Iconic Images Of London

Typical London scenes don’t normally feature on the Londoneer, but a change is as good as a rest, so I hope you’ll enjoy looking at some photographs snapped earlier today on Whitehall in Central London.

First, a member of the Queen’s Life Guard, part of the Household Cavalry, two of whom flank the entrance to Horse Guards Parade wearing their glistening armour and sitting astride their beautifully turned out horses every day – the tradition is that they remain motionless when they are at their post, so if you want to see them actually moving then turn up at 11am (or 10am on Sundays) to witness their elaborate changing ceremony.

Second, two magnificent beasts of the mechanical kind, parked on a side street on the opposite side of Whitehall – a vintage Routemaster which serves the ‘Heritage Route 9′ between Olympia in West London and Trafalgar Square, and another which goes from Trafalgar square to Tower Hill on ‘Heritage Route 15′ (these buses are serviced by mechanics at the West Ham Bus Garage, which you can see in this post). You might be interested to know that the Routemaster’s 21st century replacement is due to enter service in London later this year…

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The Royal Ballet’s ‘Raven Girl’ & ‘Symphony in C’ – A Review

Sarah Lamb as Raven Girl in Raven Girl © ROH / Johan Persson 2013

A brand new work by Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor is always something to look forward to, and I booked for Raven Girl at the Royal Opera House well before there was much information about what it would be like. It turned out to be a modern fairytale, the result of a collaboration between McGregor and Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife, with music specially composed by Gabriel Yared. With all that talent combined, why did I find it disappointing?

The main issue is the general gloominess, both in the story and on stage where the dancers battle manfully against an almost jet-black set, sporadically lit. With dancers of the calibre of Ed Watson and Sarah Lamb you want to be able to see every detail of their movement; having them appear fitfully in the spotlight is such a waste. The second issue, sadly, is that the choreography is just not interesting enough. Yes, there are some beautiful moments for Sarah Lamb when she acquires her wings – and some scary ones when she constructs a tower from chairs and climbs up it – and the detail of Watson’s portrayal of the Postman and his love for the Raven (Olivia Cowley, affecting despite the handicap of a black mask) is a joy. But the dance of the ravens is too simplistic – we want to see them soar, not trot, and the pas de deux for Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood (riveting as always – such an undervalued dancer!) while bringing a welcome touch of excitement, is very much business as usual for a McGregor ballet.

It was such a relief to come back after the interval to Symphony in C and see how an old master like Balanchine does it. Bright lights, plain blue backcloth, dancers in white tutus and all the emphasis on the dancing. And what dancing! The inimitable elegance of Marianela Nunez, impeccably partnered by Thiago Soares; Stephen McRae and Yuhui Choe fizzing with energy and humour. A supporting lineup that demonstrated what a wealth of talent the Royal has waiting just below the top rank. But above all, choreography of wit and charm, subtly becoming more challenging both for dancers to perform and audience to follow, performed with a sense of fun by dancers at the top of their game. The audience went wild – and rightly.…

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The Future Of Microwave Cooking: What To Expect?

The odds that you have a microwave at your home is pretty much high. Microwave has become one of the most useful appliances which are used by the people. In recent times, Microwave has become an indispensable part of the kitchen and rightly so. The appliance has got multiple uses and reduces the work of a person very much. In addition to this, the appliance is also pretty simple to operate. The question that arises now is, will this thing be useful in the future as much as it is now. Many people have a doubt regarding the future of microwave cooking. What will it be? What to expect? Will a replacement come? Well, let’s find out.

Replacement of magnetron based Microwaves

Well, we all know that Microwaves that are used today are based on magnetron technology. The microwaves with this technology have ruled into the kitchen of a common household for quite some time now, but it seems like things are about tochange. In the not very distant future, the magnetron based Microwaves are set to disappear. They are going to be replaced by solid-state RF energy. The magnetron based Microwaves have been in use for so long, that it might seem impossible that something can replace them, but believe us, it’s soon going to happen.

The benefits of solid-state RF energy

 

Well, there is a wide range of benefits of the solid-state RF energy which cannot be ignored and it is the major reason because of which it is speculated that it will replace the magnetron based microwaves. The biggest advantage that solid-state RF energy has over the magnetron based Microwaves is that it cooks food more precisely in comparison to the latter one. Another aspect is that more amount of healthier food can be prepared on the solid-state RF energy. This is one of the functions because of which it will find a connection between a large group of people nowadays. The vast majority of people are going for healthier alternatives for food nowadays. The problem with microwaves is that when you think about it, healthy food will come into your mind.

