Keep reading the tablet

Receiving an Android tablet as a gift has had a palpable influence on my life, and a good one, I think.

Regarded as a "tablet PC", that is, as a sort of palm-top computer, the device is quite poor. My inexperience in this field prevents me from knowing whether the primitive operating system and general lack of facilities that the Windows user takes for granted is a feature of this particular tablet (Archos 7 Home Tablet) or of Android machines in general. For that reason, I won’t stray into criticism of that aspect.

As for the influence it has had on my life, this comes directly from the fact that the one application pre-installed on the machine that I really appreciate is the ebook reader. I never thought that I would speak in such terms of an ebook reader and at first I was merely curious. But then the curiosity led on to my searching the Web to see what books were available and then to the realization that I had stumbled upon a hitherto unsuspected rich resource.

The application in question is called Aldiko. As it is my first ebook reader, I cannot compare it with the famous names on the market such as Kindle, Sony and Nook, but it is fairly basic in its design, lacking some of the more sophisticated features that I read about in reviews of dedicated reading devices. The only formats it can read are epub and pdf but that turned out not to be a great limitation. In a comment on my blog, WOL reminded me that there existed an ebook management application called Calibre and I took a look at it.

Calibre is what you might call the ebook reader’s factotum: it presents a set of very useful functions that include cataloguing your books, searching online for books and – crucially – converting books from one format to another. I have installed the portable version of Calibre (I love portable software because you can carry it around on a flash drive but, more importantly, as in the good old days of MS-DOS, portable applications leave no trace in your Windows registry and can be uninstalled simply by deleting them) and I find it very useful for specific purposes. Thus, if I come across a book I wish to read but it is in the "wrong" format, I can simply get Calibre to convert it to epub.

Despite its simplicity, Aldiko has an advantage over the commercial ebook readers. These try to tie you into a specific format and specific source of books (Kindle, for example, is tied to Amazon, which I think exercises a degree of control over the device itself and its readers that I regard as unacceptable) whereas with Aldiko I can read anything that I can pick up on the Web. I even got Calibre to convert a Wikipedia article into an ebook which I then read on Aldiko. How’s that for versatility?

Being a tight wad, I have so far read only free books. After spending a certain amount of time scouring the Web, I have gathered a collection of ebook sources that present me with far more books than I can expect to read in a lifetime. My list is not complete and I am sure that diligent searching will discover others. Not that all suppliers of "free" books are what they purport to be. Some are trying to palm off propaganda about dubious health or religious issues (there are several Christian sites playing this game), while others seek to lure you in with the promise of a few free titles (usually ones that are available everywhere else) and in order to sell you others. There are enough genuine free sites that these charlatans can safely be ignored.

A disadvantage that I have found lies in the formatting. Again, I cannot say whether the fault is with Aldiko or with the text itself, though I suspect it is a mixture of both. Free books are usually digitized by volunteers, often using OCR, and this tends to scatter errors in the text – I often find myself puzzling over an inappropriate word or a meaningless bunch of characters until I suddenly realize what the word should be. In books that have headers at the top of the page and footnotes at the bottom, these items will appear anywhere on the page, not in their rightful place and pagination is ignored. However, you soon get used to this and, after all, the slight inconvenience that it causes is a small enough price to pay for a free book.

Another disadvantage is that free books are almost always old books, books in other words, on which the copyright has expired. There is a nuance here, however. Sometimes the copyright will have expired in, say, the US or Australia, but not in the UK. This means that even if you can download the book in the UK, you are not allowed to do so. So you don’t, do you? No, of course not. Copyright remains a thorny issue and I suspect the approaching universal use of ereaders will add to the pressure for copyright reform.

There is another issue related to copyright, namely Digital Rights Management (DRM) and its sidekick copy protection. I know very little about this and as I has so far stuck to reading free books, it is not something I have had any experience of. I will therefore leave the topic there until I know more about it.

People will tell you that you can also obtain recent books in digital form that are free. Yes, you can, but in most cases they are either technical books – manuals, for example – that are not exactly bedtime reading, or they are books that are not worth the trouble of downloading, such as the propaganda books already mentioned. The argument is made that publishing your own books free on the Web is the way of the future. Really? Come on, be honest: what writer gives away his or her books instead of selling them? The answer is either an idealist (and there aren’t many of those around these days) or someone whose books would never sell, either because they are too specialized or because they are simply not very good. Still, if they are available and they are free, why not take a look? It costs nothing, after all…

I have kept to older books. At first I did so with a certain reluctance, thinking I would just try a few for the experience before going back to reading modern books on paper. For one thing, I dislike fiction, and my mind was prejudiced against old non-fiction on the principle that it would be out of date and therefore not really worth reading. I was wrong.

I have read several old non-fiction books and found them well worth my time. I will mention just one, Giles Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria. Against all my expectations, I found this a rivetting read. Queen Victoria is now a much more real person to me after reading this book and I also learnt a lot about political and historical events during her reign. I have a number of other similar books lined up for future reading.

I have not neglected creative literature completely though the experience has not been entirely happy. I thought I would try Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White. I was quite impressed with it to start with. Collins is a competent writer who produces credible characters, but he is somewhat prolix and the plot develops so slowly that I found myself swinging from suspense to boredom, generally the latter. I reached a point in the story where I thought the denouement must surely follow within a few pages and looked to see how much of the book remained. Fatal mistake: I discovered I was still only half-way through. The shock of that was enough to make me put the book aside, probably permanently.

I am persevering, however. Currently I am reading Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal and Antonio Machado’s collection of poems, Campos de Castilla. I used to have to teach the latter and I thought it would be fun to re-read it now that the sense of urgency has passed. I may also revisit some of the other books I studied as a student or as a teacher. I also read part of Gide’s L’immoraliste until I decided that the philosophy behind it was too rarefied for me and I switched to Anatole France and Le Livre de Mon Ami. It is altogether a more amiable read.

I have a few other books on the digital shelf, such as Kakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea and George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier and, on my computer, a whole set of titles from Darwin though Conrad to John Stuart Mill, all waiting until the moment seems right.

I have found that I can transfer books from the PC to the tablet very easily. I can also download them directly from the Web using, for example, the mobile version of Project Gutenberg. I have at least three ways of transferring books. Firstly, I can email a book to myself as an attachment. Once it arrives on the tablet it can be detached and added to Aldiko’s bookshelf. Or I can connect the tablet via the USB cable and simply copy and paste as from one folder to another. Or I can insert the tablet’s SDHC memory card into the computer’s reader and transfer files onto it.

