Tired of London, Tired of Life - A website about things to do in London



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31 December 2010

Watch the Mayor's New Year's Eve fireworks

Probably one of the most iconic events of the London calendar, the Mayor's New Year's Eve fireworks take place in the area around the London Eye and draw around 250,000 people to stand in special viewing areas along Victoria Embankment, Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, and many more who don't quite make it in.

Entry is free and you're allowed to take your own booze. They've even laid on toilets, which is probably sensible, as the areas are open at around 8pm, and you are advised to be at your chosen vantage point by 10pm.

The Greater London Authority has brought in external excitement generators Jack Morton Worldwide to organise it all and, as if it was some sort of draw, BBC Radio 1 DJ Nihal will also be playing some pop records.

For more information, see http://www.london.gov.uk/get-involved/festivals/newyearseve, and if you're in the area it might also be a good idea to print out an entry letter for Gordon's Wine Bar, in order to ensure that you can get in.

^Picture © Mahésh Shrestha used under Creative Commons^

30 December 2010

Skate at the Tower of London

At this time of year, many ice rinks pop up around London, and one that is certainly rather picturesque is the Tower of London Ice Rink, skating against the backdrop of the historic battlements of the Tower itself.

The rink has been set up in the former moat of the Tower, and uses real ice, unlike some of those other fake-ice rinks you can find. It isn't cheap, though, with a skating session setting you back between ten and twelve pounds. It is, however, a fantastic setting.

The rink is open 10am until 10pm, until 10th January 2011. For more information see http://www.toweroflondonicerink.com/

^Picture © chris friese used under Creative Commons^

29 December 2010

Have tea at the Oxleas Wood Cafe

Your author asked the other day for some recommendations of places to cover in the Christmas period, and one which came up, courtesy once again of IanVisits was the Oxleas Wood Cafe in at the top of Shooters Hill in South London. It is, apparently a great cafe, with panoramic views Southwards towards of the Kent borders.

On the edge of the 77 hectare Oxleas Wood, which is apparently around 8,000 years old, it has been run by Mario Le Voci for around 10 Years, with a new cafe opening in July 2007.

Your author isn't quite sure if it is even open today, so readers should telephone in advance. For more information, see http://oxleawoodcafe.info/

^Picture © Elsie Esq used under Creative Commons^

28 December 2010

Walk along Goodwin's Court

Apparently built around 1627, Goodwin's Court is a small alleyway off St Martin's Lane in Covent Garden. Originally known as Fishers Alley, it is thought that the current buildings not erected until 1690.

It is a lovely place to wander along, if you are in the area and need to escape the crowds. The beautiful bow-fronted shopfronts mostly now host offices, many of whom are happy to be gazed in upon, and it is still famously lit by gaslights.

For more, see here.

27 December 2010

Attend the Agatha Christie tea dance

This year marks the 120th anniversary of Agatha Christie's birth, and to celebrate the Southbank Centre has been holding a range of events to celebrate. Today, they are holding a ballroom dancing event in her honour.

Organisers are urging people to get their dancing shoes on, and join in with the grand finale of a year of events celebrating the 'Queen of Crime'. The event is free, is open to all and begins at 11am.

For more information, visit the Southbank Centre website here.

^Picture provided by organisers, with permission of Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard^

26 December 2010

Take part in the Festival of Winter Walks

The Rambler's Association is this year organising a Festival of Winter Walks, and has teamed up with soup manufacturers Baxters to tell us all about it. However, they aren't doing a fantastic job as the first your author knew about it was when he noticed it on IanVisits' unrivalled London Events Calendar.

Today in London, the festival takes keen walkers on trips around the Medieval Manor of Hendon and on a local walk around Richmond, but the festival goes on until 3rd January, so there are plenty of days to take part.

It all sounds jolly pleasant, and best of all the walks are free, so you can save your money for a hearty bowl of soup afterwards. For more on today's walks, see here, or for details on the whole season around the country click here.

25 December 2010

Watch the Peter Pan Cup

Whilst you're relaxing at home on Christmas Day, wondering whether to get out of bed, down in Hyde Park the members of the Serpentine Swimming Club are preparing for a different sort of treat. Every year since 1864 they have come together for a 100 yard Christmas day swim now known as the 'Peter Pan Cup', in reference to Peter Pan creator JM Barrie, who was a patron of the race.

The race is only open to members, on a handicap system, as it is thought that for anyone who has not spent the time getting used to swimming in waters usually around 4 degrees centigrade the shock could prove fatal. Unfortunately, this means your author will not be allowed to take part, which really should be considered a blessing.

