Monday, 21 December 2009

Middlesex Hospital



Only the listed chapel stands within what was once the Middlesex Hospital, W1 – final earthly port of call for both Peter Sellers and Bernard Breslaw. Both comedians as dead as the horribly named "Noho Square" development that was to be built on the site. The BT Tower flicks the whole scene a modernist finger in the right hand corner of the pic.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Most Annoying…


…thing in London: missing the train by a second because one's fellow men are incapable of STANDING ON THE RIGHT!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Docklands: Made in Glasgow



Detail of an old steam hammer from the long-dead Albert Dock, east London.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Up Above the Streets & Houses


… Rainbow climbing high. The great thing about this pic of a rainbow over High Holborn was that I wasn't the only big sissy standing taking a picture of it on my camera/i-phone/doo-dah. All this taechnology has turned us into big sissies. A good thing, if you ask me.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The People's Republic of Soho



The Broadwick Street mural depicts Brendan Behan and Dylan Thomas among a myriad of Soho characters. But where's Groucho?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Backstage



Backstage, somewhere between The City and Westminster, is the oasis of peace and quiet that is Temple – the tranquility only broken by the odd (usually very odd) Da Vinci Code nutjob asking if Tom hanks has been by.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Tree Grows in Clerkenwell



By the former House of Detention, one of London long-forgotten gaols, a tree strives for the light in its own urban prison, Clerkenwell Close EC1.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Bacchus Would Approve of…



Fusty and dusty, Gordon's Wine Bar was once described as "the venue where Miss Haversham had her hen night."

Established in 1890, it remains an oasis of originality in an ever-more humdrum West End.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Waterloo Libre


Sunny Cuba in wintry Waterloo.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cathedral Underwater



If you want a cathedral we've got three to spare. Two south of the river, two to the north.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Valley of the Shadow



Edwin Lutyens' St Jude's Church at Hampstead Garden Suburb sends an imposing message in the milky sunshine of a midwinter morning.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Source of the Nile



You asked. So here it is. The actual, factual, bona fide Clapton Pond (above). Complete with the No.38 in the background.

The name ‘Clapton’ or ‘farm on the hill’ is derived from the Old English words ‘clop’, a lump or hill, and ‘ton’ farm.

Pond means a pond.


(NB: If you’re on the wrong bus and wanted to catch the Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group then click HERE.)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Things to Do in London at Christmas…



Visit the rellies. (At the Grant Museum of Zoology.)

(Note: Rellies: noun, Aust orig: relatives, blood relations,family members.)

Sunday, 6 December 2009

East



A gentle post for a lazy Sunday. A view of The City skyline looking east from the terrace at Somerset House in a fast encroaching early dusk, winter 2009.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Support Your Local Bookshop II


Approached by no less than THREE v. helpful, v.polite, v. nice young members of staff at Waterstone’s bookshop in Kensington last Thursday, all of whom asked,”Can I help you?” Each with a seemingly genuine desire to be of assistance.

“No thank you,” I replied each time with a smile that was MILES away from being as v. helpful, v. polite and v. nice as each of theirs. Feeling misanthropic, I mooched out of the shop, regretting that I hadn’t given them the reply I’d wanted to. Which was:

“Help me? Help me? I’m a man in early middle age browsing in a bookshop. This is ONE of the only TWO places ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH where I require no help. The other is in a record shop. Help is what I require almost EVERY MOMENT OF THE DAY UNLESS I AM BROWSING IN A BOOKSHOP OR A RECORD SHOP. If being approached THREE TIMES suggests that I LOOK LIKE I NEED HELP EVEN HERE IN A BOOKSHOP then only the record shop is left as a safe haven of surety and self-confidence. But if I already look like I need helping the bookshop, how long before I look out of place in a record shop too? Huh? Eh? What?

Just shoot me now.

P.S. Support your local bookshop. Even if it’s not as good as Marchpane (pictured) in Cecil Court WC2 (and few bookshops are) with your continued support, maybe one day it will BECOME as good.

P.P.S. Support your local record shop, too.

