Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tanya Tagaq and Nanook of the North at the NMM

As posted previously I've been to quite a few concerts and gigs this year but nothing I'd been to had the impact of the one at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) Sunday evening.

It was a showing of the classic documentary film Nanook of the North together with a performance from Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq in the The Great Map, the heart of the NMM.

It was extraordinary: her voice and presence dominated the room, raw and beautiful like the scenery of the far north:

It was part of the Origins festival of first nations in London, and the music and singing came first, dominating the film which had rather a small feel, only taking up a small part of the screen. But maybe that was appropriate, for the point of the festival was to give a voice to native cultures directly, rather than the observed viewpoint.

You can see the film for yourself here:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Five Gigs for Glastonbury Weekend

I haven't done a music post for some time and already we've reached Glastonbury weekend. Its another year of following the streams from afar, remembering gigs over the last few months.

How many of these five bands can you identify?

Now updated with descriptions.

Above and below:  Putney group The xx at the Brixton Academy:

Below: Underworld at Alexandra Palace

Below: Francois and the Atlas Mountains at the Moth Club:

Below: British Sea Power at Shepherds Bush Empire

Below: Kraftwerk at the Albert Hall

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Mystery of Seville's Guadalquivir River

Recently I went to the city of Seville in Spain and it turned out to be an extremely pleasant place to spend a long weekend.

One evening we decided to go on a cruise on the Guadalquivir river - a tourist jolly, starting at the Torre del Oro (above) which is an old Moorish tower and now houses a small Maritime Museum.

Except... was it really a river? Have a looking at this Google Earth photo:

The "river" has actually been filled in higher up, so it isn't a river at all, more a elongated inlet, which explained why we couldn't see any flow. The boat turned round before getting to this point, as if to keep this a secret.

This probably relates to Seville being a working port but the river has a problem of silting, hence the long straight bit of the new channel. Large cruise ship can still make it all the way up the river to Seville as in this photo:

We did see a few rowers, kayakers and paddle boarders, but not really enough to do a Boats! Boats! Boats ... in Seville.

Anyhow, it wasn't really a real river.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Unseasonably warm at the moment in Blightly land.

Skies were clear all across the country, a bit like this:
This photo was actually taken at the end of May when went to Seville for the Bank Holiday Weekend - have a post on that coming up. Apparently there it is due to hit 41C today and 43 later this week - that is proper scorchio weather.

For those that want to know where scorchio comes from, here's a short video:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

What not to put in the sewers

Ok, time for some of the harsh facts of life: some things just shouldn't be flushed away.

Take wet-wipes: these don't decay but just clog up the pipes as was demonstrated above. Then there's fat and grease: if you flush it away with a kettle-full of hot water it just gradually cools until it makes a ball of fat underground.

Now most of these will flush away in a heavy rain but some of the tougher items could clog up the pumps and the largest fat-balls have to be dug away by some poor worker.

So treat the sewers like you would a yacht heads: with care.

Of course our next question was what is the most interesting thing you've found in the sewers and the answer was quite a lot. Take this pile by the exit ladder:
Excuse me if I don't rush to eat my yogurt with these.

Above they had a display cabinet with some of the more interesting items that have been picked up:

Seriously, who looses these things down the sewer?

Monday, June 12, 2017

London OnWater 2017 at St Katharine Docks

This weekend there was an event called London OnWater 2017 at St Katharine Docks.

The blub on their web site called it "London’s No.1 On-Water Boat Show & Festival" but... well.. it wasn't that big to be honest. However I guess that technically it was accurate as the London Boat Show had zero boats actually on the quayside by the ExCel exhibition centre in January.

London OnWater was held in one of the St Katharine Docks and seemed almost as much about cars as boats:
One of the boats looked like something off a James Bond set, namely the Glider Yachts "sport limousine":
Apart from looking like a rocket ship apparently it can go like one too - this model can reach 56 knots and another in the range is rated as up to 96 knots!

I didn't ask the price as not really my market though I did wander off to the Oyster Yachts to have a little dream:

Then back to Tower Hill and the tube home.

So what did I think? Well I had an interesting couple of hours at London OnWater 2017 but I'm not quite sure where it fits in the boat show marketplace. I'm guessing that being located bang in the City means there was potential for boat makers to address the high end luxury market which isn't really my thing.

