Walking Londons Canals…. the Paddington Basin

Having created a new London Canals Walking Tour with Ye Olde England Tours I thought it was a good excuse to make good use of some of the many photos I took whilst working out my new tour.

As mentioned in the previous post on canals, they were once the backbone of the economy before falling derelict only to find a new lease of life in the 21st Century.

In my tours as well as going to the regular world-famous attractions, what I really like is taking people off the beaten track and showing them areas they had no idea existed and there are few better ways of doing that than by a canal.  Whether by water or towpath, following the canals of London is almost like travelling in another dimension revealing a hidden side to the city that even most locals don’t know.


A modern bridge over a quay.

The Paddington Arm of the Grand Junction Canal opened on 10 July 1801, linking Paddington to the Bull’s Bridge junction near the future site of Heathrow Airport. The Grand Junction (now part of the Grand Union Canal) was the final link in a chain of canals that reduced the distance from London to Birmingham from 269.5 miles (434 km) in 1789 to 138.5 miles (223 km) in 1805; terminating the canal at Paddington gave easy access to main roads into London and the level route meant no locks were needed on its 13.5-mile (22 km) length. In contrast the nearby  Regent’s Canal needed 12 locks for the 86-foot (26 m) descent from Paddington to the Thames at Limehouse.

In effect the Paddington Basin were a western docks for London and was an instant success, with warehouses and housing springing up around it. Canal traffic increased further when the Regent’s Canal linked Paddington to the Port of London in 1820, but Paddington Basin was “practically killed” as a port as business was lost to wharves such as City Road Basin that were closer to the docks and the City of London. Paddington regained importance as a transport interchange with the arrival of the railway in 1838.

Canal traffic transferred to the railways during the nineteenth century and fell away completely after World War II; the closure of the Regent’s Canal Dock in 1969 marked the coup de grâce. A similar switch from rail to road in the second half of the twentieth century left the Paddington goods yards redundant by the early 1980s. The land became derelict, with no public access to the canal land until 1987.The Paddington Special Policy Area was designated in 1988.

The Paddington Regeneration Partnership, later the Paddington Waterside Partnership, was formed in 1998 to coordinate the regeneration of the area, now designated as the Paddington Special Policy Area. This followed the establishment of the King’s Cross Partnership 3 years earlier to develop a similar mix of railway and canal land around King’s Cross station, a project that became known as King’s Cross Central. The first plans for Paddington envisaged 10,000,000 square feet (930,000 m2) of new space.  When you think that the iconic Gherkin building has floor space of 46,900 square metres then it gives an idea of the incredible amount of construction that has taken place and is still continuing.

So this walk will take us from Paddington on a generally eastern path to the borders of Kings Cross and Islington.


The Paddington Basin.

It’s almost impossible to believe that just behind the busy Edgware Road is this quiet oasis complete with a floating pocket park behind the bridge.  This marks the start of the Grand Union Canal which as part of the canal network could see you walk or ride large parts of the country.


In the distance you can just see some of the old dockside cottages.

As canals are so hidden from 99% of the population, they have an almost unknown culture well aside from their actual use by canal boats.  Basically anything you can find in London on land, you can find on a canal boat.


How about a fine restaurant on a boat?

Nearby to the restaurant there is also a floating museum and visitors centre and a short walk away is this very colourful cocktail bar.


A canal boat bar

Just like roads lead off to various places so do the canals and there are things to see everywhere if only you go and poke your nose round the corner such as this modern amphitheatre for live events or a spot of sunbathing.


What I really like about walking canals is that it gives you a different perspective on life, you get to see the places no-one else does.

Below there is a public table-tennis table along with some modern art statues.   The big bridge overhead is the A40 flyover, one of the busiest roads into London with countless thousands of cars every hour and yet they don’t see any of this whether at 70mph or crawling in the bad traffic.    The canal is a world within a world.


Modern art and sport by the canal underneath the A40 flyover. 

Looking backwards, the Paddington Basin is 500 metres in front and then veers off to the left.


