Disco fever at the London Sevens

Record crowds of more than 100,000 over two days. Sixteen teams from around the world. Two series’ cup finals. Two streakers and far too many men wearing floral sundresses. It could only be the 2012 London Sevens rugby series at Twickenham.

Twickenham in the sunshine

We were there last weekend to witness it all. Nestled in the north stand in weak sunshine on a chilly May weekend, it was difficult at first to know where to focus our attention. The rugby was fantastic, but the spectacle that is the London Sevens was hard to resist. Every series has a colourful theme; this year’s was ‘70s disco fever’.

Play that funky music, white boy

I have come to realise that English fans of rugby sevens love to dress up. Most keep to the theme but many seem to keep a fancy-dress outfit at home to suit all occasions. Take the two guys dressed as nuns. They must have thought, “What can we wear for a 70s disco fever theme? I know; our habits. Ace.”

To make it even better, one of the nuns carried a scarecrow with him, who interviewed people as they walked around the stadium on Saturday afternoon. Seventies disco? Bang on.

As we watched the pool games on Saturday, we also saw a team of dancing penguins, a Roman gladiator, two men in kilts, cowboys, doctors, tigers, Eeyores, leprechauns, beachballs, someone wearing a T-shirt that said I heart Will Young and an over-abundance of men dressed in pretty frocks.

Tigers and penguins dance down the aisles
As I said, way too many men in floral sundresses

The rugby continued regardless, with league leaders New Zealand, Fiji, England and Samoa showing their brilliance. Sadly for us, the South African team felt the loss of their injured star players and barely glimmered in front of an unforgiving crowd. I have noticed that English fans support England, the underdog, and any other country that is not Australia or France.

Naturally biased, fans filled the stands each time the England team came on to play, and the players were heralded on to the field by flag-bearing disco dancers. Equally, after each England game, fans poured out of the stadium. In the England v Australia game, the announcers welcomed each of the English players by name and then, almost begrudgingly added, “And Australia”. For each England try, the fans jumped to their feet, swung their forearms up and down to the annoying tune of ‘do-do-do-do’ – looking around as if to say ‘Did you see that? Did you just see that?’

The dying strains of the victory ‘arm shuffle’

When Australia played Portugal, it was clear the home fans would support their European brothers. Australia stood no chance. When one Aussie player broke the line and sprinted for the try line, in the midst booing from around the stadium someone behind us shouted, “No-one likes you!”

Those who kept on-brand with the 70s disco fever theme included the entire cast of Anchorman, complete with a microphone-carrying Ron Burgundy. We saw the Village People everywhere, as well as Kiss, an abundance of large colourful Afro wigs, Saturday Night Fever suits, John McEnroe look-alikes and plenty of headbands, scarves, platform shoes, chest hair, wide lapels and shiny, large-collared shirts.

Mid-afternoon saw a man dressed as a chicken evade security and run an entire lap of the field. When he got to the poles in front of us, he did a forward somersault on the grass before handing himself over to the stadium’s security personnel who tackled him to the ground. Three of them escorted him off the field.

Later in the afternoon, two men broke through security to run along the top of the western stand. One of them was dressed as a banana and the other had taken his kit off entirely. Security personnel closed in on them before running at them and tackling them both to the ground before walking them out of the stadium.

Saturday’s train journey home was epic. We shuffled on to a crowded train in the middle of loud, rowdy and worryingly wobbly fans, including a young woman pushing crisps into her mouth with unfocused concentration. A group of energetic youngsters decided to have a ‘burpy’ competition on the train. They cleared as much space as they could in the standing area and cheered each other on as they dropped to the ground to do press-ups followed by squats and wobbly jumps to their feet.

This soon became difficult, so the competition turned to pole-dancing. Game candidates jumped on to the poles and success was measured according to the number of times they swung around the pole before hitting the ground. Some managed five, others slid roundly to the floor immediately. Three young men dressed as boy scouts strong-armed their way through the crowds to the train’s exits. Banter ensued. The competition organiser told one of them, “You’re the reason I never wanted to be a scout.” The scout retorted with, “Well, with an attitude like that, you’ll never get your pole-dancing badge.”

