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



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30 June 2010

See the Aziziye Mosque

Your author's picture doesn't really do it justice, but the beautiful Aziziye Mosque, on Stoke Newington Road in Hackney, is quite a sight. The building was originally a cinema, having opened in 1913, the building became the Ambassador Cinema in 1933, and went through various incarnations before becoming a Star Bingo Club by 1965.

It reopened as the Astra Cinema in 1974, and later becoming it became a cinema club playing risqué martial arts and sexy films, before it apparently closed in July 1983. Interestingly, the domes on either side of the entrance are actually part of the original cinema design.

Eventually, in 1994, it was converted into a mosque for the local Turkish Community, with the insides being largely removed and the outsides covered in the pretty tiling we see today. Your author is unsure whether the mosque itself is open to visitors but he understands that it does contain, in the same building, a halal butcher and Turkish supermarket, and a restaurant called Aziziye Halal Restaurant, which are surely worth a look.

For more, see www.cinematreasures.org

29 June 2010

Eat at the National Dining Rooms

As regular readers may have noticed, your author has a bit of a thing for museum cafes and restaurants, and he has been to the National Dining Rooms, at the National Gallery, on a couple of very pleasant lunchtimes. Its probably more to do with a love of museums and galleries than a never-ending search for the best restaurant in London, but it is nice nonetheless.

A branch of Peyton and Byrne, it is overseen by prize-winning executive chef, Simon Duff, who originally trained under Marco Pierre White, and has worked at a number of London venues including the Franklin hotel and the Swissôtel the Howard.

It's a little pricey, especially if you're drinking, but on the right menu £23 will buy you two courses, and when you consider that you get some of the best paintings in the world thrown in for free, it doesn't seem so bad.

The National Dining Rooms is situated in the Sainsbury Wing of The National Gallery, on Trafalgar Square, and is open from 10am - 5pm every day, and until 8:30pm on Fridays. For more, and a full menu, see http://www.thenationaldiningrooms.co.uk/

28 June 2010

Explore Small Spaces at the V & A

At the V&A's new 1:1 - Architects Build Small Spaces Exhibition, which runs at the museum from 15th June until 30th August, architects encourage us to engage with architecture by building small buildings within the museum galleries.

Your author always loves this sort of thing, as he is just a big kid at heart and loves to explore things. The blurb says that the problem with ordinary architecture exhibitions is that they focus on drawings, models and photographs, and this is why its good to have small things. Its easy to agree when you get to explore book archives and tiny Beetle Houses on legs in the galleries of one of the country's great museums.

The exhibition is free, is spaced around the museum and is open daily from 10am until 5.45pm, or 10pm on Fridays. For more, see http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/architecture/smallspaces/

27 June 2010

Live music on Sunday afternoon at the Blue Posts

There are many Blue Posts around Soho, so your author hopes he has the right one. The Blue Posts, at 28 Rupert Street, W1, is a lovely pub, and their live music on Sunday afternoons is very enjoyable.

It's usually a bit of a squeeze to get into their downstairs bar, but its worth it if you can find the space to stand, and you have a taste for a couple more pints to finish off the weekend.

Your author believes the music starts around 4pm, and even if it doesn't, there are much worse places to spend your Sunday afternoons. The clientèle are always very friendly...

26 June 2010

Drink at the Black Friar

The Black Friar, near Blackfriars Station, was built in 1875, and commemorates the thirteenth century Dominican Priory, whose inhabitants gave the area its name.

For the area, the narrow cheese-wedge shaped pub is a real gem, despite the hoards of city boys who populate the outside area at this time of year. Whilst it has the air of a much-frequented city pub, and the ales inside aren't particularly well kept, it does have a sense of personality which makes it deeply lovable.

Its interior, which is true to the monastic theme, is excellent, and your author understands that its preservation is largely due to the 1960s intervention of Sir John Betjeman, who led a campaign to save the Black Friar from demolition, and is proof if it were needed that the cult of personality is a good thing.

For more, and some of the above, on the Black Friar, see www.pubs.com

Msub>^Picture by den99^

25 June 2010

Watch a film at the Institut Francais' Ciné Lumière

Housed at the Institut Francais, in South Kensington, the Ciné Lumière is a one screen cinema which mostly shows a range French films, often with English subtitles.

The cinema has 300 seats, and also shows other European and world cinema films, mixing together classics and new releases. Alongside this, it regularly holds special events such as premières, retrospectives and themed seasons.

