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Posts Tagged ‘#London’

Reliving The Celebration

September 17, 2018 16 comments

To complete my resharing of some of my favourite posts (which I featured in 300 Not Out – A Retrospective) this is A Celebration, originally posted on 16 September 2016. As you will see, this date is my birthday, and having reached the grand old age of 65 yesterday, I am now officially a UK State Pensioner – I’ve applied for my pension but, despite their saying that I would be sent the details in the 14 days before the due date, I’ve yet to hear what untold riches will be coming my way. I guess the government has been too busy screwing the country over Brexit to worry about me!

As before with these posts, I’ll give you the original and then rejoin you at the end for an update. So, here’s the 2016 version:

“Today I awoke – or, more precisely, was awoken by a thunderstorm and torrential rain – to the thought that I am now 63. I’ve never been this old before! But we are told that ‘age is just a number’ so who’s counting? Three years ago today, I retired from a lifetime of work, on my 60th birthday, and to celebrate my milestone my two wonderful daughters arranged a special day out for me in London. I had commuted into the capital to work for more than 35 years, and this marked the beginning of my re-acquaintance with London as a place to enjoy, rather than somewhere I was happy to escape on a daily basis. During a comments ‘chat’ with a fellow blogger a few weeks ago I realised that I had never written about that day out. I would have laid odds that I had but when I checked I found several photographs in my Facebook and Instagram feeds, but no blog posts. I decided that I would write something as part of my celebration of three years’ retirement – so here it is.

Due to their work commitments the girls arranged the day out for the weekend, Saturday 14th to be precise. This had the bonus of there being lighter usage of public transport than on a weekday,img_2695  which made it easier to get into London and get around while we were there. They knew that I had a longstanding desire to take a ride – or ‘flight’, as it is officially known – on the London Eye, so to be honest I wasn’t surprised to be taken to the Southbank Centre, adjacent to the Eye. And yes, that was where my grand day out was beginning, with a flight in one of these:

img_2696And in case you haven’t seen it before, this pod is part of a much bigger structure. This, in fact. I don’t have a head for heights, but didn’t at any time have a problem. The Eye moves very slowly, and the only real sense of movement that you have is the changing scenery around you, as the ground disappears further into the distance!

London has centuries of history and many famous landmarks, most of which are visible from the Eye. Here as an example is the Shard, one of the more modern buildings

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And this is Elizabeth Tower, previously known as St Stephen’s Tower, until it was renamed in 2012 to mark QE2’s Diamond Jubileeimg_2691

Before anyone corrects me, Big Ben is the name by which the clock goes, not the tower itself. A common misconception, which the pedant in me (I am, after all, a Virgo) takes delight in correcting! The ‘guide book’ to your flight is an iPad, suitably encased in a stand to prevent theft, which is programmed to show you where all the landmarks are as the flight progresses. A nice touch.

Having had a wonderful time, we then went into a nearby bar for a light lunch, before the next part of my treat. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any more but shortly afterwards we were climbing img_2690onto one of these

Spot the operative word: ‘amphibious.’ Believe it or not, this little bus worked both on land and water. Apparently they were originally designed and built in the Second World War for troop movements, and the actual bus that we travelled in was 70 years old. After a trip around some of the landmarks by road, which covered quite a lot of London’s history, we were driven to the side of the headquarters of MI6 – appropriate, I thought – and down a ramp. Moments later, we were in the Thames

We've fallen in the water!

We’ve fallen in the water!

We then went for a ‘boat trip’ along part of the Thames, which was quite an experience. To prove it, here’s a shot of the Parliament buildings – the Palace of Westminster – as seen from the river. As it was a weekend nothing was happening inside, but I’m reliably informed that on a working day you can see the hot air rising from here

We all bowed in reverence, of course :-)

We all bowed in reverence, of course 🙂

Until that day I’d not been aware of this service, and it really was an unusual experience, which I felt very lucky to have enjoyed. Doubly so a few weeks later when one of the vehicles caught fire while on the river, causing a suspension of the rides until thorough safety checks had been undertaken on the entire fleet! There but for the Grace of God…..

After all of that excitement, we ended the day in a lovely restaurant tucked out of the way in Camden, where to my further surprise I was treated to a cake, and a candlelit rendition of Happy Birthday To You from staff and customers. Truly, a lovely day and a perfect celebration I’ll always remember, made special for me by these two beautiful young women

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As you may have noticed, I have for some reason I don’t understand been looking back to three years ago quite a lot this week – my Facebook friends have been treated to reminders of my week of songs for the day which I posted in the lead up to my retirement, so count yourselves lucky to have been spared that! I don’t think this means that I have been wallowing in the past, as some might say, and I feel it important that we don’t lose touch with our past. It is, after all, a part of who we are now. I’m intending to do a post or two on linking the past with the future, when I’ve worked out what that means for me. For now, cake is beckoning, so I bid you adieu until the next time.”

