Category Archives: UK

“Travelling tends to magnify all human emotions” Peter Hoeg

 

I know I probably write the same each time I post something about London, that is “this is one of my favourite places”, but I can’t help if every corner of this city is amazing.

Here’s Hampstead Heath part one, I don’t really have part two, since I have no pics from Parliament Hill or Kenwood House or Keats’ House, but I plan to go there as soon as I go back “home”, so stay tuned. Here’s our stroll from Hampstead Heath tube station to The Spaniards pub.

collage-2017-08-27

We headed on the right and panted for a solid quarter of hour on an uphill road called Heath Street, with a little deviation on mount road where I took a pic of a lovely white house that looked like something out of Alice in the Wonderland. My friend will never admit that, but we get lost as we followed Admiral’s Road and ended in a narrow street with a lot of plants and mud. Never trust the locals again! My advice is going straight on from the tube until you get at a roundabout. on the left there’s a park with more ponds and nice walks, on the right there’s Spaniards Road.

We followed the  main road, but you can also venture in the nearby park, where you can have a pretty nice view of the city. I stopped there just for a couple of pic, then I went back to the safe, trustable pavement.

collage-2017-08-27(1)

After a bit (or a lot, it depends on how you’re tired) of walking uphill, you get to a white building, That’s the Spaniards, one of London’s oldest pubs, immortalised by Dickens in “The Pickwick Papers” and it’s said that Keats wrote there his well known “Ode to a Nightingale” I didn’t stop there for lunch because I wasn’t sure they had gluten free options, so I ate a banana to stop my stomach from grumbling while I was waiting for the bus and taking pics of an attractive blue plate. I forgot I was right in front of Harry Styles’ crib, so I apologize once again for being in his security camera recording, eating a banana.

We were too hungry and too tired to walk any more, so we took the 210 bus heading to Finsbury Park and hopped off at Archway to catch the tube again. It’s a pleasant ride since you can see one of the richest London areas and have the chance to see many luxurious houses and cars. The bus goes towards Highgate Village, one of the poshest districts (if you want to have an idea about who lives there, look for “The Highgate mums” on social media and have a laugh) and I recommend you to visit the homonym cemetery, one of England’s greatest treasures since it has some of the finest funerary architecture in the country.

The East Cemetery is where Karl Marx is buried. Visitors may roam freely on this side, but there is an entrance charge, while admission to the West part is by guided tour only. Please notice that George Michael’s grave is in a private part of the cemetery, not accessible to visitors. I didn’t take any pics because I respected the meaning of the place, however, they’re allowed for private use.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Sign of the Times – Harry Styles

 

Advertisements

“The best traveller is one without a camera” Kamand Kojouri

<We were walking and you exclaimed:

-You’re pretty when you smile: you get dimples,

-They’re wrinkles.

You laughed, then you looked into my eyes and sweetly said:

-I love you because you never take yourself seriously!

So I grabbed your arm and screamed in my head: “Please, say that you love me again!”>

As I told many times, I love exploring London. One area that is barely mentioned despite of being surrounded by posh neighbourhoods like Maida Vale, West Hampstead, Queens Park and Kensal Rise, is Kilburn. I hope that the fact author Zadie Smith decided to set her new novel “NW” here, will give to Kilburn more visibility.

It is very easy to get there since the transport link is fantastic, I came here from the Bakerloo line, hopping off at Kilburn Park.

This area has been traditionally Irish for a long time, but now it has a huge and diverse mix of nationalities and races (I saw a large presence of Italians, for example). It is claimed to be dodgy at night, but the main street is always full of people. This one is a very long road called Kilburn High Road and it has chain stores (Primark, M&S), pound shops, a beautiful library, a famous cinema (The Tricycle Theatre), independent stores and a few pubs. Fun fact: Ian Dury formed his first band in 1970 and called it “Kilburn & the High Roads”.

Despite of being originated as an ancient trackway, a part of a Celtic route between Canterbury and St.Albans, High Road it’s not very attractive. Just a long serie of two storey buildings that make it look cheap.

In Kilburn Square there’s a very lively market where you can find mainly fabric, candles, hand made stuff and flowers.There are plans to redevelop it and revalue the whole area, but until now nothing has changed.

collage-2017-07-18

 

I didn’t eat there, so I can’t suggest any gluten free option.

