Through the eyes of others once more.

Another picture from the archives of my grandad.

Battersea Power Station has stood on its current site, on the south bank of the river Thames for nearly 100 years. The building was started in 1929 and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott joined the team who were designing and building the power station. The first set of chimneys were finished by 1935 with the Western Chimneys being 101 metres tall. Both the RAF and the Luftwaffe used the plumes of white vapour emanating from the chimneys to guide them through foggy and misty London on and after 1941. The fourth and final chimney was finished in 1955 and the power was subsequently generated at full speed.

The main boiler house is so large that St Paul Cathedral would fit within it. For the purposes of scale St Pauls is 515 feet (157 metres) long and 227 feet (69 metres) wide across the transepts, with two 212 foot (64 metres) high towers and a magnificent 365 foot (111 metres) dome.

In 1977 there occurred probably the most famous incident which made Battersea famous throughout the world. Pink Floyd tethered a giant floating pig to one of the southern chimney for the cover of their Animals album. The inflatable pig came loose and floated into the flightpath for London Heathrow airport until it floated away and eventually landed on a beach in Kent.

Then, in 1983, it stopped generating power and was sold off to leisure company. At its height it was generating a fifth of the power required for London. The power station used over 1,000,000 tonnes of coal each year with the coal coming predominantly from mines in South Wales and North East England. It arrived on coastal Collier ships which used the Thames to discharge their cargo directly to the cranes fitted to the quayside. Some of the coal was delivered by train from the Brighton and South Coast Railway which runs alongside the power station.

It is now being renovated and refitted into housing and a social and entertainment.

The photo was taken around the early 1970’s when the power station was in full operation. It would have been snapped from the north side of the Thames, likely to have been on Grosvenor Road which follows the path of the river from east to west.

You may also recognise some other work of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. If you ever stepped into an old London red telephone boxes, you have entered his realm. Equally he is the designer of Liverpool Cathedral as well as Waterloo Bridge which crosses the Thames further downstream from Battersea. The Bankside Power Station along the edge of the Thames from Battersea is also one of his visions. It is best known now for being the Tate Modern.

Recycling old buildings for future use seems to me to be a sensible thing.

Through the mists of time.

I have always had a fascination with the City of London. The history of The City is everywhere for people to see. The City has endured many changes, usually inspired by humans, and sometimes not for the better. Occasions including The Plague, the Great Fire of London and the Blitz have all left their mark upon The City. It has always been the centre of wealth and commerce for traders throughout the world, when once Britain ruled over vast swathes of the globe, prompting the observation that the sun never sets on Empire. Those days of Empire are very much gone, however The City continues to survive and flourish.

You may note that I always call it “The City”. This is because it has a unique history which goes back almost 2,000 years. The Romans arrived and set up on the North bank of the Thames. There were already settlements there, however it was the coming of the legions that sparked the location and construction of what is today The City. It is not a borough and has a separate administration. It is the place from which present day London grew. The Romans set up a port and trade thrived. The area was fortified and surrounded by a wall which enclosed an area of approximately 1.12 miles. It seems wider than it is taller. The boundaries of The City are marked with black bollards showing Griffins or dragons upon them. Over time the area surrounding The City grew and London thus became larger and spread out from the boundaries of The City. Hence London is a city but The City is a distinct, and somewhat separate, part of London. In any case the majority of the history is contained within The City.

Locations such as the Bank of England (set up by Royal Charter on 27th July 1694), Lloyd’s of London, The Monument to the Fire of London, the northern section of London Bridge, St Pauls Cathedral and The Royal Exchange all have a place within the boundaries of The City. Tower Bridge and the Tower of London do not fall within The City boundaries.

It remains the premier location for investment, finance and insurance provision in the UK. Ancient history resides next to modern architecture, albeit sometimes with great unease. The City is continually regenerating and the old is becoming covered in glass and metal edifices which stand tall and dominate the skyline, giving the impression of a global power.

Lloyd’s of London

It is fairly easy to lose yourself, both literally and metaphorically, in The City. The past often returns from the alleys, paths, courtyards and churchyards our ancestors frequented over the previous hundreds of years. On chilly, foggy nights, the ghosts of the past seem to come back and loom large.

30 St Mary Axe

The old City isn’t finished yet, she still has the power to remind us of those who have been here before. Go and visit when you are able, walk down a side street, through the alleys and into the churchyards and feel the old City surround you with her atmospheric tentacles.

