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



For more regular updates, visit Tom's Britain, a new website about things to do in Britain.


31 July 2012

Cycle in the Olympic Velodrome

As avid consumers of Olympic build-up hype will almost certainly be aware, one South London venue from the 1948 Olympic Games remains in active use. The Herne Hill Velodrome was originally built in the early 1890s, and chosen for improvements with the addition of a bitumen track the last time the event was held in London.

Tonight, as with every Tuesday from April until September, from 6pm until 8pm there is an open session of road bike training, offering an unstructured chance to ride where once Olympic athletes competed for medals on a medium banked track. The track reaches 30 degrees at its steepest point, providing an opportunity for road riders to practice in a traffic free environment, and we are told it's especially popular with triathletes and sportive riders.

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

^Picture © Paul Wilkinson used under a Creative Commons license^

30 July 2012

Attend the Peninsula Festival

With central London getting rather busy as visitors and those with days off enjoy the party, it can be difficult to find a peaceful corner to get some peace and quiet for a few hours. If it is all getting a bit much, help is at hand in the form of your own deserted piece of South East London wasteland, calling itself the "Peninsula Festival".

Found in a sleepy corner of the Greenwich Peninsula, beyond acres of coach parks and people holding glowing adverts for credit cards, the festival was almost deserted except for staff as your author wandered past yesterday evening, and friends who live overlooking the site confirm it hasn't exactly been oversubscribed, even though local residents have been bombarded with mailshots and even free VIP wristbands to encourage them to attend.

For more, see http://www.peninsula-festival.eu or http://853blog.com/tag/peninsula-festival/

29 July 2012

Walk the North Downs Way

For those keen to get a sense of the English countryside without straying outside the M25, the North Downs Way is a fantastic long distance National Trail which covers 153 miles of English Countryside, including a beautiful stretch just inside the London Orbital.

From where the path crosses the motorway near Merstham, it passes through around 15 miles of stunning countryside passing along the ridge of the North Downs along ancient trackways where once pilgrims walked on their way to pay tribute at the shrines of Canterbury. Though the path remains close to the motorway, it is very much an unseen and unheard presence, before the path dips back over and sets off into the English countryside towards Canterbury and Dover.

For more, see http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/Northdowns/

28 July 2012

Watch the road race

Your author promises that it won't all be Olympics this fortnight, but has got rather caught up in the excitement and hasn't had time to write. Today's event, however, is worthy of a mention as it is free to watch and is actually observable by ordinary people, which is great.

The Men's Road Race is bashing its way around South West London this weekend, with plenty of spectators expected to line the route. Expect disruption but also expect the chance of a genuine Olympic athlete in the flesh to make all your frustrations fade as you get as excited as a schoolchild on the last day of term.

For a map, see http://www.london2012.com/cycling-road/event/men-road-race/coursemap/

^Picture © By Carlbob.com used under a Creative Commons license^

27 July 2012

Watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony

Today, the Olympic Ceremony is the big ticket event, and whilst only 80,000 odd bods can get into the stadium, it's hard not to get a little excited about the attentions of the world being directed to our great city. It's time to put aside the cynicism, for a little while at least, and enjoy the spectacle.

We don't know quite what Danny Boyle has in store for us, but we are almost certain there will be countryside, Glastonbury Tor, the Thames, nurses, and various other iconic English scenes. Now we've invested bags of money, this is one of our key opportunities to show the world how amazing modern London and Great Britain are, and your author hopes it is amazing.

For more, see http://www.london2012.com/spectators/ceremonies/opening-ceremony/

^Picture © jeffowenphotos used under a Creative Commons license^

26 July 2012

Drink at the Cock Tavern

A Grade II listed Victorian pub, the Cock Tavern on Fleet Street was built in 1887 to replace a notorious 17th century inn frequented by famous Londoners Samuel Pepys, Alfred Tennyson and Charles Dickens across the road.

We are told that a disembodied head is said to have haunted the original pub, belonging to the Irish poet, physician and writer, Oliver Goldsmith, who was buried at Temple Church which is located nearby. It seems about as unlikely that he would have transferred to the new premises as it does that ghosts actually exist, but nevertheless it is a good story.

