I was able to take in some London sights during ‘permitted’ lockdown exercise times. Invariably this meant early morning jogging away from the crowds, headphones set resolutely around my ears, with upbeat tunes blasting like splashes of cold water on the face. BTS currently plays this role for me: aside from the occasional English phrase I don’t understand what they are saying (part of their charm), but I like the summer vibe beats that also remind me of pre-Covid trips to Asia.
As summer presses in and lockdown eases, I won’t be too relaxed yet. I plan on keeping my guard up, continuing to stay safe and alert, and see out balmy months filled with work projects and quieter urban landscapes.
I didn’t take this final photo while out jogging but, rather, simply walking around the city pre-lockdown.
Top: Houses of Parliament, Westminster
Second row (left, right): London Eye; South Bank Lion
Third row (left, right): Park Plaza Hotel; London Eye
What a rollercoaster of a few months it’s been since I wrote my previous post.
Back in December when I published that article, my head was full of the pernicious effects of climate change on our environment and lives. I was staying in San Lucido, a quiet small town in Calabria, southern Italy. With an apartment overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, I had hidden away to focus on my latest client project: researching, writing and editing articles on global disaster risk reduction, with climate change playing a leading role. Little did I realise then that another risk – an infectious disease – had already emerged and manifested (we now know in retrospect). And that the beautiful country in which I found myself would become a prime target.
Mid-February found me in the Turkish-controlled northern side of Cyprus. Amidst the myriad of colourful K-Pop bands on the South Korean TV channel I took to watching, emerged a steady stream of news about a creeping SARS CoV-2 virus. I watched as drivers were stopped at drive-through stations by heavily cladded testers; and listened to reports on intensive contract tracing using sophisticated mobile tech. Koreans raised concerns about privacy but acquiesced, perhaps mindful of MERS and SARS. “Take care, keep your loved ones safe” a TV presenter ended one news segment. Time to go home, I thought.
My Airbnb landlord told me he was off work with flu. I commiserated, adding anxiously: “Are you sure it wasn’t COVID?” His doctor had decided against testing him because he had no fever or cough, he WhatsApp’d back. Yep, time to head back to the UK. Which I did, just as the borders shuddered to a close across Cyprus and the rest of Europe.
Not that the UK was in much better shape. Even as massive efforts against COVID-19 took flight over February and early March in other countries, we gave infections an easy passage. On March 11, for example, some 52,000 fans watched my brother’s favourite football club – Liverpool – play Atletico Madrid on home ground. No, my brother wasn’t one of them.
My visit to Ebisu encapsulates some of the reasons for my recent first time visit to Tokyo: the cultural offerings, the food, and fresh experiences. I daresay the landscape and geography have much to recommend themselves too, but, alas, time cut short my tasting of those.
First impressions of Ebisu? That’s it’s an upscale part of town. A quick stop off first for a healthy salad and prosciutto lunch at Dean & DeLuca. Then, a walk past fashionable clothes shops and a long escalator walkway led me to entrance of the museum. The two exhibitions I opted for cost £10 and were worth it: the 2019 World Press Photo award winners, and Shimada Tadashi, a Japanese photography who documents wildlife through his camera, especially birds, and especially kingfishers.
Nature photography isn’t really my thing but I’m so glad I tried something different. His photographs are terrific, traced from his early 1965 offerings (taken with a pretty impressive advanced-looking Canon) to stunning photos taken in Japan and other parts of the world.
Not only does he capture the exuberant colours and characteristics of the animals, but in my opinion, the ‘background’ landscapes are beautifully shot. There’s one with a hapless captured frog caught in the beak of a hungry bird practically ‘moves on the canvas’. Hope that doesn’t sound too pretentious – I think you can surmise that I enjoyed the exhibition, and I think kids too would love it. Note that taking photos of the exhibits isn’t allowed.
The pictures from the World Press Photo Awards exhibition were, as I expected them to be, thought-provoking and well-documented. The winner is that one you’ve seen in the newspapers of the crying little girl looking up, as the viewer can see just the torsos of her mother who is being handcuffed, and the US border officer taking them into custody. Other photos too remind of troubles in Yemen, Afghanistan, Europe, America and other places.
And yet there’s also humour, albeit with an undertone of disquiet. A young Iranian girl, desperate to attend and watch a football match against authority rules, has dressed as a man. A sceptical male-onlooker glances in her direction, perhaps unconvinced by her disguise.* A female boxer’s face is contorted like some horror-cartoon character as her opponent smashes into her. More wry than funny ha ha.
13 September 2019 UPDATE – the death of Sahar Khodayari, however, stops any laughter. Read –
There is a ‘nature’ section at the exhibition too. Photos of the puma (also known as the cougar) capture a creature which is ‘shy’ and retiring yet (both males and females) will stalk their prey for an hour before attacking.
But that wasn’t the end of my afternoon. As I left the museum and walked around, across the way I caught sight of the Yebisa Beer Museum. And who would have thought a museum about beer could be so – engaging. The voyage starts from the beer’s Germanic influence and launch in 1890, to 1904 when a bottle of beer cost ten times more than a bowl of soba noodles, through to its contemporary re-emergence.
And, of course, the journey ends with a real-life draft.