Cooling down

Dog in the fountain

We’ve had a cracking few days weather-wise this week in London. It’s been hot hot hot. I would’ve preferred to be sitting on the beach in Brighton than sitting in the office in London, but there you go. The heat made me think of a picture I took in Madrid last month when a walker let her dog paddle through a fountain to cool off. It must’ve felt heavenly.

~ Spotted Cow

Snap Chat. Same shot, different perspective

Dinghy

Anchor

One summer, while walking along the Brittany shore I spotted a dinghy with its anchor exposed by the washed out tide. The anchor was old, textured and corroded. And the dinghy had a bright sun-streaked orange-red rim. Both things were interesting but which should I take the photo of?

I decided that I wanted both objects in the picture to demonstrate the connection between them, but only focus on one in order not to divide your attention. So I set a low f-stop number to control the depth of field. I took two photos – one focussed on the dinghy and the other on the anchor. Both were taken on the same setting: ISO 200, 70mm, f5.6, 1/250s, on a summer’s afternoon at about 5.30pm when the sun had lost its intensity.

For choice, I prefer the anchor picture. What do you reckon?

~ Spotted Cow

 

Seville, in August

Seville bullring and bullfighter statue

In the last week of August, I went to Seville. I love Seville and I’ve been more times than I can count, with various friends and family and different times in the year.

This time, I did a flamenco dance course with the inimitable Pastora Galvan, whose hip swivels, shoulder shrugs and backward bends left me both frustrated and inspired by the end of the week, not to mention the lighting footwork and razor-sharp finger snaps.

I didn’t take my camera because I spent 3+ hours every morning in the school, and then there was the necessary eating, showering and cooling down afterward. The afternoons were stupendously hot – on two days it was above 40ºC – and the sun was intense. I stayed indoors, flat out on the bed with the air-conditioning on full blast. So, no pictures, apart from the few that I’ve taken on my phone.

The Slow Pace girls gave me a list of eating recommendations – thanks ! I wish I could have got to all of them, especially Abades Triana which they wrote about on their blog. The heat got the better of us. Next time. It was difficult to narrow down, but I’m going to put my Top 5 eating/drinking/flamenco tips from this trip.

1. Ena, the terrace bar at the Alfonso XIII hotel. Calle San Fernando, 2. The Alfonso XIII is a beautiful old world hotel built in the mudejar style. I didn’t stay here – I wish ! – but we had sunset cocktails on the terrace bar, sitting on comfy cushions against the lush setting of the gardens.

2. El Rinconcillo. Calle Gerona, 40. A really lovely traditional bar and restaurant with hanging hams, a long wooden bar, and beautiful tiled walls. We had Sunday lunch in the salon. My favourite dish is the espinacas con garbanzos or spinach with chickpeas. Theirs is Sevillian style, fused with plenty of cumin.

3. Casa Morales. Calle Garcia de Vinuesa, 11. A traditional tapas bar, just south of the Cathedral, where you sit among large terracotta earthenware jars. It’s small and gets crowded quickly at lunchtime. The menu is on the blackboard, and the wait staff will tell you the day’s special. On the day we went, it was arroz con carrillada, or rice with Iberian pork cheeks. Delicious !

4. Victoria Eugenia. Calle Cuna, 2. A restaurant that seems to specialise in cod dishes, because that’s what made up much of the menu. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve eaten here even though I saw later that the tripadvisor reviews were mixed. This time it was cod croquetas and artichoke hearts with cured ham. So good ! It’s a couple of doors down from the Casa de la Memoria – below – which is handy after watching a flamenco show.

5. Casa de la Memoria. Calle Cuna, 6. There are plenty of flamenco shows in town, but Casa de la Memoria is my favourite because they have good artists, so you’ll always get a good show even if you don’t know who they are. This is where I first saw Pastora Galvan years ago. It’s a lovely intimate venue and there are two showings a night at 19.30h and 21.00h. Also, they don’t make you buy a food and drink package, which I think is a bonus.

~ Spotted Cow

Spanish finger food

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

Rooftop view of the Blue Mosque

As I’ve just come back from my main summer holiday – which was a Turkey photography trip – it’ll have to be Summer Lovin’ Istanbul for this Weekly Photo Challenge. Istanbul is a wonderful vibrant city, simultaneously relaxed and energetic, albeit a bit hot this time of year.  Still, the evenings are perfect for sunset cocktails on the rooftop, ideally with a view of the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia.

I’m looking forward to going through my photographs over the coming weeks. Right now though, I have to tear myself away from looking through the images and get onto mundane chores like the mountain of filthy laundry on the floor. I need a Post-Holiday Unpacking Fairy.

Stay tuned to see the photographs. Or add your email address in the box to be sure that you get the updates.

~ Spotted Cow

Summer Reading

Summer reads

Summer is here. The days are long. Easier office hours and holidays are around the corner. I’m hoping to catch up on my Book A Month resolution. I’m up to number 5.

The trouble is, I’m reading three books simultaneously so I don’t get over the line easily. It’s not as mad as it sounds. The one I’m reading properly is Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris, which is pretty much like The Office tv series but in book format. I cringe when I spot my own dysfunctional behaviour.

