26 June 2014

A day out in Margate

Two weeks ago I met my friend at London Bridge Station so that we could find and catch a train to Margate. We thought this was the most logical place to start; that trains departed London like the spokes of a wheel. After all, if I wanted to go to, say, Southend in Essex I wouldn't expect the trains to depart from Marylebone, or to Penzance from Kings Cross.
We bought our tickets but couldn't see Margate on the destination board. We were advised we'd have to change at Ramsgate and to use the back four coaches. Thinking this was normal we settled down for our journey and admired the countryside, wondering when we'd get to see the coastline. But the train took us via Ashford and Canterbury to Ramsgate where we picked up another train bound for London. Eh?! It turns out that if you want to go to the northeast tip of Kent the direct trains along the north coast leave from Victoria! Live and learn.
Had I seen Portillo's railway journey about the area, which was on TV last week and alas too late for this trip, I would have been better informed.
Anyway, we got there. And what a lovely town.
On exiting the station we were greeted by a fabulous old ghostsign advertising Dominion Motor Spirit, which I assume was some kind of oil. Crossing the road into Marine Terrace I was in heaven sitting in and photographing the Edwardian seating terrace (a similar one round the other side of the headland is in a sad state, fenced off and crumbling away). We had a wander on the gorgeous sandy beach, surely a contender for the finest sand in the UK, a paddle in the very cold sea, and then went for the obligatory seaside meal of fish and chips.

Margate, having fallen out of favour with holiday-makers over the past four decades has become a treasure chest of architectural delights for people like me. The streets, especially in the old town and along Northdown Road, are jam-packed with old shop signs, curved glass and island windows, hand-painted and hand-carved signs, mosaics and tiles, and lots more besides. Many of these lovely shops are now owned by second-hand and antique dealers. It was hard not to go inside every one.

The streets were so absorbing that we only just managed to get to the shell grotto before it closed at 5pm, and what a treat – I had no idea the place was so extensive and the work was so fine. Amazing that no one knows who created it and why.
Our last few hours were spent chatting to locals supping very fine beers at The Lifeboat, the local ale and cider pub, near Market Square – highly recommended. We'd have stayed longer had the trains been more frequent and faster (there's only one 'fast' train an hour in the evenings which takes approx 130 minutes). We only just caught 8.15 (to Victoria!) and finally saw the coastline with the sky glowing pink as the sun set on our great day out.
I can't believe it's taken me 30 years to return to Margate – I must go again soon, and for longer, perhaps a couple of days.

I also took lots of photos of the beautiful coastline, the grotto, Thanet wind farm and other local landmarks such as the clocktower, the old Lido, the entrance to Dreamland and that hideous modern tower of flats – find some of them here.

24 June 2014

Crouch End Playing Fields and the Capital Ring

Have you ever walked down those footpaths that cut between the sports fields off Park Road, between Ally Pally and Crouch End?

I always feel when I am there that I have stepped back in time. Just fields and woods and cricket pavilions and people being sporty. I kind of expect a group of 1930s la-di-dah hoorays dressed in perfect period sports' whites, laughing and joking carrying tennis racquets and cricket bats, to skip past me at any my minute. It also reminds of when I was a child and I used to go on expeditions on my bike finding alleyways between the houses in Hornchurch that I though no-one else had a clue about. (Which reminds me, back in the 1970s there used also a disused row of lovely old houses in what is now Torrance Close at the north end of Harrow Lodge Park near Hornchurch Swimming pool – sadly now gone.)
The path between Crouch End Playing Fields starts at Park Road, passes some interesting wood carvings, and very quickly forks. The right hand path takes you directly across Wood Hill and into Queen's Wood which must be the loveliest bit of woodland in North London.
But Queen's Wood can also be reached without crossing a road by taking the longer prettier route accessed by the left hand fork which takes you right around the back of one of the cricket fields (there are three, yes, three cricket pitches, and lots of tennis courts) into a little wooded area, through a tree-bordered glade, back onto a wooded path and then through an old iron fence into Queen's Wood via the south east corner where it joins up with The Capital Ring.
From there... just keep walking...

19 June 2014

Goodbye Georgiou's, Tufnell Park Road

There used to be a lovely little green-tiled convenience shop on the corner of Tufnell Park Road and Warrender Road, N19.
The owner passed away a few years back so the shop closed, and I watched the site with interest hoping someone would make good use of the old frontage.
As you can see here it has suffered terribly.
The main picture shows the shop as it was in 2008.
In January this year I noticed the shop windows at the front had been removed, and soon after some scaffolding was being erected. Then, last Thursday I stopped in my tracks when I saw the extent of the 'renovation' – there is nothing left of the old shop whatsoever.
One of the fellas working there saw me taking photos (that's him on the left, bottom right) and he came over to talk, thinking I was impressed. He asked me what I thought and I told him (ahem) how it was awful to have eradicated the historical element – all those beautiful hand-made tiles gone, probably dumped.
I also berated him for putting in nasty, unsympathetic, non-sash UPVC windows. He was bemused, probably thinking I was mad. Mad yes; but in the angry, frustrated way; not the loopy way. People like him seem to think that old is bad and dirty, and new and white is clean and good. Knob head (him not me).

In the same street I found a discarded, dirty and deflated Space Hopper, but at least this little fella, which is really tiny and looks to be made of really thin rubber*, brought back fond memories of the races my sister and I used to have in our garden in the seventies.

* I recall my Space Hopper was made of sturdier stuff and came in a box about 1ft wide.

17 June 2014

Something fishy

Last night I spent another great evening at The Underground Cookery School.
Last time I was there we made pasta and casserole; this time we were butchering chicken and filleting sea bass. Some of the other girls were a bit squeamish about dealing with dead, gutted beasts; others managed to pulverise the poor creatures. But I was in my element, sharp knife in hand learning how to slice the flesh cleanly off the fish's spine and remove the little bones. And it tasted lovely too.
Here are some fishy things in and around the streets of London:

And here's a link to an old post about fishing practices.

10 June 2014

Guerilla gardening in North London

The streets of Holloway are again blooming and more lovely pyramids of fiery nasturtiums can be found in Holloway, specifically Mayton Street.
Last year I spotted similar displays in and around the area including a wonderful little Christmas arrangement. 
And in other areas of Islington I have seen little min-gardens with tiny fences around trees. See the six pics on the left side of the montage below.

The other six photos on the right are from further north. Along the path that leads east off Park Road between the Crouch End playing fields there are some tree stumps embedded in the railings and these have been roughly carved. Lovely. Someone should do something similar with these

6 June 2014

An Art Deco Walk in Bloomsbury

Here are some pictures I took whilst enjoying Art Deco In Bloomsbury (Architecture In The Machine Age) walking tour last Saturday afternoon.
Yannick is a delightful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide brimming with info. Recommended.

Yeah yeah... I know a lot of these things aren't Art Deco but they are on the route.

3 June 2014

St George's, Bloomsbury

I hadn't noticed until April this year that the lamps at the foot of the front steps to this gorgeous church echo the design on the spire.
But if you look closely and compare these little metal designs to the larger edifice on the roof there are few differences.
If you look closely you can see that the lamps feature George looking more llike a toddler, the lions standing wearing crowns and the unicorns also on all fours but with no horns.
Perhaps the lamps are from earlier designs.

The six images on the left show the roof, and other six to the right show the lamps.