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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Posted in A World in London, Portugal | Leave a comment

Belgian Village on the Thames

The UK was home to 250,000 Belgian refugees during World War One, the largest single influx in the country’s history.  Germany had invaded Belgium in August 1914 en route for France.  The Belgians fought back but had little chance.  They were forced to flee, mainly for the UK.  Great photos here. 

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Belgians at Ostend on their way to UK.

Here in the UK in some purpose-built villages they had their own schools, newspapers, shops, hospitals, churches, prisons and police. These areas were considered Belgian territory and run by the Belgian government. They even used the Belgian currency.

Few communities in the UK were unaffected by their arrival.. Most were housed with families across the country and in all four nations.  [All thanks to the BBC here].  After the war most returned home.

One such community of perhaps 6,000 was based in London’s Richmond and East Twickenham, where many were employed in the munitions factory built in what is now Cleveland Park alongside Richmond Bridge.  A disused roller skating rink there was bought in 1914 by the French industrialist Charles Pelabon for use as a munitions factory. He built four or five more workshops over the extensive site.

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It’s interesting that one  of Monsieur Pelabon’s  last munitions factories built on the site was the red-brick riverside building of 1915.    In 1924 it became the world renowned Richmond Ice Rink. It closed in 1992 when it was  demolished to make make way for luxury flats.  [All thanks to Wikipedia here.]

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Home of Torville and Dean

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The large number of Belgian refugees arriving during WW1 caused East Twickenham to be known as the Belgian Village on the Thames.

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In 2017, the centenary of WW1,   a memorial stone was laid to commemorate the Belgian presence in  East Twickenham.  The initiative was that of the East Twickenham Centennial Group [“ETCG”].  Congratulations!

The unveiling was accompanied by a site-specific dance performance – see video here.

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Here’s the site on Google maps  – but before the date of the Memorial.  We await a photo.

 

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The Belgium Flag flying to announce the unveiling of the Memorial.

 

 

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On yer – Chinese – bike!

Peking Pedal Power.   Watch out for “fourth generation” dockless bikes for hire!

Making short trips around town  on a hired bike grows more popular.  Until 2017 your trip started and ended at one of the limited number of bike docking stations.  The latest bikes now have built-in GPS.  An app on your mobile shows you the nearest bike.  To unlock  it you simply scan its bar code. At the end you leave it in virtually any safe public place you choose.

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This business  is dominated  worldwide by two new, and already huge,  Chinese companies. These are “Mobike” and its hot rival “Ofo” –  say 10 million bikes each, with a few other companies besides, in particular Irish “Urbo” ( bikes also made in China).  An earlier Chinese company “Bluegogo” has ceased trading.  Operations are in almost 200 cities, mostly in China – Shanghai alone has 1.5 million dockless bikes.   International expansion started in 2017.

After trials in Manchester in 2017 these companies started in some of London’s 32 Boroughs  –  Mobike in Ealing (750),   OfO in Hackney, Islington and The City , and  Urbo in Waltham Forest and now Enfield.   All is very clearly explained here. 

Watch out for a huge increase here in London. Here’s how other cities  are getting on.

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Current style :  with docking stations.    London has about 11,000.

 

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Mobike.        with GPS.  Leave anywhere (safe!)       Ealing.

 

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Clever features.             Solid  tyres = no punctures.

 

 

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OfO        with GPS.  Leave anywhere (safe!)           Hackney, Islington, and The City

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Urbo           with GPS.  Leave anywhere (safe!)       Waltham Forest and now Enfield

 

But beware, things can get out of hand – oh, no!    Some Chinese cities have even banned them. 

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Scrapped bikes China style

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The Liberator of Chile is in Richmond

General Bernardo O’Higgins (1778-1842) was the South American hero who liberated Chile from Spanish rule and became Chile’s first head of state in 1818. O’Higgins lived and studied at Clarence House in Richmond from 1794-1796, aged 16 to 18   While  completing his studies there he developed ideas on nationalism and liberalism,  in an era that had seen the 1776 independence of America from the UK and the 1789 French Revolution followed by Napoleon’s rise to power.

