Friday, October 28, 2011

A plaque on the bridge

Walking down the river Lea today we have discovered a blue plaque at the least expected place, on a railway bridge across the marshes:

A.V. Roe blue plaque

We've been there before and wouldn't have noticed it this time again if not given a clue from a bypassing friendly old-timer. That bridge and the marshes are the very place from where the first all British airplane first took off for its 30 metres flight in 1909. The only difference is that it used to be in Essex before London spread outwards:

First British airplane took off from here

The plane, one example of which is now exhibited at the Science museum in London, was built by an English pilot A.V. Roe. Once a supporter of the British fascist movement, he then had his two sons killed whilst serving with the RAF during WW2, and the company he founded contributed enormously to Allied victory.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Folkestone and Rye

Folkestone is where we saw the English Channel for the first time (air trips not included):

While the universally recognised home of the famous white cliffs is Dover, they are also towering over the Folkestone shores:

White tower and white rocks

The Eurotunnel is robbing the Folkestone port of the last bits of its former glory but still the town boasts its heritage and anchors can be seen everywhere, including real ones used as monuments. There is even a large hotel which shape resembles a cruise ship:

Folkestone port hotel

Speaking of hotels, there are enough of them for you to forget about the semi-abandoned port hub. The seaside beyond the harbour is a long line of hotel buildings, many of them very neatly looking and offering splendid views on the sea.

A building in Folkestone

Local seafood is also available - some shops and stalls proudly advertise that they own a fisher boat. The main offers though are sea snails, crabs and crayfish with larger species tend to be brought from elsewhere.

Local seafood

A typical English seaside:

Palm trees on the beach

It is necessary to mention the welcoming personnel of the National Coastwatch post - we were spotted while wandering on the top of the hill and invited to take a look inside. This post is basically a sea traffic controlling point maintaining the order and observing the vessels passing the Channel - the sea traffic there is right-hand by the way - which is one of the busiest areas in the world (you need to type "Folkestone" in the "Go to area" field here to see).

National Coastwatch post Inside the National Coastwatch post

This is the post's third building - the previous two of them have slid slowly off the cliff.


Rye is a small town in the East Sussex with quite a few well-preserved historical buildings and even more tourists taking pictures of them. Surprisingly shiny (yet still small and cosy) shops that could be found on its narrow streets are obviously too numerous to serve just locals. Everything there is crying for being photographed, and still there are no curtains on ground floors of residential houses, as if the interiors are also parts of the attraction.

A street in Rye

Two inns are competing for their right to be called the oldest one in Rye. While The Mermaid Inn still retains its 12th century cellar, the "modern" building had been re-built in just 1420. The Olde Bell, on the other hand, was built in the more recent 14th century, but survived without a facelift:

The Mermaid Inn, "re-built in 1420" "The oldest pub in Rye"

One interesting detail which makes both establishments something more than two nicely looking gingerbread houses and puts things into the historical perspective for real is the secret passage connecting them and used by a notorious gang Rye once used to be famous for. I learnt about the tunnel only later at home but luckily found both buildings in the phone memory. This currently smoothed-out town knew very different days.

There are more bad mobile photos in a dedicated set on Flickr.

Friday, October 21, 2011

#OccupyLSX - a week later

Protesters are still camping near the St. Paul's. The Canon welcomed the tent site five days ago but today the statement was issued asking people to leave peacefully. It was printed and distributed at the camp, and occupiers were gathering in circles to read it aloud. Then a general meeting was called, and now "consensus seems to be to stay".

Occupiers discuss the statement from the Dean

The cathedral remains closed but to be honest the protesters aren't creating much mess. Everything is very well organised - there are, for example, separate rubbish bins, volunteering janitors and toilet schedules:

Separate rubbish bins Volunteering janitor Toilets

The main stairs and side entrances are also kept clear most of the time:

Empty stairs, doors accessible Way to the side door kept clear

Solar panels and people offering free refreshments in convenient packages:

Solar panels Free juice

I might be wrong, but I'd say tourists create more problems generally for anybody wants to access the building. However, with the cathedral being shut, there were very few people just visiting, so two crowds together might be indeed creating an effective blockage.

There were some amusing Easter eggs among the endless slogans, posters, signs and stickers:

An Easter egg from the capitalists An Easter egg from the capitalists

Or, for example, a leaflet which suits the Tea Party more than the OWS movement:


But these were of course exceptions. The main message remains clear:

"Capitalism means war" "Capitalism is crisis"

I talked to some of the occupiers and found out that not only Londoners or even Britons were participating in the protest. People came from all over the word, so I myself eased somehow as it always feels a bit weird being a foreigner when internal affairs are being discussed. This guy was very nice to talk to, and also his outfit was fabulous:

I did some sketches of the site. There were at least four more people drawing around - thing is contagious!

OccupyLSX tents OccupyLSX Occupiers and bypassers

I have also updated the Flickr set I linked to before.

Monday, October 17, 2011


My pics from the August riots have been published recently in Firecall, an Irish magazine for firefighters.

That particular article can be downloaded from here (PDF).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"No occupation, just visiting"

An arguably copycat demo has broken out today near the St. Paul's cathedral with an intention to occupy the London Stock Exchange like the Wall Street in US is. Similar to other protests by left-wing activists which happened often in last two years, this one still introduced something new.

