24 March 2017

I see dead things – Not for the squeamish !!!

Crossing Dickenson Road on Crouch Hill last week I noticed two dead frogs/toads about a metre apart in the road. I took some photos (like you do when you are an amateur animal forensics nutter) and then stood there contemplating how they'd met their sorry end.
It all looked pretty fresh. Had they been crossing the road en-masse and these two got unlucky? If so, where were they all headed to? This is the top of a hill. Hmmmm. I decided no, not that, because they didn't appear to be squished enough (no complaints please, I did warn this was not for the squeamish at the start!).
Perhaps they were dropped from above? But both of them? At the same time? From the same source?
And then I recalled that on Saturday 4th March I was standing with a friend in the road behind Sadler's Wells Theatre and we heard something hit the pavement next to us and turned to see a blackbird just lying there shaking. This continued whilst we faffed about wondering if we should do something and after two minutes the bird was motionless. We looked up and couldn't see where it could have fallen from. Did it die of exhaustion? Or did a larger predatory bird drop it? We intended to return to the scene later but, er, that didn't happen.

Blackbird is not my pic – plenty like this available online (weird). The spider used to live in my bathroom. I came home one day at it was dead like this in the middle of the floor.  
Last May I happened upon two dead chicks on a path in Highgate. There were thin trees above, but no nests in them and these birds as you can see hadn't finished sprouting feathers yet. So I deduced a predator had stolen them then dropped them. I don't know what species these birds are, perhaps someone can tell me.

Really sad. though I am fascinated to see how the feathers evolve.
About ten metres from this macabre scene someone had put a soft toy animal on a fence. I assume his owner had dropped him and someone had been picked him up in the hope that he might be rescued. No such hope for the baby birds.

21 March 2017

Butter Fingers at The Old Dairy, Crouch Hill

Last week I was chatting to Jason at the Oxfam Books & Music shop at Crouch End as I assessed my card stock there. As I added some more of the Old Dairy at Stroud Green he asked if had noticed that one person depicted on the sgraffito panels had something extra.
Intrigued, I walked back down the hill to take another look.
Cards
I have studied these panels many times but although I had noticed that the people aren't what you'd call beautiful and are mostly out of proportion with the other characters and objects around them, I hadn't spotted that one of the butter-making girls has an extra finger.


7 March 2017

Artizans and Labourers in Queen's Park

I have written before about The Artizans and Labourers General Dwellings Company and their establishments at Harrow Road and Noel Park.
This post shows some of their earlier buildings – little terraced cottages along Kilburn Lane in Queen's Park, London W10, built in 1876.


Note how the end of each terrace had a corner shop. Directly opposite these shops is a collection of buildings that looks like there was either a school or a dairy there. I don't know if these were also part of ALGDC. This needs further investigation – I will add it to the list/pile.
If you know anything about any of these buildings, including the ones over the road, please do let me know.
Thanks in advance.



24 February 2017

Ghostsign – Hinton and Gunner, two Wembley pork and beef butchers

As you can see there have been two butchers at this location in Ealing Road – it's evident that one has been painted over the other. However they offered mainly the same thing:

It's impossible to get a straight-on shot of this sign so I have transformed it using Photoshop to attempt to make it more legible
The earlier blue sign is for R. Gunner – at top left: DAIRY FED PORK, and bottom right: ENGLISH SCOTCH MEAT. Clear, simple and to the point.
The subsequent black lettering for HINTON is now fading away and is more descriptive of the products available. I can make out (/ = line break): PURVEYORS / OF / SCOTCH BRITSH BEEF / GRASS FED [something] / DAIRY FED [pork?] / VARIETY OF COOKED MEATS / Families [?word] / or (?) [? next word].
Hints of a third sign at this site are also evident though no discernible letterforms remain.
If anyone has any archive images of this location, please do email them to me/send links or add them to this post's comments.

21 February 2017

Oops – What the Dairy is Going on Here?

After visiting the National Gallery (see my last post) I walked up Whitcomb Street to the library on Orange street where I was verbally abused by a mentally challenged man of the street. But that's another story.
The two-sided Dairy sign is still there...
But, er...

Top row 2009, bottom row Feb 2017
Perhaps the D fell off and had to be reattached...?
But it's upside-down!
Was it some kind of bright idea to get the verticals aligned at the front edge?
Why not go the whole hog and spin the R too?

Cagnacci's Repentant Magdalene – Room 1 at The National Gallery

I went to the press viewing of this gorgeous painting last Tuesday.
Go see it – it's lovely.
I took some pics – they turned out to be rubbish...


... but not as rubbish as the front wall by the National Gallery's portico entrance on Trafalgar Square where the 'performers' who stand on bits of wrought iron dressed as Star Wars characters leave their empty drinks cups.