As anyone who has read my blog for a while will know, one of the things that make London unique is the mixture between the very old and very new.  We’ll end this post here with promise of something entirely different next time with the charming Little Venice.

If you’re coming to London and want a tour with a difference do check us out.  With around 500 5-star reviews on various travel websites you will hopefully find something for you.


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The age of the Canal

During February I have spent some time exploring some of Londons canals and I thought I would do a short series of posts about canals.  They are are great place to enjoy some leisure time as I often do at the Grand Union canal near me but they weren’t always so sedate.

It’s impossible to understand the modern history of Britain and the industrial revolution without considering canals.

Before 1700, most British inland waterways had been built by aristocratic landowners to carry agricultural products in southern England. However, in that year a new waterway opened that was radically different.

The Aire & Calder Navigation linked Leeds to the sea and was built primarily by textile merchants and coal owners who saw a better transport infrastructure as a key part of the development of their trade. It took a couple of decades to become established, but by the 1770s many of the original promoters had become so wealthy from increased trade, that they were able to purchase large country estates.


A map of some of the major canals and waterways.

More river navigations were built by northern merchants in the first half of the eighteenth century, strengthening the position of established industrial towns like Leeds and creating new ones like Liverpool and Manchester.

It was the success of these early industrial navigations, together with his visit to the Canal du Midi, which prompted the Duke of Bridgewater to build his canal.

For Britain, it was unusual in that he alone financed the project, and because of his social position, the canal became a magnet for visitors – both from Britain and abroad. His example certainly aided the promotion of canals, and their effect on Britain’s economy was dramatic. For example, when the Duke’s canal opened from his coal mines in Worsley to the centre of Manchester in 1763, the price of coal in the town was halved overnight.

The next 20 years saw the formation of most of Britain’s most important canals, set up by merchants, aristocrats and bankers, but particularly by coalmine owners, textile manufacturers and pottery barons wanting to open up new markets for their products.

These early canals, linked directly to trade, were highly successful. National economic problems during the 1780s almost stopped further canal building, but by 1790 the existing canals were beginning to make a profit and were seen as a good investment.

Numerous new canals were promoted, and though a few were based on the solid foundation of trade, many of the others were pure speculation. This was the time of the Canal Mania when many thought that a canal alone would create wealth.

Due to the tremendous effort and investment to construct and run canals, several were to bankrupt their investors and none other than Adam Smith in 1776 said:

“Navigable cuts and canals are of great and general utility; while at the same time they frequently require a greater expense than suits the fortunes of private people.”

Despite some high profile  failures, there were many successful canals, and the volume of goods carried by canal increased rapidly, enabling Britain to become the first industrial power in the world.

As a result many people were to move from the country to the town, changing completely the face of British society. The success of the waterway system, and the industries it supported, had a major effect on Britain’s economy, creating the wealth necessary for the country’s world dominance in the Victorian era.

However, waterways were essentially local in character – financed and built by local people, and their greatest effect was upon the communities through which they passed.

It could be argued that despite their success, canals never quite fulfilled their potential as to a certain degree their golden age was curtailed quite quickly by the invention of the steam locomotive that killed off less successful canals but for well over a century, successful canals were easily able to compete with railways.

A large investment in the canals before WW2 was very well timed and the canals offered an important alternative method of transportation when the more obvious and more easily damaged train lines were bombed.

Sadly progress and the decline of many traditional industries after 1945 put an end the most of the commercial use of the canals and many fell in to total disrepair and became both dangerous and impossible to navigate.

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This current map of English and Welsh canals shows the canals in yellow and orange that have been and are being restored.

From the 1960’s however, great investment and probably more importantly, a massive amount of time and hard work from officials and volunteers has re-opened and restored a 2,000 mile network of canals in England and Wales.  Though there is some limited commercial transport on the canals and rivers, these days the canals are primarily given over to leisure and nature.

And it is with that in mind that in my next few posts I will be posting on some of the canals in London which I sought out for my new Canals of London Private Guided Tour Walk.

