london diary

december 2007


my london diary

December Main Stories

National Anti-fur March
Danny's Karma Army
Shepperton Walk
Global Climate Change March
RMT Protests East London Line Privatisation
Stratford Marsh - Hackney Wick (Olympic Site)
Brasilia show
Pictures of Brasilia
My London Diary Christmas Picture
Richmond Park & Richmond
North Downs & M25
Maidenhead - Marlow

Although the farming of animals for fur was banned in this country in 2003, both fur farming and extensive trapping of wild animals for fur still take place in other countries. Animals are farmed in many countries abroad under conditions far worse than those which were in use here before the ban on the grounds of animal cruelty. Animals are reared in exstremely crowded conditions and killed inhumanely - some are even skinned while still alive.

Wild animals are often caught in steel jawed traps, often only found and clubbed or suffocated after several days of agonising captivity.

Fur is now being promoted as fun and fashionable as trimming on coats, boots and other outer clothing. Surprisingly although the law banned its production in the UK, it did not ban its sale. Many customers assume that fur trims on fashion garments are synthetic, but many of the big names in fashion and fashion stores are still designing with and selling animal fur.

The march went past a number of them, including Gucci, Versace, Fendi, Amani, Dolce and Gabana. Various stores, including Escada, Joseph and Burberry are also targets for the campaign, but the loudest condemnation was reserver for Harrods, the only department store in the UK still selling fur. The march stopped outside Harrods for a brief address and a considerable amount of shouting slogans, followed by a minute of silence.
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While waiting for the anti-fur marchers to get sorted out, I took a little walk around Knightsbridge and Hyde Park, starting with a short visit to St Paul's Church in Wilton Place, a nineteenth century Gothic building (erected in 1840, but much altered 50 years later) of some interest, which turned out also to have some interesting sepia tile pictures by Daniel Bell dating from 1869-79.

Across the busy road in Hyde Park there was an extensive funfair, with a smallish London Eye type big wheel, helterskelters and other rides including a haunted house. I came back out of the park through the Albert Gate again, past the French Embassy.
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Oxford Street and Regent St were closed to traffic to allow pedestrians a traffic-free day of shopping. There were a few street performers and musicians, but generally it seemed a recipe for incredible levels of boredom and immoderate spending, with one credit card company offering special prizes to big spenders.

The only relief from this was offered by members of Danny's Karma Army who were offering free sweets and free hugs - and I took advantage of both as well as some pictures.

They do "random nice things for strangers on Fridays" but were putting in a bit of overtime on a Saturday. As well as rather silly and pointless things, some also apparently do rather more useful things like becoming first-aiders and supporting charities with money or time. So although personally I'd run a mile from a cult leader like Danny, good luck to them. And thanks for the sweets and hugs.
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Shepperton is more or less surrounded by water. The Thames along the south and west edge and the giant bulk of the Queen Mary Reservoir to the north, and at its centre gravel pit after gravel pit. I often think of the 1962 novel of Shepperton's most famous resident, J G Ballard, 'The Drowned World', set in a post-apocalyptic future where polar ice-caps have melted as I walk along narrow strips of land with lakes on both sides.

Away from the gravel lakes there is perhaps more to remind you of his later work, the motorways and fast traffic on featureless roads of 'Crash' and more than a hint of the home counties M25 of 'Kingdom Come'.

But apart from the noise its a decent short walk, and we end it with a decent pub lunch.
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The global climate change march on Saturday 8 December was intended to send a message to government that they need to produce an effective Climate Change bill and put themselves wholeheartedly behind saving the planet rather than backing projects such as the Heathrow expansion that will further increase the chaos.

The march went to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, because America is still refusing to ratify the Kyoto treaty and still sabotaging any progress on getting effective measures to cut carbon and energy use.

Cyclists were also out in force on a tour of central London before the march, visiting a picket at Tesco Metro in Lower Regent Street, where leaflets were handed to customers asking them to shop elsewhere so long as Tesco continues to promote bio-fuels.