Sunday’s crowd was subdued. The rugby became serious and hopes of winning cups, shields, bowls and plates were dashed or kept alive. As teams were knocked out, they each did a gracious and well-received lap of honour around the field. Fans clambered for autographs and photographs and the rugby heroes cheerfully obliged. I did notice some players taking off their shorts or socks and handing them over to adoring fans. Seriously.

The sun sank lower in the sky and the play-offs continued in earnest. We had the bonus of watching the final of the Women’s Sevens series between England and Netherlands. It was an excellent match won convincingly by the home side.

The England women’s team warms up ahead of series’ victory

During half-time in one of the last matches, a female streaker broke through security and ran the length of the field. She, too, stopped in front of the poles and did a cartwheel, to the roaring amusement of the crowd. She walked towards the inevitably approaching security personnel and raised her hands, before side-stepping and running away from them. She was hotly pursued and carefully tackled to the ground before being blanketed in a couple of high-visibility jackets and escorted roughly off the field.

Fiji met Samoa in the cup final and provided one of the most outstanding games of rugby I’ve ever witnessed. Two sides of strong, fast and skilful players entertained the crowd with speedy action, numerous tries and a popular win for a world-class Fiji.

The tired crowd left the stadium and headed, with jaded banter, to a less crowded station than the evening before. We stepped over fake sideburns and moustaches abandoned on the road, and walked alongside a 70s-suited punter who sang flatly as he downed his beer, “Down, down, down, down into my belly!” All around us were filthy bell-bottomed trousers, floppy Afro wigs, faded Smurfs, and floral sundresses tucked into trousers. It was clear the London Sevens of 2012 had come to an end.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Randomness

Random thoughts. They tie together not at all and appear in “no random order” as I heard someone once say.

This morning on my walk to the bus, I watched a swan as it dipped its head deep into the water right in the corner of the local dock. I stood and watched for a while. Soon it came up, shook its head a little and its forehead was green with algae.

As I rushed home from work to get to my zumba class in time, I wondered if there would be any mail in our letter box. I imagined finding a letter there telling me I’d won a million pounds. You know what my first thought was? Would I still go to zumba?

On my way home from zumba, I saw three young professionals studying the plaque on a small heritage building in the area. One young man, dressed in a suit, hairstyle like a Beatle with long, pointy sideburns, was giggling as I walked by. He pointed at the plaque, and said, “I can’t believe it says erected.”

When we were at the open air concert in Hyde Park a few weeks ago, I discovered an amazing sense of community and the art of mime. I’d forgotten to take with me my note pad and pen, so I could make notes of the concert for my blog. I mimed “pen?” to my friend who was sitting behind us. She made a face as if to say she didn’t have one, and then motioned that she’d ask her friends. After a few minutes, she looked at me and made a disappointed face and showed me her out-turned hands, palms up. No pen. No worries. About two minutes later, the pink-haired lady with every finger nail painted a different colour, who was also sitting behind us, came over to me with a pencil. She’d borrowed it from her bovver-booted husband, and brought it to me. Who ever said mime doesn’t pay?

A relentless eavesdropper, as you know me to be, it was difficult to overhear conversations at the concert, against the backdrop of never-ending music. It was interesting, however, to watch the goings-on all around us anyway. I watched a family of four enjoy a day out in Hyde Park. Endless trips to the bar saw them taking it in turns to bring back pints and Pimms and ciders and spirits. You name it; they knocked them back. They danced and as the day progressed, their dancing became more “uncle- like” and standing upright seemed to be a growing battle for each of them. As dusk darkened the sky, I noticed the husband and wife arguing. She said, “Fine, then.”  And with that, she turned tail and disappeared into the crowd. The daughter appealed to her dad, “She’s just gone. She’s just literally gone.” Dad appeared unperturbed. Oh well.