Your author has a special interest in the pub as this evening the latest in his regular Talking to Strangers events, which encourage you and other Londoners to have interesting conversations, takes place in a room upstairs for £3.

For more on Talking to Strangers - to which you are formally invited - click here, or for more on the pub see http://www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub-food/ye-olde-cock-tavern-holborn/pid-C1188

^Picture © Christopher Hilton used under a Creative Commons license^

25 July 2012

Eat at the Seagrass

Housed in a 19th century Manze's pie shop on Chapel Market in North London, the Seagrass is a lovely little restaurant opening Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings only & serving fresh and interesting set meals from an open kitchen for a reasonable value. The interior of the restaurant is true to its roots, and has been changed little since the closure of Manze's, with pleasant results.

Your author visited last week for dinner, and had a set three course meal for £30, which sounds like quite a lot, but the results were well worth it, especially given the bring-your-own-drink policy, and the policy of not charging for corkage. The group were especially impressed that when the dietary requirements of one of those present were not catered for, the chef went out to the shops to buy ingredients and made something off menu.

Be warned, however, that for those of questionable self-control, the BYO policy can lead to overindulgence. And if you visit with the same group, come armed with the ability to say no to amaretto.

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

24 July 2012

Wander in Coldfall Wood

A 14 hectare area of ancient wood in Muswell Hill, Coldfall Wood was once part of a much larger wooded area, and as it was finding itself increasingly encroached upon, it was eventually purchased by Hornsey Council in 1930.

Your author grew up on the edge of a large wood some way away, and has always had an affinity for woodland, so it is always pleasing when these pockets of ancient woodland are protected in the city and Coldfall Wood remains so.

Owned by the London Borough of Harringey, the wood is also loved by the Friends of Coldfall Wood who are keen to monitor its flora, fauna and wildlife and even have plans to "regenerate" it, and whilst in your author's experience woodland tends to do that itself, it is still admirable that they care.

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

^Picture © Martin Addison used under a Creative Commons license^

23 July 2012

See the Spitalfields Dioramas

Last week, we looked at the excellent library at the Bishopsgate Institute, and if any readers remain unconvinced and in need of a reason to drop in, they are in luck. As highlighted by the amazing Spitalfields Life blog, a set of dioramas, originally created for the Bell Public House, Middlesex Street, in the 1970s, are currently on show in the main reading room.

A few weeks ago, your author dropped into the unveiling of the dioramas, originally created by model maker Howard Karslake, and was pleasantly surprised, finding very well observed details in models depicting Petticoat Lane Market, the Truman Brewery and the Bell at the end of the nineteenth century.

For more, see http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/content/1690/The-Dioramas-of-Spitalfields and for more from Spitalfields Life why not buy the excellent book.

22 July 2012

See Stonehenge in London

The Olympic Games throw up all sorts of things you wouldn't expect to see, and as part of it an inflatable model of Stonehenge has been travelling around the country. It may sound awful, but it's not as bad as some of the things they've been spending the money on.

This weekend it pitches up on the Greenwich Peninsula, for free, to allow members of the public to bounce around and get close to the stones. Just don't take any sharp objects with you.

For more, see http://sacrilege2012.co.uk

^Picture © john bristow used under a Creative Commons license^

21 July 2012

Welcome a flame

Amongst literally hundreds of events taking place this summer in London, next week a sporting tournament is being held near Stratford in East London, and everyone's getting terribly excited. Seemingly most excitable of all are the people at Hackney Council, who are today organising a huge event to mark not the start of the Games themeselves, but the passing of a symbolic torch which is touring the country in the lead up to the event.

We are told to expect carnival floats, Rio samba, a village fete and a festival along the route, though sadly it seems that an event scheduled for Clissold Park has been cancelled due to all the recent rain. The events are all part of the One Festival, an annual event that has been taking place in Hackney since at least 2008.

For more, see http://www.hackney.gov.uk/one-festival.htm

^Picture © Emmanuel Eragne used under a Creative Commons license^

20 July 2012

Wonder at Lobb's boots

Started by lame Cornish farmboy John Lobb in 1849, today the headquarters of John Lobb Bootmakers are found in a very attractive store at 9 St James's Street, but that is really all you need to know as you and your author are never likely to use their services.

