15 August 2017

Happy birthday to me – Memories of Edinburgh Festival 2002 and pre-selfie selfies

Blimey doen't time fly?!
someone told me recently that they were going to the Edinburgh festival this year and it reminded me that I was there 15 years ago as a Perrier Award judge.
Yes folks, you read that right. I won one of the two 'members of the public' London positions (there was also a winner from Scotland) in a Time Out competition – the brief was to write a letter explaining why I was the best candidate for the job. My opening line began with, "my friends say I have an opinion on everything..." and I just knew when I sent it in that I was onto a winner. I had a gut feeling and I was right. I beat thousands of people to the post.

Top centre: me with my VIP awards night ticket and wandering about in Edinburgh. 
Middle row: Daniel Kitson accepting the winner's awards, me with Reg D. Hunter and his friend, and with Trevor and Simon (our pants are swinging just out of shot).
Bottom row: two comedians (oops, I have forgotten their names; a young Canadian and an America) and the lovely, shy and very clever Mr Rich Hall
Us judges were given lovely rented homes for the fortnight with VIP entrance to all the evening dos and backstage bars, travel expenses etc.
Seeing all those comedy shows was hard work though – it involved running back and forth across Edinburgh seeing five or six shows a day, and many of them not in the least bit amusing. At times I started to think I had forgotten how to laugh with my face stuck in rictis.
The thing is though, it was fifteen years ago. Eh? How did that happen? And whilst I was there I turned 40 – what a great way to celebrate – I thought winning that judging gig was one of my best birthday presents ever.
OK... now for the next batch of photos... You'll notice they all have something in common, and I don't just mean how some of the people in them have, er, changed over the years...

Me and... Dave Gorman, Nina Conti, Dara O'Briain, Hal Cruttenden, Jimmy Carr, Phil Nichol, Noel Fielding, Stephen Frost and Brendan Burns. (How did I not get a pic of Sean Lock?!)
... notice that they are all close-ups and I am in every photo – that's because I am taking the photos – in other words, these are selfies before the word was invented.
For decades I have been using regular cameras to take photos of myself alongside friends or places without the need of a viewfinder/screen. Also, note that all the pics above are taken with a film camera – one shot, no deletes, no retakes, no post-production, no editing. Good aren't they?
I will dig out some earlier 'old-school selfies' when I get a mo.
Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me....

11 August 2017

Dover Street Market in Burberry's, Haymarket

The 3-sided clock – where did it go?
In 1912 Burberry moved into its headquarters at 18-22 Haymarket. When they moved out in 2007 I was concerned what might happen to the building and watched the site avidly as the changes took place.
First the lovely clock disappeared. Then the hoardings went up with signs on them saying something about a market. Ooh, I thought; a market. Ah, but yeah, but no.  
The new occupant is Dover Street Market which moved from its previous location in... in Dover Street, to here. Isn't that a bit confusing?  
Last month I finally found the time to take a peek inside:


It's great to see so much of the old Burberry store over above and around the concessions within. The selling spaces wrap around the original central staircase, which, if my memory serves me correctly, is octagonal. It has lovely wooden handrails and the woodblock and parquet floor have been lovingly stripped down to enhance the grain etc. I also like the way nails on the floor have been hammered in as a kind of feature to show where the carpet used to be, ditto sections of the floor that are light or dark depending on when and for how long it saw daylight. Oh, and check out the lovely circular windows on the stairs and the original skylights within the ground floor ceiling.
A single lift runs down the centre of the staircase but even though there are doors on every one of the five(?) floors, on the day I was there they didn't seem to be working, so I suppose that's how rich people stay thin.
On the top floor there is a tea and cakes shop but I can't tell you if it's worth putting the salopettes and crampons on for as I couldn't see a menu or price list.
Some of the concessions/designers' spaces and display cases are really imaginative, more cleverly designed than the stock within; I saw a lot of simple cotton things that looked like pillowslips with added holes for arms, some scrumpled things that would have your Nan reaching for an iron, some very expensive basic T-shirts and lots of find 'em everywhere lately deconstructed patchwork shirts.
To clarify; Dover Street Market is no longer in Dover Street. Dover Street Market is a company and has moved to Haymarket, which was once a market for hay.
It must be really confusing for visitors to London. Consider if you asked someone to meet you at Covent Garden Market and you waited for them at Nine Elms whilst they wandered around the Apple Market (which no longer sells apples), or for Billingsgate they go to an events location near Cannon Street whilst you stand like a prawn in the East End* .