And here I am again, back in the now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trawl through some of my earlier posts. This last one is particularly special for me, as it reflects a wonderful day out given to me by two wonderful people, who are the focal point of my world. As you may have noticed from some of my recent posts, they have been joined in my affections by the most recent arrival to our family. Looking back on the good things in your life is great, but the future is there to be enjoyed too. Yesterday my older daughter sent me this to mark my birthday:


Our new focus of special memories will, I’m sure, feature here again at some point. It’s good to have the future, looking forward.

 

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My Mind’s Eye – Looking Back and Ahead

September 10, 2018 11 comments

For the second episode of my resharing from the posts I referenced in 300 Not Out – A Retrospective here is the post originally written as My Mind’s Eye. This was first posted on 14 July 2013, and is notable for me both for the fact that it was in response to one of the WordPress Daily Prompts – back in the days when they were sensible and helpful – and for the time in my life that it represents. I’ll be adding a few words after the post, but firstly here’s the original:

Daily Prompt: Opposite Day

“I hadn’t planned on posting again so soon after two posts in the past three days, as this is my 50th post and I wanted to mark it in some way. It is a bit of an event for me, as well as a surprise that I’ve kept going at this, so I’d like to thank you all for being part of my blogworld – especially those who have endured this since the early days! As you may have noticed I’ve rather taken to WordPress’ Daily Prompts in the past couple of months and today’s gave me an ideal opportunity. So here I am again! With its theme of doing the opposite of normal, the prompt reads:

If you normally write non-fiction, post a photo. If you normally post images, write fiction. If you normally write fiction, write a poem. If you normally write poetry, draw a picture.

I don’t think I’m capable of writing fiction or poetry so what I do must therefore be non-fiction. It is all true, certainly: I don’t believe in being creative with the truth (i.e. lying) or in jazzing things up for effect or to draw attention to myself. So that must mean my challenge is to post a photo. I wanted something with some meaning, something which was symbolic for me, and this is what I chose:

The London Eye

The London Eye

iPhone pics 029An odd choice? Not for me. I took this on a grey evening in May from the walkway at the Southbank Centre in London. I was there for one of my bucket list wishes: to see Steve Earle in concert. You may not have heard of him but he’s been one of my favourite artists since he started, which was c.1986 I think. But that’s not why this picture has meaning for me: the reason I am attached to this is that it symbolises my future.

That probably sounds strange if you don’t know the background. For all but two of the past thirty-eight years I’ve commuted into London to work. When I retire in September I plan to make London a place for leisure and enjoyment, rather than work. As I don’t have much of a head for heights, but have always liked aerial photo shots, I want to go up in the Eye to conquer my fear and to take my own aerial pictures. To me this symbolises my future: looking down over the city where I have spent so much time will, I’m sure, give me a feeling of taking control. And what is retirement if not an opportunity to take control of my life and ‘do it my way?’

The Southbank is one of my favourite concert venues. The architecture is hideous – Lasdun’s concrete period – but the two main halls are beautifully appointed with superb acoustics. As this would be the last time I was there before retiring and making my epic voyage on the big wheel, I took a few shots to remember the evening by. That is the one I like best, but I’m also quite fond of the view across the river:

iPhone pics 008

And of the cute little busker:

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And the view from my seat (I booked late!):

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These photos are a memory of a great evening and of some fabulous music, and a lead in to the rest of my life. I’m looking ahead with a great deal of optimism and marking this new stage in my life with a ‘flight’ or ‘rotation’ on the Eye is, for me, a perfect way to do it. I may even do this on my 60th birthday, to celebrate the occasion. And there are reduced rates for the over 60s 😉”

Back to the present day. Life has a habit of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it? For the first couple of years of my retirement I really did enjoy London- concerts, the theatre, museums, galleries and even a bit of shopping. Not to mention my very regular visits for a few seasons to Leyton Orient, including a great day out at Wembley for the League One playoff final in May 2014 – even if the result went the wrong way. But my health has turned against me, and a long term condition has severely restricted my ability to get out and enjoy myself. It’s not life-threatening or anything serious like that, but I look back at that post ruefully, thinking of what might have been and hoping that those plans and intentions can be restarted at some point. I mentioned that I was aiming to take control of my life after retirement. That phrase has, to my mind’s eye, been seriously devalued by its appropriation to support the Brexit campaign. I had no real idea what my future would hold, though I had hopes: those who (unlike me) supported Brexit have no more idea what it means than I did! But my post resonates with me now perhaps even more than it did when I wrote it.