The upshot of this is that I now do a lot more reading than I used to. I can even carry the tablet with me to read on tube or train journeys, the only limitation there being the dreadfully short battery life of the Archos 7 Home Tablet. I may invest in a travel charger – one of those that contains enough batteries to recharge your device.

We bought our respective tablets as much as anything in order to find out what this sort of device offered and to learn from them what we ought to look for when we replace them later. When I first got mine, I thought it might encourage me to buy a dedicated ebook reader but it hasn’t. What I will be looking for at some future date is not an ebook reader that will limit me and tie me to a supplier but a tablet with a better ebook reader on board. So far I am not impressed with Android ereaders and Aldiko, for all its faults, seems the best of the bunch, but I have no doubt that that situation will change in time. The proliferation of devices is one thing I feel strongly about and I think that we should be looking for devices that combine a number of functions, not buying dedicated single-task machines. Tablets have it in them to become the best ebook readers. Just let’s hope that promise is fulfilled soon.

Here is a short list of some of the free book sources that I have so far found:

Project Gutenberg

ManyBooks

epubBooks

Livres pour tous

Project Gutenberg Australia

Feedbooks

Free-eBooks

Some of these also provide facilities for online reading. They work well both on a PC and on a tablet but only when you are connected to the Internet. They are therefore fine at home (or in the coffee shop) but less so when you are travelling.

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

Posted in Computers | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Glass Works and two Thomases

We had arranged to meet friends today for a visit to darkest Chelsea, for reasons that will become apparent. As we had not yet done the weekly shopping, we had first to do this but there was one task that took precedent over even that: having breakfast!

Old photos at the Glass Works
Old photos at the Glass Works
I would like to have seen Islington in the days of the tram

For a change we went to the Wetherspoons pub on the first floor of the N1 Centre. This pub is called the Glass Works and has some rather fine old photos on the wall. (They do a good breakfast too!)

Islington High Street
Islington High Street
Early 20th Century, I would guess

My favourite of the three photos is perhaps this one showing Islington High Street and where it is as intriguing to see what what has changed as what is still the same.

What really caught my attention, however, was the explanation that the name, Glass Works, commemorates an actual glass works that stood on the site of what is today the N1 Centre. I did a scan for a glass works and soon discovered an “Islington Glass Works”, makers of decorative paperweights that are today collectors’ items. Disappointingly, this glass works was in Birmingham! So “our” glass works remains for me to discover it – a project for the long winter evenings, perhaps.

Jubilee Fountain
Jubilee Fountain
Another Victorian relic in town

Having breakfasted and done the shopping, we set off for Charing Cross to meet our friends. On the way we passed this neglected drinking fountain which stands on the triangle of land bounded by Shaftesbury Avenue, Bloomsbury Street and High Holborn.

A once pretty floral decoration
A once pretty floral decoration
Effaced by time, grime and neglect, the floral pattern has almost
disappeared and can be seen only if you look at the right angle to the light

According to the inscription, the fountain was “ERECTED BY THE BOARD OF WORKS OF THE ST GILES DISTRICT TO COMMEMORATE THE SIXTIETH YEAR OF THE REIGN OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA 1897". There is something rather sad about such monuments that have lost the immediacy of sentiment with which they were built and are today virtually ignored. Monuments to Elizabeth II will suffer the same eclipse, of course.

The Charing Cross
The Charing Cross
Another Victorian monument

At Charing Cross, I just had time to snap the Victorian replacement of Edward I’s Eleanor Cross, set up in commemoration of his wife, Eleanor of Castile. Considered by many to mark the centre of London, the cross apparently also provides a good place to park your motor cycle.

Thomas Carlyle's House
Thomas Carlyle’s House
The house has been restored – pull the bell to enter

I must admit that before visiting the house where Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane lived after coming to London from their native Scotland, my only knowledge of the writer was through my failed attempt to read his History of the French Revolution. Like many people, I found the style too dense and idiosyncratic for the book to be an easy read. Other visitors to the house this afternoon expressed similar sentiments. However, I have little doubt that Carlyle was as important as he is neglected because, apart from the value of his own works, he had great influence on his contemporaries and those who came after him. Not being a historian, I will not attempt to describe the man, the work or his legacy but direct you to better references such as Wikipedia and Spartacus, from where, if the mood takes you, you can continue to more professional sources.

As you no doubt guess from the lack of pictures between these paragraphs, photography is not allowed in the house. I see no reason for this ridiculous and pointless ban but we are stuck with it. You may find some information of the house here or by visiting it yourself. It is worth seeing, not only in connection with a great man of letters, but also as a careful restoration of a genuine Victorian household, albeit an unusual and somewhat quirky one. Be prepared to climb the long staircase, though: the house consists of three storeys in addition to the basement and there is, of course, no lift.

Statue of Thomas Carlyle
Statue of Thomas Carlyle
A fairly relaxed posture by J.E. Boehm

Carlyle’s memory is impressed on the neighbourhood by this sculpture in a public garden and by a large apartment block, dated 1886 (that is, built 5 years after the great man’s death) and called Carlyle Mansions. He has left his mark but I wonder how many people are familiar with his works.

Carlyle Mansions
Carlyle Mansions
Built 5 years after Carlyle’s death

In an area such as this, you would expect to find interesting relics of the past and so it was here.

Memorial to Sir Hans Sloane
Memorial to Sir Hans Sloane
An unusual snake-decorated monument

There was this rather unusual monument to Sir Hans Sloane, unusual (well, I think so) because the urn has snakes on it and snakes are usually frowned upon. The reason here is that Sir Hans was a medical man and one-time president of the College of Physicians.

Fountain for George Sparkes
Fountain for George Sparkes
A Victorian memorial fountain

Or what about this: a Victorian drinking fountain erected in memoriam of George Sparkes. George Sparkes? Well, according to the inscription he served in the civil service of the East India Company and was for some years a judge in Madras. His widow commissioned the memorial upon his death in 1878. But that’s not all. I came across this interesting article by a descendant that suddenly infuses the monument with life and meaning. There are two inscriptions on opposite sides of the fountain, one in English and the other in Latin: George’s widow was determined to do things right!

Margaret Damer Daeson's house Plaque in Dawson's honour
Margaret Damer Dawson lived here
But the plaque doesn’t tell us anything about her

“The things you learn from plaques!” said Tigger. This plaque intrigued me, firstly because it was not blue and looks pretty basic and secondly because I had no idea who Margaret Damer Dawson was. Well, I know a little more now than I did then, so Tigger was right: plaques are useful prompts to historical knowledge.

