Place: Staple Inn, High Holborn, London. Date: March 19, 2012. Camera: BlackBerry Curve.
One of the great things about London is that you could live here a lifetime and keep discovering new things about the city. I've been here 13 years and I still come across new areas, streets and buildings I've never seen before.
Recently I've been doing some freelance work in Holborn, an area I have never properly explored outside of the usual haunts, such as the Belgian Bar on Kingsway, the coffee shops on Sicilian Avenue and Bea's of Bloomsbury on Theobald's Road. Usually, if I alight at Holborn tube station it's because I'm heading elsewhere on foot — usually Bloomsbury.
So when I wandered down High Holborn — towards the Chancery end — for the first time, past the cafes and sandwich bars, Waterstone's and Little Waitrose, I thought I'd stumbled back in time when I looked up and saw this stunning black and white building. I didn't fully appreciate its width, its uneven frontage or its beauty until I was on the other side of the road and looking back towards it.
I think it is particularly special because wooden buildings are few and far between in London — if the Great Fire didn't get them in 1666, then they were surely bombed by the Germans during the Second World War. Apparently this building, which dates from 1585, did suffer bomb damage in 1944 but was restored.
Staple Inn, 1866. Illustration reproduced via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons License
According to Wikipedia, it was originally a wool pack, where wool was stored and weighed. But it was also attached to Gray's Inn, which is one of the four Inns of Court, where all the barristers hang out.
Since 1887 it has been used as the home of the Institute of Actuaries.
It apparently houses an inner courtyard — sadly, not open to the public — which has been referenced in the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Dickens.
Place: Chelsea Physic Garden, London. Date: February 11, 2012. Camera: Panasonic TZ3.
Do you know what a galanthophile is?
Apparently it's someone obsessed with snowdrops, those lovely little white flowers that pop up in late winter, of which there are nearly 100 different varieties. The botanical name for snowdrops is Galanthus — from the Greek meaning milk (gála) and flower (ánthos).
This weekend the Chelsea Physic Garden is throwing open its grounds to the public specifically to celebrate the humble snowdrop. The garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries so that its apprentices could study medicinal plants. It is London's oldest botanical garden.
We arrived late this afternoon and took a wander around the garden, which covers 3.8 acres, features numerous greenhouses and beds of plants labelled with their botanical names arranged in systematic order.
The sun was shining and there was still snow on the ground from Thursday night's snowfall, but it was ice-cold and my hands quickly became frozen, even in my gloves, as I took these photographs:
According to the leaflet that came with our entry ticket, you can distinguish the different variety of snowdrops by "subtle differences of markings, leaf shape and fullness of flower". At the risk of offending galanthophiles everywhere, I really couldn't tell one variety from another. But that didn't stop me from admiring these beautiful and delicate flowers.
Place: Hyde Park, London. Date: February 10, 2012. Camera: Panasonic TZ3.
I disappointed this pristine-white swan this afternoon. She came swimming over to me as I stood at the side of the Serpentine in Hyde Park to take a couple of snaps. I think she thought I was there specifically to feed her. When she realised my pockets were empty and I had no bread on offer, she swam off towards an old lady and a little boy further downstream — they were probably a better prospect.
Across the Thames, beyond Customs House hunkered on the north bank, further than the spire of All Hallows Church and the glass and concrete buildings near Fenchurch Street, you can see 30 St Mary Axe, a 40-storey building affectionately known as the "Gherkin".
I took this shot on a little wander around Hays Galleria and the London Bridge area yesterday. I noticed the Gerkin nicely framed between two walls — it was something about the way the interplay of light and water contrasted with the darkness of the alleyway I was standing in that caught my eye. And it helped that there were people in the frame, because their silohuettes gave some semblance of scale as well as a sense of movement.
I fired off two snaps, but it was the second, zoomed in on the figures, that worked best.