Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Seven Londoners

I've stacked up quite a few portraits of people I've encountered on my walks. Here are some of them.

This woman was riding that bike at top speed on a residential street, looking like she just got off work and was late, late for a very important date. She passed me and I missed the shot, but then she turned around and came back the other way. She laughed when she saw me snap her picture.

I love the blue theme in this photo. This woman chatted me up and asked where I was from -- she told me I had a "very broad" accent, which sounds vaguely insulting. Then she asked me for a pound. I gave it to her.

Purple, purple everywhere!

A hunky window washer outside the RPS photo meeting on Sunday.

Looks like someone is having one of those days. Or weeks. Or months.

I took several shots of this woman as she walked toward me near Brent Cross on Saturday. I thanked her when she passed me. She just chuckled. I'm sure she thought I was crazy.

Last night, near Kentish Town, this man was enjoying the evening with his dog -- in kind of a Michael Jackson way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Photo Inspiration (or Intimidation?)

Poor Dave -- I've barely seen him this weekend. I was out all day on Saturday doing photography and then taking the dog to Fortune Green and the Hampstead Cemetery, and I spent yesterday in Shoreditch at an event for the Royal Photographic Society. Fortunately Dave hasn't minded. He just did his thing, nesting at home, gardening and working on band music.

The RPS event was interesting -- it was a "licenture" event, in which photographers apply to show a panel of judges a portfolio of 10 images. The judges critique the images and decide whether to approve the applicant for licenture, a mark of distinction from the society.

I didn't apply -- I was just there as an observer. But it was interesting to see what people submit and how the judges reacted. It was a bit terrifying, actually. The slightest flaw or blemish -- a sky with too much or too little detail, an incorrect focal point or an inattentive crop job -- could sink the whole portfolio. I kept thinking about all the little flaws I notice but tolerate in my own work. Not to mention the printing! I haven't the foggiest idea how to print a photo to a professional standard.

I suppose I really ought to invest in Photoshop and shoot in RAW and bump things up to the next level. It just sounds expensive

I did feel that there was a tendency toward "pretty" photos -- bees on flowers and that kind of thing. No one was shooting cluttery storefronts and homeless people and shabby houses and filthy alleys. Were I to apply, I might have an advantage in being somewhat distinct in my subject matter! (Or would that be a disadvantage?!)

So, anyway, yes, it was a very educational day. I saw a few other Bleeding Londoners there, too. It's hard to believe we have only slightly more than a month left on this project, and we still have so much left to do! By the end of October I am going to need a new pair of shoes.

(Photo: A cafe on Baker Street, yesterday morning. I love the sign on the front: "What's this? The Sherlock Holmes food and beverages!" Holmes' office was on Baker Street in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories -- but did he appreciate a croissant?)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Land of the Shopping Carts

Yesterday proved not as rainy as I feared. I got quite a bit of walking and photography done in the NW4 postcode -- 39 streets, if I count correctly.

The region I covered surrounds a large North London shopping center called Brent Cross. As I walked through the neighborhoods near the shops I began seeing loads of shopping carts. When I was in college in Florida I worked at a hardware store -- part of a now non-existent chain called Scotty's -- and I remember how obsessive the managers were about collecting all our shopping carts. Apparently they're expensive.

So I was surprised and dismayed that these were all languishing in alleys...

and on lawns...

...and even in the streets.

I counted at least 25 carts, mostly from Marks & Spencer (with a few from Tesco thrown in). I considered pushing them back myself -- which I did once from my apartment complex in Florida, me with a long line of strayed carts -- but in this case there were simply too many and I wasn't sure where the store was.

However, I had to go to the mall to catch the bus home, so once there I found the Marks & Spencer store and told them how many carts had strayed and where they were. The people at the information counter were friendly but they didn't seem very alarmed -- every once in a while they send out a truck to collect them all, they said, and they know that neighborhood is often chock-a-block. "Lazy blighters," I believe the woman called the cart thieves.

Which is putting it nicely.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Rainy Saturday Morning

How about those Scots! I'm so glad that reason prevailed over emotion and they made the smart decision. It was such a relief to wake up to that news yesterday morning. I suspect we'll have months of political fallout from this vote, and all the last minute bargaining that led up to it, but still, it worked out the best way possible.