Increase of players producing solid-state RF energy

When companies come to see the possibility of a product they are automatically attracted to it. Similarly, it is happening in the case of solid-state RF energy. There are multiple organizations such as the MACOM and REFA that are hell-bent on unlocking the full potential of the solid-state RF energy.

The magnetron based microwaves might be ruling the households for some time now, but with the onset of the solid-state RF energy, it is surely going to lose a large number of its users. This is because the solid-state RF energy has got way advanced features as compared to the magnetron based Microwaves. It is also able to cooking food which is tastier as well as healthier. …

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Whatever Happened To The London Pleasure Gardens?

Sittting on the southern side of the Royal Victoria Dock is the site of the now defunct London Pleasure Gardens.

Intended to be an outdoor festival venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games and beyond, with the organisers given a three-year licence to run the site, the London Pleasure Garden’s problems got off to an early start. A week after opening to great fanfare, the Pleasure Gardens hosted the two day Bloc dance festival, but this was cancelled after problems on its first night with many people reporting that they were unable to enter the site and, for those who did get in, tales of massive queues building up inside. Visitors noted that many of the promised attractions on the site had not materialised either, and basic necessities such as seating or even the tiniest patch of grass to sit on were also noticeable by their absence (despite the artists’ impressions which you can see in this piece over at The Quietus). Clearly, the site was opened well before completion – one wonders whether they would have fared better if they had delayed the opening until all of the components of the site were in place.

Shortly after the incident with Bloc, the stated capacity of the London Pleasure Gardens was slashed by 8,000 to 17,000. Reading warning signs, this prompted the organisers of the one of the upcoming music festivals, Secretsundaze, to withdraw their offer to use the site, stating that their festival would continue elsewhere (Secretsundaze GoBang will now take place at Camden’s Roundhouse on 26 August). Big visitor numbers were anticipated throughout the London 2012 Olympic Games because of the proximity of the ExCeL London conference centre, which was hosting seven sports in total, including the boxing, judo and table tennis events. These large crowds failed to materialise, and anyone with an understanding of the local geography of the area could tell you why. The London Pleasure Gardens site is located on the opposite side of the Royal Victoria Docks from ExCeL, and the only feasible route between them is to use the limited capacity bridge suspended high above the dock and then take a fairly lengthy walk along a main road until you reach the site entrance opposite the Pontoon Dock DLR station. No doubt faced with the prospect of a long walk to the festival site, and then having to negotiate an entirely different branch of the DLR to get back home afterwards, people simply got back on at Custom House or Prince Regent after watching the sport and went on about their business.

Unable to surmount these early issues, the London Pleasure Gardens laid off its largely idle waiting staff on Tuesday 30 July, and then went into voluntary administration three days later on Friday 3 August, less than five weeks after it first opened to the public. Many staff were left unpaid, and taxpayers are now out of pocket to the tune of over £3 million because the London Borough of Newham gave …

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The Most Peculiar Of The Peculiars – The Queen’s Chapel Of The Savoy

Tucked away behind London’s Savoy Hotel is one of the country’s most unusual churches – The Queen’s Chapel Of The Savoy. This 16th century building (the last remnant of a hospital established by Henry VII for the homeless) has a unique status as, unlike its compatriots in the surrounding streets, it does not belong to the parish and diocese system of the Church of England – it is directly owned and controlled by the Queen in her capacity as Duke of Lancaster. She personally appoints the priest, a post currently taken up by the Reverend Professor Peter Galloway OBE who is a noted historian and educator, and directly funds the upkeep of the building.

As you might expect, the chapel has myriads of royal connections. For example, it houses two thrones at the rear which, while they’re not used by the Queen (she usually sits on a throne near the altar) have seen their fair share of royal bums on seats over the years – most recently by Michael, King of Romania, and his daughter who attended a service here towards the end of 2012. The stained glass windows also reward close examination, in particular the windows over the altar which mark the Second World War and the contribution of the Armed Forces, and the most recent addition – a glorious installation marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

This was designed by Scottish artist Douglas Hogg and was installed in November of last year – look closely and you’ll even discover corgis and a scene showing the Queen on horseback. In my opinion, the soon-to-be-installed window at the Palace of Westminster, made for the same purpose and funded by contributions from members of both Houses of Parliament, isn’t a patch on this one!…

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‘Jack The Ripper’s London’ – A Review

For a couple of weeks the Crow Theatre is bringing an interesting new take on one of London’s abiding mysteries to, not Whitechapel, but London Bridge, ‘Jack The Ripper’s London’.

