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



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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 Gl├╝hwein 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.

11 November 2010

Stare up at the Crystal Palace Transmitter

If you live in Central London, there's a good chance that your telly comes from the Crystal Palace transmitter, in Crystal Palace. It transmits the signal for BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1 and Channel 4, FM radio and digital terrestrial by magic TV and radio waves.

The transmitter is London's third-tallest structure, and from its construction in the 1950s until the completion of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in 1991 it was the tallest in London, standing as it does 219 metres tall.

Whilst it is visible across South and Central London, it isn't really until you get up close that you get the real scale of the thing. When your author visited for the first time back in the summer, he was amazed. He is only sorry that at this time of year he can't guarantee the weather, and that you will be able to see the top today.

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

^Picture © Ben Sutherland used under Creative Commons^

10 November 2010

Wander in the Phoenix Garden

The Phoenix Garden is a community garden located in St Giles district of Camden, just behind the Phoenix Theatre. It was designed to give people working in the West End a green retreat and a chance to see some nature.

Started in 1984, it is maintained by volunteers from a registered charitable trust who created the garden on the site of an old car park, which had previously been a Second World War bombsite.

The garden is open every day from 8.30am until dusk and holds special events throughout the year, including an annual agricultural show. For more, visit http://www.phoenixgarden.btck.co.uk/

^Picture © Phillie Casablanca used under Creative Commons^

9 November 2010

Drink at the Chandos

Your author can never quite decide whether he loves or hates the Chandos, on St Martins Lane just off Trafalgar Square, but it is certainly worthy of a mention as one of London's most central pubs.

One of a number of pubs owned and operated by the Samuel Smith brewery, in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, its spartan interior has two levels, with the downstairs bar largely open except for large booths along the windows and an upstairs bar with a more comfortable feel.

If you can get hold of a booth downstairs and a swift half of Pure Brewed Lager or an Old Brewery Bitter, and it's quiet it can be very pleasant. If, however, you find yourself upstairs in the Opera Room on a Friday evening you will find it so busy you will wish you'd stayed at home.

Regardless, it's a fairly decent pub with an interesting interior and good value unbranded drinks. Whilst the pub purists from Sammy Smiths are in charge it's definitely worth a look.

For more, see Fancyapint here.

8 November 2010

See the 'Pirate Ships' at Tobacco Dock

In front of Tobacco Dock, the huge 1990s shopping folly built in a grade I listed warehouse in Wapping, sit two metal 'pirate ships', forever becalmed in a dry dock sealed off from the neighbouring canal. In truth, on closer inspection these are not real ships, and were built to entertain the children whose parents never came to shop at a shopping centre which never was.

The Sea Lark, apparently a copy of a 330 tonne tobacco and spice ship built at Blackwall Yard in 1788, was designed as a pirate ship for children, and the Three Sisters, a copy of an 18th century American built merchant schooner captured by the Admiralty during the Anglo-American War at the start of the 19th century, was designed as a floating pirate museum. They have long since closed, and are now home only to Health and Safety fines.

With the shopping centre having stood virtually empty for around twenty years, the real Tobacco Docks having long since been filled in, and these ships never having been used it's all quite sad really. Maybe with the resurgence of interest in piracy someone might open them up one day?

For more on Tobacco Dock, see an excellent article on Londonist here.

7 November 2010

Visit William Morris' Red House

Owned by the National Trust, Red House, in Bexleyheath, is the only house which exists which was commissioned, built and lived in by William Morris, the celebrated founder of the Arts & Crafts movement.

Completed in 1860, it is built in the red brick-and-tile domestic vernacular style, it apparently shows a focus on natural materials. The Grade I listed building is noted for its gardens and its beautiful stairway.

Morris himself only lived here for five years, being forced to sell the house for financial reasons in 1865, and it then became a family home for nearly 140 years, before passing to the National Trust in 2002.

Nowadays, it is open to the public from March until December. For more information, see here.

^Picture © Jon's pics used under Creative Commons^

6 November 2010

Search for a hat at Laird London

If you're searching for a decent hat, and have plenty of money to spend, you should probably have a check in Laird London.

From Bowlers to Trilbies, Bowlers to Pork Pie Hats, and flat caps to Deerstalkers, they claim to add a contemporary twist to older styles to keep them in touch with current fashion trends.

Laird is open Monday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm and Sundays from noon until 6pm. They have three shops, situated at 23 New Row, WC2, at 128 Columbia Road, E2, and at 6 Royal Exchange in the City.

