The last Sunday special is quite a long time ago, so I thought it’s finally time for the next one. Plus, we’re having the most beautiful Golden October day you could ever imagine, so let’s celebrate the last glimpse of sunshine.
Strolling down Columbia Road a little further down from the Flower Market you’ll end up right at St. Leonards church in the heart of Shoreditch. It dates from the 12th century, but the current building was built in 1740.
Apart from being an actual church it’s a nice churchyard in summer.
And I am obviously not the first one to realize that:
Let’s sit in St. Leonards
on this alcoholic day
We’re doing the best,
with what we’ve got
sing Bloc Party in Sunday.
It’s a nice place to take a break on a Sunday morning after breakfast.
As much as I like it, it’s also good to leave the hectic city sometimes. Places like Cornwall or Pembrokeshire in Wales are probably the best destinations to do this without much hassle. It feels like entering a different world. Quiet, peaceful. It’s even better when the sun’s out while it is raining constantly in London, as it happened last weekend.
We had a pretty bad summer so far, after a couple of nice weeks in June and early July it has been more like April for most of the time. Temperatures around 20 degrees and sun mixing with clouds all the time.
But when you’re at the sea you have to go to the beach, right?
This isn’t just “a” beach, it’s according to several surveys the most beautiful beach in Britain. And I can see the point. Rhossili Bay in Gower, near Swansea, is nice. It may not compete with beautiful white sand turqoise water carribean beaches, but when it comes to Britain it’s far ahead of beaches like the famous Brighton.
But apart from large, rural beaches that aren’t completely overcrowded Wales and Pembrokeshire have a bit of culture to offer as well. Exploring Pembroke Castle was like a trip back in time. There were even a couple of people living in tents, pretending to live in medieval times. Their tents looked quite nice though, and if camping beds would always look as comfy as this – they were equipped with lots of lamb’s wool and fur – camping wouldn’t be all that bad after all.
It might have been worse to live in the actual castle itself. It even has a natural cave where boats could get in unseen by potential enemys. It didn’t look very comfy though…
and neither did the tower. It used to have 5 floors, now it’s just one massive room, providing a comfy home to doves at least.
Pembroke Castle is said to be the place where Henry VII., father of the infamous Henry VIII. – yes, the one who killed his wifes – was born. The exhibition inside is very well done and interesting and I can only recommend a visit to everyone who’s in the area. There’s so much to explore and to learn.
Further down the coast of Pembrokeshire, leaving a couple of rather industrial places behind, the sea views are amazing.
The best one probably being at Strumble Head near Fishguard in North Pembrokeshire. The lighthouse looks amazing and it’s easy to understand how people come there to watch whales, dolphins and sea birds. You can sit there for ages, just watching the sea in the sun.
Fishguard and the village next to it, Goodwick, are nice little towns as well. Around that area, Moby Dick was filmed and a model of the white whale crashed at one of those cliffs.
A couple of Ferries leave Goodwick every day to Ireland.
Dina’s Head in the East of Fishguard is definitely worth a walk along the coast. The views towards the sea, cliffs and even the land are stunning. It didn’t remind much of Britain, because there it finally was – turqoise sea.
Completely by accident I recently made one of the best discoveries I’ve made so far in London. Well, I guess most great discoveries I made by complete accident – such as the Columbia Road Flower Market , all the little shops there and the wonderful café in Vintage Heaven.
This time we took a walk through our neighborhood, where we’ve walked loads of times without ever noticing the sign leading to “Wilton’s Music Hall” before. It guided us to a little backstreet that looked completely out of place in the rather rough Tower Hamlets area it’s placed in. In the middle of the backstreet, Grace’s Alley, we found Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest music hall in London. Today it’s used not only for music (mainly classical, but sometimes even modern popular acts such as The Coral are playing there), but also for performance in general, magic shows, theatre or cinema evenings with local movies.
It all started in 1827 with the Mahagony Bar, a bar place right next to the music hall. The music hall itself was built in 1858, from that point on the Mahagony Bar served as an entrance to the main hall. And as such it still works today.
I haven’t had the pleasure yet to visit the music hall itself, but we’ve been to the Mahagony Bar. There’s always a band playing Monday nights for free and the bar is probably the most beautiful bar I’ve seen in London so far. It looks like the time just stopped there for a while, as if it’s still 1827 – just with a bit of electricity.
The rooms next to the bar are truly nice as well, it’s like a small little new world unfolds behind every door.
And if the weather is nice, the outside area is just as nice.
So make sure you’ll visit the Mahagony Bar next time, have a glass of wine and listen to some nice music.
And then join the facebook group: I discovered Wilton’s Music Hall.
One of London’s best kept secrets.
Greenwich is a wonderful place to spend a day out of London. And it isn’t even really out of London, it just feels like it is.
If you’re visiting the Greenwich Market, that runs from Thursday to Sundays every week, or walk up the hill to the Royal Observatory – it’s time well spent, and you should rather bring plenty if you decide to go to Greenwich. There’s a lot to see.
