Hello world!

Hello,

As I’ve wandered through life, I’ve met some wonderful people from around the world. Here I blog about finding their Country’s presence in London, making London all the more colourful.   For  any particular country, just click the ‘country’ categories on the right. Keep coming back – your country may be next.  All ideas welcome.

And my thanks to this site also. It shows that the UK’s citizens include people born in  possibly every country in the world. Remarkable.

“Proverbs”  provides links to my presentations at the AIP-IAP Colloquium most Novembers since 2007 and held in the historic town of Tavira in Portugal’s Algarve.

“Songs to Teach History” provides links to little songs that do just that.  Sing along and have fun.

John

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Bucolic Bliss

London’s Regents Park in the summer is bucolic bliss, offering  a few moments’ escape from the troubles of the real world.  Around every corner some new interest awaits: live music at the bandstand, a lake on which tiny paddle boats glide along,  mature trees offering shade for picnics. To the north are sports facilities and the famous zoo,. The Park’s northern border is formed by the Regents Canal, a serene stretch of water in a deep cutting,  with still air and  delightful strolls passed spectacular  houses – who are these people? The Park is surrounded by elegant architecture, mostly housing even if some is now used as colleges, while the surrounding road is denied to commercial traffic.   Cafes abound.

Of particular interest is a central area within a circular road  – “the inner circle”.  Here is the Queen Mary Rose Garden,  the Open Air Theatre, the Begonia Garden, and the Japanese Garden.  A central broadwalk runs from South to  North where gushes the Triton Fountain.  Everywhere there are secluded alcoves encouraging composure and meditation.

Historically this Inner Circle was leased to the then Royal Botanic Society which laid out the lawns and lake.    The lake now forms part of the Japanese Garden with its magnificent waterfall. The rose  gardens were then introduced.   The Triton Fountain stands where once stood  the botanical glass house.   Lots of  Regents Park history here.   And here. 

 

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See also on Google maps  here.

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Summer Music in the Park

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Summer 2018 : Come see the Klezmer in the Park

 

The Inner Circle:

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The Triton Fountain in full flow

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The Boy and the Frog – Begonia Garden

 

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The Japanese  Garden

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Spiritual Stones

 

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Former Botanical Garden – The Lake is  now part of the Japanese Garden.  Fascinating history of the Park 1800 to date here,

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The Regents Canal – The North border of Regents Park.

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Macclesfield Bridge – on map here.

 

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One of six new villas along the Regents Canal.  Architect Quinlan Terry. 

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Yalta 1945

Across the road from the  Victoria and Albert Museum,  South Kensington, and at the east side of the Ismaili Centre lies the Yalta Memorial Garden,   a small triangular plot, lined by hedges.  Here stands the memorial  “The Twelve Responses to Tragedy”  (otherwise known as  the Yalta Memorial, though there is no mention of Yalta there) by sculptor Angela Conner., FRBS  who lives and works in  London.  The memorial commemorates the thousands of people displaced as a result of decisions at the 1945  Yalta Conference towards  the conclusion of World War II.  The memorial was dedicated in 1986 to replace a previous memorial of 1982 that had been repeatedly damaged by vandals opposed to what it represented.

The Yalta conference was attended  by President Franklin D. RooseveltPrime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin,. The conference was convened near Yalta in CrimeaSoviet Union, within the LivadiaYusupov, and Vorontsov Palaces.

The conference was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe and how  to give self-determination to the liberated peoples.  However, within a few short years, and the coming of the  Cold War,  many people were forcibly repatriated and thousand of lives were lost.  Hence Yalta became the subject of much controversy.  The  memorial  is  in  effect a permanent criticism of the decisions reached.

 

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Roosevelt and Churchill in Bond Street.  See streetview here.  A copy was in Hampstead – streetview here – now sold.

 

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Katyn 1940 Remembered

 

Following the Russian occupation of Poland in 1939, many Poles were forcefully transferred to Russia while others were massacred in their homeland.  In what was  then  Eastern Poland in  the area of Kaytn it is now recognised that thousands of soldiers and officers were murdered in 1940.  It was at this  time that Poles came in great numbers to Britain,  many serving in the British Army and Airforce, not least as pilots in the Battle of Britain.  It is from this date that the now substantial Polish  community in Britain developed, particularly in West London.

In Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London there stands a  substantial memorial to those Poles murdered in the forests of Katyn. The memorial is a striking black obelisk, erected (controversially at the time)  in 1976, though the massacre it commemorates was acknowledged by the Government of the U.S.S.R. only in 1990.  This 1990 acknowledgement is recorded on an additional plaque ( as shown in one of the photos below).

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See Katyn Memorial website ( with good photos) here.  Much background and research here.  

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The Obelisk was erected in 1976, so this 1990 acknowledgement, recorded on this additional  plaque, must have been added at that date.

