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Bird Talk

'Kalashan' and I, by Eduardo Paolozzi, Economist Plaza

Finally we made it (somewhere a needle drops and Pulp's 'The Day After the Revolution' plays) 2014 is finally over. I know it fucked a lot of people over and I might not have got all I wanted out of it but personally it wasn't too bad a year. It gave me 'Only Lovers Left Alive' and the accompanying soundtrack, it gave me Andy Weir's 'The Martian' which you should all read now before Ridley Scott makes a fucking terrible film of it like every other fucking terrible film he's made in his life (seriously, the guy's not had any decent ideas for thirty-five years, how does he still get to make films in this day and age?).

If there is hope, it lies in the proles. But hope? We must do without hope. At least we may yet be avenged. Let us gird ourselves and weep no more. Come! We have a long road, and much to do.
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'Paddington' by Michael Bond, Paddington Station

'Wonders of the World' by Peru, London Bridge Station

'Blush' by Nicole Kidman, Leicester Square

'Paddington The Explorer' by Ripley's Believe it or Not! London, Piccadilly Circus

'Toggle' by Benjamin Shine, V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green

To promote the new Paddington Bear movie there was one of those gotta find them all!' things towards the end of last year with plaster models of Paddington decorated by anyone foolish enough to pick up their phones when the promoters called. I found almost all of them, of the ones I didn't, one was at Heathrow and I wasn't going to go all the way there just to get a picture of that, one was in Covent Garden but I just couldn't find it (the place was so busy with Christmas shoppers I suspect it hadn't been put out the day I visited for fear of blocking foot traffic even further) and one I just plain forgot about. As with the elephants and the Easter eggs of previous years the decorations were a mix of inspired, amusing and dull. The ones above are probably my favourites but again you can see (almost all) the rest on my Flickr.
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The Wilberforce Bench, Keston

Horse, Puplet Wood, Chelsham and Farleigh

It's a regret for me that I didn't get more of the London LOOP done last year. Partly I didn't have time, partly I just clean forgot about it for a chunk of the summer and partly people I was going to walk with weren't available. In the end I walked two sections totalling around 20 miles by myself in October before the days got too short. Transport for London have apparently taken down the website with all the details for the London LOOP and all the other chain walks in London. Certainly doing these two sections I found it often difficult to work out which way I was supposed to go and several times went completely the wrong way and had to double back. So far I've been saved from disaster because the route has still been in the bounds of my London A-Z. The next walk goes outside that. I think on the ground signage is being vandalised and not being replaced or repaired which is a shame. I finished up the year in the commuter land beyond South Croydon. Must do better this year.
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Mansion House Gent's Toilets
'Time Here Becomes Space, Space Here Becomes Time' by Cerith Wyn Evans, Leadenhall Market

My only real problem with Open House is that it has become a victim of its own success. There are so many great places to visit but for any number of them, if you want to visit them, then you've got to keep your day free because you will be spending it all queueing to get in. And because so many of the places have Open House events staffed by volunteers access can be quite limited beyond issues like queueing. The City of London section of the Open House guide is notorious for the number of places that are only open on the Saturday. My way, impossible though it would be, would be to have Open House Week, to give us proper access, even though a large number of these buildings aren't public. This time I was lucky to get tickets for the Mansion House. We were told we couldn't take photos, this lasted until the majority of us realised the few that were ignoring this ban weren't being punished in any way. After that, we were all at it. The previous week I had got a list of all the churches that were taking part in Open House. I spent the rest of the day walking round the City of London visiting various of these and comparing and contrasting their different approaches to worship, from the incense heavy Saint Magnus the Martyr to the more modern Dutch church, from the welcoming Saint Lawrence Jewry to the hard sell of Saint Helen Bishopsgate where a tomb inside the church had been repurposed as a book stall selling books about how evolution was wrong.

