Category: Vauxhall

First Blog Birthday

First Blog Birthday

Today is my blog-anniversary, A Little London Life is exactly a year old. Thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting, I hope you’re enjoying the ride. I relish the writing process and it’s great to see that the blog is starting to build a sizeable readership. Spread the word if you feel so inclined and if there are stories out there you think I should be covering, let me know.

I finally went to see the RA Summer Exhibition today just before it closes. The collage above has some of my favourite bits.

Funfair stinking up the park

Funfair stinking up the park

I like funfairs, I’ve been going to them all my life. A particular favourite is the Dodgems, but I’ve done time on the Waltzer and even the Wall of Death.

So, I was happy to hear that Bensons Family Funfair was setting up shop in one of our local green spaces, Kennington Park. Well, I was happy until I went there.

We live in a pretty polluted part of town, I shudder to think what the smog levels are on Harleyford Road or Clapham Road. Fortunately, the London parks act as the capital’s lung combining the absence of traffic with trees performing that magic of absorbing carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses, and then releasing pure oxygen back into the air.

This morning, the mutt and I walked into Kennington Park and were hit with the acrid stench of diesel. I’m assuming that without a nearby electricity supply the funfair is forced to run its rides with power generated by its trucks. This means diesel motors are running constantly.

Funfairs have probably done this forever, but we didn’t notice or if we did, we didn’t care. But now we know about nitrous oxide (N2O) and particulates and all the other evil stuff that engines pump into the air and what it’s doing to our health.

In London we accept the inevitability of heavy traffic and look to the Mayor and Transport for London to help reduce pollution, but now the very place we seek solace from the stink is being stunk up.

What about the council providing an electricity supply so the trucks can power down? What are your thoughts?

Bumper crop: Urban market garden

Bumper crop: Urban market garden

Green-fingered Mrs Preen is responsible for a bumper crop in our modest market garden this year. I guess the industrial strength sunshine may have helped a bit too.

Favourable Spring weather, meant the tomato plants went in early and as you can see from the pictures, we are overwhelmed by the little beauties.

The cucumber plant we call the chicken plant; it lays a new cucumber every day. They sprout so fast, I swear you can see them growing.

Peppers are tricky in our temperate climate and we are only growing them this year because we were gifted a free plant, but as we now live in what seems like Southern California rather than Southern London we have four incubating.

We are growing broad beans following a project management cock up at the highest level. Mrs Preen meant to order runner beans, but because of an administrative error scored broad beans instead. Now I love a broad bean as much as the next man, but they are tricky to grow and are suffering as they went unwatered for a week while we were away. The poor loves seem to be bouncing back, but broadly speaking, there’s not much bean action.

The only ne’er-do-well, lazy backsliders in our garden are the strawberry plants. Beautiful, healthy looking specimens they may be, but totally unencumbered by any fruit. Shape up strawberries, or you’ll be ripped up by the roots. It’s survival of the fittest round our way.

Old Oval: As time goes by

Old Oval: As time goes by

Neighbourhood architects, Rolfe Judd, has its offices on Claylands Road SW8 in what was once a Congregational Chapel. (See above) It’s always been a local firm, starting out in premises on Kennington Road in 1968 and moving to its present site in 1982.

It now employs more than seventy architects and town planners and works on upscale projects at the Oval cricket ground and Nine Elms Point in Vauxhall. They recently held a summer fete where they displayed pictures of our neighbourhood from bygone days.

Kate Ludden, who works there as a business administrator, kindly sent me copies of the pictures which I thought you might like to see in case you missed their event.

I’ve mixed their shots with ones I took today.

Claylands Road

Clapham Road

Fentiman Road

A risk register of loathing

A risk register of loathing

Journalists: not a popular bunch by and large. In these turbulent days of supposed fake news, reporters don’t inspire much public trust. This is hardly new. Princess Diana died while being pursued by paparazzi and at the time I think the only person disliked more than reporters was her husband Prince Charles.

Back then, I was regularly sent out to do perhaps the most useless form of television journalism: Vox Pops. This is where you ask members of the public what they think about the topic of the day. When asked about the heir to the throne, people told me in pretty fruity language that he should never be King. Perhaps his star has risen a little since then.

Balkans

In 1992 a heady dose of pig-headed nationalism and long supressed violence got the conflict in the Balkans kick-started. Here the various warring parties thought that on balance, the best kind of journalist was a dead journalist. Obviously, reporters had died in conflicts before, caught up in the cross-fire, but as far as I’m aware this was the first time they were seen as the enemy and targeted. Someone I knew was travelling down sniper’s alley in Sarajevo in a van marked TV on the back door. To make his point a sniper placed a bullet right between the T and the V which struck and killed a young reporter inside.

But journos rarely see themselves as victims. We are Millwall: You all hate us, we don’t care.

Real Estate

Journalists could always take comfort in the fact that on the risk register of loathing there were at least two groups below us: Estate Agents and Bankers.

Apparently, such is the rake off in real estate at the moment that in Central London, the sale of one house is enough to pay the running costs of an agent’s office for a year and that includes salaries, rent and rates. Nice work if you can get it.

It’s the small things that irritate. When my family moved to Oval SW8 at the turn of the century it was a sleepy enclave dissected by major roads getting people and goods in and out of the city centre. Planning laws changed, and we now live a stone’s throw from the biggest building site in Europe that stretches from Vauxhall down Nine Elms Lane, past the new US Embassy and fetches up at Battersea Power Station. Whether there are enough oligarchs to buys these over-priced hutches is at best doubtful

Close to us, is a high-rise block that mimics the Flat Iron Building in New York along with a series of apartments in low rise townhouses. They are advertised as Luxury Apartments Built in Britain’s Famous Brick. Except they aren’t. They are built of steel and glass and clad in brick. It is real brick, I’ve had a close look, but it’s half an inch thin and stuck to a metal frame that’s attached to the side of the building. Built in brick? Fake news.

