Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Trafalgar Square: Christmas Tree

London The Unfinished City
Merry Christmas, from the Unfinished City.

Christmas time in the Unfinished City only truly begins when the Christmas Tree is lit, in Trafalgar Square. It is a tradition that has been going on since 1947.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Italian Gardens

London The Unfinished City
A little piece of Italy in the heart of London.

With so much to see in Kensington Park, I had to separate the various parts into individual posts.

The Italian Gardens are a wonderfully peaceful place to take a break, considering how close they are to the Bayswater Road. With gently sloping, tree-covered greens, on either side, offering shade, a Pump House with seating and fountains that keep the heat down, you can quite easily forget that you are in the heart of London.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood

London The Unfinished City
V & A Museum of Childhood

Friday November 2, 2018.

Having two young daughters, that enjoy traipsing around the Unfinished City, we thought that we would take them somewhere a little different. Normally, they find museums to be a little daunting because of their sheer size, especially my youngest, so we decided to visit the V & A Museum of Childhood.

Set in the heart of Bethnal Green the museum was simple to reach, being just a two-minute walk from Bethnal Green Station. And what a wonderful museum it is.

The museum houses over 6000 garments, construction toys, dolls (and their houses),furniture (from 1640 to the present), 3000+ games (both indoor and outdoor), mechanical toys, plus much more.

It it is a great place to reminisce and remember some of the toys that I played with as a child. Some of which I still have. And, it is the perfect place to have flashbacks, of which I had many.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast Tour, 2018

'Hallowed Be Thy Name'

Friday August 10, 2018.

Considering that I had only seen Iron Maiden perform just 15 months before, I, and my friend David, were intrigued as to what to expect just over a year later.

Word had gone round that this would be a completely new experience with a whole new stage set and design. Old classics would be dusted off and newer ones left out. A greatest hits tour? No. Definitely not! Instead a story would be told through four very different parts. The stage would change to match each part and there would be other surprises. These included an inflatable Spitfire, that loomed out over the stage, complete with spinning propellor, pyrotechnics, Eddie T Head, umpteen costume changes, by Bruce Dickinson and a dual flamethrower among other things.

Once again David and I met at Kings Cross, then ate and drank our way to River Thames. Once again we boarded a Thames Clipper, surrounded by Iron Maiden fans of all generations, and headed for the Greenwich Peninsula.

Unlike 2017 the support act were the awful Killswitch Engage, who proceeded to drive the Iron Maiden fans back out to the bar areas.

Knowing that we had plenty of time we had deliberately paced ourselves, so, knowing exactly where our seats were, took our time, thereby saving our eardrums.

Not long after the noise of the support act had left the building, we made our way to our seats, bursting with an anticipation that could be felt trying to burst out of every fan in the arena.

And, boy, we were not disappointed.

As the sounds of their cover of UFO's Doctor Doctor, played from tape, played around the arena, their was a silence that I had never heard at an Iron Maiden concert. The silence didn't last, as Winston Churchill's 'We shall fight them' speech, again played from tape, bellowed from the speakers. The crowd erupted and, as the stage lights came up, the familiar sound of Aces High began. At which point the aforementioned virtually full-size Spitfire, flew above the stage, strafing those in the front, before turning and crashing behind a mountain of amps. This was followed by Where Eagles Dare, 2 Minutes to Midnight, The Clansman and The Trooper. A theme of war pervading the songs.

The set changed from a camouflage draped staged set to a cathedral like setting, complete with stained-glass windows. Even Nicko's drum kit matched the cathedral's stained-glass and, atop his bass drum, Sooty was wearing a Trooper jacket.

Then it was straight into Revelations which was swiftly followed by For the Greater Good of God, The Wicker Man, Sign of the Cross and Flight of Icarus. Then Fear of the Dark was followed by The Number of the Beast and finally Iron Maiden.

For the encore they belted out The Evil That Men Do, Hallowed Be Thy Name and, to round the night off, Run To the Hills.

We left to the sound of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, with a sense of euphoria that I had never experienced before.

This tour is continuing onto 2020, so if you get the chance get a ticket.

Roll on the next tour.

Up the IRONS!

Saturday, August 04, 2018

London's Roman Fort, Walls & Bastions

London The Unfinished City
Part of the Roman Fort Wall and Bastion 14, London Wall.

