29 December 2010

No trimmings at Alfie's in Bermondsey

I had my Christmas dinner this year with friends at Alfie's, the restaurant on the ground floor of the Bermondsey Square Hotel.
Well I say Christmas dinner, but that's not what was put in front of me, even though it was Christmas Day and it was my main meal of the day.
Hmmm... so what went wrong?
At £35.00 for 3 courses plus drinks etc and a 'discretionary service charge of 12.5%' call me a fool, but I was expecting something reasonably good. But what I got was tiny and tasteless.
My terrine starter was nice but then the main course was placed in front of me. I waited for side dishes or something but nothing came – that was all I was going to get – a few bits of pan fried turkey on a bed of cabbage with 3 or 4 strands of carrot and some one inch cubes of potato, all drenched in an over-powering gravy, served in a pasta bowl, yes, a pasta bowl...!
Where were the parsnips? The cranberry sauce? The proper roasties? It certainly did not fulfill the description on the menu as being "with all the trimmings". I ate it in about 7 mouthfuls in less than 5 minutes (nutritionists say the main meal of the day should take approx 20 mins to eat).
Then the pudding arrived. It was an unattractive individual blob of a thing about 6cm in diameter and 3cm tall. I cut it half. It was squishy and one tiny mouthful confirmed that it was barely cooked and watery. I don't recall any brandy sauce coming with it.
It was too much to take. I was so disappointed. I complained and got my main course removed from the bill and agreed to a little sticky toffee pudding as a replacement for the wet blobby thing. It was OK but it wasn't very sticky.
Needless to say I shall not be going to eat at Alfie's again.
Here's another not so good review.
Oh, I almost forgot, the male and female signs on the toilet doors are horrible – they are bronze casts of a woman's bra and a pair of Y-fronts. Due to the colour of them and their crumpled-ness both items lead one to think that the hotel is promoting casual sex in the toilets or is renting the rooms by the hour!
Ah well... The streets in and around Bermondsey are littered with interesting gems... all of pics above are less than 10 mins walk from the restaurant.

Poison Apple

Season of goodwill and all that but here comes another rant...
I work on an AppleMac. Years ago Macs were only used as work tools by designers like me. But Apple had to pull it socks up and appeal to a wider market and now it seems everyone and his mother owns something with an i in front of it.
My latest gripe involves upgrades and unhelpful advice. Here goes:
I can't have an iTouch until I upgrade my Mac to 10.5 or higher. It seems I need to be running Snow Leopard. For those of you who are confused about that, you're not alone... read on...
After two hours of checking specs and forums on the web I was none the wiser as to which SL product I needed to buy so I booked a 'Genius' appointment at the Apple Store in Cov Gdn.
When I got there the place was packed – after all, it is just an internet cafe without the food and drink. There is no signage to say where the Genius Bar is; one has to keep asking. There is also no signage anywhere to say where anything else is either.
Two red-shirted numpties came up to me and asked if I had a one-to-one booked. Er. Yeah? Dunno? What? My name wasn't on the list. When I explained why I was there they looked me like I was the most stupid person in the world and and told me (d'uh!) that I had a 'technical' query, and then mentally patted themselves on the back for being so jolly and obsequious yet perversely condescending and patronising.
This did not put me in a good mood. And I had to wait ver 20 mins before I was seen. My grinning nerd, sorry, genius, said I needed Snow Leopard. It occurred to me at this point that he just assumed I knew what this was – Apple seems to think that we know about every Apple product they sell in advance, both in-store and on-line. It's not very helpful.
I explained my problem and my genius asked what system spec I was running. Had I not had the foresight to take with me every bit of info I could find he would not have been able to help me. Ooh dear reader, how further pissed off would I have been then?
But, good news – the diagnosis is that I only needed to spend £25 to upgrade my system. Phew!
So... as I'd only used 5 mins of my 20 I thought I'd quiz him about other things, and bloody glad I did because I needed some info about upgrading my iPhoto. (In order to create the montages for this site I have set up a lot of cross-referenced files for the 16,000+ images I have on file – I have hundreds of folders and sub-folder in there – a bootscraper pic may be filed in 'Bootscrapers', 'Bloomsbury' and, due to its cat shape, in 'Animals' too. It's an old package and is suffering with overload.)
BUT, get this... hold onto your seat... he told me when I upload Snow Leopard my old iPhoto won't work! And, furthermore, if I upload the new iPhoto (part of iLife, which contains 3 other things I don't need) it won't retain all my existing folders. Aaaargh! I almost self-combusted.
The genius gave me nothing in the way of advice how best to get around this but instead just looked at me as if to say, 'that's it, I am done... next!".
It's like throwing the whole contents of a metal filing cabinet into a skip.
Yes, I have the originals all backed-up chronologically but what an uphill struggle it's gonna be... once I get iLife, I will have to re-make my folders (see you all in February when I have finished) and then load SL, and then possibly get an iTouch. Or not.
Or I may just give up and go and live in a hut on a wi-fi-less beach somewhere...
What really annoys me about this is that Apple have made us all their puppets. Once hooked, we have no choice but to keep upgrading*. Hard to believe that not so long ago Mac-users were derided by PC users convinced, as these people were, that Macs would be phased out. But thanks to Mr Jobs, what was once a piece of kit that I used to do my job on is now a toy for the masses, complete with family and friends.
The i in iTouch, iMac, iPhone etc is obviously a reference to Steve Jobs, not us – there is no me or you in Apple; it's themMaster, themControl, themBoss.
Thoughts... I can't help but think that we are losing a lot here; where are we going with all this in the future? Backing-up to DVDs and CDs is all well and good but discs have a short shelf life, yet a vinyl record can still be played, a Box Brownie will still take pictures, 35mm film can be scanned to any size...
What would happen to my photos on Flickr and this blog should I drop down dead tomorrow?
And finally, it just occurred to me that I create these montages using Quark... don't get me started about that other bully, Adobe...
*until the next must-have system comes along...

