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ITS SHOW TIME
May is usually a crazy time because there’s the Annual Bristol Comic show plus there’s also London Expo at Excel in Docklands. I normally go to both and this year was no exception. We didn’t have a new TRIPWIRE out but we had a table with last year’s issue, some copies of Studio Space and a few other bitsnpieces. Bristol is a city that I always enjoy visiting: about 120 miles west of London, it has a really laidback and friendly vibe as a place. As you would expect, myself and Andy Colman stopped off on the way down. I had wanted to visit Stourhead for the last couple of years: it’s a Palladian house situated in the south of Wiltshire with world-famous gardens. We hit the most horrendous traffic a few miles from Stonehenge and were worried that we weren’t going to make it. But we did and it was spectacular. We didn’t go into the house but spent a couple of hours in the gardens and their reputation is well-deserved. They are well-kept, beautiful and serene and because it’s Spring, everything was blooming and flowering.The garden is packed with follies, buildings like temples that are created to make the gardens look more interesting, and from a photographic perspective, with the sunny weather we were lucky enough to encounter, it was a very enjoyable afternoon. It only took us just over an hour to reach Bristol, as we avoided the late afternoon traffic. The weekend was fun as ever as we got to catch up with people we don’t see often enough like Matt Badham, David Baillie, Baz Renshaw, David Morris and girlfriend Liz, Rob Williams, Paul Cornell and loads of others. I chaired a Marvel panel on the Sunday with the aforementioned Cornell, Williams plus Kieron Gillen and Neil Edwards, which seemed to go well. The weather held up for the whole weekend and we even managed to visit a few places on the Monday on the way back to London, including Clifton, Ashton Court (although the house was shut) and Victorian cemetery Arnos Vale, although I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting obsessed with cemeteries.
I’m going to save London Expo for Part Two of this post because that was a fairly packed weekend too. So here’s a few photos I took at Stourhead, in Bristol and in Arnos Vale and Clifton on Monday…

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COUNTRY HOUSES
The weather in January’s been pretty bloody awful mostly with our snowbound weeks but there has been the odd day that’s been bright if a little chilly. So I have had the chance to go out with the camera for a wander, down to Salisbury and then Beaulieu in Hampshire with Andy’s friend Laurence, who is a qualified tourist guide. He takes people on those walks you sometimes see in London and he is also qualified to drive people to places near London. So it was a bright Sunday about two weeks ago that he suggested we take a trip to Salisbury in Wiltshire and I suggested that, since Beaulieu (pronounced ‘Bewley’), where the car museum and the country house is located, isn’t too much of a drive from Salisbury, we should stop off there as well. Salisbury was a strange place, with parts of it very pretty but some of it filled with that horrible Sixties and Seventies architecture. It was a very pleasant lunch and we wandered around the town centre which was very pretty, including the Cathedral. Then we headed off to Beaulieu via the New Forest, past the gardens at Exbury. We walked through the motor museum there and then had a quick look at the Palace House, which has been home to the Montagu family since 1538. The majority of the building is Victorian and it’s a really lovely structure especially with its mill pond situated in the village next to it. So here are a few photos I took in both places…

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A GRAVE START TO THE NEW YEAR
So with the weather being chilly but bright, I decided to take a wander with the camera on Friday, New Year’s Day. It was the perfect weather to take photos, so I started off in King’s Cross where I wandered past the old gasometers and into St Pancras Station. It is a beautiful station, probably the nicest rail station in London and it photographs well. Then I jumped in the car and drove to the other end of London to Kensal Green Cemetery. One of the Magnificent Seven Victorian cemeteries in London, Kensal is an amazing place. Incorporated in 1832, it is the only cemetery where bodies cannot be exhumed and if it ceases to be an active cemetery, it has to be turned into a memorial park. The notable people buried there reads like a who’s who of arts, culture and history including engineers Marc Brunel and his more famous son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, mathematician Charles Babbage, author Wilkie Collins, romantic critic James Henry Leigh Hunt, playwright and writer Harold Pinter and William Thackeray (author of Vanity Fair). It has a very urban feel to it thanks to the gas tower and the tower blocks in the distance unlike West Brompton which almost feels like you’re somewhere in the country. My visit to Kensal Green was a trip to shoot images for a London Cemeteries book I’ll be publishing later in the year, so it was a very satisfying start to 2010. So here are some pics taken near King’s Cross and in Kensal including a few shot at St Mary’s Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery next to Kensal Green itself…

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DETECTIVE FRICTION
Guy Ritchie’s films have not exactly been the most consistent of any modern director so I admit when his Sherlock Holmes was announced with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, I was more than a little skeptical. While his debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was accomplished but unconvincing, the followup Snatch was very entertaining. But with Revolver and Rock ‘n’ Rolla, he seemed to be nothing more than a middle class bloke obsessed with London gangsters. Sherlock Holmes is his best film to date, directed with an assured hand and with a very likable cast including Downey Jr in the title role, continuing his resurrection as one of the most charismatic male actors in modern Hollywood and even Jude Law looks comfortable and at ease here as Dr Watson. Ritchie has remade Doyle’s Holmes as a man of action, who works out adversaries’ weak points in fights and then acts on them while Watson is a veteran of the Afghanistan War at the end of the Victorian era. The film doesn’t waste any time, setting the scene with the capture of upper class loony Lord Blackwood (played with vulpine grace by Mark Strong), who has an appointment with the scaffold but informs anyone who’ll listen that he’ll rise from the grave and turn the world upside-down. Holmes is skeptical but when Blackwood’s body disappears from its home in Brompton Cemetery, the detective and his partner are thrown into a mystery that seems to have metaphysical connections at its core. Ritchie introduces a thinly veined Masonic analogue at the centre of this conundrum. Blackwood and his compatriots intend to replace the government with a ruling council of their own choosing and so Holmes and Watson are in a race to prevent this from happening. While the script and characterisation bear no resemblance to any of the film’s forebears, Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes barrels along at a very nice pace with some decent interplay between Downey Jr and Law and some very impressive visual flourishes from the director and his production designer. The scene where we see Holmes fight a significantly larger man in a bareknuckle boxing match makes it feel like a steampunk Victorian James Bond. There are flaws here: why you would have to ride along the river when making your way from Baker Street to Pentonville Prison, just so you can foreshadow the film’s conclusion, is clumsy and lazy and sometimes Downey Jr’s eccentric Holmes can be a little irritating but for the most part, this movie is an entertaining and engaging modern action adventure. It sets things up for a sequel, rumoured to feature Holmes’s classic adversary Moriarty played by Brad Pitt. It feels like they’re trying to set up a franchise here and this would not be a bad thing for cinema at the minute. Perhaps the fact that it was only directed rather than written by Ritchie has steered it away from the problems of some of his worst films. Sherlock Holmes is grand adventure for the Christmas period…






KENSAL GREEN: A GOTHIC CEMETERY IN TWO PARTS
I have been to Highgate and to Abney Park Cemetery, two of the famous Victorian cemetaries in London. But I have never visited Kensal Green. Until today. Since I have been working at the Doctor Who Adventures, which is located on Wood Lane in White City, it is about a 20 minute brisk walk to Kensal Green Cemetery. Created in 1833, the cemetery covers 72 acres in a very urban part of north and west London, from Ladbroke Grove to Kensal Rise. And it is a magnificent, truly Gothic masterpiece. More of a sprawl than Highgate, Kensal Green is a massive but very well-kept cemetery with some incredible views. A very urban place, I spent about an hour wandering through it, so here is the first part of my photos that I took today in the suitably bleak and windy weather…