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Balcony Notes

The days are getting longer. I now finish some of the days in broad daylight – a far cry from the bleak midwinter. On such days I want to have my own cute and cozy balcony where I could go to have the late afternoon – or early evening – tea.

I’ve chosen this picture on Pinterest because it has the kind of vibe that accompanies my days. In this relaxed atmosphere I wish to sip my tea, flutter the pages of the book, and listen to the hustle and bustle of the city slowly subduing to the nightly languor. Then I’d have my small dinner, take a shower, and retreat to the bedroom.

Source: Pinterest

I experienced this kind of evening once in London during my visit there in 2008. I stayed in a hotel in Sussex Gardens, which had a balcony. Incidentally, it was the only time I had a room with a balcony at a British hotel. The July night was seizing the city, the dusk spilt a palette of dim colours all over, and I was lying in my room, listening to the magical mix of floral scents and evening sounds, and I felt blessed.

2021 Photographic Calendars to Order

2021 photographic calendars by Julia Shuvalova feature original photography of Wales and London. Enjoy the familiar and new landmarks all year!

The new year is just around the corner, and I’m pleased to announce the availability of 2021 photographic calendars I’ve prepared for you.

Llandudno. A View from the Great Orme (@Julia Shuvalova, 2013)

We’re starting with my photographic calendars available on Zazzle.com. One of them is dedicated to Wales and features my photos made there between 2009 and 2013. The photos were taken in North, Middle and South Wales, particularly in Caernarfon, Llandudno, Denbighshire. Exact places include Valle Crucis Abbey, Horseshoe Path, and a few others.

Another calendar consists of my London photos. The landmarks include a church in Aldgate, St. Pancras Railway Station, the church of St. Clements Danes, a few Bloomsbury and Soho streets. This is London you rarely see on postcards. While the Welsh 2021 photographic calendar is ideal for those who love the countryside, London 2021 photographic calendar will best suit those who like the subdued city vibe.

Both 2021 photographic calendars cost around $20 and can be delivered within a few days. I hope you will be able to enjoy my photos in the coming year.

Furthermore, please browse my Zazzle store and choose from cards, posters, iPhone covers and other merchandise that I will upload soon.

Mundus Vivendi Design

More posts on Photography.

A Moscow Library Interior

Library no. 166, Nagorny Boulevard, 3 (Moscow, Russia)

Carola Huttmann has once narrated her childhood experience of visiting the library, looking for books, using the library card. I certainly share her story of a love affair, having been using libraries since I was 6.

Between 1997 and now I’ve worked in about a dozen of libraries, including the British Library in London (particularly the Manuscript Department), the John Rylands Library in Manchester, the Public Record Office at Kew Gardens in London, and the Duke Humphrey’s Library at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The experience of going into every such “big” library is indescribable: not because you cannot find the exact definitions for your impressions, but because all the impressions – joy, proud, humility, overwhelm, passion – compound one another, whereby the best thing to do is to read the face and the eyes of the person who talks about their experience of being in this reservoir of knowledge. Those impressions double when you sit in the British Library’s cafe, next to a huge glass cube full of books from George III’s library, eating a bagle with soft cheese and salmon and feeling kind of guilty of spending time in vain (eating, that is!), while right next to you stands solemnly this mesmerising vastness of culture.

Meeting the world-known scholars once again makes the experience of visiting the library even more colourful. I’ve only recognised two, and I should have enough sense of humour to tell the stories. At the Public Record Office I once had to sing off a form that allowed me to take the books (Calendars of State Papers) downstairs to photocopy. A couple of lines above stood of the name of Prof. John Guy, one of the leading Tudor scholars, whose books I had obviously read. ‘WOW‘, I thought, ‘I’m at the same place and the same time as John Guy – things are happening!‘ Better yet, a few moments later I saw Prof. Guy himself, and, being polite people, we even nodded to each other. I should have introduced myself, but at that moment the fact of seeing the professor overshadowed the opportunity to actually get acquainted.

