Rain, Christmas Lights and Tenerife

Monmouth Street

It’s amazing how beautiful London can be in the rain. I walked through the seven dials in Covent Garden a few days ago and Christmas lights glistened in the puddles.

Bill Bryson once wrote:

“I can never understand why Londoners fail to see that they live in the most wonderful city in the world. It is, if you ask me, far more beautiful and interesting than Paris and more lively than anywhere but New York – and even New York can’t touch it in lots of important ways. It has more history, finer parks, a livelier and more varied press, better theaters, more numerous orchestras and museums, leafier squares, safer streets, and more courteous inhabitants than any other large city in the world.”

And probably more rainy days, at least this month. But if you can see past your wet shoes and wind-blown umbrella, there’s plenty of beauty there.

Anyway, I just wanted to stop in to say Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate. What’s everyone doing? Going home? Travelling? Having an orphan Christmas like I did one year? I’m leaving tomorrow and will be in Tenerife until early January, spending a warm Christmas with Jorge’s family and my 30th birthday on La Gomera, another island. In the meantime, there’s a couple of scheduled posts this week on my other blog, Little Observationist if you want to swing by. Enjoy the holidays!

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Rain in Battersea Park and Chelsea Embankmet

A few weeks ago, Jorge and I took a walk in the rain, down Chelsea Embankment, over the Chelsea Bridge to Battersea where we walked through the park before veering off to a pub for a lunch of steak & ale pie and mash.

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Though we always complain, there’s something mesmerising about London rain, the way it clings to the bare branches above us, glistens on gravestones and shimmers on the painted posts of garden fences.

Raindrops on Winter Branches

There’s a certain nostalgia that it carries; it reminds me of puddle jumping with friends in university and its rhythmic pounding on the tin roof of my elementary school during recess.

Cemetery Rain

We spent a while walking through a cemetery along the way. I always enjoy cemeteries.

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In fact, if you’re bored, there’s plenty more photos on LLO of cemeteries in London including: Plumstead Cemetery, Woolwich Cemetery, Nunhead Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery, Abney Park Cemetery, Tower Hamlets Cemetery, Kensal Green Cemetery and Highgate Cemetery.

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I find them to hold a fascinating mixture of life and death, with plants always growing among the stones. They are places of stories and reflection.

Nature on a Rainy Day

We walked through the home of the Chelsea Pensioners, along the paths and around the puddles with reflected Winter trees.

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Across the grass, the infamous and revamped Battersea Power Station loomed. Luxury flats went on sale there last week for up to £6 million.

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Don’t think I’ll be moving there any time soon…You?

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Under the tyres of red London busses, the rain gives a satisfying swish and puddles become mirrors of some of London’s favourite icons. We didn’t walk past any of those this day, but it did make a nice little reflection of the Chelsea Bridge.

Chelsea Bridge

I took a few photos through the squares at the top just for fun. One of the Albert Bridge:

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And one over to Battersea Park on the other side of the river:

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On the other side, we wandered along the river and into the park.

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We came across a small blue door that looks as if it hasn’t been opened in decades. Places like this intrigue me.

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Though it was already Winter, signs of the Autumn still lingered in the fallen leaves.

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This Buddhist peace pagoda in Battersea has been here since 1985. Like the incredible BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple in Neasden, it makes you forget for a second that you’re still in London.

Battersea Park

Here’s a link to a few photos I took of the pagoda in 2010.

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The air is more refreshing in the rain. It brings out the smell of lavender growing in front gardens and clears the pollution.

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There were plenty of people out and about in the park, holding their umbrellas and walking their dogs or tossing tennis balls across the grass for them to chase.

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I would have liked to have walked along the riverbank for a different point of view, but I wasn’t wearing very appropriate shoes for all the sand and stones.

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Anyone know what these red plants are called?

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They match the red benches nearby that curl around the Peace Pagoda.

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When we got to the end of the park, we thought it was time to hunt down that pub and dry off a bit.