The race takes place at 9am. For more information, see http://www.serpentineswimmingclub.com/christmas_day_race.htm

^Picture © ran hou used with permission^

24 December 2010

Attend the First Eucharist of Christmas & Blessing of the Crib at Westminster Abbey

If you're looking for somewhere atmospheric to see in a proper Christian Christmas, you should consider heading down to Westminster Abbey this evening for the First Eucharist of Christmas & Blessing of the Crib at 11.30pm.

It finishes up a number of services in the Abbey today, which will probably be at its most festive, and is your chance to experience an excellent evening the Abbey.

For more information on all today's services, click here.

^Picture © Jay Bergesen used under Creative Commons^

23 December 2010

See Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds

Your author feels quite sorry for the creators of Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds, the latest Unilever Series project to occupy the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. As readers might remember, each seed was individually sculpted and painted by Chinese specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen.

Whilst Ai Weiwei just adds another commission to his already bulging CV, and pockets the related riches, the real creators will probably never see their work here, and even if they do it will not be fulfilling its telos as no visitors are allowed to interact with it due to health and safety concerns earlier in the year.

Now just a grey space, which a contact of your author's recently described as "look[ing] like an empty parking garage", it is really rather boring. Nevertheless, it is there, and is probably worth a quick glance if you're passing by, if only to notice how sad it looks.

For more information, click here.

22 December 2010

Drink at the Flask, Hampstead

Fancy a swift, pre-Christmas pint? Hampstead is brim full of lovely pubs, but one with a particularly interesting history is the Flask, on Flask Walk. Built in 1874, the pub is on a site previously occupied by a Thatched House, where in Hampstead's village days spring water was placed into flasks, which were sold for threepence each.

The water was said to have medicinal qualities, and was sold throughout London, but eventually when Hampstead was swallowed up by an expanding London, the Thatched House was demolished and replaced by the pub we see today.

It's a nice little pub on the aptly named Flask Walk, and is a great spot for a swift half whilst waiting for others to emerge from the nearby tube station.

For more information, click here.

21 December 2010

Go on a carol crawl

A reader recently contacted your author to suggest that if anyone finds themselves in Hackney this evening with nothing to do, they might consider joining the 'carol crawl', for some old fashioned singing and a seasonal wander.

This new idea from a group cringingly calling themselves the 'Fun Army', who are presumably Hackneyites, will see singers meeting at the Pub on the Park at 7pm, for a carol crawl beginning at 7.30pm, to follow a 'secret route' around the streets of London Fields.

Participants are asked to bring warm jumpers, Mulled Wine, Mince Pies, lanterns or torches and a clear voice. The organisers will provide the song sheets.

For more information, click here or here.

^Picture © Steve Punter used under Creative Commons^

20 December 2010

Buy books at Daunt Books, Marylebone

If you're looking for that last minute Christmas present, you could do worse than try the original Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. A travel bookshop, with books arranged around the store by country, Daunt's main Edwardian store is known for its long oak galleries.

Its dark green and oak frontage, and beautiful interior with William Morris prints and skylights, have led to its being described as the most beautiful bookshop in London in the Daily Telegraph, and during the day the skylights also help to make the interior light and welcoming.

This is the perfect travellers bookshop. For more, see http://www.dauntbooks.co.uk/

19 December 2010

Go sledging on Parliament Hill

Your author took a walk on Hampstead Heath yesterday, and wandered up to Parliament Hill, where the sledgers were out in force. Many were making do with tea trays and even road signs to slide down the hill, during an excellent dump of sledging snow.

The main sledging run has already been compacted to a sheet of ice, but was holding up well despite thousands of people making use of it. There are also fantastic views to a snowy central London.

For an article on sledging on Parliament Hill, written in a year with rubbish snow, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7867738.stm

18 December 2010

Find Emperor Trajan

Standing outside Tower Hill Tube, beside a remaining fragment of the original London Wall, is a statue of Roman Emperor Trajan. Legend has it is is a eighteenth century copy apparently discovered in a scrap yard by a vicar in Southampton.

Trajan ruled from 98AD until his death in 117AD, when he was succeeded by Hadrian, of wall fame. As Emperor, he was noted for his building programmes in Rome and its provinces, including Trajan's Column, Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Bridge, Alcántara Bridge.

For more on Trajan, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan

17 December 2010

See a play at the Union Theatre and Cafe

Southwark's Union Theatre and Cafe was established in 1998 by English director Sasha Regan, in a disused paper warehouse beneath some railway arches.

Named Best Up-and-Coming Theatre at the 2008 Empty Space Peter Brook Awards, it also hosts as a daytime cafe and a bar, which has been operating since 2000, and apparently serves coffee, sandwiches and filled bagels.

