31 August 2012

Architecture in the City

I have just been made aware of what looks to be a wonderful exhibition in the City of London.
Maps, models, photos and more... ooh!
This is only running until 9th September so be sure to check it out if you are in the Cannon Street area as it's open at weekends too.
Here's Ian Visits' review.
And here are some of my pictures which illustrate the ever-changing architectural landscape of that immediate area:

29 August 2012

Paralympics, August, London 2012.

I put a collection of relevant Paralympic pics together a while ago here.
But this post is not about anything London or sporty it's about logo design.
I have already written here about my disdain for that awful London 2012 logo with its lower case L for London and that redundant square in the middle, but enough of that... this is about the Paralympic logo; the Agitos.
For a few years now I have been collecting snaps of what I call lazy logo designs. And the Agitos fits into this mould...
It appears that there is a simple formula to creating a logo and anyone can do it – all you need to do is write the name of the company and then add a shape, reminiscent of the Nike swoosh, over, under or around the name using the negative space created by two overlapping ellipses. Genius! If you can't fathom the overlapping ellipse thing simply re-draw the shape as best you can, just like in the Agitos version.
Look around you; these things are everywhere.
Below is a screengrab of just a few of the ones I have on file.
The Agitos logo, takes this process further and just repeats the elliptical element, without words, to give, I assume, an impression of movement, agitos being the Latin for 'I move'. See how they've managed to squeeze it in beautifully with the other elements to form the Paralympic Games 2012 logo. Nice! Not.
I may have to give up my day job.

26 August 2012

Handmade or manmade?

I need a new pair of trainers.
I used to have a really great pair of comfy leather Nikes a few years back, so last week I went into their Neal Street, Covent Garden shop.
I was dispponted to see that almost all of the wonderfully colourful stock was made from some kind of plastic mesh. I explained to the assistant that the shoe he was showing me would be no good in the rain and, anyway, I didn't like the fact that the materials were man-made.
So he picked up slightly different shoe and told me that the material was machine-made.
You just can't make this stuff up!

23 August 2012

Nudity and royalty

Shock horror, Prince Harry's been photographed naked playing cards!
Turns out he's nude under those clothes just like the rest of us. 
Playing strip poker, in Vegas, sounds like a fairly normal thing to do, better than betting and losing his crown jewels.  
Throughout history male members of the royal family have been rogering around and siring illegitimate children hither and thither. It's a perk of the job! I consider that Harry's being fairly tame in comparison.
If you haven't seen a naked man before, here's are some to be found in London. Shocking!

18 August 2012

My Ambassadorial week

At 5pm yesterday afternoon I finished my volunteering stint as a London Ambassador – five days from noon until 5pm in Trafalgar Square.
The word 'ambassador' is a strange choice being, as we were, walking information points handing out maps of London. I think the top three questions I was asked were; 'How do I get to Piccadilly Circus?', 'Where is Covent Garden?' and 'Is the Olympic Park open?' (no to the last one... it'll be open during the Paralympics, then closed until March 2013).
I had a good time as a London Ambassador. I am glad I stuck it it out and gritted my teeth through the useless training modules because I met and helped some lovely people in the end. And made a few new friends.
London is lovely at the moment The sun is shining and it's reasonably quiet. The streets are emptier than normal, the tube is pleasant to use, ditto the buses and the public spaces. Londoners seem to have taken heed of Boris's advice to change their working patterns vis-a-vis the Olympics and are either working remotely from home, or have gone away on holiday. It's lovely! The evening streets are not so full of after-work drinkers. Everyone is smiling and happy after such a great sporting event and visitors are getting a really good impression of our fair city. I wish it was like this all year round!  
So, how was my ambassadorial week?
Let's start with those bloody uniforms. As suspected, they were horrible to wear. Hats were supposed to be worn but when you are encased in pink and purple plastic sweating in glorious sunshine, putting a lid on the top is not a good idea. When the sun hid behind a cloud I was cold and shivery; the material being non breathable did not allow the air to dry my body. Yeuch!
I noted that the The London Transport staff at our pods, there to help people find their bus stops or plan their tube journeys, were just wearing loose pink branded sleeveless things over their normal clothes. Why oh why the powers that be couldn't have designed something similar for the Ambassadors is beyond me. The waste of money regarding our uniforms and the materials used to make them disgusts me on many levels. Will people really want to buy any of this on ebay as they suggest? 
I hated having to wear closed-in shoes. What a really silly stipulation. Surely it's better to be able to wear whatever one finds comfortable? I am sure the public only really noticed the branded tops and jackets and wouldn't have given a flying whatsit if we were sporting green sling-backs or light blue pixie boots. 
Branded umbrellas would have been useful – after all, this is England, known for the rain! In pink and purple, they would have been really visible and in the hot sun they would have been great as parasols. In contrast to the clothes, this would have been an item I would have actually wanted to keep and use again. And pens... where were the pens?  I can't recall any event I have ever been to that didn't have branded pens or pencils!
There were way too many Ambassadors. We were like a sea of bright pink dots littering the square. I was disheartened by how many had scant knowledge of London, let alone the immediate vicinity. One of the managers admitted that he didn't know the Trafalgar Square area, and in the previous week he'd been in another location he didn't know very well. This turned out the be Oxford Circus. Oh dear. 
On the plus side, some of the younger Ambassadors were knowledgeable, really keen to help and really good fun to hang out with. Others, mainly the older ones, were, how can I put it... jobsworths or competitive serial stewards, trying to be all know-all and do everything by the book. These badge collectors seemed to think Boris ought to be coming round and patting us on the back one by one. Their 'me me me' attitude was rather tedious for the core of us who felt we had volunteered to help people, not to show off or be congratulated.  
Keeping in pairs, one of the instructions we were given at the outset, was a daft idea. Perhaps they thought if we stayed in pairs we wouldn't get lost?! But if you pair up with someone you will talk to them and thus become less approachable, so I chose to stand or wander alone. A few of us made solo sorties into St Martin's Lane, Charing Cross Road, Whitehall and The Strand... ooh, so brave! But I noticed that many Ambassadors huddled in groups of four or more in the square just chatting to one another, only stopping if a brave tourist came and broke up the party. I couldn't understand why they had volunteered if they were content to be so non-proactive. 
So what's the Legacy for the Ambassadors? The feedback from people I chatted to was that having us there was really useful, and many were surprised that this service wasn't there 365 days a year. I think it would be a good idea to have this kind of personal info available all year round, especially for busy periods such as around Christmas and New Year at some major locations, such as Trafalgar Square, but with just 6-10 people manning it at any time. Surely  would be Boris should ask all the Ambassadors if they could volunteer for just a few days in a year – I am sure the uptake would be huge.
I'd do it. 
I'd also design the minimal uniform... just a tabard thing and an umbrella. Job done.