A few hours later, in the rainy evening, the mother appeared in front of me. I looked at her and smiled, and she said to me, “My whole family’s just fallen out. It’s an absolute nightmare.” I mimed sympathy, and smiled at her some more. She said, “I saw you look at me, so I thought I’d tell you. It’s a nightmare. We’ve all just fallen out.” I asked if they’d arranged to meet up somewhere, and she told me no-one knew where she was and reminded me that it was a “nightmare”. “Oh dear,” was all I could manage. At that point, her husband appeared to our right and said, “Oh, there you are! We’ve been looking for you everywhere!” To which she said, “Is that so?” and turned tail and disappeared back into the crowd. He looked at me, sighed and said, “It’s an absolute nightmare.” You think?

Sunshine signing off for today!

An audience with Miss Chatelaine

It must be about 20 years ago that I first saw this floppy-fringed Canadian singer. I didn’t really like her look and paid little attention. Until I heard her sing. Miss Chatelaine blew my mind, not to mention my assumptions. Seeing her perform that song live last night felt like a musical dream for me.

Just a smile,  just a smile, hold me captive for a while
I can’t explain why I’ve become Miss Chatelaine
Every time your eyes meet mine,
Clouds of qualm burst into sunshine

kd lang live at the Royal Festival Hall. Yesterday’s date stared out at me from our calendar for a few months, our tickets stared out at me from their shelf in our cabinet, and I grew more and more excited as the day neared. Yesterday was a beautiful warm and sunshiney day in London; temperatures hovered around 26 degrees for most of the day. After work I walked along the edge of the Thames from my London Bridge office towards the South Bank, where I’d arranged to meet my husband at the Nelson Mandela bust. It seemed fitting.

Much of London was out enjoying the sun and the summer construction of a “beach” along the South Bank. Street dancers performed, families strolled along licking ice lollies, pubs overflowed with chirpy office workers, benches and patches of grass were filled with cheery people enjoying the welcome London sunshine. In lengthening shadows and royal blue sunshine, the balmy evening was simply sublime.

Because we booked early for last night’s show, we managed to get great seats in the fifth row from the stage. Little Miss Higgins and Floyd Taylor opened the show with infectiously bouncy old time country music, inspired by her rural home in the Great Northern Plains of Western Canada. After a short interval, kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang Band took the stage and wove musical magic around us for the next hour and a half.

Opening with I Confess from her recently-released and beautifully crafted Sing it Loud album, she moved on to The Water’s Edge before sending the audience into raptures with her crazy-fabulous arrangement of Miss Chatelaine. Mixing old and new songs, she sang and she danced and with every word, she reached out from her soul to an adoring audience.

When she shouted, “London!” we screamed and we whooped and we whistled, before her rousing delivery of Sing it Loud, her album’s title song and anthem to being who you are. She then began a set of spiritual songs starting, as she said, “at the top and working my way down”. She tore through Talking Head’s Heaven before moving on to probably the most sincere and emotional offering of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah I have ever heard. She brought me to tears and all of us spontaneously to our feet. After a poignant A Sleep with No Dreaming, she ended the set by giving her guitar pick to a little girl in the front row. Much applause followed and then kd said, “What? She wants my guitar too? Right. Everyone wants Josephine; she’s that kinda gal.”

She then introduced us to the immensely talented band from lead guitarist, to bass player, drummer, keyboard/piano wizard and then ended with the man who “changed my life”. She met Joe Pisapia at the Ryman Auditorium at the Grand Ole Opry and what we experienced last night is what resulted from “that union”. I’d heard her talk before about the name of the band – Siss Boom Bang is what happens when they play together. They sizzle and they just work. Beautifully.

A clearly well-loved woman, kd batted audience chirps away with grace and gentle wit. One audience member shouted out a whole bunch of song titles. This seemed to confuse ms lang, who said, “So many titles, so few mine.”