12 December 2010

The state of my health in ghost signs

Less than 2 weeks after shaking off the last headcold and I've somehow picked up another one.
This isn't funny. I have been coughing and sniffing and sneezing for 3 days now and I am really not happy about it. I can't remember the last time I felt like like this. Oh gawd.
I read somewhere that there are over 147 common colds... we don't stand a chance... perhaps I have been mixing with the dirty public too much lately...?
Ironically I am working at the British Medical Journal this week!
So stay healthy, build up those antibodies, wash your hands, fight those germs, but don't get silly! I fear that in the future the human race won't consist of the survival of the fittest, but instead people will be cocooned in head-to-toe latex, and babies will be made in laboratories.
All of these and more here.

8 December 2010

Festive Fair at London Docklands

This is where I will be showcasing my Amelia Parker clay pipe jewellery...
It's just occurred to me that some of you may not have taken in that this not at the main Museum of London, but at the sister museum here.
If you are planning on coming, the museum galleries are open as usual during the day but the fair does not start until 6pm.
Stalls will start clearing up 8.45pm.
Thanks.
And a really big thanks to the guys at Londonist for writing such a brilliant feature about Amelia Parker clay pipe jewllery in today's Santa's Lap.

3 December 2010

Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street

The home where Charles Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist is getting £2 million from the National Lottery Fund.
The house in Doughty Street, WC1, is now home to The Charles Dickens Museum and they intend use the money to store more than 10,0000 books, manuscripts etc relating to Dickens' life.
Dickens lived in the building for only two years (1837-39) and this brings me to my blue plaque bugbear... how long does someone need to have lived somewhere for a blue plaque to be deemed appropriate?
OK, in this instance, a few novels were written on the premises, but has anyone else noticed how many blue plaques in London represent Dickens because he slept on someone's sofa one night, popped in for a cuppa, or lived 'nearby'!
But the museum is well worth a visit, and Doughty Street and the adjoining Bloomsbury streets are worth a stroll down any day as the area is a mine of wonderful architectural features, as shown in the montage below.
And here are 15 interesting facts about the man.

29 November 2010

The best that London has to offer

London Ambassadors, a scheme run by London Mayor's office, is aiming to recruit 8000 volunteers who can help show off the best that London has to offer during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. Apply to be an Ambassador here. Or go to Facebook.
In conjunction with this drive they are also running a competition asking Londoners to recommend a place that they think no trip to the capital should be without. As per Jane's London this should be not just the usual visitor attractions; they are looking for hidden gems such as small museums, cafes, restaurants, shops, alleys, etc that are not on the usual tourist trails. The 60 winners will be chosen at random (which in my opinion is a bit daft) and will get a ‘Take Two London 2 for 1’ Voucher and Guide Book which contains £900 worth of potential savings to be cashed in at over 70 London attractions, restaurants, bars, museums, galleries and tours. Enter here.
The competition closes on 10th December 2010.

26 November 2010

Christmas markets

There are a lot of Christmas fairs and markets in London this year. Perhaps I am ultra-aware of this having left it too late in the year to apply for a stall at one of these markets to sell my own stuff.... ah well, next year...
Some of this year's bigger markets are listed here and here. But there are lots of smaller events worth checking out here, plus others this weekend in SW17, N16, and next weekend in SE17.
However, the good news is that I have managed to secure a stall at The Museum of Dockland's Festive Fair taking place on the eve of December 9th. There will be 50 stalls selling various kinds of unique arts and crafts, plus a bar, live music and carols, and the museum galleries will be open for the duration... so please do come along and say hello.
Top row: Hampstead, Stoke Newington x2
Middle row: West India Quay, Carey Street, Hyde Park
Bottom row: Crouch End, South Bank, Belgravia Mews

21 November 2010

Ice, Ice Baby

Bloody hell... has London gone ice skating mad?!
There are plenty of rinks here in London already – the indoor ones in Streatham, Finsbury Park and Romford, and the seasonal outdoor ones that have been about for years at Somerset House and Broadgate – but it feels like very other day I hear about yet another rink opening for the Christmas season. Have we gone ice skating mad?!
I say 'we' but I haven't attempted to skate for over 30 years. It wasn't a good night; I wasn't very good at it, my friend had her hand cut by another skater's blade when she fell over, and someone went home with my brand new wedges such that I had to go home sad and shoeless. Now I am dare try to ice skate in case I put my back out!
But if sliding about on slippy things is your kind of thing, here's a fairly comprehensive list of where to do it.
Top row: Greenwich, Queensway, Tower of London, (Highgate)
Second row: Somerset House, Natural History Museum, (Regents Canal, Commercial Road), Hyde Park

20 November 2010

UKCG urging their worshippers to go into debt

I just read this in today's Times...
It seems the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which occupies the old Astoria/Rainbow building in Finsbury Park, is encouraging its congregation not to pay their personal bills so that they will have more money to give to 'God'.
UCKG say that only when people sacrifice all their worldly possessions will their financial prayers be answered. They even offer financial 'help' with this.
It saddens and angers me that this sort of thing is still going on, and less than a mile from my front door.
Read the articles here, though you have to subscribe to the Times site (I will attempt to upgrade this in due course). And here's a 'review' of the church.
The only positive thing I can say about all this is that having a church in residence has meant that the interior of the lovely old cinema has been kept relatively intact. You can wander in and have a look around – just be sure not part with any cash when you are there.

