Saturday, October 18, 2008

South Bank Joy

I spend many hours bimbling about London doing my day job and, as I do so, there's always a camera in my jacket pocket in case I spot some quirky little piece of the city. Everyone knows the main sights of interest so I'm always looking for the more unusual. Plus, I love capturing the people of London who, it must be said, are even quirkier than the city.

Today's stroll starts near Trafalgar Square in Charing Cross Road where I noticed this strangely creepy little animatronic man on the roof of the Chandos pub next door to the Coliseum Theatre, home of the English National Opera. I don't know about you but any mechanical figure that constantly repeats the same actions while smiling at you is creepy. Or maybe it's just me?

As I was nearing the National Portrait Gallery, I was passed by this young Japanese cyclist. Her helmet was so ludicrously shiny that I am reflected in it.

From there, I walked down past Trafalgar Square and this group of artists. If indeed that that's what they were as none of them seemed to have anything even vaguely resembling a painting about them. My brain was filled with dark fantasies of inept spies or undercover police. Or perhaps they were easel salesmen?

My route took me past South Africa House with its beautiful golden springbok sculpture and on to Charing Cross and the Millennium Bridge. I was due to attend an event starting at 5pm at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank of the Thames. As I walked, the sun slowly disappeared and an Autumnal chill settled. Dusk seemed to come down really quickly and the skies changed from blue to dull grey in what seemed like just a few minutes. By the time I got to the river, the light had changed considerably.

This view from the bridge shows the London Eye and County Hall on the left and the Palace of Westminster and the clock tower of Big Ben on the right. The two boats moored here are the Hispaniola and the Tattershall Castle - both working, floating entertainment venues. The Hispaniola is a restaurant but the 'Tatty old arsehole', as she's known by her affectionate regulars, is a pub and she used to be my local a few years ago. Around the turn of the century when I was working in offices near Parliament Square. She went for refurbishment not so long ago and I delighted in telling friends and colleagues that my pub had been towed away.

And finally, some dusky views taken from the fifth floor balcony of the Festival Hall. The first shot shows the Millennium Bridge and Charing Cross rail station. The second is, of course, the Palace of Westminster or, as it is often called, the Houses of Parliament. It's probably a better name as 'palace' suggests a grandeur and gravitas that, frankly, many of our ministers don't deserve.

This final shot is a view of the river just as the light is fading. The whole area becomes floodlit and festooned with what looks like a thousand faerie lights. It probably stamps a major carbon footprint but you can't argue with how glorious and magical it can look.
If I was asked to choose a favourite place in London, this would be it. A warm Summer evening on the South Bank, drinking good wine and eating good food with good friends. I really can't think of anywhere else in London I'd rather be.


chris hale said...

Good pictures, Stevyn.

London is an amazing place. As a child I would regularly take myself off to the less familiar spots (for example, Wapping and Shadwell before they became trendy) and just wander round.

I have always been fascinated by the City itself, but unfortunately the whole place seems to be a building site at the moment.

Stevyn Colgan said...

There is always something being knocked down, built up, refurbished or cleaned. But the end resut is usually worth the hassle. The recent clean of St Martin's in the Field has made the church look staggeringly beautiful and the addition of an exterior ultra-modern stainless steel and glass elevator down the crypt has somehow made it look even better. London planners can do something right occasionally!

Debby said...

I've enjoyed touring with you as well.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Debby - Nice to have you along. Glad to read that your Black Thursday ended in relatively good news. We're all rooting for you here. x

joelmead said...

I especially like your nighttime pics on this post. Very striking stuff

Stevyn Colgan said...

Joel - Cheers matey. I was enjoying the photos of Kenilworth Castle on your blog earlier. And I'm soooo damned envious that you became one of the first peope in the world to see Quantum of Solace last night while I was at the Festival Hall!

Lisa said...

What lovely images. We don't look up often enough - though in London that's not always a bad thing. When I visited Paris a couple of years back I was fascinated by the grafitti which was in the oddest places high above the streets.


Stevyn Colgan said...

Lisa - I did once consider writing a book called Look up, Stupid! just to show people the wealth of glorious architecture and statuary that's on display there, unnoticed and unloved much of the time. I still may do it one day. In the meantime, I did pick up a great little book called London above eye level by John R Murray that does much the same thing without abusing the reader. And I do recall a similar book a few years ago called something like Top of the City about the rooftops of New York.

doctawho42 said...

I went to London for the first time a couple of months ago and was mighty annoyed at all the damn construction and scrubbing work going on. But, yes, Its probably worth it, yadda yadda yadda. Its for the Olympics yeah?

Stevyn, you realy should write that book. Now.
I travelled with my Mum, and she being a prat, didn't notice anything, mainly because SHE DIDN'T LOOK UP. Maybe if its written in a book she may take it more to heart than if I just constantly yell it at her.

Oh, and very pretty pictures. The one of Big Ben at night was pretty magical. Reminded me of In Bruges, have you seen that movie yet?

Lisa said...

I'll have to check these out. We're like little ants, always scurrying but it's good to stop and stare. We'd miss too much if we didn't do it every now and then.

Glad I found your blog.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Doctawho42 - In Bruges - very funny. Colin Farrell does that stuff much better than brooding leading man. Who knows? Maybe I will do the book one day. A friend of mine - journalist and critic Joel Meadows - is trying to get a book about London's Bridges off the ground. Everyone uses them but no one really looks at them and some are fascinating.

Lisa - Glad you found it too. x

Janet said...

Getting caught up a bit here today. Really good shots. Thanks for sharing YOUR London with all of us.

Looking up - yes, I learned all about that when I lived in Manhattan, and the habit continues here in Oxford and certainly in London.

I too carry a little digital camera around with me. But sometimes I get distracted and just don't use it. And when I do -as I did in Greenwich last week - THEN I forget to post the photos! Thanks for reminding me to do that this week!


Stevyn Colgan said...

Janet - I shall check your blog immediately and berate you if they're not there. A bit. No pressure.

I must share more of my pics as I take a lot as I stroll around.