Monday, July 09, 2007

DSC_4911 - Was it all worth it?Oops, I did it again
Got stopped by the police,
Oh baby, baby.

Apparently they wouldn't have stopped me if I'd been taking a picture of Big Ben, though I bet they would if I stood on the security barrier outside parliament to get a better view. They also seemed to have over looked the fact that St Stephen's Tower, if we're going to be officious about such things, isn't generally visible from some obscure part of Mayfair.

I supposed I probably ought provide a bit of back story. I was in London supposedly because... actually skip the complicated bit. Basically I was meant to be going round parts of the RA with my mother and my aunt. Except they wanted to do the Summer Exhibition, I'd already been twice, so it was suggested I went round the new Impressionists thing upstairs. Except it opened on Saturday, the day we were there, and thus when I stuck my head round the door looked fairly busy. Given I was on my own, and Impressionists by the Sea sounds about as sunset-kittenish as art gets, I decided to go for wander, while it wasn't raining for once. Thus followed much discovery of quirks of London (to be largely GWLed and otherwise Flickr'd).

Eventually just as I discovered the Wallace Collection I am summoned back for lunch. From Burlington House we head towards Green Park via the very expensive backstreets, with my mother recognising where we are by the building at the end of the road, which I cruelly called Hampton Court for the benefit of the passing and ostentatiously eavesdropping Americans (look, I was only obeying the Second Law of Thermodynamics, ok?). Via long, narrow passageway at hat with a bad hip speed, miming scrambling up the walls to pass, as behind us builds of queue of slaloming people, all trying to keep their tyres warm. Finally we burst free, over, round and under the barrier, deluging the grass.

Doing my normal lolloping trick - though I'm not lolloping is the right word for the adult camera-bearing version of running to the next lamppost and back to Mummy, but I'm not sure what is; photobungee perhaps? - we head down to the ring round the head of the Mall.

After shuttling back a forth, trying to get a better view and realising that while I could copy others and shuffle underneath the security-fence barriers (a useful trick to know), it's unlikely my mother would be quite so successful; instead we work our way into a shallow bit of crowd on the Mall, whereupon we discover that people on bikes can go quite fast, and that the inside of a bend is not the best place for a good view.

Abandoning our hard-elbowed positions we head up the flat Constitution Hill in search of a better view. The options include four-deep at trackside, one or two deep on the bank, perched atop a pillar or halfway up a tree. We opt for leaning against the railing on the bank, but much of the time only the movement of the nearer crowds, flying cameraman and passing roofracks give away that a competitor has passed. As we're beyond the realm of any PA, we've no idea who anyone is anyway. So I tire rapidly of this and wander photographically (but probably not photogenically; there's nothing quite like an impromptu reflected self portrait to ram home that my camera face is one designed for the back of a camera), leaving the relatives to do nothing in the shade.

Regrouping we head up towards Hyde Park, instantly managing to lose each other in the crowds. The barrier round Hyde Park Corner funnels a solidifying crowd towards the Piccadilly crossing, but having no intention of joining a group that hadn't moved the whole time I'd been approaching it, I divert into the park to find the next crossing, which turns out to be halfway to the Ritz.

Faced with police controlled chaos and pummelling sun, I continue on into some Mayfair side street, deciding to go for a wander, knowing my mother will ring at some point.

My meanderings around various deadends and unexpected connections of Mayfair thus brings me to walk through the arch of Down Street Station, and thus into the records of the Metropolitan Police. I only took that fateful shot of a fire escape because I refused to believe I had found nothing worth photographing down there (though I was getting tired and my eyes had had enough of the sun, so my judgement and lateral-thinking were going).

Cue PC Generic (ooh, isn't he young?) and PC Generic-Sidekick (they've dropped the height requirement haven't they? And the weight one? And the intelligence one? And the attractiveness one?). No "'Allo, 'allo, 'allo, what's going on 'ere?", not even an 'Allo-'Allo style "Good moaning", simply a request to explain myself. And another to search my bag and my camera. And another for ID. "Now, you're not in any trouble, but..."

