But Geoffrey Fletcher did

A bargain was bagged last week for the princely sum of £2.94 (including p+p off Amazon), it was a book by Geoffrey Fletcher which inspired the film “The London Nobody Knows” as featured in the last post. It’s a nice old book with illustrations by Fletcher (who was a graphic artist as well as a writer) and a preface written in 1989 where he mentions the changes in London since the original publication of 1962.

The book features lots of places that have long disappeared, language from a time gone by (some that now wouldn’t be politically correct) and some just plain daft: “Weird youths…stare listlessly into radio and jazz shops, youths with white-eyeleted shoes accompanied by their fun-molls. Each couple has horribly pointed shoes that make me think of elves; they twitch epileptically to the sound of jazz”. God knows what he’d say if he was still about today about London’s youth (and also the 50-odd year old punks wandering around New Cross with “Discharge” painted on the back of their “levver” jackets) but we love this book and it comes highly recommended!

If they were ever going to do a contemporary rewrite of the book and were looking for someone to do the illustrations we here at Liylh reckon they should be done by the artist Marc Gooderham (his “Elder Street, Spitalfields” above and Hawksmoor’s “Christchurch” below) as he uses decaying London as a major inspiration (examples of his London paintings here). As it says on his website about his work “Capturing the singular beauty to be found in those neglected buildings that have fallen into disrepair as the living city continues to evolve around them”. Fletcher would have liked that! By coincidence “The London Nobody Knows” was and is used by Marc as his bible and in his own words: “for drawing and sketching, looking for lost architectural delights… the book was a great discovery”. Have a look at more of Marc’s work here.

And finally while researching this post I found two episodes of a Radio 4 programme from 2011 where Dan Cruickshank revisits Geoffrey Fletcher’s old haunts in the first episode here and in the second he visits his own quirky favourites here. One of them is the abandoned St Mary’s Underground Station in Whitechapel which is featured on this short BBC film here. The London nobody knows indeed! P

Where sweet Caroline met Happy Jack

It’s not every day you get to ask a couple of machine gun-toting policemen for directions but last Monday lunchtime I did. I was lost outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Green Park and trying to find my way to an address that once housed an organisation that changed the face of UK radio forever.

In the days of old there were no pop music radio stations in the UK until Radio Caroline changed all that in 1964 (more on the station here). I’ve long been fascinated by the offshore pirates of the 60’s and have just finished Ray Clark’s “Radio Caroline: the true story of the boat that rocked” so the other afternoon I decided to take a trip to 6 Chesterfield Gardens W1 (once known as “Caroline House”) where the station had their London HQ from 1964 to 1967.

It’s funny what impressions an address gives as I was expecting the location to be a nice square surrounding a leafy park but alas it wasn’t; it was a nondescript gloomy looking dead-end filled with expensive cars and builders busily filling skips. Looking at the building today it looks a lot cleaner compared to the images of it back in the sixties and is now a bright and airy office complex which now houses a collection of finance related firms.

Back then the building contained the Caroline organisation (that had offices over all four floors and a recording studio down in the basement) and other music related companies they rented floor space out to. These included the actor Terrence Stamp, Robert Stigwood (who managed The Bee Gees, Lord Sutch and Cream) and Track records (ran by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp who also managed The Who) and it was here Roger and the boys filmed their Happy Jack video. In the promo film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1966 you can see the grand staircase and one of the high-ceilinged rooms with classy chandeliers.

If you want to see more of what the place was like in its heyday there’s a wonderful short film from 1965 about Radio Caroline here and the first two minutes features the interior and exterior of Caroline House. As the narrator in the film says says “(It’s) a big building for a big organisation”. It sure was! P

The Crypton Factor

the-crypton-factor_2I took a stroll down Fleet Street yesterday lunchtime to pick up some heavy duty builder’s bags from Robert Dyas (don’t ask).

Influenced by Secret London: An unusual Guide – Rachel Howard/Bill Nash (Jonglez) I reckoned as I had some time left I’d visit one of the attractions in the book. I thought I knew that area well, but obviously I didn’t as when I walked down Bouverie Street it all looked completely alien to me.

Walking past The Polish Cultural Institute which I never knew even existed, I took a left down Magpie Alley which has a series of tiles (aka The Magpie Murals) on the wall telling the story of the good old days of “The Print.” Interesting stuff if you love stories about Caxton, hot metal, web offset printing and the like which I do.

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But it didn’t stop there, I kept on going until I hit the back entrance of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP on the left (just before the alley morphs into Ashentree Court) and went through the small iron gate just to the side of the building and down some steps and treated myself to a butchers of the crypt of the old White Friars priory which once stood near there.

It’s well worth it, as it’s light years away from Clinton Cards, Pret a Manger and the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street once you’re at the bottom of those stairs.  P

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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

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.

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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

Searching for that short cut

hen and chick 3

This morning I was late for work and trying to find a cut-through from Fleet Street to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Walking through one of the alleys I found this dead end called Hen & Chicken Court. It hasn’t much in it apart from a nice carved stone on the floor on the way in, a couple of fire exits and a single door at the end.

Hen and chick 2

But legend has it, beside this alley is the site of Sweeney Todd’s notorious barber shop. Not your average back alley then! P

Into the trees

Lincoln's inn netting

On a late lunchtime stroll the other day I saw these two massive trees being busily wrapped up by construction crews in Lincoln’s Inn and wondered what was going on. Was it some crazy art project? Protection against a forthcoming nuclear war perhaps?

I had to ask the uniformed gateman on my way out, “Why the plastic netting?” as I pointed to the trees. He replied “Well, they’re in the process of redeveloping the area and the trees are sadly coming down next month” “and we don’t want any rare whatisname’s nesting in the trees and delaying the chainsaws, do we?” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. P