For more information, visit http://www.uniontheatre.biz/

16 December 2010

Have a drink at the Lord Clyde

Over the weekend, your author popped into the Lord Clyde, in Borough, during the Londonist 12 Pubs of Christmas pub crawl, and it is a perfect little pub. Rebuilt in 1913, the current pub is Grade II listed, noted for its red-brown English-bond brickwork, and façades of glazed green and cream earthenware tiles, and sits on a site that has probably served thirsty Londoners for over 300 years.

The current building, with its excellent Truman Hanbury Buxton Brewery façade, makes it such a welcome sight as you first set eyes on it, and inside, the interior is cosy and just as attractive, tended to by landlord Martin Fitzpatrick. The Fitzpatrick family celebrated 50 years in the pub in 2006, it having first been taken on by his grandparents Denis and Molly in 1956, and handed through three generations since then.

Your author was only sorry on Saturday that he didn't get to spend longer in the pub, so he had to return yesterday evening for a proper look. If readers need any more convincing, they even boast an official Coronation portrait of the Queen, which sits over the fireplace, which is alright. For more information, visit http://www.lordclyde.com/ or click here.

15 December 2010

Sing carols around the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

At this time of year, the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree assumes a place in your author's mind - and surely in the minds of many Londoners - as the centre of London's Christmas celebrations, and the ongoing season of Christmas carols around the tree are a key part of this.

The traditional carol-singing season began this year on Tuesday 7th December, and runs until Wednesday 22nd, allowing a range of organisations to lead carols in the evenings from around 5pm to 9pm, and raise funds for voluntary or charitable organisations.

This evening you can see the Mickleham Choral Society from 5pm until 6pm, followed by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust until 7pm, then Global Action Plan until 8pm, and finally the Starry Night Singers, who close the singing at 9pm.

For more, see http://www.london.gov.uk/trafalgarsquare/events/xmas.jsp

14 December 2010

Play table-football at Cafe Kick

Trading in Exmouth Market, in Clerkenwell, since 1997, Cafe Kick is a 'continental cafe/bar' with a great range of food and drink on offer, which bills itself, and its sister bar in Shoreditch as 'the only places in London where table football is more than just a decoration or a feature'.

It has a relaxed attitude, serving up cocktails, tapas and sandwiches, alongside football and table-football, with three tables up for grabs in a relatively small bar, and walls decorated with bank notes and football memorabilia from all over the world.

Cafe Kick is open Monday to Thursday, from noon until 11pm, and Friday and Saturdays until Midnight. On Sundays, it is open from 1.30pm until 10.30pm. For more, see http://www.cafekick.co.uk/cafe-kick/

13 December 2010

Investigate the Malt Whisky Room at the Vintage House

Situated at 42 Old Compton Street, in the heart of Soho, the Vintage House is a family business, founded during the Second World War. The quintessential off-licence, it is excellently stocked, claiming to offer the World's largest list of malt whiskies.

During his time here, owner Malcolm Mullin has, apparently, sold wine to The Beatles and cigars to Angelina Jolie, mixed with legendary London gangsters, been shot at, and had a front row seat on all goings on in Soho for nearly forty years.

Alongside the whiskies, which are mostly to be found in a special room at the back of the store, the Vintage House also sells Armagnacs dating back as far as 1879, and an excellent range of fine wines, Cuban cigars, Liqueurs and other spirits.

Prices are as you might expect in this area of town, but if you're looking for something special for Christmas it is an excellent bet. For more information, click here.

12 December 2010

Browse the Columbia Road Christmas Tree Market

Your author usually tries not to mention the same road twice in a week, but we are right in the middle of Christmas-tree-buying season, and so he thought readers might like to know that, this time of year, the weekly flower market in Columbia Road also gets Christmassy.

It's not a great time for flowers, so the sellers tend towards wintry plants, holly wreaths and Christmas Trees, and they sell like hotcakes. As readers might imagine, the prices are a little steeper than at your local B&Q, but Columbia Road has always been more about the experience than the value and you can pick up a tree for less than £20.

For more, and directions, see http://columbiaroad.info/map.html

11 December 2010

Meet friends at the Eros Statue

Popularly known as Eros, actually designed to be his brother Anteros, and also referred to as The Angel of Christian Charity, the statue at Piccadilly Circus is amongst the most popular meeting places in London at any time of the day.

Sitting atop the Victorian Shaftesbury Monument Memorial Fountain, which was designed by London-born Aesthetic sculptor Sir Alfred Gilbert, it is often described as being symbolic of London, the statue featured on the Evening Standard masthead until the recent redesign.

