29 December 2014

Bottles and bricks on Battersea beach

Every now and then I get a group of friends together and we go for what I call "A Forage on the Foreshore".
Yesterday the weather was forecast as 6ºC but bright and sunny, so a few of us including Caroline and Malcolm met up under the south side of Battersea Bridge. Having enjoyed it there last time, this time we did the same walk in reverse, continuing westwards almost to the railway bridge and then retraced our steps halfway back again to return to street level via the slipway next to the old church.
The beach at Battersea is mostly shingly and pebbly but there are some interesting old things to be spotted by the eagle-eyed.
As seen under my shadow here, the foreshore is littered with old building bricks, and many of them have names embedded in them. At first, seeing so many with the name RAMSAY on them we thought there must have been a brick-making factory on that site, but moving on we found lots more names, including NETTLE and THISTLE (nice) so I now think these are the remains of some demolished buildings, especially as some of the fancier shaped pieces had numbers on them which, I'd assume, were identification codes for the builders as to where they should be placed. More ideas about this are welcome.

Considering how many Ramsay bricks we saw it's hard to fathom how I didn't capture one. Of the others, Thistle, Nettle, Sneyd, Douglas, Brandon and Stephenson were easy to read but the last three aren't so clear – Cliff(something)–Worth(sonething), Phorpres? and John Steve(ns/son)?

Further along, near four house boats moored parallel to the shore, we found a lot of glass – big chunks with metal bits embedded within, etched fragments, broken and tide-tumbled pieces, little medicine bottles and jars, and one ink bottle with its stopper inside.

Here are some of the finds I brought home including four clay pipe stem fragments that will probably end up in a necklace, and some nice old bits of pottery which I have yet to date.

If you'd like to join us for a forage just contact me via my other site here.

26 December 2014

Jane's Connect. What links these pics?

Here's a little quiz for Christmas, though unlike these cards it has got nothing to do with the time of year or Christmas at all.
All of the above are in central London and are linked in some way. Can you identify the link?
12 clues; some quickly identifiable, others a bit tougher (but you only get four clues on Only Connect).

23 December 2014

Bring Your Own Christmas in aid of Crisis

I am a bit late posting about this as it is sold out already, but what a great idea.
Grub Club BYOC is aimed at lonely food loving travellers and singletons – take along a dish for four and enjoy a Christmas Day dinner with a difference and, in the process make some new friends. Proceeds go to Crisis.
Read more about the founders here
I might organise something similar myself for next year.
Ding dong merrily

16 December 2014

The Victoria Memorial

At the top of the Mall, in the middle of the road directly outside Buckingham Palace is a Grade I listed monument that most Londoners usually ignore or use as a roundabout, and most tourists just sit on to take selfies.
But stop and have a really good look at it next time you are there, for Thomas Brock's Victoria with her marble surround by Sir Aston Webb, is 25 metres tall and covered with wonderful sculptures and friezes relating to justice, truth, peace and victory, as well as nautical references in the form of mermaids and mermen.
The beautifully rendered gauzy outfits and nudity on almost every character (except Victoria herself) ties in really well with a post I wrote last year about all the perky breasts the Victorians liked to depict on their statuary. But, as you can see, the ladies on this magnificent edifice are more realistic. 

These pics have proved to be be very popular within my Flickr photostream. 
It may be because I have included nipples, tit, breast, woman, naked etc in the tags. Ha ha.

9 December 2014

Wreaths and round things

A couple of weeks ago I joined a group of blogging friends for one of Flor Unikon's Christmas wreath making classes.
As you can see, my wreath was far from traditional and looked good enough to eat. I gave it to Tom TOLTOL as a housewarming present.

The photographs above were taken with a Samsung Alpha courtesy of Three who organised the evevning. I didn't really get to test out all the phone's capabilities as it was hard to press the keys with sappy fingers. Perhaps I should have made it so messy that they wouldn't have wanted it back. Damn! Opportunity missed there!

A lovely evening. Thanks.

To follow the circular theme, I have put together a group of round things in London that please me...

28 November 2014

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

Today is Black Friday, so named because as the first shopping day after Thanksgiving in the States it marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. The word black here meaning the start of business being in profit, rather than in the red (debt).
So I thought I'd mark the day with another collection of nice black boot scrapers that I have spotted around central London.