For more, and to browse a range of hats, see http://www.lairdlondon.co.uk/

5 November 2010

Watch free fireworks on Wanstead Flats

As noted over on the fantastic IanVisits, there are plenty of places to see fireworks in London on bonfire night, and over the weekend, but due to budget cuts it would appear an increasingly limited number of them are free. However, over on Wanstead Flats the Mayor of Newham is determined to throw a free party, and is doing so along with Pains Fireworks, a top award-winning UK fireworks company.

You might wish you'd paid to go somewhere else, however, as the fireworks are being set to the Harry Potter theme music, Queen's ‘A Kind of Magic' and ‘I Put a Spell on You' by Nina Simone.

Other free displays over the weekend include Clapham Common and Southwark, which are also tonight, and then two of the biggest, the Blackheath and Victoria Park displays, later in the weekend. For what it's worth, your author will be taking the train just outside this website's comfort zone, to the unbeatable Brockham Bonfire in Surrey, which is Britain's biggest.

For more on the Wanstead Flats display, click here.

^Picture © Nikki Tysoe used under Creative Commons^

4 November 2010

Relax in the Pembury Tavern

It's British Pubs Week this week, so your author is trying to crowbar in as many pubs as possible. It is, therefore, time to mention a lovely pub up in Hackney, the Pembury Tavern.

Built in the mid 19th Century, and closed in the late 1990s following a fire, and it wasn't until 2006 that it reopened, with links to the Cambridge-based Milton Brewery.

Now it offers an amazing sixteen handpumps, and serves a selection of ales from the Milton Brewery, and other British microbreweries. It also holds three beer festivals a year, the next of which is due to begin on 17th November, daily food - including pizza - on an ever-changing menu, allows pets and offers free wireless broadband.

It has its own Tuesday-evening chess club, and also offers draughts, Scrabble, backgammon, playing cards and dominoes. Given that they can fit in all this, as you might expect, it is pleasantly spacious inside.

If there's anything else you're searching for, have a look on the website here.

3 November 2010

Wander Middlesex Filter Beds

Now a nature reserve, which is part of the Lee Valley Regional Park, the original six Middlesex Filter Beds were created in 1852 in order to purify water for the surrounding areas and prevent Cholera, and were subsequently expanded. By 1969, the system of water cleaning had become outdated, with the building of the Coppermills Water Treatment Works in Walthamstow, and they were closed.

By the late eighties, they had been the responsibility of Thames Water for many years, and had become overgrown, but teeming with wildlife. Seven beds were leased to the Lee Valley Regional Park and they now form the Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve.

The reed beds and other areas are, we are told, home to over 60 different species of bird, including Snipe, Reed Warblers and Sparrowhawk, and also amphibians such as toads, frogs and newts.

Though the wildlife is possibly better in summer, they are open all year round and are free to visit. For more, see here.

2 November 2010

Explore the Sir John Soane Museum by candlelight

When the clocks go back, the dark nights can be depressing, but they are also a positive thing. For tonight is the first time in months you have been able to fully enjoy the special candlelit openings at the Sir John Soane Museum in proper darkness.

As any London geek will know, from the proceeds of his work as a celebrated architect, Soane bought 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the neighbouring house, and used them to amass his interesting collection of possessions. He did so well that by his death in 1837 he was able to arrange for an act of Parliament to leave his collection to the nation

The openings take place on the first Tuesday evening of each month, from 6pm until 9pm, and are free, but you have to get there in plenty of time in order to get in, as the queues sometimes snake down the street.

The museum is perfect to be enjoyed by candlelight, however, with the flames flickering over the nooks and crannies and collections. For full details, see http://www.soane.org/

^Picture reproduced under Wikimedia Commons^

1 November 2010

Hide in the Ship and Shovell

A rarity amongst pubs because it has an alleyway through the middle of it, the Ship and Shovell, near Charing Cross Station, is run by the Hall and Woodhouse brewery and, we are told, draws its name either from a nearby Coal Hole, or from Sir Cloudesley Shovell, who is pictured on the sign.

Your author popped in on Saturday night for a swift half with friends tucked away in the tiny snug off the smaller, south-eastern, side of the pub. It was pleasantly quiet, and lacked the strong bleach smell of the main part of the pub, as well as benefiting from a tiny bar of its own, various nooks and crannies to hide away in, and even an upstairs 'Crow's Nest', which is available to hire.

Probably established in Victorian times, the Badger ales on sale are drawn up from a linked cellar, through which drinks unavailable at the smaller bar have apparently been known to be passed by dumb waiter for discerning customers.

A nice pub, then, but best avoided on Thursday and Friday nights when it has been known to be over-run by after-work drinkers, steeling themselves for the commute from Charing Cross. For more, see here.

^Picture © Jitze Couperus used under Creative Commons^