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 December 2013

Celebrate New Year on Primrose Hill

As long as you go along with an open mind about watching fireworks that look a lot further away than they do on the telly, there's always a good atmosphere up on Primrose Hill at New Year, where an elevation of 256 feet offers panoramic views to Westminster to the south and any other ad hoc displays that might be taking place around London.

The crowds here are much thinner than in the very centre of town - or at least they were when your author last saw in the New Year 2009 atop the Hill - so there's much less jostling and other crowd-based annoyances likely to happen but still enough people to make it feel festive. Plus at the end of the evening you can just roll down the hill to largely-uncrowded St John's Wood or Chalk Farm tube stations and catch the free tube home.

For more on TfL travel this New Year see http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/28991.aspx#page-link-tuesday-31-december---new-year-s-eve

^Picture © Ben Hanbury used under a Creative Commons license^

30 December 2013

See the Caryatides of Rotherhithe Old Town Hall

Found on the edge of a flowerbed in Southwark Park are the Caryatides of Rotherhithe Old Town Hall, two remnants of Henry Poole's Victorian Rotherhithe Town Hall, Greek-style architectural flourishes which flanked the main entrance from its opening in 1897.

Though the building was damaged during Second World War air raids, the Caryatides stayed in position until 1974, when they were relocated to the then brand-new Heygate Estate, where they stood for the Estate's whole life until demolition began in 2009, moving briefly into storage until they relocated to Southwark Park in 2011.

For more, see http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Rotherhithe.htm#caryatides

29 December 2013

Remember the Second Great Fire of London

Though London had already been subjected to months of raids beginning on 7th September 1940, the night of 29th December 1940 saw one of the worst air raids of the Second Worl War, with 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs dropped on London, causing some of the most comprehensive destruction of the war Islington to the very edge of St Paul's Churchyard.

Though many other historic buildings and churches suffered serious damage we are told that Winston Churchill had ordered that St Paul's be saved at all costs. This could be one reason why the area just south of the Cathedral was chosen as the location for the National Firefighters Memorial in 1991. There is certainly much to be thankful to these people for, in terms of preserving the history and fabric of London as we see it today.

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

28 December 2013

Visit Kew Gardens after dark

As part of their Christmas Festival this year, Kew Gardens have a mile-long illuminated pathway through the Gardens with special lighting to make the most of the wintry scenes. It continues until 4th January so there is still plenty of time to visit before the season ends.

We are told that the trail takes visitors to hidden places off the beaten track, with captivating light, sound and landscape embracing the reflections of the lake, and adding new colours to old favourites such as the Mediterranean Garden and the Palm House. Timed visits begin from 4.45pm until 8.45pm.

For more, see http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/christmas/

^Picture © Chris Ballard used under a Creative Commons license^

27 December 2013

Join the Festival of Winter Walks

During what is usually a time of feasting and general excess, it's good to get out and about and make the most of any rays of sunshine that come your way. The Ramblers - Britain's national walking organisation - have seized upon this and each year around Christmas and New Year they plan scores of walks around the country in what is known as the Festival of Winter Walks.

Of course, there are actually scores of group walks you can join around the country on most weeks with the Ramblers, but these are designed specifically for new people to join and vary in length and terrain to suit all abilities.

For more, see http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking/festival-of-winter-walks.aspx

26 December 2013

Follow the Blackheath Morris Men's Boxing Day tour

If you find yourself up in Blackheath today, be sure to watch out for the Blackheath Morris Men, who will be undertaking their annual Boxing Day tour of pubs from the Princess of Wales, via the Crown to the Hare & Billet, in the company of local side Fowler's Molly.

Those attending are mysteriously requested to bring fruit to throw, in what is sure to be a top afternoon of Morris dancing, beginning at 12.30pm and arriving at the final pub around 3pm.

For more, see http://www.blackheathmorris.com/Blackheath_Morris_Men/Diary.html

^Picture © James Higgott used under a Creative Commons license^

25 December 2013

Take a Christmas Day London Walk

It might be Christmas Day today, but London's walking tour guides never rest, and London Walks has two walks departing today, one of which left at 11am, exploring Samuel Pepys' London on Christmas Morning 1660, and another leaving at 2pm explores Dickensian London.

Both walks meet at the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, and there is no need to book. Just show up and enjoy the tour.

