Saturday, August 17, 2019

Westminster Pier to Kew Gardens

Maytrees min 70th Birthday gift was a trip for two on an old Thames boat from Westminster Pier to Kew and then entry into Kew Gardens on what turned out to be the only sunny day during this showery and stormy weather week.

The boat trip lasted for about an hour and a half and was interspersed with interesting comments by the captain on the bridges and sights to see on either bank of the Thames.

One of the interesting comments made by the captain concerned the old Harrods Repository building. Apparently the building was sold by Harrods some time ago and  converted into flats with a new housing estate on adjoining land. The prices of the flats and houses are according to the Captain out of this world. Cost apart what put me off the estate was the fact that it is called or maybe known as "Harrods Village."

The boat old though it was sold some decent wine which other passengers were happy to avail themselves of

Passing under the Thames Bridges was interesting as details of who designed them when they were built and the current issues with Hammersmith Bridge were given by the captain. Interestingly he had difficulties in explaining to the American tourists present why the two bridges carrying trains to Wimbledon and Richmond on the Underground were in fact so obviously not underground at all.

We alighted at Kew

And made our way to Kew Gardens. Having been to Kew Gardens many times from Childhood days when the entry fee was 1d. to today when the fee for admission is some £15, it was surprising to find it full of tourists from around the globe obviously not too put off by the admission costs. In fact as preserving the world's plant life is now as much of the aim of Kew Gardens as welcoming visitors to view plant life there, the cost of admission is overall reasonable.  

Mrs Maytrees and I enjoyed roaming around the gardens and the huge old Victorian greenhouse:

There were also a number of sculptured exhibits which were interesting

Upon leaving Kew gardens to travel home home, we were fortunate enough to catch a bus immediately to Richmond Station and thence by SouthWestern Railway directly to Wimbledon.

A really interesting and enjoyable day, with many thanks to maytrees min.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tourism in C21

The BBC World Service recently broadcast some interesting interviews and comments about the effects of what may fairly be described as "over-tourism" in some areas of the world.

A professor from Geneva university drew attention to changes which over-tourism has caused in recent years to Barcelona. He commented that often that city itself is often unpleasantly over-crowded with tourists but signified that this was really on the periphery of the problem. 

The main issue affects housing for local people. He reported that many ordinary houses have been bought up for use as  "Airbnb" accommodation with others being converted into hotels resulting in a shortage if not an absence of ordinary homes for the indigenous population. The BBC commentator sensibly in my view inquired as to whether local planning laws and regulations should not be used to contain this kind of problem.

The Geneva professor agreed but said that attempts to do so had been made with some success in theory. However he reported that in practice local orders restricting  hotel and Airbnb usage were ignored  and not enforced meaning that the problem had become such that the real character of Barcelona had changed not only for the indigenous or erstwhile indigenous population but also for the masses of tourists who now visit. A problem is that tourism brings in much needed cash for areas that may be said to need it but if the cost involves local inhabitants of such areas having to leave, what really is the point?

The BBC then had briefer interviews with locals from other affected tourist centres. One lady from Camden Lock in London reported that the issues had now become so bad as a result of the 100,000s of visitors there, that she had taken to avoiding Camden High Street altogether. 

Croatia, Budapest, parts of Japan, Venice Rome Machu Pichu and many parts of India including some of their national parks are just example of many places around the globe that are affected.

Add to the above the pollution caused by huge cruise liners and the vast numbers of aircraft flying tourists around the world the problems are apparent and severe.

Recollecting my own days as a student I can appreciate the attraction and indeed the education, of travelling to other parts of the world. However train and ferries were the methods of transport used then and perhaps should be used more in C21. For example not that long ago  maytrees mi travelled to Shanghai by train. 

Families with young children are unlikely to be able to spend days travelling by train to the beach. However using car ferries or Eurostar and holidaying less far away and less often,  could surely begin to resolve some of the problems?

Sunday, August 04, 2019

V&A Bethnal Green Children's Museum

Not having visited this museum for over 30 years, the mrs maytrees suggestion that we should take  5 year old grand daughter ("microdot")  there when she  was left overnight  to stay with her grandparents, by oldest daughter Alice, last week, was  a great idea.