And, as far as I can ascertain, St James Market, Piccadilly, was also moved from its earlier location at the top of Haymarket to St James' Churchyard.
Any more? I am sure there must be.
But back to Burberry's – where is the clock? I was hoping Burberry had taken it with them to their new offices at Horseferry House but I can't see it in any of these pics. I had a look on their site for more info and notice the clock is not on the building in the pics from 1913. Hmmm.

*Try it for yourself – an online search for Billingsgate Market will show that it's either a fish market in Poplar, or one of the 25 Wards of the City of London

8 August 2017

A lost letterbox in Upper Holloway, and some other post box conunundrums

Last month I posted about the reveal of the Brymay ad opposite Upper Holloway Station which happened after the new bridge was finished on Holloway Road and followed a year of upheaval including diversions and tail backs such that the Archway roundabout at the northern end of the road, which was also undergoing reconstruction at the same time, was spookily quiet. And, as it turned out, a perfect time to resurface Holloway Road revealing the old cobbles for about 30mins (I must dig out those pics).
Oops, I digress... back to Upper Holloway station...
The new bridge is now finished. But something is missing...
The cute little Victorian letterbox that used to be by the entrance to the station hasn't been reinstated.

Top row shows 2008 and 2014. Bottom row shows how the wall letter box was recorded at that site in 1909, and bottom right is how the bridge wall looks now.
So where is this wonderful old piece of Victorian metalwork?
Who has it? News please.

Whilst I am on the subject of Victorian letterboxes, I noticed last month that the Penfold acanthus pillar box in St Pancras Way, NW1, has moved to the other side of the road since the last time I took a snap of it which must have been approx 10 years ago. Why is that? But hey, at least it's still there.
This and more oddities in the pics below.

Top right – the Penfold box in St Pancras Way and below it a close up of its VA motif showing that the box used to be painted green.
Middle top – the box in the gate at Chelsea's Royal Hospital – accessible from both sides!
Top right – a wall letterbox, also in Chelsea – the same design as the lost Upper Holloway.
On the bottom row – a VR in London N6 is really thick with paint – compare it to the ones either side it and note also how the one bottom right, (EC4) has a different monogram design.

2 August 2017

Update – the double clocks at 296 Holloway Road have been removed

Photo: Jane Amelia Parker, 13 August 2008
Two years ago I write a post about the deterioration of the double clocks at 296 Holloway Road, see here.
Last week I noticed that they are not there any more, by which I mean they have been completely removed.
All that is visible is the outlines of some breeze blocks covered in magnolia coloured paint.
I am saddened at this – these Victorian clocks were a landmark feature of this stretch of road and Islington Archaeology and History Society had been campaigning for their restoration.

Photo: Jane Amelia Parker, 27 July 2017
The white parts were cracked but surely these areas could have been replaced with a modern counterpart because the metal sections including the hands were still intact – what has happened to those elements? Where are they now?  They must have been very heavy to remove.
And how and when did this removal happen?  The work must've been done in a hurry, or even overnight, because almost every other day I walk up or down the Holloway Road, especially this particular section, planning my guided walks and scanning for changes and details, and I did not see any scaffolding there.

Islington Tribune

Does anyone have any news about this?
Did anyone see a scaffold or any workmen in action, or know where the clocks have ended up?

31 July 2017

John Wesley's House & Chapel, City Road, London

Non-conformist John Wesley was an interesting man to say the least.
His house and chapel on City Road are well worth a visit.

Pic top left shows me with some London Historians on our guided tour 
I won't give away too much here but I really recommend a guided tour to see and hear about JW's life and the internal spaces that he lived and preached in (when he wasn't on his horse). See also his exercise machine, some fabulous old Victorian toilets an exhibition and pay a visit to the museum shop.
More info on the Wesley's Chapel site.

27 July 2017

Boot Scrapers in Cromwell Road

Spotted opposite The Natural History Museum, four doorways in a row all with stumps rather than full boot scrapers.
Culled for the war effort perhaps?


Or, here's another more creative idea ... perhaps this is how they grow and what we see here are new buds...? !!

