Robo-mowers a go-go!

Yesterday whilst walking through Lincoln’s Inn Fields on the way back from a lunchtime shopping trip I spotted on the grass (or what’s left of it), a strange and small-wheeled device tearing up and down. “What the?” I thought to myself.

After a minute of two of head-scratching, a stranger joined us and we both tried to work out what the hell it was. Was it some sort of TV comedy show stunt? Mobile advertising? Or an alien sussing out the area for a possible UFO landing in Holborn?

After five minutes we came to the conclusion it was a robotic lawnmower. It must have computed that we were interested in it as the thing stopped going up and down in straight lines and made a beeline for us. It stopped just in front of where we were standing then span around a couple of times. We were then waiting for it to say (in a 1970’s comedic robot voice) something like “You have 20 seconds to comply” or “Smile you’re on Candid Camera” but it just flashed a couple of lights on its body in recognition (above) then resumed doing what it was doing. Very odd!

As soon as we get a lawn mowing schedule from the gardener we’ll post it up as it makes interesting viewing on a lunch hour. Perhaps the operative can teach it to do some tricks too (fetch a ball, roll on its back or chase squirrels). P

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Lenin visits Lincoln’s Inn Fields

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

Please Mr Postman

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.

Sadly the delivery office in Devonshire Road where he would have carted his strange postings to (that must have delighted the postmaster and workers there) has now been turned into flats (above).

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!

A lunchtime song and dance (and what a dance!)

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

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

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