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

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


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31 October 2013

See Handbagged at the Tricycle

One of your author's more cultural friends took him to the theatre yesterday, to see Handbagged by Moira Buffini at the Tricycle, a play based around conversations between the Queen and Britain's first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.


The play is a thoroughly entertaining few hours, examining the journey from the first to the last of their weekly conversations, with Marion Bailey, Stella Gonet, Clare Holman and Fenella Woolgar doing fine turns as the two in conversation at different stages in their lives and Neet Mohan and Jeff Rawle playing just about everybody else from Neil Kinnock through Geoffrey Howe to Ronald Reagan. Sure, it's pitched as a pro-monarchy and anti-politics take on the relationship but it's interesting nonetheless.

For more, see http://www.tricycle.co.uk/current-programme-pages/theatre/theatre-programme-main/handbagged/

30 October 2013

Cross the Dartford Crossing with a bike

After years of seeing it looming in the distance when exploring parts of the Thames Estuary, Sunday was the first time your author had ever crossed the River Thames at the Dartford Crossing, taking a lift with a nice man from the Highways Agency from Kent to Essex, and continuing a bike ride from there. The right for cyclists to cross the river here for free is enshrined in law, and all you have to do is show up at the well signposted checkpoints at either end.


This can be very helpful when exploring the outer reaches of the Thames by bicycle, and all you have to do is show up at the Essex or Kent Con­trol Point and on a weekend you will soon be picked up. On a weekday pickups are staggered so that they sometimes only take place in certain hours of the day so it's worth contacting the operators in advance to ensure you don't have to wait an hour. Those approaching from the Kent side should note there is a telephone hidden around the corner behind the Control Point to call for a lift, which again will help reduce the wait. There probably will be at least some waiting whatever happens so be sure to factor that into your ride.

For more, visit the Highways Agency website.

29 October 2013

Do the Pelton Arms Quiz, Greenwich

Your author has for some time been a fan of the Pelton Arms in Greenwich, a friendly local on Pelton Road on the streets between the Old Royal Naval College and East & North Greenwich, and last week's quiz was enough to endear him to it even more. If nothing else, the poster offering 'An Evening With Boycie' on the front door marks this pub out as having a good sense of itself.


Though the quiz doesn't start until 9pm, the accomplished quiz master rattles quickly through questions, making for results in plenty of time to be out by 11pm. The questions are intelligent and interesting, and unlike many pub quizzes don't seem to have been lifted from the internet. For a flavour of the style of questioning listen to this clip by Daryl. Get there early if you want a table though, the quiz is very popular.

For more, see http://www.peltonarms.com or show up this evening just before 9pm.

28 October 2013

Eat at Zucca, Bermondsey Street

Though there's so many people giving opinions about restaurants nowadays that it's difficult to know nowadays what is a good restaurant and what isn't one, your author had a very pleasant dinner on Friday evening at Zucca in Bermondsey Street, and would happily recommend it for those who find themselves in the area.


We are told that the chef patron Sam Harris believes that you can tell the quality of a restaurant by the bread it serves when you sit down, and this was evident at Zucca, where it was exceptional, as was the fried pumpkin that followed it. Though the main course was unremarkable, the wine and dessert were pretty good and the staff were welcoming but efficient. All in all, it was a good choice.

To make up your own mind, see http://www.zuccalondon.com/

27 October 2013

Celebrate Diwali on Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square will come alive with the sights and sounds of the subcontinent this afternoon, as thousands gather for the annual celebrations of Diwali, the festival of lights which is marked each year by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world from mid-October and mid-November.


In Trafalgar Square we are told to expect live performance from Maharastra Mandal London, The Bollywood Company and Saraswati Academy of Indian dance, special guests sitarist and daughter of the late Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar and composer-songwriter Chirag Rao as well as circular Garba dancing in the square, light displays and food stalls.

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

^Picture © S Pakhrin used under a Creative Commons license^

26 October 2013

See Anthony Epes' London & Paris at dawn

Back in May last year, your author met a photographer called Anthony Epes for a London at Dawn photography tour, and thoroughly enjoyed it despite lacking the professional equipment of the other participants. Well now Epes has a new book out, and an exhibition of his work is showing on the main concourse at St Pancras Station.