24 July 2017

John Maine's Sea Strata at Green Park Station, Piccadilly – Utter Filth!

In 2011 a marvellous work by John Maine was opened to the public. Wonderful carvings within the rock evoke fossilised rock and the rolling sea. I was really impressed with it. Well, I still am impressed by the artwork.
But six years on it's filthy, and that's far from impressive.


It's been looking icky like this for at least the past year. Hardly a nice welcome for people entering the Royal Park behind. A plate within the pavement shows that this is Transport For London's private property.
Come on  TfL, get your jet washers out please.
John Maine's subtle pieces are inspired by nature. His other London work includes the war memorial within Islington Green.

More filth here.

19 July 2017

The London Library – a lovely literary labyrinth

The London Library sits in the North West corner of St James's Square.
It's an absolute delight; a labyrinth of rooms jam-packed with books, level upon level of lovely old books. I could live happily in there.

The books are filed in categories A-Z and you'll Chemistry next to Cheese. The open metal floors are both sturdy and space-saving. Editions of The Times are stored in red binders.
Some of the books are over 400 years old have been previously owned by historical figures and bear their annotations and/or signatures – it amazes me that members can freely flick through these treasures, let alone take home.
I was lost for words when I was there, which is odd for me, but I was the right place for that to happen.
Membership comes at a price; it's not expensive, but it's not cheap either.
However a guided tour is free.

14 July 2017

Exam day tomorrow – soon I will be leading guided walks of Islington

For the past six months I have been doing the usual juggling –  mixing a bit of graphic design with clay pipe jewellery making, card and print selling, taking photos and writing this blog. Somehow I have managed to also squeeze in a course to lead walking tours on the streets, specifically a course run by CIGA, the Clerkenwell and Islington Guides' Association.
It's gotta be said; I am absolutely exhausted.
Tomorrow afternoon I will be completing the final part of the 4-part exam; an examiner will ask each of seven of us to talk about two of the stops on a 14-stop route from Highbury & Islington station to Islington Green, taking in the places shown in the montage below, but we won't know which stops are ours until our name is called out at the time. 

Some of these pics aren't immediately obvious as regards their location, especially 'my ego was here' which I spotted in Laycock Street. The middle two are my two of my stripes cards/prints – lots more than shown here
The amount of research outside classtime that this course has necessitated has been extensive. My head is now full to brimming with facts and figures, names and locations. But it's going to be well worth it in the end.
For many years I have been gathering historical information about my local area of Holloway and saying that I want to lead tours to share the information but I just didn't apply myself to it properly; tomorrow, tomorrow, next month, after this, after that etc. This course has finally given me a kick up my ample derriere and very soon, after I have tested the walks out on a few brave friends, I will be announcing some dates.
I have four tours almost ready for action and these will be weekends and/or evenings. My A1 walks will take us up/down/around/along three different sections of the Holloway Road, and I have also designed a longer walk that will include a refreshment/lunch stop route from Holloway to Angel.
Other routes are also in the pipeline taking in Barnsbury, Finsbury Park, Highbury, Archway, Tufnell Park and Crouch End (obviously, not all in the same tour!).
If you have any unusual information that you think would be worthy of inclusion please do let me know – I am especially interested in stories from some of our older residents who might recall some of the things that have since disappeared; particularly first-hand experience of long-gone shops and businesses, tearooms, music halls, theatres, picture houses and transport/trams.
OK... back to the research for a last bit of bit of swotting-up...

11 July 2017

Views from the roof of Senate House

As promised in last Tuesday's post (4th July 2017), here are some pics I took from the roof of Senate House in Bloomsbury.
These views in all directions clearly show how central the site is and how it's said that one evil man thought it would be a good place for his HQ had he won the war.


You will recall that for five days in June we had a heat wave with clear blue skies. And then on the sixth day when I went to this event the sky greyed and rain was forecast. Oh well, can't have everything.

4 July 2017

Reformation – an exhibition at Senate House Library

If you are in Bloomsbury between now and 15th December do make a detour into the 1937 Art Deco magnificence of Senate House on Malet street to see this small but marvellous exhibition about The Reformation hosted by Senate House Library.