Oh, and thanks to those of you who responded to my recent request for links to some good male bloggers. Not that I am unhappy with the mostly women-centric blogs I currently read -- but I felt a bit out of balance! For variety's sake I'm happy with some fresh insight and the recommendations do look promising.

I've been photographing like crazy the last couple of days for Bleeding London, trying to finish all the streets in the NW8 postcode, where I work. I went out every lunch hour and each evening on Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday (well, except Thursday evening, when I went to see Joan). I think it's pretty much finished now. I can't claim to have done the entire postcode by myself, because some of it was photographed by others earlier and I didn't redo those streets.

I was going to go out today and work on NW4, north of us, where we've had no photo coverage so far. But it poured rain last night, with lightning and everything, and it's drizzling as I write now. (Olga is sitting next to me on the couch, mournfully staring outside as if willing it to stop.) I'm not sure I'm going anywhere after all.

This weekend is also the annual architecture open house, when many private buildings in London open their doors to visitors. I had considered going to see the Gherkin, but frankly I am just not motivated to go all the way into central London to stand in line in yucky weather.

Dave returned last night from leading his school trip to Paris -- apparently it went well, no one died or went missing, and he was quite ready for a glass of wine (he couldn't drink as he was in the presence of students). All is back to normal around here!

(Photo: Hall Gate, St. John's Wood, yesterday.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Joan, Once Again

Well, Joan Baez did not disappoint last night. Even at 73, she sounds as distinctive as ever, her voice lower and throatier but still immediately recognizable. And she looked great, which you can't tell from my really pathetic iPhone photo, taken from my seat in a row so far off to the side that no one was behind me, and I had to stand up to see the stage.

Oh well. At least I was allowed to stand up, thus enabling me to take a bad iPhone photo.

The evening started on a questionable note, when a completely dotty woman sat next to me and proceeded to talk my ear off, telling me all about her musical tastes and various concert outings and the fact that she liked Joan's music but not her politics. She also threw in a reference to her own dead husband. Then she said, "So tell me about you." Which I so did not want to do. I mumbled something about my partner being away and having a night to myself, so why not see Joan for a fifth time? And then, mercifully, the show started.

Joan was dressed all in black, with a long red scarf and red-accented shoes, which you can barely see in my bad photo. (I didn't take a camera to the show because I just assumed photos were verboten, but people were taking pictures all around me, so maybe not.) She developed a bit of banter with the audience right away and even told a joke with the f-bomb in the punchline. Her son, Gabriel Harris, played drums, including a groovy conga solo.

Introducing "Long Black Veil," she said she met Johnny Cash when he was wicked and cute. "He stayed wicked -- he didn't stay cute," she said. Apparently her Johnny Cash stories are a regular shtick -- the last time I saw her, in 2008, she also joked about him. In fact she repeated her line from that show six years ago: "The first time I met Johnny he was with his first wife, and that's how he introduced her."

It's a pretty funny line. She probably uses it at every show. I don't blame her.

My dotty companion had expressed a desire to hear "Diamonds and Rust," and I assured her Joan would play it. I've heard her play it several times and I'm sure her audiences expect it. Well, Joan wrapped up the show with that song, and my dotty companion -- who by now had a fairly tall drink in her, because yes, you can have drinks in your seat at Royal Festival Hall! -- seriously wept, with tears falling and sniffling and everything. I don't mean to mock her too much, because God knows I love "Diamonds and Rust" too, and we all have certain romantic and possibly painful associations with certain songs. But that seemed just a bit overboard.

Joan did not play "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which I kind of expected, but I can live without it. Here's the complete set list:

Handsome Molly
God is God
Farewell Angelina
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Mi Venganza Personal
La Llorona
I Love You Just The Way You Are*
Seven Curses
The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
The House Carpenter
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Catch the Wind
Joe Hill
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
Gimme Cornbread When I'm Hungry and Corn Whiskey When I'm Dry
House of the Rising Sun
Long Black Veil
Diamonds and Rust

Gracias a la Vida
There But For Fortune

*Not the Billy Joel song!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Short Takes

-- Tonight I am off to see Joan Baez in concert at Royal Festival Hall! It will be, I believe, my fifth time seeing her in concert (not counting the time I saw her speak at the 92nd Street Y in New York.) I saw her in 2008 with my blog pal Gary, with my coworker Ann in the early aughts, with my stepmother in the late '90s in St. Petersburg, and with my friends Suzanne and a different Ann in Tampa back in the '80s. I tried to recruit some friends to go see her with me this time, but no one could make it, so I bought a ticket for myself and will be going it alone. I have no qualms about going to events by myself, and I am looking forward to this one.

