London is always a good idea.’Audrey Hepburn
It was another very early start and as always Les was outside my front door with a nice warm car exactly on time at 6.25am. Lowie arrived two minutes later swinging her camera bag around dangerously in her attempt to get it over her shoulder. Before we set off to find parking spaces in the back streets of Beckton, we met up with the other five mad photographers, who had also given up warm beds for our last ‘jolly’ of the year. Having parked easily we walked the short distance to the station. Paul reminded us that our theme for the day was ‘The Other Side of Christmas’. The rain began to ease off which was useful considering the time it took me to get a ticket from the machine. It didn’t seem to like my credit card or the amount of time I was taking and suddenly an extremely loud, high pitched alarm was activated. If the intention was to get me to hurry up it failed miserably. I just got more stressed and ‘faffed’ with the touch screen. I have never been so relieved to get a ticket! The dlr arrived within minutes but not all of us got on. David, desperate for the loo, had disappeared into Asda across the road, and not wanting to leave him on his own Jonathan and Les stayed to wait for him. It was a rather strange experience to be on a train with no driver. Paul felt at home visiting his birthplace and in sympathy with the guard, whose job it was to announce each station, he lapsed into an increasingly cockney lingo. We were definitely in London.
We waited at Poplar for the others to arrive amusing ourselves getting shots of a new tunnel and people, before setting off again for Canary Wharf. For some of our party this was a new experience. I am always wary of taking pictures on private land. Having been there before I knew the security guards could be rather aggressive in their attempts to prevent photographs being taken. As it is illegal to take pictures on private land in this country, they are well within their rights to stop us! I soon realised that Paul had worked out a strategy before we encountered any problems. He smiled at each and every one of them, explained we were not professional and generally attempted to ‘butter them up’ with his charm. Of course we got smiles back and interest in what we were doing and why and in the end we were just advised not to take pictures of people at work inside any of the buildings, which of course we agreed. I became absorbed in taking pictures of the many textures on the walls and floors, whilst others chased planes across the sky or scanned the heights of the modern buildings surrounding us. Taking a route I had never been on before, we suddenly came upon a huge yacht moored between two sets of adjacent buildings. I have never seen such a huge vessel moored inland. Some of the crew were trying to wash the sides but they looked like toy people. Of course it didn’t take long for one of our party, mentioning no names, David, to Google the name of the boat and who owned it. He couldn’t resist finding out how much diesel it used either. She was flying an Australian Flag and Paul bet it was owned by Murdoch! For those of you who may be interested, the luxury 110 million dollar yacht, is owned by the Lowy family and she sails out of Sydney. Known as a super yacht, she measures 73.8 metres in length. In 2007 the yacht’s chief engineer Christiaan Venter was crushed to death by a hatch door as the safety switch failed to operate. In 2006 Westfield, the company owned by Frank Lowy, announced a 5.6 billion dollar profit. Christiaan Venter’s widow sued for damages but controversially, the court ruled that as her husband was the chief engineer, he was solely responsible for safety on board and therefore no compensation was awarded.
It began to rain heavily and a very small rainbow appeared as the sun came out again. Fleur managed to get a good shot. As we approached the huge HSBC building, having lost the other half of our party on the way, we caught site of the colourful history wall that adorns a huge space in the reception area. It is full of brightly coloured metal plaques with captions engraved on one pastel side and pictures illustrating world history, alongside the story of the bank, on the other. We asked the security guard if we could take some pictures. Surprisingly he said we could, but we had to put all our camera gear and bags through a scanner machine first. The plaques are even more impressive close up and we set about trying to capture a record of the huge colourful wall before setting off once again to find the new cross rail atrium that Paul was keen to explore. Just before we got there Sally and I were experimenting with multiple exposures, when we suddenly came upon an ice rink. Rather than take the skaters as they were, I began shooting through the perspex wall that surrounded the rink, it was covered in water droplets. As we continued to practise multiple exposures Sally and I both took buildings and I had a go at capturing people and the clocks with the aim of combining one or more pictures in Photoshop to give an impression of the ‘rush’ of London!
We had explored the roof top garden and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the last leaf left on one of the trees, before we were finally found by the rest of our party. They had stopped to feed David and drink more coffee! Advised by Sally that Brick Lane was only a short walk from Bank underground station we set off to catch the train.
There’s nowhere like London, nothing at all, anywhere. Vivienne Westwood
As we stepped outside Bank station we were catapulted back into the 1940’s. Waiting to help mark the 75th anniversary of the London Blitz, were a group of RAF and army personnel who in turn were accompanied by amongst other characters, Fag Ash Lil! They explained to us that the sirens would sound across London once again at 6 o’clock. As they were more than happy to be photographed, we made the most of this unexpected moment back in a time our parents and grandparents knew only too well.
Just for the record Sally, it is not a short walk from Bank to Brick Lane. During that walk we lost the other half of our party once more. It was a case of ‘now we see them, now we don’t’. As we were approaching Osborn Street I spotted them ambling along, totally undeterred by our loss! By now, we were all very hungry except of course David, who as usual, hadn’t been able to wait! We stood for two seconds reading a menu when a waiter opened the door to welcome us in with the immortal words, “Have a curry for £6.95!” How could we say no? It would have been rude. We would all recommend the Eastern Eye Balti House despite not having a Balti. It is excellent value for money, the lime relish is something to be reckoned with and the rest of the food was fresh and delicious. Be warned though, for £6.95 you have to choose between rice or a naan, a choice that proved very difficult for some!
Full up and getting weary, we gave ourselves a final ninety minutes to get some shots in Brick Lane before the light failed us. As usual there were more photographers to the paving stone than cars to the cobbles! I set off at a pace to find an old haunt, where I had once managed to capture graffiti artists plying their trade. Unlucky this time, I stood for a while trying to conjure up an image in my head that would somehow sum up the ‘essence’ of this vibrant area of London. How could I create something in camera in the moment? Choosing multiple exposure mode I waited for a ‘lady in red’ and then having captured her taking photographs of the graffiti, I took another shot of the graffiti she had captured in her lens moments before and the camera combined them. It was the picture I wanted!
As we made our way back to the tube we stopped off at the Whitechapel Gallery and explored some interesting art work and videos and in my view some less effective installations. Les and I had fun capturing a lady who was engrossed in an art world all of her own and totally oblivious to our lenses.
It was when we were waiting for our last train that we were offered our final photo fun shoot of the day. Paul and I both saw two ladies staggering into our carriage with huge white teddy bears. They were accompanied by a rather tall gentleman and unusually for Paul he was not so confident about taking a picture of the ladies. I sat down opposite them and using Paul’s security guard techniques, I smiled and asked how they had managed to win the two identical bears. In broken English and with a huge smile the tall gentlemen explained he had won them both, although I never quite understood how. I cannot remember if it was Paul or me who finally asked if we could take some pictures but in the end Paul had the giant of a man posing willingly with his white teddy bear at his side! Our last laugh of the day was provided by the ‘guard’ on the dlr. With his face pushed hard into the carriage wall, his mouth over the microphone and in a gruff voice with a broad London accent he shouted, “If you stick yer head out of the window and it gets knocked off, it will be yer own stupid fault for sticking yer head out!” The whole carriage burst into laughter and looked around to see if there was anyone ‘stupid’ enough to hang their head out! We had all enjoyed the day but I have to admit I took very few pictures on the theme Paul had set us. Oh well, there’s always the next trip!
Thanks to Paul for organising the day and to Les and Jonathan for driving.