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Erected 1998, 200 years after he left Richmond for Spain, at 20 years of age. More here.  

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Bernardo is by Richmond Bridge. He has a nice view of the River Thames. On google streetview here. 

In August each year there is an annual ceremony to honour his memory.

 

Clarence House at 2 The Vineyard still stands. The blue plaque records his time studying  there.  He want sent to the UK by his father for the purpose of completing his education. While in the UK he was influenced by others, not least the Venezuelan revolutionary Fransisco Miranda as well as Simon Bolivar, the driving force behind the liberation of all South America.  They with others were in London at the time to seek British support for independence from Spain in the wake of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1808.  More here.  

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Clarence House, The Vineyard, Richmond, London. Google streetview here. 

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Blue Plaque,  installed 1998.          As here.  

From Bernardo O’Higgins statue to Clarence House:

The O’Higginiano Institute of Chile promotes his memory worldwide.

The UK continues its strong links with Chile through organisations such as the Anglo-Chilean Society.

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The American Garden

Throughout the 1700s the great houses of England had their huge estates fashioned as gardens by Lancelot Brown     He was known as Capability Brown for advising his clients that their land had “great capability” of “improvement” ( these days his work is not without some controversy – as here). A feature of his style was sweeping “natural” vistas and dense trees, with  colours restricted to shades of green. It contrasted with the formal “Renaissance” style then preferred in Europe, as here. 

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Bowood House, Wiltshire, by Capability Brown.    Good info here.   See map here.

 

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Formal “Renaissance” style garden at Versailles

 

But explorers of the New World were bringing back colourful  Azaleas and Rhododendrons, which were found attractive as a great contrast to the green of the now classic “English Garden”.  Gardens so planted were called “American Gardens”.  A feature of these plants is that they grow in acid soil.   Botanists crossbred the plants with remarkable effect.  In flower in May they can be spectacular.  Though the expression “American Garden” is now rarely used,  several of such gardens remain highly prized in London: Langley Park near Slough,  “Isabella Plantation” in Richmond Park, Kenwood House in Hampstead,  “Rhododendron Dell” in Kew Gardens and,  still using the classic  name, “The American Garden”  (also link here) in Dulwich Park.

This article from the Independent Newspaper explains things well.

And for more than you ever wanted to know about where rhododendrons come from, see here. 

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The American Garden, Dulwich Park

 

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Map of Dulwich Park (American Garden marked on right)

 

 

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Tove Jansson : artist, author and illustrator.

Tove Jansson (1914-2001),   the Swedish speaking Finnish creator of the Moonins,  was much more.  An exhibition of her life and works at Dulwich Picture Gallery shows her as artist, author and illustrator.  The exhibition runs from October 2017 to end of January 2018.

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Family Self Portrait

 

 

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Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

 

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The Gurkhas of Nepal

Soldiers from Nepal have been part of the British Army for over 200 years.

Following the partition of India in 1947, an agreement between Nepal, India and Britain meant four Gurkha regiments from the Indian army were transferred to the British Army, eventually becoming the Gurkha Brigade. Since then, the Gurkhas have loyally fought for the British all over the world, receiving 13 Victoria Crosses between them.

All is well explained here (a BBC website called “Who are the Gurkhas”), and at length on Wiki here.

There is a memorial to the Gurkhas in Horse Guards Avenue, off Whitehall.  See on google streetview here.  

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And we should remember that on 25 April 2015 there was a huge earthquake in Nepal. 9,000 people lost their lives.  Up to 500,000 people were affected,  as explained here.

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Moomins come to town

Early December 2017 saw the opening a new shop in Camden Market devoted entirely to the Moomins and thereby adding to world happiness!

Good background here. 

There is an existing Moomins shop at Covent Garden. The two stores plan to work together to help market Moomin products made by licensed artists.

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