What followed was The Perfect Word, Habit of Mind, Reminiscing (what an adorable love song), Sorrow Nevermore (where kd ditched Josephine to play the banjo) and ended with a powerful rendition of Constant Craving. The audience went ballistic and she and the band left the stage. We wouldn’t let her go, so she returned sans shoes and jacket for the beautiful Inglewood, before her final and delightfully frenetic Sugar Buzz.

We still didn’t want her to go. And nor did she. She and the band returned for a third and final encore. She gathered her band closely around her on the stage to perform a song “for all the businessmen here tonight”. A fun and bouncy Pay Dirt  was followed by the achingly delicate Hungry Bird.

kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang Band then left the stage. They left us screaming for more but knowing we’d just experienced an evening of musical genius. I loved it. k daddy – you have the voice of an angel and I’m a fan. A big fan.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Songs from the soul

Riding in buses with people

I commute to work by bus every day. I take a ten-minute walk to my stop, hop on my favoured ride, and sit among the good and the great, the quiet and the noisy. Usually I catch up on texting my friends or family, or I read my book. Sometimes I sit and listen. Other times I just sit.

Last week, the American President paid an official state visit to these shores. Barack and Michelle Obama were welcomed by both Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister, David Cameron. In the midst of the pomp and ceremony and formality, David and Barack went to visit a south London school to play table tennis. And to meet the schoolchildren. Apparently the area was a no-go zone for most of the day, as security measures ensured the safety of the two highly competitive table tennis players.

The day after this school visit, which was splashed across all national and international media, I travelled on the bus with a bunch of schoolchildren who were clearly part-time political commentators.

“You know they went to that school, yeah? They chose that school, right, because them kids, yeah, they’s well bad, right? So they went to that school to make them good, innit?”

I hope they were successful.

So these are the things I observe as I ride in buses with people:

1. Some people bash everyone’s heads with their bags as they walk up or down the aisle of the bus. It looks like they have either a small washing machine, or an old-fashioned television set in the bags they carry on their shoulders and, systematically, they will bash the head of each person sitting on an aisle seat on their route. I am not sure how many points you get for a whole row of commuters, but there must be some high-fiving happening somewhere.

2. Some people like to take up two seats on the their own. They will sit on one seat and their bag on the other. (See above.)

3. Some people who travel with their friends or partners or spouses, love to speak loudly and sometimes to argue. I sat on the bus once listening to a young couple argue for forty minutes about the same subject. When eventually I got to my stop, I was tempted to say, “For goodness sake, do the freaking exam tomorrow. He has a point – you’ve got nothing to lose.”

4. Some commuters are very British. And others aren’t. One morning, as I walked up the stairs to the upper deck of the bus, I heard a young man seated at the back of the bus having a conversation on his cell phone. Clearly, he didn’t need a phone; I think his friend would have heard him from Edinburgh. He finished his conversation, and then began to strike up a conversation with the guy who had sat down beside him. I thought it was an entirely one-way conversation because all I heard was the young guy, at the same number of decibels as his phone conversation, tell his neighbour about what had happened on the bus the night before. After a polite pause, his new friend said to him, “Would you mind calming down, please?”

5. Some people don’t mind having inappropriate conversations that everyone on the bus can hear. One evening, I was joined by a chubby and jovial young man who came to sit next to me. He was already having a conversation on his cell phone, which he continued at full voice for the entire journey. As hard as I tried to concentrate on reading my book, I couldn’t focus for the incessant yabbering from my neighbour. My book was much more interesting than the fact that he argued with his partner for three hours on Monday night because, as he was ironing, he forgot to tell her when Glee came on television.

6. Some people are fruit murderers. The other day, I sat near a guy who wasn’t so much eating an apple, as beating it to death between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Loudly.

Despite how it may sound, I do love travelling to work by bus. I have a scenic walk along the docks, the river and then a treed walkway to my bus stop. And it is fun getting to know some familiar faces who catch the bus at the same time as I do. Once I’m on the bus, I make sure I don’t forget to look up at the regular sights that we pass, like the occasional uninterrupted view of the River Thames, and the view of Tower Bridge. Mostly I sit there and feel thankful for my job and for this opportunity to live in London.

