Weird & Wonderful London 1


While I was researching today I came across some peculiar photographs of Londoners worth sharing. In East London in 1934 there was concern that babies weren’t getting enough fresh air and sunshine, so south-facing ‘baby balconies’ were installed until the London County Council (LCC) stopped them on safety grounds.

The UK has a long, strong link with Spain. At the Festival of Britain in 1951 there was a parade of Nazarenos in a holy week procession – the outfits had been copied by the KKK. There had been a huge amount of support for Spanish rebels during the Spanish Civil War. More than 2,000 Britons went off to help fight Franco’s fascists and money was raised all over the country. Picasso decreed that admission to art galleries should be paid in pairs of boots for the Spanish front.

Vibrators! In 1964 they tested foot massage machines at Victoria Station to ease passengers weary feet, although it might have helped if everyone had thought to remove their shoes. Thank God we have trainers now, which are basically carpet slippers.

If you had to think of the least likely pair ever to be photographed together you’d be hard pushed to come up with two less likely than Rita ‘Hello Cheeky Face’ Webb, whose film persona made Irene Handl look refined, and Sidney Poitier, Hollywood heartthrob, here in Watney Market in the East End filming ‘To Sir With Love’.

Finally here’s one of my own. It’s a sunny day and our building is being renovated. Rather than have the entire warehouse scaffolded we hired European abseilers who carry out all construction work from a network of ropes suspended from the roof. As they zoom past the windows it’s like having the circus come to town.

30 comments on “Weird & Wonderful London 1”

  1. Brooke says:

    That poor child in the top photo.

  2. Shirley Bishop says:

    When you say “support for Spanish rebels,” I assume you mean support for the government against the rebels: Franco and his troops were the rebels against the Spanish Republic.

  3. snowy says:

    ‘Airing’ babies was still a big thing even when I was a child, partly a hangover from a Victorian obsession with fresh air, bolstered by the discovery in the 1920s that sunlight, [Vitamin D], would prevent rickets in children.

    History is full of embarassing and inconvenient stories, there were British subjects enlisting with with the Spanish Foreign Legion to fight with Francoist forces. But these are seldom told, overtaken by later events and largely hushed up.

    [They are not ‘abseilers’, [it’s more complicated], they are Rope Access Technicians using techniques derived from Caving/Potholing. [You won’t have to kick over too many rocks around here to find somebody that can tell you exactly how long it takes and precisely what skills you you need to demonstrate to qualify as one.]

    *Checks Equipment*

    *Departs via convenient window*]

    [smiley thing]

  4. admin says:

    Shirley, I should probably have put Anti-Nationalists to make it clear.
    Snowy, what was the thing about sending children with TB to live on the coast? Wouldn’t all that damp air have been bad for them?

  5. snowy says:

    It’s manifold: take the infected out of/away from general population, into clean air – ie. out of polluted cities and depending on the period either Solar therapy or the magic of ‘Ozone’.

  6. snowy says:

    Oh, I forgot nutrition, children from poor families would get fed a proper diet, possibly for the first time in their lives.

  7. Colin says:

    Off subject Chris, but have you picked up a copy of Strong Words, a new books review magazine? It’s really good and deserves to succeed. Would be interested to know what you think of it.

  8. admin says:

    I’ve seen it about, Colin – I’ll get one.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    I was encouraged to put my baby out in the fresh air for his nap and I still see people doing it although now you want to shelter the child from the sun rather than expose him to it. Everyone takes a sheet and drapes it over the buggy to shelter the child but now they’re warning about heat buildup under that sheet. Apparently babies have actually died from heat prostration while their parent was pushing them down the street.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, and we had two young men swinging through our trees to prune them back. It was fascinating to watch all those ropes and pulleys moving them back and forth, up and down. Well worth the price of admission.

  11. Wayne Mook says:

    The baby window cages appeared on QI, they were used in New York and even by Eleanor Roosevelt.

    The sea side is always bracing, Skegness being a case in point. I now I can see the old poster.

    Talking Pictures TV had some nice London old films, they had one on the London Docks and even the unions. Of it’s time but still fascinating.


  12. snowy says:

    Well I tried to nominate something suitably Fowler-y at DeadGoodBooks:

    “There’s still time to have your say in this year’s Dead Good Reader Awards!

    Don’t miss out on the chance to nominate your favourite books and authors from the past year and be in with a chance of winning £100 worth of thrilling crime books!”



    But my rather Nanny-ish Internet provider, [Mobile for er.. various reasons] blocks the entire website as “Contains Adult Content” Oooh Er Missus!

    Others may fare better, [fiddling about with browser ‘settings’ to get a second, third, fourth… vote is very, very naughty and anybody even thinking about trying it should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.]

  13. Brooke says:

    Snowy… which category?

  14. snowy says:

    Can’t say, not able to get on the site at all. Was going to pick up a bit of Public Wifi on a tablet tomorrow and do it then.

    Perhaps if we stand in front of a mirror and chant somebodies name thrice, they might put aside their usual modest reserve and do a little blog post explaining what to do??

  15. Wayne Mook says:

    Since I’m signed up to Dead Good Books I guess it would be only fair to give the low down.

    So from their website:-

    The first step is the nomination process; simply tell us who’d you pick as your winners using the form below. In order to qualify, books must have been published in any format within the past year. The books with the most nominations will form the shortlists and go to a public vote, with winners announced at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July

    The Nosy Parker Award for Best Amateur Detective

    Who’s been sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong? This award is for the civvie who can’t resist a mystery.

    Nominate character and author

    The Jury’s Out Award for Most Gripping Courtroom Drama

    The stakes are high and the twists and turns are unpredictable. This award is for the book packed full of legal thrills.

