I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Urban poetry

The handrails by the stairs on a double-decker bus in London. The yellow reminds me of the pipes in the Richard Rogers building.

I was tempted to Photoshop out the piece that's bolted to the wall, to make the photo more abstract. But it looks like a little face, maybe an elephant, and it adds a nice, cheeky, very London, touch.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

One last look at London old and new

Gracechurch Street

I walked back to the hotel via Gracechurch Street. It was a little out of the way, but -- this is a little embarrassing -- I'd never walked down it before.

Since I can recite entire pages of Pride and Prejudice by heart, and Gracechurch Street is the home of the infamous "uncle in Cheapside" who had made his fortune in trade, and therefore, according to Mr. Darcy, doomed the Bennet girls from marrying men of any consideration in the world, I don't know why curiosity never brought me there before. I've made many literary pilgrimages in London; I've been to Keats's house  and Dickens's house and Samuel Johnson's house and Thomas Carlyle's house. I've sought out the house where the Stephen children first lived when they fled to Bloomsbury, and where Leonard and Virginia Woolf lived when they came back from Richmond. I saw where Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes lived when they were still married and where she lived, and died, alone. Not to mention houses inhabited by George Eliot, Jonathan Swift, Henry James and Elizabeth Gaskell, all on one street in Chelsea.

But I never looked for fictional addresses (okay, with the exception of 221B Baker Street); I wanted to see where actual writers lived. But I couldn't have been more excited to see Gracechurch Street this afternoon if Jane Austen's ghost had been providing the commentary.

There's not much left that Uncle and Aunt Gardiner would recognize, apart from a pub and a couple of buildings around Leadenhall Market, but I whispered a hello to them anyway.

Dirty old river

That's what Ray Davies calls it in Waterloo Sunset, but the Thames doesn't look dirty to me (here it's lapping against steps on the north side of London Bridge).

It looks more like strong tea with a little milk, which seems quite appropriate.

St Paul's

The famous dome, reflected in a building on the Southwark side of London Bridge.

Borough Market

The market is closed on Sundays, although there were some random stalls open for business (and oh, did hot mulled wine sound extremely tempting!)

But I enjoyed walking through the market without the huge crowds. It seemed a little forlorn; you would never believe that thousands of people were elbowing their way through only twenty-four hours earlier.

The two towers

Here's another view of the Shard, asserting itself behind Southwark Cathedral.

And across the river, the Gherkin, definitely not my favorite Norman Foster building but one I do find myself liking more and more, framed by some of its older neighbors and even newer construction.

And now for something completely different

In the midst of all the ancient stone around Southwark Cathedral, these chairs were an unexpected burst of color against the green wall.

And I enjoyed the sign. If the scaffolding was alarmed, you can imagine how I felt!

More old and new

I'm heading to Heathrow late this afternoon for a very early flight back to New York in the morning, so I had a few hours to walk around and take some pictures, and I was glad to see the sun was back. It was very windy however, and I'd lost my scarf somewhere along the way, so the trek across London Bridge took my breath away, and not just in the good way. 

Here's an old window in a broken wall nicely framing modern glass.

Sunday bird blogging

I have not seen many birds in London, though there were some very impressive pigeons flying around inside Victoria Station yesterday.

Here's one of their relatives exploring the moat by the old Roman wall Friday. Otherwise, I got nothin'.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rainy night in Trafalgar Square

A double decker bus in the rain, on my way back to the hotel tonight.


This handsome gentleman is my uncle Bert, who came up from Southend for our family reunion today.

There were cousins, and children of cousins, and we hadn't seen each other in too many years, and it was great, great fun.

And I only cried once.

Two facades

The old and the new Liverpool Street Station -- an old brick facade viewed through modern glass.

Not your average bus stop

The ceiling at Liverpool Street Station, where I was catching a bus to Victoria to meet my cousins.

You can't get much more Victorian than these vaults and columns, but there's enough craziness in the curves and angles to remind you that the infamous Bedlam hospital once stood on this site.