17 November 2010

Bar Boulud at The Mandarin Oriental

Earlier this week, thanks to Travel Onion, I went for a lunchtime treat in Knightsbridge with a few other London bloggers. I wasn't sure this was gonna be my kind of thing as when I started this blog I wanted to be specifically about things on the streets. But I am so glad I accepted the invitation as the place and the people were lovely.
I'd have been happy just wandering the hotel's corridors, lobbies and staircases as the inside of the building is beautiful – a lovely mix of old England with touches of the East – but we were also taken inside some of the rooms including the spa, the beautiful and ornate dining room that overlooks Hyde Park, the original entrance on the park side of the building, a standard room (did they say approx £800 a night depending on the season?!) and then to the Royal Suite which was stunning... if you are interested in the price for a night there, then multiply that last room rate by about twelve!! If anyone needs a roommate for a night, just get in touch. (Actually, does that sound a bit forward?!)
After our tour we were treated to lunch in Bar Boulud on the ground floor. The food was scrumdicious (my own word!); plates of charcuterie consisting of patés, hams and terrines, plus seafood platters and salads, followed by a main course, my choice being one of their fantastic hand-made burgers – the one I had had foie gras in it but is only available on Sundays and Mondays.
Oh, and we had four different wines, all of which were explained (what's the word I want here?) to us by the Head Sommelier. Excellent! In a nut shell, I'd love to eat there again, especially as I was impressed at the competitive prices. But I suspect it'll be hard to get a table there soon as the place is becoming very popular. Rightly so.
Oh, and if it's not enough the hotel having David Boulud, it seems Heston Blumenthal is opening a restaurant there soon too, though the hotel's site says Autumn 2010.
And the light fittings throughout the whole building are gorgeous.

16 November 2010

Islington royalty and nobility

Walking from New North Road to Angel tube station via Prebend Street the other day I noticed that most of the pubs I passed were Lord this, Duchess that, Earl whatever.
So I have delved a bit deeper and found that within the N1 postcode there are.... eight Dukes (Cambridge, Clarence, Richmond, Sussex, two Wellingtons and two Yorks), two Duchesses of Kent, an Earl of Essex, the Marquess Tavern and a Marquis of Salisbury and Lords Clyde and Wolseley.
And there are lot of Royals about too – Kings Edward VI and VII, William IV, two George IVs, Charles I and the King of Denmark. Plus Princes Albert, Arthur, of Wales and Regent and a few heads and arms of non-specified Kings and Queens.
So what's all that about then?

These are all fairly self-explanatory except the Balls Pond Road image which used to be the Marquis 0f Salisbury.

13 November 2010

Bulldoze Battersea Power Station?

Ooh this should rile a few people... but here goes...
The latest plans for the shell of what used to be this wonderful building is to convert it into shops and offices; er, haven't we been here been here before? A few times, even?
And is it really going to happen this time?
I have always hoped that BPS could be brought back to life in a good way, but after all the years of neglect I am starting to think that someone should have the balls to just knock the thing down now and start again from scratch – after all, the new developments that surround it, like the Howard and Warwick buildings, haven't exactly been built with any sympathy to it – it just looks silly surrounded by all those charmless glass boxes.
When BPS was originally built as part of the National Grid system it was an architectural showcase full of polished metal and waxed wood, to show the rest of the world what Britain was capable of. Workers there had to wear felt over-shoes so as not to mark the expensive parquet flooring. But all that is long gone and what is left has been ruined thanks to the removal of the roof decades ago. It's all so sad. What are we really trying to hold onto anymore? And do we really need yet another shopping centre?
The latest plans look to me to be extremely similar to the Kings Cross development. Everywhere is gonna end up looking the same; it's all so homogenous.
Below is a collection of architectural images mostly taken in the immediate Nine Elms vicinity. Also included are two shots featuring that hideous Albion Riverside Building, which is further upstream.

9 November 2010

Bubbles and dancing

It's promo time!
Win a top night out in London...
Everyone likes a glass of bubbly and Freixenet are hosting a 'VIP competition' through Facebook – the prize is an evening out at an exclusive London venue where the winners will have a dance lesson with that gobby Brendan Cole of Strictly Come Dancing, quaff some lovely Cordon Negro cava and nibble on top quality canapés.
Top row: Strand, Crouch End, Goswell Road, Tottenham
Second row: Marylebone Road, Shepherd Market, Holloway, St Martin's Lane

6 November 2010

Cruising under the Thames bridges

A few days ago I was lucky enough to travel on a widebeam cruiser along the Thames from Limehouse to Kingston.
It's as near as I have ever got to standing on a river. What a fantastic experience.
All in all we went under 19 road bridges, plus another eight foot, rail and lock bridges too. Actually, make that 10, if Hungerford and the two Golden Jubilee bridges count as three separate things.
I wondered if there was a mnemonic for remembering the names of the bridges in order. I cannot find anything specific but there has been a forum at Londonist on this very subject. My personal favourite is this one which covers the 12 road bridges shown below from Tower to Wandsworth.
Only a couple of the above images of the 12 bridges in order, east to west, were actually taken on the day. I have just looked up some info on the figures on each side of Vauxhall Bridge – the east-facing ones represent local government, education, astronomy/science and the fine arts, and those on the west-facing side allude to architecture, pottery, engineering and agriculture (which I thought, with its scythe, looked like the grim reaper!). More here.

