The Sea Containers Diamond Jubilee Wrap

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee is almost upon us and the excitement is finally beginning to build. Whereas the interest in last year's Royal Wedding was almost frenzied, this has been an altogether more graceful and dignified occasion, much like Queen Elizabeth II herself.  This is a great achievement for the Queen as she is only the second monarch in history to reach her Diamond Jubilee (the first being Queen Victoria in 1897). 

It has been fun wandering around London these past weeks and spotting all of the Union Flags.  The last time I saw so flags just lining the streets was during the Silver Jubilee in 1977, when Queen Elizabeth celebrated 25 years in power. 

By far the best acknowledgement of the Diamond Jubilee so far has been this massive wrap on the side of Sea Containers House near Blackfriars Bridge in London.

The Queen

Taken during the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977, it shows the Queen waving to the crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace while Prince Charles, Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Earl Mountbatten, Prince Phillip, Mark Phillips and Princess Anne look on. 

It is said to be the largest photo ever of the Royal Family and I think the photo below will give an idea of its scale.

Sea Container House

It is massive! The wrap is in place until the end of June while redevelopment work carries on in the building.

But why build it?  Jonathan Ofer of The Deerbrook Group, asset managers for Sea Containers building owner Archlane Ltd, explains the rationale behind the wrap:

"When this Silver Jubilee photo was taken 35 years ago, the South Bank was an unvisited stretch of the Thames - not the centre of business, tourism and culture that it is today. It is the owner's tribute for this very special occasion, when on Sunday 3rd June, the Jubilee Flotilla passes by and the country celebrates 60 incredible years of everything that makes Britain great".

The time-lapse video video shows how the world’s largest photograph of the British Royal family was erected over 45 hours, measuring 100m x 70m and spanning the entire face of Sea Containers on London South Bank.

What do you think of the wrap and the upcoming Diamond Jubilee? I'm heading out to France for the long weekend and am planning to take a look around some quaint northern towns but secretly hoping we sit on the beach for four days instead.

Walking from Bermondsey to Southwark

It has been an absolutely mad couple of weeks but I am happy to say that I survived! I’ve completed the handover between my old and new positions and from tomorrow, I will no longer be working in Southwark but permanently in the centre of London near Charing Cross.  In the five years that I have been in Southwark, I have fallen in love with this historic, quirky little area which was the stomping ground of none other than Charles Dickens and the Bishops of Winchester.  It is home to Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, Guy’s Hospital, the Cross Bones Cemetery, Red Cross Way, the St George the Martyr Church and, of course, the Shard. I spent some time exploring this area but for some reason, I never really ventured east and into Bermondsey.  That might have something to do with me getting hopelessly lost there one lunch time back in August 2007 but nevertheless, it is an equally historic area. 

Bermondsey was once a notorious slum and it is the area where my favourite of all Charles Dickens’s works, Oliver Twist, was set.  Bermondsey was famous for its tanneries and trade in leather, hides and wool.  There are parts of Bermondsey which are still not very nice today but overall, there is a great deal of regeneration and renewal going on and some areas are looking pretty trendy.

Aware that my days in Southwark were numbered, I recently took a walk through Bermondsey and Southwark to see what I could see.  All photos were taken on my iPhone 4GS.  Do click on the photos below for enlargements.

The Shard, May 2012 The Shard Fenning Street View Abandoned Warehouse, Vinegar Street Smashed windows in Vinegar Street

I started my walk underneath The Shard and for just a little way, that was the most interesting thing to see.  Instead of heading straight through Guy’s Hospital, I turned left into St Thomas Street and was soon pleased at my change of route.  It is the strangest thing, even when I don’t really feel like walking and exploring, I remind myself that I’ve never once regretted one of my adventures and I am walking more and more each day.

I soon noticed an abandoned warehouse on Vinegar Street which had a ghost of a ghost sign on the facing walls.  I wasn’t able to find out much about the history of this warehouse but did find out that locals are fighting against its demolition and the erection of three smaller Shard-like skyscrapers. The fight has been going on for almost 2 years so they must be putting up a good one!