On the odd occasion – and thankfully this doesn’t happen too often – the journey can be quite different. Once, I planned an entire tantrum in my mind. I had no intention of acting on it, but the process of imagining turned out to be just what I needed. Let me explain …

One day a few weeks ago, I’d had a really full and busy day at work, and I got on the bus feeling quite tired and wearing the hair-shirt of grumpiness. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to send a text message to my husband; traffic was bad; our bus sat in one of the railway tunnels for ages; a young couple was arguing non-stop and a Spanish couple were shouting at each other (I don’t think they were arguing, just trying to get themselves heard above the arguers). In my mind, I imagined the following: flinging my head dramatically into my lap, grabbing my hair with both hands and doing a screen-worthy “aaaargghhhhh!” Once that had got everyone’s attention, I imagined myself storming down the aisle – telling the young couple to “sort this out, one way or the other, for the love of London!”. (I actually thought that.) As I stormed down the aisle, I would also be bashing everyone’s heads with my bag – not on purpose, but just because I had a big bag over my shoulder – and swearing like a pirate at the bus driver for the traffic, before demanding he let me off the bus.

It felt quite satisfying to imagine that drama in my mind, until I remembered that that very morning, I had prayed that God would use me to extend His kingdom in whatever I did that day. Major fail. That made me smile and it loosened the grumpy shirt that I’d been wearing. I breathed deeply, I tried to remember the true meaning of tolerance and chuckled as I stepped off the bus, quietly, at the next stop. I didn’t even touch my hair.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Sevens heaven

Two more tickets landed in our red box last night when we returned from a full day at Twickenham, the home of British rugby in London. We left in bright London sunshine and returned in balmy dusk, having had an amazing new experience in this city.

We were two of the world record crowd of over 54,000 at the first day of an international 7s rugby tournament, one in which our Saffa team – the Springboks – feature in the top four in the current standings, having being world champions in the 2008/09 season. It was too exciting to see our boys in green running on to the pitch to take on a series of rivals throughout the day: sixteen teams from around the world take part, namely New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Argentina, USA, Canada, Russia, Argentina, South Africa, Kenya, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, England and Wales. South Africa was ranked fourth at the beginning of this, the penultimate match of the series.

Our boys in green - Springboks, otherwise known as blitzbokke

The day was much like a festival of rugby, with a wonderful, colourful atmosphere for the entire day. A beach party theme encouraged more than half of the fans to arrive at Twickenham dressed for a day at the beach … some sharing a little more than they should, others – like the guy in a Speedo and mankini – causing more than a little trauma for fellow spectators. Grass skirts and paper flower garlands around necks and heads predominated the fancy dress, while there were a number of pirates (?), lobsters, sombrero-and-poncho-wearers, ice-cream cones, sailors, mermaids, many silly hats, painted faces, men in tutus and one guy dressed as a London bobby sans trousers. I guess some people just have fancy dress that they will wear regardless of the theme! There was way too much flesh on display, although the weather was just magical. One fan took that to the extreme by running on to the field, dropping his kit entirely and running around the field in his birthday suit. I did feel sorry for the security team who had to stop him…

Colourful fans abound at Twickenham

The rugby, which was brilliant and hugely entertaining, continued relentlessly through the day. South Africa won two of its three matches of the day, which means it went through to the quarter final of the cup event today, and we wait to see what happens next. The home crowd went ballistic when the England squad appeared in front of our stand to warm up – grown men stood and applauded spontaneously, some almost wept with pride as their team ran up and down the width of the rugby field to prepare for their first pool game.

When England did appear for their first match, they were welcomed onfield by a swathe of red-and-white-clad young dancers, bearing St George flags. The crowd, to a man, jumped to their feet, screamed and applauded with excitement as the home side made their first appearance. The young men in front of us who, like many of their contemporaries, viewed the day as an excuse to go “on the p***” as they say here, actually paid attention to the game and jumped up every time England scored. Much lager was spilled underfoot, but who cares when your team is on the field?

