mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London.
No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford."

~ Samuel Johnson ~

On Thursday morning I fly to DC, drawing to a close over nine years in the UK. It seems fitting for such an occasion to delve into the memory bank and recollect how things have changed since I first moved here on a sunny May morning in 2007...

  • Tony Blair was still PM, Ming Campbell was Lib Dem leader and Ken Livingstone Mayor of London.
  • A woman had yet to serve as Britain's Home Secretary.
  • It was legal to smoke in pubs.
  • £1 was worth nearly $2.
  • Kate and Wills had just broken up.
  • Waterloo Station was still the Eurostar terminus.
  • Free newspapers thelondonpaper and London Lite were still in production and you had to pay for The Evening Standard.
  • Steve McClaren was England's football manager and the national team had yet to play at the new Wembley.
  • Portsmouth FC, now in the fourth tier, had just finished 9th in the Premier League.
  • Mourinho was Abramovich's only managerial appointment.
  • There was no equal prize money at Wimbledon between men and women.
  • The Digital Switchover had yet to begin.
  • Britain's Got Talent, Outnumbered, Would I Lie To You & Only Connect hadn't aired; Parkinson & Grange Hill were still on.
  • The iPhone hadn't been released yet.
  • Spain hadn't won a football World Cup or European Championships since 1964.
  • Pep Guardiola had yet to manage Barcelona and therefore hadn't won any of his 15 major trophies to date.
  • Djokovic had not won a Grand Slam yet, Nadal just 3 and there was only one British appearance in a final since 1977.
  • Myspace was the most popular social network, Twitter was just a year old (with fewer than 700,000 users) & Facebook had 20 million active users (it's now over a billion).
  • Justin Bieber hadn't been 'discovered' yet, Lady Gaga hadn't released her first album and Taylor Swift was still unheard of despite having released her first album.
  • Jennifer Lawrence had not acted in a film yet.
  • And finally, a little-known African American senator from Illinois had just announced his candidacy to the US presidency.

I hope I return to Blighty 21 months from now. I'm sure the time will fly. But my life has not quite gone according to plan until now, so who knows what the future holds. What I do know is that my lifelong love affair with The Great Wen and all things British will never diminish. So long Great Britain and its great people, thank you for all the wonderful memories.

Signing out for the last time on this side of the pond (for now), this is That Bloke in the Big Smoke.
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
I voted for Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dems) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) respectively in the London Mayoral election. In the London Assembly, I voted for Nick da Costa (Lib Dem) in my Enfield and Haringey seat and allocated my List vote to the Greens.

Another year, another #ToryFreeZone at the ballot box. A unique year as we return to the polls next month for the EU referendum. I've yet to make up my mind on that. It all boils down to whether the sovereignty gained is worth the inevitable economic uncertainty in the immediate and medium-term post-plebiscite. As a weak social democrat, one cannot easily dismiss Lord Owen's support for Brexit, nor that of the Green Party's Jenny Jones. They are very reasonable people with whom I don't always agree, but they are of the firm belief that the EU cannot be reformed in its present state and I am inclined to concur.

Unfortunately, the fact Brexit is also supported by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson (among other odious creatures) makes it extremely difficult to convince oneself that this is indeed the right choice, made worse by the prospect of accepting a post-Brexit negotiation on their terms rather than the Owens and Joneses of the world, who would have very little say on it.
mcgillianaire: (Default)
We are lucky in the UK to have free access to a government-funded local library network. Despite the swingeing cuts imposed by the coalition in the last parliament that forced the closure of hundreds of branches, they haven't disappeared completely. If you are resident in the UK, you can sign up with any public library in the country*. And perhaps due to the effect of the changes in recent years, several councils in London have partnered together to provide a broader set of resources, particularly online. Indeed, two of my favourite aspects of public library membership in London provides me with unfettered, free online access to The Times newspaper and The Economist archives, in addition to the latest editions of over 330 magazines and journals such as The Economist, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, National Geographic, Newsweek, Businessweek and The Week. The great thing is that you can read the magazines on your computer, tablet and smartphone.

(* So long as you turn up once in person to prove your identity and residence, plus pick up your membership card.)
mcgillianaire: (Default)
[SOURCE]

"In the East End of London, revivalist preacher William Booth and his wife Catherine establish the Christian Mission, later known as the Salvation Army. Determined to wage war against the evils of poverty and religious indifference with military efficiency, Booth modeled his Methodist sect after the British army, labeling uniformed ministers as “officers” and new members as “recruits.”

