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



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31 May 2012

See Sir John Soane's Hogarth collection

The Sir John Soane Museum at Lincolns Inn Fields is a treasure trove of items, and among the most celebrated are the ones that hang in the picture room at the rear, Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress and An Election.

Over a number of pictures, the two collections tell two stories, firstly in A Rake’s Progress that of Tom Rakewell, a man who becomes consumed by a life of vice and self-destruction after inheriting vast wealth from his miserly father, and secondly in An Election, the story of an Oxfordshire contest at the General Election of 1754, which was mired in controversy. Best of all, you can view them for free right in the centre of London.

For more see here for A Rake's Progress and here for An Election.

^Picture © Copyright R Sones and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.^

30 May 2012

Try star-spotting with the Baker Street Irregular Astronomers

Back in March, your author spent an amazing night star-spotting with the Baker Street Irregular Astronomers, a group of telescope-owners who meet in Regents Park on a week night once a month to stare off into space.

The night in March was fantastically clear and attendees were easily able to see Mars, Venus and Saturn with the naked eye, offering some great views through the telescopes on offer, and admirable amounts of passion and wonder from those in attendance.

The group are set to meet again tonight, with an open invitation, providing the weather is good, to the Hub in Regents Park. If cloudy, they're off to the pub.

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

29 May 2012

Buy wines at Gerry's

A well-stocked little off license on Old Compton Street in Soho, one of the best areas for London off licenses, Gerry's was founded in 1984 by Michael Kyprianou, the former manager of the now closed Del Monico's off-licence further down the street.

Today, the shop boasts a fantastic range of wines and spirits, interspersed with hand-written labels, and pictures of those who appreciate the shop and other bits of paraphernalia accumulated over the years.

For more, see http://www.gerrys.uk.com

28 May 2012

Find London's first drinking fountain

Built into the railings of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, on Holborn Viaduct, London's first Metropolitan Drinking Fountain can still be seen, complete with two cups retained on chains and marked with the words 'Replace The Cup'.

Originally installed in April 1859 and paid for by Samuel Gurney, the fountain was moved in 1867 as Holborn Viaduct was built, and then reinstated in its original position in 1913. Though no longer functioning, it is an interesting anomaly.

For more, see http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2653851

27 May 2012

Explore the Hogarth Roundabout Meadow

As part of the fantastic Chelsea Fringe series of events taking place around the Chelsea Flower Show, the Hogarth Roundabout in Chiswick has been transformed into a wildflower meadow designed for the benefit of local people and wildlife in the area.

We are told that this is particularly important because the piece of land that many of us have crawled around on the way out to the West along the A4 sees tens of thousands of vehicles at rush hour and is rarely a pleasant place to be.

So, the meadow has been planted to combat that, using native and non-native annual flowers, set to bloom all summer and on into November in an attempt to increase biodiversity and inspire joy in visitors, with work sponsored by the old Chiswick Preservation Society.

For more, see http://www.chelseafringe.com/event/hogarth-roundabout-meadow/2012-05-27/

^Picture © David Smith and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence^

26 May 2012

Celebrate the reopening of HMS Belfast

Despite it actually reopening more than a week ago, this weekend sees a family weekender on HMS Belfast to mark its reopening after six months of refurbishment works after its walkway to the shore collapsed late last year.

We are told to expect simulated gun firings, Arctic assignments, family events, live music and a barbecue, on board a ship which is well worthy of a visit whenever it is open, and a welcome reopening for London.

For more, see http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast

25 May 2012

Attend Speakeasy & Swing at the Half Moon

Tonight we are told to expect the Half Moon in Herne Hill to be transformed with the sounds and tastes of the 1920s, as big band Le Chat Creole entertain us with swing, Dixieland and jazz.

Your author will be there, and not just because a former flatmate is singing, but also because it offers the chance to sip on a Sidecar, feast on fried chicken and pretend that we are back in the 1920s, which were apparently terribly fashionable.

It promises to be a good night and tickets are available at http://www.wegottickets.com/event/168823

24 May 2012

Wander on Mitcham Common

During one of your author's regular aimless wanders in South London, he stumbled across Mitcham Common as part of a survey of large green spaces in the A to Z and was not disappointed.

Once dominated by oak woodland, the massive 460 acres of common land are thought to have been cleared as early as neolithic times for grazing, and today the common has a real gritty suburban charm, and is wilder than many green spaces in London, with overgrown scrubland and ponds dominating, and living alongside a full 18 hole golf course.

We are told that the soil here is acidic, and has also suffered from frequent rubbish dumping, but yet the views across the surrounding neighbourhoods and patches of trees and scrubland make it an interesting environment.

For more, see http://mitchamcommon.org/.