Walking around the city for Open House drew my attention to Sculpture in the City 2014, a thing of which I was not previously aware, to put artwork where busy financial people could lounge against it chain-smoking their way through their lunch breaks. They were close together so not difficult to find, although one piece had been removed and another piece was a large box which was supposed to have a band inside playing though sadly although the artworks were in place for several months the band only performed short gigs on a couple of dates which had already passed by the time I found out about them. I always find it odd walking round the financial districts during weekdays as though I'm trespassing somewhere I have no right to be. I certainly find it unpleasant to do since the smoking ban came into force, it seems as though there are more people outside smoking and I find myself hurrying past the doorways of buildings where sad men and women stand and shiver and smoke.
blahflowers: (Flowers)
Almost Fractal, Richmond Park
Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven, Duncan Terrace Gardens

Two walks I did in August. The first was down to Richmond Park. I passed through it briefly when doing the Capital Ring several years ago and although I meant to go back often since then I'd never quite got my act together to do it. I will need to visit it again, my thought was that I would do a complete, or near complete, walk around the perimeter starting from one of the north gates and either finish there or, at least a western gate so I could walk into Richmond. What happened in the end was that I made it about a third of the way around and then joined the Capital Ring route through the middle and down to Richmond station. In my defence I had walked down from North Sheen station and detoured into the cemetery first. Oh well, there's always next summer.

I don't know whether it's just me but whenever I've seen a suggestion about walking along the Regents Canal path it always seems to be talking about the Western side of the Regents Canal. The route from Warwick Avenue along the path to Camden Lock is not very long that seems to be one that is often recommended. I have never seen anything suggesting to people that once the canal re-emerges from under Islington but it's worth people's time to continue alongside it. But then, until last August I wasn't really consciously aware that the Regents Canal did come out from the underground again, so maybe my ignorance of the latter is the reason for my ignorance of the former also. Of the two sides I think the East actually beats the West. From Little Venice to Camden Town the canal is mostly in a gully, uninteresting stone and then overhanging trees at Regents Park. Sure, you might get a glance of a warthog or some rare bird as you go past the zoo but it's unlikely. The eastern side has a variety of different views, the canal is now closer to street level so you could stop off Haggerston and visit the Hackney City Farm or take a break in Victoria Park. At Mile End you bypass the aggressive swans and, if you walk away from the river for a short while you can cross over the Mile End Road via the green bridge. True, the canal does reach the Thames through uninspired Limehouse attempts to redevelop itself as a playground for the ultra rich and their yachts but it's still a worthy journey and you can continue west through Shadwell, which I've always found to be a curious collection of narrow streets. Even Wapping has its charm now that the News International stench has finally been lifted.

This photo was from just before I joined the eastern Regents Park path. Found in Duncan Terrace Gardens near the Angel tube station it brings the concept of close neighbourhood housing, such as the tower blocks that loom nearby, to nest boxes. I was here at the wrong time of year to see, I wonder if any of these boxes get used by birds in the spring?

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Skomer Island

Tailing Someone, Lambeth Country Show 2014

Skomer Island is a truly wonderful place. After walking around it for a day I wanted to break out in spontaneous applause twice. Once for nature evolving such a beautiful island and then to humankind, for not fucking something so incredible up for once. If you happen to find yourself in Pembrokeshire then I strongly recommend you check the place out. The time when I visited, early July, seems to be in the sweet spot. The birds are finishing the raising of their young but the various different migratory groups haven't yet started to leave. One of the oddest things I've seen is a huge cliff face covered in thousands of birds all screeching as loud as they can. Tourist access to the island is controlled by boat. After driving down slowly narrowing country roads you reach a car park. After buying a timed ticket you are directed down to the beach. Boats take four or five groups of people out in the morning and then bring them back in the afternoon. After climbing up the path from where the boat mores on Skomer you are met by guides who explain the rules of the island which basically boil down to 'don't be dicks'. You then get 4 to 5 hours to do what you want and go where you want. We didn't dilly-dally much and still didn't get to see everything there is to see. But when the people selling the tickets in the shop at the start advise you take a hat and a bottle of water they are not just trying to sell you stuff for the sake of it, it's exposed head land and you could get sunburnt and you can get thirsty.

