Kensington

Here’s what I thought was a wonderfully symmetric snap of the very posh Kensington area of London, just a few blocks from the world famous Harrod’s department store:

What I don’t know about London, but which is generally true in many German cities: when the style of the building suddenly changes from very old to very new, such as it does here on the right, usually that is an indication of bombing in World War II.

FAKE: Royal Mail sentinals guard an English village

I’m continuing the series with this image of what looks like two mailboxes in the quaint English village of Welwyn Garden City. I transformed it using an incredible iPhone application called MRRW (“mirror”):

Just for the record: the photos I post are never in any way retouched or enhanced or changed – except for cropping.

But in this series of blog posts entitled FAKE I publish some rather interesting images I have enhanced in some way.

Harrod’s

This is, believe it or not, a snap of the world famous department store for the ultra-affluent, Harrod’s, although you can only see a very tiny bit of it, in the far, far center:

Interestingly, I stopped into the perfume selection with the intention of buying myself an expensive bottle of cologne.  Money was no object – I was in the right mood, I had the money, and I fully intended to walk away with a little bottle of something famous from Harrods.

However, when I saw that every counter was covered with dozens of bottles, and that each and everyone one needed to be opened to smell, the barrier to selecting a cologne was so high that I walked away empty-handed.

I wonder if Harrod’s is aware of this usability issue?  Or maybe (more likely) their customers really don’t care, and they just buy cologne fragrance unsmelled?

Bubble architecture – 6

The French have finally done it better!

Continuing the series, this is the bubble enclosed railway station of King’s Cross in London,

As you can see from my blog post here, this attempt at bubble architecture falls considerable short of what the French were able to achieve in Strasbourg, a masterpiece.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as global warming causes temperatures to rise, we’ll see more and more examples of this, just like frogs boiling to death in water that is very gradually heated.

English Food Trucks

Well, I’ve only ever been to England a handful of times, so I am no expert. But each time I was there I remember being very impressed by the food trucks that park close to office buildings and provide lunch for the workers.

I spotted this one in Welwyn Garden City – just north of London:

And what’s always impressed me the most about these trucks is the large selection of things you can order:

 

Yes, there is a Platform 9-3/4!

The last time I was at the King’s Cross railway station in London was not that far after the 7/7 terror attack, and I believe this was some time before the Harry Potter movies. In the first Harry Potter movie, we learn that the Hogwart’s Express calls at King’s Cross, but at the very magical platform 9-and-3-quarters,

Since then it’s been on my bucket list to visit King’s Cross and look for what I could find.

Well, I was recently there – and it turns out that the great marketing forces in the universe have taken full advantage!  They have recreated this track, and – at least when I was there – there was a long, long line with children waiting to get their photo taken, as this snap shows:

Just next to this “platform” there is a Harry Potter store, and the queue just to enter the store was filled with hundreds of people and in fact it snaked outside of King’s Cross station!

Rook’s Close

I liked this sight in a local village just north of London, because the street sign says Rook’s Close, and the mailbox reminded me of a rook:

To be honest, it also reminded me a bit of a Dalek, but thankfully most Daleks are not red.

British Intelligence – just letting me know that they know

British Intelligence, also known as MI6, recently gave me a call on my mobile phone!  In case you are wondering why they would do this, here’s the story.

In one of the last James Bond movies to star Pierce Brosnan, The world is not enough, James Bond blasts out of the MI6 building on the Thames River in London on a high speed boat,

So on a recent trip to London I was eager to see the real building, which is located in the center of London on the Thames River at a place called Vauxhall Cross. Since there were no “do not photograph” signs I walked all around the building and took lots of snaps!  And . . . I was able to confirm my sneaking suspicion: it turns out that the building is set so far back from the Thames that it would have been impossible for James Bond to blast out and land in the river.

It’s a pretty impressive building from the side:

And it’s even a bit more impressive from the front:

Anyway, I was so impressed that I texted a snap to my father on my Swiss mobile phone.

I think that was the magic moment that set everything into motion, the text message to my Dad.

About 2 minutes later I received a call. We don’t need to go into details, essentially one of the worst Swiss German accents I’ve ever heard. I think the main point was just to let me know that they knew. And by the way, I’m also guessing that they really didn’t know: I’ve had a number of run-in’s and encounters with real spies in my life (one of whom remains a very good friend, and one a Russian KGB officer who taught me how to make pickled cabbage), so I’m very sure if they looked in the right databases I would have been speaking to them face-2-face.

Of course, it piqued my curiosity as to the history of this place (Vauxhall Cross, not the MI6 building).  It dates back to the 13th century to a man named Faulkes who had a big house in this area. People called the house Faulke’s Hall which eventually morphed into Fox Hall which eventually then became Vauxhall.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay is a fairly small bay containing a fairly small village of the same name, located a fairly small drive south of Whitby, frequented by a fairly small number of tourists but offering a magnificent view of the coast alongside the Yorkshire Moors,

The village itself is remarkable, having been built by smugglers over the centuries. The streets are lined with shops selling fossils (you can find them on the beach!) and a pitch black gemstone called jet, formed from compressed fossilized wood, that you could find on the beach but presumably all the good stuff has long since been scooped up.

