Wednesday, 10 August 2011

August Riots

Riots, looting, arson, protests. For the past 3 nights now, various parts of London have been attacked by gangs of rioters, looters and arsonists. There have been terrible scenes, dreadful stories and appalling news everywhere you look. Places such as Tottenham, Brixton, Hackney, Ealing, Clapham Junction have been attacked by thoughtless, mindless thugs and criminals. Shops have been looted: large chain stores (H&M, JD Sports..) and small, innocent, independent shops damaged or destroyed. This mindless violence seems to have no cause - looters have been interviewed and explained they want to 'get the rich' and its the 'fault of the Conservatives'. Why this means they need to set light to a small florist, for instance, is beyond me. 

Tonight its Wednesday evening and I've just heard on the BBC news that there are (as there were last night) 16,000 police officers on the streets of London. Last night was relatively calm apparently.. although certainly in my area, shops were shut and locked up by 6:30pm - even the Salisbury's Local was shut up. The high street was like a ghost town, eerily awaiting its doom. Thankfully, nothing happened in that particular area of London. But does it take 16,000 police officers to achieve peace? Apparently so.

Some good things have surfaced from all this - the various clean up operations where Londoners have joined force to clean up the affected areas the next morning have shown the solidarity of real Londoners for one; but the whole thing has just been dreadful, shocking, appalling, sickening. 

I've been reading the various news reports and opinions quite a lot and I found a couple of interesting pieces, which begin to question how this has happened, why this has happened. Here are a couple:

The insightful Camilla Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kinds Company:

An excellent blog, raising interesting points (I hope the blogger doesn't mind me mentioning it here, but it is an excellent piece):

And another insightful piece:

I'm going to continue reading from various sources and try to begin to grasp the full extent of the situation: what does this all mean for London, for society, for our future? What is really happening here?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The London Underground

I once had an idea for a blog about the on-goings of the tube (also known as London Underground, of course). I take the tube to and from work at the other diagonal corner of London to where I live, and have done so for a year or two, and so the tube is somewhat nothing particularly new for me. Some people would suggest this is mad and silly, imagine having to commute across London for work, twice a day. I find it comforting; I can flee work of an evening and board the magically tubular device which takes me (according to a fab website I've just discovered) about 5.7 miles away from work. This feeling is one of particular euphoria on a Friday evening, with the weekend ahead of me.

Alas I sidetrack ('scuse the pun). So, everyday I travel about 5.7 miles to and from work on the tube - that's 10 miles a day, 50 miles in the average working week and 2500+ miles a year. Not that I'm one for statistics or milleage per se, but this is a lot of time to be spending in the company (if being tightly squeezed into a small, metallic, moving device with hundreds of perfect strangers has anything to do with being in company). Which brings me to my main point of all of this.. just like with most events, gatherings, public or private celebrations, so much about the tube is about the people and the characters. And how there are some..

But before I get onto all that, check out this superb website! Its one of those ideas I've always had on the tip of my tongue, but its never quite materialised: If you chose to walk rather than, err 'tube', you can check out the best walking route here. There's also all sorts of stats and numbers (for those of you who like that sort of thing) and tube NEWS. I can feel my inner tube geek getting ever so excited... Ah. I've just read the tag line which makes the whole thing make a lot more sense: "Between June and August 2008 I walked the entire Tube network, station to station and line by line, and this is the story of that walk". And I just enjoyed it for its pure randomness. Love it.

I'll be back onto those characters soon...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Why is Buckingham Palace called Buckingham Palace?

I had a thought today, whilst sitting on the tube, randomly enough....

Buckingham Palace - we all know it, and of course it was recently thrown into the spotlight even more so than usual through the kiss on the balcony between the newly married Kate Middleton and Prince William.. sorry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge....

Lovely. However, have you ever wondered about the name Buckingham Palace? We all know the Windsors live at Windsor, but what about the 'Buckinghams'? Who are they, and where do they live?

It turns out that Buckingham Palace was originally known as Buckingham House. The building that forms most of today's building was actually built for the Duke of Buckingham, back in 1705. It was then in 1760 that the building was acquired by George III as a private residence for Queen Charlotte.

So who was this Duke of Buckingham? Well, he was a was a poet and notable Tory politician of the late Stuart period who lived from 8 September 1647 – 24 February 1721. He died on 24 February 1721 at his house in St James' Park, on the site of the present Buckingham Palace. Buckingham was succeeded by his son, Edmund (1716–1735), on whose death the titles became extinct.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Last weekend I went on my first proper hen do. It was a close friend of mine from school. That's right, school, from all those years ago. We all travelled across the country, met up in York, where many of us grew up, and, unbeknown to the 'hen', began setting up balloons, streamers, cakes, champagne and Pimms next to a tennis court at our old school. It was the beginning of a weekend of pure fun, laughing, giggles, drinks, cocktails, food, more laughing, giggling until our ribs ached, dancing, and more laughing. and champagne. and some more dancing. Oh, and a speedy little boat down the river on Sunday. Such fun.
However, it was only when I was on the Sunday afternoon train back to London, slightly weary from the 3 or so hours sleep and much dancing the night before, that my mind started wandering on the whole idea of a hen do. The weekend hadn't just been enjoyable due to it being my friend's 'last night of being single' - although she actually has a month or so to go, which is understandable, nor was it just about meeting up with old friends and faces, and meeting some new ones; this was something special, traditional, exciting, a rite of passage... but where did this idea of a hen do actually come from?
After a quick bit of internet research, I've discovered (although it doesn't seem entirely surprising) that the current 'Hen Do' comes originally from the 'Bachelor Party' where men would hold a dinner for close friends, ahead of their marriage. It wasn't until the relatively recent 1960s that the idea of women holding a similar event came about, and not until the 1980s that it became more commonplace for future brides-to-be would celebrate in this way. So women have only been gather to celebrate their friend's/sister's/cousin's last night of freedom for the last 30 years or so.
Whereas the common cliches we hear of the equivalent 'Stag Do' often involves the future groom being tied to a lamp post, or being coerced into various dares and pranks, the bride-to-be has a much more easy time of it. The 'Hen Do' can often involve activities such as sport, cookery classes, spa treatments - anything that brings the women together as a group, and the itinerary can often be keep secret from the 'Hen' until the moment. The style, location and debauchery levels of the evenings activities however, can still very much be open to interpretation.
Which maybe explains why, whereas my friend gave us strict instructions that we weren't to look like we were on a hen do (although this is quite hard to hide, being a group of 12 or so women..), we did pass a couple of other groups, one of which involved every woman wearing a pink t-shirt, and the 'Hen' carrying a rather detailed (let's say) inflatable man. I'm just relieved that my friends have such taste to as not resort to this.... but then again, perhaps that is the 'proper' way of doing these things?!