Tag Archives: London

Green Spaces in London (and New York)

The Mayor believes parks and open spaces are key to the capital’s quality of life, and will invest over £220 in a new drive to improve London’s Great Outdoors – see the new Manifesto for Public Spaces unveiled on 16th November 2009.

Previously £6 million was spent in improving the quality and safety of London’s parks, funded from efficiency savings from the previous administration’s publicity budget with a high priority on clean, safe and attractive green spaces for all Londoners to enjoy.

The Help a London Park scheme was developed as part of his initiative to clean up and improve London’s rundown green spaces.  The scheme improved ten parks across London. Those who live or worked in London had the opportunity to choose which parks were to be improved. 

The Mayor announced the winner of his Premier Park award — a grant of £2 million. This is Burgess Park in the London Borough of Southwark.

London Open Squares weekend last June gave visitors a chance to explore hidden gardens in the city that many Londoners did not even know about. 

 Gotham Girl:  There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city — perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly.

I don’t know which came first – the song lyric or the nickname but New York definitely lives up to the moniker “the city that doesn’t sleep.” I love the fact that right outside my door is an inexhaustible supply of activities to engage in. London is like that too. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been there before – each visit offers a stunning variety of experiences to be had. Of course, each city has its own unique rhythm but both make me happy. I just love the hustle and bustle.

Still – there are some days when I find myself wishing for slightly less bustle. (Such as yesterday on the 6 local train going downtown. I’m not sure rush hour on mass transit is the best time for a strolling mariachi band but that’s another story for another day.) When I’m in the mood for a bit of mental “white space” or want to relax, I head to the park.

Which park? That’s the other beautiful thing about New York and London. There are so many parks to choose from.

London’s large green spaces (Green Park, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park to name but a few) are gorgeous and justifiably considered some of the finest urban parks in the world. I am always finding new things every time I visit. For example, I don’t know why it took me so long to find the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens – I only came across it three years ago – but as soon as I did, it became one of my favorite spots. It also reminds me very much of the Alice in Wonderland that sits nestled in a leafy spot next to the Central Park boat pond. I’ve also spent many happy hours visiting the Regent’s Park Zoo, watching the “lively exchange of views” at Speaker’s Corner and strolling across Hampstead Heath. These famous green spaces are not the only stars in the London park firmament however. There are so many smaller parks and gardens dotting the city — perfect gems of green (with occasional bursts of color). Part of what makes them so delightful is that one comes upon them quite unexpectedly. Well, I come across them unexpectedly. I’m sure the people who live near them find them just where they expect to find them.

London’s vast landscape of “secret gardens” and mega-star parks is one of its most defining features and one that Londoners I know take tremendous pride in it. They are right to be proud. They have some of the most beautiful and best-known parks in the world right at their doorstep.

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Sir Christopher Kelly Report

 Our favourite satirist, Dungeekin, back in the ring with The (Grace) Kelly Report

The (Grace) Kelly Report

So, Dear Reader, today will see Doctor Kelly lance the festering boil that is the MP’s expenses scandal. In his honour, and with the enjoyable spectacle of MPs losing their gravy train ahead, I thought we should have a little song.

[spoken]
I wanna talk to you!
The last time we talked Mr. Kelly you reduced my John Lewis list!
I promise you that won’t happen again!

You tried to redact them,
Tried to conceal them behind spin and lies,
Dishonest and dirty,
Grasping and greedy,
Now it’s you we despise,
The totals are awesome,
Really it’s loathsome,
How you milked us dry!
Why were you greedy?
Living the high life on the cash we supply?

It’s time for the verdict of Kelly, (Oooo)
He says your expenses were bad, (Aaaagh)
The size of your claims were just silly, (Mmmmm)
Your sense of entitlement’s mad!

We paid for your house,
Paid for your booze,
For you to watch porn on Sky!
You were deceitful,
You were just venal,
Claiming for anything you like!
Don’t wanna be mean,
But you were obscene,
Claiming for bath plugs and more!
Why were you greedy?
Why were you greedy?
Why keep on claiming for more?

