Inspired By…Local Colour

This afternoon I have been cosied up on the couch with the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on telly in the background. The banks of the Thames are alive with cheering folk and British-themed bunting, adding a whole lot of local colour to an otherwise grey and drizzly London day.

But this is not a Jubilee post – having already given a nod to Her Majesty just last week – but rather a celebration of local colour right here in Fab Finchley…at our local railway station.

Finchley Central station is on the Northern Line (High Barnet branch) of the London Underground. It was originally opened in 1867 as Finchley & Hendon on a line that ran between Finsbury and Edgware. In 1872 a branch line to High Barnet was constructed and in 1894, the station was renamed Finchley (Church End). It was incorporated into the London Underground network during the 1930s and took its current name – Finchley Central – on April 1st, 1940.

Last night I went into London to see The Duchess of Malfi at The Old Vic so I set off to catch the tube from Finchley Central as usual. The early evening sky was traditional bank holiday grey and I whizzed through the ticket barrier, down the stairs and on to the open air platform hoping that the skies would not see fit to open upon my arrival there. (Contrary to popular belief, parts of the London Underground are not, in fact, under ground.) And not for the first time, I gasped softly in delight.

You see, Platform 3 (for trains travelling south to London) had been transformed into a riot of glorious Spring colour. I’ve seen this testament to green thumbed locals before but the last few weeks of rain – sun – rain has brought forth vibrant purples, bashful pinks, delicate whites and golden yellows in abundance. And as a picture paints a thousand words, here’s a little photo tour for you that I prepared earlier (I love my HTC Desire):

This was my first glimpse – look at all that glorious colour!
Here’s a little nod to the Olympics – but keep this under your hat. We wouldn’t want the organisers to know!
There was some Union Jack-ery in evidence too…
…and a sweet attempt at prettying up ‘Bill Steamshovel’.
There were also a few quirky critters dotted around.
There were a few of these piggy planters…

…a bee who’d come to see a man about a dog…
..and some sheep (a big ‘un and a lil ‘un).
And what’s this hiding in the grass? More quirk-ery perhaps?
It looks to me like a bunny with ears made of carrots!

Isn’t it pretty? There’s real sense of pride – not to mention fun – evident as you walk along the length of the garden and I caught myself smiling as I discovered each of its quirky inhabitants.

So it’s a big (green) thumbs up to the folk at Finchley Central Tube station for making my damp, grey evening just a little less grey. Well done old chaps!

Women Hold Up Half The Sky

It’s a great title for a post isn’t it? Thought-provoking, controversial with a whiff of feminist rant thrown in.

But I can’t claim any credit. These are actually the words of Chairman Mao. That’s right, the founder of Chinese Communism. Women could what men did, he said.

But don’t despair. I haven’t been off reading anything highbrow. Or anything remotely related to philosophy or Chinese politics (well not intentionally anyway). I filched it from an interview with Angelica Cheung, editor of Chinese Vogue, that appeared in last weekend’s The Times Magazine.

And what it made me think about is our own woman in a man’s world here in UK, Queen Elizabeth II.

Next weekend, we will celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. That’s 60 years as the Head of State in the UK and 15 Commonwealth realms as well as Supreme Head of the Church of England. I still remember her Silver Jubilee in 1977. Australia had a special 50 cent coin made to commemorate it and there was lots of telly-watching at school to enlighten all we convicts colonials about the importance of the occasion.

For all the good it did – I voted for a republic in 1999.

Sorry ma’am.

While my republican views remain firmly in place, I have to admit that there is something quite extraordinary about a woman who commits her life to her country at the age of 25 and still enjoys the kind of public respect and affection that Her Majesty holds today.

Granted there have been ups and downs. But she still appears as poised, active and interested 60 years on. What a fantastic ambassador. She has navigated 12 prime ministers at home and many more of their counterparts abroad, across both her own Commonwealth realm and the world at large.


So as far as I’m concerned, next weekend’s moment in the limelight is well and truly deserved. Here’s to a woman who has seen her nation dutifully, safely, peacefully through a lifetime of challenges.

You could even say she’s held up her piece of sky.