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



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19 April 2014

Have a break

It's good to have a break every now and again, and for the next week for the third Easter in a row your author is off to various islands off the coast of Scotland - possibly for the last time before it votes to leave the Union - for some fine landscapes and interesting places. As such, a brief break in things to do in London will be enforced until at least next weekend. If you are seeking inspiration, you might consider planning your own Scottish trip, taking in some islands, some pubs, and some big landscapes.

Opportunist thieves should note that flatmates remain to keep the house secure (and are, of course, trained killers), and without such trivialities as mobile reception and computers there is no real chance of any updates here. If you're in need of London inspiration, do consider visiting Londonist, IanVisits & Diamond Geezer

18 April 2014

Attend the Hot Cross Bun Ceremony at the Widow's Son

Just as last year, your author is once again away for Easter, and will be therefore conducting his annual tradition of missing the Hot Cross Bun Ceremony at the Widow's Son, E3, an East London tradition which takes place each year on Good Friday.

The pub takes its name from a cottage which once stood on the site, inhabited by a widow and her only son, a sailor due to return home on Good Friday 1824, who had asked for hot cross buns to mark his return. When the son failed to materialise, his mother continued to bake Hot Cross Buns every Good Friday, and left them waiting for him. The ceremony sees a new bun hung from a beam in the pub, as the mother had hung them from the beam in her cottage, and has been kept alive since 1848, when the cottage was replaced by a pub

For more, see http://spitalfieldslife.com/2012/04/06/the-widows-buns-at-bow-2/

^Picture by Ewan Munro^

17 April 2014

Drink at the Ivy House, Nunhead

Many readers will already be aware of the Ivy House in Nunhead, a beautiful freehouse that became London's first co-operatively owned pub when it reopened last summer following a battle by local residents to stop it being another great former pub now turned into flats. Though the pub looks rather unremarkable from the outside, the 1937 building designed by A.E. Sewell was Grade II listed by English Heritage in April 2012 following an application by the Campaign for Real Ale, as a result of an "unusually high level of surviving original features and fittings form a largely complete 1930s interior, now relatively rare, which illustrates the style, layout and features once typical of a suburban 'improved' pub"

Originally a Truman's brewery pub, the Ivy House's informative website explains that English Heritage's description of it as a suburban "improved" pub references a movement to attract drinkers in the face of falling pub attendance in the interwar years. This seems like the sort of movement we certainly need to tempt today's sedentary bottle-of-wine-in-front-of-a-flickering-screen drinkers to places with real people to talk to, and when your author popped in a couple of weeks ago it appeared to be working, with poet, songwriter and novelist Hylda Sims launching a book with live music in one room, and tables full of people talking and smiling in the other. Sure, it isn't really on the way from anywhere to anywhere but thanks to the 371 shareholders of the Ivy House Community Pub Limited Community Benefit Society, this pub is a destination in itself.

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

16 April 2014

Have lunch at the Quality Chop House

A Farringdon Road institution that has been trading from the same premises under the same name since 1869, the Quality Chop House has long intrigued your author, and last week an excuse finally arose to visit for lunch. A beautiful little place, set in a Grade II listed building, designed by the architect Rowland Plumbe and built by George Day, in what we are told is a polychrome Venetian Gothic style, the premises are apparently driven by Plumbe's desire to create utilitarian spaces for the masses that had a touch of glamour, something that is still evident nearly 150 years later.

Whilst it would be east to spend a relatively large amount of money at today's Quality Chop House if you desire to do so, it's also possible to have a reasonably affordable meal, and your author's "lunch plate" included roast ham, potatoes, veg and a glass of red wine for just £10, a rarity in this part of London. Staff were attentive and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves, sat in tidy little wooden booths on comfortable cushions, experiencing how it's possible to see a little of the good life at lunchtime before scurrying back to a grey box to get back to work.

For more, see http://thequalitychophouse.com/

15 April 2014

Eat at the Hackney Pearl

Any sane person making a visit to the Olympic Park will surely want to avoid exiting through the big shopping centre by which they probably arrived, and though exit points are limited one not-so-hateful route takes walkers on a bridge over the river to Hackney Wick. Hackney Wick and Fish Island are the sorts of places which seem to be an almost constant source of opaque but fashionable and exciting sounding reports, but can at first sight have very little to offer the aimless visitor. The Hackney Pearl is one thing it does have to offer, a café and bar and a welcome place to sit down, with food, drink and a chance to get a sense of your surroundings and plan your further explorations.

