Posts Tagged ‘London’

My talented friends

Do you remember me telling you all a little while ago, about having talented friends? Well, I’m going to tell you again because my fabulous friend, Will, is about to take over the music world with his band, My Good Man William. I thought it’d be good for us to listen to some of his music so that when he’s doing gigs at the Queen’s house, we can all be like, “I was totally listening to him before he was famous.”

This one is my favourite a) because it’s brilliant and b) because they’re playing it on the District line on the London Underground.

Aren’t they great? Yeh, I knew you’d think so.

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The aqueduct

Morning all. It’s guest blogger time here at The Adventures of Danda and Yaya. So it’s over to Rambler5319 for today. Enjoy!

 

I recently went on a trip over an aqueduct and will tell you all about it soon. First off we’re starting with a certain Thomas Farryner? Never heard of him? If I tell you he was a baker and he lived in Pudding Lane in 17th century London I reckon you know what’s coming next. He was apparently the King’s baker and it was the pile of wood that he used for keeping his ovens hot that caught fire; he and his servants were trapped in the house and had to climb onto the roof and jump to roof of the next door property to escape. It was that fire which unfortunately grew into what we now call The Great Fire of London. (Some estimates reckon as much as ⅔ of London was destroyed including over 80 churches. Christopher Wren was responsible for the rebuilding of over 50 of those churches along with St Paul’s Cathedral and the Monument which commemorates the fire.) The reason for mentioning it is because the anniversary of that awful day in 1666 was just a couple of days ago on Monday of this week (2.9.13), so 347 years ago to the day. Also significantly on 2nd Sept but this time in 1834 another Thomas, Thomas Telford, died. He was one of those amazingly multi-skilled folks with abilities in a wide variety of fields: civil engineer, architect, stonemason and road, bridge & canal builder; and he is the connection to today’s post.

We arrived at the terminus in Llangollen for our trip along the canal and, after ordering some lunch to have on the way, we joined the queue. The guy running the trip began calling out names and ours was called. We were invited to come to the front of the queue and be one of the first on board but we didn’t know why. Apparently if you order food you get to be first on. Pick of the seats – nice touch! After the usual safety instructions we set off at a leisurely 3 or 4mph. There are a couple of tight turns on the route where the boat can (and did) touch the sides of the canal just because it’s so long. In one section the boat hit the floor and, as with the side contact, we’d been advised in advance not to panic and go scrambling for the emergency exits. There is some commentary, by the crew, along the way but it’s not intrusive and does give you some more info about bits you’re passing. Eventually we came to a junction (Trevor Basin) where we turned right and headed towards the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

Now back to our Thomas Telford. He was appointed resident engineer to the Ellesmere Canal Company in 1793 but had little experience of canal building; he was guided by the older & more experienced consulting engineer, William Jessop. It’s worth taking in a few statistics here: the aqueduct was opened in 1805 (just after Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar); it’s over 1,000 feet (304 metres) long, 126 feet (38 metres) high & 5ft 3” (1.6 metres) deep; the stone pillars holding it up are hollow; the water-sealing material used on the joins of the trough is the original stuff Telford used so it’s almost 210 years old. (I wonder if modern day sealants or even the boasts of super glue will last 200+ years.)

The canal originally carried local limestone, slate & coal as well as being a feed for water into the Shropshire Union Canal. The aqueduct still carries 50 million litres of water each day to supply the Cheshire area!

Interestingly, the idea of boat trips along the canal began in 1884 with a guy who had retired from the White Star Shipping Line (of later Titanic fame). He got the first boats from Liverpool and bought a couple of shire horses and began what has endured right up to the present time; there are still horse drawn boats as well as the motorised one we went on.

Here are a couple of pics of our boat.
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And the ticket.image

Did you spot the name of the boat? – Thomas Telford

Here’s a view through the window. Check out the width of the edge on that side. And don’t forget it’s 126 feet (38 metres) down over that edge. Sorry about the reflection – it was just a nice sunny day!

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This is a view of the aqueduct without any boats on it

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Here are a couple of other boats going across.

