7 October 2019

Rembrandt's Light at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Oooh this is lovely.

Dulwich Picture Gallery have again come up with a corker of an exhibition.
Last week I went on a curators' tour of Rembrandt's Light and...
Actually, no... I am not going to say or show much here but instead keep it short and say that Rembrandt's work is so beautifully and cleverly presented at this show that you've just got to go and see it for yourself.
Each room has been cleverly designed by Peter Suschitzky , the award-winning film cinematographer, to best enhance the artworks on show. I particularly like the first and last rooms.
And it's another first for Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first purpose-designed building to showcase art and now, at this show, they are implementing specific LED lighting techniques.
Also note that, as drive to get younger adults into the gallery, £5 tickets are available for 18-30 yr olds! The sign-up for this reduced price pops up within the booking fields.
What's not to like?!
There are more/other Rembrandt paintings hanging on the walls in other gallery rooms, so do go and hunt for them.

4 October 2019

Bike Lane markings

Just a couple of pics of freshly painted bicycle lane makings.
I alway like the little ones sprayed onto the kerbside showing where the road markings should be placed.
I spotted these in Mitre Street, EC3, last month.

27 September 2019

Unusual light wells and coal holes

Earlier this year I stopped in my tracks outside 258 Pentonville Rd, when I happened upon a very unusual light well running the full width of the shop.
I say 'unusual' because it's got coal hole cover plates embedded within it (one at each end) and this was the first of this kind I have ever seen.

Ironwork and glass made by The British Luxfer Prisms company
Further sleuthing on Google Streetview shows the reason I hadn't ever noticed it before – it's been covered up for at least ten years, and this also explains its rusty condition.
And then last month I found another one in Birchin Lane a narrow street that joins Cornhill to Lombard Street in The Square Mile. Half way along, near Cowper Court, I happened upon a simpler [later?] combo with glass bricks embedded into concrete.

Made by Haywards Ltd
And then, can you believe it, I found another one – this time just off Cloth Fair. And here's me thinking I am observant yet I have been marching past these for decades! This particular site has even has some light wells arranged as the steps into the building (I had already spotted that though!).

It's amazing how interesting and diverse these light wells can be. At the junction of Jewry Street/India Street in EC3 there some examples with lovely horse motifs on them which, again, is something I haven't seen elsewhere, though, judging by the cole-hole-light-well-combos I will probably be finding more soon.

Made by the St Pancras Ironworks Company

I am not the only nerd interested in this kind of thing. See Yelfy's Faded London for more.

5 September 2019

Billiard Factory, 443-9 Holloway Road, London N7

Well this is intriguing...

Between NYT and Safestore, September 2019
Never mind that they look to have made only one billiard here (it must've been a really big one!!) ... I am hunting for reference as to which company is being alluded to here, and during what period in history that might have been.
Can you help?
The promo says that billiard tables were made or refurbished here. I might be looking too hard, but having checked some of my pre-WW2 directories and maps I can find nothing relevant at this site – perhaps it's a ref to a company that was here 1945 onwards...?
You might already be aware of a company called Jelks who traded in billiards-related tables and accessories as well as second-hand furniture at 263-275 Holloway Rd – this was further down the road at the junction of Eden Grove – it's possible that Jelks might have also had the site next to NYT?
Or was there another billiards-related company here?
It's all so intriguing!!

2016 (Google streetview) – at the time this went up the story was that billiard balls were made here rather than tables. And I liked that charcoal paint colour – looks so much nicer than boring white
2008 (Google streetview) – Octagon Court – a mosaic workshop and offices for rent
I have this week sent emails to the café chain and Ingelby Trice, the developer, asking for more info. But I am not holding my breath. I am rather sceptical about this site actually being a billiard factory, or similar, for longer than a week, having found quite a few other mis-namings across London based on lazy research.
All help appreciated.

3 September 2019

Vile re-tiling on The Queen's Head, Essex Rd

The exterior of the Queen's Head public house on Essex Road, Islington N1, has recently suffered a make-over.
It now looks like a pastiche of an inside out 1906 tube station interior by Leslie Green – created during his experimental period.

44 Essex Road, August 2019. 
FFS – there is a 17th century fireplace and ceiling inside – this site is slathered in +500years of history – what on earth were they thinking?
It looks like a theme park version of Yeee-ha Oldey Worldey Pubbey  
It's an abomination.
Future historians will surely not be writing about how lovely this was.
Even the Victorians, who quite liked a bit of a mash-up where tiles and typefaces were concerned, would find this confusing!