For more, see http://www.walks.com/London_Walks_Home/CHRISTMAS_SEASON_in_London/default.aspx

^Picture © Jerry Pank used under a Creative Commons license^

24 December 2013

Watch the International Space Station fly overhead

Thanks to the ever-brilliant IanVisits for today's suggestion, another gem as a result of his constant ability to seek out the most fantastic levels of detail. For tonight, clouds permitting, London has the opportunity to see the International Space Station fly overhead between 4.23pm and 4.26pm.

Ian offers the following advice for spotting it: "face directly to the West no more than a couple of minutes before it is due to arrive to get used to the dark sky — then watch out for a single bright star flying in a straight line directly towards you and overheard". 

For more, see http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2013/12/19/watch-the-space-station-fly-over-london-on-xmas-eve/

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

23 December 2013

Sing carols in the courtyards at Hampton Court

Your author is aware that this season's suggestions have been carol-singing heavy, but doing so is a particularly festive experience so it seems worth mentioning another one, today taking place at Hampton Court Palace. Potential singers are invited to sing around the courtyards of Hampton Court Palace in the company of the Epsom & Ewell Silver Band.

It all sounds fantastically festive, and if you haven't ever been to Hampton Court its courtyards are certainly worth exploring.

For more, see http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/WhatsOn/CourtyardCarolSinging2013

22 December 2013

Buy foods at Maltby Street Market

We're now close enough to Christmas that if you are thinking of last-minute presents you can safely get away with buying foodstuffs, and whilst your author has already withdrawn to the countryside for some seasonal rest and relaxation those of you still in London could do worse that browse the Ropewalk stalls at Maltby Street Market.

We are told that the Market has been running since 2010, but this website is traditionally quite a while behind the curve so your author's first visit was two weeks ago, providing an opportunity to eat a very reasonable tartiflette and try lots of other things along the length of the market. The flags which hang flutter above the market are also a nice touch.

For more, see http://www.maltby.st

21 December 2013

Dance with the Ceilidh Liberation Front at Brady Arts Centre

There's still time for some Scottish country dancing before Christmas, and if you're in the mood for it, the Ceilidh Liberation Front - who self define as London’s newest and most radical ceilidh band - are organising a "Reach for the Bunting" big winter party at the Brady Arts Centre in Whitechapel tonight.

Attendees are told to expect an Absinthe Bar, games, glitter and winter stew, and if that seems like your sort of thing you should probably think about going.

For more, see https://www.facebook.com/events/555583231183531/

^Picture © The Ceilidh Liberation Front^

20 December 2013

Sing carols at St Bride's, Fleet Street

There really is no excuse not to attend a carol service at St Bride's Church in Fleet Street today, with not one but two taking place at 12 noon and 5 pm and all welcome to see in the season in an atmospheric Grade I Listed church designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672.

Attendees can expect a range of traditional carols led by the St Bride's Choir, in front of the Christmas tree, in an experience sure to set them up for the holidays well.

For more, see http://www.stbrides.com/calendar/

^Picture © Tony Hisgett used under a Creative Commons license^

19 December 2013

Browse the Southbank Christmas Market

In what has now become something of a seasonal tradition, once again they've put some little sheds on the South Bank to make you spend more money. The experience, however, isn't totally awful, and the Southbank Centre Christmas Market can sometimes even feel quite festive.

It's already been there more than a month and if, like your author, you have only wandered past so far this year you have less than a week to drop in. For the market only lasts until Christmas Eve and afterwards it will be straight back to pavement and people pretending to be statues for money.

For more, see http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/southbank-centre-christmas-market-1000456

^Picture © Ged Carroll used under a Creative Commons license^

18 December 2013

Sing carols at the Pilot Inn, North Greenwich

When lovely pubs have refurbishments your author often finds it rather troubling, and this was certainly true when he dropped in a couple of weeks ago to the newly reopened Pilot Inn, North Greenwich, and found what was once a comfortable pub with a sense of history had been refurbished as a town centre restaurant. Of course it isn't as bad as all that, and many will like it but the rows of tables marked up for 'diners only' are particularly objectionable.

