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.
Nice.
*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

11 February 2015

Customs House foreshore

Every now and then I like to go on an organised foreshore forage led by an archaeologist. Last month I visited the Customs House section with a group from London Cultureseekers.


Our guide Nathalie, from the Thames Discovery Programme, was a mine of information. She told us about all sorts of things, including boat wrecks, Medieval pottery and Elizabethan pins.
And I found out something else... if you look at the middle pic in the top row, above, you will notice the chains on the river walls. These continue all along the Thames and I have photographed them in the locks at St Katharine Docks. I'd always assumed that these were for boat docking purposes. But no, it transpires they were attached in the 90s as a safety measure after the Marchioness disaster.
After Nathalie had assessed everyone's finds we needed to go somewhere warm as it was particularly cold that day. I'd hoped we were heading to All Hallows By The Tower but our group leader took us to one of those Starf*cks places. Having never been in one I was not about to break my duck so I immediately turned tail and left before I got sucked in.
Phew... that was close!
Instead, I took a brisk walk around the Tower. Nice.
What a good morning.

9 February 2015

Reading, writing and phonetics

Apparently the UK's school kids are having trouble writing the English Language, especially words with silent letters. If you click that link you'll see they also seem to be having trouble with 'Millennuim' too(!). Another recent report announced that they are will now expected to know their times tables all the way up to 12, be able to read a novel and write a short story of their own, all before they go to big school, or whatever it's called these days, at age 11.
Whaaaat?! When did the standards drop?! All of this was normal practice when I was at school. When did all of this cease to be important?
It has been suggested without much real thought* that words with silent letters within them such as column, lamb, subtle, echo and knight ought to be be re-spelled with the offending letters removed.
Unlike many other languages around the world, the English language is not phonetic** – you have only to look at our six different sounds for 'ough'; as in tuff, coff, thru, plow, tho and awt. 
Your Beautiful (Mistake), London N16
Languages evolve and adapt. In a 1934 novel by Evelyn Waugh he uses 'yoghourt' and 'Pekingese' both of which have since been shortened. 
These days, "your" (as in an item that belongs to you) is being mis-used to replace "you're" (you are)". I am also seeing "to" instead of "too", and "no" rather than "know". Hence we end up seeing things such as "you no your to lazy to spell". But it can't just be sheer laziness – it's easy to omit the apostrophe or the 'e', but not both. It's a lack of grammatical understanding.
And what about the disease that's making people replace "would have" with "would of"?! I believe it comes from people hearing "would've" and then writing what they think hear. I am saddened when I see people over 50 making this written error.

Let's return to the five words I chose above – if we remove the silent letters, the first two words, colum and lam, adapt quite well but the other three words create some problems; sutle rhymes with tootle, eco is short for ecological and night would need to be further shortened or completely re-spelled as nite.
Are you keeping up here?
It's a three-stage process. UK school children, having wasted years of their pre-school life being told that a train is a choo-choo and a cow is moo-moo, will then learn phonetic spellings and subsequently learn how to spell them correctly. Judging by the mistakes already being made with 'no', your' and 'of', as illustrated above, I fail to see how this will achieve anything other than a further dumbing-down.
Taking the phoenetic element a step further, it occurred to me that the people in charge of all this are going to be extremely busy covering all the various UK dialects. 
Here's how it might affect some areas if London:  
Lester, Grovener, Grenidge, Burra, Lincun, Willsdun, Bloomsbree and Gloster
See the etymology of London Borough names here

Afterthoughts
*as in the case of the SNP not having a decent plan for the currency should Scotland have become independent last year
**I thought Phonetix might have been an Asterix character. But he's not – here are all the characters.

6 February 2015

Swain's Lane and Highgate

(This is the continuation of my post on 29 Jan)

So where was I?  Oh yes, I exited Waterlow Park and turned right up the hill towards Highgate Village.
Immediately I saw a sign telling me (well; drivers) to slow down. Who needs a sign?! I think slowing down is normal at that point as it's about a 1-in-7 gradient – just see these pics and note how the old cemetery boundary wall in the pic on the right isn't true compared to the contemporary white and grey building.


But it didn't seem steep to me. Having already hiked up Dartmouth Park Hill I thought it odd that I didn't seem to be suffering at all. Perhaps my comfy lace-up wedges helped being as they are approx a 1-in-7 in the opposite direction, so I was effectively climbing up a very shallow staircase.
A cyclist overtook me. I heard him before I saw him. His demeanour reminded me of the fella in the animated film Belleville Rendez-vous; clad in Lycra with massive thighs in a hunched up position. But the odd thing was the very loud huffy puffy almost gaspy breathing he was doing. I appreciate he may have been cycling for longer than I had been walking, but it didn't sound like he was doing his body any good at all. Perhaps he should buy some nice comfy shoes and go for a walk instead.
At the top of Swain's Lane on the corner of Bisham Gardens, opposite the locked gate to the cemetery, there is a massive telecommunications mast. It's a bit of a shock seeing it there in amongst the lovely old things. But I suppose needs must these days.


