Sunday, October 27, 2013

I went to Nottingham the weekend before last. The weather was awful while I was there, rain rain and more rain.

As a result, my memories of there are mainly grey, so I made a virtue of that for this picture.

Because it was raining, I spent most of my time dashing between shops where I overheard these gems. This first one reminds me so much of this Victoria Wood sketch.

Two elderly women and a middle-aged man are chatting in a charity shop, at the counter.

Woman 1:
"It'll be one of the lads from the priory. There's always young men at the priory."
The man confirms it is one of these lads.
Woman 1: "Is it Mark? Or Rob?"
Man: "'s got a, Karl?"
Woman 1: "Cole?! Kyle?! Oh Karl... oh yes, he's a nice lad. Doesn't say much... well, I suppose he does to you..."
Then, the first woman abruptly changes the subject and says to the second woman: "Now she said she didn't like it strapless!"

Meanwhile, it was anything but a quiet day out. I saw:
  • A fist-and-kicking fight break out on the tube (at 7am on a Saturday morning!). Dramatic.
  • A French guy in tears, slumped on floor of St Pancras Station.
  • A young woman on the train momentarily losing her tickets and bursting into tears
  • A woman chastising her child in a shopping centre, telling her, "You're a wicked little girl!"
  • A man crouched in the foetal position in a Nottingham phone box.

Discovering Britain

Monday, October 21, 2013

For the past few months, instead of going on a foreign summer holiday, I have been taking short breaks and day trips around the UK.

These trips have been inspired by the Discovering Britain website which has lots of guided audio walks to download.

I've done four walks: on Harwich, Durham, Newcastle and Portsmouth. On top of this I went to: Yorkshire, Cambridge and Nottingham.

The Discovering Britain walks are great, like having a knowledgeable local walking along with you, telling you about the landscape's geography and history. (I tested a walk in the Essex Estuary for them last year.)

Along the way, I've seen lots of interesting places, buildings and sights, including the following.

The smallest Marks & Spencers

The UK's first combined road and rail bridge

Durham Cathedral: the largest example of Norman style architecture in England

First modern warship in Portsmouth

The second-oldest university in the English-speaking world

The oldest inn in England: Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham

Amongst Tourists

Monday, October 14, 2013

I recently entered a Guardian Witness Been There photo competition - its subject was street life.

I don't often take photographs of people, so my street life is more likely to be a nice building or architecture feature.

One picture did come to mind though: a photograph I took of tourists in Prague's Old Town.

In it, throngs of tourists await their chance to photograph the moment that figures appear on the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town City Hall. During summer, thousands of tourists and tour groups fill the Old Town Square.

Though I'm a tourist myself, I get great enjoyment listening and overhearing the observations of other tourists - such as:

  • "Switzerland is SICK!!!" a woman exclaimed to her friend.
  • "I'm going to have some serious CzechSlovak meat tonight!" said an Australian man on a train to Prague to his travelling companion.
  • "Oh, I really like it here, it's so quaint!" said a young American woman wandering into a square in Budapest.
  • "What's in Bratislava?" asked a Canadian man to his wife.
    "Well... there's a beautiful cathedral," she replied.
    "What? Another one?! There's a surprise..." said he wearily
  • "Well, now, look at all this art!" said a woman as she wandered into the Prado Museum in Madrid.
  • "I want to go where we belong!" said a woman arguing with her boyfriend in Prague's Wenceslas Square.

Elephant and Castle Subway Murals

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

I went on a tour of the subways in Elephant and Castle last weekend, part of excellent Elefest - a festival celebrating a part of London that many usually don't celebrate.

The tour was led by David Bratby, the artist who painted the murals in the subways.

I've long loved the colourful tiles in the subways.

But I - shamefully - had never really paid attention to the murals. I should have!

They show scenes from global celebrations, like carnival in Rio de Janeiro, a Malaysian festival and from local events like a fete in Kennington Park.

Other murals show imagined scenes from local history, like an elephant being delivered to Surrey Docks, scenes from Shakespeare and scenes featuring Charlie Chaplin.

David said that he wanted the murals to be positive, to be bright and colourful in the dark underpasses. They certainty are, and in their own way, celebrate the area and its people and show it off to great effect.