If you want to, you can see all my photos from my day out here.

Ah the Lambeth Country Show, showing other country shows how to show their country. I did feel a bit 'meh' about it this year, possibly because I went on my own and I think it's something best enjoyed through the medium of drinking Pimms with chums while looking at children melting down over their melted ice creams. Also, the rain, although I was heading home by this time anyway.
blahflowers: (Flowers)
Brazilian World Cup Festival, Trafalgar Square

'Visionaries, Dissenters and Rebels' Walking Tour

And so, we reach a month when there's so much to choose from. This was the month when T.F.L. had their display of buses through the ages up the length of Regent Street. This was the month that the Serpentine Gallery showed yet again that giving stupid amounts of money to artists won't dissuade them from vomiting terrible pavilion designs in your back garden. But in the end it was Brazil day in Trafalgar Square for the World Cup kick-off (boom tish!) with the people demonstrating up on the terrace and the life-size table football down by the lions. I was surprised by the fact I got quite into watching football this summer. If you treat the England team as the clowns on at the start then it becomes quite exciting when they're out of the way to watch the trapeze acts, the would-be lion tamer's and the high wire performers. I picked a team to support only because one of the players was named after a Marvel superhero.

The other picture is of David Rosenberg, who took a party of us on a fascinating tour of Islington and Clerkenwell, pointing out the offices of the A.N.C-in-exile, Lenin's flat and the graves of clowns. His website is East End Walks and you should all go on at least one of them this year.
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'The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier', Barbican

Brain Coral, Grant Museum, UCL

Oh the divine Mister Gaultier. The travelling exhibition that touched down in the Barbican last Spring was a feast for the eyes even if they stubbornly refused to give any perspective on how the man's work developed over time. It was a little galling but on reflection I think I just wanted it all for myself.

U.C.L's Grant Museum was a place I visited due to its exhibitions inclusion on the IanVisit's website. It has its uses, there's been a number of places I visited last year having only found out about them from that website and while they've been interesting the website sometimes lacks specific information in favour of culling text from another website somewhere. I trolled long the road, not expecting a Natural History Museum to have been secreted in the back roads of Bloomsbury but was still surprised to find the Grant Museum was a small hall in the corner of one of the many U.C.L. buildings in the area. I forget now what my exact reason for visiting had been, I only remember that whatever it was, it was so anticlimactic compared to the write-up that I promptly gave up on it and instead wandered around looking at the interesting skeletons and fossils on display. The Grant Museum is on Gower Street, if you're in the area then by all means pop in but it's not worth a visit in its own right or worth too large a deviation from your route.
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London Transport Museum Depot
Sam Feder at BFI Flare Showing of 'Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger'

So, if you live in London or come to London on a day out and want somewhere to visit and you have at least a passing interest in transport history then I can heartily recommend the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. It's fascinating, it's not very expensive, indeed it's only real disadvantage is that it is in Covent cocking Garden, one of the parts of London that have evolved purely to be extremely fucking annoying to Londoners if they have to visit it. Honestly, Tavistock Street, then Tavistock Court, then a hard right and then you can be in with a minimum of having to fuss about with dodging dullards tripping over the cobblestones. However, if you look at the London Transport Museum website for events you'll see that a couple of times a year they open their depot at Acton for the public to visit. From my minimal visits, admittedly to go to Gunnersbury Park, which I recommend because it's a lovely park, Acton seems like a nice enough place. The L.T.M. Depot is bizarre. It's Slimelight for trainspotters. It's literally a huge shed in which the L.T.M. keep all the crap they don't want to display at Covent Garden. It's also just a big warehouse so you're walking around interesting looking tunnelling equipment or control boards from seventies underground junction boxes with none of the signs you would get in a museum explaining what they do and no staff on hand to ask. What you do get, or what I got on my visit was a large crowd of men who looked to be either approaching or rocketing past retirement age all trying to sell their old videos about trains. Not DVDs, videos. Taking up about half of the back of the warehouse were a number of underground train compartments which looked as though they were there because the L.T.M. had managed to get their hands on them when they were decommissioned rather than any particular design merit (although to be fair, who can judge that?). There were also buses from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, some of which I would see again later on in the year on Regent Street, and this time in some sort of order! The thing that interested me most was the little gallery stuffed with signs and posters and information from stations. Again, if this were not just the L.T.M. shed then someone might have ordered these in some way so that people could see the evolution of London Transport's design aesthetic. Instead it was just a random collection of stuff.

I've managed to go to the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, as was, twice. It's my own fault, I'm not one for buying tickets randomly just to see what I get so invariably when I find out about a film that I'd like to see all the tickets are long gone. This year, thanks to a friend, I got to see Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger which was a delight. I'm a big fan. It's a shame that the arts did so much to push queer culture out there when it was still outlawed and yet now we're in a situation where there is more freedom for people who love one another to have that relationship recognised and yet the culture is now lagging behind. Most of these films, pretty much all of them, never get a wider release and if you miss seeing it here then it's likely you'll never get another chance to see it.
blahflowers: (Flowers)
Millennium Bridge Chewing Gum Art by Ben Wilson

'Before I Die' by Candy Chang, Borough Hight Street

I hurt myself the day I took the first picture. I'm still to this day not exactly sure how. I was doing a lot of kneeling down to take photos of Ben Wilson's tiny paintings on the chewing gum people had spat out on the Millennium Bridge and afterwards my legs obviously decided I had slighted them in some way and so were painful for several days after. Considering my moderate out-of-shapeness I wonder why I don't get this sort of thing happening to me more often rather than once out of the blue and then, so far, never again.

Not included here are the first pictures from my first foray into cake baking. They're all up in my Facebook photos instead. Someone had found and posted a link to a recipe for brownies almost entirely chocolate and including mini Cadbury's creme eggs. Rather than just say "that's cool" and move on I decided to actually try it for once. It was an epic undertaking as it was a three stage recipe which involved cooling time between each part and we started cooking in the evening so it wasn't finished until several days later. When it was done we sampled it and realised that it was both delicious so full of sugar that eating it made Popeyes reaction to spinach seem positively half-hearted. Since then I've started trying other cake recipes with some success.

I had read about Candy Chang's 'Before I Die' somewhere only a few days before I came across this London installation. I don't know how long it lasted on Borough High Street but it's now tucked away in one of the passages of Borough Market, as I discovered ten months later while looking for Paddington Bears.
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Children's Graffiti, 'Foreign Bodies, Common Ground', Wellcome Collection

Distances From Shooter's Hill

Well here we go again. Running a bit late time round because I was working for the last few days of last year and didn't give myself time to do this. Also I can't find the 'search by date' on Flickr. I found it once since their latest redesign but that was by accident and even the help forum isn't helpful so I had to manually cycle back to the start of the year to get these two. Still, onward and upward!

The first photo was from a visit to the Wellcome Collection the day after New Years. Most of the building was closed for redecoration so I mooched around the permanent exhibit and the 'Foreign Bodies, Common Ground' exhibition. It was supposed to be about artists being based in medical research centres around the world, what actually seemed to happen was that almost all the artists went out of the medical research centres and instead spend their time directly in the communities and working with them to produce various pieces.