It was a lousy day, with strong winds and intermittent heavy showers, but that didn't stop more than 6000 marchers turning out for the event, many in fancy dress as santas, polar bears, reindeer, elves, penguins and more to highlight the problem of melting polar icecaps. At the front of the march was the 'Statue of Taking Liberties' with the Kyoto treaty, followed by the Earth in its greenhouse as in the Campaign against Climate Change logo. And Lucy, our favourite mermaid was there to remind us of the perils of rising sea levels.

It was hardly surprising to see such a great number of protesters and placards opposed to the expansion of Heathrow and the building of a third runway across the villages of Sipson and Harmondsworth. There also appeared to be an increasing realisation that to combat climate chaos we need to put into place changes in lifestyle and politics, with some protesters calling for an end to livestock farming - one of the main contributors to carbon emissions - and others for a revolution.

I tried hard to represent all the different groups on the march, but doubtless I will have missed some. One of the santas carried two placards, the more appropriate of which said "Santa says stop Global Warming. Its getting too wet and windy for Rudolph"; it was certainly too wet and windy for marchers and photographers, but we stuck it out.
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Improving our transport system in London should be good news, although the closure of the East London Line for almost three years from 22 Dec seems excessive (and of course the Shoreditch end has already been closed for some time.

Looked at on the map, the new overground routes, from Dalston (and later, Highbury and Islington) down to Crystal Palace and West Croydon (and perhaps eventually also to Clapham Junction) seem mainly a matter of connecting together exisiting routes, and adding a couple of new stations at Hoxton and Haggerston.

But what upsets the unions - and almost three-quarters of Londoners - is that when the line reopens after great public expense, it will have been privatised, paying profits to eight different companies for various aspects of its running - including some involved in the Metronet failure.

Part of those profits will come from paying staff less - and worse working conditions. The unions are also worried about possible safety problems as the signalling on the route will be shared between London Underground and Network Rail systems.

A hundred or so demonstrators from the RMT union, Respect and others marched around City Hall several times, led by a coffin for the line carried by 'undertakers' to represent the private contractors and a tuneful 3 piece jazz band, before a short rally.

And although there are various replacement bus services during the years of closure, these leave a gap at the most essential part of the current route - across the Thames between Wapping and Rotherhithe. It is apparently beyond the wit of Transport for London to find buses that can use the Rotherhithe tunnel - or even provide a ferry service (the ferry downriver at Canary Wharf takes 3 minutes, but costs £1.90 if you have a travel card or over £500 for an annual season.)

Unless you bring your own canoe, the quickest alternative is probably to swim, though swallowing the water might be fatal. On the tube it takes one minute; the alternatives the TfL web site suggests on a weekday are mainly around an hour. Surely not acceptable.
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The 'Greenway' path on the top of London's Northern Outfall Sewer reopened recently after a temporary closure during the nearby demolition works, and as it was a fine day I took a walk along it from Stratford to Hackney Wick.

Almost all of the buildings on the Olympic site have gone, with just occasional bits of wall or outbuildings left, and there are some pretty huge piles of earth or whatever. Gone too are most of the many trees, particularly the willows by Marshgate Lane and all the wild areas - as well as the tire mountains and other car parts.

The light under the Northern outfall where it crosses the navigation was interesting, low sun bouncing up from the water and giving the structure a golden glow. I went on over the lock at Old Ford to 'Fish Island' and then through the red circle footbridge to Hackney Wick, taking a few pictures from the station footbridge while waiting for the train back to Stratford. The line also gives some views of the vast building site.
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For once I've printed and sent my Christmas cards before the last date for posting, which is a pity, because if I'd waited I think the picture of two Santas at the Christmas Fair next to Tower Bridge would have made a good image. I think it's the third figure in red at left of picture that really makes it work.

So this picture comes with my Christmas Greetings for all of you who visit the site.

OK, Brasilia isn't London and you can't get there on a Travelcard (though it didn't cost me anything, thanks to my bus pass which got me to Heathrow.) I was there for Foto Arte 2007, a huge photography event that stretches on for 3 months with over 20 international shows and more than a hundred individual and group shows from Brazil, apparently in 57 locations across the city.

