29 December 2011

A little bit of what you fancy

Walking past Angels in Shaftesbury Avenue Road the other week I stopped in my tracks. Didn't they only used to sell dance gear, ballet shoes etc? I am sure I remember their windows used to display tutus, satin pumps and tap shoes, but these days it's all about fancy dress. And you can see into the shop from the street. Am I going mad? I don't remember that either.
I am not a fancy dress party fan. Most of them are too 'organised' for me. By which I mean I like a party with a loose theme where you can invent something subtle, but I am not into the big dos full of the kind of people who never come out all year round but will splash out for a gorilla or Elvis costume for New Year's Eve so that they can pretend to be someone interesting for a change. These are the same people who think it's disgusting to wear second hand clothes yet they will gladly hire something that has been danced about in and dribbled down by 17 other people beforehand.
Ooh, got that off my chest!!
I am not sure yet what I will be doing for this New Year's Eve. I've got a few options. Last year I wandered up to Parliament Hill with my sister and a friend and we stood with hundreds of other like-minded souls and waved sparklers, quaffed champagne and ate chocolates whilst watching fireworks across London. It was really lovely.
Whatever you do, have a great time and here's looking forward to a happy and prosperous 2012.

Fancy ironwork. Now this I like:

Top row: Marylebone x2, Highgate, Queensway
Middle row: Piccadilly, Holloway, City, Kew
Bottom row: Belsize Park, Belgravia, Kings Cross, Bloomsbury

26 December 2011

Christmas Day Walk 2011

When most people were opening presents or stuffing turkeys I was walking around an almost deserted West End with Peter Berthoud and a group of like-minded souls.
My walk started at 9.15am when I set off from Holloway, taking every opportunity to walk in the road. Because I could. People that passed me said 'hello' or 'merry Christmas'. How nice. It wasn't until about noon that tourists started emerging from their hotels.
I kept stopping to take photos on the way but still managed to be only five minutes late to meet Peter and the others under Admiralty Arch at 10.30am.
He led us up St Martin's Lane, into Covent Garden and Seven Dials, across to St Giles, over into Soho, a meander along the blissfully quiet and empty Oxford Street, then down Carnaby Street and Regent Street, across Piccadilly Circus and into Leicester Square, ending up with a few pints in the Bear and Staff.
Peter pointed out some things I had never spotted before such as little bits of street art and that donation pipe at the side of the House of St Barnabas on Soho Square – how on earth have I managed to miss that all these years? Ditto the story behind one of the statues on Trafalgar Square, and Renzo Piano's rationale for the colours of those bullying buildings at St Giles. I also spotted a few new things of my own along the way (fire alarm bells with old telephone codes etc, a bizarre green plaque etc).
All in all a really nice day. I met some lovely people and learned some new things. Then, when I'd tramped all the way home again, I made myself a bowl of comfort food and watched TV until I dozed off... lovely.
Peter says he enjoyed doing the three walks so much that he plans to do them again next year. Good on him!
More pictures on Flickr.

22 December 2011

Coal hole covers as stars and snowflakes

Walking through Bloomsbury the other day I had this seasonal idea...



18 December 2011

Keeping a diary

From the age of about ten I started to write a diary. It became an obsession; I thought missing a day would be terrible – what if something amazing suddenly happened and I hadn't written it down?!
I continued the ritual until about eight years ago when I was finding it a bit silly, what with boyfriend, job and other commitments. It's not like anyone else ever cast an eye over my thoughts (not that I would have cared if anyone did read it; it was, of course sort of coded, with nothing specifically spelled out). If anyone had bothered to read any of my musings I doubt they would they have cared about what I'd had for lunch or what I thought of that woman in Safeways. Looking back on past writings now, I wonder who the hell was John/Jim/Mary in the pub that night who I thought was worthy of a mention for being so funny? They have been lost to me now.
I hated to miss a day and would sometimes play catch up, so I would scribble something down before I went to sleep most nights, so the funniest days to read back on are the almost indecipherable scribbles and rantings written when I got in at 3am rather the worse for alcohol.
I never took my real diary away with me on holidays because I was scared I would lose my it, so I would write in a notepad and then copy it all up when I got back. How bloody ridiculous is that?! What if the house burned down in my absence? So I just had to stop.
These days I just stick to keeping a day diary which I fill with notes of to dos and appointments. And I still prefer to write things down on paper. With a pen. Yes. Really. It's much faster than typing into an all-singing all-dancing do-it-all phone.
I used to get the wonderful Time Out diary because it's packed out with useful London info. But it took me about 12 years to realise I never really consulted said info. So I downsized to anything I could find in a pound shop. Sometimes I'd even find one with a free pen attached. Result.
But this year I have treated myself to the little gem that is Santoro's London Underground Pocket Diary with it's tube map on the outside (no flicking to some miniature thing on the inside back page) and tabbed months and planners in the colours of the tube lines.
I also have another diary which is really quirky but is really aimed at those people who don't really keep diaries – Keel's Simple Diary. Available in a range of gorgeous colours (mine's the lovely Dark Red), as they say on the blurb it "entertains, helps you focus and keeps you company". Every page is open for you to write in it as and when you please. There's no pressure to write every day. In fact you could take years to fill it in. Or not fill anything in at all because every page/day throws up thought-provoking suggestions, questions, ideas and quotes. It's really novel(!).
Here are some of my photos of London dates taken from my larger collection on Flickr. One of these was in the news earlier this year. . .