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My first trip up Londons newest roof garden @ 120

As roof gardens go, The Garden at 120 is spectacularly high at only 15 storeys but aside from traditional old buildings which happen to have a few pots on the roof (my most memorable being the Windsor Hotel in Cairo), this was my first visit to any purpose built roof-garden.

My visit took place whilst I was giving one of my  Sacred Secret Gardens tours and it was a little bit of a risky proposition to visit a building you had no real idea of where it was whilst with expectant tourists but my sense of direction and hunches didn’t let me down.

The first thing worth looking out for is down at street level. Huddled in the muddled old mixture of streets that date back to Roman times, he building has a spacious through-passageway which retains the ancient link between Fenchurch Street and Fenchurch Avenue. If like me your eyes are always looking upwards rather than trudging gormlessly looking at your phone then you’re in for a treat as there is a fantastic digital art installation by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier on the ceiling.


You could be under a beautiful ancient oak in Sherwood Forest in mid-summer or perhaps it is winter in London and you’re under a tunnel of giant video screens.

A super-giant and no doubt super HD display screen acts as a camera obscura bringing imagery from the garden down to the street. It mixes a view from the roof’s live-stream looking at places such as Tower Bridge alongside clips of flowing waters, blue skies or under a canopy of green leaves.  It’s well worth going for this alone.

The Garden at 120 sits fifteen storeys up atop One Fen Court, the new HQ for Italian insurance company Generali.  It is now the condition of construction of many modern towers that they have to maximise public access in order to be given permission for them to constructed at all.  There are several much elevated roof gardens in London but they either have to be booked ahead or have a quit hefty entrance fee.

To me the nearby Skygarden though higher up, always comes over as a bit pretentious at least from the imagery I’ve seen as I haven’t been myself.  Then over the Thames you have the awe inspiring Shard which is so high up that London itself looks something like a distant toy as if one is looking at Google Maps but needing to zoom in more to get a better look.

Designed by Eric Parry Architects – who bill it, somewhat grandiosely, as “a building of a hundred views” – One Fen Court will hold the now-standard mix of office and retail space. The Garden at 120, which was landscaped by German firm Latz + Partners, is sandwiched between the Walkie Talkie and The Gherkin, both only a couple of streets away, giving you pretty impressive close-ups. The Shard stands imposingly across the river, the Tower of London is within the sightlines, and Canary Wharf is easily visible in the distance.

Whilst there are treats to be seen across town, there’s plenty to see on the rooftop itself. Amongst the neatly trimmed hedges, wildflower patches, and tranquil water feature, there’s a kind of serenity here that’s too often lacking in the City. The elegant metal pavilion, meanwhile, will only get better-looking, as early summer should bring the wisteria into bloom. Plus, at nearly 3000 square feet, there’s no shortage of space on a sunny day and it is anticipated over 200 people will be able to enjoy their stay there at any one time.

At the moment the garden aspect of it looks a little bare which is to be expected on a cold late winters day high up above London in a new garden but the publicity images give an indication of how it may look in a few months time.


Artists impression of how the garden at 120 will look in the summer.

When I first arrived, there was barely anyone there and I don’t think there was ever more than 5-6 people around.  The first thing I noticed was just how quiet it was and how open.  As with any city outside a park, you’re always hemmed in and somewhat oppressed by buildings and perhaps nowhere more so than the old City of London which uniquely combines skyscrapers with alleyways just wide enough for a horse and cart.


Tower Bridge from a new point of view.  A small section of the Tower of London is to the left.

Up on the roof however everything is so open and you get to appreciate the expanse of it all and I enjoyed being able to pick out the streets and sights that I know so well as well as enjoying new vantage points of places such as the Tower of London or Leadenhall Market.


Looking to Westminster… The Deathstar on the left, Parliament on the horizon to its right.  The Tate modern gallery.  The weird looking building just to the left of the Thames is said by some to be the Kim Kardashian.  St Pauls Cathedral is to the right and at the base of the building is the roof of Leadenhall Market and besides that, the stainless steel Lloyds of London building.