Holloway Road tube station interior. Architect/designer Leslie Green. Completed 1906

30 August 2019

Goodbye independent shops – hello brand name mediocracy

On 10th March 2017 a small version of B&Q opened up in Holloway Road within the old Post Office building. I was immediately concerned about the local independent hardware and DIY shops in the vicinity, especially one a few hundred yards up the road that has always been my go-to place for fixings, screws, glue, tools and other useful stuff, plus friendly advice too.
Local shops like this have a wider range of products, and are not pushing their in-house labels which, let's face it, are mostly copied from ideas created by other independent innovators.
Well, look, it's happened. They're closing down:

To those of you who have been shopping in B&Q rather than supporting this local independent shop – shame on you – you did this!!!!!

Soon all high streets will all be almost identical with the same shops in a different configuration.
And don't get me started on the lazy people who live in this area and are surrounded by a diverse range of shopping opportunities less than ten mins' walk away, yet they order online and have their shopping delivered by gas guzzling noisy vehicles to their homes, thus killing the very environment they chose to live in.

I was called by the local press about this. Read the piece here.

19 August 2019

Façadism: calm down dear – it's happening everywhere!

Façadism – keeping an original street-facing part of a building but removing and replacing everything behind it and then adding a new building behind it. 
Recently people have been up in arms about this citing examples such as the Mallet, Porter & Dowd building in Caledonian Rd and the rear of the hospital building in Artillery Row as examples of how bad this is. The Gentle Author/SpitalfieldsLife is one such person who is getting rather angsty about it and uses words like outrage, plague, folly – he is currently asking people to help him crowd fund a book on the subject.
Well, like Michael Winner, I say, calm down dear! Put you handbags down! What are you upset about exactly? Can we please put this into perspective...
Is the stress caused by loss of the old building? Or the building of the new one? Would the 'Façamoaners' rather the whole thing had been demolished? Does keeping only the front-facing section make them sad, like recalling a dead relative?
Yes, I am also disappointed at the amount of glass that is quickly replacing the old buildings, especially in the Square Mile during the last 15 years, but I am aware that 'progress' means moving with the times. Deals are not made in coffee houses these days.
Are the Façamoaners suggesting that we keep everything that has ever been built? We can't save everything! What do they think was there before? Consider that the coffee houses replaced Tudor buildings which were built on Roman dwellings etc – should we build on levels until we reach the sky?
Mallet, Porter & Dowd, Caledonian Rd
Regarding the two examples I give at the top of this post, in my humble pragmatic opinion, having studied both of those sites I have come to the conclusion that they have been well-considered, and keeping an attractive part of an old building helps a passer-by who is not that up on local history to question an area's heritage. Surely that's not a bad thing?
The MP&D/Costa CallyRd site (pic right) is often criticised because the old and new windows do not align. I agree that it does look odd at first glance. But, look closer to see that the old and new front walls are approx one metre apart – to align the windows would minimise light into the building, especially on an east-facing site. This design allows light to enter the building from many angles. The façade was the most interesting and attractive part of the building – as a warehouse only the front of would have had any embellishment. It's amazing that it's been retained at all. Again, would the façamoaners prefer to have this part also removed and we just see a flat wall of glass and clip-together panels, as per the rest of the terrace going south (left in the pic)? The new glass building will not last as long as the 1874 brickwork – there will be further developments here I am sure. My own problem with the renovation is the loss of the 99% of an original doorway of which only a tiny triangle remains at the extreme left.
Sussex Way, Holloway N7. Built 1870s.
A lot Holloway, N7, was built in the 1870s including the residential streets where I live. Façadism is in action here too but it's not so obvious; not so clearly defined. I reckon that less than 10% of the houses here will have interiors that resemble original 1870s floor plans. As I write this three houses a stone's throw away are being gutted and extended backwards and upwards – I expect bi-fold doors and pedestal kitchen units to arrive in the next few weeks.
In the case of Niclar House on Shoreditch High Street a bit of façadism would have been welcome.
Food for though eh.
That'll do.
Thanks for reading this.