23 May 2012

Maintain your bike with Islington Cyclists' Action Group

Your author's poor yellow bike is on its last legs, but with a little maintenance it manages to struggle on, and the great news for anyone needing to get a second opinion on their bike woes is that London has a strong network of cycle user groups full of friendly sorts who are willing to offer advice and assistance.

Tonight, as every fourth Wednesday of the month (except August and December), the Islington Cyclists' Action Group is meeting at North London's Sunnyside Community Centre for a session of bike maintenance from 7pm – 9.30pm for which a very reasonable £1 is charged. Expect the session to be full of friendly faces and an unrivalled range of tools you didn't know existed.

For more, see http://www.icag.org.uk/events/maintenance-workshop/

22 May 2012

Attend London Reads at the Deptford Lounge

Tonight at Deptford's new Deptford Lounge library-community-leisure-space-thing, Londonist Editor Matt Brown is hosting a London book event with two very talented London writers and one lightweight chancer speaking about their books on London.

Your author is joined by Craig Taylor, author of Londoners and we are told erstwhile writer of the Guardian’s One million tiny plays about Britain, and Christopher Fowler, author of am amazing 30+ London novels, notably thrillers such as the Bryant and May mysteries.

For more on all this, see http://londonist.com/2012/05/londonist-presents-london-reads-deptford-lounge.php

21 May 2012

Visit Portsoken Street Garden

Created with the support of the King George's Fields Foundation, which created many public gardens in memory of King George V up until the 1960s, Portsoken Street Garden is a pretty little public space in the City of London just a short distance from Tower Hill.

The smallest King George's Field in the country, the garden was re-landscaped in the 1980s, and again in 2010, when a new play area was created, with we are told, an emphasis on natural play.

For more, see http://www.londongardensonline.org.uk/gardens-online-record.asp?ID=COL039

20 May 2012

Watch the Cavalry Memorial Parade

As per advance warning given by Ian and other websites the 88th Combined Cavalry Memorial Service and Parade takes place today in Hyde Park, as it does every May.

The event kicks off at around 10.45am, forming up on the Regimental Marker on the Broad Walk in Hyde Park. We are told to expect music from two marching bands and the saluting of an international golfer.

For more, see http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/calendar/detail.php?uid=18861

^Picture © Dave-F used under a Creative Commons license and actually of the trooping of the colour but you get the idea^

19 May 2012

See some Museums at Night

We're already onto day two of the annual Museums at Night weekend, but there are still some fantastic events taking place this evening, and even a few tomorrow.

Tonight sees a late opening at the Royal Observatory's Astronomy Centre in Greenwich, late talks at Apsley House, art by candlelight at the London Canal Museum and late steam engines at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, amongst others.

For more, see http://www.culture24.org.uk/places+to+go/museums+at+night

^Picture © Will668 used under a Creative Commons license^

18 May 2012

Find the Robert Stephenson statue

In Victorian times father and son engineering teams seemed fashionable, and though many have heard about great train man George Stephenson, creator of the world's first public steam railway, it is his celebrated son Robert Stephenson who is commemorated by a statue outside Euston Station.

Stephenson junior was a renowned civil engineer and locomotive designer, working on the designs of the Rocket and bridges including the Conwy railway bridge and Britannia Bridge across the Menai Straits in North Wales and the Royal Border Bridge across the Tweed in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

It is presumably as Chief Engineer for the London and Birmingham Railway - the first main line to enter London - that Stephenson is commemorated at Euston, however, being one of many posts he held, including MP for Whitby.

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

^Picture © ell brown used under Creative Commons^

17 May 2012

Attend Late Shift at the National Portrait Gallery

Your author is a big fan of late openings at our museums and galleries, and tonight, as every Thursday and Friday night, the National Portrait Gallery is holding Late Shift, a chance to wander round after work and enjoy the gallery in a more informal setting.

Tonight, we are told to expect poetry readings in Memory of Lucian Freud, and guest DJ Edward Otchere, whereas tomorrow night, Draw the Line offers us an opportunity to take part in a life drawing class led by Sophie de Stempel, one of Freud's former models, and various other drawing-related activities.

For more, see http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/lateshift/late_shift_home.php

16 May 2012

Eat at the Roundwood Park Cafe

Despite some rather odd happenings in the past, the cafe in the lodge in Roundwood Park, North London, is a pleasant spot for a quick cup of tea or bite to eat, and a good place to escape the sort of showers we had yesterday.

Today, the forecast looks brighter, which means the young noiseboxes might even get to use the neighbouring children's play area whilst their minders tuck into sandwiches, reasonably priced teas, and plates of delicious noodles.

For more, see http://www.brent.gov.uk/pks.nsf/Parks/LBB-61

15 May 2012

Admire the Canada Gate

Often overlooked by tourists gazing in the opposite direction towards Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial, the Canada Gates are an impressive entrance to Green Park, presented to London by Canada.