15 August 2012

Happy birthday to me!

Today I become a golden girl. I am not sure how this came around so quickly, but I do remember thinking when London won the Olympic bid all those years ago that'd I'd be 50 when it all kicked off, but that it was too far off in the future to really be true!
But hey, here we are. The milestone has been reached.
During the day I will be in Trafalgar Square doing my Ambassador stint. Then as soon as I have peeled off the purple polyester, the plan is to go to Gaby's for food and then nip round the corner to St Martin's Place for a few quiet beers, chosen because it's not on a street.
Looking forward, drinks proper will be at The Shaftesbury Tavern on Hornsey Road on Saturday 18th from 5pm until late.
Do come along and join me on either day – the more the merrier! Contact me for further details.
It's just occurred to me that being a Leo I am now a golden lion, so perhaps I really ought to be having my celebration drinks in a pub of that name!
Oh, and in Chinese astrology I am a tiger. Another big cat.
But I prefer dogs.
And here's another thought re roman numerals: it's L being fifty!

12 August 2012

It's closing time

Today is the last day of the London 2012 Olympics and tonight we get to watch the Closing Ceremony.
I'll leave it at that and just show a collection of images of places in London that have closed without any ceremonies at all. Some have since been demolished, and some have completely changed their identity, whilst others are still waiting to hear about their future.
You may well recognise some of them:

6 August 2012

Meddling in gold

Gold. Olympic gold. Gold medals. Golden Girl Jessica Ennis. Fastest this. Highest that.
Athletes have medalled and then podiummed*. But when does the medalling actually take place? Is at the moment of winning, or on the actual podium when one podiums and gets to meddle with the medal?
Jessica Ennis is indeed a fabulous all-rounder; a true athlete. Give that girl a bowl of Golden Nuggets or Golden Grahams with a Golden Syrup chaser.
It should be noted that Olympic medals aren't even gold – there are usually mostly brass, ditto these golden things in London. Hurrah for yellow metals, gilding and electroplating.
Here's a thought... and I am putting my pedant's hat on here, but Usain Bolt may not actually be the fastest man in the World... he is just the fastest man over a specific distance of 100 metres who can be bothered to put the time and effort in, and has the confidence and self belief to perform in front of an audience. There could be someone with the potential to go faster watching Usain on TV from the comfort of a sofa who, many years ago, didn't take advantage of his PE teacher's advice and encouragement.
Another thing; why do the religious athletes believe their god will help them win? Does this god of theirs have favourites? Why would a god engineer a situation to make the others lose or fail? Answers on a postcard please.
And re hurdles, it occurs to me that there must be an optimum leg length in order to get the stride right between the jumps and this must affect the speed and how the athletes can run. They do say, after all, that 'all' you need to do is find the right sport for your body shape and size and you'll do well.
Back to gold... if it's so precious, how come there are vaults full of the stuff everywhere and it's available to buy in every high street?
Oh gawd, now I've got that bloody Spandau Ballet song on my brain... ooh quick... think some other golden songs ... like this or, better still, this.

