Even the biggest cities have a feature that tends to became a focus point as the city grew and developed. For London that’s the River Thames.
It’s still maybe the most important thoroughfare for the city. Most of what’s important is close to the Thames. It takes about an hour to walk from stroll from the Houses of Parliament along the South Bank to the Tower of London. While walking along the Thames may not have the romanticism of a stroll along the Seine in Paris, it’s every bit as interesting.
This summer the Olympics are in London, and it should be quite the event. 36 years ago Montreal was the host and this is about my earliest sporting memory. I remember watching parts of it with dad and my grandfather at my grandparents house in Scotland.
I knew nothing of cost over runs, boycotts or for that matter records and gold medals. I just knew this was cool and the grown-ups were getting excited. I wanted to be part of it.
My clearest memory is the stadium itself, looking like a giant flying saucer to this 7 year old. I’ve visited the Montreal Olympic Stadium a couple of times over the year and had a great night watching the Expos play baseball and Youppi jumping around on top of the visitors dug out.
Cutting a large arc across southern England from Dover to the Surrey/Hampshire border is a large chalk escarpment called the North Downs.
It’s a beautiful place, but it;s more than that. When I was flying back and forth to London a couple of years ago this is where I’d go for a walk for an hour or two early in the morning when jet lagged. It was quiet, peaceful and the familiarity was very comforting.
We all need happy places and the North Downs close to Guildford in Surrey is one of mine.
I’m a sucker for great museums, there are few better ways to kill an afternoon. I have some favorites, both esoteric and mainstream. The Design Museum and National Portrait Gallery in London, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington, the awesome Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Milan and so on.
Clearly it’s not a short list and this week it got a little longer when the Getty Center got added.
A great museum is more than just what’s inside, the setting should enhance the collection. My favorite example is the Tate modern, enter by walking down the ramp into what used to be the turbine hall of the Bankside power station. This is reuse on a huge scale and the industrial setting complements the collection perfectly.
A few weeks ago I spoke about a friend whose daughter is getting ready to study in London for a semester. I get quizzed daily about what’s different in England, what does she need to take and so on. It’s like she is preparing her eldest for a trip up Everest rather than to one of the most cosmopolitan and exciting cities on the planet.
Not only that there is indoor plumbing and sealed roads, at least as far north as Manchester. Beyond there lay dragons, but up to then it’s fine.
A large part of the problem is she totally buys into stereotypes, not just a little either, I mean totally. I’ve never even worn a bowler hat, let alone owned one and worn it to work every day like a city banker of 30 years ago. Yet somehow Amanda seemed slightly taken aback by this strange confession.
As I said before, this is a smart, educated woman whose view of the world seems to come from reality TV (dear god…) and the more pulpy romance novels (not the ones my friends in my writing group author, those are can’t-put-down page turners).
She was also a little disappointed that she was not going to run into the Queen picking up some groceries in Fortnum and Mason.
So today I got an instant message from Amanda, as I do most days, this time asking about queuing and why the British are so good about it. I’ve stopped asking where these things come from, the answer was invariably the BBC news. I made the mistake of saying she should watch it and maybe learn something about the country she was sending her daughter off too.
Today I went to London to meet some friends for lunch. I did this last year and arrangements were similar: downstairs bar the Hard rock Café sometime around one. Lunch was good , stories told, laughs shared and beer drunk.
In addition to lunch I spent a couple of hours in the Tate Modern and Tate Britain. Every time I visit I find a new artist whose work I like, and today it was Lynn Leeson. there were a couple of interesting pieces. Once again I sure many people know who she and are shaking thatir head at my lack of knowledge, I really don’t think I’m that much of a philistine, but it’s just how it is.
This is just about my favorite piece of art anywhere, Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein. It’s part of the permanent collection of the Tate Modern, it’s a gallery I can spend many hours wandering around. There was an Gerhard Richter exhibit going on, it’s art on a large scale and rather good. Tweet
We were in the office this morning (yep Sunday) talking about plans and traditions at this time of year. Friends and colleagues are heading all over the world for Christmas. Thailand, Florida, California, Ohio (reluctantly), Spain, France, and of course I’m heading to London.
Other than the family and traditional over indulgence (which seems universal), this time of year means different things all over the world. From my experience Christmas tends to be more raucous, often involves regrettable incidents at company Christmas parties and good times with friends.
My brother works for the police and the weekend before Christmas is their busiest weekend of the year. The cells are overflowing with people over doing it and making poor decisions.
Company Christmas parties are typically an excuse to drink too much and create stores that will do the rounds until someone in accounting eclipses it next year. It’s almost like a get-out-of-jail-free pass is given to act like a fool and the only consequence is everyone in the office get’s to laugh at you. According to the Daily Mail half of those who attend company party in the UK will be hungover the following morning.
One of the things behind this is that the bosses are expected to provide an open bar, and seeing as the company provides the drinks, the feeling is the company accepts the consequences. The stories are legendary and can be a large part of the brilliant self-depreciating British humour.
Other than Australia, I don’t think I have been anywhere that loves a drunken party as much as the British. Read more…
I’ve sent most of the last couple of months working off the main site at work. I was in my regular office for the first time in a week. A friend dropped by my desk, we used to work together on a project for a year or so. She is one of those I’ll go to for advise and help, or when I want an independent review.
She’s very smart, has good insights, get’s the politics at work and has helped me a lot. While we don’t talk every week, we exchange the occasional IM and I will find the time when she drops by. As she did today.
While she is smart, educated and so on, she’s not seen that much of the world. It just does not contain much of a fascination for her. But her daughter is heading to London for a year in college and she had a few questions.
She talked about the eye watering expense of living in London, I could do little but sympathize there, but then she got s very serious look…
G “Dave, I’m really worried about what she’s going to eat.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
J: “You know what the British diet is like. It’s full of cholesterol. Eggs, bacon, all those fries and deep fried food. I think that’s about all people there eat.” Read more…
Some time in the early morning Sunday New Zealand beat France to win the Web Ellis Trophy in the Rugby World Cup. Now, I’m sure the Kiwi and Kangeroo on Greenlake was heaving at three in the morning when the final whistle blew. New Zealand were red hot favorites, lets just say the Kiwis at work were feeling confident on Friday.
It ended up being a lot close than many expected, including me. I thought that once the Haka was done the French were going to get roundly spanked. The game was not a wide open advert for the game, it was a tough defensive battle that either side could have won.
As fascinating as this is, it’s not what was remarkable about the game. It was live on one of the major TV channels, that was the good bit. I was able to sit at home with a glass of wine and enjoy live rugby. Yes, a wide open classic would have been nice, but unlike England’s victory in 2003 I did not have to go looking for a bar with the game on in the early hours of Sunday morning to enjoy the spectacle.
Over the last month there has been a lot of rugby on a couple of channels, and much of it, including all the USA games, have been live. OK it could be an indication of how much money NBC sports has left after paying for the Olympics, but I am a fan of this.
Saturday at work I got into a discussion over rugby with one of ex-pat friends. He’s from the North of England where they play Rugby League. I come from the South of England where we played Rugby Union.