25 November 2014

From the Forest to the Sea – Emily Carr in British Columbia

This intriguing exhibition about one of Canada's best-loved artists has just opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Emily Carr spent a great part of her life in British Columbia, in particular Haida Gwaii, documenting the things she found around her such as totem poles, trees and skyscapes.
I was lucky to be able to attend the press launch which started with a traditional welcome by the Haida Hereditary Chief and Master Carver, James Hart, accompanied by some of his people. It was rather strange, standing there in our modern garb, watching people in tribal dress perform songs and dances that were centuries old in surroundings that were also old but completely different in style.


The exhibition shows how Emily's work evolved over time. It highlights especially how her style changed and became bolder after her time spent in Paris where she honed her painting skills. Returning to Canada she continued to develop, and devised mixes of different types of paint which she used on cheap paper so that she could paint with speed outdoors. Sadly that paper has since discoloured, but what the heck, the paintings still look great; white space has just become pale brown space.
The exhibition begins and ends with display cabinets containing relevant tribal artefacts from various museums including two of my favourites, The Horniman and Pitt Rivers.
The exhibition runs until 8th March. More information here.

Ian Dejardin leading our guided tour, some reflected heads, Haida indigenous objects.
Emily Carr self portrait, and some of her totems and trees

18 November 2014

Stonecutter Street – AKA Treecutter Street

Earlier this year I was on my way to one of the monthly London Historians get togethers in the Hoop & Grapes on Farringdon Street when I stopped in my tracks at the end of Stonecutter Street.
A whole row of trees, I think there were eight of them, had been hacked down to thigh level in the name of progress.


The stumps ranged in diameter from 8 inches at the Shoe Lane end of the road to about 30 inches at the Farringdon Street end. Thirty inches – that's an OLD tree, that is. So sad. And I very much doubt that the development going up behind the blue hoardings will 'live' to be as old as the some of those bigger trees.
The stumps have probably been removed completely by now.
The area, bordered by Holborn Circus, Fetter Lane, Fleet St and Farringdon Street is full of evocative street names such as Printer Street, Wine Office Court, and, of course Stonecutter Street and Shoe Lane, all hinting at the trades that used to be predominant in those roads. But over the past 20 years or so I have watched as the whole area has changed considerably – it now bears scant resemblance to how I remember it when part of my first job as a junior in an advertising and design company back in the 80s was to deliver packages containing finished artwork to the newspapers and magazines in the vicinity.
A stone cutter's throw away, hidden amongst the modern buildings you can find Dr Johnson's House and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub where Johnson and Boswell would have enjoyed a few chats, drinks and smokes. I wonder what they would have to say about the rush of change that has happened in the past two decades?

11 November 2014

It's here, it's there, it's every bloody where

I recently went for a walk around the Fenchurch Street area of the City, popping into churches, investigating little streets and alleys and admiring old buildings and their interesting details.
But that bloody Walkie Talkie loomed over me from almost everywhere.
As you are probably well aware from my previous posts, I am not a fan of all this heavy-handed steel and glass architecture (see here and here) that's sprouting up like some kind of instant Dubaiification.
The Pointy Thing at London Bridge is just a greenhouse that tapers towards the top, and conversely, though similarly, 20 Fenchurch Street is just a tower block that flares out at the top but has the added bonus of being able to fry eggs and melt cars.

As viewed from Blackfriars, from Potters Fields near Tower Bridge, from the northern end of London Bridge, and from Rood Lane EC3.

As viewed from Eastcheap/Philpot Lane (x2), and from the eastern end of Fenchurch Street. The last pic shows it at street level illustrating how truly unimaginative this building is – just compare it to the considered old architecture on the corner of Philpot Lane.