Margaret Damer Dawson was a wealthy philanthropist who was active in animal welfare, helped to house Belgian women refugees and founded the Women Police Volunteers in the run-up to the First World War. One might wonder why she was not considered worthy of a blue plaque but I suppose a reading of her history here and here could suggest reasons. Perhaps it is time to overcome prejudice and give her her due.

Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More
Councillor, lawyer, philosopher, statesman…

That does not exhaust the historical traces we found, which included plaques to Leigh Hunt and Tobias Smollett among others, but I promised you a second Thomas, and here he is, Sir Thomas More, a veritable golden boy (until he lost his head), seated in front of Chelsea Old Church.

Despite not being able to take home a photographic souvenir of Carlyle’s house, it was a good outing, full of interest, that raised some unexpected stories of past lives. You can’t ask for better.

A hoverfly
A hoverfly
Oblivious to plaques and memorials a hoverfly visits flowers in a garden

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

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A visit to Chiswick and a pleasant dinner

As today was expected to be a day of uncertain weather we decided it was better to stay in London rather than spend money on train tickets and perhaps have rain spoil the trip. But where in London? We thought we’d let ourselves by inspired by London Historians and pay a visit to Chiswick House. (See their write-up at Chiswick House.) It didn’t quite work out, though, as you will see.

Cafe Maya
Cafe Maya
Haloumi for breakfast – what a good idea!

So, being in no need to hurry, we strolled down to Cafe Maya (one of our favourite breakfast places, as I have said before) for one of their vegetarian breakfasts with fried haloumi cheese. Delicious.

Park Lane Hotel
The Park Lane Hotel…
…which isn’t actually in Park Lane

After breakfast we went across the road and caught the first of three buses to our destination. We changed at Green Park where I took a quick photo of the Park Lane Hotel (the building with flags) which, despite its name, isn’t in Park Lane. (It’s in Piccadilly.)

What is this strange structure?
What is this strange structure?
It is not a bench – see text for an explanation

Near the bus stop is this structure, essentially a thick shelf supported by two metal posts. It is not a bench, being much too tall for that. It was established in the Victorian era by a philanthropic MP.

The object itself answers the question by including a bronze plate with an inscription which reads as follows: AT THE SUGGESTION OF R.A. SLANEY ESQ. WHO FOR 20 YEARS REPRESENTED SHREWSBURY IN PARLIAMENT, THIS PORTERS REST WAS ERECTED IN 1861 BY THE VESTRY OF ST. GEORGE HANOVER SQUARE FOR THE BENEFIT OF PORTERS AND OTHERS CARRYING BURDENS. AS A RELIC OF A PAST PERIOD IN LONDON’S HISTORY IT IS HOPED THAT THE PEOPLE WILL AID ITS PRESERVATION.

Alexandra Avenue
Alexandra Avenue
We arrived here in Chiswick

Two buses later (we broke our journey for coffee at Hammersmith Mall because haloumi cheese is salty and makes you thirsty!), we arrived in Alexandra Avenue in Chiswick. It was spitting with rain at this point but, fortunately, it soon cleared up.

Gates, Chiswick House
Gates, Chiswick House and Gardens
The entrance on Burlington Lane

A short walk later, we reached the gates of the Chiswick House estate in Burlington Lane. The brown sign board tells us that Hogarth’s house is near here also. (That will be a visit for another day.)

Gatepost Sphinx
Sphinx gate
The sphinx is a recurring theme in the gardens

We walked to the house and approached through the sphinx gate. It was very quiet and there were people busy with various jobs. I began to suspect the house was not open for visits.

Chiswick House
Chiswick House
People were busy around the house

My suspicions were correct: the house was definitely closed. We should have checked first. Never mind, we could at least explore the gardens and perhaps go on to Hogarth’s house afterwards.

Andrea Palladio Inigo Jones
Two architects
Sculptures of Andrea Palladio and Inigo Jones at Chiswick House

Sculptures of two famous architects stand on the steps that lead up to the front of the house. On the left, Andrea Palladio, whose “Palladian” style was to influence the architects coming after him, and, on the right, Inigo Jones, one of whose works stands in the grounds.

The Beaufort House Gate
The Beaufort House Gate
Designed by Inigo Jones for Beaufort House (Chelsea), it was bought in
1738 by Lord Burlington, an admirer of the architect

Behind the house there are pathways leading through the extensive grounds.

Avenue
Avenue
The sandy avenue that runs away from the house

A broad, straight, sandy avenue leads away from the house, its perspective inviting the eye – and the foot – to follow it into the distance.

Chiswick House from the rear
Chiswick House from the rear
The avenue provides a good view of the rear of the house

From the avenue you can look back at the house and admire its symmetry, topped off by its characteristic dome. (The yellow chair provided a resting place for a groundsman or staff member who wandered off seconds before I took the photo.)

Sphinx
Sphinx
One of the sphinxes beside the avenue

This sphinx beside the avenue is very clean and sharply defined so I think it has been refurbished or is perhaps a modern replacement. Its partner opposite it is more eroded and marked by time.

Lion couchant
Lion couchant
This lion has a strangely sad expression

At the end of the avenue, we met two lions, a female and a male. The male, shown above, had the saddest expression I have ever seen on the face of a sculpted lion. Whether this was deliberate on the part of the sculptor or whether erosion has emphasised the effect, I do not know.

A choice of paths
A choice of paths
Which one should we take?

The avenue ends on what is called a “patte d’oie”, a triple branching of the path. Off to the right (not visible in the picture) a path leads to the rose garden in which stands a Doric column. We decided to go ahead.

Let me just say at this point that I am not attempting a complete description of the grounds but my own view as we wandered at random along the paths. We missed far more than we saw and you will find a fuller description here.

Walking toward the arch
Walking toward the arch
But what was in the arch – a sculpture?

We took the central path that led to what seemed to be some sort of arch. There was something in the arch that we could not quite make out. Was it a sculpture?

The Eyecatcher
The Eyecatcher
A good place for a quiet read?

From closer up, the solution appeared. Someone had chosen to sit in the arch – which is known as the Eyecatcher – for a quiet read. It is said that from this viewpoint you get splendid views in all directions. We, however, continued on.