17 February 2017

Vanessa Bell at Dulwich Picture Gallery and Sussex Modernism at Two Temple Place

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is always worth a detour. Not only does it have a diverse and perfectly sized permanent display, but the curators are very good at putting on interesting additional exhibitions, often by artists who are not that well known.
At the moment you can see works by Vanessa Bell, prolifically creative and sister of Virginia Woolf the author.
 
A woman after my own heart – from age eight I was obsessed with making repetitive patterns on graph paper
More of Vanessa's work can be seen at Two Temple Place as part of their current exhibition Sussex Modernism which includes some truly gorgeous sculptures by Eric Gill and David Jones.
Even if this kind of art isn't your thing, do go inside this free exhibition because the interior is marvellous – it was originally built the as the Astor's London office and is only ever open during exhibitions – all wood panelling, stained glass and carved details – here's a post about a previous visit

14 February 2017

Love and peace – not just for Valentine's day

In a back street within the Peabody Estate to the side of Whitecross Street market there is a mosaic on a wall. In a circle it says I (heart) EC1. But look closer and see the messages and drawings within because there are lots of lovely quotes and sentiments there.

The caption on it reads: "This mosaic has been created by Western* Primary School working with Carrie Reichardt, Karen Wydler and Sian Smith, supported by Islington Council, Whitecross Street Party, Whitecross Street Community Centre and Peabody". 
Mad In England – Carrie Reichardt – Craftivist and Renegade Potter

Love isn't seasonal 
I have produced some cards using my photographs of this artwork. 
Also see 'Love Love Love' using my adaptations of the sign that currently wraps around the old Angel tube station on Pentonville Road.  

Cards available all year round – contact me directly or purchase online

Or how about a Vinegar Valentine?

*Spelling error here: The school is actually called Prior Weston Primary School. Sir William Weston was the last english prior of the Order of St John. 

7 February 2017

A narrowboat cruise through Islington Tunnel with Hidden Depths

There was a two-day event in and around St Pancras Lock this past weekend and it included free access to The Canal Museum and free rides on Freda, the larger of Hidden Depths tour boats.
Denise and her crew shuttled people back and forth the museum and Granary Square and as an special treat for the final trip on Sunday we went through the Islington Tunnel. At 860 metres long it's the 9th longest in the UK (I think that's right), made with four million bricks and almost 200 years old (completed in 1818).


As the day drew to a close, and the crew moored up and secured the boat for the night, the view west was lovely with the sky was turning a beautiful shade of pink. And then to nearby The Charles Lamb for a few pints of ale. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

3 February 2017

Another visit to Lower Marsh – barrows and arrowsI still think there must be an old painted ad and a lost ghostsign

Back in March 2014 I wrote about Lower Marsh and its demise as a once thriving market street. And then followed it up with a piece about the old costermongers' barrows along that street with their carved stamps.
I was back there recently and so I snapped a few pics for an update:

There were only four barrows left on my most recent visit.
These lovely old barrows are now relics of a bygone time. Earlier this year The Gentle Author wrote a full and interesting piece about the last few days in the workshop of Hiller Brothers Barrow Makers, a company name that features on some of the ones in Lower Marsh. See also an earlier post written about the barrows of Spitalfields.
I am always saddened to see trades like these fade away in the face of progress. As an occasional market trader myself I have noticed that the style of market stalls on offer these days is ever-changing. For casual events it's rare to be allocated a standard metal frame with decent hanging space and cover – often it's either tables from a community centre or pop-up open-sided marquees. And Christmas markets are now more likely to be Bavarian-style wooden shacks. Surely if people want to visit a market of that type it would be better to go to mainland Europe to get the real deal? Can't we offer the tourists an English Victorian-style Christmas instead? I am sure they'd love that. Without the paupers and pickpockets of course.
Anyway, I digress, as usual.
I spotted some other changes in Lower Marsh, and two things in particular:

I still think there must be an old ad under that red paint above the old Artichoke Pub
On the side of Sino Thai Restaurant, on the corner of Leake Street, there is a nice addition – an arrow of little nesting boxes created by http://wearewaterloo.co.uk/news/feathered-friends. How lovely.

But at the end of Vauxhall end of the street I see that a new building now obliterates the ghostsign that once read, "Dover Castle Proprietors / Pioneer Catering / Luncheons & Dinners / [...] Prices / [...] Stout". See the fourth pic, above right, for how it looks today.
The rebuilt New Dover Castle pub was actually on the opposite corner of the street at 172 Westminster Bridge Road and is now the Walrus Bar and Hostel.

25 January 2017

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf until Friday 27th January

There are still three evenings left to see this (including today).

Some of my pics from last night. 
Some of the light installations are wonderful including many of those in Crossrail Place Level –3 (a pain to find, but worth the effort), the mesmerising musical balls on sticks which I loved at Kew last month, the gorgeous ova, the clever water word drop.
We didn't manage to see everything. And, as a friend said some of it is "underwhelming", but I think that's what makes the good things even better.
One of my favourite stops was the simple and very effective horizontal fence created by joining about eight trees in a zig zag using different widths of tape which was then highlighted by ultraviolet lights:

Other people were doing the selfie thing so I joined in and found that if I stood directly in front of the lights I could make myself look very attractive indeed.


