Mike was between jobs, so I got to shadow him without being too intrusive. That not only meant I got to check out his favourite haunts, but meet more important people in his life.
At one point, I had to withdraw some cash (since Mike had previously lied to me about my credit card not working), and it was strange to suddenly find three different kinds of currency in my wallet.
The day started with pancakes and a little taste of home. Good to know the Canadian maple industry is being supported so far away.
Mike told me one of the things that’s kept him in London was Borough Market, where you can buy fresh fruit, vegetables (or “veg” as the English colloquially say), and fish; especially important when you’re cooking with love. I don’t think there was a single proprietor who didn’t know his name on our walk through, owing to Mike’s sociability. If it weren’t for the community here he may have moved to France.
Inside Monmouth (pronounced “Mon-muth”), a coffee-shop in Borough Market. One of the ways Mike likes to start his day.
Your hair looks fine dear. When I said messy, that meant cute. Nothing is wrong with your hair.
Oh god maybe if I bury my face in my hands she’ll forget I’m here.
Southwark is a district of London. The districts aren’t neatly organized the way arrondissements are in Paris. It’s pronounced “Suth-uck”, which really confused me at first cause it’s obviously spelled very differently.
Look right and look left are painted on the ground to let pedestrians know which way to check for oncoming traffic. Especially helpful because the driving on the opposite side of the road took some getting used to. The only other place I’ve seen this in the world is Hong Kong, which I don’t think is a coincidence since it used to be a British colony.
The Clink is an old, notorious medieval prison, now turned into a museum. The expression “in the clink” to refer to being in prison comes from this place.
Royal Mail, the postal service of the UK. I saw this van as far as Scotland. Well, maybe not this exact van. I like how so many things in the UK are prefixed with “royal”.
The George Inn was built back in the 17th century, and was a favourite spot of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.
A replica of The Golden Hind docked in St Mary Overie Dock. Shen told me that Hanako got to spend the night with her school one time and live like a sailor. A very, very cold sailor.
In the middle of several modern structures are the ruins of Winchester Palace, built in the 12th century, mostly destroyed by fire. Visible now are the doors to the buttery, pantry, and kitchen.
The Globe Theatre was the theatre to which Shakespeare belonged, and consequently made famous.
This structure is called a Dreamachine, which is a stroboscopic art piece where the lights turn on and off and fade into different colours. The shiny metal completely stood out against the grungy bricks on which it was placed.
Barclay’s bikes, or formally “Barclay’s Cycle Hire”, are all over the city with over 5000 available for rent (or for free, if you take it out for under 30 minutes). Built in Canada and based on Montreal’s public bicycle system.
This advertisement for the Tate Modern was embossed in the stone, from before the turn of the century I’ll wager.
I thought I was really out of it when I saw this bus, cause I hadn’t seen a single ad for this movie with Colin Ferrell in it. Turns out it’s a UK exclusive release.
Subsidized public housing.
South Bank is an important arts and entertainment district directly along the Thames River.
A great map of the South Bank. The white circle represents walking distance within 15 minutes.
A look across the Thames.
On the Millennium Bridge. At the other end is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which I happened to read about two days prior it terms of it’s significance to the British morale in World War II.
Everyone in this family is a photographer.
Children gathered outside National Theatre.
There’s a smattering of graffiti along the South Bank under the National Theatre. It’s an architectural dead-spot named the “under-croft” that’s used as a skateboard park.
Big Brother is watching you.
This was actually the ceiling. The alignment of the stencils appeals to me.
Mike lent me one of his oversized coats, since I wasn’t planning on braving the London weather, not that it was more than a few degrees different from Paris.
The Tate Modern museum of modern and contemporary art, formerly a power station. Saw my first Mondrian there, Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red.
At Mike’s studio I got to see his setup and play around with his gear, including a Hasselblad body that costs more than I will probably ever spend on photography. Until then, a Hassleblad was like a Rolls Royce to me; one of those things I’d always hear about but never tried. Getting a glimpse into the process of a professional photographer was one of the most fascinating things, and probably not something many are openly invited to witness in such a competitive industry.
Also, upstairs is a table tennis table, in which he beat me in a good game, but not without making him break a sweat. I swear I could have won if I had my speed glue paddle with me.
To get to Brixton Market, we had to brave the streets of the Lambeth borough. I was told not to take my camera out until we got to the market, because Lambeth is known for having the highest homicide rate in all of London, as well as being it’s drug capital, and people tend to be a bit shady. From the faces of the people on some of the streets, I believed it.
The market itself has a very ethnic vibe, full of colours and a motley collection of sundries such as pirated Jamaican music video DVDs and the hoofs of many animals.
Brixton even has it’s own currency, the Brixton Pound instead of the pound sterling, which is used among the locals to keep money in the community.
Emma, Mike’s assistant, after post-processing an entire night for a client.
Each table has it’s own four-slice toaster.
You cannot cross the ocean to get away from hipsters.
Some local greasy pizza, with a great thin crust that also came somewhat soggy. My glass was a delicious concoction of freshly squeezed orange, carrot, grapefruit, and cranberry juices.
At night we met up with Michele, another professional photographer who lives on a boat. To enter his domicile required climbing a ladder that he’d prop against the dock for his guests. The ladder itself was sturdy, but when the base is anchored to the bottom of a boat that undulates with the waves, it tends to feel a lot less stable.
A power box converted to a key holder.
Michele also lives with two cats roaming around on board, both of whom love attention. As a bonus, you can hear Michele and Mike’s accents, the former of which is delightfully exotic, and the latter of which is comfortingly posh.
The Millennium Dome. View from top of the boat.
Sands Films Cinema Club
The Sands Films Studio to be one of the best kept secrets in London. Their cinema club aims to help expose people to world cinema, the screening room being a red room with several couches. We went to catch an Iranian film called The Colour of Paradise, which I probably enjoyed as much as Mike disliked it, the difference our opinions coming from the fact that I can forgive a lot more in cinema from other cultures.
Before heading out though, we needed food, and I’d always wanted to try some authentic fish and chips while sitting in a London restaurant. Turns out fish and chips is usually a mobile experience. There was only one fish left, a battered cod, so we said, “We’ll have three chips and the fish”.
The chips were thick cut, piping hot, and well salted. I prefer mild fish too, so the cod was perfect.
We had to eat on the run since we were late to the movie, and hung the bag outside the Land Rover when we were finished so it wouldn’t stink up the cabin of the car. It didn’t really work.
Before screening the film, the host talks a little bit about the circumstances and background to better understand the context in which the film was made. It was also the British premiere of this film, according to him. He also had a great accent, probably a mix of several areas.
Europe 2010 travel diaries
- France: Arrival
- France: Day 3, Chartres
- The Partisan
- France: Day 5, Chartres
- Baby Scary Party
- France: Day 6, Paris
- Call me McNgangus
- France: Day 7, Rochefort-en-Terre
- France: Day 8, La Roche-Bernard
- France: Day 9, Rochefort-en-Terre
- UK Detour: Day 10, Chartres to London
- UK Detour: Day 11, London
- A passenger in London
- UK Detour: Day 12, London
- UK Detour: Day 13, London to Ullapool
- UK Detour: Day 14, Ullapool
- UK Detour: Day 15, Ullapool
- UK Detour: Day 16, Ullapool
- France: Day 18, Paris
- France: Day 19, Chartres + Paris