14 August 2019

An attempt at cleaning

You are probably aware of the ongoing renovations in front of and around Highbury & Islington Station and the re-routing of the traffic around the roundabout (grunt).
The forecourt in front of the station was, so I was told, laid with the incorrect paving slabs and then re-done in nice textured [sandstone?].
But take a look at how it's being maintained. All that happens is a man in one of those mobile sweeping trucks makes a squiggly journey over the slabs and leaving a swirly dirty mess behind and the corners and edges are left untouched.

See also the Jubilee Bridges

5 August 2019

A floating museum at City Road Basin, Sunday 1st September

The Angel Canal Festival takes place every year on the first Sunday of September around City Road Basin, Regents Canal, Islington (11am to 5pm). The event is always vibrant with plenty to see and do.
City Rd Basin, 1970s. Photo: Bernard James
If you have ever wondered about the history of the canal then this year you are in for a treat because this year there will be a floating exhibition on the Dutch barge Fiodra which will be moored along the towpath of the canal at the end of City Road Lock. On board there will be 'now and then' photos, stories and memories about working and living by the canal, old maps and plenty of info about the industries which once thrived here. A free booklet will be available from the stall alongside the barge.
The project is spear-headed the Young Actors Theatre of Islington (YATI) along with Regent’s Canal Heritage Project and supported by the London Canal Museum. It forms part of the 2020 celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the completion of the canal.
Jamie Lynch of YATI says “We are so grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting us. We have brought local elders to share their stories of Islington’s past with some of its newest residents and collected lots of memories and photos over the few months. We have all learnt such a lot and we're delighted to share these at the exhibition and in the booklet".
In summer 2020, the exhibition will transfer to Islington Museum, St John Street.

Guided walks – On the following weekend, on Sunday 8th September, the exhibition will be brought to life through two 2-hr free guided walks: ‘Regent’s Canal Two Hundred Years On’. The tours, led by the two JPs*, will start from City Road Basin at 11am and 2pm. Spaces are strictly limited. The specific meet-up point will be on your ticket. More info and booking here.

*Jane Parker (me!) and Jen Pedler, my fellow Islington guide. 
I already offer two guided walks along and around this stretch of the Regent's Canal– Waterways Wharves and Windmills and (about the varied industries pre-1960s) and Boxes, Babies, Beans and Bras (a ghostsigns trail – signage for many of these old businesses is still visible) – see here for more.

26 July 2019

The pillars of NYT

The building that is home to the National Youth Theatre, 443-5 Holloway Rd, N7, was originally built as Holloway Hall in 1865 and used for meetings, events and shows including, in 1873, 'Aborigine travelling minstrels' and a baby elephant (not on stage at the same time!)
NYT have plans in place to make some clever architectural changes to the building and I recently went inside during one of their open evenings to see how the spaces will be revamped.
The large area at the rear of the ground floor, which 150 years ago was the  auditorium, is today used to create stage sets and I noticed that many of the columns within are 'decorated' with interesting paint patterns and graffiti.

I understand that these columns will be removed one renovations are complete to create an open, even more useable, unimpeded space.
Keep your eye on local press for updates about NYT's improvements.

11 July 2019

Charles Baker, optical and surgical instrument maker, 244 High Holborn

Earlier this week, whilst hunting for something else in amongst my suitcases of collected bric-a-brac, I rediscovered my small collection of opera and field glasses.
Oh what a distraction!
Beautiful little pocket-sized binoculars made of brass (and other metals) and/or bakelite, many with mother-of-pearl, leather or shagreen embellishment. And most of them still in their perfect little pigskin pouches. OK, that was just for alliteration – I mean carrying/protective cases.
Someone recently suggested to me that they were not worth much, that they had no value, and asked me if I used glasses at the opera these days. A bit of a daft question as I don't go to the opera! And also daft because one could say that Chinese tea caddies and Victorian children's dresses are also not used these days but that doesn't mean they aren't worth anything. I believe what he meant was that these are just collectables; they aren't top dollar items. Certainly not worth insuring.
Nevertheless I thought I'd do a bit of research on them.
Silver metal with hinged centre and mother-of-pearl inlay on the handles 
The pair that it turns out to be most intriguing, for me as a Londoner, is the pair that when the centre wheel is at full twist, words can be seen on the shafts that read; "Sold By C. BAKER, Optician" on the left side, and "244 High Holborn, London" on the right.
Kelly's – just up the road
So I got got to googling etc. It seems Baker was listed as a company as early as 1765 and by 1854 they had moved from premises at 51 Gt Queen Street, to 244 High Holborn, listed as an "optical and surgical instrument maker".  Interesting that the engraving reads "Sold by" rather than 'Made by". Hmmmm. Ponder, ponder.
My Kelly's Directory of 1895 shows that Baker was at No.243 with his instruments and also at No.244 as an optician. By 1915 there are five companies listed at No.244 address including another optician.
The 1939 directory shows that 242-243 has become The Holborn Empire music hall with Baker as scientific instrument maker at no244 sharing the building with Ascot Gas Water Heaters. At this time ads show Baker is making full use of the theatre next door as a signpost. I like to think he would have had a display of opera glasses in his shop window ready to catch the eye of theatre-goers.
Moving forward quickly... in 1963 the Vickers company acquired C.Baker Ltd's microscope factory which later became Vickers Instruments
It's all here on Grace's Guide if you want to read it for yourself.

