Monday, November 03, 2014

When I was in America, I took a long train journey - 9 hours - from New York City all the way upstate to Niagara Falls. A few days later, I then took a Greyhound Bus from Buffalo, NY all the way to Chicago, a drive of 14 hours!

During both journeys, I looked out the window as America went passed. I had expected vast landscapes: forests of huge autumn trees, huge, wide open fields full of corn and maize, great lake vistas.

In truth, the road was miles in land from the lakes, and there really wasn't that many huge fields.

Instead, we passed through lots of sprawling landscapes; towns appeared, and stayed around in fits and starts. We rarely went through totally empty landscapes, but equally didn't go through huge cities or towns very much.

They were landscapes filled with nothing in particular.

I made these 7 videos along the way.

A video posted by Adrian (@acediscovery) on

A video posted by Adrian (@acediscovery) on

A video posted by Adrian (@acediscovery) on

A video posted by Adrian (@acediscovery) on

A video posted by Adrian (@acediscovery) on

A video posted by Adrian (@acediscovery) on

A video posted by Adrian (@acediscovery) on

Voices from Fifth Avenue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One evening, in New York, I starting walking from Central Park to my hotel in West 48th Street. It was a short walk of 11 blocks. I walked along Fifth Avenue, and became intrigued by all the voices passing me by. So much so, that I stayed walking for a lot longer, listening, listening, listening.

I heard short snippets of conversations, people passing - some zipping, some sauntering, some on their phones.

I've already got that ...... You've got to go for it when you can ...... I dunno ...... Pretty sure he just drives around ...... Are you excited? I don't think it's open ...... See the grid, Lady Gaga walked out there at midnight ...... T-Mobile's good for the most part ...... I've never been to the top of New York ...... I'll take it back with me, I'll take it back with me ...... You want me to come with you when you get your licence? ...... I mean what's the purpose of that? To make sure everyone knows how to do everything - is that it? ...... Thank you for helping. I know that's the last thing you wanna do ...... And whoever they're with, they're not right ...... So I don't intend to lose it ...... But they never actually do it ...... "Oh because of the cut?" "They cut the pay?" "Yeah" ...... We hadda sweet-talk one of the security guards ...... I'm so slow, everything's so slow ...... I told him I'd buy him a ...... There's nothing to do; it's like there's always something to do ...... Hot as hell. Tall, big old man's man ...... Confidence and cockiness are just totally different ...... I think she's tired ...... He's such a dawg, he's such a this, such a that ...... I didn't wanna go ...... I typically work at home ...... I was, like, so hoping she would call me out ...... I need to get some basic pants ...... I was teaching and the kids were sitting ...... It wouldn't have happened and it wouldn't have been fine ...... None of them will get married ...... Are New York girls like that too? ...... My boyfriend, when he comes to pick me up, he walks from 34th ...... Right. Where are you working? ...... So come for anything and everything, you can sleep over ...... When I was sitting in the precinct ...... The one at the bottom has pistachios ...... Two days off! I have a big job ...... No, I step on it and it moves ...... I'm just walking around a lot cos I'm playing cards in a couple of hours ...... I wish we could call Maurice  ...... What kind of food are you in the mood for? ...... That, like, makes me crazy ...... Help me out today! ...... Gourmet doesn't have to be expensive to be gourmet ...... We're going to walk to 50th and here we are ...... Yay give me a hug!

In a New York moment

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The last time I went to New York, I looked up a lot and took hundreds of photographs of skyscrapers.

This time around, I looked more to street level and listened at all the teeming life around me on the streets of Manhattan.

A woman on a bus re-telling her love life story to a stranger, specifically her second husband: "He was strong and tall and handsome and shit so I had to marry him."

A young Asian-American man sitting in a park answers his phone: "Hey, I'm good. I'm sitting in Union Square writing in my journal, I've had a soy latte and I'm enjoying this beautiful fall day in New York."