An experienced photographer with a lot of experience, Epes has been photographing London at dawn for more than ten years and his work certainly demonstrates the depth of his experience. If you want to learn directly from him, his 2014 workshop schedule is already online, with classes running in London and if you have unlimited cash, in Paris and even Venice too. Sure, they are rather expensive, but you will never forget it if you do decide to go along.

For more on the exhibition, see http://stpancras.com/events/anthony-epes-london-paris-at-dawn-exhibition/

25 October 2013

Cycle the Waterlink Way

An eight mile route along the River Pool and the River Ravensbourne in South East London, the Waterlink Way takes cyclists and walkers from New Beckenham to Greenwich, touching only a few roads on the way and offering a wealth of parks and green spaces en route.


The route is part of National Cycle Route 21 and is designed largely for cyclists, but takes in parts of the Capital Ring and Green Chain Walk and touches both at various points, allowing for different ways to use the route.

For full details, see http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/waterlink-way

24 October 2013

Talk to Strangers in Southwark

Roughly once a month for the last couple of years your author - mostly in conjunction with London social events group Thinking Bob - has brought together a group of Londoners in a London pub to have a conversation with people they have never met, because it is an interesting way to spend an evening.


Tonight this event, known as Talking to Strangers, comes to The Sheaf on Southwark Street near London Bridge Station, for the latest such event, with some thought provoking things to talk about and a lot of people signed up to come along. If you fancy joining them, please do.

For more, see http://www.meetup.com/talkingtostrangers/events/144531952/

23 October 2013

Embrace the London Science Festival

The London Science Festival starts today, kicking off with an evening of engineering, fun, music and cocktails in the concreted over bit former bit of Brunel's Thames Tunnel at the Brunel Museum, and taking in various events around town for a week until next Wednesday.


Other events include an exploration of the the Science of Sherlock at Barts Pathology Museum, an exhibition about the Helix, a 'Science Pub Crawl' and an engineering tour of the Olympic Park, and it all ends up with a special Science Museum Lates event next week.

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


^Picture © London Science Festival / The Brunel Museum^

22 October 2013

Drink at the Ravensbourne Arms, Lewisham

Having tried and failed to find the good pubs when living in the vicinity a few years ago, your author had dismissed Lewisham as a bit of a pub wasteland, but all things change eventually, and when friends Sunday lunch at the Ravensbourne Arms on Lewisham High Street the experience was not disappointing.



Sure, it's been a bit gastropubbed, with irregular chairs, the ubiquitous 'craft ale' menu, fashionably-haircutted staff who seem reluctant to let you order your food and drinks at the bar and a lot of pushchairs, but the food was decent when it eventually arrived and it seems like the sort of huge pub that never really had character so it doesn't matter that they've probably changed it beyond all recognition. They also seem to do bands.

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

^Picture © Jo Amelia Finlay used under a Creative Commons license^

21 October 2013

Take a City Lit course at The Conservatoire, Blackheath

Your author was at the launch of excellent adult education provider City Lit's new range of courses at The Conservatoire in Blackheath on Friday night, and was impressed with the new range of music, art, drama and culture courses being offered in these Grade II listed Victorian buildings which - we are told - is the oldest surviving purpose built multi-arts complex in London, whatever this means.


The Conservatoire and City Lit are offering more than 200 new classes, many of which begin over the next few weeks, and those who attended on Friday night were lucky enough to get to meet many of the interesting and insightful teachers who will be educating South East Londoners and all those who are willing to make the short hop to Blackheath Station, and hear about their work and what they taught. Potters, horticultural illustrators and musicians, artists and designers were all on hand to celebrate what has been and is to be a great cultural resource for the area.

For more, see http://www.conservatoire.org.uk and for course listings, see http://www.citylit.ac.uk/blackheath

20 October 2013

Buy books at the Lewisham Pensioners' Forum booksale

A highlight in every South East Londoner's calendar today, as the best second hand booksale in the whole of Lewisham returns to the Saville Centre on Lewisham High Street, with hundreds of books on sale from 25p each, or five for a pound.