I wandered into Mincing Lane and found a relatively new pedestrian street opposite the Disneyland-style castle and prancing ponies of Minster Court (ugh!). 
Plantation Lane forms part of the huge Plantation Place development (but check out Google maps and zoom in to notice that the road name on the street sign has been erased – why?). The street narrows as it goes westwards towards Rood Lane. The only reason I didn't get agitated by being hemmed in by even more bullying glass is because I was distracted and intrigued by the pavement which is natural stone embedded with lines of names, words and phrases linking to London. Great to spot some wonderful old street names there ;-)

The pavement along Plantation Lane. At the Rood Lane end of the street I took the chance to capture some convergence images illustrating the diverse architecture. 

The City of London will never be finished. It is constantly evolving. Yet it seems to me that there has been a greater percentage of building/development per square metre in the last ten years than in the last 500. I appreciate that we live in a different world these days, with different needs and demands, but what I cannot fathom is the extent and size of these things, especially when so many old buildings stand empty and many finished buildings of similar size are not yet anywhere near reaching full occupancy.

Immediate plans for The City

David Edward's idea of what's in store for the future

4 November 2014

A walk around the Cheynes

Just some pics I took in the little area of Chelsea that borders the Thames.
It's a really interesting area close to the lovely Chelsea Physic Garden. The 18th Century houses of Cheyne Walk have had many famous residents including Rossetti, George Eliot, David Lloyd George and Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to name just a few. See a fuller list here.


A stink pipe, egyptian benches, Thomas More, Hans Sloane
Closed pub, birds and a lady
Metal street sign, lots of pipes, new development, old frontage.

31 October 2014

Poppies at The Tower of London – ends 11th November

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Just a reminder if you haven't been to see the expanding flood of poppies yet, they will very soon fill the whole moat and subsequently be removed forever.
Tuesday 11th November (Remembrance Day) will be last day to see the poppies in situ. Viewing is free as they can be seen from outside the Tower of London.

I have to admit that none of the pics above are mine. 
Even though I will being going to see them over the next few days myself, I wanted to get this blog post live sooner rather than later. The top row are mostly are pinched from the official site; the rest I have stolen from Maggie Jones and Malcolm Edwards


Post-event the poppies will be available to buy at £25.00+VAT each which I think is great value considering every one is hand made and therefore unique. I know one of the poppy-makers, though she isn't in this film about the making of them

28 October 2014

Islington Faces celebrates 100 interviews

Nicola Baird recently celebrated her 100th post by putting on a staged version at the King's Head Theatre last Saturday. In this one-off chat show called Islington Faces Live our inspirational host chatted to different Islington residents.
We met Theresa Debono, Islington's lovely diminutive Maltese lady mayor, Ethiopian singer Hanisha Soloman and John Walters the Pearly King of Finsbury (now part of the borough of Islington). We also heard from others about the theatre itself, star gazing on Highbury Fields, finding unusual artefacts in the road, learning languages in cafes, and how a 1960s immigrant discovered that the streets of London were not paved with gold after all. But he stayed anyway!

Top row: all in Upper Street
Middle row: Liverpool Road; Nicola with some of her guests outside the Kings Head*
Bottom row: Islington Central Library, Holloway Rd which sports the only sign I have seen using the word 'curtilage' (lovely!); a collection of signs in Essex Rd; one of Nicola's blog intervewees outside Islington Town Hall in Upper Street.
*Back row L-R: Bernita Matondo, stargazer Ernie Jegorovas, poet mechanic Stanley Smart, John Walters, Hanisha Solomon, Nicola Baird and King’s Head Theatre executive director Dominic Haddock. Foreground: Islington’s Mayor, Theresa Debono, with her husband, Tony. Photo by Vicky Ryzhykh. 

A very pleasant way to spent a Saturday afternoon.
All ticket money raised went towards The King's Head Theatre fund
Well done Nicola – here's to the next 100 interviews.