The whole sculpture was a memorial to Lord Shaftesbury's philanthropy and Anteros, as the God of Selfless Love, was thought to represent the philanthropic 7th Earl perfectly. For more information, click here.

^Picture © Chilli Head used under Creative Commons^

10 December 2010

Sip cocktails in a caravan at Barrio North

When the people who designed Barrio North, a 'neighbourhood DJ bar' in Islington, were looking to decorate their bar, they settled on a rather left-field seating solution. They installed a caravan.

Billed on the bar's website as 'La Carvana', a mis-spelling of the Spanish Caravana, it started life in 1976 as an 2-birth ACE touring caravan, before being snapped up on ebay and installed in a bar on Essex road to seat up to 15 people whilst they neck cocktails in what is cringingly referred to in decorations as an 'alcoholiday'.

It's an interesting feature, and the bar is reasonable, as long as you're there during one of their regular happy hours, though annoyingly they make you 'join' the bar to take advantage.

For more on the Caravan, visit http://www.barrionorth.com/bookings.php, but make sure your speakers are turned down first.

9 December 2010

Wear a piece of London history

Created from clay pipes found on the Thames foreshore, discarded over hundreds of years, the new range of jewellery from Amelia Parker is certainly different. If you're looking for an unusual present for that special someone with an interest in London history, this could be for you.

Often manufactured in London, the fragments date back as far as the 16th century. Smokers found their cheap clay pipes often clogged up after a few uses, and as a result sailors and dock workers routinely discarded them into the Thames, where they have spent many years being eroded and coloured by the Thames. They were then collected, cleaned and made into jewellery.

You may have seen them mentioned yesterday over at Londonist, but your author wanted to give it a special plug here today as Amelia Parker has a stall at this evening's festive fair at the Museum in Docklands from 6pm until 9pm, which is worth a visit anyway if you are interested in an a festive evening of carols and craft stalls.

For more information, and to order some items directly, visit http://www.amelia-parker.com/

^Picture © Amelia Parker used with permission^

8 December 2010

Go late Christmas shopping on Columbia Road

There are some great little shops on Columbia Road, in East London, and every year for the past five they have been opening late in December to encourage after-work shoppers to the area.

Today marks the second late shopping evening of the season, with around forty stores on the street flogging their wares from 6pm until 9pm, accompanied by seasonal foods, music and fun.

Your author has always been especially keen on independent shops, and Columbia Road is one of an ever-increasing number of streets in our city claiming to be wholly made up of independent outlets. As such, it is the perfect place to pick up unusual gifts for friends and family, visit a fantastic pub, or just relax and enjoy the festivities.

This year's late openings are on December 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd, in Columbia Road, E2. For more information, see http://columbiaroad.info/

7 December 2010

Meet the animals at the Clore Rainforest Lookout

Opened in 2007 at London Zoo, aka ZSL, the Clore Rainforest Lookout allows visitors to get up into the rainforest canopy, face to face with tamarins, monkeys, marmosets, lemurs and pygmy marmosets. There is also an opportunity to wander at ground level and experience life on the forest floor.

Your author is constantly boring friends by talking about how London can provide all that life can afford, especially on grim wintry days like we have been having recently. However, as you trudge the street complaining of damp feet, or pointlessly press buttons in your featureless office, it's worth remembering that within half an hour you could be walking in the rainforest right in the middle of London.

Unfortunately, this being London Zoo, it can cost up to £19.80 per person to visit in peak season (full price list here), but a lot of that money does do towards conservation. ZSL London Zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. For more information, click here.

^Picture © Louise Ireland used under Creative Commons^

6 December 2010

View Lorenzo Quinn's Give & Take III

Installed in November 2009, Lorenzo Quinn’s Give & Take III is a four metre tall bronze sculpture which was placed in West London's Berkeley Square to coincide with the opening of Quinn’s solo exhibition, Equilibrium, at Mayfair’s Halcyon Gallery.

Originally intended to spend only six months in the Square, and be removed in May, it was still there two weeks ago when your author popped by, and is presumably still there now.

The sculpture took more than a year to create, and is cast from bronze and brass, weighing in at around 1,300kg. For more information, click here.

5 December 2010

Visit the Kirkaldy Testing Museum

Today is the first Sunday of the month, and the first Sunday of every month sees the opening of one of London's more unusual museums, the Kirkaldy Testing Museum.

