London

The richness of the rain

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019

“I’m a London based photographer specialising in street photography and social documentary photography,” says Joshua K. Jackson. “I’m best known for using a bold palette to help illustrate the vibrancy of life in Central London, whilst also exploring themes of diversity and disparity. My work often enters into abstraction and presents the viewer with an unfamiliar view of a familiar city.”

Jackson’s photos of rain are tactile. One can feel the clouds breaking apart and falling.

Rain


Harry and Meghan and the Whit Wedding

Monday, 21 May, 2018

Once upon a time, Whit Saturday was a popular day for weddings in the UK. This historical fact, however, was unnoticed by the Reverend Michael Curry in his sermon during the Royal Wedding as Whit Saturday was turned into Windsor Saturday. The British poet Philip Larkin would have been bemused.

The Whitsun Weddings is one of Larkin’s best-known poems and it was published in 1964, the year The Rolling Stones released their debut album. Larkin, who was more of a Beatles man, describes a train journey on a hot Whit Saturday. The windows are open and he becomes aware that the passengers boarding the train at its several stops are members of Whit wedding parties. He observes the people and imagines the venues where the wedding receptions have been held. As the train approaches London, his thoughts turn to the meaning of what the newly-weds have done.

The Whitsun Weddings

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event
Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
— An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl — and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

Today, Whit Monday, was declared a bank holiday in the UK in 1871 but it lost this status in 1972 when the Spring Bank Holiday was created in its place.


The news being carried to fair London town

Tuesday, 1 May, 2018 0 Comments

“The news being carried to fair London town
Wrote on London gate
‘Six pretty maids died all in one night
And all for George Collins’ sake.'”

For the past ten years the Nest Collective, “has been London’s way to experiencing folk, world & new music, creating a community that seeks unique sonorous experiences in unusual spaces.” The Nest Collective is one of the many creations of the English singer and traditional music specialist, Sam Lee. The Ballad of George Collins, who walked out “One May morning / When May was all in bloom,” gets the typical creative Sam Lee treatment here.

“George Collins walked out
One May morning
When May was all in bloom
And who should he see
But a fair pretty maid
Washing her white marble stone
She whooped
She hollered
She called so loud
She waved her lily-white hand
‘Come hither to me
George Collins,’ cried she
‘For your life, it won’t last you long.'”


London and Macedonia connected by Cognism

Sunday, 29 April, 2018 0 Comments

The London Co-Investment Fund is managed by Funding London and Capital Enterprise. It has raised £25 million from the Mayor of London’s Growing Places Fund to co-invest in so-called “seed rounds” (an offering in which an investor invests capital in exchange for an equity stake in the company) between £250,000 and £1,000,000. A recent beneficiary is the Macedonian AI startup Cognism, which has its development team in Skopje and its sales force in London, while the CTO, Stjepan Buljat, is based in Croatia.

Cognism develops AI tools for finding sales and recruitment leads, and the new funds will be invested in improving the company’s data research, upgrading its technology and expanding the teams in Skopje and London as well as opening an office in the US. By the way, the company says its sales intelligence is also GDPR compliant.

Note: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) proposed by the European Commission will unify data protection for individuals within the European Union and address the export of personal data outside the EU.


Flow sweet river flow

Saturday, 28 April, 2018 0 Comments

In 1966, Ewan MacColl wrote Sweet Thames Flow Softly for an experimental radio production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in contemporary London. When Planxty recorded it in 1973 on their eponymous first album, Christy Moore was the lead singer with the group. He’s joined here by Neill MacColl, son of the composer, and Sinéad O’Connor, in a version of the song from 2001 that’s made all the more poignant by the mental illness that has plagued her over the past years.

From Shadwell Dock to Nine Elms Reach we cheek to cheek were dancing
A necklace made of London Bridge her beauty was enhancing
Kissed her once again at Wapping, flow sweet river flow
After that there was no stopping, sweet Thames flow softly
Richmond Park it was a ring, flow sweet river flow
I’d have given her anything, sweet Thames flow softly


Liking Taylor Swift

Sunday, 8 April, 2018 0 Comments

Charlie Laurence, the writer of I Like Taylor Swift, sums up so much of today’s Warholian-Instagram fame thus: “In the song I admit I haven’t really listened to much of her music, but I’m inundated with images and stories about her.” Charlie Laurence’s band, Coach Hop, will celebrate the launch of I Like Taylor Swift with a London show at the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington on Friday, 20 April.

“She’s just a girl with a guitar,
and she’s very far away
she dated a Kennedy
and I see her every day, in magazines and websites.
People say it’s kinda fey to like her, but if you say that I’ll fight ya
I don’t care what people say.”

Note: The Kennedy referred to in this verse is Connor, son of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the late Mary Kennedy. Connor Kennedy’s relationship with Taylor Swift began in June 2012 and ended in October that year.


The toxic elites combined

Monday, 4 July, 2016 0 Comments

“In shorthand, Britain’s EU problem is a London problem. London, a young, thriving, creative, cosmopolitan city, seems the model multicultural community, a great European capital. But it is also the home of all of Britain’s elites — the economic elites of ‘the City’ (London’s Wall Street, international rather than European), a nearly hereditary professional caste of lawyers, journalists, publicists, and intellectuals, an increasingly hereditary caste of politicians, tight coteries of cultural movers-and-shakers richly sponsored by multinational corporations. It’s as if Hollywood, Wall Street, the Beltway, and the hipper neighborhoods of New York and San Francisco had all been mashed together. This has proved to be a toxic combination.”