Friday, 4 December 2009

East End Backstage


Behind the scenes in the East End. A dormant Petticoat Lane market by moonlight.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

We Three Kings of Clerkenwell


Artists to have recorded We Three Kings include: The Beach Boys, The Barenaked Ladies, Harry Connick, Burl Ives, Patti Smith and Tori Amos.

Is The Three Kings in Clerkenwell the best pub in London? Damn near.

Does it have the best pub sign (above)? Easily.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Ring Around the Moon


“See a ring around the moon, a storm is sure to follow soon.” 
Wise saw by Mr A. Homespun-Wisdom

“A ring around the moon is caused by high altitude clouds, which precede low-pressure systems bearing moisture. So yes, it does indicate rain. The clouds contain ice crystals which refract the Moon's light, giving a halo effect.”
Cold, hard fact from Mrs A. Boffin

“There’s a Ring Around the Moon”
Old time romantic song by J. Mercer

“See a ring and a moon and you’re standing on the Victoria Embankment.”
C. Pond Esq.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Dear Santa



Dear Santa,

I don't have a chimney so you'll have to read my blog to find out what I want. I'm getting my letter in early this year so we can avoid a repeat of last year's socks and cufflinks fiasco. You really effed up there Santa: maybe go easy on the booze at the other houses before you get to mine, eh?

Anyway. Listen up: and listen with BOTH ears.

I want a Rickenbacker 360 from Vintage & Rare Guitars (above) in Denmark Street. A black one. Blonde at a push.

If they don't have that then I'll take a Gretsch Chet Atkins. In green. Only in green.

Ta.

Clapton Pond Esq.

P.S. Will wait up for you. And here's the deal: No guitar for me – no mince pie and whisky for you. And Rudolph can whistle for his carrot.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Burns, Baby! Burns!


Happy St Andrew's Day. Happy St Andrew's day? A contradiction in terms?

(Above: Robert Burns, like me, in exile in London. Delighted to be so, too. I mean me. Don't know about Burns. You'd have to ask him. Although when he wrote "My heart is in the Highlands" I don't think he meant Totteridge & Whetstone. Though I might be wrong. There's a first time for everything.)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Ghost Train


When I was a young Old Fart, this is what trains looked like on the tube. Only they were in black and white, of course. This one has been colourised using what The Authorities refer to as The Latest Technology. As an old Old Fart, I am against The Latest Technology. But I find myself liking old trains more and more.

Just shoot me now.

(Find the London Transport Museum HERE.)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Going Underground


50…

depth in feet of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel (southern stairwell, looking like something by M.C Escher, above)

200,000…

the approximate number of tiles in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

0…

the number of cyclists who actually dismount and push their bikes through the pedestrian tunnel

Friday, 27 November 2009

Sign of the Times II



And I should jolly well think so, too.

“My philosophy is as simple as ever. I love smoking, drinking, moderate sexual intercourse on a diminishing scale, reading and writing (not arithmetic). I have a selfless absorption in the well-being and achievements of Noel Coward.”
Noel Coward


(Found the sign at the door of the Phoenix Artist Club. Was reminded of the quote at a great blog called I’ve Been Reading Lately)

And before the Gasper Squad swing into action and bust the joint, the terrace they refer to is the common street outside the building.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A Sweet Shop Counter at Waterloo (after Manet)



Konditor and Cook at Waterloo. A sweet-toothed take on Édouard Manet’s Bar-at-the-Folies-Bergere (1882) (below)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

All The World's a Stage…

…And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier…
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth,
sans eyes,
sans taste…





(Pics: Richard Kindersley’s Seven Ages of Man sculpture near Blackfriars)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Sundown London

Rained on-and-off all day in London yesterday. Then just as dusk approached, this light in the west: sunset over St Pancras and the BT Tower…




"…that's all the London news today. And now, the weather for the next few days:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!"