I have always had a fascination with the Romans and, by extension, there creation of Londinium, so I have always looked forward to visiting as much of the remaining wall and fortifications, as I can.

And. to be fair, there is still a lot of the city wall still standing, some of which is in plain sight, while smaller pieces need searching out. 

Fortunately, there is a walking route, that has markers, so you can follow the entire line of the City Wall at your own leisure. 

London The Unfinished City
Marker number 3 of 21.

However, there are still pieces that you will need to search out yourself, such as those bits of wall hidden in car parks or only visible from underground platforms.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Museum of London Docklands

London The Unfinished City
The past lives on.

Friday August 3, 2018.

Having visited the Museum of London, on a number of occasions, I thought that it was about time that we took some time to visit her sister museum, in London's Docklands. It was a pleasant summer morning as we approached Warehouse No. 1, which which has been fully restored and now houses the Museum.

Covering the full history of the River Thames and the docks, from the first Roman port, through the 1600s and on to the present day, all of its unique history is here.

On our visit there was a special exhibition entitled Roman Dead. This included many Roman remains that had been unearthed throughout the City. Some of them had only been discovered in the last few years, with the deep excavations undertaken in the construction of Crossrail.

Since we all enjoyed the visit so much, and with there being plenty of time left in the day, we took the Docklands Light Railway to Bank station, before making our way to the Museum of London. Thus visiting both museums, in one day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

London The Unfinished City
The grave of Daniel Defoe.

I had long wished to visit Bunhill Fields Burial Ground and Gardens, as, sometimes, these are often overlooked places that many find macabre. 

However, places like this offer a wonderfully peaceful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Plus, there are always the graves of important people, mixed in with the ordinary, everyday tombstone. 

London The Unfinished City

Bunhill Fields contains many graves, but some of the more famous are those of Daniel Defoe and William Blake, the latter of which is just a marker stating that he is buried close by. This is set to change, as his actual burial site has now been found, and a new gravestone will be unveiled, soon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Coal Hole Covers

London The Unfinished City
A typical Hayward Brothers Coal Plate, that is roughly 150 years old.

While walking the streets of London, I always make sure to look down as well as up. It was on one of walks from Kensington to Baker Street, via a convoluted route, that I properly noticed these small, iron plates. I had passed them many times before, but I had never really paid them much attention. What a mistake?!

These are Coal Hole Covers, which are fast vanishing from London's streets. Some of them are plain, while others are quite ornate. Some have no wording, which makes it difficult to identify the manufacturer, while others are proudly stamped with the ironmongers name, or company.

Friday, June 29, 2018

St Giles-without-Cripplegate

London The Unfinished City
Reflected Church.

Friday June 29, 2018.

It was while taking a wander through the Barbican Estate, looking to find as much of the old Roman Walls as possible, that I caught sight of this magnificent looking church reflected in the still waters of the Barbican Lake.

Unfortunately, when I went to the church itself it was closed, but I will be returning to see what wonders it holds, in the near future.

Museum of London

London The Unfinished City
Need any more be said?

Friday June 29, 2018.

The Unfinished City is home to hundreds of museums, the majority of which are free to enter. Currently my favourite museum is the Museum of London, which charts the history of our great city from prehistoric times right through to the present day. It is an absolute joy to explore and I always learn something new, from each visit.

Having said that, until recently I had never explored the entire museum. This was usually because of time constraints, or popping in for a quick exploratory, while waiting for the rain to alleviate.

Museum of the Order of St John

London The Unfinished City
St John's Gate.

Friday June 29, 2018.

It was another warm day that I had spent wandering the streets of the Unfinished City, following the old Roman Walls, when, after stopping for some refreshment, I found what looked like a castle gate. Intrigued, I decided to pop in to see what it was about.

London The Unfinished City
The Most Venerable Order of St John.

It turns out that this is the home of the Museum of the Order of St John. The museum charts the origins of this religious military order, from 11th century Jerusalem, through to its modern role as the international first aid charity, the St John Ambulance.

London The Unfinished City

So, in I went.

Some of the areas, like the Priory church and its crypt, plus the rooms upstairs could only be accessed on a guided tour. Unfortunately, I did not have the time for a guided tour, so I just enjoyed the museum galleries, on the ground floor, plus the garden beside the Priory church. 

