and become crowded with tourists and bank holiday fun seekers.

Long Acre
Long Acre
Also surprisingly quiet but then, most shops and businesses were closed

The above picture shows Long Acre, one of the main arteries of Covent Garden, also unusually quiet though, to be fair, many of the shops, cafes and other businesses were closed for the bank holiday.

Freemasons' Hall
Freemasons’ Hall
Long Acre debouches into Great Queen Street about where the Art Deco Freemasons’ Hall stands that you can see in the background

We walked along Long Acre and turned down beside Covent Garden tube station whose roundel you can see in the above picture.

Corner cafe
Corner cafe
This building bears a blue plaque and the name of the cafe is
something of a giveaway

dickensplaque

In Wellington Street we spied this building on which there was a blue plaque denoting that it was once the residence of Someone Important. The name of the cafe gives the game away: The Charles Dickens Coffee House. Dickens published his periodical All the Year Round, and kept a private residence here, between 1859 and 1870.

Not far from here, too, stood Warren’s boot blacking factory where Dickens worked as a boy, a fact that of which he was so ashamed that he never mentioned it even to his own children.

Double Shot Coffee Co
Double Shot Coffee Co
We came to this cafe in Tavistock Street for refreshments

We popped into this rather nice little coffee shop in Tavistcock Street called the Double Shot Coffee Co but for a change we had mint tea instead of coffee.

Mint tea
Mint tea
We asked for two mint teas and received a big pot of tea

The tea was served in a proper tea pot (and quite a pretty one) too. Behind it you can see Tigger’s fan which we were able to recover from Kafe Neo. They kindly kept it for us. Everyone seems intrigued by it.

Going home
Going home
This pigeon is landing on a building that he and his companions have colonized

We had no plans so we more or less drifted out towards Hackney. There we found a large building that had been colonized by pigeons who were coming and going through any available openings.

Unofficial door painting
Unofficial door painting
It may be imaginative but it is still graffiti and contributes to the
abandoned atmosphere of the place

As well as pigeons, graffiti artists had paid some attention to it, adding to the atmosphere of abandonment and decay.

Locked up and abandoned
Locked up and abandoned
and awaiting its fate, whatever that might be

This was once the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children. As a result of reorganization and mergers, it was closed and is now derelict. Let’s hope that the building, or at least the site, can be put to a new purpose soon.

Hackney City Farm
Hackney City Farm
This is the farmyard which you enter to begin your visit

Just opposite the abandoned hospital is the Hackney City Farm. We had already paid it a visit (see Two saints and a city farm) but it’s always worth going in to see the animals. I got ticked off for forgetting to close the gate – quite right too.

Snoozing goose
Snoozing goose
This goose was happy to snooze among the comings and goings of people and animals

It always amuses me how blasé city farm animals are about crowds of strange people milling about. This goose had settled down for a snooze in the middle of the yard, despite us heavy-footed humans coming dangerously close.

Stealth cat!
Stealth cat!
Unlike the goose, this cat had found a more secluded spot for a rest

We were warned not to touch the cats because, as working farm cats, they were likely to be tetchy. Oh yes? Working cat?! All right, I expect he’s been hard at it all day until now, right?

Monochrome hen
Monochrome hen
Take my photo! Go on – you know you want to!

One obvious difference between city farms and “real” farms is in the wide variety of animals kept by the former. They can afford to keep just one or two of any species or breed. I have no idea what you call these white hens with crinkly faces.

rooster
Beau Brummel
This handsome fellow was determinedly strutting his stuff and quite right too: is he not the very Beau Brummel of the poultry yard?

The rooster was moving about the yard is a slow stately manner, stopping here and there to pose, as though expecting applause. He clearly thought himself superior to the dowdy ducks.

Shall I? Yes, I will!
Shall I? Yes, I will!
Pigeons are frequent visitors to the hen house

There were pigeons everywhere (see bottom photo) and they seemed to be tolerated. They had discovered that there was food in the hen house and were coming and going among the hens. The slope up to the entrance of the hen house was too steep to walk up and so chickens and pigeons needed to use their wings. When I looked in, there were pigeons mixing with the hens who didn’t seem at all concerned.

Sunbathing Tamworths
Sunbathing Tamworths
These Tamworth pigs certainly know how to enjoy the sunshine

There was a feeling that the farm was winding down for the day and its little cafe was closed so we sought refreshments in a tiny cafe on the main road before catching the bus home. It had been a fairly relaxed day but none the worse for that.

Pigeons on the city farm
Pigeons on the city farm
There were pigeons everywhere on the farm but no one seemed to mind

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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The Cult of Beauty

Today we had arranged to meet friends and go with them to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the exhibition there entitled The Cult of Beauty.

As we were meeting at Charing Cross around 11:30, we had plenty of time for a leisurely stroll, taking in breakfast along the way. We thought we would have breakfast at Cafe Maya, as we like the food they serve there (see, for example, Pimlico, Millbank and St Paul’s). Unfortunately, the place was packed and although we sat outside on the terrace for a while, no one came to serve us so we decided to move on.

