Tired of London, Tired of Life - One thing a day to do in London

A website about things to do in London

30 September 2010

Take tea at Soho's Secret Tea Room

Yesterday evening - by chance - your author visited Soho's Secret Tea Room, a new project currently operating at tea time in the private dining room above the Coach and Horses in Soho. A room which has, for 40 years, been home to the Private Eye lunches.


It was a very fleeting visit, and details were sketchy, but a little research amongst some blatantly promotional website comments reveals that the room might have over 16 different teas, a variety of home made scones and cupcakes, and serve the tea in old fashioned tea pots.

It's all done in an inevitable twee vintage style, apparently to the sounds of an old record player playing original 40's 78's. It is quite atmospheric, not least because the room itself is a real gem.

Details are sketchy, but it takes place daily(ish) around teatime and the room is only accessible through an entrance half way along the bar, and a twisty staircase through the kitchen. This makes it quite intimidating initially, but helps it to be all the more rewarding once you're in.

For more information, ask at the bar at the Coach and Horses, visit the facebook page here, or contact them via http://www.coachandhorsessoho.co.uk/

29 September 2010

Seek sustenance at the Pavilion Cafe, Dulwich Park

The Pavilion Cafe is a fantastic little cafe with a varied menu of fresh, often organic, dishes housed in a 115 year old former cricket pavilion in Dulwich Park.


The cafe has been run by Tarka & Domani Cowlam since November 2002, and is open every day, offering wireless internet, home-baked cakes, sandwiches and fresh food cooked on the premises.

Your author has only ever visited for a full english breakfast, but they did agree to serve it to him after 3pm, and it was brilliant, so considering the excellent reviews elsewhere, we can probably concede that this is a good cafe. Just a shame about all the usual East Dulwich toddlers hanging around causing mischief.

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

28 September 2010

See the Yes, Prime Minister play

Your author doesn't get to the theatre enough, and when he was invited to go along for a showing of the new Yes, Prime Minister play last week it was a particular treat, perfectly combining his roles as a politics bore and a London bore.


The BBC series has been adapted for the theatre, in a specially written play by original writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. We find Prime Minister Jim Hacker leading a coalition government, on the brink of economic crisis, without the hair that won him the election, and follow him through a winding tale of BBC-bashing, foreign diplomacy and eleventh hour political decision-making.

This new version features David Haig, off of The Thick of It and Four Weddings, as Prime Minister Jim Hacker and Henry Goodman as Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, along with a very talented cast who are well able to put together an entertaining few hours of theatre.

Yes, Prime Minister is at the impressive Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue for a 'strictly limited season', and tickets range from £17.50 to £52.50. For more, see http://www.yesprimeminister.co.uk/

^Picture courtesy of facebook/yesprimeminister^

27 September 2010

Drink at the Bread and Roses

In your author's opinion, Clapham is an area with a real dearth of decent pubs, and that's what makes the Bread and Roses, on Clapham Manor Street, so welcome.


Run by Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union council and the Workers Beer Company, and draws its name from a poem by James Oppenheim and a strike of female textile workers in Lawrence Massachusetts, USA in 1912.

With an excellent range of well-kept beers, and also live music and DJs at the weekend, quiz nights and even burlesque specials in the function room upstairs, you are unlikely to get bored, especially if you're a Guardianista who wants people to think you care about the workers without actually ever having to see one.

For more, see http://www.breadandrosespub.com/

^Picture by Ewan Munro^

26 September 2010

Watch the Gorilla Run

This morning, around 1,000 'gorillas' will descend on London for the annual Gorilla Run, which sees sponsored people dressed as gorillas doing a sponsored run for The Gorilla Organisation.


The run, which has been taking place since 2003, sees the gorillas run, jog or walk 7km around town, beginning and ending at the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Afterwards, at around 12.30pm, there are prizes in a number of categories including 'best dresses gorilla' at the Agenda Bar, on Mincing Lane.

All fairly wacky, but as the participants have had to pay at least £80 to take part, then raise £400 in sponsorship for a pretty worthwhile cause, you can't really begrudge them it, even if £50 does go on gorilla suit hire.

For more information, see http://www.greatgorillas.org/london

^Picture by Sarah G^

25 September 2010

Canoe the Lee Valley

Lee Valley Canoe & Cycle, at Stonebridge Lock, beside Tottenham Marshes, offers a range of stable open cockpit beginners kayaks, and Prijon and Eskimo kayaks (for the more experienced), for hire on the River Lee.


