30 June 2016

FOUND at the Foundling Museum – curated by Cornelia Parker

Here's interesting... in amongst the lovely historical artefacts and artworks at this small but evocative museum there are exhibits by sixty modern artists that respond to the theme of 'FOUND'.
Cornelia Parker (no relation) has brought together an eclectic panel of people who have all come at this idea from different angles. The exhibition runs until 4th September.
The Foundling's website will tell you more, but not too much or else there'd be no surprises.
Seeing Cordelia's image of a piece of an old leather shoe brings to mind a post I wrote two years ago when I FOUND (see what I did there) lots of bits of shoe leather on the foreshore near Blackfriars Bridge south side.
Here's a pile of other stuff I FOUND on the foreshore at Limehouse.

At the Foundling gift shop there is a selection of my jewellery made from clay pipes which perfectly fits in with the FOUND theme.
Some pics of the museum here.

27 June 2016

Halo Tower, Stratford

Wandering along Stratford High Street the other week I stopped to photograph this mosaic depicting a street seller.

A Georgian flower seller
I was then distracted by the tower block looming behind it – Halo Tower at No.50 is 133 metres tall, has 33 floors and is built in the 'iconic' style.

Views to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
But look closer at the outside of the building and see how the panels on this tower, which is less than five years old (completed 2014), are already starting to deteriorate.

The colour on the dark blue paint panels is flaking away
Genesis' blurb for the building reads "With a central 43 floor residential tower rising high above the London skyline, Stratford Halo is a truly landmark development"
Another site tells me "It's modernistic look attracts high profile businessmen and wealthy people such as YouTubers". Oh. Right.If this is the quality of the fabric of the building what hope is there for the quality of the workmanship on the interior?

Genesis signage on the building itself and Filtons estate agent window
The information on the ground floor of the building highlights the facilities that come with renting an apartment of this kind; concierge services, integrated branded appliances, dedicated onsite property manager (who doesn't appear to be managing the property very well so far), communal sky gardens, and, of course, gym facilities.
Interesting that there only appears to be rental opportunities.
These clip-together buildings concern me.

And another thought about buying new property regarding the terms of freeholds and leaseholds; how does a 125 year lease apply when many similar new builds will more than likely not last more than 20 years? Where is the security? These are transient property purchases, not homes for living a long life in. 
Call me weird, but I'll stick with bricks and mortar.

23 June 2016

Markfield Beam Engine – Steaming into action this weekend

For many years I have been noticing the brown tourist information signs off the Tottenham one way system that point to Markfield Beam Engine, making a mental note to check it out.
Fiinally, last Bank Holiday weekend I did just that – and what a lovely treat cos we timed our visit so that we could see the power of steam.

It's hard to believe that this amazing piece of waste-pumping machinery sat for many decades bricked up and out of action. But now, thanks to the efforts of a group of enthusiasts and volunteers it can be viewed approximately twice a month including 'steam days' when the steam-powered beam engine can be seen in action. See here for more info.
Markfield Park in itself is also worth a visit – be sure check out how original features from the old sewage works have been cleverly revamped and remodelled for modern use to become gardens, a cafe and a skate park.
Easily accessible from Seven Sisters tube, South Tottenham Station or the River Lea towpath.

17 June 2016

The coal hole covers of North Audley Street

I have for many years been photographing coal hole cover plates on London streets and have amassed quite a collection of different designs made by or depicting different companies.
Every now and then some contemporary ones are made to commemorate an area, as in the ones around Brick Lane, or written about in this book.
A similarly interesting set of modern replacements can be found installed in 2013 by Westminster Council along North Audley Street between Lees Place and Oxford Street where fourteen covers depict the different trades that used to be found along this street.
I managed to photograph eleven of them. The other three were being obliterated that day by chairs and people outside pavement cafes.

1) Apothecary, Butcher, Coach builder and Doctor.
2) Dressmaker, Musician, Publican (Vernon's Head) and Publican (Marlborough Head).
3) Saddler, Stationer, Tailor and one of two original A Smellie & Co Ltd, Westminster from the same stretch.
The ones I couldn't get to are Engraver, Watchmaker and Baker

14 June 2016

Winifred Knights at Dulwich Picture Gallery

This lovely exhibition in a lovely location displays of the work of the marvelously talented Winifred Knights; an artist, until, last week I had never known about.
All works by MK except bottom left which is a portrait of her by another artist
Well worth a visit.
More info here.

9 June 2016

Crouch End Festival 2016

It's local festival time.
North London is awash with them lately, in Caledonian Road, Barnsbury, Highgate, Stroud Green and more. (Go Google... I am feeling lazy!)