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This video (not mine) gives a good view and feeling of just how narrow the side of the cast iron trough is on the opposite side to the walkway before the big drop.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=pontcysyllte+aqueduct+boat+trip&view=detail&mid=9E31DB8AFE8E7A778AF19E31DB8AFE8E7A778AF1&first=0&FORM=NVPFVR

Once over the aqueduct it was a U-turn and berth. We disembarked and waited for the bus back to Llangollen.

Just across the other side from where we got off was this stone memorial.

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There wasn’t time to go over and get a close up so here’s one on Flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lestiverton/3351027235/in/photostream/

There seems to be a bit of a mystery on who “Canada Bill” was and I can’t help either. Made a few phone calls to the local area and even the tourist info office but nothing so far. All I can assume is that he worked as a miner for the Chirk Castle Limestone Company – also mentioned on the monument – and that perhaps he was a Canadian working in Britain; or maybe he talked about the place a lot and was going to live there.

Very enjoyable trip and good food.

The first blackberry

A few days ago, I was walking home and I spotted a single ripe blackberry.

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In my excitement, I thought about giving it to Danda…. But then I remembered what happened last year so I ate it myself….

(I posted this in October last year.)

This is a story. A story that I am calling Danda And The Blackberry. It contains adventure, daring, far away lands and valiant mission.

One day, a few months ago, I was out walking. I was listening to Vanessa Paradis’ ridiculous but catchy hit, Joe Le Taxi as I roved. I was pottering up and down hills and following the river through London and having a lovely time. The summer was at that lovely not-too-hot, just-a-slight-breeze stage. The leaves on the trees were green and I stopped often to photograph the beautiful flowers.

I was having a lovely time. That’s when I saw it. The single ripe blackberry on the blackberry bush…

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Ah! I thought. Look what the summer day hath delivered unto me. I shall pick this single ripe blackberry and present it as a gift to somebody.

But to whom should I give this beautiful gift of the summer’s first blackberry? Hmmm.

And that’s when I thought, I shall give it to Danda. Because he is a taxi driver, he is quite often on the move and I thought he might be in the area. I gave him a quick call and he was nearby but he was taking someone to the top of the hill that I was at the bottom of. So, thought I, I shall race to the top of the hill and hopefully see him there.

Off I sped, bearing the summer’s first blackberry aloft. It was quite a long walk and really quite steep but I was on a Blackberry Mission and determined. As Danda drove up the hill, I walked as quickly as my legs would take me. He was held at a red light for ten seconds or so. This gave me the edge. Holding the blackberry gently, I power-walked through fields and past trees. I was determined. Danda’s taxi was approaching the top of the hill just as I hurried to the end of the path and out onto the pavement.

It was like someone had organised us, like chess peices, to collide at exactly the right moment. We reached the bend in the road at the same time and waved. Danda drove a little further down the road to drop the person in his taxi off while I stood panting a little and trying to regain my composure.

A minute or two later, Danda was back. He pulled over and I climbed in the back.

“Danda!” I declared with great aplomb, “I have brought you this blackberry from the Alaskan wilds, from whence I have come after my long exploration there.” (Not really, I had just been wandering around aimlessly by the Thames but that’s beside the point. Stick with me on this one.) “I have brought this, the first blackberry of the summer, to you, as it reminds me of your summery disposition and your great love of blackberries.” (He once said he’d had an apple and blackberry crumble which was tasty.)

He looked a little uncertain about the grandness with which I presented the blackberry to him but nevertheless, he took it, popped it in his mouth and ate it.

I waited, with baited breath for his verdict.

Silence.

“Danda. What of the beauty of the blackberry? Do you approve of it?”

“Mmm….” He said, nonchalantly. “It’s a bit sharp….”

Silence.

“Do you want a lift anywhere?”

Going ‘up London’

Unusually, when the latest invite came in from a friend to attend birthday celebrations, I said yes. My favoured response – ‘no’ – had escaped me as the table was being booked for the exact number of attendees and there was no way out.

Ok, I thought, I shall go and I shall have fun and I will make sure my friend Naomi comes with me, to prevent me from making a last minute excuse (my usual way).

