London Calling: from river racing to digital art and phone booths!


For almost 200 years Cambridge University Boat Club and Oxford University Boat Club have battled the cold, tidal Thames in the famous 6.8km boat race between Putney in South West London and Barnes. Since 1927 there has been a separate race for women and the competing teams are dressed in different shades of blue – dark blue for Oxford and light blue for Cambridge.

Around 250,000 people line the banks of the Thames to watch the highly skilled crews maneuver their oars in perfect unison, reaching speeds of up to 14mph (23kph). There are eight rowers in each boat, known as an octuple scull (abbreviated as 8X).

This year the race took place on April 3 and your columnist had the privilege of watching it from a club garden overlooking Putney Bridge. It’s hard to get more than a fleeting glimpse as the boats fly by, the crews working together like a well-oiled machine. Crowds cheer and the atmosphere is incredible with TV crews on huge raised platforms receiving footage that is broadcast to 15 million viewers around the world.

Oxford won the men’s race with a winning time of 16 minutes, 42 seconds, and Cambridge won the women’s race at 18 minutes, 23 seconds. The current course record was set in 1998 and remains unbeaten at 16 minutes, 19 seconds.

Art goes digital

Technology has transformed the art world in recent years. Advances in digital manipulation and image projection have made it possible to bring great works of art to life and create a fully immersive experience.

In the fall of last year, Hyde Park presented Van Gogh in a true sensory experience where the audience sits or stands among works of art that are animated, dissected and manipulated to create an awe-inspiring experience with emotive music. supporting animation and projected quotes.

From now on, a similar treatment is planned for the very stylized works of the end of the 19andstart 20and Austrian symbolist painter of the century Gustav Klimt. Open from July 2022, the London site remains closed for the time being, but tickets can be purchased in advance at Klimt’s extensive use of contrasting color and gold with landscapes and the female form should lend itself very well to this emerging phenomenon.

The largest digital art exhibition in the world is located in Bordeaux, in the southwest of France. Here, a massive Atlantic War U-Boat base has been transformed into huge galleries that use the water docks to reflect masterpieces in an impressive rotation of artwork by local artists. most famous in the world.

Words cannot describe the emotional experience of visiting one of these events, so go if you can!

Tiny boxes!

Mobile phones have led to the disappearance of telephone booths all over the world. There are 20 million more phone contracts in the UK than there are people, so the big question is what to do with these boxes in their redundancy.

In London, many are located in prime tourist areas and are popular spots for photo ops. The pop of bright red adds color and sparkle to starkly white Portland stone buildings in areas like Westminster with its all-too-common background of leaden skies.

London has always been at the forefront of innovation, and it seems the opportunities presented by these unique little structures have captured the imagination of entrepreneurs.

Often they feature in the top 10 icons of British design, with the most classic example called “K2” being designed by Sir Charles Gilbert Scott in 1924. Only 224 of the original 1,700 K2 boxes remain, these are therefore somewhat of an endangered species. !

When those in prime locations are sold they cannot be removed or altered externally as they are registered as listed buildings with Historic England. The price tags look tempting for just 9 square feet of space (0.84 square meters) between £45,000 and £60,000 (€54,000 – €72,000)!

However, find the right tenant and they can produce an attractive return on capital. Typical rents are around £1,000 (€1,200) per month in some prime areas. With electricity available and good security based on the steel structure, they are the ultimate ‘lock and leave’ facility for the rugged retailer ready to stand outside in the uncertain UK climate!

In Holborn and Hampstead there are great little cafes run from these tiny buildings, elsewhere others are used as florists, bars, advertising spaces and ‘experience opportunities’. Outside London, many are now used for community facilities such as libraries and book exchanges, while everywhere they are also used to house vital equipment such as defibrillators.

Phone booths work!

History at your fingertips

“Why, sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is ready to leave London. No sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for in London there is all that life can offer. So said Dr Samuel Johnson. Most people have heard this famous quote and the majority of Londoners agree with the sentiment but know little about the man.

There is always something new to discover in London, which is continually reinventing itself, and history is there at every turn. Perhaps that’s what makes it eternally interesting. Just recently, your columnist discovered that four British prime ministers and the creator of the M Well children’s television series in the 1970s, David McKee, lived nearby!

Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square is tucked away in the lanes and alleyways of the City of London and is well worth a visit. A little-known tourist attraction, it has been hit hard by the pandemic as visitor revenues have completely plummeted. It’s something of an oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city, and it’s worth taking the time to reflect on the writings and thoughts of this famous spirit.

This is where Johnson lived and worked in the mid 19and century, bringing together its famous English language dictionary in the attic room. The house is very much unchanged, displaying books and artefacts relating to his life with the intention that it remain “appropriate for an impoverished writer’s cheerful home”.

Tickets are available online at

By Richard Lambert

Richard leads parallel lives with homes and business interests in London and Portugal. He provides advisory services to leading companies in the insurance and financial services, real estate and media industries. He has four sons, two dogs and leads a busy family life. He enjoys swimming, keeping fit and an outdoor life.
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