Check the site for the actual names, creators and info

23 January 2017

Misinformation at Camden Lock Stables Market

Whilst wandering around Camden a few weeks back I stopped to read an informative hoarding along the site that is being developed immediately south of Hawley Road in Chalk Farm Road. It was all about Camden's history and contained some interesting little snippets with web addresses for further info.
I crossed the road and entered the market building, wandering around assessing how things have changed so much in the past 30 years since I used to go there on a regular basis in the 1990s. I stopped for a while near the steps that lead down to the underground old stables markets and I watched people posing with that dreadful statue of Amy Winehouse. It was then I noticed the words above the tunnel: "STABLES MARKET SINCE1854"
Whaaaaat?!  No no no!!!

Pics from this year, left (above tunnels, near Amy) and right (above northern exit to Roundhouse), plus an older pic in the centre
Dear reader, there have been stables for the railways' horses, and a hospital for them since 1854 but the market didn't arrive for another 120 years. Yes, 120 years later.
Back at home I started searching for further ref thinking I must have mis-read or mis-understood something.
It gets worse...


I found that not only are the current signs misleading, they are replacements of old signs (see above, top left and centre and compare them with the first three pics) and so a chance to clarify the meaning of the date as referring only to the site and not the market had been missed.
Further to that, in many cases the date has obviously been squeezed in as an add-on/afterthought as if the marketing team decided that a bit of Victorian would somehow boost sales (more about this at the end).

So let's get this straight... Pay attention please...
Pre-1972 the area that is now called "Camden Lock" was a ramshackle collection of old warehouses with a timber wharf. Some of those buildings were renovated to create workshops and. In 1973 the tenants opened their doors to the public and these included five Hornsey College of Art students who made jewellery. In 1974 they started a small crafts market on the bare ground next to the road immediately to the north of the canal bridge. The success of that venture attracted more designer-makers to the area turning Camden into a haven for artisans and artists.

The hoarding in Chalk Farm Road gives the correct date ...  and another mistake – notice that the figure 8 is the wrong way round – we are seeing its underside!  
With its rapid success, what started out as a small Saturday market quickly expanded to cover a wider area spreading into other adjacent spaces, such as empty railway arches and offices. The old horse hospital alongside Chalk Farm Road became the home of the antique and bric-a-brac trade. However, the labyrinth of subterranean tunnels and stables remained mostly unused until the turn of the century.
In fact you can get most of this info from Camden Market's official website. Though there are a few tenuous things in there including calling a AmyW a 'Camdonite'. Er? Where is Camdon?
for reference I have been checking through my two editions of "The Markets Of London", first printed 1983. The 1989 revised version reads of Camden Lock: "... making things and selling them is back in fashion; 'small is beautiful' seems to be here to stay... it is all very relaxed and pleasantly informal..." Not much of that is relevant now. Sad.
Camden Market is one big street food dispensary now. And Chalk Farm road is one big shoe shop). Most of the independent designer-maker, vintage or specialised stalls have moved on or given up.
Camden is now a market for the tourists now who, once they have taken that Amy Wine house pic and a couple of selfies to tick off the London experience from 'to do' list as they truffle down their stir fry at one of the picnic tables that have replaced the stalls.
The oldest market in Camden is in Inverness Street which probably started in 1860 when it was moved from the main road into the side street.

20 January 2017

A Waterloo Walk – marvellous mosaics and classic cars

On a recent walking tour of the Southbank led by the very informative Peter Bertoud he showed us the doorway to Southbank Mosaics in the crypt St John's. I had no idea about this. Neither did I know about the marvellous sculpture garden that surrounds the church. Of course, I will be investigating this further on a personal creative level.

A fabulous community project – check here for how to make some mosaics of your own
In nearby Roupell Street, one of the roads in the small conservation area nearby that I notice is being used as a location in the excellent second series of Unforgotten on ITV at the moment, I spotted some lovely old cars:

Classic cars in a great location – Three Citroëns and a Morris Minor

Nice eh?
Check out Peter's excellent walks and blog here.

17 January 2017

London Art Fair 2017, Business Design Centre, 18-22 January

Later this week Islington's old Agricultural Hall will again be the location for the London Art Fair, crammed full of all sorts of inspirational work, both old and new.


I make sure to visit at least once each year because there is so much to take in – this is not a nip in for one hour event as it is so varied.
My friend and I like to walk around slowly, taking it all in, spending imaginary vast sums of money on works of art for our imaginary reception rooms, guest wings and conservatories, though I have actually spent real money there – it's hard not to be tempted and, after all, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.