Glad to notice the public toilets in Pond Square are still open and being used and a family with young children were playing ball in the square.
From there I headed north, first checking that a few things in the village were  still intact, such as enamel signs, markers for parish boundaries and insurance companies, and fancy metalwork. Almost at the top of North Hill I turned right into Church Road and then right again onto Archway Road. 
Pleased to report that I finally found old copies of both Vile Bodies and A Handful Of Dust in the warren of books that is Ripping Yarns. I have been keeping my eye open for them since going on Jen's Bright Young Things literary walk last year. More of Jen's walks here. Coincidentally, Jen lives in the Dartmouth Park area.
And then a brisk walk home; down the hill through the hollow way through Archway and into Holloway itself. Nice.

3 February 2015

Accentuate the positive – three nice things on the No.19 bus route

The nicest way to get from Finsbury Park to Battersea Bridge (north side) is to relax and enjoy the view from the top deck of a No.19 bus as it cuts a diagonal path through London taking in Islington, Clerkenwell, Bloomsbury, Piccadilly, Knightsbridge and Chelsea.
There are lots of lovely things to see along the way. Here are just three of them:

Rosebery Avenue

Theobalds Road

Shaftesbury Avenue

Three nice things – a new series by Jane's London

29 January 2015

Tufnell and Dartmouth and Waterlow Parks

Out for a afternoon stroll recently, I found myself at the Tufnell Park Station junction. Crossing into Dartmouth Park Hill to take a snap of the Boston Arms looking wonderful against the crisp blue winter sky, I realised I had never walked the full length of that road, so up the hill I ventured...


Dartmouth Park Hill is actually two hills; heading northwards from The Boston, there is one ascent, then a flat bit, then up it goes again all the way to where it meets Highgate Hill opposite Hornsey Road. 
Just past Dartmouth Park Road, on the flat bit, is an old in-wall Royal Mail letter box. I stopped to take a crappy out of focus picture and wondered if the rather impressive chunky post that surrounds it was built especially to hold the red metal or was part of a pair of gateposts, as per the two larger ones near the junction of Lady Margaret Road on nearby Tufnell Park Road. I wonder if it/they could be part of the Earl of Dartmouth's original estate buildings?
I then crossed the road to look at what can be seen of the covered reservoir. There's not much visible from street level just a metal ventilation pipe, some nice sloping grass and a non-slip surface. The two tanks cover rather a large area though despite what this map shows only a small piece of land around the edges is actually parkland.


Opposite the reservoir is a house that looks like a hangover from the 1970s – the bright yellow walls and purple front door look more completely out of place. I am sure it wasn't this colour a few years ago – I may be wrong, but, being so bright I am sure I would have noticed it before.  
Looking down Chester Road I stopped to to admire the spire of St Michael's, Highgate Village, hovering like a beacon above the trees and houses.
I continued up the second hill section, past the old original buildings at the rear of Whittington Hospital and then entered Waterloo Park. 
A gorgeous little dog amused me and others as she ran up trees. She didn't appear to be chasing squirrels, just having fun. She'd get perhaps 3 metres up, turn, jump down and then run up the next one. Lovely.
I then exited the park into Swain's Lane opposite the Highgate Cemetery entrance and was half way up the hill before I realised that I still haven't walked the full length of Dartmouth Park Hill.

27 January 2015

Buy a gun for Peace One Day

If you ever fancied buying a decommissioned and customised Colt M-16 assault rifle whilst helping to raise money for a good cause, now's the time to get your credit card out.
Curated by Jake Chapman the M16: Peace One Day project forms part of Bonhams Founded 1793 sale. More information in the online catalogue – I like that adjacent to each work it reads "This work was executed in 2014".

Lower Regent Street, Three Colts Lane, Cockspur Steet.
Cannon Street (all now demolished), Artillery Lane, Beak Street

20 January 2015

Grayson Perry: Who are You? at the National Portrait Gallery

There is still plenty of time to follow the free trail around the NPG where you can see fourteen works created by the multi-talented Mr Perry in conjunction with his Channel 4 TV programmes aired last year.


Detailed ceramics, intricate sewn and beaded tapestries, maps, diagrams, portraits and prints – all packed full of ideas and observations. And Grayson's explanations on the info cards next to each piece are so refreshingly informal, caring and well-written.
The man is an inspiration.
Until 15th March 2015.



Previous Grayson Perry posts...



This image shows a few things on my mantlepiece including the lovely flyer from Grayson's excellent 2006 show The Charms of Lincolnshire, a bone that looks like a little begging beast, an eroded fragment of crackle-glazed pottery, a twisty shell innard and, just out of view, a postcard of Ulysses and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper.