Tuesday, 26 November 2013

London Nights

We've just come back from a long weekend in London. Went down on Saturday morning and drove back on Monday (yesterday).

So there's a few photos of the weekend to sort out... I took 90 but a few are blurred and some are duplicates so that will whittle down a bit. I love London at this time of year as it's a great opportunity to take photos at dusk or night.

This is Aspley House, the house of the Duke of Wellington, the general who led British troops against Napolean, finally defeating him at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He took this house with the fantastic address of "No.1, London" and became Prime Minister and also gave his name to the rubber boot. Later in life, after Napolean died, he often spent an afternoon standing by the side of the tableaux of his old enemy's deathbed in Madame Tussaud's waxworks.

One of my favourite shots from the weekend is this one. Taken at the end of the afternoon just before dark, of the fairground rides in Hyde Park. There's a massive continental market there, called Winter Wonderland. Great to wander through but so crowded that just getting to a stall was hard work, never mind trying to stand far enough away to take a photo without crowds jostling against you and getting in the way.

We walked from the park past Aspley House and then along Piccadilly until we reached the Circus. The photos I took along this stretch and a quick glance at Regent Street and Oxford Street will make up this entry. Piccadilly boasts some wonderful buildings and architecture, that most of us can only hope to see from the outside! This is the entrance to the ballroom of the Park Lane Hotel.

Whilst just opposite is the Ritz. You can go for afternoon tea there if you fancy splashing out on a pot of tea, a few sarnies with the crusts cut off and some cakes. From what I've seen on the telly, you are supposed to shout at the waiters and generally act like a pompous old fart... I wouldn't last long as a member of staff but I seriously would enjoy shoving a cake into the face of some of those old duffers! I suspect they are just a small minority really. They would never have any staff otherwise!

The Burlington Arcade is a shopping arcade running north from Piccadilly. Immortalised in the song "Burlington Bertie" it exudes atmosphere. Top-hatted beadles keep an eye out for misdemeanors. You can be ejected for whistling, opening an umbrella inside the arcade or running. Mostly though, their time is taken up by giving directions and assistance.

Inside the arcade, the shops retain their original huge windows and wooden framed frontages. At Christmas it's an even better place to wander through, to marvel at the window displays and think that there's a reason for the lack of price tickets. If you need to ask... you can't afford...!

We reach Piccadilly Circus. The statue of the archer (it's not really Eros, though it's pedantic these days not to call it that) has been turned into a giant snow globe. The giant videos are mesmerising, but I can't help feeling nostalgic for the red neon of the Coca Cola sign that adorned the corner of Regent Street for so many years. There's always a crush of people around here and the sound of horns from cars or taxis that suddenly spy a hopeful or just unaware pedestrian stepping out in front of them is almost constant.

Regent Street. A look in Hamley's toy shop windows at Christmas time is almost mandatory. Come to think of it, Miss Franny makes it mandatory... We had a look. I oohed and aahed... Anyone who wants to cheer themselves up should spend a few minutes in Hamley's. Unless you are actually going to spend money (which in these days of "all parts sold separately" can be a sobering activity) then I almost defy anyone to go into Hamley's for a while and come out without a huge grin on their face!

If Regent Street was lit with depictions of the Twelve Days of Christmas, then Oxford Street had giant snow balls floating above it. We found somewhere to eat and took our time over the meal before heading back to the hotel. There's more to come. I keep saying this on the blog. Currently you are waiting for more articles on 78 rpm records and sketches. So let's just whet the appetite a bit...

On our way back up north on Monday we called off in the Midlands to buy a collection of 78 rpm records. I've still not had time to look through them - never mind play them! There are 175 of them plus a big box of postcards that the owner kindly gave to me along with the records. So, more postcard entries to come also! Whenever I feature any of these items they'll be mentioned as part of the Easthope Collection. I've recorded another 16 sides from the 78 rpm records from my parents' collection whilst writing this article - it takes time! It'll be worth it!

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