Thinking About Lions

And there I was: thinking about the many lion shaped sculptures I have seen in the UK. I can safely say I have seen more of them than I have seen of the real thing back in South Africa!  I decided to try to collate these sightings into one post so hold onto your hat as I reveal: Rooooaaaaaaaarrrrrr!  Incidentally, there is an excellent page by Bob Speel that features more lions than I have seen so far and I would like to acknowledge their work.

The first three are not found in the run of the mill tourist trap, but rather in cemeteries. 3 of the Magnificent Seven garden cemeteries in London have lions as memorials.

Nero the Lion (upper image) adorns the grave of George Wombwell in Highgate Cemetery (west section) 

While the Bostock Lion (image below) may be found in Abney Park Cemetery He adorns the grave of  Frank C Bostock

The un-named King of the Beasts may be found in Brompton Cemetery, and he rests atop the grave of John “Gentleman” Jackson,  a renowned bare-knuckle fighter and self-defence teacher. 

On a large granite plinth beside Westminster Bridge on the South Bank of the Thames we will find the “South Bank Lion“,  (also known as the Red Lion), it is a Coade stone sculpture of a standing male lion cast in 1837. It has stood at the east end of Westminster Bridge in London, to the north side of the bridge beside County Hall, since 1966.  It was sculpted by William Frederick Woodington and was originally mounted on the parapet of James Goding’s Lion Brewery on the Lambeth bank of the River Thames. 

Our next four lions live in Trafalgar Square where they endure the hordes of selfie taking tourists.  Oddly enough I have never really photographed them as they are usually festooned with people. The bronze lions were sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer and although part of the original design, were only added in 1867. Each lion weighs seven tons and were not finished until nearly 30 years after the square opened.

Of course there are not only lion statues but lions do feature in the mooring rings on the Victoria Embankment.

The Tower of London Menagerie was also illustrated by 3 lions (1 lion and a pair of lionesses) that I saw when I visited London in 2015. I am not sure whether this was a permanent installation at the Tower of London though as the statues did look as if they were made from chicken wire. However they do appear on the Google Earth 2019 image of the area where I saw them and were made by Kendra Haste in 2010.  13 galvanised wire sculptures depict  a family of lions, a polar bear, an elephant and a baboon troupe that commemorate some of the inhabitants of the Menagerie.  Incidentally  the first record of a lion in England was in 1240, referring to the upkeep of “the King’s lion”.  

 Moving away from London we pause at Reading where we find the most impressive of the lot:

Forbury Gardens in the city of Reading  is a pretty one, with a bandstand and lots of trimmed grass and pathways. It is also home to a very special memorial:

“This monument records the names and commemorates the valour and devotion of XI (11) officers and CCCXVIII (318) non-commissioned officers and men of the LXVI (66th) Berkshire Regiment who gave their lives for their country at Girishk Maiwand and Kandahar and during the Afghan Campaign MDCCCLXXIX (1879) – MDCCCLXXX (1880).” “History does not afford any grander or finer instance of gallantry and devotion to Queen and country than that displayed by the LXVI Regiment at the Battle of Maiwand on the XXVII (27th) July MDCCCLXXX (1880).” (Despatch of General Primrose.)

Known as the Maiwand Lion, it is a very big memorial, and definitely the largest lion I have ever seen. I battled to photograph it too because of the changeable weather when I was there. 

There are 4 lions outside St George’s Hall in Liverpool that flank the cenotaph, Unfortunately I did not photograph them but you can see them in the image below. (image is 1500×503)

Liverpool is also home to the  oldest Chinese community in Europe and boasts a pair of “Guardian Lions” who stand watch on either side of the Chinese Arch that is the entrance to Chinatown .  An additional pair stand guard on either side of  Great George Street. 

 

A lady with a lion is also featured on the statue of Colin Campbell (Lord Clyde) in Waterloo Place, London. On  the base of the pillar sits an allegorical woman – said to be the Empress of India, Britannia, or by others, Victory – lounging on a reclining lion. The sculpture is by Carlo Marochetti and was erected at Waterloo Place in 1867  The funny thing is that I do not have a photograph of the statue but only this part of the base. 