Ghost of a ghost sign, Vinegar Street Temporary door n Bermondsey Street The Tanneries in Bermondsey Street The Tanneries, Bermondsey Street

I turned into Bermondsey Street and noticed the intriguing door above.  It says “temporary door” and I couldn’t quite figure that out!  Anyway, it is part of the headquarters for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust who specialize in educating people about wine and spirits and offer courses and wine tastings.  Hmmm, maybe an idea for a meet up?

Next door was The Tanneries on Bermondsey Street, a historic Victorian building that has been recently redeveloped.  It is currently home to Shiva Limited, a property investment company.

Wool Yard Bermondsey Street Thomson Bros Ltd paper, Bermondsey Leathermarket Gardens, Bermondsey Leathermarket Court

Across the road was the old Wool Yard, a development of offices and workspaces.  Everywhere you looked there were ghost signs and evidence of the history of the area but I soon decided to turn off the main road and head through Leathermarket Gardens and Guy Street Park.  I saw the ridiculously overpriced Leathermarket Court residential complex, which I presume are on the site of the old Leathermarket.  The gardens were actually quite peaceful and extremely well kept, although the Bermondsey Village Hall looked like it could do with a cash injection.

Tower Blocks in Bermondsey Bermondsey Village Hall Guy Street Car Park Guy Street Park, Southwark

I think it was when I crossed the road between the two parks that I crossed from Bermondsey into Southwark, although it is all vague anyway as Bermondsey and Southwark both fall under the London Borough of Southwark. 

Courages Fine Ale and Stout The Britannia, Southwark Plantain Place, Southwark Plantain Place in Southwark

Nevertheless, Southwark did feel different.  It was less trendy and commercial and more residential.  The Courages Fine Ale & Stout sign above left is actually a ghost sign because the pub below has long since been converted into flats.  The Britannia was just a couple of doors down and seemed to be doing a roaring trade.  There were photos of the Queen, Union Flags and bunting everywhere so I bet they are pretty excited for the upcoming Jubilee weekend!

My last stop was Plantain Place which has intrigued me for years.  I can’t find any history on this area but it is obvious from the signage and the street name that it is of significance .  I wonder if it isn’t an acknowledgement of the rich Caribbean history and culture in the area?  If any locals read this, please do shed some light on this tiny pocket of trendy apartments in the middle of Southwark. 

I'm not too sure yet how serious this is, but I cannot switch my PC on this morning. Le Husband thinks it might be the graphics card and I am trying not to worry but all of my music and photographs are on that PC. I also only have Photoshop on that PC and can’t run it on the laptop.  I last backed up the photos at the beginning of the year so I wouldn't have lost everything anyway but this is the reason for another iPhone / Instagram post! I refuse to worry about it just yet.

Exploring Little Venice and Grand Union Canal

Borough of Paddington - Little Venice

Following a glorious autumn and the mildest winter in living history, Londoners could be mistaken for believing our luck was in with an early spring in February and March.  Alas, it was not to be as our luck turned at the end of March and the weather has been positively miserable ever since. 

This would explain why, two days before our proposed tour of Little Venice, Mela and I sat huddled over hot cups of chai tea, discussing possible alternative arrangements should the weather be too horrible to go ahead with our plans. 

Preparing for the worse, we set out bright and early last Saturday morning and we were blessed with perfect walking weather: bright and sunny in parts but not so much so that it makes walking unpleasant.

We began our adventure in Maida Vale, stopped for lunch in the Indo-Chinese restaurant Banana Tree and then strolled through posh neighbourhoods to Warwick Avenue where we arrived at Little Venice.

We were amused to see the “Borough of Paddington” sign above.  This borough existed from 1900 to 1965 but was then merged to become part of the City of Westminster.  Still, with such an ornate Victorian crest, I can see why they would want to keep it there.