For unless they see the sky but they can't and that is why

I've always loved that song in spite of the unwieldy lyrics -- you would swear that English is not Bernie Taupin's first language.

Here's where the London version of Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters might hang out. Although you can actually see a bit of sky here, in London that's going to just give you gray most of the time.

Barclays bikes

A row of bicycles in the City, by London Wall.

There's something about rows of bicycles that just seem so photographable, as though they're begging "Take our picture!"

And I always do.

Night views

The older London, as seen from my hotel room last night.

Saturday reflections

A closeup of the Richard Rogers building at 88 Wood Street.

I know it drives Prince Charles to distraction, but I love the new architecture in the City of London -- well, most of it. (I have not yet learned to appreciate the Gherkin.)

Lower Manhattan has some of the same mixture of towering office buildings set among small, hundreds of years old stone and brick structures, but there's very little that snags my eye there the way the cheeky buildings in the City do.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wheels within wheels

A sphere within a sphere sits atop a dome with round windows -- the circles of old London amid the sharp angles of the new.

And all of it against the backdrop of the wonderful evening sky (evening commencing at around 3pm this time of year.)

But speaking of London old and new

Here's another example of the way old London watches over the new: a wonderful array of chimneys among the skylights and glass office towers.


The view from our London office: Christopher Wren meets the Shard.

The beautiful weathervane is on St Anne and St Agnes church, one of many built or rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire in 1666.

And the Shard is the new Renzo Piano skyscraper just completed south of the river.

I'm only in London a few days so I may never get acclimated enough to have anything intelligent to say about the dizzying jangle of old against new that the City has become.  I certainly don't tonight; just trying to stay awake past 6pm is enough of an achievement for today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Urban poetry

Layers of old paint, like continents and oceans on an old globe, on a fireplug in Hell's Kitchen.

I'm spending Thanksgiving weekend in London, so travel photos will resume shortly.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday bird blogging

Just a gull, but the background is a nice complement to the speckly coloring on his head and neck. And I love that yellow eye.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday reflections

I like the way the brick townhouses being reflected in the windows are such a lovely warm gold. It feels cheerful and optimistic, during what are still, sadly, dark times for too many people in this city.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Best Western

This week's urban poetry -- a carriage horse on West 38th Street.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday bird blogging

A tufted titmouse in the park a few weeks ago.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday reflections

A building under construction on Eleventh Avenue.

I like the contrast, how some of the windows have no reflections and display their empty unfinished interiors, while just to the side and below, reflections provide a mask in crazy drips and circles of black.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Urban poetry

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

There's a seabird above you gliding in one place like Jesus in the sky

Bonus bird blogging. I ended up on the waterfront, walking along the Hudson. The park on the pier is still closed, and there are some mountains of uncollected garbage in the streets, but otherwise it was a normal Sunday.

This picture reminded me of the Jackson Browne lyric above, though I am confident that the last thing anyone on the Eastern Seaboard wants right now is to be Rocked on the Water.

Gas lines

I went for a walk this afternoon, just around the neighborhood, wanting to pretend for a while that it was just another Sunday.

There was a block-long line to the Hess station on 44th Street, but it seemed like a good sign that they were open and filling 'er up, even if there was a wait. Then I looked downtown as I crossed the street.

Another block-long line. And beyond that, another. The cops were sending motorists who tried to cut in back to 38th Street, so the line was at least six blocks long. And a second line on 44th Street stretched all the way to the river.

Sunday bird blogging

The parks have reopened, but I'm not eager to go survey the damage, so here's a picture of a cardinal from last spring.

Cardinals live here year-round, and it always cheers me up to see that flash of color in the grays and browns of winter. It's like a promise that color, and life, will return to the world.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poetical Saturday

Though mild clear weather
Smile again on the shore of your esteem
And its colours come back, the storm has changed you:
You will not forget, ever,
The darkness blotting out hope, the gale
Prophesying your downfall.

-Auden, There Will Be No Peace

Photo of the grassy overhang of a turf roof in Norway, after a rain.

Blog Archive