For more information, visit http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

24 June 2010

Enjoy the Footsbarn Theatre in Victoria Park

The Footsbarn Travelling Theatre, one of the world’s leading travelling theatres, has pitched up in Victoria Park until 4th July. They are, so they tell us, renowned for their exciting adaptations of classics such as Shakespeare & Moliere.

The theatre began in Cornwall in the seventies, rehearsing in a simple barn owned by the Foot family, hence its name, and following a brief spell with no fixed abode, they moved to France in 1991.

The show they're currently touring in our area is called Sorry! and sees the Footsbarn teaming up with Pierre Byland and Cirque Werdyn, a gypsy horse circus, to bring you "an evening of burlesque and anarchy" with clowns, undertakers, actors, tractors, corpses and horses. Your author doesn't understand either.

For more, see http://footsbarn.com/en/show.php?showid=29

23 June 2010

Visit the Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden

Created in memory of East End residents killed in the Second World War, the Hermitage Riverside Memorial Garden sits on the former site of Hermitage Wharf.

The wharf was destroyed in a firebomb raid in December 1940, and when it came up for redevelopment in the late 1990s, Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act was used to make the developers of a nearby block of flats to create a Memorial Park, memorial and riverside walkway as a memorial to the civilians killed.

For more information, see here.

22 June 2010

Go for a paddle at the V & A

We all like a bit of culture, but in weather like this you occasionally need a break, to be outside and, if facilities permit, have a a bit of a paddle. At the V&A's John Madejski Garden, you can combine all three, but its mostly about the paddling.

Opened in July 2005, the garden, designed by Kim Wilkie, is in the impressive surroundings of the V&A's Italianate central courtyard, and features at its centre a stone-paved oval, with surrounding steps and water jets, which is either filled with water as a paddling pool, or drained for displays.

Thankfully when your author visited at the weekend it was firmly filled, and is an excellent use of the £2m given by Mr Madejski, specifically to create the new garden at the heart of the Museum.

For more, see http://www.vam.ac.uk/about_va/garden/index.html

21 June 2010

See Al Fayed's Dodi and Diana statue

Following May's news that Mohamed Al Fayed has sold Harrods to the Qatari royal families investment company for a reported £1.5 billion, your author felt like it was time to pay another visit to the department store over the weekend, and enjoy it in all it's Al Fayed-era glory.

One notably controversial creation of Al Fayed has been the Dodi and Diana statue, situated on the ground floor beside door 3. It would be easy to be cynical about the bronze statue, showing the late Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed dancing on a beach beneath the wings of an albatross, but your author believes that readers will make their own judgement, and it would be just so easy to mock, he wont bother.

Unveiled at Harrods by Mohammed Al Fayed himself in 2005, the statue was designed by the Bill Mitchell, artistic design advisor to Harrods and bears the inscription 'Innocent Victims'. For more, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4204364.stm

20 June 2010

Wander in the Holland Park Kyoto Garden

The Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, West London, was created in 1991, apparently by a team sponsored by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce, to celebrate a Japanese Festival.

Refurbished in 2001, the gardens are laid out in a traditional Japanese style and are designed to commemorate the centenary of Britain's friendship with Japan, conveniently forgetting the fact that the formal gardens and woodland which make up Holland Park only came into public ownership after Holland House was bombed in the Second World War.

Holland Park is open daily from 7.30am in summer and 8am in winter until 30 minutes before dusk. For more, click here.

^Picture by Sberla_^

19 June 2010

Enjoy the Paradise Gardens Festival

Your author tries not to do repeat posts too often, but he will make an exception for the free Paradise Gardens festival, which takes place in Victoria Park this weekend.

As your author said this time last year, this is the one big free festival which appears to have survived the cuts, thanks to the good Council Tax payers of Tower Hamlets, but who knows whether it will still be on next year or the year after.

This will be your author's fourth year at Paradise Gardens, whilst today's weather looks undeniably patchy, he is particularly pleased the decision was made some years back to move the festival to June as, when it used to be held in the back end of the Spring, that was always on the cards.

There's plenty to occupy you, should you choose to make the trip, with Wynton Marsalis headlining, the Carter's Steam Fair adding a fairground atmosphere, and various tents, show, dance classes, food and drinks available.

For more, see http://www.paradisegardensfestival.org.uk/

18 June 2010

Browse for books at the Lutyens and Rubinstein bookshop

The Lutyens and Rubinstein Bookshop, at 21 Kensington Park Road, in Notting Hill, was opened by Literary Agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein last autumn.

