London has taken a battering in recent months, from terrorism and from fire. But here are some photos of a happier day. On Saturday 8th July the Pride in London parade set off from Portland Place to bring some colour to the West End.
Most participants wore T-shirts with slogans for their LGBTQ groups, but some looked more special.
Music for the parade came from Sheboom drummers, London Gay Symphonic Winds, and many soundsystems, but my favourite was “Flashdance…What a Feeling” played by a military band from the Guards Division.
I snapped some photos of Tom Daley on his way to join the Barclays float near the front of the parade. If you’ve won Olympic bronze and Commonwealth gold medals, and been World Champion, on the 10m diving board, then (a) you won’t be nervous on top of a parade float, and (b) you don’t need to wear anything special to stand out.
As winter moves into spring, daffodils are blooming in London. Here is an image from Regent’s Park, taken on 29th February in this Leap Year.
To reach the park from my home, I need to cross the busy Marylebone Road. I have a few options, above ground and below ground. One of the subterranean routes became a little brighter this year. The underpass near Baker Street station is now “The Wonderpass”.
It’s still just a subway connecting the north side of Marylebone Road with the south side, but it’s cleaner, brighter and safer. If you’re running for a train at Baker Street station, then a safe crossing is all you need.
But if you have time to “Look Around You” as the signs say, you can get a little bit more from this curious cultural crossing.
A miniature stage-set on one wall reminded me to book tickets for this summer’s plays at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Other wall panels give a timeline of Marylebone’s local history. Did you know that Marylebone was the site of London’s first Indian restaurant, the Hindostanee Coffee House, which opened on George Street in 1810?
The Coffee House is long gone, so if you’re looking for a modern version of Indian vegetarian food, I recommend Woodlands Restaurant on Marylebone Lane.
What else is signposted from the Wonderpass?
Paddington Street Gardens are not as vast as Regent’s Park, but they are still a precious “breathing space” in our densely-packed urban village.
If you want to read more about “The Wonderpass”, click here for the official announcement from the Baker Street Quarter Partnership, and click here for a more sceptical view from The New Statesman.
And wherever you are, Look Around You!
It’s Christmas Eve, and London is quieter than normal, as many people leave town for Christmas. This may actually be the best time of year to be in Marylebone.
All the lights and decoration add to the special atmosphere. I was very tempted to go in to Opso on Paddington Street for some Greek food after I took this picture.
It’s quiet in the park this week too, with the usual crowds missing from Paddington Street Gardens as offices shut for the holidays.
The lights continue at the Marylebone Hotel on Welbeck Street….
and the Paul Rothe & Son delicatessen in Marylebone Lane.
I’ve spent three weeks photographing London’s shop windows, and it turns out that my favourite was the local hardware shop. If I was bringing young children into central London to see the Christmas lights, I would forget about Hamleys and Selfridges and head for Websters Ironmongers on Chiltern Street.
I wonder if I’ve got time to go out and buy that snowy owl before everything shuts this afternoon?
Yesterday I shared pictures of London’s festive wreaths. Today I have photos of another quirky Christmas decoration. Isn’t it odd that a festival of joy, peace, light and family should have a tradition of using toy soldiers as decorations?
We can blame Ernst Hoffmann for writing a novella called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” in 1816, which inspired a ballet first performed in 1892, with music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Both the novella and the ballet are set at Christmas. They tell the story of a nutcracker shaped like a soldier coming to life and taking a child on an adventure. In displaying the large-scale soldiers in these photos as Christmas decorations, Claridges Hotel is tapping into the romance and excitement of the ballet, and the idea that staying in a Mayfair hotel could be a magical adventure.
The same idea has occurred to the people who run the Langham Hotel. This soldier is standing guard outside the Palm Court restaurant.
If you want to see a more British style of toy soldier, go to the Burberry clothes shops on Regent Street or Bond Street. The Guards have put down their guns and picked up scarves.