This is a shop for the super-rich, with a pair of simple shoes costing nearly £3,500 and representatives willing to travel anywhere in the world to measure your feet. The existence of such a shop defies rationale, but there they are, making shoes for some people somewhere who you will never meet, with past customers including down-to-earth types such as George Bernard Shaw, Lord Olivier, Harold MacMillan and Frank Sinatra.

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

19 July 2012

Pay tribute to Johnson outside St Clement Dane's

Given that Dr Samuel Johnson only spent eleven of his many years in London at his most famous address - 17 Gough Square - and otherwise lived at around 17 different places in London, many of which were in the vicinity of Fleet Street, it seems fitting that a statue outside St Clement Dane's commemorates him, erected by the Rev'd S. Pennington, Rector of the church in 1910.

Your author owes more than most to Johnson, the great eighteenth century writer and lexicographer who put together one of the first widely recognised English language dictionaries. It was Johnson whose love of London inspired this website, and the book that followed it, and many happy hours have been whiled away volunteering at Johnson's house in Gough Square off Fleet Street, and seeing this statue of Johnson reading aloud up on his plinth to the rear of the church always brings causes, for he was a great man.

For more, http://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/johnson-statue

^Picture © Elliott Brown, used under a Creative Commons license^

18 July 2012

Do some sport at the Hub

Though it may not feel like it, now we are in the summer, a time at which we traditionally did many sports. If you can remember how, the Hub, in Regent's Park, is a great little sports venue and cafe which provides a centre point for many of the sporting activities which take place there.

At the Hub, it is possible to book cricket, football and softball pitches, and even a boules piste, and there are also regular exercise classes including Pilates, yoga and other such nonsense. You can even do astronomy when the clouds clear.

For more, see http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park/sport-in-the-park-the-hub

^Picture © Nigel Chadwick, used under a Creative Commons license^

17 July 2012

See the BAPS Mandir Haveli

Your author has written about the Neasden Mandir in various places, but the temple complex isn't limited only to Indian marble, and alongside the traditional temple sits a stunning intricately-carved wooden Haveli, which would certainly be worth a visit in its own right.

We are told that the Haveli is a remarkable revival of wooden craftmanship, and that the wooden carvings are unique in that such a structure has not been created anywhere in the world for a century. Your author has no way of knowing whether of not this is true, but except for one more than a hundred years old on the South Coast, this is certainly the only such construction he has seen.

For more, see http://www.mandir.org/haveli/index.htm

^Picture © David Sky, used under a Creative Commons License^

16 July 2012

Browse Bishopsgate Library

Though the Bishopsgate Institute - established in 1895 - is very close to one of the financial centres of the modern City of London, it prides itself on being home to world-renowned collections on London history, labour and socialist history, and its library remains open to all, with no need to make an appointment or to bring proof of address to access a wealth of information.

Though its special collections must be consulted in a special Researchers' Area there is open access to general reference books and information, which can be used for private study. The library is open Monday - Saturday from 10am.

For more, see http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/content/1078/About-the-Library

15 July 2012

Watch opera in Ealing

This evening, Ealing's Opera in the Park brings the Magic Flute to Walpole Park, and whilst your author couldn't manage to sit through it, there will be plenty who will absolutely love the chance to enjoy opera in this setting.

Operated by Regents Opera, Opera in the Park is the brainchild of former Royal Opera House bod Nicholas Heath and aims to put on affordable opera with no direct public subsidy, something we can all get on board with.

For more, see http://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/200247/ealing_summer_festivals/488/ealing_opera_in_the_park

^Picture © Mark Hillary used under a Creative Commons license^

14 July 2012

Celebrate Bastille Day

Today is Bastille Day, the national day of France, and a free treat for Francophiles is scheduled to take place in Bankside. The 5th year in a series of 'official' such celebrations, we are told, will offer eating, drinking, dancing and singing.

Based around Borough Market and Park Street, the event offers specific French traders at the market, a traditional 14th July Waiters’ Race, p├ętanque, baby-foot and other things. It will either be good, or a cheese-maker-sponsored disappointment.

For more, see www.bastillefestival.co.uk

^Picture © Amanda Vincent-Rous used under Creative Commons^

13 July 2012

Eat at Robin Hood Zorro

There's something about the Robin Hood Zorro restaurant in Hammersmith which should be awful but is faintly endearing. Friends of your author in West London swear by it, and whilst some remain unconvinced, it is undoubtedly a memorable experience.

Theme restaurants are unusual at the best of times, and many would question the decision both to combine Robin Hood and Zorro in a theme for a restaurant, and to calling yourself an "English - Mexican Eating House". Nevertheless, Robin Hood Zorro steadfastly continues, with its misspelt website and its dayglo 90s cocktails, to do reasonable business.

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

12 July 2012

Find the site of Alexander Fleming's discovery

A blue plaque on the wall on Praed Street near Paddington Station remembers the room, two stories above, where in 1928, Alexander Fleming returned to his work bench at St Mary's Hospital to accidentally discover Penicillin.

Fleming had just returned from a trip to his country home to find discarded Petri dishes he had piled up to make space for his colleague Stuart Craddock to use his work bench. We are told that a colleague dropped in causing Fleming to have a good moan about his workload, and rummage through the dishes.

One of the dishes was contaminated with fungus, causing colonies of the staphylococcus bacteria to be destroyed, whilst other colonies farther away remained intact. This chance discovery led to the development of Penicilin, the antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi.

For more, see http://history1900s.about.com/od/medicaladvancesissues/a/penicillin.htm

11 July 2012

Eat at the Wapping Project

Your author doesn't eat out that much, but occasionally a more successful friend persuades him out, and such were the circumstances he found himself at the Wapping Project a few weeks ago. The restaurant, housed in Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, takes advantage of its atmospheric surroundings well, and it was surprising to find it only half full on a Thursday evening.

That said, the food wasn't particularly remarkable, with the main course on the wrong side of luke-warm, but the drink, company and setting were pretty special, and the rather bizarre 'art' installation at the back all added to the mix. It was enjoyable, but then with a bill that ended up at £58 per head (including beers which didn't appear on the menu and for which the wrong price was quoted by waiting staff) all in it definitely should be.

For less information, see the frankly incomprehensible website at http://www.thewappingproject.com/

10 July 2012

Visit the Irish Cultural Centre

The Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith was established in 1995 to celebrate London's Irish community and showcase the music, literature, art and culture of Ireland.

Saved from closure earlier this year, the centre continues to provide education and the arts to allcomers, operating an 'Open Door' policy to ensure that Irish arts, culture and education accessible to everyone.

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

9 July 2012

Listen to music in Wilton's Mahogany Bar

Music tonight in the beautiful Mahogany Bar at Wilton's Music Hall courtesy of Family Atlantica Duo, playing at the bar as part of Music Monday, their free weekly showcase for 'vintage' bands and cabaret artists.

We are told that the Mahogany Bar was built around 1725, probably as a pub, and has traded under many names over the years including The Albion Saloon and The Prince of Denmark. It took until 1828 for it to be refurbished in mahogany and subsequently became popular with the sailing fraternity. Today, famous fixtures and fittings are sadly no longer with us, but it remains a popular spot.

^Picture © photography.ambjorn.com via Flickr used under a Creative Commons license^

8 July 2012

Have a picnic at Arnold Circus

For a small roundabout in the East End of London, Arnold Circus always seem to do very well at organising events, and today the Friends of Arnold Circus have organised an Olympicnic to celebrate the summer season and the upcoming fortnight-of-sports.

It's a bring-your-own sharing picnic, and we are promised fun, games, food & music, including Ping Pong, the Wheelers Cycle Challenge, Infinity Hopscotch, African Drummers, a primary school choir, Asian RnB and a barbecue and bouncy castle at nearby Rochelle School.

For more, see http://foac.org.uk/

^Picture © the Friends of Arnold Circus^

7 July 2012

See the treasures of Crossrail

You can't walk around central London at the moment without being aware of it, and Crossrail is holding a special exhibition today to celebrate the half-way point of its archaeology programme, showcasing some of the things they've found in the course of their work.

We are told that, in the course of their rummaging, they've found prehistoric animal bones, Roman artefacts, human remains from the Bedlam psychiatric hospital and bits and bobs from past industry, all of which will be on display in the Music Room at Grays Antiques near Bond Street today.

