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31 May 2019

I can see your house from here! Caledonian clocktower open through the summer for guide-led tours

The cafe is open, the visitor centre is complete, the information panels and plaques are in place and you can now climb 178 steps to the top of the marvellous clock tower that sits in the middle of Caledonian Park.
See the clock mechanism, learn about the history of the area and enjoy the fabulous views in all directions.
This clock tower used to be the centre of a Victorian meat market that covered a much larger area than we see today. The market was built to take the pressure off Smithfield which had become way too busy, dirty and noisy. A huge flea market later evolved on the same site. Today it's hard to imagine such hustle and bustle here.
I am one of the Islington guides who lead the tours. Don't worry – we don't climb the stairs in one hit – we go up each flight one person at a time and convene for a talk on each level, and the bells won't start ringing when you are up there!
Free tours of the clock tower (and the park) on Saturdays throughout the summer. 
Please note that places are strictly limited to 12 people on each tower tour and restrictions apply as regards age, fitness, clothing etc so please be sure to read all the terms and conditions. 

27 May 2019

Abstract street art

Sometimes a wall need to be patched or graffiti needs to be obliterated.
But the paint originally used for the wall or fence might not be available and so another one that doesn't quite match or a completely different shade is used.
The end result often can look like abstract art.
I just love some of the results. Some of these would be good as carpets.
Here's a selection.

Parkhurst Road, N7.
Rowstock Gardens, N7
Rowstock Gardens, N7

Old Street, EC1
Dalston, E8
Bowmans Mews, N7

14 May 2019

Adventure playgrounds – ooh be careful the kids might fall and hurt themselves...

I was walking along Market Road, off Caledonian Rd, last week when I happened upon this sign outside Hayward Adventure Playground.
The statement that the statement that there are 12 Adventure Playgrounds (with initial caps) in Islington no longer holds totally true. There might be 12 sites but not many of them are functioning playgrounds at the moment. In fact, Hayward itself is undergoing a revamp.
And at the award-winning Martin Luther Adventure Playground opposite Freightliners Farm at Paradise Park, N7, is as I write this just a bull-dozed empty site. This saddens me because up until about six months ago I noticed that almost every time I went past it there were lots of children making really good use of the facilities there. Not like at some other similar sites where I have never witnessed any movement apart form pigeons, namely Spa Green, near Exmouth Mkt, and Barnard Park off Copenhagen Street.
I think kids are being protected a little too much these days. God forbid the poor things might fall and hurt themselves and learn a valuable lesson about balance and gravity in the process.
It's all health and safety gone mad – remove the possible causes of pain. Rip it all up, put in some bouncy rubber floors (recycled I hope) and have round padded corners everywhere. Be careful darling. Be careful. No, don't climb that tree. It's dangerous.
And when was the last time you saw a kid with scabby knees or covered in plasters? OK so kids don't wear shorts or carry catapults and penknives anymore, but perhaps they should. Possibly the first time they pick up something sharp is when they join a gang. I am flippantly suggesting this because I see many kids can't even use cutlery properly these days; they use forks as spoons and have no idea how to hold a knife – it's elbows and shovels. 
How are kids supposed to learn life skills? They aren't gonna be magically ready for the big bad world when when they leave school. This is why we've now got so many people in their mid-20s still being treated like and behaving like babies – get Dad to do everything. But what's gonna happen when theses kids finally have kids of their own?
I so fondly recall as a child getting big knee and elbow scabs – the trophy scars of the playground – then picking at those scabs and lifting the harden crusts like lids to see if they'd bleed or come off cleanly –  and did anyone else enjoy sewing their fingers together with needle and cotton through the top layer of skin resulting in little white dead channels once the thread was removed. Ah, happy days... where are my ker-knockers...?!

10 May 2019

Update on Toby Ale signage

Almost two years ago I wrote about the renovation of an old Charringtons pub in Swinton Street, Kings Cross, WC1, and its lovely old Toby Ale tiled motifs.
Well I am happy to report that the new owners of The Kings Cross Arms which is now a hotel and restaurant have given the place a wash and brush up and the panels are still perfectly intact. Each is flanked by some of those ubiquitous filament lamps though the shadows/ghosts of older lamps looks to have proved hard to remove. It is now called The House of Toby – named after the plaque – how lovely – phew!
The other news on this subject is that I now do not have all the original images of the montage that I put together in that last piece on the subject. I lost most of this collection when my AppleMac crashed last year – I had collected my labelled photos into a folder on my desktop and had neglected to copy it over elsewhere to an external HD, a USB stick or to my web archive.
Tomorrow, tomorrow etc.
Another annoying thing is that I hadn't even captioned the 12 images in that montage so I now can't identify/remember the locations (d'oh!).
It wasn't the only collection to bite the dust – I also lost Woolworths stores, David Greig shops, Burtons Deco motifs, an A-Z of ghostsigns across London (by street), ditto pubs signs and the like. Oh, and ditto lots of written research that I had compiled for my guided walks etc. And archive images, and boot scrapers and coal hole covers and date stamps and and
Oh well; live and learn. None has died. In a way it all felt quite cathartic.
Shall I start again? Nah!