On the subway, a labourer with hard hat and clothes stained with paint and cement wearing three large rings on one hand, one silver and chunky, one like Darth Vader's head, one polka-dot and glittering.

Two men in Central Park discussing where to park their cart.

"I'll go in the middle lane."
"But you can't clog up the middle lane"
"I will!"
"Well, you're funny as hell!"

A man outside a courthouse trying to be restrained, but jumping up and down shaking his fists above his head saying "yeeeeaah man I can't believe I got that lucky!!"

Two fire engines and a police car trundle along 9th Avenue with their sirens set to a low plaintive wail (like you'd imagine a banshee to have), prompting a dog to howl with them, prompting its owner to straddle the dog and try to calm him, prompting a German couple to look and enthuse "beautiful dog".

An elderly woman with her little granddaughter are transfixed watching a man play a Chinese musical instrument. A wobbly old dude cones along and starts doing a silly dance. It's all taken in good humour. (He'd get a slap in London.)

Talking Statues in London

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

At the weekend, I spent a day listening to London's Talking Statues.

This is a new project where a number of statues talk and tell their story to you, via your phone.

I love seeing statues, I have a pinterest board dedicated to my favourite statues. I've often looked at statues and wondered "who's that dude, why's he here?" (more often than not, it is a man).

So this project really appeals to me.

Doubly so, as it's part of a wider Digital R&D project from the Arts Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council and Nesta: essentially a way to have arts organisations think differently and try out digital tools. So: it's my day-job at the Horniman.

Over the course of the day, I visited twelve of the statues. Here are some thoughts.

  • I loved it. I found it great to hear from (some of) these characters, especially the historic people. Words to describe: fascinating, illuminating, funny, heartwarming, imaginative, informative. I learned things I never knew about Queen Victoria, Rowland Hill and John Wilkes.

  • I don't think the talking statues are designed to be seen the way I did, by visiting lots in one day. It works best as serendipity, you see a statue and then the plaque telling you to hear the statue. That said, something connecting them would be good too - a hashtag or something on the plaque to give the sense that there are more to see.
  • For me, the talking statues worked best when the statue was a real person (or animal). The fictionalisation of artworks didn't really appeal to me. But I loved hearing from the 'real' Queen Victoria, from Brunel or Rowland Hill.
  • The technology worked well for me. I can't use NFC tags (my phone doesn't like them) but the QR codes worked fine, as did typing in an address (I used that one most).
  • The NFC tag on the plaque is a symbol and the word 'Tap'. It was fascinating watching how people interpreted that. They tapped the tag with their feet, with their fingers, but never with their phones. Some people tapped repeatedly. (It reminded me of a time I saw a woman at the Horniman literally speak a question into an iPad as it had the wording "Ask a question" [we meant 'type in']).
  • Tech fans: the 'statues' don't actually phone you. It all connects to mobile-optimised websites which cleverly package streaming audio to look and feel like a telephone call.
  • At several of the stops, I got into conversations with other people about the technology, about the talking statues. It was quite enjoyable sharing these little moments.
  • Even when I was alone, my presence listening and looking at the statues encouraged other people to look at the statues that little bit more.
  • Public artworks are quite unusual in a museum sense. They often have no interpretation whatsoever.
  • My favourite: without doubt, Queen Victoria. Two of her statues are narrated, both by Prunella Scales. A wonderful actress playing a wonderful character.

What people talk about in the USA

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm off on my travels next week, to the USA. I'm taking in Long Island (the Hamptons!), New York City, Niagara Falls, the rather random city of Adrian, Michigan and Chicago.

Last time I went to New York, I loved the people-watching, seeing those glorious travel moments.

This time I think my ears will be attuned to hear more than three examples.

In anticipation, I've been looking at one of my favourite phrases to search on twitter: "people talk about in" - seeing what people talk about in certain places. It almost always seems to be America.

Here's hoping I'll be able to tweet my own version of these.

London from above: Westminster Cathedral

Monday, August 11, 2014

One of the greatest views in any city is from above.