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This is a row of houses right at the end of the Albert Bridge that touches the end of the park.

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There was a guardian pub dog outdoors and an “All troops must break step…” sign, which matches the one at the end of the Albert Bridge.

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While we were in Battersea, we took a little shortcut through a group of council flats.

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It’s always been interesting to see the posh houses and council estates in such close proximity in this city.

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They were quite colourful.

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My two favourite London bridges are Blackfriars and the pretty Albert, which we walked over on our way home.

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It reminds me of the board game, Candy Land, which was really popular when we were kids.

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Do any of you live on a houseboat? I don’t think it would be for me, but I’ve always wondered what it’s like when I walk on the Chelsea Embankment side of the Thames. Here’s the sign that matches the one at the pub!

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And lastly, on the way back home, we swung by the David Wynne sculpture of the Boy with Dolphin which I shared a photograph of in my last entry about my walk from Sydney Street to Sloane Square.

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“Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” 
John Updike

14 Photographs of Wet London

Wet and London have a pretty stereotypical relationship, at least when it comes to rain. Here’s some of the beautiful and some of the not so picturesque areas of the city – wet because of rain or otherwise…

AmbiencePhoto: Ambience by Martin Turner

gascoyne road e9, gutter, yellow lines, leaves, 2012-11-04, 13-23-07
Photo: Gascoyne Road, E9 by tributory

bus queue
Photo: Bus queue by Where The Art Is

Hand Car Wash
Photo: Hand Car Wash by Andy Worthington

One Canada Square
Photo: One Canada Square by Gary Kinsman 

Millenium Mills
Photo: Spillers Millennium Mills near Royal Victoria Docks by Fred255

Untitled
Photo: East London by Alex Ellison

London wakes up: the Thames in Greenwich
Photo: The Thames in Greenwich at 7:57am by Andy Worthington

New River
Photo: New River by Dave McGowan

London Nights SOOC
Photo: London Nights by Me.Two

Reflection From The Surrey Side
Photo: Reflection of Pimlico from the Surrey Side by Dave McGowan

bus stop
Photo: Bus Stop by Where The Art Is

The Beauty of the Victoria and Albert Museum
Photo: The beauty of the Victoria & Albert Museum by Karva Javi

James, Bert and Mark Prior
Photo: James, Bert and Mark Prior (three of the seven boats owned by J.J. Prior Ltd., a company established in 1870) by Andy Worthington

Fingers crossed it stays dry this week (unless we get to have some snow!)

London Rain

Bikes and Rain

When it rains in London, the skies rarely open up in a menacing storm. They droop grey and dreary over the city casting shadows over commuters. Then the water spits down in half-drops, quarter-drops, a spray, really.

Shiny Streets

Brollies pop up all over the city. Some are big black golf umbrellas that rule the pavements; others fun and funky with designs of rubber duckies and tube maps. Cracks and crevices fill with water that soaks through any cracks and crevices in your shoes.

A Walk in the Rain

Puddles form. Windshield wipers swish on passing cars. Tyres kick up a thin, dirty mist. The street lights glow and shimmer in red and green, drops float down windows like waterslides and people walk with heads down. Quickly. When it rains in London, people rush through life, hurrying on to warm restaurants and pubs, ducking into shops, drip-drip-dripping water on the squeaky floor, tracking muddy footprints through the tunnels of the underground.

English Restaurant

Sidewalks glow with reflections of surrounding lights and the rain carries on until the day turns into darkness.

Light and Rain

Listen to a Londoner: Steve Cotton

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Steve Cotton

Steve likes street art, graffiti, punk music and taking walks with his camera. His website Art Of The State shows off some stunning images of London’s most impressive street art and all sorts of other London-y stuff (it’s a perfect place to procrastinate, but don’t say I encouraged you).

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
SC: Since I was three years old – any more of an answer would be telling you my age!

LLO: Tell us about your website, Art Of The State.
SC: Art Of The State is just a reflection on the parts of London that catch my eye. Typically that’s architecture, street art and punk rock, but over recent years it has pretty much expanded to anything worth taking a picture of. So recent updates have included the stair case of the Monument and Southgate Tube station.

LLO: Where are your favourite places in London to discover random graffiti or other street art?
SC: Well the best place to discover street art is around Shoreditch, but that’s not my favourite place. It’s kind of a jaded scene around Shoreditch. You could drive a full size paper mache buffalo spinning plates of jelly on the front of a neon triple decker bus around there and nobody would bat an eyelid because they’re so used to ‘urban art interventions’. So the answer I would give to this question is where you would least expect it – seeing a tag by serial rail trackside graffiti vandal 10Foot in the toilets of ‘mums with their chums’ eatery Giraffe on the South Bank ranks pretty highly on this scale.

LLO: Best part about living in your postcode?
SC: Hmmm, good question. I’m not sure there is a best part so I looked up my post code on upmystreet.com. That didn’t really help – it just went on about single parents, betting, bingo and satellite TV being popular pastimes and then oddly said that the Scottish Record was the most popular paper. So really I think the best things are the A30 and Tube into Central London. I realise that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of where I live.

LLO: Who are the most impressive punk bands around London these days and where’s the best place to catch a gig?
SC: I like Refuse/All for straight down the line / no nonsense punk. I go to see them at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston, but I understand other venues are available. I also like Gallows, but I’m not terribly sure if they’re cool or not. Whatever, I often play their song ‘Misery’ on the iPod when walking around London. It just works really well, it’s a slow burner but by the time it’s finished I’m normally up for whatever is next.

LLO: Any cool new up-and-coming London-based street artists to look out for?
SC: Really London is pretty quiet at the moment regarding street art. That said ROA’s animals are pretty neat. Most of the work is by out of towners and often on walls where they have been granted permission. Graffiti on the other hand is kicking on in my humble opinion. Old hands like Shok-1 and Lovepusher are in a league of their own with their respective styles but are only working legally as far as I know. Illegally, the nine members of Burning Candy are some of the most prolific often working up at rooftop level to avoid their work getting removed. They’re really getting about – a trip down the new London Overground line through Shoreditch will get you first class views of lots of BC member Mighty Mo’s work.

LLO: Favourite established London-based artists who started their work on the streets?
SC: Got to be Banksy and Dface as established artists. Banksy is still on the streets, Dface less so – which is a shame as he had scale and ambition.

LLO: Do you think the way street art is viewed in London has changed since you started photographing it back in 2001?
SC: Yeah. Back in 2001, I was photographing a stencil near Vinopolis and I got a mouthful of abuse from a dustcart truck driver along the lines of “Oi saddo, what do you want to photograph that for.” I could have pointed out to him that he was wearing a Spurs shirt, but that’s another story. Anyway fast forward to 2008 and I’m in the same location and another dustcart pulls up. This time a different driver sees me taking a photo, gets out of his cab and proceeds to reel off the location and names of all the street art he has spotted on his round. All the talk used to be of vandalism but now it’s all “Banksy…blah…blah…£100,000”. All the stories in the paper seem to be centred around the money street art is supposedly worth.

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera if you’re not photographing street art?
SC: Probably along the South Bank – there is always something going on there no matter what time of year it is. I like the highs and lows of London too. I love to go high up on the roofs of the tallest buildings and down in the depths on it’s dark, dank tunnels – but getting access is always hard.

LLO: Share one of your favourite shots with us?
SC: This is taken on the South Bank. Rain and the light at dusk really add something to a scene. I watched this man waiting forlornly in the drizzle with an umbrella and a bunch of flowers in his hand. Seconds after I took this picture he kind of shrugged his shoulders and threw the flowers into the Thames. It’s a picture for me but for him I guess it could have been a total turning point in his life.

Thanks Steve!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.