Commissioned after the death of Queen Victoria, in 1905, the gates match up with smaller ones presented by Australia and South Africa, and were finally completed in 1911.

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

^Picture © Ian D used under Creative Commons^

14 May 2012

Visit High Elms Country Park

Deep in Outer South East London, near Orpington, High Elms Country Park is a 250 acre area of woodland, meadows and parkland, open to the public to explore all year round.

The Park was originally part of the aristocratic High Elms Estate, owned by the Lubbock family, but in 1938 it was sold to Kent County Council to become a nurses' training centre, then when the area was adopted as part of the London Borough of Bromley in 1965, the estate came too, opening to the public as a park.

Today the park, which borders the High Elms Golf Course, offers access to woodland, a nature centre, chalk meadow, an ice well, formal gardens and wildflower meadows. It is also a site of special scientific interest.

For more, see http://www.bromley.gov.uk/info/1008/nature_reserves/400/high_elms_country_park_local_nature_reserve

13 May 2012

Attend the Covent Garden May Fayre

An annual May Fayre takes place in Covent Garden today, organised by Alternative Arts will be held in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, it offers a procession around Covent Garden, Punch and Judy performances, and, we are told, a special church service with Mr Punch in the pulpit at the church.

There will also be workshops, stalls and folk music, all with a puppetry theme, in a tradition held to coincide with Punch's birthday earlier this week on May 9th, the date when Samuel Pepys first recorded seeing Mr Punch in England.

For more, http://www.thebiggrin350.com/The_Big_Grin/Big_Birthday_Party.html

^Picture © donald judge used under Creative Commons^

12 May 2012

See Olivier on the South Bank

Though he sadly passed away back in 1989, it is still possible for fans to see Laurence Olivier on the South Bank. Unveiled in September 2007 to mark the centenary of his birth, a statue of Olivier stands proudly in the square at the front of the National Theatre.

The statue was erected following a public appeal which attracted donations from more than two hundred people, many of whom worked in the theatre and film industries.

For more, see http://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/laurence-olivier-statue

^Picture © Martin Pettitt used under Creative Commons^

11 May 2012

Buy Olympic tickets*

For those like your author who have been either too unlucky or too lazy to get their hands on any tickets to one of the sporting events that is taking place in London in the summer, today offers another opportunity to pay for tickets to the London Olympic Games.

We are told that a fairly staggering 900,000 tickets will begin to go on sale today from 11am, initially only to those who have already applied and been rejected for tickets. These representing contingency tickets, those returned by punters who no longer want them, and those that no one wanted in the first place.

Numbers include 47,000 for athletics in the Olympic Stadium and a further 70,000 tickets to skulk around the Olympic Park 'soaking up the atmosphere', which all begs the question why we were hyped into over committing to tickets we couldn't afford this time last year.

For more, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9251955/London-2012-Olympics-900k-remaining-Games-tickets-up-for-sale-to-previously-unsuccessful-applicants-from-May-11.html

*Providing you meet the various incomprehensible conditions for the various sales of different categories of tickets which take place at various different forthcoming dates, one tranche of which is today

10 May 2012

Visit the Rookery in Streatham

A small formal gardens which are maintained by Lambeth Council as part of Streatham Common, we are told that the Rookery was once known as Streatham Spa, and was a place where people came to take local spring water for its medicinal and healing properties.

The gardens stood in the grounds of a larger house called The Rookery, and visitors to the Spa declined the Rookery and surrounding woodland were acquired for public use, opening as a public garden in 1913. Today, the spot is a lovely place to while away an hour or so and is popular with local families.

For more, see http://www.freewebs.com/streathamfriends/history.htm

9 May 2012

Book a London at Dawn Photography Tour

One morning last month, your author rose at an ungodly hour to spend some time at the invitation of professional photographer Anthony Epes and black cabbie & certified tour guide Nick Mortimore touring the City of London. Joined by a small but determined ragbag team of London writers and journalists, it was an interesting way to observe the City as it woke to face another day.

Unlike many such things, the tour was both interesting and rewarding, with Mortimore a very knowledgeable London guide with plenty of information and London insight - gleaned from 25 years driving London's streets from North to South - and Epes brimming over with photography skills. The tour left Tower Pier and made its way up past the Tower of London and on into the City, past Bevis Marks and the Gherkin, and off towards Spitalfields before your author had to break away to bike into work.

Yes, the tours are expensive, and yes you have to get up whilst it's still dark and travel across London as the birds are only just beginning to stir, but seeing London in the early morning is a great experience, and often motivating oneself to do so needs a reason, so it helps to have the passion and interest that Mortimore and Epes offer in bags.

