London: Twenty first century style


When I was five, and shortly after Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, my family moved from the rural North Riding of Yorkshire to London, where my Polish father had found work. What a grubby, shabby place it was. The war was long over, but still streets had jagged gaps in them, with piles of rubble on which hardy buddleia plants gamely tried to put on a floral show. It was a grimy and often unlovely experience.

Many years later, long since moved away from London, my visits there revealed a city that had thoroughly re-invented itself, while leaving plenty of traces of its history behind. And there’s no better place to inspect it than from a boat on the Thames, or by walking one of the many paths alongside the river. Come and visit twenty first century London with me for Sofia’s Lens-Artists Challenge – Urban Environments. I’ve shown quite a few of these photos in the past, but for me, they bring memories with them.

Thames Barrier, Woolwich.
‘Redoubt’ tugs cargo-laden barges down the Thames. The Thames is as much a busy highway as it ever was.
The Tower of London, with the now almost equally famous Gherkin behind.

The header photo is taken – not from the banks of the Thames – but from next to the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Prime Meridian Line.

Cult hair


Staying with the London Branch of the family – in this case in the role of Childminder Extraordinaire – has inevitably meant a visit to the Horniman Museum. And here we came across a small, but quirky exhibition: Cult Hair, which ‘celebrates hair unrestrained by modern beauty standards’. William, 7; Zoë, 4 and I each chose our favourite. Who chose which, do you think?

I’m posting from my phone, and it seems to be taking charge of my photos in a way I wouldn’t choose. This may not end well …

St. Pancras Station: where England and Europe meet

England, London, Poetry

My favourite station in the UK is Saint Pancras International. It’s a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture and must be England’s most elegant place from which to start a journey. It was opened in 1862, and one of its glories is its immense single span iron roof , designed by William Barlow. That wonderful facade, which includes the Midland Hotel, was designed by Gilbert Scott, and this is what you’ll see as you approach, and then wander among all the fairly up-market shops which line the concourse these days. It’s such a treat just to wander round admiring the structure, listening to travellers chatting in French as they accustom themselves to their English surroundings. Here’s a little gallery to give you as taste of the handsome brickwork, the charming attention to detail.

What a shock, then, to find yourself suddenly facing this statue, The Meeting Place. some 9 metres high. Designed by Paul Day and unveiled in 2007, it’s intended to encapsulate the romance of travel.

This weekend’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge invites us to use a photo of this work as a prompt for a piece of Ekphrastic Poetry (if this is a new one on you, as it was to me, you’ll find out what it is if if you follow the link). For the challenge, it has to be in syllabic form, so I chose Prime Verse. And I think my feelings about this work may be clear…

Saint Pancras and the lovers.

A magnificent

Victorian masterpiece.

Elegant springboard of a thousand journeys –

Saint Pancras Station.

What greets you here?

A schmaltzy piece of kitsch:

a statue of two lovers who embrace

as they meet once more.

A crude mawkish piece, whose presence I abhor.

The featured image is by Daniela Paola Alchapar via Unsplash.

Seeing double

Balkans, Barcelona, Catalonia, England, London, North Yorkshire, Valencia

Getting two images for the price of one. That’s this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge, hosted this week by Jez. I’m keen on seeing double like this.

Do I prefer a simple canalscape?

Regent’s Canal, London.

Or a cloudscape?

Lake Prespa, North Macedonia

A few birds could add some interest …

I often like urban reflections …

… or surprising reflections …

… or just a peaceful scene by a river …

Near Saint Naum, North Macedonia

… which is where we started. The featured photo is from a boat on the River Guadalquivir in Seville.

Framing the view

Barcelona, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Harrogate, London, National Trust, North Yorkshire

For this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge, Ann-Christine asks us to think about curves. What a big subject! Flicking through my photos, almost every one has a curve in it somewhere or another. How to limit it? In the end, I decided to go with curves-as-frames.

