The Postal Museum in London

Posted on August 15, 2018 by Admin under HISTORY, TRAVEL
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Posters on a wall at the Postal Museum

Around the age of ten years old, my father got me interested in stamp collecting, something he had done for many years. I loved looking at the tiny bits of paper from all over the world as I stuck them into my album, trying to imagine what the countries were really like. Later on, this curiosity would lead me to travel to many countries to find out if they lived up to my boyhood expectations.

A Penny Black and a Tuppenny Blue in my collection

After collecting for a while I focussed on Great Britain only as we were the first country to use postage stamps thanks to Sir Roland Hill in 1840. The iconic Penny Black was printed on unperforated sheets so had to be cut into individual stamps at Post Offices with scissors. But it lasted less than a year as the red rubber stamp marks on top to signify it had been used were hard to see. So not long after, it was followed by the Penny Red then the Tuppenny Blue as their popularity grew and they used black to mark them which was easier to see. I am fortunate that I have copies of each of these, albeit not of good enough quality to be of any great value.

Sheet of Penny Blacks

The Postal Museum has a nearly complete sheet of Penny Blacks amongst its treasures I found out on my recent visit there. This small and well laid out museum is tucked away near the main Mount Pleasant sorting office in London and well worth a visit, especially if you have kids as there are many interesting things to keep them interested and amused by presenting a history of post in a very visual and interactive way.

Telegram boy’s motorbike

Some old post office Royal Mail vehicles are on display such as the telegram boy’s motorbike which was in its day a quick way of getting messages around. Sadly, during wartime these boys were nicknamed the ‘Angels of Death’ as they brought telegrams informing that sons or husbands were missing or killed in action.

Arnold Machin plaster for the 1967 stamps

In 1965 Arnold Machin, an artist you might not have heard of, was commissioned to create the plaster of The Queen’s head which was been used on stamps from 1967 so everyone knows his work without realising it.

Mail Rail train and display at a stop en route

The highlight of the museum is the underground railway, Mail Rail, which is narrow gauge and was driverless when operated from 1927 until 2003. Now, with visitors squeezed into tiny carriages and the perspex door closed, it rattles along the tunnels, stopping at key points where audio visual displays are shown which are very effective and well done.

Rattling though the tunnel on the Mail Rail

You can rest assured, they now have a driver! But I did wonder that with the traffic congestion on London’s roads today being so heavy, if it might be a good idea if the railway reverted to its original use – but this is most unlikely to happen.
When you have done the museum and the train ride, a gift shop and cafe make a nice place to relax – all in all a good place to visit.

As for my travels because of stamps;

Yasaka Shrine gateway in Gion in Kyoto Japan

Japan – they engaged me enough to visit the country which I fell in love with and has been a main focus of my life for over 30 years, mainly because my partner comes from Kyoto.

Pat Matheson in her dingy, Vava’u, Tonga

Tonga – the magic of this South Pacific country was another place I had to visit and it exceeded all my expectations thanks to the warmth of the people and a great friend I made there, the American writer Pat Matheson in Vava’u.

So stamps did much more for me than just bringing and sending letters, they inspired me to go around the world, something I am very pleased to have done.

The Postal Museum is at 15-20 Phoenix Pl, London WC1X 0DA

‘Missing Believed Wiped’

Posted on August 12, 2018 by Admin under SHOWBIZ
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A great day of showbiz at BFI on the South Bank for the Kaleidoscope 30 Years ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ event where I met many people, some from the past, some not.

– David Hamilton; we hadn’t met for about 60 years when we were both post boys at ATV Kingsway.

– Abagail Williams; the adopted daughter of Bob Monkhouse who was such a nice man to work with on Family Fortunes, Bonkers, Golden Shot, Celebrity Squares etc.

– Gail Renard; Bafta award-winning writer and a scriptwriter of ATV’s Pipkins, a show when we would let a camera assistant to actually operate a camera for the first time.

– John Henshall; the saviour of a videotape of Top of The Pops with David Bowie singing The Jean Genie, which the BBC had wiped to save money.

– Madeleine Smith; a Bond Girl in the 1973 Live and let Die with Roger Moore, such a lovely lady who knows all about London bus routes.