14 December 2011

London street markets

Mary Portas has been in the news lately talking about injecting some life into our ailing local high streets. Her solution is to (re)introduce street markets.
Well, nice one Mary – whilst I totally agree (hell, I do stalls myself; and let me tell you it ain't fun when it's raining or windy) it gets me thinking about all the markets that we don't have anymore and the dwindling sizes of some of the ones that are still clinging on. The ones that immediately pop into my mind are Lambeth Walk, Hoxton St, Chalton St, hey, even Chapel market in Angel is only half the size it used to be.
I grew up in Romford and the market was amazing when I was a child. You could spend a whole day there going up and down the aisles of stalls and buy everything from soap and vegetables to puppies and haberdashery. Mum told me stories of the cattle market that used to be there when she was young. But today it's a shadow of its former self, now being ignored by people who just want to shop in the adjacent air-conditioned covered homogenous shopping malls.
A while ago I took some photos of pages of a Picture Post from December 1938 showing Lambeth Walk how it was pre-war. Under one picture about the market it reads, 'There's all kinds of stalls including food and clothes and cats' meat . . . really more of a meeting place". I will type it all up post the whole lot up at some point in the future.
And now I recall that on a wall in a restaurant I go to in Turkey(!) there is a photo showing a bustling street market in Farringdon Road in the middle of the 20th century. I have no idea why it's there, and nor does the owner. To the left of it is another photo from the same period shows the main Britannia junction at Camden during the same period. Strange, and very out of place.
But, back to Mary; she's basically right... we're losing our town centres and our sense of community and something needs to be done to rectify this. Farmers' markets are proving popular (though perhaps their high prices deter most people on a budget), and more and more craft markets are springing up.... bring it on... more pitches for me! (it's all about me!).
Speaking of Mary, I recently went and had a look at her clothes outlet in Oxford Street's House of Fraser. I was very disappointed. Considering she is aiming at selling to women of 'a certain age' the boutique is swimming in man-made fibres; hardly appropriate for ladies who 'glow'. Where are the natural basics such as wool jumpers, silk scarves, simple cotton long-sleeved tops and Ts? It all looked like cheap rubbish to me. I left quickly and went to Uniqlo instead. Yes, that's a high street shop, not a market stall...
Top: Broadway, Shepherd, Exmouth, Columbia
Middle: Hoxton, Lambeth Walk 1938, Petticoat
Bottom: Middlesex, Church, Chapel, Portobello

13 December 2011

Summer in the winter beer garden on the South Bank

For 3 days we can forget winter, cold weather and Christmas, and instead hang out within the heated dome of the 'Corona Extra Summer' pop-up bar on the South Bank's Riverside Walkway (between Waterloo Bridge and Gabriel's Wharf) from Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th December.
Well, hell, why not? What's not to like?

9 December 2011

Charles Dickens 200th anniversary

Charles Dickens was born on 7th February 1812. Which mean next year is his 200th 'birthday'.
The wonderful Museum of London has put on a special exhibition to commemorate this much-loved story-teller. As well as lots of Dickens' personal items and effects, including manuscripts and paintings, the museum has recreated Victorian London using sound projections.
The exhibition runs from 9th December until 10th June. More info here.
Dickens and some of his characters and places. All are fairly self-explanatory excluding The Lord Clyde which is in Clennam Street.

7 December 2011

Notting Hill Festive Shopping Night

Oh gawd... you wait for ages and then they all come along at once...
Prior to Lamb's Conduit Street's Christmas event on Friday 9th there's another special shopping night on the eve of Thursday 8th in Notting Hill.
The area around the junction of Westbourne Grove and Ledbury Road is teeming with independent boutiques and eateries selling a wide range of fashion and lifestyle goods.
Between the hours of 6pm and 9pm on Thursday they will be offering all sorts of goodies, including festive treats, discounted products, carol singers and lots more.
So this week you have two good reasons to avoid the banality and homogeneity of Oxford Street and Westfield.

6 December 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Today is the feast day of St Nicholas, patron saint of many countries and many things.
I'd write more, but it's all here in this fabulous site. I can't stop poking around in this site... I have things to do and this is distracting me... it's just too good.
Thank you Paul Bommer.

4 December 2011

Lamb's Conduit Street

Lamb's Conduit Street, for those of you who do not know, is situated in Bloomsbury between Holborn and Coram Fields. It continues north across Theobald's Road from Red Lion Street and roughly forms the western edge of some of the oldest Georgian Streets in London, namely Doughty Street, John Street, St James' Street and especially Bedford Row which, I am told, contains one of the oldest complete Georgian houses in London (or something like that – please feel free to put me right about this – I seem to recall either Dan Cruikshank or Maxwell Hutchinson talking about this on a TV programme years ago).
This area is great for those one-off gifts – a shopping experience very unlike Oxford Street. And nothing at all like Westfield (ech spit).
Ignoring the prescence of one of the major coffee chains (ech spit 2), Lamb's Conduit Street, and adjoining Rugby Street, boasts a range of independent shops offering all sorts of wonderful things – groceries, homewares, gifts, books, bicycles, lingerie, food, alcohol, curiosities, clothes and proper coffee. Plus a chemist, a florist a funeral director, and a community-run supermarket. So much in such a small area.
Every time I visit the street I wish I lived closer to it. Years ago I had the option of buying a flat near this area and I let someone talk me out of the idea. What a fool I was! Did I mention the good pubs and choice of restaurants too?
There's a late night shopping event coming up soon on Friday 9th December. The shops will be open until 8pm and there will be mulled wine on offer.
Actually, don't tell too many people about this gem... please only tell the lovely people who will appreciate it. We don't have enough areas like this left in London – I remember when Camden Parkway was similarly special... sigh.