Through the eyes of others

I have been struggling to blog recently. I was lucky to have the assistance of Sunny’s mum in writing his story thus far. Apart from that, I have had a bit of a blank as well as feeling that there is little happening to me that is of any interest to anyone. A fellow blogger gave me some sound advice though and I will try to follow her words of wisdom.

Many of you will know that my grandad went to the Rainbow Bridge a while back and we have a large quantity of his old slides which we have been looking through and trying to clean up. They have all sorts of marks on them so we are looking to make them clearer and cleaner. Anyway I was looking at this photo that he took from The Monument to the Great Fire of London and it struck me how much of the landscape and buildings are no longer there.

If you know London there is little narrative I can add to the picture. I think it was taken in the mid 1960’s so will be around 55 years old. The Post Office Tower was topped out in 1965 and should be on the right side of the photograph above.

It is interesting to see how London has changed in the last 50 odd years. This is a vista I will not see as am I barred from climbing the Monument. Also there are a number of tall buildings now obscuring the view. I have walked around the base of the Monument on one of my visits to the Big Smoke but I am not allowed to ascend.

This photo taken in 2019 gives a better impression of the lack of vista. For the purpose of reference, the railway bridge in the first picture is partially obscured by the building to the left in the second photo.

I do wonder if all change is for the good.

Hello, I’m pleased to meet you

So there I was, two years ago today, waking up to what I thought was a normal day with the normal walks, small food portions, usual lack of tickles and generally being told to lay down and behave myself. Oh no, how wrong could I possibly be.

I found I was being hurried along through my walk, I then had my attendants watching me eat breakfast and finally found myself quickly returned to my harness. Off up the hill to the station and onto the train. We whizzed past fields, houses, sports stadiums and then into the tunnel before arriving at our first destination station. I stepped off the train and tried to breathe in the stale London air. Being moved along the platform at great pace, I wondered what was happening. It only got more intriguing when we left the station and I was allowed to walk through Regents Park so I could chase squirrels. At least that is what I thought I was doing there, but my parents had other ideas. Leaving the park and crossing the very busy road we descended into the bowels of the London Underground whereupon I was told in no uncertain terms to “Behave”. It was only appropriate for me to arooo and make everyone on the tube carriage smile. This was behaving, right?

We ascended to street level somewhere called Aldgate and I was swiftly marched across another wide road. I was enjoying this but I had no idea what exactly was happening. We stopped at a small cafe near the Tower of London and this unfamiliar pair of hands suddenly descended upon my ears. As I looked up I saw a face full of love and a pair of hands that just couldn’t leave my ears alone. Hola tia Carolina, como estas? I gently woofed at this new person who had come all the way to London, via Europe and most of the rest of the UK, from Argentina. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was so happy that I immediately grabbed the nearest piece of fried chicken laying on the pavement nearby and started to chew the bone. It took much persuasion and plenty of fingers (dads) in my teeth to make me drop this tasty morsel.

Hello auntie. Ooh look pavement food.

Once I had been denied a tasty snack it was decided that I was to show auntie Carolina around London. We walked around the Tower of London, across Tower Bridge, underneath London Bridge, past Sir Francis Drake’s ship, to Shakespeares Globe, across the Millennium Bridge, around St Pauls and thence back onto the tube to Buckingham Palace via St James Park.

I wonder if there is a St Dexter’s?

The humans had lunch there and I even managed to do some expert squirrel bothering, much to my mums distress as I pulled and jerked on my lead. The squirrel was being fed by a nice lady and it ran away rather quickly when it saw me trying to get to it so I could dental cuddle it.

But I like sandwiches mum!

It was mid afternoon that I started to tire and a decision was taken on my behalf that I should be returned home where I could rest my weary bones. So I sadly said my “adios” to auntie Carolina and started the long process of guiding my parents back through the hullabaloo of London to the train station and eventually home.

I live over there. Or is it over there?

I had a great day and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope she can come back soon.

A year has passed

We were awake early a year ago today to make sure we were on time for our appointment in London. We had a very important guest to meet and we had to be on our best behaviour. Strolling up the hill to the station I told Lenny what was happening and where we were going. He was excited to find out what London was like. I also told him about who we were going to meet and he promised me, paw on heart, that he would be gentle and polite. The train journey passed quickly and we found ourselves dragging our parents through the back streets between Marylebone Station on our way to Euston Station. As the chariot containing our visitor was pushed up the slope from the platform we heard the babble of people cooing and saying kind things about Raffa Beagle, who sat like a queen, regal in her splendour. Lenny was true to his woof and greeted Raffa with a gentle nose bump.