To see some of my earlier posts about boot scraper please click here and here and here.

Then next weekend, 6th December, sees Small Business Saturday, a day to promote and buy from small traders and independent shops.
I will be selling my clay pipe creations at markets on both of these days. Today at Camden I will be offering a 20% discount. See my full market list here.

25 November 2014

From the Forest to the Sea – Emily Carr in British Columbia

This intriguing exhibition about one of Canada's best-loved artists has just opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Emily Carr spent a great part of her life in British Columbia, in particular Haida Gwaii, documenting the things she found around her such as totem poles, trees and skyscapes.
I was lucky to be able to attend the press launch which started with a traditional welcome by the Haida Hereditary Chief and Master Carver, James Hart, accompanied by some of his people. It was rather strange, standing there in our modern garb, watching people in tribal dress perform songs and dances that were centuries old in surroundings that were also old but completely different in style.

The exhibition shows how Emily's work evolved over time. It highlights especially how her style changed and became bolder after her time spent in Paris where she honed her painting skills. Returning to Canada she continued to develop, and devised mixes of different types of paint which she used on cheap paper so that she could paint with speed outdoors. Sadly that paper has since discoloured, but what the heck, the paintings still look great; white space has just become pale brown space.
The exhibition begins and ends with display cabinets containing relevant tribal artefacts from various museums including two of my favourites, The Horniman and Pitt Rivers.
The exhibition runs until 8th March. More information here.

Ian Dejardin leading our guided tour, some reflected heads, Haida indigenous objects.
Emily Carr self portrait, and some of her totems and trees

18 November 2014

Stonecutter Street – AKA Treecutter Street

Earlier this year I was on my way to one of the monthly London Historians get togethers in the Hoop & Grapes on Farringdon Street when I stopped in my tracks at the end of Stonecutter Street.
A whole row of trees, I think there were eight of them, had been hacked down to thigh level in the name of progress.

The stumps ranged in diameter from 8 inches at the Shoe Lane end of the road to about 30 inches at the Farringdon Street end. Thirty inches – that's an OLD tree, that is. So sad. And I very much doubt that the development going up behind the blue hoardings will 'live' to be as old as the some of those bigger trees.
The stumps have probably been removed completely by now.
The area, bordered by Holborn Circus, Fetter Lane, Fleet St and Farringdon Street is full of evocative street names such as Printer Street, Wine Office Court, and, of course Stonecutter Street and Shoe Lane, all hinting at the trades that used to be predominant in those roads. But over the past 20 years or so I have watched as the whole area has changed considerably – it now bears scant resemblance to how I remember it when part of my first job as a junior in an advertising and design company back in the 80s was to deliver packages containing finished artwork to the newspapers and magazines in the vicinity.
A stone cutter's throw away, hidden amongst the modern buildings you can find Dr Johnson's House and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub where Johnson and Boswell would have enjoyed a few chats, drinks and smokes. I wonder what they would have to say about the rush of change that has happened in the past two decades?

11 November 2014

It's here, it's there, it's every bloody where

I recently went for a walk around the Fenchurch Street area of the City, popping into churches, investigating little streets and alleys and admiring old buildings and their interesting details.
But that bloody Walkie Talkie loomed over me from almost everywhere.
As you are probably well aware from my previous posts, I am not a fan of all this heavy-handed steel and glass architecture (see here and here) that's sprouting up like some kind of instant Dubaiification.
The Pointy Thing at London Bridge is just a greenhouse that tapers towards the top, and conversely, though similarly, 20 Fenchurch Street is just a tower block that flares out at the top but has the added bonus of being able to fry eggs and melt cars.

As viewed from Blackfriars, from Potters Fields near Tower Bridge, from the northern end of London Bridge, and from Rood Lane EC3.

As viewed from Eastcheap/Philpot Lane (x2), and from the eastern end of Fenchurch Street. The last pic shows it at street level illustrating how truly unimaginative this building is – just compare it to the considered old architecture on the corner of Philpot Lane.