It's a great little shop, with tea available, specialising in fiction, general non-fiction and children's books, and it was a major departure for the pair, who had been agenting since 1993 according to The Bookseller.

Whilst they continue as literary agents from the same building, they're also doing a pretty good job at running a bookshop too.

The shop is open from 10am until 6pm, Monday-Saturday, and noon - 6pm on Sundays. For more, keep checking the website at http://www.lutyensrubinstein.co.uk/

17 June 2010

Drink at the Lamb and Flag

Sometimes your author feels, dear readers, that he has let you down. How can it have taken more than a year and a half to mention the Lamb and Flag, in Covent Garden?

The Lamb and Flag is almost certainly the oldest pub in Covent Garden, with a history dating back more than 300 years (records date it to 1623), and its hard to find a more characterful, local, pub in this part of London, deep as we are in touristland.

The downstairs bar, with front windows opening onto the street/smoking courtyard is nice enough, but if you're looking for a seat you're better off entering through the small door down the side alley and heading up to the cosy upstairs room, which is a little quieter and even has live jazz every Sunday evening from 7.30pm. Last time your author went, even though he felt jaded after a weekend of excess, the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic.

It comes thoroughly recommended, as does the Sussex Best, which is usually on tap. For a proper review from a magazine, see http://www.timeout.com/london/bars/reviews/12863.html

^Picture by Joe Mac1^

16 June 2010

Search for Ghost Signs

London has seen a great drive to protect old signs in recent years, culminating in a national online Ghost Signs Archive, supported by The History of Advertising Trust.

Your author has always enjoyed spotting ghost signs, such as the one above on Old Street, and whilst his camera and eye for a sign may not be as brilliant as the very talented Jane of Jane's London, he gets a great deal of pleasure from just looking at them.

It is interesting to think about how the style of advertising, and the places in which the adverts are found have changed over the years.

To visit the Ghost Signs archive, click here

15 June 2010

Say happy birthday to the Victoria Tower

Often overlooked in favour of its taller, older brother, the Victoria Tower, at the Southern end of the Palace of Westminster, is just as impressive. Whilst it doesn't have a clock, it is through the entrance at its base that the Queen enters Parliament, so it does play an important role.

The Victoria Tower was completed in May 1860, and as such has just celebrated its 150th birthday. It was a key part of the new Palace of Westminster which was built following the fire which destroyed the medieval palace in 1834.

Because so many important items had been destroyed in the fire, it was stipulated that some aspects of the tower had to be fireproof, in order that they could hold papers which formed part of Parliament's historic records. Still, the documents were put at risk when all the windows in the Tower were blown out during the Second World War.

For more on the Victoria Tower, see here.

14 June 2010

Drink in the Prince of Wales, Cleaver Square

The Prince of Wales, on Cleaver Square in Kennington, is a lovely little pub on a beautiful Georgian square which is renowned for having some of the best real estate in the area.

It's a Shepherd Neame pub with a pretty red brick front, and a nice bit at the front where you can sit out if the sun is shining. Cleaver Square and the surrounding area are apparently home to a number of Parliamentarians, being only a short hop from Westminster and local rumour has it that Paddy Ashdown likes a swift half in the Prince of Wales, and Kenneth Clarke, Tony Benn and Jack Straw reside in the locality.

All in, it's good pub, and in an area in which gems like this are patchy, it's definitely worth a look. For more, see here.

13 June 2010

Attend the Marylebone Summer Fayre

If you're looking for something to do this afternoon, you could consider checking out the Marylebone Summer Fayre, which is being held on Marylebone High Street and in the surrounding area from noon until 6pm.

It's the 8th Summer Fayre to be organised for the area by the Howard de Walden Estate, the company of the Howard de Walden Family which owns, leases and manages the majority of the 92 acres Marylebone, which they own, of course, through aristocratic inheritance.

All afternoon, there will be music on The Bedford Bandstand, dancing, a farmers market, Brass Bands, a Pimms Bar, a Fairground, a street picnic and an acoustic stage. It sounds fun. For more, see http://www.marylebonesummerfayre.com/

^Picture by Magnus D^

12 June 2010

Watch the world cup at Rich Mix's Afro Cup Festival

Probably about time for a world cup post, so let's take a look at the offering at the Rich Mix cinema, bar and arts centre on Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch.

To celebrate the first time the world cup has been to Africa, and also the 50th year of independence for 17 African nations, Rich Mix are hosting an Afro Cup Festival, with 25 days and nights of entertainment, all with an African theme.

