Monday 31 March 2008

The Ultimate Grey - # 08/60

All right! So you are moaning! You don't like Grey! But I have to make the best of what I've got. Grey is all I have.....this is London in winter, isn't it! The Brentford buildings on the Golden Mile have a remarkable ability to reflect the colour of the day. The GSK Building looks good under any sky.

This is the Ultimate Grey Building: ultimate means last. The Grey Series has finished.

Camera: Olympus E3

Sunday 30 March 2008

Off-piste Cool - # 08/59

Bywater St. London SW 3, in heavy rain.

Those in the know will be aware that the street cleaners sheltering under the tree are in fact secret servicemen on duty.

38 years ago I shared a flat off the Kings Road, near Bywater St. Saturdays I would see George Smiley in Safeway doing his weekly shop: err, I mean Drop.

For those who do not know the delights of London (which is a collection of villages each with a very different character) this is a typical residential street off the Kings Rd, Chelsea, a few steps down from Sloane Sq: home to stars of stage screen and fashion.

Saturday 29 March 2008

Cool - # 08/58


Friday 28 March 2008

Brentford: grey scale # 3 - # 08/57

Sometimes "Grey" can look nice (as indeed we discovered when Mrs Sarkozy came to meet the Queen. Never has Grey looked so good on anybody!)

Thursday 27 March 2008

Brentford: grey scale # 2 - # 08/56

"The colour of Grey". The Golden Mile under cloud.

The old canal passes under the road beside the building with the blue glass. Go down the steps and walk along the canal into the old docks and muse over the contrast.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Brentford: grey scale # 1 - # 08/55

Patroling the new buildings on the Golden Mile I suddenly realised that it's all grey! So, for the next few days it's "Brentford: grey scale".

This building started as a rather dull unadorned 1970s Block (in every sense of the word). Recently it has been very cleverly refurbished and upgraded. Suddenly it looks quite nice.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Brentford rising - up on the Golden Mile - # 08/54

By the 1920s the Great West Road, running through the centre of Brentford, was hopelessly congested. A new fast road from London to the west of England was driven through, along the northern edge of the town, and a cluster of magnificent, large Art Deco HQ offices and factory buildings for international companies was built along what had become known as the Golden Mile. In the 1960s the new M4 Motorway to the west was opened, starting at Brentford and even more large modern office blocks were built.

Here is a night view of the recent newer buildings, far less attractive than their Art Deco relatives but using electric light to make up for the shortcomings in style and elegance.

Earlier postings here have shown the some of the Art Deco buildings and a Web search on "The Golden Mile" will tell you more.

Monday 24 March 2008

Brentford rising - the Stunner of The Great West Road - # 08/53

Stand at the southern end of the dock basin in the late afternoon and look north. The enormous grey-blue glass mass of the GSK building reflects the afternoon sun. The strange golden towers are the mirrored reflections of the modern office blocks which stand opposite this magnificent glass creation.

I've chosen to show it in the context of the remaining derelict of sheds and a touch of old canal water below, with some tree cover on the right. The very old alongside the ultra modern world-HQ of Glaxo Smith Klein.

Camera: Olympus E3

Sunday 23 March 2008

A side-long glance - an Easter greeting - # 08/54

From a closed room we look out, glimpsing the outside, a wider world, a multitude of new paths, a fresh start, a world of spiritual growth instead of a static state. The blinds are raised.

Easter wishes to all of you.

Camera: Olympus C7070 WZ

Saturday 22 March 2008

The Bar Fly gets "clever": another in the occasional series - #08/53

"And the first question is...." Quizz night is in full swing, in this homely and deservedly popular small Brentford pub. The Waterman's Arms, has been on the site close to the river barge wharves in Ferry Lane since 1751.

Camera: Olympus C7070 WZ

Friday 21 March 2008

Brentford rising - a walk around the "new dockland" #3 - # 08/52

The 19th C Lock Keeper's Office (naturally, still in regular use) has been carefully refurbished. I admire the human scale and warmth of these 19th C working buildings. It's hard to believe that this architecture was created at a time when the dock area was surrounded by slums and squalor......or are we being misled? Sometimes I'm puzzled. But even our own times also show shameful contrasts.

FreeFalling (a regular visitor) has asked about services and water on the house boats. There are extensive "environmental service" stations all along the canal to provide water, battery charging and sanitary services. Of course most barges use wind and solar power for electrical services. See also "the Coal Lady # 179"

Camera: Olympus C7070 WZ

Thursday 20 March 2008

Brentford rising - a walk around the "new dockland" #2 - # 08/51

I have enjoyed my recent walks around the new Canal Harbour that I think it is worth sharing in full. This view is looking East. The stunning "Turner Sunset" was taken from the bridge in the distance.

