Trip to the library

St Pancras panorama
St Pancras panorama

Today Helen and I had planned a trip to London, it was almost scuppered when I remembered BT wanted to get their temporary mast used to hold the aerial that provides the link to the offices up and running while a tree was blocking the signal. The tree was recently cut down so there was not excuse now. They wanted to get on site to make sure the line of site was still good. Any way I phoned Mick who was on site and he agreed to let them in so we were free to go.

The plan was to visit an exhibition that Helen had spotted at the British museum, about the history of the English language. I had never been to the British library so did not know what to expect. We parked up in Berkhamsted and got the 9:40 train to Euston. The british library is just down the road from Euston just before St Pancras station, so we walked..

The building is a modern brick built one, and has a large open area in front, which is probably popular with office workers at lunch time when the weather is warmer. There is security on the door, but they let me through. The exhibition was in darkened rooms, which I found annoying as with my glasses on I had to stand quite far away to see clearly and with them off I had to have my nose up against the glass boxes. I guess the rooms were dark to protect the delicate books.

The books covered the very earliest examples of the English language when the books were written and illuminated by hand often by monks. As you went through the exhibits the language became more up to date. Apart from the beautiful books, what caught my eyes (and ears) was the videos of comedy sketches about posh and common accents, and an interactive map of examples of local accents through the years from the 1800’s to date.

Center point
Center point

Whilst we were at the library we had a look round the permanent exhibition which contains more old books as well as some other stuff, for example a birthday card with the words of the Beatles song Hard days night on the back, as written by Lennon when he composed it, and Yesterday by McCartney on another scrap of paper.

After the library we popped into St Pancras for a coffee and to have a look at the building. We had coffee at Paul’s a French style cafe, I had a slice Tarte au Myrtles. Then we went to have a look at the fantastic building. I have recently started taking panorama shots and took the opportunity to take a shot of the glass a steel arched roof. You can see the results in this article.

We then walked towards the centre to visit Foyles, there are some lovely neighbour hoods south of St Pancras, with normal shops and businesses, the sort of place you would want to live if you had to live in London. Once back on the main drag we hopped on a bus and got off at Trafalgar square. There was an Amnesty rally going on in support of the Egyptians.

We walked up towards Charring cross road and stopped off  to have a look round the catering supplies shop Nisbets, if you can’t find what you want there then it does not exist. We bought nothing! Foyles was as usual full of books, we had a look around and I bought a make magazine and Helen got some more murder mystery ones.

Helen is not so keen as me to pack as much as possible into every trip so we headed back  to Euston with a quick stop off at Tottenham Court road. At Euston I god a Thai prawn soup as a late lunch, before we jumped on the train back the the open country side of Buckinghamshire.

Three shows for the price of one

Big Boat Sunseeker
Big Boat Sunseeker

Despite having a bad throat and a bit of a cold, I decided I would go to the Outdoor Show at Excel in London. The show coincides with the Bike show and the London Boat show, and the entrance fee to one gets you into all three.

I set off at about 09:00 and headed round the M25 then followed the signs to City Airport I think it took me in on the A13. Things got a bit hairy when I got closer to my destination as I was running out of diesel, the car said I had 30miles in the tank and the sat nav said 20miles to go. I decided I would stop at the first petrol station, trouble is we did not seem to pass one. To cut a long story short I had 12 miles left in the tank when I stopped at an out of town shopping park. Probably around Newham somewhere, but it is not my neck of the woods so I can;t tell you for sure.

I arrived at Excel just after 10 and the queues for the parking tickets were long, but I found a space under the halls then walked back to the area where most cars were parked, and everyone had already got their tickets, and found a machine with no queue, then paid £15 for 5 hours parking, maybe it would have been cheaper by train?

I found the exit to the halls and joined a short queue of 1 to but my ticket, £18! The person on the desk asked me which show I was going to see, I said I thought you got access to all shows for the price of one. He told me that was right but that 3 companies were selling the tickets and I had to choose one, I chose the Bike Show. Excel is a well designed exhibition atrium, running up the middle of two halls. It has a  food establishments of each side and seating areas in the middle, a bit like the a long piazza.

Millenium Mills
Millenium Mills

About three quarters of the halls were open and the boat show took up a whole half of the total area then the Outdoor show and Bike show took up the other half. The Bike and outdoor show merged into one about halfway across the single hall they occupied.

I started in the bike show because it was the closet to where I had entered, there were, well, lots of stalls selling bikes or bike products. I headed over to an area where they were doing stunt bike demo’s and watched some great jumps and trailing by to guys. It always amazes me what you can do with a simple bicycle. Show over I looked round some more of the bikes and found some more lights for Helen’s bike, they are perspex rods that light up red and flash and fit to down stays on the back of the bike. The guy selling them gets them from the states but had run out, he gave me his card and I will have to phone later in the week to place an order.