In London, the two of the most famous ways to see the city from on high are the Shard and the London Eye.

But there are other ways (cheaper too). A few weeks ago, I went to Westminster Cathedral and took the lift to their tower to admire the views around me.

The views around Victoria show many modern buildings, lots of glass and steel offices and shopping centres - and some surprises like rooftop gardens.

Looking around from that vantage point gives a wonderful span of buildings including Westminster Abbey, the Cheesegrater, BT Tower, Walkie Talkie, the Shard, Strata SE1, Vauxhall and Battersea Power Station.

Carneval del Pueblo

Monday, August 04, 2014

Carneval del Pueblo - Europe's largest Latin American carnival which takes place in South London - was supposed to see its 2014 event yesterday. I had hoped to go along and take lots of photographs of the colourful costumes, dancing and music.

Sadly, it seems to have been postponed; the lastest in a long line of postponements or cancellations year after year. Hopefully it will be back soon as a full on parade from Elephant and Castle to Burgess Park and festival afterwards. I certainly enjoyed it.

In the meantime, here are some of my favourite photos from a previous Carneval del Pueblo.

World Cup Flags

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's been two weeks since the World Cup ended, and I'm missing seeing World Cup flags all over London.

So to satiate my vexillology longing, here are some of my favourite flag sightings.

My favourite flag sightings came about when two flags were displayed on one household or building, showing a lovely multinational mix. Like this one above from Willesden Junction: Brazilian café downstairs and a German flag flying above - a very London sight.

Europe in USA

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

For many years, I've been interested in the way towns, cities, villages and more in the USA are named (I wrote about in 2010).

Reading the article which inspired that blog, I realised that nearly all of Europe was accounted for in American placenames.

So I set about making a map of some European place-names in the USA.

Sadly, there isn't a place for every country in Europe, though sometimes there are more than one, e.g. Norway, Kansas, Norway, Iowa and Norway, Maine, so I chose the place which sat best on the map.

In some cases, a country name is not accounted for, but the capital city is e.g Vienna, Georgia or Sofia, New Mexico.

And occasionally, you really can't be sure that the European placename is the inspiration - e.g. Turkey, North Carolina or San Marino, California

I'm fascinated by the breadth and number of places with names inspired by Europe. I suppose the next step is to start visiting them!

World Cup in London: Argentina

Thursday, July 10, 2014

For the second World Cup semi-final, I chose to watch Argentina -v- Netherlands at Moo Cantina in Pimlico with lots of Argentina fans.

It was super-packed, so I again took to hanging around outside.

It wasn't the most exciting match (until the penalties!) so people watching was again the order of the evening.

A goal was disallowed, leading to roars and disappointment.

But, in the end, Argentina came out victorious, leading to celebrations (which sadly I didn't photograph, as my phone battery was perilously low).

And as I sloped home on the bus, London served up fans from both Uruguay and Netherlands on the bus.

World Cup in London: Germany

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Last night I went to watch Germany-v- Brazil with German fans at Zeitgeist, a German bar in Vauxhall.

And what a match to choose to support Germany, as they pounded Brazil 7-1.

The bar was super-packed and sold out, so I hung around on the street outside.

In spite of this, the atmosphere was infectious from the bar within.

But in spite of all the surprise, joy and celebrations as all the goals poured in to the Brazilian net, there was still room for a few (jaded) German stereotypes.

And, as always, the best entertainment comes from watching how other people react and enjoy the game.

World Cup in London: Brazil

Monday, July 07, 2014

I went to watch Brazil -v- Colombia on Friday evening in Willesden.

There are lots of Brazilian shops and cafés in Willesden Junction / Harlesden, so I was expecting a good atmosphere.

Wandering around before the match, I saw lots of Brazilian flags adorned houses and shops - mainly a combination of Brazilian beauty and butchers.

I first settled in a small café bar, which was pretty quiet to begin with... until Brazil scored their first goal a few minutes into the match.