Of my other binoculars, the ones that also interest me are my two compact late-20s/early-30s Bakelite pairs made by A. Kershaw & Son of Leeds. I am particularly fond of the ultramarine blue ones like these but bright blue. In 1920 the Kershaw company had various premises across the UK including offices/shop at 3 Soho Square. They had previously claimed to produce "the World's first cinematograph projector". By 1964 the company was swallowed up to the Rank Organisation.
And I also have some diddy little opera glasses made by Colmont of Paris; a company that I am told was one of the best French companies of this type back in the day. Ooh. More research needed.

5 July 2019

An elephantine enigma – what a load of tripe

I recently asked help with any information about this little building that used to be at 18 Market Road, N7, mid-way on the north side between The White Horse (Gin Palace) and Caledonian Rd.
As you can see below, when I took a photo in 2008, it had dancing trumpeting elephants on the front. I had wondered if it had been a theatre or something similar.
My pic from June 2008
It has since been replaced – see Google Streetview 2008 and click though to see that it had been demolished by 2012. 
Kelly's 1939 directory
Joe, a friend who grew up in the area, told me he recalls it as The Electric Cinema or similar. But I can't find it mentioned in Chris Draper's Islington Cinemas and Film Studios book
Further sleuthing in the Kelly's street directory of 1939 (right) shows J. L. Henson, tripe dresser at this address. The company must have been here pre WWII but I can see nothing listed in 1915 and 1895.
Hmmm. Ponder, ponder.
And then recently I met Alan. He's another person who is always looking up, looking down, and questioning things.
Alan tells me that in the 1970s he worked in this building when it was Otaco Ltd. He tells me that the empty meat-related buildings in the area were taken over at that time mostly by businesses related to the motor trade. 
Photo: Alan, ex-OtacoLtd employee, 1970s
He also directed me to a pic of the building in 1962-4 that clearly shows the signage for the tripe factory: 
J. L. Henson also had premises at 97 Charterhouse Street, opposite the northeast corner of Smithfield meat market
As you can see, there were no elephants in the 1960s or 1970s.
The black and white pic is available from a few online photo libraries and In all instances it is credited to English Heritage with John Gay as 'artist'. All tag this pic as 26-40 Vale Royal, Holloway, which is just down the hill off York Way and certainly not part of Holloway! This is a great example of people just copying and pasting info without checking things. 
My 1939 directory shows that Edmund Martin Ltd*, another tripe dresser, was at 22-46 Vale Royal. but Henson did indeed have premises there but not until 1962 when they vacated the Market Road premises as shown here in a document about offensive trading. The link also indicates that Henson had an unauthorised fat melting site in Hornsey Rd near the junction of Tollington Park – that's a stone's throw from my home – ugh!
I can find no info about about Truman Steven/s as shown in this 1960s pic.

So, enough of all this tripe – back to the elephantine enigma. When did the trumpeting beasts appear?
I have a few ideas...
1. If Henson's factory was converted into a theatre/cinema, as my mate Joe recalls, then it couldn't have been until the mid-60s and only for a short while; possibly for a decade until the motor trade moved in. 
2. Or perhaps the elephants were added in the 1980s after the car companies moved away? The buildings would have again been standing derelict and could have been put to good use. Consider that there are playgrounds and sports facilities opposite = lots of children. Perhaps it was at this time that the building was used as a temporary cinema and this is when the elephants were added (children like dancing animals and the ref to a tripe factory might have been obscured to avoid offence and confusion).
3. Or (and here's my latest idea) it might have been used as a film location?

