Hidden Gems of the City


on Tower Bridge

on Tower Bridge

Before I launch full-scale into major tourist attractions, I wanted to take you on a stroll down the River Thames towards the delightful village of Rotherhithe. We start off from Britain’s most recognisable attraction, Tower Bridge.

At either side of the River a fabulous promenade or river embankment allows people to admire the city from its best side, the Thames. When first entering Tower Bridge look out for staircases on either side, leading down to the river.

On Tower Bridge, looking towards The Tower and Tower Bridge Exhibition Building (to the right)

On Tower Bridge, looking towards The Tower and Tower Bridge Exhibition Building (to the right)

I walked down the steps that lead to the Tower, but before going there I turned left instead of righ, walking towards the restaurants and shops now occupying the former dockyards.

A new lease of life has been given to the erstwhile warehouses and docks that were once part of Port of London all along the Thames.

Now these lofts and condos exchange hands for well over a million pounds, but in earlier centuries they were nothing but industrial buildings and hovels for the desperately poor, those who worked in the docks and eeked out a living from scraps thrown away by others, by pick-pocketing and nefarious nocturnal activities.

Restaurants and cafes are clustered around Tower Bridge on this side of the Thames. I walked through an archway to investigate the possibility of a steaming cuppa on a windy day, when I came across these fantastic barges moored just outside Tower Bridge.

Thames "paddle steam" boat

Thames “paddle steam” boat

Copyright Maria ThermannThey are tourist cruise ships, obviously taking a Sunday afternoon rest here from ferrying chattering hordes of visitors.

Thames Houseboats St Saviours Dock

Thames Houseboats St Saviours Dock

Walking towards the even smarter housing development of St Saviour’s Dock one soon comes across a flotilla of house boats, some colourful and bohemian, others more like a floating suburban home that wouldn’t be out of place in Surbiton or Kingston.

Canada geese inspect house boat potential

Canada geese inspect house boot potential

Make no mistake, these are some of London’s most expensive dwellings, although the house boots moored at Chelsea are perhaps the better known floating homes, having in the past been sold to famous people like Damien Hirst (that awful man who thinks displaying dead calves is “art”).

Copyright Maria ThermannEven the small bridges and gangways that connect the various housing developments with the promenade sport an interesting architecture.

with every passing river cruiser these homes get buffeted by the waves, BOOM!

with every passing river cruiser these homes get buffeted by the waves, BOOM!

The Thames Path is well sign-posted and although it leaves the immediate proximity of the River at times to wind its way through charming mews housing developments, alongside parks and through former warehouse complexes now transformed into luxury apartments, the Thames Path never leaves the River for long and it’s not really possible to get lost.

St Saviour's Dock, Thames Embankment, London

St Saviour’s Dock, Thames Embankment, London

Copyright Maria ThermannEn route one comes across wonderful sculptures and statues such as this head at St Saviours Dock. At every turn there is something interesting to see. Plaques tell walkers where they are, what local communities are doing or who is being honoured with a plaque or statue and why. The whole thing has a real community feel about it and seems a great place to live. I can still feel the impact each wave made when hitting the moorings of the house boats, BOOM, the hiss of the spray of brown Thames water escaping over the sides of the embankment’s walls, sending careless walkers squealing and running for cover. I remember the scent of petrol from the passing cruise ships and the noise from the tour guides’s announcements over loudspeakers when recalling the history of the Thames. One day soon, all this will find its way into my writing…at another river setting, an imagined location but remembering one sweltering hot Sunday afternoon at the Thames. Perhaps the background for a murder mystery, a romantic interlude before the killer strikes!

Rotherhithe Church, Mayflower plaque

Rotherhithe Church, Mayflower plaque

Eventually one reaches a park, where the Thames Path suddenly seems to end in the church yard of Rotherhithe Village; it’s a delightful place and the appropriate spot for honouring the intrepid Rotherhithe citizens who sailed one fine day off into the unknown blue yonder on a wee ship called The Mayflower. Can’t remember what happened to her but yon American citizens might recall that part of the story….