– Nigel Plaskitt; puppeteer of Hartley Hare on Pipkins, he became a Muppeteer and worked on Central Television’s Spitting Image.

Thanks to Chris Perry and Kaleidoscope for a great day!

https://www.tvbrain.info/

 

Lesley Downer – “When East and West Collided”

Posted on August 1, 2018 by Admin under ART, HISTORY
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At UCL – University College London – London’s leading multidisciplinary university, with 11000 staff and 35000 students, author, novelist and journalist Lesley Downer gave a brilliant and spirited talk, “When East and West Collided”, on the 150 Year Anniversary of Meiji Restoration to an attentive audience in spite of the sauna like heat in the room. She told the story as only a writer can of Japan having to accept a complete change of life after being a closed country for 200 years.

There were also some students from Kagoshima High School who several gave short speeches about the delights of Kagoshima for visitors. Having been there myself I know they are right. But what an experience for them, they will be telling their grandchildren about speaking in such an illustrious educational place in the Central London.

Lesley gave a very spirited talk which was well received in the Gustave Tuck Theatre at UCL, as would be expected as her mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But she ended up almost by accident in Japan, became fascinated by the country, its culture and its people.

She lived in Japan on and off for some 15 years and has written many books both non-fiction and more recently fiction about Japan, the most recent being ‘The Shogun’s Queen’ which has had wonderful reviews.

Travel Photo Tips – Light

Posted on July 23, 2018 by Admin under TRAVEL
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Atkinson Church in New Hampshire, USA

Light plays such a crucial role in all photography but with travel most photo buyers want ‘blue sky’ shots although in recent years atmosphere shots have become more acceptable. This often means waiting for either the sun to come out behind cloud or later in the day at sunset for it to slowly sink behind a great foreground. This can seem a bit pointless and a waste of time to non-photographer partners which can lead to friction so take a bit of time to educate them into exactly what you are doing and why.

Girl coming out of water in Aitutaki, Cook Islands

For example, waiting for a sunset to evolve over a time can be stressful if your partner really, really wants to go and have supper while you know the sunset can only get better, even when the sun has gone.

Sunset on a Cape Cod beach, USA

When going on location I always take a small kit to use in hotel rooms at night or when it’s raining. This comprises; flash with sync lead, small softbox, small lightweight stand and a 20 inch Lastolite reflector. That might seem a lot but not for any real photographer. Used with small still life subjects this enables me to shoot studio pictures anywhere and I have used it for portraits as well. It means also that I always have something to shoot. But being real life, things don’t always work out and on a shoot in Japan I ended up parted from this kit which as we were travelling light on a side trip, I’d left in the suitcase in another city hotel we would return to.

Lunchbox (Japanese bento) in Sendai, Japan

We were given some very attractive looking lunchboxes, too good to eat before shooting, so I had to improvise, and fast, Chizuko was hungry! One thing I did have was a metre square of non-reflective black cloth which can be a background to many subjects. The old fashioned business hotel we were in had all the basics so I got the coffee table and put the bedside 60 watt desk light over the top from behind on a chair. Then I used a newspaper taped up against the tripod legs to reflect fill from in front. Setting the White Balance to 3000K (or as close as goes) to correct the tungsten light, the pictures were a fraction warm in tone, easily corrected with minimal post production.

Police motorcyclist in Piccadilly Circus, London

A lot of photography is ‘thinking on your feet’ and with travel it is also ‘on the run’, always have the camera set to the conditions so you can take a picture within a couple of seconds from seeing it. Never be afraid to experiment, it will only be a few frames after all and it might just work. The lunchbox pictures have done well, and the contents tasted nice too!

Three women at Wadi Rum, Jordan

More blogs will follow on this important subject, telling the story with just one frame too, so keep watching.

RAF 100

Posted on July 16, 2018 by Admin under TRAVEL
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RAF 100 display on Horse Guards Parade

What a fantastic week it was in London for the celebrations around the Royal Air Force and its centenary. In Horse Guards Parade, best known for the annual Trooping the Colour, an impressive display of aircraft from the First World War up to the latest acquisition for the RAF, the F 35 Lightning.