Canoes are available for one, two or three people, and prices range from £9 for an hour up to £200 for weekly hire. They are fully licenced for the River Lee, but you will need to bring photo ID in order to hire one.

The canoe hire centre is open Monday to Friday from noon until 4.30pm and Weekends from 11am until 5.30pm. For more, see http://lvcc.biz/

24 September 2010

Meet the scientists at the Natural History Museum

A PR person writes to let us all know that this evening the Natural History Museum is having a special one-off late event entitled After Hours – Science Uncovered. It offers visitors a chance to meet leading researchers based at the museum and view rare, never-before displayed specimens.


This is your opportunity to see such treasures as the Tower of London Barbary lion skulls, the first maggot ever used as forensic evidence to convict a criminal in court, and a skull of the recently-extinct Chinese river dolphin, which has never been brought out in public before.

Three hundred of the scientists who usually work in the bowels of the museum's many locations, and aren't usually allowed out in public, will be available to answer all your stupid questions. They will presumably been briefed to expect vacant plebs like your author, with the sort of stupid questions members of the public have, about which would win in a fight out of a tiger and a lion, or how bonobo monkeys say hello.

It runs tonight from 4pm until 10pm and entrance is absolutely free. For more, see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/after-hours-science-uncovered/index.html

^Picture by srboisvert^

23 September 2010

Spend an evening at the Bookshop Theatre

The Calder Bookshop, otherwise known as the Bookshop Theatre, was established in 2000 by John Calder on the Cut, between Waterloo Station and Southwark Tube Station.


The shop in literary fiction, poetry and drama, but it also hosts discussions, literary readings, film showings, music events and theatre performances.

Tonight, as part of this regular series of events, John Calder presents a selection of light and comic poems and verse, read by actors. The evening begins at 7pm and costs £6. Booking is advisable on 020 7620 2900 or amiddleton@calderbookshop.com.

For more information, see http://www.oneworldclassics.com/page.html?id=11

22 September 2010

Watch a band at the Flowerpot

A relative newcomer to North London, the Flowerpot, in Kentish Town, is a music venue and pub which hosts free gigs most nights.


The management promise at least one live act and one guest dj on any night you attend, and unlike many music venues your author could mention, they even pride themselves on selling 'honestly priced alcohol'.

In the past, the Flowerpot has hosted gigs by Laura Marling, Madness and Billy Bragg, as well as the Kooks and Florence and the Machine, but don't let that put you off. Your author popped in a couple of months ago and enjoyed a thoroughly pleasant evening's entertainment for not much money at all.

It is open every day until at least midnight, and 2am on Friday and Saturdays and entry is always free. For more, see http://flowerpotlondon.com/

21 September 2010

See a Neo-Assyrian winged man-bull

The British Museum is full of unusual treasures, and lurking in Room 10 is an intriguing statue of a winged bull with the face of a man. It which once stood at the Palace of Sargon II, in Khorsabad, in modern-day Iraq. It was probably installed between 710-705 BC and is one of a pair of such beasts which once flanked an entrance to the Assyrian king's citadel.


At sixteen tons each, the statues are amongst the heaviest items in the Museum and were discovered by French archaeologist Paul-Emile Botta in the 1840s, but were deemed too heavy to move by the French, and left behind following the excavation. .In 1849 Henry Rawlinson, a British resident in Baghdad, arranged to buy them from the French consul, and cut them up into pieces to transport them.

For more, see http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/colossal_winged_bull.aspx

^Picture copyright Gaspa, under Creative Commons^

20 September 2010

Meet the animals at Surrey Docks Farm

Surrey Docks Farm is a 2.2 acre city farm on the south bank of the Thames at Rotherhithe. It is home to goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, bees and donkeys.


Alongside this, there are gardens, an orchard, a herb garden, a vegetable patch and a wild area, as well as the dairy, a bee room, a blacksmith’s forge, adult education rooms, and a cafe. It also hosts monthly craft markets on the first Saturday of every month.

First established in 1975, the farm relocated to its current site in June 1986, and has remained there ever since. It is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm. For more, see http://surreydocksfarm.org.uk/


^Picture by flikr^

19 September 2010

See St Peter's Barge, London's only boat church

St Peter's Barge, in Canary Wharf, is London's first and only boat church, offering spiritual guidance to those who live and work in the area.


It was acquired as an empty Dutch freight barge in 2003 by St Peter's Canary Wharf Trust, refitted in the Netherlands before being sailed back across the North Sea under its own power in summer 2003.

