Where Shall We Go This Afternoon?


A million families say it in a Saturday. But what turns an area into a destination? Paddington Basin was developed in a public-private partnership. The area was run down, light industrial, largely inaccessible land before the works started. The ground was contaminated with industrial waste, the waterways clogged and polluted, and a network of overhead […]

Jolly Useful London Things


I was fooling around with a new Bryant & May short story earlier today, and stumbled across some examples of Things London Used To Do Jolly Well But Stopped Doing. One of them, the Porter’s Rest on Piccadilly, was reinstated at a ceremony recently. Another was the Daily Telegraph information service. Started in 1948, it undertook […]

Can London Still Take It?


‘London Can Take It’ was a short propaganda film from 1940 showing the effect of the Blitz on its buildings and people. But since then the metropolis faced three building booms that tested the theory. In the 1960s, the 1980s and the present it underwent its periodic growth spurts, driven by developers, and where we […]

Does London Have A Hidden Map?


My friend Jan sends me texts about sacred London, pointing out that London’s ceremonial sites, of which there are a great number, may have formed a vast geometric design covering over 400 square miles. It’s said that all Roman roads aligned to this pattern, but that they were already here anyway. The oldest example of a […]

Automatically London


Tucked down a side-street off High Holborn is a strange little museum – more of a shop, really, and not an especially cheap one, but who could begrudge a place filled with such lunatic joy? Some of you may remember the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, which had its arcade in Covent garden from 1984 to 1999, and […]

They’re Tough To Run But We Need These


Britain may once have been a nation of shopkeepers but it’s not anymore. In a world of corporate brandssuch places are a breath of fresh air; those weird small shops and privately owned places that make a neighbourhood special. London always had thousands, but can they still be found? I speak as someone who remembers […]

Around & Under Piccadilly Circus

Fifties Dilly

The lovely Londonist website is currently running a nice feature on the secrets of Piccadilly Circus here, including the most famous fact – that Eros isn’t called Eros and spent a great deal of its time facing the wrong way – the delicate aluminium statue is usually called the Angel of Christian Charity and was built in […]

New Tickets For ‘First Monday’ Crime In London


There are crime writing events all around the country, but curiously London hasn’t had many. This is something the lovely people at Goldsboro Books have put right with their First Monday events, which are on their way to becoming London’s key crime writing nights. The event back again on May 9th. The May line up features […]

How London’s Architecture Found A Future


After WWII, London took a strange turn. Sick of the past, of rubble and dirt and old, it launched an offensive on the future. Unlike other cities such that had sustained massive bomb damage, such as Gdansk, which restored itself down to the last brick, London opted for as-yet untried modernism. The NHS began, modern […]

Young VS Old: An Argument For Urban Life

london, hyde park, old photo of people feeding pigeons

I once came out of a Sunday morning screening with a friend who pointed to some little people dressed in hipster clothes next to us and asked; ‘Are they dwarves?’ I replied; ‘No, Sarah, they’re children.’ It was such a rarity to see tots in central London that the mistake was understandable. But in the […]