The same happened at the British Library, where I mistook Prof. Sydney Anglo for an unknown scholar from the former Soviet republic of Georgia (if you’ve seen Georgians, you may be able to understand me). It took me to get back to my small room in Fitzroy St to realise that I saw the person who brilliantly dissected Macchiavelli, illuminated the Tudor pageantry from the inside, and had recently published a book on martial arts in Renaissance Europe. I saw both professors during my first visit to London, a rather overwhelming experience, as some of you know.

In the majority of academic libraries you cannot wander along the shelves, randomly touching the age-old bindings. This opportunity is reserved for local libraries where you can indeed touch and feel the books immediately. I spent about ten minutes yesterday with a collection of antique poetry before I had to leave. I feel somewhat puzzled at the fact that in most these libraries the alphabetic collections will combine all sorts of literature. A philosophy textbook will stand next to the crime story by a modern author, and the two will be flanked by a cooking book on one side and a poetry collection – on another. And yet, it is in these quaint rooms with bookshelves full of all sorts of books a nascent passion for beauty, knowledge, and language is first discovered…

The Layers of Time: London, Manchester, and Moscow

London, 2004

The photo in London was taken on a film camera (affectionately known as a “soapbox”) in April 2004; it was the day when I walked from Fitzroy Street through High Holborn and via St Paul’s to the Tower of London.

The photo in Manchester was taken in 2007 on St Patrick’s Day, if I’m not mistaken.

Manchester, 2007

And the photo in Moscow was taken in the first two weeks of October 2010.

Each of them is peculiar in their own way, but I particularly love how they document the passage of time (London, Manchester) and how the past and the future rise to each other’s challenge (Moscow).

Moscow, 2010

Qype: The Sherlock Holmes in London

LondonEating & DrinkingPubs & BarsPubs

As many past visitors correctly noted, the pub is nowhere near Baker Street – but it is close enough to the famous Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square, and a handful of London landmarks. The menu is a repertoire of names that owe their origin to Sherlokian stories, and judging by the food I had there it is a splendid adventure, you will certainly not be disappointed.

Better yet, for all Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson fans worldwide, in the pub there is a room filled with the famous sleuth’s memorabilia. I was especially surprised to see a figure of Holmes with a hole in his head. To this day, I’ve no idea why they decided to place that particular mannequin in the pub.

The walls along the staircase are decorated with some of Conan-Doyle’s own drawings; in one of those, made shortly before his death, he depicted himself as a horse who carries an overloaded cart.

Last but not least, the Russian visitors will not be disappointed either: they will find a photograph and a letter presented to the pub by Igor Maslennikov, the director of the Russian TV series based on Conan-Doyle’s stories. The series, starring Vassily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Dr Watson, has wowed the audiences in Russia and in the West since its release in 1970s-early 1980s.

The pub is tucked away in a side walk off Charing Cross, and is a short walk away from taxi rank or Bond Street tube station.


London Walks – 1

Botolph Alley, London

Every time I come to London I find it mysterious. When I go by taxi from Euston to elsewhere in the early hours of the morning, the streets and people look so strange. It’s like they’ve just stopped being someone else, and are now becoming someone they are going to be until dusk. As I ride past, I see them gradually turning into clerks, executives, cleaners, and students, while at night they were all seducers and innocentis, pagans who dance and sing their sacred hymns in crowded neon temples and dedicate every act of copulation to the Almighty Deity that is thought to endow you with eternal youth and freedom.

Westminster, London

I have always used to stay in a different part of London. The first time there I lived in a student hostel in Fitzroy Street; the second – in a friend’s flat at Beckenham Junction; then in a hotel in Sussex Gardens, with the Hyde Park just down the road;then in South Kensington; then again in Sussex Gardens, again close to the Park. I don’t know where I stay next time, but my dream is to spend the entire night walking in the streets. I’ve walked in London until early hours of the night, but never in the early hours of the morning.

I love this London’s mystery because I am a dreamer. Where you normally find sleep-walkers, in me you find someone fascinated by illusions. They are not hallucinations; they are illusions of what is around me, and what I see happening. This is why I write, and this is also why I love cinema. I cherish the dream of immersing myself into the bowels of this monster, the city that many people fear so passionately, deny so resolutely, and admire so grudgingly.