It’s difficult to talk about these participatory performances without giving away the surprises so I’ll gloss over the details, but expect the experience to start with a guided walk. Led by a prim matronly figure it won’t be long before you’re shedding your 21st century pretensions and imagining life as a costermonger or guttersnipe in Victorian London. The main event takes place in a convincing recreation of a streetscape, thronged with all the colourful characters that we associate with this period in London’s history. All credit is due to Crow Theatre for pulling this off with a cast of just thirteen – given all the jostling, the noise and running to and fro you’ll swear that there are more.

There are some charming little conceits involved in ‘Jack The Ripper’s London’ that help to stitch the experience together, and there’s lots of colour and more than a few spine-tingling moments and shocking scenes. I’m sure that if you go along you’ll get a great deal of enjoyment out of it – I certainly did. It’s a shame that they couldn’t find a suitable venue over in Whitechapel itself…

Tickets to ‘Jack The Ripper’s London’ really are a steal at £12 per person. Performances take place at 12pm, 3pm and 8pm on Wednesday thru Sunday until 5 August.…

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Londoneer: Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

I was enjoying one of my regular visits to Belfast this weekend, and we took some time out earlier today to visit the transport section of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, just a few miles northeast of Belfast City Centre.

Located a few minutes from the local railway station (which is incredibly run down – very uninviting when you consider that this is the gateway to Belfast’s largest museums and one of its premium 5 star hotels) the Transport Museum’s main building houses the Irish railway collection, where you’ll find huge steam trains and their carriages, along with mocked up platforms and tableaus (one of which includes nuns!) and even a reconstructed station tea room. A section of the building is also dedicated to other forms of public transport, including trams, trolleys and buses that have been lovingly restored and feature working vehicles from Belfast and further afield in Ireland. An adjoining annex explores the history of cars and motorcycles, with the centrepiece of course being the iconic DeLorean motorcar with its characteristic brushed steel frame and gullwing doors, which was manufactured in the early 80s at the Dunmurry car plant just on the outskirts of Belfast.

A walk down the hill through some pleasantly landscaped gardens, bursting with huge rhododendrons, brings you to the general transport galleries which focus on earlier forms of transport including carts, stage coaches and even shanks’ pony. Here you’ll also find the air transport gallery (complete with flight simulator) and a dedicated exhibition tracing the history of the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic, which like the DeLorean has local connections, having been built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the edge of Belfast’s city centre.…

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Visiting The Manor House @ Boston Manor

Have you ever wondered what significance the name of the tube station between Osterley and Northfields on the route down to Heathrow holds? Boston Manor takes its name from the large country house which still sits a few hundred yards away from the station. Originally built in 1622 for Dame Mary Reade (who, when she remarried would enter the Spencer family), it is a fine example of a red brick manor house with a range and stable block to one side, and is set within attractive grounds which are now known as Boston Manor Park.

Boston Manor House has been owned by the local council since the 1920s and has recently been reopened to the public, although opening hours are restricted to weekends at the moment. The house has partially refurbished rooms on the ground floor – the best feature is the fine multi-coloured ceiling moulding in the large reception room at the rear of the building, and you’ll also find a fine fireplace and information displays in the dining room. The most interesting parts of the house, however, are on the upper floors – pass through the imposing wooden screen in the reception area and climb the stairs (noting the French trompe l’oeil design on the wall echoing the ballustrades on the other side – a very rare feature in a British house) and you’ll find yourself in the State Drawing Room. This room features some of the most extravagant ceiling mouldings in London – geometric patterns inset with maidens representing the elements and the virtues. It also has one of the capital’s most breathtaking fireplaces, allthough perhaps more suited to a grand palace than a fairly modest manor house!

The finds don’t end here either – while the upper part of the building is mostly closed off to the public, you can climb up to the next landing and examine the surviving fragment of the exquisite wallpaper that would once have lined the entire staircase. Dating from the early 1700s it depicts imagined scenes of classic Greece or Italy – the wallpaper would have been hand-painted on large sheets off-site and then brought to the manor house to be assembled and set in place.