Make no mistake, this is not an exhaustive list of all the iterations of lions in the United Kingdom, if/when I finally do get back to London I will try to get images of the other lions mentioned on the relevant page by Bob Speel . I do have poor images of the one lion at the base of the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace but will rather try get all four when next I am in London. The problem with that memorial is the crowds of people and the potential for lousy weather.  The 4 bronze figures with lions, represent Peace (a female figure holding an olive branch), Progress (a nude youth holding a flaming torch), Agriculture (a woman in peasant dress with a sickle and a sheaf of corn) and Manufacture (a blacksmith in modern costume with a hammer and a scroll).

There is one last lion that I thought I would add in just for fun.

The British and Irish Lions

And that concludes my brief look at the lions in London and elsewhere.  I hope to add to this at some point, but I do not guarantee anything; besides, there are dragons in London that are equally interesting.

DRW © 2020. Created 09/06/2020 

Somewhere in June

We are now into June, and things are in a turmoil. The UK has lessened the lockdown restrictions somewhat but on one side people are saying the lockdown needs to go and others say it needs to stay. There is no easy middle ground that can ensure safety and normality at the same time. 

The numbers: Worldometers reports the following: 6,982,883 cases in the world with 402,273 total deaths. The USA still dominates the charts with 1,988,544 cases and 112,096 deaths. The UK is not doing too well either with 284,868 cases and 40,465 deaths. That is the second highest death rate in the world. South Africa has 45,973 total cases and 952 deaths and has slipped to number 24 in the total cases table. A number of reports are saying that the virus is weakening as it does not seem to be infecting as much as before, although that could really be a measure of how effective the lockdowns have been. 

This week has also seen huge demonstrations in the world under the “Black Lives Matter” banner. The consequences of those demonstrations have been looting, mob rampages, and a number of deaths. It has also meant that large amounts of people have been in the same area and that could tilt the covid numbers significantly upwards. Unfortunately demonstrations rarely go peacefully and the looting of luxury goods shops does show a determined criminal element amongst those who are trying to protest peacefully. There is even talk of looters being bussed in and deliberate attempts to derail protests. Again the old fake news and social networking scenario rears its ugly head and I can already see the end result of that in my facebook feed. Unfortunately there has been a lot of vandalism of memorials and statues, the most significant being the London Cenotaph. Stupidity like that is guaranteed to cause a loss of support for any protest; the Cenotaph is seen as “Hallowed Ground” and any protest organisers worth their  salt would ensure that it is guarded against vandalism. I am afraid that in many cases vandals rarely respect anything. 

The vandalism of the Cenotaph comes at a time when we are commemorating the anniversary of the Normandy Invasion on 6 June 1944. You often see posts comparing the 1939-1945 generations to the “snowflake” generation that is currently shouting the odds from the comfort of their digital lifestyle.  As a former national serviceman I am against those who advocate a similar system for youngsters today. Civil service yes, military service no! 

In South Africa the lockdown regulations were declared unconstitutional and therefore invalid.  Justice Norman Davis found that both the level 3 and level 4 regulations are “irrational”. Naturally the government will appeal the verdict and this will drag on through the courts leaving lots of smiling lawyers and large amounts of money being spent. Schools in the country are due to reopen but that is being contested too. 

I am afraid there are no winners this week, it has been all conflict and turmoil wherever I look and even the weather has been lousy.  The next few days could see a spike in the numbers, and that is a bad thing. It was announced that masks would be compulsory on public transport and I bet that soon they will be compulsory everywhere. I am not a happy camper about that though as I do see even more discomfort from the Xerostomia that I suffer with. I wonder if I can get hold of a breath screen like Darth Vader had? 

I popped down to town this morning and quite a few things have changed. For starters there are all these red and white bollard thangs in the street, presumably to provide space for people to queue 2 metres apart. It is going to play havoc with the already chaotic traffic in town though, the roads are already narrow as it is. 