-- Dave is still out of town. I am trying to survive these few days without doing any grocery shopping, and so far it hasn't been difficult. We have a ton of food that hasn't been eaten, and I'm slowly making my way through it. It's kind of a game, like, "What can I whip up tonight from these few ingredients?" Chorizo sandwiches with fresh spinach and radishes, anyone? (Not bad, actually!)

-- In response to my post about Scotland yesterday, my blog pal Linda Sue pointed the way to this hilarious yet informative video where John Oliver explains the potential national divorce. Watch it! It's the best 15 minutes you could ever spend on this issue. You will be laughing out loud and perhaps learning something at the same time.

-- I had a definite Emma Thompson sighting on Saturday morning, so the information that she lives nearby appears to be accurate. She was wearing denim overalls and was unmistakable. She looks just like her pictures.

-- All those holes in our horseradish plant do, in fact, seem to be caused by cabbage whites. At least some of them. I found a couple of little caterpillars on the plant yesterday. As is my policy, I left them there to become next year's cabbage whites.

-- Does anyone know some good male bloggers who write journal-style about their lives? I have a few in my sidebar (Mark from Montana, who I've followed for years, and the sporadically posting Wayne, and the Dishwasher.) It seems to me, though, that most guys write blogs about specific topics like bicycles or their careers or politics or celebrities. All those topics have their place, but I am looking for some fellow men who write personal blogs about their lives and experiences. Bonus points for gay men! Let me know if you have any recommendations.

(Photo: Free chaise longue, anyone? And isn't Honeybourne Road the best street name you've seen in a while?)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Tomorrow is the big Scotland vote. It's all we've been hearing about on the news here. It seems kind of crazy to me -- or did, until recently -- and I sincerely hope the Scots don't vote for independence. The vote is apparently so close that there are bound to be a lot of hard feelings either way and I hope this doesn't irreparably disunite both Scotland and the greater United Kingdom. (The way the George W. Bush / Al Gore presidential race disunited the United States for years.)

Alex Salmond, the Scottish leader who's pushing for independence, seems a bit megalomaniacal. I think he wants statues of himself as a modern-day "Braveheart."

But what I have gradually come to understand -- as an American who has only lived here for a few years and is admittedly new to much of this conflict -- is that this isn't just about flag-waving. The Scots see themselves as a progressive society chained to the more conservative causes of Westminster. I suspect this feeling gained a great deal of momentum from Britain's participation in the Iraq war, and the Scots apparently chafe at British nuclear submarines being harbored in their ports. Billy Bragg argued in an interesting piece in The Guardian that Scottish nationalism is a positive, civic cause, not xenophobic jingoism.

Scottish nationalists, he said, are "people who are no longer comfortable with the direction that Britain is travelling in; with the extremes of poverty and wealth that go unchallenged; with the dominance of the privately educated in positions of political and economic power; with the undercurrent of xenophobia that animates the Conservative party; with a Labour party that has too few MPs from working-class backgrounds."

In fact, he argues that an independent Scotland could lead to greater self-determination for working class regions within England that feel themselves marginalized by London-centric, pro-business policy makers.

I think independence is a drastic step, and one for which I suspect the Scots are not fully prepared. The cost of building international relations and trade agreements, military infrastructure (even on a small, solely defensive scale) and the like seems staggering. North Sea oil won't sustain them forever. I hope they vote to stay in the UK, and I hope Alex Salmond slinks away with his tail between his legs.

But I also hope that Westminster learns a lesson, that the Tories are chastened and that advocates for Britain's progressive, pro-labor society are galvanized in a positive way.

(Photo: A crushed flower on a street in West Hampstead.)