At least the Burberry soldiers are working under the direction of Santa Claus.
If you’re interested in the Nutcracker ballet, click on this link to read more on my friend Fran Pickering’s blog “Sequins and Cherry Blossom”: the Festive Season starts with The Nutcracker.
And for more on the background to nutcrackers as a kitchen tool, or a collectable, or a Christmas decoration, click here for an interesting article on Slate.com.
Newspapers have dubbed the Saturday before Christmas “Panic Saturday“. They expect shoppers to crowd on to London’s shopping streets today, looking for last-minute Christmas presents. Distant Drumlin’s mission is to make you smile instead of panic.
Last week I walked from Marylebone to the neighbouring district of Saint John’s Wood. I had expected the wood to be more impressive than this.
Not that Marylebone has much to be proud of. They’ve gone too far in the direction of minimalism with their Christmas decorations.
The most important thing this week is to get your Christmas greetings right. How could anyone write “Christmas Merry”? Isn’t that obviously the wrong way round?
Well, to be fair, I’ve actually got some sympathy for the unknown worker who put up this decoration in a Chinese restaurant in Gerrard Street. I lived in China for a few years, and learned a little of the language. All the greetings that I know for special events, including 生日快乐 for birthdays and 圣诞快乐 for Christmas, start with the name of the festival. So this word order – Christmas Merry – probably seemed right when the stencil went up.
Here’s one final photograph. It’s physically impossible to panic while looking this image.
Distant Drumlin’s Fact-Checker
- These trees sculpted from branches are on sale at Dansk Flowers.
- The ducting was being hoisted by crane up to the top of a building under construction on Marylebone Lane.
- The reindeer booties are for sale at Mothercare on Oxford Street.
Have you ever watched a BBC television programme called “The One Show”? On weekday evenings at 7pm this show is broadcast live from a BBC studio in London.
Since 7th December, snow has been falling on the white trees behind the sofa where presenters Alex Jones and Matt Baker sit. What is causing this wintry weather?
Choose your answer carefully…..
Answer A: The studio is actually located in Helsinki, not London.
Or Answer B: The snow is produced by this machine outside the studio.
Yes, it’s answer B. The studio is, just as they claim, in Broadcasting House, a few hundred metres north of Oxford Circus in the middle of London. The studio window is visible in the next photo, under the flat glass roof projecting out on the right hand side of the picture.
The original Broadcasting House, completed in 1934, is on the left. It was extended in 2012 to create a horseshoe-shaped building curving round a piazza. The piazza is open to the public, which gives local residents like me the occasional glimpse behind the scenes at snow machines.
There is a Christmas tree in the piazza.
The BBC doesn’t have the best tree in London, but it does have the most effective lights.
Yesterday we did Regent Street. So today we’re turning left at Oxford Circus to explore the western half of Oxford Street.
Oxford Street is home to some of London’s largest shops (Selfridges, Primark, Debenhams etc), but I have a love/hate relationship with it. On some days, especially in Christmas shopping season, crossing the street to reach the station, the gym and all points south, can be a nightmare. Even the people who arrange Christmas events warn us to stay away.
I’ve tried hard to capture some images of Oxford Street’s Christmas lights with a more positive feeling. The department stores, like House of Fraser, do try hard.
It’s this concentration of big shops in one location that brings the crowds. Next door to House of Fraser is John Lewis.
I like the combination of the curtain of lights on the John Lewis wall and the lights suspended high above the street.
So when the busy streets get too much for me, I should just look up.
Today’s Christmas trees are beautiful miniatures.
These green paper trees are part of a snowy landscape in the window of Bonpoint, a French shop in Marylebone selling children’s clothes.
If that paper is too plain for you, how about these trees in Il Papiro, an Italian stationery shop in Saint Christopher’s Place?
There are mini trees in the windows of the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street too. Sets of trees rise out of boxes to reveal….Princess Leia!