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All Saints Day ceremony at the Polish cemetery in Gunnersbury (London). 2.11.2008.

 

To add to Polish woes, there was an air crash in 2010 near the city of  Smolensk ( in West Russia – see on map)  killing all 96 people on board. Among the victims were the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria.   The flight was carrying many high-ranking Polish officials to ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. The site of the massacre is approximately 19 km west of Smolensk. There was a memorial service at the Katyn obelisk in Gunnersbury cemetery to mark the tragic crash,  as here.  

 

Polish War Memorial at Northolt aerodrome, West London.  See the War Memorial on Google streetview here. 

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Festival in Ealing, West London. Not forgotten.  Proposed additional memorial at Hyde Park- as explained here.  

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Ready to fly again !

 

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From Kyoto to Fukushima

Holland Park is a much loved 22-hectare space  in wealthy Kensington,  central west London,  here.   Of the many points of interest within the park, one remarkable attraction is the Kyoto Garden.    The Garden was created in 1991 as a gift from the city of Kyoto, Japan,  to commemorate the long friendship between Japan and Great Britain. The garden is a traditional Japanese garden with tranquil tiered waterfalls,  a serene lake with attractive reflections and beautiful koi carp. There are stone lanterns, bamboo structures, spiritual stones, a stone bridge and Japanese maple trees, all  set in elegant lawns. A winding circular path guides the visitor calmly around the lake, and offers new views at every turn.   There are constant changes of colour throughout the seasons.  As intended, it’s a wonderfully serene place for relaxation and contemplation.

In July 2012 the Kyoto Garden was extended with the addition of the Fukushima Memorial Garden, to  acknowledge the gratitude of the Japanese people to the British people for their support following the natural disasters that struck in March 2011.

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Fukushima Garden

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Ichiba at Westfields

In July 2018 the Japan Centre  opened a huge store in Westfields, Shepherds Bush., called “Ichiba” (translates as “Market Place”)              Twitter here.    

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‘Japan House’ opens in Kensington

As set out on its website Japan House is the new [opened  Friday 22 June 2018] cultural home of Japan in London.  It presents  Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, and technology, and helps an  appreciation of all things  Japanese.  Part of a global initiative led by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are two other Japan Houses, one  in Los Angeles, USA,  and one in  São Paulo, Brazil. Helpful  welcome comments by many, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan,  here.

Japan House London’s opening day, Friday 22 June 2018 , was celebrated by an interactive procession of flowers , designed by Azuma Makoto, through the streets and green spaces of Kensington.

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Located on London’s Kensington High Street, Japan House is a great way to get to know more about Japan.  Well worth a visit.

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Japan House, Kensington High Street / Derry Street.  “The new cultural home of Japan in London”.  Opened 2018.  .Website here. 

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Exhibition of work of Japanese Architect Sou Fujimoto at Japan House.

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Japan House. Exhibition of the work of Japanese Architect Sou Fujimoto from 22 June to 05 August 2018.     Exhibition Title  is ” Futures of the Future”.

Japanese Architect Sou Fujimoto also designed  the 2013 Summer Pavilion in Kensington Gardens. It was very popular and much admired.  More on the dezeen.com website here. You can also see 2018’s  Summer Pavilion by Mexican architect Frida Escobedo  on this blog here. 

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2013 Summer Pavilion in Kensington Gardens by Sou Fujimoto.

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Tanabata

Tanabata is a Japanese festival that celebrates the coming together of two stars, called Orihime and Hikoboshi, who can only meet once a year.

Tanabata , meaning “Evening of the seventh”, also known as the Star Festival, celebrates the meeting of the gods Orihime (the weaver girl) and Hikoboshi (the shepherd boy), represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively. According to legend, the lovers are banished to separate sides of the Milky Way, and allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The date of Tanabata varies by region of the country, but the first festivities begin on 7 July of the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is held at various days between July and August. [thanks to wiki].

In present-day Japan, people generally celebrate this day by writing wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on tanzaku, small pieces of paper, and hanging them on as bamboo wish tree called as  ‘sasadake’, sometimes with other decorations.  “Japan Centre” [on this blog here] in Panton Street has its  own good blog.

In 2018 celebrations in London seem modest : –

 

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see the tanzaku,     Hiragana writing system   [blue]     た  な  ば  た = TA_NA_BA_TA.                         Kanji  writing system [green, bottom]     寿 司 = sushi

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Tanabata at ‘Wasabi’ , Kensington High Street.     わ  さ  び = WA_SA_BI

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In 2017 Tanabata was celebrated in style over 2 days at Kew Gardens – as here. 

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The Embassy of Japan, alongside Japan Society, Kew Gardens and Japan House London, held a special 2 day event in August 2017 full of performances, activities, and talks to mark this ancient festival.

The Tanabata story is told here:

 

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