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

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How big is the cat then?

hound of the baskervilles

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve passed this strange sight a few times while walking through Clifford’s Inn from Fleet Street.  It looks like one of those plastic boxes you bring your cat to the vet in but there’s no handle on the top and it’s very very large (you’ll never get this on the bus!) Any ideas? Is it the second home of the Black Dog of Newgate perhaps? Whatever it is, we at LIYLH would love to know! P

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.

Johnny Trunk_2

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

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

A passage to bonkersness

Seen in Newman's Passage

Why?

While walking around London this weekend, the family and I stumbled upon Newman’s Passage in Fitzrovia. It’s a small mews that links Newman and Rathbone Street. If you enter by Newman Street you get spat out just under the Newman Arms pub (which is very cosy).

As well as being a very atmospheric little place, it also had a tableau of seal, boy, angels and green shed. I really have no idea what’s going on but the kids liked it.

Also, it had some lovely stencilled letters high up on a wall, which I love.

2015-12-13 14.52.11

And if you walk down there one day and wonder where you’ve seen it before…well it used to appear in the opening credits of Minder.

Minder pic

I could be so good for you

Alas, the crooked lampost is now gone. W

Flexing those lunchtime muscles

xray

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

When is a tile not a tile?

Copper Box

Spotted this “out there” tile on the side of The Horse Hospital (Colonnade, Bloomsbury) this lunchtime. It looks like it’s been there a number of years and can help you teleport too.

It was the mention of “Coventry Stadium” that made me look initially and what do they mean by a “Copper Box,” is it referring to the TARDIS perhaps?

Horse Hospital_1

Anyway it’s a shame I couldn’t find the slot to put my visa card in or I would have been there like a shot! P