The other two are books I dip in and out of.  One is 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by the Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang. Yes, I know, it’s a little bit eclectic. But if you want to know why your life isn’t much enhanced in spite of rising incomes and better technologies, there is a very good discussion in here. And the chapters are short.

The other is El Monje Que Vendió Su Ferrari – The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – by Robin Sharma. I’m learning Spanish and a self-help book is the most straightforward kind of book to read. I’ve learnt the word for leadership … although haven’t had the opportunity to use it in conversation yet !

In the pre-Kindle days, I used to be able to spot the popular books by what people were reading in the tube. Now, almost everyone has an electronic reading device and it’s impossible.  I still don’t have a Kindle and because I’m not on-trend, I tend to buy books secondhand on eBay.

Anyway, I was hunting down light summer reads and found some ideas on EssieButton’s blog, where she’s made a selection with Books and Quills. There’s an entertaining little video to go with it. I’ve plonked for The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ll let you know how I get on.

http://www.essiebutton.com/2014/06/18/easy-reads-booksandquills/

~ Spotted Cow

Summer Exhibition at the RA

Rabbits

My London summer to-do list usually includes the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of the Arts. It’s usually a little bit mad because there are so many pieces of art spanning the spectrum of traditional, alternative and 3-dimensional media. And they’ve been running this big open entry exhibition for 250 years. That’s just amazing.

To start with, when you walk into the Wohl Central Hall, you are greeted by a life-sized sculpture of a man balancing a dozen cakes on his back. It made me smile and it wasn’t the quirkiest piece I saw that evening. Several of the rooms were hung with wall to wall, floor to ceiling pieces of art in a jigsaw of frames – so many that you don’t know where to look first. You need to go to the exhibition more than once to take it all in properly … although I’ve never done that.

The best thing about the Summer Exhibition is that it is accessible. There is £20 art and there is £20,000 art, but it doesn’t matter. As long as a piece speaks to you in some way, it has made its mark.

~ Spotted Cow

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Red Dot art Bathing beauty artCut-outsMan with dozen cakes sculpture

The Circus Comes To Town

Limbo troop

If you haven’t already, you really ought to get tickets to Limbo at the London Wonderground on the South Bank. It is sheer fun. The best way to describe it is a cabaret acrobat circus. They are a troop of talented musicians and acrobats who have a multitude of performance skills apart from their own special ones.

Oh, and they are all fit and hot. I’m not just talking about the fire-eater, Heather Holliday, who literally heats up the stage as you watch in awe while she blows breaths of flames into the air. She also swallows swords … I have to say had a bit of a gag reflex to this. There’s the bendy man who seems to be able to disassociate all the bits of his body. A pole climber. The Bird on the Hoop. The vaudeville dancer. The man who handstands on anything. I’ll stop now because I’m trying not give too much away.

I went with my friends, collectively, The Theatre Enthusiasts and we sat in the Posh Seats in the front row and this is where it’s at. You make eye contact with the performers, which makes all the difference.

After the show, when we were having drinks in the dodgem cars and gushing over who we fancied most, the cast spilled out. The circus master came over and told us that we were the best front row ever. It was all down to Irish Friend, who was particularly expressive that evening – screaming, howling and laughing in turn.

Photography isn’t allowed during the performance, and the pictures here come from the promotional images for the Limbo show. It’s on at the South Bank until mid-August. I’m hoping that they’re on at the Sydney Festival when I’m home, so that I can go again.

~ Spotted Cow

Limbo on stageLimbo FireEater

Street Art London

Pablo Delgado prostitutes

We’ve having wonderful summer weather in London and it has motivated me to get out and about. One Sunday afternoon, I went on the Street Art London walking tour which traipses around the areas of Old Street, Shoreditch, Hoxton and Hackney.

These Street Art London guys have a good network with local street artists, are familiar with their signature styles and keep up with the ever-changing scene. A lot of street art gets cleaned up by the council and what is around one week is gone several weeks hence. It’s a tough old world unless you’re Banksy.

My favourite piece on the walk is The Wasp at the Old Street roundabout. I already knew it but didn’t know its story. It was made by the artist Zadok one Friday night and he finished to a round of applause. The building owner loved it, and there it stays, preserved. Because of course, graffiti of this kind is illegal.

Big well-known pieces in a public area attract other artists and therefore, you tend to find the art occurring in clusters. Increasingly, however, street art and graffiti are becoming accepted art forms and some of the pieces we saw were commissioned.

As you would walking around a museum, I liked some pieces and I didn’t like others. I can’t possibly describe everything I saw – and it would take the fun out of your tour – but there were two that I found especially fascinating. One was Ben Wilson’s colourful works on chewing gum that’s been permanently embedded into the pavement. And the other was the Mexican-born Pablo Delgado whose humorous miniature paper scenes are elusive to the un-trained eye. You have to get down and dirty on the pavement to spot them.

Note though, the tour is 4 hours and includes a lunch break at the halfway point. I went on a hot day and flagged in afternoon sun in the last half hour of so. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and at £15, great value for money.

Enjoy the pictures.

~ Spotted Cow

Street Art London tourUnicorn Crab mosaic Stick art & girl mural Ben Wilson chewing gum artThe Wasp Zadok