28 April 2016

IWA Canalway Cavalcade, this Bank Holiday Weekend, 30April–02May, Little Venice

Three days of colourful boats, entertainment, food, stalls and music.
See the website for more info.
Come and find me at my stall at the far end of the row above the towpath on Warwick Crescent where I will have a broad selection of items for sale:
Greeting cards (blank inside with envelopes) featuring some of my canal and Cavalcade images. More cards here.
Clay pipe jewellery,  Thames glass pendants,  Clay Pipe Pete and Smokey Joe greeting cards,      London landmark cards,  upcycled leather accessories,  tins and small bric-a-brac
Warwick Crescent – What a lovely location!

25 April 2016

Unrestricted View – a film festival at Hen and Chickens Theatre, 25th April – 1st May

The Hen and Chickens Theatre Pub is well-known for being the starting ground for many new productions. It's where small theatre projects have begun and comedians both new and established have honed their craft in front of a small audience. Now the H+C is showing films.
Tonight sees the start of Unrestricted View, a week of eclectic movies of varying length carefully selected from a long list of submissions. Highlights of the full programme include: Set Fire to the Stars starring Elijah Wood which will opening the Festival and Men & Chicken starring Mads Mikkelson closing the festival. High points of the festival include Bradley Walsh in The Lights, Catherine Tate & Alex McQueen in Not Sophie's Choice, Richard Glover in The John and Indira Varma in Vintage Blood.
See the full programme here. I will be there this evening so do say hello if you see me.
It's also worth mentioning that there will be special drink offers to tie in with each film and craft beers available.

22 April 2016

The London Marathon – I can't be arsed

Every now and then I open up a little book by Richard Wilson and read one of the 63 things he "can't be arsed" to do before he dies. These include such diverse things as bungee jumping, running with bulls, drinking a yard of ale, seeing the Great Wall of China and joining The Mile High Club. I expect you too can think up good reasons for not doing most of those.
Earlier this week I happened to open the book at page 141; No.57: Run A Marathon.

This year's London Marathon is tomorrow, Sunday 24thApril. More info here. And here.
I think it was last year that I watched it on the telly jeering at the healthy nutters as I slobbed on the sofa in my dressing gown drinking black coffee and smoking fags; ooh the irony.

20 April 2016

More from Greenwich Peninsula

This follows on my last piece 

Just re-found these pics taken in August 2015 after an afternoon at the beer festival when we thought it would  be a good idea to walk back to Greenwich town in the rain. Pff! What's a bit of sky water?!
Around the Peninsula, including a high-rise tower of my own towers

This shows why I thought re-visiting the foreshore here was a good idea; OK even more plastic and modern detritus, but a decent beach with potted plants and the remains of an old brick floor.

18 April 2016

A mooch around the meridian – Greenwich Peninsula and the O2

The plan was, as the tide was so low last weekend, to go and investigate the foreshore around the Greenwich Peninsula. But as we came off slip way we could see it was horribly slimy and muddy.

Jen, Brian and Malcolm ventured further along the water's edge for a bit but I decided it wasn't worth the effort as did Caroline and Liliana. We three waited by the mass of tide-swept rubbish which included far too many plastic bottles and hundreds of those shiny metal cream frothing capsules that are being used for other things these days.

We then walked clockwise around the O2 along The Olympian Way (part of the Thames Path) stopping to look at some of the "art" along the path. By which I mean most of it is rather confusing. These artworks, which are part of The Line, include some large mannequin arms that looked vaguely sexual, a sign with a big number on it, a section of a boat and an upside-down electricity pylon which, because as it's behind a fence in an area that looks like a wasteland/dump, I would have walked past without a second glance had Malcolm not pointed it out to me. Perhaps that's the point. I think it would have a better effect in a green field or in the middle of a London square. Oh, and the information plaques for most of these things are already broken/tarnished. Upkeep/maintenance lacking again.

Moving on... The view down onto the foreshore was lovely – sandy beaches, birds and grasses. Just don't turn round and look O2 and its adjacent buildings which, due to the high blue wire fence, resembles an American prison camp.
Intrigued about the plans for this area we ventured into the Now Gallery to see what we'd understood was supposed to be an exhibition showing how the peninsula will be developed in the future. The strapline is "Where Pioneers Live". That'll be the kind of pioneers who live in luxury apartments and use the Tesco Express and gym on the ground floor, rather than ones who have all their belongings on their back, clean their teeth with sticks and survive on baked beans and bad coffee.
Once inside the building we spent ages trying to work out what we were looking at. The 3D architectural forms that looked like jelly, wood and colourful perspex buildings looked like fun. I doubt that will happen in the UK. You only see that kind of vision in, say, Barcelona. Another white form  depicted the whole sweep of this swathe of land all the way to the City but I couldn't understand what it was intended to mean. It looked nice in a foyer kind of way, but why was it there? What was it supposed to be telling us? And how much had it cost to make?

