Ten Places to Visit in London

(1) The House of Lords

What’s that you say? ‘Surely you mean the House of Commons?’  No.  The House of Lords is the sexier chamber, full of gold and red leather.  It’s where the Queen goes to make her speeches.  You go in through the same public entrance, but turn right at the centre of the building to head off to the Lords.  There are plenty of steps, or if you can’t manage them a lift.  Once in the ‘Stranger’s Gallery’ you are expected to be silent – and photography is definately not permitted.

(2)  The National Gallery

Entry is free (except for special exhibitions) and there are more than enough pictures to spend your afternoon enjoying.  A useful attraction for people who have made the trip into London by train are the free toilets!

(3)  Kew Gardens

Blooming expensive, but once you are there you have several hundred acres of gardens to enjoy.

(4)  Wigmore Hall

Small and cheap (for London, anyway) concert venue.  The building is absolutely gorgeous.

(5)  London Monument

Monument to the great fire of London that has a viewing platform at the top.  Entry is only a couple of quid – a bargain when compared to the nearly £30 cost of a visit to the Shard.

(6) British Library

Generally us ordinary mortals don’t get to go into the reading rooms, but the British Library has several exhibition spaces where it’s possible to see treasures including copies of the Magna Carta.

(7) Hampstead Heath

Hundreds of acres of parkland owned by the Corporation of London, but to the north of the city. Great views of the city from it’s highest point.

(8) BBC Radio Theatre

Venue for some of the BBC’s live radio programme recordings.  You have to book to see a show, but tickets are free.

(9) Tower Bridge

For a small fee it’s possible to visit high walkways.  The Corporation of London have recently installed glass floors, and if you go at the right time you can watch the bridge being lifted – from above.

(10) Supreme Court

Based across the road from parliament the Supreme Court is in a gorgeous Edwardian building.

Advertisements

Eclipse of 2015

Today we had a little bit of excitement.  A solar eclipse occurred over much of Northern Europe, including the UK.  I got up all excited, and read the latest news.  It had already been reported in a Eurosceptic newspaper that the eclipse might be obscured by some French, yup FRENCH smog.  And today I read in the rather alarmist New York Times that thanks to the quantity of solar panels in use in Europe, something close to a state of emergency had been declared, and people had been recommended to make sure their radios had batteries in, and that they had enough food to last any power cuts.

Well, I went to the local common to try and get some pictures.  I knew from the last eclipse, in 1999, that some birds tended to stop tweeting as the sun goes “in”, and I went to the park to experience at maximum advantage the sound of silence.

Back in 1999 the eclipse was towards the middle of the day, and I was living in the midlands at the time.  I remember a fair amount of excitement on the day, and plenty of live TV and radio reports.  It was a sunny day, which made the eventual contrast as the moon moved in place more memorable, and I do recall some of the street lamps coming on.

So anyway, back to today.  When I left the house I knew that all was lost!  There was a significant amount of cloud cover – but I headed off to The Common nevertheless.  When I got there, I realised that I would have a further problem.  It’s “winter” here, and thanks to the ponds and streams that dot the common there was even more “cloud” in the form of mist rising from the ground.

This first picture was taken a few minutes before the eclipse was due to have maximum…oh, I don’t know what the expression is…maximum exposure?

IMG_20150320_092205

And then, at 9.31, when the sun was most obscured:

IMG_20150320_093109

Another photo, of some of the birds who had clearly not got the memo, and decided to tweet throughout the eclipse:

IMG_20150320_093116

So, there we have it.  A not very exciting eclipse.  The next one is due in 2026, and then there will be a “total” eclipse in 2080.  Can’t wait!  I’ll only be 114 years old then.  Everyone is invited to the party!

Doctors and drugs

I visited my Doctor’s surgery for the first time ever yesterday.  (I should mention that I’m not super-healthy; rather my old doctor retired and transferred my notes over without my intervention to the new surgery.)  The surgery is not far away, but in a neighbourhood that I’m not familiar with – and I got lost.  I’d just gone down an alleyway that is wide enough to drive a car down at one end, but at the far end is so narrow that I could barely walk down it and decided that I would need to ask a stranger for directions, when a miracle happened.  I heard a four-year-old bug incubator cough, and knew that rescue was near at hand.  Sure enough, the incubator and entourage turned into a property, and walked up to the door of the surgery.