But, never mind all of them... I will be at the Crouch End Festival, specifically within Hornsey Town Hall on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th where I will have stall selling my cards featuring my photographs of local landmarks and signs (the latest one shown above), plus a selection of my Amelia Parker clay pipe jewellery and cards.
Hope to see you there – please bring some of the sunshine into the hall with you.

27 May 2016

Kiosks and shops on London Underground platforms

St James's Park station sits directly underneath 55 Broadway (see last post below).
Coming home on Monday evening at about 7.30pm I noticed the old newspaper and confectionery kiosk the westbound platform was padlocked shut.
I don't use this station often – is it permanently closed? Are these kiosks a thing of the past?

I remember with fondness the one on Liverpool Street clockwise/eastbound platform and another on the westbound platform of Sloane Square both of which were still open and trading in the 1980s. But I never thought to photograph them then and I can't find any pics on the internet now.
Does anyone know of other kiosks still open and trading on the underground network, specifically under the ground on platforms, rather than in the open air? Pics please!
Here is High Street Kensington circa 1898 and in 1936 – there are many more lovely pics on The LT museum site, but their search engine is painful to say the least because it won't let you put multiple words in the box. Grrr!

25 May 2016

A tour of 55 Broadway

Earlier this week I joined a group of London Historians for a tour of the Grade I listed 55 Broadway, currently HQ of Transport For London. When it was opened in 1929 Charles Holden's impressive masterpiece was the tallest building in London. That's changed over the years of course; today it's surrounded by high rise glass. Such is progress.
The design of the building is impressive. The main foyer with its smooth Travertine marble walls and Art Deco features is accessible and visible from street level and St James's Park tube station. Undergound-related clocks, motifs and other devices are everywhere.
The upper levels continue with more of the some, but with acres of panelled wood and beautifully designed fittings.
Original Crittal windows, marble fireplaces, bubbled glass, deco ceiling patterns and door handles and marble hand washing basins at the end of the corridors
The internal stairs that lead up to the seventh floor roof top...
... which is mostly covered with a meadow....
... and great views across London.
It was interesting to note when up there that the noise from the streets was minimal yet a marching band in St James's' Park could be heard perfectly.
Onward and upward into the clock tower...
The main staircase goes all the way from street level to the base of the clock tower. Note how although the basic design is the same as the first one this one is slightly more embellished with more details on the verticals and handrails.
A smaller green utility staircase leads past the boiler house and up to the clock tower roof. What a view!!!
On each of the four sides there are comparative views showing how the architecture around the 55 Broadway has changed since the building was constructed. This is especially noticeable on the South and West facing sides where many important buildings are now obscured from view, in particular Westminster Cathedral which is now hidden by the glass monoliths of Victoria Street.
Looking down over the four terraced wings of the building. The one we visited is shown on the left.
Two lovely views – over St James's Park to the North, and Westminster, Waterloo and beyond.
LRT are moving out soon. The future of this building will mean multiple office spaces, apartments, more retail outlets inc a supermarket and probably a gym too.
There are still some tours available and it's sure to be one of the big attractions on Open House Day this year – go and see it for yourself before it's too late.

19 May 2016

Black Cap Yard, Camden

The Black Cap public house in Camden High Street now stands empty awaiting a new future since it closed in April 2015.
The pub opened in the mid-18th century as The Mother Black Cap; a reference to a local witch. A bust of her still sits at the top of the building overlooking the street.

Pre-closure, the bust on near the roof and how the pub looks like right now
In the late 1960s the pub began to put on drags acts and so it became probably the most popular gay pub in this area.
I never went inside. I always meant to. Too late now.

Remnants of the old painted sign in the alley pointing to the yard at the rear, the No.171 doorway mosaic and the handwritten note pasted in the window
twitter: WeAreTheBlackCap

Dockers' Mistresses – something to come home to

OK, so you've been at sea and there's been nary a female in sight for months, perhaps even years.
So, how nice to come back and hook up with something curvy? After all she's been standing there waiting for you on the dockside all that time in the freezing cold, headless and naked from the waist up...!
I am talking bollards here.
Due to their shape, these bollards are affectionately known as 'dockers' mistresses' which is a wonderfully evocative description. I just love them – they appeal to my puerile sense of humour 'fnarr fnarr'. 
On our walk from the O2 to Greenwich along the Olympian Way (Thames Path) I spotted a fabulous row of metal ladies and they were not all exactly the same shape and they seemed to have individual qualities:

From top left going clockwise ending at the centre: starry, beached, chained, belted, tattoed, droopy, ropey, drippy and Brenda

And look at these colourful lovelies that I spotted waiting patiently along King's Lynn dockside:

Again, they are all slightly different. Photographed December 2015.

