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Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

Can I really have worked 10 weeks of my 6 month London contract already? When I signed on the dotted line I committed not only to do work style things for my employer but I committed to myself to make the most of my tenure in the heart of the city.

So far I’ve not done too badly. I ticked off all the major landmarks in one crazy day, have visited multiple food markets (surprise), explored Greenwich, enjoyed a cable car journey from the O2 to Docklands and taken in a show (Spamalot). Now it’s time for something completely different.

A completely different commute

A completely different commute

My commutes have mostly been on foot and it’s clear that nobody enjoys the rush-hour ordeal of crossing London on the tube or by bus. Now though there’s another option and I have to give it a go even though it means intentionally lodging further from work

River bus route mapClick to enlarge

The Thames river bus service consists of three core routes running between Putney in the west to Woolwich in the east. There’s a stopping point at St Georges Wharf near my work so I have chosen to stay over at Wandsworth 4 miles away where there’s also a stopping point on the RB6 commuter service. On my first morning I stroll down to Wandsworth Pier which sits on a pretty arc of the river. It’s a peaceful haven by London standards with no high rise buildings in the vicinity, alien green things that I’m going to call “trees” and the welcome sound of – well – nothing really.

Oasis of calm

Oasis of calm

The inevitable chrome and steel of riverside living behind me holds no appeal but a small community of house boat dwellers clings limpet-like to the pier and I can’t help thinking that if you really must live in the capital this has to be one of the better ways to do it.

No flood risk for these homes

No flood risk for these homes

I wonder if the assembled commuters are sharing my enjoyment of a duck formation skimming along some 18 inches above the waterline or whether they are mentally preparing for their first meeting of the day within some crass corporate edifice in Moorgate.

Suits

Suits

The rumble of twin turbines reaches a crescendo before tailing off as the RB6 commuter service from Putney to Embankment coasts into the landing pier against the flow of the tide. Meanwhile the tide of grey files down the wooden gangway, and we’re off. My compatriots bought tickets on shore but I am paying by Oyster card and pop inside to get a ticket.

Plugged in but turned off

Plugged in but turned off

It’s clear that others aren’t appreciating the romance of this journey. Stony faces are glued to smart phones or buried deep in the FT. I head out back to the covered deck to feel the wind on my face and watch west London recede in the wash.

The glamorously named Smugglers Way solid waste transfer station disfigures the view towards Wandsworth, but at least it clears up a question I had been mulling over for some time.

A load of rubbish

A load of rubbish

Now I know the content and purpose of the container laden barges seen repeatedly wending their way past Westminster in the preceding weeks. Perhaps they are loaded with shredded MPs expenses, Iraq war dossiers or some evidence of the next scandal we haven’t yet heard about.

Mystery solved

Mystery solved

After the passing of Wandsworth bridge I’m almost hurled overboard as the catamaran surges forward at pace. When passing moored boats or beneath bridges the boat calmly tootles along but in clear stretches the skipper opens up to perhaps 30 knots. These vessels are packed with power but I’m seeing a trend here…

All London transport drivers (boat, bus, tube) are obliged to only drive fast or drive slowly with no gap in between. Have they all been trained on Scalextric? Are we skittles in a game of human ten-pin-bowling? This could explain why you see so few older people in the capital.

Hold on tight...

Hold on tight…

Our first stop is at Chelsea harbour and it’s good to see stereotypes being enforced as the Royal Barge is moored here, without any security it seems. I didn’t watch any of the Queen’s diamond jubilee but if I had tuned into her Thames pageant then I expect to have heard Nicholas Witchell smarmily describing this regal runabout in squirmingly detailed terms.

Lizzie uses this for her trips to Tesco

Lizzie uses this for her trips to Tesco

A terrace of houseboats lines the Chelsea waterfront. My research suggests they are no cheaper than the bricks and mortar (and marble) around these parts plus the mooring fees are likely to be stratospheric.

Waterside living

Waterside living

Battersea bridge comes and goes before we moor again under the attractive iron Albert Bridge. Anchored here is my favourite vessel on this route. Mouette sits so gracefully and it’s easy to imagine some evocative former life for this retired lady. It’s satisfying to discover that Mouette is French for sea gull – most appropriate.

Classy sea gull

Classy sea gull

Eastwards into the morning sun and once we have passed Chelsea Bridge the entrance to the Grosvenor Canal glides by to port. These days this entrance only serves the parking (ego) needs of yacht owning flat dwellers but once it extended through Pimlico and onto Victoria and was used to transport waste out of the city.

