Cold but sunny

Saturday, December 13th 2014

The cold made us sluggish but the sunshine beckoned us out. We fancied a hot breakfast and so took a number 19 bus along Upper Street to a cafe we know.

Workers Cafe
Workers Cafe
Upper Street

The Workers Cafe (the name has no apostrophe and it would be pedantic of me to put one in) is a good, basic cafe with a range of set breakfasts and other meals1.

Upper Street
Upper Street
Looking north

The above picture shows a part of Upper Street, looking north from the Workers Cafe. The white building on the right in shadow is Islington Town Hall. Upper Street is a main thoroughfare leading to Highbury Corner and is the start of the Great North Road. It is an old road but the earliest buildings along it today date from the 18th century. Because of the direction of the photo and the low winter sun, it proved difficult to avoid including my shadow in the picture!

Upper Street
Upper Street
Looking south

Here we are looking south towards St Mary’s Church whose 18th-century spire is visible. The artistic mistiness comes from the fact that I am aiming a little too close to the sun and stray light is entering the lens, despite the lens hood. (This in fact produced some spurious colour which I managed to edit out.) I like the photo, though, because it expresses the scene as it appeared to me when I took it.

Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath
No more wolves

Another bus took us by a circuitous route to the top of Hampstead Heath. This rough park of 800 acres finally became public in the late 1800s. Until the 13th century it was infested with wolves but the only canids you will encounter today are domesticated dogs being taken for walks by their owners. In the time of Henry VIII, washerwomen pursued their activities here laundering the garments of the gentry. The Heath became fashionable in the late 17th century with the discovery of springs reputed to have medicinal properties.

Splendid Views
Splendid Views

The Heath sweeps down Parliament Hill Fields, popular with kite flyers of all ages, but from the top, splendid views are to be had across London and beyond, though today the prospect was somewhat hazy.

Paths among the greenery
Paths among the greenery

Parliament Hill Fields forms an open area, as the name suggests, but the top part has trees and shrubs with paths wandering between them to be enjoyed by strollers, joggers and dog walkers.

A setting for writers
A setting for writers

Unsurprisingly, the Heath has proved attractive to writers as a setting for their stories and is mentioned in several of Dickens’s novels, for example.

Forked tree
Forked tree

The footing is likely to be wet and muddy in winter and so we tarried only briefly before returning to the more solid ground of the streets.

Whitestone Pond
Whitestone Pond

At the top of Heath Street, one of the highest points in London, Whitestone Pond is set in a triangle of roads. This was once a natural dew pond but in 1890, if not earlier, it was enlarged and arranged as a source of water for military horses. Its was then known as the Horse Pond and its modern name comes from a milestone which can still be found nearby half-hidden in the hedge.

Although there are plenty of sites telling us that military horses once slaked their thirst here, where these horses came from or where the troops to whom they belonged were billeted is not stated. The only reference I have so far found to cavalry being stationed hereabouts comes courtesy of British History Online which quotes A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington (Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989) as follows:

A little known corps of light cavalry was formed at Hampstead under a captain who was commissioned in 1796, but apparently it trained with troops from other parishes rather than locally.

Of course, “military horses” need not belong to cavalry regiments but, who it was they did actually belong to, I have as yet to discover.

Ice on Whitestone Pond
Ice on Whitestone Pond

Despite the sunshine, conditions were cold enough for ice to have formed, presumably overnight, on the surface of the pond and to still remain for us to photograph. There are ponds on Hampstead Heath which were created for bathing and, in winter, for ice skating. Whitestone Pond, because of its easy access was also in times past a favoured venue for ice skaters.

Hilly Heath Street
Hilly Heath Street

We walked down Heath Street to the centre of Hampstead. Hampstead is a very hilly place and most of its streets, lanes and alleys slope, sometimes quite steeply.

Elm Row, Hampstead
Elm Row, Hampstead

Hampstead is one of the posher districts of London, as you quickly realize as you explore the streets. It is an opulent quarter and Hampstead Village, the main shopping and residential part, has the feel of a county town. (The word ‘Village’ is here used, as it sometimes is, to give the impression of a community far more upmarket and sophisticated than a mere rural hamlet.) The name Hampstead, incidentally, is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon landowner who first carved out his homestead from the forest which covered the area.

