From 123 To 321

15 Jun

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Following a recent tour of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, the cradle of modern time and chronicler of our galaxy and beyond, I retired to the back for a coffee in their excellent cafe and was greeted by a striking statue of what resembled an astronaut of some kind.

Within seconds, I’d guessed it was of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, not only by its figurative style but a lucky guess at the character repetition in the Russian spelling of his name. Indeed, Yuri almost has that heroic poise once seen on statues of Lenin or depictions of the forward march of the proletariat.

 

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This encounter brought back childhood memories of watching the space race progress on TV and my question was this—was my generation the first to countdown backwards in the language of play as a result of watching a steady flow of rocket launches on TV? We’d gone from 1-2-3 Go! to counting down from ten to zero in an accelerating crescendo.

Furthermore, would Manfred Mann have had a hit with the Mod classic 5-4-3-2-1 that went on to be the musical score of the opening credits to the unmissable Ready Steady Go every Friday night?

The weekend started here, it said on the screen, and the Menn (sic) counted us down before the backing rhythm dropped in and my generation took possession of the weekend from our elders once more.

However, my nostalgic dream was broken by the end of parking symbolised by a row of zeros on my iPhone, a distant offspring of the space race.

London Sight Lines

14 Jun

As London’s skyline slowly rises, planning laws now govern and protect any existing sight lines of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Such a ruling enabled this view of Wren’s masterpiece from Newgate Street and through the present Paternoster Square.

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London at an angle

14 Jun

The jagged edges of the Barbican bite like teeth into the blue sky, a contrast to the many domes and spires of the City of London.

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LONDON IN THREE COLOURS: Red

24 Dec

DECK THE HALLS, PAINT THE TOWN RED

I’ve more or less covered Londres Bleu in previous blogs Midnight Blue and Bluefriars and so I’m moving on to red in time for Christmas, the time for festive colours to dapple this great city: green, gold but it’s mostly red that dominates or at least stands out.

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The shops bombard us from about September on, but and it’s hard to get excited so early. But when one sees the class of such shops as Cartier in New Bond Street it’s hard not to feel festive. Understated really, evenly covered in tiny red lights and just a deluxe bow across the frontage. Class, not bling.

The Conran shop, Sloane Avenue. Terence Conran established Habitat in 1964 and from then on influenced our tastes in home decor and design. In an area which smacks of style, Santa brings a smile to even the most self-conscious fashion victim.

The Conran shop, Sloane Avenue. Terence Conran established Habitat in 1964 and from then on influenced our tastes in home decor and design. In an area which smacks of style, Santa brings a smile to even the most self-conscious fashion victim.

Each day, we pass architectural jewels that make our city great. Some are spectacular and skyline-defining, others colour our journey through everyday life. Last year, sixteen of Leslie Green’s red tile clad Underground stations were given Grade II listing, protecting their glorious exteriors from alteration or demolition. Mostly of art deco design, they have stood the test of time against pollution and escaped the Luftwaffe.

Chalk Farm statio hugs the bending junction of Haverstock Hill and Adelaide Road.

Chalk Farm station hugs the bending junction of Haverstock Hill and Adelaide Road.

In 1935 King George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee and to commemorate this the GPO commissioned Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to design a new telephone booth. Fortunately the GPO left the design considerations to Scott who topped them with a dome styled on Sir John Soane’s mausoleums at St Pancras Old Churchyard and the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. Everywhere we look today, there will be people on their mobile phones. How did we function before this? Back in the Seventies, there was a phone box at the corner of Queen’s Gate and Cromwell Road, SW7. We taxi drivers could never work out why there was a constant queue to use this particular one until I picked up a couple in Earls Court who asked to be taken there. It was then that I learned that this box was faulty. For ten pence, you could call anywhere in the world without a time limit. No wonder it was flooded with youngsters from the Antipodes!

With the growth of mobile phone usage, it's unlikely to ever see a queue for the phone any more.

With the growth of mobile phone usage, it’s unlikely to ever see a queue for the phone any more.

The demise of the Fairway taxi is well documented now. Due to the December cutoff last year, those Fairways passed at the end of last year or brought forward for passing have disappeared at an alarming rate. Between the summer of this year and now, over 600 of them have gone off our streets.