Following the appointment of a permanent full-time Church of England minister in July 2004, the boat church now operates from a permanent mooring in West India Quay, right beside the Docklands Museum.

For more, see http://www.stpetersbarge.org/

18 September 2010

See Kingston's phone box dominoes

Probably not worth the journey on its own, standing as it does beside a Travelodge and a Wilkinson in Kingston, David Mach's Out of Order is a piece of installation art consisting of twelve telephone boxes, gradually falling over like dominoes.


It was installed in December 1989, and despite a petition for its removal in 2000, it was still there last time your author was in the area. Probably just as well, considering it is listed (albeit unfairly) on Wikipedia as Kingston's only landmark.

For more on the artist, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Mach

^Picture by mijori^

17 September 2010

Drink at the Castle, Furnival Street

Believed to have been established as early as 1541, the Castle is on the corner of Furnival Street and Norwich Street, in the City. As with so many London pubs, however, the modern pub dates from much later, around 1901.


Your author visited last week, and despite the busy pavement outside, it wasn't hard to find a seat inside to sample one of up to eight real ales, sourced from breweries around the UK and displayed on a blackboard next to the bar. Alongside that, it's very much your usual mix of braying city-boys and Australian barmaids, it would seem.

It is a free house, and that is always a bonus in your author's view as it gives the owners a bit more flexibility in what they do with it. Now, according to fancyapint, it is in the hands of the people run The Bell on Cannon Street and the Wheatsheaf in Borough Market.

For more, and their review, see http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub1065.php


^Picture by ^

16 September 2010

Watch a film at the Empire, Leicester Square

We all know Leicester Square Cinemas can be hideously expensive, but for your money you certainly get a bit of history. Built, like much of the square, on the site of the Earl of Leicester's London Mansion, the original Empire Theatre was designed by Thomas Verity and completed in 1884.


In 1887, the theatre reopened as a popular music hall named the Empire Theatre of Varieties, and in 1896, we are told that it hosted Britain's first commercial theatrical performances of a projected film, by Auguste and Louis Lumière. This theatre is also credited with having been the birthplace of the vacuum cleaner, after the inventor H. Cecil Booth visited to see the demonstration of a similar, but useless, machine which gave him the inspiration for his invention.

In 1927, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer demolished the original theatre and rebuilt it as a cinema, which opened in 1928. The Empire still retains that 1928 façade, and though it stood hidden for many years after a 1960s refurbishment, it is open to the air today.

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

^Picture by Ian Muttoo^

15 September 2010

Find the River Westbourne at Sloane Square Tube

If you look high up in Sloane Square Tube Station, you will see the large square pipe shown below. This pipe holds what is left of the River Westbourne, a river which shaped London as we know it, but was buried underground by Victorian Engineers in 1856-7 and stripped of its name and function, renamed as the Ranelagh Sewer.


The Westbourne once flowed from Hampstead through a fishpond at Kilburn to Hyde Park, where it created the valley now occupied by the Serpentine. It eventually reached the Thames near Chelsea hospital, and the water was once even diverted to a reservoir at Chelsea Waterworks.

Nowadays, it doesn't even get to see the light of day, and has become a river of sewage which only gets close to the surface in a metal prison inside a tube station. It's all very sad really.

For more, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2005/mar/30/pollution.g2
^Picture © Copyright Oxyman reused under a Creative Commons Licence.^

14 September 2010

Drink at Bar Cubana

Bar Cubana, on Lower Marsh in Waterloo, is an atmospheric little Cuban Bar, which offers a range of Cuban food and drink. Your author is unsure exactly how it came to be, but it is claimed that Fidel Castro is a shareholder.


According to his blog, the Managing Director of the bar is Phillip Oppenheim, the former MP, who once served as a Government Minister and a Parliamentary Assistant to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Oppenheim lists Fidel Castro as a shareholder of the bar, and he himself is involved in trade with Cuba, importing rum and coffee from the country, as well as running the Carnival de Cuba, London's annual Carnival de Cuba. He is also a director of Waterloo Quarter, a business alliance regenerating Waterloo.

But let's not let all this detail distract us from the budget-friendly tropical cocktails, the two course £8.95 pre-theatre menu and the Salsa and Latin music on Wednesdays and Thursday.

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

13 September 2010

See the Berlin Wall

Your author spends a considerable amount of time bleating on about how you can see anything in the world in London, and a perfect example is to be found in the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, just outside the Imperial War Museum. For here you can find a genuine section of the Berlin Wall.


Painted with the words, 'Change Your Life', which are attributed to the graffiti artist Indiano, the section of the wall was acquired by the Imperial War Museum in 1991, two years after it fell.