London The Unfinished City
A Templar chair.

The galleries contain a wealth of historic information, artefacts and models and the garden is a quiet oasis in the heart of a bustling area, where small tables and chairs are available to soak up the peace and serenity of the space.

London The Unfinished City
The Cloister.

I will be visiting again, hopefully soon, to take in the whole of this building.

London The Unfinished City
"I'll take the Priory!"

To see more photographs from my trip, click the link below.

For anyone interested in the history of this charity, St John's Gate is well worth the visit.

'The Jugged Hare'

London The Unfinished City
A Paradise for any Taxidermist.

Friday June 29, 2018.

It was during one of many wanders around the Unfinished City, that I discovered this wonderful pub. With its oak floors, red leather seats and walls covered in stuffed hares, along with other animals of varying size, it immediately caught my attention. So, I stopped off for a quick drink, while I planned the rest of my wander.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

'Cart & Horses'

London The Unfinished City
The Cart & Horses: Birthplace of Iron Maiden.

Saturday May 26, 2018.

When I was just 10 years young, I purchased my first 7" single. It was Iron Maiden's 'Run to the Hills'. I have been a fan of theirs ever since, so I decided that it was high time that I visited The Cart & horses, Stratford, where Iron Maiden performed their first gig, back in 1976.

So, with my friend Len in tow, we made our way to Stratford, via the Jubilee line, to visit this iconic establishment on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Walking into the pub the first thing to greet us was the small stage where, back in 1976, Iron Maiden first performed.

London The Unfinished City
Hallowed ground.

After a couple of photos we grabbed a drink each and admired the merchandise on sale, before heading to the rear garden to enjoy the sun.

London The Unfinished City
Merchandise for sale.

A few more photos and another drink was had, before we headed off to continue our walk.

London The Unfinished City
What else was I to drink?!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dinosaurs in the Wild

London The Unfinished City
A family of Triceratops, on the Montana Plains.

Saturday April 28, 2018.

We arrived early, which gave us a chance to use the facilities, before we boarded our timepod, following our safety briefing in which we also received special glasses, that would allow is to see through the reinforced windows.

It took only a few seconds to travel back 67 million years, at which point our timepod deployed its wheels, converting it into a X90 CTP land vehicle, and we headed to Timebase 67.

A few scary moments as some dinosaurs took an interest in our vehicle, with one clambering over the window, as it tried to get on the roof, but, otherwise, it was a plenty journey ambling past some Alamosaurus, Triceratops, Ankylosaurus, Dakotaraptor and many more.

We disembarked and went into the visitor's centre, where our guide explained where we were and what we would see. Around the walls various CCTV screens showed the goings on around the base: Living quarters, hospital, canteen, dry store, various laboratories, workshops, gym and various other areas of the Timebase. 

London The Unfinished City
A groundbreaking shovel.

After a good look at some of the press clippings, commemorative plaques and other paraphernalia on the walls we headed into a laboratory, where there were some great exhibits on show: A forearm from a Tyrannosaurus, various dinosaur brains, an Alamosaurus heart, various bugs and even dinosaur droppings!!! Many of these items could be handled, making it a real educational environment.

London The Unfinished City
The eyes and brainstem of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

From here we then went on to see the autopsy of an Alamosaurus: This included the removal of some internal organs and the sawing off of the cranial plate, to expose the brain. Luckily the autopsy took place behind a glass screen, so we were in no danger of getting covered in blood.

London The Unfinished City
Preparing for the autopsy of a dinosaur.

The hatchery was next, on the experience, where we could see various dinosaur nests. While we were there a baby Dilophoraptor hatched, which they named Keilyn Raptor, after the birthday girl herself.

London The Unfinished City
A baby Keilyn Raptor.

The animal labs, nocturnal and daylight, were next, before we headed up to the Lookout Platform. 

With huge windows and touchscreen information terminals, there was much to see and do. While we watching the dinosaurs, in their natural habitat, a vehicle outside one of the windows was attacked by a pair of Ankylosaurus. The vehicle suffered some severe damage and its occupants were forced to leave the burning X90 CTP. Our guides, who realised what was happening, dispatched some men in Hazmat suits to rescue the stranded visitors. At this point a pride of Tyrannosaurus approached the Timebase and we were hurriedly forced to evacuate.