I wandered into Mincing Lane and found a relatively new pedestrian street opposite the Disneyland-style castle and prancing ponies of Minster Court (ugh!). 
Plantation Lane forms part of the huge Plantation Place development (but check out Google maps and zoom in to notice that the road name on the street sign has been erased – why?). The street narrows as it goes westwards towards Rood Lane. The only reason I didn't get agitated by being hemmed in by even more bullying glass is because I was distracted and intrigued by the pavement which is natural stone embedded with lines of names, words and phrases linking to London. Great to spot some wonderful old street names there ;-)

The pavement along Plantation Lane. At the Rood Lane end of the street I took the chance to capture some convergence images illustrating the diverse architecture. 

The City of London will never be finished. It is constantly evolving. Yet it seems to me that there has been a greater percentage of building/development per square metre in the last ten years than in the last 500. I appreciate that we live in a different world these days, with different needs and demands, but what I cannot fathom is the extent and size of these things, especially when so many old buildings stand empty and many finished buildings of similar size are not yet anywhere near reaching full occupancy.

Immediate plans for The City

David Edward's idea of what's in store for the future

4 November 2014

A walk around the Cheynes

Just some pics I took in the little area of Chelsea that borders the Thames.
It's a really interesting area close to the lovely Chelsea Physic Garden. The 18th Century houses of Cheyne Walk have had many famous residents including Rossetti, George Eliot, David Lloyd George and Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to name just a few. See a fuller list here.

A stink pipe, egyptian benches, Thomas More, Hans Sloane
Closed pub, birds and a lady
Metal street sign, lots of pipes, new development, old frontage.

31 October 2014

Poppies at The Tower of London – ends 11th November

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Just a reminder if you haven't been to see the expanding flood of poppies yet, they will very soon fill the whole moat and subsequently be removed forever.
Tuesday 11th November (Remembrance Day) will be last day to see the poppies in situ. Viewing is free as they can be seen from outside the Tower of London.

I have to admit that none of the pics above are mine. 
Even though I will being going to see them over the next few days myself, I wanted to get this blog post live sooner rather than later. The top row are mostly are pinched from the official site; the rest I have stolen from Maggie Jones and Malcolm Edwards

Post-event the poppies will be available to buy at £25.00+VAT each which I think is great value considering every one is hand made and therefore unique. I know one of the poppy-makers, though she isn't in this film about the making of them

28 October 2014

Islington Faces celebrates 100 interviews

Nicola Baird recently celebrated her 100th post by putting on a staged version at the King's Head Theatre last Saturday. In this one-off chat show called Islington Faces Live our inspirational host chatted to different Islington residents.
We met Theresa Debono, Islington's lovely diminutive Maltese lady mayor, Ethiopian singer Hanisha Soloman and John Walters the Pearly King of Finsbury (now part of the borough of Islington). We also heard from others about the theatre itself, star gazing on Highbury Fields, finding unusual artefacts in the road, learning languages in cafes, and how a 1960s immigrant discovered that the streets of London were not paved with gold after all. But he stayed anyway!

Top row: all in Upper Street
Middle row: Liverpool Road; Nicola with some of her guests outside the Kings Head*
Bottom row: Islington Central Library, Holloway Rd which sports the only sign I have seen using the word 'curtilage' (lovely!); a collection of signs in Essex Rd; one of Nicola's blog intervewees outside Islington Town Hall in Upper Street.
*Back row L-R: Bernita Matondo, stargazer Ernie Jegorovas, poet mechanic Stanley Smart, John Walters, Hanisha Solomon, Nicola Baird and King’s Head Theatre executive director Dominic Haddock. Foreground: Islington’s Mayor, Theresa Debono, with her husband, Tony. Photo by Vicky Ryzhykh. 

A very pleasant way to spent a Saturday afternoon.
All ticket money raised went towards The King's Head Theatre fund
Well done Nicola – here's to the next 100 interviews.

21 October 2014

Nice numbers

A multi-porticoed terrace Lower Sloane Square.
They aren't short of a bob or two around there are they?
So how come the door numbers are such a mess?
But I like it.
A lovely mix of hand-painted, self-adhesive, profiled, crackled, circled and shadowed numbers

14 October 2014

Trinity Buoy Wharf and East India Dock

A few weeks ago I finally found time to visit this once thriving area of London docklands.