You don’t have a great view of the north unless Skyscrapers are your thing in which case you’re in for a real treat but looking west you can see all the way past the Houses of Parliament in the City of Westminster and then to the south you can see the 10 miles or so to Crystal Palace.


Look north if Skyscrapers are your thing at the Garden at 120

Similarly over to the East by Southeast to Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs where the cluster of towers stood high on the horizon.


The Garden at 120 looking out towards Canary Wharf

My favourite view however was looking east over Whitechapel. The garden is almost on the eastern boundary of the City of London and it gives the most incredible view over Aldgate, Whitechapel and Spitalfields.


Looking down Whitechapel High Street.  The final photo below is taken besides the dark brick church (centre left).  One of Jack The Rippers victims was murdered between the black skyscraper on the left and the brick building to its right.

As it happened, two days later I was giving a Jack The Ripper walking tour and before it began I managed grab a photograph from the street level looking west towards the roof garden.  You can see the top of the building is clad in materials that give it a particularly funky colour depending on the angle of the sun, keeping in line with the idea that all new buildings should be unique and interesting on the eye rather than a boring rectangle as in so many other cities.


From Aldgate you can see the green fluorescent roof garden in the distance in front of the DeathStar.  I like The Scalpel on the right.

I often wonder what Jack and his unfortunate victims would think of the changes over the last century or so. I’m sure they would be astounded and though the incredible disparity in wealth between the City and the East End is there, the relentless march of money and construction continues to push ever eastwards with many more new towers about to be built than have even been created in the last few years.

This garden may not be sacred but it is closer to heaven than most and it is still secret and so will make a great addition to my Sacred Secret Gardens walk in the old City of London.


Your happy blogger that hates flying but as absolutely no fear of heights.




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Now and then on an old London street corner

A few years ago I did a short series of then and now photos showing how places have changed since the advent of photography

I’ve seen the photo below before and still think it is very evocative. This is the junction of Fieldgate Street and Plumbers Row in Whitechapel, London. The building in front is the side of Whitechapel Bell Foundry, until recently one of the oldest commercial organisations in the world.


The foundry is older but it moved to this site around 1740, the building used to be The Artichoke Alehouse or pub.

This Foundry created the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and also Big Ben in London. One of the theories of the naming of Big Ben is that the original Big Ben was a champion bears knuckle boxer in Whitechapel and the bell was named in his honour.

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Casting bells in Whitechapel

Recently the Foundry had a purple period as orders of Handbells went through the roof due to the popularity of Downton Abbey.

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Sadly the foundry closed just a year or so ago but the local outcry of it being redeveloped by a foreign buyer to build a hotel and shops on it has stopped this from happening and there are strong moves to re-open the foundry even if just as a heritage site.


One of the two most likely streets for the home of Jack The Ripper is just a building or so behind the foundry.

You can see in the old photo the building on the right has either war damage or was just generally falling apart. Many of the buildings in Whitechapel were all ready falling apart and ready to be pulled down even in the time of Jack The Ripper and in the 1970’s and 80’s it was thought better to start from scratch though in the 21st century, the many surviving buildings have been restored.  The original old photo was taken by a photographer in the 1960’s-70’s as you might just be able to tell from the clothing the figure is wearing on the right.

Below you can see the same scene today.

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There has been massive works to ‘improve’ Whitechapel and re-aligned the road junction to create a public seating area.

Either way it’s pretty certain that Jack The Ripper, the Elephant Man and The Krays will have walked here many a time.

Away from the awful crimes and poverty of the past, you can see some of the incredible street art in whitechapel  as well as some sights around Whitechapel.  Or my recent post on the Aldgate Priory which I just ‘discovered’!

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There’s something about Nina the Lovebird

On Sunday morning I lost my little feathery friend, Nina the Lovebird.  She had enjoyed a n exceedingly long and good life for a Lovebird reaching around 20 years of age,

Originally Nina belonged to my mother though being an animal-lover we always had an affinity for each other.  In 2016 when the family home was sold and everyone else scattered to the winds, I was asked to look after Nina for a week or two.  In the end that was the last she saw of the rest of her immediate family and so for the last 3.5 years I gained a new member of the household, Nina… my little dragon.