The two pics at the centre show a marvellous book about the library and a tote bag, both available there. The middle two pics on the bottom row show library rooms and the the one bottom left is of the stairwell (see more below).
The exhibition is not advertised outside but is well signposted once you enter the main building by following the motifs designed to resemble smashed stained glass and cracked stone which lead up to the 4th floor.
I was lucky when I visited for a preview of this exhibition to gain access to the roof of the tallest part and the pic at bottom right (above) shows a view from the top of the stairwell looking down approx 60metres and would have been quite dangerous for the maintenance men changing the lightbulbs etc – a potentially deadly drop. Luckily the stairs are caged on all sides now. I will post some views from the roof next week.
Anyway... where was I?
Yes, the exhibition – it's free!

A wonderful choice of exhibits are on view – fascinating old books, drawings and manuscripts, plus a very good interactive touch screen
Charles Holden's Art Deco Senate House was London's first skyscraper and is worth a visit in itself. This is where George Orwell found his inspiration for Nineteen Eighty-Four and Room 101.
I'd also recommend Yannick's Bloomsbury Art Deco walk which includes Senate House

30 June 2017

The V&A's new Sackler Courtyard and Sainsbury Gallery – I'm not impressed at all

I was invited to the press preview of these spaces and had been quite keen to go. On Wednesday morning, the day of the event, I put on the TV and saw it on BBC news. Oh ugh! How disappointing. I considered not bothering to leave the house after all. But then I thought, c'mon Jane, it's probably much better in the flesh, go take a look. So off I went.
As I approached the gates my heart sank and, as they say a lot these days, I am not going to lie to you – I really don't like it. Any of it. By which I mean any of it being here in this location. The elements are OK but just not for here. It reminds me of the Daniel Libeskind university building in Holloway Road which looks like some kind of malfunction happened and it was dropped from the sky into the wrong location.

Exhibition Road – the new entrance and the cafe just inside. 
Let's start with the gates on Exhibition Road. The Aston Webb Screen has been designed so that people can see through the gates when they are closed and have better access to the museum when they are open. All well and good, but the new gates are horrible.
As I approached them, I really thought they were temporary. The shade of grey is just like those corrugated panels that go up around building sites. A dark grey would have looked much better here. Apparently the barely noticaeble patterns within the mesh is meant to echo the shrapnel damage that was on the walls they replace. Call me weird, but I prefered the walls – did we really need so many gates?

Architectural features; curves angles and reflections. Yawn.
Inside the gates it's all geometric shapes and mad curves over a courtyard paved in ceramic tiles. The cafe building (shown bottom left, above) looks to me like it could be part of Crossrail's scheme; the sharp angle on the roof resembles those vile geometric greenhouses we now see at the entrances of Tott Ct Rd station.
But it's the colour of the courtyard floor that concerns me most. It hit me hard as I arrived as it is completely the wrong tone. The tiles are a basic dead blue-white with added colours in stripes which, being mostly blue, further add to the coldness of the white and jar with the natural earthy tones of the older buildings. It was explained that these coloured lines tied up with some elements in the gallery below but try as I might I could not find the visual connection (see pics further down). This brings to mind Enzo Piano's expanation for the bright colours he used on his large constructions at St Giles, near Centrepoint; that they were to echo the colours of the guitars sold in Denmark Street. Really? green, yellow and orange guitars?!
But, back to the V&A courtyard floor – it was also explained that because tiles can be slippery (no shit Sherlock) it took a lot of time and effort (and money?!) designing them such that the fired coloured stripes sat within recesses. I really don't know why they bothered. I wonder if the whole thing is just so the V&A can say they have the first porcelain courtyard...?
Some sandstone or yorkstone paving would have worked a treat here, even with all the other new elements, thereby mixing old and new.

Porcelain tiles – filth and a accident waiting to happen
The first two pics above show how the porcelain tiles are already filthy. Also worth mentioning is a triangular sloped section between the main flat area and the access ramp shown in the second two pics. In these days of Health and Safety madness I am quite surprised at this – see how the tiles have been placed with the design flowing downwards to further aid anyone who puts a step wrong. I reckon a guard rail of some kind will be added along the top after a few sprained ankles occur.


To the left of the courtyard near the cafe entrance, come carved lettering and leafy motifs on the old building has been re-gilded. All well and good but look how the new floor, which is metal here, obliterates WING and V&A.
Moving inside the building... The Sainsbury Gallery is a vast unsupported gallery space beneath the courtyard and is accessed via a staircase of glossy black and red (architects' orange). I was completely non-plussed on seeing this space – it's just a big dark empty room waiting for an event to arrive. It felt a bit like a underground car park with not columns. I suggest only architects and engineers who will be impressed by it. The general public will only appreciate the exhibitions that happen here.