Aquatic drama
Aquatic drama
Young coots chasing a moorhen

We came to an ornamental water feature and for a while watched these three young coots. They were plunging to fetch weed to eat from the bottom. Coots can be surprisingly aggressive and here, despite being sub-adult, they are chasing away a moorhen who has strayed into “their” territory.

As it was now spitting with rain, we decided to seek shelter, perhaps at Hogarth’s house. This led to another disappointment: Hogarth’s house was closed for refurbishment! We gave up at this point and took the bus (or rather, buses) homeward.

On the way we discussed plans for dinner. Should we go home or dine out? And if the latter, where?

Bistro de la Gare
Bistro de la Gare
Real French or pretend French?

In a previous post (see A visit to Joey’s) I mentioned this ex-pub that had become a cafe-restaurant with a French name. We had passed it often in our comings and goings and proposed trying it one day. Today was the day.

As soon as we went in and met the manager, I recognized a genuine French accent. So we spoke French throughout. It was impressive: nice decor, everything spotlessly clean, and the food… Let’s just say it was the best restaurant meal I have had for a long time. A true French bistro in every sense of the word. We shall return.

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

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Avoiding a politician, discovering a film museum

It was thought that a certain politician would be visiting Tigger’s workplace today and, rather than find herself face to face with this person or, worse still, have to shake his hypocritical and blood-stained hand, she preferred to take the afternoon off. I went down to meet her at midday and off we went.

Casa Madeira
Casa Madeira
One of the restaurants in the railway arches along the Albert Embankment

What’s the first thing you think of on an extra afternoon off? Our first thought was to have a nice lunch. So we caught a bus to the Albert Embankment to visit a Portuguese cafe we had been to before and liked. There are several cafes along here in the railway arches. It’s interesting to see how they have managed the rather restricted space available.

Order at the counter
Order at the counter
Being lunch time it was rather busy

To be honest, we were a little disappointed. The food wasn’t as good as we had hoped and the portions were small for the price. I accept that they are busy at lunchtime on weekdays, but in future we’ll just go there for coffee and cake when it is quiet.

Central Lying-In Hospital
Central Lying-In Hospital
This maternity hospital in Lambeth dates from the early 1800s

After lunch we took a bus and passed through Lambeth where this interesting hospital stands. Work is in progress but as it is a listed building (see here) I assume it will be preserved and put to new use.

The old County Hall
The old County Hall
with the London Eye peering over its shoulder

Soon we found ourselves approaching County Hall, the palatial premises that housed the London’s government from 1922 until Thatcher destroyed it for her own partisan ends in 1986. Today it accommodates a hotel and several other enterprises.

Entrance Hall
Entrance Hall
This sets the tone for your impression of the rest of the building

County Hall was commissioned by the LCC (London County Council, 1889-1965), the forerunner of the GLC (Greater London Council, 1965-86) towards which Thatcher felt such animus. Work on the site began in 1909 but was interrupted, first, by the discovery in the diggings of the remains of a Roman boat, and second, in 1916 by the First World War. It was eventually opened in 1922 by King George V.

Main staircase
Main staircase
The decor has a kind of sober dignity without being too flashy

The design and decor, it seems to me, fits the taste of the period in which it was designed but, is also just right for the premises of city government. It has a robust but sober dignity, without unnecessary opulence or frills.

Corridors...
Corridors…
…but no longer the corridors of power

Having entered for a look, we discovered that the London Film Museum had been set up within. I must admit that I didn’t even know that such a thing existed, let alone that it was sited here in County Hall. After some discussion, we decided to take a look.

The original J. Arthur Rank gong
The original J. Arthur Rank gong
as bashed by oiled muscle men at the beginning of films made in the
Rank studios

Now I have to say that films are not something to which I pay a lot of attention, especially fantasy films full of “special effects” which are made, it seems to me, by people with overweening imaginations and too much money to spend. So, would I find anything of interest here? Photography was allowed everywhere except in two special exhibitions (Star Wars and Harry Potter), though I found it hard to see why. These images have already appeared a million times in every possible type of media, so how can a couple of photos on a blog hurt?

Animated dinosaur
Animated dinosaur
He roars are swings his head around. Scary? Not really…

The main problem was that light levels were very low. I didn’t ask whether flash was allowed but don’t like to use it, anyway, unless absolutely necessary, so I have had to lighten some of the photos – like the one above. It’s one of the exhibits that comes alive in Night at the Museum 2. He wasn’t at all scary. I wanted to take him home.

Sherlock Holmes' parlour
Sherlock Holmes’ parlour
I like room reconstructions, especially if I can imagine myself into them

For the reasons given, many of the exhibits were over my head: I either didn’t know what they were supposed to be or couldn’t care less. I present here a small selection of what we saw.

Dr Who's police box
Dr Who’s police box
It’s larger inside than outside, you know

All the super heroes were there, including those I could name – Superman and Batman – and many more that I couldn’t. Was Dr Who a super hero? In a way he was, I suppose. Even if the Daleks did look like something designed by a mad vacuum cleaner manufacturer…

Oh, I'm getting one of my heads...
Oh, I’m getting one of my heads…
Quick, fetch the paracetamol

You possibly know who this lady is. I don’t. If you do, though, don’t bother telling me. She looks like the sort of person who would spoil any party.

Movietone van
Movietone van
This one is 1920s vintage, I think

There were all sorts of exhibits, of course, from from the usual glass case displays of models and miniatures, wigs and hats, weapons and other devices, through information panels to photographs and sculptures. There was also a miniature cinema where we sat for a while watching clips from the films of…

Charlie Chaplin collectables
Charlie Chaplin collectables
Memorabilia of the great comedian and clown

Charlie Chaplin! Now there is an actor I can admire. The depth of his artistry is simply amazing, and a glance or a gesture can speak volumes. The word “genius” is overworked these days and too often conferred on people who are simply crushed by its weight, but it finds its proper place in this man, who not only entranced generations of film-goers but also inspired many actors who followed after him.

Red ceiling
Red ceiling
We discovered this magnificent ceiling in the Harry Potter exhibition

When we went into the Harry Potter exhibition, where photography is not allowed, I nonetheless photographed this ceiling as it wasn’t part of the display. I couldn’t find a vantage point from which the whole ceiling was visible but there is enough to give you an idea of it.

The Shell Building
The Shell Building
This Art Deco pile with a big clock is one modern building that I like

After the Film Museum, we walked along the Thames towards the South Bank Centre.

Beach huts
Beach huts
These beach huts are part of the commemoration of the Festival of Britain

We walked on along the Thames and revisited some of the sights that we had visited on a previous occasion – for example, see From the Mansion House to Trafalgar Square. These huts house a variety of arts and crafts, including products for sale, and information.