The Christian Mission, in which women were given ranks equal with men, launched “campaigns” into London’s most forsaken neighborhoods. Soup kitchens were the first in a long line of various projects designed to provide physical and spiritual assistance to the destitute. In the early years, many in Britain were critical of the Christian Mission and its tactics, and the members were often subjected to fines and imprisonment as breakers of the peace.

In 1878, the organization was renamed the Salvation Army, and two years later the first U.S. branch opened in Pennsylvania. During the Great Depression, the Salvation Army provided food and lodging for those in need, and during both world wars it distinguished itself through its work with the armed forces. By then, it had come to be appreciated as an important international charity organization.

Today, the Salvation Army, still based in London, has branches in more than 75 countries. The Army operates evangelical centers, hospitals, emergency and disaster services, alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, community centers, social work centers, secondhand stores, and recreation facilities. Voluntary contributions and profits from the sale of its publications fund the organization."
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
...I arrived in London to settle here permanently. The photos below were taken on the night and subsequent morning of that memorable journey. It was my first flight to Blighty in three years - and I only stayed a night on that occasion - so this was actually my first proper visit in nearly four years. I was over the moon, making childhood dreams come true and all that jazz.


With mum at check-in in Muscat (then Seeb) International Airport. Dad had a separate flight that night to attend a conference in Italy. I think my sis was still in India. You can see bits of my Liverpool jersey that I was wearing in honour of the Champions League Final that was taking place as we were flying towards the Continent. The Mighty Reds were taking on The Rossoneri (AC Milan) in Athens. The pilot was kind enough to give us two score updates along the way. Unfortunately, we lost 2-1.

Read more... )
mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)


The Highgatehill Murugan Temple was the first Hindu temple that dad visited in England more than thirty years ago. And therefore it has a very special place in his heart. Every time he passes through the city, he pays his respects and last weekend was no different. This is how it looks today after a front extension upgrade giving the appearance of a Tamil abode of worship. Dad (along with many other devotees) paid towards its construction. The two statues in gold colour are of Muruga and Ganesha (the elephant-headed God) who are the sons of Shiva and Parvati. Muruga is often referred to as the God of Tamils and wherever in the world you are, a Murugan temple is the best evidence of a Tamil community in the area. Mounted onto the inner-side of the window, halfway between the two gold statues is the Hindu symbol Om depicted in Tamil. And just above the main entrance are two sculptures of peacocks, the traditional vehicle of Muruga. If you're ever in the area, the temple serves a simple yet delicious free lunch consisting of just three Tamil dishes every day around noon. All are welcome. And here's a cheeky photo I took of the main Muruga idol inside the temple a couple years ago.
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)


I travelled through this station for only the second time since its significant rebuild a few years ago, and it's got the best view from a railway station platform. The platform spans the length of the bridge. St Paul's Cathedral can also be seen from this spot, but just missed out to the left of this panorama. However I did manage to capture: Tower 42, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie Talkie, Cannon Street station, the Canary Wharf skyscrapers, Tower Bridge, the Millennium "Wobbly" Bridge, the Shard and the former Bankside power station that now houses the Tate Modern art gallery. The station itself is a block of concrete.
mcgillianaire: (Default)
A new collection of data maps of London reveals a city heaving with information.
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
This makes for morbid reading.

(HT @LondonHistorian)
mcgillianaire: (Default)


Some time ago, I picked up this gem of a second-hand coat-pocket-sized book at my local market for the magical price of £1.25, a steal from the original RRP of £8.99 for a 2007 publication. Packed within it are 128 pages, including over 100 photographs of notable inn signs, and short insights to the stories behind them. The ideal companion to the history-loving, trivia-obsessed tipple-quenching Londoner. Can you think of anyone...?

Here are some of my favourites:

The Assembly House: (Kentish Town Road NW5)
The name refers to the fact that travellers gathered here before making their journey to the north across Hampstead Heath hoping that as a group they would avoid being attacked by highwaymen.

The Barley Mow: (Dorset Street W1)
Dates back to 1791 claiming to be the 'oldest pub in Marylebone', and it probably did serve farmers who came to the village of Marylebone from what was then countryside surrounding London. Many of its original features are intact including small snugs and a private bar. The name is more often attached to country pubs as a 'mow' is a stack and as barley is an ingredient of beer, the barley mow sign merely indicated that beer was sold in the house.

