30 March 2015

Oxford Street Gillette ghostsign RIP

You may recall that back in 2012 I wrote about an old hand-painted Gillette advertisement I spotted on Oxford Street, created by Harvey & Sons of Fleet Street (as shown in the bottom right corner).
Walking past last week I noticed that the 1884 building it was painted on has been demolished taking with it the ghostsign and all those chimney pots. The building to the right of it has been demolished as well.
Close up of the old sign, with before (March 2012) and after (March 2014) pics of the street

Another ghost sign loss

27 March 2015

Today is Wear A Hat Day

As you may already know, I like and wear hats. One at a time of course.
WEAR A HAT DAY. More info here.
Here are some hats I have spotted in London:

I am feeling lazy – if you want to know where to find any of these, just ask.

24 March 2015

The Developing City

Back in September 2012 I went to an exhibition about the past, present and future of architecture in London. It was called The Developing City and I took some photos of the information there. I rediscovered the pictures when looking for the Norton Folgate pics I posted last week. Strange how I never put this together before now. Here goes...

The exhibition was set out chronologically; there were lots of informative panels about the City of London and how it has been transformed and adapted over the years. And there were some great old archive photos.
One thing that especially caught my eye was a proposal for the site where the lovely old Grade II listed Mappin and Webb building used to be, now occupied by that hideous lump that looks like a Battenberg cake or a 1930's wireless.

As you can see, The Prince Of Wales had his Hideous Carbuncle hat on referring to the glass tower as a "giant glass stump" and he helped to put a stop to the scheme. So, it begs the question, how on earth did we end up with so many other equally hideous, even larger, glass stumpy things since then?
Moving westwards along Poultry and into Cheapside, let's look at Cheapside in the past, shown in these four pics with St Mary Le Bow at the centre:

 Top: 1760 and 1837
(oops forgot to note the dates) early and mid 20th century  

In the past, London was more compact and Cheapside was a fashionable bustling shopping street lined with every kind of shop imaginable. Most of these grand buildings managed to remain vertical through WW2 but by the twentieth century the men with the purse strings had decided to that most of the street ought to be replaced with glass and the proles needed more clothes and coffee flavoured water. So the Dubaiification and homogenisation began and in the last decade we have ended up with this:

All from google streetview March 2015

After the Great Fire of London, Wren proposed a complete re-working and re-building of the City. The close up on the right shows clearly how the church spires all begin well above the rooftops of the houses, shops and offices beneath:

Then, in the middle of the twentieth century Hitler tried very hard to flatten the City, as shown in the B&W panoramic photo, below, of the Barbican area taken in 1942* which is where the Barbican was built (but that's another story). Compare and contrast with what looks like bomb damage in the second image but is actually a photograph of the wilful clearance and construction of One New Change (shown in the Streetview images above, top right). 

In the middle of the exhibition space was a large scale model showing what was to come. I stood aghast at the glass. It saddened me. In the same way this does. Most of this has happened already. It's all happening way too fast for me.

I didn't stop to look at many of the boards showing ideas for the future. It all looked a bit plastic and manufactured to me. I am hoping I will be dead by then. What happened to those words they were flinging about pre-Olympics; 'sustainability' and 'legacy'?

Website for The Developing City

One more observation... 'we' are knocking down old buildings made of natural stone that was created by compressing of layers and layers of dead matter over millions of years. In the space of a few days these noble blocks are demolished; discarded or used as rubble, to be replaced with manmade composites and factory components; glass, steel, carbon fibre and the like that will last a fraction of that time. It's all about the money, honey. Money talks and calls it progress.

*This image, and many more like it, can be found at The London Metropolitan Archives.

19 March 2015

Save Norton Folgate – some artist's impressions

This is an update to a post I wrote about the Norton Folgate plans.

These are from Google Streetview available today:

I took these photos at an exhibition in 2012 called The Developing City*.

The plans may have changed or adapted by now – I cannot find any other artist impressions when searching the web, which is very strange considering the campaign against this. As you can see, the lovely old tiled building with the clock will be demolished but a few historic façades will be retained and tarted up to within an inch of their life, thus removing any hint of history. These will be hemmed in by a couple of uninspiring yellow brick and glass boxes. If this is modern architecture, it's not very inspiring is it? If this plan does indeed go ahead, I very much doubt there will be a campaign to save the new buildings 150 years hence.
Save Norton Folgate
What's the point of holding onto a few façades?