The second photo was taken on one of the dry days in January when a friend and I walked a green chain walk and ended up on Shooters Hill. Although our experience was nowhere near as bad as the parts of the country that were now underwater we had traversed muddy fields and even muddier woody paths and were now heading home when I saw this. I think it was in the grounds of a church.
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Me in Apron

'Der Trommler' by Michael Sandle, Tate Britain

And, there we go, done. I very nearly didn't take any photos last month. Nothing until Christmas certainly. I thought this moght have to be 'Twelve Months Twenty-Two Photos'. It's not that I didn't do stuff last month it's just that it was mainly low-key, hanging around with friends or going to the cinema to see 'The Hobbit 2: Draconic Boogaloo'. Visiting Tate Britain last Sunday was as much about wanting to see something either there or between there and home to finish this off as it was curiosity about the new look of the place. It's nice. I'm not sure why they felt they needed a new non-disabled friendly staircase in the building but I hope they will be very happy together.

For someone who writes a journal (who has written a journal for about nineteen years) remembering what I've actually done doesn't come naturally and photos are often the visual cue I need, months later, to remember where I went.

I want to write more this year, the thing on Fantastic Four I did was an attempt to kick the writers block I have by writing about something I like, and to try and avoid the habit of falling back into slagging things off for being bad. That happens a lot, and there's people out there that do it a lot better than I could hope (Linkara and Diamanda Hagan are two I enjoy a lot) so I'll leave it to them. I have a number of series I want to write about it and when I sat down in 2013 it just didn't happen. Setting targets invites failure and I'm not going to beat myself up, but if I get to next December's '12M24P' and there's at least twelve entries on something between here and there I'll be happy.
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'Materials House' by Thomas Heatherwick, The Science Museum

Collider Exhibition, The Science Museum

Nearly there now, just two more entries to go and then we're done. Getting out and about to things has been a bit tricky, bad weather had it's own effect but I rather stupidly let S.A.D. kick my arse for a few weeks before I realised that it had indeed shown up. I went with friends to The Science Museum for the just opened CERN exhibition, Collider which was fun. Due to it's success we had to buy tickets and then wait a couple of hours so went and drifted around the free stuff. I don't go to the South Ken museums much due to their amazing tourist trap nature and had restricted myself to just the V&A for the last few years. I realised that by just going to the Science Museum for one thing and ignoring all the other stuff I was doing myself a disservice. There was also the Oramics exhibition which any fan of electronica should consider essential viewing, and lots of materials stuff such as Thomas Heatherwick's piece above, which attempted to be made out of every material that goes into the modern house. I think if I had only seen Collider I may have been disappointed again, the biggest spaces were for two video pieces, one for scientists telling us how momentous the Higgs Boson discovery was and another for a rather... 'artistic' rendering of what happens when two particles collide in the accelerator. There were lots of magnets and cabling, but as part of a day out at the Science Museum it was great.
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Sir Henry Tate Mausoleum, West Norwood Cemetery

Emirates Air Line

Another cemetery photo, another of the Magnificent Seven, this was a walk after a half-day at visit, then the bus home. It was also a journey which gave me enough time to listen to Electric, the new album from the Pet Shop Boys and probably my favouritist music of the last year. Bare in mind that most of the time I'm listening to my iPod or iTunes. Since it was uploaded in September I've listened to it fourteen times. Possibly that's not lot but other tunes I've listened to 14 times include most of PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories From the Sea, loaded up in 2007, a good chunk of stuff from The Orb, loaded in 2006 and a selection of Manic Street Preachers stuff, put up in 2005, probably when I first had a computer with a big enough memory to hold all my music and not fall over. My relationship with music is a mostly cerebral one, as I like a lot of music you can dance to and do not dance to it. The whys and wherefores of this are not particularly ones I've thought too much on but I expect deal with a lot of insecurity, teenage gawkiness, the fact I'm still uncoordinated in my movement today and some body images too. I don't feel I'm missing out on anything, which is why I'm quite happy to sit and tap my hands on the back of the chair in front at a gig while everyone is big fish, little fish-ing on the dancefloor. Something as defiantly rhythmic as Electric is very good for giving you a pace to work to when walking any distance and the fact the Pets never write meaningless lyrics also helps.