The narrow passages connecting the squares around the cathedral with the main streets were blocked by police as well as by private guards. The signs telling about the private status of those side streets were put outside and only tenants were let in. That was the first thing I didn't notice on the previous similar events.

Private passage to the Warwick lane blocked

Major landmark on Saturday - yes, the tourists were there and were apparently happy to see something not offered by their travel guides. As the police presence grew heavy, more an more of them were scared away but at the beginning it was a mixture of protesting locals and random people. Not as easy to make a distinction though as everybody brings a camera on demonstrations nowadays.

Tourist having fun

There were much more police than usually, clearly prepared to block all the means of getting to the building - from the very beginning the arc was already put under control, and as the crowd thickened more of them appeared proportionally.

Police prepares to block the way Police blocking the passage to the Stock Exchange building

So I'd say that the planned occupation has really happened, only the occupants were wearing uniforms.

Police blocking the St. Paul's Churchyard

Another successfully occupied venues were posts and railings - it was nearly impossible to find a place to chain a bike in 500m radius.

"Occupy railings"

I tried to sketch, but it was hard to concentrate.

According to the most recent tweets protesters are now being kettled away. That was, I suppose, expected and doesn't mean much - what will define the success of today's action will be the number of people staying for occupation on the streets, not necessarily near the Stock Exchange. Nights became noticeably colder recently so that'd be a challenge to carry on.

Mask and tattoo

You're welcome to peek into the full Flickr set if interested.

Update: BBC tells Assange was there addressing the protesters. I left too early to see him.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mind over Matter at Shoreditch

An exhibition has opened recently at Shoreditch Town Hall featuring the stories and portraits of older people who donated their brains to help scientists in a fight against dementia. I didn't expect much from it but now having it visited I should say that was the best photo gallery I've seen so far.

Mind over Matter at Shoreditch Town Hall

It's not really much one can do with some shabby basement space after hanging your pictures on the walls, but by adding carefully adjusted lights, background sounds and a bit of creativity a fantastic effect could be achieved.

First you see the portrait of a man or woman and read their story pinned near the photo, and several minutes later in another room you suddenly recognise that story being narrated by that very person from the speakers in the dark corner. You also notice some short phrases on the walls here and there in places which you didn't think were the part of the exhibition. Then suddenly the next room (you got there through a hole in the wall) contains no portraits like the ones you walked through before but is empty apart from medical containers for human organs on the floor and white coats on the hangers. Then you realise you no longer hear the monologues read in old man's voice but just some lifeless background noise. You leave that room, take another turn and enter a hall with black rectangles on its walls instead of the photos. Coming close you see that they're not plain black, just very dark, so to see what's on them you have to concentrate like trying to remember something you once knew so well... then a projector turns on behind you back producing for a moment a bright, large and clear picture of a laughing young woman which fades away as quickly as it has appeared. You're not old yet but now you probably understand what's battling your failing mind for your own memories feels like.

Mind over Matter at Shoreditch Town Hall

Strangely it doesn't make you sad or ineffectively afraid of inevitable but calms you much, so don't be concerned about getting upset. And also you will likely feel a huge respect both for the donors and for scientists. The exhibition will last until October 23rd and it's well worth a visit.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Late Tate

Today's late performance in Tate Britain was a good excuse to revisit the usual exhibition but without the usual crowds.

Late Tate JMW Turner at Tate

Maybe it was wine that made me sleepy and apathetic too soon (it seems to be a usual thing to serve alcohol on late events in museums, a tradition I truly admire), but apart from that I can't say I really experienced anything new from the performances themselves. "Define what art is by writing you thoughts down on this large sheet of paper, all together". Meh. Sometimes being creative turns into being creative in a predictable way.

Shocking truth

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ars longa, vita brevis

An old and yet never ending argument about the necessity of cycling helmets is closed for me now as I saw a young girl today lying at the middle of the Marylebone road near her fallen bike, scarily motionless, her head in a puddle of blood. Apparently she hasn't been run over, more like knocked off her bicycle, and it's hard to tell for sure but to me it looked like the helmet could have been very helpful. I agree that the serious accidents happen mostly when a heavy vehicle traps the victim under its wheel, and in that case even an army helmet is useless. But believe me, that was still a terrible and very convincing scene to witness. Hope the girl is alive and will get well.

I also experienced a very disturbing feeling of my own feebleness - I don't possess any practical first aid knowledge so it was silly just to pass by and even more ridiculous just to stay and stare. Some man from the public gathered was doing something to the unlucky cyclist, and just to do anything instead of simply standing I called an ambulance while being sure it has been already done (and indeed was told they were already on their way). Now I want to get time to attend a special course or something - being just a helpless observer is very uneasy.

Only two days since the last lethal accident. London is still much safer than many other cities of its size, but be careful for it pays off.

Anyway, I managed to get to the life drawing class on time (usually I don't manage to make it there but today got off the office earlier). It's been several months since my last visit so everything felt new once again, plus there was plenty of space and thus a lot of available easels.

Candid Art Trust Candid Art Trust

I used my Sharpie pen together with a charcoal this time and also made some smaller sketches in my notebook.

Figure drawing Figure drawing Figure drawing

As usually, the N1 area is vividly busy even at the evening. I've been suspecting for a long time that every night is a Friday night there.