A beautiful blood-red Fairway. Other popular colours of this model were grren, white and charcoal grey. So where did the media get the lazy phrase of "black cab" from? It's a taxi.

A beautiful blood-red Fairway. Other popular colours of this model were green, white and charcoal grey. So where did the media get the lazy phrase of “black cab” from? It’s a taxi.

 

New England in the USA is famous for its autumnal colours and so it's always good to get an idea of how the Maples and others may bring fire to the local foliage. This in King's Road is about as close as we get to it.

New England in the USA is famous for its autumnal colours and so it’s always good to get an idea of how the Maples and others may bring fire to the local foliage. This in King’s Road is about as close as we get to it.

 

Nothing more is necessary to compliment the beautiful simplicity of this Chelsea Georgian house than a red door.

Nothing more is necessary to compliment the beautiful simplicity of this Chelsea Georgian house than a red door.

Bluefriars

28 Sep

From Putney Bridge right up to Tower Bridge, blue lights illuminate the passage of water in and out of the North Sea with each tide twice a day. The lights’ continued spread still appears to be an unconscious policy, but they continue to expand presently with the nearly completed rebuilding of Blackfriars station, reconstructing the Victorian rail bridge to make way for longer trains on First Capital Connect’s Thameslink route and creating new entrances north and south of the river.

Between 1886 and 1937, it was known as St Paul’s Station and the London, Chatham and Dover Railway boasted the power to transport Londoners as far as Brindisi, Marseilles and Sr Petersburg. The new station has moved around the bend from Queen Victoria Street to New Bridge Street beside Blackfriars Bridge and incorporates the Underground with improved public access.

The new railway bridge will also be Europe’s largest solar panelled bridge, holding 4,400 panels which will generate half of the station’s electricity.

We night drivers will be relieved when the regular closure of Blackfriars Underpass ceases and we can bomb along–at 30mph–between East and West London once more.

Hero Worship

15 Sep

I picked up a family in my taxi the other day whose young child had a physical disability, namely, severely restricted use of his malformed arms and my immediate reaction was not that of usual and correct compassion but rather I pondered on what sporting event would he be most capable of? I happily realised in shock that the Paralympic Games had altered my perception of those with disabilities, hopefully for ever.

Channel Four Television, Horseferry Rd SW!. As ever, current and topical with their use of location and their 4 superstructure.

If the preceding Games were not enough, these Paralympic Games have gone one step further in terms of success and public outreach. Record crowds and television audiences have witnessed astounding courage and examples to us all that the human spirit is never short of surprises in what it can overcome. We arrived at our destination and I waited patiently for the young boy to control his involuntary muscle spasms in order to pass the money through the ludicrously small aperture in the partition glass in order to pay me. Whoever you are, I thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to be able-bodied and to take all tasks for granted, maybe I’ll see you in twelve years’ time on a rostrum somewhere in the world.

In the week following when the sporting press debate if an overpaid footballer will shake hands with that of another and flags are burned in London, when the first football club’s crest will be punched by a goal scorer, let’s remember who the real heroes of this summer have been.

A Generator Regenerated?

6 Sep

The flue has lost its blue hue, Chelsea FC lost its bid to resettle here and while perhaps an angry CFC fan may have doctored the hitherto blue lighting, I for one rest easy to know that back at Stamford Bridge, penalties in front of The Shed wil continue to be taken above the buried ashes of the mercurial Peter Osgood.

The lighting is fittingly reduced to more standard spots on the day it’s announced that now a Malaysian consortium pledge to oversee this art deco beauty’s renovation. Some twenty odd years before, Thatcher had stood with hard hat hiding her horns to proclaim the first of many promised efforts, even ordering her sycophantic press to be back in one year for its relaunch as her casino economy reached maximum centrifugal force.

More ownerships down the road and the site has looked continually neglected. I’d picked up inside the site many a time on Radio Taxis for the owners Parkview in an atmosphere worthy of the East German Stasi at the worst and plain control freaks at the best, told to park just there, not to get out of the cab, no nameboards. Alarm bells rang for me.

Twenty eight years after its decommissioning–even Pink Floyd had returned last November to float a huge pig for a relaunch of their famous album–the decaying chimneys will be rebuilt and Reuters report that the homes will have to be sold at twice the current London market rate in order for costs to be recouped. Watch this very empty space. Peace.