Hot Sunday

We are having another heat wave. The heat is most unaccustomed for mid-September when, traditionally, we would have been topping up the anti-freeze in the car and thinking about turning on the heating at home. Anyone dismissing the present conditions as “just a blip on the chart” is living in cloud cuckoo land.

The temperature in London this afternoon stands at 25-26 deg C (78 deg F). That is the temperature expected in Perth, Australia, today.

This morning, while it was still relatively cool, we breakfasted at Pret and then did our weekly shop in Sainsbury’s.

Having whiled away the rest of the morning restfully at home, we went out around 1 pm to look for lunch and pick up a couple of things that Tigger needed.

Though it is Sunday, most of the shops are open and the streets are busy, perhaps more than they are during the week. The atmosphere is different from the week: there is an air of fun and enjoyment.

For lunch we went to Gallipoli, a Turkish restaurant in Upper Street that I mentioned in a post of that name on July 27th. Being Turkish, they had a good range of cool dishes suitable for hot weather.

For drinks, Tigger had ayran, a Turkish yogurt drink, and I had my favourite, Turkish tea! (Photo by Tigger.)

People in Britain tend to choose cold drinks in hot weather as this seems the obvious choice though there is some evidence that hot drinks cool you down more effectively, however counterintuitive that may seem. Such thoughts were not in my mind, though: I just happen to love Turkish tea!

From the restaurant, we called in at one more shop and then made our way home. As I write this, we are reclining in the cooling breeze of the electric fan and I rather think that that is where we shall stay!

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From Zédel to Tate Britain

We started with breakfast at Pret A Manger (no accents, please, we’re British).

Then we caught a number 38 bus into town.

The bus journey was very long and slow because of road works. By the time we reached Soho, we were feeling in need of something to restore our spirits!

The temptation offered by Zédel was too strong to resist. This is my favourite French-style cafe.

With its early-20th-century decor and waiters dressed in black waistcoats and aprons, it recalls that France of yesteryear that has now virtually disappeared, much to my regret.

We unashamedly ordered a second breakfast which we consumed with conspicuous leisureliness.

The bill came in this colourful folder which I shall keep as a souvenir.

Moving on, we found ourselves in Golden Square Gardens, where this pair of sculptures was on display. They are Big Bra and Corset, respectively by Kalliopi Lemos.

I preferred this statue of George II with a pigeon on his head.

We passed through Carnaby Street, still one of the more popular and visited streets of London, though its reputation has dimmed somewhat since the heyday of the Beatles (who?).

We next entered Liberty’s, the famous department store.

Tigger was looking for wool for her crochet projects.


Photo by Tigger


Photo by Tigger

The interior (and, for that matter, the exterior) of the store is as interesting, if not more so, than the goods on display.

This is Regent’s Street, another popular shopping area but catering for a rather different clientele from that of Carnaby Street. Here we caught a bus to our next destination.

Seeing this statue of the artist Millais, art lovers will know where we are because it stands on the corner of the Tate Britain art gallery.

In the Tate, we attended one of the tours that they organize. It was on the gallery’s archives, a subject that didn’t particularly interest me especially as the rooms we toured made echoes and I had difficulty understanding what the guide was saying.

After the tour, I had a quick look at the art and took a few photos. This sculpture, unlike his usual human heads decomposed into brick-like components, is by Eduardo Paolozzi and is entitled Forms on a bow (1949).

This figure is by Ronald Moody and is entitled Johanaan (1936).

We next visited a rather large exhibition, large because of the space needed for the huge “artworks”. I put that word in quotation marks because I am not at all sure they were really artworks at all. Anyway, see what you think from the following examples.

This is a general view on entering the exhibition. Unusually, entry is by a large, heavy wooden door on a spring. This gives you the idea that you are entering a factory or industrial site.

The exhibits are all large pieces of industrial machinery, some arranged in an “artistic” way, others not or, at least not obviously so. There were no labels that I could see.

So what’s it all about? The exhibition is entitled The Asset Strippers and is by Mike Nelson. Rather than try to condense into a few words the screed at the entrance to the exhibition, I prefer to give you this link to the Tate’s description page.

Here we are on a bus travelling along another famous London street. Any guesses as to which one it is? The Cenotaph that you can see on the left is a clue: it is of course Whitehall.