    Nominate book and author

    The Dish Served Cold Award for Best Revenge Thriller

    Retribution’s the name of the game here. This award is for the book serving up just – or unjust – deserts.

    Nominate book and author

    The Cancel All Plans Award for the Book You Can’t Put Down

    Clear your diary. Switch off your phone. Call in sick. This award is for the book that demands you keep reading.

    Nominate book and author

    The Cat and Mouse Award for Most Elusive Villain

    The hunt is on! This award is for those dastardly cunning criminals who are particularly difficult to pin down.

    Nominate character and author

    The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book

    Which book do you press into the hands of everyone you meet? This award is for the novel you recommend above all others.

    Nominate book and author

    Hope this helps,


  16. Wayne Mook says:

    Ooopsie! forgot this little bit.

    Nominations close 20th May 2019, with the shortlists announced soon after.


  17. snowy says:

    Thanks, W.

    Having seen the ‘raw data’ it’s all gone a bit tricky….

    Pulling out: “books must have been published in any format within the past year” possibly gives a bit of flex, depending what they EXACTLY mean. Does the current Hardback AND the previous Hardback now re-released as the current Paperback count as two separate books? NOT ENOUGH DATA!

    Which category? Bloody good question! Most are obviously out, but there is a least two left. THE PARALYSIS OF CHOICE!

    [Lots of think-y stuff, to dull to type]

    * Paging ‘William of Ockham’! *

    * Razor to Aisle 6! *

    “Friar Willy what sayeth thou?”

    “Those that want to eat Apples should ask for Apples and not just say that they hunger.”

    Er…? “Cheers Will!

    “Nice sandals, and the cassock, very on trend, hemp?” “Take a tip, burning the leaves and inhaling the smoke, not going to help with the ‘clarity of thought'”.


    Lots of people will give you a Nom. just need to get your ‘brazen on’ and say which book and which category.

    [Now can anybody direct me back to where I was? Big slopey thing! Covered in strangely fluffy frozen water, slidey, slidey with these plank things on my feet?]

  18. Brooke says:

    The Lonely Hour in either Cancel All Plans and/or Most Recommended.

  19. snowy says:

    B, I still have yet to get onto DGB, [because of stuff going a bit awry here], so I’m a bit in the dark.

    Will the website let you nominate the same book in two catagories?

    Or must we pick one or the other, to avoid splitting the vote?

    Yours etc.

  20. admin says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all this effort! I may have to start handing out prizes (would that counts as bribery?)

  21. Brooke says:

    I didn’t really access site–but thinking strategically, I would say don’t split vote. Shall we go for Cancel All Plans?
    Mr. Fowler says bribery as though it’s a bad thing. Really…

  22. Peter Tromans says:

    What a set of photos! The bottom one answers the question, “What’s the last thing on his mobile phone?”

  23. Peter Tromans says:

    I got a thanks for your vote, so I think it worked, but the final step after submit was slowdown.

  24. snowy says:

    Grabbed tablet, popped out, had a quick look and popped back.

    Where you enter your nominations, they are just freeform text boxes. So you can enter anything in any category. There is no exclusion.

    So if you wanted to nominate ‘The Only Flower by Chrissy McChrisface’ in any category, even wrong ones, you can.

    While these are just nominations and not the final vote, the more nominations a book gets the more likely it will be Short-listed.

  25. Brooke says:

    which category, P?

  26. snowy says:

    To sum up, to the best of my ability, [not much] and understanding, [limited].

    Readers can nominate ‘The Lonely Hour Christopher Fowler’ in either OR both:

    ‘The Cancel All Plans Award for the Book You Can’t Put Down’


    ‘The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book’

    Without one affecting the other.

    You are asked to provide some contact details and accept the Terms and Conditions. There are some extra boxes you can tick IF you want them to send you mailshots, you DON’T have to tick those.

    Your contact details are only kept while the nomination process is running and once the prize winner is announced they are deleted, There are rules about companies keeping data! [GDPR for any chronic insomniacs looking for a little light reading].

    [Sadly the T&Cs mean that those outside the UK cannot scoop the prize. But nothing apparently stopping you putting in a nomination.]

  27. Helen Martin says:

    The only people in more isolated situations than we Canadians are the Alaskans and Hawaiians (“Continental United States only”) Oh well, can at least nominate. (wanders off)

  28. Martin Tolley says:

    I do so wish I’d had one of those cages to put my sister in.

  29. Peter Tromans says:

    B, LH in the two that you suggested

  30. snowy says:

    Apologies to all, but I feel that I should swallow my reserve and good manners, [Nanny would be absolutely mortified!], put on my bossy-ist of boots and commit the disgraceful sin of suggesting what a proper Author should write.

    I’ll couch it in the most polite and delicate of terms, but it is still me telling somebody else what I think they should do, not a thing with which I am comfortable. But ‘extremity demands…’

    I feel that: Friday’s post sort of writes itself.

    Under a title: ‘Vote for Me!’ or ‘A Humble Suggestion’ or ‘For Your Consideration’ etc.

    Then a suitably beseeching picture of some sort, ‘Will Write for Food’, ‘Begging bowl’ or failing any other inspiration put the ‘duck pic’ up.

    Then skillfully worded instructions of where, what and how to enter the requisite nominations. The petty details can be cribbed from this thread. [Topped and tailed by Please and Thanks as one would expect.]

    Post it Friday, post a link to it on Twitter and let every body crack on with nominating over the weekend.

    That’s it, winding neck back in, removing nose out of other peoples business etc. Excuse the presumption, but these things are terrible beauty contests and ‘Modest Maisy’ never becomes ‘Queen of the May’.

    Apologies again. It is merely a suggestion.

    * Dons sackcloth robe, applies sustainably sourced charcoal based facepack *

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