Monday, 6 February 2017

January London wanderings

 . . . As ever, based vaguely on a 'map' of one of my book character's movements, workplaces and habitation.
On venturing out in the early morning, I considered the fact that I really should spend part of my sacred day going to see some art. London is stuffed with it and magnificent museums, theatres - all aspects of culture, but somehow I felt over-compelled to continue my mission of stalking Hamish's (present main character) London life-map.


              Perfect day for a tad of psychogeography . . .

After porridge and tea in the excellent Bloomsbury café situated beneath my favourite home-from-home, the St Athan's hotel, I walked swiftly( at first) in the direction of East Finchley before getting distracted by a thousand or so details of my favourite city that I had never before observed. The Keystone Crescent (previously Caledonian Crescent - better name, methinks) for example.


How had I walked about WC1 so many times and overlooked this architectural wonderment: smallest radius of any Crescent in Europe, and unique in having a matching inner and outer circle.
First on my desired locations for Hamish's life was a small, black window-framed book shop and turning into Leigh Street I found it - perfect in every way, from to its teetering piles of books to shadowy small courtyard; perfect, except it's already been used (I discovered later after checking) in a   BBC (dark) comedy series. Damn. But I suppose there's no rule to say I can't mentally move into the shop too . . .

Continued walking to King's Cross and turned into a road that used to house a decrepit building/photographic studio where I often worked as a stylist back in the early 90s, running up and down the metal staircase with props and parking tickets. It had long gone, replaced by a boring dull-bricked hotel called sleep-u-like or some such thing; even worse, the beautiful little Italian deli at the end of the road was sadly empty, possibly waiting a wrecking-ball (sob). The downside of these nostalgic wanderings - missing buildings of my earlier London years, now gaps in the jaws of the city or morphed into uniform sleek edifices of marble and glass.

Continuing up the Caledonian Road, I caught a bus as my feet were complaining and arrived at Archway where I caught another bus to East Finchley, sitting at the top/front enjoying the pigeons'-eye view of scraggy shops, mustard-bricked terraces and hurrying commuters.
A florist shop figures highly in Hamish's life - a series of floral apologies and love messages, and I'd found the ideal establishment: 'Josephine's', established well before the decade the book is set in.

I skulked about a bit and spoke to one of the florists but unfortunately the manager wasn't there; not that I needed to speak to them but I just like to find out a bit of history surrounding my potential locations.
Onto Muswell Hill via Fortis Green road where I chose a house on Western Road that would fit the style I had imagined for my character's flat.



A couple of unchanged shop interiors 

Muswell Hill . . . place of my childhood up until thirteen or so; everything is still so familiar, and many places unchanged - the old pet shop, Martyn's, the marvellous old coffee/tea/dry goods shop with its coffee roasting machine still in the window, and the parade of shops on Duke's Avenue where I wish to place 'Lily's' taxidermy establishment. Old chemist chosen, I checked out a few charity shops, caught the 134 back to Russell Square and meandered into the sub-real district of Bond Street with its shop displays of obscenely-expensive shoes and handbags fabricated to carry life's essentials of a single lipstick and a gold American Express card.

 smaller than a hedgehog 

Mm, comfy

A . . . beige shoe with special powers?

After walking around snarling quietly at such excess, I went into Liberty's, mainly to look at their staircases' carved animal newel posts and the changing rooms on the women' clothing floors.
Hamish experiences a very spontaneous 'act' with his new lady-friend in one of these cubicles which I had imagined as large, spacious and full of William Morris wallpaper; in fact they were smallish, mirror-clad and possibly installed in the late 70s?
A beautiful man with skin like the most perfect cup of coffee (drink, not cup) and an exotic silver necklace informed me that he didn't know the date of the changing rooms and I would have to ask the store designers. There didn't seem to be any about so I had another gawp at shoes that cost 800 pounds plus, and went back outside in search of TEA in an old Italian, formica café, the likes of which of course sadly don't exist now, bulldozed into the past by Starbucks, Neros, et al.

I liked this very much but preferred the idea of paying the electricity bill

The weather had now decided to revert to standard January precipitation so I got on a bus and enjoyed looking out at the blurry traffic lights, headlights, window display lights, bus lights, etc, until I got to Russell square and ran back to the hotel with saturated feet and perused the internet for theatres/cinemas within slopping distance.
Three hours or so later I emerged from Tottenham Court Road Odeon wondering why I had spend 14 quid on seeing LaLa Land - sugar-sweet, silly, zilch story, and the dancing . . . well, maybe better to watch a re-run of Mr Kelly splashing about in the studio rain.

Man in bus shelter who had perhaps just heard on his smartphone who had made it to the Whitehouse

Bus window condensation-art

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