Kafe Neo
Kafe Neo
One of the few places open

Most places were closed and it wasn’t until we reached Covent Garden that we found our breakfast in Kafe Neo, a Greek-run cafe.

A view from Charing Cross
A view from Charing Cross
St Martin in the Fields is on the right with the spire and the National Gallery is in the middle

Afterwards, we carried on down to Charing Cross, met our friends and waited for the bus in front of the station. By now the streets were beginning to be quite busy, as befits a bank holiday weekend.

The Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall
One of a pair with the Victoria and Albert Museum, it shows the exuberant side of Victorian design

On the way we passed by the Royal Albert Hall which, making a pair with the Victoria and Albert Museum in ornateness of design, reminds us that the Victorian world was far from being a dull as is often claimed but was full of colour and exuberant ornamentation.

Finely worked moulding, Royal Albert Hall
Finely worked moulding
One of the moulded panels in front of the Royal Albert Hall

We didn’t stop to admire this building as it deserves. Perhaps we will return one of these days for a longer look.

David Livingstone
David Livingstone
Missionary and explorer, a true Victorian hero

One of the least appealing characteristics of the Victorians was their religiosity and the abusive belief that it was right and proper to foist their particular brand of Christian superstition on the rest of mankind. The immense damage done by this has had repercussions right up to the present day. A symbol of this ideology is the heroic pose of this statue of David Livingstone set in one façade of the Royal Albert Hall, clutching his Bible.

Pillars, Victoria and Albert Museum Pillar detail
Pillars and decorative detail
These elaborately decorated pillars and their colourful arches line one side of the museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum is worth going to see just for the building alone. The contents and layout are of course wonderful but the surroundings should not be ignored.

A gallery
A gallery
An important aspect of the museum is the sheer size of some of the galleries and the space between exhibits that this permits

In the open galleries, photography is allowed without restriction. This is right and proper but I nonetheless appreciate the freedom because so many museums do not allow it. Photography is not allowed, however, in special exhibitions for which you pay. This too is quite reasonable, as the exhibits are not owned by the museum but displayed with the permission and cooperation of the owners.

The courtyard
The courtyard
The courtyard is a delightful open area with a lake and fountains

The Cult of Beauty covered paintings, interior design, furniture, clothing, etc with plenty of explanatory information to guide you through. I enjoyed the exhibition and liked much of what I saw but cannot show you any of it because, as explained, photography was not allowed.

Three-arched balcony
Three-arched balcony
Striking as it still is, imagine how bright and colourful it would have been when newly built

Different people go through an exhibition at different speeds. When we had finished exploring the Cult of Beauty, our friends were still making their way through it. We said we would meet them at the courtyard cafe and retired to wait for them.

Pillared tea room
Pillared tea room
This grand hall accommodates one of the most elegant tea rooms I have ever seen

By one of those little misunderstandings that so easily occur in noisy surroundings, our friends went to wait for us in a different tea room. After a long wait, we realized this must have happened.

Stained glass window
Stained glass window
One of the several high-quality stained glass windows

We set out to look for our friends. There are in fact several cafes or tea rooms in the museum and we set out on a Dantesque journey through the lower realms in search of them.

Smaller tea room
Smaller tea room
This corner of one of the smaller tea rooms is decorated with beautiful tiles

This search took us through a set of elegant tea rooms which had me absorbed with magnificence of their décor.

Painted ceiling
Painted ceiling
The painted ceiling is matched by the simple, almost severe, design of the chandeliers

We found our friends and left the museum to look for somewhere to have a late lunch.

Heraclitus
Heraclitus
One of the busts of the famous near the main entrance

The exhibition we went to see was only one of those being held. That is quite apart from the permanent displays. The Victoria and Albert is an institution that bears being visited regularly.

Commemoration stone
Commemoration stone
This stone, in honour of the grand opening of the museum by Edward VII, nearly a decade after the death of Queen Victoria, itself recalls an age that has long passed away

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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From Capper Street to Tate Britain

You have probably never heard of Capper Street in WC1, unless you work there or nearby. I say that without patronizing in the least as I had never heard of it either until this morning. You will find it on the map here.

Shropshire House in Capper Street
Shropshire House in Capper Street
Not the photo I would have wished to take but Capper Street is too
narrow for a good angle

We were out and about today and entertained a vague intention of visiting the Tate Britain and having a look at the Turner exhibition there. How that means that we were strolling around in Fitzrovia, I couldn’t say, but we were. Or more precisely, in that bit of it often known, half jokingly and half fondly, as the Gower Peninsula, because it lies between Gower Street and the Tottenham Court Road.

Shropshire House
Shropshire House
The other end. Still no good angles, though

Just by chance, we spotted Shropshire House and went to take a look. Or, to be honest, Tigger saw it and went for a look and I followed to see what she was so interested in. We both agreed it was something special.