 

Our Rich Literary History

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Samuel Johnson

Boswell and Johnson were discussing whether or not Boswell’s affection for London would wear thin should he choose to live there, as opposed to the zest he felt on his occasional visits. (Boswell lived in Scotland, and visited only periodically. Some people are surprised to learn that Boswell and Johnson were far from inseparable over the last twenty years of Johnson’s life, the period Boswell knew him.)

This discussion happened on September 20, 1777, and Johnson, someone who hated to spend time alone, was always going out and enjoying what London had to offer.

Now Boris Johnson as Mayor has been promoting historical events in the capital such as:

Trafalgar Square a brief history  

History Brought to Life weekend

Black History Season

 

Not to be outdone, Gotham Girl takes a cross-disciplinary approach with both fiction and non-fiction highlighting some interesting historical and cultural comparisons between London and New York 

  

I’ve recently been re-reading “Here Is New York” an essay by E.B. White (which I cannot recommend highly enough). It’s a 55-page– well, love letter of sorts – written during the summer of 1949 and is considered by many (including me) to be one of the ten best books ever written about the city. I’m not sure what the London equivalent would be… Peter Ackroyd’s London: A Biography maybe? Much bigger than White’s piece and not so much a love letter as it is a collection of love letters. What do you all think?

I’m not suggesting that a single book could do justice to the sweeping scope that is London. Nor do I suggest that White’s piece is, by any means, a complete portrait of New York. You’d need a large bookcase of books to embody a subject as multi-layered and robust as London or New York. More likely, you’d need a whole library.

Luckily, I have plenty of shelf space because I “travel” to London and through New York via books quite a lot and it is travel almost without limits. You can get to know either city by getting to know about the people who left their mark centuries ago or who are leaving their mark now. You can examine the buildings and monuments that dot the city landscapes as well as those that have disappeared. You can read about the industries and social movements that drive the cities through cycles of growth and ruin. Books are, in this way, a handy-sized sort of TARDIS.

Do not think, however, that you must limit yourself to non-fiction when going on these page-turning adventures. Not at all. I read my share of non-fiction and I have a special fondness for biography but fiction can also provide views and (often unexpected) insights into the current and historical worlds of London and New York.

Continue reading Our Rich Literary History

Clean air in the Capital and the problem of Traffic

The Mayor has pledged to clean up the capital’s air, to improve the health of Londoners and enhance our quality of life.   He also called on Government to back the plan with adequate policy and financial support.  Over the coming months he will discuss with government funding for measures included in this strategy as well as developing a shared approach to improve air quality in the capital.

Read more about this draft document ‘Clearing the Air’.

Turning to transport systems, see here for praise for London’s underground system yesterday when the new chief of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority said:   “he hoped to meet customers’ expectations, promised an action plan the end of his first 100 days, and added, “New Yorkers should be able to expect the same type of customer experience riders enjoy in London“—whose transportation system he worked for between 2001-2006—’with accurate arrival information and modern fare technology.’  Hear that, New Yorkers—no more Underground envy!”

New Yorker to the bone, Gotham Girl, now takes us on a trip around London and New York to provide further food for thought on transport systems and the problems of traffic in particular.  She prefers to eschew all modes of transport and wander about the capital on foot.

Over to you, Gotham Girl!

Gotham GalNYC and London are both great but one thing I dislike intensely about both? Traffic. Traffic isn’t unique to these two cities (Let’s all be thankful we don’t drive in São Paulo) but only one – London – seems to have faced up to it.

London traffic is no walk in the park but at least London had the balls to do something about it. Love it, hate it, call it the work of the devil or the best thing since sliced bread – debating the congestion charge is never dull. Some see eliminating the Western extension as cause for celebration while the idea causes economic-heartburn in others. The idea is hotly argued. Agreement may never be reached but the point remains – a problem was identified and action was taken.

Action good. Inaction bad. 

