Monthly Archives: July 2013

Goldfinger: the man with the brutal touch

Ernő Goldfinger was a brilliant architect, but a difficult man, and many people hate(d) his buildings. When Ian Fleming heard stories about the man in the early ’60s, he named his most famous villain after Goldfinger in the James Bond novel (and film) of the same name.

He is the high priest of the modern architectural style of brutalism that remains reviled by many to this day. His most famous work is the Trellick Tower in West London, now a much sought after ‘des res’ and the set of the British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses.

Much less well known is Trellick Tower’s slightly older twin in the East, the Balfron Tower…

Balfron1

Built in 1967,the trademark sky-bridges from the separated lift/service tower can be seen for miles (including from my office window). Unlike Trellick, Balfron remains largely unknown, although it is a Grade II listed building, and is regularly mis-credited as its trendier western twin when used in photo and film shoots. The majority of the flats are still council-owned, although every so often one of the few privately-owned flats comes on to the market. A top floor flat (can you call it penthouse?) recently sold for £200,000 which is incredibly cheap by London standards (for a listed building with incredible views!) – surely that will be a sound investment indeed when eventually, Balfron Tower receives the recognition it deserves?

I realise it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but set in the semi-industrial borough of Tower Hamlets – which still has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country (although also some of the highest average earnings distorted by the wealth coming from Canary Wharf) – it is not spoiling any picturesque scenery. Personally, I think the building is remarkable and second only to the Barbican project in terms of modernist architecture in London.

Balfron 2

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A signal of summer: the song of the Yellowhammer

Giddy from the result at Wimbledon and from the heat of a summer evening, I can reflect back on a crazy few weeks, which included my Stag-do and explains (though perhaps doesn’t excuse) my absence from the blogosphere.

Yesterday morning, I took a few hours to breathe in the hot summer air of the countryside.

pathway

I walked through meadows and cornfields and woodlands…

Meadow

Wheatfield

Oak

Kilwick Wood

There was typical livestock, such as this late-season lamb with its early-season playmate…

Lamb

… and atypical, such as this huge-horned bovid…

IMG_2710

I photographed an array of summer flowers (which I don’t have time now to identify)…

Poppy

Thistle 3

Flora

Thistle 2

Thistle 1

Dandelion

I was accompanied throughout my walk by birdsong: the eerie cries of soaring Buzzards, the tinkling of Goldfinches, and the piercing calls of speeding Swallows and Swifts (our beloved birds of summer). But the voice which signals summer to me more than any other is the song of the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella). Some say it sounds like, “A little bit of bread but no cheese”. I am not sure I entirely agree. Either way, standing to watch a male proud at the top of his tree sing his heart out was a moment of real summer joy as profound, but perhaps not quite so ecstatic, as watching a British man win Wimbledon after 77 years. At least I know I won’t have to wait that long to watch the Yellowhammer sing again.

Yellowhammer

Mid-song