Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Coach & Horses, Soho

The Coach & Horses in Soho. It’s former Landlord was Norman Balon who prided himself on being “London’s rudest landlord”. So proud of the fact that he had it printed on the pub matchboxes. He also published his memoirs entitled “You’re barred, you bastard – The memoirs of a Soho publican”

I once spent a lazy afternoon in the Coach and Horses enjoying a cheese sandwich, a cold Guinness and a fresh, crisp copy of the Guardian. I looked up from my newspaper and Norman nodded at me. No words, just a nod of acknowledgment. It was like being accepted into a secret sect. Now he is no longer the landlord a bit of me wishes he had shouted “your barred, you bastard” and included me in his memoirs.

This interior was recreated on stage for Keith Waterhouse’s “Jeffery Bernard is unwell”. The play’s title refers to Jeffery Bernard’s habit of missing deadlines for his “Low Life” column in The Spectator. The single line apology “Jeffery Bernard is unwell” was printed when he was too drunk to write.

It is also the venue for a fortnightly Private Eye lunch at which the great and the good are wined and dined and share a few secrets.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Queens Diamond Jubilee

The flags and bunting are out in force but what better way to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee than with this fantastic picture by Chris Levine. A picture of her Majesty, with eyes closed, would have been thought treasonable a few years back but this image shows how the monarchy have moved (ever so slightly) with the times.

During a series of 3-D photo scans, each one lasting eight seconds, the Queen decided to rest her eyes. Chris Levine took the picture and the rest is history.  It is currently on display at the Saatchi gallery as part of the excellent ‘Out of Focus’ exhibition. 

Monmouth Street

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Broadcasting House

Broadcasting House is like a stone, Art Deco liner, sailing along Portland Place. It has been the home of the BBC for eighty years and includes the BBC Radio Theatre along with most of the networks national radio stations. This fantastic building also features an Eric Gill sculpture over the main entrance. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Staple Inn, High Holborn

The earliest reference to Staple Inn dates back to the Normans when in 1292 the site was known as le Stapled Halle. ‘Staple’ is derived from a tax on wool that was introduced in 1275.

In 1415 Staple Inn was the home to a group of lawyers known as the Grand Company and Fellows of Staple Inn and by 1586 a medieval school or college providing training in the legal profession.  The building has survived the Great Fire of 1666 and the blitz of WW2. The current Staple Inn has been used by the Institute of Actuaries since 1887 and is considered the world wide ‘home’ of this industry. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Anish Kapoor's Orbit tower

The ArcelorMittal Orbit is Britain’s largest public sculpture at 115 metre (377ft) and towers over the Olympic Park. Designed by Anish Kapoor it was built by just three men, one in a crane with the other two bolting the pieces together. The Orbit opens to Olympic ticket holders from 27 July and to the general public after the games. 

"It Will Be a Landmark That Pushes London": Anish Kapoor Collaborator Cecil Balmond on London's New Icon

Saturday, 12 May 2012

London Olympics

Typhoon fighter jets overhead, the Navy’s largest ship HMS Ocean moored at Greenwich and ground to air missiles on Blackheath. It can only be the London Olympics. I’m sure these things are designed to deter attackers and maybe reassure Londoners but the sight of rocket launchers twitching into action, searching for a potential foe is slightly unnerving. The good news is that if the Rapier missiles miss there intended target they are programmed to explode in the air. That's the plan, let the games begin.


2012 Olympics: Kabul. Baghdad. London. Three to avoid this summer - The Guardian 3 May 2012

Are Olympic missiles just for show? - BBC 10 July 2012

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Southbank Mosaic

I found this mosaic in Lower Marsh, Waterloo. It’s of Dave Squires “a much loved street sweeper”. What a nice idea.

It has been created by Southbank Mosaics, a ‘not for profit’ studio promoting equal opportunities, cross-cultural and inter-generational mosaic work. Their aim is to draw attention to the areas historic roots from Shakespeare and Dickens to Bob Marley and Dave Squires. More power to their elbow.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Kings Cross Station

The brilliant new concourse at Kings Cross Station.  Designed by John McAslan and Partners the steel and glass roof has a span of 52 metres and is sited between King’s Cross and St Pancras Stations. It forms a £500 million super hub in time for the Olympics. (‘In time for the Olympics’ is the drum that London marches to right now). Sensibly it is a departures only space with arrivals exiting through the dingy 1970’s concourse, which is the original front door to the station.

The concourse also includes ‘Platform 9 3/4’ made famous by the Harry Potter films. It’s amazing how many adults queue to have their picture taken while pushing a half-submerged luggage trolley into a brick wall.

King’s Cross is a triumphant blend of old and new - Simon Jenkins, Evening Standard, 25 May 2012

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

St James Infirmary Blues

This blog has tried to feature London songs before. It’s very difficult to find a song that doesn’t fall into the Cockney Pearly King and Queen trap, all having a “right old knees up down the Old Kent Road”.  Well I have finally found one.  Jack White and Jools Holland singing the “St James Infirmary Blues”.  The song is based on an 18th century traditional folk song where the narrator visits his dead sweet heart on a cold, white mortuary slab. Not as evocative as Jay-Z's, "Empire State of Mind" I agree (the definitive song about a city) but if it's good enough for Jack White it's good enough for me.