Have been in London for a couple of days. Highbury looking beautiful with blossom on all the trees and the daffodils in bloom. Arsenal football stadium is Amazing. Bicycles everywhere. Down the West End, China Town crammed with delivery vans in the morning and in Sloane Square an old woman feeds the pigeons while an ancient Harrods electric delivery van trundles past, the driver sporting a grey top hat.
An enormous horses head sculpture by Nic Fiddian-Green now stands at Marble Arch and walking back along Oxford Street I looked for the first time at the extravagant sculpture over the doors of Selfridges which seems based on a nautical motif. On Tottenham Court Road a queue formed for the new iPad2 at PC World.
Later, in the evening, the Cafe Oto in Dalston had some kind of music event underway but the bloke on the door wanted £12 so I declined and continued on to The Prince George which, to my delight, had Neil Young’s Words on the juke box.
On Saturday morning I noticed that the top of Charing Cross Road has been closed off for work on the London Underground. A lot of work going on there.
In Trafalgar Square the Fourth Plinth currently supports a large ship in a bottle. At around 11am people gathered as for the anti-cuts demonstration and a group of women from the Association of Child Psychotherapists sort of put the cuts into perspective.
Further toward Victoria, in St James Park, the squirrels are practically tame and leap onto the railings to beg for food. Once they receive something they rush away to bury their little treasure in the flower beds.
Today I attended a rally in Trafalgar Square with the title I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist. The idea is to protest the abuse by the police of anti-terror legislation. Specifically it is to protest the fact that police continue to harass individuals who are lawfully taking photographs in public spaces.
The Chief Constable, Head of ACPO Media Advisory Group, Andrew Trotter OBE QPM has written to ACPO Chief Constables stating: “Section 44 gives officers no specific powers in relation to photography and there is no provision in law for the confiscation of equipment or the destruction of images, either digital or on film.”
The rally was pretty low key. There seemed to be no centre or organising force, it was just a lot of photographers gathered together in one place taking photographs of each other. Now and then a little vortex would run through the crowd as something appeared to be happening and all cameras would turn to face the supposed centre of the disturbance. I myself was lucky enough to be at the centre of one such vortex as two police officers attempted to stop a girl with a bicycle. The rumour was that she had been cycling on the pavement and when the police officers attempted to hold her bike there were irritated cries from the assembled photographers. The police officers in question seemed, to me, to have faint smiles on their faces and I wonder whether they were merely toying with the crowd.
There were all sorts of photographers, the earnest and the joyful, the outraged and the tourist. There were all sorts of cameras, pocket digitals, 35 mm Nikormats, vast telephoto lenses, Leicas and strange twin lens contraptions. Sadly there were very few police.
The Socialist Workers were there of course (yawn). Aren’t, they everywhere? Also I was handed a leaflet banging on about the U.S. government being responsible for the 9/11.
More seriously there was a small demonstration against the current Iranian regime. Two women gave very emotional and fervent speeches begging for the support of the British people. I think that the Left in Britain and America understand the ignominious involvement of our countries in Iran and this leaves us loath to criticise the current Iranian regime. This is a mistake. While we, in the UK, are protesting that police are trying to stop us taking pictures Iranian are protesting that their government tortures and kills innocent people. We should support them. A good start to appreciating the dreadfulness of this regime would be to read Persepolis by Marjane Satrap.
And here’s a fantastic vid named Evidence by La La and the Boo Ya
Last week was exhausting. An English friend who has moved to Melbourne visited. Having built up enough air miles on his credit card he had a whistle stop visit to England to see his family and dropped in to see on Monday night.
I saw him at Christmas but other than that not for years. He dropped his bag, we opened a couple of beers and within minutes were talking about solar power and cellular automata – I guess people don’t change. Well, maybe we do, we both seemed to have grown more stubborn. After an excellent Indian at Noori’s in Ship Street, we found ourselves in The Fishbowl pub and my friend attempted to talk to some locals while I attempted to photograph him and them. The people objected and asked me to wipe the pictures. This sort of pettiness depresses me and makes me recall the time I spent in California and the open, friendly way that people talked to each other. I recall entering Mel’s in Santa Barbara with a friend one evening singing New York New York at the top of our voices. Someone in the bar bought us both a beer for what must have been an awful performance. – as Tony Hancock said: “Not here though” . We left the pub and found ourselves at home dozing in chairs by 1:30am.
On Saturday night I joined some friends in The Quadrant for a few beers. They had some comedy going on upstairs and so we paid our fiver and went up to a wonderful comfortable room. Big arms chairs, an open window. Small but not cramped a perfect contrast to The Komedia.
The comedian came on and predictably began asking people where they were from. He seemed to settle on Australia for a while. In fact he seemed stuck on Australia. His style was frantic, never leaving time to breath. Sadly, we left before he finished his act.
Monday I visited London to see the Picasso exhibition at The National. Clever man Picasso but I wasn’t too impressed by viewing lots of his old drawings which seemed to have been created before he figured out what he was doing. The chunky nude was good but I think I may have been spoiled by visiting Reina Sofia in Madrid a couple of times.
The real star of the show on Monday was the weather. Brighton had been rainy but by 1:30pm in London it was warm and the sun was burning it’s way through the cloud. Trafalgar Square was gorgeous.
I walked along to Piccadilly Circus and then along Piccadilly and up to Speakers Corner. Here I found one fairly vanilla Christian with some placards, two Muslims, who appeared to be having a break, and a lone communist.
Walking along Bayswater Road I reflected that central London can resemble a ghost town on Sundays and bank holidays. Despite the beautiful balconies on the houses along the Bayswater Road there were no French windows thrown wide. No families enjoying the sunshine. The windows were all closed and it appeared that nobody was at home.
I walked down through Kensington Gardens and watched a heron catch a fish then down to The Albert Memorial with it’s fantastic gold finish and amazing statues.
As I walked around the back of Buckingham Palace along Grosvenor Place I wonderred who exactly owns the buildings which cluster around Her Majesties rear entrance. I started noting down the names on the brass plates:
Hemsley Fraser Group – Management & Leadership Training Courses
Trafalgar Management Services Ltd.
Adrenaline Advertising – Billboards
Weldon Walsh Chartered Architects and interior designs
The Irish Embassy
I shall go no further with that metaphor.
The Telegraph’s expose of MP’s expenses continues and The Archbishop of Canterbury complained that the revelations could undermine faith in democracy. It’s odd how the establishment always trot out this argument when they’ve done something wrong. It amounts to: “We’re too important to be prosecuted”. It would be interesting to see a teenage shoplifter use the same argument: “You can’t prosecute me m’lord, it would undermine the public’s faith in the youth of today”.
It occurred to me that the editor of the Telegraph must have an overall strategy for his stories. He must have decided to start with some explosive revelations about Labour ministers, follow this up with an illumination of the dealings of the Tories and then continue on to cover the liberals. Having got the best out of the way at the start the public may now be somewhat inured to the scandal and the occasional revelation appears no more than a damp squib. However, like any good firework display the activity should increase dramatically toward the end and we await the final blast of one enormous air bomb. I wonder: who will it be?