London

Why Oxford Street Is Doomed

Before Covid, the UK had 30% more shops than it needed. London’s Oxford Street is, I suppose, still one of the world’s most famous shopping streets. It was once filled with luxurious department stores housed in grand buildings visited by all, but economic downturns, the end of emporia like Bourne & Hollingsworth and Marshall & […]

Abney Park Cemetery

Those with long memories may recognise the above photograph, as the angel featured is on the cover of ‘Darkest Day’. My last post mentioned this non-conformist cemetery in Stoke Newington’s main shopping area. At its centre is Europe’s long-standing non-denominational chapel, currently derelict. It sets the tone for the mossy, damp, gloomy yet distinctly urban […]

‘It’s A Sin’: Dying Of Loneliness

Russell Davies’ ‘It’s A Sin’, his five-part drama about AIDS in 80s Britain, will probably become the definitive look at the period. It’s a big hit and I can see why. Davies is brilliant at connecting with the young and keeping things warmly human. However, it’s not ‘Angels in America’. It’s issue-led soap opera rather […]

Where Not To Live In London

It’s happening everywhere, of course; the scent of money attracts rushed construction that destroys neighbourhoods. But trust London to make it more egregious than in, say, New York. A few weeks ago I went for a walk through an area I’ve not visited for a while. Nine Elms is not a neighbourhood. It lies between […]

Today’s Nature Walk: Through Leicester Square

If you’re going to spend a lot of time at home, you’d better learn to love being there. A friend lives in a flat so small that she puts her laptop on her draining board. Can we do this for over a year without going crazy? Not many of us live in the centre of […]

London Without Its Londoners (Updated)

  So, after trawling through comments on this site going back some twelve years and stumbled across Snowy’s description of a statue of a man in a lead tricorn hat who functioned as a rain gutter on the roof of a London house. He  thought it was boring and apologised for mentioning it. If Snowy […]

What’s Your Background?

  [I’ve rewritten one of my favourite pieces on London, of which you’ll notice there are a great many on this little site. I thought it was worth revisiting. Coming later this week, a Christmas quiz. I love to watch old London-set films as much for what’s going on in the background as the story, […]

Fowler’s Miscellany III

Now, Where Did I Put That Masterpiece? Cambridge University Library has announced that two notebooks filled by Charles Darwin have been missing for 20 years. One of them contains the 19th Century scientist’s famous Tree of Life sketch, exploring the evolutionary relationship between species. They were ‘miscatalogued’ but academics reckoned they sort of knew where they were. […]

The Battle For London’s Character

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London’s East End has been in existence in some form or other since the 1570s and has been going like the clappers ever since. Here were forged the bells of St Pauls’, Bow Bells, the great Big Ben bell itself, America’s Liberty Bell and many grand bells supplied throughout European […]

Book Mooching In London

It’s my all-time favourite pastime, ingrained in me since I was about 5 years old. Book mooching involves wandering the London streets looking for secondhand bookshops, chatting to the people who sell books and spending too much money on them. My childhood bedroom was filled with books salvaged from dustbins and borrowed from friends, books […]