The red-and-white girls provided much entertainment throughout the day and, for the most part, not in the way they intended. A group of them lined themselves along the stepped aisle in our [north] section and within seconds, there were comments flying about relating to one of the young women who, some said, “clearly has her head on facing the wrong way”.

I couldn’t work out who they were talking about, until my eyes fell on a beautiful young blonde woman who was standing, with her hands on her hips and her elbows pointing forwards at an angle that would make your eyes water. Oblivious to the comments about her strange joints, the young woman smiled and carried on regardless. Every time the dancing girls appeared thereafter, the guys behind us would say, “Look! There’s funny elbow lady!” or “Miss Bingo Wings again!”

As the day progressed, and the lager flowed, everything seemed to be that much funnier. And louder. A tartan tam’o’shanter-wearing supporter seated behind us, came staggering back up the steps towards his mates. As he approached, one of his friends shouted, “Oi, ‘ow you gettin’ on, McBain?” The young hat-wearer stopped in his tracks, put his hands on his hips (luckily his elbows faced the right way), and melodramatically said, “Ye can tek ma land, but ye can neverrrrr tek ma fridom!”

His would-be Scottish accent was horrible, a fact not overlooked by one of his mates who said, “Yeah, especially given that you’re Jamaican!”

We noticed an interesting quirk in the way Twickenham supporters responded to the different teams and matches played throughout the day. Generally, with the exception of national fans from the other countries, the crowd favoured any team that was the underdog in any match. Or any team playing France.

England came on to play France in what could best be described – historically – as a grudge match. Throughout the match, fans sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” – the song that has become an anthem for English rugby – and hearing that, in the midst of a 54,000 strong crowd, really gave me goosebumps. My sentimentality was interrupted by desperate pleas from a guy behind us, who yelled “DO something!” as France gained ground throughout the match. France narrowly defeated the home side, much to the horror of one English fan behind us who shouted, “Let’s not forget what happened at Agincourt!”

Patriotic welcome for the England team and its opponents

It was a wonderfully fun and entertaining day, and one I’d definitely love to repeat next year. Witnessing how teams warmed up together and left the field together was quite moving. Many teams held on to each other as they withdrew to the dressing room between warm-up and match.

The New Zealand 7s team walk back to the dressing room, holding on to each other - I loved this spirit of team

We travelled to Twickenham crammed in a train full of colourfully-dressed fans, walked to the stadium in the midst of equally colourful and chirpy fans. Our return journey was slightly less crammed, but with fellow travelling fans in sentimental, almost maudlin, mood. I think today will dawn with many throbbing heads, but I’m pretty sure Twickenham will be equally full and do an equally brisk trade in sales of alcohol. I hope our Saffa team continues to do us proud. Go blitzbokke!

Sunshine signing off for today!

Twickenham in the dusk

Key moments

It was a warm, balmy evening in Cape Town. A bunch of us students decided to get together after supper to have a jam session: me on the piano, one friend on the recorder and another on guitar.

We gathered in our university residence hall, took our respective places and began our gig with a noisy rendition of Hey Jude! We’d each invited some friends to join us, and they trickled into the hall one by one. Among them was a barefoot and gorgeous dark-haired student in grampa vest and jeans. I noticed his deep, dark eyes and as I looked at him, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that he was part of my future.

So began a beautiful relationship that has so far lasted over 30 years, 27 years of which have been as husband and wife. Heck, was he ever part of my future. He still is.

Happy birthday, Mr Sunshine, I’m so glad you love music.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Let’s not forget to remember

The more I get to know London, the less I realise I know of this city heaving and overcrowded with history. And the more I get to know the city, the more I love living here for now.