I went inside, and asked the receptionist for an appointment.  When one had been booked she said that she would text the details to me.  There was a small problem; the number that she rather mysteriously had for me clearly wasn’t one that I used, and she resorted in the end to writing the appointment down on a piece of paper.

Once I had marvelled at the modern age I thought ahead to a new experience that I would have with the doctor.  I am going to ask for another couple of boxes of pills, and it turns out that the modern age has invaded the ancient art of writing scripts.  Presumably in an effort to get patients fit doctors no longer issue paper prescriptions.  Instead they email the prescription over to a chemist and leave the patient to walk around town playing hunt the script. (My little joke – I’m sure that there is a way round this.) This modern technology is a marvel!

(Incidentally, I was told once by a pharmacist that the emailed scripts are printed out by the chemist.  So no paper saved there then…)

Maps

One day, at the end of autumn last year, I planned a visit to a castle on the coast built by Henry the Eighth and, fearing that I might have some walking to do, I did something extraordinary.

Under my desk I have a stack of large sheets of paper folded down to roughly the size of a book which are printed, typically on one side, with strange symbols, long lines and numerous names.  I reached down and selected the one coded ‘OL22’ and named ‘New Forest’ and opened it out.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with maps.  Once one has the capacity to decode them it is possible to visit different places -in one’s head.  I have another map open now – Landranger 185: Winchester and Basingstoke area – and without leaving my desk I can ‘see’ the woods, hills and narrow lanes of the country around Winchester.

This old fashioned, low-tech, method of surveying the country from one’s chair has almost passed into the mists of time.  Yes, today it is possible to review maps on the internet on a device of one’s choice.  But where has the fun gone?  I can ask Google to deliver a map on my screen of Royal Leamington Spa.  But will I be able to run my eye over the surrounding countryside, and note that there is a red triangle near Stratford-upon-Avon which indicates a Youth Hostel?  Maybe, but not so easily as one would with a paper map.  And not with that ‘crackle’ so redolent of large sheets of paper being folded.

Times move on, and so perhaps does technology.  But consider this; if the power station at SU475025 ever has to close down I may not have the electricity to power my internet device.  But I don’t need electricity to reach under my desk…

Southampton

100_0087 100_0255 DSCF0106 DSCF0300 DSCF0311 DSCF0898

Top Centre: Mayflower Memorial

Next line: A milestone near my house, and some local wildlife

Third Line: A cannon situated in the garden of the Tudor House Museum, and looking up a chimney stack nearly

Bottom: Names copied over from the nearby war memorial were etched onto glass

UKIP Scrapbook

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/22/nigel-farage-sixth-fomers-ukip-parody-app-nicholas-fromage

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30576857

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ukip-candidate-gay-donkey-tried-to-rape-my-horse-9940230.html

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30592072

http://m.dailyecho.co.uk/news/11685662.UKIP_supporter_hangs_huge_flag_with_message_to_Santa/?ref=twt

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/20/ukip-tells-members-dont-go-twitter-nigel-farage

http://m.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-30603121

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/26/ukip-councillor-immigration-overload-made-uk-racist

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/04/nigel-farage-nhs-doctors-poor-english

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/05/councillor-ukip-election-fraud-court-hears-matthew-smith-norfolk?CMP=twt_gu

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/21/benefit-claimants-cars-buses-ukip-leaflet

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/23/ukip-mep-ashley-mote-court

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30967633

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/24/ukip-secretary-bigots-deserve-representation

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/25/ukip-farage-smear-claim-defector-attack-tories

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/03/christian-soldiers-ukip-gay-depravity

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-31194605

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-31505966

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31565770

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31634837

Hampshire: Another Kipper Wants to Privatise the NHS – http://wp.me/p64ew-1HT

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31684498

The Telegraph: Nigel Farage: I would not be a good Prime Minister. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIw6-Og9SA

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31846453

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-31886415

Do Labour want to lose the next general election?