Monday, 23 November 2009

Support Your Local Pub…


(Pictured) Death Near Deptford: the corpse of The Victoria rotting in full view down Woolwich way

"Brick Lane, in east London, once had no fewer than 20 pubs. The names – The Frying Pan, The Duke's Motto, The Jolly Butchers – are redolent of a former era, but apart from the derelict Seven Stars next to a mosque, all have found a new use. Three are Asian restaurants, two are cafés, one is a hairdresser, there's a clothes shop, and one hosts a money transfer facility. In keeping with this trend, the restaurant chain Nando's has converted seven London pubs and two in the provinces into food outlets."

The Independent, July 2009

(Tips on how to mobilise the troops if your local is threatened with closure can be found at Fancyapint.com)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Soho Dawn



Brewer Street (looking to Wardour Street) just after dawn on a Sunday morning. Up really early? Or just coming home? Not telling.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Rolling in to the Night



“Dirty old river… I am in paradise.”

Ray Davies, Waterloo Sunset

Friday, 20 November 2009

West II



View from the Royal Exchange looking west after dusk on a late autumn Sunday evening.

In the 17th Century stockbrokers were barred from the Royal Exchange due to their bad manners.

Barring ill-mannered City types from public places. Hmm. What did we forget between now and the 17th Century?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Smoke



“Drugs are bad, mmkay?”
Mr Mackey, South Park

Having said that…

“It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake.”
Mark Twain.

“I'm glad to hear you smoke. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is.”
Oscar Wilde.

Shop illustrated G.Smith & Sons 74 Charing Cross Road. Even if you’re not going to buy a smoke, check out their elaborate snuff handkerchiefs, the finest pocket hankies in town.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Postman's Park



"The material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession; the deeds of its people are."
George Frederic Watts 1887



Postman's Park & the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in The City.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

North & South



So how serious is the North/South divide in London? Well as you can see (Woolwich, above) the South is tooled up and has its weapons trained on the North.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A Local Shop for Local People



Alternative names from the shortlist drawn up before finally deciding on "Trashy Lingerie":

Pants R Us
Briefs Encounter
The Basque of the Houndervilles
I Write the Thongs that Make The Whole World Thing

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sign of the Times



Down in ol' Soho where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Heavy Metal


The Tate Modern is…

• Situated on a 3.43 hectare (8.48 acre) site on the south side of the River Thames opposite St Paul's Cathedral
• A structure with a frontage over 200m (650 ft) long
• Blessed with a chimney 99m (325 ft) in height, specifically built to be lower than the dome of St Paul's Cathedral at 114m (375 ft)
• Composed of approximately 4.2 million bricks
• Made in Scotland From Girders (see pic above)

(The first four facts in this list appear on the Tate Modern’s website)

(The fifth is just a fact)

Friday, 13 November 2009

Death & Taxes



A view of our fiscal capital from Camberwell cemetery.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Domed. We're all Domed.



The Dome (the largest single-roofed structure in the world) basks in a shard of celestial light as the wicked Brigadoon of “Canary Wharf” emerges from the mist behind.

(The Dome – under the name The North Greenwich Arena 1, thanks to IOC regulations forbidding the mobile phone company that currently sponsors the structure from peddling their wares at the Olympics – will play home to the basketball finals at the 2012 Olympic Games. In 1948, the make-do-and-mend Games, basketball was staged at the Harringay arena on Green Lanes.)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Planet of the Apes, Crystal Palace SE26



Taylor (Charlton Heston, topless) and his mate Nova (Linda Harrison, in three bits of old chamois leather each no bigger than Barbie’s hankie) having escaped Ape City, are riding on horseback through The Forbidden Zone. The soundtrack offers tentative notes of hope.

Suddenly Taylor sees a horrifying sight. Dismounting, he drops to his knees and wails:

“We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you!”

Cut to a shot of an overgrown ruin of a Sphynx, once the symbol of a great and mighty Palace at the height of a great and mighty Empire (see above).

“God damn you!” cries Taylor. “God damn you all to hell.”

FADE

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Support Your Local Bookshop



This is my local bookshop in N2, which often adds a much-needed flash of counter-cultural ribaldry through its window displays in otherwise sleepy suburbia. It is a much-loved resource on the High Road.