The booksale goes on until 3pm and if you're thirsty you can also get a cup of tea on site in the centre's own 'pop-up' cafe. The centre is a short walk from Lewisham and Ladywell Stations or on bus routes between Lewisham and Catford.

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

19 October 2013

Find the Foxgrove Club, Beckenham

Regular readers will have noted your author had a very pleasant trip to Beckenham recently, and one particular highlight was stumbling across the Foxgrove Club, a hidden members club in the woods in a rather magical setting.


The club has snooker and pool tables, darts and table tennis, as well as a bar, surrounded by attractive gardens and woodland. Friendly members were generous enough to enable the purchasing of two halves of light ale by your author and a friend to aid the continuing of their cycle ride, which were happily drunk in the sunshine outside.

For more, see http://the-foxgrove.org/

18 October 2013

Attend the Frieze Art Fair

The Frieze Art Fair is in town until Sunday, with some tickets still available, featuring art from 150 galleries around the world, and plenty of opportunities for those with far too much money to part with some of it.


Taking place as usual within Regent's Park, it's smaller this year and features fewer galleries than last year, and runs alongside the Frieze Masters fair for older bits of art tat elsewhere in the park. There's even a Sculpture Park.

For more, see http://friezelondon.com


^Picture © Johnndege used under a Creative Commons license^

17 October 2013

Take a tour of Somerset House

Every Thursday, Somerset House offers free guided tours at 13.15 and 14.45, taking up to an hour and exploring some of the intriguing history of one of central London's most interesting buildings. We are told that the tours take visitors from the Tudor history of Somerset House, when it was home to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, the influential Lord Protector of Edward VI, and the young Princess Elizabeth, through to the present day.



The building certainly has an interesting history; worked on by Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren, a royal home to James I's wife Anne of Denmark and a revolutionary home Oliver Cromwell's Commander-in-Chief General Fairfax and other Parliamentary figures, as a home separately of the Royal Academy and the Admiralty - leading to rumours that Nelson once worked here - and various other events and residents in between. Tours must be booked at the information desk.

For more, see http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/events/guided-tours

16 October 2013

Attend the Bloomsbury Festival

The Bloomsbury Festival kicked off yesterday, with a range of free events in one of London's most culturally-rich areas, so whilst you've already missed a number of events, performances, walks and talks, building up towards the annual Russell Square takeover on the weekend, with music on the SOAS World Music Stage on Saturday and Sunday, and the opening of an Embassy of Children's Rights on Friday.


Other highlights include tours of Senate House, lessons on making your garden a refuge for wildlife and the opening of a UCL Ideas Salon, offering the chance to meet top UCL researchers and hear about their work, among scores of other events.

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


^Picture © iJammin used under a Creative Commons license^

15 October 2013

Eat at the Gilbert Scott

Named after the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, who designed the former Midland Hotel - now known as the St Pancras Renaissance - in which it is located, the Gilbert Scott restaurant is a decent restaurant for a special occasion, and has managed to maintain more of a sense of history and place than many such London restaurants.


The restaurant is found in what was once the in what was once the Coffee Room of the grand Victorian hotel. It was here that your author spent Sunday lunchtime for a friend's birthday, and whilst it was by no means a budget restaurant, three courses and wine came to £50 a head, which seemed reasonable for a special occasion, given that the food was of good quality and well presented and the staff were friendly, personable and attentive. By no means a place for a quick bite on a Tuesday but for something special it couldn't really have been much better.

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

14 October 2013

Buy British at Things British

Your author isn't much of a shopper for various reasons - mainly that it isn't that enjoyable - but it is welcome when shops are trying to do something a bit different, and the experience at Things British in St Pancras Station was positive yesterday when he popped in following a tip-off from Jane of Amelia Parker, who creates jewellery from bits of clay pipe she finds on the Thames foreshore, and is currently renting shelf space at the shop.