1 November 2010

Fireworks, wire works, iron works etc

I love love love a fireworks display – did you see the one at the end of the Thames Festival earlier this year? – wow!
But gone are the glory days of Highbury Fields on Friday followed by Primrose Hill on Saturday, because fewer boroughs are putting on fireworks displays these days due to the costs. And a bit of H&S probably creeps in too. Those that are going ahead may have a nominal entrance fee – something like a £1 – which is fantastic value, especially when you consider that councils have been burning our money like this for years! I wonder what else it could have been better spent on...
Here's a list of organised displays in and around London this month.
ooh... aah... wooo... wow!

Top row: Vauxhall, Hornsey, Homerton, Walthamstow
Middle row: Walthamstow, Brixton, Paddington, Bermondsey
Bottom row: Southwark, Bermondsey, Finsbury, Kensington

20 October 2010

More fun with dates and numbers

Ten days on from all the tens and this eve will have 20:10 20th October 2010.
I know I haven't got three 20s... so, sorry, but I can't do a montage this time.
Check out my collection of dates and numbers here.

17 October 2010

That man in Notting Hill

I am really pleased that after a fair bit of cajoling from me that Malcolm took my advice, set up his blog, and has been posting quite frequently.
Being perhaps his biggest fan (that's just to embarrass him!) I reasoned that other people should also get to read his friendly, and often amusing, streams of consciousness about his observations on stuff that goes on in and around London.
My only criticism is that I think he ought to include more of his lovely pictures into the posts... after all he has thousands to choose from.
Malcolm lives in Notting Hill. I was over that way last month and, when in Moscow Road looking south, I took a photo of a mythological beast on a rooftop in the distance. So far, Malcolm has tried in vain to identify where it might be. It's the image top left... has anyone else got any ideas what building it's on?

Most of these pics are taken in and around W2 and W11. Those that aren't have tenuous links to Malcolm; he is a goat and a rabbit (I am a tiger and a lion) and he liked Joanna Vasconcelos's Big Booby at the wonderful space The Haunch of Venison Gallery are occupying at the moment at the back of the Royal Academy in Burlington Gardens. Her show was really good.

13 October 2010

Try before you buy

This is a blatant promotion, because I think it's a good idea...
I have found this great London site called Tasterlab where you can get vouchers to test things out before you splash out on a subscription. Or not. They have dance and language classes, courses, coaching, dating and more. Check it out here.
Clockwise from top left:
Testing Southwark Street, SE1 / Dating Tottenham, N16 / Dancing Victoria Palace Theatre / Films Parkway, Camden / Chinese Romilly Street, Soho / Boxing Regents Canal, N1 / Painting Reeves, Dalston E8 / Sport Westbourne Grove

10 October 2010

10:10:10 10th October 2010

I missed out on 05:06:07 on 8th September, probably because I was asleep, but I'll be awake for this one.

Clockwise from top left: Temple, NW10, Holloway, Smithfield, St Katherine Docks, Finsbury Park

8 October 2010

London River

It's a strange title but this is a film about two people who paths cross when they are both hunting for their missing (adult) children in London after the bombings on 7th July 2005.
I am writing about this now because I forgot to do this earlier in the year when it would have been more relevant, and I just noticed that the film is out on DVD on Monday 11th October.
What I like about this French-made film, apart from the very good performances and slow pacing, is that it isn't littered with silly images of iconic London buildings, but instead centres on the Finsbury Park area, specifically Blackstock Road where the missing people were living.
The pics in the top row show places that pop up in the film, the second row are missing things, and the bottom row is the bottom row.

Top Row: Twelve Pins pub, N4 / The Old Dairy, N8 / Blackstock Road, N4 (x2)
Middle row: Doulton factory, Black Prince Road, SE11 / Star Street, W2 / Upper Street, N1 / Lincoln's Inn, WC2
Bottom row: Russell Square station / London Bridge / Kings Cross / Gt Newport Street, WC2

2 October 2010

Faces in places

I am always seeing faces in things.
In fact my avatar on Flickr is even a found face.
There quite a few 'face' groups on Flickr, and blog sites too. One of them is Faces in Places, by Jody Smith and he has brought out a book of some of the best ones. My copy arrived this week – I've got three pics in it, none of which are shown below. I am amazed he didn't ask for my all-time favourite of the Greggs scary muffin man!
It just occurred to me that none of my chosen book pics are taken on the streets of London, as per the ones below. Find all of these and more here.