The Waterside Cafe - Little Venice

The area where we joined the waterways is known as Browning’s Pool and is named after the poet Robert Browning.  It is here that the Regent’s Canal meets with the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal.  We had decided to walk down Grand Union Canal that day, through the Paddington basin and beyond.

In the photo at the top, you can see the Waterside Cafe which is a gorgeous little riverside cafe where you can enjoy afternoon tea on board the canal boat or seated beside it. We hadn’t quite burned our lunch off though and decided to keep going instead, with a promise to return one day.

Well, there is nothing left to do but join us as we wander along Grand Union Canal towards Paddington.

Grand Union Canal Carrying Co - Little Venice

Naturally, there were countless canal boats.  I absolutely love the idea of spending a summer aboard one of these boats.   I can imagine myself reading a pile of books (of the paper, non-electronic variety, even) and sipping tea above board.  I wonder what the canal boat above is used for these days?  The Grand Union Canal Carrying Company was around during the heyday of England’s canal ways and closed down in 1948.

Standing Man-Sean Henry-2003-Sheldon Square-Little Venice

One of the reasons we chose this particular route was to spot some of the installation art in the area.  This is Sean Henry’s “Standing Man” (2003) and he was incredibly lifelike as he faced another standing man.

Bob and Mary - Little Venice

I loved the name of this canal boat and wondered who Bob and Mary were and whether they were still so in love.

G W R Paddington - Paddington Basin

We soon found ourselves behind Paddington Rail Station in the area known as Paddington Waterside.  There was suddenly a lot more concrete around and the canal ways were no longer as green and pretty as they had been around Browning’s Pool.

Maclean and Co-Little Venice

Just as I began to think that we should have chosen the Regent’s Canal route, we turned the corner and saw the very modern, very colourful Paddington Basin.

Paddington Basin-Little Venice

I find that places like this are always quite surreal.  Firstly, the entire area was far too quiet for 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.  It was also really neat and tidy, almost as if real people don’t actually live here. 

Paddington Basin

It was a lot of fun to photograph though and we did find the odd sign of humanity and human habitation.  I can just imagine that the owners below with their mop and watering can are everyone else’s least favourite neighbours. 

Paddington Waterside

We had reached the end of the canal ways and stopped at the nearby Core restaurant for cake and refreshments.  If bad service and ice-creamless iced coffee is your thing, I’d certainly recommend Core. 

Sign Post-Paddington Waterside-Little Venice

I’d wanted to explore Little Venice for the longest time and now that I have, I just want to explore it again, this time walking west from Warwick Avenue or walking up Regent’s Canal towards London Zoo and then on to Camden.  Do let me know if you’d like to join me for a walk and I’ll be sure to invite you along.

Dusk and Bright Lights in Norwich

The Church of St Peter Mancroft

Following the beautiful blue skies and sunshine of the past weekend, I was really convinced that spring was finally here but alas, it is cold and rainy again and it seems that there is no end in sight to this dreary season.  I guess I really shouldn’t complain.  Firstly, there is nothing more dull than English people harping on about the weather but secondly, we should also be thankful.  After 28°c weather in Sarajevo this weekend, it dropped down to 1°c and snowed yesterday!

As I was walking home today, a car sped by and splashed me with the biggest wave of water you can possibly imagine.  Cold and wet, I tried to remind myself that I actually liked the past winter and I shouldn’t let a bit of bad weather get me down.  So I have transported myself back to Norwich, which we visited in December.  Norwich was lovely during the day but it absolutely came alive at night as the sun went down.

The Church of St Peter Mancroft Norwich

I posted about the Church of St Peter Mancroft previously.  The church is situated in the middle of the city, next to the market and across from the city hall.  It is lovely during the day but majestic at night.

Theatre Royal Norwich

I had barely given the Theatre Royal a passing glance when we had walked past it that morning but it took my breath away when we saw it in the twilight.