London The Unfinished City
Some Tyrannosaurs ready to attack the Timebase.

While some guides led us through some dark tunnels, other guides, armed to the teeth, stayed behind to buy us some escape time. We headed into a lift that took us down to sub level 4, where, we headed in to another corridor. The roof of this corridor was made of glass, giving an amazing view of an underwater world. However, we were soon forced to crouch low to the ground as a Prognathodon peered down at us, no doubt thinking we were food.

Soon, though, we made our way to the emergency escape pods which, after a minor technical issue, returned us to 2018.

Dinosaurs in the Wild is part educational, part expedition, but 100% awesome. Suitable for all ages, although some very young children may find some of the expedition a bit scary, I would thoroughly recommend it as a destination.

Click the link below to see lots more photographs of our adventure.

Click the link below to watch a video of our adventure.

Friday, April 27, 2018

ZSL London Zoo

London The Unfinished City
The Sumatran Tiger, Jae Jae, cuddles his mate, Melati, in Tiger Territory.

ZSL London Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country, if not the world. It is a place that is constantly evolving, which offers something new on each visit. It is a place that all of my children love, regardless of their age on each visit.

With the Snowdon Aviary being the next big regeneration project, I cannot wait to see what happens after its completion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Plaque: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

London The Unfinished City
First female doctor, first female member of a school board and first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.
Working, as I do, for the National Health Service, I have a developed a fascination with the history of hospitals, especially the buildings themselves, and of the pioneering staff who worked in them.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Viewing London

London The Unfinished City
Sunset behind St. Paul's Cathedral, taken from One New Change.

With the Unfinished City constantly changing, as new buildings are added to its skyline on an almost yearly basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to find the perfect spots from which to see these remarkable buildings, from either up close and personal, or from an unobscured vantage point.

Thankfully, London has a number of great vantage points from which you can see some remarkable views, many of which are free, or fairly cheap.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin)

London The Unfinished City
The Gherkin.

30 St Mary Axe is one of the most striking examples of contemporary architecture, in the City of London, and is one of my favourite buildings in the area. 

London The Unfinished City
Old and New.

With its triangular and diamond shaped glass panels it offers some truly unique photographic opportunities, regardless of whether it is sunny or overcast.

London The Unfinished City
The Gherkin from the Garden at 120 Fenchurch Street.

London The Unfinished City
The Gherkin is gradually being hidden by newer office blocks.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sea Life London Aquarium

London The Unfinished City
A  perfect predator.

The Sea Life London Aquarium is one of those places that I can quite easily spend a good few hours, in a calming and relaxing environment. The exhibits are changed often enough that there is always something new and refreshing to see.

With huge ocean tanks, containing sharks and rays, an underwater tunnel shark walk, smaller tanks, with their myriad of species, to the realm of the penguins, there is something to keep visitors of all ages entertained.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

London Mithraeum

London The Unfinished City
The Temple of Mithras.

Ever since I had first read about the Temple of Mithras, I had wanted to see it with my own eyes. 

Recently, the temple was dismantled from its location on Queen Victoria Street and moved back to its original site, on the banks of the Walbrook River, below the new Bloomberg building.

It is free to visit, but you must book a timeslot. I was not disappointed and think that everyone should take a trip back in time to Roman London. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Commonwealth Day

Parliament Square on Commonwealth Day
Celebrating the Commonwealth.
On the morning of Monday March 11, 2013, my eldest daughter, Alysha, had the honour of performing a dance at Westminster Abbey, in front of Royalty, for Commonwealth Day.

As I wasn't permitted inside, I spent the morning soaking up the atmosphere, and plenty of coffee, as the temperature was hovering just above freezing. Suffice to say that I while I struggled to keep warm, my daughter was inside Westminster Abbey, dancing in front of royalty, dignitaries and celebrities.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

General Lying-In Hospital

London Maternity Hospital
A bit of an archaic term, but still a wonderful building.
Considering the amount of regeneration around the South Bank, especially close to the old County Hall and its environs, I am still amazed that wonderful buildings like the General Lying-In Hospital still survive.

Although no longer a hospital it is still part of the Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, who use it as offices and a training facility.