For some years far-right and right wing political parties have sought to build support by encouraging the patriotic waving of English St George’s flags.  Britain First, a far-right group have gone further and become experts in publishing propaganda on social media sites such as Facebook that nobody in their right minds could possibly disagree with.

Yesterday there was a parliamentary by-election in Kent that was forced after the sitting MP defected to another right wing political party, UKIP.  Naturally enough, people were encouraged to be proud of, and show, their patriotism.  And at least one person did – by hanging English flags from the front of their home.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  A Labour MP spotted some flag waving, took a photo of it, placed it on Twitter – and was promptly sacked.  Sorry – resigned.  It’s reported that Labour high command were extremely angry at this MP’s Tweet, but should they have been?  Should they have reacted at all?

In saying that pictures showing patriotism (and this is what the right wing will say) are bad news, Labour have fallen right into the hands of their opposition by, in effect, pouring scorn on patriotism.  And Labour will be reminded of this every single day between now and the election.

Who wants to be reminded that they appear to be unpatriotic?  A losing party, that’s who.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30139832

Winchester

Some photos of Winchester:

King Alfred's Statue

This is King Alfred, the guy who burnt the cakes.  His capital was at Winchester, and he currently overlooks the main street.

King Arthurs round table

This is King Arthurs Round Table, in the Great Hall at Winchester Castle.  Of course, it wasn’t built by the king, it is quite old though; the theory is that it was painted in the time of Henry VIII.

SAM_0139 (2)

I should have done my research before I started writing this post…I’m pretty sure this guy is by Anthony Gormley…he is standing in the flooded crypt of Winchester Cathedral.

100_0413

This is a “traditional” flint wall – located outside the Bishop of Winchester’s house.

100_0350

A former railway viaduct, just south of Winchester.

Jury Service

About three months ago I received a letter announcing that I had “won” a “lottery”. Sadly, I hadn’t won the Euromillions triple rollover jackpot, or indeed some money courtesy of a Nigerian prince. I had in fact won a place on jury service.

The letter, printed on stress-free pink paper demanded a response within seven days – and so I responded. Days before my service was due to start I received another letter, warning that my service would possibly last up to a month.

The day arrived, and I and around 40 other people turned up. We had a health and safety talk, and watched a video. I would have liked to have learned how jury service originated in the Middle Ages, how we were following in a long line of honourable jurors, but Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service had other ideas. In due course we were called up into a court room, and we watched a tall, austere looking man as he shuffled some cards. These cards constituted another lottery. In front of the dock and it’s inhabitants it was shown that 12 jurors were chosen at random. Some people asked to be excused, and the judge granted their request. Others stayed…

The next day we arrived at the appointed hour, and learned that the start of the hearing was being delayed for legal discussions. We heard about those delays frequently over the next 3 weeks. Eventually we were called in, and offered the choice of swearing or affirming that we would do our duty.

I am not allowed to tell you what happened next. Well, actually I probably could if I knew who you were and trusted you – in other words exercised common sense – but I don’t. So I won’t. We heard frequent persuasions over the next few weeks for people to not talk about the court case. And even if the Contempt of Court Act wasn’t in place, I’d probably be inclined to not talk too much about it anyway. We heard personal details that in other contexts would be nobody’s business, and references to other investigations that in ideal circumstances we should never have heard about. So…what can I say?

The judge was a very nice bloke, who clearly wanted to keep everything stress free so that people wouldn’t lose interest. And then there were the barristers. The Crown’s barrister was a fresh faced “lad” who looked as if he had only just qualified. And the defence barristers looked as old as time, and had wigs and gowns to match. General consensus was that wigs were in fact badges of honour, and the more stained and battle weary the wig, the more highly honoured the wearer.

We heard lots of argument, and drank lots of tea (and can I just mention that if you are ever called, you really should take some reading material in for out of court waits :p ). And then it was time to decide. I can’t tell you what happened in the jury room either, but what I can say is that I am proud of my fellow citizens for what they decided. And once we were back in the court room, verdicts were announced…