Norwich City Hal

Likewise, Norwich City Hall had seemed a bit plain in the day but it shone at night.  It was lit up in a variety of different colours and I was happy to capture it all lit up in yellow.

Norwich City Centre and Market

The market had been busy all day but it became festive and exciting by night as vendors served hot drinks and fresh food.  We had a delicious pork belly on fresh bread and brought a regrettably fragrant ripe brie cheese that had been imported from France. 

Norwich at Night

Did you know that Norwich is twinned with Novi Sad in Serbia?  I fell in love with this beautiful city when I visited two years ago and am thrilled to be returning this summer.

What are your favourite cities at night?  Have you ever been somewhat surprised by the beauty of a city at night, when it had been relatively plain during the day?

London at Dawn: A Photographer's Dream

The challenge is simple.  You meet up an hour before sunrise with the London at Dawn team consisting of photographer Anthony Epes and black cab driver and certified tour guide Nick Mortimer.  Using tripods (which the team graciously provide), Anthony will guide you to photograph entirely on manual settings while Nick shares his impressive knowledge of London history and architecture with you.

The workshops are aimed at beginner photographers and what better subject to practice on than a city at dawn?  Especially London at dawn?

I now understand why people say they will never return to automatic after learning to shoot on manual. For the first time I was able to see a scene with my own eyes and transfer that light and beauty into my photographs.  It was amazing and I cannot express enough how much I learned on the workshop.

On the morning of our photo shoot, we met just after 5am and began taking photos at 5.30am after a short introduction.  We were standing on the Tower Bridge Millennium Pier, just beneath the Tower of London.  The sunrise was at 5.50am on that day and these photos were taken in the 20 minutes before sunrise.  It was amazing to me how rapidly the light changed and how frequently we had to adjust our settings. 

Remember to click on any of the photos below to enlarge them.

The Shard at Dawn 5.31am The Shard

I am sure that it is no surprise that I immediately set my tripod down and pointed the camera straight at The Shard.  We were fortunate that we had blue skies but it got colder as it approached sunrise.

The Shard and HMS Belfast at Dawn 5.32am The Shard and HMS Belfast

In this photo you can see the HMS Belfast in the foreground and that is London Bridge at the far right of the photo, lit up in red.

Tower Bridge and City Hall at Dawn 5.33am Tower Bridge and City Hall

This is one of my favourite photos. This photo was taken facing south-east and you can see the faint glow of sunrise behind Tower Bridge. City Hall is to the right.

The Shard and London Bridge at Dawn 5.36am The Shard and London Bridge

Facing west again, it was a little darker. You can see a little more of London Bridge.

Tower Bridge and City Hall just before sunrise 5.41am Tower Bridge and City Hall

Nine minutes before sunrise and the buildings still had a bluish hue before the arrival of the golden glow of the sun.

More London Riverside at Dawn 5.42am City Hall, 3, 4 & 2 More London Riverside and HMS Belfast

The Shard and HMS Belfast just before sunrise 5.43am The Shard and HMS Belfast (with 2 More London Riverside, Southwark Crown Court, Hays Galleria and the Cotton Centre)

Tower Bridge at Dawn 5.48am Tower Bridge

Two minutes before sunrise and it felt as if the whole world was holdings its breath.  What a stunning experience.

Tower Bridge London at sunrise 5.49am Tower Bridge, one minute before sunrise

London Bridge at Sunrise 5.54am London Bridge at Sunrise

And finally… daybreak.

We took many more photos that morning and there are lots more to come.  One thing is for sure, as painful as it was to wake up so early, I will definitely be trying to catch London at dawn this summer and hope to attend another London at Dawn workshop this summer, hopefully the two-day Big Ben to Canary Wharf one in August.

Disclosure: My day on the London at Dawn experience was kindly sponsored by London at Dawn but all opinions and enthusiasm are definitely my own. I’d like to thank the team at London at Dawn for inviting me along on this adventure and hope to see them again soon.