Victorian posting box
Victorian posting box

Leading off Heath Street is Elm Row, one of Hampstead’s quiet and quietly respectable streets that run down to East Heath Road and the lower end of the Heath. We noticed on the corner this Victorian posting box, still in place and still in use despite an ugly crack running through the royal cipher. The fashion boutiques of Hampstead may contain the latest styles but its Hampstead’s fabric changes only slowly.

The Horse and Groom
The Horse and Groom
A famous Young’s pub

Just before Heath Street meets Hampstead High Street (where stands the tube station that was once called Heath Street but was later renamed Hampstead), it passes in front of a tall and stylish pub with a striking red and white façade called the Horse and Groom. This pub is famous and belonged to the brewing family, Young’s. This Grade II listed building dates from near the end of the Victorian era (it was completed in 1900) and was the creation of architect Keith D. Young, himself a member of the brewing family but known particularly for the hospitals he designed. Sadly, the Horse and Groom is no longer a pub. After a period as a restaurant it now accommodates an estate agent’s.

Hampstead Clock Tower
Hampstead Clock Tower
Once the fire station

Within sight of the pub, lower down at the crossroads, is the clock tower. This handsome building bears a plaque informing us that it was built in 1873. Until 1915, it housed the fire station but after that was converted into a shop and apartments. Happily, it remains as a much loved Hampstead landmark.

The Flask and Flask Walk
The Flask and Flask Walk

Behind the tube station and leading off the High Street is Flask Walk. There was a time when you could have done your shopping in Flask Walk and I used to buy tea from a tea and coffee retailer’s shop here. The pub, called the Flask, like the Horse and Groom a Young’s pub, is one of the original inhabitants. At the other end, the secondhand bookshop of Keith Fawkes still survives but all the proper shops disappeared long ago, being replaced by boutiques.

Eurostar Christmas Tree
Eurostar Christmas Tree
St Pancras Station

Pleasant as it is to wander around Hampstead, the sinking sun and consequent lowering of the ambient temperature persuaded us that it was time to be making tracks for home. We took a number 46 single-deck bus down the hill to St Pancras Station. Walking through the station, we encountered this large Christmas tree. The labels bear the names of foreign destinations and this give a clue as to the donor of the tree: all the names are of stops on routes travelled by Eurostar. The tree serves a double purpose, celebrating both Christmas and the 20th anniversary of Eurostar.

John Betjeman
John Betjeman
Martin Jennings, (unveiled) 2007

We stopped to pay our respects to John Betjeman who was largely responsible for saving the magnificent St Pancras Station from the vandals and greedy developers who would have destroyed it. The sculpture is larger than lifesize and I took this photo by holding the camera at full arm-stretch above my head. The work admirably captures the poet’s somewhat scruffy dress sense.

Eurostar platforms
Eurostar platforms
A bientôt

I took a nostalgic peep through the glass screens at the Eurostar platforms. They were eerily quiet but would no doubt soon come alive in time for the next departure. All being well, we will be joining one of their journeys in the not too distant future.

St Pancras Station
St Pancras Station
The courtyard

The front part of St Pancras Station houses an hotel and apartments. The courtyard, though the public can enter it, is for access to these more private areas and therefore forms an oasis of calm between the building and the constant flow of traffic along the Euston Road.

From the vantage point of the terrace, I took my last photo of the day, a panorama looking towards King’s Cross Station, now divested of the ugly frontage and provided with a courtyard of its own. The last rays of evening sunlight were catching the end of the building.

King's Cross and Euston Road
King’s Cross and Euston Road

________

1A certain Web directory (I am not saying which as I don’t want to provide publicity for them) has listed my blog, without permission or appeal, under “Restaurant Reviews”. I do not “review” restaurants though I may express my opinion of those I encounter.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Illuminated angel wings and tea in Camden

Sunday, December 7th 2014

We haven’t done much lately apart from the essential tasks such as going to work and doing the shopping. The main disincentive is the weather: short days and cold temperatures are more conducive to staying at home in the warm than in gallivanting around the landscape taking photos. I am sensitive to the cold and however many layers I put on, the winter chill somehow sneaks in and makes me feel miserable.