This is Simon Callow in The Guardian (as I read it yesterday in the window of Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Road WC2).

“The bibliocide in the Charing Cross Road continues its depressing course apparently unchecked. The one gleam of light is the reinvention of Foyles, which has now become a very enterprising outfit, its stock, and indeed its general layout, informed by discernible individual taste. But a block further down the road, beyond Cambridge Circus, in what was once the heart of the book village, glumness is everywhere, the most recent losses being Murder Inc and Shipley's three excellent art book shops. Two Zwemmer's shops are long gone. In their places spring up Chinese herbalists, poster shops and coffee houses, all of which no doubt cater to pressing needs; meanwhile the character of the area is being fundamentally undermined. Soon, like the block it faces, it will be just another outpost of Oxford Street. The excellent Henry Pordes and Any Amount of Books hold up gallantly, with Quinto on the corner, but their backs are against the wall. The bitter irony of all this is that the block is owned by a charity, the Soho Housing Association, whose charter demands that it raise the most money it possibly can: it is by definition committed to trashing the area.

Further down Charing Cross Road, all traces of the bookselling trade have been eliminated, except for one astonishing enclave, Cecil Court, where, as if in a time machine, the book trade flourishes as it once did. There are several very good shops in it that don't sell books - an original poster shop; an excellent shop selling prints; Tim Bryars's antique map shop; Mark Sullivan's wonderful emporium of bibelots. But for the rest, there is richness to gladden any bibliophile's heart: Pleasures of Past Times, David Drummond's incomparable theatre bookshop; Nigel Williams's rare books; modern first editions specialists Tindley & Chapman; Marchpane, an Aladdin's cave of a children's bookshop; a very snazzy Italian bookshop; Watkins's esoteric bookshop (a little more new age than it was, but stocked to the rafters with genuine arcana), to name only a few. It stands as a model of what a commercial district can be: it celebrates what it sells; it is an entertainment in itself; every shop is run by an individual whose tastes are absolutely personal and identifiable; the love of the trade is palpable. Nobody here is making a fortune; to survive respectably is all anyone asks.

So naturally it is under threat. Though the government has backed off from raising the business rate by a full 5% this year, a 2% rise, to be followed by a further 3% in the next two years, will wipe out the tiny profit margin that keeps businesses of this sort alive. What these shops need is more meaningful business-rate relief. Write, urgently, to the local MP Mark Field, who is masterminding a campaign to save one of the capital's last oases of real bookselling.”

Write to Mark Field HERE.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Get Ahead. Get…



“It was astonishing how fashionable it was to be unfaithful. He often wondered if it was anything to do with going without a hat. No sooner had the homburgs and and the bowlers disappeared from The City than everyone grew their hair longer, and after that nothing was sacred.”

Beryl Bainbridge, Injury Time (1977)


“He's bought a hat like Anthony Eden's
Because it makes him feel like a Lord
But he can't afford a Rolls or a Bentley
He has to buy a secondhand Ford
He tries to feed his wife and his family
And buy them clothes and shoes they can wear
But he's bought a hat like Anthony Eden's
So he don't care”

Ray Davies, She Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina (1969)


Pic shot in the finest gentlemen’s outfitter in London: Hornet’s of Kensington

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Guarding the City



The dragon traditionally guards the boundaries of The City of London – helped in this picture by one of London's 10,000 CCTV cameras.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Remember, Remember…



This Bonfire Night view of London from 400 feet above sea level, looking southeast from Hampstead, sees The City and Canary Wharf obliterated, shrouded in gunpowder smoke and rain. Only the City of Westminster emerges from the mist, Brigadoon-like, thanks to the beacon of the Post Office Tower.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Turned Out Nice Again…



“That’s the news, my liege. And now the weather: hail, Caesar!”
(An old gag from a mock production of Julius Caesar in the old BBC radio show Round the Horne)

“When two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather.”
Samuel Johnson

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!”
King Lear

Rain all weekend in London. Get yourself down to the best gamp shop in town, James Smith & Son.