We met at East India station and walked down the meridian line to the Thames and along the river's edge to East India Dock. Malcolm's hat was a bit big for him. It was the day of the Tall Ships and the cormorants had also come out to watch them.
The old dock basin looked sad and lonely, like a desolate wasteland with stinky stagnant water. Orchard Place, the road to leading to Trinity Buoy Wharf, is littered with street art including a taxi with a tree 'growing' out of it and a wall made of colourful cable ties. The northern section of Orchard Place which forms a kind of island surrounded by the loop of Bow Creek, was once a district inhabited by people who worked in the area and had barely ventured further than two miles from their homes. The site is now being developed. Images on the hoardings show yet another conglomeration of high rise glass and pre-formed plastic.
But forward into Trinity Buoy Wharf itself...

It's a steam punk's dream environment with art and history and containers as homes thrown into the mix. Read more here on Trinity Buoy Wharf's website.

Also see this wonderful episode of The Lost Valley of London here:

7 October 2014

The Proverbs of Hell

Earlier this year I posted about the mosaics in the National Gallery.
Another major London art gallery also has a fabulous mosaic floor, and this can be found in an octagonal room at the back of Tate Britain.

Dating from 1923, eight panels by Boris Anrep illustrate William Blake's 'Proverbs of Hell'.
Some of the statements within it are wonderful. I particularly like "The Cistern contains, the Fountain overflows".
Read more about it here.

30 September 2014

Walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel

Jen had been on about doing this for months. We finally agreed a date and met at Rotherhithe station on Sunday 14th September – a Sunday being chosen because the tunnel would be less trafficated*
There is pedestrian access to the tunnel opposite the station. We walked down the stairs (there is a similar set of stairs further down the soft slope on the opposite side and a similar arrangement at the north side) but then we turned right/south so that we could walk the full length, stopping to admire St Olav's Norwegian church with it's lovely long boat weather vane and the BRUNEL artwork near the mouth of the tunnel by Kevin Boys and Steve Cornish.

And so we set off for our march through the tunnel. I walked on the east side and Jen and Malcolm were on the west side. J+M got to briefly examine the old ornate Victorian access stairs that come up next to the Brunel Museum on the south bank and within King Edward Memorial Park on the north. These now house the extractors and there are signs saying not to loiter due to the fumes. Ugh.
On my side I had the green signs indicating how far there was to go in either direction and I also spotted that there were evenly-spaced rectangular metal handles about six inches wide all the way along at shoulder height. I am guessing that perhaps these were used to tie frightened horses to, or something similar. Answers please.
"Beer" said Malcolm as we exited. Being a Sunday we had to wander the Limehouse streets for a while until the pubs opened at noon. I took them over to York Square Gardens and we investigated a gorgeous little row of Georgian house in Flamborough Walk where front gardens must have been truncated when the railways arrived.

Hurrah. Noon! Beer o'clock!  I'd spotted the The Old Ship on the corner of York Square Gardens when I was in the vicinity a month before – it's got a Mercer's maiden on it.
Lovely pub, lovely people. Good cheap ale and proper hand-made fresh sandwiches. They do cabaret nights, open mic nights, there's a beer garden (not needed really when it's a corner pub with street seating), and the place is festooned with amusing and interesting knick-knacks. I can't recommended this place highly enough. I'd be more than happy to have it my local.

Read Malcolm's account here and be sure to scroll down and see me imitating a breakdown.

*a word another friend invented which I think should be in common use

23 September 2014

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

On Saturday 23rd August I needed to go to the Old Royal Naval College to supplement my stock at the shop and, because I'd arrange that month's forage for later on that day in Wapping, I thought I'd walk there via the foot tunnel and the Thames Path.
I sat with an ice cream near the flower beds of soft grasses and watched the world go by for a while before setting off.
Sir Alexander Binnie's 1217ft foot tunnel was constructed in 1902 so that people living on the south side could get to work in the docks on the north side. It runs 50ft under the Thames and is accessed by a circular staircases around lifts (that's elevators to you guys across the pond!) within distinctive domed shafts.
And it's free.

