Thursday 6 June 2013

Regent's Canal where like in "Hotel du Nord" I can feel a very strange ATMOSPHERE!! (Translation of the blog into English)

Checking the access figures to my blog I realised that most of my audience lives in English speaking countries (on the other side of the pond, of course).  It’s quite insensitive from me to write on a subject related to my English life and not publish it in English.  You’ll have to be very understanding though; this is probably the first time that I am writing something in English which is neither technical nor related to my job (we could argue of course on the relevance of the Poisson distribution for the blog).  The positive point is that at least, my strong French accent will not spoil the reading of this text.  It all started with my weekly jogging along the towpaths of Regent’s Canal.

Regent's Canal and Victoria Park (1st post 23 May)

The Agency is located in one of the most paradoxical locations in London. A short distance from the City, Canary Wharf contains some of the major financial business of London. Canary Wharf lives almost in autarchy.  People arrive in the morning taking the ultra-modern London tube lines that serve Canary Wharf (the jubilee line or District Light Railway), people work at Canary Wharf, people eat at noon with office colleagues, the same persons chillax and flock there during the evening in one of the trendy pubs or posh restaurants surrounding the area, finishing their business day with colleagues or work partners.  I even suspect that some even spend their weekends, possibly working, in the shopping mall. The City of Canary Wharf never sleeps.

Canary Wharf is an English business cricket pitch which is bounded by an invisible but tangible boundary, beyond which the life, spirit, and the constant swarm suddenly vanish.  Business gives way to everyday life.  The swarm is replaced by a sudden residential and historical calm.  This border is so tangible that life in the pubs located outside of it (The Grapes, The Prospect of Whitby, The Captain Kid) is dictated by local residents or patrons, whereas Canary Wharf pubs are full of noisy and ambitious customers, who are just carrying on with their daily activities over a pint of beer.  While the Reuters headlines, breaking news and the exchange rate between the currencies fuel conversations in Canary Wharf cafes, the discussions in The Grapes revolve around Charles Dickens and the view over the Thames.  

This is where it all begins. The public garden opposite the Grapes leads to Limehouse Basin and to the towpath of Regent's Canal. I found the Canal incidentally during one of my sporty ride, at noon, while I was trying to momentarily escape the hectic life of the business Wharf.  

Regent's Canal extends in north London over 18 kilometers starting from Limehouse, through Hackney (Victoria Park) King's Cross, Islington, Camden, Regent's Park to end in Maida Vale. By the way, Maida Vale is the place where the legendary studios of the BBC in which John Peel sessions recorded live some of the most influential rock bands of the 80s and 90s (The Fall, The Smiths, The Cure, Joy Division, Pulp, PJ Harvey and so on) are located. 

Regent's Canal is part of the Grand Union Canal. The Limehouse Cut joined the River Lee (or Lea) from London to Limehouse. The canal was opened in 1820, it includes 40 bridges and goes through 12 locks.

But from there ... starting from the Limehouse marina, I wish you a nice stroll.

Regent's Canal: On the trail of Banksy ... (2nd post 23 May)

When you enter Victoria Park, you enter in a Banksy territory. The spectrum of the artist is omnipresent in Hackney. Just pay attention, be patient and you'll sooner or later find some clues or one of his works on one of the walls which board the Canal ... The question is whether the work of art is genuine or is an imitation. 

A lot of people emulated him. Street Art, as we pompously call it nowadays, is omnipresent on the walls of Regent's canal. Budding artists, pupils, children, everyone express himself with unequal presence, talent, humour and irony. I have not been able to find original an fresco by the artist but be patient, give me a little bit of time and I'll find one soon. I have included a selection of my favourite works. 

A like the west indian M & Ms. The smells of the Canal often contain hallucinogenic smells which might have inspired the author of this street art painting fresco,not without humour.

If by chance you walk along the canal with a paintbrush, I invite you to try and since I love the "little Prince" it would be kind of you if you could draw me a sheep.

Regent's Canal Regent's Canal: What is this chimney? ...

Stupid as a suitcase without a handle as we say in French, it is right before you, mysterious, lonely ... I do not know anyone who did not wonder what is doing this chimney on the towpath.

After some research, let's not be pretentious, I found the solution by chance rather than performing a thorough systematic search. The truth is less poetic than the monument itself.

The chimney is actually a vent for the sewers of London built around 1906 ... I do not know if the sewers or even the vent still work. I will not try to find out ... 

Regent's Canal: a world of big peniches (3rd post 2 June)

I was using my Collins Dick and Harry, I couldn't find (unsurprisingly) and don't know what would be the Cockney rhyming slang for "peniches" (the Canal to Kentish?). The pun in the title of the blog is easy and was tempting, Regent's Canal is a world of barges. If the Canal Saint Martin had a sweet smell of atmosphere as Arletty was claiming in the movie "Hotel du Nord" (directed by Marcel Carné),  in addition Regent's Canal has a sweet atmosphere of barges (note Barge in French is a slang word for barking mad).

Life on Regent's Canal is primarily marked by the boatmen and their frigates. Paradoxically, many of these houseboats are moored along the towpath. Some seem to be permanently inhabited, most are not. In winter, the river is often desperately empty ...

The smoke from a wood fire which flows out of some chimneys indicate that some barges are occupied. The occupiers, however, often remain invisible. Some signs of life suggest that the barge is probably the main residence of the occupants: a bicycle, a pile of wood, a large flower pot filled with culinary herbs, a vine, the signs of commercial activity more or less organised and lucrative. Many of these houseboats still display some items of last year's Olympics: banners, flags, pictures of athletes. You will eventually come across some of these barges on the water or as the barge goes through an old lock. In that case, politeness is required and it is not unusual that you receive a friendly hello from the boatmen.

The barges are lavishly decorated. Some will make reference to their fluvial origin, I passed by one which is decorated like a pond filled with water lilies (Lily Pad) with a cheeky green frog on the side of the boat.

Other barges contain historical references some are decorated in a more enigmatic fashion. On the one hand, I love a barge which features a Tudor Rose which looks like a proud tribute to Henry VIII's Mary Rose.  On the other hand, a geisha and the dragon decorating another boat like leave me slightly skeptical as to their meaning. A reference to tattoos that drunken sailors were having after their nights of debauchery and drinking during their exotic trips. The dreams of a sailor in search of exoticism that could never been satisfied? Who knows?

Some of these barges are literally amazing. I conclude on a houseboat selling candles next to a honesty box. The bargain is tempting but the advertising is not really convincing and contradictory. What gives me the chandler, four or six candles for a pound? The barge is decorated like an old half-timbered house.

To finish my post, I found an advert for a boat which is for sale, would you be tempted? Nothing is more fun than a day out with family or friends, on England river channels. This is a lifetime opportunity to get a sea breeze, meet the roaring forties, run in a vendee globe challenge from Limehouse to Camden in less than 2 hours. Dangerous, exhilarating.

I also post my pictures on my pinterest website. But watch out for my Pinterest page ...

Beyond a certain limit, even leashed dogs are not allowed.
Regent's Canal pictures on Pinterest

Limehouse Basin and Commercial Road

Francois (The essential is invisible to the eyes)

Hotel du Nord is available on DVD incl.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Regent's Canal : on vit dans un monde de barges ...

Merci Monsieur Harrap's (ou Monsieur Collins, c'est selon). Le jeu de mots est facile mais permettez moi l'expression, à Regent's Canal on vit dans un monde de barges. Si sur le Canal Saint Martin on a une gueule d'atmosphère, sur le Regent's Canal on a une gueule de péniche.

La vie sur Regent's Canal est avant tout rythmée par les bateliers et par leurs frégates. Paradoxalement, beaucoup de ces péniches sont amarrées le long du chemin de halage. Certaines le sont à demeure, habitées ou pas. Le canal reste souvent, l'hiver, désespérément vide ...

Certaines cheminées d'où sortent la fumée d'un feu de bois vous indiquent que la péniche est occupée. Les habitants, cependant restent souvent invisibles. Certains signes de vie suggèrent que la péniche est vraisemblablement l'habitation principale de ses occupants : une bicyclette, un tas de bois 
de chauffage, une jardinière remplie d'herbes culinaires, un pied de vigne, les indices d'une activite commerciale plus ou moins organisée ou lucrative. Beaucoup de ces habitations flottantes portent encore les restes des jeux olympiques de l'année dernière, bannières, drapeaux, photos d'athlètes. Rares sont les péniches que vous croisez dans le canal ou à l'occasion de la traversée d'une écluse mais dans ce cas, la politesse est de mise et il n'est pas inhabituel que vous receviez un salut cordial des bateliers.

Les péniches sont decorées de façon fastueuse. Certaines font référence à leur origine fluviale comme celle ci qui symbolise une mare remplie de nénuphars (Lily Pad), non sans humour, comme vous le rappelle la belle grenouille verte sur le bord du bateau.

D'autres péniches contiennent des références historiques ou sont decorées de façon plus énigmatique à l'aide de clichés inattendus sur ce type de bateaux. J'aime beaucoup une péniche qui arbore une rose de Tudor, un fier hommage au Mary Rose d'Henri VIII.

En revanche cette geisha et ce dragon me plaisent mais me laissent dubitatif quant à leur signification. Une référence à ces tatouages que les marins ivres se faisaient faire les soirs de débauche et de beuverie au cours de leurs voyages exotiques sans doute. Les rèves d'un marin en quête d'exotisme qu'il n'a jamais pu assouvir ? Qui sait ?

De même que ce mystérieux et discret raggamuffin' ...

Certaines de ces habitations fluviales sont littéralement étonnantes. Je terminerai donc sur cette péniche qui offre des bougies à la vente en libre service. La bonne affaire est alléchante mais la publicité n'est, hélas, pas vraiment convaincante et malheureusement contradictoire. Que m'offre ce marchand de chandelles, quatre ou six bougies pour une livre ?

Cette même péniche est décorée comme une ancienne maison à colombages.

Pour terminer mon billet, cette péniche est à vendre, vous laisserez vous tenter ? Rien n'est plus amusant et inattendu qu'une journée, en famille ou entre amis, sur les canaux fluviaux d'angleterre. L'occasion inespérée de s'offrir le grand air du large, les quarantièmes rugissants, un vendée globe challenge de Limehouse à Camden en moins de 2 heures. Dangereux, grisant.

2 June 2013