I thought I would share some of the photos the exhibited Nina’s personality.  It may be hard for someone who has never had a bird before to think that they have personalities but they do.


The photo above shows Nina sticking her behind out of her cage.  Despite my keeping her cage clean, Nina quickly realised there was little sense in going to the toilet in her own house when instead she could stick her little bum out and do it in my house.

Later on she developed this rather cute quirk where she would perform a backwards moon-walk on the roof of her cage and do her business off the roof.


The photo above is perhaps my favourite photo of Nina and gets over something about the true-love nature of our relationship.  Nina never wanted to be apart from me and would like to join in wherever I was.  Your dogs and cat may try and follow you to the toilet but only your little bird is quick enough to fly past the closing door and sit on your knee when you have business to attend to.


Like most female Lovebirds and especially those that were not trained to be hand-held at an early age, Nina was very territorial and would only let you go near her when she wanted you too.  However she was totally fine in ignoring my personal-space boundaries as we have already seen.  She used to like nothing better than sitting on me and posing for the camera.  She was also a fan of Youtube, especially when Lovebirds were singing away and the sound effects of Star Trek also seem to resonate with her.



If there was one thing that Nina liked then it was food and heaven help you if you were eating and she found out as she would perch on you and walk closer and closer up your body until she virtually blocked out your mouth to intercept food directly from your hand or fork.


In the first few months of looking after Nina, I learned exactly the type of foods that she loved, namely human food.  Being a British bird, Nina naturally had a love of Indian curry, at least the varieties that us British popularised. Here she is helping herself to some of my Chicken Balti.  I always thought her eating Chicken was a little bit canabalistic but though Lovebirds like many others are famed for eating seed and some fruit, meat is also an important part of diet.  Sure they might insects in the wild but I’m pretty sure Chicken Balti seemed to be an acceptable alternative.


The above is the very first photo I took of Nina on the day I inherited her.



In this photo, Nina has gone to sleep on my lap.  I will always remember fondly her blue feet which were also warm.  She loved to go to sleep on me.  She also liked me singing to her and she would get as close as she could to my mouth and listen for 30-40 minutes, basically until I got tired or just as often, she went to sleep.


As I mentioned previously, Nina loved getting involved in everything.  Here she is one November trying to help me with my home-made wine making process.  I was always worried she would fall in something or other but she never did.  She seemed to liked the semi-fermented grape skins too.


A few months after Nina arrived, being an elderly bird she sadly had a stroke and lost some of the vision in one eye.  I thought she might not survive but she did and continued to thrive.  However she was no longer able to fly.  Now unable to get at my food even with her cage door open, she would rattle her cage doors like an angry prisoner, so much so I would have to tie them up.

Nevertheless though her days of eating directly off my plate were gone (I was relieved in some ways as who is that keen on bird feet going through their dinner?), I would instead make up a special plate for her as often as I could.

Here she is having some fresh spinach, falafel, potato salad and coleslaw.  In truth though she loved her junk food.  She adored pepperoni pizza, toast and anything in noisy plastic packaging.  She would start getting excited from the moment I would open a pantry door.

She also loved fruit and more than once I would eat in the evenings with the lights off and the television sound on quite loud hoping to eat grapes or oranges in a bit of peace and quiet but within a minute or so she became alerted of the smell.

Nina didn’t just love human food, she was a little greedy.  I would be out all day working, I would feed her her own food before I made my own, only for her to forsake that in lieu of what I was having.  Even if I then gave her some of my food, she would rattle her cage as she believed I was buying her off with titbits or second best produce.


One of her very favourite foods was my soya chocolate mousse.  From the moment she heard me peel the lid of, there was not one second of quiet until I gave her the finished pot.

You can see in the photo above how she has already licked off 99% of the chocolate residue on one side of the pot.

