29 March 2012

First Class postage goes up to 60p

Tomorrow the price of 1st Class postage goes up by 30%.
I still think it's cheap. For 60p you can send send a letter to Scotland and expect it to arrive the next morning. I think that's amazing value. Try getting a private company to that for the same money.
But "First Class"... what does it mean? I think it used to mean it would arrive in the morning post rather than in the later delivery. But these days it's a bit tenuous. Here in Holloway my post rarely arrives before 11.30am. The next day delivery we have come to expect doesn't seem to work either, as often I've sent something with a first class stamp on it to hear that it didn't arrive until two days later, even just across London.
But then what do I expect for 60p?!
I still have a have a lot of stamps that I bought last December, albeit with Christmas images on them, that I never used because I didn't find the time to make any 2011 Christmas cards, so it's a good job they don't have 'use by' dates on them.
Below are some interesting letter boxes on London doors. More here.

28 March 2012

Cleaning up the South Bank

Leaving the Royal Festival Hall and walking up the stairs to the northern side of the Jubilee Bridge a few weeks ago I was disgusted (of Hollloway) to notice how filthy the 'clear' side panels were. And I noticed that the metal strips that run either side of the whole length of the bridge(s) are also grimy.
It reminded me that when I was in Roturua, NZ, a few years ago I saw a woman cleaner, armed with a trolley full of sprays, cloths and sponges, ambling up the street cleaning the street furniture by hand quickly and efficiently. No noise, no machines, no fuss; just a bit of elbow grease.
Here in London, and perhaps the whole of the UK, we build iconic structures and 'modernise' our public transport, but then let it all get filthy within weeks. For instance, I have often witnessed electric-powered rotary cleaners being used on areas with square corners. Need I say more?!
Specifically, on the underground, the lovely yellow and blue tiles at Kings Cross were replaced with small silver grey tiles that have, within just one year become dull with patchy areas showing exactly where new batches of grout were mixed. These same badly-laid grubby little grey tiles have also been used on linking sections of other platforms, especially within the Jubilee line, whose concrete utilitarian design now just looks like the builders upped and left without finishing anything – and on a Waterloo platform recently I noticed that the leaning bars along the platform were only clean in the places that people lean on them. Ugh.
Don't get me wrong; I am not a cleanliness freak (just see the build up of dust in my house!) but the above seems to contradict all the health and safety nonsense we see and hear – don't touch this/that; wash your hands etc. The government, our councils and LRT are sending out mixed messages. Surely we ought to be keeping things looking the best they can be, and especially so this year with all the extra people expected for the Olympics?
Let's get cleaning... in the case of the Jubilee Bridge(s), I reckon it would take less than a day for a handful of people to get them looking all sparkly again.
So, to the promo bit.... I am glad to report that there is a clean-up incentive happening along the South Bank at the moment. A group of 'clean artists', headed by Moose Curtis, are creating reverse/negative graffiti along various stretches along the Thames. See more here and watch a short vid about it here.
A great idea. Some promo pics of the event are at the bottom of this post but, in Jane's London style, here are some of my own rubbish photos:

15 March 2012

The Ceremony of the Keys at The Tower of London

Last night I went to The Tower of London to witness the longest-surviving ceremony anywhere in the world... The Ceremony of The Keys. This locking-up of ritual has been taking place EVERY night, without fail, for over 700 years.
Halt! Who goes there? The Keys. Whose keys? The Queen's keys (etc.)
I remember doing a project on it when at junior school after a school trip. Which reminds me that in all my school years, excluding art trips in the 6th form, I can only recall ever going to three places; The Tower of London, London Zoo and Lullingstone Roman Villa...
The ceremony is free to attend but you have to apply here.
I haven't been to the Tower for a proper visit in decades, so another look around is well overdue, but I am not sure that this is the year to go, what with the Olympics and all the extra visitors headed this way. I'll just have to add it to my ever-lengthening list...
Here are some other London keys and keyholes:
Top: Holloway, Smithfield, Fleet St, Spitalfields
Middle: Finsbury Park (x2), Bloomsbury, Covent Garden
Bottom: Bloomsbury, Soho, Holloway, Kentish Town

12 March 2012

Hexen 2.0 exhibition at the Science Museum

Hexen 2.0 is an exhibition by British artist Suzanne Treister on at the Science Museum until 20th April. 
According to the blurb, the exhibition "charts the coming together of diverse physical and social sciences in the framework of post-Second-World-War US governmental and military imperatives. Investigating cybernetics, the history of the Internet, the rise of 'Web 2.0' and mass intelligence gathering – using drawings, alchemical diagrams, photographs, text works and 78 specially designed tarot cards". 
Well, I couldn't have put that better myself!!!
I just love her drawings and illustrations and have ordered a copy of the book so that I can reconfigure history and map out hypothetical future narratives for myself.
If you have never been to the Science Museum... what are you waiting for? Go go go – it is fabulous and full of amazingly interesting stuff (for want of a better word!). 
And whilst you are there check out the Hidden Heroes exhibition too.

7 March 2012

International Women's Day Fair at Spitalfields

March 8th marks International Women's Day.
On Saturday there will be a market and activities at Spitalfields Traders Market with music and live events. I will be there (of course).
Last year's event was good, so let's make this one even better.

5 March 2012

Gillette ghost sign; hidden in plain sight

Earlier today I was in near Oxford Circus and looked up and saw what I thought must be a recently uncovered Gillette ghost sign.
Excited, I took lots of photos, one of which is below and a close up here where you can make out the signwriter's name.
But I just checked on Flickr and it seems the sign has been visible since at least July 2009 when Maggie snapped it... so how have I not spotted it myself until now?!
As a friend says, 'sometimes things are hidden in plain sight'... they are right under our noses or in this case, above our heads. The same would apply to the Gillette ghost sign in Queensway and the one for Creamed Barley above Mornington Crescent tube station.
I have spotted faded Gillette ads all over London; in Whitechapel, New Cross, Dalston, Clapham, Kilburn, Kensal Green, Stoke Newington, Tottenham, Acton, Peckham, Willesden and Grays Inn Road (see them here), and I know of others, so there are probably many more out there to discover, either hidden under new advertising panels or in hiding plain sight.

1 March 2012

Happy St David's Day

Isn't it.
Top row: Lambeth, W1, Deptford, NW1
Middle row: Mornington Crescent, Caledonian Rd, Kentish Town, Upper Street
Bottom row: Highgate, Cheapside, Piccadilly, Brixton.
Interesting to note that The PoW pub in Lambeth seems to have a nationality crisis