Rotherhithe village

Rotherhithe village

Encircling the church and small churchyard are various 17th, 18th and 19th century houses – this one with the statues above the entrance caught my eye because it was adjacent to a cafe and small park. By now the weather was deteriorating and working itself up to a full-scale storm with thunder, lightning and torrential rain thrown in for good measure.

London's temperamental weather strikes again

London’s temperamental weather strikes again

Naturally, the village has all sorts of connections with the Thames’ staggering historical importance and various famous people stem from this part of London. A miniscule museum honours one of the world’s finest engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Voted as one of Britain’s 100 most important people ever, this extraordinary Victorian is responsible for the world’s first tunnel under a navigable river (the Thames Tunnel), the Great Western Railway, the first propeller-driven steamship that went across the Atlantic (1843), the Clifton Suspension Bridge and countless other famous structures, bridges and ships. Sadly, I didn’t have time to visit the Brunel Museum that day, but hope to do so in the next few weeks.

Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe Village

Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe Village

A typical English pub honours all those dockhands, tally-men and mariners who worked and drank (beer and gin mostly) at Rotherhithe Dock over the centuries. By an amazing co-incidence the pub is called The Mayflower – I wonder who thought of that one…

Pilgrims at Rotherhithe Village

Pilgrims at Rotherhithe Village

A look into the future

A look into the future

The Pilgrim's Pocket - plaque at the foot of the bronze sculpture

The Pilgrim’s Pocket – plaque at the foot of the bronze sculpture

Finally, before leaving the village of Rotherhithe one comes across this lovely threesome, a boy, his pilgrim father and their dog. Step onto the pedestal and take a peep into the pilgrim’s book, for the Mayflower pilgrims’ future is revealed in its pages, hence the pilgrim father’s bulging eyes!

Staying Cool in the City


Copyright Maria ThermannNow that the skies are grey and the rays of the sun are no longer tickling our red and blistering noses, it seems inconceivable that only a few weeks ago it was too hot to work in the office.

Taking a refreshing stroll along the Thames Embankment on a very hot day, I spotted how London’s citizens tried various ingenious ways to stay cool in the city.

Thus I’m sneakily introducing my first, and most favourite point of interest in the capital – sorry HRM Elizabeth II, but the River Thames beats the “lady of the stamp” any day as London’s best tourist attraction!

Even on the hottest day of the year there was a gentle breeze blowing that cooled the wrinkled writer’s brow – walk along the lovely Thames Embankment and sooner or later you’ll come across a fountain where you can cool off your steaming toes.

 

Blackfriars Bridge in the Background

Blackfriars Bridge in the Background

Tide's out, kids!

Tide’s out, kids!

When the tide’s out, people walk along the patches of “beach” that appear along the river bed.

Just cruisin’

For those with more money than sense there are the official river cruises, some via stately old river barges, cruisers or former steamboats, others via power boats that zoom past with an almighty roar and spew up brown waves in their wake. The much cheaper version is to take an ordinary river bus.

St Katherine's Dock by Tower Bridge

St Katherine’s Dock by Tower Bridge

Cruises start from various points along the river, my favourite spot is at St Katherine’s Dock, where this couple sat patiently in a little pavilion – like a bus stop for the Thames – and awaited the arrival of their cruiser, while enjoying the magnificent aspect of Tower Bridge.

 

 

 

Making a Splash

My favourite image of this summer are unquestionably the parents and children who stayed cool by diving into the fountains at the National Theatre, which overlooks the Thames Embankment by the London Eye, roughly opposite Westminster and Big Ben.