Having said all this, they are thankfully making some effort to continue to connect with the local community - rather than presumably just trying to attract spill-over from the chain restaurants at the O2 - and tonight the carol singers of Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula will be finishing up a singing tour of Greenwich Millennium Village with some singing at the Pilot. Singing will commence around 7.45- 8pm, and begins earlier in the Milennium Village at 7pm.

For more, see http://www.holy-trinity-greenwich-peninsula.org.uk/ (18th December) or http://www.pilotgreenwich.co.uk/

17 December 2013

Find Peter the Great in Deptford

In January 1698, Peter the Great of Russia came to Deptford to study shipbuilding, staying for a few months at Sayes Court, a house he rented from the diarist John Evelyn.  Unveiled in June 2001 in what was a rather late gesture to mark 300 years since his visit, a rather odd statue stands in front of Greenfell Mansions off Glaisher Street beside the Thames at the entrance to Deptford Creek.

During his visit, we are told that Peter worked incognito in the yards and had some drunken parties. The statue is by Mikhail Shemyakin and features Peter, a grand chair and a funny looking small man, said to reference Peter's interest in genetic curiosities.

For more, see http://carolineld.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/peter-great-in-deptford-3-statue.html

16 December 2013

Eat at the Bonnington Café

Friends have been suggesting to your author that he should eat at the Bonnington Café in Vauxhall for years, and last weekend the opportunity finally arose to pop in for lunch. A budget-friendly vegetarian and vegan restaurant, the Bonnington began life serving those visiting a 1980's squat, but remains today as something of a modern rarity...a squat success story.

Such is its collective nature, the Bonnington Café has no single cook, and meals are prepared by rotating member cooks so it is only possible here to mention the meals produced by one of these. Having said that, the food was excellent and towards the end of the sitting the cook even came out of the kitchen to check diners had enjoyed their meals, which was most engaging and welcome. We are told that other notable details which were not evident on the trip include a fire on a winter night, international cooks who bring their own global cuisines, a bring your own policy and monthly café users group meetings

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

15 December 2013

Enjoy a handmade Christmas as the O2

It might sound like an awful idea, but your author popped in to Handmade Christmas at the O2 yesterday to see Jane Parker's clay pipe stall and it really was quite pleasant, full of stalls from hard-working sorts who have taken the time to handmake special things for you to give to friends and family at Christmas time.

Sure, you have to walk through (probably) Europe's largest collection of generic chain restaurants to get there, and it's on a patch of tarmac at the back of the O2, but the people there are trying just as hard as the ones at your local markets and there is a fine gifting range. Entry is £5.

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

^Picture © Jane Parker used under a Creative Commons license^

14 December 2013

Shop in the Finnish Christmas Pop-Up Shop

Though your author usually reacts quite strongly to anything including the words 'pop up', the Finnish Christmas Shop at the Finnish Institute in Holborn today sounds interesting enough to be worthy of a visit, with a Finnish Christmas delicatessen, Finnish gifts and Finnish Mulled Wine.

It's open today, tomorrow and Monday at the Institute in Holborn, and if you can't make it over the weekend it stays open until 8pm on Monday so you should be able to make it.

For more, see http://www.finnish-institute.org.uk/en/articles/657-insituutin-pop-up-joulukauppa

^Picture © The Finnish Institute in London from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license^

13 December 2013

Experience Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road in East London is a museum of the domestic interior, founded nearly 100 years ago to explore the way the insides of our homes have changed. This theme really comes alive each Christmas when its displays can be adapted to help us things about how the way we celebrate the season has changed over the centuries and decades.

The museum's displays range from 1600 to present, exploring decorations, trees, feasts, greenery, parlour games, cards and cocktail parties through the ages.

For more, http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/christmas-past-2013/

^Picture © Heather Cowper used under a Creative Commons license^

12 December 2013

Buy presents at Stanfords

There are, of course, scores of places in London selling things that you can give to friends and family for Christmas, but your author has rarely found anywhere that throws up such gems as Stanfords in Covent Garden, opened in 1901 and now the world's largest travel bookshop, with a huge collection of maps, books, guides and globes.

We are told that explorers such as Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackelton once shopped here and the store sees frequent events and signings covering a wide range of travel interest. Indeed, Stanfords was the venue for the launch of your author's new book Mad Dogs and Englishmen back in July, for which he was very grateful, and it feels opportune to mention that that book is still on sale there, and last Friday 100 signed copies of Tired of London, Tired of Life hit the shelves, both of which make excellent gifts, alongside most things in the shop.