16 May 2016

Nerd Nite London – it's hip to be square

Rubbish pics, but you get the drift. Bottom left is the MoC shop
Last month I went to my first Nerd Nite evening at The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.
The premise is that there are three talks from three different 'nerds' over a limited time on totally random things, each followed by a Q&A session which, when I was there, thew up some amusing questions.
It's aa informal evening with the audience sat around moveable cafe tables drinking from a licensed bar. There are also nibbles available and I noticed people eating their own brought-in pizzas etc.
 I learned, or rather attempted to understand, about the lives of women in Nepal, quantum superpositions and 1950s video projection technology. Every subject was interesting even if I didn't understand half of what was being imparted. The last talk definitely winning my internal award for the most nerdy(!).
It was so good I will be plan to go the next one on May 18th.
If you have a nerdy subject that you think would benefit from a wider audience, just contact the organisers.

13 May 2016

Breast screening day – a cancerous coincidence

Friday 13th May.
This morning I will be at Whittington Hospital having a breast screening.
Today is my mother's birthday. She was born on Friday 13th May 1938 and died of cancer-related illnesses aged 57 which began with a little malignant lump above her left breast and then 16 years of treatments following different cancers around her body.
It seems so strange to me that this lovely, vibrant, intelligent, active, creative woman, pictured right at age 49, would have today reached the age of 78.
Happy birthday mum. I miss you xx

11 May 2016

Swain's Lane, Highgate West Hill, development of site

I have for many years been keeping my eye on the old garages at the corner of Swain's Lane on Highgate West Hill. It always pleased me that this sinuous low-rise 1930s building was still intact especially in the light of all the high rise apartments and modern shopping centres going up all around us.

The garages in 2008 – one expects a Bugatti to appear any minute
In August 2014 the plans for redevelopment of this site were published and businesses within the parade moved out. One lovely cafe, Forks & Corks moved to Archway but has had to close for a while during building works.
But nothing seems to have happened since then. It all looks a bit sad.
On a sunny day last month I took a few snaps for an update:

A hand car wash company was still trading at the rear of the garages. As the plans for redevelopment show, these garages will soon be converted into shops and cafes.
On the curved corner end a lovely old sign for an Ekcovision TV shop has been revealed
The Swain's Lane side of the terrace is all boarded up. I am not sure about the relevance of Liz Taylor's decorating skills; it looks like she is advertising Wall's ice cream.

9 May 2016

The Olympian Way, Greenwich, continued

Ok, so where was I?
We'd given up on the foreshore, walked around the O2, seen some dodgy art and attempted to understand the confusing development 'plans' for the area.
And so we walked westwards to Greenwich proper along the Olympian Way which is basically The Thames Path renamed. The environment changed as we walked. It feels like a war-torn wasteland near the O2. Then there are demolition and construction sites, holding areas for building materials,  various unkempt buildings, abandoned jetties and metal structures once used by lost-gone companies.
West of the golf driving range and the concrete works trees and greenery become abundant, though I suspect that the natural world is not going to be there for much longer... modern gated developments are closing in fast.
Just some nice patterns that I noticed on various walls and fences near the cement works.
The river meets the land near Morden Wharf Road. the willow trees and mossy banks are particularly lovely. And, dotted along the water's edge, we spotted some amusing signs in a seaside-style that hint at what we have now and what's to come; shown here are 'Beauty' and 'Foreshore forearmed'.
And this is what's coming... A Cruise Port. Does this mean lots of big liners docking here spilling out customers/visitors/residents by the day? The big pic at the top is an artist's impression on the blue hoardings that create a creepy tunnel for much of this stretch of path.  And, coming soon, a "New Release of River fronting Apartments". Note either a punctuation error (I suggest a hyphen is missing to make River-fronting and that would explain why only one word starts with a lower case letter), or this is written by someone who can't speak English properly. Either way, Barratt, who are the developers should have checked the sign before it went up. Attention to detail lacking – I wonder if this an omen for the kind of sub-standard buildings we might expect to see here? As you can see from the middle bottom pic, work has started. The last pic shows the forecourt/garden area outside the development sales office. Perhaps they'll set out more of these non-indigenous spiral trees in cubes to tie in with the high-rise homogeneous Lego-like cube homes?
 My final post about this area is yet to come... expect a much lighter subject matter (phew!).

5 May 2016

Terry O'Neill exhibition at Fiat Chrysler Motor Village

Take a detour from your shopping expedition and rather than turn into M&S near Marble Arch, instead turn down Orchard Street to the corner of Wigmore Street and check out the wonderful exhibition of large scale limited prints by Terry O'Neill on sale through The Ransom Gallery at Fiat Chrysler Motor Village until 22nd May.

And check out the cars too.  Though, when I was there I scrutinised the vehicles and couldn't fathom why so much mis-matched moulded plastic faux-chrome is being used these days. Ugh.
And don't get me started on the decal(?) black camouflage on the Fiat and the strange futuristic over-designed multi-headlamps on the Alfa. Ugh ugh.