London: More To Discover?


I’ve always joked that London is an onion; break through one layer and there’s another beneath, and another. It’s provided a rich seam for me with the Bryant & May books, but also with other volumes from ‘Soho Black’ to ‘Disturbia’. One of the problems you face when researching London is that books are not […]

How To Avoid Becoming Opinionated


                              There was a time when I used to go to dinners and listen to elderly writers holding court. Now, there’s a time for respecting lifetimes of experience and wisdom, but these events weren’t like that. They mostly consisted of listening […]

The Bill & Ben Bridge: Good Idea Or Load Of Squabalob?

Garden bridge, architecture feature

I met production designer Anton Furst on the set of Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’. He explained to me his vision for Gotham City. It would have been built upon so many times that the oldest, most classical parts would be in darkness, while the private penthouses would reach the sun at the top. The more he […]

London Corners: Hackney Empire


Empires rise and fall, none mores than the music hall empires of old. The Hackney Empire was raised at the very start of the 20th century, a techno-marvel with central heating and electric lights. Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Marie Lloyd (a local girl) all appeared there, followed by Louis Armstrong, Tony Hancock, and Liberace. […]

The Woad To London


The old name for King’s Cross, where I live, is Battle Bridge, and this weekend it will be subjected to Roman invasion all over again to celebrate the legend of Boadicea (I’m sticking to the old spelling – it changes every decade). She supposedly fought her last battle with the Romans there. Typically, she was […]

Five Great London Blogs

Flack graffiti

I don’t know how Diamond Geezer does it, but somehow he manages to blog a substantial article every day at a pace which would make most press journalists blanche, and he covers an extraordinary range of London subjects, all explored with his mix of curiosity, annoyance and charm. One of the funniest pieces he’s written […]

Re:View – ‘Penny Dreadful’


The title is everything; it gives this series license to be trashy, and God knows all the ingredients are in place. Sky’s cod-Victorian potboiler has immense cheek, a filthy mouth, cauliflower-ear dialogue, endless bouts of de rigeur boring sex, lashings of gore and the odd sublime moment. But we’ll get to that. The idea of […]

London Corners: Underground Waters


It sometimes seems like Londoners spend half their lives trying to keep water out of their houses. In Scott Wood’s ‘London Urban Legends’ there’s mention of the River Tyburn turning up in Gray’s Antique Market, near South Molton Lane in central London. The basement of the market was originally under six feet of water, the […]

London Corners: Simpson’s, Kettner’s & Rules


There is only one Simpson’s and it’s not yellow. There used to be two – the other, Simpson’s of Piccadilly was a gents’ outfitters (as they used to be called). It’s the building with invisible glass that became the Waterstones flagship store. Simpson’s-In-The-Strand belongs to a different world, and is at the Aldwych end of […]

Goodbye Mario, And Thanks For All The Tea


The Star Cafe, Soho, has always been in my life. I went there for a calming cuppa and fry-up before my first job interview, and have taken friends there over the years to do the same thing for them. Mario Forte, rarely found without a cigar in his mouth, worked there all his life too, […]