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

^Picture © Thierry Gregorius used under a Creative Commons license^

11 December 2013

Attend the carol concert at Kenwood House

There are, of course, carol concerts everywhere in London over the next couple of weeks and it perhaps seems counter-intuitive to suggest one that costs £15, but there has always been something quite festive about Kenwood House for your author and tonight sees their own carol concert from 7.30pm - 9pm.

We are told that the ticket price includes a glass of wine or soft drink, and the House is within easy stumbling distance of the Spaniard's Inn, making for a fine winters evening walk back to Hampstead. Bookings are essential.

For more, see http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/carol-concert-kh-19-dec/

10 December 2013

Sing carols around the Trafalgar Square tree

The tree in Trafalgar Square is always a welcome sign of the coming of the festive season, and last week the lights were lit and the countdown began. The tree always feels particularly important due to its interesting story, for a new tree has been given each year since 1947 by the people of Oslo in thanks for Britain's support for Norway during World War II.

And following the lighting of the tree on 6th December, another bonus element of the tree's presence has begun, with twice daily carol singing sessions beginning yesterday and continuing until 22nd December. Sessions take place from 4pm - 8pm on weekdays and 2pm - 6pm on weekends. Just show up.

For more, see https://www.london.gov.uk/get-involved/events/christmas-2013-trafalgar-square

^Picture © Kathleen Tyler Conklin used under a Creative Commons license^

9 December 2013

Find the Millennium Sundial

Installed in Greenwich Park to mark the passing of the year 2000 with support from English Heritage, the Royal Parks, the Stone Federation of Great Britain and an anonymous benefactor, the Millennium Sundial is found beside the currently drained boating lake.

A ten-metre squared stone circle, the sundial was designed by Chris Daniel, chairman of the British Sundial Society. The sundial is situated close to the Meridian, but we are told that due to errors in its construction, it is around ten minutes fast.

For more, see http://www.thegreenwichmeridian.org/tgm/location.php?i_latitude=51.481332

8 December 2013

Drink at The Surprise

On Sunday, following the fair at the Garden Museum, your author went on a wander around Stockwell with someone who was thinking of buying a flat there, before heading to Camberwell for a choral concert at St Giles'. Though both parties usually have a good sense of direction, they managed to walk in an almost perfect circle ending up at Larkhall Park. Eventually, on the edge of the park, The Surprise came looming out of the darkness and a decision was made to head there and regroup. The pub is an attractive little Young's pub with very pleasant staff and friendly locals.

Outside, though the sun had long set, old friends played pétanque on a designated pétanque pitch and inside they watched football and played board games and it felt like Sundays should do. The only problem was that Camberwell was still miles away...

For more, see http://www.fancyapint.com/Pub/london/surprise/1959

^Picture © Euan Munro used under a Creative Commons license^

7 December 2013

Watch the December Dip at Parliament Hill Lido

Thanks to Londonist and the hardy sorts at the Outdoor Swimming Society for drawing out attention to the annual Outdoor Swimming Society December Dip which takes place at Parliament Hill Lido today from 11am - 1pm, where dippers are told to expect water temperatures of between 0.1 and 6 degrees.

Though the swim is followed by hot drinks, warm mince pies and festive snacks, it all sounds a bit much, but spectators welcome to pop in for a £1 donation on the door, standing by in a nice warm coat before heading off for a lovely walk around the Heath.

For more, see http://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/index.php?p=events&s=&id=89

^Picture © Tom Page used under a Creative Commons license^

6 December 2013

Pay tribute to Mandela at the Southbank Centre

We'll be hearing an awful lot over the next few days about Nelson Mandela, whose death was announced last night, and rightly so. One of the greatest men of our age, Mandela visited London many times and a statue on the walkway between the Royal Festival Hall and Hungerford Bridge, unveiled by ANC president Oliver Tambo in 1985.

There is of course, another statue of Mandela in Parliament Square, and your author was lucky enough to be present in August 2007 when Mandela came to London to speak at the unveiling his statue in Parliament Square. He told a story about how he and his friend Oliver Tambo visited Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey in 1962, joking that one day a statue of a black person might be erected in Parliament Square alongside former South African leader General Jan Smuts. That dream came true and Mandela's story is a demonstration of how humans can change the world for the better. He will be missed.

For more on the Southbank statue, see http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/2573

^Picture © Paola Gospodnetic used under a Creative Commons license^

5 December 2013

Experience Handel's Messiah at St Paul's Cathedral

Your author is off to St Paul's Cathedral this evening, for a performance of Handel's Messiah by the Cathedral Choir and Chorus and  the City of London Sinfonia. Though it appears the free tickets are now fully subscribed, the Cathedral website tells us that further tickets may be issued, so it felt worth featuring here just in case.

Kick off is at 6.30pm, and we are also told that there are likely to be a number of seats available for those who are willing to queue up a bit this evening, as ticketed seats not claimed 20 minutes before the performance begins will be forfeited, so it sounds like it's worth a punt if you're in the area, as plenty of people tend to be a bit fickle when it comes to these things.

For more, see http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Visits-Events/Special-Services-Events/Messiah-by-George-Frideric-Handel

^Picture © Tony Hisgett used under a Creative Commons license^

4 December 2013

Go to Columbia Road Christmas Wednesdays

Your author must apologise for getting into the festive spirit a little earlier this year than any other year, but at least this means he is remembering to note some great annual events in time for readers to actually attend. The annual late openings of the various independent shops along Columbia Road in Hackney are a great example, offering all sorts of gifts and treats

The special events take place weekly until 18th December on three Wednesday evenings fro 6pm - 9pm, and for those who have left their shopping late there is also a special Saturday opening on 21st December.

For more, see http://www.columbiaroad.info/news/article/christmas_wednesdays_2013

3 December 2013

See Hockney's A Bigger Splash

Continuing with the Tate Britain theme today, A Bigger Splash was painted by David Hockney between April and June 1967 when Hockney was teaching at the University of California at Berkeley. For the artist, this an early in his experience of living in California after graduating from the Royal College of Art, and before returning to London in 1968.

We are told that Hockney found the Californian way of life particularly appealing, and the painting captures the blue sky, stark colours and the swimming pool by making use of vibrant acrylic colours. Hockney had previously painted swimming pools in other works including Picture of a Hollywood Swimming Pool in 1964. The painting currently hangs in the Tate Britain's 1960 room.

For more, see http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hockney-a-bigger-splash-t03254/text-summary

^Picture © Derek Lee used under a Creative Commons license^

2 December 2013

Take a picture of the Tate Britain's new staircase

There have been some changes at the Tate Britain recently, with some £45m worth of alterations led by architects Caruso St John unveiled a couple of weeks ago, featuring a new cafe, a new members room and a newly reopened riverside entrance. However, the main attraction when your author dropped in yesterday to take a look was the spiral staircase which was attracting a number of amateur photographers keen to capture its curves.

Back in May the Tate Britain reopened its permanent collection - which covers British art from 1500 to present - re-curated in a pleasingly chronological fashion, and now this second phase of the redevelopment is open it is certainly worth another look, especially if you haven't been for a while. And they have an especially good selection of books in the gifty.

For more on the changes see http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/six-things-know-about-new-tate-britain

1 December 2013

Dig design at the Garden Museum

Though it is only the first Sunday of advent, for some reason everyone seems determined for it to be firmly the Christmas season, which is why today's winter fair at the Garden Museum is a little welcome. Though the organisers do allude to it being a great place to buy Christmas presents, at least they haven't put Christmas in the title.

We are told to expect festive foods, photography, jewellery, ceramics and textiles (and clay pipe jewellery), and there will even be animals thanks to the participation of Vauxhall City Farm.

For more, see http://www.gardenmuseum.org.uk/page/diggin-design-01-12-13

^Picture by Rosakoalaglitzereinhorn, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license^

30 November 2013

Attend the Christmas Fair at Christ Church, East Greenwich

Your author is usually an awful grump when it comes to the early celebration of the Christmas season, and wouldn't normally recommend a Christmas Fair that takes place in November, but the fair at Christ Church on Trafalgar Road in Greenwich has been very enjoyable in previous years, and he is still wearing a scarf bought there for 50p two years ago.

Like many similar fairs taking place around London, we are told to expect toys, games, jams, bric-a-brac and a raffle and there should also be piano music from a very talented pianist at some point, but this is a pleasantly low key community affair and if you think Greenwich seems a bit far to travel today do look at the website of your local church and see when their fair is.