RSPB Gull
RSPB Gull
This unusual stall invites us to care about wildlife and to join the RSPB

We were beginning to think that a rest and a drink would be nice. And maybe a piece of cake…

Faces plus one
Faces plus one
Where life meets art

We visited Canteen, which is quite a nice place to go, I think. I had a naughty cream tea with proper clotted cream and proper  raspberry jam and Tigger had carrot cake. (I knew you’d want to know!)

Stairway to Emin
Stairway to Emin
These are temporary stairways resting on freight containers

After tea, we walked up this temporary stairway to the upper deck. We thought we felt spots of rain but, before catching the bus there were a couple of things we wanted to look at.

"Enclosure"
"Enclosure"
This work, entitled “Enclosure”, consists of three dry stone walls built
according to the styles of three different regions of the country

We saw these walls being built and spoke to the men building them – see A festival remembered. Looking closely at the walls you can see that they are made with extreme skill, all the stones fitting together as though made especially for the position they are in.

Fountain
Fountain
The man in the fountain is soaked… but ought not to be

The other thing we wanted to see was this fountain. It consisted of rows of vertical spouts which divide the area into rectangular spaces like rooms. The idea, I think, is to progress through the fountain from space to space, as the spouts start and stop, without getting wet. That is why we wondered why the man in the fountain was soaked to the skin.

Another try
Another try
Two more try their luck – will they avoid a soaking?

At first, I thought the spots of wetness were drops of water carried from the fountain by the wind but I soon realized that it was now raining in earnest, so we quickly turned towards the bus stop.

The straw fox
The straw fox
There were pigeons perching on his brush

My last photos were of another old friend, the straw fox or, to give him his official name, the Urban Fox by Mike de Butts and Alex Geldenhuys (see A festival remembered). I was amused that there were pigeons sitting on the fox’s brush and if you can see them in the photo, they will give some idea of the scale of the work.

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

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Petersfield

The weather forecast for today is sunny and hot so we thought we should make the most of it. For our planned destination we take the train at Waterloo and, knowing how crowded this station is likely to be on a Saturday, with long queues for tickets, we bought ours yesterday evening on the way home from work. It was just as well, then, that the weather was fine, as forecast

The Cambridge
The Cambridge
We changed buses in Charing Cross Road

On the bus, we fell to talking about all sorts of things and thus managed to miss our stop. We jumped off at the stop opposite the Cambridge in Charing Cross Road and were lucky to get a bus that took us to Waterloo.

Level crossing and signal box
Level crossing and signal box
A station with a rural feel to it

We reached Waterloo 10 minutes before our train was due to depart and so we just had time to buy sandwiches and a cold drink by way of breakfast. We have eaten these as the train starts its journey into Hampshire. The sun is shining as forecast but there are also big white clouds in the sky which from time to time hide the sun. The temperature is mild rather than warm but that may change as the day progresses. In any case, neither of us likes extreme heat.

High gables
High gables
Petersfield station has unusual high gables

As usual, I dozed off and awoke with a start as they announced our destination, Petersfield. This little town is just inside Hampshire, near the border with West Sussex.

Houses become shops
Houses become shops
In a town that has evolved over a long period, we find buildings that have
changed their usage, sometimes many times

According to official history, the town was developed in the early 12th century. The name seems to come from the chapel around which the town grew and which was called “St Peter’s in the Fields”. There exists a rich variety of buildings of different ages in Petersfield. Many have changed usage during its history, like the pair above which were once dwellings and whose ground floors have become commercial premises.

Chapel Street
Chapel Street
At first sight a typical high street in a quiet market town

We walked down from the station and arrived in Chapel Street. This looks like the high street of any small market town but that is only one aspect of Petersfield, as we soon discovered.

Guardians of the Drum
Guardians of the Drum
Interested in the activity on the streets, these two handsome canines were
looking after a pub called
The Drum

Despite the pub’s sign that shows a military drum, the sort that you beat with drumsticks, the real Drum from which the pub takes its name is the stream that runs beside it.

The Drum
The Drum
Drumsticks not required for this Drum

The sandwich we had eaten for breakfast was not sufficient for a day’s explorations so we repaired to the local branch of the Poppins chain of cafes for an omelette lunch. Thus fortified, we set out to wander the streets of what soon turned out to be a pretty and intriguing town.


Once a farmhouse…
This house, dating from 1530, was home to two mayors of Petersfield

We soon began to discover items of interest. For example, there was this substantial building dating from 1530 and apparently still in good robust order. Once a farmhouse, it was later owned by two mayors of Petersfield, Thomas Osbourne (1591) and Thomas Walker (17th cent). Today, as is often the case, it has been invaded by businesses.

The market
The market
The market takes place in The Square and was in full swing

The above house stands on an open space known simply as The Square, and it is here that the market takes place. It was in full swing when we arrived. You may notice an equestrian statue in the middle of it. I will come back to that later.

County Police Station
County Police Station
Dated 1858, the County Police Station no longer serves its original purpose
but at least survives as an interesting historical feature

This old police station has flints incorporated into the cladding, something that is very common in this area. Petersfield buildings show an immense range of styles and building materials. There is something new around every corner.

Toby's Cottage
Toby’s Cottage
This is Toby’s Cottage, now two separate premises

Here we have a building that claims a date of 1580. Called Toby’s Cottage and today divided into two, it seems to be resisting the depredations of time well, despite a little subsidence at one end.

Sussex Road cottages
Sussex Road cottages
We found many different types of houses in Sussex Road

We saw a sign for “Heath Pond and Millennium Walk” and decided to take a look. Our way led along Sussex Road, which was lined with a wide variety of houses, including old cottages with low doorways. One in particular attracted my attention.

The cottage
A well proportioned cottage
There is a sign with monogram above the door

I saw that this neat cottage had a sign over the door and, at first sight, it looked like a Masonic symbol, such as a drawing instrument. A closer look showed that it was really the monogram “AJ”.

The monogram
The plaque with a monogram
Do the initials stand for some society or organization?

At the top appear the initials “N · S · I · B” (or is the third letter a ‘T’?). I might have thought these were the initials of the architect or owner but for the fact that it says “EST[ablished] 1860”, suggesting that the NSIB is a society or organization of some sort. I have no idea what it might have been.

We later visited the museum and I took the opportunity to ask there about the house and its sign. They were unable explain the sign there and then but took my email address and promised to let me know if they discovered anything. If new information emerges, I will add an update to this post.