Sure, it's not perfect. This is fashionable Hackney and when your author dropped in on Saturday a light breakfast was £7.50 and there were four types of coffee on the menu and no tea (On further questioning, it was revealed that there "might" be some Assam somewhere, which was good when it came). The surroundings were comfortable and it offered a great place for some enjoyable conversation and a chance to watch the world go by.  Clearly, however, not everyone agrees, as on a shelf above the table a book on London's best coffee shops revealed a passive-aggressive customer's rants on the page reviewing the Hackney Pearl, with complaints underlined in red ink of slow service and poor wine. This was not your author's experience, however, and the food and single-choice fancy tea were served quickly by attentive staff, without wine.

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

14 April 2014

Drink at the Anchor & Hope, Charlton

It's always a shame when you take a picture which doesn't do a location justice and the Anchor & Hope, with its terrace and large windows looking straight out onto the Thames certainly has that. Surrounded by what is still an area of riverside industrial sites, with aggregates providers at Murphys Wharf and Angerstein Wharf just to the east bringing gravel from dredgers and boats on the river, and plenty of other units surrounding the pub meaning this is a popular spot for some after-work drinking.

The fact that the small lane running past the pub doesn't really go anywhere is probably good and bad for this pub in equal measure, for the only passing trade comes from the Thames Path as it approaches its end, but those who do find it are afforded tranquillity, except for occasional banging and clanking from nearby or across the river. It is also worthy of a mention for having surely one of London's most budget-friendly menus.

For more, see http://www.fancyapint.com/Pub/london/anchor-and-hope/1953

13 April 2014

Watch the London Marathon

Of all the charity running events in London, the Marathon is the most rewarding as a spectator, with swathes of the capital closed to traffic, and more than 34,500 participants in 2013. Your author has no intention of ever experiencing it as a runner, but those that do each year seem to find it a rewarding experience, and plenty of money is raised as a result for good causes.

This year's event kicks off with staggered starts on Blackheath around 10am, and the most popular spots for spectators are usually around the Tower of London, where the race passes twice at roughly  mile 12 and mile 23, and at the finish line on the Mall, but public transport usually allows watching at a few different points for keen watchers.

For full details, see http://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/

^Picture © Kyle Taylor used under a Creative Commons license^

12 April 2014

Ride an RT-type bus

Though many think of the Routemaster bus as the quintessential red London bus, and some might even assume it was where it all began, the AEC Regent III RT bus was actually running 15 years before the Routemaster, and looks very similar. This class of bus entered service in 1939 on route 22, 75 years ago, and to celebrate this anniversary some RT-types will be working that same route today, offering passengers rides on vintage buses between Piccadilly Circus to Homerton from 10.30am until 4.30pm.

We are told that rides will take place every 10-20 minute, with most on the RT-types free for passengers, except on the RT1 - the London Bus Museum's restored prototype operating today for the first time anywhere since 1945 - for which there will be a £10 charge. There are sure to be a fair few passengers out enjoying the buses, for in your author's limited experience the only transport-fans more obsessive than the train-spotters are the bus-spotters, but they're usually a friendly bunch as long as you engage them with an open mind and a willingness to learn obscure facts about buses.

For more, see http://www.londonbusmuseum.com/rt75/ 

^Picture © TFL Press Office^

11 April 2014

Join a tour at the National Gallery

Each Friday, the National Gallery remains open until 9pm, offering a chance for those with wills iron enough to shake off invitations to Friday after-work drinks to wander its rooms and see some of Britain's greatest art. This evening, as part of the weekly late opening, a taster tour of the Gallery's collection leaves from the Sainsbury Wing Information Desk at 7pm.

The tour is led by one of the Gallery's in-house lecturers, taking a closer look at five or six works as a way of explaining more about the National Gallery's full collection, and lasts around an hour, popping you back out onto Trafalgar Square just in time for dinner.

For more, see http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/friday-lates/

^Picture © Jimmy Harris used under a Creative Commons license^

10 April 2014

See David Batchelor's Chromolocomotion

On Tuesday, your author went to St Pancras Station to hear a few words from David Batchelor, the second artist commissioned by HS1 for their annual Terrace Wires series of works of art above the Eurostar platforms. Of course everyone's instinctive reaction was to compare Batchelor's Chromolocomotion to the Tetris computer game, which most of those within earshot were doing, for it's very easy to associate it with the most famous tessellation of colourful shapes in the world.

Now that that's over with, it is probably worth saying that this the piece is aesthetically pleasing, but it's more design than art. Batchelor admitted openly that he came up with the idea quickly on the back of a piece of paper, and when it was chosen he commissioned someone else to put it together. On Tuesday night, he seemed much more interested in flogging his book than discussing any vision behind the work, and perhaps that's ultimately because it's quite a simple work based around a simple pattern. Nevertheless, it's quite pleasant, working well with the light coming through the roof, and Batchelor seems at ease with what he's doing, which is putting up 20m x 10m of stained-glass-style coloured perspex shards above a platform in a famous train shed.