And so, the scene was set, I was fashionably late, I had been told not to wear flats (dammit) and I was ready. I was going for a night out ‘Up London.’

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The highlights of the evening were when the DJ played Sean Paul and Blu Cantrell, Breathe. I think I’ve never been so ecstatic in my life. Also, the gay French boy who was dancing nearby who we tried to make friends with – it was pretty good when he came over and said, ‘You’re lovely ladies but I have to dance with these people. I’m not wearing a ring though.’

That was good.

Waiting for the number 33 bus for 26 minutes in Hammersmith was not good though. I repeat, not good.

To the left, to the left

Yesterday evening, something unexpected happened. Out of the blue, I was invited (persuaded) to go to a concert to raise money for different women’s rights causes. Names were thrown at me to entice me – “J.Lo’s going to be there,” “Madonna’s putting in an appearance,” “Rihanna is performing.”

In the face of such strong persuasion (and the accusation that I’ve become quite boring and must go, to inject some liveliness and optimism into my life), I agreed to go. With stout British stiff upper-lip-ness, though, I told myself it was ‘not really my scene’ and I’m not even into J.Lo and I was simply going to keep a friend company.

We found our seats without too much trouble and watched while a crew of Zumba dancers gave it their all for a little while, to keep us all entertained.

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We knew the big names would be headlining so were surprised to see Jessie J walk on first. I was also surprised to see that looked like a sickly anorexic teenager. The new shaved head she is sporting doesn’t help, it makes her look really skeletal. But about her singing, I was pleasantly surprised. Her Olympics closing ceremony performance last year hurt my ears and I hadn’t high hopes for her live singing but she was good. Hats off to you, Jessie.

Then a gal in a pretty red dress and flowing blond locks and typical high school beauty looks performed some strange loud crashy rap songs. The energy fell a little flat and we sat smiling politely and clapping along a bit. As she did her second and third songs, we feigned polite interest, as one would with a boring guest at a dinner party. Not wanting to break out and yell, “GET OFF! WE ONLY CAME TO SEE BEYONCE,” we tolerated her disjointed noise then sighed with relief when she left the stage.

The next few acts were an Italian woman (the beat was funky, we clapped and wooped and waved our hands – then she started singing in a foreign language and we lost interest and went for a toilet break), Florence and The Machine (long flowy dress made me think of Lord Of The Rings and elfin beauties for the whole time) and John Legend (he was alright on his own songs but murdered Bridge Over Troubled Waters, which upset me).

Then a group of three girls came on and played guitars and bashed on drums and sang/shouted and made funny faces and I found the whole thing quite confusing.

Then Madonna came on! (We had blagged our way to some seats closer to the stage by then.)

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“WOOOOO!” said we.

“We’re all here today because we care about women and we know how important education is in the empowerment of women,” said Madonna.

“I CAME FOR J.LO AND BEYONCE! I COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT THE WOMEN!” someone yelled. I don’t know who. Just, ahem, someone.

“I’m going to tell you about a woman in Afghanistan,” said Madonna.

“WOOOOOO!” said we.

“Her name is….”

“WOOOOO! WE LOVE YOU!”

“Listen to me,” Madonna said, earnestly.

“WOOOOO! WOO! WOO! WOO!”

Listen to me!

Silence.

“Sorry, Madonna. Sorry,” we mumbled, and listened obediently while she talked about education.

Next up was Ellie Goulding. She wore little shorts and trainers and looked the picture of effortless cool. She bounced around on stage and had a whale of a time. Then Timberland came on with (wait for it) Simon Le Bon! Tinberland proceeded to do a few of his biggest tracks, replacing Justin Timberlake’s smooth gentle voice with his rather shouty one. He really went for it, giving it his all, performing his heart out. We rewarded him with a typically British response. We wiggled around a little doing sitting-down-dancing in our seats and held our cups of tea aloft and hoo-rahhed his efforts.