Here’s another view:

London Clock Tower

Nothing special, just what I thought was a nice snap:

But if you are technically oriented, it does raise a good question: are the hands on the different faces mechanically or otherwise synchronized to each other?  In a normal mechanical clock, normally the mechanism keeps the hands turning – but the hands themselves can be slipped freely, for manual adjustment. But how is this handled on the London Clock Tower?

And that raises a very interesting point that a lot of people don’t know about: the topic of slips and fits. Have you ever noticed how some parts turn very freely, such as a bicycle wheel – whereas other parts turn with stiffer resistance, such as the hands of a clock.

Probably everyone knows that machinists work in machine shops, and they use blueprints and precision machines like lathes and CNC machines to fabricate highly precise metal parts. But very few people know there is a sub-branch of precision machining known as slips and fits – it is all about how to specify (with an international specification, no less!) and with extreme, mega-tolerance how two parts should behave when they are in mechanical contact with each other.

If there is no tradition, one like this would be nice

I read somewhere that the pistol taken from Saddam Hussein when he was captured was provided as a gift to the U.S. President.

I don’t know if that is true or if it isn’t.

But I do know that something resonated positively with me when I learned that something evil was transformed into something peaceful, in the fountains of Trafalgar Square in London,

which were made with the melted down cannons and armaments captured from Napoleon after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Is the umbrella sommellier in?

John Wick: “Is the sommellier in?

Receptionist: “I have never known him not to be.”

Like John Wick, I am a man of focus, commitment, and sheer will.  In the brilliant film John Wick 2, John consulted with the weapons sommellier while planning his party in Rome.

Similarly, I plan to return one day for a session with the sommellier of this place:

This is not one of the cheap stores in a cheap district that sells cheap Asian luggage. This is a 200-year-old upscale boutique in London that has walking sticks in glass cases that cost thousands of pounds (the walking sticks, not the cases), and umbrellas that cost much more.

The pubbing of London

I don’t know when it started.

I don’t know how it started.

But I do know that today London is covered with pubs that have very fancy exteriors.

I took this snap on my second visit to London:

But then I quickly realized that just about every pub had a pretty exterior, such as this one:

And this one:

At this point I stopped taking snaps of pubs. If they are all like this, I am sure there are coffee table books that can do a better job at capturing them than me!

That’s not gorse, you idiot, this is

I’ve written about trees in the heath and the Gorse of York.

But since my last blog just over 2000 readers have left comments that I made an egregious error!

I showed this picture and referred to it as gorse:

My dear readers, mea culpa. I did make a mistake ad attached the wrong picture!  You were right, that wasn’t gorse, it was heath.

This is the gorse:

Interestingly, there is some speculation that certain types of thorny bushes that grow in nutrient poor areas are in fact carnivorous: the thorns are not designed to retard animals but rather to capture them, so the remains of their dying carcasses can fertilize the ground.  Gorse seems not to be in that category, as the thorns tend to repel rather than hold trapped animals.  But an interesting theory nonetheless.

Sheep, heath, gorse, moors – and high-tech radar!

Recently a friend took me on a tour of Yorkshire, England, including the famous Yorkshire Moors.   But the most stunning part of the landscape was a huge radar installation, operated as part of a giant system deployed in the Cold War to protect the U.S. against nuclear missles:

At first, it was a bit difficult for me to understand why a radar installation in northern England would be much use to safeguard the U.S.  But when you look at how the different systems overlap, it becomes quite clear:

 

Fish, chips, and mushy peas

Even though I am an American, I’ve long known about fish and chips. In fact, I can still sing the Arthur Treater’s (“the original fish and chips”) jingle – and what you might not know is that Arthur Treater’s is an Ohio establishment, from just a few miles from where I grew up!

So when a good friend of mine invited me to try some real fish and chips and mushy peas – in the part of Northern England where it’s most famous, no less! – I immediately thought: Peas? Mushy peas?  What do peas have to do with fish and chips? And are English cooks so bad they can’t cook up nice, firm peas – do they have to be mushy?

Well, here is what one of the best fish and chips restaurants in the seaside Yorkshire town of Whitby:

And those green things: that’s the mushy peas.  I would have never believed it until I tried it, but mushy peas do go well with the fish. And of course the fish itself – I can tell you, this batter fried fish is in a completely different category than anything I’ve ever tasted.

Oh, and that plastic bowl in the middle contains little pieces of batter that have dripped off into the oil. Not shown is the mash vinegar that the English love to pour over their fish.

(Correction:  Above I stated “one of the best fish and chips restaurants” but I have since learned that this was Hadley’s, which has been rated THE BEST fish and chips restaurant!)