This provides a rare opportunity for curious souls to visit the site of David Kirkaldy's Victorian testing works at 99 Southwark Street, in Southwark, and see the Museum's central - and most important - feature. David Kirkaldy's huge testing machine, was constructed in Leeds especially for the space in the 1860s, and built to test the strength and breaking points of various materials, and measuring 47 feet 7 inches long, and 116 tons in weight.

It's a fascinating place to visit, and a tour consists of a DVD charting the history of the Kirkaldy project, followed by a tour from one of the enthusiastic volunteers who come once a month to run and maintain the machine, and talk to the odd visitor along the way.

For more information on this great little museum, which is free to visit, visit the Wikipedia page here.

4 December 2010

Buy a gift at the Present & Correct Pop-In Shop

Twee stationers Present & Correct open up a Christmas pop-in shop at the House of Propellers in Clerkenwell today, transforming the space into a festive vintage school classroom to show off their range of present ideas.

Gifts start at £2.50, and feature a range of original items from new and carefully sourced vintage lines, so this is your chance to stock up on anything from a rare and out-of-print book or poster to a vintage Olivetti typewriter, a set of hand-printed jotters, or just some fairly smart-looking pencils.

Your author will be honest, founder Neal Whittington asked him to write this, but he's a thoroughly nice chap, and has been creating, collecting and selling his wares in London since 2003, so it was a pleasure to help.

The shop is located at 5 Back Hill, in Clerkenwell, and is open from today until Tuesday 21st December, Monday to Saturday, 12 noon – 6.30 pm. There are also late openings until 9pm on Thurdays.

For more information, see http://www.presentandcorrect.com/

^Picture © Present & Correct used under Creative Commons^

3 December 2010

Attend a carol concert at St Martin in the Fields

This evening, the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields give one of their first Advent concerts with the Lord Nelson Brass Quintet in what is being billed as a 'vibrant celebration of Christmas'.

They will be playing seasonal favourites including O Come, All ye Faithful, Joy to the World, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, from about 6pm.

It's a bit steep, with entry costing £18, or £21 with mulled wine and a mince pie, but this is tourist central, and they have a fairly captive audience. For more information on the concert, which lasts around an hour, click here.

^Picture © James Cridland used under Creative Commons^

2 December 2010

Consider the Art of the Christmas Window at Fortnum & Mason

As readers may have noticed, it is now December, so your author will relent and start talking more about Christmas things. And let's start with Fortnum and Mason, who this year are celebrating the Art of the Christmas Window, with their seasonal window display.

They've teamed up with the National Gallery to produce their own three dimensional interpretations of a number of famous paintings from Western European art in their displays, including Willem Claesz. Heda's 'Still Life: Pewter and Silver Vessels and a Crab', as shown in a dodgy photo above.

The windows were revealed at 5pm on Tuesday 9th November, and have been in planning by chief designer Paul Symes and his team since April. For more information click here.

1 December 2010

Read books at the Westminster Reference Library

Home to reference books of all shapes and sizes, the Westminster Reference Library is housed at 35 St Martin's Street, WC2.

It offers visitors the usual reference books and internet access, as well as providing a home to Westminster's Art and Design Collections, recognised as one of national significance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

It's also home to a fair few tramps leafing through daily newspapers, but who can blame them when it's as cold as this outside.

The Library is open to all, Monday - Friday 10am - 8pm, and Saturdays until 5pm. For more information, click here.

30 November 2010

Wander the Great Gallery at the Wallace Collection

The Great Gallery at Hertford House, the home of the Wallace Collection, and is home to many of great seventeenth-century paintings from the Old Masters.

The paintings in the space were collected from various European schools by the 4th Marquess of Hertford, and other members of his family, and are now exhibited daily for free as part of the Wallace Collection's unique offering.

Here, you can see paintings like Frans Hals' The Laughing Cavalier, Titian's
Perseus and Andromeda and Rembrandt's Titus, the Artist's Son.

The collection is free, and is open from 10am until 5pm, every day except 24th, 25th and 26th December. For more information on the Great Gallery, click here.

29 November 2010

Visit Kiwi Fruits, the New Zealand Shop

Situated directly beneath New Zealand House, in the Royal Opera Arcade, Kiwi Fruits is a shop which began in 1983 and aims to supply homesick New Zealanders with everything they might need from the motherland.

Most of their offerings are imported directly from New Zealand, with everything from books to food, magazines, native wood crafts, ceramics, souvenirs and jewellery. They even stock traditional bone and pounamu carvings.

Aiming to be a home away from home for New Zealanders in Europe, your author really enjoys these type of shops. It is always very interesting to see people from any country try to create a piece of home in a new land.

For more on Kiwi Fruits, see http://www.kiwifruitsnzshop.com or pop in.