Where there was muck there's now brass

Where there was muck there’s now brass

The familiar reaches of Nine Elms hove into view. The stretch around Battersea is either being transformed into a much needed densely populated centre for key-worker accommodation or a ghost town for land-banking foreign investors depending on your view. The issue of wealthy investors buying property off-plan, leaving it empty and then selling at a 20% profit a year later is fuelling a crazy rise in property prices and the question isn’t if the property bubble will burst but when.

A river bank in more than one sense

A river bank in more than one sense

Battersea power station is going nowhere in this property boom. I wonder if it would be so well known were it not for that famous Pink Floyd album cover.

Weather report: mild, high air pollution, 5% chance of pigs

Weather report: mild, high air pollution, 5% chance of pigs

More striking are the few remnants of the industrial underpinnings of this stretch of the river. Another strata of social history is about to be replaced it seems.

How cranes used to look before the skyscraper boom

How cranes used to look before the skyscraper boom

I’m off at the next stop. St George’s Wharf at Vauxhall was opening in 2011 by bungling Boris Johnson. He probably fell in. As I alight the disease prevention notice seems more suited to a coastal port than the deep reaches of the Thames.

You need a doctors certificate to disembark

You need a doctors certificate to disembark

A steep climb up to terra firma and my commute is finished. It has been a blast, stress-free and invigorating.

Well that was fun!

Well that was fun!

…nothing that a day at work can’t change

Roll on 10 hours and I’m back at the wharf for my return trip. The failing sun is in the west and my mind awash with matters of the day. How will the journey home stack up for a tired office worker who just wants to get home?

In a different light

In a different light

There’s a brisk post-work trade in coffee, beer and cocktails at the waterside café.

Cocktails and power boats: This could be Miami Vice

Cocktails and power boats: This could be Miami Vice

Tempting though that is I’ve an evening to enjoy so I wait cocktailess for my service.

Imagine a packed bus or tube journey now

Imagine a packed bus or tube journey now

The outward trip was on the RB6 service but this return leg is on RB5.

Indoors only on the RB5

Indoors only on the RB5

That’s important because unlike RB6 the RB5 boat hasn’t got an outside deck so you have to sit inside and watch the world go by through dirty perspex windows.

Not quite as much fun behind the perspex

Not quite as much fun behind the perspex

The crew seem to be very international, rather like you might expect on some south pacific merchant ship. Should one worry about the threat of Somali pirates in these waters? An entertaining game is to watch the deck hand lassoing a bollard when drifting in to moor. Usually they are John Wayne accurate but occasionally the rope ends up in the water and there’s probably some laughing and point deductions going on in the cabin.

Urban cowboy

Urban cowboy

A journey inside RB5 isn’t as fun as on the deck of RB6 – something to bear in mind if you want to enjoy the full experience – but when I set foot back onto Wandsworth pier it all makes sense.

[no words needed]

no words needed

I notice the difference in tidal height. The floating walkway is fairly level whereas the morning descent was markedly steeper.

If you want a stress free commute in London and the river boat stops either end of your commute then this is an experience I would thoroughly recommend. There is something about the river that anchors this brash self-obsessed city. It also attracts a quality of light that draws your eye in any weather at any time of day or night. Only this can explain why, after stepping on shore, I walked in precisely the opposite direction of my lodgings to capture a full moon from Wandsworth bridge.

Full moon at the end of a full day

Full moon at the end of a full day

And that’s the magic of the river: when you commute by boat you are thinking about the journey and not the destination. Unless you are wearing a suit…

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Back in August I posted some predictions for the forthcoming football season. That season creaked to a finish yesterday believe it or not with the division 2 playoff final at Wembley stadium, some two weeks after the final Premiership games. I thought I ought to revisit those predictions just to cap things off, so here goes.

It has to be said that the season has offered no end of entertainment whatever division you look at. Here’s a brief summary…

Division 2
Notts County have totally dominated the headlines on and off the field. They started the season with ex-England manager Sven at the helm and the promise of untold riches from a mysterious backer. The fans had to pinch themselves when England defender Sol Campbell joined and there was even talk of HRH David Beckham gracing Meadow Lane at one point. I myself was repeatedly stalked by Sol in the centre of Nottingham and it was perhaps the ASBO I had served against him that saw his departure from the club after just one game away to Morcambe. That or the grim realisation of what he had let himself in for. That was the start of the end as the backers backed out and Sven said sayonara. All doom and gloom then? Not so – Notts stormed to the title overtaking seemingly invincible Rochdale on the way. On balance I think the fans are very happy. Entertained at the very least.