25 September 2010

Theatre darling, theatre

I have been to the theatre two nights running this week! Blimey darling!
On Thursday I saw Yes Minister at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. Lots of words and clever political stuff. Loved it. Consider this a short and sweet favourable review.
And last night I saw the last performance of a brilliant production of Pygmalion by the Tour De Force Theatre Company in a converted industrial unit in Hackney. The cast of five was excellent.
On the bus home I thought up this collection of theatre-related images, which I think may be my best cryptic collection yet. I hope you get all the references...

Top row: Marylebone Passage, Millbank, Victoria Apollo, Chapel Market
Middle row: Old Marylebone Road, Acton, Clapton, Temple
Bottom row: Shepherd's Bush, Kings Cross, Highbury, Hoxton

23 September 2010

100 Club threatened with closure

News in Evening Standard and the NME that the 1oo club in Oxford Street, which has been staging gigs since 1964, may be closed down in a few months. I am sure a campaign is being set up as I write this in an attempt to save it.
This eastern of Oxford Street has become an absolute no-go area at the moment due to the rape and devastation being caused by the implementation of Crossrail – shops and businesses in this stretch must be suffering. Adjacent to No.100 there is now a great big hole where the whole block between Dean Street and Great Chapel Street has been demolished. It's not looking good.
The image is of the old Alfred Marks clock above the door.

21 September 2010

Save The Wenlock Arms

It has recent come to my notice the the owners of this wonderful old pub intend to sell up and move on. All well and good for them, but it may not be so good for the much-loved pub as it will more than likely be demolished by any new buyer or developer.
Anyone who has ever been to The Wenlock knows what an absolute gem of a place it is; there aren't enough proper old boozers like this left these days. It's a lively place frequented by different types of people from all walks of life, plus it's a big favourite with real ale drinkers winning many CAMRA and SPBW awards.
So, to find out more click the links under this picture.
Please sign the petitions and do your best to keep the place open.

20 September 2010

Letterpool London - Typographical imagery

Just realised I forgot to mention something within my recent post about Neville Brody's Anti Design Festival...
I meant to link to Letterpool London where four of the pics in the Gallery of 100 are mine! Let's hope the London book comes out soon and is as successful as the Liverpool one.

19 September 2010

Holborn Midtown -update

Earlier this year I wrote a post about the silly idea to re-brand the historic Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles area as Midtown. See it here.
Well, sadly, 'they' are still continuing with this.
Andy Dangerfield latest piece follows up on his previous BBC article and I've been quoted in there!

17 September 2010

4by4 at the Anti Design Festival

On Wednesday eve I was back at Payne Shurvell for another PView. This time for Rational/Irrational, the second in a series of four one-week shows which form part of Neville Brody's Anti-Design Festival which is happening at various venues all around Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, until 26th September (though I notice that the PS shows continue until 2nd October). Download the full programme here.

The PS show was full of inspiring little gems that at first glance looked like nothing much at all. It was worth asking questions and spending time on things. I left with A3 print outs of the artists' work including a rewritten version of Sol LeWitt's 'Sentences on Conceptual Art', which is now stuck on my wall, and some tissues with thoughts printed on them. Plus it gave me a few ideas of my own that have evolved into this collection of lovely bits of typography on shops and signs from all over London that bring a smile to my face.

See you at next week's show...

16 September 2010

Eastenders

I accidentally caught 10 minutes of the omnibus edition of Eastenders on Sunday; a programme I haven't watched in a long time. For those of you who aren't aware of this programme, it's a soap opera on BBC1 about the people who live in and around a make-believe square in London's East End. It's been going since February 1985.
Anyway, as I tuned in just The Vic (pub) had burned down and it was the following day...
Peggy went into the burnt-out Vic in a white jacket. She touched and stroked blackened objects and walls. She even sat on the stairs. Yet she left with clean hands and only a tiny smudge on her shoulder.
Crackhead Phil went out onto the street. His face and clothes were covered in soot. Billy, also filthy, told him to go back to bed. Have these people not heard of baths or showers?
After 10 minutes I changed channels.
Then on Tuesday I went to my local cafe for lunch and found a copy of The Sun to read. (It's been a really high-brow few days!). In his TV column Ally Ross had written a long piece on Eastenders and it seems had I tuned in earlier on Sunday I'd have seen a few other gems. Such as, when the fire started, Dot was told to go home and call the fire brigade, as if no one had heard of mobile phones. And Phil had been boarded up behind an inward-opening door!
Add to this why no-one ever works outside the square, owns a washing machine, and much more... it's no wonder the pedant in me doesn't usually watch it.

Top row: Queensway, Victoria Palace, King Street, Tottenham High Road.
Middle row: Holloway, South Tottenham, Highgate, Whitechapel.
Bottom row: The real East end; Mile End Road, Hackney and Stepney

14 September 2010

Snooping & sniffing at Open House Weekend

This weekend, 18+19th September, many usually closed doors will be opened to the public for a free snoop inside. And there are walks, tours and cycle rides too.
Lots of gems. Two days only.
Most of the big attractions such as Centre Point and Trellick Tower aren't even worth showing up to now as they were only available to see by booking in advance.
And please be aware that a huge chunk of the properties on the list are actually open all year round, so save those for another day and instead make use of the opportunity to go and sniff around other people's architectified* homes.
Check the official site for more details.