My New York blogging buddy, jacquelin, told me about Postman’s Park, just behind St Paul’s. I met up with my husband one sunshine-filled lunch time last week, and we walked across the London Millennium Footbridge over the Thames, towards St Paul’s Cathedral – a sight that still takes my breath away – and we walked around the massive and awe-inspiring church to this little spot:

Postman's Park, in the City of London

This little spot is interestingly one of the biggest parks in the City of London. It was built in 1880 on the site of a churchyard and burial ground of St Botolph’s Aldergate. Named as it is because it stands on the former site of the General Post Office where postmen often sat to eat their lunch, Postmans Park is also home to a sheltered wall commemorating, as something of a protest against the upper class, ordinary people who lost their lives heroically trying to save others. G F Watts, the painter (1817 – 1904), came up with the idea and he commissioned Doulton to create the hand-lettered tiles to honour the otherwise unheralded and unnamed heroes.

So quaint and so special

In a similar vein, one of my colleagues showed me this little site just down the road from our office. Known as Cross Bones, this is an unconsecrated burial site, going back to medieval times, for “single women” and paupers. (“Single women” was a euphemism for prostitutes, known in the area as “Winchester Geese” because they were licenced by the Bishop of Winchester to work within the Southwark area known as the Liberty of the Clink.)

According to Wikipedia, the Liberty of the Clink lay outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, and as a result became known for its brothels and theatres, bull and bear-baiting. The age of the graveyard is not known: John Stow (1525 – 1605) wrote about it in A Survey of London in 1598, and by 1769 it had become a paupers’ cemetery for the poor of St Saviour’s parish. It is believed that about 15,000 people are buried there.

Cross Bones, with the Shard - Europe's tallest building-to-be - in the background

When the London Underground planned the construction of its Jubilee Line through the area, between 1991 and 1998, archaeologists found this overcrowded graveyard with bodies piled on top of one another. Test showed the deaths to have been caused by anything from smallpox to TB, Paget’s disease, osteoarthritis and Vitamin D deficiency.

The find captured the attention of local community members who created an informal group – Friends of Cross Bones – to campaign for a permanent memorial garden on the site, which has also become the site of annual Halloween festivals – held every year since 1998 – marked by processions, songs and candles.

A permanent, living memorial marked by ribbons and flowers and poems

My, how the times have changed. Or have they?

Sunshine signing off for today!

Like Old Friends

We arranged to meet in Marylebone at 10h30 Saturday morning. I set off early from my home in south east London, caught the tube, fought my way through the thronging mass of tourists outside Madame Tussauds and walked down a quiet side street to our deli meeting place. The moment we met, we were instantly friends. Lovely to meet you, Renee from Life in the Boomerlane!

I walked down this street, which looked lovely in the crisp sunshine

Renee had flown in from DC to spend a week in London with her daughter. She said her daughter found it weird that two blogging buddies from opposite sides of the world were going to meet up for breakfast. I guess, if you put it like that, it was kind of weird. But, despite the fact that we had the novelty of communicating verbally – no laptops to hide behind – we talked like old friends. Nearly three hours went by at lightning speed.

We started off talking about writing and blogging and things we knew we had in common. It wasn’t long before we were talking about everything else and laughing and joking and pointing out interesting people in the deli! I guess that’s what we have in common. We love life, we love people, we love noticing things about others, and we love telling stories.

What a wonderful morning it was, what a lovely person you are, and such fun it was to meet you, Renee. See you next time you fly over this way and until then we’ll continue to chat in the cyber world. LOL.

Enjoying a little glimpse of London sunshine

Sunshine signing off for today!

Dude, that’s a car …

Yesterday we enjoyed a beautiful, chilly, Autumn, aromatic afternoon in Brick Lane. Apart from feasting on a delicious curry there – it would be rude not to, really – we soaked in the buzz and the vibe and the air of east London. Just not as much as some people did.

The famous curry centre of the universe!
Brick Lane has a fascinating history and today has become known as the curry capital of the United Kingdom. Home to indoor markets, food stalls, curry houses and night clubs, it is also popular for fashion, fine art and graffiti. You cannot walk down Brick Lane without being accosted by restaurateurs touting their “very good deal” meals. I have not eaten in a restaurant there yet, because I just love the vibe of grabbing a takeaway dish, and finding a spot somewhere outside to sit and eat and watch the world go by. We did just that yesterday.