However, rather than rewrite something, I'm going to blatantly copy and paste, and then have the gall to shunt you off to the relevant Flickr page.

From an email, following on from a discussion about Gordon Brown:
Of course, having been rude about him, I did get stopped for being
"Seen taking photographs of buildings in a small secluded mews". Said
mews had double yellow lines down the side, which suggests a certain
degree of public domain. And mewses tend to be small and secluded;
they're designed to be. Isn't Section 44 of the Terrorism Act a wonderful
thing? At least when I got stopped last time it was because some batty
man had reported seeing an Arab with wires hanging out of his bag (I
still reckon it was because I parked over the road from his house, in
what he looked on as /his/ parking space). And the police were very
apologetic then, having been scouring the small Hampshire town for me
(they'd seen me but ignored me, as they didn't think I was what they
were looking for, at least until I got into the suspect's car).

Hmm, and you can't spot the line with the postscript omission correction, can you?

So after being stopped by the police (I'm still not sure whether to be embarrassed or amused by the instinctive politeness and assumed acquiescence that kicked in when my phone rang) I stopped the photography for a while, heading directly for the tolerant anonymous crowds of Hyde Park, but opportunistically bagsying a seat on a concrete barrier across Park Lane instead. Not only did I get to sit in the middle of a one of the capital's busiest thoroughfares swinging my legs while eating an apple, but I also got the best view of the cyclists that I'd had all day, and got to watch repeated attempts by crowds to overcome the barriers, several of which were successful as it became apparent the the massed police presence were unconnected with crowd control, leaving to a cluster of indolent (and one rather harried looking) men in overalls and tabards to cope with each scattering wave. People can be amazingly like sheep. Not only do they follow each other, they also seem impervious to clues and cues humans aim at each other. If you've seen someone edge the barrier over to give them space to creep past and then along the edge of the road, do you think that means it'll be fine to wander out into the middle of the road, stop and stare at the race, then walk down to towards the people at the end, all of whom are wearing uniforms while stepping over sprawling cables?

So having stashed the rotten remains of the apple deep into one of the hole through the blocks, to be later ground by some forklift, I head into the crowds again, discovering barriers put there for people's own safety aren't very safe when they cause bottle necks. Coming out of the melee, there's a whole stream of people fleeing up the bank and unexpectedly into a flowerbed, simply because it's the emptiest space.

Through Hyde Park, through the event village or whatever they were calling it, which had that odd mix of church fete stalls and boat show bar crowds. Walking slowly on a walkway that rocks rhythmically and disconcerting, shuffling immobilely in full sun is not greatly enjoyable. Then free again, heading northwards, repeatedly fielding calls from mother and aunt, who told me not to wait for them, but also keep wanting to know precisely where I am (which when my knowledge of Hyde Park is sketchy and theirs more like a pre-interpretation ink blot, didn't go terribly well). Up, along, across, round, through, down, past, beyond takes me to the next phone call, beside some Imperial block dotted with tomato plants. I explore the college, while they approach, agreeing to wait for them where I am, by the Science Museum Underground entrance (actually leaning against the windows of what looks like some engineering or possibly geology lab, but extraneous information, while common in conversations with my family, is not always useful). I get bored, or rather was already bored, so wander up Exhibition Road a little, playing with the reflections of the Tanaka Business Centre, knowing they'd have to come past me. Of course, the next phone call is from them saying the Science Museum one was closed, so they walked past it, and are now at the Natural History Museum, which is also closed, and is the one they assumed I must have meant, so where am I? Judging from the timings mentioned, they probably walked past me while still on the phone.

Then comes the panic of middle-aged women not used to London (if people of pensionable age count as middle-aged), predicting disaster because the Tube's closed, or might be closed or... I wasn't really listening. Then down into South Ken, down the length of a platform, overruling objections including "shouldn't we stand where everyone else is?", and then graciously not mentioning those objections when an already crowded train eventually arrived and tussles at the far end became audible.

And so disbanding at Waterloo, scrapping plans for the late Tate, and so home.

Oddly, I still haven't mentioned the police thing to any of my family.


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