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.

A Year in Pictures – 15 March 2015 – The Crown in Twickenham

The Crown stands on the Richmond Road very close to Marble Hill Park and dates back to the 1730s. A couple of years ago it was extensively refurbished by a new management and reports have been steadily emerging of how very good the food is there, so it seemed a good choice for my big birthday lunch with my immediate family and my brother's family.

I have known the Crown for a number of years, initially through taking part in jazz jam sessions in the function room (a Victorian addition) at the rear of the building. It was a cheerless place then, but now the function room is more integrated with the pub as a whole and the present well-chosen decor throughout brings out very well the qualities of space and cosiness that this lovely old inn possesses.

It was Mothering Sunday today, so the place was very busy and the earliest I could book lunch for our party of 11 was 2:30. It was worth waiting for. On Sundays the main courses are roast meats plus fish and vegetarian options, and all was delicious and, as Samuel Pepys would have said, "very merry". I had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, which impressed from the first mouthful to the last. 

I grabbed this hasty shot with my phone after we left the pub for the short journey to our house, where the festivities continued with tea and good rich chocolate cake made by my daughter.

It has been a weekend of love and blessings.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 14 March 2015 – Rugby Crowds

Several photos for you today, showing people making their way to Twickenham Stadium for this afternoon's match between England and Scotland (part of the Six Nations Tournament). Scotland were defeated, but threatened England pretty effectively at various points in the match, notably in the first half.

The Stadium, having grown like the proverbial Topsy over the years, now seats 82,000 at major matches like this one. As you see in the photos, Whitton Road, which leads from Twickenham Station directly to the Stadium, is closed to traffic when the crowds are at their height for about two hours before the match and for a similar period after the referee has blown the final whistle. Our own road is the route to the south and west stands and car travel is impossible for us at these times.

In the autumn Twickenham will be hosting the Rugby World Cup and there will be 10 matches at the Stadium between 18 September and 31 October, three of them with kickoff at 8pm. Crowds are generally more boisterous after a match, fuelled by a potent mix of hormones and alcohol—we are in for some noisy evenings.

Friday, 13 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 March 2015 – Catching Up, Learning New Tricks and Looking Forward

This has been a strange week. Illness, recovery, grappling with new photo software and reaching a milestone. It's all going to be rather rushed.

A fair part of the week has been spent dealing with the (to be coy) tummy upset that struck on 7 March, my daughter's birthday (again, bother it). The bug proved to be persistent debilitating and disturbing, once again keeping me from the office, if not completely from work, for three days—it has been the third virus I have had inter months and I get the impression this has been a tough winter for a lot of people in that way.

Added to this, I have been moving forward with a decision—and here it gets a bit nerdy—to use different software for managing and editing my photos. Apple is abandoning the software it brought out some years ago for those who want to go deeper with cataloguing their photos and tweaking them than is possible in the well-known iPhoto application. The company has recently announced—after months, no years, of keeping its loyal customers in the dark—that it is introducing something simply called Photos, which may well turn out to be super-wonderful in time, but which in the short term is not sufficiently fully featured to satisfy either enthusiasts (such as, ahem, moi ) or (well, we can but dream) professionals. A strange decision and disappointing for those of us who have been kept hanging around waiting for a much-needed update for their Aperture software, which is excellent and still usable, but going progressively brown at the edges. So, while the media and most Apple fans are beginning to lust after the new Apple Watch and the simply gorgeous looking new Macbook laptop, a relatively small number of all the photographers in the world are feeling rather (no, make that highly) disgruntled and jumping ship to other companies for their software needs.

The market leader in this field is Adobe, with Lightroom for cataloguing and more basic editing and—the oh-my-goodness-it's-powerful—Photoshop for complicated edits and a multitude of digital trickery and manipulation. The learning curve is considerable, but I am now an Adobe user, so there, and ya boo to the folks in Cupertino California, at least in the matter of photography.

Getting to grips with all of this and feeling weak, poorly and sorry for myself means a delay in getting this latest bunch of photos to you. I have not until the last couple of days felt like picking up a camera, so ere are a couple more Evangelists from the archives before we get to the new shots. Thank you for your patience and here are the photos...

9 MARCH 2015
St Mark the Evangelist with his symbol, the winged lion,
as shown on the wonderful pulpit in the Elisabethkirche in Marburg, Germany.
The lion is a symbol of courage and monarchy, but there also may be a reference to Christ's resurrection, because lions have in the past been thought to sleep with their eyes open (thus in a half-state between sleep—itself s figure of death—and wakefulness).

10 MARCH 2015
St Matthew with his symbol, an angel. This is also from Marburg.
The angel possible represents the Saint's inspiration in writing his Gospel,
as in the 1602 painting by Caravaggio, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew.

11 MARCH 2015
A view up through some tangled trees by the Thames in Twickenham.
Taken on my first walk after falling ill and rather mirroring my mood of fogginess and frustration.
I was with my daughter and we were snapping away with our cameras. When I showed this shot to her, she said it was like tangled neural connections, which was exactly what the branches had suggested to me in the first place.

