In Search of Roa and Phlegm on the Southbank

It is a sure sign of how crazy the past couple of months have been. Two of my favourite streets artists have painted murals on the Southbank, just across the river from where I work and I only found out about them this weekend. And so it was that I was walking around the Southbank Centre first thing on Monday morning, hoping to find these two famous murals.

Roa Queen Elizabeth Hall Southbank

I needn’t have worried about spotting them! As I rounded the Royal Festival Hall, I couldn’t help but notice an unmistakeable Roa on the south-facing wall of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  I’m going to name this Roa’s Squirrels although I thought they were meerkats for a moment. Whatever they are, they are in the middle of a ferocious fight!

Phlegm Queen Elizabeth Hall Southbank

I just had to walk a short distance further before I spotted the Phlegm. Phlegm is a street artist from Sheffield and he paints the most incredible pieces of art. His work reminds me a little of Hieronymus Bosch and it seems there are no bounds to his talent.  Phlegm runs his own comic and is about to release a book. Check him out on Blogspot: Phlegm Comic News.

Phelgm's Creepy Creations

Roa and Phlegm Southbank

What is most striking about both Roa and Phlegm is the level of detail in their works. It was very interesting to see two such intricate works of street art located so close to each other. I wish I could have gotten close enough to really capture Roa’s work but thankfully I was able to climb up onto a walkway and get quite close to the Phlegm mural.

Close up of Phelgm's work

Roa's Squirrels Southbank

What do you think? Art or not? I personally would love to buy Phlegm’s book when it comes out.

Cleopatra’s Needle: A Touch of Ancient Egypt on the Embankment

I can remember when I first discovered Cleopatra’s Needle on Victoria Embankment, tucked away between Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges. I was intrigued to find this little oasis of ancient Egyptian history which seemed so out of place alongside the monuments, memorials and lamp posts of the Embankment.

Cleopatra's Sphinx and the London Eye

Even more intriguing is the history of this giant monument. The London Encyclopaedia says that the obelisk was cut from stone from the quarries on Aswan and then transported down the Nile in 1475 BC to be erected at Heliopolis. It stood there for several centuries before eventually toppling over into the sand.

Cleopatra's Needle

One of three obelisks gifted to Paris, New York and London by the ruler of Egypt in 1819, the obelisk remained in the sand in modern-day Alexandria because it was considered impossible to move. There it remained until 1877 before finally being dug out of the sand and put on a ship bound for England. The ship carrying the obelisk ran into trouble in the Bay of Biscay and had to be rescued and towed to safety by the crew on-board a Glaswegian steamer.

Hieroglyphics on Cleopatra's Sphinx

Cleopatra’s Needle was finally erected on the Embankment in 1878. A time capsule is hidden in its pedestal containing many typical Victorian items including morning newspapers, coins, a portrait of Queen Victoria and four Bibles among other things. I’m not really sure why people would think to look beneath an Egyptian obelisk for evidence of Victorian London if all the fabulous museums in London were lost but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

Cleopatra's Needle and Sphinx

While we would be tempted to say that the two sphinxes guard Cleopatra’s Needle, that isn’t strictly true. In order to do so, the sphinxes would need to face away from the obelisk and confront intruders with their riddle. The two sphinxes were erected instead to face the obelisk.

Cleopatra's Sphinx

Nevertheless, it seems that Cleopatra’s Needle and Sphinxes have been well protected. If you take a look at the first photo, you’ll see shrapnel damage from a German bomb that landed nearby during World War I. The damage remains unrepaired in commemoration of the event.

Judging from these photos, I’ve decided that I definitely prefer evening light to morning light. By this time of the morning in summer, the sun has already been up for 5 hours and is quite harsh. It was a little more oblique when I explored around here last April on my walk from Blackfriars Bridge to Victoria Embankment Gardens.

For my next photographic outing, I’m hoping to capture the winding passages and fairy tale turrets around the Royal Courts of Justice. I’m trying to plan these outings and make sure that I have my camera on me, although I don’t deny that my iPhone can be handy at times.

Where are you heading next?

A Perfect Light: London at Dusk

The Houses of Parliament

The Eye in the Sky

London Eye

The London Eye

The Shard from London Waterloo East

The light in London was beautiful last night. I found myself at County Hall at 8:30pm, glad I had my camera with me. I love London in the golden hours and have posted before about London at dusk and dawn.

I really needed a touch of beauty last night as yesterday was a Very Bad Day. Three weeks ago we lost someone very dear to us and now we’re back in London after flying to South Africa for the funeral. It all seemed to catch up with me yesterday.

It is the expat curse: being a million miles from home when you get that phone call.  We’ve searched our souls countless times in the past 21 days and very nearly moved back to South Africa. We’re trying not to make any drastic changes until things settle down and in any event, although I want to move back, my husband does not.

Tomorrow Emm in London will be 5 years old. I remind myself why I began this blog in the first place – I wanted to live every single moment to the full and to appreciate my hometown with the same passion that I reserved for my travels abroad. My sister-in-law knew that and she shared my passion. When I told her about my morning walks she emailed this to me: “Do you have ANY idea how cool that sentence is?!??! Wait, I’ve just remembered who I’m talking to, you ABSOLUTELY know how cool that sentence is: walking from London Bridge to Charing Cross in the mornings… I could swoon”.  I would give anything to share these sights with her again.

Things might feel pretty bad at the moment but I remind myself that they will get better and I will reconnect with the aspects of my life that brought me joy before. It will just take a little bit of time.