London

Final Thoughts On The EU Referendum

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It’s not a legally binding decision but a matter of public debate. MPs can choose not to act. I might consider the Leave option more seriously if it didn’t feel as if a row about EU tariffs got hijacked by a coterie of careerists. I’m more swayed by direct evidence of damage caused by the […]

A Tale Of Two Witches

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Once upon a time, North London’s Camden Town did not exist. There was Kentish Town (Kent-As-Town) above it and the city below, and the connecting coach corridor became a hamlet, then a village. While it was still a village it supposedly became the home of two witches, the Mother Red Cap and the Mother Black […]

The New Tate Has One Great Exhibit

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You realise just how many members the Tate has when most of them are standing in front of you in a queue. Last night I went along to the Southbank’s newest building, the Switch House, for a nose around. The Tate really has a thing for bricks; millions of them form the great twisted flat […]

From Cemetery To Suicide Spot

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London’s past is easily wiped away these days, but sometimes its more peculiar aspects prove hard to shake off. In the last few years Number 1 Poultry in Cheapside has gained an unfortunate reputation as a jumping-off spot for London’s depressed bankers, several of whom (six so far) have taken a flying leap from the […]

Where Shall We Go This Afternoon?

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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

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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?

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‘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?

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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

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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

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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 […]