There are deliberate curves as framing devices, as here in Studley Royal, where the estate gates are placed to emphasise the view straight down towards Ripon Cathedral.

Or here where the band on a bookshop barge on the Regent’s Canal in London has organised an arch above the musicians.

Or here, where a metal arch has provided an impromptu frame, so long as you choose your point-of-view. This is Harlow Carr Gardens, Harrogate ….

… or here, where a handy metal arch can be encouraged to frame the Maritime Museum in Barcelona.

Bridges may be arched, and garden entrances, even if not curved themselves, are often softened by climbing plants.

Let’s go to more serendipitous framing in the natural world. Here’s my grandson at Brimham Rocks.

And finally, we’ll go to Fountains Abbey, where I spend so much time. I’ve chosen two different views of the Abbey, one taken in high summer, then the other, shown as the featured image, in autumn. In each case, Huby Tower has been framed by leaves cascading in gentle curves.

As well as the Lens-Artists Challenge, this post fits the bill for Sarah’s Friendly Friday Challenge: Framing your subject.

I remember, I remember … the River Thames


The Lens Artists Challenge this week asks for Memorable Moments. I was all set to embark on a virtual journey to Moorish Spain, or Seoul, or Pondicherry. But then on Monday, I wrote a post about fog, and I found myself making comparisons between the smog-bound, dirty, industrial and horribly polluted Thames that I knew as a child, with the vibrant highway that has become the face of modern London.

I have no photos of 1950’s London. I’ll give you instead, with sincere apologies to John Masefield’s Cargoes, a word-picture of the working craft on that busy river – traffic which still exists today.

The Tyne coal was then. The tonnes of waste are now.

The header photo combines old and new: one of those barges, still busily doing what Thames barges have done for several centuries: with a twenty first century backdrop. The gallery below shows recent photos which contain memories of the rusty workaday river I once knew.

Any minute now, I’m going to get marks deducted for not answering the question. But I am, in my own way. Those early memories are etched into my head, and on my visits to the Big City now, every trip along the Thames in a Thames Clipper – always a treat – adds fresh memorable moments, as I savour the clash and contrast between old and new which brings piquancy and added flavour to my long held recollections.

The Tower of London, founded 1066, meets the City of London, largely re-invented after WWII, and especially in the last twenty years.
The building on the right is London’s County Hall. As a teacher, my mother had access to its wonderful library, and it’s where we often went on Saturday to choose books. Nowadays, it’s a hotel, and utterly dwarfed by The London Eye.
The Thames at Greenwich. Not much changed.
Further out still, beyond Woolwich: the flood defence of the Thames Barrier, which formed no part of my childhood.

Building a Skyscraper: Crane required

Barcelona, London

What a doddle it must be to erect a modern high-rise building, compared with the difficulties faced by those builders in mediaeval times. Their churches and cathedrals soar dizzyingly heavenwards without benefit of modern scaffolding kits, cranes and mechanical diggers.

It’s the view of Cádiz shown in the featured photo that prompted thoughts like these. The modern industrial hub is visible from the older city centre. Here’s another view:


Let’s go to London, a city so changed from the days when I lived there in the 1950s and 60s. Here’s a gallery of soaring towers, and the cranes that made building them possible. There are even cranes surrounding St. Paul’s Cathedral. And The London Eye makes a useful picture frame for yet another high-rise office.

And here’s new and old, juxtaposed: from Gherkin to Tower of London

Slightly off-topic, I have to include a few shots from the Gasholder development in Kings Cross. From dirty industrial back streets to desirable address in an imaginative few years.

There’s one cathedral still under construction that’s taking even longer to build than its mediaeval antecedents: La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Look.

Did you notice the builder in his hi-viz gear and safety equipment? He’s not the only one who needs to have a head for heights on these modern buildings. Here’s a team of window cleaners in Warsaw:

Tina has invited us, in this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #173 to choose interesting architecture. I’ve chosen to focus on how the buildings I’ve selected reached such immense heights.

The London skyline seen from Greenwich