Heath Pond
Heath Pond
A beautiful pond or lake surrounded by greenery

A short walk later, we arrived at Heath Pond, a beautiful pond or lake with greenery all around it. The Millennium Walk is a trail that runs around the pond. We didn’t have time to follow it but I imagine it’s a pleasant stroll.

Canada geese
Canada geese
The Canada geese remained in a gaggle in the centre of the pond

There were wild fowl on the pond, including ducks, coots and Canada geese. The latter were all out in the middle of the pond, apparently holding a conference, but the ducks and coots were busy around the edge.

Coot
Coot
The coots were not at all timid

I started by photographing some coots and found they were not at all timid. Despite this, I was still startled by what happened next.

Coot rush
Coot rush
We found ourselves the object of a coot rush!

Far from the coots being nervous of us, we suddenly found ourselves the object of a coot rush! They came right off the water and ran up the bank to us. They obviously expected us to feed them. I have never seen coots behave like this before.

The scramble for seeds
The scramble for seeds
The coots gobbled up the seed and the ducks joined in

Fortunately, we had some seeds and the coots were soon gobbling it up. Naturally, it wasn’t long before the ducks joined in.

Hand feeding a duck
Hand feeding a duck
This duck was bold enough to take seed from my hand
(Photo by Tigger)

The ducks were bolder than the coots and at least one of them was willing to eat out of my hand. One of the coots did so at first but then suddenly became less brave and wouldn’t do it again.

Boat hire
Boat hire
You can hire a boat and row around the lake

There is boat hire and a children’s playground and I have heard that there is a cafe though I didn’t see one.

The Spain
The Spain
This strangely named area is the site of one of Petersfield’s earliest
settlements

We returned to town by a rather circuitous route which took us through The Spain, a curiously named area with a green surrounded by houses. Various theories have been advanced to explain the name but none seem indisputable. At one point it was called Spyne, so perhaps “Spain” emerged as a popular over-correction.

House of John Goodyer
House of a botanist
This house belonged to John Goodyer (1592-1664), the botanist

Many famous and interesting people have lived in Petersfield and here, in The Spain, is the house of John Goodyer (1592-1664) of botanical fame.

St Peter's Church
St Peter’s Church
The church dates from Norman times

We found ourselves back at The Square where we stopped for coffee. Nearby is the church the gave its name to the town. Dating from Norman times, it has of course, been modified and added to during the centuries. You will find some information about it here and here.

Cattle trough
Cattle trough
A Petersfield cattle trough for my collection

I spotted this cattle trough and added it to my collection. The dedication on the side shows it was donated as an individual gift. There is an inscription along the side and although it’s a little eroded, I think it reads as follows: “PRESENTED BY J D MONEY COUTTS 1882”.

The Museum
The Museum
“Local history, costume and art”

We visited Petersfield Museum which is sited in what was once the old magistrates’ court. As a museum it is quite small but well stocked and arranged with care. Photography, unfortunately, was not allowed. You know my opinion of this if you have read my other posts on the subject.

War Memorial
War Memorial
Petersfield Memorial to the First World War

At the end of the High Street, just before its junction with the picturesquely named Dragon Street, stands the War Memorial. This commemorates those who died in the First World War but has additional plaques for those who died in later conflicts, including WWII and Afghanistan.

Mosaic map
Mosaic map
This pretty mosaic was commissioned to celebrate an important event
in the town’s life

On a wall in Dragon Street is this handsome map of Petersfield executed as a mosaic. Made by Rosalind Wates, it celebrates what was seen as an important event in the life of the town in 1994 – the completion of the by-pass. Having seen towns degraded by constant streams of heavy traffic running through them, I have some idea of what a relief this must have been for the townsfolk.

West Street
West Street
West Street, Havant, looking towards St Faith’s

Opposite the map was a bus stop where we caught a bus and went for a ride. It brought us, an hour later, to Havant. If you pass through the inevitable shopping centre, you arrive at West Street in the older part of town. Once part of the Roman Road from Wickham to Chichester, it has been reduced to a “precinct” in modern times.

St Faith's
St Faith’s
Founded in the 12th century but remodelled

The church is said to date from the 12th century, though it was extensively rebuilt in the 19th century. Foundations of a Roman building have been found beneath it. Perhaps is was a tavern for travellers or a temple.

The White Hart 1889
The White Hart 1889
This pub in South Street is a fine example of a Victorian corner pub

We had a quick look around and then sneaked into Caffé Nero which was getting ready to close. On jaunts such as this outside London, you have to take care to find out the time of the last bus or you are likely to be stranded, as has happened to us a couple of times. The Londoner is apt to forget that the buses go to bed early in some parts… With bus travel, you at least get a chance to see the landscape through which you are passing and sometimes that gives you ideas of places to visit another time.

High Street
High Street, Petersfield
Mellowed by the evening sunlight and low shadows

We caught the bus back to Petersfield and prospected for dinner. The Indian restaurant was booked up so we ended up at PizzaExpress. At least the food there is reliable and the service amiable as long as you don’t mind being continually addressed as “guys”.

William III
William III
The Jolliffes’ tribute the Protestant
King William

After dinner we went for a last walk around and were able to have an uncluttered view of the equestrian statue that I mentioned earlier. This was commissioned by the Jolliffes, a principal family in Petersfield, with a bequest from the will of Sir William Jolliffe who died in 1749. It seems they were rather keen to advertise their Protestant credentials and a memorial to King William seemed a good way to do it. There is a suitably sycophantic inscription in Latin which is today accompanied by an English translation.

18 Sheep Street
18 Sheep Street
Notice anything about the brickwork?

Before turning back to the station, we took a stroll down Sheep Street, a sloping street containing picturesque old houses, some of which go back to the 15th century. Number 18, in the centre of the photo has an interesting feature, though you need to be sharp-eyed to spot it: the upper storey is faced, not with bricks but with “mathematical tiles”. These are designed to give the appearance of bricks but are tiles nonetheless.

The Royal Oak
The Royal Oak
The top end of Sheep Street

There are various theories as to why mathematical tiles were used and perhaps different reasons apply in different cases. One reason was to avoid the brick tax imposed in 1784 to help pay for debts incurred fighting the War of American Independence. (The tax was repealed in 1850.) Another is that the tiles can be used to give an old house a “modern” appearance of brick but are easier and cheaper to apply. The tiles may be glazed and this gives them good weather-proofing.