Boston Manor House is just a few hundred yards from the tube station of the same name – the grounds are open every day and you can visit the house from 12pm until 5pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. I recommend a visit, not least because of the extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers that you’ll meet. There’s more information about Boston Manor House on the Friends of Boston Manor website, and you can find the remaining photographs of my visit here.…

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Shaker & Company’s Camden Cocktail Bar

Earlier this week I was invited along to an evening at Shaker & Company, the new cocktail bar devised by the guys who train many of the world’s top ‘mixologists’, which you’ll find in a rather ordinary row of retail outlets down towards the bottom of Hampstead Road near Warren St. If you’re a regular visitor to the site you’ll know that invitations to glitzy bars are the kind of thing that I normally decline, however the Shaker & Company offering is a bit different. Read on…

This new venue occupies a corner building which was clearly a pub in an earlier life – it retains the half-frosted etched windows that are a feature of many classic boozers, and the decor on the ground floor is quite rustic with a big, chunky bar extending along the long dimension of the space and bench seating running along the opposite side. However, any perceptions that you might have walked into a slightly upmarket pub are swept away by the sight of the literally hundreds of bottles of rare spirits lining the wall behind the bar and the interesting range of ingredients that sit on top of it – you won’t find a basket of fresh eggs, punnets of rasberries and bunches of mint on the counter of my local anyway! In keeping with its earthy vibe I’m glad to report that there isn’t a sniff of a Sloane Ranger about the place either – the punters here seem to be a well-heeled subset of the Camden crowd, which is a far more comfortable group of people to be around… unless you find the Chelsea set particularly entertaining.

The speciality at Shaker & Company is their range of uniquely formulated cocktails – we got to try a few (including one rather fiery concoction served straight out of a cute miniature cocktail shaker) but my favourite of the evening was definitely the ‘Potato Sack Sour’, a combination of (deep breath) Benedictine, Aperol, Pisco, lemon juice, Peach Bitters, egg white, and then a dash of Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters to finish it off. Cocktails come in at a not-unreasonable £7.50 a piece, and to help you fortify yourself for the next round they also do an interesting range of ‘soul food’, taking their inspiration straight from the New Orleans scene. Take your pick from ‘hush puppies’, jambalaya, gumbo, sweet potato fries and lots of other Southern delicacies, priced at around a fiver or so for a generous portion of food.

 
 

To add to the atmosphere, Shaker & Company also have mid-week live music sessions – up until mid-January singer-songwriter Toby Connor will be entertaining customers from 8 until 10pm every Wednesday, with other artists to follow, and for visitors seeking a bit more intimacy for their evening there’s also a small space downstairs which is regularly re-decorated around a different theme. Switching from a Benedictine Monastery feel last month its now the BelvedereRED Room for Christmas (with Svarovski crystals and frosty Belvedere trees decorating the …

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On The Trail Of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee In London

As the 60th Anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation has been celebrated in the last few days, I thought it might be fun to wind the clock back to 1977, don our denim flares and our flowery shirts and take a look at what physical remnants of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee can be found in London…

Paul Fitzgerald’s 1977 official portrait of the Queen

Given how much London’s physical and cultural landscape can change in just a year or two, I think you’ll be surprised at exactly how much has survived the intervening three and a half decades, but lets start with the biggest of the tributes to Her Majesty – the Jubilee Line. Originally planned as the Fleet Line (named for the Thames tributary which gives Fleet Street it’s name) the name and colour change came as the result of an election pledge made by the Conservative members of the Great London Council. The line’s original battleship grey colour was swapped for a lighter silvery hue and two years after the Jubilee, on 30 April 1979, the line was formally opened by the Prince Of Wales.

The event of the Silver Jubilee itself was marked by over four thousand street parties in the capital on 6 June, and very soon afterwards one of the most well-known of the London tributes was unveiled by the Queen herself – the Jubilee Walkway. Unveiled on 9 June 1977 it connects just about all of central London’s tourist sites, with the route marked out by crowns set at intervals into the pavement – a popular way to take a walking tour of the centre of town, it has been added to in the intervening years. Several more miles of walking routes were added to mark both the Golden Jubilee and the recent Diamond Jubilee…

One of London’s most well-known engineering marvels also owes a debt of gratitude to the Silver Jubilee – painted up until that point in a rather drab greenish-blue, Tower Bridge owes its present patriotic red, white and blue colour scheme to the occasion. Just on the northern side of Tower Bridge is another tribute – the Coronarium Chapel. This multi-faith religious building can be found in the middle of St Katharine Docks, although time has definitely taken its toll here – for the last few years this unusual circular building has housed a branch of Starbucks. Ian Visits has written an interesting article on the sorry fate of this piece of 1970s architecture.

Of course the fine art world made a contribution to the Silver Jubilee, with the Queen’s only official portrait of that year being painted by celebrated Australian artist Paul Fitzgerald. This  beautiful work, which shows the Queen wearing a tiara and a blue cloak decorated with some of her regalia, can be found at London’s Commonwealth Institute which occupies Marlborough House on the Mall, just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace.

With all of these very grand gestures it’s nice to find that a much more modest …

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