© Julia Shuvalova 2006 (additions 2009)

Diwali in Trafalgar

Diwali in Trafalgar, originally uploaded by loscuadernosdejulia.

Back in April 2004 I travelled to London for the first time in my life. And then I went again at the turn of October and November in 2004, which was when I took this photo. I went to see Raphael’s exhibition at the National Gallery, and there was the Diwali festival happening in Trafalgar Square. This is one of the photos I took with a regular Kodak camera, not a digital one.

I am posting this photo to wish a Happy Diwali to all readers who celebrate this holiday!

Some Flickr Pointers

I noticed that Flickr link in my Lijit widget wasn’t working. I corrected it but I thought I’d use the opportunity to give you a peek at my “private” Flickr life.

I started using the site in 2007, partly because of Robin Hamman‘s paeans. I’ve loved photography already but as with blogging it took overcoming a certain inner hurdle to start putting the photos up for all to see.

I love Flickr; in May, during Futuresonic Festival, I even delivered a talk on Online Photography; and before then in January I wrote a lengthy article on how (not) to use Flickr. Working as a Social Media Manager, I notice, of course, that nobody uses Flickr as they “should”, myself including. But it’s good to strive to use it better.

Flickr is an ocean, deep, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous. They upped security and safety levels, and you can always ask to take you “to kittens” but chances are, you will keep looking. I don’t think it will be totally bad if a young person stumbles upon the imagery of sexual kind. My concern is whether or not there will be a sensible adult with them to explain things.

As for me, I was amazed when last year I got followed by the multitudes of leather fans. I love leather clothes, so this season I don’t even have to try to be fashionable. But to have your own self-portrait in leather pants and hand-made sweater accumulating views and comments was something different.

My experience of Flickr has been great, all the more so because for the second time a photo I took was included in Schmap City Guide. In 2007, one photo was featured in Schmap Liverpool Guide. In 2009, another photo (which you will not find in my personal photostream) got included in Schmap Manchester Guide. It was made at one of the events where I went as my company’s employee, and it is credited to the company.

So, by way of giving a few pointers to what you’re going to find if you visit my Flickr:

All sets, and particularly Knitting and Lake District

Carmarthen Cameos (South Wales)


Bolton (a Lancashire town in Greater Manchester county)


North Wales

Castles (only Welsh so far)

Museums, Art Galleries, Exhibitions (Beck’s Canvas, Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum)

Concert and Music Events (Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Toshio Iwai)

Russian Places (some of my childhood places)

York (I loved the city, will go again some time)

Yorkshire: Leeds and Scarborough

Lancashire: Oldham, Blackburn and Blackpool

Merseyside: Liverpool and Southport

Cheshire: Chester, Altrincham, Warrington, and Stockport

Midlands: Birmingham

Public Lectures (Slavoj Zizek rules!)

Festivals: Futuresonic, Manchester International Festival, Text Festival

The photo above is Cleopatra’s Needle from London 2004 set.

St Paul Cathedral – London 2004

I look at my own photos of London, taken between 2004 and 2008… and I can’t help feeling that the 2004 pictures have got a different air about them. I’m not sure what to attribute this to. It was my first ever time in London, it was April 2004, and every street, every building promised an adventure. I was also relieved to get back to my “real” self: a girl who grew up in a capital city and who loved exploring the endless twists and turns of streets and alleys of a highly urbanised city.

More than anything, the 2004 photos were made with a “soapbox” Kodak, so looking at these pictures now is interesting from a technical perspective. This is not digital photography, and the biggest difference consists in the fact that on my present camera I can view and review the result instantly. If I don’t like it, I can erase it and make a new picture. With a soapbox cam, using a film, I essentially follow the path blindly, relying on my eye to tell me if the image looks right.