Everyone in NYC knows the city has reached a crisis point but no one seems ready to do anything about it. Mayor Bloomberg proposed a congestion charge for central Manhattan, where traffic is the worst. Opposition came fast and furious. Never have I heard such ungodly kvetching. You’d have thought he was suggesting spit-roasting babies. I really wanted Bloomberg to ignore them and carry on anyway. He’d rammed the smoking ban through and dissolved mayoral term limits without turning a hair. For some reason in this case however, he backed down. Odd and quite unlike him.

  Continue reading Clean air in the Capital and the problem of Traffic

Gotham Girl comes to London

In a series of posts we will hear the views, insights and amusing tales of this inspired longtime Boris supporter who jumps between New York and London at frequent intervals:  Downtown Gotham Girl.

No doubt Gotham Girl would understand Boris when he recently opened London Fashion Week and described London as “the greatest city on earth”.

Gotham Gal
Gotham Girl

I’ve spent time in both New York and London. Like so many others before me, I’ve noticed that the cities have much in common. However, I think the interesting stories lie in how each city manages things – for good or bad – in their own way.

 

 

 Travel

‘New York vs. London’ is popular but inaccurate. It’s not ‘vs.’ It’s not even ‘or.’  It is very much ‘and’.  There is New York and there is London.

Then there is the act of traveling between the two.

I do it rather a lot and travel between the two cities has been very much on my mind lately — partially because I’m overdue for a trip and partially because Boris was in New York recently to meet with Mayor Bloomberg and boost tourism between the two cities. I am all for that idea. In fact, I have done more than my part to boost travel between two of my favorite cities, for years – hosting London-based friends by the planeload, playing tourist myself in London year after year.

One of my favorite parts of the trip – regardless of direction – is that wonderful moment when I am confronted with THE QUESTION.

No, not: “Will the taxi line be ungodly?” – a New York-only question since London does a far better job with trains to and from the airports. Nor is it: “Where will I find a decent Dover sole now that Manzi’s is closed?” though that question still looms large now that Manzi’s is closed.

No, THE QUESTION is “Business or pleasure?”

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Boris Promotes London Tourism in America

statue of liberty
Statue of Liberty (freefoto)

Mayor promotes London as business capital of the world in New York

Latest announcement:

Mayor of London Boris Johnson and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced a two-year tourism agreement between New York City and London to boost travel between the two cities.

The cities will provide each other with outdoor media advertising space and NYC & Company and Visit London – their respective tourism arms – will share best practices as a way to maximise travel between the two destinations and will assist each other with at least one publicity event in each city.

London is the best city in the world to do business, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson told influential New York companies today. The Mayor had the privilege of ringing both the opening bell at NASDAQ and the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, as he called on high tech and cutting-edge American industries to locate in London, the top global destination for digital innovation.

The Mayor is in New York to champion ‘London’.  In a series of financial services and business meetings today, he encouraged New Yorkers to remember the greatness of the past, and to now prove to the world that both New York and London are as confident as ever of their dominant position in the world.

The Mayor outlined his vision of making London the business capital of the world, by creating a global centre for excellence across a range of sectors including high-tech, medical services and creative industries. He told audiences that embracing digital innovation is important for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic as they prepare for economic recovery, emphasising that London’s digital landscape makes it the top place to be. With events such as the London Olympic and Paralympic Games around the corner there has never been a better time or a greater opportunity for businesses to build and showcase their digital capabilities in London.

The Mayor said: “The New York markets house some of the most impressively dynamic companies in the world and is where they go to take innovation and growth to the next level – the same is true for London. Our capital is at a turning point, with opportunities to use its energy, dynamism and diversity to excel as a world beating global city. Never before has the timing been more right for American companies to locate here.

“We have an extraordinary talent in London to develop high tech and hugely creative industries. I want to build on that reputation to ensure we lead the pack, creating new technologies. In the coming years, London will set the benchmark for successful, sustainable and prosperous large world cities and American companies should have one of the lead roles in this.”

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