Meteor Mk4 – RAF 100 on Horse Guards Parade

For me, a couple of aircraft stole the show. A Meteor as this was the first jet aircraft I can remember as a kid when we lived in Haringay. I clearly remember the sound of jet engines as two Meteors flew low overhead, so very different from piston engine propeller driven planes. The one on display had broken the world speed record at 622 MPH in 1946.

Douglas Dakota DC3 – RAF 100 on Horse Guards Parade

Then there was a Dakota DC3 which was the type of plane used in the Berlin Air Lift that I had my first flight on a school trip from Croydon Airport to Basel in Switzerland.

My father bought me my first camera, a Brownie 127 which was really an updated box camera as it had no adjustments; I used my sunglasses as a filter to bring the clouds out.

The culmination of RAF 100 events was a flypast with the largest number of aircraft for many years with 100 taking part. The very sound of all the Merlin engines from the Battle of Britain planes, Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane, was truly awe inspiring.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in the RAF 100 Flypast 10 July 2018

The roar of three newest F35 Lightning stealth fighters on their first public appearance was a bit frightening.

F35 Lightnings in the RAF 100 Flypast 10 July 2018

Of course the magnificent Red Arrows display team brought the flypast to a very fitting finale, such skills in making the whole event happen so smoothly in a very British way.

The Red Arrows in the RAF 100 Flypast 10 July 2018

I suspect it won’t be long before fighter aircraft will no longer be manned, drones similar in size and greater firepower will take over the role from anywhere with the pilots looking at a computers.

But until then I hope these aircraft are shown and flown at displays for many more years to come.

Images by Jeremy Hoare and Chizuko Kimura

Daphne Selfe’s 90th Birthday Party

Posted on July 4, 2018 by Admin under ART
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I was delighted to be invited to supermodel Daphne Selfe’s 90th birthday party at an open-air rooftop venue in Shaftesbury Avenue, the Century Club, just right for the hot, sunny weather.

Daphne is the world’s oldest working fashion model, she started her career in 1949 when she was 21 and has graced the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and many other influential fashion and lifestyle magazines since then. She has energy, grace and glamour which belie her years and credits it all to a regime of gardening, yoga and walking to keep young. A grandmother of four, Daphne is now far from alone in championing a life bursting with opportunity and glamour in later years.

I worked with her late husband, ATV Floor Manager Jim Smith, when I joined the company which was run by Great Britain’s greatest ever showman, the charismatic cigar smoking Lew Grade.

Starting as a Post Boy in the ATV Kingsway Mailing Room, I also worked some days in the studios on live shows as a Call Boy (Stage Assistant today) where Jim taught me a lot about studio discipline.

During a break, myself and another Post Boy, Pat Richards, were able to pose on a camera but it wasn’t until four years later that I made it into the camera department as a Camera Assistant which set me on a path that still continues.

At Daphne’s party I even got a cuddle with another guest, the lovely actress Vicki Michelle, best known for her role as Yvette Carte-Blanche in the great (and now not very PC) sitcom, ‘Allo ‘Allo!, which can be found on several Freeview channels.

Daphne is an inspiration to many and a real delight to be with, she featured in the July 1st Sunday Telegraph magazine, Stella: ‘I don’t do retiring’. Seeing her so full of energy I can well believe she never will retire!

Images by Chizuko Kimura

Japan in London

Posted on June 25, 2018 by Admin under ART, TRAVEL
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Within the space of seven days I attended four different Japan events in London, something I’ve never done before and will probably never happen again.

Sake No Hana, St James Street

I was invited to the London press launch of The Ryokan Collection, five star accommodations in Japan. Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns in which you step into their culture and go back a few centuries so everything slows down. This took place in the swish Japanese restaurant, Sake no Hana in St James, and the food was delicious.

Akemi Nishimura, Hiiragiya Ryokan, Kyoto

I had photographed one ryokan in the collection in Kyoto in 1996, Hiiragiya, and surprised the beautifully kimono dressed sixth generation owner, Akemi Nishimura, by showing her the business card she gave me then. The picture has been used many times over the years in travel related publications.