Staircases, 1980s colours, wooden floors (nice touches) and the huge gallery
In conclusion, it's a mish mash of ideas brought together in the wrong location.
And it cost £48M – yes, that's forty eight million pounds.
I will stop now.

Thought: Have I ever written about how I don't rate Tate Modern and it's damn Turbine Hall commissions either...?

27 June 2017

Demise of the House of Toby

Walking down Swinton Street in Kings Cross last week I noticed scaffolding up against Swintons, previously The Kings Cross Arms.

King Cross Arms as was, then more recently as Swintons inc some interior shots grabbed from Google Streetview (it appears you can 'drive' inside pubs!")
The interior of the building looks to be gutted – I just hope the exterior remains as is with its Charrington tiles complete with 'The House Of Toby' plaques because the Toby on this building is a particularly fine specimen.

Look at Toby – he's a corker!
It's such a shame when renovation or new ownership results in the loss of lovely details like the Toby motifs. Some get painted over, but most get chipped away completely. I can never fathom why people paint over tiles at all; they are so low maintenance and wipe clean. Paint, on the other hand, fades or chips.
I have 'collected' quite a few Toby signs across London over the past decade or so and have put them together in the montage below to show how diverse they were even within the same style or arrangement – there appears to have been no set guidelines or rules so each one may have been a unique piece of handmade ceramic.

Shown above is a selection of London Tobys some of which have been subsequently removed or destroyed. Most of these are my own pics but some are grabbed from Flickr, mainly from Ewan Munro.
Note how most are 3D, but one is a mosaic, some are flat renditions including the one on the lantern and the one on the window. Note also the subtle changes in colour on his skin and breeches and how the colours used for the legend and company name differs across the board also.
I may be rather more fond of these little fellas than most because Mum enjoyed the occasional Toby Ale and that's the name we gave our to our dog (just Toby, not Toby Ale; that would be daft).
Find out more about Toby Ales here.
Charrington & Co started in Bethnal Green in the early 18thC and had breweries  across London.

I feel thirsty now...

25 June 2017

Brymay ghostsign revealed at Upper Holloway

Well, finally!
It's been uncovered for all to see:

This can be found overlooking the railway on Holloway Road opposite Upper Holloway station
BRITISH MATCHES FOR BRITISH HOMES
 (  BRYMAY  ) 
SAFETY MATCHES  

I am not sure whether this is a permanent thing. I hope so.

Brymay is a conjunction of Bryant & May.

See here for more Brymay ghostsigns in London

Read about match-making here.

19 June 2017

David Mach at Griffin Gallery – ends July 7th

David Mach creates wonderful impressive pieces; a coathanger gorilla, a Greek temple made from old tyres, faces from drinking straws or matches, a brick train and some quirky amusing sculptures – just see the montage below and say "oh! him!".

Previous work. All pics from David Mach's website
David has recently created a tsunami out of newspapers as an installation within The Griffin Gallery, London W11.
On the eve of Wed 28th June from 6.30–8.30pm David will be at the gallery hosting a Q&A. I will be there – hope you will too. More info here.

16 June 2017

Cally Festival – Sunday 18th June

A section of Caledonian Road will be closed to traffic this Sunday for the yearly street festival which takes place between noon and 6pm.
It's basically a vibrant community-led street party – there will be all sorts of stalls lining the road plus live music, arts projects, dancing and creative workshops.
Find me at my stall selling my cards and prints of photos I have taken in the area including some new ones.

A selection of new cards (prints to order)

  

13 June 2017

The Banksy Job

Last night I went to the preview screening of The Banksy Job, an often hilarious film about the thefts of a Banksy statue that he had based on Rodin's The Thinker which stood for a while at the north end of Shaftesbury Avenue.

Before and after which included a Q&A session – Andy/AK47 is in blue.
I am not going to give too much away here (see the link to the trailer below if you like your films squished), but this true story spans a decade and centres around a tit-for-tat feud between AK47 (Andy Link) and Banksy about signatures and ownership.
The film will be available to purchase through iTunes, Skystore, Amazon, Googleplay, Virgin and Microsoft from Monday 19th June.
Enjoy... AK47, the man behind it all, is a joy to watch.