Ahh, the Boris dangleway. It would be amusing to follow it's complete failure as a serious mode of transport of London if the public weren't subsidising it. I've been on it twice now, once from south to north years ago to see what it was like and then this time north to south because I was right by it for something else and needed to get back to Peckham in a hurry. In theory there isn't really anything wrong with it, it's just that Boris is playing Sim Mayor and thought it more important to unlock the Prestige points for having one rather than actually putting it anywhere useful. The two times I went on it I had minimal queueing, having my Oyster I didn't need to queue with the tourists for tickets and inside the queues to get on where short, due to the poor placement of the ride meaning there aren't many passengers. The actual journey was smooth, though that's because they have to close when the weather is bad or the winds too high. I presume Boris has done a deal with Emirates that they will hold on until he's not mayor any longer so that the inevitable closure of the cable car will be pinned on whoever replaces him.
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Portugese Whistles, Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

Nunhead Cemetery

It is sometimes the case that you can live relatively nearby somewhere and never visit, yet think nothing of going further afield to other places more often. So it is with the Horniman Museum, which I finally visited in September after only living down here for, what, four years? Going with [personal profile] alextiefling, [personal profile] nanaya and [insert_name_here] we had an enjoyable time looking round the free bits, the musical instruments, the preserved animal specimens, the cultural plunder, then checking out the garden before the chill of the September evening drove us out. I will go back in 2014.

I had visited Nunhead Cemetery before but that had been on an Open Houses day and I'd been living in North London at the time, so even longer than four years ago. This time I walked round and saw the bits that I didn't see then. I chose this picture because even if it's not quite in focus I like the accidental effect of the green gravestone contrasted with the autumnal brown of the leaves, it's almost psychedelic.
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Bragansas, Kennington

Crystal Palace Park

By August I was dieting. I'd started mid-July so by the time I took these photos I'd already dropped a couple of kilos. I suspect that part of the reason I finished off my London walking this month was due to my needing to walk so much to take my mind off the fact I wasn't eating. Doing something, even working was fine, sitting around doing nothing though, that was tough. That's why I decided not to diet during the winter. As it is, my weight has remained around the level it was when I stopped dieting in mid-September, which is very positive. Talking with [personal profile] plumsbitch the other day I said it was a virtuous circle with no clear start, I feel good, I want to dress good, I feel that, for my current definition of 'looking good' involves being slightly thinner than I was, I do that and feel good, I want to look good... It's not 'fat is bad', it's more 'there is a level of fat which I do not want to be'. And it's also to do with how I feel of the shape of my body in a suit.

So I feel very fortunate to be fit enough that, if I have a few hours to spare, I can walk up to Crystal Palace on a summer's afternoon.
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Kinetika Bloco, Bermondsey Carnival 2013

Me at David Bowie Is, V&A

Despite living and working in Southwark I have to say, Lambeth have us beat when it comes to festivals. The Bermondsey Carnival and Lambeth Country Show happened with a fortnight between them and I know which one I thought was better. The LCS takes over almost an entire park with a number of different sections for different tastes, the BC is stuck in the corner of one park and is a car boot sale with pretensions. I don't know if it's a sign of different priorities, Lambeth's libraries are rather... stark, shall we say, Southwark cut back on it's funding for public events, causing the shutting down of the Carnival Del Pueblo (sp?) which used to happen up the road. I don't know whether this was a very bad year or whether it's always been shitty in Bermondsey. But to have the kids from Kinetika Bloco sashay past put a smile on my face, even if they'd almost gone before I realised what had happened.

The David Bowie exhibition at the V&A was and stands as probably my high point of the year. The people who put it together deserve an award. I don't go to the V&A that regularly and in the past I've tended to find their exhibitions put style far too high above substance (see especially the Post-Modernism Exhibition from a few years back) but this was putting style to the service of substance. Sure, some of the stuff based on finding your location within the space was a bit tricksy, but there was just so much to see and to play with. And you know they could have easily made the exhibition two or three times bigger because there is just so much there. I left energised.


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