Money for nothing and the loo’s for free

No 1. in a very very short series!
Lincolns Inn Fields, London. A classic “cottage” type, one attendant for both male and female toilets, hot and cold running water and electric hand drying facilities. Free.

to pee or not to pee? Has anyone else noticed a decline in free public loo’s in the capital? Years ago Gary Clail had a tune called “privitise the air”, little did he know then that things were going to get worse. A good tip: don’t be caught short without a quid in change in your pocket! A pee’d off P

Know of any more free public loo’s? Send us your suggestions and if we get enough we’ll compile a list!

(Upside down) festive lunch hour greetings to all!

Upside down treeI noticed these mad xmas trees the other week outside a swanky hotel on The Strand. Thinking it was a work-in-progress I said to one of the besuited doormen, “I take it you’re going to be hoisting the trees up now you’ve got the fairy lights on?”. He pointed up to the trees all excitedly-like and told me about the old fashioned German tradition of the upside down xmas tree. I honestly have never heard of this before. It’s funny the things you find out in a lunch hour! P

On that festive note, a merry christmas to all who read the blog from P&W

How do you solve a problem like a lunch hour?

What do you do if it’s getting close to Christmas and you’re scratching around trying to find something to write for a blog post? Well you could go for a brisk walk and peek down a road that says is residents only by Amen Corner and snap a pic of what turns out to be the old back wall of Newgate prison. You could do that…but you’d have to pretend to look all lost as you wandered around and, quite frankly, that can be exhausting.

One of London's most notorious prisons? I was glad to see the back of it.

One of London’s most notorious prisons? I was glad to see the back of it.

On a separate note, for those of you who want to belt out some carols at lunchtime and work near the City, check out www.cityevents.co.uk * for a list of concerts near you with the starting times. I popped into St Bride’s, Fleet Street on Monday for a rousing rendition of Once in Royal before nipping up to meet P for a coffee. Festively refreshing.

* (St Botolph, Bishopsgate specifically mentions mulled wine and mince pies, although whether these are free or not is not even in the small print.)

Alternatives to Pret (Part 1)

An occasional series.
The Sandwich Man, 23 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DS

Tired of paying through the nose for your lunchtime grub? Let us here at LIYLH guide you through the cheap culinary delights available in London town. Our first port of call has a lovely shop-front (see below) that just screams quality and cleanliness (yeah right!) but don’t let that put you off, this place is great!

sarnie man HQYou might have seen those blokes on bikes riding around town delivering food to office blocks, well this is their central HQ. When they’ve finished their round at about 12.45pm they take their “returns” back to easton street where they are then sold to the general public for a pound each, how good is that?

At 1pm the queues are hectic with hungry postal workers from mount pleasant trying to push in, jostling dustmen, skint students and over-confident motorcycle couriers leathered up to the max all trying to push to the front of the queue. A good tip is to leave it until 1.45 when it’s a lot quieter and you’ll still have a lot to choose from.

Oi, watch my baguette!There’s usually a great selection including meat, fish and veggie sandwiches alongside crisps, salads and drinks all at greatly reduced prices. A word of warning though, during the summer months don’t bother with the all day breakfast bap (egg, sausage and bacon) as the boxes on the back of the bikes they keep the food in are not refrigerated. I know of one person who left work early who looked a bit green around the gills after consuming (alledgedly) the aforementioned sarnie! Apart from that, it’s a cheap old treat and well worth queueing up for!

Years ago where I worked we used to have a daily visit from one of their delivery men who would announce his arrival by ringing a little ornamental handbell. As most of the workforce there used to think they were west ham “geezers” they would get very annoyed at his camp campanology. Me, I used to think it was hilarious, big up the sandwich man! P

Rabbit rabbit rabbit rabbit rabbit

Very arty!The RSA or royal society for the encouragement of Arts, lies one road back from the Strand and slap bang opposite the gleaming entrance to the Adelphi. Most Tuesdays or Thursdays they hold lunchtime lectures on a vast array of subjects driven by this ethos.

The RSA is a charity which encourages the development of a principled, prosperous society and the release of human potential.

Recent talks have included Fiscal Fallout: The challenge ahead for public spending and public services; How to build a mass movement now; and How Maths Illuminates Our Lives

Visit the site and you can sign up to a newsletter which tells you how to apply for the free tickets. If you don’t manage to get in, however, you can stream it live or watch it in the comfy chairs downstairs in the lobby. They also post all the talks up as podcasts, which is nice.

P and I legged it down there last Thursday to catch John Lloyd’s talk – General Ignorance: It’s all about what you don’t know. There is quite a magnificent marble stairway which takes you to the main room and past some lovely looking cakes and biscuits. These are not free, trust me, we asked.

The hall must hold around 300 people and every seat was taken before the prompt start of 1pm. I won’t sum up the talk but will urge you to try and listen to it on the podcast or watch the video when it’s up. Considering John Lloyd produces QI, and also has Blackadder and Spitting Image on his CV, it was unsurprising that the talk was Quite Interesting, peppered with facts and anecdotes – including a very enlightening one about the profitability of the mines in the 1980s and a surprising tale of someone who tried to sue Ian Hislop.

Just so you know, even if you ask really nicely about having a biscuit, they still won’t let you have one for free as you leave.

Places to go, people to see, things to do

The London in your lunch hour to do list.

This is going to be an ongoing list of things that we’re planning to see or do in our forthcoming lunch hours. We might not get to them all but it might give you some ideas for the immediate future.
Lunchtime carol concert
The Secret History of Second-Hand Books: An exhibition by freelance writer Wayne Gooderham
The Liylh Christmas lunch

Mother nature’s son

When the Thames is at it’s lowest ebb, you can see a beach. On a crisp December lunchtime, you can even step on it, (there are some steps just to the left of the Millennium bridge as you look at the Tate Modern) feel the sand shift beneath your feet and listen to the waves lapping at the shore.

The sun was very low by the time I got down there (about 2pm) so I had to squint as it was wickedly reflected off the river. Ooh it’s just like being on ‘oliday, I thought to myself.

The English Riviera

The English Riviera

It felt as if I was trespassing when I went down there. There was one other person crunching around on the pebbles but, other than that, the beach was deserted – like any other English beach in December.

Being so close to the Thames was intimidating. I’d always seen it from far away; a bridge or the embankment, or once from a boat. I’d never been close enough to touch it. It suddenly dawned on me that I’d never thought of it as a river. All my life, I’d only ever seen it as a thoroughfare, an obstacle or a landmark – not a real waterway at all. But you put your hand in and it’s cold and wet and it goes “shhh, shhhhh” when the little waves break on the pebbles and everything.

It was a revelation – like if you met someone really famous and they told you they ate findus crispy pancakes.

In celebration of the sunshine and my new discovery I built a crappy sandcastle and covered it in the oyster shells I found amongst the smooth-worn tiles and remnants of old clay pipes.

Sand turd with shells - by W

Sand turd with shells – by W

On the way back, I was walking through St. Paul’s churchyard, when I spotted this man, Justin.

He's got a squirrel on his shoulder

He’s got a squirrel on his shoulder!

Working in a stress-filled office in the city, he escapes for one hour every day to feed this squirrel. I told him about the idea behind LIYLH; about getting out and doing something, even if it’s just walking about. We chatted about how long he’d been visiting the churchyard, what he did, and I told him about my brush with nature. To which he replied, ” You spend your whole life in a man-made environment. It’s nice to go somewhere and put your foot in some mud, isn’t it?”