The Market is rather small, with just a few stables selling food and a couple of others selling pretty much everything, like a fleamarket. But a good one. There’s none of that cheap stuff you’d stumble across on Brick Lane, and the antiques aren’t as expensive and as numerous and, yeah, as ridiculous as on Portobello Road. And there are plenty of unique, nice shops around the courtyard.
But the main place to go to in Greenwich is the Royal Observatory, located on a hill in Greenwich Park – you can’t miss it. It can be seen from pretty much everywhere, because it used to show the time to boats on the Thames. On top of the Observatorium, a red time ball used to drop every day at exactly 1pm GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). It still drops down every day although sailors certainly don’t need it as a time orientation anymore.
The Observatorium is a museum for both, Astronomy as well as Time and Longitudes. It’s where timezones are measuered from due to the Prime Meridian. The Observatory was used to develope exact maps of the stars. Both, methods of time measurement to find the longitude as well as star maps were used by sailors to navigate on open sea. It took several centuries to find those methods to help them find their way. Developing the star map was a huge process and so was finding a clock that would display the home time on sea. Due to the constant movement of ships the popular and most accurate pendulum clocks were useless. Watchmaker John Harrison spent decades of his life in the late 17th and early 18th century developing a final clock that could display GMT on sea – and therefore make it possible to find the right longitude.
Greenwich is also still home to people with a very rare profession – Horologists. Their work as timekeepers is now aided by modern technology, though.
Greenwich also still hosts a telescope, the Grubb telescope, the largest of its kind in the UK. It’s therefore a great place for Astronomy as well, also providing a Planetarium and a museum, explaining the big mysterys of space.
And after all, outside the Observatory… the view’s so nice.
Yesterday was election day. And while some constituencies in the country still count their votes at this point, it became clear: Britain has a hung parliament, none of the main parties got an absolute majority. For the first time since 1974.
I never became so clear to me how different Britain really is from Germany regarding elections as today. They may both be a democracy – but that’s about it.
In Britain, you are not bothered by parties and their election campaigns for about a year in advance, with no way to escape. The General Election yesterday was announced only a month ago, leaving not much time for annoying election campaigns. It may be different where I live in London – I assume the majority here isn’t even allowed to vote.
The main newspapers all picked their favourites and placed them on the front page, something German newspapers would hardly ever do.
The Daily Mirror is traditionally campaigning for Labour
The Sun for the Coservatives in a, well, rather special way. Taking the iconic Obama picture, putting the iconic Obama slogan to a person standing for pretty much the the opposite when it comes to policies.
The Guardian already decided at the end of April to go for the Liberal Democrats:
“If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically.”
They’d never do it on the front page though.
Oh, and for the Daily Star something else was the main news of the day, of course!
Britains vote traditionally on Thursdays instead of a more comfortable Sunday, meaning that people have to queue at polling stations after work in various constituencies like the London borough of Hackney, just to get to know after 45 minutes of queuing that polling stations close at 10pm straight and they won’t get in anymore. People willing to vote weren’t able to yesterday, making the system questionable.
The electoral system itself works on a first past the post basis. Britains don’t vote for the whole parliament, but just for the Member of Parliament (MP) in their own constituency. The one with the majority of votes gets the seat in Whitehall, while all other votes have absolutely no meaning whatsoever. If a Tory candidate gets 50,2% of the votes and a Labour candidate gets 49,8%, all the Labour votes count for nothing. The winner takes it all.
This worked well for decades, making the odd coalition discussion obsolete because usually only the two major parties gained seats anyway, or at least one of them gained enough to have the absolute majority, being able to govern on its own. But the system finally stopped working yesterday. Labour lost 88 seats, the Tories gained 96 (at this point, where two constituencies are still counting votes). The Tories got 303 seats altogether but would need 326 for the absolute majority. Labour has 258, the Liberal Democrates 57. A coalition now would be necessary.
But British traditionals all over the country, like some heard in the pub just yesterday, ruled out the option “coalition” completely. A “coalition” seems to be a 4 letter word for some Britains, something very unlikely that only happens in wartimes. “Coalitions? We only do that in war” was to be heard, as well as “We’re going to have new elections soon”.
But just as Germany in 2005, where none of the parties could form a government with their traditional coalition partners, the voter has decided and elections aren’t a “But I want to have a different vote” kind of thing. Politicians have to deal with what the voter has decided. But since David Cameron (leader of the Tories) is already planning on talking to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, politicians in opposite to the pub-traditionals seemed to have realized today’s necessities.
But the British electoral system holds another big problem. If it wasn’t for the First past the post system, the situation would look totally different. In percentage, Tories gained 36%, Labour 29% and the Liberal Democrats a surprising 23% (leaving 12% to “others”, which include mainly regional parties like the Scottish National Party or Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland). Although the Liberal Democrats got almost a quarter of all the votes and just 6% less than Labour, they have a blasting 201 seats less than Gordon Brown’s party.
