Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 22 and 23 March 2015 – Exploring Edinburgh

On Sunday 22 March my wife and I met the parents of the bridegroom of the previous day and members of their close and wider family for morning coffee. Afterwards, in the bright sunshine and crisp cold, we made our way to the centre of Edinburgh at a relaxed pace  through the Meadows. On the north side of the Meadows there once stood the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, which was sold to developers in 2001 and the site is now known as Quartermile—a mixture of the old hospital buildings and glassy new blocks designed by Foster & Partners and encompassing a variety of residential and commercial uses (including office, retail and leisure). Along the northern side of the Meadows the older buildings alternate with the new structures and the result, part of which you see above, is—to my eye at least, if not to everyone's—both striking and convincing.

On Monday the 23rd we walked to the western end of the New Town that lies to the north of Edinburgh Castle and from there down into the gorge through which flows the Water of Leith. Here is a very atmospheric collection of former mill buildings, warehouses and workers' cottages known as Dean Village. This was for 800 years the centre of Edinburgh's grain milling (and until the 19th century a village independent from the city). The powerful flow of the river at one time powered as many as eleven watermills. After a period of neglect and decline occasioned by the development of large commercial mills to the east, the area began to be revived in the 1970s and is now a mix of desirable residences and architectural and design businesses.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 21 March 2015 – Piping Us In

We arrived safely in Edinburgh on the evening of 20 March and enjoyed a sound sleep in our very comfortable B & B just a short distance from Saturday's wedding venue. In fact, make that "venues", as the service was in one church and this was followed by drinks and assorted shortbreads in another one just up the road. Once the first church had been decorated and laid out for the evening reception, we made the short walk back there.

The piper you see above played as we entered the two churches and here he is outside the second one: Barclay Viewforth. This building is a bold and extraordinary venture into continental Gothic by its Victorian architect, its massive spire visible for miles around, while the body of the church is such a confined space that the church requires two rather vertiginously raked galleries as well as a ground floor to accommodate its worshippers.

The meal was delicious, the conversation lively and the band that played for the ensuing cèilidh full of tuneful exuberance and rhythmic drive.

Monday, 30 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 20 March 2015 – The Train to Edinburgh

I am posting this in the small hours of 30 March 2015 and, yes, we are finally clearing the backlog of photo posts accumulated over the last week and a bit.

On Friday 20 March, my wife and I took the 18:30 from King's Cross to Edinburgh. We were going to attend a wedding on the 21st and then stay on for a couple more nights by way of a short city break.

On the way up I started to read a biography of Thomas Cromwell (the man of the moment) but also found myself from time to time looking up at the ceiling of the train carriage and enjoying the pattern of lights and lines. This shot was taken on my phone and then tweaked with the wonderfully useful editing app, Snapseed. It is a colour image, but only just!

The journey lasted something over 6 hours door-to-door. The train ran slightly late because of signalling problems in the area of Darlington. Mustn't grumble—the journey to Edinburgh would have taken someone of Cromwell's day in excess of a week.

Friday, 20 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 19 March 2015 – All Hallows Twickenham (Reprise)

The picture for 31 January showed the church of All Hallows Twickenham in the context of the 1930s housing that it was built to serve. As mentioned, the church has a number of internal and external features from the redundant and demolished Wren church of All Hallows Lombard Street in the City of London.

The largest feature so transported is the church tower, whose west-facing door you see here, its Corinthian capitals and Baroque fol-de-rols having sadly gathered quite a bit of grime from the exhausts of the thousands of vehicles that race by on the A316 just yards away.

An inscription has been added above the main portico, recording the re-erection of the tower in this suburban setting in 1940. Although we may lament that the entire church no longer stands in its original setting and was supplanted by the headquarters of Barclays Bank, nevertheless the parts of it moved to Twickenham had an easier time during the Second World War than most of the other City churches, very few of which escaped altogether from the ravages of the Blitz and some of which never made it through to the New Elizabethan era at all.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 18 March 2015 – Bird in Flight

Intending to obtain an image of 130 Fenchurch Street (otherwise known as Fountain House) I pointed my camera up from street level at its disciplined modernist façade. Looking at the photograph later I realised that a gull had flown briefly into shot and thereby established itself as the true subject of today's image.

Perhaps our tall buildings are all attempts to defy the pull of the earth and soar into the heavens like birds, but how prosaic our efforts seem in comparison to the ease granted to this gull as its birthright.

A Year in Pictures – 17 March 2015 – Towering Excellence

We are in the heart of academic London and looking at two towers. In the foreground the Gormenghast-like structure is one of the corner towers of the Octagon Building of University College London, while in the distance is the sleek modernity of University College Hospital. UCH has been the base for the treatment and management of my Waldenström's macroglobulinaemia for nearly five years now and where I spent 10 days in 2011 on the sixteenth floor recovering from high-dose chemotherapy and regaining an immune system.

I am standing with my back to the state-of-the-art Macmillan Cancer Centre in Huntley Street, where I now go for three-monthly blood tests and an appointment with my consultant. Out of shot to the left is the site of the Rosenheim Building, now in the ends stages of demolition and making way for another whizzy new facility. Gaunt and dated though it was, the Rosenheim retains a place in my affections, as it was where I used to go for outpatient appointments as well as the place where I received the chemo and all the briefing and preparation that preceded it. It was a big part of my life.

I have just emerged from my appointment in the Macmillan Centre with the news that my blood counts remain healthy and that my haemoglobin—the easiest of the parameters for me to grasp–is an entirely normal 135 grams per litre, a welcome recovery from the slightly sub-normal 128 that had cast a bit of a shadow over my last appointment in December (but which was in fact a normal blip occasioned by my first bout of real influenza in about 20 years).

So, it has been a good day. I will go back in June.

Monday, 16 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 16 March 2015 – Labyrinth

A detail from the new labyrinth in the churchyard of St Olave Hart Street, fashioned from thousands of granite setts. Beneath the central Jerusalem cross—a single stone octagon, whose surface has been polished to create the darker areas—lie some disarticulated bones, reinterred with solemn ceremony after they had been unearthed during the working of the ground.

The labyrinth has been laid in a corner of the churchyard that gets little light and where plants do not generally flourish. Labyrinths go back to ancient times and have no single symbolic meaning, although they have in Christian tradition become a resource for prayer and meditation as one walks the path. perhaps the most famous Christian labyrinth is that in Chartres Cathedral.