The Black Friar: (Queen Victoria Street EC4)
This pub, built in 1878, remodelled by H. Fuller Clark 1903-05, and refurbished in the early twentieth century, is a miraculous survival of art nouveau decoration. The area takes its name from the Dominican friary, which was situated here from the thirteenth century until its dissolution in 1536. The friars, founded by St Dominic in 1216, were known as the Black Friars from the colour of their robes. The trial of Catherine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII took place in the Blackfriars Hall. The whole facade and interior of the pub is ornate with friars imbibing drink or having other connections with beer. The vaulted back room was added after the First World War to provide extra seating space.

The Blind Beggar: (Whitechapel Road E1)
The Blind Beggar was Henry, son of Simon de Montfort who was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265. Henry was left for dead but escaped by assuming the guise of a beggar. The sign shows him accompanied by a nobleman's daughter who is said to have married him in the east of London. The event was recorded in a play, The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, first performed in 1659. General Booth of the Salvation Army 'opened fire' in the pub with his first sermon in 1865. The pub was also the site of the murder of George Connell by the rival gangster Ronnie Kray in March 1966. Connell greeted Kray with the words, 'Well, look who's here' before being shot through the forehead.

The Cannon: (Cannon Street EC4)
The sign shows a trooper by the sign of a cannon, which he is about to fire. Though the name is taken from the street, Cannon Street was once Candelewrithstreet, where candlewrights had their shops.

Cat & Mutton: (Broadway Market E8)
This is a splendid Victorian pub with a sign showing a cat running away on hind legs waving a leg of mutton in its right paw being chased by a furious butcher. There has been a pub on this site since at least 1680 when the building stood on the Porters' Path, a drovers' road leading to Smithfield Market. John Rocque's map of 1745 identifies it as the Leg of Mutton and it has also been known as the Shoulder of Mutton.

The Dublin Castle: (Parkway NW1)
The pub shows a castle purporting to be that in Dublin. The name dates from the time when the main railway line to the North West from Euston was being driven through Camden Town and Chalk Farm. Navvies from all parts of the British Isles dug the line, but this often led to violence between the national groups. To try to stop the fighting separate pubs were built in the Camden area. The Dublin Castle was the base of the Irish navvies, the Windsor Castle served the English, the Edinboro Castle the Scottish and the Pembroke the Welsh. As the pubs were placed far apart this strategy seems to have kept the peace.

The Flask: (Flask Walk NW3)
Dates back to 1663. The sign shows a thirsty soldier drinking from his flask. The pub was originally called the Thatched House then the Lower Flask. There was an Upper Flask, which has now been demolished. Mineral waters, which were discovered in the vicinity, were exploited for their presumed medicinal qualities and flasks of this mineral water could be bought at the pub. The present building dates from a rebuilding of 1874 intended to serve the local workers and at one time had separate bars dividing the gentry from the working class.

The Hand & Shears: (Middle Street EC3)
The pub stands on the site of a twelfth-century alehouse which served the monks and guests of St Bartholomew's Priory. The sign, which is the guild sign of the Merchant Tailors' Co., commemorates their role in the Smithfield Fair or St Bartholomew's Fair held at Michaelmas every September and one of the largest in London. The officials of the company checked the cloth to ensure that the cloth was sold with the right measure. The Lord Mayor opened the fair, first recorded in 1133, by cutting the first piece of cloth, which seems to have given rise to the tradition of cutting a piece of tape to open an event. The last Cloth Fair was held in 1855. The pub claims to have provided refreshment to those who wished to watch the prisoners leave Newgate Prison for their execution at Tyburn.

The Jerusalem Tavern: (Britton Street EC1)
This is a small building dating back to 1720, through having the sign of the head of St John on a platter, has reference to the Knights Templar who protected pilgrims on their way to and from the Holy Land. The Templars were suppressed in 1314 and their duties were taken over by the Knights Hospitallers, the Knights of the St John of Jerusalem, whose priory was close by.
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
Following the first snowfall of the winter, London woke up to a gorgeous white blanket yesterday morning. Having missed last winter's snowfall (while preparing for exams in Oman), there was no chance I'd miss out on capturing this weekend's main event. It pays to wake up early, esp on a Sunday!


A panorama of Enfield Chase Green, complete with an Englishman and his dog. [Taken: Yesterday morning around 9am]


Enfield Chase Green is a five minute walk from my flat. And because it was a Sunday, most of it had remained untouched even at 9 in the morning.