But maybe – maybe – this is precisely what I find different in all these pictures of the UK’s capital city? Watching an image instantly on the screen is different from literally capturing it with the eye. Maybe I like the 2004 London photos exactly because taking them arguably involved more hard graft on my part?

But if it is so, then there must be a different reason for me liking those 2004 photos. And I reckon it is that I was really in love – not with London as such, but with the sheer sense of freedom, space, and liberation. Yes, spending 7 months in Manchester’s suburb after 22 years in Moscow was tough! Understanding this led me to explore Manchester more, so that now, I suppose, I could see the same feeling in the photos I take in Manchester. But on the human scale, the 2004 London photos capture my infatuation, the one of a kind that often takes place at the beginning of a romance.

Of course, what this means is that I must go to London some time soon. I miss it.


The London Routemaster: Competition and Inspiration

The old London bus, originally uploaded by loscuadernosdejulia.

The photo you see in the post was made in London this July, as I was walking from the Strand to Trafalgar Square (I took the picture from the staircase that led to the Royal Society of Arts). In the morning I took a bus from Lancaster Gate to Euston, left my luggage to store, and then took my favourite walk from Euston Rd to Russell Sq and down Southampton Row. From there I got to the Strand, and from the Strand I walked to Trafalgar Sq. I was planning to visit Victoria and Albert Museum, but I didn’t want to take the tube, nor did I want to hop on and off the different buses. Eventually, I took the Heritage Route no.9 bus from Trafalgar Sq that circulates between Royal Albert Hall and Aldwych. But in the picture above you see the second of the two heritage routes, no. 15; it operates between Trafalgar Sq and Tower Hill.

Routemaster in Wikipedia
London Routemaster Heritage Route

And so, more on the subject of passion. The comments you can read on this photo’s page on Flickr sound as if they’d been left by a native Londoner. In fact, Jason Albright (aka austinmini1275) is the native of Hagerstown, MD (the U.S.), and has always been interested in transportation, and the London buses, in particular. He also pointed out to the fact that in the photo I managed to catch not one, but two London icons: the Routemaster and the FX4-type black cab. As the person who easily mistakes Ford Beetle for Lamborgini, I am completely in awe with Jason’s competence.

As some of you might know, Boris Johnson vowed during his campaign for the Mayor of London to bring the Routemasters back. In spite of mixed comments, Mr Johnson is keeping his word on this, and here is the New Bus for London competition. The competition closes on September 19th, 2008. To make things clearer, the new London bus design will be based on the AEC Routemaster, but the organisers, and Mr Johnson in particular, are aiming to go further. They want to hear from both professional designers who can submit the whole plan and regular commuters who can contribute their experience and ideas for improvement. The first prize is the hefty £25,000, with several smaller awards for “great ideas”.

Whether London buses will all be Routemaster-esque by 2012 or not, is the matter of time and money. This will certainly be a great feature to enhance the Olympics experience for the capital, but exactly how efficient it is, one will have to wait and see. The current biggest drawback of the Routemasters is that they don’t accommodate the needs of disabled passengers and don’t have sufficient space for prams and luggage.

I got to use the Routemaster in spring 2004 when I visited London for the first time ever. I was staying in a hostel in Fitzroy St and taking a bus from Tottenham Court Rd to Euston Rd, to visit the British Library. One day I took the Routemaster, and the experience of riding it later transcended into verse: in the 2004 poem called The Ship, which is in fact dedicated to the London Routemasters, I compared the experience of being of this bus with the experience of sailing in the open sea. The verbatim translation is below; the Russian original is in the form of a fourteen liner:

I am a random passenger on the ship.
I come aboard and say farewell to calm.
I leave the shore behind and sail
Forth, wherever the ship takes me.

A captain-conductor accepted me as an equal
And doesn’t mind sharing his stand with me,
And so I lose the sight of the shore,
While watching the waves, in excitement.

And at the very moment when the ship
Sails into the ocean, and from the distant lands
The seagulls come and bring to her their sorrow,

I feel: I behold the entire world.
And there, beneath, the road rolls like a wave,
And in the wind I sing the song of freedom.

English translation © Julia Shuvalova

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