No matter where you are in the world the time of day is expressed as plus or minus GMT or Greenwich Mean Time. It’s the point where someone decided to divide the world into roughly twenty four time zones based roughly on longitudinal lines, and that made me curious about the place. Our London Passes took us by Underground to transfer, happily, at Canary Wharf. I recalled reading, a number of years ago, many a disparaging news article about this massive development by an upstart Canadian company (Olympia and York) and about the folly of such a massive business development out at the London docks – a place considered positively remote from the financial center of London. That’s often the way it is with visionary projects. O and Y did actually go bust on this one but the vision was taken up by an international consortium and now, some twenty or so years later Canary Wharf and Canada Square is a hive of business activity with tenants like the world-wide headquarters of Reuters, upscale restaurants (all full to brimming) and a busy shopping mall. The Docklands Railway runs through the complex across the massive reflecting pool at it’s center, and Canada Square One was the tallest building in the UK until it was surpassed by The Shard in 2010.
I was completely confused about the need for not one, but twelve clocks in the forecourt of Canada Square until I learned that it’s an art installation and that each of the clocks has only one number – hence twelve clocks. I think I get it but it not only seems redundant…it looks strange.
Greenwich itself is now a suburb of London, most famous as the home of the Royal Naval College and as the final resting place of the Cutty Sark, the last of the sail-powered tea ships before steam took over. This vintage train station is much more picturesque than the elevated space pods of the Docklands Railway.
I can never resist a browse through a good bookstore and this little spot in East Greenwich definitely caught my eye. It was quite fortunate that I wasn’t looking for a particular book – as it might have been a bit of a challenge to put my hands on it. Particularly if it’s in one of the stacks standing on edge behind the shop attendant barely visible in the mounds at the back of this shot.
We were waylaid on our way to the Naval College by a delightful local market. A nice change from the typical rows of ‘Made in China’ genuine souvenirs, this little community project features stalls filled with trinkets and trash from Granny’s closet, delicious homemade loaves and spreads, exquisite hand-crafted jewellery and clothing and this very creative use for those old style telephones we all have lying around. In spite of the No Photos sign, the proprietor of this stall was quite happy to let me take this one and post it. You have to admit this is a Pretty Unique Design.
The Royal Naval College is completely impressive. This was the site for many of the equestrian events during the 2012 Summer Games in London. I recall a shot on television of a show-jumping ring in those luscious colors that were one of the hallmarks of those games, in this case hot pinks and bright purples, ringed by tiers of colorful seating stands and looking like a birthday cake plunked down in the midst of these massive blocks of somber granite buildings. It was a startling scene.
Now here’s something much more useful than a clock to decorate the top of a building. It’s a compass so as long as you are standing right here, you’ll know where you are.
The first time I visited the White House I thought it looked smaller in real life than it did on television. I had similar feelings when I saw the Cutty Sark – only it looks much larger in real life than it does on the bottle. This is the largest, fastest and last of the British tea ships ever built and has been preserved as something of a national treasure. Of course it’s also the namesake for Cutty Sark whiskey but it came very near to being destroyed completely in a 2007 fire. Fortunately much of the ship had been dismantled and stored elsewhere as part of a large restoration project – which may have been the cause of the fire, actually – so the ship was eventually rebuilt and reopened to tours.
I don’t know if you can ever have had enough of London but we are leaving it for now. We’ll be back but we’re heading for The Grand Olde Town of York. Stay tuned!