For more on the fair at Christ Church, see http://www.christchurcheastgreenwich.org.uk/

^Picture © John Salmon used under a Creative Commons license^

29 November 2013

Attend the Silicon Drinkabout

For those who haven't been paying attention, an area of East London that was once famous for warehouses and strip clubs, then for poser art types is now a centre for technology poser types. For the area around Old Street in Shoreditch has become 'Silicon Roundabout' or 'Tech City' or something.

If you want to learn more about those working within what this area - usually fairly meaninglessly described as a 'startup ecosystem' - there is good news. For each Friday these startup-wallahs meet for a drink to celebrate the end of the week and for networking and that.

For more, see http://silicondrinkabout.com/london

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

28 November 2013

Get lost at sea at the National Maritime Museum

Particularly observant readers might have noted that, in an error almost as bad as the time this website declared St Patrick's Day in February, this time last week your author incorrectly announced a late opening at the National Maritime Museum, 'Lost at Sea', which actually takes place tonight. Any frustration felt by readers surely pales in comparison to the embarrassment felt when your author showed up at the museum door having decided to drag along someone he hardly knows, only to be told 'sorry that's next week'.

Having said that the staff at the museum were, as always, very friendly and helpful, and tonight the event (almost certainly) actually takes place. As noted last week it's hard not to be impressed by what's on offer. Not only is Lost at Sea free, but they're is cabaret with Shore Leave, ceilidh music with the Ceilidh Liberation Front, a mini literature festival with Shorelines and plenty of rum.

As if that weren't already more than you could fit into a Thursday evening Matt Brown from Londonist is doing a pub quiz - enough on its own to show up and pay a few quid for - there's music from the Fishwives Ensemble and Cecil Sharp House Choir, there's music and art inspired by the sea, and even more. It's basically unmissable.

For full details, and to book your ticket, see http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/calendar/lost-at-sea

27 November 2013

See the Turkish Gun on Horseguards Parade

A Turkish Gun stands on Horseguards Parade, captured in 1801 by British forces after the siege of Alexandria during the Napoleonic Wars and installed on Horse Guards Parade in 1802.

We are told that the barrel is the only original part - made in the 16th century by Murad, son of Abdullah, chief gunner - whilst the carriage was made by J and E Hall at Dartford in Kent.

For more, see http://theromantictraveller.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/turkish-gun-in-horse-guards-parade/

^Picture © Ian Dick used under a Creative Commons license^

26 November 2013

Take a boat through Tottenham Lock

Your author spent a very pleasant Saturday afternoon on the Lee Navigation, moving a friend's boat a short from Tottenham Hale to beside what was once the Olympic Park. The experience was every bit as good as anticipated with sunshine and a couple of stops on the way, and a chance to have a go at operating the mechanics of Tottenham Lock.

Unfortunately, securing a boat ride through the lock is not as easy as it should be, but if you do know anyone with a boat, particularly a big one, and a key to operate the control panel, you might be able to have a go. Otherwise there are boats for hire further up the river.

For more, on the Lock, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tottenham_Lock

25 November 2013

Come to a talk at Rich Mix

Thanks to a kind invitation from the people at excellent independent booksellers Brick Lane Book Shop your author is giving a talk at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green this evening about the Tired of London, Tired of Life and Mad Dogs and Englishmen books, as well as some thoughts about how to make the most of the place where you live.

The talk is free and begins at 7pm, and is part of a series of 'Last Mondays' talks run by a bookshop with a strong record of organising events for a loyal and interested selection of local customers.

For more, see http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/last-mondays-author-events-tom-jones-mad-dogs-and-englishmen-how-to-make-the-most-of-the-place-where-you-live/

24 November 2013

Save seeds at OrganicLea

There's a seed saving workshop at OrganicLea's co-operative growing site Hawkwood in Chingford today, one of a series of monthly open days, featuring a tour, lunch and drop in between noon and 4pm

The project has been running since 2001, when the group took over an acre of once-derelict allotment land on the edge of Epping Forest, and saw expansion in 2007 following Waltham Forest Council's decision to close its plant nursery, leading to OrganicLea taking on the Hawkwood Plant Nursery

For more, see http://www.organiclea.org.uk/whats-on/

^Picture © London Permaculture used under a Creative Commons license^

23 November 2013

Attend the Blackheath and Greenwich Amnesty booksale

Up in Blackheath today Blackheath and Greenwich Group of Amnesty International are holding their annual booksale at the beautiful Church of the Ascension in Dartmouth Row.

