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.

11 July 2010

Holloway Street Party, Saturday 10th July 2010

Gorgeous weather for a street party.
Well done to everyone who worked so hard to make this happen.
Sorry I got there so late, but hey, I took some good snaps....

5 July 2010

Hairdressers and barbers

I was just about to put together this collection of interesting, ornate, old and decaying hairdressers' shops signs when someone emailed me about a series of events being put on by LIFT (The London International Festival of Theatre).
One of the items on the programme this year is Haircuts by Children. So if you fancy letting a 9 year old give you a free haircut then check out the site and pop along sometime between this Saturday 10th June and next Sat 18th.
Other LIFT events include 'Nevermore', a theatre production about the "Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allen Poe", 'Oxygen', a reworking of the Ten Commandments and 'We Built this City' where children can build a city from cardboard boxes (thinks, how can I make myself look like a 12 year old...?).
Anyway, check the LIFT site for the full list of events.
Top row: Dean Street, South Moulton Street, Balls Pond Road, Muswell Hill Broadway, Scotland Green.
Middle row: Newington Green, Caledonian Road, Chatsworth Road, Berwck Street, Leather Lane.
Bottom row: Holloway Road, Kings Cross Road, Pentonville Road, Seven Sisters Road (Fins Pk), Aberdeen Place.
All of the above, as far as I know, are all still in situ. But this one, on Royal College Street, uncovered whilst renovation, has vanished. Shame.
And perhaps I should have included this one!

2 July 2010

Wimbledon 2010

There's a tennis tournament on in south London.
I have actually been watching some of it.
As I write this Andy Murray is taking on Rafael Nadal in the second semi final. I have no opinion on that, but I'd like Tomas Berdych to take the championship title final on Sunday after I saw him beat Federer on Wednesday and then Djokivic earlier today. I might even watch the final. Stranger things have happened.
I still haven't watched any of the football though.
Here's a collection of loosely-themed tennis pics:
Top row: Bethnal Green Road, Holloway, Centrepoint, Praed Sreet
Middle row: Kingsway, Kew, Balcombe Street, Kilburn
Bottom row: Gracechurch Street, Westbourne Grove, Well Court, Chenies Street

Art in my garden

Anna made this. It was on show at her degree show and now it's in my garden.
I need to help her set up a blog/site to show off what else she can do...