We had intended to go to Camden Town to have a late lunch in a Chinese vegetarian buffet that we know but when we arrived we found that it had closed down.

So we took to the bus once more and returned to the Angel to have lunch at Sizzle, a cafe I have mentioned before. (For example, see A ramble in Hoxton.)

And here we are in Sizzle. Lunch over, I was happy to drag myself home for a nice long rest.

Charlie and the spirits

Adapted from a post that appeared on my old blog on January 25th 2008

When I first knew him, Charlie was aged 75 and seemed to me, a child, to be immeasurably old. He was short and thin with a hooked nose and always wore a grey trilby hat and black boots that came up to his ankles. His trousers were grey flannel and were hitched up so tightly with both braces and belt that they fought shy of his feet. When he sat down and they rode up, you could see the ends of long underpants tucked into his grey socks.

We came to know him when my mother, a trained nurse, was employed to care for his wife Wyn in the last months of her losing battle with cancer. Wyn was a bit younger than Charlie and her aged father also lived with them in the comfortable house on the main road with its old-fashioned décor and antique ornaments. I remember him as an amiable old gentleman dressed in a grey suit, sitting all day in the front room. He died shortly after his daughter.

Left alone in his house, and against the advice of friends, Charlie decided to sell up and to go to live in a bedsit. The result was predictable: he would move into a new house, praising the landlady and the facilities to the skies but then, within a few weeks, dissatisfaction would set in and disagreements would start up and he would go looking for another place to live. Charlie would have liked nothing better than to move in with us but my mother refused. I think she was nervous of gossip (his frequent visits already caused her some anxiety) and perhaps realized that he would eventually fall out with her as he had with all the other people he had lived with.

As it was, he came to our house every day. He would spend the time sitting in the low folding chair that had once been the favourite nest of Toby, the marmalade cat, until his death in advanced old age. Miffy, the Scottish terrier, would curl up on his lap and there they would sit for long hours, Charlie frequently closing his eyes and muttering prayers to his “spirt guide”, who was apparently no less a personage than St Paul.

Charlie was a spiritualist, and this was my first encounter with this religious belief. In their house, one room had been dedicated to séances and suchlike, but all the furnishings and decorations had been dispersed when he moved out and all he had retained were three painted pictures of “spirit guides”, which now adorned my bedroom wall, and a Ouija board. Over a period of a few years, until Charlie died in hospital after what should have been a routine operation, I was witness to many Ouija board sessions and acted as secretary, taking down the letters as they were indicated.

At the time, I took this bizarre arrangement for granted, as if Charlie were merely calling up his family on the phone. Nearly every day, my mother would close the curtains (in case the neighbours could see) and they would sit at the small table with the Ouija board on it, and each place a finger on the small inverted glass which, after a while would make a few uncertain movements and then start running around the board like a living thing.

A session always went more or less the same way. First Wyn would “come on” and she and Charlie would converse, he speaking, she responding by causing the glass to pick out her words, letter by letter. Then it would be her father’s turn, though he had as little to say from The Other Side as he generally had while on earth. Then Wyn would take charge again for the final words and sign off with “kisses”, which were signified by the glass speeding around the board in big circles.

My mother told me in confidence that she knew Charlie sometimes pushed the glass in order to get the response he wanted. This left open the question of why the glass moved when he wasn’t pushing it. Or maybe he always pushed it and this was sometimes more obvious than others. Did I believe that Charlie was really “talking” to Wyn and her father, dead as both were? Yes, I suppose I did. A child often does not question what adults believe in.

When Charlie died, leaving with us the precious Ouija board and a green parrot in a cage, the obvious question was whether he would get in touch through his familiar instrument of communication. My mother never showed the slightest inclination to try, so if he was hoping to talk to us, we were never in a position to find out. Nor, as far as I know, did he manage to contact us by other means, despite having a firm belief that this was possible.

Years have passed. The Ouija board and the sessions I witnessed, notebook and pencil in hand, remain in my memory like old dreams. Charlie had some weird ideas but he wasn’t a bad sort. He treated me with genuine kindness and when he heard I was going to university, gave me a substantial sum of money to help with expenses. I remember him with affection for he deserves no less.