Ben Fogle
Ben Fogle

The outdoor show was mainly a mix of walking holidays and clothes manufacturers/shops displaying their wares. In a little area between the two there was a set of stalls selling totally unrelated stuff, like the sharpest kitchen knives in the world, the best sandwich toaster, the best set of diamond tipped drills, all complete with the salesmen with the gift of the gab. I saw no less that three stalls selling the She Wee!.

There was also a lot of climbing related stalls, selling the usual equipment. I hung around for a while and watched the men and women’s UK bouldering competition that was going on. It is very clever stuff they do, all about balance and poise rather than brute strength, for the women especially.

I had a chat on a stall that had some leaflets of walks in London, and was promoting an NHS Site called which allows you to find walks in your area and also allows you to create walks. I will give it a try, as it would be really great to be able to create one of my walks and link to it from the blog.

I then moved over to the boat show side which is about twice the size, there are some interesting stalls with demonstrations about splicing ropes, simulations of GPS linked radar navigation, sails, boats, holidays etc. I took a good look around. One of the two halls was devoted to boats, some of them very big. The usual manufacturers were there Sunseeker, Princess, Fairline and Beneteau showing off their big power boats, and luxury yachts. You if you could be bothered you could queue up to go on board, and have a look inside, as long as you took your shoes off first. I took a look in one of the large sailing boats it had a living area, a double bedroom at the back with en suite, and two smaller bedrooms at the front, very nice but my salary would not stretch to the £900,000 needed.

More boats
More boats

Outside the halls there is a marina which contained some second hand boats for sale and three of the  very largest new boats which I guess they could not get into the main halls.

During my travels I spotted two celerities, first was Dominic Littlewood who was there is a woman, and was a VIP guest on the Sunseeker stand. Then I saw Ben Fogle who was on the stand selling the boots with his name on them by CÀRN.

By 15:00 I had had enough so headed back. I headed west towards central London and ended up driving through the newly built olympic stadiums which look very impressive. I eventually got back at 16:30 tired but glad I had made the effort and got out.

Rude Britannia

Tate Britain has had an exhibition on the summer called Rude Britannia, it has bee getting good reviews, so we had made a note to try to get to see it. I checked the Tate website, turns out this is the last weekend so we booked up for an 11am viewing. We were up early so left the house at 8, and were on the 8:30 train from Berkhamsted, which got us to Tate Britain, via the Victoria line, at 9:30. We hung about until the doors opened at 10!

The exhibition was worth the effort, it is all about comic art through the ages, from the first hints of caricatures in political engravings and oil paintings by Hogarth, through the 80’s Spitting Image and Scarfe, right up to today. Helen particularly enjoyed a Heath Robinson cartoon from the war about camouflage in the streets of the city. In the main hall there were two shells of fighter jets, one extremely polished, lying on its back and another drab grey hanging by it’s tail from the roof. Everyone wanted their picture of these objects in an unusual setting. We had a quick look at some of the other paintings then decided to get the boat to Tate Modern.

Over the road we found the jetty and spent our time watching the Thames for a quarter of an hour. We saw the London duck tour boat/road vehicles, and some canoeists, making their way down the river. The boat was a bit disappointing as you could not go out on deck to take photo’s, but the seats were a welcome rest. We passed the Festival Hall which reminded me of the Press Photographer of the Year exhibition (ppye), so I did a quick google and found out it was currently on. We now had a plan, walk along the Southbank, grab some lunch, check out ppye, get the bus to Foyles, and then head back home via Euston. At Tate Modern we saw a sign for RSPB Peregrine watch, we haven’t ticked that bird this year so we took a small detour and scoped both a female and male bird sat on the ledge of the Tate buildings chimney. We then wandered on down to the National Theatre for the photos.

The ppye is an annual event (it’s in the title!) and is well worth a visit, it is always free and the photos are both stunning and thought provoking. The year Haiti featured a lot. I thing I have only missed one year, if that, in the past 10-12 years, and it is often sheer fluke that I manage to be in London when it is on.

We had to take a detour to get up onto the bridge to get the bus, and chanced upon a food fayre, shame we had already had lunch, some of the street food looked delicious. The bus from the bridge took us to Tottenham Court Rd, it was like gravity was pulling me there, but today I gave the technology mecca a miss. We headed over to Foyles for a browse through the books, and perhaps a purchase. I bought a PHP book, The Remains of the Day, and the new Collins complete bird guide, as a thank you to Abida and Connie for their help with the wedding.

We got a taxi from Foyles, because we could not be bothered to find a bus stop that would take us to Euston, it was not the first time we have done that, £6 well spent. I am now on the 15:04 typing this blog entry. All in all a relaxed day wandering around, London with some culture and some purchases to boot.