Tag Archive: London

A white rabbit walks into a library…

I had a couple of hours to spare so I popped into the British Library between Euston and St Pancras stations. After one of the worst coffees in London, I strolled round the bijou, free exhibition celebrating 150 years since the first publication of Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland”. It continues until next January and you can see more details here.

You may find it fascinating to discover how different publishers and artists have presented how they have imagined the characters of Wonderland or the Looking-glass. After a while, however, I found them beginning to blur into each other and would rather have had a cup of tea with a Mad Hatter and a dormouse  with a copy of Lewis Carol’s books.

It is worth paying a visit if you happen to be passing. Three stars or 6 out of 10

3rd September 1802

There are associations with the beginning of September such as the invasion of Poland and the declaration of war against Germany. While it is appropriate to show respect to important events of the past, I like to think that we can recall uplifting moments in our history as well as tragic ones.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!


That is British and Colonial service men who lost their lives during World War I. That does not include civilian casualties, nor does it include the Americans, Germans, Russians, French, Belgians, Italians, Japanese, Arabs or Turks to name but a few.

We visited the Tower of London poppies which were still being planted out. There is more information on this link. The poppies have long since sold out.

There has been some controversy between those who see this art work as beautifully poignant and a way of marking our sorrow at the loss of so much human life and those who think that the work does not go far enough in recognising the horror and brutality of war. For the latter, the work is too tame: where are the skulls, the broken bodies, the dismembered limbs, the disfigured lives? They may have a point – somewhere we need to be honest about the terrible suffering that was, and is, real human experience. In that respect, this art installation is no more than a start.

However, judging by the huge crowds that were quiet and very orderly, I would say that the experience of seeing even this drop in the ocean was thought-provoking for many.

Many a memorial has the phrase “Lest we forget”.

Lest we forget their names.

Lest we forget how terrible war is.

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New every morning are your mercies, O Lord, and you renew your blessing to us each day. Help us to remember your goodness and love towards all human kind. As we remember your mercy, help us to strive for peace in our thoughts and words, in our actions and our lives, in our country and in all the world. We pray in the power of your good and holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and the Prince of peace. Amen.

If you have ever zipped along the Piccadilly line to Heathrow or sped along the M4 westward out of London, the chances are you have been within a few yards of Osterley but not taken much notice. To be fair, you are probably concentrating on the journey and, after a while, one part of a city looks pretty much the same as another. Yet, within a few miles of the centre of London, and closer by miles than London Heathrow Airport, is a corner of London that is still rural Middlesex. If it weren’t for the presence of the nearby flight path for planes en route to or from Heathrow, you could imagine that you were in some park in a country estate.

I am a townie, and it came as a surprise to find Osterley Park in our neck of the woods – the same London borough where I grew up and within easy distance of where I went school. Near enough to amble to during a “study period”…

Naturally, there have been some changes since I were a lad. For a start, there is now a fence and an admission fee between the park and the gardens; the toilets are up to a modern standard; and holiday activities put on through the auspices of the National Trust are now de rigueur. Time was it was just a park with a basic cafe which was never open went we went.

If you wish to see inside the house, do check for opening times and prices – and car parking fees for non members. It won’t take you long to visit and there are some stairs to climb but you do get to see both “upstairs” and “downstairs”. You may get a sense of some of the local history of the immediate area – I was intrigued by the old maps in a corridor on the lower floor. Mostly they showed the land owned by the Jersey family including one which showed the then new extension to the Metropolitan Railway (now part of the Piccadilly line). One did feature where I grew up but there were orchards, not houses, then.

You can’t get there easily from the motorway, and the underground station which used to serve the park was moved decades ago a couple of a hundred yards down the line so it is a bit of a walk from the “new” station. I say “new” but it was there before I was born! The old booking office is currently, I think, a bookshop – at least it was once.

The photos don’t really do justice to the place. Flash photography is not permitted in the house so the photos I took there were a little disappointing. It is pleasant in Spring/Summer but I preferred it out of season on a week day with a chill in the air and few, if any, other noisy day trippers to interrupt the ambiance.


Hampton Court Maze

As ever, when we looked at the admission prices for the palace and grounds of Hampton Court we thought they looked a bit steep and decided just to admire the Tudor Palace from the outside. It was only later on that same day that we decided that perhaps they were fairly typical prices – cheaper than several other popular tourist attractions, in fact. Be that as it may, our day out took us on local buses with a view from the top deck which I enjoyed because I used to live around here. I come from Middlesex even though these days my county has mostly been swallowed up by London.

The maze is one of the oldest in the world but not very big. I suppose it took us about a quarter of an hour – but I reckon it was about my sixth visit! The first time I went as a child we probably paid in Old Money something like 6d each. (That’s 6 “old” pence). To find it you need to go near the Lion Gate which is not the main entrance but opposite the entrance to Bushy Park. By the way, you can get to Hampton Court by train and then walk across the bridge over the Thames and you are there.

We took some photos too, here around the palace:

and here in the maze:

NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (8) NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (7) NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (6) NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (5) NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (4) NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (3) NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (2) NatHist Museum Feb 2013 (1)

These are a few photos from our half term trip. The main reason for going was to see the exhibition of Wildlife photography (which has since finished) and we were impressed by the range and quality of them. I would love to show some of them to you but there is a little matter of copyright, of course.

In the meantime we have learnt that it is counter-productive trying to see absolutely everything in a museum or gallery. That is a hard temptation to resist especially if it is unlikely that you are going to visit that place again. However, in this case we have been before and so apart from the exhibition we chose two favourite places to see. The first was the mammal section and our all-time favourite, the replica of a blue whale. It is big – just compare it to the elephant in the last picture.

We also paid a visit to the insect section. Not many of our photos came out – they had live ants here but the layers of protective glass made focussing difficult. Nonetheless it was fascinating watching them.

The building is worth a mention. It is the same era as the Houses of Parliament and worth a look in its own right.

Cutty Sark

We enjoyed our visit to the newly refurbished Cutty Sark. It (she) is famous for being the fastest clipper of its generation although only for 8 years since its launch in 1869 did it (she) actually transport tea. She set records transporting wool from Australia at the end of the 19th century, spent some time in Portuguese ownership, worked as a training vessel and finally dry docked in 1954 in her present location in Greenwich.

As well as being a fine example of a sailing ship, she represents something of the tradition, value and labour of the British merchant navy over the decades and centuries that took a large part in shaping the country we have today. There is more information at the official website here.

For myself, I remember being taken as a child to visit the Cutty Sark with my family. Disaster struck and the ship caught fire in a few years ago during restoration work. When it was completed last year, I decided I would like to take a look round – partly for “old times’ sake” but also to see her new position raised above the dock where you can now literally walk underneath. It does not take long to wander round. We combined our visit with a walk under the Thames and later a visit to the Thames Barrier.

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