Fountain at National Theatre, Southbank

Fountain at National Theatre, Southbank

Kids keeping their cool in the city

Kids keeping their cool in the city

Pedestrians startled by Mayor Boris Johnson's latest efforts to clean up the city's mean streets

Pedestrians startled by Mayor Boris Johnson’s latest efforts to clean up the city’s mean streets

At certain intervals during the day the kind people of the South Bank-National Theatre complex press a button and within moments people are engulfed by refreshing spouts of water – only they don’t know where the jets of water will come from next, for the fountain’s sprays shoot out at random in different spots.

With a lot of squeals and laughter, the youngest of London’s citizens find relief from the searing heat, a perfect image of summer as it should be, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HMS Belfast near Tower Bridge

HMS Belfast near Tower Bridge

Family Fun by Hayes Gallery, Thames Embankment

Family Fun by Hayes Gallery, Thames Embankment

At the other end of the river, that bit where HMS Belfast, a cruiser from WWII, is moored, whole families gathered around fountains, had a picnic and enjoyed the spectacular London skyline from just outside Hayes Gallery.

Erasing horrid Memories

This summer I’ve seen a different side to London, one I liked very much. Many years ago, when I worked in the city for more than a decade as an office slave, London was a complete construction site, where it was virtually impossible to get anywhere near the River. My memories are of noisy construction crews whistling and jeering at anything looking even vaguely female, of cranes polluting the skyline, of mud and dust everywhere.

southbank street artist blowing soap bubbles

southbank street artist blowing soap bubbles

Over the intervening two decades the embankments on both sides have been transformed and turned into London’s best attraction – and I’m clearly not alone in this point of view, judging by the hordes of people who use the River Walks every day from dawn till dusk and beyond.

My next post will be about my splendid walk from Tower Bridge to Rotherhithe, which turned out to be a delightful village, not a boring suburb with uniform new apartment blocks, as I had suspected.

This is where my post took you today

This is where my post took you today

After more than three decades in the UK, this summer has been the first time that I’ve actually begun to understand why people rate London so highly – up to now, I’ve detested it. These past few weeks, hot and steamy as they have been, have done much to clear my mind of horrid work-related memories and regain my “cool” about the Big City.

The true aim of my snap-happy wanderings through London is, of course, to gather background material for a future murder mystery series. So alongside the pictures I’ve been taking notes on the smells, sounds, temperatures and light conditions I’ve encountered along the way. I can still hear the children’s giggles, when a flurry of soap bubbles headed our way…

Summer in the City


Which City? Have a guess!

Horseguard Buckingham Palace

Horseguard Buckingham Palace

Yep, my camera and I were let loose by an irresponsible friend and snap-happy I took hundreds of pictures of landmarks, architectural highlights, attractions and the city’s star attraction, the big old River.

Vintage Bus outside Scotland Yard

Vintage Bus outside Scotland Yard

London Eye to the left, Big Ben straight ahead

London Eye to the left, Big Ben straight ahead

Big Ben telling me it's time for elevenses!

Big Ben telling me it’s time for elevenses!

Old River Thames, my favourite attraction!

Old River Thames, my favourite attraction!

London Skyline seen from Tower Bridge. The Tower to the right, the Gherkin to the left

London Skyline seen from Tower Bridge. The Tower to the right, the Gherkin to the left

There is a reason for this sudden outbreak of tourist fever – I’m preparing two murder mystery series, one is set in London in the 1920s, the other at the Kent coast in the 1940s.

Fountains at Trafalgar Square

Fountains at Trafalgar Square

Millennium Bridge before Harry Potter got there!

Millennium Bridge before Harry Potter got there!

Both make good use of locations, so it helps me when I’m writing from some hovel based at a different part of the UK or on the Continent (being an location independent online writer does have its advantages!), I don’t have to imagine what a place looks, smells, sounds or feels like at a particular time of year, I can look back at my photographs.

Borough Market in Southwark

Borough Market in Southwark

It was also huge fun snapping away, for this summer there’s been very little rain and although some of the pics look as if taken against a grey sky.

