The South Bank

The promenade along the south bank of the Thames is a vast meeting and socialising place especially in good weather. Yesterday, although cold, was sunny and the place was packed. There was a food festival as well as the usual free entertainment of street performers.

Annie Mae’s Mac and Cheese stall sells the best Mac and Cheese I have ever tasted, try some if you get the chance.

The silver-haired gentleman who used to blow bubbles for children seems to have been replaced by a young guy with amazing multi-bubble techniques. The older man would blow bubbles for free all summer and then fly to Spain for the winter living on the donations made to him by grateful and entertained parents and children.

Bubbles

The London Eye seen against the Houses of Parliament.
London EyeAnd again, the London Eye but this time glimpsed through a smeary plate glass window, a beautiful scale model.
London Eye model

Living Architecture  has built a boat on the rooftops, it can be hired by the day (at no small expense) but what a marvellous position from which to study the comings and goings on the Thames and to watch the sun go down over the Art Deco buildings on the north bank. A time-lapse video of the construction.
A Room for London - the Boat

South Bank Sunset

London Literary Festival

The Southbank Centre is hosting the London Literary Festival in May. I have attended a number of events, I listened to authors reading excerpts from their novels for World Book Night, its so interesting to hear from the horse’s mouth how the words and phrases sound.  Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon read from his novel The Curious Incident of the  Dog in the Night-time, I also saw the play recently, a masterpiece of staging and acting.  I have also seen him perform a monologue “Swimming and Flying”, he spoke for an hour, moving from memoir to pithy comment, to voicing of fears and witty remarks with a flow and sense of everything fitting together that is remarkable. He performed a new piece at the Hay Festival this week too, I wish I had been able to go.

Last Monday I went to an evening of readings by the 10 authors short-listed for the 2013 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE. The authors read in their own language, a fascinating to hear words, sounds and accents so unfamiliar, and then actors read the same text in English.

Peter StammPeter Stamm read his piece in both German and English, so interesting to hear the same voice in both languages.

Pip TorrensThe actor Pip Torrens read for several authors who could not attend in person, he has a marvellous rich mellifluous voice.

Lydia Davis Lydia Davies was announced as the winner on Wednesday at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her stories are marvellous fragments of vitality, she conjures up complex witty scenes with just a few sentences. She is at the forefront of a new movement in short story telling. The form has certainly come back in from the cold. I feel encouraged to write more. . .

Yesterday, I spent the whole day at the Southbank Centre, attending three events. Roman KrznaricRoman Krznaric’s How to Find Fulfilling Work, was all about finding that place where our talents meet our values, he led us through a kind of 10 point plan, and I discovered that I had indeed followed that plan instinctively and unknowingly during the last decade.

Alesander Hemon Aleksander Hemon – The Book of My Lives, was born in Sarajevo, he was visiting Chicago in 1992 when war broke out and has not been able to return. He told us of how it feels to start a new life in a different language and country. He is a very witty man and warm man. I can’t wait to read his other books too,  I bought The Lazarus Project.
Rupert EverettIn the evening  was an Audience with Rupert Everett, he is such a wit and has perfect timing. He is a delightful writer too, his books are filled with snippets from his life eloquently portrayed. He was also the perfect gentleman when it came to signing books, I was third in the queue for my first signing, then I went back again for a second, right at the end of the queue (which was at least 45 minutes long) and he was just as attentive and solicitous as the first time.

Reflections

It was sunny on Sunday – at last, I walked around the newly refurbished Cutty Sark in Greenwich. The hull of the original ship has been enclosed by a protective glazed gallery affording lots of weird and interesting ghostly interior views overlaid with reflections  on the outside.

IMG_4245 IMG_4244Canary Wharf in the distance. Greenwich foot tunnel

Kate Ruth Romey – Design for a Wedding Stationery Website – A Joint Venture

My daughter, who is a freelance designer of bespoke wedding stationery, created a design for her new website and I then transformed it from paper to web. I think it looks great. Kate Ruth Romey
Kate Ruth Romey - DesignKate Ruth Romey - Design

kateruthromey - design

Brompton Square

I have been taking photographs on the streets at night with a small group of people. I happened to capture this group of running figures and heard some shouting.  On waking the next day I found this part-story already formed in my head. I don’t know yet if there will be more to come but let me know if you find it intriguing (or daft!).

Brompton Sqaure

Brompton Square

It was a wet, cold night in February the kind of night where puddles lie full of wild reflections flickering with vivid colours. Brompton Square was a good address in a respectable area of London but if you look hard enough you’ll find something dark behind the curtains.
I waited at the Cromwell Road end of the Square the damp creeping into my shoes. I was sure that something was going to kick-off.  I knew the where and the likely when but not the what.
I had a clear view down the brightly lit terrace of stuccoed Regency houses. Rows of wrought iron railings and shiny black doors where the lions-head knockers kept their polished eyes on the street. A London cab was parked down the far end the headlights throwing everything in their path into silhouette. Two men in dark overcoats and a woman with flesh-coloured tights were strolling towards me, just as they passed under the street light, I snapped a discreet shot or two of their faces from low down by my waist hoping they wouldn’t notice. A group of dark-coated figures standing far down the street were huddled too tight to count.
The first group walked passed me disappearing into the rush hour throng on the Cromwell Road.  She gave me a bit of a sideways glance sending chills down my back, did she recognise me? Soon a car pulled up opposite No57. A middle-aged man got out, walked over to the house and with a fumbling at the lock with his key he pushed open the door. I caught him in my view finder and clicked twice, once at the fumble and then again as he slipped into the bright hallway the door closing behind him. This was the right place then, he was wearing a hat. I was expecting that.
Ten minutes later I moved out of the shadows and crossed the street to the corner, hovering for a last look, maybe this was a mistake after all. It was right then as I turned to go that it began. A figure of man with a fur-collared coat was briefly lit by the shaft of bright light as he came out into the street from the corner house. Shouts and dull thuds of punches or baseball bats on flesh came from the far end. The taxi revved and sped down the street in my direction. The huddled group had burst apart, figures were leaping the railings into the central gardens. Three more were running fast as hell towards me coats flapping in crow-like panic. It was now or never. I got just one shot but you couldn’t see their faces.  I didn’t stop for a second shot, I needed to keep out of sight. I turned quickly out of Brompton Square and up towards Harrods melting into the crowd. They’d be after me for sure if they’d seen me.

The next morning I read the newspaper version of what had gone on down there in genteel Knightsbridge and there were my photos. I had sent my three good shots to my contact and he’d passed them on.  My job had been to prove that certain people had been in that place on that night. The man in the hat from No57, the woman in the flesh-coloured tights and the running group. I didn’t ask why, the less I knew the better.  It would be a long time before the whole story came out but by then I was a long way from there.