21 October 2014

Nice numbers

A multi-porticoed terrace Lower Sloane Square.
They aren't short of a bob or two around there are they?
So how come the door numbers are such a mess?
But I like it.
A lovely mix of hand-painted, self-adhesive, profiled, crackled, circled and shadowed numbers

14 October 2014

Trinity Buoy Wharf and East India Dock

A few weeks ago I finally found time to visit this once thriving area of London docklands.


We met at East India station and walked down the meridian line to the Thames and along the river's edge to East India Dock. Malcolm's hat was a bit big for him. It was the day of the Tall Ships and the cormorants had also come out to watch them.
The old dock basin looked sad and lonely, like a desolate wasteland with stinky stagnant water. Orchard Place, the road to leading to Trinity Buoy Wharf, is littered with street art including a taxi with a tree 'growing' out of it and a wall made of colourful cable ties. The northern section of Orchard Place which forms a kind of island surrounded by the loop of Bow Creek, was once a district inhabited by people who worked in the area and had barely ventured further than two miles from their homes. The site is now being developed. Images on the hoardings show yet another conglomeration of high rise glass and pre-formed plastic.
But forward into Trinity Buoy Wharf itself...


It's a steam punk's dream environment with art and history and containers as homes thrown into the mix. Read more here on Trinity Buoy Wharf's website.

Also see this wonderful episode of The Lost Valley of London here:



7 October 2014

The Proverbs of Hell

Earlier this year I posted about the mosaics in the National Gallery.
Another major London art gallery also has a fabulous mosaic floor, and this can be found in an octagonal room at the back of Tate Britain.


Dating from 1923, eight panels by Boris Anrep illustrate William Blake's 'Proverbs of Hell'.
Some of the statements within it are wonderful. I particularly like "The Cistern contains, the Fountain overflows".
Read more about it here.

30 September 2014

Walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel

Jen had been on about doing this for months. We finally agreed a date and met at Rotherhithe station on Sunday 14th September – a Sunday being chosen because the tunnel would be less trafficated*
There is pedestrian access to the tunnel opposite the station. We walked down the stairs (there is a similar set of stairs further down the soft slope on the opposite side and a similar arrangement at the north side) but then we turned right/south so that we could walk the full length, stopping to admire St Olav's Norwegian church with it's lovely long boat weather vane and the BRUNEL artwork near the mouth of the tunnel by Kevin Boys and Steve Cornish.

And so we set off for our march through the tunnel. I walked on the east side and Jen and Malcolm were on the west side. J+M got to briefly examine the old ornate Victorian access stairs that come up next to the Brunel Museum on the south bank and within King Edward Memorial Park on the north. These now house the extractors and there are signs saying not to loiter due to the fumes. Ugh.
On my side I had the green signs indicating how far there was to go in either direction and I also spotted that there were evenly-spaced rectangular metal handles about six inches wide all the way along at shoulder height. I am guessing that perhaps these were used to tie frightened horses to, or something similar. Answers please.
"Beer" said Malcolm as we exited. Being a Sunday we had to wander the Limehouse streets for a while until the pubs opened at noon. I took them over to York Square Gardens and we investigated a gorgeous little row of Georgian house in Flamborough Walk where front gardens must have been truncated when the railways arrived.

Hurrah. Noon! Beer o'clock!  I'd spotted the The Old Ship on the corner of York Square Gardens when I was in the vicinity a month before – it's got a Mercer's maiden on it.
Lovely pub, lovely people. Good cheap ale and proper hand-made fresh sandwiches. They do cabaret nights, open mic nights, there's a beer garden (not needed really when it's a corner pub with street seating), and the place is festooned with amusing and interesting knick-knacks. I can't recommended this place highly enough. I'd be more than happy to have it my local.

Read Malcolm's account here and be sure to scroll down and see me imitating a breakdown.



