O I do like to be beside the seaside

Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

Though I was significantly less taken with the somewhat interminable road-trip there and back.

Have some pictures of Bexhill seafrontCollapse )

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Prague picspam 1

Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

Selection of (I hope) the more successful of the Prague photos (there may be a few more to come):

DoorwaysCollapse )

The concealed deco cinemaCollapse )

Various buildings in different stylesCollapse )

Decorative featuresCollapse )

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Dresden picspam

Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

A selection of my pictures of Dresden:

Fountain by the tramstopCollapse )

Looking across the riverCollapse )

ZwingerCollapse )

Sunset glowCollapse )

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Jiggety, etc: retour chez moi

Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

Actually, yesterday was the day of retour, and the journey was not too bad: apart from getting to Prague Airport with far too much time to spare, and the flight to Heathrow being delayed by approx 30 minutes; with, on the upside, the taxi to the airport being a lot cheaper than anticipated, not just missing the Heathrow Express, and a short taxi-queue at Paddington. Though the 'free wifi' at Prague Airport is dire: takes ages to connect and keeps dropping.

Our hotels were both good (and both were breakfast included and free wifi, although at the one in Prague there was occasional dropping): though I don't think I'd positively recommend either to anyone with mobility issues. There was no lift in Prague, in a rambling building with lots of little stairways up to room levels as well as the main one. Fortunately I had someone to carry the luggage up... While the Dresden one did have a lift, once one reached the bedroom level there was a short flight of steps up.

Food was pretty good, if a bit, especially in Prague, heavily carnivorous (the sea-coast of Bohemia not being famed for its fishing-fleet). Though on another paw, we found restaurants sometimes cheaper than we had been led to anticipate, though part of that may have been down to not having wine with the meals in question. Finding lunchtime snack-type things was a bit problematic as there was a distinct sense of 'it's not a sandwich unless it's got cheese in it'.

One thing that I particularly liked about Dresden was that the restored buildings very strongly reminded me of my dream Strange Architectural Features.

Prague is clearly a last redoubt of smoking culture: although there are no-smoking areas in restaurants, in several cafes it was all-smoking. This presumably also explains the significant number of tobacco/cigar shops, some of which also sell absinthe and one of which claimed to be 'cigar shop head shop absinthe shop', going for the trifecta. There are also casinos dotted among shops.

You do have to look up up up to see the glories of much of the architecture: at street level everything looks like standard, and in many cases international homogeneous, shops, cafes, etc, and then your gaze rises to something entirely itself. A situation that cries out for double-decker buses, but in the vast array of Ways to Tour Prague (including Segways, vintage cars, fake trains, and antique trams) these do not feature.

While the place was heaving with tourists, and it was pretty much impossible to get away from tourist-aimed amenities, did not encounter any rowdy stag or hen parties. This may, of course, be due to the fact that we were usually back in the hotel by mid-evening.

Free wifi was on offer everywhere (though whether it is any better than that at the airport, I did not take the chance to find out) along with numerous internet cafes: this struck me with a certain irony given the charges to use loos heretofore whinged about, though okay, they were free if one was in a cafe/restaurant. I am still put out, however, by the iniquitous scale of charges at the main railway station, and aggrieved by the situation at the castle.

I am currently going through my photos and these may eventually apper.

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Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

However, it was probably better walking around looking at things weather than if it had been very warm. So we wandered around downtown looking at buildings and street furniture (Cubist lamp-post!) and the inside bits of passages (Art Deco cinema!) and I took quite a number of photos - will see how these look when I have uploaded them.

Quite a planner's nightmare of stylistic juxtapositions - concrete Cubist bank building right next to Baroque church, 60s brutalism cheek by jowl with Art Nouveau, but it all adds to the interest.

Also did the Museum of Decorative Arts, where I was somewhat relieved to discover that the public exhibits (and very fascinating they are) occupy a smaller space of this large edifice than one initially imagines.

Don't think I've so far mentioned, apropos of our ultimately successful endeavour to hear some music in Prague, that although there are numerous posters and flyers around and that the Prague Experience website lists several concerts taking place daily, it's quite hard to find one that doesn't involve all or part of the Four Seasons. The vast majority are a bit lollipoppish generally and emphasis the historic settings where they occur. Could perhaps be the time of year? Perhaps I am being a bit of a music snob about this.