The grey clouds lit by the late sun, and the golden light on the bricks are spectacular. The water takes on a very special appearance.

This is the "Gauging Dock" where barges were assessed for their cargoes and fees calculated.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Brentford rising - a walk around the "new dockland" #1 - # 08/50

Here is the environment enjoyed by those fortunate enough to live around the Brentford dock basin.

The converted canal boats are surrounded by the apartments designed to look West towards the sunsets. In the background are the remains of some old work shops and sheds, and far back in the mist, the impressive blue glass wall of the GlaxoSmithKline building (more later).

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Brentford's gift to the young painter, J.M.W. Turner - # 08/49

Close by the canal dock is a house (now a pub/restaurant called The Weir) where the young Turner lived from 1785-87. Here, inspired by the local countryside and waterways, young Turner started to paint his first water colours. His work is now priceless. Turner was known as "the painter of light" and is regarded as the "Father" of the Impressionist style so wonderfully practised by the great and much loved French painters 100 yrs later.

Imagine my amazement, when, walking a way from the house I turned a corner and was unexpectedly confronted by a stunning sunset reflected as golden light in the waters of the River Brent (now part of the Grand Junction Canal Dock basin).

I have tried to capture that sunset and its reflection in this photograph - a tribute to Turner.

Camera: Olympus C7070 WZ

Monday 17 March 2008

Brentford rising - #08/48

Turning away from the quaint and quirky we move towards the "urban renewal". The old canal harbour is being transformed into "luxury" apartments and in the distance is the stunning glass creation that houses the giant HQ of GlaxoSmithKline - evidence of "the Knowledge Economy" where once the Smoke Stack ruled (But even that was based on science and knowledge). For the next few days we'll explore "the up-and-coming" Brentford.

(BTW.....there are some unexpected imperfections in this image. The GSK building is a bit fuzzy. Blame me, not the camera. On closer inspection I see that it is "noise" do blame the camera.)

Camera: Olympus C7070 WZ

Sunday 16 March 2008

Take a balanced view of things - # 08/47

There's always a nice shot, even on grey, damp, apparently featureless days. Coming up over the crest of a slope on Richmond Hill I saw "the Hotel", "the Tree", and "the Church Tower" (lower down) - a nice threesome: I was in the right position to see the symmetry.

Camera: Olympus E3

Saturday 15 March 2008

Hand-tooled excellence - # 08/46

A couple of days ago I showed you "the Archivist". This is the book she was working on at the time. I needed a tripod , but not having it available I had to make do with a steady hand. So the photo is less than ideal.

The gold tooling around the edge of the book is amazingly detailed. The macro-photo images here are heavily magnified. Just look at the detailing of the tiny thistle heads and acorn cups. With the nacked eye you can only see the detail by peering really hard and close in.

I cannot imagine how the 18th Century craftsman manged to make the stamping die that produced such tiny micro-precision work. I'm going to try and get an even better picture that will do more justice to this fine work.

Friday 14 March 2008

The 2,000 yard Gas Works - # 08/45

Here it is (or was: on this very site). The "Thing" to make you Afraid! The Brentford Gas Works. The Gas Works closed in 1963; at its largest the works covered 8 1/2 acres on both sides of the High Street. The Brentford Gas Company was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1821. Its main works lay on either side of Brentford High Street, with a long frontage to the River Thames. Consequently Brentford was one of the first towns to have fully lit streets - the peak of modern city living!

Imagine! Brentford was 1/3 giant Gas Works, 1/3 giant Water Pumping and Filtration Station, 1/3 Canal and Railway Goods Transfer point, and a mass of bad housing for 19th Century manual dock labourers and barge sailors. The "Do-Good Charities" of the 19th Century were tearing their hair out over poverty, child education and schooling and poor health and housing. A town once described as "a paradise", became "the filthiest in England".

Yet on the other side of the river was Richmond, with its royal palaces and accolade as the "most beautiful town in England".

