EC4 – cue “The Dance of the Knights”

London-283_4_5-EditDay two of my London sojourn was largely about seeing David Bailey‘s Stardust exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, but having a couple of hours to spare I broke my journey in a part of the City that embodies the ever-changing history of London.

London-207The EC4 part of my Capital Cryptogram refers to a postal area of the City of London that incorporates Blackfriars and St Paul’s.  The former of these ecclesiastical locations acquired a grisly reputation when Roberto Calvi, “God’s Banker“, was found hanging from the Blackfriars Bridge, his clothing full of bricks.

But I get ahead of myself.  My journey from Docklands to the City was a joyous reminder of the varied delights that London offers.  Peter Ackroyd‘s metaphysical masterpiece Hawksmoor first alerted me to the unique vision of Wren’s apprentice and so I was pleased to encounter three of his six churches, as well as the Tower of London and the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street on my short drive into town.  Add in the dizzying heights of “The Cheesegrater” and “The Walkie-Talkie” and the day was off to a good start.London-306

My goal was somewhat different in its aspirations though; the Millennium Bridge (usurper to a title rightly claimed by one of the beauties that span the Tyne).  Linking the City to Bankside it provides an unobstructed view from Tate Modern across the river to St Paul’s Cathedral, and so photogenic is the aspect that since its chequered opening and reopening it has become a favourite of TV location scouts.  The sight of suited and booted hopefuls marching across to the sound of Prokofiev is a staple of The Apprentice.  The bridge itself has a futuristic feel that may seem at odds with Wren’s Baroque extravagance but its flowing lines guide the eye.

If you can bear to turn away from the dominating dome, the bridge offers you not just the Tate but something a little older, at least in style.  The reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe is another aspect of London’s rich past.London-295-Edit-Edit

But back to the main event, the bridge and the journey’s end beyond it.

The great church’s facade is impressive enough, and to be fair it garners a large throng of admirers each day (some of whom will feature in my next post).  Be honest though, like so many of the world’s great duomos and cathedrals, it’s the crowning glory that really grabs you.



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Unseen and unused?


Only last week I wrote about the marina at Roker in Sunderland, and today I found another under my nose.  I was driving home along Newcastle’s Quayside when I spotted the Donny Rover bobbing high above the passing pedestrians.

The only vessels I’ve seen tied up here before have been visiting tall ships, so I was surprised to see a more modern outline afloat here and so stopped to investigate.  Looking for somewhere to get a decent angle to photograph from I leant over the river and spotted a long pontoon platform with power and water supplies.

“This is new.” I thought and looking around further spotted the sign informing me that this is Newcastle’s City Marina.  Further investigation revealed that it’s been here for months.  How come I’ve never noticed it before?  The answer lies with the Donny Rover.  Even at high water there is little evidence of the marina to be seen from the roadside, especially at the moment when the railings are festooned with London 2012 banners.  Without a boat alongside there was no clue for me, and that tells a story.

There must never have been another boat berthed on any of the occasions that I have passed by, which is a shame really.  Of course a tub of any size will need to negotiate the opening of the Millennium Bridge‘s winking eye, but I suspect there is another deterrent to potential visitors.  The marina is a great location, especially on an evening like this with the sun casting shadows across the quayside façades.  You’re right in the heart of the action here, and that’s the problem.

At 6pm there was only one drunk mumbling and stumbling his way about the place, but come the evening…  I wouldn’t want to be trying to sleep there with some of the streetlife of a Newcastle party night.

Still, all was civilized when I was there, and the light was so good that this portrait of Annie looks like it was shot against a studio backdrop.  Good thing I have the other pictures to prove otherwise.




Trip Trap, Trip Trap, Trip Trap

I spend a lot of time under the Tyne Bridge on the Newcastle Quayside.

It’s a place with lots of passing traffic, so great for meeting likely photographic subjects, and it naturally has great views of local landmarks like The Sage, The Baltic, The Millennium Bridge as well as the cluster of bridges more traditionally associated with this spot.

In all the times I’ve been there, including scouring those places that are off the beaten track in search of an interesting location (like those that I shot with Daria), I’ve never seen a troll.  They’re supposed to live under bridges aren’t they so why is there never a trace of the creatures.  Yes I know they’re primarily Scandinavian, but we had plenty of Viking raids along our coastline so surely a troll or two could have joined them somehow.

Of course if you know much about Norse folklore, you’ll know that trolls don’t necessarily live under bridges – you’re more likely to find them in the mountains or in caves, however one story has implanted the bridge image in our psyche – “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

What you will find under the bridge, and on ledges of surrounding buildings are kittiwakes, a small seabird of the gull family named after its unique call.  The birds come here to nest each year and the colony on the Tyne have the most inland nesting site in the world, and they are nothing if not persistent.

Those who formerly nested in the Baltic flour mill were rehoused when the building was renovated as a contemporary art gallery.  Now those in Newcastle are receiving unwanted attention.  The installation of spikes on the window ledges of the Guildhall failed miserably when the birds smothered them in a layer of mud before building their nests.  The City Council have retaliated by deploying swathes of net that prevent the birds from reaching their goal.

The birds have returned this week and some have managed to circumvent the defences to find a site on the roof of the Guildhall, but what impact there will be on the colony as a whole remains to be seen.

The other creature commonly found in this location is the photographer, from groups of Asian students posing their raven haired girlfriends on quayside mooring pins with the sweeping curves of the glass roofed Sage in the background, to more serious snappers seeking a new angle on the bridges or the chance of a perfect reflection in the waters of Tyne.

Millennium bridge at dusk, looking west up the...
Millennium bridge at dusk, looking west up the river Tyne, between Newcastle and Gateshead in the UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I stopped today on the way back from a client portrait shoot I found both species in place; the birds screeching their three syllables for all to hear and below them I spotted Tracy and her trusty Canon.  She told me that she was still new-fangled with it, and so as she had a bit of time had come to the river to practice her technique; good for her.Brave of her to have that red and white stripe here though!