We are told that the group’s book sales are something of an institution. Now in their 39th year, they are Amnesty International’s most successful local fundraising event in the UK, featuring thousands of books and raising thousands of pounds.

For more, see http://amnestybg.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/press-release-amnesty-blackheath-and-greenwich-big-book-sale-returns/

^Picture © Matt Jones used under a Creative Commons license^

22 November 2013

See Turner and the Sea at The National Maritime Museum

This autumn seems to be particularly rich in arts and culture in London and one exhibition that has particularly captured your author's attention is Turner and the Sea, which opens today at the National Maritime Museum. The exhibition presents the paintings of Turner and others over a number of themed rooms, including celebrated works such as The Fighting Temeraire, displayed alongside works more regularly seen in Greenwich like The Battle of Trafalgar  from the Greenwich Hospital Collection.

It's particularly welcome that the exhibition also includes some Turner sketches and studies, which for the amateur help to understand how such a great artist might might go about creating these huge and celebrated works. The exhibition is superbly curated so that it culminates with a number of particularly evocative and characteristic Turner seascapes in a room called 'Making Waves', before visitors are thrust out into the bright lights of the inevitable gift shop. And unlike yesterday's suggestion, this suggestion is actually open today...

For more, see http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/turner-and-the-sea

^Picture from Wikimedia Commons, used under a Creative Commons license^

21 November 2013

Go late at the National Maritime Museum (next week)

Your author is always a fan of late museum openings, particularly if they take place in south east London, but even so it's hard not to be impressed by the offering tonight next week at the National Maritime Museum. Not only is the late opening free, but they're also offering so much more besides, including cabaret with Shore Leave, ceilidh music with the Ceilidh Liberation Front, a mini literature festival with Shorelines and plenty of rum.

As if that weren't already more than you could fit into a Thursday evening Matt Brown from Londonist is doing a pub quiz - enough on its own to show up and pay a few quid for - there's music from the Fishwives Ensemble and Cecil Sharp House Choir, there's music and art inspired by the sea, and even more. It's basically unmissable.

For full details, and to book your ticket, see http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/calendar/lost-at-sea

20 November 2013

Find Baden Powell House

Completed in 1961 to a design by Ralph Tubbs, and named after the movement's father Lord Baden-Powell, Baden Powell House in Kensington was the home of the Scouts until 2001, and still remains home to a hostel and conference and a small exhibition on Scouting.

A granite statue of Baden Powell, sculpted by Don Potter, still stands beside the entrance to the centre, which now provides conference and meeting spaces for all users, and puts the funds generated back into use funding parts of the Scout movement.

For more, see http://www.towntocountry.co.uk/bpHouse/default.asp

10 November 2013

Go on holiday

Your author is on holiday for a week or so at two or more places in Northern Europe. This blog is unlikely to be updated until he returns.

Opportunist thieves should please note that the house remains occupied and the flatmates are trained killers.

For more, see http://www.visitcopenhagen.com/ and http://www.elenydd-hostels.co.uk/hostels/tyncornel/index.html

^Picture © Michael Button used under a Creative Commons license^

9 November 2013

Forage on the foreshore

Your author is a great fan of Jane Parker, who blogs at Jane's London and as Amelia Parker is the creator of beautiful jewellery made from clay pipes found on the Thames foreshore. The results are both interesting and a great gift and if you want to learn more about Jane's work, she is leading a free pipe-finding walk on the Thames foreshore at Wapping this morning.

Jane will be pipe-hunting from 10.15am this morning, and will be doing so for three hours when she will be heading to a nearby pub. If you've never done such things before it's a great chance to discover the secret world of the foreshore where all sorts of remnants of past London can be seen, and if you've just woken up and it's too late her next forage will be in Rotherhithe on Sunday 5th January.

