Friday, 20 November 2009

Simon Jenkins

Simon Jenkins - The Guardian 20 November 2009

"I once sat next to a woman at dinner who asked me where I lived. When I replied, London, she frowned and said, how simply ghastly for me. "It's an awful place, absolute hell. I hate going there, the people, the traffic, the tube, the dirt. You must be dying to escape."

"Stung by hearing my beloved home so abused I asked where she lived. Gloucestershire, she replied. "How ghastly," I said, "it is an awful place, absolute hell, I hate going there, the people, the horses, the filthy lanes, the boredom. You must be dying to escape." How extraordinarily rude, she said, and turned away for the rest of the evening.

My London is one that Gloucestershire can never love. I do not spend my time in the city, as most non residents do, enveloped in crowds, shopping and fighting public transport (which is not that bad). I see a city of local streets enlivened by corner shops, bustling pubs, children going to school, parks, squares, museums, theatres. It is a place of calm, if you want it."

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Saturday, 7 November 2009

Charlotte Street

My version of Charlotte Street runs from Fitzroy Square to Rathbone Place. It includes some great Italian cafes, a good selection of restaurants and a few interesting pubs.

Fitzroy Square was created in 1790 by Charles Fitzroy, the 2nd Duke of Grafton and designed by Robert and James Adam. Some of its famous inhabitants have included Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw, in the same house but not at the same time, as well as the Marquis of Salisbury, the former Prime Minister.
Charlotte Street is named after Charlotte of Macklenburg-Strelitz the wife of George III and is dominated by Saatchi & Saatchi and Arup at the northern end of the street. This is in stark contrast to the bohemian reputation the area had when Augustus John, Anthony Powell, Kevin Nixon and Dylan Thomas drank in the Fitzroy Tavern. Another regular was Alistair Crowley who as legend has it created the Kubla Khan 2 cocktail especially for the pub.
Just off Charlotte Street is a fascinating house at No 4 Percy Street. Apart from being interesting architecturally it is also the former home of Alois Hitler, half brother to the man himself. Adolf visited the house in 1912. I like to think that no one was home.
Rathbone Place includes the Wheatsheaf pub and the excellent Lazarides Gallery, which is always worth a visit.
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