219 Oxford Street

219 Oxford Street was designed by Ronald Ward & Partners in 1950 and constructed between 1951 and 1952, as commemorated by the Festival of Britain plaques. It is one of London’s earliest postwar commercial buildings and is a mixture of prewar and postwar architectural styles. As built, the five-storey building comprised a ground-floor shop, with a showroom, and three floors of offices. Landlord Jack Salmon used the second-floor office himself.

In 2001, 219 Oxford Street became a Grade II listed building. Consequently, when the adjoining buildings were demolished in 2004 to make way for a block of flats and a Zara store, 219 was incorporated into the development and now forms a part of the latter.

Bridge over the Grand Union Canal

Visible from the Western Avenue, this bridge has long suffered from graffiti. When I was a boy in the 1960s, the then otherwise unpainted bridge was daubed with a flash-and-circle and the word ‘Mosley’, presumably dating back to Sir Oswald Mosley’s activities in the 1930s. By the 1980s, the bridge had been painted white, but in recent years it has become covered with graffiti. It would be good to see it restored to its original brickwork, but it would undoubtedly soon attract fresh graffiti.

A particularly fine rainbow

A torrential late afternoon shower was followed almost immediately by bright sunshine, giving rise to this spectacular rainbow against the still-dark sky. But unlike the rainbow I photographed in Sevenoaks, this one was very brief. Within five minutes, it had gone.

Sound Mirrors of RAF Denge, Kent

The Sound mirrors at RAF Denge are located between Greatstone-on-Sea and Lydd airfield, Kent, on the edge of a disused gravel pit. They were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s as part of an early warning system for detecting hostile incoming aircraft by focusing sound waves onto a central microphone.

The Denge complex is the best-preserved of several along the south coast. It comprises three mirrors:

1) The 200 foot mirror – a near vertical, curved wall, 60 m (200 ft) in length.

2) The 30 foot mirror – a circular dish, 9 m (30 ft) across, supported on concrete buttresses, which retains a microphone pole at its centre.

3) The 20 foot mirror is similar to the 30 foot mirror, but with a smaller dish 6 m (20 ft) across.

The mirrors were capable of detecting the slow-moving aircraft of the period before they came into range, but were rendered obsolete by the invention of radar. They were abandoned and left to decay, though they remain reasonably well-preserved and are now scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

Moon Landing + 51

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The 51st anniversary of the Moon Landing comes around with the world in an even bigger mess than it was in twelve months ago.

We’ve also lost pioneering Russian cosmonaut & space walker Alexei Leonov.

Perhaps the most positive development has been the first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.

Mayflower pub, Rotherhithe

The “Mayflower” in Rotherhithe, east London is a classic British pub sited on the banks of the Thames. Its name commemorates the departure of the Mayflower from Rotherhithe in July 1620 (400 years ago this month, as it happens). The pub has this splendid sign, which I recognised instantly….

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…the picture is identical to one in my “The Story of Ships: A Ladybird ‘Achievements’ Book’, which was published in 1961 and as a child, sparked my lifelong interest in ships.

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But there’s a slight problem. The ship depicted on the pub sign is NOT the Mayflower….

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…It’s Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind. The Story of Ships was written by Richard Bowood and illustrated by Robert Ayrton. “Richard Bowood” was a pseudonym used by author, historian and journalist David Scott Daniell (1906-1965) and Robert Ayton (1915–1985) was a British comics artist and illustrator who worked for the Eagle and Ladybird Books. As far as is known, he did not make pub signs. Presumably somebody copied the book illustration and hoped that nobody would realise that it was the wrong ship. In fact, the golden hind on the vessel’s stern is a slight hint. As for the book itself, from a modern perspective is is quite amusing to note Daniell’s outrage that the Spanish should regard English privateers like Drake as pirates. How dare they!

The current owners of the Mayflower pub have been in residence for ten years, and apparently the sign was already there when they took over.

Sunset

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A spectacular sunset visible from my living-room window. Just minutes later, the effect faded out and the sky was a uniform grey.