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 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^