We entered the viewing room and spent ages trying to get the interactive CGI film thing to work on the tablet (well done Malcolm!) but it had no sound and we spent all the time in there laughing and jeering at the over-sized badly-steered boats, the 2D buildings, the unsupported red walkways, the giant birds and the enormous trampoline! It was fun, but ultimately rather confusing.
I spoke about all this to the girl on the reception desk who explained that this open-to-the-public walk-in area on the ground floor was just about concepts, but if we wanted to know what was really being planned we'd need to make an appointment to go up to the first floor. Aha! So they are keeping it all under wraps. I'd say we can expect another maze of homogeneous high rise glass with a few "iconic" tall things thrown in for good measure.
Hmmm... we then investigated the interactive exhibits to the left of the desk which were supposed to explain the different districts within the peninsula. It was like a playground for adults. And most of it wasn't working.
So we wandered back out into reality and walked the Thames Path to Greenwich.
But I'll save that for another day...

15 April 2016

Vintage Car Boot at Kings Cross this weekend

Find me selling all sorts of bric-a-brac, tins, accessories and what-not tomorrow and Sunday at Cubitt's Yard, Kings Cross.
For more info see the website.
Here's a video of last year
And some pics:
Kev's taxi will be there on Sunday only this year
Previous events at different locations: September 2014March 2015

12 April 2016

More doorway mosaics – patterns and motifs

Last month I put together a collection of mosaic floors depicting company names. This time it's a collection of patterns of mainly flora and fauna:
The thistle in the top row was the logo/emblem of David Greig the first high street grocery chain in the UK, and will feature in a forthcoming blog post about that company once I do some more sleuthing. The third one fourth row used to be on Wigmore Street near the end of Marylebone Lane but was removed/destroyed approx 2011 (sad face).

5 April 2016

Red Brick Reliefs

High above our heads on old façades there are carved friezes, motifs, date stamps and words from the days when buildings were almost as individual as human being –  architectural embellishments as personal jewellery and tattoos. 
I have noticed that quite a few of these are made from red bricks whose rectangular forms can be seen within the images.

In no particular order: Camden, Wapping, Kensington, Borough, Crouch End, Islington, West End
That's it. Please contact me if you have spotted any more of this kind.

29 March 2016

On the Foreshore at Limehouse

Earlier this month a few friends joined me for a forage on the foreshore at Limehouse.

The tide was particularly low that day and the sun was shining on us too. Afterwards we went to a nearby pub for food and chats. All-in-all a very nice day out.
If you'd like to come and join me sometime please do get in touch via email (see above).  The next meet up will be the morning of Sunday 10th April.
Please note that I hold an official Port Of London Authority Foreshore Permit – there are restrictions to what you are allowed to do when accessing the Thames beaches.

22 March 2016

The shops of Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill

Ooh I do love an old shop front, especially if it still retains its original curved window and tiled entrance. London has lost most of these beautiful old shops – only solitary examples remain here and there hinting at how the whole terrace might have looked 100 years ago.
Often the best examples of this kind are found outside London, say in seaside towns that lost favour at the end of the last century such as Leigh-On-Sea, Walton-On-Thames, Margate or Southsea, all of which have more recently become appreciated (as have their house prices).
However, some really good examples of early 20th century shopping streets can be found in Muswell Hill, London N10 and, in particular along the southern end of Fortis Green Road.

Some of the lovely old tiles are still visible. However, some of them have been painted over as shown in the middle row. Why oh why?
Walking north from the Art Deco cinema at the junction of Muswell Hill Broadway up to Queen's Avenue notice how almost every doorway on both sides of Fortis Green Road still retains its original curved window and tiled entrances leading to the upstairs apartments.
Also, be sure to stop and admire New Century Barbers on the corner of First Avenue, which also retains some fabulous period features and signs, and has a lot of archive photos of the local area.

15 March 2016

Doorway Mosaics – shops an pubs

I am always on the look out for signs of original shop or pub names.
Often I spot these hints of the past embedded in the masonry near the top of a building or on hand-painted signs.
The ones that cheer me the most are the often intricate floor mosaics that can be found in the entrances.
Only a few of these are actually still relevant to the business that sits above them today

8 March 2016

A Tour of Saddlers Hall – Just let your feet go clippity-clop

Another livery company tour organised by London Historians.