Sven (now Ivory Coast) and Sol (Arsenal)

Sven (now Ivory Coast) and Sol (Arsenal)

Predictions: I got Notts right but that wasn’t so hard. Rotherham lost out to Dagenham and Redbridge a wonderful playoff final while Barnet just escaped the drop, so all-in-all my predictions weren’t up to much

Division 1
This was the season when dirty Leeds finally crawled back out of the gutter into the Championship. But top honours went to Norwich who ran away with it after the ignominy of an opening day 7-1 home defeat to Colchester. At the other end of the table Tranmere escaped the drop despite the best attempts of now departed “manager” John Barnes and his shiny suit collection.

A different John Barnes - I just liked his picture. Probably a better manager too

A different John Barnes - I just liked his picture. Probably a better manager too

Predictions: Leeds promoted, Stockport bottom – just 2 accurate predictions. This is a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey showing

Championship
They entered the season in turmoil after relegation from the Premiership and had a noose tied around their neck by their owner but Newcastle won the title by a wide margin. I guess they under performed in the prem, retained most of their players and them excelled this season but I for one didn’t see that coming. This achievement is eclipsed however by the season’s big story – promotion via the playoffs of little Blackpool who only just sneaked into contention with a late run of results. There isn’t a neutral in the land who won’t be rooting for manager Ian Holloway’s team next season as they take on the big boys although you have to think they are going to get some thumpings. It’s also great news for the seaside resort that can expect thousands of away fans to stay over and make a weekend of it. Whatever happens you can be sure that I will be tuning in to Match Of The Day just to listen to the whatever comes out of Holloways hilarious/cryptic/bizarre interview chest.

Ian Holloway - enough said

Ian Holloway - enough said

It went down to the final game at the wrong end of the table where Crystal Palace hung onto their status at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday. Palace only found themselves in this situation due to a points deduction for going into administration but with the existence of the club hanging in the balance this week it could all have been for nothing. I did say they would pay for signing up “Calamity” Claude Davis from the Rams.

Predictions: West Brom promoted, Plymouth relegated – only 2 again but a few close calls.

Premiership
Chelsea won through in the end at the expense of Manchester United and they probably deserve it on balance. They repeatedly demolished their opponents with goals coming from every quarter while United were solely dependent on Rooney whose astonishing efforts weren’t quite enough at the end of the season.

Rooney at work and at home

Rooney at work and at home

Arsenal played some great football to finish third while Spurs finally broke into the top four at the expense of Man City whose mega-bucks didn’t even earn them a Champions League place.

Meanwhile it all started to unravel financially. Portsmouth became the first Premiership team in history to go into administration with a simply staggering level of debt given their known accounts. There just HAS to be something dodgy going on there and I expect there to be some explosive financial revelations before too long (although based on my predictions so far don’t count on it). West Ham also wobbled under their debt and relegated Hull may take many years to get their finances back on an earthly scale. Financial question marks also hang over the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United.

Predictions: I tipped United for top spot so no points there, but Burnley and Portsmouth to be relegated were good calls.

Closer to home my team Derby County finished mid-table pretty much as expected, although not quite how I had expected. The team should have been good enough to finish 9th or 10th at best but in a season of cost cutting and unprecedented injuries (we had 16 first team players out at one point) we genuinely feared relegation for a while.

For me the defining memory of this season will be the integrity of manager Nigel Clough in the face of an ignorant and malicious hate campaign against him from a small but vocal section of the supporters. In a financial climate where many clubs face going to the wall and in the wake of numerous seasons where the Rams have thrown money at expensive players who delivered nothing Nigel and the board set out to reduce the debt and invest in youth. To improve on last years points tally given these circumstances and the massive injury problems has to rate as a satisfactory performance at the very least, yet these mouthy know-it-alls have been relentless in their cheap empty-headed yobbery.

Derby's Robbie Savage - he's eveywhere you look. Including here.

Derby's Robbie Savage - he's eveywhere you look. Including here.

I won’t pretend there aren’t problems or that mistakes haven’t been made but I fail to understand why people think they are entitled to be so offensive and nasty to a manager doing the best job he can in difficult circumstances. I would love these loud mouths to have the opportunity to meet Nigel face to face with nobody else in the room – would they have the guts to repeat the insults they have spouted every day on the internet? I rest my case.

So another season is over and the next one will be upon us once the small matter of the World Cup is played out. Is there too much football? Of course. Is it riddled with problems? For sure. Will millions of people like me be helplessly glued to the TV for the World Cup only to be raring for the 2010/11 season to start? What do you think…

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Up late and with a slightly sore head. I hardly drank anything last night – what do they put in the beers here? Barely yards out of my hotel and the party has started this cool and breezy mothers day morning. There’s a formative Mexican parade celebrating – who knows what.

Mexican dudes

Mexican dudes

Carnival queen?

Carnival queen?

Paraders prepare

Paraders prepare

Briefly detained it’s back on down to Hells Kitchen to check out a flea market which turns out to be more flea than market, so onward further to Chelsea where there are categorically no fleas allowed. This is the classiest neighbourhood I’ve visited yet. There’s money here and it shows, although it’s classy confident money rather than shouty bling money. Chelsea Market is a warren of wonderful food stores and eateries and out of duty I grab as many free tasters as humanly possible before begrudgingly paying for the most up-market Mexican burrito on record.

The three storey Apple store is packed full of people drooling over the dozens of iPads on display. Yesterdays (almost literally) craze the iPhone sits almost ignored the other side of the store. Compelling though it is I’m going to hold out until they release the iCare.

A hundred yard stroll leads me to one of the few “must do” things on my NYC action list. The HighLine is an old disused raised city railway line that has been (and is still being) converted into an long heavenly garden. It is an imaginative and inspiring re-use of what would otherwise be rotting old infrastructure.

High Line garden

High Line garden

Railroad to nowhere

Railroad to nowhere

View from the High Line

View from the High Line

Judging by its popularity I’m not the only one impressed by what is being done here and I would implore you to visit this unlikely urban oasis if you visit the city. You can make time – just skip that show you could see in London anytime.

I’m leaving the area when I overhear three people at a crossing talking excitedly about an underground gallery they have heard about and think is in the area. Zen navigation instincts tell me to follow them and they disappear into an unheralded door in a large brick warehouse structure that turns out to be the Seven Eleven Gallery which is so new that if you click on the link there is no website content yet. Inside is a semi-deserted space that a collective of artists have occupied to showcase their works.

Turtle Tower

Turtle Tower

It really is most enjoyable and substantially more engaging in my view than many of the installations on display at the Guggenheim.

Nature abhores a vacuum

Nature abhores a vacuum

There is humour, creativity and ingenuity in spades.

I want these

I want these

Curiously there is almost nothing for sale and the attendant explains they just wanted somewhere to set out their art but it seems everybody now wants a piece of it.

Roll on the evening and a loop of Brooklyn on the open top bus. I go to pick up a muffin but it’s two for one which is going to help my imaginary fitness drive no end. Temperatures are unusually low today with the remenants of the high winds that caused problems across the state yesterday so there are few on board for the trip and I myself am mummified in four layers plus a scarf.

Wrapped up for the night loop

Wrapped up for the night loop

It’s just about enough to keep out the cold. A favourite tour highlight for me is the iconic Flatiron building, as featured in numerous films.

Flat Iron building

Flat Iron building

Atop the building stands a human figure – one of many in the area installed by British artist Anthony Gormley. Following numerous alerts from the public the NYPD now know to ignore phone calls reporting somebody about to jump!

Watcher or Jumper?

Watcher or Jumper?

You really get a sense of the scale of Manhattan from Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

The sky's the limit

The sky's the limit

By the time the bus returns to base it’s getting dark and the multimedia sensory overload of Times Square really comes into play.

What now? It’s 8pm on a Sunday and I can go anywhere. Hunger – moderate. Energy – low but holding. Capacity for cheap thrills – high. Chinatown promises to deliver kicks aplenty.

Eastern promise

Eastern promise

A pit-stop at the appropriately named Dumpling Palace for … dumplings and hot and sour soup. As it happens the dumplings are inferior to those I have had in London’s Chinatown and the soup a poor relation to that from my local takeaway but both suffice and I can’t fault the lightening pace of delivery. The minuscule bill comes unprompted just as rapidly and once paid the chef stands opposite my table looking at me just to make sure I feel uncomfortable enough to sod off so he can pack up and go home. Todays diet really doesn’t bear thinking about.

A lot of stores are closed but there are enough open to indicate a return visit here and to Little Italy next door would be worthwhile another day. The subway journey back to the Upper West Side is crowded and colourful and I’m reassured by a local student who tells me she travels it regularly and the theatre of it all never wears off. That I can believe.

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