30 November 2011

Santa's reindeer in Holloway this Sunday

The main stretch of Holloway Road's Nags Head shopping area will be closed to traffic this Sunday when Islington's Christmas extravanganza comes to town.
From 11.30am on Sunday 4th December the street will be taken over by sideshows, music, entertainment, a hog roast, mulled wine, and food and craft stalls which will include locally-produced Amelia Parker clay pipe jewellery. Oh, and Santa's reindeer will be there too!
Click here for a video of last year's event.
More craft shopping opportunities at Chapel Market, Angel, on 10th and 17th December.

29 November 2011

Devonshire Place

I was just thinking the other day that I haven't seen any 'new' bootscrapers for a while; just the same designs repeated over and over. I walk about mentally saying, 'got that one, got that one' (how sad!).
But then I had to go for a super-dooper 3D dental Xray doobrey in Devonshire Place yesterday and spotted lots of lovely bits of ironwork along the street. I am sure there are plenty more – time was of the essence and I only had my Blackberry with me and so couldn't take decent pics and I only walked the stretch from Devonshire Street to Wigmore Street so there must be plenty more to see. I must make a return visit.
Below are my finds which also include a coal hole cover plate with a name I haven't seen before, a pretty doorway mosaic, and a strange wall-mounted hook thing with a hole at one end where something must have been fixed to it at some point– any ideas what this item was used for?

24 November 2011

The Connaught is lovely

On the corner of Mount Row and Chandos Place, opposite where there used to be an 18th century workhouse, sits the wonderful Connaught Hotel.
I've never been the kind of person who has the money and inclination for prestigious expensive hotels, preferring low budget rooms with a good bed and shower (after all I will be out all day tramping the streets with my camera, meeting people and seeing the city, not lounging about in my room), but the Connaught could change my mind. Hmmmm, now all I need is the means.... If I did have money to burn I think I'd stay there a few times so that I could try out all the different types of rooms.
Most hotels are having to constantly revamp their suites to keep up with all the high tech nonsense we all seem to need these days yet, unlike other hotels I have visited, The Connaught has managed to achieve this without loss of style or elegance. In addition to this, the communal areas are wonderful; the staircases, carpets and floors, and the two little lifts, one dark purple and the other dark green... it's like stepping into a film set.
The ground floor is given over to some top quality bars and restaurants; and they are really good. I had some lovely canapés and martinis (and champagne too!) in the award-winning Connaught Bar but had no time to stay longer to sample the restaurant. If anyone wants to take me to Hélène Darroze at the Connaught any time, my response is 'yes please!'.
Oh, and there's spa in there somewhere. I wasn't interested in checking that out as I'm not really into spas, but I hear their Aman spa is good. What is with hotels and spas? Isn't the great big bath in the room enough?! I do like the idea of outdoor spas of old though; taking the waters and all that. I've never said or written 'spa' so many times. Spa spa spa.
Finally, situated on the pavement outside the main entrance to the hotel is the marvellous and bizarre Tadao Ando water installation, which I have yet to see in action. I have heard it looks great after dark when it's all lit up and the steam is in action.

20 November 2011

London photo mosaics

Yesterday someone said they liked my my Spitalfields photo mosaic (see previous post) and asked me if I was selling prints. It had indeed crossed my mind to print this particular one at a decent size and hang it on my stall at Spitalfields market, but what with one thing and another I have been too busy to promote the idea of prints-for-sale properly.

So, to confirm, all of my montages are available as prints. I am also in the process of re-configuring some into portrait format (3 squares wide x 4 squares tall) and will also be printing some of them as greeting cards.

A limited stock of my Christmas cards are still available – 'The 12 London Pubs of Christmas' and 'Clay Pipe Tree'.

Available from my Etsy shop or find me at a market or contact me at jane@janeslondon.com for further details.

17 November 2011

Old Spitalfields Market now open on Saturdays

Old Spitalfields Market is now open on Saturdays from 19th November with the usual mix of stalls, similar to their Sunday market.
This Saturday 19th, and every third Saturday of the month, 70 designers/makers will also be there selling all sorts of contemporary hand-made and one-off items.
It's a great place to find those special Christmas presents.
More info here and here.
Some Spitalfields letters:
Top: Woodin's Shades, Sir Robert Peel, Suskin, letterbox
Middle: The Golden Heart, letterbox, Commercial Street, doorbell
Bottom: Gillette ghostsign, letterbox, Godfery Philips Ltd., Bishopsgate

15 November 2011

Tarted up newsagent in Dean Street

There is a lot of fuss lately about how the renovation of a newsagent in Soho's Dean Street.
Am I the only one who thinks this was a bad idea?
I was walking past it on Saturday 5th and stopped dead in my tracks, horrified at how it is now a pastiche of its former self.
As shown right, for years it had faded flaky paint. It was old, and it looked old. You could clearly see that. But now the paint has been stripped off back to the wood – a process that the Georgians certainly couldn't be bothered with – and what we have now is an impression of how the shop might have looked on the day it first opened for business.
I agree the windows look better now they have been painted to match the shop (though they could have been even better if they had been replaced with smaller panes) but all the signs needed was a coating of clear varnish. Gone are the layers of history that gave its charm. Can you imagine the uproar if Berry Brothers & Rudd on St James's Street did the same thing and removed its thick dark green paint? There'd be an outrage!
Also in Soho, not far from Dean St, between Ed's Diner and The Spice of Life, I notice another Georgian(?) shop has been reclaimed. At the moment it is stripped down the wood. I will be watching to see what happens.
This cleaned-up, pretend history brings to mind two horribly retouched wall advertisements in Covent Garden (here and here). I am all for preserving history but what is the point of retouching a defunct sign? Why not just leave it as is? As a reminder.
All this revamping and reclaiming London's history actually contradicts the rape of St Giles by plastics and Westminster's plans to renovate a section of the east side of Charing Cross Road that contains Gaby's. But more about that in a future post.
Oh dear.