*I am assuming that this new word ought to be spelled with two 'm's as in gummed, otherwise it would rhyme with consumed.

4 August 2012

Walk The Tube

This follows on nicely from my last post... walking is London is cheaper and, in many cases, quicker and more efficient than going on the Underground.
Many people, including Londoners, are not aware that many places are closer than the tube map indicates. Two good examples are Leicester Square to Covent Garden and Queensway to Bayswater.
PruHealth, has put together a really clever infographic based on the London tube map intended to get us all walking a bit more.
See here for more.

3 August 2012

London for less – cheap days out

People are always telling me London is expensive. Well, just like any other city, it isn't if you know where to go and can manage avoid the usual tourist attractions and recommended restaurants.
Laura, a student friend came to stay with me for a few days recently and we managed to pack so much into her short stay here...
Evening one: a filling meal in Wagamama followed by a showcase gig (five bands for the price of one!) at the o2 Academy Islington for £8. Add in a couple of beers =£25 each.
Day two: showing her the around the local delights and shops in the Holloway area with Turkish pancakes for lunch (I first met her in Turkey at a pancake stall!). Then a bus to Camden and the markets, a walk up Chalk Farm Road, yummy ice cream, up to Primrose Hill for the view, then back to Camden Road via the canal enjoying sneaky peeks of the animals in London Zoo. Another bus back and a couple of pints in my local pub. The day came to about £20 each (excluding some very good charity shop purchases).
Day three: she wanted to revisit the Natural History Museum, so, because I know she too loves all the architectural details etc in London, we got the tube to Gloucester Road so I could show here the two station entrances and some nearby buildings. From there it's just short walk to the major museums. We got snap happy taking photos of the their exteriors along Exhibition Road and then went into the NHM where we spent hours looking at different kinds of rocks and crystals and strange birds and weird fish, and got 'trapped' in the lovely wildlife garden which had, despite signs to the contrary, no direct exit.
At the main entrance to the V+A we admired the fabulous overhead 'scuplture' made using white traffic cones. This is part of the Heatherwick exhbition which is on my list of things to go and see. Laura tried one of the wobbly Spun chairs which are littered around the museum. It looked fun but I declined (I didn't want to kick off a recent back injury again!).
Laura is interested in the old oxblood tube stations designed by Leslie Green so I'd decided to walk back along the Piccadilly Line and show her some of the closed stations. Whilst admiring Brompton Road station I suggested we went into Brompton Oratory. This gorgeous Catholic church is overlooked by many visitors to London (who follow the usual pattern and go to St Pauls, Westminster Abbey etc) and it's really worth a visit. We were so lucky as, just as we walked in, the Relic Of The Cross service started. So we took a pew and tried to look like we knew what we were doing. The sound of the choir was wonderful. We didn't really understand what was going on up front and I don't think it's possible to be an asthmatic Catholic with all that aromatic smoke being waved about! But what an absolute treat for both of us. A free show!
Then a wander around the little back streets in and around Montpelier and Trevor Squares and into Harrods to show her the magnificently OTT food and perfume halls, ending with that ridiculous Diana and Dodi memorial (no link, sorry!). . . from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Into Hyde Park where we found a tree I'd never spotted before... it's like a big round leafy tent, supported in a few places by struts having collapsed on itself. We admired the flowerbeds, sneered at the Queen Mother Gates and walked through the pedestrian subway into Mayfair. It started raining but you can't get wetter than wet so we walked on and into Shepherd Market, then out onto Piccadilly passing Down Street station and some big, sad, dirty and empty buildings, and then cut into Old Bond Street and Cork St for a bit of window shopping. It was a contrast to cross over Regent Street into Soho, as by now it was gone 8.30pm on a Friday and the streets were full of so many people drinking on the pavements etc. Evidence that Nash's borderline is still working. We found a good cheap 'eat as much you like' Thai+Chinese buffet and after that, having had our fill of food and culture, got a bus back to Holloway. Total spend about £18 each.
The next day I was busy at Spitalfields so Laura purchased a One Day Travelcard for Zones 1&2 and after helping me to set up she left to go sightseeing. She was back at 4pm with photos of Shoreditch, the City, Whitehall, South Bank and more! Blimey she would put the Japanese to shame!
And then she went and caught her train to Leeds.
I have lots of ideas for her next visit...