For more, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26924430

9 April 2014

Admire All Saints, West Ham

It's amazing to think about what the surrounding area might have looked like when West Ham's Grade I listed Norman church was first built in the 12th century to serve nearby Stratford Langthorne Abbey, founded by William de Montfitchet in 1135. Though the church has been enlarged considerably, with the addition of the seventy-four foot tower in the early fifteenth century, and the aisles on each side of the chancel in the sixteenth century, it still maintains the air of a rural parish church in this sometimes unrelentingly urban area of east London.

Though the church was sadly locked at the time of your author's visit, it is usually open on Sundays from 10.30am until 1.30pm and Mondays to Fridays from 10am - 12 noon during spring and summer, and the exterior and former graveyard still allow visitors to get the measure of this pretty little church. Evidence of the Abbey, the fifth largest in England until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, is still visible in nearby Abbey Gardens, a community garden on Bakers Row close to Abbey Road DLR station, which contains some archaeological remains, and at Three Mills, where earlier buildings than those which now stand would have been used by the abbey.

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

8 April 2014

Camp out at Abbey Wood

The life of the camper and caravanner isn't a particularly glamorous one, but it is certainly a joy to be able to move a mini-home around with you and pitch up wherever you want. The places you can visit with your tent or caravan aren't even limited - as one might expect - to rural locations, and when last week your author received an invitation to visit the Caravan Club's site at Abbey Wood in Royal Greenwich Borough, he was intrigued to see what he might find.

The site is open to Caravan Club members and ordinary people, and features 210 pitches, with 50 reserved for tents and the rest for caravans and motor homes, with the price starting from a relatively-inexpensive £13.30, and whilst most Londoners would probably prefer the warmth of their own bed, facilities such as showers and wifi, and nearby trains into London make it a decent bet for Kent and Sussex dwellers those visiting from the Continent. It was pleasantly quiet, with mature trees and well kept lawns and birds singing in the trees, and though it almost certainly gets a bit less peaceful in high season, its location less than 30 minutes from London Bridge is surely a rarity.

For more, see http://www.caravanclub.co.uk/caravanclubapps/applications/uk-caravan-sites-and-parks/SiteDetails.aspx?csid=21814

7 April 2014

Attend the Greenwich Series

The Greenwich Series is a monthly event which since May 2013 has brought more than 50 different speakers to the 'Tree House' room above the Greenwich Tavern, opposite the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Each speaker gets 10 minutes to talk on a topic of their choice, and this evening your author will be speaking about how to make the most of the place where you live.

Also speaking this evening will be London Cabbie Robert, former head of mortality analysis for the Office of National Statistics Clare Griffiths, the Park Yourself Project, the Wiggly Wild Show's Cairis and a live scorpion, a millipede & a leaf insect.

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

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

6 April 2014

Visit the Kirkaldy Testing Museum, before it's too late

Today, as the first Sunday of every month sees the opening of one of London's more unusual museums, the Kirkaldy Testing Museum, affording Londoners the chance to step inside David Kirkaldy's Victorian testing works at 99 Southwark Street, a short distance from London Bridge Station. If you have always wanted to go but never found the time to visit the Museum, it is probably a good idea to seize the day, as the Museum's website tells us that there may only be 3 more openings before the lease expires in June, after which it may be forced to close.

We are told that a section 25 notice has now been served on the museum to end the lease, and the trustees have are negotiating with the landlord over its future. The existence of the Museum had previously been safeguarded by the existence of David Kirkaldy's huge testing machine - a huge beast constructed in Leeds especially for the space in the 1860s and weighing 116 tons - which was deemed part of the listed structure of the building. However, now it seems relationships between the Museum and the landlord have deteriorated, and the trustees' refusal to endorse a proposal for conversion of the ground floor and basement into a restaurant with the machine retained as the centrepiece has surely not helped. Whatever happens, it seems opportunities to enjoy this unique place in its current format are very limited, so it is worth making the trip today.

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

5 April 2014

See the southern bit of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

As readers of Diamond Geezer's blow-by-blow coverage will probably already be aware, the next little bit of the Olympic Park opens today, with new pathways, playgrounds and climbing walls on offer, as well as cafes to eat in, water to walk beside and gardens to admire. It's a welcome development for those who have visited previously only to be subjected to the rather unrelenting traffic of Waterden Road, and whilst you're likely to have to at least see the big shopping centre to get here, it's not impossible to avoid it.