For more, see http://www.janeslondon.com/2013/10/you-are-invited-to-forage-on-foreshore.html

8 November 2013

Cycle Rainham Marshes Cycle Route

One of the best stretches of the Thames your author has ever cycled connects Rainham and Purfleet along the Northern edge of the outer part of the Thames Estuary just before the Dartford Crossing. It takes a bit of getting to, especially when if the c2c line happens to be closed for engineering works, but when you do

Opened just a few years ago, the route is part of National Cycle Route 13 and leaves the road at Purfleet, where it passes through the RSPB reserve of Rainham Marshes, which was once an MOD firing range and seems to include parts of which include and Aveley and Wennington Marshes. It then skirts between the Thames and the poetically-named Rainham Integrated Waste Management Facility, before arriving eventually at Rainham Barge Graveyard and then providing an off-road route to Rainham, including a special bridge over the HS1 railway line. It's flat, almost exclusively traffic-free and well worth making the journey for, especially on a nice day.

For more, see http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/rainham-marshes

7 November 2013

Visit Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre

Whilst out on a bike ride a few weeks ago, your author was delighted to stumble upon Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre, close to the Thames at Purfleet, just inside the M25, and housed inside a Grade I Listed gunpowder magazine, built in the 18th century to supply the army and navy during Napoleonic wars, and used right up until 1962 for storage by the Ministry of Defence. Since the 1990s - when it was saved by local volunteers - the building has been home to the Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre, which explores the history of the area and its relationship with the military history of the nation.

The museum appeared to be a bit of a hub for the local community, with volunteers delighted to explain the history of the building and how it operated as a magazine, as well as giving more detail on the already ample displays on offer. Anyone with a strong interest in history could easily spend half a day or so at the Centre, which has a fantastically diverse range of exhibits covering everything from Purfleet during the Blitz to Count Dracula's fictional home in the area.

For more, see http://www.purfleet-heritage.com/

6 November 2013

See the Alcatel Jetty, North Greenwich

Named after the former Alcatel factory - found on a site where the world’s first transatlantic cable was manufactured in 1858 - The Alcatel Jetty is a disused industrial jetty on Greenwich Peninsula which has been planted with mosses and sedum in order to provide a habitat for local birds and wildlife.

We are told that wagtails, black redstarts and cormorants might use the jetty and -whilst it is deemed unsafe for people to go onto it - it is thought to be a pleasant and interesting alternative to demolition.

For more, click here or read Ian's tour of the area.

5 November 2013

Go to the fireworks in Brockwell Park

Regular readers will by now have cottoned on that your author likes bonfire night, not because of the Catholic persecution, but because there is something altogether more primal about a tradition that makes people go out into the dark together to watch fire as autumn draws in. This year's Guy Fawkes Night celebrations in London largely draw to a close tonight, with displays in Wimbledon Park, Southwark Park, Crystal Palace Park and Brockwell Park.

Brockwell Park features a spectacularly odd mix of Fireman Sam and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons” with, rather oddly, the four seasons mirrored in the areas of the park with Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter, and Morris men, stilt walkers, fire dancers and live music.

For more, see http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/Services/Environment/ParksGreenSpaces/EventsInParks/Fireworks.htm

^Picture © A bloke called Jerm used under a Creative Commons license^

4 November 2013

See Grimm City in the Design Museum Tank

Though building work is ongoing in Kensington ahead of its move out of what civilised people consider central London to there next year, for now the Design Museum remains at Shad Thames, and one thing your author hopes they remember to take with them when they go is the Design Museum Tank, the interesting miniature exhibition glass box on the bank of the Thames in front of the Museum.

The current exhibition here lasts only until the end of the week, and is entitled Grimm City, is is a tiny fairy tale world created in Germany in 2012 by FleaFollyArchitects to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. It's been in London since October.

For more, see http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/2013/grimm-city

3 November 2013

Watch the fireworks on Wanstead Flats

There are still two days until the 5th of November, but many places in London and beyond have chosen this weekend for their displays. Tonight, it's the turn of Newham Borough Council, who are holding their annual firework display on Wanstead Flats this evening.

We are told to expect fireworks, pyrotechnics and lasers, as well as a pop music soundtrack and food of many different types. The display is free, but attendees are advised to bring cash for food and other stalls.

For full details, see http://www.newham.com/page/whatson/guy_fawkes_night_fireworks/825,10,0,0,0.html

^Picture © Faheem Patel used under a Creative Commons license^