London

I Live In Trafalgar Square

I was looking through books on the English music hall when I stumbled across this once-popular song. It was recorded numerous times and proved a great hit on the stage. I’m interested in the peculiar cadences that instantly define this song as ‘music hall’ – it could hardly be anything else with those chords. Of […]

Why Is London So Confusing?

If the Tokyo experience is lost in translation, then London’s is lost in confusion. Nothing functions as it should or is where you think it is. Let’s start with the Thames, which meanders so much that in places the North side is further South than the South side. Then there are the hospitals, which aren’t […]

Why The Sixties Didn’t Really Swing

Marianne Faithful has done the maths and reckons that ‘Swinging London’ consisted of no more than 300 people in the know. In the same way that British punk mainly existed around a single shop on the King’s Road and later in a handful of West End streets, London’s swingers were a privileged group of bright […]

London’s Other Entertainments

While I was convalescing and unable to fly I spent a little time unearthing secret or lesser-known places tucked away across the city. Upstairs in London pubs, in basements and tunnels, odd societies are surviving, from a secret sketch club under a station to a flaneurs’ lecture class above a pub. I’ve spoken of the […]

Passing Through The Neighbourhood

The above shot of the old King’s Cross station in London is so neat and tidy that it looks like a model. Recently I found another photograph of King’s Cross, where I live. In the forecourt of the station there was once a big dipper – a full, permanent funfair. But the area was not […]

As I Was Saying…

The site is back up! This is entirely down to the uniquely talented creative director Simon Moore, who created the site in its first, most elegant incarnation (I’ve found the pictures we used for that one and I’ll post them next week). Next we’ll pick a new look for the site and get a few […]

What’s The Time, London?

For a city that’s psychologically dominated by a very big grandfather clock* it’s appropriate that clocks and time feature so heavily in the city’s past and present. After all, London is the home of time itself, with the Greenwich Observatory setting Greenwich Mean Time. But there are many other London clocks of note. Big Ben […]

A Week In Esoteric London

Behind the hollowing-out of London, the glass-and-steel boxes of the Square Mile and the architectural uproar of the new railway line Crossrail which has resulted in entire city blocks vanishing overnight, quirky London clings on by its fingertips, surviving in the halls and pubs that haven’t been turned into luxury loft living. This week I […]

Bits Of London That Moved: Temple Bar

  Quite a few bits of London aren’t how they once looked and are in the wrong place. We do it to confuse visitors. One that I’m glad is back is Temple Bar. It was one of the original ceremonial gateways to the City of London, used for grand parades into the city; there had […]

Aspects Of London: The Centre Of Magic

It wasn’t until I started researching magic (with or without the ‘k’) in London for ‘Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour’ (2019) that I realised how central to the world of magic is London. The main problem is that real tangible evidence about magic is highly elusive and often unconvincing – but there’s no denying […]