8 June 2017

Craft Fair at Hornsey Town Hall this weekend

A bit of self promo today...
Find me selling my cards and prints within the Art Deco splendour of Hornsey Town Hall on Crouch End Broadway, 11am–4pm on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June.


Please see the Facebook page here for more card images.
I will also have a small selection of clay pipe jewellery and cards and some upcycled leather wallets from my Amelia Parker range.

If you can't get to the event find the cards just round the corner from the town hall at Treehouse gift shop and Oxfam Books & Music both at the clocktower end of Park Road.
For online orders, visit my Etsy shop (if you don't see the image you require listed, please do contact me directly)

5 June 2017

Have a drink in a real London pub – The King & Queen, Fitzroiva

The homogenisation of London isn't just happening to the architecture, it's also happening to pubs as breweries rip out and refit in an attempt to blandify* our social environments.
Pubs used to be the social hub of an area, where people gathered to relax after work, meet friends and sing songs together in a place that felt like a home from home. But, sadly, pubs are closing down at an alarming rate these days and the landlords of our once-loved drinking holes and are calling "final orders" for the last time.
So a big "hurrah!" for the independently run King and Queen in Fitzrovia, run by friendly staff who know and understand every beer and whisky they sell.

Some pics mine, some from K&Q's website
As you can see from the pics above, this building is a one-off gem with it's witch's hat roof and weathervane atop a turret, and decorative architectural details. Note especially the mosaic floor in the side door (now only access to ladies toilet from within), the carved relief sign, those curved windows and some lovely woodwork and glass.

All power to K&Q's beer-pulling elbow.
The pub sits just around the corner from the BT Tower and across the road from the GradeII listed Georgian-Victorian workhouse building


I heard recently that another of my old favourites, the Duke of Sussex at Waterloo, near the corner of Lower Marsh, has been refitted and is now another gastropub. Yawn. It used to be great in there with a real mix of people enjoying each others' company plus fun friendly nights at the weekends. Go google yourself because I refuse to link to it now. I doubt they have they kept their colourful toilets.

*one of my own words. See also Dubaiification.

30 May 2017

Eversholt Street

This is a mixed bag abou the northern end of Eversholt Street, NW1, near Mornington Crescent Station.


Working along and down row by row of the pics:
A Google street view of the top section of the road shows Leverton & Sons sign on the right. A few years back it was re-painted. It's an appalling renovation. enough said.
Until approx 15 years ago the opposite side of the road was, just like Parkway a little further north, a parade of useful, independent shops which included a great tapas bar and the cafe shown here with the red sign.
Sandwiches etc belied its basic name and plastic sign because inside was marvellous. A friendly and hardworking Italian family ran this place for decades. It had fixed high back wood and padded seating which fitted in four groups of six people and they served up the most delicious fare including the best toasted ciabattas and focaccia I have ever tasted. Everyone I took inside loved it and requested to make a return visit. And the coffee was excellent, being as it was made my the grandfather who had been a barista for decades. They probably weren't even called baristas when he started out.
Sandwiches etc started to lose trade when Costas and Starbucks etc opened outlets along nearby Camden High Street. This was the same period as when the big supermarket chains began opening up mini/local versions everywhere which also helped  to change the face of this lower end of Camden Town completely. At that time I was an occasional freelance at a publishing company just around the corner within Greater London House/Carreras Building and rather than just nip around the corner to Sandwiches etc where a cappuccino was a mere 90p and would still be frothy after running back with it across the road and up two flights of stairs, work colleagues would instead march up the high street to one of the new places where they paid twice the price for lukewarm milky water. When I tried to tell them about the café they looked at me like I was the mad one.
The shop has since stood empty all this time. So sad on many levels.
The last pic on the middle row shows a faded old advertisement for George Clarke & Sons breakfast food above MC station which I expect many people have never noticed. It is, as they say, hiding in plain sight, though would have been very bright and visible to people on buses and trams heading southwards back in the day. Traffic today now flows only on the opposite direction.
The bottom pic shows a long tiled step in front of a shop near the café. I am wondering if this was the tapas bar, though in my mind that was further south. Any feedback welcome.
And finally the magnificent old post office at the junction opposite the station. No longer in use as such.
That'll do!

More Camden ghostsigns here including the Leverton one.

23 May 2017

Goodbye Blustons, Kentish Town Road – now residential?

Most of us in north London will know of Bluston's ladies' coats and gowns with its wonderful old-style shop front and walk-in/walk-around windows on Kentish Town's main high street.
Bluston's offered ladies of a certain age nice cardigans and day wear. However, the sign above suggests its earlier heyday of party dresses, evening gowns and cocktail frocks conjuring up an altogether different kind of clothes shop (scroll down to the bottom for an pic that hints at that).
My pictures in the mosaic below tell a story from 2008 to last month:


The top row shows how the shop looked up until until the end of last year displaying clothing around the £10-20 price mark. It was always a wonder how it survived so long. We've all known that closure was imminent but we all wanted it to stay there as is because we were fond of it. But market forces dictated differently.
In May last year I'd read a report in the Camden new Journal that after the owners left the shop would reopen as a clothes shop retaining the same name.
In December 2016 I noticed the premises next door had closed (Lidl) with the windows covered in newspaper (first pic second row). This had been a branch of Lidl which I believe has since moved across the road. However Blustons windows were still full.
Walking past it last month I found it locked up with the windows empty. I peered in through the glass to get a better look. Another lady (here in a yellow coat) was also intrigued and we both stopped to discuss it. Then we noticed a dog wandering about in there. It was whilst we were reading the hand-written sign on the window (written out in italics below) that a man came out to chat to us about it. It turns out he and others are squatting the premises because they are homeless. He says they respect the property and its historical features and just want somewhere to live.
Other people stopped to join in the conversation and we all chatted for a while about the amount of empty shops premises everywhere and empty rooms above them all going to waste which in time become damp and dilapidated due to not being maintained and subsequently unfit for purpose.
So, let's watch this space and keep our fingers crossed.
I wish him, his friends and the dog well. I wish the shop well. I hope there is a happy outcome to all of this for everyone involved.

Michael Albert was the owner of Blustons – click here for some of his tips
I'd love to find more archive/historic images of the store both inside and out but I am coming up short. The only evocative image I have found of exterior to give a hint of times past is this, when Ted Baker recently used it as a display space

If you can't read the words on the squatters' sign it says:
This is a non-residential building – Section 144 Laspo does not apply.
Please be aware
– That this is our home and we intend to stay here.
– That if you want to get us out, you will have to apply for a possession order.
– Any attempt to enter this building through threat/violence is a criminal offence and is punishable by a £5000 fine/ 6 moths imprisonment.
_That there is at least one person in this building at all times.
Signed the Occupiers

19 May 2017

Get up close to the Painted Hall ceiling at Greenwich ORNC – plus a tip for good cheap food

I can't recommend this enough.
The marvellous Painted Hall ceiling with the Old Royal Naval College buildings is being cleaned and conserved. Miles and miles of scaffolding have been erected within and guided tours are available so we can climb to the top and see the artwork up close.
The guided tour I went on last week was excellent – our guide explained so much about the history of the building and the meanings behind the imagery.
Absolutely fascinating and gorgeous too. It's a must-see.

See top right for some of the damage – it's hoped that the conservation work will last another 100 years before the next clean up
The quality of the wood carving is also amazing – see the hand bottom left and the head of a pollaxe at the centre 
My friend in the pics has written a much better account of this place. Click here.
Check out the availability for future tours here plus how to sponsor a section of the work.

And here's a good tip for where to eat in Greenwich – very close to the Painted Hall, at the far end of the Chapel building, there is a very good, and I mean very good, cafe/student refectory which is open to all and serves excellent choice of hot and cold food, yummy cakes and drinks all at normal prices. Being part of the university they aren't allowed to advertise so I told the friendly staff there that I'd give them a mention.
The unobtrusive entrance to the cafe is almost hidden at the at the eastern end of the ORNC complex opposite Park Row gate facing a building that has a strange frieze at the top depicting amongst many things a lion with a serpent's tail – see below (needs more research).
Map of the area

16 May 2017

A tour of The Society Of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly

As you enter Burlington House courtyard heading for the latest art exhibition at The Royal Academy, look left to see the doorway to The Society of Antiquaries – and then go inside and book yourself on a tour because it's one of London's little known gems and it's fab.
Here are some taster pictures of my recent visit.