14 November 2011

William Morris Gallery at 2 Temple Place

The wonderful William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow is closed whilst renovations and refurbishment take place. However, a lot of the exhibits can be viewed at one of London's hidden architectural gems at 2 Temple Place, owned and managed by The Bulldog Trust.
This exhibition is the first of a series of shows at this lovely building aimed at showcasing the UK's publically-owned art. It runs until 29th January 2012.
The courts, gardens, chambers and alleys of The Inns of Temple are a haven of peace hidden behind Fleet Street's bustle; it sometimes feels if it has been forgotten by time. I love taking friends there who had no idea it was there and seeing the looks on their faces.

10 November 2011

Designer arts and crafts markets at Angel

This Saturday 12th sees the first of four designer craft markets leading up to Christmas.
Amelia Parker will be there along with plenty of other specialist stalls selling all sorts of hand-made goods. More info here.
See you there, at the Penton Street end of Chapel Market, Islington, N1.
The next dates are 26th November, 10th & 17th December.
Chapel Market pics:

6 November 2011

The lesser-spotted zebra

Mr Edwards tells me that the zebra crossing recently turned 60.
This type of crossing is an endangered species – because there aren't as many as there used to be; more than 1,000 having been removed in the last five years and replaced mainly by pelican/pedestrian crossings because people need lights to tell them when to stop and start or cross the road. Who needs eyes and a brain eh?!
Here's an article on the subject that appeared in the Metro on 31st October.
And here are some of my photos of black and white stripey things:
Top: Highgate Village, Little Essex Street, Boundary Street, Leyton
Bottom: Greek Street, St Mary Axe, Tooley Street, Acton

3 November 2011

New market opens in Soho today

A new market opens at Brewer Street's NCP car park today running every week from Thursday to Saturday from 11am.
On the forecourt and within the first floor you will find stalls selling designer-handmade clothing and accessories, art, food, vintage, fashion and much more.
Amelia Parker will be there on Saturday.
More info about the market here, including how to apply for a stall yourself .
Brewer Street, Soho:

2 November 2011

Grow a moustache for cancer awareness

It's Movember again.
Movember is the month for growing a moustache.
Start the month clean shaven and see what you can achieve.
be inspired by these beauties on The Drill Hall in Chenies Street:

31 October 2011

Museum of Brands and Advertising

I recently paid another visit to Robert Opie's wonderful museum in Notting Hill.
A labyrinth of rooms are jam-packed with various ephemera showing how packaging, labelling, branding and advertising have changed over the past century. Toys, signs, foodstuffs, cosmetics, bottles... too many things to mention here.
I especially like one of the rooms towards the end that shows how some brands' packaging and logos have evolved; chronological rows perfectly illustrate the changes that have happened from a product's first outing to the present day; differing sizes and shapes of containers, altered logos and new colours and typefaces. No surprise to hear that I think today's packaging just isn't as charming as the designs from earlier decades.
Go see for yourself... and enjoy the nostalgia trip.
Old brands and advertising on London streets today:
Bovril: Brixton / Hovis: Angel / Pepsi & Coca-Cola: Fulham Broadway / Peterkin: Clapham
Gillette: Spitalfields / R.Whites & Martini: Hackney / Brymay: Fulham
Craven 'A": Camden / Haig: Denmark Hill / Nestlé: New Cross Gate / Ogden's Guinea Gold (tobacco): Homerton

28 October 2011

The times they are a-changing

The clocks go back this weekend. Summer is officially over.
On the plus side, you can stay out an hour longer when you are out partying on Saturday night, or revel in that extra hour in bed on Sunday morning. I have even heard that some people use the extra hour wisely and DO something!
On the negative side: it'll start getting dark in the late afternoon, which I don't like, although I do like autumnal days – chilly, bright, beautiful afternoons somewhere like Hampstead Heath are just lovely. Preferably with a dog.
Time waits for no man (or woman). Time is on my side (no it isn't). Where did all the good times go?
Here are some London clocks:
See them all and more here.

23 October 2011

The London Column

If you haven't discovered The London Column yet, then get with the programme now... because it's a gem of a site.
The strapline at the top reads, "Reports from the life of a city, 1951-2011, by David Secombe", and it's just that.
It's only been up and running since May this year but it's already packed full of gems and snippets of London life and observations. I have particularly enjoyed reading the excerpts by written by V.S.Pritchett in 1962; especially the one about the Blitz.
One thing that intrigues me about this lovely site, and that's David's logo top right... from 70s–90s, there was a magazine about typography called U&Lc that had its logo in more or less the same style. I suspect the logo design for The London Column has been created as a fond pastiche... very clever!
Here are some nice bits of typography I have found in London:
Top: Kings Cross, Fulham, Marylebone, Clapham.
Middle: Covent Garden, Finsbury Park (now sadly covered up/removed), Islington, Soho (I think this isn't there any more either – I will check).
Bottom: Stoke Newington, Blackfriars, Bermondsey, Temple.

