Monday, 30 April 2012

In Italia

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to come and live (and work) in Milan, so I took it! I've been here about 6 weeks now and I quite like it.
There's alot going on in this fine city, and plenty to see. I've seen a few of the main sights, like the Duomo, La Scala and the Castello Sforzesco. I also saw the start of the Milan-San Remo cycle race, went to a few of the shows for Design Week, and saw the big local half-marathon race here, the StraMilano. (I would have run it but I thought I'd leave it to the Kenyans to show us how it's done!)

But there's alot more going on beneath the surface, and I imagine that in time I will eventually get through the outer stylish veneer and see the real Mediolanum. As with alot of places, visiting a place for pleasure is quite different to living there!
Now that I am set up with my job, a place to live and a codice fiscale (which it seems you need in order to do anything interesting here!) I have found myself going about my business pretty much as I did in London.

Things aren't massively different really. I still have the go to work, go home routine, after work drinks, Monday morning blues when it rains - which it has been doing an awful lot lately! (Milan is one of the wettest major European cities!) There are many things that don't change!
Subtle differences are that Milan is more compact than London, and it is possible for me to walk to work and the city centre fairly easily. The public transportation system is quite efficient - when the workers aren't on strike! Quite a few places like the mobile phone shop, the bank or even the bakery need you to pick up a ticket and queue up (like in large post offices in London). That can make the shopping experience a little tedious. If this system is not in place people don't queue and they just tend to surge forward and the person with the sharpest elbows gets in first - and don't think it's the big burly bloke. Often it's the elegant old lady who gets in first! And the Milanese appear to have a higher tolerance of graffitti. There's alot of it around. For every ornate building, you can be sure that around the corner there's a tag or political slogan of some sort - or maybe the council is pretexting the graffitti as a new artform, thus saving on funds by not cleaning it up! 

I am looking forward to the next few months here, though I don't think Italy will take London out of the girl, so I will be back in Blighty regularly!
But yes, I am drinking more coffee, and the bog standard stuff is nicer than what I get back home. I am also eating more pasta, and having sit-down meals with wine at lunchtime. It might be better to wait for slightly warmer weather before I have a gelatto though! 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Shoot Story - Royal London

On a very cold morning one Sunday in January Higg and I set out to central London to do the photo shoot that is in the current edition of Cycling Active. It was for a ride story themed around riding  in the "royal" neighbourhoods of Kensington, Chelsea and a bit of Westminster thrown in, since the Queen's residence sits within that area.

I wanted to create a stylish upmarket feel to the story without pretending to be a sloane or a lady who lunches. I didn't want the pics to look like something for The Lady magazine either. It was more about something smart but without looking ostentatiously upmarket.

In the end I wore my Tweed Run gear. Tweed definitely keeps you warm - possibly a little too warm for spring when the popular stylish bike ride takes place. However, on this very clear crisp morning in January not even Tweed could shield me from the chill in the air!

Underneath my trousers and jacket I had on two pairs of tights and two thermal base layers plus a thick anorak to wear between shoots. However, having to remove the outer layers, plus my big gloves and hat every time I was going to be photographed disturbed the rhythm a little and the snapper was got quietly frustrated under his breath with the countless times I kept him waiting!

In a couple of pics I actually forget to take off my big gloves or scarf so I guess some of those pictures didn't make it into the edition which was supposed to be portraying a warm day in Spring!

By the time we finished our day of shooting pics around central London I wasn't the only one glad to be calling time on our session. Higg's fingers were so cold he was having difficulty operating the controls on his camera, while I was finding it hard to maintain a relaxed demeanour when I was freezing my bosoms off. This stop-start riding in the cold sunshine was not funny anymore!

It was really useful to get into London early on Sunday as we were able to get decent shots of famous landmarks on relatively empty roads. Only the hardy tourists were out before 9am on The Mall, and as this road is closed to traffic on Sundays it made it even easier to get clear shots of the Queen's London residence. The keen tourists who were out and about at Buckingham Palace that morning became quite curious when they saw Higg photographing me. When we told them we were doing photos for a magazine they thought they could hang around in the vicinity and get their 20 seconds of fame!

By contrast, the passers-by in the Cadogan area of Chelsea were not so curious seeing us taking pics. They were more suspicious, maybe worried we might spot a celebrity or politician and snap them while they were showing their not-so-good side! It was also a bit more of a challenge trying to find a clear street in Cadogan Square. At times it was just a parade of prestige cars and sports cars with drivers who were in no rush to go anywhere!

Talking of Parades, we managed to see a Changing of the Guards ceremony at Horse Guards Parade. In an effort to catch the pomp and glory as it happened Higg left his bike against a post nearby while he photographed me near the mounted guards. The Police got rather tetchy about his bike. Initially they gave a friendly, "watch your bike, sir - you don't want someone to steal it." But after a few minutes they became abit more irritable and said what really was on their minds: "your bike is a security risk and will be removed if you don't keep it with you." Jeez, it's a bike not a bomb!

All in all it was a fun day, once we had thawed out.

Photos by Higg