*more about this exhibition in my next post

16 March 2015

Changes at Highbury and Islington roundabout

What a mess it is at the roundabout these days.
OK, so the old ugly Post Office building is to be demolished and a new station concourse is in the making, but a 'road modernisation plan' is also in place as is evident by the silly little lane dividers in the road and the traffic lights on the exits. The traffic lights at the Canonbury Road exit are particularly unnecessary and only serve to block up the traffic caught behind them*.
More info from Tfl and Islington Council.
I have also noticed that a few trees in the middle of the roundabout have X marked on them. Oh dear are they coming down?

Comparison photos of the train station from the 1900s and 2013. The lovely original building was bombed in WW2 and all that remains is a small piece of one column in the left hand corner.
*I have seen a similar measure recently put in place at the northern end of Wharfdale Road where it meets Caledonian Road – completely pointless as there is no other stream of traffic to contend with. Perhaps these expensive measures are put in place to further patronise those people who have not learned their Green Cross Code and are too busy looking at their smart phones?

11 March 2015

The Classic Carboot Sale returns to the Southbank this weekend

Two days of cars and collectables, good music, great shopping, yummy food and drink, and dancing too.
Next to Hungerford Bridge and Jubilee Bridges, near the London Eye.
See you there – I will be selling some lovely stuff out of an old 1930s taxi cab.
More info here.

9 March 2015

The Institute of Sexology – Undress Your Mind

Currently at The Wellcome Collection – an informative exhibition about sex. Ooer missus.
You'll find cabinets of beautiful and bizarre curiosites from around the world, plus displays about Marie Stopes, Dr Kinsey and many other things inc some interesting and rather amusing videos. It's almost necessary to bend over into a rather provocative pose in order to get a really good look at some of the smaller artefacts on display – have they done that on purpose?!
On the night I was there I watched and listened in on an informal debate within the gallery space about our attitudes to pornography. I found it all a bit pointless. We are all different. We all like different things. So what?!  ("Ooh look at the wallpaper", "I don't like her nail polish colour", "He's got a lovely wristwatch", etc.).
The show is on until September 15th and is free. Find out more here.
Also on until 21st June – Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime. I haven't seen this one one yet, but will do soon.
The permanent exhibition, Medicine Now, is also well worth a visit, as is the excellent cafe and gift shop. Opening hours (until 10pm on Fridays)

Pictures: Top – City, Bermondsey and Wesminster. Bottom – Bloomsbury, Greenwich and Tufnell Park.
It's just occurred to the puerile side of me that 'Wellcome' sounds a bit naughty too ;-)

See here for some similar photos that I grouped together in March 2010

4 March 2015

These boots are made for walking

One Saturday morning last month I joined one of Walk London's free Winter Wanders Weekend Walks.

The tour I'd chosen was St Paul's - The Secret Corners of the City and Hidden Alleyways and Courtyards. On arriving at the statue of Queen Anne outside St Paul's Cathedral I was amazed to see more than 100 people. I thought, "oh gawd, no" and inwardly cringed. But, phew, there were two Westminster tour guides there so the pack split in half and off we went on two non-clashing routes.
I was pleased to see that more than half the group were Londoners just like me who were there to learn more about our fair city. And we weren't disappointed because June our guide was bubbling over with facts and information, all easily heard at the back through her portable public address system.
I hope there will be similar weekends happening again sometime soon. Meanwhile, get your walking shoes on and go on one of their recommended unguided walks outside the Central zone. See the Walk London site here.

3 March 2015

Some Battersea Village observations

After our foreshore forage we stood a while in the garden of St Mary's Church. We admired the building and I noticed and liked how the moss on a gravestone hadn't taken hold in in the name. Spooky.
We turned left into Battersea Church Road commenting how the village and its river industries seemed to have been swallowed up into modern developments as per the revamped Old Swan Wharf and Valiant House.
Back in the late 1990s I had a freelance job nearby, next to the now demolished Price's Candles* warehouse, and I'd drive to and from there via the village so I wanted to show my friends all the little gems that could be found in the vicinity – the Victorian Penfold acanthus pillar pox, the entrance way to Bennett's drapery with it's bold signage, a couple of nice weather vanes and a wall painting of Django Reinhart. So far so good.
We continued our walk past the lovely green tiles on the Katherine Low Settlement, walked under the railway and headed into Battersea High Street as I had promised to show them some lovely old shops.
But I was sad to find that most of them are now either gone/changed or not visible.
When I was last there in Feb 2009 I took these shots:

The Dining Rooms sign is still there but it has been temporarily covered up. I couldn't see Costa's at all. As regards, Raynsford's, it was a Sunday and the shutters were down so it was hard to tell if was the same shop (I hope so). However, the tiles shown bottom left remain.