Last year I visited the S.Augustine Church, an Anglo-Catholic Parish Church consecrated in 1880 and affectionately known as the ‘Cathedral of North London’, one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. It is beautiful! I don’t like taking pics inside churches, so if you want to visit it, the church is generally open half an hour prior to the advertised service times and for up to 20 minutes afterwards. Additionally there is normally access on Tuesdays and on Saturdays in the morning.

I will surely come back: there’s one thing left to see, The Good Ship, a well known music bar actively committed to bring the best bands to Kilburn; it is also a place where you can see performing a large variety of artist, since every kind of entertainment is welcomed. Moreover there’s a 100 CD juke box and until the coin mechanism is fixed (probably never, they say) it is free.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Periscope – Papa Roach feat. Skylar Grey

“Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down”- Simon & Garfunkel

I always say that music is my personal lifesaver, there even are scientific studies according to which, adding musical stimuli focus the mind away from pain perception and shifts its attention to the music itself.

But music can be also used for raising donations and awareness for a charity intent; for sure everybody remembers big Charity projects as Band Aid and Usa for Africa: the songs are extremely popular as the artist taking part of the act are (or were) at the time they were released. But there is plenty of songs made by single singers or group of artist that are made to raise awareness about a hot topic (like Warwick-Wonder-Knight-John’s “That’s what Friends are for” against AIDS) or to raise money for the survivors of a disaster (as Haiti’s or Italian earthquakes) or for a memory fund (for example “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John).

Many charity songs were successful, many weren’t; some are well known, some aren’t. Here’s a short list of the ones that come up to my mind.

-“Let it be” cover by the Brit-American ensemble Ferry Aid, released following a ferry capsizing which killed 193 passengers and crew in 1987.

-“Everybody wants to rule the world” by Tears for Fears, the cause was Sport Aid (famine relief in Africa).

-“Man in the Mirror” performed by Michael Jackson who was raising funds for his own fund called “Burn Center, Childhelp, United Negro College Fund”

-“Mama” by Spice Girls and “One way or another” cover by One Direction; different songs from different years to raise money for Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty.

I’m sure there are many more; the latest is:

Simon Cowell produced a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in honour of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and to raise money for the survivors of the 14th June blaze. Over fifty artists participated in the project and the song has jumped to the top of the singles chart just two days after its release and has been declared the second fastest-selling single of the year, after Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of you”.

Donate here to support those affected by the Grenfell Tower Fire: http://artistsforgrenfell.com

There also was a young couple of Italian architects and instead of staying silent and respect the pain of their families, this death has been instrumentalized by those who say that our youth has to emigrate in order to find a decent job. That’s true, but it has nothing to do with their decease, because, honestly, if nothing had happened they would have only been just a happy couple building its future in the wonderful London.

TRACK OF THE DAY: “Bridge over troubled Water”- Artists for Grenfell

“Always there have been six ravens at the Tower. If the ravens fly away, the kingdom will fall” John Owen Theobald,

I read a smart book by Julia Stuart that has been published as “Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo” in the UK and as “The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise” everywhere else. I don’t like to sum up plots, because mine are only honest personal opinions and not reviews, I can only anticipate that it describes the life of the little close community living within the gates of the Tower of London: the Beefeaters (particular Mr. Jones and his wife Hebe), the mean Raven master, the Rev. Septimus Drew who writes erotica under a pen name and has a secret passion for the barmaid of the Tower’s Rack & Ruin pub. The novel is also set in the “Underground Lost Property Office” where Hebe works and That is a continuous parade of odd, unusual objects and weird people. All the characters are well rounded and sometimes absurd, but here it lays the best feature of the novel that is a hallmark of British humour: despite of the tragic event in the background (the death of the Beefeater’s son), the novel is enjoyable and interesting. Here and there you can read facts about the Tower or about its prisoners.

The parts describing the animals are really enjoyable, but my favourite parts were the ones at the Underground lost property office, not only because Stuart makes the history behind each lost object interesting and endearing, but mainly because I figured in my head the amount of the bizarre things that people may forget on the Tube trains. How cool is imagining the history behind them and how hard must be rejoining them to their owner, I think this job it’s more interesting that it looks.

And at last, a thing that I really loved about this book, is the hate that the people working in the Tower, have towards dumb tourists. I used to laugh and shake my head while reading, approving every single nasty comment.

collage-2017-06-16

You know how much I hate tourist traps, so I can’t write any useful guide for Tower Hill, I only hopped off at the homonym tube station and had a quick look around the Tower of London before heading to Shoreditch that is a place where I’m more at my ease.