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Still raining

Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

So the plan this morning was not to hike around wet streets in it, but to make good speed to various museums/galleries/churches where we could appreciate stuff under cover. We passed several groups who had clearly signed up for walking tours huddling in damp clusters being rained on and educated by their guides.

Our plan was largely thwarted by disappearing museums - one just vanished, one moved to different premises since the guidebook was written, and one eventually found only after much wandering - and temporary closure of one of the churches for 'technical reasons' whatever those are.

We did get to see the church with Tycho Brahe's monument (and you can tell it's not his own nose!), the Mucha Museum (some of his earlier work recalled the recent 'try and do this sff cover pose' project - those symbolic ladies looked rather uncomfortable), and tour of the Municipal House, which is rather spectacular Art Nouveau. We also managed, after an earlier failure - because the box office the sign appeared to be pointing to was only selling tickets for today - to find the box office for Prague Symphony Orchestra's end of season concert tomorrow.

Some small passing points:

St Ludmila is clearly srs bznz in Czech history - dr rdrs who are better on hagiology than moi, how usual is it to find a woman who was married and had children canonised?

What's with the absinthe thing? Have noticed several absinthe themed bars and even an absinthe museum, so-called. Feel there may be some confusion here going on between bohemian with a small b and the national identity of citizens of Bohemia, where as far as I know the green fairy was never the Thing it was in Pareeeee.

Also on conjunctions of two kinds of B/bohemia: amber! (lust, lust) This is actually, I think, a traditional product and there is lots of it in jewellery shops. But also, of course, much associated with bohemian ladies.

Did I mention the green wax C16th Vanity statue we saw yesterday? Unfortunately it is kept in a railed off crypt area which means one cannot really appreciate what one is told are the realistic snakes and lizards crawling on the body.

I could so do without ye trad picturesque cobbles. My pore feetsies.

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Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

Nice meal last night - spaaaaaaaargel!!!! - though would have been nicer without the lengthy hiatus between starter and main. In a slightly odd large keller-space, which included at one end a carousel thing slowly revolving with what appeared to be a Dance of Death motif. Also waitstaff in ye trad dress and musicians making the rounds with (we thought) ye olde trad folke-songes.

Today we took the tram as far as just before the bridge to the older bit of town and walked along the banks of the Elbe to the Japanese Palace - this was a bit disappointing, at least from the outside, but the walk was nice - weather bright and fresh, whereas by afternoon a bit muggy - and some splendid vistas of the old town across the river.

Thence to the Zwinger Palace, which guidebook describes as 'baroque at its most playful' - walked along the ramparts, and then into the Gallery of Old Masters, which is a world-class collection, even if we were rather put out that they only had a few of their substantial collection of Bellottos from when he was a court painter in Dresden actually on view, v disappointing.

Even if there was a significant quotient of High Art=Soft Porn... encountered less of this yesterday, though perhaps should have mentioned the slightly WTF small marble statue of 2 putti engaging in a spanking scene in (if memory serves) one of the sculpture galleries in the Albertum. The collection in the Zwinger includes the famous one of Venus pleasuring herself Asleep, lots of Rubens, and a weird Tintoretto of Women Playing Musical Instruments with their kit off, apart from one in diaphanous draperies.

However, some great Rembrandts, including the one of a terrified Ganymede being abducted by an eagle, which makes perhaps an interesting pair with his Susannah painting in being much more about the victim's reaction than the voyeuristic gaze.

We also did the Porcelain Museum, which is pretty much Augustus the Strong's collection of Japanese, Chinese, and locally produced porcelain, and goes on and on and on.
Augustus the Strong doesn't worry about living up to his china.
Augustus the Strong's china worries about living up to him.

It's actually very very impressive even if one is not particularly into ceramics, because it's pretty much all absolutely stunning, apart from a case or two of bog-standard Dresden figures, or else amazingly weird, like the whole gallery of large porcelain animals, and the porcelain statue of A the S with a riot of presumable allegorically significant beings and stuff around the base of the plinth, possibly even a kitchen sink in there somewhere.

We took in a couple more churches, including the Church of the Three Kings in Neustadt, which although most of it is now baroque and after, incorporates a C16th carved Totentanz frieze.

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fluffy spirochaete

Working today, yet again on a weekend when relevant bits of the Northern Line NO.CAN.HAZ, so rather than faff around with replacement buses I ordered a minicab. I'd allowed ample time (on the grounds that if I cut it a bit finer, no doubt there would be heavy traffic &/or roadworks) and it turned up early, so I got into work v early indeed, even with the buying something for lunch at Euston bit.

And had a relatively productive day filling in the hazier bits of my understanding of STDs pre c. 1700, and outside Europe, in the course of which coming up with some useful generalisations.

***

Dept of, and I wish I'd said this or something similar:

I've no doubt my children would benefit from a more bucolic, less regimented lifestyle, free from school, anxiety and alarm clocks. Sadly, the society that's gifted them literacy, inoculations and a life expectancy well beyond the dreams of "happier" children forbids me from putting them to work hunting with machetes.

Lucy Mangan, In theory, having a child should connect you to the world like nothing else. So it's a shame that doesn't work in practice - I ranted myself some while ago about the idea that people with children Care More About The Future Of The Planet than people who don't. And the related notion that it is somehow Less Selfish to be a parent than a non-parent.

Dept of HUH?

No, really, why should this be puzzling? Bombay's Victoria station showed a puzzling resemblance to London's St Pancras. Has anyone yet written the definitive work on Victorian Gothic on the subcontinent, and in particular some of the remarkable mashups with Mogul style?

Have you read any of the books in which this ghastly character appears? feisty and independent, in a manner that owes more to Kay Scarpetta

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Conference day

Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire

Which I did get to in reasonable time in spite of some unanticipated Tube weirdness.

Okay, this rather spiffy entrance foyer leads to endless winding corridors and rooms which resemble those of Any Other Institution of Higher Learninz

- and the general plan is an accessibility nightmare, involving split level floors with staircases between them, and various other odd little steps and small stairs.

But it was a good conference, and the panel with my paper in went extremely well.

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William? William? walkiez!

fotherington-tomas

Still very cold in London today, although the flurries of snow yesterday didn't settle.

But, anyway and however, I was walking to the bus stop, having had a massage, and outside the really rather grim blocks of council flats (they are probably lovely inside, and the location is v central and convenient, but they were not put up at a good period for this kind of thing) on the patches of lawn...

DAFFODILS!

Houndz of spring b wandering like, well, small pack of excitable houndz of spring, or clouds in a wind-whipped sky.

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100 London things: 98

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

I've done some arches already: the railway kind, Admiralty Arch, and the quondam Euston Arch which there are plans to rebuild, but there are still some that I haven't yet touched on.

Besides, that is, the iconic Marble Arch, standing more or less on the site of the Tyburn Tree (not its original location, I note, taking down arches and putting them up somewhere else a bit of a theme, perchance);

there is the Wellington Arch at the other end of Park Lane, also moved, for reasons to do with traffic flow, and denuded of what was apparently a hideous giant crowning statue of the Iron Duke. For quite some time it served as London's smallest police station (awwwwww), which had a resident cat, called Snooks (even more awwwwwwwwww).

I see that I recorded that there are rather splendid views.

Archway, however, is actually a road bridge.

(Yes, I know the song below is not about these sorts of arches.)

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100 London things: 97

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

Another bit of Hampstead Heath I haven't yet done, and I was in two minds about this, because it's currently closed for refurbishment, but I thought I'd flag it up nonetheless. Also, the cafe is still open should you wish for refreshment before or after or while contemplating committing adultery somewhere in the vicinity.

The beautifully sited Kenwood House.

The glorious gardens, designed by Repton and a considerable contrast to the rest of the Heath, are still open to the visitor, but the house itself, with its spectacular art collections, not until the autumn.

Word on Wikipedia is that the summer open-air concerts, which were stopped due to neighbour protests, were going to be resumed, but as the link about this 404s, not sure that they have actually been revivied

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100 London things: 95

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

I don't think I've ever walked the entire length of The Mall as far as Buck House, though there is a photo of me aged 4 or so under the Victoria Memorial.

The bit I have had most occasion to stroll along is the stretch between Admiralty Arch (o tempora! o mores! about to become a luxury hotel) and Grade I listed Duke of York Steps, mostly on my way to or from the ICA: Institute of Contemporary Arts (where I haven't been very recently).

In fact I think my most recent excursion into the area was to a meeting at the Royal Society in Carlton House Terrace.

The south side of The Mall gives on to St James's Park, famed for its pelicans, and also for the surprisingly fantastical views of the buildings along Whitehall from the Blue Bridge.

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100 London things: 94

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

As already vaguely promised/threatened, that rich concentrated melange of arts, sciences, and Victorian architecture, Albertopolis/South Ken.

Accessed from South Kensington Tube station via a tiled tunnel recalling public lavatories, whence one emerges to the splendours of those cathedrals of knowledge.

Do I, indeed, need to hymn the praises of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and all the other institutions dedicated to knowledge and understanding and beauty that adorn Exhibition Road?

And still (or rather, again) free admission.

La patronne racommande the V&A cafe, in the original museum refreshment rooms.

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100 London things: 93

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

It's a truism that London is not a planned city and just growed. Even the bits that were thought-out and intended to have a certain coherence have been victims to the whirligigs of time and chance.

E.g., as I was reminded when walking past it this evening, Liberty. A Grade II listed piece of 1920s Tudorbethan style, right next to Regent Street and one wonders whether if, with modern planning restrictions in place, something quite so quirky would be permitted.

The every invaluable geograph.co.uk does it proud.

Opposite Liberty in Great Marlborough Street is this rather impressive edifice.

And just round the corner is Carnaby Street, no longer the style mecca it once was though plenty of clothes stores still.

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100 London things: 92

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

The ancient Jewish cemetery at the heart of a new university complex. I didn't even know that this existed when I went to Queen Mary Mile End Campus for a conference last September. It's a fairly strange experience encountering this space in the middle of all the very modern university buildings.

Aerial view.

Queen Mary Mile End is of additional interest as having been founded in 1887 as a People's Palace: 'a philanthropic centre to provide east Londoners with educational, cultural and social activities'. VictorianWeb on the architecture, with good picture - building still forms part of the present campus.

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100 London things: 91

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

How is that I have not yet mentioned Alexandra Palace, Ally Pally, the People's Palace? site of a memorable Bank Holiday excursion with partner.

Not, perhaps, the very easiest place to get to, unless you are certain of my dr rdrz who live more or less just round the corner, but worth the trip.

It has vistas. And a Palm Court!

Ally Pally Palm Court obelisks

More pictures from our visit.

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100 London things: 89

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

We've had the southern bit of Hampstead Heath, but not the north western extension, West Heath, famed gay cruising ground - I wish I could find the newspaper report which was all about, we don't mind them cruising, but could they please pick up and dispose of in receptacles provided the concomitant litter? (So Hampstead...)

Not that one observes much of this during the daytime, when it is basically a bosky family haunt like the rest of the Heath.

If you penetrate far enough, and don't get misled by the winding ways, which are v confusing (see, boskage, at least at the time we visited), you eventually end up at the Hill Garden and Pergola

More pix here.

It segues into Golders Hill Park, a rather more formal bit of rus in urbe, with deer and small zoo.

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100 London things: 86

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

A favourite place, or at least one where I go quite often for one thing or another: the SouthBank, with particular reference to the SouthBank Centre. Yet another of those places that had gloom, doom, and ruination of the aspect bemoaned in its early days, now part of the scenery.

It is not just that it is a performance and art space of ace quality but that it is an area where people go to and fro and walk up and down; and where there is often free entertainment to be had, including the skateboarders in the undercroft.

In the summer there are bookstalls.

There are also bookshops: both the specialised ones in the BFI and NT, and also a Foyles.

While the area used to be a bit of a gastro-desert, unless you knew about the RSJ in Coin Street, and the Archduke Wine Bar had its moments. The restaurant in the RFH has spectacular views but various iterations of rebranding have never really produced a gastronomic experience to match.