She would then spend maybe an hour licking it completely clean with her tiny red tongue.  Sometimes she would wander around a little like a Dalek and would always get messy foods all over her face and beak as if she were a child learning to eat.


Nina with chocolate mousse on her beak



However she would always take great care of her cleanliness and appearance and here she is after after a bath.  She spent a lot of time systematically pruning herself and keeping her feathers in perfect condition.


Once she had stopped flying, she would use her beak like a pick-axe and climb slowly up my body to get closer to me.  It took a bit of time and then it made it hard for me to walk without her falling off.  Here she is when I am trying to cook.


This is the final photo of Nina sitting on me.  It was on Christmas Day and she had the finest Christmas Dinner a Lovebird could want.  A tiny bit of everything that I had.  Turkey, sausage, potato, carrot, parsnip, stuffing, bread-sauce (which she loved), gravy, Christmas Pudding and custard as well as a few other nibbles.

Afterwards like families everywhere, we settled down to watch some television.  Myself on the sofa and Nina on my foot.

I always felt a little bad as I was something of a retirement home from Nina when no-one else wanted her.  I hope she had a good life with me.  In her final week we sang and danced together.  She had some chips from the chip-shop, some sweet potatoes, several grapes and my leftover apple and even some crumbs of gluten free chocolate brownie which if I am honest, only made her want more.

On Friday night she was very keen to get close to me so I sat on the floor with her cage door open and we messed around and chatted.  She wagged her tail to me, something she did a lot and is a Lovebird sign of happiness and flirtation.  Very unusually for her she allowed me to stroke her back.  We were doing this for about 30 minutes which is an eternity for a Lovebird as their quick metabolism means they always have to eat, drink or poop.


Nina looking sprightly and radiant a few days ago.

Normally Nina had a special chirp she made just for me when I bade her goodnight.  I’d then tell her what a beautiful girl she was and how I’d see her in the morning and that I loved her before I blew her a kiss to which she too would make a kiss noise.  On Saturday night however she was fast asleep and on Sunday morning she didn’t make her usual ‘Morning Stephen’ chirp when I opened the curtains at 7.30am though she was asleep.

At 9am, wondering why she had made a fuss about my cutlery rattling around and it being almost her breakfast, I went into the front room and she was there on the floor of the page laying very peacefully but seemingly lifeless.   She didn’t respond at all so I stroked her back for a few minutes.  She was still very warm and it seems to me that she was either dying then or had died just a few minutes earlier.

On Monday I took Nina to the Pet crematorium and in a few days I will have her ashes returned.  I have recycled all of her belongings but kept her favourite toy bird which she would snuggle up to in the day time, occasionally berate when she was angry and sleep with at night.


Nina sleeping on the roof after I got a new 5 bulb floor lamp in November.  Nina loved it and would ‘sunbathe’ in it.

As long time readers may remember, I’m not unused to having slightly supernatural occurrences in my life and this morning.  Soon after 5.30am this morning her toy bird which hasn’t uttered a sound in about 19 years let off a whistle and it has done so a few other times when I have mentioned Nina’s name or been doing activities Nina would normally get excited about.  So it seems Nina lives long and wanted me to know all is well for her even though I do and will miss her tremendously.

Incredibly as only a Lovebird with a Social Media presence and an adopted family across  southern England, the USA and India can know, Nina has been flooded with a number of messages from people she has stayed with, chatted to on the phone or simply seen online.

She was a lovely little thing and I love her so much.  I hope she felt similarly.



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10 signs that you’re intelligent

A little while ago I was doing some research and by way of several non-connected links I ended up several websites away from where I intended to be and reading about intelligence.   Dr Awdhesh Singh is an author of books on spiritual intelligence and leadership and he gave a most satisfactory insight as to what intelligence entails.