Considering it was a Saturday and how busy Greenwich was that day (it was tourists a go go!) I'd assumed the tunnel would be rather busy. But as you can see by these pics it was fairly empty. I walked briskly through it, narrowly dodging a lunatic cyclist who either was unable to read all the No Cycling signs or was intent on flaunting the rules.
At the north side I met my friend Jen in Island Gardens and we admired the view as we waited for some other foragers to join us for the walk to Wapping.
The pic below is the view looking back at Greenwich just to the east of Island Gardens at the most southern point of the Isle of Dogs where the Thames Path  restarts along the wall at the river's edge. I've just about managed to get all the key Greenwich landmarks into the shot...
L-R: The Old Royal Naval College, University of Greenwich, Naval College Gardens, the National Maritime Museum (hidden by trees), the entrance to the foot tunnel, The Cutty Sark, Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory and Planetarium

Coming soon... another way to sub-navigate the Thames on foot...

19 September 2014

Classic Car Boot Sale this weekend at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

You'd have probably thought I'd be banging on about this being Open House weekend, but I'd booked up for the Classic Car Boot Sale before I realised the clash.
And anyway, I have worn myself out in previous years chasing about London looking at interiors.
Tomorrow and Saturday you will find me and my friend Kevin outdoors selling all sorts of bric-a-brac from the boot of one of his cars – a black 1965 Zodiac (see bottom right) as used/featured in Endeavour, a Dr Who special and a Dizzee Rascal promo.

Pics from the March 2014 event along the Southbank

16 September 2014

Rotherhithe and Bermondsey

Following on from a post earlier this year about Surrey Docks, here are some more of my photos taken along the riverside near Rotherhithe and Bermondsey.

Boats, old signs, river views... even cormorants and stalactites. 

12 September 2014

Hanway Street and Oxford Street renovation

I recently went to check out the Veno's Lightning Cough Cure ghostsign that has been revealed due to some renovations on the triangular site bordered by Hanway St at the eastern end of Oxford Street.
It is, at the moment, possible to stand on the southern side of Oxford Street and see almost straight through to Tottenham Court Road, as there is now almost nothing left but a few propped up facades.
I have great memories of Hanway Street. It was my favourite road for late night bars in the 1990s. I fondly recall that a few after work drinks in Bradley's would transmogrify into a 3am taxi after the Mia Seville/Titos/Troy Club bar crawl and then more drinking and dancing at Costa Dorada. And I fondly recall The Angus Steak House – a place I never went inside but found great amusement when the backlight on the G was not working for a few days.

I am now wondering how and why that Veno's sign was placed on that site in the first instance –  it looks to me as if the building that abuts it was built in the same period so surely it would have blocked the ad? Also, I am guessing there must have been boarding down the middle of the sign to bridge the gap between the chimney breasts. Perhaps the building next door was constructed later than the sign was painted? but that doesn't make sense because the ad does not appear to be as old as either of the fascias. Oh, I dunno. My head hurts.

On the corner of Soho Street, where the lovely angled corner and cupola of Walton's Old Queen's Head 1880 used to be, a sort of fantasy building being constructed. It looks like a lot of shower curtains with a Christmas tree attached to the top (see second pic, above). Need I say more?!
I am just hoping that two of the oldest buildings in Oxford St, on the same side of the street nearer Tott Ct Rd Station, which were both tagged by an insensitive street 'artist', are listed and won't also be lost.

9 September 2014

Richard's got an allotment

Lat month I went to East Finchley allotments.
Let's keep this short....

It's bloody lovely up there.
We dug up things, we picked things, we raked things, we chatted with the neighbours, and we came home with heavy bags full of lovely crunchy and juicy stuff which, in contrast to the crap you can buy in the shops that goes floppy or mouldy within days, kept fresh for weeks and probably would have done so for even longer had I not eaten it all.
Yum yum... I especially liked the golden beetroot.
Thanks Richard.
Just like Arnie, I'll be back :-)

5 September 2014

Angel Canal Festival, Sunday 7th September

This Sunday come and find me at my stall on Danbury Road bridge at the Angel Canal Festival. The event takes place around the the local streets bordering Regent's Canal, Graham Street Park and City Road Basin.