20 October 2011

Gaby's Deli under threat

To be honest I have been wondering, what with the sad demise of so many independent London establishments over the years, how Gaby's, one of my favourite cheap eat venues has managed to cling on.
For decades I have enjoyed going in there for meze plates large and small, salt beef sandwiches and kebabs (not all on the same plate!) washed down with good cheap wine, whilst looking at the celebrity photos and endorsements and favourable restaurant reviews pinned to the walls. Back in the '90s I often worked at a company who occupied the upstairs floors, so the sandwich run was quick and easy as well as tasty.
But I am sad to report that Gaby's Deli is under threat after Westminster Council has given consent for the site to be redeveloped.
The council has some bizarre idea that redevelopment "will improve the look and feel of the St Martin's Court area, and this will outweigh the loss of the existing retail units".
Aaargh! By this, I assume they mean, homogenise the area by bringing in Starbucks et al.
Why change such a curiously interesting little pocket of London? The little courts that join Charing Cross Road to St Martin's Lane are really special and are home to some wonderful little bespoke shops and restaurants. Tourists love London history; they don't want to come here and see the same bland high street shops they have at home or at Westfield.
Rent hikes mean we've already lost most of the old bookshops along nearby Charing Cross Road. And, just further north, a great swathe of the St Giles area has been raped by plastic high rise buildings that still have empty shop spaces on the ground floor. To evict well-used, well-loved, flourishing businesses like Gaby's makes no sense at all. This whitewash must stop.
Gaby's planned eviction date is 1st May 2012. Join the Facebook campaign here.
Here are some details and observations, all to be found a stone's throw from Gaby's:

15 October 2011

The Art of Walking

Last Saturday I went on one of Fox&Squirrel's walks. F&S offer 'lifestyle walks' all over London themed around fashion, architecture, food etc.
This one was an art walk in Peckham, an area of London that is now bursting with creative talent, no doubt brought on by cheap rent and available space.
Our guide was Natasha, a very erudite and knowledgeable young lady, who met us outside the award-winning Peckham Library. First we visited Peckham Space, opposite the library and then she walked us up the road (passing a relevant bit of cement graffiti) to the lovely Passmore Edwards South London Art Gallery – a free purpose-built gallery space built by the great philanthropist. I was much more interested in the building than the art inside it. I loved the As and Hs on the sign on the front of the building, and found the old Pugin-esque floor tiles, the painted sockets and the old sign board in the back courtyard way more inspiring than what was on show.
Then we walked down Lyndhurst Way and stopped to look at the cleaned-up house that was once a famous squat for artists. Around the corner I noticed a stink pipe. Relevant? Then to a space functioning as both a home and a gallery where we watched two looped films of images of cars and lorries going down the freeway but manipulated into endless tunnels. It was mesmerising. But again, free, though the fella had opened the door especially for our group as it wasn't normally open on Saturdays.
Bells were ringing in my head about whether this 2 hour walk was good value (I spotted an old alarm bell casing showing the old Bishopsgate telephone code!) – after all nothing had an entrance fee, and using a South London Art Map this would cost nothing at all. But I was having a nice time with nice people...
And so to the Hannah Barry Gallery, almost buried amongst a sea of semi-derelict buildings in an old industrial estate. The highlight of my day was meeting the wonderful Hannah Barry herself. Diminutive Hannah belies her size and age – she is a powerhouse of ideas and enthusiasm. She talked eloquently and sensibly about art and galleries. And I loved the metal sculptures there by James Capper.
Then to a bar in one of the arches under Peckham Rye Station for art chat.
A nice afternoon. Thanks.

10 October 2011

Cyril Mann Tribute Exhibition

A tribute exhibition marking the centenary of the birth of the British figurative painter Cyril Mann (1911-1980) is currently on at the Piano Nobile Gallery 5th October – 5th November. Included are his rarely seen historic pre- and post-war paintings of London and Paris.
The show traces Mann’s artistic development through six decades, from the 1920s when, aged 12, he was the youngest boy ever to win a scholarship to the Nottingham School of Art, until his death on January 7, 1980, aged 68.
Mann set out to capture London emerging from the ravages of war and returning to normality. Among his early London works is 'St Paul’s from Moor Lane', painted in 1948, the year of the previous London Olympics, which depicts the iconic cathedral dome surrounded by bombsites in a view now obscured by the Barbican development. It is interesting to compare the views in his paintings with what we see today.
Also never previously exhibited is 'Pont Neuf' which shows the famous Paris bridge in 1938 silhouetted against the sun. This tranquil scene shows no sign of the imminent German invasion and upheaval to come.
A graduate of the Royal Academy Schools (1934-1937), Mann never used a studio and lived most of his life in a council flat, refusing to join any art movement and rejecting the fashion for abstraction. Neglected in his lifetime, his work is now represented in major private and public collections, including the Guildhall Museum & Art Gallery and the William Morris Museum, Waltham Forest. The British Museum department of prints and drawings has five of his drawings.

6 October 2011

Run away and make money!