*my own word

8 September 2010

WWF UK's Year of the Tiger campaign

As part of the Year of the Tiger, and to raise awareness of the plight of tigers in the wild, WWF UK is working with Mark Coreth who is, as I write this, creating a 3.4m sculpture of a tigress next to Bankside Pier.
This will be there until 19th September 2011 so if you are visiting the Mayor's Thames Festival this weekend, be sure to go an check it out as members of the public and local children are invited to go and lend a hand.
I am a big cat; I am a Leo and a Tiger, whatever all that means.
I haven't got any pictures of tigers but I do have some of cats:

Clockwise from top left: Civet Cat (Kensington), Red Lion (Camberwell), Natural History Museum, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Carreras Building (Mornington Crescent), Bortusk Leer street art, boot scraper (Belgravia), Black Cat cigarettes ghost sign (Dingley Road).

6 September 2010

NPG / BP Portrait Award 2010

Every year I make sure to go and see the paintings at the BP Award. I used to love it and it made me feel inspired. But it seems to me that year on year I am leave more disappointed than the last.
I'd estimate that half of the paintings on show this year were of the photo-realism variety. As I wrote on my (pointless) voting slip, "where's the art in copying things?".
The end results of this kind of 'art' seem, to me, to be too perfect and lacking in humanity; reproducing a snapshot of a moment in time leaves no scope for interpretation either by the artist or the viewer... an artist recreates a photo in paint and the end result itself looks like a photograph. Why not just take a decent photograph in the first place?!
I chatted to a couple of other people there who agreed with me.
Anyway, judge for yourself... see them all here, but be aware that the size/scale online does not really do them justice and, if you haven't seen this year's show already, try to go an see it before it finishes on September 19th.
I got me thinking that there are better portraits on pub signs...

Clockwise from top left: NPG doorway mosaic; my voting slip; my choice: 'I went to a marvellous party' by Dairmund Kelly*; Lord Lyndhurst pub (now residential), SE15; Prince William Henry pub (note tree sprouting from his head!), Blackfriars Road, SE1; Samuel Beckett in Notting Hill; Hoxton paper graffiti; The Duke of Sussex (now Frederick's restaurant), N1.
*just googled him and I don't like anything else he's done!!!

2 September 2010

Eels at Brixton Academy

Last night. Mark 'E' Everett resplendent in white, sporting a headscarf, sunglassses and a HUGE beard which reminded me of the those Mexican circus artists.
It was a good gig. Not as good as when I saw Eels as a trio dressed as if ready for Scrapheap Challenge at the much missed Astoria (boo hoo... here I go again), or a pared down gig he did at the Albert Hall, but good enough. He/they performed mostly stuff from the most recent albums including this and this. I would have liked to have seen them do a few oldies like this and this too, but having just checked my iTunes and seen I have 194 Eels tracks in there I suppose you can't please all the people all the time.
Brixton is awash with lovely architectural details and signs – everything below is within 5 mins walk of the gig.

25 August 2010

Notting Hill Carnival

It has just been pointed out to me that it's the Notting Hill Carnival this weekend. Every year this last bank holiday weekend of the Summer (where did that go?!) creeps up on me so fast that I miss the event. As you can see in the link it's a jam-packed colourful weekend that attracts 1000s of people from all over the world* and huge media interest. And it's loud; my friend lives in the middle of it and recorded the visible sound.
I've only ever been twice. The first time I hated it – I wasn't in the mood for lots of people that day and so getting from place wasn't enjoyable. I just sat and watched the world go.
The second time I went to a friend's 3rd floor flat in Powys Square and we looked down on the heaving throng below who were dancing to loud, very loud, dance music. It was mesmerising.
I do like a carnival parade; I love the one at the end of the Thames Festival which is 3 weeks away, so I think I might actually go and watch the parade at Notting Hill this year...
For those of you who do go, please count how many times you hear "olé olé... feeling hot hot hot"!
*Where do they all these people stay? I hope they are using £15 off promotions like this? More voucher offers here. And VoucherCodes' fab new site here.
All of the images below are in and around the carnival route.

18 August 2010

Filthy London

This post is sparked off by an ad on TV that really niggles me; it's for a hand cleaner that comes in a soap dispenser that has a sensor so that you need "never touch a germy soap pump again".
OK... so let's think about this... if you were to directly touch the dispenser, or the bottle, or whatever, then surely this product of theirs will eradicate the 'germs' when you wash your hands!? But how are you going to turn the tap on/off after you have applied the soap?
Actually, how did you get in the kitchen/bathroom in the first place... did you open a door? With your filthy fingers? Oh ugh!
This is all getting so ridiculous.
I recently heard one mother telling her son not to hold the moving handrail on the escalator because lots of people touch it. I don't know what she would do if the thing stopped and the poor kid fell over and hurt himself. Do you think she let him hold on when he got on the tube train? Dunno. But she probably let him wipe his dirty shoes on the seats.
And I heard another woman tell her children, who were sitting in the front seat on the top deck of a bus, not to hold onto the rail in front of them for similar reasons. Yet, when getting off, she told them to hold on tight when going down the stairs.

Top row: Angel tube station, Lavender Soap in Acton, dirty beasts in Fleet Street, Pears' Soap in Highgate Village.
Middle row: Sanitary Brixton, Holloway litter, dusty windows in EC4, manicule near Lea Bridge.
Bottom row: litter in Camden, Sunlight Soap in Highbury, door knocker in Spitalfields, dusty tiles in Old Street.

