Most views that tourists assume to be very English have, in fact, been massively tampered with. Bankside had a power station plonked onto it, but a couple of 450 year-old houses survived by themselves by Cardinal Cap Alley. There’s a rather good book on the subject called ‘The House by the Thames, and the [...]
I’m in Berlin today – I only ever seem to be in Berlin in winter, and yes, it’s minus something and trying to snow, which will devolve to a point where I end up standing in Alexanderplatz in horizontal icy rain without adequate clothing, wondering whether I still have ears.
What to do, shall I visit [...]
Some time back I posted about trying to find the author of a book I owned as a teenager.
The author’s brilliant first novel ‘Here (Away From It All)’ received wide praise from Anthony Burgess, the New York Times and others, but when I tried to track her down the trail ended in Australia. When I [...]
As the city homogenises, we’re gradually losing the mysterious nooks and corners that made each London street so fascinating. Here’s one I lived near for years without ever exploring. I knew that one of the houses was lived in by the seventies singer Lynsey De Paul, but no-one ever seemed to stay very long in [...]
I can’t go on. I thought I could review every London book that came out, just a few words, but even that has defeated me. They’re pouring in, thousands of the buggers. I can only review the ones I buy – I’d be broke if I tried to buy them all, so let me just [...]
If you’re looking for the exact spot where Kenneth More’s vintage car got its wheels stuck in the tram lines, losing him the race (South side of Westminster Bridge, if memory serves) in the film ‘Genevieve’, or need to know where the invisible tennis match took place in ‘Blow Up’ (Charlton Park, the court is [...]
1. The Lions
New York is your go-to city for gargoyles, but if it’s lions your after, there are approximately 10,000 of them dotted around the place. Some have wings, some are on Britannia’s helmet, some are sleeping or sad, some hold shields or wear crowns. Some are roaring, many are on pubs. There’s one on [...]
Rounding off this week’s theme about the foundation of London, here’s the background of Gog and Magog, or sometimes Gogmagog and Corineus.
They’re descended from mythical pagan giants. Their origins lie in mediaeval legends of the early British Kings. The story goes that Diocletian, the Roman Emperor, had thirty-three wicked daughters (I love the sweeping generalisations [...]
Romulus and Remus may have founded Rome but we have those two rather sinister giants, Gog and Magog, to thank for London. This morning there’s a chance to see the wicker men themselves in the annual Lord Mayor’s show, which in two years’ time celebrates its 800th anniversary. But of course a big attraction is [...]
When I was a little boy, my brother and I would spend about a week building our Guy. He was made of old clothes cadged from parents and neighbours, stuffed with old newspaper and a hat, and the standard mask, made of pressed grey cardboard and sold everywhere. We would then trundle him down to [...]