The festival not only sees all world cup games screened live on a 15ft by 10ft screen, but also live African music and DJs, films, art, album launches, African food and street art.

For full details of acts and match times, see http://www.richmix.org.uk/afrocup.htm

^Picture by Ewan-M^

11 June 2010

Drink at the Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales, on Chalcot Road, near Chalk Farm Tube, is a cosy little pub in an area of town that can drift towards the pretentious.

From its attractive central bar, the friendly staff serve a range of good ales and other drinks, and the huge menu has a mixture of dishes with an Italian leaning. It also has a small downstairs garden area which looks very pleasant.

Your author was introduced to the pub by the Londonist team when a planned picnic on Primrose Hill got cancelled due to poor weather, and also popped in last night with Doreen from Tasty Fever for some excellent pasta.

It's well worth a visit if you're in the area and seeking a decent pub which isn't too crowded, and it also hosts occasional free jazz. For more, see the Standard website here.

**Update 14.40pm - See Londonist for more on the recent graffiti in this pub's garden. As your author says in the comments, he always thinks a better question to ask about graffiti than "Is it a Banksy?" is "Is it any good?".

In your author's humble opinion, the graffiti isn't particularly clever, or artistic. Nowhere near as good as the pub itself. Good publicity for the pub though.***

9 June 2010

Visit Pitzhanger Manor

Pitxhanger Manor, in Ealing's Walpole Park, is a cultural venue, contemporary art space, and historical house, open for guided tours.

A large house has stood on the site since the seventeenth century, and from 1800 to 1810 it was owned by the architect John Soane, and he rebuilt various aspects to his own designs between 1800 and 1804.

By 1900, it had been acquired by Ealing Council, originally as a Free Public Library, which remained largely until 1984, when it moved out and restoration work began. It wasn't opened again until early 1987, when it became the London Borough of Ealing's museum, known as the PM Gallery & House.

Today, it is open in summer on Tuesday - Friday from 1pm - 5pm and Saturdays from 11am - 5pm. Entry is free. For more, see here.

^Picture by markhillary^

Take it slow with the Slow London Guide

There's a lot of rushing to do in London, so sometimes we all need to take it a little bit slower, which is why your author was delighted to receive a free copy of the Slow London Guide recently. The book, part of a series of Slow Guides, is devoted to looking at London from a slower pace, without all the running from place to place usually involved in touristing, or living in a capital city.

Based around themes such as nature, taste, touch and travel, the concept is supposedly how you can get the most out of your time by fretting less, and examines some slow delights around town such as knitting groups, nature reserves, deck chairs, gardening, boat trips and DIY.

Your author's only criticism is the sheer volume of ideas packed into the guide, which also includes trips outside London, and even long distance sleeper trains. Whilst the guide has some brilliant ideas, it is rather busy at times and isn't as relaxing a read as it should be.

But the message is clear, slow down and you might enjoy life more. If only your author could make himself follow that mantra a bit more.

Slow London retails at £12.99, and for more you can have a look at their blog at http://slowguides.com/london

8 June 2010

Enjoy Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle

It's been up there two weeks, and its usually at about this time that your author catches up with things, so let's take a look at Yinka Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, the latest project to grace the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Your author has only ever seen it in stunning sunlight, as in the picture above, but it looked beautiful. Of course, it's being billed as the first artwork on the Fourth Plinth to specifically reflect on the historical symbolism of Trafalgar Square, as it references both the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson, and its a stunner.

Your author is no sort of art critic, so he'll leave the rest to the blurb, which you can see at http://www.london.gov.uk/fourthplinth/plinth/shonibare.jsp

^Picture by Magnus D^

7 June 2010

See the Democracy Village

The 'Democracy Village', on Parliament Square, beside the Houses of Parliament inspires mixed feelings. Whilst your author values the right of people to protest, there is a certain arrogance to monopolising the space which has traditionally been one on which everyone can protest, and filling it with unelected people shouting across the road at their democratically elected representatives.

Still, what does your author know. It's quite an interesting sight anyway, filled with a ragtag bunch of organisations since the beginning of May, 'campaigning' on a number of issues including peace, the war in Afghanistan, climate change, civil liberties, land reform, electoral reform and 'much more'. We are told that they started their protest following a carnival to mark International Workers Day, at which an unelected 'People’s Assembly' decreed that the War in Afghanistan is at an end. They say they are now occupying Parliament Square to ensure implementation of this 'legislation'.