Top row: Danbury Road
Second row: City Road Basin where some large developments are being constructed at the moment. I am intrigued by 'Canaletto' as a choice of name as this rather infers he lived here. This is also the first time I have seen the use of the phrase 'limited edition' in this sense. Lexicon is the name given to the huge tower being constructed next door. Lexicon means 'a wordbook or dictionary' or 'the vocabulary of a certain language'. I can think of lots of word to describe it in a very colourful language.

Some more interesting things in the vicinity

2 September 2014

The regeneration of Finsbury Park

It has recently been reported in the Islington Gazette that the area behind Finsbury Park Station, between Fonthill Road and Wells Terrace is about to be 'regenerated' with a £220 million development.
If you fancy having an apartment in one of the two [iconic] towers with views over Finsbury Park then expect to shelve out between £632,000 and £1.5million. The beauty of it is you will have underground parking for the car you use to get out of London at the weekends, and immediate access to the 120,000 sqft of retail and restaurant space below meaning you won't have to go outside and mix with or relate to the people who actually live in the area.
Apparently the architects, Benson and Forsyth, won 'Housing Project of the Year 2014', at The Sunday Times’ British Home Awards before the build had even commenced. Who judges these things? Probably the same people who gave the go-ahead to The Pointy Thing and The Dubaiification of Nine Elms.
I was a little concerned that this would mean the demolition of the old Royal Mail building in nearby Goodwin Street, but having checked it seems the area for the new development falls just short of it.

As you can see from the pics above this lovely, solid, functional building of red London Stocks is now 110 years old. At the moment area around it is being run as a private car park by a very nice Albanian fella who, when I chatted to him, turns out to also be rather concerned about what the City North development will mean to the area. After all, this is only a stone's throw from a road once considered "the worst street in London" which was completely demolished in the 1950s and replaced with a large council estate. We discussed the possibility of a "them and us / haves and have nots" situation as Finsbury Park has never been an area for millionaires (though a million doesn't really get you that much these days).
Across the road from the Post Office building is a small locals cafe and just two survivors from the 19th century that are currently being braced by metal. I hope these can be rejuvenated.
And, if this artist's impression is anything to go by, it looks like Tower House, just around the corner in Fonthill Rd will remain for a while yet.
The view shown is looking north from Endymion Road across to  Fonthill Road. The white building on the left is the Astoria/Odeon/Rainbow.
Read more about the Finsbury Park development plans in City North's online brochure.

29 August 2014

Breaker's Yard at Sutton House, and a walk through Clapton and Stamford Hill

Sutton House, Homerton, is North London's oldest residential house. Built in 1535 by a rich courtier of Henry VIII, it's now owned and managed by the National Trust.
I finally went there last Friday for a guided tour. The house is just what you'd expect from an NT property – history, eccentric past owners, wood panelling, tea rooms etc. But I was more interested and impressed by the ingenuity of Breaker's Yard, a paved garden that has recently opened on the land adjacent to the the house which in centuries past used to be part of a tannery and, more recently a breaker's yard, hence the name.
This inspirational garden contains all kinds of creative and interactive elements including planters made from huge tractor tyres, recycled rainwater, a vegetable garden, a sand pit and, my favourite elemnt, a double-decker caravan that has been transformed into a mini stately home using reclaimed panelling, an old staircase, a wooden chandelier and other decorative elements. I'd just love something similar in my own garden! Read more here.

After the tour I decided to walk through Clapton along the A107 and on my journey I spotted quite a few things that were either new to me or had changed since the last time I really took a good look along there.
For instance, in the lobby of St Andrews Mansions at No.157 Lower Clapton Rd there are some lovely tiles (see top left, below). However, the sister building next door does not retain the same.
The toilet block T the end of Millfield Road is still closed and surrounded by blue boards – that's at least six years now. Somebody do something please! Question: why are hoardings like this always painted bright blue? Answers please.
I popped into the gardens that surround nearby Clapton Pond, sat for a while with a sandwich and read the info board about the conservation area. Glad to see The White Hart pub falls into that zone and has, since I was there last, had new life breathed into it. And an old carved, recessed sign is now visible along the front reading, "The Clapton Hart". I am still waiting to see what becomes of the old cinematograph building next door.
Across the roundabout, I noticed the change in colour within the brickwork on the side of the old tram depot which I think shows where the ramps used to go up to the second floor. Further along, on the corner of Cleveley's Road, there is a clunky old optician sign.