Doorway
Doorway
Well, one of two, actually, but I chose this one as it was the one
with the greenery above it which, though neglected, added a touch
of colour

It was at this point that I met the Young Man in the Hard Hat (YMHH hereafter). He was heading into the building where, he told us, he was working. More particularly, he said, he was “bashing out the windows.” (This was part of the work of refurbishing the building.)

Pleasing details
Pleasing details
Asked what I liked about the building I said the font and the curvy feature

YMHH was intrigued as to what we were up to and gobsmacked to learn that we liked the building. “It’s just a building” was his considered opinion. I was asked to explain what, exactly, I liked about it. Well, for starters, I liked the font in which the name was written – unusual but pleasing, and legible, unlike some awful modern fonts.

The curvy balcony
The curvy balcony
Not really a balcony, I suppose, but a whimsical feature that works quite well

Tigger, who had been photographing further down the street, arrived as I was explaining that I liked the two curvy pseudo-balcony features which contrasted with the rectangular plan of the rest of the building. Tigger said it made her think of a cloud with a flash of lightning underneath it. (Look at the above picture and you’ll see what she meant.) They are delightfully whimsical on an otherwise rectangular background (except for the unusual curved end – see the second photo from the top).

Back to bashing out windows
Back to bashing out windows
We later saw YMHH on an upper floor carrying on with his destructive labours

I don’t think we managed to convince YMHH, who went on his way, though cheerfully enough, muttering something like “I wish I could see what you see in a building.” Later, as we prepared to leave, we heard a shout: it was YHMM calling to us from an upper floor where he was once more bashing out the windows.

Blue front door
Blue front door
We liked these arched doorways in Huntley Street but were
amused by the height at which to knockers were fixed – you would
have to be quite tall to reach them

I know nothing about the building, though I am guessing that it was built in the 1930s – it has that feel about it. The style is indeterminate, a one-off. It’s quirky but for my money, it works. I hope the refurbishment is successful and that the new tenants will enjoy working in it.

Doorway, Gordon Mansions putto
Gordon Mansions
I liked this doorway with scallop shell decorations and figures holding up the lintel

Also in Huntley Street is a building bearing the name Gordon Mansions. There are two doorways, on opposite sides of the street, and this one has scallop shell decorations over the door. Both have a pair of figures holding up the lintel or narrow canopy.

Putti and scallop shells
Putti and scallop shells
Are the figures putti or caryatids or atlases?

These figures interested me because they seem rather ambiguous. At first sight they look like putti, but these usually have wings, which these figures lack. They are holding up part of the building like caryatids, but caryatids are female figures. There is a male equivalent of the caryatid, called an atlas, but I’m not sure a child figure qualifies as an atlas which sounds more like a muscular adult figure. Not that this really matters, as I think the doorways possess their own logic and harmony.

Staircase, Clore Gallery
Staircase, Clore Gallery
I like the use of bright colours in this area

A couple of buses took us to the Tate Britain. Our intention was to visit the Turner Collection in the Clore Gallery. We tried to do this back in April but had had to leave as soon as we arrived because the fire alarms had sounded (see Pimlico, Millbank and St Paul’s).

The Romantics
The Romantics
One of the rooms in the exhibition of the Romantics

At the Tate you are allowed to take photos except in the exhibitions for which you pay for tickets. Flash photography is not allowed but apart from that you can click away happily.

Dome
Dome
I am fascinated by glazed domes like this one

Much of Turner’s work exhibited here is experimental. Perhaps it is interesting and important historically but it does nothing for me. I prefer those his works which are more conventional, “proper paintings”, as you might say. Fortunately, there were paintings of this type by Turner and by others.

Stained glass
Stained glass
Stained glass window on a staircase

Though it was permissible to take photos of the paintings, that didn’t interest me. I prefer to look at the actual paintings and then take photos of the building.

Perspectives
Perspectives
The building is elegant and provides some appealing perspectives

The art works are what people come to see and the building allows them to be exhibited to their best advantage but it is worth looking at the building itself and reflecting on its graceful curves and elegant design.

Concave mirror Concave mirror
Concave mirror
Concave mirror
Fascinating but is it art? And does it matter anyway?

This concave mirror proved fascinating. It probably attracted more people than any other work in the gallery. From a certain angle, a figure reflected in the mirror seemed to stand out in front of it in 3D.

The lion and the unicorn
The lion and the unicorn
An intricate and imaginative reworking of the Royal coat of arms

Apart from not liking some of the works of Turner I enjoyed the visit. The Tate is a wonderful place and it adopts a sensible approach, allowing photography and providing floating curators whose role is to answer questions rather than check that visitors behave themselves.

Sculpted lintel, Ridgmount Gardens
Sculpted lintel
Handsome carved face in Ridgmount Gardens, Gower Peninsula

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