Nonetheless, midway through the first half, I decided to wander on and found The Misty Moon in Harlesden.

This large bar was full, packed full of Brazilian fans. It was a huge party.

Into the second half, Brazil were in the lead, and the celebrations had begun. Lots were paying no attention to the game, choosing to dance, laugh, party.

Then out came a huge Brazilian flag, the size of an average London flat.

A banner outside the bar was emblazoned with Rio de Harlesden. It really felt like I was in Brazil when the final whistle went.
The singing and dancing went on for ages, and as I left, all along my bus route, more and more groups of Brazil fans were waving their flags and celebrating their victory.

Imagine what it'll be like if they actually win the World Cup!

World Cup in London: Uruguay

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I've watched the World Cup with Uruguay fans before - in a bar in Leicester Square. Since then, I've wondered if there is a more authentic place to watch... a Uruguayan bar or cafe perhaps.

With that in mind, for Uruguay -v- Colombia, I headed to Canthinha do Goias in Stockwell (thanks to a tip from World in London) where I found a very dark, small room packed full of Uruguay fans, some Brazil fans and three Colombia fans!

There were lots of Uruguay flags and football shirts on display, and the small crowd were hooked on watching the match.
But it soon went south for Uruguay as Colombia scored a goal.
Then, just as some enthusiasm was waning, another person arrived who got everyone excited again.

But, despite their singing, chanting and applauding, it was not possible and Uruguay were defeated and out of the World Cup. It didn't seem to phase the fans too much though; they continued dancing and singing regardless.

World Cup in London: Bosnia-Hercegovina

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Yesterday, I went to watch Bosnia -v- Iran with London's Bosnian fans...

...but it was pretty hard going to find any.

After some searching, I heard about Bosnian fans congregating in a bar in Fulham, so I headed there.

I'd seen some photos of fans there watching Bosnia's previous match; the atmosphere looked good!

(Photos by TG on instagram)

But when I turned up, there really wasn't anyone I could say was Bosnia. Maybe that woman in the Bosnian blue dress? The guys in suits? Maybe not...

I stayed around, half-watching the match. Bosnia were soaring and scoring 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1. It was only on the third goal that some guys cheered loudly, I realised that they were Bosnian. And so was the woman in the blue dress!

Then just before the match ended, a guy turns up draped in a Bosnian flag.

So, in the end, there wasn't a great Bosnia-supporting atmosphere, but it was good to finally find some Bosnian fans in London.

World Cup in London: Algeria

Monday, June 23, 2014

I went to watch Algeria -v- South Korea last night, with Algerian fans in Cricklewood.

I've been here before - in 2009 - when I watched a World Cup qualifying match. It was so good then, I knew I'd come back.

To run out an old football cliché, it was a game of two halves.

I spent the first half in a quiet café; the second half in a more excited café.

And in both venues, the fans were loud and lively when Algeria scored, but sat quietly chatting for the rest of the time. A bit too cool for school, they were.

Much like the Colombia match in Elephant and Castle, as I was standing on the street, people passing by add to it all.

Next up: Bosnia Hercegovina -v- Iran, hopefully with Bosnia fans... if I can find them!

World Cup in London: Iran

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Monday last, I went to watch Iran -v- Nigeria with London's Iran fans.

The fans had gathered in an upstairs room of the Henry Holland pub, right by Selfridges. I had found out about it via a Facebook group Iranian Students in UK.

Now, as it turned out, this match was tiresomely boring. A nil all draw does not an interesting match make. But the Iranian fans were much more entertaining, singing, chanting, flag waving, even a little dancing.

The event wasn't as big a family affair as the Colombia match I watched - it being organised by students, I guess - but there was a little baby there, playing a little football and mildly oblivious the sport on the screen.

There was definitely a man with a plan, a guy in charge - he had a vuvuzuela and he wasn't afraid to use it.

With the match limping to the draw, the Iran fans kept on singing, happily accepting the score. They certainly made watching the match more memorable.