It originally stood near the Brandenburg Gate, one of eight Berlin Wall crossings points. Following the Revolutions of 1989, and the fall of the wall, it was at the Brandenburg Gate on 22 December 1989 that the crossing was officially reopened and Helmut Kohl, the West German chancellor, walked through to be greeted by Hans Modrow, the East German prime minister.

For more pictures of the section of the wall, see http://www.mauer.jp/block/iwme.html

12 September 2010

Shop at Peckham Farmers Market

Every Sunday from 9.30am til 1.30pm, there is a small farmer's market in Peckham Square, at the top of Peckham High Street.


Whilst there are plainly very few farmers in Peckham, the stallholders travel from places like Kent, Surrey and Sussex to sell a range or produce which often includes free-range meat and eggs, organic fruit and vegetables, salads, fresh juice, as well as cheeses and breads and cakes.

For a list of many farmer's markets in London, visit http://www.local-farmers-markets.co.uk/london.html

11 September 2010

Wave goodbye to summer at the Thames Festival

The 14th Mayor’s Thames Festival kicks off this afternoon, with events taking place on the riverbanks, bridges and river from noon until 10pm, anywhere between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge.


There are seemingly countless events and stages, with street arts, a bandstand, countless performers, a carnival, films, a chance to tuck into a feast on Southwark Bridge, exhibitions, al fresco jive dancing, river events, a new beach beside the Thames, a river parade, markets, circus, music and dance.

It all culminates in a carnival parade and fireworks on Sunday evening. For more information, see the patchy website at http://www.thamesfestival.org/

^Picture by victoriapeckham^

10 September 2010

Drink at the Edgar Wallace

Named after crime writer, journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright Edgar Wallace, the Edgar Wallace in Essex Street, WC2, is a lovely city ales pub, just a stone's throw from Fleet Street, Temple Inn and the Strand.


Your author had a very pleasant evening there last night, sampling a range of ales with old friends. The food looked good, and reasonably priced, and there was a relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere, even though it was a Thursday night and other pubs in the area were overflowing onto the street with lawyers.

For more, see http://www.edgarwallacepub.com/

9 September 2010

Shop Swedish at Totally Swedish

The Totally Swedish shop, on Crawford Street W1, combines a mission to offer a flavour of the motherland to the many Swedes who now call London home, with spreading the word about Swedish food, children’s products and handicrafts.


Founded in 2005 by Annethe Nathan and Teresia Bergsand the shop, which began as an online project, is now open six days a week, to promote Sweden’s cultural and culinary heritage to all sorts of interested Londoners, and convince them that Sweden really isn't just about Volvo and Ikea.

For more, see http://www.totallyswedish.com/

8 September 2010

Watch cheap films at the Prince Charles Cinema

As famous for the variety of their films as for their wallet-friendly pricing, the Prince Charles Cinema, on Leicester Place, WC2, specialises in repertory films, which are off general release, meaning that they pay less to show them and pass the savings on to customers.


The cinema, which also shows newer films, was built in the 1960s, but has existed in its current form since 1991, having apparently formerly been a West End Theatre and a naughty lady cinema. It even apparently has its own ghost.

Whilst tickets are a normal-for-outside-London £5.50 - £10, you can reduce this substantially by becoming a member (£16 £10 per year or £50 for life), which reduces ticket prices to £1.50 - £6, and it is the loyal fans who are the the lifeblood of the Prince Charles. The cinema is also home to the Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music, and Sing-a-long-a Rocky Horror Picture Show nights, but more on that another time.

For more, including timings and tickets, see http://www.princecharlescinema.com/

^Picture by renaissancechambara^

7 September 2010

Find the Saint Sarkis Armenian Church

Built in 1922-3, and paid for by Armenian businessman and philanthropist Calouste Gulbenkian, the Saint Sarkis Armenian Church, was designed by Mewés and Davis but, and modelled on a bell-tower in Haghpat Monastery in Armenia.


It is located in Iverna Gardens, in Kensington, just a short distance from Kensington High Street, and apparently when Gulbenkian decided to fund it he was living in Paris but chose Mewés and Davis because he also maintained a permanent suite at the Ritz Hotel, which was also designed by Mewés and Davis, and he admired their Beaux-Arts approach to architecture.

For more, see http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=50334#s4

^Picture © Copyright David Hawgood and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence^

6 September 2010

Look up at Centre Point

Often dismissed by visitors and Londoners alike, Centre Point, at the junction of New Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road is actually a Grade II listed building, standing 385 ft and 32 floors tall.


