London Fables 2

Some more gems from Brewer’s London Phrase & Fable… When it goes off and people start ‘avin’ a pop at each other, this is known as ‘the devil among the tailors’. The devil was a spinning top knocking down pins called tailors. It came to mean a fracas because in 1830 a benefit performance of […]

London Fables 1

  One of the most useful compendiums for the London writer is ‘Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase & Fable’. Compiled by Russ Willey, it’s not as well known as the other volumes but is well worth diving into, because it’s extremely quirky. Here are my comments on a few entries. ‘I’ll give you my mother […]

London: What Was Not Lost

  When it comes to talking about old London – the London of pre-war, pre-bombing, pre-developer destruction, we tend to lament what was lost because an astonishing number of buildings were condemned as unsafe and levelled, to the convenience of town planners who couldn’t wait to whack up their Corbusier-influenced concrete social experiments. Nobody knew […]

A London Miscellany

Du Caine Court in Balham (a place readers of a certain age may find themselves pronouncing as ‘Bal-Ham’ in an American accent; somebody please explain) has more than a touch of Albert Speer about its design. Monumental, inhuman and very tidy, it supposedly acted as a guide-post for Nazi aircraft during WWII. Senate House in […]

Pride Comes Before A Party

Right, the giant flags are up around the flat (the one over the canal is particularly fetching), the helicopters are circling overhead and it’s threatening to rain – it must be London Pride then! To every one of the one million people expected in the capital today, to everyone who’s flying the flag, even Rymans […]

A London Question

I should know better than to ask you lot a London question because before I know it we’ll be knee-deep in trepanning and taxidermy, but it’s hot, estoy muy cansado and need to push on with all possible despatch, so a short blog today as I’m taking a few days off. Ah, but where to, […]

Weird & Wonderful London 8

Wey-hey, music, laughter, booze and a glitter-covered boy in a big frock – it must be another party in London! Yes, except this one was in 1936, at the Chelsea Arts Club Ball. It could have been taken last weekend. There used to be four pillars on Chelsea Bridge prior to its rebuilding in 1934, […]

Weird & Wonderful London 7

I reshoot these images from bound collections, not from online versions, and in a great many of the old photography books I search there are unimaginably crowded scenes of protest or celebration. Of course we still do that now, but what impresses is the size of the gatherings then. Similar events today garner a fraction […]

A June Miscellany

No single subject today, just a quick round-up of the week. A lot of exhibitions, concerts and plays now roam the world in touring productions, so if you missed the Pink Floyd exhibition in London you can catch it in Madrid. The Kubrick exhibition, Tate Modern’s Franz West show (the Austrian artist destroyed artworks that anyone […]

Weird & Wonderful London 6

  This grim-looking shot is not a corpse but something that used to be such a common sight around Hyde Park that a friend and I once made a short film about them – the escape artists of London would be put in sacks, hung from poles in chains and set fire to, then wriggle […]