Days & Nights In London


The jump back into London’s life after summer is akin to slamming from one dimension to another. October is crammed with events, some free, some cheap, many outrageously expensive. We’ve had Super Thursday, the day when more books are published than on any other, and the knock-on effect is hundreds of literary events in every corner of the city. It’s a new season too for theatre, opera, dance and exhibitions. Football is back. Serious films appear in time to qualify for the awards season. This year the leaves are all still on the trees and the days are clear and (abnormally) warm, plus a weak pound means more visitors.

I have guests staying for a couple of weeks, and it’s always fascinating to see the city through their eyes and watch what they will choose to do. I’m taking them to the Dickens Museum tour by candlelight tonight. For the first time I can remember, one exhibition is completely sold out for the entire length of its run – the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A is less about art than the invention of her persona, but it chimes with an astonishing rise in interest in her.

Other events are thankfully less popular. My guests had been on a tour of Europe, marred by small villages of interest being overcrowded with tourist buses, and the fact that many of the rivers are so low no cruises can currently attempt them. The problem I have is trying not to overwhelm them with choices. The good things is that none of them wants to do touristy stuff, which makes finding days out easier.

I now actively avoid going anywhere near Camden Town, a hyperactive hellhole aimed at making teenage girls buy crap, but my default suggestion; ‘Take a walk along the South Bank’ is wearing thin, as is ‘Go for a Ruby down Brick Lane’. Shoreditch at night is for the brave. Send them to Epping Forest and you might never see them again. Peckham – anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Today I’m looking for less usual days/ nights out in London – hit me with your best shot and I’ll suggest them to my guests.

12 comments on “Days & Nights In London”

  1. Martin Tolley says:

    If you’re doing the Dickens Museum you’re more than half-way there – fab place and some very lovely and interesting guides/guards who seem to love being there too.
    If you’re historically driven… the BL Saxon exhibition is an absolute gem. Mrs T had to be dragged out of there.
    And… the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities… I’m sure Arthur B has fond memories of here.

  2. Trace Turner says:

    A few of the things that I enjoyed on my last trip there – Strawberry Hill, Chelsea Physic Garden, a day trip to Rye, the Sir John Soane Museum, and a trip to Greenwich on the Thames Clipper. I meant to get to Kew but ran out of time.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    The Saxon exhibit sounds great and I the Sir John Soane is not to be missed (as we did!) and down to Greenwich by any means. We took a small and cheaper tour and laughed the whole way at the commentators (“Who aren’t paid to do this, you know,we just run the boat.”) The comments are trite if you’ve heard them before but fun if you haven’t and I’ll never forget the women building much of the bridge. (You find out which one!) And Kew Garden, of course. The time of year shouldn’t matter. Go and see the huge totem pole there. A day trip to Rye for books and that you can do the Mapp and Lucia if so inclined. What is on display at the Wellcome Institute?
    [We’ve been having the same kind of October with sunshine and glowing leaves. It started to rain yesterday so I suppose it will continue till March now. One can only hope.)

  4. SimonB says:

    We’ve not done some of those yet, and I’m bringing MrsB down for a day n the big city next Tuesday so thanks for the ideas!

  5. Trace Turner says:

    The last time I went to Hampton Court was a few years ago on a crisp and sunny November day. I was with someone who hadn’t been before and I was expecting mobs of people but we had the whole place practically to ourselves. It was one of the highlights of the whole trip.

  6. Ian Luck says:

    When we were kids, my brother and I always wanted to go on a guided tour of London, but mum always refused. We suspect that Dad, who knew London like the back of his hand, would have done an ‘Arthur Bryant’, and corrected the guide. A lot.

  7. Spike Garrett says:

    Poke around Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road. For jazz enthusiasts, Wednesday lunchtime at the Spice of Life, Cambridge Circus – top musicians, great atmosphere and still a bargain. If you’re around for Pancake Day there’s great fun to be had at the Guildhall (and great pancakes) plus a good, compact art gallery AND Roman ruins. Enjoy.

  8. Jan says:

    Although its well away from the centre of town I’d recommend walking from Old Church lane Kingsbury NW9 from the Old St Andrews church which contains Roman stones and features.

    In the 12C this church became the property of The Knights Hospitallars the “Fryeres “- the brothers – whose name became corrupted into Fryents Way now the name of a very large open space – country park about 3/4 mile NE of the old church. No longer a working church this church lies close behind a newer church transported from Wells Street Marylebone to Kingsburyn in 1934. Unbelievably the newer St Andrews was demolished and rebuilt stone by stone in this new location. In what is now largely a middle class Asian Hindu suburb!

    To return to the old church there are stories /connections here with the legend of Dick Turpin. Rumours of a tunnel (probably memory of a ley) leading toward what Is now the Welsh Harp previously the confluence of two rivers – a sacred site.

    Fryents way itself contains traces of an ancient hedge ( one end of which is situated near Shakespeare Drive Kingsbury this hedge ran beside a now largely lost ancient route that led from Westminster out to Hertfordshire possibly to St Albans it maybe an old Pilgrims way. A road name in the area interestingly being Pilgrims Way the actual hedge was not rediscovered until the late 1990s the road name is from 1920s or earlier! Many years ago i lived and worked around here and always loved the place. Knew it very well.

    Just off the Fryent Way at Salmon street ‘s junction with Slough Lane lies an “erratic” stone which I firmly believe is an old standing /marker stone (erratic stone my arse)

    If you trace the hedge route up into Kingsbury as you plod towards Kingsbury tube station toward the end of your day you will pass a relatively new large development of flats named Ethelred court. This development bears a sign saying this development “Is built on the site of the moot of the hundred of Gore”

    Interestingly the Moot site would have existed well into the Saxon era – Ethelreds time. The name of the development has being well chosen. These flats lie on the site of the old Met Pol female Cadet residences.

    Brent is a relatively poor London borough. Now home to people from many races and backgrounds but the history there is phenomenal and pretty much ignored. So Worth a visit.

  9. Jan says:

    That opened but not closed bracket is annoying me.

    The female cadets didn’t attend the Moot (often)

    Honestly a long but worthwhile walk.

  10. Ian Luck says:

    If somebody mentions ‘Brent’, I immediately think of Patrick Barlow’s brilliant ‘National Theatre Of Brent’. A two-man company, I first heard them in the mid 2000’s on BBC Radio 4, performing a production called ‘The Arts And How They Was Done’. Their titles are often grammatically wrong; possibly a nod to Ernie Wise, and ‘The plays wot he wrote.’

  11. Jan says:

    My comments are nearly always grammatically wrong and I can’t really find a way to pretend its my nod to Ernies masterworks.!

    Back in the 1970s and 80s when I worked around Brent first down in the Kilburn , Willesden Green and Harlesden areas and later in Wembley it really was riding high in the London’s barmy borough’s league. Always overshadowed by Islington which was even crazier but still in the well weird category. Saying that I worked with some great individuals who worked for the Peoples Republic of Brent and with some tenants who were far more responsible, fair and compassionate than their crazy local authority really deserved. Plus some who were ideally suited to the local lunacy of course.

  12. snowy says:

    I’ll whisper this, since It’ll not interest many.

    [There are some oral history recordings of cadet life at Kingsbury knocking about.]

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