Peter Mandler teaches British history at Cambridge University. According to Dissent, which published Britain’s EU Problem is a London Problem, Mandler “voted Remain, so he is probably part of the problem.” In an admirable example of fairness, however, he takes his own side to task for its arrogance:

“Rather like the New York Times’ attitude to Trump, Remain thought it could laugh off Leave, or dazzle it with ‘facts.’ A very large part of the Remain campaign was focused on troupes of ‘experts’ — investment experts, science and university experts, fiscal policy experts—signing collective petitions and open letters declaring their loyalties to Europe. This played directly into anti-elitist sentiment. A very telling point late in the EU referendum campaign came when Michael Gove, one of the right-wing Conservative leaders of the Leave side, was quoted as saying that ‘people in this country have had enough of experts.’ Much fun was made of this remark. But it touched a nerve. The next day a leaflet came through my letterbox from Remain. ‘Find out what trusted experts say’: a range of views from left to right backing Europe, including a trade unionist, a military chief, a scientist, a banker, and a billionaire entrepreneur. All live in London and the southeast except for one Scot and the billionaire, who lives in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. That billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, took out full-page ads in all the major papers in the last days of the campaign, extolling Europe.”

A powerful new caste has come to believe it deserves to rule the world. It combines a brazen devotion to self-preservation with contempt for ordinary people, who are increasingly set against one another in a battle for survival. It ignores the declaration made on this day in 1776 in Philadelphia that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


To the Reader

Saturday, 11 June, 2016 0 Comments

Ben Jonson’s most famous play is Volpone, the story of an ageing Venetian nobleman whose only passion is greed. The first three lines set the tone, when Volpone says:

“Good morning to the day; and next, my gold!
Open the shrine, that I may see my saint.
Hail the world’s soul and mine!”

The poet and playwright Ben Jonson was born in London on this day in 1572. His father died shortly before his birth and his mother remarried a bricklayer. Ben attended Westminster School, worked as a bricklayer, fought in Flanders and became an actor and playwright. In 1598, he wrote Every Man in His Humor and in one production a young actor called William Shakespeare appeared in a leading role. Shortly after the play opened, Jonson killed Gabriel Spencer in a duel and was tried for murder. He was released by pleading “benefit of clergy” (by proving he could read and write in Latin). “Language most shows a man,” Ben Jonson said, “speak that I may see thee.”

To the Reader

Pray thee, take care, that tak’st my book in hand,
To read it well: that is, to understand.

Ben Jonson (1572 — 1637)


7/7: A decade later

Tuesday, 7 July, 2015 0 Comments

The sworn enemies of civilization attacked London on 7 July 2005. On that day, four Islamist suicide bombers carrying rucksacks of explosives killed 52 people in the worst single terrorist atrocity on British soil. In the decade since, the adherents of the barbarian ideology that inspired the London bombers have shown that they are willing to use any means to murder the young, the old and the innocent. Regardless of class, faith or colour, the killers strike again and again. Being in the wrong place when the time comes, on a beach in Tunisia, say, does not shield one from those who violate every human norm in pursuit of their caliphate dreams. Being human is sufficient guilt for the death sentence carried out by the jihadist.

In June 2007, the late Christopher Hitchens wrote a column for Vanity Fair titled Londonistan Calling in which he explored the racist fanaticism that had taken hold in many of London’s mosques and schools. Snippet:

“It was argued for a while that the 7/7 perpetrators were victims of unemployment and poverty, until their remains were identified and it became clear that most of them came from educated and reasonably well-off backgrounds. The excuses then abruptly switched, and we were asked to believe that it was Tony Blair’s policy in Iraq and Afghanistan that motivated the killers. Suppose the latter to be true. It would still be the case that they belong to a movement that hates Jews and Indians and all kuffar, or ‘unbelievers’: a fanatical sect that believes itself entitled to use deadly violence at any time. The roots of violence, that is to say, are in the preaching of it, and the sanctification of it.”

It is cold comfort today to ponder the thought that the roots of Islamist violence are in the preaching of it, and the sanctification of it, but it is remains the bitter truth.

07/07 London terror victims


The demise of the Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, 18 February, 2015 0 Comments

“On 22 September Telegraph online ran a story about a woman with three breasts. One despairing executive told me that it was known this was false even before the story was published. I have no doubt it was published in order to generate online traffic, at which it may have succeeded. I am not saying that online traffic is unimportant, but over the long term, however, such episodes inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the paper.”

So writes Peter Oborne, the former chief political commentator of the Telegraph. His account of the demise of a once-great newspaper is painful to read, but Why I have resigned from the Telegraph must be read by all who value press freedom. Before addressing the scandals that forced his hand, Oborne documents the small but significant erosions of standards in the newsroom:

“Solecisms, unthinkable until very recently, are now commonplace. Recently readers were introduced to someone called the Duke of Wessex. Prince Edward is the Earl of Wessex. There was a front page story about deer-hunting. It was actually about deer-stalking, a completely different activity. Obviously the management don’t care about nice distinctions like this. But the readers do, and the Telegraph took great care to get these things right until very recently.”

The abandonment of quality was quickly followed by a surrender of principle. Peter Oborne makes his case by citing examples of the paper’s cowardly response to the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and its own suppression of the HSBC scandal. Both are profoundly shocking. “A free press is essential to a healthy democracy,” Oborne says and he reminds us that, “There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.”

The greater tragedy here is that the perversion of the Telegraph is happening at a time when Vladimir Putin is demonstrating that the news is just one more tool to be perverted for propaganda and disinformation. The West needs truth tellers to defeat this assault on its values and the Telegraph should be in the front line defending us at this dangerous time. Thanks to the brave intervention of Peter Oborne, we now know what needs to be done to save the Telegraph from the enemies within.