The theme of this year's festival was 'Natureza, Meio Ambiente e Sustentabilidade' or for those of us whose Portuguese is limited to 'obrigado, tchau and nao entendo', 'Nature, The Environment and Sustainability'. I was fortunate to be asked if I could give a lecture and present a show, paid for by the British Embassy in Brasilia, and thought immediately of some of my pictures of environmental actions in London and of Manor Gardens Allotments. So if you happen to be passing the Espaco Cultural Renato Russo in Quadra 508 Sul, Brazilia, DF before 20 Jan you can see 24 of my pictures there. Or on this web site, here

Flying there and back takes two flights with a total of roughly 18 hours in transit and the main trans-atlantic flight of around 12 hours is distinctly cramped and uncomfortable in economy, especially near Christmas when every seat is full. Normally I don't fly, but it really is the only way to get to Brazil unless you intend to row.

Once I got to Brasilia and things were sorted out I had a great time, going to the shows currently open in the festival and visiting the city which was really the ultimate flowering of the modern movement in architecture and planning, planned by Lúcio Costa (1902-98) and with many buildings by the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, 100 on December 15, 2007 and still working. I would have liked to stay longer to get a better idea of how well it works as a city, but Christmas was getting close and I could only spare a few days.

I'll write more about the city and the festival on the >RE:Photo blog, but my snaps from the visit are here

A few miles walking round Richmond Park was a good way to work off a little of the Christmas fug, and we finished by walking down the hill, photographing the celebrated view of the Thames (where I live just too far away to be seen in the mist) and past the bridge.
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A couple of days latger we took a walk on the North Downs at Woldingham. It was pretty enough, but for much of the walk we could hear and see the M25.
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It's a fairly short walk from where I live down along the River Thames past Penton Hook and on to Laleham. This is a rather posher place than Staines, as is best known as where Matthew Arnold lived, as well as Lord Lucan, though who knows where he is now. The Lucan Arms has disappeared too.
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The Thames path between Madienhead and Marlow is quite picturesque, but full of evidence of how the rich get rich by theft. Anyone attempting to tow their boat will find that large sections of the towpath are now fenced in as private property. For walkers, the lack of access opposite Cliveden is annoying - you can really only see this part of the Thames from the river.
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National Anti-fur March

Belgrave Square - Harrods, Knightsbridge, London 1 Dec, 2007

Marchers point at Harrods, still selling furs. Fur farms are illegal in this country, but shops still sell furs.
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Knightsbridge and Hyde Park

Saturday 1 December, 2007

An church, and embassy and a funfair on a short walk
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Danny's Karma Army - Taking Kindness Very Seriously

Regent St / Oxford St, London. Saturday 1 Dec, 2007

Free Hugs in Regent Street.
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Shepperton walk

Shepperton, Spelthorne, Surrey. December 3, 2007

A typical Middlesex landscape - gravel pits and beyond, out of sight but not hearing, the M3
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Global Climate Change March - London

Parliament - Grosvenor Square, Sat 8 Dec, 2007

A mermaid points out the danger of sea level rise at the front of the march.
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RMT Protests East London Line Privatisation

City Hall, Southwark, London. Thursday 13 December

The procession with Tower Bridge in the background
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Stratford Marsh - Hackney Wick (2012 Olympic Site)

London. Thursday 13 December

My shadow falls on one of the few remaining buildings on Marshgate Lane

Northern Outfall carrying London's sewage over the Lea Navigation

That bridge again - and a Hackney version of the Olympic logo?
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Environmental Protests in London

Peter Marshall, on show in Brasilia, December 2007

Pictures from 2003-2007, on show as a part of Foto Arte 2007 in Brasilia
All 24 images


Brasilia, Capital of Brazil

18-20 December, 2007

One of Niemeyer's most famous buildings, the cathedral in Brasilia

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My London Diary - Christmas Card

Tower Bridge, London. 13 December 2005
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,



Richmond Park & Richmond

Richmond, December 27, 2007

The view from Richmond Hill

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North Downs & M25

Woldingham, Saturday Dec 29, 2007

M25 in Surrey
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Laleham, Middlesex

Staines to Laleham, Sunday 30 Dec, 2007

An evening walk to Matthew Arnold's grave in Laleham Churchyard
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Thames Path: Maidenhead - Marlow

Berkshire, Monday 31 December, 2007

Cliveden woods and River Thames
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