And then finally, you could tell the Americans had landed when a massive explosion of glitter sparkles shot out of the stage accompanied by mini firework puffs and smoke machines. Out of this emerged J.Lo, skimpily clad in a black leotard thing and looking fabulous at 43. She flicked her hair and spent a lot of time at the front of the stage, looking into the wind machine and being glamorous and performing perfectly executed dance routines.
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There was a strong emphasis on loud drum beats and sometimes I didn’t know what she was singing but it didn’t seem to matter, cause she’s still, she’s still, Jenny from the block so I wooped and danced with the rest of them. Occasionally, there was a fast and a slow beat going on at the same time and I didn’t know what to do with myself so I bobbed around a bit and swung my arms enthusiastically at my sides. J.Lo finished her set by singing Come Together by The Beatles with Mary J Blige. That’s right. Mary J Blige. Two for the price of one.

Then some talking and videos etc happened, I didn’t really follow them.

And then… Beyonce entered.

And some kind of hysteria took hold of me. I gave a short scream and jumped up.

“YEHHHH!” I yelled.

“Are y’all having a good time tonight?” Beyonce asked us.

“YES, I AM, THANK YOU FOR ASKING!” I yelled. “ARE YOU?”

Someone then pointed out that she’s not actually asking us. It’s just a rhetorical question, to which the answer should always be, “WOOOOOO!”

“Are you ready to party, London?” she asked.

Forgetting myself, I said, “YES! I’M A BIT TIRED BUT I THINK I’LL BE OK.”

And she got down with her bad self. She sung, we sung with her. She waved her arms, we waved our arms with her. She wooped and held the microphone to the audience. We screamed with unashamed abandon and lapped up all her fancy sparkly confetti, her smoke machine, her wind machine, her funky dancing and drum beats and long flowing hair. We sang ‘To the left, to the left,” in unison and all pointed to the left and loved Beyonce and loved each other and looked in teary-eyed wonder at her amazing beauty and wondered if we’d ever love anyone as much as we loved her in that moment.

“If I were a boy…” she sang.

“WE LOVE YOU BEYONCE!”

“Even just for a day…”

“WE’LL DO ANYTHING YOU WANT!”

“I’d roll out of bed in the morning..”

“WE WANT TO BE YOU BEYONCE!”

“Put on what I wanted and go…”

“YOU LOOK GREAT IN EVERYTHING BEYONCE! YOU’RE GORGEOUS! WE LOVE YOU!”

And so it went on. Beyonce sang, we loved. She was golden haired and slim waisted and angel voiced.

And Jay-Z walked on and did himself a little rap on Crazy In Love and we didn’t know where to put ourselves. Our throats became hoarse from excited screaming.

Beyonce finished with a little tribute to Whitney, which morphed into Halo, which made me giggle because I used to play it to a guy I was going out with and look at him with my serious eyes and tell him it made me think of him. Vom.

And then she left us. She just said thanks, bye, and walked right out of our lives. And we were left, empty and helpless. Life would never be the same after Beyonce.

Then suddenly we remembered the time and that public transport and getting out was going to be a nightmare. And suddenly we were all trying to squash out of the exit, cursing one another for barging us or getting in our way and scrambling for the train stations and bus stops, as though Beyonce didn’t even exist. Beyonce who? Get outta my way! I need to get home!

Phone conversations I had on Tuesday

3.15pm

TDCJ: Texas Department of Corrections, how can I help you?
Me: Hiya, I’m just calling to inquire about visiting an inmate. I was planning to come next week. I’m flying from England. But I’ve not received the paperwork to allow me to visit. I think the post is going slowly or something. Is there anything I can do to speed things up?
TDCJ: The inmates are allowed to change their visitor lists middle of next month.
Me: O, ok. On his latest letter, he said he’s changing it end of this month.
TDCJ: No. It’s the middle of the month.
Me: So what can I do about coming on Monday?
TDCJ: You won’t be able to visit on Monday.
Me: Is there nothing I can do?
TDCJ: You can come but you won’t be able to visit.