Hiroko Tanaka Nihon Buyoh

Hiroko Tanaka and her traditional Nihon Buyoh dance group performed with grace and elegance in a small theatre buried in Swiss Cottage. Nihon Buyoh is most strongly influenced by Kabuki, Noh and folk dance. Hiroko began learning it at the age of 6 in Kyoto and has been dancing for nearly 60 years.

Hiroko Tanaka Nihon Buyoh

She has been a regular performer at both HyperJapan and the Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square where she dances for thousands of people.

Japan Embassy Invitation for Peace and Friendship Reunion

The Annual Peace and Friendship Reunion at the Embassy of Japan in Piccadilly is always a rather moving experience, I have been to several. The old soldiers, both British and Japanese, are slowly disappearing. I spoke to one of the waiters who is always there. he has outlasted several ambassadors with their three year posting here. He told me that the event had changed because coming today were the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of those who were interned in prisoner of war camps by the Japanese during World War II.

(c) BBC – Bill Frankland

One amazingly interesting man I met this time was Dr Bill Frankland who is 106. A trained medic in 1940, he had been captured in Singapore by the Japanese and was held as a POW at the notorious Changi Jail and then Hell Island for over three years. After World War II he was an assistant at St Mary’s in Paddington to Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, and Bill himself discovered how to alleviate pollen allergies and invented the pollen count. He has been awarded an MBE for which he is grateful but he has not been knighted for his work which benefits so many.

Japan House High Street Kensington

Some twenty or so years ago there was a move to create a Japan house in London which never happened; it was stymied by indecision and lack of a place. So Daiwa Anglo-Japanese House filled the vacuum which it has done very successfully with an impressive array of exhibitions showcasing many artists since 1995.
Now in 2018 the old Derry & Toms building in Kensington High Street has been refurbished and over three floors comprises the new Japan House London, financially set up with a mix of Japanese government, corporate and private sponsorship.

Japan House London, High Street Kensington

The exhibition space in the basement is large and the opening exhibition is by Sou Fujimoto entitled ‘Futures of the Future’. He is one of Japan’s leading contemporary architects and is only 46, the exhibition features many models of his already built and future work. Also in the basement is a library which had a rather limited space for books.

Japan House London, High Street Kensington

The ground floor is mostly a shop with nice traditional Japanese things for sale, ranging from homewares and accessories through to fashion and stationery. There is also a Japan National Tourism Office here to get info about travel to and within Japan.

Japan House London, High Street Kensington

The first floor is given over to an upmarket restaurant, Akira, which has 28 staff and will be a new offering to London’s food scene.

Japan House High Street Kensington

But for me the highlight was along a wood lined corridor to a private room for dining parties, this is where the real Japan kicked in. It was walking in and smelling the tatami mat floors that told me that.

Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto

Four days of Japan events in London, together they gave a great impression of the country today; a Japan looking forward while embracing its past.

 

‘Witness for the Prosecution’ at London’s County Hall

Posted on June 21, 2018 by Admin under ART
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The setting could not have been better for this production, the octagonal Council Chamber in London’s County Hall, previously the home of London County Council then Greater London Council with ‘performers’ such as Ken Livingston.

Opened by King George V in 1922, the audience enters this Twenties opulence from the minute they walk in, ascend the marble stairs and take their plush red leather seats.
From her 1925 short story, this production of Agatha Christie’s 1953 play centres around shifty Leonard Vole in a spiv like suit who stands accused of killing a wealthy elderly woman whom he casually befriended. His German wife Romaine, his alibi, viciously turns the tables when called to the witness stand by the prosecution.

Director Lucy Bailey made good use of the thrust stage which is always a problem with foreground actors masking others, but she kept them moving so it was fine for the audience. She kept the script clear and punchy, while subtly poking fun at the British establishment’s smug complacency.
The play takes place on the thrust stage in a well designed Old Bailey set by William Dudley; he turned what might be seen as a disadvantage by some into a very positive setting.
The lighting design was very effective, particularly as designer Chris Davey only had limited places to put lights, he took advantage of everywhere he could to position them. The lighting cues throughout were all razor sharp in application, a great example of theatre lighting as it should be.
Unusually for me it was the sound by Mic Pool that stole the show. I loved the music bridges used to cover scene changes, more often done in a sort of shuffling limbo, but not this one.