Whilst it is only the 27th tallest building in London today, when it opened in 1966 it was the tallest, and one of the first skyscrapers in London.

The building famously stood empty for many years, as developer Harry Hyams wanted to rent it all to a single tenant, and was thought of by many as a symbol of the greed of property developers. It was eventually let, and has since been sold to another property company, Targetfollow, in October 2005.

Whilst at ground level, the building is now surrounded by building sites for the crossrail project, and has had its odd fountains removed, it is still very visible from all around Central London. Look up, and you'll probably see it.

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

^Picture by pathlost^

5 September 2010

Do the Skyride

Today the streets of central London are opened up to cyclists, with traffic being banned from a specific route through Westminster and the City for some reason.


Last year more than 65,000 cyclists took part, taking a leisurely ride around on a route which takes in some of London's most iconic landmarks, including the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, Parliament Square, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Your author went last year and it was quite fun. If you are interested, visit http://www.goskyride.com/city/details.aspx?cityid=4 for more details, a map, and a nice quote from Chris Hoy.

4 September 2010

Celebrate Morris Dance at the Southbank Centre

Traditionally thought of as an excuse for bearded men to escape their wives, drink fine ales and dress up, Morris Dancing finally gets some recognition in a genuine arts centre this weekend with the Southbank Centre's 5000 Morris Dancers Weekend.


Pop artist David Owen brings a Morris-inspired large-scale installation to Southbank Centre, and the best in folk and Morris dance spend the weekend dancing at the centre, alongside live music and film celebrating the art.

If you're looking for Morris Dance in its purest form, one hundred of the finest morris dancers from across England will also be assembling at noon today and tomorrow and dancing throughout the afternoon. Featuring Hammersmith Morris Men, Mortimer's Morris (Nottingham), Pecsaetan Morris (Sunday only), Boggart's Breakfast, Eynsham Morris (Saturday only), Stone Monkey Sword Dancers, Moss Brothers and Gog Magog Molly.

For more on all aspects of the weekend, see http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/festivals-series/5000-morris-dancers-weekend

^Picture by Fimb^

3 September 2010

See Gormley's Quantum Cloud

Anthony Gormley's Quantum Cloud is a sculpture which stands beside the Millennium Dome, overlooking the pier used by the Thames Clipper boat services.


At first sight, it looks like just a mass of steel bits, but if you look a little closer, and move around the sculpture, you can soon make out a large figure, supposedly based on Gormley's own body, at the centre.

The structure itself contains 3,800 galvanised steel sections, and measures 29m high, 16m wide and 10m deep, so is visible from quite a distance. It was commissioned as part of the Millenium celebrations, to sit alongside the Dome and was, your author understands, completed on time.

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

^Picture by Matt From London^

2 September 2010

Walk beside Fairlop Waters

Failop Waters, in the London Borough of Redbridge, is a former gravel pit which is now operated as a Country Park and Leisure facility, with a 40 acres sailing lake, with two islands, surrounded by 300 acres of open countryside.


Accessible by the Central Line at Fairlop or Barkingside station, the park offers a number of outdoor pursuits, with the sailing lake, with a neighbouring angling lake and another smaller lake for nature, and also ‘wilderness’ walks, two golf courses and plenty of bird watching opportunities.

For more information, see http://cms.redbridge.gov.uk/leisure__culture/parks_and_open_spaces/fairlop_waters.aspx

^Picture by John Davies under a Creative Commons Licence^

1 September 2010

Become a reader at the National Art Library

Open to the public five days a week, the National Art Library, in South Kensington, is a public reference library, specialising in information on the fine and decorative arts. It is situated on the third floor of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and is also home to the Victoria and Albert Museum's curatorial department for the art, craft and design of the book. The Reading Room itself is Grade II Listed.


If you wish to use material from the Library, you must first register as a reader, which is free of charge, and can be done on your first visit as long as you have personal identification and proof of address, and agree to abide by the terms of library. If you're not up for all this, you might be able to get a glimpse of the room by just wandering in, but remember this is a research space, rather than a tourist attraction.

Once this step has been taken, you can use the library, but only if you sit in your regulated seat, and use only material you have specifically requested from the desk on the appropriate forms. This is, after all, a serious library which is here for a serious purpose - to allow people to access the National Art Library Collections.

The library is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 5.30pm (except Fridays until 6.30pm). For more, see http://www.vam.ac.uk/nal/about/index.html

^Picture by The Wolf^