Tower Bridge, Southwark

Tower Bridge, Southwark

It was actually boiling hot at the time, the sort of hazy sunshine one only gets in The Big Smoke.

Imagine me standing there with an opened umbrella to shade my noggins and camera from sun and 30 degrees C temperatures, and you get the “feel” of the situation…

Horseguards emerging from Buckingham Palace

Horseguards emerging from Buckingham Palace

Her Magesty's secret agents having a chin wag?

Her Magesty’s secret agents having a chin wag?

London's full of mad artwork and statues

London’s full of mad artwork and statues

Dolphin statue & Spring at Tower Bridge

Dolphin statue & Spring at Tower Bridge

So to start off my series of city impressions, interesting landmarks and famous attractions, here are a few snapshots. I will do a post on each of the attractions/locations with more pics and proper descriptions over the next few weeks.

Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake's old ride in Southwark

Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake’s old ride in Southwark

Entrance to Buckingham Palace from Trafalgar Square

Entrance to Buckingham Palace from Trafalgar Square

Shakespeare's Book Bench outside Globe Theatre, Thames Embankment

Shakespeare’s Book Bench outside Globe Theatre, Thames Embankment

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Southwark, Thames Embankment

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Southwark, Thames Embankment

The Clink Prison, Southwark

The Clink Prison, Southwark

The London Eye, Thames Embankment

The London Eye, Thames Embankment

Join me on my Summer in the City tour, but please bear in mind, I’m just an amateur photographer with a rubbish Olympus camera, so please don’t expect too much!

Gates at Buckingham Palace

Gates at Buckingham Palace

 

 

 

 

Queen Victoria Monument & Fountain o/s Buckingham Palace

Queen Victoria Monument & Fountain o/s Buckingham Palace

What Puts Readers Off Self-Published Books?


mariathermann:

Am so glad I found Tara Sparling’s blog! All I can say that she repeats here exactly my own thoughts on the whole “read my stuff/buy my book” ethos of a large section of self-published authors. My reaction to Twitter/Bookrix/Goodreads bombardment of “check out my stuff” type messages is also “shan’t”! Thank you Tara for this blog post:)

Originally posted on Tara Sparling writes:

ANOTHER graph! Heaven.... I'm in Heaven....

ANOTHER graph! Heaven…. I’m in Heaven….

Oh, we’ve come a long way from What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books last week, ladies and gentlesirs!

Brace yourselves now, as we enter the dark side of book marketing: the things which make you REFUSE to buy self-published books.

And we’ve all experienced this to some degree. Self-publishing often gets a very bad rap. If people avoided some of the behaviour which follows, the industry can only benefit.

Cobbled together from the feedback from you, the nice people who comment, I now have a list of what’s most likely to make sure you will never buy a book from a certain author, let alone read one.

These fall loosely into 3 categories:

1. Pushy Marketing Tactics
2. Bad Book Design
3. The Writing Itself

These categories also come in the order which they would turn readers off a book. Even if a book didn’t…

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The Steps of Publishing & Crowdfunding


mariathermann:

And as we are still on the subject of #book marketing, here’s an interesting new development: crowd-funding. I saw some authors use this to get a book tour (real travelling, not virtual) off the ground and another writer published a fabulous educational #book about how to create #fantasy art with the help of #crowd funding. Clearly the way to go, my fellow authors!

Originally posted on Authors Helping Authors:

wine_book_IIAlmost every writer dreams of one day being published, but not all writers realize what exactly goes into publishing a book. Whether you are self-publishing or pursuing the traditional publishing route, writers need to learn to navigate the publishing process. After all, writers are first and foremost just that—writers—and learning the ins and outs of publishing is not an easy task. However, as the publishing industry grows, new tools are becoming available to authors to help them publish more successfully. Crowdfunding is one of these resources and many authors are learning the importance of this step in the publishing process.

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