It's less than a year to the London Olympics. Nine months. Like a big noisy baby waiting to be born.
At the Thames Festival last month I was chatting to a couple from Americans from Atlanta and they told me it was AWFUL in their home city when the Olympics came the town. They were saddened at how much their city had changed post-event.
As you probably know from reading my occasional rants about the forthcoming Games and the associated homogenised and consumerist hell of Westfield shopping centre, I am not a fan of all this Olympics stuff. I am still convinced that the money could have be better spent.
If you too are dreading the invasion, and thinking of leaving the country until it all blows over, why not make some money out of it all and rent your home for the duration? If you live close to Stratford or any of the other Games sites you'll get some fabulous rental rates that will more than cover the cost of storage for your valuables. LO2010 is free to the first 50 who sign up using the code FREE11. And an iPad is up for grabs too!
Oh, and re that Olympic logo I hate... you know the one I mean, I am not going to show it or link to it here... don't you think the LO2012 logo and site looks way better?
Top: Trafalgar Square, South Tottenham, Kensington, Stamford Hill
Bottom: Wandsworth, Willesden, West Green

5 October 2011

Save the countryside

This isn't about 'my' London, but about the green belt that surrounds it.
I copy and paste here from an email I received from 38 Degrees:
Our English countryside is under threat again. The government is trying to rush through massive changes to the planning system, which would make it much easier to build on green field sites. We've just a few weeks to stop this happening.
Experts are lining up to condemn the government plans. The National Trust warns of unchecked and damaging development. Friends of the Earth predicts “a building free-for-all that will blight our countryside with bad building.”
A massive people-powered petition can make the government think again. It worked to stop England's forests being sold off. It can work again to stop precious countryside being wrecked by bulldozers and concrete.
Please add your name now, and forward this message to all your friends:
The English countryside is something we all enjoy. It's far too precious to build on willy-nilly. Once our green fields are gone, they're gone forever.
If we work together, we can stand up for a balanced, careful approach to deciding what to build and where to build it. We can protect local communities' right to have their say, make sure social housing is built where it’s needed and protect wildlife and beautiful, tranquil places.
Having to act fast to stop an urgent threat to our countryside feels eerily familiar doesn't it! It's only a few months since half a million of us came together to stop plans to sell off England's forests. It worked that time - now let's come together again to stop this new threat to our beautiful green places.
Please take two minutes now to add your name to the petition.

3 October 2011

Grant's True Tales

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a do in the vaults of the RSA for an evening of food and drink and story telling as part of Grant's True Tales.
I think the idea is everyone has a story to tell and what better way to do it than over a glass of Grant's whisky which has it's own story to tell?
Grant's have been running a story-telling competition on their Facebook page and, between courses, we watched and listened to the three finalists. To be honest, I thought two of the 'stories' were tedious. They weren't stories at all, but ramblings. I've heard better tales in my local pub told by bar flys who would never think to enter a competition.
I joked to a fellow diner that if these were the best three, then perhaps there'd been only ten entrants. It turns out there were only nine! Hmmm... rather of makes a mockery of the winner's certificate that reads something like, "Best story teller 2011".
I'd have written about this sooner had I not been stumped for picture ideas, but as I poured myself another glass from the free bottle of Grant's whisky they gave me, I noticed the bottle is triangular...
Top row: Battersea, Bishopsgate, Paddington, Deptford.
Middle row: Strand, Old St, Holloway Rd, Bloomsbury.
Bottom row: all Holloway Road.

28 September 2011

Battle of Cable Street 75th Anniversary

It's 75 years since 1936's Battle of Cable Street.
On Sunday 2nd October the occasion will be marked by events centred in and around Wilton's Music Hall, which I have heard, has finally raised sufficient funding to keep going (though that doesn't mean 'job done', so please keep involved).
There will be a market on the day and I will be there with my Amelia Parker clay pipe jewellery, made using fragments of discarded clay pipes dating from as far back as the 16th century, collected along the Thames foreshores close to Cable Street.
Info about the weekend's events here.
See you there!
Some great historical info and archive images from 1936 here.
And some great shots of Dave Binnington's commemorative mural here.

25 September 2011

London Fashion Week

LFW has wafted over my head again. It always does. Every year.
When they show highlights on the news or on daytime magazine programmes I always wonder what the fuss is. It seems to me we are going through the early 1980s resurgence at the moment. Have you seen the poorly made sh1t that's on offer in American Apparel lately, that looks like something even my Nan would have turned her nose up at in 1975?!
But there is nothing new. It's always bemused me why people want to wear (expensive) labels and follow trends Where's the individuality?
A lot of the 'creations' on the catwalks appear badly-made/unfinished, or look to be one piece of draped material held together with pins that only looks right on a person with a body like a silver birch tree. I've made far better things myself(!).
On July 1st this year I went to a free Yohji Yamamoto show at the V&A with Gill. The thing that struck me was how many dowdy women filled the seats. Most of them sat and stared blankly at the model couples who strutted past them in Yamamoto's deconstructed coats. It didn't look to me* as if these women had made any effort to appear fashionable or different or individual or whatever... they seemed to be completely out of touch with fashion, having let it pass them by for decades, and had instead plumped for comfort of the Primark and Gap variety.
*I am dead trendy, me.

22 September 2011

Tom's Tired of London

No, he's not. At least I don't think he is. Especially when he is pedalling about all over London finding things to mention on his site.
Every day Tom posts a suggestion of something to do, see or visit in this fair city. He might be a bit worn out, but he's certainly not jaded.
I can't keep up with him – one day last month Tom and Ian took Boris bikes to Paris and back in a day.
I hear Tom's site is in the process of being turned into a book. Well done Tom. And happy birthday!