Three new additions have also made their appearance.

But one of the most important signs I saw was:

Yes it is true, shops are opening in the 15th and I just hope that they can survive long enough to become profitable. Unfortunately some will not make it through this difficult time, but others have adapted and even expanded to cater for takeaways, deliveries and social distancing. 

On the viewing front I am currently watching an anime called Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou and it is awesome. It is not the sort of anime that would garner massive viewership due to its lack of characters, fan service or contiguous story. It does however have amazing backgrounds and leaves more questions than answers. There are really only two characters in it and they are excellent. I love the post apocalyptic feel of it, and visually it is stunning. 

DRW 2020. Created 07/06/2020. 

I Can’t Breathe

Remembering George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Collins Khosa and Ahmaud Arbery

My mind has been in a tangle following the events that resulted in the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police on 25 May 2020. My mind keeps on picturing that arrogant and callous cop with his hands in his pockets while kneeling on the neck of the cuffed George Floyd. A part of me gets really angry when I see this nonchalant abuse of power by somebody who is supposed to ensure/enforce “law and order”. 

As expected there were demonstrations and protests and those rapidly degenerated into riots. Once a lawless mob becomes intent on destruction,  “authority” gives the order to pull the trigger, shots will get fired, innocent people end up being killed, shops get looted, allegations are made from both sides and it becomes a counter productive exercise. It achieves nothing. George Floyd would have deplored the violence committed in his name, but a portion of the population would hope that the triggers would be pulled. This brings us back to racism: is there a campaign against African Americans? Is there some unwritten rule/policy that says “they are black and male and therefore are guilty”? In February this year Ahmaud Arbery was killed while out jogging in Georgia. If he was seemingly perceived as a threat or possible burglar why were the police not called? and had they been called would he have been arrested automatically and “questioned” later? What gave those who shot him the right to be judge, jury and executioner? 

It is a difficult situation at this point in time, my gut instinct says that saner heads need to prevail. Sanity must be restored. The death of George Floyd must be impartially investigated and the former cop who knelt on his neck needs to feel the might of justice upon him. Right or wrong whoever decided that it was police policy to kneel on the neck of a restrained suspect needs to be on the receiving end of a knee for 8 minutes. A preliminary autopsy found no indication that George Floyd died of strangulation or traumatic asphyxia, but that the combined effects of being restrained, underlying health conditions, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease, and potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.  Until an independent autopsy is performed I will distrust those findings.  

The death of George Floyd should make us all angry, or should I rather say makes many of us angry because there will always be a group that gets a vicarious thrill out of an incident like that. They will nod knowingly and agree that he was a bad man whom the police had rightly prevented from doing a heinous crime. Those people scare me because I have met their ilk before, I often read their ravings on social media, I walk past them in the streets, I see them gloating as they polish their AR15’s. I saw them shoot Jews in black and white documentaries from World War 2. It is the ugly face of humanity, a face that will always be with us until the next incident, and the next, and the next ad infinitum.  

Racism in any form is never okay and should never be tolerated. We no longer live in the dark ages. We live in a word beset by a global pandemic, it can kill us all irrespective of whether we are policemen or bystanders. That tiny virus is more dangerous than any police force,  it can kill us all and just maybe it should. 

In South Africa the SANDF and JMP members responsible for the tragic death of Collins Khosa were cleared of any wrong doing. However, the facts seem to be contradictory to the findings and yet another man has lost his life, not through Covid-19, but through the hands of those tasked with “law and order”.  

**Update 02/06/2020**

The independent autopsy report “determined that asphyxiation from sustained pressure was the cause” of Mr Floyd’s death.  The autopsy performed by Dr Michael Baden and Dr Allecia Wilson said “neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain” according to Mr Crump’s statement. Furthermore, the doctors found the “weight on the back, handcuffs and positioning were contributory factors because they impaired the ability of Mr. Floyd’s diaphragm to function“.  (Express, published20:29, Mon, Jun 1, 2020)

DRW 2020. Created 01/06/2020