Saddlery is all the equestrian bits and pieces needed to deck out a horse, hence The Saddlers' Hall contains lots of beautiful and unusual leatherwork and bridleware, plus other related items such as silverware, artefacts and paintings including a lovely one of Princess Anne who, on 20th July 2015, was installed as the The Saddlers' Company's Third Perpetual Master (see more about this position below). Anne shares my birthday and therefore is my favourite Royal.

The Saddlers' Hall website doesn't give much info re history – it appears to be mainly about venue hire. Well, I suppose they need the money for the upkeep of the place and looks to be a great place for a posh party!

I have been singing a nursery rhyme this whilst writing this so I added a line from it into the title and put the whole thing here. I think I might be regressing!
    Horsey, horsey, don't you stop
    Just let your feet go clippity-clop
    Your tail goes swish and your wheels go round
    Giddy-up, we're homeward bound!

Also see my posts about tours of the Drapers', Cutlers', Skinners' and Vintners' halls, and the Mercers' Maiden. Or click on Livery Halls in the Labels list to the left.

Perpetual Master: An historic title specifically mentioned in the The Saddlers’ Company Royal Charter, created in 1737 for Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales. The Saddlers’ Company considers it to be the highest accolade that it can bestow. HRH Prince Arthur, The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, filled the role between 1906 and 1942.
The Princess Royal was made an Honorary Freeman of the Saddlers’ Company on 30th November 1971 when she became a Yeoman as a 'distinguished user of the saddle' having won the Individual Gold Medal in the European Eventing Championships earlier that year.
When HRH is in the Hall on Saddlers’ business or when she represents the Company elsewhere, she is called “Master”.
The role of Perpetual Master is not a day-to-day executive position. When HRH is not available the Prime Warden Saddler Mr Charles Barclay fulfills all her duties as effective head of the Company.

1 March 2016

Masks and a Monkey – In Your Face – Nina Conti at Criterion Theatre

Ventriloquism ... it's moved on since the days of Lord Charles and Orville.

Nina Conti, Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus (right next to Eros)
This week and next Nina Conti brings to us her own version of this genre. Nina has, quite justly won awards for her ingenuity in this field. You may have seen her amusing and genuinely moving BAFTA nominated film on the subject.
I saw the Criterion show last night – Nina makes everything she is doing really obvious and yet we forget she is the voice behind everything we are hearing. She uses strap-on masks (as modelled by Nina above) on members of the audience and every night is different being as it's dependent on audience participation. It's a lot of hard work for her and yet she makes it look effortless.
That's all very clever, but my favourite bits were when Monk the monkey was [literally] on-hand making his often outrageous observations.

Until 12th March. See here for more details and how to book tickets.

Below are some other monkeys and apes I have spotted on my travels:

Graffiti in Kentish Town and Shoreditch, and a skeleton in the Natural History Museum foyer
Palmers pet store in Camden Parkway (now closed), windows in Holloway, a plastic bag in a tree.
And, spotted just last weekend at Portsmouth Cathedral – a monkey is the organ, and not just the organ-grinder's friend!!

23 February 2016

London's architectural icons

'Icon' and 'iconic' are often-repeated words these days, usually used to describe new buildings that are very tall and shouty – ooh look at me... try avoiding me! Often the word is applied before the building is completed; it will be the biggest/tallest/pointiest/greenest/glassiest/etc
Perhaps the developers are using the word in the sense of those religious icons you can buy in the backstreets of Naples; the ones you add to a shrine or put on your mantlepiece? In which case those little souvenirs of The Eiffel Tower would fit the bill if architecture was your god of choice.
In the same way as a community can't just be created by bulldozing streets of small houses and putting up tower blocks with chain restaurants and homogenous coffee bars on the ground floor, I think icons, in the sense of architecture, are made over time and thus earn their iconic label.
I wrote about Centrepoint last year and it features in the ten pics below of London landmarks I believe have become iconic – tall, sometimes inspiring, structures that have become mostly well-loved points of reference; some as landmarks, others as architectural statements. 

This doesn't need captioning; these structures ought to be easily-identified by any Londoner

16 February 2016

Beachcombing at Blackfriars

Here are some pics from last October when I met up with a few friends under Blackfriars Bridge for what I call A Forage on the Foreshore.

I particularly liked the time-weathered large wooden stump. I thought finding a beached comb was rather ironic.
As you may be aware, I am always on the lookout for fragments of nicely eroded clay pipe stems for my jewellery – we also picked up various pipe bowls from different periods of history – note the different sizes and shapes in the pic. Malcolm found one with flowers on it – I now wonder if these are roses and it could have been from The Rose Theatre which was nearby...?

Click here for an account of previous gathering.