Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sketching at the Barbican and around

A church and an office block towers visible from the inner court:

From the Barbican inner court

Palm trees on the upper concrete galleries:

Barbican inner court Palm trees at Barbican (coloured)

Just loved that "Robbo" on the banksy-ish rat's sign:

Robbo trolling

John Bunyan's grave at the Bunhill Fields cemetery:

John Bunyan's grave

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A day in Hastings

Thanks to our friends (and particularly their mobility and awareness) we braved the rainy weather and paid a visit to Jerwood Gallery opened in Hastings today.

Jerwood Gallery

Hastings appeared to me similar to nearby Folkestone, bigger, but less nice. While the main trade street was fairly cosy there were undoubtedly more identical faceless global brands branches, betting and pawn shops, and what specifically caught my eye, many shop signs were just printed in unnaturally bright colours on plastic banners (just as they do in Russia), and there are very few things that can make a shop more ugly and undesirable.

I liked the design of the gallery building - I don't how how well do those "hand-glazed" tiles reflect the dusk sunlight (which was the idea), but they blend almost perfectly with the black wooden net huts surrounding it. A boat, net huts and a pub sign

Building the fancy venue ten steps away from boats, stalls and huts used by local fishermen caused a lot of controversy in the town. It is very hard for me as for a random visitor and a foreigner to judge, but I feel that the real reason behind the discontent wasn't just the obstructed view.

"No Jerwood" (Jerwood gallery in Hastings)

For a honest fisherman or woman that gallery with strange people lazing their time away staring at some childish scrawls must be something that seriously challenges their lifestyle - which has been already threatened by market and regulations:

A leaflet from Hastings

In London the most most famous modern art museum resides in a former power station which industrial assemblies are now serving as lifeless decorations. Boat huts around the Jerwood gallery are very likely becoming the same.

The collection the gallery started with is hardly able to impress someone who is spoiled with a luxury of visiting countless London exhibitions. Some paintings were still good enough to remember and I've written down their details to publish them later on my tumblr, only to find out upon returning home they're not yet online. Anyway we spent more time near windows apparently, taking pictures of the deserted street:

A view from the Jerwood Gallery A view from the Jerwood Gallery A view from the Jerwood Gallery

We also had a quick walk in the drizzle to the spectacular hills offering fantastic views on the seashore. The best part was the thickening fog blurring the horizon out and almost hiding the distant objects - that made the perspective very distinctive, and I couldn't help remembering Flatland I read last year.

Hastings in the fog Hastings in the fog

There is also my full Hastings Flickr set if you are interested.

Black Beard Who Ever Gets Shot Deserved It

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Life drawing at Candid Arts

For the first time I attended the class on Wednesday and that's probably why I finally found a male model there:

Life drawing at Candid Arts Life drawing at Candid Arts

The last one I did in a new technique advised by tutor - first the sheet is covered black with charcoal and then you draw with your rubber and maybe white chalk:

Life drawing at Candid Arts

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tube staff

This is something Journey Planner or ticket machines won't ever tell you:

Something the Journey Planner won't tell you

I have no definite opinion on driverless trains and unstaffed stations proposed and very likely to happen if Boris gets re-elected. As an engineer, I can completely agree that many positions are obsolete and no longer necessary, and all the talks that it'd be more dangerous and the system would collapse are utter rubbish. First all, "system" collapses every weekend on a regular basis. Then there are many examples from all over the world, and even in London DLR is driverless by design while Victoria, Jubilee and Central lines of London Underground are capable of running automatically: still existing driver's seat is no more than a substitute bench there.

On the other hand I can't agree with those who welcome changes for one simple reason - I just don't see clearly who will benefit from that. Fares will go down making the huge city more accessible and connected? Highly unlikely (as to my knowledge, they never did). More money would be spent on the infrastructure to lower the chance of that mysterious "signal failure" that plagues every other journey? But could that be solved with just pouring money into the older systems, or a complete refurbishment is required with quite a different bill?

If the only visible result of sacking hundreds of people (of whom many won't be able to apply their specific skills easily in any other area) is going to be someone's greater profit and healthier balance - honestly, I don't mind additional and probably unnecessary jobs providing them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sitting high

It is fairly common for London cyclists to jump the red lights, and some activists are even advocating that as a safer way of getting across the junctions.

I don't think that's right and usually wait behind the vehicles instead of trying to make it to an ASL and beyond... however, when I'm sure that the road is clear, I don't bother waiting. I didn't stop on the fading amber lights today on my way to work and as it usually happens when you think no one is paying attention, I was stopped by police.

To my surprise instead of being given a fine (which is £30, by the way) I was asked if I had 15 minutes to spare for a training on cycling safety. Certainly I agreed (and got a revenge as the policewoman showing me the way crossed the same empty road on red lights as well).

Police training for cyclists in Hackney

I've heard before about that campaign started after the Bow roundabout collisions and protests organised by cycling community, but never seen it in North London. Basically, on this training you're asked to get into the driver's seat of an HGV to see how (in)visible are you for them (officers in hi viz and ordinary clothes walk around the cabin to provide an example).

The lorry used for demonstration had its usual blind spots (right in front of the vehicle and by its left front wheel) covered by two smaller square mirrors you can see on the photo below:

Police training for cyclists in Hackney

The problem is these mirrors are only mandatory since 2007, and owners of the lorries registered earlier are not required to fit them. The other problem is that they provide a very distorted image and dark clothes are really hard to see in them - that's something I can now confirm. That where the hated hi viz vests thanks to which you can instantly recognise a Londoner on a random cycling photo come useful as the yellow spot has way more chances to catch driver's eye.

Police training for cyclists in Hackney

I tried to make a point that still it only makes sense if driver actually bothers to look in many mirrors they've got, and the necessity to be equipped and dressed properly puts many people off cycling at all, but I was still hurrying to the office and other people were waiting as well, so I didn't start a long argument.

I work in Shoreditch now where cycling is very popular - the photo below shows what a typical crossing look like when people go to work or return home - so there is nothing wrong with Hackney council running campaigns like this. Also it definitely has something to do with the upcoming mayoral elections and Boris Johnson trying to reclaim his "cycling enthusiast" reputation, but whatever the reason is, it's a good thing.

Old Street cyclists

So if anyone have never driven an HGV before and is curious, don't hesitate to stop if you see a group of policemen near a lorry and ask for a training. That's an interesting insight.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"London's Overthrow"

An outstanding essay by China Miéville (and a shorter version in NYT).

Another reason to live in north London - to have the best authors writing about something you know. I saw Miéville once on the literary festival at Stoke Newington (the area which appears, among others, in the piece), and he was the best part of it. I didn't finish his "Kraken" though (the last Miéville's book I read), but still there was an immediate reminiscence of it as the Natural History Museum has also been mentioned.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The emperor's new clothes

It was very disappointing to find almost no people in the embassy today comparing to the recent parliamentary elections. One who hasn't been to polling station previous time might have thought that there still was a fair amount of people voting, especially given that not every londoner is Russian yet. But I'm only going to say that we didn't have to queue this time at all, and it took us several hours to get into the embassy back in December.


It was raining in London today, but was it a disaster? I bet it was also hot today in Dubai and chilly in Alaska. But even the usual picket on the opposite site of the road featuring some Moscow celebrities dissolved rather quickly.

I do hope people in Russia can boast stronger morale.