Images and captions

On my old blog, I wrote all my posts entirely in HTML. If you have never tried coding in HTML you may think it is quite difficult but, though it may seem daunting at first, it’s quite easy to learn enough for the purposes of writing blog posts. Moreover, since the code you use is repetitive, you can write the most often-used snippets into a file and copy/paste them into your blog editor as needed. This not only speeds up the process but avoids a lot of errors.

When including an image, I would centre it on the page and centre its caption underneath it. This was so obvious and so straightforward to do that I hardly ever gave it a second thought.

When I started this blog, however, all that changed. Though writing HTML isn’t difficult, it takes longer and requires more care than writing simple text. As explained in About the blog, the idea is to write posts as I go (“on the hoof”, as I express it). For example, as we go about, I will take photos and then, when we stop for coffee, I will write some text and edit and insert some photos. Then we will go on with our ramble and the scenario will be repeated until I think I have reached the end of that post and I will send it off to WordPress.

When you insert an image in the WordPress app on the iPhone, you can do only a limited amount of formatting. You can, for example, align the image left, right or centre and you can add a caption. And this – adding captions – is where the unhappiness starts.

WordPress (or at least, the “theme”, that is the layout that I am using, called Twenty-Eleven) does not allow me to position the caption. It places it beneath the image, on the left, preceded by a double dash. There is nothing I can do to change this. Well, there is, of course: I could switch the editor to HTML and replace WordPress’s HTML code with my own.

Why not do that, then? Well, because it would make blogging more complicated and time-consuming which is not what you want when you are blogging on the go (or “hoof) and time is in short supply.

I could, I suppose, post-edit my text at home, but that is precisely what I wanted to avoid and it would be inconsistent with the intentional spontaneous character of the blog.

In future, then, I will either not add a caption to my images, instead describing them in the text that follows, or write a caption by itself on the line following the image and putting it in italics. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow you to centre text (or right-align it), so such captions will sit on the left some distance below the image.

This is not satisfactory but it will have to do and I wanted to explain it so that you can bear it in mind as you read the blog.

Miss Pink

Adapted from a post that appeared on my old blog on January 19th 2012.

As recounted in my post My old house, during my childhood I lived in a terrace house in a quiet street in Brighton. More than a street, it seemed to me a little world or perhaps a theatre and upon its stage many characters played their parts, whether great or small, and looking back with the purblind eyes of memory, I remember some of them and now find that with the passage of time, a few have somehow acquired an aura of mystery.

For example, there was Miss Pink who lived a few doors along the road from us. When I think of her I see her through the imprecise eyes of childhood and it is difficult for me to say now what age she would have been. I think she might have been in her 40s, but that’s only a guess. She was a short, plump lady with long straight hair and an unremarkable face.

Miss Pink was regarded as odd and didn’t seem to have much to do with her neighbours. She would sometimes disappear for a while and then return and take up her life as before. No one mentioned this and I only knew of it because I noticed when the house was shut up and vaguely wondered where she went.

One day my mother told me that Miss Pink had asked if I would cut the grass in her back garden for which she would pay me. I duly went along to Miss Pink’s house, assuming that she would have the necessary gardening tools, such as a mower or shears. Imagine my reaction, then, when she led me to the kitchen, opened a drawer and took out a rather blunt carving knife. She demonstrated its use as a gardening tool by seizing hold of a tuft of grass and vigorously sawing at it with the knife!

The back gardens belonging to those terrace houses weren’t enormous but cutting the whole lawn with a knife was quite impractical. I proposed going home to fetch our shears (we didn’t possess a lawn mower in those days) which would be a much better option. Miss Pink was reluctant to let me go. I suppose she was afraid that if I left, I would not come back. However, I manage to persuade her, went off to fetch the shears and duly returned to cut the grass on what was a very rough lawn.

It was the only time I cut the grass for her, so how she accomplished the task on other occasions, I do not know. Perhaps she cut it herself, using the carving knife as she had demonstrated. If so, it must have taken her a good few hours each time, not to mention the back breaking labour of crawling about on her hands and knees, sawing the grass with a blunt knife.

My wielding of the shears must have won Miss Pink’s approval for on another occasion she approached my mother to ask whether I would do some painting for her. When I turned up at her house, I was shown the job, rather an awkward one. The room in question had been freshly papered but the woodwork had not been painted. That was to be my task. Now everyone knows that you do the painting first and the papering afterwards because if you do things the other way around, you are bound to get paint on the new paper. I cannot now say how good a job I did as I no longer have any clear memory of it but I completed the task as requested.