Julian Curry as Mr Justice Wainwright

At times the actors, although excellent, seemed to try too hard but never enough to spoil the performance. For me, overall, the direction and staging, set design lighting and sound made the show. This is a show in an unusual theatre setting on the South Bank and well worth seeing if you can!

Red Rum at Christies

Posted on June 8, 2018 by Admin under RACING, RED RUM
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Following my Red Rum exhibition at the Osborne Studio Gallery in London’s Belgravia in April, and thanks to gallery owner Geoffrey Hughes, I was asked to donate four of the images by Peter Jenson for The Jockey Club sponsored British Sporting Art Trust charity auction which I readily agreed to.

After selection and being beautifully printed, mounted and framed by Point 101, the four photos from the exhibition were sold on Tuesday 5th June at the racing charity auction held at Christies in King Street, the world’s leading auction house.

Hung in the same room as my photos (but not in the charity sale) were also oil paintings by Alfred Munnings, George Romney and John Constable.

Humble is far too grand a word to explain my reaction on seeing this juxtaposition, my photos alongside work by some of the world’s greatest artists, an impossible situation to have ever expected. Everything at Christies is beautifully lit with theatre style lighting which makes every picture a star in the spotlight, the best lighting of any gallery or saleroom in London I know of.

After being treated to admirable Taittinger champagne and canapes for an hour, the excellent Christies auctioneer, Hugh Edmeades, skilfully got the price up of every lot before my four photos, Lot 12. Bidding started at £1,000 and within five minutes were sold for £3,000, a great result for the charity. The total for the whole evening was £43,000 from the very generous bidders.

But for me the best thing is that those Red Rum photos of mine will be hung in the Boardroom at Aintree Racecourse thanks to Rose Paterson, the chairman. I could not wish for them to be in a better place than Aintree where Red Rum went into horse racing history, became a legend and is buried at the finishing line.

I am totally astonished by all this; never in my wildest dreams could I have thought this would happen to me. All in all a most wonderful night!

Copyright images by Chizuko Kimura and Jeremy Hoare

Evening at the Museum

Posted on May 25, 2018 by Admin under ART


The invite was good; an evening for the launch, with a friend, of the new-look British Museum online shop, to explore the Collecting the World gallery out-of-hours, meet the artisans and designers behind the unique products and to enjoy complimentary drinks and canapés.

After going through the bright and well-lit shop, attempting to display in a huge room beyond it with almost non-existent lighting were Nicholas Humphrey-Smith of the Ancestors group with beautiful hand crafted reproductions of some Museum artefacts, Sima Vaziry showing her exquisite jewellery and Mia Sarosi presenting lovely porcelain ceramics. But how Britain’s No.1 tourist attraction with 6.22 visitors last year could show this work in such abysmal lighting conditions is beyond me. It was so bad I decided not to even bother to take photos.

When we left it was somewhat eerie to find the Great Hall entirely devoid of people as every one of the many times I’ve been previously it has been like Piccadilly Circus, packed with people and the loud hubbub of voices.On talking to the security guy, a very pleasant one for a change, he told me that once when he and a colleague were checking all the many rooms to see if anyone was still present after closing, they got to the main door to leave and found themselves locked in. It took them about an hour before they managed to find someone to come and let them out.


As he was telling me this I had the thought of the exhibits coming to life and having a party. In the Egyptian rooms the Pharaohs were doing a Wilson, Keppel and Betty sand dance while in the Elgin Marbles room they were dancing around to Mikis Theodorakis’s ‘Zorba the Greek’.

In many ways the unoccupied Great Hall reminded me of empty theatres of which I have experienced many. There is an atmosphere in them of all the things that have happened in that space. The most personal one for me being the Theatre Royal Drury Lane where my father had been manager for 26 years. I don’t believe in ghosts but once when I was in his office above the main entrance late at night after the show years ago, all the lights went out and I had to grope my way along the walls to get to the pass door to the sage which did have some lights on, it was all quite scary. He told me that the next morning when he went I, a lot of the paintings were at odd angles where I’d groped my along them in pitch darkness.

So I know from experience what these places usually full of people can be like when they have gone home, spooky to say the least.

(C) Jeremy Hoare 2018