Wednesday, 25 November 2015

London on many tangents



            Big, isn't it? London. Coming in from the South-East side, not sure what the cluster of blue and pink 'jewels' are to the bottom of picture, possibly a huge fairground.

Another pilgrimage to my hometown, mainly with the excuse of researching for my series of books set in London (Londonia) in 2090.
I went with a sort of plan: a series of directions to take, pictures to sketch, train journeys to make etc, but as ever in this city, the plan became a long series of walking tangents as I spotted ever new things to investigate and photograph.
I arrived on a freezing evening after a long wait for a bus at Stansted, and was gladdened to see the little rectangular neon sign of the St Athan's hotel in the otherwise dark street of Tavistock Place.
For anyone wishing to stay cheaply in the centre of London, this hotel is brilliant: very cheap, clean with friendly staff and in a great location.



                                                           Gower street, early morning



Centre Point under wraps


The following morning I walked Eastwards towards Shoreditch and to St Leonard's church, the main setting for the first of my books: Hoxton. After many extra wanderings I arrived in time for their service and afterwards a chat with the very cool vicar, during which I gave him a proof copy and talked over possible ideas for a book launch there - whenever I actually finish/publish/ or get published.





I had never noticed the café ('Kick') across the high street before, and, liking its eclectic mix of furniture outside - school desks and formica chairs, decided to have lunch there. Wonderful interior, and delicious food noted and eaten I walked back to the West end via Brick Lane, with many more tangents to note more and eat more (Indian sweets - mmmmm).

 fancy lettuce in a deli

 When I worked just off Brick Lane there were many fabric shops like this

 
rather extraordinary graffiti and murals


So, back to the West end, a bus trip over the river, a tad of opera in Clapham (arrived 3/4 way through a small scale, and very good, version of La Boheme) followed by fish and chips with friend Penny and a last tube journey of the day back to Russell Square.

The next day was cold enough for gloves, and cold enough to require fast walking, which I did, with no plan again. I meandered discovering new details, new streets, new (old) drinking establishments and visiting the churches that sit on islands in The Strand. I can't believe I lived so long in London with our ever stepping into these ship-like edifices surrounded by shoals of cars and buses.


An interior detail of one of the Strand Churches; all back, white gold, and oddly, very well heated



       Part of the incredible entrance to Lloyds Bank on The Strand



A drinking house (Seven Stars) opposite the law courts. I really wanted to go in but it was only 8.30 in the morning. Probably the best name I've ever seen above a pub door.




                                         I liked their window display, particularly this.


Big cities are all about big stuff: sites, shows, flash shops, over-visited monuments . . . but it's the small details I often find more fascinating; things that tell a quieter and overlooked narrative of the everyday city.


      The first drinking fountain in Metropolitan London, complete with its own cups on chains not quite like the numerous coffee boutiques a few feet away.



two of several metal objects sunk, or possibly adhered to the pavement near the Brunswick center.


                                                     marble sign near Russell Square


And one day I'll do a walking tour/photographic marathon of all the London Blue plaques.


thought this one was a bit . . . desperate. Surely she had some other claim to fame? And she didn't even live in this house, but one on the site of . . . 


 He lent someone some socks who lived in this house - no, actually he did live there.



And so to Mayfair to gawp in shop windows at diamonds, terrible art, Porches and handbags. If one were to look at a heat photograph of London there would be many hotspots in the roads of this area; most of the restaurants possessing Christmas decor festooned terrace, and, blight of our current times (one of them), the Patio Heater. 
As with most cities (I imagine) the difference in clothes, cars, people, shops, etc within just a few miles is incredible - Bethnal green in the morning, Mayfair in the afternoon; my brain couldn't cope with the overload of visual information and I had to go in a scarily smart teashop, just to observe . . . 
I couldn't really get the camera out but the sight of five suited-men with slicked back hair and black everything sharing three cake stands worth of delicate sandwiches, cakes and macaroons was a wonder. 
I walked back as dusk was seeping and looked at the theatres; nothing on at the National Opera as it had been taken over by London Fashion awards. People were hoovering the red carpet, assembling more patio heaters and placing palms in pots. The first scantily clad women appeared (glad I had my gloves, scarf, coat, yak fur on, etc. I stood in amazement for a few minutes while the crowd increased and the press vultures landed. "Giz us a wave, Babe," shrieked the woman next to me as a female clad in a small amount of blue chiffon turned to look at us plebs. I left and went to queue up to see real art in the form of Ai Wei Wei at the Academy. Sixteen quid to get in but worth every farthing.


            This was a lot of money - at least they could have taken a bit more time over the lines



man eating oysters between TWO patio heaters - air temperature in rest of street about three degrees.
                             


          You need one of these in Mayfair - the hills/snow/tractor tracks and mud are appalling


                                    Patio heaters and hoovering at the fashion awards


Beautiful and meaningful art at the Academy

After a kebab I walked around a lot looking at the night time city before going to see 'The Lady in the Van' along with two other people in a cinema on Leicester Square. Everyone else must have been at the fashion awards or possibly christmas shopping - Argg, every year it gets worse. The very worst of all was the interior of a three floor shop, which I think used to be the Trocadero, devoted to M&Ms.
Three floors . . . devoted to small violently-coloured sweets that all taste the same, along with cushions, clothes, china, pens, towels . . . so more walking, a mug of hot milk in a coffee shop: "Really, Madame, just . . . hot milk . . . " and back to the hotel via some back streets thinking about the film and remembering how at the end Mr Bennet had put a blue plaque up on his house to commemorate the van. Must see it next time. 


                                                               Three floors of festive landfill

                                             
  some very average women shaped mannikins with heads obviously inspired by those tiny mushrooms you get in Chinese restaurant cooking


Leicester Square with wheel and cleaning lorry




Late night London

















 

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