The other day while walking through Lincoln’s Inn Fields I spotted a bust of Lenin and a VR Type B pillarbox – placed near enough in a rose bed – that weren’t there the week before. Turns out the park was a location for an expensive advert (“To be on your TV soon” I was told by a burly security guard who wasn’t giving anything away). P
Being an ex-postman and a lover of all things letter and stamp related, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a lovely story on the BBC website (here) about one of the earliest purveyors of mail art who lived not a million miles from where I reside.In the early days of the General Post Office the rules of what actually could be sent by the postal service were flexible to say the least and were tested by a few people. One of the best known was W Reginald Bray from “Devonshire Road, Kent” an accountant by day but in his spare time made it his job to challenge the postal system to the max. Some of his proudest moments included posting himself (on not one but three occasions), sending a potato with the recipient’s address cut into the skin (with stamp affixed) and even his Irish Terrier Bob wasn’t spared a trip through the post. He was an keen autograph collector too, sending out thousands of requests by postcard to all sorts from Pericles Diamandi, The Human Calculator, Ken “Snake-Hips” Johnson, the Jazz band leader who died at Cafe De Paris during the Blitz in March 1941 and the English Clown Whimsical Walker. They must have loved Reggie Bray at the local post office.
On the road are still a couple of the old Penfold style postboxes and amazingly enough the one outside number 135 where he lived for 10 years is still there and it would be lovely to think that the Post Office have left it there as a tribute to the great mail artist. If you’re ever in the area do stick something in that postbox and you’ll be secure in the knowledge that something far more bizarre has possibly been popped in there! P #SE23localhistory #Wreginaldbray #Mailart
More on W Reginald Bray with lots of pictures of his postcards and other wonderful curios here and what looks like a great book about him called The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects by John Tingey (and cheap as chips on Amazon by the way). Also thanks very much to John for supplying the press cutting about the potato (where you can make out the bottom line of the address as Forest Hill). #Foresthillpostedpotato
By the way as it’s that time of year Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year to all from London In Your Lunch Hour!
This lunchtime while walking down Tottenham Court Road a couple of buskers were going through their paces outside the tube station. I’ve seen these two before; a dreadlocked singer/percussionist with a tambourine strapped to his left foot and a guitarist giving it loads in a non-John Williams style.
During a version of Black Uhuru’s “Shine Eye Gal” (with some vocals stylings borrowed from Junior Reid’s One Blood) a lone passer-by got up and done his stuff. He was still there when I returned about ten minutes later. The duo were half way through Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” the dancer now jacketless and doing a bad nervous twitch/Jagger strut type dance mixed with a impression of a chicken. Well worth 80 pence of anyone’s money. And the music? It certainly beats the “Theme from The Deer hunter” any day! P
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
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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