On Friday evening, in search of Christmas cards, we passed through the N1 Centre in Islington. There we found the Christmas Market in progress and the famous angel wings lit with coloured lights.

N1 Centre Angel Wings
N1 Centre Angel Wings
Lit with Christmas lights

I didn’t find any Christmas cards that I liked but there is time yet and I don’t send many. To be precise, I send exactly two, though I may also add my signature to some of Tigger’s.

Yesterday, Saturday, we started out with good intentions and made it up the road to the Turkish cafe in Upper Street where we enjoyed a Turkish breakfast. After breakfast, we sniffed the air, metaphorically speaking, and returned home. Snuggling up in the warm over a pot of tea seemed much preferable to wandering about in the cold.

Wintery sky in Camden Town
Wintery sky in Camden Town

This morning we did our weekly shopping as usual and returned home to put it all away. In the afternoon, we thought we should bestir ourselves and so we set out once more. We made it all the way to Camden Town, courtesy of the 214 bus. The conditions were cold and dull but it was at least not raining (or snowing).

Parkway, where the above photo was taken, is a broad street leading south-west from Camden Town tube station. These days, it is a one-way street but I imagine that in times past its traffic flowed in both directions. You can see why this is important if you look it up on the map: it leads you straight to Regent’s Park. And what’s in Regent’s Park? Why, the famous Regent’s Park Zoo, of course! Now called the ZSL London Zoo, since opening to the public in 1847, the zoo has been continually popular with visitors.

Palmer's Pet Stores
Palmer’s Pet Stores
Now a Yumchaa teashop

With so many people travelling along Parkway to visit the zoo and, perhaps more importantly, coming back from it, it was the ideal street in which to open a store selling animals, particularly exotic ones. Today, we frown on this but in 1921, when the shop started up, it was considered normal. Originally a pair of 19th-century houses, the building is now listed Grade II. It is no longer a pet shop (it has been succeeded by Palmer’s Pet Care, a little further along on the opposite side of the road) and is currently the premises of a teashop.

What is thought to be a picture of the interior, taken in the 1950s or 1960s, will be found here. English heritage gives some details of the shop and its history on its listing page, and a charming account of a personal reminiscence of working in the shop appears on Nicky Grace’s blog.

Today, our interest in the shop was that it is a branch of a still small but seemingly successful chain of teashops called Yumchaa. I have already mentioned Yumchaa (see, for example, A quiet ramble). As a tea aficionado of long standing, I am always interested in finding a new outlet for fine teas. Yumchaa have an impressive range and serve tea to be drunk on the premises and sell tea in packets for you to take home. We enjoyed a pot of tea each – Red Christmas for Tigger and Russian Caravan for me. I saw that they were making an offer of three packets for £13 and decided I would buy two packets of Russian Caravan and one of Oolong.

At the counter, a disappointment awaited. Yumchaa doesn’t seem to have got the retail side of the business as well organized as it should be. Both of my chosen teas were out of stock. Perhaps in an attempt at mitigation, the assistant remarked that “Russian Caravan is the least popular of our black teas”, not this did anything to console me. They have promised to have the three packets ready for me tomorrow, so I will come down and pick it up.

Whereas Oolong (also known as Wulong) is the name of a variety of tea, Russian Caravan is a blend. I rarely buy it blended, though, because tea merchants tend to be coy about exactly what they put in it. Yumchaa states that their Russian Caravan is a blend of Oolong, Keemun and Lapsang Souchong, which I consider to be the correct recipe. If theirs is any good, it will save me buying the ingredient separately and mixing them myself as I usually do.

Tomorrow or Tuesday should provide the answer.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Around the City and Fleet Street

Saturday, November 29th 2014

We started once more with a Turkish breakfast (are we becoming addicted? surely, not… :) ) and then took the bus in Upper Street. While waiting I took a photo of the building opposite the bus stop.

