Wednesday, 16 December 2009


I am absolutely delighted to confirm the news that my daughter Hannah and her partner Robin are expectinga baby. Liz and I are thrilled, as are Robin's parents.

The baby is due in June.

It is just wonderful, how this sweet little toddler...

 a sweet young girl, here with her brother…

...grew up, became a charming teenager...

...and grew again into this elegant young woman...

...who is now a mother-to-be

I am so proud of her

Hannah and Robin, Croatia, 2009

Anish Kapoor 2

In September, I wrote here about the exhibition of the work of Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy. I went back last week for a second visit, this time with Lizzy Clark. Such has been the buzz around this exhibition that the queue stretched out of the doors and right across the courtyard. Inside, it was even busier and livelier than when we saw it in September, possibly helped by the excellent BBC Imagine programme – which is still available to view on BBC iPlayer here.

The exhibition has now closed but Charlotte Higgins has a piece in the Guardian today and reports….. “Since it opened in September, 275,000 people have visited, making it the most successful exhibition ever by a living artist in London”.

Photographs from the exhibition can bee seen here.

In the Imagine programme viewers got a tantalising glimpse of a new project by Kapoor at Kaipara Bay, New Zealand. There was great colour photograph in the Guardian yesterday, spread over two pages, of this enormous piece. You can see more photos here,

Monday, 14 December 2009

A Happy Christmas to All

It’s that time of the year when the west end suddenly looks better after dark. Regent Street and Oxford Street have the Christmas lights up, shop windows carry displays which sparkle, and many hotels, stores and offices make an effort to light their buildings.

The people at Imagination have been decorating the front of their building for many years with all manner of adventurous variations on the seasonal theme; this is the 2009 display.

Imagination is a major design and communications company, well known for its ambitious ideas for leading companies and brands such as Ford, Shell, BT, Vodafone, Disney and the BBC.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Seen in our cities

Pavement, Theobalds Road, London. 12th November

Coffee shop, Aix en Provence. 24th November

Liverpool Street Station. 9th December

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Steve Bell and Photographs

You couldn’t make this up.

The Guardian ran a piece on Tuesday about architectural photographer Grant Smith who was stopped from taking photographs of Christ Church, Spitalfields. Four City of London police vehicles and seven officers were sent to apprehend him. This will be what they mean by “…a proportionate response”

Seven days ago, under the headline Jerome Taylor: I was questioned over my harmless snapshot” The Independent carried a story of another incident, this time on the south bank.

In May two Austrian tourists were stopped while taking photographs of a bus garage in Walthamstow and had their holiday photographs deleted from their cameras.

And there is more. In July Alex Turner, an amateur photographer, was arrested after he took pictures of Mick's Plaice, a fish and chip shop in Chatham. Recently a BBC journalist was stopped and searched by two police community support officers as he took photographs of St Paul's Cathedral. Andrew White was stopped and asked to give his name and address after taking photographs of Christmas lights on his way to work in Brighton.

This could all be quite funny, but sadly it all harms the way the public view the police, and must damage the esteem of the police service.

The brilliant cartoonist Steve Bell has been running a strip all this week on thsi very topic. You can see his four offerings here. Click on the 'next' arrow to see all stories in the sequence: excellent stuff.

My own 'non-terrorist' photo of St Paul's Cathedral taken shortly after midnight on Tuesday

Sir Christopher Wren looks on from his nearby vantage point outside the Guildhall Library.

0100hrs 9th December

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Does everybody hate Ryanair? Or perhaps I should be more moderate and ask if everyone dislikes Ryanair? I ask because I read and hear so many criticisms. Certainly the company seems to give good reasons why they might be unpopular, the strongest of which must be the style of the chief executive Michael O’Leary. He seems to delight in being offhand, rude and dismissive about his customers and their needs.

Ryanair to charge for use of the toilets:

Fat Tax: Ryanair considers charging for very large customers:

It is undoubtedly a successful business: highly profitable, the largest airline in Europe, with the biggest fleet of planes. It has a pretty unique way of working which makes it successful – costs cut to the bone, internet-based transactions, and no obvious attempt at customer service frills. If you are used to other mainstream airlines it may not feel like the most pleasurable flight you’ll ever make, but for short haul I think it’s remarkable value. I say this because I’ve recently flown from Luton to Nimes for the sum of £0.02 – yes, just two pence – and that’s return. Here is an extract from my bank statement to prove it.