I do remember that I did not get paid. This was because Miss Pink managed to confuse me about the money. When we went into the room, Miss Pink pointed to a table on which there were two small piles of coins. “This is your money,” she said pointing at the heaps. “Not this one, though” she added, pushing one of the piles slightly one side. It was all too quick for me to see which pile was which, and as I was afraid of taking the wrong pile, I took neither. I intended to ask Miss Pink to clarify things afterwards but in the event, the chance was denied me. This was because Miss Pink was busy holding a party.

On arrival, I had seen that Miss Pink was dressed up. She was wearing a black dress and a little hat. Having shown me the painting job I was to do, she left me to get on with it and went back to her party in another room. As I worked, I could hear a murmur of conversation.

Having finished the job, I looked into the room where Miss Pink was enjoying her party. As I did so, she half turned and seemed to notice a drink on the mantelpiece. “Oh, is that for me, dear? Thank you,” she said, quite naturally. I assumed she said this to whoever she thought had brought her the drink.

What of it, you may ask. That is all quite usual and normal and not at all remarkable. Well, yes, it would have been normal but for the fact that Miss Pink was the only person in the room! It seems that the good lady had dressed up to have a party, all by herself, complete with drinks and pleasant chitchat with well, with whoever she thought was at the party with her.

She was obviously too busy to attend to me so I left, without thanks and without the money. As far as I know, neither the job nor the money were ever mentioned again.

One day after this, on my way home from school, as I passed her house, I spied Miss Pink in the window. She was reclining, as on a couch. She was wearing what might have been a nightdress and she was staring out into the street, running her fingers absently through her straight hair.

Her posture seemed rather odd and I stopped in front of the house and gave her a little wave. She did not respond nor did she give any sign of recognition. Her eyes seemed fixed on the middle distance, perhaps on things that only she could see. To my impressionable eyes, there was a certain wildness in her expression.

As I turned to leave, a police constable arrived. He cheerfully addressed Miss Pink with a “Hello, my dear, how are you?” and, meeting no response went inside the house while I sped home to report the case to my mother. Miss Pink then made one of her periodic disappearances and was gone for quite a while. She returned to her house in due course but I was never again invited to do any jobs for her and I do not know what eventually became of her.

As a child, busy with my own life and interests, I paid little attention to the people around me or to their lives and adventures unless for some reason they impinged in some direct way on my life. That now seems strange to me. It also seems a waste of an opportunity. I have become curious about these lives that ran in parallel to mine, lived by people who, as well as being interesting in themselves, must have possessed useful knowledge about my world and its past. Would that I could return to that place and that time and ply them with the questions that now so easily spring to mind. But it is too late, much too late, and they have taken their memories and experiences and their precious knowledge with them into the hidden places of history.

A better keyboard, hurrah!

Back on August 16th I wrote a blog post entitled A better blog editor, in which I wrote that when I recklessly said I would be operating this blog from my iPhone, I hadn’t realised what I was letting myself in for.

One of the main problems is having to type with thick adult fingers on the cramped little keyboard of my iPhone. Used to typing quickly on a computer, I find myself reduced to a snail’s pace on the phone, backspacing again and again over errors to the accompaniment of language inappropriate to polite society.

Ta-da! Tigger today presented me with this Bluetooth keyboard as a present for my birthday.

It measures about 20 cm X 12.5 cm (7.9 in X 5 in). It is very thin but has a metal back plate which strengthens it somewhat. It came in a red imitation leather case which also has three anchor points designed to hold the phone in landscape position. There is no maker’s name and no manual, not so much as a pamphlet explaining the layout of the keyboard.

The letters are set out in the standard QWERTY configuration and many other characters can be typed by finding the keys on which they are inscribed though it is not always obvious whether you access them using the Shift, Ctrl or Alt keys. You learn this by trial and error

For example, you may be able to see from the photo that the single quote/apostrophe is on the key with the letter ‘o’, but how do you access it? It turns out that you type it by pressing Fn + ‘O’.