I did get to visit the London Eye, and will be sharing again the post I wrote about it as the next instalment in this extended retrospective. Its significance for me still remains, and one day I intend to pay another visit, and take some more photos to mark the event. Revisiting my previous post has reminded me how important our memories are for us, and also how important it is that we keep making new memories. Life is too short not to!

As a sign-off, I’m correcting my oversight from the original post. As those of you of a certain age – or with a good knowledge of great pop music – will have recognised, I ‘borrowed’ the original title from the Small Faces. I really should have given them the credit for that so, by way of apology to the sole surviving band member, here is two minutes of magic:

 

London 22.3.17

March 23, 2017 16 comments

Yesterday was the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, which killed more than 30 people. I posted about that a year ago today, in From A Distance. In that post I said “Attacks like this strike at the heart of our society. London is now on heightened alert and must be a strong candidate for an atrocity such as this.” A year on, and I’m saddened that those words have been proved prophetic. I’ve also posted previously about terrorist attacks in Paris, and it would feel remiss of me not to do so for my own capital city. This post will draw on some of those posts, so you may recognise some of my words – I make no apology for that, as I believe I was right to say them then, and that hasn’t changed.

For most of my 38 years of employment I worked in London. It is my ‘go to’ place for sporting and cultural events. Whilst I’m not a Londoner by birth, I feel it to be ‘my city,’ and am horrified at what happened there yesterday. At the time of writing the full details have not been made public, for understandable reasons. What is known is that a lone attacker hired a 4×4 car – a large, heavy vehicle – in Birmingham, drove it to London and across Westminster Bridge. He did this at speed, deliberately taking indiscriminate aim at pedestrians, two of whom died and 40 more are now in hospital, several of them critically ill. He then crashed into the gates outside the Houses of Parliament, got out of the car and ran towards Parliament, knifed an unarmed policeman to death, before being shot dead by an armed officer. Those of you outside the UK may think it strange that our police forces are not all armed: for us, it is a symbol of our peaceful democracy that they aren’t, although we do have armed officers where necessary. Death by violent crime is much less prevalent here, which is what makes yesterday all the more shocking for us.

I first began working in London in 1975, at the time of the IRA bombing campaign. I worked in a government building which was classified as being at high risk of an attack, so I was made very aware of what terrorism could mean for us. I was working in Central London in 2005 at the time of the 7/7 bombings, only about half a mile from Edgware Road station, where one of the bombs was detonated. The eerie silence, broken only by sirens, that descended over London that day is something I’ve never forgotten. Watching the television yesterday afternoon, as events unfolded, seemed all too familiar. The reality is that, behind the scenes, our security forces are working very hard to protect us from such atrocities, and we know that there would have been more of them without their work.

On previous occasions I have asked one simple question: why? I cannot begin to understand what these people think they are trying to achieve. Do they want to destroy our way of life so that they can impose theirs? Do they really think that killing and maiming innocent people will achieve this? The fanaticism innate to such beliefs is way beyond my comprehension. And it makes me angry. My two daughters both live in London and I don’t see why I should fear for their safety as they go about their daily lives. What have they or the people killed yesterday ever done to deserve to live in fear of such an attack which will, in the end, achieve nothing except murder and slaughter on a large scale? It is inconceivable that terrorism will ever win, but these fanatical, cowardly, murdering lunatics are incapable of understanding that. Such terrorism and acts of war, allegedly in the name of religion, have been a part of history going back way before the Crusades, so it would be naive to believe that they will ever stop.

The phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man” is first documented in the Robert Burns poem Man was made to mourn: A Dirge in 1784, although it is likely that he reworded a similar quote from Samuel von Pufendorf, who in 1673 wrote, “More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.” Nearly 350 years after von Pufendorf that lesson has not been heeded, and is still so true. Man is still doing so much harm to man, and the utter horror and futility of this leaves me deeply saddened.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by yesterday’s atrocity: I just wish that no one else would ever be touched in this way again. But I don’t think that is a realistic wish, sadly. Despite that, and however many times people do things like this, there must be one abiding message: you will never win, democracy will never bow to your perverted minds.

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