Your author visited on a tour earlier in the week, and whilst it must be difficult to manage expectations in a world of Olympo-management-speak where lighting is 'intricate', 'entertainments' are 'programmed' and 'waterways' are 'vibrant' and 'dynamic', locals are surely pleased to finally be able to access a very pleasant new area of parkland with a decent playground, some fun toys and benches and occasional opportunities to get away from car and train noise in an area that does not afford many such opportunities. Whether or not it was worth the money, this part of town has changed irreversibly as a result of the Olympics, and when the stadium opens for the Rugby World Cup next year the transformation will finally be complete.

For more, see http://queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/the-park/plan-your-visit/park-map

4 April 2014

See Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

Always first with a story, your author took the time to pop into Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy yesterday, an exhibition which has been running since January, and comes to an end this Sunday, 6th April. For anyone else who has not yet found the time to see it, the exhibition involves the Academy working with seven different architectural practices to design their own spaces across 23,000 square feet of gallery space, which visitors place themselves within and occasionally interact with. The exit is then through a film room, where the thoughts behind the spaces are explained, giving an opportunity to check you have understood the exhibition 'properly'.

The architects involved have done a fine job, creating spaces within the relatively small galleries which evoke a sense of somewhere else, or make you feel small, or allow you to see the gaudy ceilings of the Academy in a different way, or let you claim some ownership of an exhibit using colourful straws. Whilst you have only three remaining days to visit, you will be rewarded for your effort.

For more, see https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/4

3 April 2014

Visit the Prefab Museum

For the past month or so has felt like everyone has been telling your author to visit the Excalibur Estate in Catford, and after prompts by IanVisits, Diamond Geezer and Londonist's Matt, last Thursday the opportunity finally arose to cycle down and find out what it was all about. Originally built in the 1940s as a temporary solution to house Londoners bombed out during the Blitz, the boxy prefabricated houses of the Excalibur Estate were constructed on parkland by German and Italian prisoners of war, with each unit designed to last for just ten to fifteen years. However, the prefabs are still standing nearly 70 years later and now Lewisham Council has decided the time has finally come to demolish them, and has begun doing so.

Some residents have understandably come to love their little Palaces and are quite angry at this decision, with the backing of the Twentieth Century Society and English Heritage, and whilst six prefabs have been listed, the rest are not long for this world, and residents are being moved elsewhere. As a result, one of the prefabs scheduled for demolition has been turned into a temporary museum, 'Prefabs - Palaces for the People', masterminded by Elisabeth Blanchet and originally due to run only until last Saturday but now extended until the end of May. It features photography, video and work by various contributors telling the story of prefabs around the country, with particular focus on the Excalibur Estate.

It's quite emotive stuff, and whilst it's not hard to see why the rationalists at the Lewisham Borough want to make more intensive use of these liberal grassy plots and rid themselves of this expensive-to-maintain housing, these are homes, and it's very welcome that the museum contributors have worked so hard to present us with an idea of what they mean to their residents, allowing visitors to follow their unsuccessful battle to save their homes, especially via some poignant films which feature local residents and former prefab-dweller (Baron) Neil Kinnock.

The Museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and now is the time to visit before its home is demolished forever. For full details, see https://www.facebook.com/PalacesForThePeople

2 April 2014

Visit the Geffrye Museum Almshouses

The real joy of Hackney's Geffrye Museum is the Grade I listed almshouses in which it is situated, originally constructed  in 1714 by the Ironmongers' Company, using a bequest from former Lord Mayor Sir Robert Geffrye, twice master of the Company and former Lord Mayor of London. Whilst it seems a shame that the houses no longer provide homes for pensioners, there are plenty that do, and these have found an admirable alternative use as a Museum since 1914, when the Geffrye Museum opened following the acquisition of the almshouses by London County Council.

Though much of the Museum does not specifically reflect life in the almshouses, Number 14, had much of  its original woodwork and has been restored to demonstrate what life would have been like here for the pensioners of the 18th and 19th centuries. Today is one of the relatively rare openings of the almshouses, for which a modest admission of £2.50 is charged. Other openings take place on 5th, 8th, 16th and 22nd April, 3rd, 7th, 13th, 21st and 27th May 2014, and 4th and 7th June 2014.

For more, see http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/period-rooms-and-gardens/explore-almshouses/

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

1 April 2014

Climb the Crystal Palace Transmitter

***This one was an April Fool's Day post***

It seems that all London's highest places are opening up to the public recently, and today for one day only the 219 metre Crystal Palace transmitting station is allowing visitors to gain access to surely the best views in south London. Whilst those willing to make the trip can only gain access to the square platform at 121 metres, and must negotiate an exposed external  ladder to do so, the experience promises to be an exhilarating one.

Designed and constructed by British Insulated Callender's Construction Co Ltd steelwork by Painter Bros Ltd, the Crystal Palace transmitting station first came into service on 1st April 1956. It is now owned and operated the British telecommunications company Aprilva.

For more, see www.CrystalPalaceTransmittingStationTours.com

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