30 January 2013

Markets... going, going, gone, and Hackwood Art Festival

Last night I went to the London launch of the 2013 Hackwood Art Festival at The Gallery in Shepherd Market.
Well who knew? I certainly didn't. It turns out that a three day art event has been taking place every June since 2005 within a converted 18th Century barn in Hampshire. This year the event is supporting St. Michael's Hospice, a local charity. Sounds like a good day/weekend away from The Smoke
Shepherd Market fascinates me. It's a tight little collection of streets hidden in Mayfair between Piccadilly and Curzon Street packed, these days, with pubs, restaurants and galleries. Whenever I am headed there and I turn off Piccadilly into White Horse Street I often wonder if I have taken the wrong turning being as that road is lined with large, damp-smelling empty buildings (a crying shame considering the location). No wonder the streets that make up the market area became a well-know red light district. I did spot one red light last night. Was it for real, or was someone in an upper room having a giggle?
Thinking about how Shepherd Market no longer has a market as such, I started making a mental list of other long-gone markets. Here are my initial thoughts in picture form:
Top: Shepherd Market(x3) and Billingsgate's original site (now re-sited to E14)
Middle: Haymarket, St James's Market, Farringdon Market, Club Row (where we bought  our lovely mongrel in 1976)
Bottom: Leathermarket, Camden Passage (as good as gone), Hoxton Market and Caledonian Cattle/Antiques Market

24 January 2013

Splish Splosh Splash!

There is a programme on TV at the moment called Splash!
Tom Daley, the UK's Olympic medal-winning diver, has been busy training up fifteen celebs with vary degrees of success.
What I cannot understand is why this is getting criticised so much. It's perfect prime-time Saturday night fare... gawping at people who are wearing almost nothing scaring themselves half to death before hurling themselves off a concrete platform without hurting themselves. Rather them than me.
So it seems it's OK for celebs to dance, sing (and opera sing), be themselves*, climb mountains, ice skate and take part in Mr & Mrs, but not right for them to have a go at something really quite difficult and properly sporty? All in the name of entertainment. And with proper training advice from Tom and the panel of judges which includes Jo Brand as an obvious comedy foil.
Apart from Vernon Kay's gurning face, the only bits I don't like are the musical interludes with over enthusiastic dancers and divers, and sometimes a bit of synchronised swimming thrown in too. Those girls might look daft, but they are super-fit. I know that from personal experience because I have watched them from the comfort of my sofa.
I think the media is upset about Splash! because perhaps they think our Tom can be seen to be belittling or diregarding his Olympic status by taking part in such a show. Perhaps they are worried he might be as embarrassing as Victoria Pendleton on Strictly Come Dancing? There, there love.
Well I think it's good and I want Linda Barker to win. And if Splash! gets some fat kids off their arses and into the swimming pools, that's a good thing. Though not all at once mind, because that would cause too much water displacement.
Here are some London diving and swimming related images from my wanders around London. Check out the three panels on the middle row showing two shifty skinny dippers in Westminster. Ooer!
Top: Hornsey Rd, Kentish Town, Haymarket, Holborn
Middle: Tufnell Pk, Westminster x3
Bottom: Holloway, Parliament Hill, Hoxton, Kentish Town

*A ref to Celebrity Big Brother. This latest series is highly amusing. I have been half-watching here and there... Speidi (Heidi and Spencer, who for those of you who don't know, count as one person on this show) are 'proper' reality stars from the US (go figure!). They have been playing it as a game, making up stories etc, lying and cheating in order to confuse the others and they have also stated that they want to win. And that they have no interest keeping in touch after the show. How refreshing. The others in the house don't like it one bit and are banging on about how 'real' they, themselves, are whilst preening their hair and sucking their cheeks in, yet being devoid of any thoughts, ideas or personality except to gossip and backbite. They are all awful. It's roadcrash TV of the best kind.
The gossipers ought to admit that they would at least like to win or, better still, be honest/real and say "I am here on CBB to improve my profile/ratings". To say it's just for the experience and how you want to be seen as a 'real' person is a big fat lie. Getting all upset about nominating is potty too as it's the most important part of the bloody show/game. And then there's the nonsense about letters from home, which all say the same thing anyway; "we miss you blah blah blah". It's not like they are going to contain anything juicy, personal or revealing such as "I have left you for someone else", "our daughter is gay" or "the dog just died".
Anyway, how can you be real in a house full of cameras? How on earth do these people cope in the outside world?.