The Poor House
The Poor House
Presented to the town by the Jolliffe family in 1771

We had not been to Petersfield before. It was very much a case of going there to see what, if anything, there was to see. We were not disappointed. Petersfield is a pretty town, full of interesting traces of its long history. While we saw a few of its treasures, I am sure there are many that we missed such as the Physic Garden. Perhaps we will return to improve our acquaintance with this pleasing town.

Sunlit lion
Sunlit lion
One of a pair of lions at the 18th century Red Lion inn

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

Posted in Travel | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Another way to read ebooks

I recently asked the question “How do you read ebooks?” and explained that I had unexpectedly found a way to do this on my Blackberry mobile phone. I also went on to remark “Now that I have perfected the art of reading ebooks on my Blackberry, an even better solution has come along”, though I did not say then what this was. I wanted to try out this new “solution” properly before talking about it.

Just when we might have thought that, what with desktop PCs, laptops, notebooks and “smartphones”, there wasn’t any space left into which you could squeeze yet another device, along came the “tablet PC”, something that resembles the school pupil’s slate of yore but with a functionality approaching that of a small PC.

Tigger is always on the lookout for new things and bought, not one, but two of these “tablets”. One malfunctioned almost immediately and after a couple of days gave up the ghost, refusing even to switch on. I won’t say what model it was because it’s always possible to get one bad machine among a bunch that perform perfectly. The retailer made no bones about refunding the money.

The second machine was an Archos 7 Home Tablet which Carphone Warehouse just happened to be selling at a good price of around £75. Like most of its kind, this has the Android operating system and comes with a number of applications ready installed, such as a Web browser and an email client.

Tigger took to it like the proverbial duck to water but I must admit that I was somewhat bemused by this device. In fact, I couldn’t really see the point of it, at least as far as my own usage patterns were concerned. At home I used a PC and “on the road” I used my Blackberry: what else could I need? Well, I was about to find out!

Not heeding my studied lack of interest, Tigger offered to buy me an Archos as a present. I said no thanks, I don’t see the point of having one. But then the light-bulb moment happened: Tigger, I saw, was reading H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man, and reading it as an ebook on her Archos. The 7-inch screen was a lot more comfortable to read than the tiny screen of my Blackberry and could be adjusted for colour and font size. I gave in and accepted the gift. Now, some weeks later, I have a better idea of what the Archos can offer the user, especially a user interested in reading ebooks.

I think it important to point out that the Archos is the only Android machine I have ever used and that my remarks pertain directly to this device. I cannot say how good or bad Android is in general and how far the faults I find in the Archos are faults of the Android operating system or of the device itself. This should be borne in mind in reading the rest of this post.

With regard to general use as a device that can go online, I would say that the Archos is roughly equivalent to a smartphone except for the size of the display. To write, you have to use the on-screen keyboard, which is somewhat clunky, while the keyboard layout seems to be different on different occasions, depending on what you are doing, so that a symbol such as ‘@’ will be visible on the alphabetic screen for one application but will have to be sought on the numeric screen for another application. There seems to have been a failure to achieve joined-up thinking at the design stage.

I think the Android operating system (though remember my caveat above) shows the weakness of its origins as an operating system for mobile phones. For a tablet that aspires to be a PC, it is short on functionality and clunky to use. The browser and the email client are usable but it’s a relief to get back to a “proper” computer. More expensive models are no doubt faster and provide more functionality so I am not going to condemn either Android or the Archos out of hand until I have gained more experience of what is on offer.

This brings us to the above mentioned ebook-reading capability. This is provided on the Archos by a preloaded application called Aldiko. It is quite a basic facility and its use is not all that obvious. You need to poke around in the settings and try things in order to learn how to use it. The first thing to do, once you have charged up your Archos and learned the basic functions, is to update the installed version of Aldiko. This is easy to do because there is something called AppsLib installed which gives you access to the Android market of applications, both free and paid-for. The updated version provides a few more functions and a couple or so more free books. The update is well worth doing and is free.

The Archos is gravity-sensitive so you can turn the screen any way and it will rotate the display as appropriate. This means that you can read books in either portrait or landscape configuration.

Unless you are content with the free titles supplied, you need to learn how to obtain more books. It took me a while to figure this out. First, I should tell you that the Archos has a system memory of 8 gb and this can be added to with an 8 gb micro HCSD card. (Get one with an adaptor so you had also plug it into other devices for the purpose of swapping files.)

So the first way to give Aldiko ebooks to work with is to download them on your PC, transfer them to the memory card and move the memory card to the Archos. (It doesn’t matter that you are mixing Windows and Android systems, as they can both read cards manipulated by one another without any difficulty.)

You now run Aldiko and click on the icon of a little house at top left on the bookshelf screen. This produces a screen with several brown icons, one of which is labelled SD card. Click on this and make your way along the chain of folders until you come to the ebook file. Click on it and a little window opens offering two functions, Open and Import to Aldiko. If you choose the latter, the book is added to your bookshelf and is ready for reading. You can then delete the file from the card as it is no longer needed.

The other way to acquire ebooks is by going online with your Archos to a site that supplies them, such as Project Gutenberg, and downloading the book you require. (In the case of Gutenberg, it’s best to contact the mobile site m.gutenberg.com, as the full site is a bit too meaty for the Archos – or is it Android? – to handle.) The downloaded ebook will be in a folder in system memory called, reasonably enough, Downloads. You import the book into Aldiko as described above. Yes, you still have to click on SD card, even though the book is in system memory.

As far as I can see, Aldiko recognizes only two ebook formats, epub and PDF. If you are lucky, the ebook comes complete with a front cover which looks nice on the bookshelf but, more importantly, tells you what the book is. For some reason, books obtained from Gutenberg do not display the title and this is a nuisance if you have several of them as you are likely to open the wrong one.

Provided that you close Aldiko down properly, it will remember where you got to and open the book at the right page next time. You can also set bookmarks though, to be honest, I have never mastered this function.

So how does the Archos compare as an ereader? As I have never used a “proper” ereader, it is obviously impossible for me to say. I find the Archos perfectly adequate for the purpose. To turn the page, I just tap the right-hand side of the screen with my finger nail, or the left-hand side to go back a page.

There are two weaknesses to the Archos as a book reader. First, and less serious, it becomes fairly hot in use. You may prefer to place it on a cushion rather than directly on your bare knee, though it is not hot enough to burn, just enough to be uncomfortable. The more serious weakness is the poor battery life. While you are reading, the battery runs down very quickly. This would definitely be a problem if you wanted to use it to read during a long train journey, say. In that case, you would have to hope to have a seat with a power point as is increasingly the case these days. To read in bed, I have rigged up a trailing socket so that I can keep the Archos plugged in and charged.