20 September 2011

Paralympics tickets... only 5 days left to apply

Tickets for the Paralympic Games are on sale until 26th August.
There are 21 sports and the athletes who compete in them are truly amazing. This, coming from someone who lounged about in her dressing gown drinking endless cups of tea whilst watching The Great North Race on TV last Sunday!
But check out some of these paralympic sports – believe me, I am not making these up – the fastest marathon on Earth, wheelchair rugby, visually impaired javelin throwing and dwarf powerlifting, the latter being dwarves lifting weights, not people lifting dwarves. And wheelchair fencing also sounds rather weird to a pedant like me!
See the Channel 4 site for more info.
Top: Abbey Mills, Chatsworth Rd, Chiswell St, Dalston
Bottom: Leytonstone, Old Street, Shoreditch, London Eye

14 September 2011

Open House Weekend

It really does not seem like 12 months have gone by since I went inside my old butcher shop on the Saturday of Open House 2011.
W. Plumb's shop on Hornsey Road used to be my local butcher shop. One of the butchers in there had even gave me a handful of meat hooks to use on my pan rail when I'd asked him where to buy them (this was pre-Ikea!).
The shop closed for business approx 15 years ago probably through lack of business being as it sits in the middle of a terrace in a no man's land between Holloway, Archway, Crouch End and Finsbury Park, and must have suffered when we got swamped by supermarkets.
Every time I walked past I wondered what had become of the gorgeous ornate Edwardian tiled interior complete with mahogany cashier's booth, etched glass and intricate ironwork.
Then I noticed it in the Open House listing last year and breathed a sigh of relief. The adjoining flat is now owned by a lovely Canadian man who can be trusted to keep the butcher's shop intact and unchanged. He is rightly proud of it:
Almost everything is still there as I remember it. I say 'almost' because the butcher's wooden chopping and carving block has been removed 'for health and safety reasons' (oh gawd) and with it another tiled rural scene which formed part of its base. I took lots of photos. I was happy. I still am.
On the 2nd day of Open House weekend last year I went to a Georgian building near Spitalfields only to discover that the place is used an an art gallery so I could have gone there any day of the week (grr; I should have checked the info and paid attention to what I wrote on here last year!). I stayed for the tour which was really interesting but then had a mad dash to try and catch the last opening minutes of the Drapers Hall. Damn. Got there 5 mins late. Made all the more frustrating by people coming out and telling me how lovely it was in there. I was hoping to go this year but it's not on the list :-(
So, my advice is, plan ahead. Check that the buildings are open specially for the weekend only and make a map/gameplan. Be prepared to queue. And be prepared to be disappointed if you don't get in to your chosen buildings.
There's always next year... start planning now as some places are advance booking/tickets only. It's like applying for Olympics tickets, only better because it's free and you'll get a good view.

12 September 2011

The London Transport Museum

I finally managed to get to the London Transport Museum last month.
For years I have had it on my list of places to visit*. How on earth I have left it as long as this is beyond me.
Last year someone contacted me through this site and sent me a complimentary 'admits two' ticket. I now cannot recall who that was, so if it was you, please do get in touch.
I stuck the ticket on the pinboard and kept saying I would "go next week". I recently noticed the expiry date on the ticket read '31st August 2011' ... there's nothing like deadline to make me get my arse into gear!
So I called Mr Edwards and, knowing he likes shiny things and transport, asked him to be my plus one.
All I can say is we should have gone in earlier because we ran out of time. There is so much to see... old tube trains, buses, trams to compare with a prototype of the new Routemaster (not really sure what I think of that until I see it in action), plus lots of info everywhere including a looking-to-the-future section where there are some truly bizarre ideas. I loved all the posters and leaflets and timetables especially from the first half of last century and could have spent a day alone just looking at those.
And it's a really great museum for children. Many of them had cards that they could 'punch' in the special machines dotted around the museum. My inner child was envious that I didn't have one of my own, so when I found one on the floor my afternoon was complete.
Thanks to Malcolm for the photos.
*The Imperial War Museum is still on that list, as is Dulwich Picture Gallery and Chiswick House and they are just the first 3 that pop into my head... oh dear, what a terrible admission!

8 September 2011

The Mayor's Thames Festival this weekend

Be there!
A colourful and lively weekend packed with FREE things to do and see.
I will be there at my Amelia Parker stall selling what Malcolm refers to as "probably the only Thames-related items that you will find in the entire market".
More info here and here.

6 September 2011

Trees for Cities

On Saturday September 17th Battersea Park will be hosting a Tree-Athon, the aim of the event being to raise funds to buy and plant more trees in London and other cities worldwide.
There will be a 5k run and a barefoot 100m race, by which I assume they mean metres and not miles. There will also be tree planting and face painting, jugglers, street art (in the park!), music and all sort of outdoors-eventy stuff.
Sign up, join in, and find out more at www.treesforcities.org
Top: Harlseden, Holloway, Greewich x2
Middle: Limehouse, Berkeley Square, Brixton, Vauxhall
Bottom: Holloway x4

3 September 2011

London Buildings – An Architectural Tour

You've seen the plates, now look at the book.
And see how lovely it is!
The book covers a range of London buildings and architectural styles, including Barbican, Battersea Power Station and Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 Greenwich Royal Observatory. Also are included are 20th century masterpieces such as the Isokon Building, Trellick Tower and the Royal National Theatre.
I like it a lot; the line drawings, the illustration, the design and layout, plus it's square (I love square format!) and the colours are gorgeous and so well chosen.
Thanks to Anova Books for sending it to me.
More info on how to get your copy of the book at People Will Always Need Plates (which isn't really true is it?!).