* By the end of the 19th century Price's was the largest candle manufacturer in the world. In 1877 Price's made 147million candles, 32 million night lights and made approx one million gallons of lamp oil ...!!
When I worked in the area I loved the smells that came from Price's factory and I used to shop there, especially at Christmas time for presents, though I did notice back then that they appeared to be struggling as there was hardly ever any other customers except me. The company moved to Bedford in the late 2003 after getting into financial difficulty, probably due to heavy competition – candles had become rather popular and everyone and his mother were by this time making them inc Ikea. The Battersea/Wandsworth site is now a sea of modern glass-fronted apartments.  
Read Price's detailed history here.

26 February 2015

A paper chase

At the moment Centrepoint is swathed in netting and surrounded by scaffold and boarding, LRT's homogenous new Tottenham Court Station is partially open, (Northern Line only), chunks of the eastern end of Oxford Street resemble a builders yard, The Astoria is long gone and Denmark Street is doomed.
St Giles, it is a-changing. But there are glimmers of hope here and there.
I wrote last year about the old emporiums of Tottenham Court Road and mentioned within that there was an empty site on the corner of Goodge Street. Well, on a visit to Paperchase last week I noticed the new build and I am glad to report that the old façade of the gothic frontage above Eat is being retained, so that's good.

Paperchase and two pics of the construction site on the other side of the road
Relieved, I entered the colourful world of Paperchase on a hunt for some large sheets of coloured and textured paper.
I have never in all my days seen so few people in there. It was so quiet. I know it was a Friday at about 2.30pm but I had the feeling that any minute they might announce a closing down sale. It had been the same when I had popped into Heals and Habitat earlier that day for a nose about. Where are all the people? Has everyone spent all their dosh on Christmas Presents and in the sales? Is everyone hibernating? Have the tourists gone home?

The colourful world of Paperchase
Paperchase is probably the last decent shop selling stationery and more craft-based items in Central London, but they didn't stock what I was looking for. They did have lots of gorgeous multi-coloured sheets of hand-printed wondrousness that would look great framed or hanging from bulldog clips as 'art', tiers of craft paper, shelves of stationery, and racks of cards, but they had nothing subtle enough for my specific needs. 
So I went to Faulkiners Fine Papers, recently moved from Bloomsbury and now part of Shepherds. There I found exactly what I was looking for. Well, I knew I would. They have about 50 books of A4 samples containing all kinds of lovely large paper stocks, and all at really cheap prices too and no minimum order. It's hard not to buy things in there!
This makes me realise that we now have hardly any independent stationers and art shops left in Central London. All I can think of is Green & Stone of Chelsea. Yes, we have big companies such as London Graphics, Cass Fine Art, Scribbler and even Rymans, but where have all the little shops gone?
Here in Holloway I am lucky that we have this well stocked stationers, but the small art shop that used to be opposite Holloway tube station, and was trading for decades, has recently closed down probably due to competition from a branch of Cowling & Wilcox further down the road, though that too also looks to be rather empty every time I pass or go inside.
In nearby Finsbury Park there is Fish & Cook with it's gorgeous old shop front. I also have fond memories of a little stationers in Smithfield which closed down a few years ago.
All of which makes me think about other independent craft shops such as Creativity (wools) which used to be near Holborn station. Throughout the 80s and 90s I took that place for granted and shopped in there often. I now can't find find an image or ref of it anywhere. How sad.
And there used to be a fabulous art shop that at the St Giles end of Monmouth Street that sold paint in powder form by weight, and artists' canvas by the foot. I can't now recall the name of the shop. What happened to them?

Coffee anyone? A mobile phone contract? How about a pizza?

P.S. This is not a Paperchase advertisement; Paperchase is a lovely shop full of lovely things and I am happy to endorse it. But if anyone at Paperchase would like to offer me something for this bit of free promo mentioning the company name eight times, then please do get in touch.
Paperchase, Paperchase – I thought I'd best make it a round ten.

20 February 2015

Hampstead Heath ponds

Last Sunday 9th Jen organised a wander around Hampstead Heath. When I met the group I noticed everyone was carrying great big cameras. I hadn't realised that it would be a gathering of avid photographers so I'd arrived with what was in my pockets – my keys, my wallet and my phone. So the snaps you see below are just that; snaps. I'd misunderstood the whole thing and thought it would be mainly to see what's happening with the proposed works around the ponds which are causing a lot of consternation. More here and here.