But as elsewhere in the economy, maybe times are getting tough in realty as American’s call it. I see hardly any For Sale signs on our streets, but what I do see is a proliferation of builder’s vans with houses everywhere being re-booted, with loft extensions put in for young adults who can’t afford to leave home and side returns for that dream dining room and kitchen you always craved. Not surprising really, if you sell a house and move you might as well, go into your garden armed with not less that £50,000 and chuck it on the barbeque. Doing up is the new moving out.

Giving the realtor community the benefit of the doubt, I walked into a local estate agent and asked if they no longer used For Sale boards. I was told that boards were still very much part of their sales approach. I said, there are none around here, business must be terrible. To which the reply came: ‘not at all, business is buoyant.’

Banking Barons

The financial sector, with its Banking Barons or in Tom Wolfe’s famous phrase ‘The Masters of the Universe’ doesn’t inspire much love either. Ten years ago, the Western World suffered the worst financial crash since the 30s. Following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the whole banking system was just hours away from turning turtle and taking us all down with it. In George W Bush’s words: ‘This sucker could go down.’

Ultimately that didn’t happen as the government decided the taxpayer should step up and bail out the ailing banks. Very decent of us, but as a result we’ve all had to live with austerity and reduced public services for a decade and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

But what of the bankers who caused this mess? Was anyone prosecuted or held to account? They were not. It seems that ‘Masters of the Universe’ can make hay with their massive bonuses when the sun is shining, but when things turn nasty, it’s up to you and me to pick up the tab. And just in case you are concerned the poor loves are suffering, the bonus pool in UK finance last year was £15 billion, the largest since 2007.

There you have it, a risk register of loathing: Journos, Estate Agents and Bankers, what a threesome! Where bloggers fall in this register, I’ll leave up to you.

Shock poll predicts England win this Saturday

Shock poll predicts England win this Saturday

Following exhaustive polling in Vauxhall using the latest data gathering techniques, ‘A Little London Life’ can reveal that the citizens of London SW8 are (almost) unanimous in thinking that England will crush the Nordic menace this Saturday.

Actually, what happened was this, Rusty the mutt and I took a stroll around the neighbourhood and asked whether England would beat Sweden and what the score would be?

  • James said we’d win 1-0 with a header from Harry Kane
  • Zoe was confident we would win 2-0
  • Ossie went for a cautious 1-0 to Ingerlund
  • Kevin said it would be 2-0 to Sweden (Damn, Kevin which side are you on?)
  • Dan said he’d put money on England beating Sweden 2-1 (He was standing outside a betting shop)
  • Peter also thought 1-0 would seal it for us (Frankly, he didn’t sound convinced)
  • Anna from Brazil said England would win 2-1 on Saturday but Russia would win the cup! (Then she said something rather rude about Neymar in Portuguese)
  • Mira said it would be 1-1 but England would win on penalties (I’ll have a heart attack if that happens again)
  • At Max & Melia our local gift shop, Maxine thought it would be 2-0 to England and her assistant Angel went for a more cautious 1-0.

Finally, Rusty and I popped into Oval Eyes, where we met Andrea. She is Columbian and had watched the game with her English boyfriend, when we knocked her side out of the tournament. She said she was sad, but sportingly hoped England would beat Sweden and thought it would happen with penalties!

Those are the facts ladies & gentlemen, and you can’t argue with facts, the people of Lambeth have spoken.

Vauxhall space art launches this Saturday

Vauxhall space art launches this Saturday

This Saturday (7th July) is Art Night with exhibitions and installations stretching down the South Bank through Vauxhall and on to Nine Elms and Battersea. This year the festival is partnering with the Hayward Gallery, which has curated projects by twelve internationally renowned artists.

One of whom is Turkish born Halil Altındere whose exhibition, Space Refugee (2016–18), is at the British Interplanetary Society (BIS). Walking south from Vauxhall Cross you may have seen the large circular picture of an astronaut on the wall above the BIS sign. The portrait is of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris, the first Arab and only Syrian ever to travel into space. He visited the Mir space station in 1987.

The artist traces Faris’ journey from Syrian national hero, to pariah of the brutal Assad regime who was forced into exile and now lives in Turkey. Watching the exhibition being assembled, the installation uses a statue of Faris along with memorabilia from his space mission together with found objects at the BIS. Right now, four days before opening, the installation seems to be creating the vibe of an old-fashioned space museum.

At the centre of the show is a video which features Faris talking about the difficulties he faced in Syria, how he became a refugee and whether he will ever return home. Fearful of the fate of all refugees he says: “I hope we can rebuild cities for them (refugees) in space, where there is freedom and dignity and where there is no tyranny, no injustice.” The video also includes interviews with NASA scientists and architects discussing the possibility of a refugee colony in space.

On the circular picture of Faris outside the BIS are the words: Occupy Mars. One of the curators explained that as Mars is owned by no one perhaps the refugees of the world might find a welcome there. A fanciful, but sweet idea living as they do in a ‘hostile environment’ where refugees are often just pawns in a political game.

Spaced

Now I’m fairly certain some of you will be asking: What the hell is the British Interplanetary Society? I’m here to help. It was founded in 1933 by a group of space flight enthusiasts who dreamed of using rocket propulsion to explore outer space. Today, they are essentially an aeronautic lobby group or think tank who encourage everyone to get spaced, which his handy as the clubbers over the road manage it most weekends.

British Interplanetary Society, 27-29 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1SZ

The exhibition, Space Refugee (2016–18), will run for ten days.