So how do you do that? These are my tips:

1. Timing: It is a bit easier for me, being retired, in that I can be fairly flexible over days on which I travel and am not bound by school holidays etc. Try to avoid Fridays-Mondays, and anytime that involves a major sporting event near your destination. That is, try to fly when others don’t want to.

2. Buy online. Pay with an Electron card, which avoids the supplementary charges imposed on all other cards.

3. Check-in online and not at the airport.

4. Take only hand baggage, understand and stick to the baggage rules and make sure your single cabin bag really does fit within their dimensions and weight limits.

5. Don’t pay extra for Priority Boarding – it’s pointless.

6. Don’t buy the onboard pizza, coffee, bottled water, scratch cards or perfume.

7. And most important, keep an eye on the press and online adverts for special offers, watching all the airlines. Recessionary times can be good for travellers.

One other plus for Ryanair: I’ve used them about 18 times in the last four years. Not a single flight has been cancelled, not one has been even 10 minutes late. You can’t say that about another large British Airline, at least not on its short haul routes. Of course the 2p flight is exceptional. From memory I’ve more often paid about £38 each way, which is still remarkable value. So, it’s fair to say I’m a fan of Ryanair.

On the other hand the most pleasurable way to travel to Nimes is by train, and here I’ll quote the excellent website

Easily the most stress-free way to travel from London to the south of France is to take a Eurostar to Lille and make simple same-station change of train onto a 186 mph high-speed TGV direct to Nîmes, Montpellier, Béziers, Narbonne or Perpignan, with no need to cross Paris. South of Lyon, the TGV runs along the Rhône Valley, crossing and re-crossing the River Rhône, flying at ground level through the hills of Provence over some breathtaking viaducts. Watch out for a dramatic viaduct over the Rhone just before Avignon, with views of the famous 'Palais des Papes' in the distance.

I have done this journey several times and it is a most relaxing (and environmentally correct) way to travel. However, even using my senior railcard, the lowest fare I can see on the website is £208 return: you can see why I rate Ryanair for value.

Monday, 7 December 2009


The lack of postings is because I have been having a break in the south of France. My dear friends, Judy and Richard Jarvis, moved to the Gard region four years ago and I’m a frequent and lucky visitor to their home. I’m a big lover of cities generally, and London in particular, but it is really good to get away and enjoy the rural life in this part of France.

Whilst the UK has been suffering some pretty awful weather I enjoyed some excellent autumn days: blue skies, lots of sunshine, and fabulous sunsets. The good weather also enabled me to earn my keep and help them with some big jobs around their extensive gardens.

First off was to prune one of the big almond trees, which Richard and I did from ladders. I don’t think we overdid the cutting, although it does look a little gaunt in this photo. Perhaps I’ll photograph it in full leaf next year.

Then it was fallen leaves to sweep up, and bonfires to be set and lit. All relatively easy and quite enjoyable stuff but perhaps we were trying to delay the grand projet. The long front drive is laid with gravel over compacted earth and over time has begun to ‘disappear’. It was time to consider how we might revive it.

We decided the ideal solution would be to add a fresh layer of gravel, which seemed like it would be relatively easy: select the stone, work out the quantity we needed, agree a price, and get the delivery driver to ‘tip and spread’ it and we’d rake it into a smooth surface.

Hhmm. It sounds easy. Well it was 14 tons in all, in two deliveries, and we hadn’t realized just how heavy it would be and how difficult to rake.

It took the best part of three days and a huge effort to shovel, barrow and spread evenly; I had the blisters to prove it. The end result though was impressive and actually pretty satisfying - a sense of a big job done well.

Meanwhile, Judy had been picking the fruit from the 23 olive trees. It's a huge task and the timing is important.

We took the first load to the mill where you open an account and once all your harvest is handed over you can be repaid either by cash, or by an agreed quantity of olive oil.

It’s a lovely way to do business and you have the added benefit of enjoying your own oil over the following months.

We did have breaks from work: a great day looking around Aix en Provence, and a trip on the one overcast day to La Roque-sur-Cèze where I got this ethereal photo of the medieval bridge.

It seems appropriate to close with this sunset photo which I shot the next day just as we saw it and no, I haven't tricked it or used Photoshop.