London

This Time The Role Of Author Is Played By Me

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When I wrote my memoir ‘Paperboy’ I wasn’t asked to read the book for the audiobook edition. Instead, a charming actor was employed to be me. One day he rang me at home to get an idea of my voice, but although he had a very nice Received Pronunciation tone he didn’t sound at all […]

Unwanted, Unloved & Impractical: Why The Garden Bridge Was Doomed

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It seemed a fairly uncontroversial project; a new pedestrian bridge across the Thames, heavily planted with trees and flowerbeds, but it came to symbolise the unequal spending in London compared to the rest of the country. Former mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to imitate the High Line in New York looked, like many of his ideas, […]

Too Early, Hywel…

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Once Hywel Bennett was in cinemas everywhere, nearly always playing offbeat characters, from the McCartney-scored ‘The Family Way’, in which he is unable to consummate his marriage to Hayley Mills, to the Boultings’ ‘Twisted Nerve’, in which he portrayed Martin, a psychopath menacing er, Hayley Mills again. He also turned up in the superb TV […]

Two Worlds, One City

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As I’m about to start a new Bryant & May novel (for 2019!) I decided I needed to take an unjaded look at the city. The process is going to take a while, because I want to go beyond the obvious sights and sounds I’m used to. Behind the complaints about the properties flogged off […]

If you build flats next to a music venue, it’s not the flats that get closed down

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It’s traditional to for us all to bemoan the loss of Soho – indeed, that’s almost a part of its character (I last reported on its rebuilding here.) Incredibly, things have got worse. Last night I was shocked to see what has been allowed to happen to the old London quarter, my stamping ground for […]

Where In London Can You Buy…?

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…a stuffed owl?  in ‘Get Stuffed’ on Essex Road, Islington. …unlimited lattes, fresh fruits, yoghurt, croissants, a pain au raisin and a pan au chocolate, in smart surroundings, all for a fiver? In ‘The Hub’, King’s Cross. …a ship’s bell and an anchor? In Arthur Beale’s, of course. …cult novels in a floating bookshop while […]

London’s Last Lamplighter

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The collecting of London books is an art in itself. On one side you have densely factual volumes such as Richardson’s ‘London & Its People’, photographic essays like Grant’s ‘Village London’ and Christopher Booker’s devastating ‘Goodbye London’, which catalogues the treachery of developers in the seventies. There are wonderfully mad endeavours like Hessenberg’s attempt to […]

London Locations: Thamesmead Reinvented

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This is an update on an article I ran seven years ago (I’m on holiday but yes, still providing content. A duty, I feel). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s it was all but impossible to film in London because of the ludicrous bureaucracy surrounding the buildings. Now, it’s becoming difficult again because of a different […]

Revisiting Mr Grimaldi

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Here’s the respected Mr Grimaldi. And here’s the same chap as most people saw him. I wrote about him before (seven years ago) because he’s a local resident in my neighbourhood – or rather was. But he’s still around. ‘Bryant & May: The Bleeding Heart’ opens with a young man and his girlfriend in a tiny […]

Keeping Cities Mysterious

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If you read much fiction about London (or any other old city that’s rapidly modernising), one term you keep coming back to is ‘mystery’. Almost every London-set thriller, fantasy, SF novel, crime novel or drama incorporates and/or augments this sense of otherness, and where it no longer exists it has to be invented. From ‘Harry […]