But Geoffrey Fletcher did

A bargain was bagged last week for the princely sum of £2.94 (including p+p off Amazon), it was a book by Geoffrey Fletcher which inspired the film “The London Nobody Knows” as featured in the last post. It’s a nice old book with illustrations by Fletcher (who was a graphic artist as well as a writer) and a preface written in 1989 where he mentions the changes in London since the original publication of 1962.

The book features lots of places that have long disappeared, language from a time gone by (some that now wouldn’t be politically correct) and some just plain daft: “Weird youths…stare listlessly into radio and jazz shops, youths with white-eyeleted shoes accompanied by their fun-molls. Each couple has horribly pointed shoes that make me think of elves; they twitch epileptically to the sound of jazz”. God knows what he’d say if he was still about today about London’s youth (and also the 50-odd year old punks wandering around New Cross with “Discharge” painted on the back of their “levver” jackets) but we love this book and it comes highly recommended!

If they were ever going to do a contemporary rewrite of the book and were looking for someone to do the illustrations we here at Liylh reckon they should be done by the artist Marc Gooderham (his “Elder Street, Spitalfields” above and Hawksmoor’s “Christchurch” below) as he uses decaying London as a major inspiration (examples of his London paintings here). As it says on his website about his work “Capturing the singular beauty to be found in those neglected buildings that have fallen into disrepair as the living city continues to evolve around them”. Fletcher would have liked that! By coincidence “The London Nobody Knows” was and is used by Marc as his bible and in his own words: “for drawing and sketching, looking for lost architectural delights… the book was a great discovery”. Have a look at more of Marc’s work here.

And finally while researching this post I found two episodes of a Radio 4 programme from 2011 where Dan Cruickshank revisits Geoffrey Fletcher’s old haunts in the first episode here and in the second he visits his own quirky favourites here. One of them is the abandoned St Mary’s Underground Station in Whitechapel which is featured on this short BBC film here. The London nobody knows indeed! P

The brotherhood of the leaky boot and other stories

This week a friend told me about a very melancholic piece of music by Gavin Bryars called “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet” which samples a homeless man singing taken from an outtake of a 1970’s film about men who lived rough around Waterloo Station. It’s a well crafted number but be warned it’s very poignant and not one to have on if you’re feeling a bit down or you’ll be in tears within seconds.

The song put me in mind of a scene from a film featuring James Mason touring the capital which has always stuck in my mind. He was interviewing some men living in a Salvation Army hostel and said to them (on the subject of prejudice against homeless people when trying to get employment) “you are simply, down on your luck”.

The film is the wonderful “The London Nobody Knows” from 1967 produced by Norman Cohen originally from a book of the same name by Geoffrey Fletcher circa 1962 (available from Amazon on paperback very cheaply here). It is a snapshot of London in times well gone by and starts with the heavy reverberated voice of music hall legend Marie Lloyd and James Mason’s footsteps in the then dilapidated Bedford Theatre, Camden Town now sadly gone.

Music-related locations like The Camden Catacombs (underneath Rehearsal Rehearsals where The Clash and Subway Sect would practice) are featured as well as The Roundhouse. There’s even public loo’s (“All men are equal in the eyes of a lavatory attendant” Mason quips) featuring one in Holborn which supposed once had goldfish in the cistern and the classic double doorway type urinal in Star Yard which we featured here.

It’s a lovely slice of life from back then and features street entertainers you don’t see anymore (the Yosser Hughes/Screaming Lord Sutch-like song and dance duo above and Johnny Eagle the strongman come escapologist below who had a regular pitch near the Tower of London so I’ve been told) alongside an array of sheepskin coat-clad characters. So grab yourself half a stout, have a butchers at this film and when it’s over you can rightly say “Gor blimey guv’nor they don’t make films that like anymore”. P

The Crypton Factor

the-crypton-factor_2I took a stroll down Fleet Street yesterday lunchtime to pick up some heavy duty builder’s bags from Robert Dyas (don’t ask).

Influenced by Secret London: An unusual Guide – Rachel Howard/Bill Nash (Jonglez) I reckoned as I had some time left I’d visit one of the attractions in the book. I thought I knew that area well, but obviously I didn’t as when I walked down Bouverie Street it all looked completely alien to me.

Walking past The Polish Cultural Institute which I never knew even existed, I took a left down Magpie Alley which has a series of tiles (aka The Magpie Murals) on the wall telling the story of the good old days of “The Print.” Interesting stuff if you love stories about Caxton, hot metal, web offset printing and the like which I do.