It’s worth a visit, anyway. I like to take unusual pictures, so I tried to capture the contrast between the ancient Tower and the shiny Shard. And, to be frank, the Tower Bridge is always a good model.

TRACK OF THE DAY: You’ve got time- Regina Spektor

 

 

“Music can change the world because it can change people” Bono Vox

On Sunday the Old Trafford Stadium hosted the “One Love Manchester” tribute concert made of the performances from some of the biggest artists in the world. This benefit concert generated around $2.6 million in donations for the “We Love Manchester Emergency Fund”, to help victims of the terrorist attack on Ariana Grande’s gig.

I saw this show also as a statement of people saying “you can hurt us, but we’re still stand together supporting music and the right to have fun without fear”. Because the aim of assaults is to scare us, to bash everything that generates fun and happiness, to force us living in the constant fear of being attacked. What happened in Turin, where thousands of people who were watching the final match of Champions League, panicked after hearing the noise of some shots and turned into a human avalanche that generated over 600 injured, is a consistent example of the constant tension that lingers in our countries.

The best answer is keeping on travelling, on attending concerts and sport events: all the smiles and happy faces I saw last night are the best answer to hate and the reason why  my favourite part (in addition of Coldplay, of course) was the Parrs Wood High School Choir exhibition. Not only because the young and talented soloist (she is only 12 and has an incredible voice) was overwhelmed with emotion and calmed down only after being hugged by Ariana with whom she was duetting, but mainly because those kids represented the new generations who stand together and aren’t afraid to live their lives.

As regarding myself, I have experienced once again the healing power of music, because while I was singing out loud Coldplay and Oasis’ songs, I forgot my miserable condition and my sick sad life.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Fix You – Coldplay

 

“I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill” William Blake

One of the London spots I love the most because it’s the set of some romantic memories of mine, is Primrose Hill, the highest point of the eponymous district. You can get there after a 10 minutes walk from Chalk Farm tube station, there’s a well kept green area whose summit is almost 63 metres above sea level and where the trees are kept low so as not to obscure the view. It formerly belonged to Eton College, but became Crown property about the middle of last century and it’s a stunning sightseeing spot above all on clear sky days.

The summit features an inscription on York featuring the quote from William Blake I used for this post. The poet believed that Zoroastrian rites were performed on Primrose Hill and affirmed that this place was sacred to the sun without without giving any explanation as to why that particular site was appropriate.

Another literary reference is an oak known as “Shakespeare’s Tree” that stands on the slope of the hill, it was first planted in 1864 to mark the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

primrose

If you feel hungry after climbing the hill, there’s a lots of nice places to eat around there. We settled for Manna in Erskine Road because it offered a large selection of gluten free options. Here’s how to get there.

We didn’t eat in the end, but we had a lovely glass of wine (mine was a lovely, rich, Argentinian, red wine). They serve organic wines, free of synthetic chemicals and often hand harvested that are also vegan. They also have a large variety of delicious food, so I planned to go back there for a pleasant lunch or dinner as soon as I go back to London.

Primrose Hill is worth a visit if you want to have a stunning view, a romantic stroll or if you’re a simple bench warmer who needs quiet. Oh, if you go there, give my regards to “my” bench: if you listen carefully you can still hear my sighs.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Running up that Hill – Placebo (cover)

 

 

 

“I say I’m stronger than fear” Malala Yousafzai

I’ve thought a lot about the necessity of this post since I never talk about what happens around me or in the world. Honestly I hate those who feel the urge to comment on every single fact, just to show they are concerned in society, politics and so on. To be frank I never post anything about these issues, not for a lack of interest, but because I don’t feel the need to add my voice to the amount of opinions we can find online, I think we should talk when we really have something to say, if not, silence is way better.

What happened in London yesterday overwhelmed me: when a friend reported to a totally unaware me the sad news, I stopped breathing. I thought about my friends, about the special person who lives there and I hadn’t been ok until I checked that they all were fine.

And please, if you’re up to comment that I’m one of those people to whom European deceased people count more than those in Siria, stop. It’s not a matter of distance or importance, it’s about worrying first about family and friends. I know it’s selfish, but it’s something we all do and don’t try to deny it. It’s human to think of our relatives affected by cancer before of the other people fighting this beast, it’s human to worry because we are unemployed before thinking of those who don’t have a work either.

I don’t want to comment what happened in London, I just want to spread how most of the people living there, feel.

Immagine

(Credits for this edit to: Rishi Metha)

TRACK OF THE DAY: Human-Rag’n’Bone Man