I have for many years been trying to get a good angle on the ghost sign above Clapton Station to try to work out what it might have advertised. Well, whoopee, I think I have finally cracked it – it appears to be a Nestlé ad, and may have looked like this one except the lettering on the Clapton sign looks to be be outlined rather than solid. Sorry, but the pic above doesn't really capture very well what I could see on the day.
I continued towards Stamford Hill, noticing that by now almost 75% of people passing me were wearing wigs, big black hats or thick tights. None of them were wearing a smile. I tried smiling at them but they ignored me as if I wasn't there. A lot of them looked thin, pale and undernourished; others looked far to young to have three children in tow.
At Clapton Common I turned left into Oldhill Street. It's interesting to note that there are lots of hills in the road names around here; Stamford Hill, Spring Hill, Big Hill, High Hill, Harrington Hill, Bakers Hill.
Oldhilll Road contains some very strange diddy little houses – there are two skinny buildings facing the street as per normal, but a few doors further up there are some more that are set sideways like back-to-backs. I have never seen these in London before. See here. And further along the road I noticed that Stamford West Grove still has its old framed enamel street sign showing the now defunct London N.E. area. These days NE is Newcastle. The South London S code was also abolished in the 19th century.
Returning back to the main road via Braydon Road I spotted an old workshop with broken windows and peeling paint with a sign that read, "Accident Repair Centre". Quite ironic really. The faded blue paint on the shutters was pleasing. That same blue again.
I walked back to the corner of Oldhill in front of the impressive 19th century houses that face the common and mused how similar it looked to other park-facing terraces elsewhere in London i.e Highbury Fields, Clapham etc.
On an information board outside St Thomas's Church, on the corner of Oldhill, there are some old photos showing how the area used to look 100 years ago. One of them features the Swan Tavern. I used to drink there in the 80's with a friend who lived close by – it was the only decent pub in the area. As you can see by these pictures, the building has changed considerably over the years. It's now a Jewish centre and barely recognisable as an old pub. It's been even further 'simplified' since the image in the link above – the front of the building is now practically flat and I could see that the interior has been plasterboarded and magnolia'd with bright strip lights added to the ceilings. Why they couldn't have kept some of the decoration and mouldings is beyond me. At least the church who took over the Rainbow/Astoria at Finsbury Park had the decency to keep the architectural details there intact. Hallelujah.
Anyway... continuing my journey...
I stopped to snap some mish-mash patchwork wooden hoardings on another building site and then spotted an interesting church spire in a street beyond the northern side of the road so I went to check it out.
Sitting next door to the Arriva bus garage in Rockwood Road is a Grade II listed building orginally built by the Agapemonites cult in the 19th century as 'The Church of the Arc Of The Covenant'. Read more about this quite-frankly bonkers group and its loony leader here. The building is covered in intriguing sculptures featuring among other things depictions of various beasts appearing to crush humans underfoot.

There are also some and some interesting bronzes up high. The building is now used by the Georgian Orthodox community. Here's a video about it.
On the opposite side of the road there is the New Synagogue which also has some lovely stained glass windows.
I thought that was enough for one day so I got on a 254 bus and went home.

26 August 2014


I was just about to put a collection of pics together about this past weekend's walk from Greenwich to Wapping when it occurred to me that I still hadn't posted about last month. So here goes...
I went with a couple of friends to the foreshore on the southern side of the river under Blackfriars Bridge and then we wandered along eastwards.  I spotted a strange hardened lump of metal that looked like stone made from petrified eels, and some plastic poking out of the ground such like it seemed as if it was growing there. Also a foot shape ring of tufts which I though odd. There were also the usual bits of old weathered wood, oyster shells with holes in them and, of course, clay pipe fragments.

But it intrigued me how I kept seeing so many bits of leather shoes.
At first, I made a small collection and included a 'pair' of black gloves. But I kept finding more and more pieces of heel and soles, often hobnailed and beautifully handmade. In 30 minutes I managed to collect more than 30 bits so I arranged the best of them on the access steps near Tate Modern for other people to admire. The ages of these items varied a lot. Most were Victorian/Edwardian; others definitely came from the mid-20th century, and some were quite plainly less than 10 years old.
So... why/how have these all ended up here? I have never seen shoes in such profusion on any other sections of Thames' foreshore.
Was this an area particularly affiliated with cobblers?