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But it didn’t stop there, I kept on going until I hit the back entrance of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP on the left (just before the alley morphs into Ashentree Court) and went through the small iron gate just to the side of the building and down some steps and treated myself to a butchers of the crypt of the old White Friars priory which once stood near there.

It’s well worth it, as it’s light years away from Clinton Cards, Pret a Manger and the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street once you’re at the bottom of those stairs.  P

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Book of the week

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Secret London: An unusual Guide – Rachel Howard/Bill Nash (Jonglez)

Found at a car boot in Vauxhall for the princely sum of 50 pence last weekend. It was published in 2014, there’s been a few changes in the capital since then but this is a great guide. Features stuff I didn’t know or just heard rumours of (like the old cells of possibly Newgate Prison in the cellar of The Viaduct Tavern, Newgate Street, more here) and even mentions my old favourite The Roman Bath, Strand Lane (more here). A book worth searching out. P

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Read it in books

Johnny TrunkThis week I was walking back from a trip to the great Loon Fung chinese supermarket in Gerard Street and decided to take a shortcut back to work through Cecil Court.

I’ve walked back through there a good few times, I’ve laughed at the price of yellowing punk fanzines/Sex Pistols posters on sale there and thumbed through obscure 1970’s T’ai Chi manuals in the oldest esoteric bookshop Watkins Books and waved at the tarot card reader sitting in their window.

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This week I was stopped in my tracks by the great window display for the lovely coloured vinyl LP/Book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne with music by Jonny Trunk in Tenderbooks. It’s a lovely artefact, a few bob at just under £20 but something worth having if you like that sort of thing and have the brass.

So if you ever fancy buying some cheap noodles, pop down to Gerard Street and on your way back check the books, prints and the general bonkersness down Cecil Court. P

An aptly priced book bargain

London Free and Dirt Cheap

I found a great bargain in the Holborn Library 20p book sale this week, “London Free and Dirt Cheap” by Joe Fullman (Frommer’s.)

The copy I obtained was an edition from 2007 but I am sure you’ll be able to find an up-to-date version quite cheap (prices from £3 inc p+p on amazon!)

There’s some classic cheap London moments here and loads of stuff we didn’t know about, e.g. Best Free Hidden Gem: The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, lots of cheap eats ideas including somewhere with the great name of Porky’s Pantry (now sadly closed,) free oddities to visit like The London Stone, free music and concert ideas and free tickets to TV shows too.

Go out and get a copy and get ideas for having fun for (next to) nothing! P

Flexing those lunchtime muscles

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Earlier this year we featured the excellent X-Ray Audio exhibition at The Horse Hospital (post here.) Well it’s back again and well worth going to if you haven’t already been!

X-Ray Audio – Bone Music 1946-1964 
Saturday 28th November – Saturday 19th December 2015
The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD

It’s all about illegal recordings cut into X-ray plates from the cold war period and here’s more about them from  x-rayaudio.squarespace.com

“In the Soviet states during the cold-war era, most modern Western bands and music was banned for all sorts of reasons including ‘neo-fascism’, ‘mysticism’ and even ‘obscurantism’. Much Russian music was also forbidden for a variety of other reasons. Even certain rhythms were regarded unfavourably. But a vibrant, secret and risky trade grew up in what became known as ‘Bones’ or ‘Ribs’”.

“These Bones were medical X-Ray fluorography sheets unofficially obtained from hospitals, cut into discs and embossed with the grooves of bootlegged gramophone records – a kind of medical version of a DJ dub plate.”flexi

Alongside the great exhibition are two related live events that are a must to go to, if you like the sound of that sort of madness.

The first is on Saturday 5th December with Strictly Kev (DJ Food) (£6.50/£8) talking about his flexidisc collection with Stephen Coates (The Real Tuesday Weld/X-ray audio) and there’s a free mystery flexi for the first 20 people through the door. (Above: Some of this writer’s flexi discs.) More details here.

And on Friday 11th December (£10/£12) the night features Lydia Kavina (grand-niece of Lev Theremin) and one of the best Theremin players in the world performing, alongside x-ray audio, who provide a live demonstration of recording onto X-Ray plates. More details here. Earlier this year we attended a similar event and all we can say it was brilliant!

So go and have a look at the exhibition during a lunchtime or attend on the night(s), you won’t be disappointed! P