Unlike the people across the road, who were elected in a poll of everyone in the country, in which 30 million people chose to take part, only weeks ago, your author certainly didn't vote for the residents of the village and he doesn't know anyone else that did. It is without even a shred of irony, however, that these people claim they are here for democracy.

If you want to hear it from their side, the village has an information desk, or even a website at http://democracyvillage.org/

^Picture by Ben Sutherland^

6 June 2010

Find York Water Gate

We all know the Thames is less wide than it once was, but nowhere is the extent of its former breadth more apparent than at York Water Gate, in Embankment Gardens. The Gate, thought to have been built in the 1620s, once stood right on the shore of the Thames and allowed access directly from the river to the grounds of York House, the large mansion which was home to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.

Whilst York House was sold to developers for £30,000 in 1672, it wasn't until the late 19th Century that the Embankment was built, under a project by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, narrowing the Thames by about 150 yards at this point.

It seems rather sad that the gate remains today, with no grand house behind it, and no river in front of it. Adrift in a sea of buildings and gardens, but it is pretty nonetheless.

For more on York Water Gate, and York House see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_House,_Strand

5 June 2010

Swim in Parliament Hill Lido

Opened in 1938, the Parliament Hill Lido, on Parliament Hill Fields, close to Gospel Oak railway station, is open to the public all year round.

The pool, which measures 60 metres by 28 metres, is unheated and a cafe is open during the summer months. It opened on 20 August 1938, having cost £34,000 to construct and was designed by Harry Rowbotham and TL Smithson of the London County Council Parks Department.

By 1999, the lido was Grade II Listed, and in 2003 wikipedia claims it received 49,000 visitors. For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_Hill_Lido

^Picture by Julian Osley^

4 June 2010

Go 'alternative' at Buddha on a Bicycle

Formerly located in Neal's Yard, Buddha on a Bicycle has recently moved to 27 Endell Street, Covent Garden, and specialises in incense, jewellery, magic crystals and Buddhas.

Downstairs, there is also a peaceful therapy room with daily yoga classes, healing sessions, guidance, meditation and chanting. They also hold workshops and events on subjects like past life regression, ear candling and the law of attraction.

It isn't really your author's sort of thing, but he understands that some people really enjoy it, and find the significant costs involved very spiritual. For more, see http://www.buddhaonabicycle.com/

3 June 2010

Drink in the pub where tailors & drapers pitched their case

The Hand and Shears, on Cloth Fair in Smithfield, has an interesting history. Cloth Fair got its names from the cloth fairs which were held in and around the street and Smithfield, with the first apparently being held as early as August 1133.

At the time, tailors and drapers travelled from around the country to buy and sell, and by Tudor times the Cloth Fair had become more regimented. Merchant Tailors would check cloth by measurement and those caught disobeying strict rules were brought to this pub for their case to be heard in the court upstairs.

The pub was eventually given a formal role by the Merchant Tailors, and was allowed to carry the sign of the guild, the 'hand and shears', from where it gets its name. Whilst the Cloth Fair itself was last held in the mid 19th-century, the name and association with the trade continues.

For more, see http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=105%22#

2 June 2010

Relax in the shade of a London Plane Tree

Known for their tolerance of vehicle pollution, the London Plane is a common kerbside tree in our capital, and is also visible in countless parks and gardens. Apart from the bits which fall off and get in your author's eyes on bike rides at this time of year, he is a fan.

The London plane is a hybrid of an Oriental plane and an American plane, is deciduous, and grows up to 20–35 m tall, with trunks of up to 3m in circumference. They are common in other cities, such as Paris, where readers will be unsurprised to hear they are not referred to as London Planes.

Characteristically, they can be spotted by their pairs of round spiky nuts, and their flaky pale grey-green bark, which flakes away and helps the tree cope with all the pollution.

If they could just get the bits which get in your author's eyes sorted, they'd be perfect, and that is only really a problem on windy days. For more on the London Plane, see the fantastic Trees of London website at http://www.londontrees.co.uk/london-plane.html

^Picture by wlcutler^

1 June 2010

Eat breakfast at Bar Bruno

Bar Bruno, at 101 Wardour Street, Soho, is a popular Italian-run cafe which does reasonably priced breakfasts, light meals and drinks. Unlike many other cafes in the area it is atmospheric and has some character and your author heartily recommends it.

Whilst it does get busy at times, weekday breakfast time is usually a bit quieter. popular, and it's a lovely spot with small booths of green leather-effect seats and posters adorning the walls.

For more, see here or here.