Posts Tagged ‘london’

See you soon

Saturday, August 18th, 2012 | Friends

Recently, we said a fair well to Rich, who is moving down to London to further his career in medicine. Rich has been a dear friend to many of us since we first met five and a half years ago, and I wish him all the best.

In defence of Danny Boyle

Monday, July 30th, 2012 | Distractions, Thoughts

Recently, we witnessed the London 2012 opening ceremony, and what a sight it was to behold. Breathtaking and magical, it was enough even to warm my icy tax payer heart. It’s architect, British film director Danny Boyle, received almost unanimous praise from the media and twitterarti alike.

However, it stuck me that both the TV pundits and media writers the day after, essentially wrote a conclusion that said something along the lines of “it was never going to be as good as Beijing, but Danny managed to do the best second best that we could hope for.”

I take exception to this.

The Olympic opening ceremony that took place four years ago in Beijing was indeed an amazing ceremony. It’s a perfect example of what a totalitarian state can do when it throws enough money and slaves at something to really impress the rest of the world. But that’s all they had. While a big fireworks budget and lots of synchronised dancing is very impressive, it isn’t the only metric.

For example, we don’t recognise War & Peace as one the greatest novel because it’s really, really long. The quality of a novel is defined by the quality of its wordplay, the character of the story and the emotion that it generates. Not that Beijing didn’t have these, but London had them in bucket loads.

London had both. Clearly, we didn’t have grandeur on the scale of Bejijing, but it would ne nieve to say we lacked it entirely. An army of almost ten thousand performers were involved in the opening ceremony. Bejing may have had an amazing spectacle of thousands of drummers – but so did London.

As for character, soon after the ceremony it quickly became apparent how hollow the Beijing opening ceremony had actually been. The firework were pre-recorded and the girl who we thought was singing, was actually just miming while a girl deemed too unattractive sang from behind a curtain. Meanwhile, in London, we trotted out a series of heartwarming choirs, choirs that were actually singing, for real. In their need to achieve perfection, apparently, Beijing dare not compete with that.

We trotted out an endless list of amazing people – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, The Queen, James Bond, Mike Oldfield, Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal, David Beckham, Tim Berners-Lee, J. K. Rowling, Paul McCartney, Rowan Atkinson, Emeli Sand√© and more. Again, Beijing simply couldn’t complete with that.

While China does have a long and noble history, we were really able to shine in celebrating our recent accomplishments (recent being the past few hundred years). Whether it be providing a shining beacon of socialist utopia as the world looks to the NHS as the model for universal free healthcare or a mega mix of the last fifty years of music, gently reminding everyone that the only people even in the same league as us when it comes to producing internationally acclaimed an enjoyed music is the United States, the ceremony reminded us all that Britain is both a cultural and social world leader. With a civil liberties record the likes of China, Beijing couldn’t complete.

Nor could it compete when we celebrated the two greatest turning points in modern society – the industrial revolution, that brought our economy from primary industries to secondary industries, and the creation of the world wide web, that took our economy from secondary industries to tertiary industries. Both owe their origins to Britain, allowing us to casually at the end of a house party scene, drop in “oh, btw, here is the guy who fundamentally changed how the world communicates.”

All that while respecting our own citizens Human Rights. And mostly[1] respecting other people’s as well.

So don’t be so quick to judge the London 2012 opening ceremony as the best we could do as an inevitable runner-up to Beijing. In so many ways, it was Beijing, that was hopelessly unable to complete with London.

References

1 http://www.antislavery.org/english/campaigns/slavery_free_london/slavery_free_london/team_invisible.aspx

Inspiring minds

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 | Distractions, Photos

Sorry, not sure who to credit, but someone posted this. It’s brilliant.

Missed connection

Leeds – Second biggest city in the UK

Monday, March 26th, 2012 | Distractions, Religion & Politics

One topic that often comes up in discussions is regarding how big Leeds is. So I thought I would clarify the situation, by pointing out that we are in fact the second biggest city in the UK.

Leeds now has a population of 810,200. That isn’t the West Yorkshire Urban Area which includes all the surrounding towns, of which the population is 1,499,465. So we’re not talking about Greater Leeds if you will, just Leeds.

Compare this to Glasgow, which has a population of 629,501, or Manchester, which has a population of 394,269. Of course, Greater Manchester has over two million people, but as we’ve already discussed, we’re not including surrounding towns.

Only one city can out-match us for population – and that is Birmingham, with a population of 970,892.

What of that London place you say? Why the City of London is only a square mile, and has a population of 11,700.

Public sector pay

Sunday, March 25th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

A proposal by the government to introduce regional variation in public sector pay has been greatly discussed in recent times. The idea is that because the cost of living is more expensive in one place and less expensive in others, pay should variety to reflect that.

Having listened to the arguments on Question Time last Thursday, one of the suggestions was that, taking teachers as an example, the areas which have higher pay would then become magnets for the best teachers and other areas would be left with lower standards.

This completely misses the argument that the cost of living is different and therefore the pay would simply reflect this – in actual fact, it is the lack of regional variation should cause such a problem – if you get paid the same but your cost of living is cheaper, your effective pay is currently higher in the North East than it is in London.

However, I don’t support regional pay variation for that reason.

I’m going to use London as an example here, but in reality London could be replaced by any other big city. Indeed, London is perhaps not the best example given a divide in pay already exists in the form of London weighting. But given its relative size to other places in the UK, I’m going to proceed none the less.