Alan tells me has some other leads to investigate and will get back to me...
Watch this space
All help welcome.

*You might recall that Edmund Martin Ltd had a shop on Lindsey Street ,facing the eastern side of Smithfield market, was demolished to make way for The Elizabeth Line. Boo hoo. Next door was a marvellous Miami-style 1930s building, also demolished, which I am going to be featuring Smithfield Art Deco walking tour, coming soon.

3 July 2019

Goodby to Niclar House – an art deco delight

Shocking news.
On Sunday last I was leading my Art Deco Spitalfields tour and we were heading northwards up Bishopsgate. The next stop was to be Niclar house with its 1930s castellated faience tiled façade. I had already pre-warned my group that this end of the street was in the process of being renovated and that the building we were about to see and talk about had been behind nets and scaffold for the past few months – but never mind, I had pictures to show them and plenty to talk about.

Nicholls & Clarke's Niclar House in 2018 (Google streetview)
But when we got there, oh the disappointment and shock (and tongue-biting frustration):
Pic taken from the top of a bus (Sunday 30 June 2019)
Where is façadism when you really need it?
Norton Folgate sits at the upper end of Bishopsgate and has for years been cause of dispute about the conservation of its last remaining historic buildings. However, the buildings that abut Norton Folgate were not included as they did not form part of the same street – they appear[ed] to be a continuation but they actually form[ed] the first section of Shoreditch High Street, which had become separated from the rest of that road when the railway arrived.
Niclar House at No3-8 Shoreditch High Street was the swanky public/street-facing offices and showrooms of Nicholls and Clarke, plumbers' and builders' supplies who, since 1875, had made very good use of the adjacent railway to ship their products all over the country from their huge warehouses in Blossom Street at the rear (often used as a film location).
In June the demolition crew arrived. The Art Deco façade was covered with scaffolding, netting and opaque sheeting and I rather hoped that it was being protected and saved.
But no.
The powers-that-be and the developers obviously don't think that Victorian and unique Art Deco buildings are significant. This would also further explain the loss of The Water Poet public house. I am still unclear what will happen with N&C's still partially-erect evocative Victorian warehouses as shown in the pic above. I wonder what happened to all those tiles? Were they saved? Will the be reused individually or rebuilt en-masse? Answers on a postcard please.
Also see The art deco clock.
Nicholls & Clarke still trade today.

23 June 2019

Cally Festival TODAY – Sunday 23rd June Noon-6pm

A lively event in Caledonian in a closed-off section of Caledonian Rd between Copenhagen Street and Offord Road. Live music stages, stalls, entertainment, food and drink etc. Click here for more info.
I'll be at my stall, approx opposite the Co-op, selling my cards and prints and guided walks all at discount prices. Hope to see you there.
Walk vouchers can be allocated to specific tours at a later date

15 June 2019

Patchwork garages

Just some pleasing patterns and textures today.
Quick snaps I took with my phone of some fences and garages in a little street N19.

10 June 2019

The Ladykillers – Kings Cross film locations guided walk

KX 2009 – this is all one image, not a montage!
Wandering around Kings Cross a few months ago I had a brainwave.
I had just finished leading my ghostsigns tour there and I was thinking how the junction of Euston, Pentonville and Grays Inn Roads has evolved over the past 20 years, especially in front of KX station since the removal of extraneous buildings and the 1970s canopy over the forecourt. Though it's worth pointing out that by then end of the 19th century the forecourt was already littered with a patchwork of various structures; a mix of  entrances and exits, offices, kiosks and shops etc.
Viewing the station today from the corner of Argyle Street it looks just as messy if not worse – The Great Northern Northern Hotel is now partially obliterated by huge circular vents for the Underground, though there is lots of open space and seating on the eastern/YorkWay side around Henry Moore's sculpture.
Pondering all this as I wandered up towards the canal I recalled one of my favourite films The Ladykillers (the 1955 Alec Guinness original, not that silly 2004 remake), and... "PING!" I had the lightbulb moment... I should devise a guided walking tour linking the locations used in The Ladykillers whilst highlighting how the area has changed.
It's all set up and ready to go.
Do join me. First tour 13th June at 2.30pm. More dates throughout the summer – please see my walks listings here  

6 June 2019

Moooo! We're joined at the hip

If you are planning to come to the Caledonian Park opening ceremony of the clocktower* tomorrow, do take a short detour out of the park back towards Cally Rd to look into Market Road Garden. You'll find it next to the adventure playground I wrote about a few weeks ago. 

