*take nothing for granted!
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2015

Who is Online

We have 217 guests and no members online

Translate to another language

Article Index

 

 

 

On the surface London seems quite like Australia.  Walking about the streets; buying meals; travelling on public transport; staying in hotels; watching TV; going to a play; visiting friends; shopping; going to the movies in London seems mundane compared to travel to most other countries.  Signs are in English; most people speak a version of our language, depending on their region of origin. Electricity is the same and we drive on the same side or the street.  

But look as you might, nowhere in Australia is really like London.

 

Like Paris from the Eiffel Tower; it is possible to get a panoramic view of London from the giant Ferris wheel at the south end of Westminster Bridge known as the London Eye. 

 

The London Eye
The London Eye

 

Designed with tensioned spokes like a push bike wheel it carries viewers to a height of 132m; the equivalent height of a building of around 30 stories.  This very modest height works uniquely well in London where the surrounding buildings are low-rise. 

 

From the London Eye
Parliament and Westminster Abbey from the London Eye

 

The engineering is interesting.  Opposing main drives, either side, engage with the rim via rubber tyres.

 


Eye drive arrangement

drive detail

 

The viewing capsules are not kept horizontal by gravity, or perhaps by a circumferential cable, as one might expect, but by local electric motors rotating each capsule independently. 

 

Eye Viewing Capsule
Eye Viewing Capsule

 

I was intrigued to think what would happen if any of these failed.  Customers would be walking up the walls; literally.

 

It is popular to single out the English weather as the major difference.  Actually Sydney gets over twice as much rain as London but the London rain is lighter and more frequent.  Nor is London particularly cold.  It typically pleasantly warm in summer; comparable to spring or autumn in Sydney. 

 

Cafe_Lunch_in_London
Lunch on The Serpentine

 

But even in mid summer the sun is more than 17 degrees lower in the sky at midday and, as a consequence is less bright.  And as London is further north than anywhere in Australia is south, a summers day is a lot longer than even in Tasmania.  Summer shadows are longer and less intense and the days seem very long and mild; while winter days are very short; cold and often wet; and therefore significantly more miserable. 

You can get a summer sunburn in London; but only if you really try.

 

Summer_in_London
A London Summer's day

 

This means the built environment in northern cities needs to be quite different to that in say Spain; or Australia.   

 

Cafe_Lunch_in_London
'Whenever I walk in a London Street I'm ever so careful to watch my feet...' 

 

Although there are many place names in common, climatic and demographic factors, together with the relatively elevated and rugged geography in Sydney, compared to London's flood plane,  meant that  Paddington; Lewisham; Richmond; Windsor or St Albans around Sydney would never properly mimic the London of fond memory to those who named them.   Similarly, Newcastle; Wallsend; and Jesmond on the Hunter in no way mimic their namesakes on the Tyne.

Architecture responds to climate and the natural environment and has had a major ongoing influence on in both countries.   In a similar street to the one above in Australia most shops would all have fixed awnings to the curb to protect the shoppers from the sun and the rain.

Greater opportunity to spend time outdoors encouraged the traditional Australian love of the 'quarter acre block' that has meant greater urban sprawl; less 'people friendly' inner urban areas and less efficient mass transit. 

Although many of the older buildings in London pre-date European settlement in Australia, much of the London we admire was built or re-built at the 'height of empire' in Victorian times or later.

Today Sydney is bigger, and a lot wealthier, than London was in mid Victorian times but the demographics are dramatically different; particularly in the distribution of wealth.  

Even today population densities are much higher in London than anywhere in Australia; and distribution of wealth remains less equitable.  Despite some huge houses seen on Kevin McCouds Grand Designs the British, on average, have the smallest dwellings in the developed world; whereas Australians now have the largest.  

 

International House Sizes
       
Countries   All Houses (m2) New Houses Family size avg. m2/per capita
Australia   206 2.5 82
United States   203 2.5 81
New Zealand/Canada   176 2.5 70
Denmark/Luxembourg 125-109 101-137 2.2 54
Belgium/Netherlands/France/Germany 80-98 109-126 2.3-2.5 49
Japan 95 132 2.8 47
Sweden 90 83 2.1 40
Spain/Austria/Ireland/Italy/Portugal 83-91 82-97 2.5-2.7 34
United Kingdom 85 76 2.3 33

Sources: OECD Family database and Demographia (sources: Japan Statistical Yearbook, European Housing 2002,
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canadian Home Builders Association, Infometrics)

 

This is immediately apparent when shown to your room in a London hotel.

 

Add comment


Security code
Refresh


    Have you read this???     -  this content changes with each opening of a menu item


Travel

Japan

 

 

 

 

In the second week of May 2017 our small group of habitual fellow travellers Craig and Sonia; Wendy and I; took a package introductory tour: Discover Japan 2017 visiting: Narita; Tokyo; Yokohama; Atami; Toyohashi; Kyoto; and Osaka.  

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Les Misérables - The Musical

 

The musical Les Misérables has returned to Sydney.   By now we have both seen several versions.    

But we agreed that this new version is exceptional, with several quite spectacular staging innovations and an excellent cast of singers with perhaps one exception who was nevertheless very good.

Despite an audience that was obviously very familiar with the material (if I'm to judge by the not so sotto voce anticipatory comments from the woman next to us) the production managed to evoke the required tears and laughter in the appropriate places.  The packed theatre was clearly delighted and, opera style, the audience shouted approval at and applauded several of the vocal performances, some were moved to a standing ovation at the end.

 

 

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Manufacturing in Australia

Originally written in August 2011 - it might have been yesterday - so little has changed.

 

 

Manufacturing viability is back in the news.

The loss of manufacturing jobs in the steel industry has been a rallying point for unions and employers' groups. The trigger was the announcement of the closure of the No 6 blast furnace at the BlueScope plant at Port Kembla.  This furnace is well into its present campaign and would have eventually required a very costly reline to keep operating.  The company says the loss of export sales does not justify its continued operation. The  remaining No 5 blast furnace underwent a major reline in 2009.  The immediate impact of the closure will be a halving of iron production; and correspondingly of downstream steel manufacture. BlueScope will also close the aging strip-rolling facility at Western Port in Victoria, originally designed to meet the automotive demand in Victoria and South Australia.

800 jobs will go at Port Kembla, 200 at Western Port and another 400 from local contractors.  The other Australian steelmaker OneSteel also recently announced a workforce reduction of 400 jobs.

This announcement has reignited the 20th Century free trade versus protectionist economic and political debate. Labor backbenchers and the Greens want a Parliamentary enquiry. The Prime Minister who reportedly initially agreed has now, perhaps smelling trouble, demurred.

Read more ...

Terms of Use                                           Copyright