Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday, 26 November 2016


Seen at our local DLR station. It remains to be seen whether any shepherds will be delighted. Definitely time for scurrying home to pull the curtains and butter toast.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

I seem to have missed World Toilet Day (which is probably just as well, as the temptation to ribaldry is too great for what is after all a serious subject), but today is a day for a different celebration, as the feast of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

She'd have to have the patience of a saint to cope with the output of an electronic keyboard that has just taken up residence in my flat - were it not for the fact that it comes with headphones (one has to think of the neighbours). Years ago I was "put to the piano", and lost touch with it, but now it's time to see if whether there's any satisfaction to be got from trying to take it up again.

So far, the ability to recognise what all that notation means has come back surprisingly quickly: and there's the additional toy factor of being able to switch the output sound to organ, harpsichord or vibraphone at the touch of a button, which adds a certain novelty. However, knowing what keys to touch when, and how, doesn't guarantee that the fingers will actually get there and on time - and yes, I do realise what will be needed to produce all the right notes and all in the right order:

Apologies for the advert at the beginning...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Saturday, 29 October 2016

If you say so....

Tube stations have developed quite a reputation, and a certain competitive spirit, because of the various uplifting or humorous thoughts written on their temporary announcement boards.

But at Tottenham Court Road, this vague but ominous statement has been sitting by one of the exits for several weeks.

Whatever it is we're enjoined not to do, nobody seemed deterred.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Season's greetings

One gets inured to seeing Christmas packages of chocolates and biscuits before the end of October (and after all, there's no close season on either of those) - but, really.......... Christmas-themed loo paper?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Everyone's a critic

You spend who knows how much time, ingenuity, sweat, tears and money developing some technological marvel - and then there's always someone to point out you've missed a bit:

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

First world problem

Staring in frustration at the library's book-recording computer (always a bit temperamental) as it insists it can't recognise the barcode on my card.

Until I realise it's my Waitrose loyalty card (well, they do look very similar from the back).

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A learning experience....

Always double-check the packaging.

Having been organised enough to anticipate the impending emptiness of my last packet of coffee, I took the latest purchase out of the freezer, only to find it was a packet of beans rather than ground for filtering.

What's more, I have no coffee grinder. A food processor (slices, grates and liquidises, but that's about it); a stick blender (no, I don't think coffee soup would work); but no coffee grinder as such.

And then I remembered a Christmas gift from years ago. Out from under an accumulation of old, half-used spice packets (I dare not reveal how old) came the pestle and mortar. Five minutes' or so of vigorous pestling (or mortaring) produced something close to a brewable powder.

The results were palatable enough; and a tiny bit of exercise to boot. I call that a small victory, Or a score-draw at least.

Friday, 30 September 2016

If anyone still clings to outdated assumptions about classical music and the announcers on BBC Radio 3, then a quick trip to their temporary pop-up studio at the Festival Hall will soon put them to rights. The permanent studios may be better appointed, but in their little box, apart from a striking high-tech clock display, the electronics are confined to anonymous black boxes, and the desk is like anyone else's: breakfast cereals, coffee cups and in this case a screensaver of a very fluffy cat.

As ever, the Hall had plenty of other things going on, in particular a chance to try the virtual orchestra: a virtual reality headset puts you in the front row of the Philharmonia Orchestra's violins, right under the conductor - unless you choose to look around the 360° 3-D display. Not, perhaps, quite high-definition enough to be totally immersive, but still impressive. Perhaps one day we could experience whole concerts like this (but they'll have to make wearing the headsets a less sweaty experience).

Just to complete the cultural delights of the day, the new occupant of Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth has just been unveiled - a gigantic, elongated thumbs up. I'm not sure if it's to be taken superficially as intended to make everyone feel good about life, art and the universe (for the artist it is - you can buy a replica from a tent on Trafalgar Square for a mere £25 a pop) - or a satirical comment on superficial optimists. Pick your angle right and you might think the elongated thumb looks suspiciously like a middle finger.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Metereological autumn begins with a busy weekend of events. On Saturday morning, the Great River Race, with its usual complement of picturesque flags, colourful boats and funny costumes (though some contestants were earnestly doing their stretching exercises when I went past the launching point).

Later on, the weather was doing its best to make up for the pyro-friendly conditions it set up for the Great Fire of London 350 years ago this weekend. The anniversary is being marked by a major festival events. One of these was a "domino topple" of breeze blocks, symbolising the speed and extent of the fire's spread. Starting, not quite in Pudding Lane like the fire, but from the Monument nearby, down Fish Street Hill to Lower Thames street, then up again towards Bank, Cornhill and Cheapside (setting off  second and third streams towards St Paul's and Cripplegate en route), snaking its way along the streets, through back alleys, squares and markets, and even through buildings.

Since the topple was moving too fast for the following spectators, I went another way up towards Bishopsgate to catch it at a later point. It had been set up to emerge from the back alleys through the Cross Keys pub and across and then up the street from there, but even quite a small crowd filled up the available viewing space. Traffic was of course blocked off in both directions and some drivers were making their impatience evident, much to the amusement of the man on the Stop-Go sign: "I'm paid more the longer I stay here!". A further diversion found a less crowded spot in Leadenhall Market, and eventually the stream appeared and disappeared up towards London Wall.