28 November 2010

Take a walk in Haggerston Park

Often overlooked due to its funny shape, sports pitches, and proximity to nicer parks, Haggerston Park was previously an industrial area, and the northern half of the site only became a public park in the late 1950s, whilst the southern half wasn't developed for public use in the 1980s.

The industrial part of the park was, according to Wikipedia, once home to derelict housing, a tile factory, and the old Shoreditch gasworks, which had been damaged by a German V-2 rocket in 1944.

One slightly bizarre footnote to its history is that this park was apparently once used by Michael Jackson to land a helicopter with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse whilst visiting the now closed Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children.

For more of information, see http://www.hackney.gov.uk/cp-haggerston.htm

27 November 2010

Tour the East London Mosque

Your author noticed the other day, in the course of his daily browsing, that the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, on Whitechapel High Street, are open for visitors this weekend. Given that this is part of his daily commute, it seems too good an opportunity to miss.

The Mosque itself is one of the largest in UK, with a capacity of up to 5000 people. It opened in 1985, and took around three years to build. The London Muslim Centre, meanwhile, is a much newer development having been constructed between 2002 and 2004, at a cost of around £10.5m.

However, the organisation dates back much longer than this, to 1910, when notable local Muslims established the London Mosque Fund to build a mosque. By 1926, the fund had grown considerably, and the first Mosque was opened in three houses on the Commercial Road, E1, in 1941.

For more details of the opening, which includes guided tours, see http://www.eastlondonmosque.org.uk/news/288

^Picture © diamond geezer used under Creative Commons^

26 November 2010

See Move: Choreographing You at the Hayward

Your author has always been a big kid when it comes to installation art, and as such the latest offering from the Southbank Centre's Hayward Gallery, titled Move: Choreographing You, is exactly the sort of thing which he likes.

Visitors are offered the chance to interact with a real variety of installations and sculptures by visual artists from around the world. It is great fun, and with hula-hoops, see-saws, climbing rings and ball rooms, you are given opportunities to do things normally reserved for children. The only problem is that they also allow children in.

A highlight for your author was Isaac Julien's Ten Thousand Waves which presents three gripping stories over nine free-hanging screens in a fifty-minute film which draws upon the Morecambe Bay tragedy, when a team of Chinese cockle-pickers perished as tides rose. This, combined with stories from Shanghai and rural China, could have kept the audience there for hours.

For more on the show, which costs £11 and runs until Sunday 9th January 2011, click here.

25 November 2010

Stay at the Tune Hotel

Having heard a lot about the new branch of Malaysian budget hotel chain Tune Hotels which has opened in Lambeth, in the shadow of Waterloo Station, your author was keen to find out what it was actually like. Thankfully, the chain's marketing people were very keen on this idea and your author ended up spending Sunday night there.

The rooms themselves are, as readers might expect, rather pokey, and the bathroom similarly tiny, but when you are looking for a budget room this is usually acceptable. However, the fact that you have to pay for extras like the TV, or even a towel, does seem a bit steep, especially when the cheapest you seem to be able to get a room for is the £49 your author would have paid if he hadn't been on a freebie.

However, London does have a shortage of hotel rooms, especially at the lower end of the market, and this one is centrally located, clean and ticks the necessary box of being a place where you can sleep, which is often all budget customers are looking for. And the beds, in which they have invested a fair amount in order to keep banging on about them in all their marketing, were nice enough.

Your author just can't work out how they have the nerve to say the hotel is in Westminster. Admittedly it's less than ten minutes walk to the bridge, but this hotel is most definitely above a Costa in Lambeth. And there's nothing wrong with that. For more on the Tune Hotel see Bryony Gordon's bit in the Telegraph here, some photos here, or the website here.

24 November 2010

Browse the art at the William Weston Gallery

Founded in 1967, and named after its owner, the William Weston Gallery is located in the Royal Arcade, W1, and prides itself on being the longest established specialist gallery in England dealing in European and British Master Prints.

It is a commercial art gallery, but boasts that works which once hung on its walls are now in more than 50 museums and public collections around the country, and that Mr Weston himself is often called upon to act as a consultant and valuations advisor for 'proper' galleries and museums.

It's a pleasant little space, and only takes a few minutes to browse the works on offer, unless you're trying to prove that you really know about art, in which case you have to stare for ages. All the works, when your author popped in last week, were sadly beyond his means, but probably best that it is left to other people to buy them anyway. They will appreciate them more.

For more, see http://www.williamweston.co.uk/

23 November 2010

Visit the South Bank German Market

Your author is reluctant to feature anything which bills itself as 'Christmas' themed so early in the year, but there is something rather pleasant about wandering the German Market which set up on the South Bank last week.