*a word another friend invented which I think should be in common use

23 September 2014

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

On Saturday 23rd August I needed to go to the Old Royal Naval College to supplement my stock at the shop and, because I'd arrange that month's forage for later on that day in Wapping, I thought I'd walk there via the foot tunnel and the Thames Path.
I sat with an ice cream near the flower beds of soft grasses and watched the world go by for a while before setting off.
Sir Alexander Binnie's 1217ft foot tunnel was constructed in 1902 so that people living on the south side could get to work in the docks on the north side. It runs 50ft under the Thames and is accessed by a circular staircases around lifts (that's elevators to you guys across the pond!) within distinctive domed shafts.
And it's free.


Considering it was a Saturday and how busy Greenwich was that day (it was tourists a go go!) I'd assumed the tunnel would be rather busy. But as you can see by these pics it was fairly empty. I walked briskly through it, narrowly dodging a lunatic cyclist who either was unable to read all the No Cycling signs or was intent on flaunting the rules.
At the north side I met my friend Jen in Island Gardens and we admired the view as we waited for some other foragers to join us for the walk to Wapping.
The pic below is the view looking back at Greenwich just to the east of Island Gardens at the most southern point of the Isle of Dogs where the Thames Path  restarts along the wall at the river's edge. I've just about managed to get all the key Greenwich landmarks into the shot...
L-R: The Old Royal Naval College, University of Greenwich, Naval College Gardens, the National Maritime Museum (hidden by trees), the entrance to the foot tunnel, The Cutty Sark, Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory and Planetarium


Coming soon... another way to sub-navigate the Thames on foot...

19 September 2014

Classic Car Boot Sale this weekend at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

You'd have probably thought I'd be banging on about this being Open House weekend, but I'd booked up for the Classic Car Boot Sale before I realised the clash.
And anyway, I have worn myself out in previous years chasing about London looking at interiors.
Tomorrow and Saturday you will find me and my friend Kevin outdoors selling all sorts of bric-a-brac from the boot of one of his cars – a black 1965 Zodiac (see bottom right) as used/featured in Endeavour, a Dr Who special and a Dizzee Rascal promo.

Pics from the March 2014 event along the Southbank

16 September 2014

Rotherhithe and Bermondsey

Following on from a post earlier this year about Surrey Docks, here are some more of my photos taken along the riverside near Rotherhithe and Bermondsey.

Boats, old signs, river views... even cormorants and stalactites. 

12 September 2014

Hanway Street and Oxford Street renovation

I recently went to check out the Veno's Lightning Cough Cure ghostsign that has been revealed due to some renovations on the triangular site bordered by Hanway St at the eastern end of Oxford Street.
It is, at the moment, possible to stand on the southern side of Oxford Street and see almost straight through to Tottenham Court Road, as there is now almost nothing left but a few propped up facades.
I have great memories of Hanway Street. It was my favourite road for late night bars in the 1990s. I fondly recall that a few after work drinks in Bradley's would transmogrify into a 3am taxi after the Mia Seville/Titos/Troy Club bar crawl and then more drinking and dancing at Costa Dorada. And I fondly recall The Angus Steak House – a place I never went inside but found great amusement when the backlight on the G was not working for a few days.


I am now wondering how and why that Veno's sign was placed on that site in the first instance –  it looks to me as if the building that abuts it was built in the same period so surely it would have blocked the ad? Also, I am guessing there must have been boarding down the middle of the sign to bridge the gap between the chimney breasts. Perhaps the building next door was constructed later than the sign was painted? but that doesn't make sense because the ad does not appear to be as old as either of the fascias. Oh, I dunno. My head hurts.


On the corner of Soho Street, where the lovely angled corner and cupola of Walton's Old Queen's Head 1880 used to be, a sort of fantasy building being constructed. It looks like a lot of shower curtains with a Christmas tree attached to the top (see second pic, above). Need I say more?!
I am just hoping that two of the oldest buildings in Oxford St, on the same side of the street nearer Tott Ct Rd Station, which were both tagged by an insensitive street 'artist', are listed and won't also be lost.