14 August 2010

Ikea Future Kitchen debate / The Surreal House

Having this blog means I get invited to things such as openings, events, seminars, etc. Most invites have nothing to do with anything on my blog and often it's evident that the person who emailed me has not even looked at the content but has just seen the 'London' in the title. But every now and then something good crops up, as it did when I accepted the was invite to the Ikea-sponsored Future Kitchen debate at the Barbican Centre last Thursday. Yes, I know this site isn’t about kitchens, but I was interested to hear what the interesting panel of eight had to say about how we might be cooking and cleaning and living in 2040.

It didn’t start well. The word ‘topline’ kept being used. As in “I want to topline to you…” i.e. the first thing on the bill. Oh dear, I thought, it’s gonna be Jargon City. Then Gerry Dufresne of Ikea told us that in the future we will have more individual needs and Ikea could help us with that. Begs the question how a multi-national company can give us our own individuality. And he boasted that some Ikea products are now half the price. So, were they over-priced in the past? Or is this down to supply and demand? If the latter, then where’s the individuality?!

But moving on… The panel discussed the various issues and I became really engaged in it all, though not necessarily in a positive way. I learned that the new designer trend of ‘upcycling’, making new products out of old ones, is expected to take off big time. They said people between the ages of 18 and 44 have developed a throwaway disposable attitude to consumables and aren’t genned up enough re recycling. What a sad state of affairs.

A recurring theme was that it should be our own individual responsibility to become more aware of the environment, our surroundings and our impact on the future. I wondered that if people today had been made already more aware of the issues then we wouldn’t be in such a mess now. The 'debate' was starting to make me feel I was at a middle class dinner party*.

The poorest areas of the planet are the areas suffering with the most waste and its repercussions. Out of sight; out of mind. The average man eating his fast food on the street really doesn’t give a shit about any of this. He just wants everything now and cheap cheap cheap. Hence the rise of the pound shops. There is too much waste and packaging. When I was a kid it was normal to take a bag with you to the shops; you didn’t come home with six plastic bags. Today's average shopper has come to expect plastic bags as some kind of divine right. I reckon supermarkets provide them because they know they will sell more produce if our bags aren’t a pre-specified size. The government needs to better educate people about the future implications of all this.

Managing our utilities sensibly was another point for discussion. Water will become scarcer so we must come up with ways of getting Joe Public to be aware of this and not waste it. The engaging eco-friendy and smiley Oliver Heath said he has pedal-operated taps in his house. Top idea! Why, in this country, are we cleaning all our water to drinking standards and then washing our dogs, cars and windows with it? And to better control and manage our use of gas and electricity, in 11 years' time, all household will have Smart Meters.

I loved a lot of what the cute and interesting Martin Raymond said. I liked his ideas for staying light-hearted, keeping the humour. Though I am still trying to work out what he meant by “the future will look like the past”, because it won’t… will Tescos implode? Will we have a return to unique little shops and women scrubbing doorsteps with rollers in their hair?!

A comment Martin made at the end rankled me; that we need to have vegetable ripening cabinets in our kitchens. No we don’t Martin; what we need are vegetables that don’t go off in less than a day – like tasteless bananas that go black, carrots that go bendy and potatoes that go soft and green. None of this would happen if fruit and veg wasn’t kept in huge refrigerated sheds prior to sale. It’s daft how, due to this, we have to now keep these items in the fridge. Again, when I was a kid, you bought your mis-shapen earth-covered potatoes from the greengrocer and then stored them in an open vegetable rack in the kitchen where they lasted for weeks. Oh, and they didn’t have sell-by dates on them either – we used our eyes and noses to work that out! Why do we ‘need’ to have every kind of fruit and veg all year round? Seasonal vegetables are the way forward. Again, more education is needed.

The panel went on to discuss the future of communal living and neo-villaging, no less. But if you refer to this piece I wrote about the Isle of Dogs, it’s gonna be very difficult now to just introduce a community vibe where it’s been absent for so long. And Charlie Luxton, eco architect, said that in the future we will be able to design our kitchen and change it later. Well,what have we been doing all these years? And how is ripping out and changing things, as and when we get fed up with the colour or finish of the doors, an eco-friendly thing to do?

And finally, to the organisers of the event, I suggest it’s not a good idea for the girls who walk round with the mikes for the (all too short) Q&A session to wear stilettos!

*Jasmine Birtles assumes that every house on a suburban street has its own lawnmower. Really?

After the discussion I drank lots of red wine and scoffed lots of Ikea-style canapés inc mini hot dogs, and I chatted to some nice people, including Martin, Jon & Stu and Grahame, and had a quick peek around the Surreal House exhibition, which was really good – I must go back before it finishes on 12th September – and after another drink at Mary's lovely Barbican flat, I went home with the bag of mini Daim bars from my Ikea goodie bag.

All-in-all an excellent and thought-provoking evening. Thanks Cakegroup.

2 August 2010

There's an a-MAZE-ing thing in Trafalgar Square

Ooh, I love puzzles. So too, do I like mazes; Black Gang Chine, Longleat, Hampton Court – been there, done them. But I don't think I am gonna be able to get to this one in Trafalgar Square as it's only gonna be there until Friday 6th August. Check here for more details.
As ever, any event is always a catalyst for me to put together a collection of 'relevant' photos... Nelson doesn't look very comfy does he?!
Above (except for the obvious shots):
Top row: The crowds making a big noise with vuvuzelas on the first day of The Football World Cup earlier this year
Middle row: Three different travel-related motifs along Cockspur Street.
Bottom row: The Queen's coronation procession, 15 May 1937, and Eat London – London created in food, 2007.