With the temperatures now distinctly wintry, you have to take your chances to be in the open air where you can get them, and the market at least lets you sip warming Glühwein in an M.D.F. 'Chalet', or take your pick of ales from the Outside Inn.

There are also various German and non-German foodstalls, selling Bratwurst and other dishes which appear to vary in quality between tasty-looking and pretty ropey. There are, of course, also the usual tat and gift stalls, and also an awful-sounding 'Santa’s Secret Village', which should be avoided like the plague.

It's a nice spot if you're looking for somewhere to wander, but it will probably get busier and you will only want to go once. Now in its third year, the market is only featured here to get it over with before the decent seasonal-offerings open up.

For more, see here.

22 November 2010

Shop for hardware at David Penton & Son

David Penton & Son, otherwise known as Penton's Hardware, is a great little hardware store that sells everything from screws to stepladders, as well as electrical and plumbing wares. Established in 1841, it has now been serving loyal locals for nearly 170 years

Your author has always been a fan of independent traders, and during a walk over the weekend was pleased to stumble across it, and some other excellent little shops, on Marylebone Lan, W1.

The window, and the interior, are absolutely brim-full of all different kinds of hardware, and if there is anything they don't have they are more than happy to order it in for you.

For more, see http://www.pentonshardware.co.uk/

21 November 2010

Go sailing at Queen Mary Reservoir

Amongst the largest inside the M25, Queen Mary Reservoir is in outer London, just to the west of the M3. It covers 700 acres, and has been providing water for thirsty Londoners since 1922.

For some, however, that is not enough, and the Queen Mary Sailing Club have been taking to the water since founded in 1972, and have been providing full programmes of racing and training since then.

Whilst learners must take lessons, competent sailors can apply for day membership for £12 during the week, or £16 on the weekend, and the club has a range of equipment available for hire, providing you can prove your credentials and subject to the discretion of the duty officer.

Admittedly, it all sounds a bit chilly for this time of year but some people love that sort of thing, so if it takes your fancy examine the website at http://www.queenmary.org.uk

^Picture © Martyn Davies, used under Creative Commons^

20 November 2010

See Wendy Taylor's Timepiece

It wasn't that sunny when your author last visited, but Wendy Taylor's Timepiece sundial, installed in 1973 beside the lock where St Katharine's Dock joins the Thames, is certainly striking.

The dial is apparently, a large equinoctial sundial around 3.66 metres across, and in the form of a stainless steel ring, which is supported by three rigid chain link cables.

For more on Wendy's work, see http://wendytaylorsculpture.co.uk/

19 November 2010

Escape the crowds at the Carpenters Arms, Seymour Place

A short distance from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, and Edgware Road, the Carpenters Arms, in Seymour Place, W1, is a great little pub that provides a haven from all those people buying things they don't need.

Apparently established in 1776, and rebuilt in 1872, it is owned by Market Tavern, a small family-run pubco, with establishments in various places.

It claims to be home to the London branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, and whilst your author isn't sure if this is correct, it does have some fantastic ales on tap and the array of pump clips on show is a testament to this.

It's also a sport pub, but not in an overbearing way, and when your author was last in it had a mixed crowd of after-workers and all-dayers pleasantly whiling away their time.

For more, see http://www.markettaverns.co.uk/The-Carpenters-Arms/index.html

18 November 2010

Watch a play at the Half Moon Theatre

The Half Moon Young People's Theatre, at 43 White Horse Road, in Limehouse, was first established in the 1970s as part of the now defunct Half Moon Repertory Theatre. When it's parent theatre went into liquidation in 1989, the youth branch struggled on, establishing itself independently in 1990.

Since then, the theatre moved to its its current premises in 1994 with an injection of cash from the London Docklands Development Corporation and European and Social Regeneration funds, and has been carrying out its mission of using drama and theatre to aid the learning and engaging of young people, and putting on seasons of productions which are open to the public.

If it sounds like your sort of thing, tickets are around the budget-friendly £6 mark and it's a short walk from Limehouse DLR. You can find out more at http://www.halfmoon.org.uk/

17 November 2010

Visit St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney

Apparently a place of worship for over a thousand years, the first church was built on the present site of site of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, 'sometime between St Augustine's conversion of the English in the 6th century, and 952 when a second church was erected on the site by St Dunstan', which is fantastically vague.

Your author doesn't have religion, but it is getting to be a bit of a habit to examine church histories here, so let's take the time to examine St Dunstan's, Stepney.