We decided to travel there by train to Waterloo, thence by what used to be called "the Drain" but  known now to the younger generation as the Waterloo and City Line, to Bank and thence by Central Line Tube to Bethnal Green. I had not appreciated until travelling with a five year old, how large the gaps are between the platform and the Tube in Bank station caused by the huge curvature of its platforms - probably arising from it being built so long ago in the 1880s I believe.

Arriving at Bethnal  Green,  following the exit from Underground Station reminded me firstly of the birthplace of my own grandmother (may she R.I.P.) but secondly of the panic during a WWII German bombing raid that killed many people as they fled for shelter in that Underground station though I did not mention this second point to microdot.

The Children's Museum is less than 5 minutes walk from Bethnal Green Tube. The front of the redbrick Victorian building housing the museum has been extended since I last visited but in a style that seems unattractive, to me.

Many of the old dolls house exhibits that I recalled from years ago seemed to have been removed though probably to the main V&A museum pending modernisation of the Bethnal Green outpost. However there are still some good exhibits which microdot enjoyed:

Though the  part of the museum enjoyed most by microdot was the section where children could use pieces of wood to make their own exhibits or paint, draw or have learning fun generally.  Microdot and myself played chess there for a while then old fashioned snakes and ladders.

A picnic in the museum garden afterwards was fun. 

Microdot decided she wished to return a quieter way if possible. We walked then down Bethnal Green Road which now has a large number of Bangladeshi shops selling interesting looking produce from that part of the world, for example some huge melons of a variety that I do not recall seeing previously. 

Upon reaching Brick Lane (I must return there to obtain some beigels) we took a number 8 bus to City Thameslink Station - acceptably quiet for the youngest generation - then the Thameslink Train home which too was much quieter than the Underground.

A great day out which left microdot happy but exhausted.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Lunch at The Westbury

Mrs maytrees' family members,  Noel and  Jason very kindly treated mrs maytrees and myself to  wonderful lunch at the Westbury Hotel Restaurant "Alyn Williams at the Westbury."

Having been pouring with rain in the early morning following the  sunshine and record temperatures at the beginning of the week the rain cleared just in time for our walk to Wimbledon Station. Interestingly Worple Road SW19 and SW20 has now been closed for days ( collapsed water main apparently) so there are no buses and little traffic - wonderfully quiet and calm but the workment there are optimistic about the road re-opening in time for the Stratford to Box Hill cycle races when of course the  road will be closed again this time for all traffic except cycles.

The  Lunch at the Alyn Williams was relaxing and delicious. 

Unlike many other  restaurants expensive or not,  there was ample room between tables which allowed for easy, undisturbed, conversation and discussion.

The pictures below from mrs maytrees, her brother and Jason, say more than I can:

As will be seen from the above the meal was a late 70th birthday present from Noel and Jason which was very much enjoyed.

In fact my own meal which was  based on a line caught mackerel  for the main course and a summer pudding for desert, is not photographed but was delicious as were the between course hors d'oeuvres and sweet dishes with coffee or mint tea at the end of the meal.

 For wine Noel asked me to choose from the wine list though I am no connoisseur. English wines were at the very end of the impressive wine list  and the bottle of white I selected turned out to be the last bottle  of that wine in the house - delicious it was too.

My thanks to Noel, Jason and of course mrs maytrees for  a really enjoyable lunch.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Rehabilitation Through Punishment

Many examples of the point raised in this blog post's title can I am sure be  given particularly by school teachers.

However what caught my eye  this week as regards the above issue, is the ordination (CoE) of  Johnathan Aitken. 

Mr Aitken was as I recall, convicted of perjury at the end of C20 and sentenced to 18 months jail time of which he served about seven months. He had been very wealthy at least comparatively speaking but as a result perhaps of court cases for defamation, he lost his membership of parliament (Tory) and  was declared bankrupt. 

The perjury claims  involved pretty hideous issues including apparently some kind of arms scam and  points concerning one of the Princes of the  Saudi kingdom.

He pleaded guilty to perjury and perverting the course of justice hence the prison time.