Next up will be the burning on the Thames of a wooden replica of mediaeval London, but I rather suspect the crowds and weather will make it the kind of even best seen on a screen - and it's being livestreamed online, thank goodness.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Cave or café?

This seeming cleft in a cliff is actually the entrance to this year's Serpentine Pavilion, the annual temporary architectual experiment and café at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.

It's something to aim for as the object of a long bike ride across town, all the easier now they've finished the dedicated "cycle superhighway" along the Embankment (all Dutch-style separated roadspace and dedicated traffic light phases).

Seen from other angles, the Pavilion is not so much of a dark cavern. Since it's made of open fibreglass boxes, presumably quite light and easy to bolt together quickly, it's light and airy inside: though the breeziness might lose its charm on other sorts of summer day.

In the past, the pavilion has been a throwback to the 70s in style,  a cloister hidden by a dark corridor, and a cork-lined hobbit-hole, among others; the last one I went to see was a Meccano puzzle, which like this year's almost invited exploratory climbing.

But these fibreglass boxes presumably don't sustain much additional weight, or more likely the potential for a painful tumble is too great, because there were attendants posted to warn off any adventurous toddlers (of any age).

And there were some things worth seeing on the ride there, too:

Monday, 22 August 2016

Mystery in Mile End Park

Cycling along the Regent's Canal, one gets used to the narrowboats moored alongside, and they seem to be more numerous than ever this summer. Mostly they look almost as purely functional as they did in their cargo-carrying heyday, even if their interiors might be well and truly spruced up as mobile homes with all mod. con. Some are clearly only being used as temporary, rough-and-ready or even downright scruffy boltholes for the knit-your-own-bicycle artistic set. I've seen the odd mobile café and bookshop as well.

They all look ready to move, as indeed they mostly must: "home moorings" aren't that common and are expensively over-subscribed, and only a maximum stay of 14 days is allowed anywhere else.

But then one day there was this - a complete garden occuping every square inch of roof and the minimal decking. Not, you might think, the most easily moved. Canals may not be prone to massive waves and washes, with a maximum permitted speed of 4mph, but it would only take a small bump in a lock or a sharpish turn to topple over a few pots and statuettes.

Nevertheless, a few days later, it had gone, or at least, none of the boats on view had anything like this degree of decoration. If they put all this lot inside, there wouldn't be much room for anything or anyone else: so where did it all go?

Click to enlarge

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Signs of the times

Seen along the cycle path into town today:

Since this is on one of the most mediocre, not to say scruffy, buildings in the area, I suppose they would know

I haven't the faintest idea what this is for; it appears to be on every new cyclist-specific trafffic light, but if they want people to give it due deference and obedience, perhaps it should say "Cyclists stay aweful" - but that doesn't sound right at all.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Something to look forward to

This trailer on TV reminds me of the kind of notice that used to appear occasionally at my school: "Tuesday will be Wednesday ALL DAY". It all made sense in context, but stand back and it's decidedly peculiar.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Hair today

On one of those days where walking almost anywhere in central London makes you think the collective noun for tourists is "a drift", circumstances enforce attention to local detail.

Such as this particular poster, in the little bit of Soho now branded as Chinatown. With bunting of the flag of what used to called Red China fluttering overhead, I suppose the name is explicable.

But in among the photos of hairstyle models, there's no picture of the man himself. I wonder why?

Karl Marx - hairstyle model. Or maybe not.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Thursday, 30 June 2016

A modern political career...

(For those who haven't followed the ins and outs of all this, the links will explain....)

1. The Mop-headed Buffoon becomes Our Beloved Mayor®
2. After eight years of achieving or initiating... well, not a lot, Our Beloved Mayor® becomes the Great White Shark circling No. 10
3. Seizing his opportunity, the Great White Shark attempts to position himself as the nation's Great White Hope, resuming an earlier persona as the asbestos-pantied promoter of dubious tales about the EU, only this time not so much as a wizard jape, as with actual serious consequences
4. On realising that the consequences might be more serious than he thought (despite what so many people had been telling him), the Great White Hope starts retreating from his taller tales
5. When his bestest friend turns out to have been marched on to the playground to take his ball  away, the Great White Hope becomes the Mop-Headed Poltroon and wanders off to.....
6. ..... next stop - the Paul Gascoigne comedy circuit?

And these people think they are educated, trained, entitled to run the country?

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

So in this brave new world (or strange new limbo), where those who won don't appear to be quite sure whether they really wanted whatever it is they have won, if they could only decide what it is, and those who lost don't know what to do next, what certainties are there?

Death and taxes, of course, according to Benjamin Franklin (or Daniel Defoe). To which, as after every other trip abroad, I have to add, as neither of them did (but that's eighteenth-century patriarchy for you)..... laundry.

And showing one's holiday snaps (even if they are curiously similar to every other year's):
Stubaital - the Rütz-Katarakt
Stubaital- mountain meadow

Munich - Alte Pinakothek