London in Autumn (Year Two)

Last October I took some photos of the autumn colours (fall colors) in Regent’s Park.  Before you read that post again, let’s see if West London can beat it.

Squirrel in Hyde Park

I found those sycamore leaves in Hyde Park last week.  It’s a bit deceptive, because only a few leaves had turned; most of the leaves on the trees were still green.   Porchester Square was the same – as I could see through the railings.

Porchester Square

The horse chestnuts in the park had already produced their seeds – conkers.

conkers from horse chestnut tree

I wanted to keep some conkers to take home, but I had some tough, and hungry, competition.

Hyde Park Squirrel

How Not to Enter a Photo Competition

I’ve been walking around Marylebone for the past two days taking photos, hoping to create a memorable image that could win the Life in Marylebone photo contest.  Easier said than done.  This path in Regent’s Park looks lovely, but it lies a few frustrating metres outside the competition boundary.

Regent's Park desire line
The grey path on the right marks the edge of the competition – I was out of bounds.

When I wanted bright sunshine to fall on my subjects on Thursday, the clouds closed in.  When I got up early on Friday looking for a “golden hour”, everything was grey and damp.  When I went out at 2pm on Saturday, I got soaked by the rain.

On Thursday I stood on Portland Place trying to capture three flags flying together outside their embassies, and the wind dropped.  When I returned on Saturday the wind was up, but the Kenyan High Commission had removed their flag.

Flegs 3 on Portland Place
If the middle flag unravelled, it would reveal itself as the flag of Poland.

The Kenyan flag has vanished
The Kenyan flag has vanished and the EU flag has even fewer stars.

I do love Portland Place, with its embassies, grand buildings, statues, wide pavements and central, tree-lined path.  When I was focusing on the flags, I was standing close to the statue of General Wladyslaw Sikorski (1881-1943), who was Prime Minister of the Polish Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces from 7 November 1939 to 4 July 1943.  My photo of General Sikorski might have been a contender if I hadn’t chopped off his fingers.

Sikorski

I still have another 24 hours before the competition deadline.  And if anyone reading the blog is in the neighbourhood, get out there and see if you can do better!

Click here for the competition details.

Top Trunks

No birds today – just trees.

If you move from India to the UK, don’t move in December.  You condemn yourself to weeks of dark mornings and grey afternoons.  But when the sun does shine in London in winter, it shines low in the sky and gives a beautiful light, showing off this tree in Regent’s Park in February.

Shadow of tree in Regent's Park

The winter sun also gave me this great shadow in London’s Tavistock Square in January, of a drainpipe trying to be a tree.

Tree shadow Tavistock Sq

Like the first photo, this was taken around 11am, so the low angle of the sun isn’t coming from the sunrise or the “golden hour”. It’s just the effect of winter at a latitude of 51 degrees north.  I don’t remember light like this in Bangalore, which lies much closer to the equator at 13 degrees north.

But I do remember one tree from India.  A banyan tree that sticks in my mind, because I spent two years hating it.

banyan 13

It lurks on the 13th hole of Clovergreens golf course.  And I would love to know how it causes every golf ball hit down that fairway to veer sharply to the right and lodge beside, behind, or inside the tree.

Mews: hooks and curly trees

So you buy your million pound Mews house in London.  How do you make the best use of it?   You can keep the stable doors, and garage your Jaguar inside.

Mews black garage doors

The doors on the upper storeys may be less useful, unless you can winch your Porsche up there.

I don't think the horses used these doors.

If you have any space at all between your front door and the cobbled street, plant some shrubs in containers.

Tree and shrubs in containers

Nothing too rural – you need to keep the chic urban look.  A few curly trees will give you a rather special place to soak up the afternoon sun.

Mews bench

Twelve Days of Christmas

Happy New Year!

Can you hear me blogging above the noise of the wind?  The New Year rode into the UK and Ireland on the wings of a storm.  We get a few calm days, then another gale hits us from the North Atlantic, bringing rain, wind, floods and, today, very high tides.