Hello Raffa, I’m Lenny.

Off we set on our tour of London. I had sent Raffa a postcard some time ago and she had pestered her mum to bring her to London so she could see all the sights pictured on the postcard. It was cold, crisp and sunny so we kept on moving to keep warm once we had ended our initial trip on the tube train. We saw so many things that I was struggling to keep up with what Raffa needed to see to complete her postcard.

Typical boys, never do what they are told.

Over bridges, along streets, next to the Tower, past palaces, near big wheels, over wobbly bridges, in front of cathedrals and even a cheeky trip to the pub all ended with us catching a London cab from The Mall to Euston Station where we sadly woofed cheerio to Raffa and her tired mum. We heard later that Raffa had enjoyed herself so much she had slept all the way home on the train and in the car. We also slept all the way home on our train.

Which way now. Right for the Cathedral, left for the South Bank

We were proud of our efforts, despite not seeing a Yeoman of the Guard which was the only item on her list that we missed out on. I solved that omission earlier this year so we could say that all items were ticked off.

Since then Covid and other sad events have blighted our year. Raffa went on her longest journey in February this year, so we hold this trip dear to our hearts. We like to look back on fun days like this and smile at the memories. We can feel warm in times of stress and worries. I think it is important to hold on to memories of good days so they cancel the bad days where things just aren’t going the way you plan.

Where are the cucumber sandwiches then?

Live like Raffa, enjoy every day.

Off with his head.

As my readers will undoubtedly remember I had the privilege, nay the honour, of showing Raffa and her mum around London before Christmas last year. Ok, Lenny and my parents came along to carry bags and pay for coffee and buns, but I did most of the work on the day. We had a lovely day and saw so many places that Lenny and I slept like the proverbial logs on the tube journey home.

When I woke up the next day I realised that Raffa hadn’t ticked off all the sights she wanted to see. We had missed seeing a Yeoman of the Guard, also known as a Beefeater.

Nearly all ticked off.

This bugged me for quite some time in the weeks and months that followed. Mum and dad could see there was something preoccupying me and we decided we would do something about it. We wanted it to be a surprise for Raffa and her mum. Sadly Raffa then made her longest journey to the Rainbow Bridge. This only strengthened my resolve to finish Raffa’s tick list. We decided to try and contact the Tower of London people to see if they could help us. I dictated an email for dad to send to the Tower of London and we waited to see if there would be a reply. To our surprise we got a really fast response which said they would be only too pleased to help us and we should correspond further to make arrangements. Once dad had made concrete plans, I had to rein in my enthusiasm until the day I could escort dad on the tube back into London. We had to be quite quick as the pandemic was beginning to affect travel and people so we knew we wouldn’t have much time.

The day arrived and we were on our toes early towards the station. Onto the train, and before we knew it, we were through Marylebone and heading to the park. I had done it a few times before. I felt like a professional commuter.

Dad, can we make this train go faster?

We successfully negotiated the tube journey and found ourselves looking out at the Tower of London. Suddenly my ears were being tickled by a tall gentleman in a colourful coat and hat. Yeoman Sergeant Towell was standing smiling and we went off for the photo to be taken. Whilst the picture was being taken we had a chat with him. He was very welcoming and generous with his time, given that there were still some people who also wanted his help in being shown around the Tower. He was a beagle owner previously and also told us that there is a beagle who lives in the Tower, but I didn’t get to meet him. It was great fun and I walked back to the tube station with a spring in my step.

This is for you Raffa.

Within a couple of days, the pandemic intervened and it took some time to get a nice frame for the photo which we would send to Raffa’s mum. We hoped she would be happy that we had completed Raffa’s tick list. I gave the picture a kiss and we sent it off. Now we had to wait to hear if we had done the right thing.

We had done the right thing. Raffa’s mum loved the picture. Phew. She said it was wonderful and lovely and was a fitting reminder of the day. Phew once more. We couldn’t let you down by not finishing the postcard, Raffa.

We must say thank you to the Tower of London as they were unbelievably helpful and happy to help us at short notice.