We met opposite Swain's Lane and headed to the Highgate ponds. A lot of trees have already been chopped down and areas have been cleared. I was surprised to hear that the boating pond is going to be made even larger and a mini copse of standing trees will become an island. 
I am not really sure what I think about this damn nonsense. It's not like this will be rape of original landscape as the ponds are already man made features constructed by damning the Fleet River. Walking along the fenced path between the Men's Pond and The Boating Pond it occurred to me that I'd never really considered before whether what we have already is beautiful or not. Once the new works have been finished I am sure in time it will look fine. 

But the problem is not aesthetics; it's more about the huge sum of money that is going to be spent on something that has scant chance of ever actually happening.

Bird Sanctuary Pond, walkers, purple brambles, fungus on a dead tree, Kenwood House, a spreading chestnut tree, paddling, BS Pond again and tree shadows. 
It was a beautiful day to be out and about (Sunday 8th Feb). And it was absolutely perfect for photography and there I was with my archaic Blackberry*. No surprises that were a lot of people out and about enjoying the weather on the heath that day, though I managed to omit them from my photos. And dogs, dogs, dogs; happy dogs, lovely dogs. I fell in love too many of them.
Onward and upward past The Ladies' Bathing Pond, The Stock Pond, Thousand Pound Pond and Wood Pond and then a stop for tea and cake at Kenwood House cafe (scrumptious red velvet cake recommended). Then around to the Vale of Health, across Lime Wood Avenue and down to the three Hamptead ponds where we were saddened to see that quite a few mature trees have been felled; their stumps showing their gorgeous peach and apricot coloured interiors.

Wind-felled tree, they've got big ones, a redwood, Hampstead Pond No.1, saw marks, treetastic, Vale of Health Pond, beechy fingers and yours truly
We visited all the ponds bar one; the Viaduct Pond and noticed that some of the signs for the ponds are incorrectly placed ("noticed" ha ha); for instance, the sign for Hampstead No.2 Pond is against No.1, and the one for the Mixed Bathing Pond is against No.2.
Pond pond pond – the word 'pond' is now starting to look and sound sillier every time I write it.
Then up to Parliament Hill for the obligatory view across Central London and down again, past the bandstand, the café and the tennis courts (which I hear are also about to be redeveloped/adjusted to look less "municipal" or something daft – er, it's park for the people!) and out onto Highgate Road for a much needed pint of ale.
And then I walked home.
*If anyone is upgrading from and ditching their old iphone4 please do contact me. 

19 February 2015

The Year of the Sheep

Today is the start of the Chinese year of the sheep.
Sheep? I could've sworn it used to be a goat.
But what do I know; I am a tiger.
Here are some London goats, sheep, rams and lambs.

18 February 2015

Sing little foxy, Sing For Your Life

As you know I am a keen recycler and I hate to see waste. So a taxidermy roadkill musical sits right up my proverbial alley.

Some non-singing archtectural foxy London things

"If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise. 
If you go down to the woods today the road kill has arrived. 
For every beast you ever did know is about to perform in a cabaret show. 
Today’s the day the animals come alive.” 

I didn't write that – I don't think it scans properly on the 2nd and 4th lines – as you know, I am a pefectionist, as is evident in everything what I do ;-)
So here is the promo (not sure I can get there myself, but I'd like to); The puppets in Sing For Your Life have been created by taxidermy artist and vegan (!!) Charlie Tuesday Gates using roadkill and dead dogs bought from online shopping sites.
There'll be songs, silliness and some gruesome surprises.
The Vaults, Leake Street, SE1, 4th–8th March 9.30pm every day, plus matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 5pm
More info, pics and booking here.

16 February 2015

Nicholls & Clarke, Norton Folgate

I have always admired the clock on the imposing building that used to be the home of Nicholls & Clarke sanitaryware and ironmongery on Norton Folgate, and had been meaning to find out more about the company.
Lo and behold The Gentle Author posted this piece about it the other day which includes some lovely images of colourful bathrooms. See here for more about the company.
This ties in beautifully with some snaps I took in the Ladies' toilet in The Duke Of Sussex, Waterloo (Waterloo!)

Pastel yellow tiles, pale blue pipes and borders, turquoise toilet seats, pale pink accessories and navy blue skirtings – lovely!
More info about the Norton Folgate area can be found by searching the  Spitalfields Life site.

13 February 2015

Find the fake at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Become an art sleuth.
One of the 270 paintings in the permanent collection is a Chinese replica that has been commissioned by the gallery in conjunction with Doug Fishbone at a staggeringly cheap price of $126 inc shipping.I know which one I think it is. But I could be wrong.
Go and see if you can find the fake and don't forget to add your own choice into the one of the ipad stations within the gallery for a chance to win a prize.
The answer will be revealed on 28th April.
More details here