Autumn Colours: Orange

By Rob Packer

Autumn Colours: Yellow

By Rob Packer

A Country Picnic

By Rob Packer

Poppies in a meadow.

Pop quiz: is there any point where you can see both Guildford Cathedral and London’s Canary Wharf? The two are 38 miles or 61 km apart, so in low-rise England, the smart money would surely say no, right?

Well, no. As unlikely as it sounds, the slow and steady rise of Staple Lane, just south of Ripley and Clandon in the North Downs and recent star in the Olympic cycling road race, ends in one of those English vistas where, all of a sudden, a whole county unexpectedly unfurls before your eyes in a real-life version of those cartoon maps that end in a strip of Atlantic, Japan or North Pole at the top of the page.

Read more of this post

The Olympic Park

By Rob Packer

The London Olympics are coming to an end after two magical weeks. There is an infectious buzz in the air. The opening ceremony was spectacular and the sport breath-taking. Medals were won: dreams shattered. The tube didn’t go into meltdown and the city didn’t seize up. The British seem to have reconciled themselves with their flag and anthem, and Team GB has had its most successful Games in a century—especially compared with the humiliation of Atlanta. Usain Bolt charmed London and it feels Yohan Blake will in Rio. I and countless others have new heroes in Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and the rest of the GB cycling team, the sculler from Niger cheered by the crowd to the finish line, and others too numerous to list here. The sun even shined, even if autumn will probably be bitterer than normal. The biggest frustration has been getting tickets over days awash with constant website refreshes that would try the patience of Job. And then finally when most people were distracted by a keirin final, my brother managed to wangle some tickets for hockey in London’s temporary Holiest of Holies, the Olympic Park.

Read more of this post

Fire at Dusk

The Olympics: Cycling Road Race

By Rob Packer

Team GB: Wiggins, Millar, Froome (and Cavendish in the back)

After last night’s fantastic opening ceremony, we got up at a bleary-eyed 6am and sent my dad down to the cycling road race at Hampton Court this morning to bag a good view and set out some flags.

After Wiggins’ and Cavendish’s wins at the Tour de France, Britain is now completely cycling-mad and there was something really emotional about seeing this Olympic event on the roads where I grew up—and where I used to cycle as a teenager. In a break from the norm, the race is still going on, so there still is all to play (or ride) for. Here are some photos: Read more of this post

A Late Anniversary

By Rob Packer

It is two weeks late for the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth. In my defence, I had no idea until I was flicking through magazines absent-mindedly at the barbers’ this morning that I found out that this pioneer of computing spent two years, while he worked at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, living barely 500m from the house I grew up in. I catch sight of whenever I’m at my parents’ house and go for a run or catch a bus, but had never seen (or looked at) the blue plaque set on the white wall by the front door. It also seems bizarre to think that he must have walked twice a day across the same park I go running in. I have no idea if the post-war park had the same open savannahs and herds of deer that Bushy Park has today, but it’s a nice image to have.

Midsummer and White Nights

By Rob Packer

Well, as far as I know, you never actually get white nights in England and it is pretty much the same photo as last time. Having said that, this is pretty impressive for 11pm in London.

Sunset

A hole in the cloud
Opens, the sun swallowed whole.
Three fingers slip out.

The British Library, Carol Ann Duffy and Pubs

By Rob Packer

A few weeks ago I went to Writing Britain, the British Library’s summer exhibition, which looks at the landscape of the British Isles and its influence on literature. With illuminated manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales and W. B. Yeats, notebooks of Blake and Coleridge, and 150 other bits and pieces of literariness, I found it engrossing. But after a good three hours of geekdom, I started to wonder how much background knowledge you need to appreciate a show like this—probably a common problem of curating books. For example, if Mrs Dalloway or Wuthering Heights immediately evoke Woolf’s London or the Bronte’s Pennines, it’s probably because I’ve read them and know both places. On the other hand, if it’s something I’ve never heard of, much less read (such as Walter Brierley’s 1935 novel, Means Test Man), it tells me about an aesthetic movement and that industrial landscapes encouraged literature, but not a lot else. As a result, the exhibition is only at its best when it reminds and evokes, as well as informs.

An exception is poetry and song, which just work quicker, and there are some great pairings that use different media, like the Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ with videos of 1950’s Liverpool, or recordings of poems from Ted Hughes’ Return to Elmet (1979) reunited with Fay Goodwin’s photos (maybe more on that some other time). My easy favourite was Carol Ann Duffy’s paean-lament for the British pub, ‘John Barleycorn’, which recalls an archetypal Britain, creating more of a personal mind map, than anything cartographical.

Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: