Shard piles

TIL that the piles for the Shard (309.7 metres/1,016 ft) go some 55m/180.5ft into the London earth.

IL it from here:

Of course, with the Shard being so very tall, its piles are likely some of the deepest vertical things piercing the London soil. But given the plethora of underground tunnels, pipes and… well… more tunnels and pipes traversing the subterranean Big Smoke, one imagines that they must have had to be very careful where exactly they stuck them.

Does every country have a London?

Not an actual London, of course. I mean – maybe they do… There’s a Little London on the Isle of Man, there’s East London in South Africa, there’s a London Island in…. Chile? I think…?
I’ll have to look that one up.

[later: looked it up, yes – close to the Western end of the Beagle Channel.]

But I’m not referring to lazy colonial nomenclature. I mean the essence of London. For many people, that means excitement, bright lights, a cosmopolitan lifestyle and world-famous landmarks.

After all:

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.

I love London. But in small doses.
Could I live there? No.

Oxford seemed a good compromise. All that London razzmatazz was just an hour away, but equally also a world away. Much like someone else’s cute but irritating toddler, it was nice to be able to play politely for a while, then hand it back over, make one’s excuses, and leave.

[Gets out broad brush]
London is a deeply impersonal, insular place. Gone are the days of the friendly cockney market traders. They’ve been replaced by soulless automatons, looking out only for number one. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them – maybe it’s the city that has shaped the people who have then shaped the city. A vicious Circle Line.

Alan Partridge gets it:

Go to London! I guarantee you’ll either be mugged or not appreciated.
Catch the train to London, stopping at Rejection, Disappointment, Backstabbing Central and Shattered Dreams Parkway.

Of course, it might just be me. Square peg, round hole and all that.

But no. London is often not a nice place to be. Unless you belong.

All of which leads me back to the question in the title of the post. And ‘m pretty sure that everyone in SA will agree that out local London is right here under Table Mountain.

Cape Town isn’t exactly London… squeezed between the mountain and the ocean, the geography and its Apartheid history dictate its society.

But can it compare? Sure it can.

Because yes. Cape Town is often not a nice place to be. Unless you belong.

In saying this, I’m not suggesting that I don’t belong here. At least, I feel that I belong here as much as anywhere else I’ve ever lived.
I’m also not trying to criticise the city for being the way it is. Cities evolve, and as individual residents we have very little control over what direction that evolution takes. But I do find it interesting that if you were asked to single out a city in either of the countries in which I have lived that fitted this description, you wouldn’t hesitate to name London and Cape Town.

Not Birmingham or Johannesburg. Or Manchester and Durban. Or Leicester and Bloemfont-look I think you get my point.

So – is there a London (or a Cape Town) in your country? Or, if you’re in the UK or SA, do you agree with what I wrote above?

Exhibition Road bubble

A QP from our recent flying visit to London:

As we emerged from several hours in the Science Museum, a street performer was performing on the street by blowing huge bubbles, accompanied by some dreamy classical music from a dodgy stereo.

There’s something quite ethereal about seeing 2m diameter bubbles floating towards you down a busy city street.
Still: makes for an interesting (and challenging) photo op.

Sadly, many of my London and IOM photos are very disappointing. I’m not sure how many are going to make it as far as Flickr.

So you should probably try your very hardest to enjoy this one then, right?

More London

London again today, so here’s a bit of local history:

1850s London was bursting. The population had doubled between 1801-1850.
There was simply no more space to bury the bodies. And with cremation still taboo, the London Necropolis Railway was founded. The idea was to transport dead bodies and their accompanying mourners out to Surrey by rail for funerals and burials, so everyone in the party (but one) would have a return ticket back to London.

Wow.

The railway lasted for 87 years until 1941, running nearly every day, and at its peak it carried 2,000 bodies a year. In total 203,041 people were buried in Brookwood Cemetery during that time.

Given that our lodgings for this leg of the trip are also in Surrey, I was hopeful that this London Necropolis Railway terminus (mmm, I know) would be somewhere on the right side of the city for us to get to. And I was not disappointed:

Right next door (T&Cs apply) to Waterloo. I’ll hopefully be teaching the kids a bit of gory history later today.

London

Google Trips tells me that I am spending the day in London today.

Yes, the train from Paris arrived here yesterday evening, but then it was all about the dash to get down to our hosts’ place after a day of travel.

Today, we get to explore.

Last time we were in The Big Smoke was just 10 months ago on a day trip down from Sheffield. [pics]

The light was awful that day. But perfect if you wanted to get a menacing shot of a Tower of London raven.

It’s also Tynwald Day in the Isle of Man. According to Google Trips, we’ll be popping over there on Saturday morning.