The shop - which has a sister store on Carnaby Street - sells hand-crafted items made in England, Scotland and Wales by allowing creators to use the shelves and surfaces within to showcase British designs of one-of-a-kind crafts and gifts. It's a noble endeavour, showcasing British craft and design on a collaborative model that still aims to make a profit, and whilst things on the first floor of St Pancras International were typically quiet, a few interested souls were coming through the doors. One gripe, however, is that it seems rather counter-intuitive that so few of the contents were adequately labelled. Surely if the shop-owners could do something simple to fix this they would be likely to sell more.

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

13 October 2013

Visit Beckenham Place

A Palladian-style mansion created by John Cator, who acquired the ancient Manor of Beckenham around 1770, Beckenham Place is an interesting place to visit, somewhat in decline but still open to the public by the passionate and engaging Friends of Beckenham Place, who volunteer to do so on Sundays from 1.30pm to 3.30pm only.


In its heyday the mansion was much admired, including by one Dr Samuel Johnson, and a portico was added as a finishing flourish in 1787, having been brought from a mansion on Blackheath. It eventually passed to London County Council in 1927, is still officially owned by Lewisham Borough Council. Much of the former grounds of the house is now a golf course.

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

12 October 2013

Join the Big Draw at the Olympic Park

The Campaign for Drawing's Big Draw has been around since 2000, when it was launched with a simple aim; to encourage us all to do more drawing. This year events take place throughout October, and one of today's biggest draws is in the Timber Lodge at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 11am-5pm.


Sadly, your author will not be there as the draw of the 63rd British National Ploughing Championships in Herefordshire is too strong, but attendees can expect a fantastic range of events including chances to make sketchbooks, and ominous-sounding sketch mob, duelling caterpillars and a 'Museum of Tomorrow'.

For more on the Big Draw, see http://www.campaignfordrawing.org/flyers/your-park-your-big-draw.htm



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

11 October 2013

See James Capper in residence at the Kirkaldy Museum

The Kirkaldy Testing Museum on Southwark Street is a fascinating place, with huge machines once used to test materials for bridges, buildings and structures around the world, and now preserved by volunteers who love and care for it regularly. For the first time during the Merge Festival around London Bridge the Museum is dipping its toe into art this week, with resident artist James Capper creating experimental pieces for stretching and reshaping in the machinery.


Your author was lucky enough to be in the room on Wednesday when the first such piece was stretched on the machine, and the juxtaposition of earnest arty types and interested museum volunteers made it a wonderful evening. The Museum will be open to see Capper's works from today until Sunday from noon until 7pm and also between 16th and 20th October.

For more, see http://mergefestival.co.uk/merge-2013/2013/10/10/james-capper?view=calendar

10 October 2013

Enter the House of Pain

There's a building on Borough High Street where you can go for if you feel like shouting. They let you in and you are free to scream as loud as you can, and when you do it makes colourful lights flash. This, of course, is 'art', part of the Merge Festival on in London Bridge at the moment and put together by Marcus Lyall and Mark Logue of ML Studio.


Yesterday, when your author stumbled through the door almost by accident, a very friendly chap was on hand to usher visitors through to a place where they could scream until their voice was hoarse. It felt a bit like being at Glastonbury in that something interesting, beautiful and expensive had been created for no particular reason but there was so much else on that no one was actually there. However, later in the evening it was busier. If you want to go and have a shout, it's open Wednesday - Sunday from 5pm - 10pm until 20th October. Then it closes forever.

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

9 October 2013

Browse Deptford Junk Market

An honest little market centred around Douglas Way in Deptford, Deptford Junk Market takes place each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 7am, and operates in tandem with the sort of fruit-and-veg-and-food-and-other-market-products stalls you'd expect rest of Deptford Market on the high street.


The junk market itself is an interesting place, with unpredictable stalls offering unpredictable wares at unpredictable prices, but is a great spot for a browse if you're in the area.

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

8 October 2013

Walk in Summerhouse Hill Wood, Beckenham

An area of ancient woodland in Beckenham Place Park in South East London, Summerhouse Hill Wood was once part of the grand estate of the Cator family, who lived at the house. Prior to this, it appears on a 1745 map as Langstead Wood, and has probably been here for much longer. Like the rest of Beckenham Place Park, the wood is now owned by Lewisham Council.


