Category Archives: summer

London Links

Happy August! Here is the Olympics edition of London links:

Is It Autumn Yet?

It has been a bad summer indeed. The winter duvet has been put back on and heavy wool cardigans and blazers have made continued reappearances. Dreams of bbqs have been abandoned as rusting grills sit in forlorn isolation amongst grass that has grown rapidly in constant downpours. Bright clothing and cheerily vibrant nail polish seem like ironic rejoinders to omnipresent grey clouds. This is not British summer, this is the end times. Days with no rain and moderate sunlight, such as last Sunday, are treasured because we know how quickly the darkness returns (Monday morning, if you were curious). Even watching adverts is enough to send you spiralling into a depression as the sun-lit gardens, forest parties and smiling people frolicking barefoot on snail and slug-free ground reminds you of what could have been.

Now I look at my sunglasses sadly before taking them out of my bag because I know that they are unnecessary. Everything feels like a temptation of cruel British fate. Wearing a sundress and flats with a cardigan added for modesty rather than warmth means that the rain will happen almost instantaneously and without mercy, each cold lashing of water a reminder of your foolhardy optimism. If you’re lucky. Sometimes it’s hail.

I have joined the growing number of Britons (and their allies) against British summer. Enough is enough. You can take your grey skies, increments of sunshine and never-ending rain and stuff it. I am officially done with summer. Bring on autumn, at least then the weather will make sense. Here are a few articles of people equally grumpy about the weather.

Charlie Brooker at the Grauniad

The Times (subscription required)

“When the proverbial cheapness of chips comes under threat, the Times says enough is enough. Let us make our position crystal clear: we are against this weather. It must stop raining, and soon.”

The New Yorker

Pictures of the British Summer

The weather was even breaking news at the Guardian!

A Right Royal Knees Up

I’m sure that you’re aware that last weekend was the Diamond Jubilee. Since I  am a staunch Republican (in the anti-monarchist sense, not the Conservative sense), I avoided most of the pomp and ceremony that engulfed the city and did my best to stay grumpy about all the transport delays. That aside, I took a few pictures to record the occasion in my local area . Despite the terrible weather, people did try their best to celebrate Liz, and I’m certain that there were  street parties like this all over the country. It’s quite fun to see street parties, they remind me of grander versions of the block parties I used to enjoy as a child in New York. It is also a rare occasion to see everyone in the local community in one place. It is a perfect example of the sheer variety of people that can be found in London, as well as a continuing and pervasive sense of traditional Britishness that remains whether you are 1st or 10th generation.

The invitation to the street party that arrived two months ago.

The queen taking in the view from a terrace, surrounded by omnipresent bunting.

In a storefront.

The street party stretched all the way down the road, the lane was packed with food, tables, Pimms and other drinks from the local pub. Despite the ominous clouds and rain, people seemed in high spirits.

 

Hanwell is very much a community that supports the creative endeavors of ‘the youth’. There’s always a band of 12 year old boys at these sort of events, yelping the lyrics of the Buzzcocks and the Ramones, slightly missing the joyfully ramshackle air of both groups with voices that are a bit too proper and a bit too practised.

Now, all I have to dread is the Olympics.

And the Living’s Easy

Summer has struck London in full force this year. As if to apologise for the lacklustre quality of last year, this past month has been sweltering; it’s almost American in heat. It’s the sort of summer that makes the days pass languorously , which is especially dangerous if you’re at a job with no air conditioning. The warm summer and empty pockets has propelled me to explore London as cheaply as I can. London is known as one of the most expensive cities in the world. This known fact is both true and false. It depends what you want of the city. If you just want to learn and see things in a completely new way, then the city is yours for only the price of a travel card. The past few weeks have been spent exploring museums, wandering art galleries and walking until my legs ache. It’s surprising how much is free or cheap, depending where you look. I started in Whitechapel a few weeks ago, going to the Whitechapel Gallery, which was mostly a waste, but had a wonderful anthropological exhibit exploring a history of changing British life from a collaboration of resident artists and schoolchildren that is ongoing. I think art and culture in this city excel when they combine history and community involvement, it avoids the self-indulgence that usually emerges in a place where everyone thinks they are the next best thing. My subsequent stroll onto Brick Lane took two days, with one afternoon spent wandering in the Free Range exhibit, a changing summer-long viewing of student art from universities all over England and artists all over the world (including my alma mater, though I missed their show).

From there I travelled along the newly reopened London Overground (formerly my beloved East London line, which I rode on its last day three years ago) back into the city, where I walked from the bustling Bond St to the iconic locations- Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Trafalgar Sq, where I went to the late night opening of the National Portrait Gallery. Museums throughout the city are open extremely late towards the weekends, with tours and events happening if you have the money. There were a few new exhibits, including a showing of Indian portraiture, a project by director Steve McQueen to get soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan onto stamps, and an exhibit with photos by the Format Photography Agency, which portrayed underrepresented important figures and activists within the past thirty years (I loved this exhibit). From there I went through Pall Mall and into St James Park, watching ducks and coots swim by, before walking around Buckingham Palace and into Green Park. I never though that there would be a day where I became immune to the grandeur of the Palace, Big Ben and various iconic tourist spots, but three years on, I tend to forget they’re there. But when I stop to think about them, it’s still a bit staggering. Last weekend was spent with friends, a hodgepodge group of Europeans, Asians and North Americans, which is always a delightful night out.

Today has been a continuation of my happy wanderings, this time to a Mexican restaurant in Westbourne Grove. After lunch, I walked through Kensington Gardens, which was filled with sun-worshipers usually starved of such warmth, and past the Royal Albert Hall, which I still have yet to see inside of. The next destination was the Natural History, an old haunt, where I struggled through sweltering heat exacerbated by large crowds in order to see dinosaurs fossils, whale bones and monkeys carved into the arches of the buildings. Along with this, I scoured the largest library in my area for books on Morocco and the Tuareg, who I’ve taken a recent interest in. It feels very good to not only feel thoroughly at home, but to know that soon I will be a traveller again. Now if only I could cool down.