My favourite chats were with the Cruising Association and the London Corinthian Sailing Club, both of which I've been to in the past and should try to visit again.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Thames Tideway Tunnel and the fate of the Bubbler

I've posted before about the Thames Tideway Tunnel aka the Super Sewer.

Why do we need this super sewer? Well, London is getting bigger and bigger and with all those extra people are doing what people do the sewer system can't cope. In addition it's never been that good at coping with heavy rainfalls and that has led to lots of raw sewage going straight into the Thames.

So there is a clear need for additional capacity, lots of it, and the statistics are pretty mind boggling. The main tunnel will have a width of 7m, enough for three double-decker busses to drive side by side along it (take that the Italian job) - that's wider than Crossrail.

6 tunnelling machines will be boring away about 75m under London at 100m / week with something like 25 km of tunnel to dig.

Of course it won't be cheap, with figures like £ 4.2 billion being quoted and there's a lot of engineering involved disturbing familiar places such as Putney Embankment, home of the start of the University Boat Race.

The digging will of course generated lots of soil, but the plan is to take as much as possible off by boat along the Thames itself - resulting in a projected 60% increase in river traffic.

Inevitably there will be disruption but it won't last for ever and at the end there's planned to be 3.5 acres of additional public spaces. And hopefully the Thames will be a lot healthier with much less outflows.

So what about the Bubbler? Well this is the Bubbler:
This is Thames Water's special boat that goes out after a major overflow event to pump oxygen into the river to keep the waters alive. It has over the years become a common sight, but the plan is for it to be retired as it wouldn't be required any more.

And that would be good news indeed.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Watching the America's Cup much?

If you weren't watching the America's Cup yesterday one has to ask: why not?

Gripping stuff and very, very wet.

Monday, June 05, 2017

PSB: London Can Take It

Let's keep a sense of proportion - or at least lets hope the US media (Jon Oliver excepted) gets one.

London has a long history, not all of it pleasant:
  • In AD 60, under the Romans, it was destroyed by the Iceni led by queen Boudica
  • London was also sacked in 842 and 851 by the Vikings
  • After 1066 (and all that) William the Conqueror occupied the city
  • About half the population was killed in the Black Death of the 14th century
  • During the English Civil War London took the side of Parliament and was where the King was executed in 1649
  • Almost a quarter of the population was lost in the Great Plague of 1665
  • The plague was swiftly followed by the Great Fire of 1666
  • During the 20th Century London was the target of the German Blitz (as in the video above from the band Public Service Broadcasting (PSB), who have seen a couple of times before).

London does not "reel" easily: we mind the gap and drink tea (though we might not say no to something stronger).

London is doing now what it has done for millennia: keep calm and carry on.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Upon Westminster Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

No, the NY Times and others, we are not reeling. We are going about our business as normal in this fantastic, wonderful, brilliant, beautiful city.

That's what we do.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Bazalgette's Sewer System

My first off-line question after the talk on the history of London's sewers was to what degree did Bazalgette use the work of John Martin? This triggered much interest from the historian who started drawing figures of pipes of different sizes and heights in the Embankment, as apparently John Martin got this bit wrong.

The key thing is that there isn't really just the one system as there are multiple levels on each side of the Thames. In an ideal world there would be a constant, gradual, incline in the pipes ending up at the outfall with the height equal to high water at Beckton and Crossness. This is clearly not feasible given that much of low lying London is below that level.

Hence one of the key aspects of Bazalgette's design (that Martin missed) was to have these multiple levels and then pumping stations to lift lower level wast up to a higher level where it could then flow downwards.

At Beckton and Crossness the inflows ended up at a low level and so had to be pumped up to fill lagoons until the tide was high enough that the outflows would go out to sea rather than back into London.

The result was a web of pipes, the largest of which can be seen in the figure above. At Abbey Mills there are pumps that raise the waste up to a height where it can then move by gravity down to Beckton along the northern outfall sewer (more of this anon).

These pumps are pretty impressive and some of the old ones were on display like this, looking very like large metallic ammonites:
Within Abbey Mills itself there were lots of dials and control identifying the heights of the various flows to control the system:

Getting it wrong would not just be messy but could lead to flooding of low lying parts of London - where indeed several of the Thames Water staff lived. So they were clearly highly motivated to ensure the system was working efficiently!

Of course this system and map are now creaking at the seams which is why we have the Thames Tideway Tunnel aka the Super Sewer.