For more on their tours, see http://www.londonatdawn.com/

8 May 2012

Lunch in St George's Gardens

Billed as an oasis by the London Borough of Camden, St George's Gardens sit close to the Coram's Fields near the Foundling Museum and the Brunswick Centre, and began life as an 18th century burial ground in open fields to the North of Bloomsbury.

With entrances on Handel Street, Sidmouth Street and Heathcote Street, the Gardens are a favourite lunchtime spot for those working in the area, and feature memorials and gravestones, including the tomb of Oliver Cromwell's granddaughter.

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

7 May 2012

Celebrate May Day on the docks

As part of a drive to spend some time outside London, your author is off to Rochester today for the annual Sweeps Festival, but for people looking for something a little more London-centric, the Museum in Docklands is hosting events with a distinct May Day theme.

In the build up to a May Day procession at 3pm, the Museum is offering folk dancing, a Jack in the Green making workshop, storytelling and other events.

For more, see http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Docklands/Whats-on/Events/

6 May 2012

Play pitch and putt in Queens Park

Billing itself as a 30 acre oasis in one of London's most densely populated ares Queen’s Park is a fairly compact and popular park in North West London, owned and operated by the City of London Corporation.

One unusual highlight in the park is the well-kept pitch-and-putt golf course which sits at its heart, and is open to all-comers for a small fee. When your author visited a little while ago, it seemed to be doing a roaring trade, with plenty of young families taking part.

For more, see http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Environment_and_planning/Parks_and_open_spaces/queens_park.htm

5 May 2012

Attend the Canalway Cavalcade

An annual tradition since 1983, Little Venice's Canalway Cavalcade is on all weekend, celebrating life on the water. It is organised by the Inland Waterways Association in association with canal users from around London and the country.

We are told to expect fun for all the family all weekend, with boats, stalls, bands, kids’ activities, competitions, Morris Dancers, and a real ale bar. Let's just hope the weather holds out.

For more, visithttp://www.waterways.org.uk/events_festivals/canalway_cavalcade_2012/canalway_cavalcade_2012

^Picture by daveograve@^

4 May 2012

See the birds of Roundwood Park Aviary

Apparently constructed in 1956 following pressure from the Willesden & District Caged Birds Society, Roundwood Park aviary, in North West London, is home to a number of species of birds, including Cockateils, Canaries and Budgerigars.

Though the Brent Heritage website reports the aviary was once the victim of bird-theft, with budgerigars worth £50 stolen in the summer of 1963, it seems that things have calmed down somewhat since then, and when your author popped by, a small child and his mother were enjoying the simple pleasures of smiling at zebra finches.

For more, see http://www.brent-heritage.co.uk/roundwood_park.htm

3 May 2012


Unlike most, your author is a fan of good politicians, and has once again been genuinely impressed with the candidates on offer in the Mayoral elections and believes that any of the front-runners, and maybe even a couple of the back-runners, would do a good job at it.

So today is your opportunity to choose, and it's also a great opportunity to visit your local town hall, school or community centre and feel part of the democratic process. Then, tomorrow after work, if you are so inclined you can sit back with a beer and find out who stuff in our city is going to be alliteratively named after for the next four years.

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

^Picture © MattfromLondon of Londonist, used under Creative Commons^

2 May 2012

Wander in Kensal Green Cemetery

Though the opening hours are fairly liberal, it took your author a good few times turning up to locked gates at Kensal Green Cemetery before he eventually got inside, and when access was finally achieved, it certainly wasn't a disappointment. The larger, older cousin of Kensington & Chelsea's other famous Brompton Cemetery, Kensal Green is an atmospheric place, and home to more than than 35,000 memorials to the dead.

Whilst some find wandering around in graveyards morbid, your author always enjoys it. It is a thought-provoking exercise to walk amongst the dead, and reflect upon the lives of those who have gone before us, and can help to get some perspective on our mortality. As with most of London's cemeteries, Kensal Green reflects various aspects of society, from politicians, imperialists and nobility, to actors, servants, butchers, artists and stars of the circus, and the sheer diversity of professions is a lesson in itself in what a person can do with their life.

For more on Kensal Green Cemetery, see http://www.kensalgreencemetery.com/

1 May 2012

Watch the Islington Milkmaids Garland

Well done to the always-on-the-ball Ianvisits, who alerts us to the revival of the Islington Milkmaids Garland tradition by all-female Morris troupe New Esperance, who will be on the streets of North London today.

The dancers start at The Compton Arms at around 11.30am, proceeding down Upper Street and dancing outside the King's Head, on Islington Green, at the Steam Passage and finishing at the Camden Head.

For those on the lookout for other traditional May Day ceremonies, the Tired of London, Tired of Life book has a particularly good one on pages 74 & 75, which will also be processing in the City of London today.

For more on the Islington Milkmaids Garland, see http://newesp.org.uk/events.html

^Picture © Copyright Robert Lamb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence^