Category Archives: London

Ice and Mirrors

There was barely time to repack my bags before I had to head off for a few days in London.  I took a Berry’s Coaches bus to Hammersmith in the morning.  My neighbour was part of a group of retired Girl Guide leaders – we began to chat when she commented on my lucet.  Not many people would know what one was!

I navigated to my destination in the far West of London – the very area ravaged by H.G.Wells’ Martians – by bus. Regular travellers may complain about the incessant destination announcements, but they are vital to the tourist

My sister and I took the train from Surbiton to Waterloo for a day out on the South Bank. The Tate Modern had an outdoor exhibition by Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson, called Ice Watch.  Thirty blocks of ice from Greenland were arranged in a rough spiral, reminiscent of standing stones, and left to melt, as a statement about global warming.

ice watch exhibition at tate modern london dec18 1

Some of the ice had veins of subtle colour running through it.

ice watch exhibition at tate modern london 5 dec18

It became very cold that night.  I wondered what kind of statement it would be if the ice gained weight instead, and whether the effect of the cold weather on the pool of water the exhibit generated had been properly considered

We climbed the stairs to the Members’ cafe, which has a good viewing balcony.

ice watch from the members balcony at the tate modern december 2018

The traditional vista with St Paul’s cathedral was impressive too.

classic london skyline from members balcony tate modern dec18

The Hayward Gallery also had an interesting exhibition, called Space Shifters, featuring mirrors and transparency.  The rocks and pillars in the picture below changed colour in a most intriguing fashion as you walked among the frames, some of which were filled with glass.

colour changing rocks at hayward gallery london south bank december 2018

yayoi kusama at hayward gallery london south bank dec18

This picture is of ‘Narcissus Garden’ by Yayoi Kusama.

oil reflections richard wilson hayward gallery dec18

The exhibit by Richard Wilson was genuinely unsettling.  The metal structure is a walkway projecting into a room filled with used engine oil right up to the very level of the handrail.  Although the oil is deep black, it holds a perfect reflection of the upper half of the room.  The walkway narrows as you go deeper in.  One is held by the illusion, yet at the same time aware that to touch the edge of the walkway is to court disaster – at least for your clothes!

As a country mouse I always find the South Bank entrancing.  It seems to me to be the real heart of London, with the booksellers’ market, the colourful skateboard arena, and the performance artists.  This vibrant street life takes place against the backdrop of the art galleries, the famous Globe Theatre, the London Eye.  If you tire of land, you can lean on the handrail and watch the River Thames rolling slowly to the sea, washing scraps of history up along its gravel shores.

It’s a good place for reflections.

 

The ice blocks have melted now and there is a good timelapse film of this, which can be found on Olafur Eliasson’s website.  Like its subject, the film is already vanishing into the sea – this one of the discarded ephemera from yesterday’s social media.

It’s easy to find beginnings, new news, the latest topic.  Discovering what happens next, how it ends, is far more difficult.

Next post, by popular demand…..How to be realistic about storing food for Brexit

 

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Reflections on 2018 – the Year of the Earth Dog

A strange year, which somehow seemed to span two or three, yet provide hardly any time for writing.

I’m sure the dramatic contrast of heavy snow in March with the searing drought of June contributed to this illusion.  It was certainly hard work to grow food, and we’re going to redesign the allotment towards even lower maintenance.

It’s being replaced by more raised beds in the Resilience Garden, to fully utilise the south-facing aspect.  When I worked at outdoor events, this area was paved to store equipment trailers; now the slabs look untidy, so I’m just creating another layer on top.  Our experiences with the allotment validated our use of raised beds in difficult growing areas.  One day town car parks may return to the market gardens they once were.

I completed my photo diary of Towntree Farm in all its seasons.  It’s a pity I couldn’t catch it under snow, but I’d never be able to get there through the lanes!  Now I just have to sort the pictures and decide what to print.  I plan to make an album as a gift to the farmer.

Statue at Towntree farm

Having retired from event services, ambushed by a lack of pension, I supplement earnings from my writings  by cleaning in some of the high-end bed and breakfast places locally.  The sense of ambience developed by arranging festivals is a completely transferable skill.  A room cannot be cleaned properly for a new guest in under an hour – if I can’t have that when travelling, I’d rather go to hostels.

However, there are only a limited number of hours in the day to accomplish this.  Visitors start to leave at ten and new ones will arrive by four o’clock at the latest.  The work should be done by then – many cleaners prefer to be unseen by guests, like invisible fairies!

The nature of the job is thus that one must work six days a week to earn enough to keep a house going at even the most basic level.  A room in a shared house would be easier to manage, but this is part of the resilience agenda where I encounter barriers.  Shared housing is increasingly popular among young people in cities, but not well supported elsewhere.

Despite the hard work and general air of gloom over the latter part of the year, I did manage a couple of short adventures.  My daughter took me to Cardiff to see Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ musical show, which was awesome!

waiting for the show to start war of the worlds dec18
waiting for the show to start

The whole concept is unique, harking back as it does to a book written 120 years ago, and the performers did it justice.  The way in which sound, lighting and special effects can be combined these days would surely delight the original author, whose love of science was well known!

We stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel, which was pleasant and well situated.  We were able to walk from the central station and leave our luggage at the desk, since we were early for check in.  Xmas shopping was in full swing; we picked up novelties like chocolate spanners and giant marshmallow teacakes, which haven’t made it to rural Somerset yet.

A rare double decker carousel entertains Xmas crowds in Cardiff
A rare double decker carousel entertains Xmas crowds in Cardiff

An excellent buffet breakfast in the morning, and more retail therapy in the big city, before returning to Somerset by train and bus.  I’m using public transport, instead of driving, far more these days – another car on the roads doesn’t seem helpful.

The Park Plaza Hotel grows some of its own kitchen herbs
The Park Plaza Hotel grows some of its own kitchen herbs – very resilient!

There was barely time to repack my bags before I had to head off for a few days in London….but that’s another story

 

When I speak of the plans based on ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ I refer to ‘Level One’.   This is, as described in the Handbook, the very basic level of practical resilience which should be second nature to any citizen, and is easily achievable even today.

The universal understanding of key infrastructure is crucial.  Remote, centralised systems should be moved towards local  management.  We need to become a resilient civilisation, and start the long process now.  There are clear, measurable goals at every level from personal to global.

I’ve refrained from describing further levels until now, collecting feedback on the first stages of the Resilience Project, but I have been exploring them.   The work I’m doing on food security would be about Level Five, I suppose.  It’s embedded in a much deeper lifestyle change though – living as though resilience was already happening.  What would be the same?  How might things change?

Buy ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ from this site, not through Amazon, so that the project actually benefits from your purchase. 

As the song says don’t ‘give all your money to millionaires’!

Next post – Ice and Mirrors