The wood is rich in Oak, Ash and Beech, and also contains other trees such as wild cherry, downy birch and hornbeam. Though it was still green when your author visited over the weekend, the leaves are beginning to turn already, for autumn is upon us, making a great time for walks in your local wood.

For more, see https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/openspaces/parks/beckenham-place-park/Pages/Woodlands.aspx

7 October 2013

Find the Lewisham Dutch Elm

Standing at the southern end of Ladywell Fields, close to the River Ravensbourne, the Lewisham Dutch Elm is one of only a very few large Dutch Elm trees in London, and is classified as one of the Great Trees of the capital.


Sadly, millions of Elms were wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease from the 1960s onwards, meaning surviving mature elm trees like this one are relatively rare, but good news is at hand as the Conservation Foundation is supporting the planting of new elms.

For more on this one, click here.

6 October 2013

Meet the artists of Lambeth

It's Lambeth Open Studios this weekend, with studios from Kennington to West Norwood open from 10am to 6pm offering a chance to see the places where artists and craftspeople in the borough do their work.


The variety of arts and crafts on offer means that if this sort of thing appeals you're bound to be able to find something that you like, with printmakers, portrait artists, textile recyclers, painters of jazz and blues musicians, embroiderers and illustrators just some of those who are opening their studios - which are also often their homes - to visitors.

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

^Picture © munksynz used under a Creative Commons license^

5 October 2013

Attend the Japan Matsuri 2013

Trafalgar Square becomes a centre for all things Japanese today, with music food and dance from 11am until 9pm, as well as fun activities such as Japanese cartoon Japanese games and the chance to dress in kimono.


We are told to expect Taiko Drumming, Japanese Dance and a live karaoke contest on the main stage, as well as martial arts demonstrations, attracting up to 70,000 visitors. It's a promotional exercise for all things Japanese, supported by the Japan Association in the UK, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the UK, the Japan Society and the Embassy of Japan.

For full details, see http://japanmatsuri.com

4 October 2013

Go late at the Churchill War Rooms

Given the nights that Churchill and his inner circle spent in their wartime bunker beneath the Treasury, directing the country's efforts during the Second World War, it seems a fitting spot to visit after dark, which is a happy coincidence because this evening it is holding a special late opening with a chance to visit in the evenings.


Visitors - who must book in advance - are told to expect film screenings and the chance to practice spy skills and for a chance to win a  prize. Fittingly enough - given Churchill's fondness for booze - there is also a pop-up bar.

For more, see http://www.iwm.org.uk/events/churchill-war-rooms/late-at-churchill-war-rooms

^Picture © Avinash Kunnath used under a Creative Commons license^

3 October 2013

Shop at the Review Bookshop

A compact little bookshop on Bellenden Road in Peckham, Review is owned by Peckham Literary Festival creator Roz Simpson, who runs it with the author Evie Wyld, and the result is a beautiful little shop, packed with great books.


Like all good bookshops, Review also holds regular events. Indeed, this evening they are hosting a 10th anniversary party for the Birkbeck-based literary anthology, the Mechanics’ Institute Review.

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

2 October 2013

See the cave paintings at Niaux, France

Refreshed and revitalised after a week off among the vineyards of Southern France, your author will be back to writing about London tomorrow. Until then, one truly inspiring French place is definitely worthy of a mention, for deep within the caves at Niaux in the Ari├Ęge department of southwestern France is the Salon Noir, a echoing chamber where it is possible to see art painted on the walls by humans like us more than 10,000 years ago.


The experience is other-worldly, as a small group of visitors make their way through tunnels and chambers of the caves, passing more recent graffiti from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries before climbing a sand dune deep within the caves to reach the Salon Noir, passing red and black symbols left on the walls by visitors during the Magdalenian period, before a torch lights up images of bison, horses and ibex, some as fresh as if they had been drawn the day before in black pigment on the stone walls. It was an experience your author will never forget.

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

^Picture © Archaeology Travel used under a Creative Commons license^