We will concede, however, that that is Really Some View, whether experienced from there, the Festival Riverside, the various levels of the RFH, etc. A few nice images from geograph.org.uk.

There are now far more eateries in the area but most of them of a somewhat chainey nature.

In Dept of Always Learning Something New, apparently the Queen Elizabeth Hall has a roof garden.

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100 London things: 85

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

Sometimes you will be walking, or taking a bus, along a not very inspiring street of London - as it might be, Tottenham Court Road - and then you will suddenly be confronted with a fairly large gem of Arts and Crafts building, i.e. Heals.

Wikipedia seems reliable (though misses out the Ambrose Heal/Dodie Smith relationship, which makes it on to the official site), and less likely to suddenly flip a pop-up of the latest thing in occasional tables over what you're reading.

geograph.co.uk comes good with a few images

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100 London things: 84

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

Haven't been south of the River for a while:

Last remaining galleried inn in London: the George Inn Southwark.

Nice image on geograph.org.uk with particularly good view of the galleries.

While you could dine at the George, it doesn't seem to gain massive plaudits for the cuisine, and you are very handy for Borough Market.

***

And in other London thing news, the Elephant House is being done up - due to a concatenation of circumstances involving rail chaos at Waterloo, I found myself walking in the vicinity of Grosvenor Square this morning, and would have ventured closer but that this edifice was draped in tarps and hedged about with scaffolding.

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100 London things: 83

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

The Central Criminal Court, aka The Old Bailey.

So famed is it in the annals of crime that there is a weird tribute site full of 'click here' links that don't work. And is also out of date with its photo of Top Legal Types.

As we note from the Wikipedia entry, the current building is not that old, being Edwardian.

This did not stop some meedja types interviewing me there once for a radio programme on the 1877 Bradlaugh/Besant birth control case. This involved visiting after hours via some side entrance and recording in a huge echoing space.

I also dimly recall a visit there as part of a school trip to London for educationally broadening activities, and finding it v dull - there was nothing very spectacular going on, as I recall, some tedious property case in the courtroom we actually got into.

A great project in digital humanities: The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913: 'A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.'

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100 London things: 79

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

I am not usually about the concept of Hidden Gems, but, I depose, you do not expect, inside a 60s-era neo-brutalist shopping precinct, an adorable little jewel-box of an 1890s intimate opera house.

I give you: The Lyric Hammersmith, in which an 1895 interior was lovingly reconstructed inside an unpreposessing concrete box.

We used to go there fairly often, but the most recent production we saw there was Desire Under the Elms last autumn, after not having visited it for some while.

Am a bit miffed that their 'Production Archive' doesn't go particularly far back, and doesn't include the 2 part production of Goethe's Faust, with Simon Callow, longer ago than I thought, and generally doesn't admit of the kind of long-term memory-laning I could do in recherche of productions perdus.

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100 London things: 78

Tired of London? Tired of Life!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an internationally-significant collection of material relating to women will be in repeated search of a room of its own and, if not £500 a year, a sustainable funding system in place.

I don't go back quite as far as being able to remember the Fawcett Library when it was still on the premises at the Fawcett Society, but I spent many happy hours working in it when it was in a cramped and flood-prone basement of what was then the City Polytechnic, reached via one up staircase, a bridge across Old Castle Street, and a down staircase (there was a lift at at least one end, but it was massively slow), and ringing a bell to be let in.

Happy days... sort of.

I muse on the number of footnotes I have been obliged to go through between first draft and final proof changing City Polytechnic to London Guildhall University to London Metropolitan University, Fawcett Library to The Women's Library (hours of my life I will not get back).

And it is now moving (hiss boo to the soulless administators at London Met) to the London School of Economics, leaving the purpose-built (with Heritage Lottery funding) premises on the site of a former public laundry, after threats of closure or at least massively reduced access.

I was never entirely in love with the new building - I never actually conducted any research there, my interactions with it involved the exhibition space, about which I was somewhat meh about the shape of the space and the acoustics, and the associated conference room, which had no access to daylight and could be a tad claustrophobic, though I did attend some terrific events there, and the occasional book launch. But am still sad that it is going.

Though - upside! - LSE is a lot more convenient for me should I need to do research in The Women's Library.

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