We waved off the formal establishments, and went into the Sunday Up Market. After checking out every exotic spicy food possibility you can imagine, we settled on Moroccan food. Pretty much all the meals – complete with rice or couscous and trimming – cost five quid a pop, you get a good-sized helping and it’s always yummy! We took our brimming foil dishes and plastic forks and went and sat on the kerb outside to eat our meal! It was really funny pulling our feet towards us as cars came past along the narrow road – otherwise we would seriously have had our toes flattened.

This is how we ate our lunch.
We became aware of a large, navy blue Audi gliding slowly into a parking spot on the other side of the road from us. What made us take notice was the sound of metal on metal as he glided into the car in front of him. With clearly no panic, he unhitched his vehicle from the other, reversed and then glided forward to position his car just right. He wanted to park next to the kerb, and seemingly had no objection to graunching his hubcab against the pavement – another crunching sound of metal on concrete. With no sign that he needed to extricate his car from the pavement, he and his passenger emerged from the car and set off – in slow motion – to the market. He was enormously wide-eyed and nattily dreadlocked, she was just wide-eyed. I have no doubt they had just spent the past hour parked on a middle island somewhere, Cheech and Chong style, their car filled with the sweet aroma of happy smoke. They glided off, wondrous and in awe, dude, of the market that lay ahead and oblivious of the damage he caused as he crash-landed his car.
What you don't have to do in Brick Lane.
When we finished eating, we walked through the other sections of the market. In the busy-ness of Sunday, we looked at hats, paintings, light shades, jewellery, clothing, coats, shoes, T-shirts, lingerie, vintage clothing, designer clothing and anything else you can think of. There were displays and displays of designer watches – large plastic-faced, neon-coloured, cartoon-charactered watches – and I think, on some of them, you could even tell the time.

Famous for food and everything else.
We soon came across a huge seating area with wooden benches and tables, where we could have sat to eat our meal! I guess we would have missed out on the doobie dude, so I’m glad we sat street level.
Mr Curly Tache walked past us in the market – he had a curly, waxed moustache, his hair was neatly combed and side parted, he wore a checked shirt and purple-striped tie, pink corduroy pants (trousers) and a blue jacket. This sartorial experiment was not alone. Brick Lane is filled with alternative, fabulous, colourful, fascinating, different and beautifully-dressed people. And ordinary folk like us too. This is no place for the fashion police.
Anything goes in Brick Lane.

I found this fabulous mural on a wall near Brick Lane.
In Brick Lane, you can clash your colours, scrape your hubcaps, haggle for your curry and buy second-hand wellington boots. Anything goes and no-one’s watching. Well, there are always people watching, but no-one really cares. It's blogger heaven.
And we always find sunshine in London!
Sunshine signing off for today!

So, as I was saying …

One of the things I was so hoping to do yesterday was to include some photos of our weekend adventures in London. I don’t consider myself to be technically-challenged, but boy did I battle! And then I gave up. Here’s my attempt to get it right today. And by the way, is this a phlog?

Portobello Road Market after market after market!
Colourful houses, colourful people and colourful stalls
Signs of our times
The old and the new
I couldn't resist this random mural on a wall near Portobello Road
Autumn in Notting Hill - don't you just love it?

And then on the Sunday we went for a walk around our South East London neighbourhood. Here’s what we saw:

Our flat overlooks this dock
This little chap looked like he was walking on water!
The Thames at sunset, with Canary Wharf on the far side of the river.
In case you get caught with messy hair, especially near the Thames!
Now that's what I call a public toilet! With a river view.
In case you didn't know what to do!
And the sun sets over our neighbouring dock.

So there you have it! Thanks for travelling on this little journey with me. Tomorrow I will have words again.

Sunshine signing off for today!