Whether you truly believe there is a strong North South divide or not, it is hard to deny that as a country, we are very London centric. Not to the extent of other countries (Helsinki in Finland for example), but the best jobs, the biggest companies, museums, theaters, events, etc, etc are almost always bigger and better in London.

It then becomes self propelled – the big cities become more attractive places to live as they grow and grow, adding more exciting attractions, therefore attracting more people, and the cycle goes on.

London in itself is attractive enough to bring in talent in the public sector, and therefore we don’t need to offer people a pay packet which is effectively equivalent to those in other areas. To maintain a balance between the biggest cities and the rest of the country, we actually want to pay people more for not living in these places, which are attractive enough already.

London, baby

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 | Events, Travel

With the BHA Reception to welcome in new president A. C. Grayling taking place at a very convenient time to converge with mine and Elina’s six month anniversary, I decided to take a trip down to the capitol with her.

We got down there with only a slight delay and met up with Phillip and Linda from West London Humanists who are amazing people who have a lot of great ideas for community projects. They have a great vision for making a difference and I’m hoping I can help them develop their ideas based on what has and hasn’t worked for us in Leeds.

Afterwards, we wandered down to the National Gallery which was fantastic of course though it was a mission to find any paintings not about Jesus or some other religious subject matter. Luckily the Dutch artists finally came to the rescue, and there is currently an excellent exhibit on Swiss and Norwegian artists there too!

In the evening we met up with James and grabbed some dinner at a nice place called Canal 125. The food was good though I don’t think the salad I had turned out to be a light option after all once I had eaten all the dressing, cheese and chicken lol.

The hotel we stayed at was the Thistle City Barbican. It was mediocre, especially for the £150 we paid for it, and despite getting a family room we actually got three single beds and with Norm not having joined us after injuring his ankle, we ended up paying for three beds and only using one of them.

On the Saturday we headed over to the Natural History Museum which is always enjoyable though I’ve done a lot of it now (and yet I still go back even though I’ve never been to the Victoria & Albert Museum lol) and includes exhibits such as rocks and cooking pans that I’ve never seen before.

I would have liked to have had more time there as we didn’t get there until mid-afternoon, having spent out time walking over and stopping for lunch at Las Iguanas on the South Bank. That was very nice but it was directly under the Waterloo bridge rail track, so made for noisy intervals.

All in all we did around 13 miles walking, which is only half that of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge! Still a good bit of exercise though.

The Bountiful Cow

Saturday, March 26th, 2011 | Food, Reviews

While wandering around, trying to find an open pub at 11am on the Saturday morning we found a place which described itself as the “home of beef”. We decided this was something we really couldn’t ignore and so headed back there in the evening to check it out and grab some dinner.

The food was good but not great – it was very reasonably priced given that it was 400g of steak which was very well cooked but nothing compared to the great steaks I have had in Leeds. So worth checking out but no replacement for a proper steakhouse.

AHS national convention 2011

Friday, March 25th, 2011 | Humanism

Despite only packing up from All Night Debate at 3am, we were all up bright and early the next morning to head down to Conway Hall in London for the AHS 2011 convention.

The day started with stalls from various related organisations and then moved into speakers starting with Lord Warner who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group talking about his experiences as a humanist, in politics.

Second up was Gerard Phillips, vice president of the National Secular Society. His talk was disappointing, it seemed to be an hour talk compressed into twenty minutes, I’ve literally never heard someone speak so fast when delivering a talk. It was also pointed at the wrong audience a little I think – given we’re all at the AHS conference, we don’t need to be told what secularism is and why we should advocate it – you’re preaching to the converted. Never the less, Gerald is clearly a passionate secularist and having had a chat with him later in the day, he seems like a great guy who really wants the best for the freethought movement.

He was followed by BHA chief executive Andrew Copson who, despite a lack of organisation with getting the slides ready, delivered a concise, informative and educational talk which made for one of the best of the day.

After a break, we welcomed Robin Ince to the stage. Jonni was hugely impressed with his talk and although it was evident he had, as he admitted, written it on a series of postcards in the hour, I really enjoyed it. Robin is also forming part of the line-up of the Enquiry 2011 Conference.

He was followed by Johann Hari, who, for my mind, gave the best talk of the day, reminding us all that despite we have all this nonsense such as faith schools often overly vocal religious people, when it comes down to it – we’re winning; more and more people every year declare themselves as non-religious.

The day was closed off by a speech by Professor AC Grayling and a performance by the BHA Choir. I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by Grayling’s speech – it was good, but then it was good when I heard it two years ago at the AHS press launch and it hasn’t really changed since then.

Afterwards, we all headed to a local pub for some well-deserved relaxation.

London

Saturday, April 10th, 2010 | Humanism, Life

On Wednesday myself and Gijsbert headed down to London on CWF business. Actually we almost didn’t – when I phoned Gijsbert at 17:40, an hour before the train was due to leave, he answered the phone with the question “so, what time do we leave tomorrow?” :D.

Luckily he made it in time though and we were on our way. As well as some productive meetings we managed to get round the Imperial War Museum in the morning, which was cool although I didn’t think it was as fantastic as most people had talked it up to be.

I have to say I really like the taxi system in London also. It may be rather expensive (though what isn’t in London) but just the fact that there are so many of them driving around that you can flag down and you just can’t beat a chatty London cabbie.

Depth of field

Thursday, February 25th, 2010 | Photos

While my photography skills are far too amateur for me to call myself an amateur photographer, on reviewing the photos I got back from London I was quite pleased to find that some of them turned out quite interesting, particularly those where I had managed a short depth of field utterly blurring everything but the focal points.