noises - further off

Published by: mike on 1st Feb 2018 | View all blogs by mike

     On a patch of grass by the ‘National Portrait Gallery‘ - just off Trafalgar Square -  a homeless ex-solder has erected a tent.  He explains his situation in neat words scrawled on a piece of cardboard. He even writes down the name of his regiment. The area around his tent is kept neat and tidy and there are no discarded cartons of food or water bottles. How could someone this organised and ingenious, land on the street?  

     Four people - huddled in sleeping bags at the junction of Charing Cross Road and St Martin’s Lane - are not so tidy.  Adrift, in side passage, someone is asleep in a sleeping bag.

    The local church does what is can under its remit of pastoral care.   Local charities provide food. On certain days a food kitchen - I think a mobile food bank - comes to the Strand and food is distributed

 .  An article in a local newspaper -  about the homeless - resulted in quite a few readers’ responses and some thought the provision of hostels an unsatisfactory solution.  I think, years ago, the phrase ‘a half-way house’ was used.  The Welfare State should act as the church does. There is a homeless unit - but no homes.

    Coming back to Charing Cross Station, I saw the other side of the problem. A bearded man, rather unsteady on his feet, has approached a pedestrian.   This occurred in the passage way by St Martins-in-the Field.  The pedestrian brushes him away and walks at speed.  The beaded man swears under his breath and approaches me.  I must admit I was scared.  He shrugged his shoulders and walked further down the street.  He seems drunk.   It is not yet eleven o clock,

    This happened this morning.   Buying ‘Stories for Homes’ provides cash for ‘Shelter’ and you get stories for your money.  Someone selling ‘The Big Issue’ is a street vendor and buskers sell their songs.  I don’t see how giving money to a stranger who accosts you in the street solves the problem.  


      More moans follow and an odd issue about street busking,

  Earlier this week a presenter on the early morning radio news  (London BBC) said something along the lines, “Of course, there are no jobs in the arts.’  

    The context had been a report.  Secondary schools have reduced time spent on art projects.  Schools have and even abandoned art and media courses for academic attainments.    

    A women who works in the media was given a right of reply and she said something along the lines: ‘Unfair advantage is given to students in the private sector who are permitted these subjects’.  The male presenter did not reply to this!

    Are there no jobs in the arts?   There are now at least twelve theatrical venues along the South Bank.  This is bordering the Thames from Tower Bridge to Waterloo Bridge.  Many of these have been constructed reIatively recently. I am reading  Matt Haig’s latest book “How to Stop Time’  The hero embarks on backwards time travel and mentions ‘Bankside’ and the year 1599. In 1599 Bankside’ was the site of the Globe and Shakespeare appears in the novel. I am older than anybody else  - and Mat Haig’s hero.  I can remember when the site of the Globe had been the carpark of the local council, ‘Tait Modern’ was a boarded up redundant building.  

    These new venues employ a vast range of talents and people with various vocational skills.What about the staff who keep the theatres operational?  Hammers and nails are still required 

  I don’t know?  But I wonder how much the construction of the Globe contributed to the regeneration of the whole area?   The Festival Hall has been restored and is now one of the most popular venues in London and has an international reputation as an arts complex.   I am off to the Festival Hall tonight.  for Dvorak and a free concert beforehand.  (All for the price of £11) I got to the theatre often instead of staying at home with a bottle of wine and the TV.    £11 is the cost of a take-away pizza,  You have to get your priorities right.  Mind you, a choir seat is o’kay unless you are seated behind the tuba.


    A  street theatre problem.  Busking related.

    Last saturday I went to the theatre.  

     ‘Nosies off’ refers to sounds which occur outside the stage.    In the play , a fog horn is sounded and, as the pay progresses, you become aware that fog - and the sound of the foghorn - are essential to the plot.  

     In the first act I heard the sound of music which come from the rear of the theatre - as did the sound of the foghorn.   These ‘nosies off’ seemed to be some sort of fairground music or a party in progress. The sounds continued.  The noise become intrusive and then faded away.  I assumed the sounds were part of the plot; they might have represented entertainments performed on a harbour shore.

     After the performance, I asked one of the stewards in the foyer - about the music  - and he said they had been aware of the problem. This had been caused by  Hari Krishna which had halted outside the theatre.  The stewards had requested that the group should move on.  Hari Krisha  had refused to go - along with their cymbals and chanting.