Most of us think that we are intelligent. We also like to believe that we are more intelligent than others. The only problem is that others also think in the same way and they don’t believe that we are as intelligent as we think we are. This leads to several problems in our life because:


1.    When we believe that we are more intelligent than others, we don’t listen to their advice and hence suffer in our life


2.    When we believe that others are less intelligent than us, we feel frustrated when they don’t listen to us


There are several methods to measure intelligence like taking IQ Test, getting admission into prestigious institutions like Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard; getting a tremendous salary in a top company.  However if you have such a narrow view of what it is to be intelligent then you may have to perhaps treat some of the greatest men in history to not be that intelligent.  Bill Gates who dropped out of school, Gandhi who despite everything else was not much of an academic and Albert Einstein who worked as a clerk.

Dr Awdhesh Singh suggests some questions which can help you know if you are really intelligent.


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1: Can You Solve Real Life Problems?

The intelligent people are good at solving the real-life problems. The real life problems are quite different from the text-book problems, where the right answer is already known and every problem is simplified to a mathematical problem.  In the real world, no situation is ever same. Even when the problem is the same, the persons and situations are different. Hence, you have to be really intelligent to find solutions to the real-life problems which are always unique and whose accuracy is known only in future.


2: Do You Choose the Right People for Right Job?

When it comes to solving problem, it is impossible for anyone to know the right answers to all the problems. However, an intelligent person knows quite well as to who is the right person to solve a particular problem. He chooses the right person for the right job and solve every problem quickly and effectively.


3: Do You Often Succeed in Achieving Your Goal?

Ordinary people are always driven by the motivation of others who often fool them by telling things like ‘nothing is impossible’, ‘you can do anything in your life’, ‘be always positive and optimistic’ etc. Intelligent people know themselves so accurately that know exactly where there are good and where they are not. They strive only for such goals which are within their ambit and their chances of success are reasonably good. Hence their successes are always more than their failures. How can you be called intelligent, if you fail in achieving what you want in your life?  Even when an intelligent person fails, he learns from it and makes it a stepping stone of success.


4: Are Your Creative?

Intelligence is impossible without creativity. A man without creativity is like a machine which can efficiently execute the functions for which it is designed or programmed, but can’t do a thing more. An intelligent person is highly creative as he never repeats the same mistake twice. When Thomas A. Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work,” he was not talking about persevere as most people would like to imagine, but exhibiting his creativity of finding 10000 new ways to do the same thing. An intelligent person always discovers another method, if the present method does not work.


5: Are You Happy?

If you are not happy with your life, you are surely not intelligent. It is because your first goal of life is to be happy and as an intelligent person, you must know what makes you happy and how can you achieve happiness for self and others.  If you are frustrated with life, you perhaps don’t understand yourself and the world. Under such situation, how can you be called intelligent?


6: Can You Synthesise Knowledge?

Intelligent people are not great scholars. They are rarely highly educated from the top business schools. They don’t waste their time learning something which they are never going to use. They have the ability to learn from anyone and from everyone. They have the ability to use the knowledge of one field into another domain. They are not domain expert but experts of life. They see unity in diversity as Einstein said, “’All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” If you can use your knowledge of art in science and the theories of science in religion, you are intelligent.  If you can’t discover the connections between disparate things, you can’t be called intelligent.

7: Can You Work with People Smarter than You?

Intelligent people are not the most brilliant people. They often have poor memories and slow analytical power The stories of forgetfulness of Einstein and Newton are well known. However, they have the ‘knowledge of knowledge’. They have the macro-picture of the world and they know how individual things fit into its proper place.  Hence when they meet smarter and more successful people, they don’t feel inferior but rather use their strengths to achieve their objectives.


8: Can You Predict People’ Behaviour Accurately?

Intelligent people are able to not only predict their own behaviour in a given situation but also able to predict the behaviour of other people, they are dealing with. They are hardly surprised when people behave in a particular way because they already know the people deeply from their past behaviour. While ordinary people’s expectation of themselves and others are based on idealism and wishful thinking, intelligent people’s behaviour is based on realistic assessment. Hence they are never disappointed with people as their expectations are realistically accurate.


9: Can You Predict Future Accurately?