20 August 2014

Sunshine and a rainbow

Hard to believe it's August at the moment. It's cold and wet and windy out there.
So I have put together some sunny-coloured things to remind us of that big hot thing that usually sits in the sky.

I was asked to tweet about my favourite colour of the rainbow earlier this week for Samsung's #MidnightRainbow event. I actually prefer indigo – this old post features some lovely old dark blue tiles and links in nicely with the above.

Here's a photo of the rainbow made using lots of Samsung Tab S screens taken at the press event last night where I bumped into my old school mate Andy who is now the big cheese there.
See the rainbow today on the Southbank near Gabriel's Wharf.

18 August 2014

Pretty patterns

I had a kaleidoscope when I was young. I loved the patterns it made. I also liked colouring in graph paper to make intricate patten repeats. But that's another story.
This has post nothing to do with London except that I bought a (replacement) old kaleidoscope at a London boot fair while back and rediscovered it this past weekend.
Nice eh.
Who needs technology?!

12 August 2014

Making an impression

I have been snapping marks made in wet cement or tarmac for years now and have collected a few of them together here.
Some are accidental impressions made by shoes, cones or birds; others are clever or specific written messages:

But the most common ones are where people have written their names:

7 August 2014

London shop fronts and their signs

I have been taking photos of shops signs and frontages for many years now. I am drawn to old hanging signs, hand-painted lettering, curved glass and wonderfully-arranged or jam-packed window displays. It's always frustrating when I realise I missed a photo when a shop I had taken for granted closes before I had a chance to snap it (as in the case of the old Shelly's shop at the Holloway end of Seven Sisters Road that disappeared over ten years ago and had the original Victorian walk-in windows at the front. If anyone has any photographic reference, please do contact me).
Emily Webber is also interested in London's shop fronts and many of her photographs are featured in  this short film
Support your local shops!!!

5 August 2014

The Rising Sun

Continuing on from my recent post about the emporiums of Tottenham Court Road, there is another building also covered in amazing reliefs and decorations, and that's the Rising Sun public house on the corner of Windmill Street, a street so-named because there used to be a windmill in the street.
Originally a Truman's pub, this fabulous example of Art Nouveau Gothic was designed in 1897 by Treadwell & Martin architects, which can be seen stamped onto the building between the first and second floors. The upper floors are painted stucco and the ground floor still has its original larvikite cladding.
Also note the beautiful floor mosaic at the entrance, which is one of my favourites of its type in London.

29 July 2014

Seven Sisters Road – Holloway to Finsbury Park

This past few weeks I have been preparing for a guided walk that I have been encouraged to do by the lovely people at Rowan Arts. They thought it would be a good idea if I led a tour along a section of Seven Sisters Road to tie in with their programme of events titled 'Seven Sisters Stories'.
"Eek," I thought, "I can talk, but I can't speak", if you get what I mean – I can't just stand there pointing at things that interest me, saying, "look at that; isn't it lovely – I wonder what it means?!". Hence research has been necessary.

So, I have recently spent a lot of time deskbound (when it's absolutely gorgeous outside), both at home and in Islington Library's local history centre, finding out more info about the history of the stretch of road from Nags Head to the gates of Finsbury Park (and getting side-tracked at every turn of a page!).
I always work better with a deadline, hence why I am telling you about this now. Sharing this will make me apply myself properly – finish the research, fix some dates, set up a booking system etc.
Very soon I will  announce the dates, which will be a couple of weekday evenings in August. If it's a success, then who knows, it might become a regular thing...

23 July 2014

Me me me!

Nicola Baird writes Islington Faces, a blog about creative people in Islington. We met when I had a stall selling my clay pipe jewellery and Holloway photo montages at a Rowan Arts event earlier this year and shortly after, she contacted me to ask if I'd like to be interviewed too.
Here's a link to it. I'm not sure about the gurning portrait in there so, seeing as that pic's available to the masses, you might as well see some other pics of me too; all taken in London including four self portraits: