Are you being served?

Here’s next week’s menu for the Fourth Floor Restaurant at the LSE where the food is good and cheap as chips (a main course and a bottle of water for just over a fiver) and the staff are very friendly. There’s a roof terrace which is ideal when the weather’s nice to enjoy your meal on. The restaurant is open to all too not just LSE students, so if you’re passing…

By the way Wright’s Bar next door to the LSE old building does a nice cheap sarnie by the way (Cheese and Pickle in a crusty white roll – £1)! P

The London School Of Economics,
Houghton St, London WC2A 2AE

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Roaming around roman remains

The other Saturday at 10.30am myself and ten others found ourselves queueing at an unmarked door outside a drab office block at 101 Lower Thames Street. It was a lovely sunny morning not that it was going to make a lot of difference to us as for the next two and a half hours we would be spending it mostly underground.

We’d all signed up for From the private to the public: life in Londinium a tour of two important sites of Roman interest; The Billingsgate Roman House and Baths and The Roman Amphitheatre under the Guildhall (pic above and also featured a few years ago here). I won’t give too much of the game away but if you like Roman remains then these two sites (and the soon to be reopened Temple Of Mithras) are for you.

The Billingsgate Roman House and Baths were originally a small amount of stand-alone buildings that were developed over a couple of years into a villa complex with a private bathhouse and the remains on show include parts of the original flooring and the hypocaust (underfloor heating) system underneath. There’s even a part of the heating system where the pilae stacks (the pillars which the flooring stood on as part of the hypocaust) have been “bodged” by unscrupulous builders of the time; there were rogue builders around even then. The visit lasted about an hour the two guides who showed us around certainly knew their stuff and we all left the underground car park-like basement as pleased as punch.


The second part of the tour was picked up by another guide who funnily enough told us while walking the ten minutes or so up to the Guildhall that his mum queued up (with hundreds of others) to see the original Temple of Mithras excavation in 1954 (as mentioned in our post here). On the way there we popped into the excellent St Dunstan in the East church, bombed in the 1941 blitz and now a public garden which I reckon I’ll visit at a later date as it looked interesting. At the time we passed at 11.30ish there were a German scout troop sitting having elevenses, a jazz dancer being photographed by a random tourist and a couple of cycle couriers sitting on a bench enjoying one of those cannabis-infused cigarettes. 

At the Guildhall we were taken to one of the stairwells in the gallery to see Londinium Romanum a painting of what Roman London would have looked like as imagined by the archaeological painter Alan Sorrell.

On the way to see it we passed a very large painting of the Queen sitting at a long table at a banquet and were told by our guide that this piece was to commemorate her jubilee back in 1977. I overheard a couple there who mentioned that the art critic Brian Sewell got into a bit of trouble at the time when he reviewed it and supposedly said “Ghastly! They’ve made the Queen look like a Pink Blancmange!” I cannot find anything about said painting and nothing about the Brian Sewell comments either but it did make me laugh!

Downstairs in the basement the Amphitheatre is displayed rather futuristically, in the words of when he reviewed it a few years ago here “you get to a large room done out like a Tron backdrop” (Above: his pic from then). He was the only one there when he visited it and I imagine it was creepy to say the least but last weekend I wasn’t alone and having a guide talking you through everything helped too. I wouldn’t have known anything much apart from guessing what the remains were and I certainly would have missed the wooden drain (under the glass on the floor) going into the arena with the original planks still there preserved through the damp London clay.

At 1pm I walked back out into 2017 feeling a bit “roman-ruined out” at the time while my eyes got used to the daylight. Looking back it was a great morning, £12 well spent if you like that kind of thing. Here’s to Londinium! #RomanLondon #Guildhall #Londinium

NEWS EXTRA: We were told last week that the Museum of London was planning to move in a few years time and the site of the Smithfield Meat Market might be the location.

Billingsgate Roman Villa & Bathhouse
101 Lower Thames St,
London EC3R 6DL
£8 for adult/£6 concessions
Book in advance only here

London’s Roman Amphitheatre
Underneath The Guildhall Art Gallery
off Gresham Street
London EC2V 5AE
FREE
Monday – Sat 10am – 5pm
Sunday 12pm – 4pm

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

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

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

There’s a whole lot of (hand) shaking going on…

Freemason_1

Yesterday I popped into The Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queens Street WC2 5AZ to have a look at the exhibition “Spotlight – Freemasons and entertainment.”

Firstly I thought it would be hard work getting into the building, imagining going through a handshake test, followed by all sort of trouser rolling and apron wearing jollities but no. It was a straightforward “go up the stairs and keep to your right for the exhibition.” When I reached the library I was greeted by a happy librarian only willing to talk about the Freemason’s Hall which is a fine old Art Deco building by the way.

The exhibition itself is interesting enough if you like that sort of thing but the only information I gleamed from it was Rick Wakeman and Freddy “Parrot-face” Davies are examples of lodge members who are also “modern day entertainers.” Not my sort of entertainers, sorry.

Freemason_3

But it’s in the far room off the library (which houses the exhibition) where all the good stuff is. This is where the actual museum is and if you like pottery, regalia, cloaks and daggers and such-like with mad imagery on them, this is the place for you!

There’s plates printed with pyramids, tea pots with weird logos, strange looking medals and also a stone supposedly from King Solomon’s mines. It’s all mad stuff and well worth spending half an hour at. Below is my personal favourite from the exhibition.

freemason_2

But on no account leave a bad comment in the visitors book or you might find next time you want a bank loan or planning permission you might be mysteriously declined with no explanation. P