   I can see the humour in this - but!    My hearing is not too good, so I had rushed down to the theatre early in the morning - on the first day of the production - to get a day seat, hopefully near to the front of the stage.  Day seats are often seats with a restricted view. (There was already a queue for these seats at 9 in the morning.)

   I achieved my aim.  I got a seat in the second row from the front, near the side of the theatre and could see - and hear - very well.   Much of the action took place centre stage,

   If I could hear the fairground sounds, the actors certainly could. It is amazing that they gave no indication of the intrusive sound at all, and  this led me to believe the music was part of the play!   The dialogue in this play is intense.

    The noise must have disturbed the audience in the rear stalls - and the balcony. I think the Hari Krishna should have moved on.  However, they would have caused disturbance in another theatre in whatever direction they moved!  If you know London, this theatre is just off Leicester Square.  Balancing the rights of the actors against the rights of the Hari Krishana mendicants, I think I might favour the actors, but is it a difficult question. 




  • mike
    by mike 6 months ago
    A major South London building project seems to have been put on hold, The reason appears to be that the construction firm involved is unwilling to provide any social housing. What social housing there had been - in the area - was knocked down a few years ago and the local council estates have now been replaced by expensive flats.
    There is such a hatred of any projects that benefit a community, This is true of public transport, the parks et, etc etc. It took me two and a half hours to get home from the Debbie do - a distance of less than 6.8 miles. I calculated the cost at about £2 a mile, I am lucky I have a freedom pass which is a universal benefit. The homeless do not have a freedom pass, so I am wrong. It is not a universal benefit.
  • Caducean Whisks
    by Caducean Whisks 6 months ago
    A thoughtful piece, Mike, and well-written. Lots to say about lots of it, but where to start?
    I remember London of forty years ago, too, and it was certainly easier to get about; and quicker. That seems barking, given that there are now plenty more tube lines and bus stops, a congestion charge (which just seems to cause it) and so on. I used to drive around London with ease, and always found somewhere to park. Wouldn't dream of it now.
    The human population is exploding. And with it come all those stresses and strains and pressure on just about everything.
  • Athelstone
    by Athelstone 6 months ago
    I lived in London mid 1974 to 1975. The minimum tube fare was 5p and that would take you four or five stops depending on where you were. Every station had simple ticket machines with the larger stations several and, of course, kiosks. I could travel from Wimbledon at the end of the district line to central London, Leicester Square or Oxford Street say, for 30p which sky-rocketed to 35p a month or so after I arrived. The buses were cheaper with a 3p minimum. For a similar price to the tube, I could get an overground train from Raynes Park to Central London. I never really paid much attention to prices over the years until I need to take a fairly complicated trip through London a few years back when I was just floored by the eye-watering cost and almost wilful-complexity of the system. So things have got a bit more simpler now that you can use contactless cards to travel, but for anyone from abroad or out-of-town, what an advertisement for the UK capital.
  • Tony
    by Tony 6 months ago
    I enjoyed reading this piece, Mike - as I usually do with what you write. A little slice of a day in central London. All human life is here. You observe it for us and include us in your observation so easily. Thanks.
  • Jill
    by Jill 6 months ago
    I enjoyed this piece too, Mike. I think you know that our family, now in the States, have lived in London at various times. Also that our son and daughter-in-law have sung in choirs in various venues. Therefore, we know parts of London fairly well and it is good now to 'visit' through your blogs on London life without actually having to cope with the hustle and bustle of city life! Thank you for posting. Jx
  • mike
    by mike 6 months ago
    two and a half hours to do 6.8 miles. What happened. I walked to Nunhead Station with the intention of getting the train to Victoria and getting of at Lewisham where I could transfer to my commuter line which runs to Sevenoaks. There were no staff at Nunhead and few people on the platform,. An indictor board informed us that indictor boards were not working properly, and that there were problems on the Victoria line. Times were given for a half hour device with the board informing us of delays. After some time a train drew up and we were informed by a voice though loudspeakers on no account to board the train as it was passing through. Nevertheless the train stopped. doors opened and we all, tentatively, boarded. The train turned out to be the Thameslink line that goes from Bedford to Sevenoaks. I got out at Bromley where I could get a bus home. At Bromley, the train driver informed the remaining passengers that the train would go no further as there was no driver to take the over the controls. A train official checked tickets on the train!
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