26 July 2010

Ping-pong, whiff-whaff and other stinky things

100 table tennis tables have appeared at prime locations around London.
More about that below, but it got me thinking that the names 'ping-pong' and 'whiff-whaff' both sound like bad smells, hence this collection of stink pipes, also known as stench pipes.
These tall metal tubes, larger versions of the ones found on many old houses, were put in place to direct the foul smells from underground passageways up and above and away from our ancestors' nostrils, and as you can see, a lot of them are still in place today. Many were quite ornate and designed to blend in with the other street furniture of the day. Indeed, these days, sometimes it's hard to discern whether what's left used to be an arc light or a stench pipe.
For more, see here, here, here, here and here.
The month-long ping pong table event in London is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England’s Innovation Fund and aims to get a million more people playing more sport by 2012. It will then travel to four more UK cities over the next two years, returning to London for 2012 in time for the Olympic Games.
Oh, and according to Boris, whiff-whaff is/was table tennis's original name... something to do with that being the sound the champagne cork made as it was hit with a hard-backed book or cigar tin back and forth across the dinner table.

21 July 2010

The Isle Of Dogs and Canary Wharf...

My scavenger hunts along the Thames beaches led me recently to the Isle of Dogs.
When I first got there I was thinking that I should write a jolly blog post about it's possible to spend a lovely afternoon in the sunshine on the beach without leaving London*. At one point I even bought an ice cream and looked at the view across the river. Nice.
But then I decided to walk all around the edge (coast?). I even ventured into the centre a few times. Sad to report that, as I suspected, nothing has improved in recent years. In fact it's getting worse.
There are some lovely little cottages and houses at the southern end, which still retains a modicom of historical charm, but the lack of a real high street means everyone there is reliant on the nearby superstore (another bugbear of mine!).
But, as for the rest of it, there is barely anything in this modern dreamscape to indicate that this was once a bustling area packed with families working on and around the docks. Where once there were thriving communities, there are now charmless glass and metal tower blocks.
Yet here and there it has been decided to leave in place some random bits of decommissioned machinery or large chains but there are no signs or plaques to explain why they things are there or what they used to be used for.
The north side of east entrance to the West India Docks seems to have been neglected by the developers (so far). Sadly, where it could look really good, it looks instead like a wasteland; some cranes still remain (as per the ones on West india Quay), there are some rusty old barges, decaying wooden barriers, dilapidated buildings, fenced off areas etc. It's a huge contrast to the shiny tall buildings that loom over it.
The paths along the Thames are really disappointing; again, there is barely anything left to hint at what went before except a pathetic attempt at a couple of information boards about Millwall and the docks, and IKB's Great Eastern. But these are useless because the boards are so bleached out, sctratched and uncared for that they might as well not be there at all.
Looking across the river to the wharves along the Deptford waterfront the same rape of the past is happening there too. I find it all so sad.
And, finally, the privately-owned Canary Wharf Estate; I could write a long piece here about what I think of this charmless zone but "aaargh, is this really progress?" will have to do. I wonder if people who live and work there say to their friends "ooh, you must come and have a drink in this wonderful little place round the corner; it's been there for three whole years"!
If you do want to find out more about this area and its past go to the fabulous Museum of London Docklands.

*Just opened this week's Time Out and Michael Hodges has beaten me to the London beach thing as he's already written an article about it.

19 July 2010

No Segars or Cigars

I recently noticed that this lovely Marshalls Segars sign in Finsbury Park has been filled in and painted white. Such a shame. Why, why why, why WHY?!
I featured it in my 1oth Londonist Urban Sightseeing piece about smoking, entitled 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'.
Those lovely people at Londonist must think I have left the country as I haven't put together a post for them since Jan 2010... oops. Sorry guys.
Here's what this sign looks like now where you'll also find some pics of the old hand-painted shop sign.

14 July 2010

Dragons' Den

It seems like every time I put the TV on lately there is that trailer for BBC's Dragons' Den, which starts again tonight.
I have question... if Deborah Meaden is so bloody wealthy, how come that in the trailer it is evident that she is suffering from very bad VPL? Euch! Surely, in her position, she should be able to find either a skirt that fits her properly or some better knickers?
Sadly, I cannot find the trailer anywhere on the web to be able to link to it here in order to enlighten those of you who don't live in the UK, but according to this link Deborah likes to look good but, though she really likes clothes, she has no time or inclination to go shopping herself, so it's all down to Minty, her personal stylist, who "pushes the boundaries" for her. Thanks Minty.
Shown above is a repeat of a mosaic of dragons I have used before with captions.
More dragons here.

12 July 2010

The Chap Olympiad in Bedford Square

Taking place in Bedford Square this Saturday is the 6th Chap Olympiad.
So curl your hair or wax your moustache, dress up in something dapper and go put on a damn fine show. What?!
Top row: LRT Acton Depot, Clerkenwell Road, Belgravia, Holloway Road.
Middle row: Chenies Street, Curzon Street, Olympic Park, Bedford Square [c]space pavilion.
Bottom row: New Oxford Street, Bedford Square, Jermyn Street x2.