27 August 2011

Wear a piece of London history

I am well aware that I have fallen behind with my posts and observations on here. It's mainly because of late I have been concentrating on my Amelia Parker clay pipe jewellery.
The good news is that I have managed to get a stall on the main floor of the UpMarket for tomorrow, Sunday 28th August.
I am also in discussion with the lovely fellas at the Spitalfield Traders Market office and hope to get a stall secured there for Thursdays and/or Fridays, so please wish me luck with that.
Then in two weeks' time it's The Mayor's Thames Festival and AP will form part of the Craft Trail along the South Bank. My stall will be right outside The Royal Festival Hall.
Do come along and say hello.

15 August 2011

Are you hot or cool?

This isn't about the UK's changing weather. Although it's true that this 'summer' has so far been very changeable; we have had rain, wind, hot, cold, humidity, damp... etc.
No, this post is about a question I have been asking friends:
Would you rather be described as 'hot' or 'cool'?
Top: Stoke Newington, Stroud Green, Hampstead, Bloomsbury
Bottom: Southwark, Battersea, Smithfield, Barnsbury

8 August 2011

Gutted in Tottenham

The streets of North London were witness to some awful scenes this weekend when a peaceful protest turned nasty. Angry disenfranchised people rioted; setting fire to and looting shops all in the name of 'justice'.
I can never understand how 'pissing in your own back yard' helps anything. Shop owners and businesses along High Road, Tottenham, should not have to pay the price for this. Areas of what was once a beautiful Edwardian high street have been reduced to burnt out shells. They are gutted. I am gutted. And not just for the buildings.
Then last night, Tottenham Hale retail park was targeted and people caused damaged and stole goods there too. I am not sure if they stole food or electrical goods...
What a horrible coincidence that my last post was about fire insurance markers.
High Road, Tottenham: the old 1930s London Cooperative Society Building (top left) was completely gutted by fire on Saturday night. I am, so far, unsure whether Criterion Parade (with eagle) and Windsor Parade, 1907 (top right), have suffered in the same way.

5 August 2011

Fire insurance plaques

Back in the early 18th century there was no public fire brigade. Home owners would insure against fires by paying private companies who employed their own fire-fighting teams. Badges made from lead or copper displaying the relevant company logo and reference number were affixed to on the front of houses (usually at first floor level) to prove that fees had been paid. In the case of a fire, these companies would only put out the flames of those houses bearing the correct badge.
This caused all sorts of problems, especially if the fire had started in a non-insured property and spread into the insured house next door, so in January 1833 The London Fire Engine Establishment was formed. In 1865 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed and by 1904 London had what we now call the London Fire Brigade.

Below are some of the various fire insurance plaques I have spotted in London.

Update 2022: There are hopes and plans to open an Insurance Museum in London – find out more at the organisers' Facebook page here

31 July 2011

Walk The Lines by Mark Mason

There are lots of book about London. You'd think there couldn't be any more to write but every now and then someone comes up with a new idea; a new take on things...
Mark Mason has walked the entire London Underground overground, by which I mean he has followed the tube lines at street level. His book 'Walk The Lines' tells the stories of his journeys, covering hundreds of miles. It's a great read... full of wonderful London facts, amusing trivia and meetings some odd and interesting people. I like it a lot. Here's M@'s review.
I am now singing that Wombles' song, which reminds me of Steven Smith's wonderful Underground London. I keep saying I won't buy any more books and will instead just borrow from friends or the library, but every now and then another one comes along that I just have to have. I need to put up some more shelves. These are nice.
Top: Mason in Battersea, Victoria in Victoria, Baker[loo] in Tottenham, Central in Holloway
Middle: Hammersmith in Holloway, District at Gloucester Rd, Northern in Hornsey, Circle in Bloomsbury
Bottom: Piccadilly in Piccadilly (but no more; RIP), Waterloo in Waterloo, Jubilee at Hungerford Bridge, Metropolitan at Farringdon.

27 July 2011

The Mercers' Maiden

Walking along Long Acre the other day, looking up at the buildings, admiring the historical details as I do, I kept noticing the same motif of a woman. Then it occurred to me I had seen her before in the City – she is the symbol/coat of arms of The Worshipful Company of Mercers, an association of merchants who dealt with the luxury end of the textile trade. Hence, in Covent Garden, we have Mercers Street and what used to be The Mercers Arms in Shelton Street. These days this livery company is more of a charitable concern.

In 1614 the Mercers leased the area north of Long Acre, then known as Elmfield, to Thomas, Earl of Exeter, who subsequently sold it on to Sir William Slingsby. Incidentally, both of these men are also now remembered in street names of that area; respectively, Earlham Street, Neal Street and the shopping arcade Thomas Neals, and Slingsby Court). The buildings they erected on this land displayed the Mercers’ symbol to show ownership. Indeed, the Mercers still own the coloured areas on this map today.

The Mercers’ Maiden, first appeared on a seal on 1425, and is always depicted in 'Flemmish Rennaisance' style with long hair, expensive clothes, a necklace/chain, a crown and, as as my male friend pointed out to me, more often than not she has rather pert breasts with distinguishable nipples (!).

Perhaps 30% of the plaques in the Covent Garden area are identical and probably taken from the same mould, but the remainder vary in style – sometimes she looks bored or grumpy, sometimes an enigmatic smile, sometimes she's looking at you, sometimes she's looking off to the right. And sometimes she's had a bad hair day or is sporting a pointier crown.

She can be found not just in Long Acre, but on all sides of these buildings, carved directly into the masonary or brickwork, or within a plaque above a door or between windows, or etched into glass, or depicted on door brass knockers. (Knockers!)