3.30pm

Lastminute.com: Lastminute dot com, how can I help you?
Me: I have to cancel my flight for this Saturday. I remember taking out a cancellation policy on the flight.
Lastminute.com: Yeh, it’s a nonrefundable flight, unfortunately. You can get a refund on the taxes. Not all of them. But a few.
Me: How much would that be?
Lastminute.com: £147
Me: Really?! But the flight was £574! That’s hardly anything back.
Lastminute.com: Yeh.
Me: Can I rearrange the flight? I’m probably going to go at the end of the month instead.
Lastminute.com: Ok, you’d need to pay the difference, if the new flight costs more. And the airline charges £100 for admin fee when you change. And we charge £45. And you’re only allowed to travel between Monday and Thursday.
Me: Monday and Thursday in the same week?
Lastminute.com: Yes.
Me: So I have to get from London to Texas, to the prison for two days of visits, back to Texas and back to London? In four days?
Lastminute.com: Yes.
Me: And how much am I looking at for that?
Lastminute.com: If you travel at the end of June, going Monday 24th, returning Thursday 27th, the extra charges you will have to pay will be £472.
Me: What?! Wait a minute. My flight was £570 to start with. That’s almost double!
Lastminute.com: Yeh. Shall I book it for you?
Me: You know what? I’ve had a pretty rubbish day. My head is aching and I’m knackered. Can I just call you back?
Lastminute.com: Mam, can I ask the reason why you need to cancel the flight? Delta have a policy that you may apply for a full refund in certain circumstances.
Me: (Deep breath.) My friend is on death row in Texas and he has an execution date next month. I wanted to go and visit him but the prison just informed me that I won’t be able to visit, even if I go all the way there. So I’m not… I can’t go… There’s no point. I can’t use those flights.
Lastminute.com: Ah ok. I’m so sorry to hear that.
Me: So will I be able to get a refund?
Lastminute.com: No. The special circumstances are something like if your family member is ill.
Me: Is this not a special circumstance? He’s being executed in a matter of weeks?
Lastminute.com: No, I’m sorry. So shall I change your flights for you?
Me: No. I. Just. Just leave it. I can’t be bothered anymore. I’m exhausted. Bye.
Lastminute.com: But mam, I…
Me: No. No more.
Lastminute.com: If I could just….

Beeeeeep.

It is 3.45pm. I am ready for bed.

And that, my friends, is what happened to me on Tuesday. My mind is tired. My head is aching. I’m wondering when we became so addicted to rules and regulations.

And I’m sad.

*As a postscript to this, I called on Wednesday and Lastminute.com had changed their minds. I do not have to travel Monday to Thursday in the same week. Problem solved! I’m going in late June and it only cost £280 to make the adjustments. Phew.

J is for….

JET PLANE!

As in Leaving On A….

When I was 18, I decided to go on a gap year. I really decided who I went away with in a bit of a panic. Anyone else I knew who was taking a year out before uni had arranged it already. So panic set in and I applied for the first thing I saw. Thankfully, it was brilliant. Before we left, we went on a training course on a little island off the coast of Scotland.

My favourite favourite song, at this point in time, was Leaving On A Jet Plane by Peter, Paul and Mary. When getting to know everyone else on the course, one boy, who was probably the most fun ever, revealed that his favourite song was Leaving On A Jet Plane!

Omygod, no! That’s my favourite song! No, it’s my favourite song. Omygod, we’ve got the same favourite song! This is like fate! It’s totally fate. I love the version Bjork did. Do you remember it? No, I didn’t know she’d done a version. I like the one by Peter, Paul and Mary. Wow. Same favourite song. This is amazing. We’re like so best friends.

And so we went on our gap years, me to Africa, Joe to China. And we spent a few years being here, there and everywhere. Until finally, inevitably, we both ended up in London. And we are still good friends, in fact we met for dinner last week.

And there have been various songs that epitomise different times in our relationship. For example, Cool by Gwen Stefani and Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt will always transport me back to the time I spent in Beijing with Joe, around the time that both of those songs came out. On the day I flew home, we walked down a quiet road near his hutong singing loudly and when I got in a taxi to leave, the unfairness of constantly living so far apart really got to me.
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(Us pretending to be fabulous pianists in a hotel in Beijing)

And now we live at opposite ends of the same tube line in the same city! Although we’re no longer 18 and no longer act as if we’re on drugs that make you hyper, I knew that song meant something when we discovered it was both our favourite!