Chinese New Year Parade 2018

Year of the Dog 2018
Flying High.
An early start saw us reaching Charing Cross Road, in order to find a good vantage point from which to watch the parade. The majority of the route was already full of spectators, but we still managed to find suitable spot.

As always, with a parade on this scale, there was a delayed start, but it was soon underway and we found that we were had a pretty good view; On the kerb, with no one in front of us.

After the parade finished we headed through Chinatown, back through Leicester Square and down on to Trafalgar Square.

After taking in the atmosphere we headed off for some food, before heading home.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blue Plaque: Sir Douglas Bader

London The Unfinished City
Not bad... for a man with no legs.

Recently I took a stroll around the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, visiting various places that I hadn't yet seen.

One of the things that I wanted to see was the English Heritage Trust Blue Plaque, to commemorate Douglas Bader, on Petersham Mews. I have been fascinated by his story since I was about 8 and thought that it was time that went to see where he had once lived.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

MillenniuM Wheel (London Eye)

London The Unfinished City
The World's tallest cantilevered observation wheel.

The London Eye has become synonymous with the London skyline, becoming the focal point of the New Year's Eve fireworks.

I have walked beneath it countless times, but did not get to take a flight on it until November, 2017.

Booking in advance we managed to get a deal whereby we got two flights on the same day; One in the morning, the other in the evening. And, it was far better than I thought it was going to be, even though the weather wasn't the best.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Embassy of the United States of America (1960-2018)

London The Unfinished City
Home to the Diplomatic Mission of the USA, from 1960-2018.

Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, has always held an odd fascination with me. Whether it is because of the area, or the history of the square, I do not know.

However, one of the most imposing, and I would say magnificent, buildings around the square, is the old Embassy of the United States of America, with its gilded bald eagle sitting on its roof. 

London The Unfinished City
June 2020

Now that the embassy has moved to Nine Elms, you can get quite close to the building and see it in all of its glory, before the developers move in.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Piccadilly Arcade

London The Unfinished City
The finest Edwardian Arcade left in London.

Considering the amount of times that I have walked along Piccadilly, I can count on one hand the amount of times that I have walked through the Piccadilly Arcade.

It is one of those hidden gems that so many people miss, but it is well worth visiting, even if it is just to escape the hordes of tourists, or escape from the London weather.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lumiere London, 2018

London The Unfinished City
Westminster Abbey looking glorious at Lumiere London 2018.

As soon as the dates were released for this years Lumiere Festival, I knew that I would be attending. Falling across four nights, Thursday 18 - Sunday 21, we decided that the Friday would be the best night for us.

Fortunately, I was allowed to leave work slightly early, thank you to my manager for that, so that I could pick up the girls, with my wife. This afforded us the luxury of being able to leave for London, earlier than expected.

As we had all had a long week, and knowing that Erin (6) and Keilyn (4) would be tired, I had planned a route that would allow us to see some of the installations, while staying close enough to transport links, should the girls become too tired.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

'Giro', The German Ambassador's Dog

London The Unfinished City
A Faithful Companion!
London in February 1934.

I am amazed when walking around London, even if it is a place that I have visited many times before, the amount of weird or unusual things that I have previously missed.

For instance: I have walked around, along and through Waterloo Place many times. Whether going to Pall Mall from The Mall, or looking at the various statues or simply just wandering around the area. But, not once, in all of these visits, had I noticed this little grave to "Giro", nestled beneath a tree.

I had to find out more about this curious little grave.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

'Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese'

London The Unfinished City
Is that the River Fleet, I hear?

One of my favourite pubs, in the City of London, is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I first discovered it a number of years back, when I ducked into an alleyway to avoid some freezing rain, on a cold January day. Seeing the light of the pub I wandered in.

London The Unfinished City
Heading into the cellar.

On entering I found it to be quite dark, with wood panelling and little in the way of natural light. Spread across a number of floors, with various bars, it has a feeling of being lost in time.

London The Unfinished City
Throughout the reigns of...

Once my eyes adjusted to the diffused light, the building almost came alive with its history.

London The Unfinished City
A cosy little space in the cellar.

Buying a pint of bitter I took a seat in one of the near empty spaces and savoured the atmosphere of this historic place.