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Christopher Fowler
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London
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foofy ( adj) - fussy, fluffy, frilly, upper class or fancy Jacob's Island was the roughest part of London. It's where Dickens chose to send Bill Sykes to his death, a rookery of mud and sewage that was virtually in the river Thames itself. The filthy waters in the creeks that bisected it rose and fell, leaving silt and…
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Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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In their new novel 'The Lonely Hour' Bryant & May spend some time in Hampstead, specifically at this house, which has unusual historical significance, here splendidly rendered by artist Keith Page. 'All your detectives' adventures occur in North London,' said a lady at my launch. 'When are they going to come south of the river?' Actually, they've often been south, from Bermondsey to Brixton and…
14 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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Listening to the nonsense that our city tour guides come out with. one starts to wonder just how much London history is made up. The Victorians certainly didn't help, forever embroidering facts with simpering tales of medieval romance. Is it true that Trafalgar Square's empty fourth plinth was once due to hold an equestrian statue of Charles I that when unveiled became the subject of public…
17 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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The Twinings Tea Museum is actually a shop built on Tom's Coffee House in the Strand, and has been around since 1706. It is the world's oldest tea shop, a narrow canister-lined hall with a tiny 'tea museum' (actually a few cupboards) at the end. The exhibits include a wooden box with the gold-painted initials 'T.I.P' meaning 'To Improve Promptness'. If you wanted your coffee a bit faster, you'd…
21 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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Reading Robert Elms' new book, 'London Made Us', about the radio presenter's London childhood, I laughed at a memory he revived. Heading down through Farringdon toward Blackfriars you used - until very recently - to pass a big shop sign that said 'The Fancy Cheese People'. I always imagined their switchboard answering the phones with that announcement. There's a society dedicated to recording the…
9 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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Everything has moved around or changed out of recognition Built on the site of the old Bermondsey Abbey, the Bermondsey Market was a thing of wonder, sprawling into the backstreets and surrounding warehouses. You have to get up very early on a Friday morning to go there, and even many Londoners have no idea it's there. Situated on the other side of Tower Bridge, it became a shadow of itself in…
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Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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The spot where Farringdon Road (one of those routes to which we often attach a definite article) becomes New Bridge Street is not as interesting to look at these days, but it hides a formidable history. And for me, in an odd way, it is one of London's hearts - one of its key crossing points, from East to West and North to South. The piece of tarmac between where it starts and Blackfriars Bridge…
7 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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I set stories in London because when it comes to fables, legends and historical tidbits the city offers up an infinite and continuous supply. London has always been a working city, its streets, wards, neighbourhoods and boroughs defined by the trades of the people who lived in them - but no more. When everyone seems to be in a branch of media or money shuffling, there's no reflection of their…
15 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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When I was a child my father and I would go to the East End's Petticoat Lane and see the canary sellers, who had dozens of caged birds on display in the street. The last time I went to Bermondsey Market they still had sarsaparilla sellers, and it made me wonder which other jobs have vanished and which survive. The literary detective John Sutherland concludes that Jo the crossing sweeper in 'Bleak…
13 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
London
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The British Film Institute is doing a great job of cleaning up, restoring and reissuing some overlooked British films at the moment, and it's hard to watch them without mixed emotions - this is the world in which I grew up, now unimaginable and alien. In these films London is a character, overbearing and inescapable, but like an endearing old relative. In 'The Party's Over', beatnik Oliver Reed…
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