While most people find the future quite unpredictable, the intelligent people already know the future before it comes. Hence they are always ready for the future. Because of their accurate knowledge of the people and the laws of the world, they not only predict the future but also make their future. While their predictions may not always be absolutely correct, but like good archers, they always shoot the arrows very near to the bull’s eye. Their prediction of future is rarely off the mark.


10: Can You Prevent Problems

While ordinary people solve the problems as and when they arise, the intelligent people are able to prevent the problem itself due to their accurate knowledge of the cause and effect. They know that nothing happens in this world at random and that everything happens due to some cause. Hence by preventing the causes proactively, they are able to prevent the birth of problem itself.  Albert Einstein said this very wisely, “Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.” –

Are You Really Intelligent?


If you feel that you possess most of these qualities, you are highly intelligent notwithstanding your academic qualification, your IQ score or your income.  If your answer to most of these questions is in negative, you can’t be said to be intelligent despite all other indicators establishing your intelligence.

I must say I score 9 out of 10.  I’d like to think I am creative with various writing and video projects. I run my own growing business which involves lots of dealings with people as well as resolving and preventing problems.

I really like working with people who are smarter than me, or even just smart people as so often life does seem full of idiots!

The thing I think I am particularly strong at is predicting the future.  I’m very good at making character judgements on people and do make instant judgements on people within seconds.  So far, I’ve never found someone I liked to be a bad person and I often take a dislike to a person when no-one else does only for a few months or years later, everyone else comes round to my way of thinking.

I’m always amazed generally at how people generally seem so terrible at predicting the future behaviour of other people or indeed the future very accurately at all.  Right up to big news events such as 9/11, Brexit, Trump, Putin they all seemed very obvious to me before the time and in deed the subsequent fall-out from all of them too.

Regardless of the importance of intelligence, I’d much rather have an honest and kind average person than some selfish genius and I’d never judge someone on their intelligence.    Even the least brightest person often has an insight or piece of wisdom to offer that others have completely overlooked.

Posted in Life, Opinion | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

The Robocops of Kinshasa

Central Africa might not be your first guess when it comes to thinking of robocops but for the last 5 years or so in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been using them in increasing numbers in the hope they will improve traffic flow and cut the terrible death-rate on the roads.

The first two bots — which stand over eight feet tall and weigh 550 pounds — were installed on the sides of two intersections in 2013. In 2015, three more bots, named Tamuke, Mwaluke and Kisanga, were planted at three other main traffic junctions, according to The Guardian.

In reality, they aren’t quite like Robots in the modern sense but it is still several steps better than the all too predictable hi-tech Russian robot that was unveiled to show how far ahead Russia is in robotics only for it to be quickly discovered it was a man dressed in a robot suit.

The Robocops of Kinshasa essentially work like normal security cameras. As cars go by, the robots record them, and Kinshasa’s police can monitor the real-time footage. Those who speed or run a red light get tickets.  The robots not being equipped with artificial intelligence can’t issue tickets themselves. Their chests also rotate and serve as four traffic lights at once.


The traffic robot has camera eyes to video infractions and its body and arms rotate and raise to control traffic.

The new robots are powered by solar panels and cost $27,500each, while the older prototypes cost $10,000 each. Women’s Technologies (Wotech), a Congolese co-operative that employs both female and male engineers, created the robots with entrepreneur Thérèse Izay Kirongozi behind the design.

The response by Kinshasa residents has been mostly positive, according to the local news outlet CCTV Africa. In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor wrote that the robots keep traffic down and allow pedestrians and drivers to feel safe.

“These robot traffic cops work around the clock and are beloved by locals — and they don’t accept bribes,” she writes.

Not everyone is convinced. As Citylab notes, the bots could be a distraction from the city’s more pertinent issues with urban planning, including unpaved roads and lack of public transportation.


For other Africa related posts have a look at how Cricket is improving lives in Rwanda  or perhaps an environmental article My first cover story on the Green Wall of Africa .  For a little bit of forgotten history then you might like to read about the man that was so rich, he made Gold worthless but giving so much away.  Musa I of Mali – The richest man you may never have heard of


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