Caesar, your bath’s ready

They say don’t meet your heroes as you’ll be disappointed and I reckon this applies to some ancient monuments too. I’ve always had a love of all things roman, an early memory is of going to the Lunt Roman Fort in Coventry as a child and being mesmerised watching roman soldiers marching on the parade ground, brandishing swords and looking menacing. Little did I know that they weren’t part of the roman army just Coventry council workers on overtime dressed up for the day.

For years I’ve been fascinated by the Roman Bath in Strand Lane. Roman? It’s probably not. It’s more than likely a cistern for a garden water feature of the original Somerset House dating from the 1600’s. In the 1770’s the cistern was reclaimed and advertised as a “cold bath” and it’s presumed in the 1830’s the owner thought if they gave it a roman angle more punters would use it and it’s stuck ever since. More on the bath’s history here and here.

On the numerous occasions I’ve visited I’ve only looked through the (if not dirty then steamed up) window seeing next to nothing but my own reflection and have always wanted to go inside. Thursday lunchtime I did just that after an email to dcreese@westminster.gov.uk It’s free to visit but they require at least one week’s notice.

Before last weekend it was easy to view the bath even though it’s off the beaten track. All you had to do was walk up Strand Lane to the building that has a National Trust sign outside (above) and if the gate was unlocked you could peer in through the window. It seems that all’s changed since the London Bridge terrorist attack as the passageway through Surrey Steps is locked and there’s now a security guard at the bottom of Strand Lane only letting Kings College employees in. I had trouble getting through even after showing him a email confirming the visit from Westminster Council so be warned.

I was met at the site by a Westminster council gardener from nearby Embankment Gardens who let me in and stood outside for the duration of my visit. If you intend to go do read up a bit about the place first as you won’t be getting tour of the guided variety.

The first thing I noticed as I entered the dark entrance hall was the acrid smell of damp and then the feeling of intense cold. The council worker didn’t mention it but there were a couple of switches inside you can flick on for the lights in the hall and one outside which seems to control the main light over the actual bath itself. In the hall there was a table with a couple of maps of Strand Lane and above that a few photocopied sheets about the history of the place. To the right was a bricked up tiled doorway to what once was a second bath (The Essex bath) which is now covered over.
Straight ahead through the hall was a small dark room with a couple of mis-matched chairs, a roman bath sign and a modern day fusebox (above). It made me think of the room in a prison in an old black and white film where they’d keep an electric chair in. Spooky!

To the left was the room with the plunge bath in (main picture at the top) which had a metal bar that stopped you going in any further to explore the room. To the side of the bath was a 60’s style serving hatch (above) that made me smile.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of anything remotely roman. It is said in the 1770’s the room was festooned with artefacts and in the picture above it suggests decoration in a roman style but there’s sadly nothing of the sort these days. Amongst the broken paving stones lying on the bare flooring I did see what I thought was a discarded statue of a roman deity (below) but on second glance it was probably a piece of twisted up copper pipe. 
After about 5 minutes I had had enough, there wasn’t much else to see and the damp and the cold were getting to my bones. My lust for the roman bath has now been satisfied and I doubt if I’ll be popping down there again. If only the council worker who came to meet me was dressed in a toga and sandals and there were fake antiquities dotted about the bath house; things would have been oh so different. P

I’ve got those K2 phone box blues

k2-close-up

I noticed this customised Giles Gilbert Scott designed K2 telephone box art gallery at the end of Bedford Row the other day after getting some cheap fruit  at Leather Lane Market to stick into our new juicer.

inside-the-box

It took me a few minutes to get to grips with the ghostly burnt plastic sheet hanging from where the light bulb should be. What does it all mean? Answers on a postcard, please. P

From Kingston to Kings Cross

dave-hendley Tubby's

We heard about this “must go to” event on this week’s David Rodigan’s Radio Show on BBC 1Xtra.

It’s an exhibition from the late Dave Hendley (photographer,  journalist, lecturer, label boss and DJ) called “Rebel Music 1977-1998” and featuring some iconic images of reggae greats from Dave including King Tubby, Dr Alimantado, Gregory Isaacs, Lee Perry and more.

It runs from 10 Nov – 01 Dec 2016 at
Window Galleries,
Central Saint Martins,
1 Granary Square,
King’s Cross
N1C 4AA
Admission: Free

If you’re into reggae, this is one not to miss! More on the exhibition here. P

No man is an island

No man is an Island

Walking across the Millennium Bridge this morning I came across a box type thing upon The Thames with a model of a child on the top and what looked like a travelling bag at the bottom.

It was only later tonight while writing this post that I found out it’s an installation called Floating Dreams from South Korea’s Ik-Joong Kang and a memorial to the millions displaced during the Korean War of 1950-53. I imagine it has more impact at night but it’s still very impressive by day. Around until Friday 30th September and well worth seeing. More details hereP

Some yellowing, slight rusty staples but no rips

fanzines

There’s a couple of more days left on this exhibition of fanzines at The Barbican Music Library, Barbican Library, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS.

Fanzine_3

fanzine_4

It’s a collection of various fanzines in three or four “Library style” glass cases. It’s a shame there weren’t no zerox reproductions of the actual fanzines so you could flick through and read about William Burroughs, Doctor Who or god forbid Terry and the Idiots. Sadly no copies of Ded Yampy or Steroid Abuse though. 
fanzine_2

So if you’re interested in self-publication throughout the years, go and have a butchers. But please, no spitting or swearing while viewing the Punk fanzines, this is a public library you know! P

Don’t touch that dial

Radio Live transmission

As a fan of all things radio I merrily legged it from Covent Garden over to the Tate Modern this lunchtime to see Cildo Meireles Babel. It’s a tower of around 800 radios of varying ages, from valve sets at the bottom to small modern electronic radios at the top, displayed in a darkened room.

As a self-confessed radio nut the installation is great to see and also hear, as each set is tuned to a different channel making each time you go to visit a one-off experience. The only complaint is it’s only audible at a low volume so hard of hearing punters like myself have to strain to have a listen.

Worth popping over to the Tate and having a look but pack your ear horn and bring a torch! More on the installation here. P

The one o’clock slot

Divorce

Sometimes the story goes a little bit like this; I think I’ve exhausted everything to write about so go out for a lunchtime shopping trip then I walk down a side road and find something a little bit special.

Last Wednesday lunchtime I did just that (looking to purchase some Cracked Heel Cream at the local Boots if you must know) and found a great arcade of home-made coin-operated machines at Novelty Automation at 1A Princeton Street, London WC1R 4AX.

Autofrisk

They’re all the work of the engineer/cartoonist/artist Tim Hunkin and feature all sorts of madness all in an old shop tucked away around the back of Red Lion Square. It’s genius engineering with a great touch of humour!

Chiropodist

There’s a varied selection including The Chiropodist that’ll cure all your foot problems (but possibly not my cracked heel, well not in one session), Instant Weightloss great for getting off the xmas poundage and my favourite, Microbreak “the fast, efficient holiday” which is a great alternative if you can’t afford to go away this year.

As it’s Valentine’s day tomorrow, why not pick up the handset and ring Barry’s Love Line for some romance tips. Well worth 1 token!

Barry's love line

It’s free to visit and just having a look will make you laugh, but invest in some tokens and take the experience further. Tokens are 1 for £1, 5 for £4.5o and 10 for £8 and it’ll be a lunchtime well spent! P