Originally called All Saints, the church was probably named after St Dunstan, the former Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London, at some point following his death in 1029, and in 1896 the names were combined. The only part of the original church which survives is a tenth century stone relief panel of the Crucifixion, beneath the east window.

The 'modern' church was built between the thirteenth century, when the chancel was built, and the fifteenth century, when the nave was built, to serve residents in what was then a country retreat. As such, it is notable for having survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz.

For more on St Dunstan and All Saints, visit the website here.

16 November 2010

Drink at the Stafford's American Bar

The American Bar, at the Stafford Hotel in Mayfair, dates back to the 1930s, and since the 1970s has been the venue of an interesting tradition. Started when West End hotels began looking to the increasing American market arriving by ocean liner, it is now more famous for the tradition of guests leaving personal gifts for the hotel, which have over the years covered the walls and ceiling.

Your author popped in the other night with Rajul from London Hotel Insight, and found a spot amongst all the paraphernalia for a very pleasant drink, attended to by Benoit Provost, the head barman who has been at The Stafford for 12 years. The tradition began, we are told, when the walls were so bare that an American guest gave Benoit's predecessor a small wooden American eagle. This was duly followed by an eskimo, given by a Canadian, and a Kangaroo, given by an Australian.

Today, the bar is covered with yacht club flags, signed photographs and historical artefacts. These are kept alongside glasses which various royals have used on their visits, model aircraft from pilots who drank at the bar during the Second World War, given on their returns, and photographs of Nancy Wake, the highest decorated woman of the Second World War, who drank here when it was run by Louis Burdet, famous for his time as a leader of the French Resistance.

The only downside is the cost of drinks. This being a hotel in Mayfair, a pint is at least £5, so it's currently more like drinking in the Euro-zone than in America, and there is also the dress code - Jackets are mandatory for men. All this, and your author can't help wondering who will be the first hotel to beat the rush to designate a "Chinese Bar".

For more on the American bar, and see some better pictures, click here.

15 November 2010

Visit St George in the East

Designated with a Grade A listing, St George in the East is one of the Six Hawksmoor churches created in the Eighteenth Century by the New Churches in London & Westminster Act, St George in the East is on Cannon Street Road in Shadwell.

When it opened in 1729, we are told, parts of the area then known as 'Wapping-Stepney' were still quite rural, with some open fields, and the area was only beginning to develop.

The area urbanised with the rise of the docklands, and was known for the production of maritime rope and cable - indeed, Cable Street was once the length of the standard cable measure at 600 feet - with the population increasing from around 300 houses in 1780 to nearly 49,000 at the time of the 1861 census. In 1836 the parish was constituted as a Poor Law parish under the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834.

For a full fascinating history, see http://www.stgite.org.uk/history.html.

14 November 2010

Remember the fallen in the Field of Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Sunday, so your author thought it fitting to feature the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey. Every November, The Royal British Legion establishes a Field of Remembrance outside the Abbey, to remember the fallen.

A sea of Remembrance Crosses with poppies on them are placed as tributes to ex-Service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their country. Families and friends place crosses to remember loved ones, friends and comrades who are no longer with us.

It is a poignant reminder of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This year, it was officially opened by the HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on the 11th November at 11am, and is open daily from 9am to 4pm from 11th November until 21st November.

For more, see http://www.poppy.org.uk/remembrance/field-of-remembrance

^Picture © markhillary used under Creative Commons^

13 November 2010

See the Lord Mayor

Not often us commoners get to lay eye on a Lord Mayor, but the new one will be out today, riding around in his shiny coach and waving at the likes of you and me, for today is the day of the Lord Mayor's Show.

Lord Mayors have been coming out for the show for nearly 800 years, marching - we are told - through everything from the black death to the blitz. Famously, the only time the procession has been cancelled was for the Duke of Wellington's Funeral in 1832.

The procession sets off from Guildhall at 11am, passing Mansion, Bank and St Pauls to deliver the new Lord Mayor to the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand at about 12.40pm.

For more information, visit http://www.lordmayorsshow.org/

12 November 2010

Walk over the Mile End Green Bridge

When the designers were creating the 90 acre Mile End Park, in London's East End, they were keen not to let Mile End Road, which bisects the park, spoil its linear design.

For this reason, they created the Mile End Green Bridge, a living bridge which carries the park over the Mile End Road with grass and plants on either side, suspended in mid air.

Created with the help of a Lottery grant of £12.3 million from the Millennium Commission, and designed by local resident and architect Piers Gough, the foot and cycle bridge, spans 25 metres and five lanes of traffic to unite the south and north sides of the park. We are told that 75,000 drivers pass underneath every day.

For more on the bridge, see here.