Now is that what you’d call democracy? The electoral system may have its tradition, and it was actually quite entertaining to watch that yesterday, too. After polling stations close at 10 pm TV stations sent live from Sunderland town halls, where votes were counted, Sunderland being the counstituency to have the priviledge of announcing it’s results first at about 11pm. Young campaign workers had made a chain to bring the ballot boxes from polling stations to the town hall as quick as possible. People were running around, everyone having a certain destiny, it looked much like a relay. And just a little like a combination of The Place That Sends You Mad in Asterix’ The Twelve Tasks and the “little messengers” in the human brain according to Once Upon A Time… Life. It was so different, and so fascinating to watch them doing it the traditional way. But that’s not really 21st century anymore. The hung parliament, that no one really wanted, clearly shows that.
Now talks about reforming the electoral system will begin, but I doubt that anyone will have the courage to get rid of the first past the post.
German electoral system may be incredibly complicated, so complicated that I wouldn’t want to explain it to anyone who hasn’t grown up with such a system, let alone in English language. But at least I never have to feel like wasting my vote.
May Bank Holiday weekend is Camden Crawl weekend. Bands are playing at venues and pubs all over Camden, you buy a ticket, collect a wristband and get access to them all. Be it the next big thing or the legendary band that has been around for decades.
The first stop was at the legendary Good Mixer, where Graham Coxon used to get drunk in the early 90s and Amy Winehous still spends her nights out.
The thing with bands all over every Camden pub is that you hardly ever get to know the names. We catched the last song of a lovely trio. Next on was a rather hippie woman playing rather hippie French, English and even Italian Traditionals.
Next was the lovely Hawley Arms, which didn’t just have great food (Cheeseburger and great chips) and nice bands, but is also just a really nice pub in general. They have a roof terrace overlooking Camden. And again, Amy Winehouse is a regular.
We caught a great Motown singer who had a fabulous voice. She played loads of classic Motown songs and ended with a Nina Simone cover. Her voice was as fabulous as you’d expect of a Motown cover.
Then a classic singer-songwriter took over the stage. He was great, and a great guitar player as well. He hit the strings on his guitar so hard that not only the guitar looked like a complete, scratched mess.
He also had to deal with a broken string. But he handled that little problem just well. He sang a capella and managed to replace the string within just one verse of his song.
I suppose that’s what makes musicians great. Not only do they know how to actually play an instrument. It’s also about handling the whole package. About bringing spare strings and doing the work within a minute.
Later that day, Gaggle were the first band to play at the Electric Ballroom that evening. 23 women, dressed rather… well, see yourself. Something for the “crude” section.
It was rather fascinating, but in contrary to rather fascinating bands with, well, just loads of members like the Polyphonic Spree, that lot was just a bit boring. They were in fact just a girls choir in fancy dresses, the only difference being that Gaggle are hyped by the NME and various music blogs.
At least it was eccentric.
Even more eccentric than Lightspeed Champion, comic nerd and Ex Test-Icicle. His first album “Falling Off The Lavender Bridge” was a piece of pure beauty that had absolutely nothing to do with his former band whatsoever. He is just one of those guys who can’t live without making music. Beside Lightspeed Champion he has a side project called Blood Orange and recorded a (hilarious) Green Day cover album with Florence Welch. Apart from that, there are tons of demos floating around the Internet that he did just like that. Lightspeed Champion even recorded a whole “Album in one day”. He is simply a genius, and he’s only 24.
Devonté Hynes, so his real name, was joined on stage by Keith Murray of We Are Scientists, who played the Camden Roundhouse later that day.
Starting with Marlene from his new record “Life is Sweet! Nice To Meet You” he went into his old singles immediately, not leaving out the almost ten minute long Midnight Surprise – probably the longest single ever.
Devonté left, and Sunday’s Camden Crawl legends came on stage – Gang of Four. I haven’t seen them before and was quite surprised. Singer Jon King seemed to be completely crazy.
Bass player Thomas McNeice seemed to be the complete, stoic and elegant opposite.
It was rather “interesting” to finally see them live after they had been around for decades. It just didn’t hit me the way I expected it to.
But the legends were a magnet even for very rare special guests…
it’s Batman himself, indeed.
Leaving London from time to time can be a good idea, especially when it’s overly sunny, warm and icelandic volcanic ash makes sure the blue sky doesn’t get interrupted by planes.
Going to Cornwall is always a good idea.
One of the most magic places in the far south west of England is St Merterianes Church in Tintagel, a church build between 1080 and 1150. It’s up on a hill far outside the town, surrounded by nothing but cliffs, fields and a cemetry that has been there for ages.
They still hold celtic services in the church – it couldn’t fit anywhere better.
The cemetry really is quite old, full of graves from the 19th century.
They are all made of stone without any flowers, there’s just grass. You need to watch out not to step on a grave by accident.
And of course Tintagel is right by the sea.
People might head off to King Arthur’s Castle in Tintagel a lot, that by the way can be visited for free after 6pm. Well, maybe not officially. But a bit of a walk around the castle in the sunset alone is just wonderful.
But the real Tintagel magic is certainly the church with the cemetry. It’s worth the walk there.