12 MARCH 2015
Back to work today and one my way to the office I took a detour past the church of St Mary le Bow.
This most elaborate of all Wren's steeples is the glory of Cheapside and it was looking particularly beautiful in the mild  hazy light of early (yes!) spring.
My dear father, God rest him, was very proud that he had been born
within the sound of Bow Bells and was, thus, a Cockney.

13 MARCH 2015
I was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital in what is now Hammersmith on 13 March 1955.

This number is engraved on the wall of 60 Gresham Street in the City of London,
a short hop from St Mary le Bow, and the characters are about 3 feet high.
They are the work of Lucy Haugh, who has also done work for us in St Olave Hart Street.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A Year In Pictures – 5, 6, 7 & 8 March 2014 – A Mixed Bag

Well, hello again! Sorry for the brief absence, but I will explain: a mixture of busyness, fatigue and illness has kept me from posting a photo for each of the above dates, until every day. As always, I started out with good intentions but life had other ideas. Let's dive in, though—better late than never...

Solo Bach resounds through the 15th-century interior of St Olave Hart Street
as a young cellist rehearses for a lunchtime recital.

I travel to Amsterdam for the day to attend a meeting concerning a rare lymphoma
with which regular readers of this blog will be familiar.
Seen above is a urinal in the Sheraton Hotel at Schiphol Airport: for the Dutch it is simply "water-free", while for the English speaker it is classically "anhydrous".

Felt pretty ill today with upset digestion. Very fed up about that too, as it was my daughter's birthday
and I had been looking forward to a day of celebration with her and the rest of the family.
Festivities went on around me and I was far from being the life and soul. Not quite up to an original image either so here's a photo from 201)—taken on the day of another family celebration—of Loch Fyne in Scotland.
Behind me a family wedding is in progress, making this quite the most beautiful setting of any wedding I have been to.
I have not been back to Scotland since then, but in a couple of weeks my wife and I will be in Edinburgh
for the wedding of friends, the first time we will have been together
in that most spectacular of cities for a couple of decades.

My daughter had friends over for supper today to continue her birthday celebrations.
Here she is with the focaccia I helped her to make.
It is sprinkled with fresh rosemary from our garden.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 4 March 2015 – The Battle of the Pointy Things


This afternoon I took a walk over London Bridge to attend a meeting in Southwark and of course had the opportunity, in doing so, of considering The Shard (originally known as London Bridge Tower before its nickname—now a sine qua non of "iconic" buildings—was coined). Actually I like The Shard, although my feelings towards what it represents in the landscape of London are ambivalent. It has a way of capturing and reflecting light that makes it an object of real beauty, while at the same time being, well, enormous.

After the meeting, instead of diving straight into the Tube, I went back to the bridge for another look at the Shard, but also to see whether I might get a photo of The Walkie-Talkie (aka 20 Fenchurch Street) that would convey effectively just why I believe that building is so very (make that very very) wrong for London (no, make that ANY city). However the sight of the W-T bullying its neighbours and glowering down at Old Father Thames was frankly so upsetting that for today's image I have decided to run with the one you see above.

The concrete spike that appears to be dominating the tallest building in the European Union (though not the EU's tallest freestanding structure) stands at the south-eastern end of London Bridge and has no sign or label that might cast some light on how or why it came to be there.

We will return to Southwark, by the way and all being well, and we are certainly not done with 20 Fenchurch Street.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 3 March 2015 – Marble Hill House in Monochrome

Today I had a fun time at the dentist, where a temporary crown was fitted to my broken tooth. I will spare you further details, but I took a detour through Marble Hill Park on my journey home, as I did on this day last week, 24 February.  

This is the southern aspect of the Palladian jewel that is Marble Hill House. The weather was crisp and blustery, with the bright afternoon sunlight casting strong shadows, and monochrome beckoned for this particular image.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 2 March 2015 – Another Monstrous Carbuncle (10)

Oh no, now the wretched thing's been allowed to reproduce—granite offspring line the pavement, glowing strangely at their bases.

Monday, 2 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 1 March 2015 – Lamp Post by the Sea

Today we went to see my mother, who lives in Portsmouth. After a hearty pub lunch we drove at a gentle pace in the crisp winter sunshine through Portsmouth and Southsea as far as Eastney, at which point the shore of Portsea Island begins to bend north back towards the mainland. Along the seafront lamp posts like this one paraded their elegant silhouettes against the dramatic cloudscape. Such is the quality of these posts and their fluted lamps that they are protected by having listed status.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Year in Pictures – 27 and 28 February 2015 – St Michael and a Selfie

The Archangel Michael, leader of the armies of Heaven, disputing with Satan. This representation is on the tympanum above the north-west door of St Michael Cornhill in the City of London and is by John Birnie Philip. The high relief sculpture is part of the significant Gothic embellishments made to the church by George Gilbert Scott at the behest of the Drapers' Company in the 1850s. Mr Philip did a considerable amount of work for Scott, including the podium frieze on the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.

As I am a bit behind in posting this, I am including two days' worth of images. This second one is a monochrome version of a photo of myself.