Lots of marvellous paintings and one portrait is of Richard III fiddling with his ring. Oh please! Titter ye not. That's exactly what the guide told us.
Plus shelves and shelves of old beautiful leather books and a multi-level library. On the day I was there we were shown some pages in a huge scrapbook containing exquisite ephemera and illustrations relating to the Duke Of Wellington's funeral.
I visited with the London Historians – if you would like to find out more about LH just click here and if you are tempted to join (and why not, it's also fab) and first heard about LH from me here then please mention my name/site as there are discounts available for recommendations. Thanking you in advance.
Now to ponder the pronunciation of 'antiquaries' ... it's an-tik-warries, as opposed to 'antiquarian' which is pronounced anti-kware-ian. Go figure.
Isn't english fun?!

9 May 2017

The New Adelphi – an Art Deco masterpiece

A magnificent example of Art Deco architecture overlooks the River Thames.
Built in 1936-8 on the site of Adam brothers' original Adelphi this quietly impressive masterpiece with its clean lines and classical detailing still looks almost brand new today.


Today's architects should learn lessons from this efficient and functional yet attractive building and move away from the clip-togther panelled monstrosities that are being constructed as I write this. Though I expect, having shorter shelf lives the new builds are a constant source of revenue... hmmm.
The Adelphi boasts exquisite carvings and motifs at strategic places such as around the doors plus four large sculptures on the corners of the river-facing side each commissioned from less well-known artists of that era including Walter Gilbert and Arthur JJ Ayres who created the fabulous panels on and adjacent to Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End:

All these Ayres reliefs are available as greeting cards and some can be printed up as larger prints – please enquire
The Adelphi Story here.
The interior of the Adelphi building is just as marvellous as the exterior. See here for more.

5 May 2017

Archway Tavern, N19 – Save the Guinness Sign!!!!

The Archway Tavern building we see today dates from 1888. It looks down Holloway Road towards the City of London. In 1971 its interior featured on the cover of The Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies album.
Over the past few years the pub has stood empty. The ground level was painted a sombre black when the pub was being renovated in preparation to be reopened a few years ago. But work ceased. However the upper floors are available to hire as a nightclub venue accessed by a staircase at the rear.

March 2008 left and April 2017 
As you can see by my comparison pics above, the surrounding pavements have recently been extended and remodelled to create an open piazza area. Judging by all the articles in the local press this has caused a lot of 'stress' and 'upheaval' for people confused how to navigate the junction as the building work progressed. The people of Archway don't like change. Grump grump. Harrumph harrumph.
Pedestrians have been getting all angsty as bus stops were moved and then moved again and motorists complained about not being able to navigate what used to be a roundabout. They are probably all still complaining now. And will continue to do so.
Approx 100 years ago
But hold your horses here people!! Back in the day this was never a roundabout in the first place. See right. Ditto Highbury and Islington roundabout, but that's another story.
I think the end result will be good for the area, not least of all for the shops and businesses in Archway Close that were as good as stranded on an island.
The building work is now almost complete and I have already made use of excellent pedestrian crossings from Archway Road, St John's Way and Holloway Road into the piazza and Archway tube station. My only concern is that the new cycle paths that cut through the zone may cause a few problems; the cyclists, not the cycle paths.
But, back to the tavern...
Look at the Millennium Guinness sign on the corner of the building and see how during the last nine years bits of it have fallen off.

Photos of the Guinness sign in 2008 and 2017. Available as a greeting card along with these other two also from the Archway Tavern.
The sign on the Archway Tavern was erected for 2000 and if you study it you can see it is a bizarre and not very animal-friendly image. It shows a workman, or possibly a clock repairer (or clock thief?!), standing on the nose of a seal and the beak an ostrich (which has a pint glass stuck in its throat) as he reaches up to the clock, with a toucan flying in from the right balancing two pints of the black stuff on its bill. It all looks rather precarious. But I love it.
York Way, June 2008
I am hoping that when the pub opens again the new owners will see fit to replace the missing letters on the sign.
Signs such as theses this become iconic local landmarks. Many have disappeared from our streets over the years including one that used to be on York Way opposite the end of Agar Grove – it had five happy Guinness pints under a clock.
An assessment of the sign here.
See also the Guinness collectors' site.