Here on the drumlin we are safe from high tides, but not from high winds. This tree didn’t do any damage and will serve as firewood now.

Tree stump

Here is my weather report, set to the tune of “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  If you don’t know the traditional words or tune, click here.

“On the 12th Day on the drumlin, I woke up to the sound…of…

…12 gales a-blowing,
11 branches snapping,
10 roof-tiles rattling,
9 waves a-surging,
8 hours of rainfall,
7 swans a-swimming,
6 geese beside them,
In a Field that’s Now a Lake;
4 bedraggled cows,
3 wet sheep,
2 muddy dogs,
And a road blocked by fallen pear trees.”

Tree stump closeup

This is my second attempt at adapting “The Twelve Days of Christmas” after a verse about India written in December 2012.

Here is last year’s song, with some links to photos of the stars of the song. It helps to know that a silly, unfounded rumour had recently spread around my gated community of Palm Meadows, claiming that a leopard had been spotted inside the compound.  The other thing that might trip you up is the Innova – it is a Toyota car, strangely popular with expat families in Bangalore.

“On the 12th Day of Whitefield I woke up to the sound…of…
…12 snakes a-sleeping,
11 lizards looking,
10 squirrels cheeping,
9 cows in trash heaps,
8 mosquitoes biting,
7 street dogs barking,
6 stray cats prowling,
5 Expat Wives,
4 wheeler Innovas,
3 wheeler autos,
2 wheeler Hondas,
And a leopard in a palm tree.”

Before I move on completely from India, I would like to find a winner for my photo poll. Which of the pictures in my post of 9th December 2013 is your favourite?  As of today (3 January 2014) 31 people have voted, and three photos are tied for first place – the tumbling flowers, the smiling girl and the dog on the bus.  We need someone to vote for a winner!

Autumn in London

Earlier this year I posted photos of Springtime in London and Summer in London, so I owe you a post about Autumn in London.

I made a flying visit from Bangalore to London at the end of October. On a sunny Sunday morning I went for a walk through Regent’s Park and took these photos on my iPhone.

regents park leaves 1

regent's park leaves 2

Regent Park trees 1

The following morning the park was closed for safety reasons as a fierce storm blew through London.  There is no sign of that in these photos.  In fact if the garden designers of these formal gardens along the Broad Walk had created an autumn display, they couldn’t have done much better than these fallen leaves.

Regent's Park Broad Walk

Banana Flowers

We have bananas in the garden again.  One banana tree gave us fruit in January, as reported here and here.  A second tree is now holding green bananas and a banana flower. This is how they looked on Wednesday.

Bananas in garden with flower

These bananas look smaller than January’s crop.

Bananas closeup

For the first time in my life, I have paid attention to the banana flower.

Banana flower in our garden

Banana flowers are edible – here are some on sale in Bangalore’s Hypercity supermarket.

Hypercity banana flowers

They cost 20 rupees per kilo. At least they did two months ago. I took this photo before our own banana flower appeared, and food prices have been rising in India.

Hypercity banana flower price

P.S. For anyone interested in ladybirds, I updated my post “Is there any country that doesn’t have ladybirds” this week, after spotting something spotty in the garden.

Apples and Plums

I’ve already told you how keen I am on India’s tropical fruits, like mangoes and bananas.  But my trip to Northern Ireland has not been fruitless.  Here are some photos of apples and plums in my brother’s garden.

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That photo was taken on 3 September. One week later, on 10 September, the autumn sun had conspired with John Keats “To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core”.

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I haven’t eaten any of the apples, but the plums are delicious.

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DSC_0530My cousins also have plum trees, and are equally generous with their fruit.  So it has been a plum-filled September for the whole family, well, except for one over-enthusiastic springer spaniel. Steve would eat all the plums if we’d let him, but they are terrible for his digestion, so we try to distract him with the throwing ring.

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