Market Road Garden is a delightful little gated park – one of the first public spaces made available for Islington residents. It packs quite a lot into a tiny space – landscaped gardens, flower beds, a pergola and, on top of a small stone obelisk/plinthy thing in the back corner, there are four little metalwork cows all joined at the hip. There are other cattle references too in the gate design.

* Tours to the top of the tower from 22nd June available here  (see my last post for more info) 

31 May 2019

I can see your house from here! Caledonian clocktower open through the summer for guide-led tours

The cafe is open, the visitor centre is complete, the information panels and plaques are in place and you can now climb 178 steps to the top of the marvellous clock tower that sits in the middle of Caledonian Park.
See the clock mechanism, learn about the history of the area and enjoy the fabulous views in all directions.
This clock tower used to be the centre of a Victorian meat market that covered a much larger area than we see today. The market was built to take the pressure off Smithfield which had become way too busy, dirty and noisy. A huge flea market later evolved on the same site. Today it's hard to imagine such hustle and bustle here.
I am one of the Islington guides who lead the tours. Don't worry – we don't climb the stairs in one hit – we go up each flight one person at a time and convene for a talk on each level, and the bells won't start ringing when you are up there!
Free tours of the clock tower (and the park) on Saturdays throughout the summer. 
Please note that places are strictly limited to 12 people on each tower tour and restrictions apply as regards age, fitness, clothing etc so please be sure to read all the terms and conditions. 

27 May 2019

Abstract street art

Sometimes a wall need to be patched or graffiti needs to be obliterated.
But the paint originally used for the wall or fence might not be available and so another one that doesn't quite match or a completely different shade is used.
The end result often can look like abstract art.
I just love some of the results. Some of these would be good as carpets.
Here's a selection.

Parkhurst Road, N7.
Rowstock Gardens, N7
Rowstock Gardens, N7

Old Street, EC1
Dalston, E8
Bowmans Mews, N7

14 May 2019

Adventure playgrounds – ooh be careful the kids might fall and hurt themselves...

I was walking along Market Road, off Caledonian Rd, last week when I happened upon this sign outside Hayward Adventure Playground.
The statement that the statement that there are 12 Adventure Playgrounds (with initial caps) in Islington no longer holds totally true. There might be 12 sites but not many of them are functioning playgrounds at the moment. In fact, Hayward itself is undergoing a revamp.
And at the award-winning Martin Luther Adventure Playground opposite Freightliners Farm at Paradise Park, N7, is as I write this just a bull-dozed empty site. This saddens me because up until about six months ago I noticed that almost every time I went past it there were lots of children making really good use of the facilities there. Not like at some other similar sites where I have never witnessed any movement apart form pigeons, namely Spa Green, near Exmouth Mkt, and Barnard Park off Copenhagen Street.
I think kids are being protected a little too much these days. God forbid the poor things might fall and hurt themselves and learn a valuable lesson about balance and gravity in the process.
It's all health and safety gone mad – remove the possible causes of pain. Rip it all up, put in some bouncy rubber floors (recycled I hope) and have round padded corners everywhere. Be careful darling. Be careful. No, don't climb that tree. It's dangerous.
And when was the last time you saw a kid with scabby knees or covered in plasters? OK so kids don't wear shorts or carry catapults and penknives anymore, but perhaps they should. Possibly the first time they pick up something sharp is when they join a gang. I am flippantly suggesting this because I see many kids can't even use cutlery properly these days; they use forks as spoons and have no idea how to hold a knife – it's elbows and shovels. 
How are kids supposed to learn life skills? They aren't gonna be magically ready for the big bad world when when they leave school. This is why we've now got so many people in their mid-20s still being treated like and behaving like babies – get Dad to do everything. But what's gonna happen when theses kids finally have kids of their own?
I so fondly recall as a child getting big knee and elbow scabs – the trophy scars of the playground – then picking at those scabs and lifting the harden crusts like lids to see if they'd bleed or come off cleanly –  and did anyone else enjoy sewing their fingers together with needle and cotton through the top layer of skin resulting in little white dead channels once the thread was removed. Ah, happy days... where are my ker-knockers...?!