Next up: Sunday's Algeria -v- South Korea match, with Algerian fans.

World Cup in London: Colombia

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I've started watching the 2014 World Cup in London with foreign fans, as I've done before.

My first match for 2014 was Colombia -v- Greece, which I watched with lots of Colombian fans in Elephant and Castle.

There's a large Latin American community around Elephant and Castle, mainly since the 1980s. Each year the area hosts the excellent Carnaval del Pueblo, the largest Latin American carnival in Europe.

So I was expecting good things as I headed there.

There were certainly lots of fans around - I reckon about 8 or 9 venues showing the match, all busy. The main venue, La Bodeguita, was super-busy with long queues.

There was a real family atmosphere, with all ages around, from abeulas down to babies.

I mainly hung out in two places - in a restaurant called Leños y Carbón which was packed and outside a butcher shop in a back-street which had a TV plonked on a table and lots of people watching the match.

Outside the butcher's, the owner repeatedly slammed a metal tray onto the ground. Everyone found this hilarious - the first time, they weren't so keen the rest of the time.

There was a great atmosphere, taking mass photos of the whole crowd, chanting songs, doing Mexican waves and flinging popcorn around.

With Colombia's third goal and the final whistle, they all started dancing and singing and celebrating a wonderful win.

I loved being on the street watching the match, seeing people walk past, get involved and excited by the match and cheer along with the Colombians.

So a 3-0 victory to Colombia and lots of celebrations - there were still fans dancing hours later.

Next match for me: Iran -v- Nigeria with Iranian fans.

Romania | London

Thursday, June 05, 2014

I went last weekend to Saint Dunstans in the West - a church on Fleet Street - to take a photo of its statue of Elizabeth I. I've read that it is the oldest outdoor statue in London, which is pretty impressive.

While there, I looked inside and found some kind of baptism ceremony happening.

There were signs outside the church advertising Romanian church services, so I'm assuming it was a Romanian tradition.

Around 30 people were gathered in front of the altar, dressed up in bright colours: lots of green and yellow. Some of the women wore scarves as veils. One man carried a candle with a large lacy pink pompom attached.

Three priests recited prayers and hymns. One priest then cut some hair from the babies' heads after which the babies were presented  in front of religious paintings. Proud parents cooed, filmed and took photos.

After the short ceremony, a large silver baptism font and some religious icon paintings were taken away while everyone drank fizzy wine from paper cups.

During the ceremony, a man arrived - quite clearly a tourist. He took a photo of the ceremony. I hope he is a foreign tourist, and goes back home telling everyone that this is what happens in London, England. For it is. Behind doors - open and closed - there are communities coming together in so many fascinating ways.

Africa, sketch maps

Monday, June 02, 2014

I've resumed collecting crowd-sourced* 'multi-maps'.

*when I first started asking people to draw maps, crowd-sourcing wasn't a popular term but it is now and works well.

Previously, I've collected maps of North America, South America, AustraliaSouth East Asia and Europe.

This time, I looked for maps of Africa.

I went to an African Market in Spitalfields to ask stallholders, shoppers and spectators to draw Africa.

I asked twelve people to draw Africa. I've overlaid these maps on top of each other. This is the result.

Africa, sketched

Germany + Greece

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I saw this tweet recently.

It reminded me of another encounter I saw between German and Greek cultures.

While in Greece, we visited  the local travel agency to book some tickets.

A spry sprightly middle aged women worked there, Mrs Papanagiotou. She had dark brown curled hair tightly cropped and sat at her little desk with a light cardigan hanging from her shoulders.

One day when we called she was sitting outside, animatedly chatting and drinking coffee with a neighbour.

We mentioned that she seemed to be having a lovely time, an easy summer life. "But I'm a little worried," she said, would she be affected by the recent Angela Merkel led German bail out the Greek economy?

"No, no, I don't want to be a German woman, sitting in an office and never speaking!," she said as she crossed her cardigan in a certain fashion.