I think you can buy a mobile charger for the Archos, one that runs off batteries such as those that you can buy to charge mobile phones. If so, that would be a solution to the battery-life problem, especially if you used rechargeable batteries for the task.

While I can read epub books quite comfortably on my mobile, PDF files are more of a problem. That is because PDF files are strictly formatted and will therefore not reflow to suit the borders of the display. I am reading L’Immoraliste by André Gide and it is practically unreadable on my phone because when it fits the screen, the print is too tiny to read, and if I zoom in, it spreads beyond the edges of the screen so that I have to scroll right and left to read. This problem does not arise when reading PDF files on the Archos because the screen is big enough to accommodate print of a legible size.

Does this experience make me more likely to acquire a dedicated ereader? At present I am undecided. Despite its clunkiness, the Archos does have the basic functions of a computer and this means that it performs at least two functions – those of portable computer and ereader – and therefore helps avoid a proliferation of devices. Also, I am far from convinced that, for me at least, the day of the paper book has passed. I like paper books and have no plans to abandon them yet.

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

Posted in Computers | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Home to a heat wave

We arrived home from our trip yesterday evening and our first reaction on leaving the train in London was “How hot it is!” While we were away, it seems, the meteorological mice came out to play and London has been sweltering whereas we were experiencing a very different scenario: it rained nearly every day and if the sun appeared at all, it was to perform the Dance of the Seven Veils. The temperature was decidedly cool too. So stepping out of the train at Euston was like stepping into an oven.

Having unpacked, sorted through the mail and made tea, we faced a chore: that of the weekly shopping. We usually do this on Saturday or Sunday morning but, as this Sunday was going to be a busy one, we had to do it straightaway. As I pushed the trolley along the aisles of the supermarket, familiarity confronted the strangeness of the fact that only a few hours before, we had been wandering in leisurely fashion through the Manchester Art Gallery and now, owing to the wonders of modern transport, we were wandering, albeit less leisurely, through Sainsbury’s in Islington.

Today we had two jobs to do, one pleasant, the other not so pleasant. The pleasant one was to fetch Freya home from her “holiday camp” in Chingford. This is where things went annoyingly wrong.

The usual procedure is for me to take the bus to Liverpool Street station and there catch a train for the 25-minute trip to Chingford. At Wood Street, I phone ahead to the cattery that I am coming, and they drive with Freya to Chingford station where I pick her up and then repeat the same journey in reverse order. On a good day, this takes about two and a half hours, all told. Not today.

There were road works in the area of Liverpool Street station and so the bus stopped short, meaning I had to walk about half a mile. No big deal, I agree, except that I would have to do the same thing on the way back carrying Freya in a basket and I can tell you that she is no lightweight! One piece of good news was that the 153 bus was running from Liverpool Street to Islington, so I decided I would catch that on my return.

The Chingford train
The Chingford train
A no-frills service

The chain to Chingford is a no-frills service – there isn’t even a toilet on the train, something I think ought to be illegal. At least the train ran without mishaps and I arrived at Chingford in timely fashion.

When the cattery car arrived, Freya was not aboard. This is something that happens on roughly two occasions out of five: my sweet-tempered timid Freya apparently becomes an aggressive savage beast at the cattery and has to be handled with caution. This means that they sometimes cannot get her into the basket without a fight and it makes sense instead to take me to the house instead. Freya, was of course as docile as a kitten with me and allowed herself to be popped into the basket without a murmur of protest.

On a crowded train, you always get some idiot who, despite knowing little about animals in general and even less about cats in particular, wants to pass himself of as Dr Dolittle and starts poking his fingers through the bars of the cage. Scowls and abrupt replies put all but the most hardy to flight but sometimes the situation becomes tense. For this reason, I chose the very last carriage as the train usually fills up from the front and middle on the way back to London.

Are we nearly there yet?
Are we nearly there yet?
A cage can feel like a refuge until someone starts poking at the bars

The journey went well until we arrived at Walthamstow Central and then the train just sat in the station. There was an announcement by the driver but I could not hear it, and this obviously left me in a quandary.

In the end I approached a young couple, explained that I did not hear very well and asked whether they would tell me what the announcement had been. They kindly obliged: there were (unspecified) problems on the line ahead of us and it was not known how long we would have to wait for them to be resolved. What should I do now? How long would we stuck? Should I switch to the tube?

After a while, I decided to leave the train and make for the tube. You can guess what happened next: as I walked away from the train, the doors began to close! I managed to jump aboard and off we went, only to come to a halt again outside Clapton. After this, however, the train resumed its course and travelled at its usual speed back to Liverpool Street, albeit arriving late.

The 153 “terminates” at Liverpool Street. That means that the driver empties the bus and takes a 15 minute break. If the bus is there, you can see it in a parking bay. When we reached the bus stop, there was no 153 in sight. This meant waiting up to 15 minutes or longer for a bus to arrived and a further 15 minutes while the driver took his break. I decided to walk to the City Road where I would have a choice of buses. This is where I made my silly mistake.

I took the wrong exit from the station but, on realizing this, I kept going because I was sure this route would also lead to the City Road. I walked and I walked, and the cage became heavier and heavier, and still I did not reach the City Road. To add to my discomfort, I was dressed as I had been while away, meaning I was wearing about three layers of clothing too many and was soon suffering from the heat.

Eventually, I had to swallow my pride and ask a passer-by for the way to the City Road. Some more hot, sweaty and angry walking finally got me to the Old Street roundabout. Here I waited for a bus. I had to wait a long time, but eventually a bus came and we rode the rest of the way home.

Freya’s evident pleasure at being home again almost made up for the annoyance of the journey. She has followed me around since and, as I write this, is curled up on the carpet beside my feet.

This left the second chore of the day: the laundry! This was unavoidable and had to be done whatever the weather or any other inconveniences. We needed to get started as soon as possible too because there is usually something of a lull at the launderette between midday and 1 pm and outside that period, you may have to queue for washing machines and dryers.

We were fortunate. Perhaps the heat discouraged people from going to a hot and steamy launderette. Whatever the reason, we had no difficulty obtaining the machines we needed and completing the task. We could go home and – finally – relax and try to recover what remains of the holiday mood.

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

Posted in Travel | 4 Comments