For more, see http://www.crossrail.co.uk/delivering/environment/managing-environment/archaeology-heritage/bison-to-bedlam-crossrails-archaeology-story-so-far

6 July 2012

Hear the music of Norman Long

A well-known voice in the 1930s, the music of Sydenham-based Norman Long - a BBC entertainer known for his wit, charm and ability to poke fun at the establishment - has all but disappeared into the ether, but for one South-London-singer who is determined to keep his memory alive.

We are told that Norman Long was the son of a Sydenham bootmaker and lived in a house on Queensthorpe Road. During the First World War, he entertained as part of his service, and despite deciding on a career as an insurance salesman after the war, he found the time to write music which gently mocked the establishment, and became famous after recording songs for various BBC programmes including "A Song, A joke, and a Piano".

South London singer Alexandra Carter has decided to revive his work in a concert that, she believes, may be the first time in around 90 years that anyone has heard Norman Long's songs in concert. For more, see https://sites.google.com/site/alexcartersinger/

5 July 2012

Watch the Shard light up the sky

Tonight, at 10.15pm, we are told to expect a light show emanating from the Shard to mark its official inauguration, with a display 'likely to be visible' around town. Supposedly, it'll all be coordinated with Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and the Finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, in a live performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Simon Jenkins seems to have only just noticed the thing is being built, and has been giving the whole thing plenty of airtime, prompting your author's favourite assessment of the situation in the comments on the Guardian website: "In 200 years time someone will submit plans for a building that obscures the view of the shard from certain angles...There will be a public outcry".

For more, see http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/daily-news/light-show-to-celebrate-londons-shard-completion/8632554.article

^Picture © Duncan~ used under a Creative Commons license^

4 July 2012

See Scott's Last Expedition

One of the special exhibitions currently showing at the Natural History Museum, Scott's Last Expedition charts the story of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's last expedition to Antarctica in 1910-1913.

The exhibition looks at the expedition in its entirety, charting the final push to the South Pole, but also the seasons spent doing scientific work from the base hut at Cape Evans, which is mapped out in life size within the expedition helping visitors to understand what life might have been like, and using genuine artefacts and scientific specimens from the expedition to tell the story.

For more, see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/scott-last-expedition/exhibition-tickets/index.html

3 July 2012

Eat at the Red Art Cafe Bar

Your author doesn't often pass through Dalston nowadays, conscious of lacking the haircut or trousers to fit in, but the other week he spent a perfectly pleasant evening in a couple of bars and restaurants in the area, and had a good feed at the Red Art Cafe Bar.

Found at 113 Kingsland Road, kit is a place that seems to specialise in Turkish food and drink, with a decent menu and plenty to keep the vegetarians who also dined happy. It all seemed jolly pleasant, and your author would go back even since discovering a rather low food hygiene rating from the local council.

For more, see http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/red-art-cafe-bar-london

2 July 2012

Explore the British Museum's North American Landscape

The gardens created on the West Lawn of the British Museum forecourt in conjunction with Kew Gardens have become quite a fixture in recent years, with China (2008), India (2009), South Africa (2010) and Australia (2011) all receiving the forecourt treatment. This year, North American landscapes have come to Great Russell Street, with the creation of a North American garden.

The garden will be in place until November, and is a living, breathing piece of North America open to exploration by visitors, with plants from Florida in the south to New England and Canada in the north, focussing on the Eastern Seaboard.

For more, see http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/north_american_landscape.aspx

1 July 2012

Ride the Dangleway

Some people have been saying for years that London should build a cable car down the middle of Oxford Street, but the powers that be have inexplicably decided instead to link two patches of East London wasteland together in a rather expensive project which opened this week. Having said that, your author took his first trip on the Dangleway yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

There is something magical about the experience, and getting a new perspective on the city, and from that high up the views across East and South East London are amazing, and it becomes clear why cycling up Shooters Hill always felt such a drag. Though queues were reasonably long, those with topped-up Oyster cards were able to join a shorter queue and on opening weekend wait for no longer than 10 minutes to participate, though it did strike your author that on a rainy tuesday in November 2013 the levels of footfall are going to make it all seem rather ridiculous.

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