A Tale Of Two Sohos


A crocodile of tiny tots heads past brothels and strip-clubs to their school playground. Nobody bats an eye. Welcome to Old Soho. London doesn’t have an old quarter, but it once did – Soho was named after a hunting call, and there are plenty of signs around that it was once the home of hunters […]

London Corners: Rahere’s Sandals


Hospital wards often seem to have obscure names. St Bartholomew’s  is London’s oldest hospital, and still has a Rahere Ward – but who was Rahere? Behind Smithfield is the 12th century church of St Bart’s, and in the chapel is the tomb of Rahere, a tonsured monk who entertained King Henry I as a jester. […]

Saying ‘Non’ To Skyscrapers

Computer generated image of the Triangle tower in Paris

‘You live here?’ said the hot dog seller incredulously. ‘I thought it was only office workers and students.’ This was the response I got from the chap who was preparing my mid-morning coffee at a stall in King’s Cross. ‘Yes,’ I told him, ‘go one street back from the station and you’ll find a kind […]

More London Books


  I said I wouldn’t cover any more London books because their publication was becoming too frequent, but these three really deserve a mention. First up, Richard Slater’s ‘London People’ is really lovely. He spent five years photographing different ceremonies, celebrations and rituals around London, from an Iranian festival to a druid equinox parade on […]

Friday Puzzle: Where Is This?


Clues: There never seems to be anyone there. You can walk in off the street without paying anything and wander about. It’s not a museum, and nobody lives there. It’s very central, but in a really horrible area close to the Houses of Parliament. Yes, those are Hogarth prints on the walls. And part of […]

One Night In London, Three Choices


The things I do for you lot. London has three new music-based shows to choose from, all of which I’ve now seen. So which would you see if you had just one night in town? Answer at the end. Sunny Afternoon First up is the most critically acclaimed of the three, the story of the […]

An Autumn Abundance


  After the relative doldrums of summer, London always goes a bit barmy in autumn. Not that we’ve had such a season so far this year, with temperatures in Central London hitting summer peaks as late as November. But in the evenings mists are now rolling in from the river, and there’s a hint of […]

Central London’s Last Quiet Neighbourhood


  After my Halloween reading at the National Liberal Club, we took a stroll in the only remaining  part of Central London that’s truly under-visited. Mist had rolled in from the river and it was drizzling softly, creating aureoles of light around the street lamps. There were no cars and hardly any people, and it […]

Why Is London So Scruffy?


When the spectacular Victorian Gothic edifice of the St Pancras Grand Hotel decided to open a bar called the Gilbert Scott, its restored interior exceeded all expectations. From the vast painted ceiling hang immense golden bells, and the space is outrageously opulent, although it lacks the personality of the great hotel bars and is consequently […]

Is Holborn Becoming The New Shoreditch?

Untitled courtyard

My mother and father both worked in High Holborn, the odd no-man’s-land between New Oxford Street and Gray’s Inn Road (roughly speaking; the boundaries were changed in 1994). It was filled with sturdy, wealthy insurance offices, law firms, accountancy, marine and travel companies, and the head offices of the Empire’s manufacturing outlets. It’s a pretty […]