However, the real fun starts with the top row of keys. These are of course the 12 function keys plus Esc on the left. But wait, each key has inscribed on it the function key number plus three other characters. You access these by pressing the keys in combination with Shift, Ctrl or Alt but you have to learn by trial and error which of these to use. And that’s not all: you sometimes get a character that isn’t even marked on the key! For example, looking at the keys, you would assume that Shift + F3 would produce #. It doesn’t: it produces £! For #, you type Alt + F3! What if want the euro symbol,? Can you find it on the keyboard? No? Well, you type Alt + F2, something I discovered by accident.

Typing text is definitely faster with the keyboard and causes less swearing 🙂 On the other hand, editing and inserting photos still requires me to handle the phone so I will have work a way of combining the two sorts of actions, especially when working “on the road”, for example sitting in a cafe.

I can foresee lots of fun ahead!

A ramble in Hoxton

The morning was conveniently occupied with the weekly shopping run to Sainsbury’s. Later, the pangs of hunger tempted us out once more.

Sizzle

Sizzle

This cafe called Sizzle in Chapel Market has become one of our favourite eating places. Not only is the food well cooked but the prices are lower than those of any other cafe we frequent.

Lunch!

Lunch!

Tigger took this photo of my lunch, omelette, chips and peas. Perfect 🙂

Hopper bus 394

Hopper bus 394

After lunch we took the hopper bus 394. Most London buses have two or three doors but the 494 and a few others have only one. This because these buses are small in order to negotiate the narrow roads and sharp corners in the residential areas that they serve.

(Buses in Manchester also have only one door and it feels very odd to us, as Londoners, to have to wait for passengers to exit before we can board. London teaches you to be impatient!)

Street view, Hoxton

Hoxton is a district of the borough of Hackney. From your knowledge of Anglo-Saxon, you might be tempted to think that the name, which appears in Domesday Book (1086) as Hochesdon, means “pig farm”. That is plausible but incorrect. The name derives from that of a landowner called Hoc whose tun (“farm” or “enclosure”) was hereabouts.

Offices for Relief of the Poor

Offices for Relief of the Poor

This building, dated 1863, has its original purpose inscribed thus: OFFICES FOR THE RELIEF OF THE POOR and operated under the patronage of St Leonard. How it is used today, I do not know. (Scope for further research 🙂 )

Cupola, Hoxton Community Garden

Cupola, Hoxton Community Garden

Tigger took this photo over the railings of Hoxton Community Garden which is unfortunately but perhaps understandably closed to the public. What attracted our attention was the cupola. It originally belonged to the old Hackney Work House at Homerton (which took its name from a farm belonging to a woman called Humburh).

Hoxton Street Market Arch

Hoxton Street Market Arch

This arch indicates the site of Hoxton Street Market which was established in 1687 and is still going strong, with stalls selling a wide range of goods. (Closed on Sundays.)

St Anne's, Hoxton

St Anne’s, Hoxton

St Anne’s was first dedicated in 1870 and is Hoxton’s parish church.

Old pub?

Old pub?

This building on the corner of Hoxton Street and Hobbs Place must have been a pub but I have not found out anything about its name or history. One more for the research file 🙂

I Love Hoxton

I Love Hoxton

This artwork by Kevin Harrison entitled I Love Hoxton, is known as the Market Sculpture, presumably because that was where it was sited originally. I believe it was moved during road works and will be put back when these are finished.

Apartment block

Apartment block

I’m not sure what attracted my attention to this apartment block with its striking square-section chimneys. Perhaps I’ll find out another time.

Bicycle lockers

Bicycle lockers

Cycling has become hugely popular in London what with the encouragement of government, national and local, and the network of cycle tracks that had been constructed. These cycle lockers are sited in front of a block of council flats.

Old Shoreditch Library

Old Shoreditch Library

This is the former Shoreditch Public Library built with a grant from philanthropist John Passmore Edwards and opened in 1897.

Foundation stone

Foundation stone

The foundation stone was laid in 1896 by John Passmore Edwards himself.

Shoreditch Fire Station

Shoreditch Fire Station

This is the Shoreditch Fire Station, one that has so far survived the controversial fire station closures. It also gives its name to the bus stops on both sides of the road.

Figures by Stik

Figures by Stik

I just had time to take this photo of the street view seen from the bus stop before our bus arrived. On the façade of the building you can see three figures painted by artist Stik.