22 January 2013

Bedford Square

One of my favourite squares in London is Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. I must admit I prefered it when the road actually ran around the circular garden but, hey, it's still lovely. Ten years ago (and counting) it was a great place to park after 6.30pm; close enough for a five minute walk into the West End and great for a fast getaway back to North London.
The lovely garden at the centre of Bedford Square is enclosed by railings and rarely open to the public (a notable exception would be the annual Chap Olympiad). Bedford square is boxed in on four sides by gorgeous Georgian terraces. Almost every doorway has an architectural detail to catch my eye; an unusual bootscraper, an exquisite fanlight, a lovely brass doorknob or fancy letterbox.
Walking westwards along the north side of the square last week I noticed that there was a row of doorways each with different exterior floor mosaics, so out came the pocket camera and I walked the whole square clockwise looking for more, noticing how the door numbers went anti-clockwise. Why is that?
These particular doorway mosaics must have been a kind of welcome mat to customers, who may have been hotels guests.
(Note to self: find out more)
On the corner of Gower Street sits No.12. A board attached to the railings advertises that there is 4,500 sq ft of office space available for rent inside, and more space available at similar locations in Bayley St and Gower St. I rest my case re new [glass] buildings being built in London yet lots of office space is already available in prime locations.  
But what really interested me about No.12 was the differing panels of vermiculation around the door. Each of the eight sections was distinctly different, and it can't just be put down to the amount of paint layers. See here:
I continued along the east side, where the doorways are larger and more imposing and the brasswork is more showy and the fanlights are larger.
The Square boasts some really unusual examples of boot scrapers and a  selection of them is shown below. I took a few photos of the one shown bottom left which can be found on the south side where the moss has been able to grow in the shadows.
On the south side I spotted two coal hole cover plates that somehow eluded me in the past. How on earth had I never noticed 'Pfeil and Stedall', and 'Boobbyer' before?! What bizarre names!
Clockwise from top left: West Bros, G. Guy, Luxfer, Haywards, J. H. Boobbyer & Sons, Pfeil and Stedall, T. Sampson, J.Jennings.
Turning onto the west side checking the makers names on the coal hole covers, I didn't spot any 'new' ones but I did notice that they were all wider in diameter. Possibly larger businesses/houses/hotels/colleges? So that's something else I need to look up. More of my London coal hole cover plates here.
I think you will agree, it was a rather nice diversional loop to my afternoon.

18 January 2013

Brass Monkeys

Blimey, it's taters innit guv.
Shopping in Leather Lane Market earlier this week I didn't envy the stallholders standing outside all day in the biting cold freezing their whatsits off.
London is still blessed with a great choice of markets; farmers, craft, flower, fruit, veg, fish, general, antiques and more. Some are within indoor arcades, some are outdoor and covered, but many are street markets open to the elements.
Some details from along those streets are pictured below.
Top: Walthamstow High St, Exmouth Mkt, North End Road, Strutton Ground
Middle: Portobello Rd, Whitecross St, Chapel Mkt, Leather Lane
Bottom: Broadway Mkt, Berwick St, Whitechapel High St, Lower Marsh

7 January 2013

Weathervane NEWS

I can't believe I haven't ever put together a montage of London weathervanes on here until now. They have made singular appearances in various posts over the years but never as a specific collection.
Some of them are gorgeous and/or really intricate. And many of them are plain bizarre.
Below are some of my favourites including boats, fish, mythological creatures, a fox and a swan, but no (weather)cocks.  
I have plenty more where these came from.