His first sermon upon being ordained an CoE priest was at Pentonville Prison where according to the Times newspaper he said:

"Twenty years ago this month I started my own prison sentence in Belmarsh...a much tougher nick than here."

Yet having now been ordained a priest  there may be some analogy with the conversion of Saul,  essentially to Saint Paul:

"As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. ... So they led him by the hand into Damascus."

Subsequently Saul whose crimes included those of executing people for being Christian, himself became Paul, a Christian and a great Apostle of Christ.

Mr Aitken went to Oxford following his release and studied Theology at Wycliffe Hall Oxford about which again according to The Times, he remarked:

"The only institution with worse food and more uncomfortable beds than prison."

Yet four years ago his Damascene conversion occurred. 

I wish him well.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Jane Austen's House Museum

Upon hearing that Mrs Maytrees and I had decided to visit Jane Austen's museum a few days ago, my oldest sister cautioned that the museum which she had visited a few years back,  was she felt, very disappointing not least because it was only possible to see a single room downstairs with the whole upstairs of the house being closed.

Thankfully that caution proved out dated as the museum has raised funds through its charitable status which have been expended on restoring the house as well as acquiring early editions of Jane Austen's works together with furniture likely to have been used by the family when they lived there.

Although Jane Austen's family lived elsewhere  from time to time, including I believe at 13 Queen Street Bath now occupied by a firm of solicitors some of whom I knew well, her house at Winchester Road Chawton, Alton Hants is I understand, her only home currently open to the public to visit.

The house is quite small but well kept now and includes the small donkey carriage that Jane and her sisters would have ridden out in from time to time:

Jane Austen was born in 1775 and moved to the above house which was part of  her brother Edward's estate, in 1809. 

According to the museum brochure, when Jane's older sister Cassandra, died in 1845 the house was divided into three cottages. Jane died  apparently from Addison's disease, sadly much earlier in 1817  at a time when her novel Sandition was unfinished.  Several other authors have tried to complete the novel in Jane Austen's own style, though I have not yet read any.

Since becoming a museum in 1949 the house has been restored to the single dwelling that Jane herself would have known.

After visiting the House we walked the mile or so to Chawton House which was her brother Edward's house where an excellent light lunch was available in a garden.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The USA Presidency

The Mail on Sunday's report about confidential emails from the UK's ambassador in the USA is particularly interesting.

Usually one does not receive information about the real views of ambassadors as those which are published tend to be geared to maintaining cordial if not good relations with the host country. However I have always assumed that the Prime Minister and or Foreign Secretary would receive the real views from ambassadors albeit via confidential channels. On this occasion those most interesting views, have been given a wide audience.

Wikileaks and the like illustrate that in C21 confidential channels are often not as secret as they may have been in earlier times. 

More fascinating though is the reported view of the British Ambassador that President Trump is "inept". My own view is that politicians everywhere have poorer leadership qualities than was the case a few years ago. However the recent comments by Sir John Sawyers the former head of MI6 to the effect that the UK itself is going through a political nervous breakdown, are in my humble opinion, nonsense. He clearly opposes Brexit and probably the whole idea of a referendum on whether to remain or quit the EU, hence his moans.

Reverting to President Trump and the leaked emails reported in the Mail on Sunday, the comments that the US President is "inept" "insecure" and "incompetent" are worrying though probably many ordinary people have similar views.

A problem for the US presidential system, is that so far at least, there is no really attractive alternative candidate, which is surely a worry given the presidential elections due in the USA next year.

The excellent Netflix series "Madam Secretary",  about the USA President's First Secretary  and her family, amazingly seems to keep abreast of many real political life developments, for example in Iran although  a recent episode where nuclear war between Iran about Israel was only narrowly averted, hopefully will remain pure fiction 

The latest episode of  Madam Secretary we have watched, has a president who is elected  despite running independently against Democratic and Republican opposition though a recount in one state is being called for...

An American president independent of both main parties there might provide a refreshing intelligent change.

Westminster Pier to Kew Gardens

Maytrees min 70th Birthday gift was a trip for two on an old Thames boat from Westminster Pier to Kew and then entry into Kew Gardens on wha...