Usually, trees like these in winter appear lifeless and somewhat haunting, but all it takes is a coating of snow to make them look beautiful again.
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)
So following on from my previous post, I don't think there's much doubt that the sexiest accents in the British Isles, particularly when piped from someone of the fairer sex, are Welsh and Scottish, followed closely by Irish and anything else Northern. No offence, Brummie, West Country and London, but your accents do not stimulate the senses. Especially Brummie. I've never heard anything more depressing. Even when someone's chipper, it sounds like their whinging. Of course, it's a personal preference. Nothing does it more for me than a pretty lady with a Glaswegian or broad Welsh accent. Or man, if I'm brutally honest. There's just something about the broad Welsh lilt that makes my nerves tingle. Even just thinking about it... *mmm*
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)
One of the most fascinating aspects of the British Isles, is the variety of accents in such a small geographic area. It has been one of my informal missions to identify as many of them as possible simply from hearing a few words from a new speaker. After more than four years I can confidently pick out the following accents: Scottish, Irish, Geordie, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Scouse, Welsh, Brummie, Multicultural London, Cockney, Estuary, RP and West Country. Within those I can pinpoint Glaswegian, Lancashire accents from the Bolton area and on a lucky day, Northern Irish. But I've a long way to go because I sometimes find it difficult to distinguish Cumbrian (I often find it to be a mix of Geordie/Lancashire/Scottish, particularly depending on where the speaker's from/used to live), East Anglian, Mancunian and West Midlands. I've also spoken to very few people from Lincolnshire so I have little idea what they sound like. More Northern than Southern, I'm sure. In any case, I've got a good platform to work from. In the next four years I want to fine-tune these skills and hone down on actual places where people come from. That would be pretty nifty. So far I can only do that with cities like London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Birmingham.
mcgillianaire: (LFC Liverbird)
As you know, my three favourite sports are cricket, football and tennis. It's been an eventful week for all three and the teams/sportsmen that I support. It started with Liverpool's victory away at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge last Sunday, continued with Roger Federer's demolition of Rafael Nadal during the week and subsequent unbeaten run to his 100th professional tournament final, 70th career title overall and record-breaking 6th ATP World Tour Finals success. In between, there were two close finishes in the Test cricket matches between South Africa/Australia and India/West Indies. Neither of the teams which I wanted to win succeeded, but both matches were a fantastic advert for the game's longer version. Then to cap off the eventful week, Liverpool became only the second club in this season's Premier League to take points off leaders Manchester City, in a game we really should've won. Not a bad way to lead myself into starting a new temp job tomorrow morning!
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)

This is a map of all the London drinking and dance establishments that I've graced my presence with since moving here in the summer of 2007 (updated to yesterday's visit to The Gazebo in Kingston, bottom-left). 200+ places and counting!

You can see the map in detail here. The last time I posted a part of this map (in February 2010), I had visited just over 130+ establishments. Despite expanding my pint footprint at the rate of about 40 places a year, there are obvious gaps to fill.

UPDATE: Since making the original post, I've updated the pic above to include a club in Notting Hill, but annoyingly it seems to have reached some sort of limit on Google Maps, because it's created a second page of pins. This means not all the pins are on a single page any more. I'm tempted to fire off an email to the good people in Mountain View and demand an answer! Also, since adding the Notting Hill Arts Club I've also added another pub, one which I'd forgotten about in Sarf London's Forest Hill neighbourhood. With the disparity between establishments graced on either side of the river, I could do with remembering every one south of the Thames! Just another 4000+ pubs, bars and clubs to go in the rest of London. Time to up the ante!

KEY:
Green - Pubs & Bars
Light Blue - Pubs & Bars whose names I can't remember!
Purple - Pub where I used to go quizzing
Yellow - Ancient Pubs (usually 18th-c or older)
Red - Restaurant Pubs
Dark Blue - Clubs (includes Afterhour institutions like MoS, Egg etc)
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)

That of course is Bill Nighy, eating dinner with his wife(?) at Charuwan, a Thai restaurant near Archway in North London. I was at a friend's birthday dinner and although we didn't bother him while he was eating, one of us did manage to secure a photo of him with our birthday buddy just before he left. I've read somewhere that he lives in the area and this photo sort-of confirms it. He's one of my favourite actors and he seemed a fairly decent chap in the four words that I heard him speak!
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)

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