But it's not all the official website comments.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Back to Brentford's "Golden Age" - # 08/44

This house, like the other I showed is also in The Butts, and probably dates from about 1700 (I'm taking an educated guess - so forgive me). Throughout the 18th C the town became busier and busier because of its good strategic location on the main road from London to the West (and it still is!). River transport of agricultural goods and even fishing brought wealth, and it seems that barges brought barley, and so beer brewing was also "big money". In 1805 the Grand Junction Canal arrived and "technology and transport of goods" drove the town downhill from then on. Tomorrow you will see the remains of why it became "the filthiest place in England"...............Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Wednesday 12 March 2008

A quiet pause for thought or "the Archivist" - # 08/43

Scenes of Brentford (in 1873 described by the local paper, in protest, as "the Filthiest Place in England") will continue tomorrow. Meanwhile, here we are, suddenly back in Ham House where we are preparing for the new visitor season which starts on 15th March. The Archivist is working in the small anteroom outside the Library, cataloguing the book collection. I couldn't resist capturing this snap: hand held and no camera shake!!! (for a small series on the Library go back to #10,11,12 from Feb 2007).

Camera: Olympus C7070 WZ

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Brentford anno 1680- # 08/42

I've already said that the 19th C was not kind to Brentford, but around 1680 this was the delightful square that formed the centre of the town and there were said to be shops as fine as the best you will find in London. It's hard to believe that in 1873 the local newspaper declared that "Brentford [was] the filthiest place in England".

Today the square is often used by film companies seeking an authentic "olde worlde" setting.

Monday 10 March 2008

Saturday 8 March 2008

The Bar Fly goes Dixie - # 08/39

The Bar Fly blundered into a "hot spot" on Thursday night. This fine sextet (Yes, I know you can only see three of them) was raising a storm in a tiny pub, hidden in the alleyways down in the depths of the old canal docks.

Friday 7 March 2008

Funky Firestation - # 08/38

In the 1890s there was an outbreak of civic and imperial pride that produced amazingly ornate and highly decorated neo-gothic style firestations. The Brentford firestation was no exception. Today, the building has been converted into a slick bar and restaurant.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Out of the docks and into the town - # 08/37

For anyone interested in contemplating the effect of light on water and metal, or the photographer or urban artist interested in textures and the "hard and soft", Brentford offers plenty of opportunities.

By the this very spot in 1642, 1,400 Parliamentarian troops defended the bridge (top right corner glimpse) against 4,600 attacking Royalist soldiers. An 3 day action took place involving infantry, field guns, and guns mounted on barges sailed along the Thames. The Royalists broke through but were stopped about 3 miles further on at Turnham Green.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Your private world? Your choice - # 08/36

So which would you choose? A barge on the main Thames river channel, or something locked deep inside this 200 yr old canal wharf, surrounded by the "old stuff" and the encroaching saplings and bushes?

Your benefit will be the wonderful impact of the sunset hitting the derelict building and reflecting back into the water. The basin faces south, so you are assured of some extra warmth at noon. But those English Novembers and Februaries are sure to be rather damp.

I took several snaps trying to catch the golden reflection, the shadows and the shining mud, and the green mould on the bricks. It was hard to capture it all, but this version makes the point. The colourful barges always help. But I fear it's less romantic than it looks.

Camera: Olympus C7070 WZ

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Angles, textures nooks and crannies - # 08/35

As we wander deeper into the old Brentford canal docklands we encounter narrow alleys and bridges over dock entrances. We see light and shadow, weeds, wire, metal, wood, bricks and mud. We see the hard and the soft and the passage of 200 years. It's a walk back in time and an urban historian's delight.

Camera: Olympus E3

Monday 3 March 2008

Back to 1805 - # 08/34

Moving from the Thames riverside into the old canal docks we come to the weir where the overflow from the canal pours out. The junk of ages can be seen in the mud. Very old sheds are still in use and the repair yard is thriving and full of work converting old Dutch motor barges into floating homes. On the other side the huge area that became a railway cargo terminal in 1849 is now a housing estate built in the 1960s/70s when the dereliction was cleared.

The "Industrial Age" brought great wealth to Britain, but for Brentford it was a mixed blessing.

Sunday 2 March 2008

London from Richmond Park- # 08/33

Richmond Park is high on a plateau and London sits down in the London Basin. I thought you would like to see this classic view from one of the favourite vantage points in the park. The extreme telephoto setting scrunches it all together - we a looking across about 13 miles/20 km distant. You can see the "London Eye", the big wheel which is in the West End (the City of Westminster) opposite the Houses of Parliament, and behind (almost as if they are close by) you can see the already "iconic" Gherkin tower and the mass that makes up the the City of London (the financial district). There's more to the left and right. I'm trying to get a decent night time wide angle shot, but weather conditions must be perfect.

Saturday 1 March 2008