10 May 2019

Update on Toby Ale signage

Almost two years ago I wrote about the renovation of an old Charringtons pub in Swinton Street, Kings Cross, WC1, and its lovely old Toby Ale tiled motifs.
Well I am happy to report that the new owners of The Kings Cross Arms which is now a hotel and restaurant have given the place a wash and brush up and the panels are still perfectly intact. Each is flanked by some of those ubiquitous filament lamps though the shadows/ghosts of older lamps looks to have proved hard to remove. It is now called The House of Toby – named after the plaque – how lovely – phew!
The other news on this subject is that I now do not have all the original images of the montage that I put together in that last piece on the subject. I lost most of this collection when my AppleMac crashed last year – I had collected my labelled photos into a folder on my desktop and had neglected to copy it over elsewhere to an external HD, a USB stick or to my web archive.
Tomorrow, tomorrow etc.
Another annoying thing is that I hadn't even captioned the 12 images in that montage so I now can't identify/remember the locations (d'oh!).
It wasn't the only collection to bite the dust – I also lost Woolworths stores, David Greig shops, Burtons Deco motifs, an A-Z of ghostsigns across London (by street), ditto pubs signs and the like. Oh, and ditto lots of written research that I had compiled for my guided walks etc. And archive images, and boot scrapers and coal hole covers and date stamps and and
Oh well; live and learn. None has died. In a way it all felt quite cathartic.
Shall I start again? Nah!

30 April 2019

London Peculiars – a book by Peter Ashley

I have recently been flicking though a fab new book ticking off the contents in my head, inwardly saying "been there, seen that, ooh... must go find that".
Actually, I must confess here that I am a little bit annoyed with myself, envious even, because I have been threatening for years to put together a book of my observations and due to being distracted by even more intriguing things my book has still not evolved. It's hard to know when to stop 'collecting'!

Some randomly-chosen pages from London Peculiars published by ACC Art Books
As you can see from my dodgy snaps above, Peter's book is a collection of photos and info about details and hidden spaces in our great metropolis – tiles and stone reliefs, gardens and monuments, alleys and ghostsigns. Actually I am wondering if Mr Ashley might be getting some of his idea from this blog... hmmm... ha ha.
Perhaps I should contact him and go on a wander with him some time...?

23 April 2019

Remember the Poor's Box – Charity and the kindness of stangers

Next time you are in the West Smithfield area please do take a little detour though the Henry VIII gate that leads to St Bartholomew's Hospital.
Within the gate you'll find this delightful, albeit sad, artefact.

No chugging, no coloured bibs, no sponsoring – just a little red box atop a pillar.
Please give generously.
More info here. 

18 April 2019

Norway Wharf

Wandering around Dalston a few weeks ago I ambled down onto the canal towpath and had a peek around Kingsland Basin that used to serve Norway, Benyon and Quebec Wharves etc. There's not much going on there these days – it's all waterside apartments, pushchairs and pilates.

On the northwest side there is an information board which I assume was put there to enlighten visitors who might wonder what went on in these marvellous brick-built warehouses 200 years ago.
Well, if you'd like to read the board, you'll need to be 6ft tall or sitting on someone's shoulders as it's set too high for the average able-bodied mortal and there is no platform to stand on. Add to that, it's protected by 'clear' plexiglass that has over time become frosted; effectively a blurring of the past.
Near to the sign and the stable block there is a rather nice linear depiction of the Regents Canal carved into the paving. It sort of makes up for the info board, but not really.

5 April 2019

Balloons and A Great Expedition via Gingerline

Along the Victoria Line platforms at Finsbury Park tube station there are some marvellous colourful mosaics of balloons. These are probably historically incorrect for this location, but hey they are a nice distraction.
They tie up nicely with a night out I had last week at one of Gingerline's clandestine dining adventures; the current experience is A Grand Expedition being a Phileas Fogg -style balloon trip around the world.
I can't tell you where this was located because it's all a bit secret squirrel – you are told that the your night out will somewhere along the northern half of the Victoria Line but the specific location is not given until the afternoon, via text.
When you get there you enter the dining space to you find you are inside, completely surrounded by, the experience, as if you are part of a play. The 'stage' for this is well-throught-through and marvellously evocative. Performers act out scenes and deliver the food in character whilst all around there are animations, graphics, evocative sounds and music.
Many other guests had been to previous Gingerline events and were coming back for more.
Hmm... thinks... perhaps I could offer some non-specified themed guided walks...