Old Post Office, Upper Street
Old Post Office, Upper Street
Supplanted by a new Post Office

This fine old building is, or rather was, the Northern District Post Office and Sorting Office, built in 1906. This use has now been discontinued and a modern new post office has been opened further along the street. The site is being “developed” and we can only hope that this lovely old façade is retained. One of its notable features is the row of four caryatids supporting a balcony. Each is different in dress and features though their poses are similar.

The word caryatid derives from the Greek word karyatides, meaning “maidens of the [town of] Karyai”. There was a temple here to the goddess Artemis and the town maidens would perform a dance sacred to the goddess, bearing baskets of reeds upon their heads. Architectural caryarids sometimes have their hands raised, as here, to help support the building, and sometimes have their arms lowered. In the latter case, they may be wearing a headpiece that acts as a capital and reflects the baskets carried by the dancing maidens.

Postman's Park
Postman’s Park

The bus took us to St Paul’s and we paid a visit to Postman’s Park. Looking a little drab today because of the winter season, this is a pretty and restful place in spring and summer. It takes its name from the nearby General Post Office for whose employees it was a popular place to eat their lunchtime sandwiches. The little pond in the foreground is covered with a protective metal net and through it I could see goldfish swimming about. There is only one word to describe my feelings about that: Brrrrr!

Watts'  memorial to self-sacrifice
Watts’ memorial to self-sacrifice
Inaugurated in 1900

The park is famous for its Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice. a collection of tablets set in a wall and protected by a roof. It was created by G.F. Watts and was inaugurated in 1900. Its purpose is to commemorate ordinary citizens who have given their lives to save the life of someone else. Watts died in  1904 and the project was continued by his wife, Mary, but, in the face of practical difficulties, she discontinued the work in 1931 with about 50 tablets in place.

One section of the memorial
One section of the memorial

However, a new plaque was added in June 2009 to commemorate Leigh Pitt who jumped into a canal to save a nine-year-old boy from drowning but was himself unable to be rescued. The event had occurred two years before and is reported here.

Leigh Pitt's plaque
Leigh Pitt’s plaque
In good company

This was the first new plaque to be installed since 1931. Will it be the last? I don’t know what company produced the tiles forming the plaque but it has faithfully reproduced existing designs.

The White Horse
The White Horse
An 18th-century pub now closed

Running beside Postman’s Park is a famous street called Little Britain. Rather than indicating that the street somehow resumes and represents the country as a whole, the name seems to derive from the Dukes of Brittany who had a house here before the 16th century. Later, the street was known for booksellers, a number of whom took up residence here. Several famous people have lived or stayed here, including John Milton, an infant Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Franklin. The White Horse pub seems to have started in the 18th century though the present façade dates from 1892. The pub closed in the 1950s and the building is now used for other purposes. The archway leads to Cross Key Square where a number of people and businesses of renown have found lodging at various times.

Christ Church Greyfriars
Christ Church Greyfriars
A Wren church destroyed by bombing

Among the increasingly tall buildings of the city, the tower of Wren’s Christ Church Greyfriars cuts a lonely but elegant figure. Built to replace the original church that was burnt done in the Great Fire of 1666, this church too was destroyed, but for the tower, in Second World War bombing. What would have been the body of the church is now a garden, an agreeable oasis of green among the city streets.

Tempus rerum imperator Tempus rerum imperator
Tempus rerum imperator
The Newgate Street Clock

At the nearby junction of Newgate Street and St Martin’s Le-Grand is what appears to be a ventilation shaft accommodated within a tower. Affixed to the tower is a clock of unusual design by Joanna Migdal. It was presented to the City of London in May 2007 by the Company of  Clockmakers in celebration of the Company’s 375th anniversary. Made by Smiths of Derby, the clock bears the Company’s coat of arms and its motto TEMPUS RERUM IMPERATOR (“Time, commander of all things”) and is of a type called “wandering hour clock”. This is because the number of the hour moves and points to the number representing the minutes past the hour. The date and the temperature in Centigrade are also displayed.

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral
From Queen’s Head Passage

We explored Queen’s Head Passage (not much there but a few boutiques and eateries) and photographed St Paul’s, its huge bulk contrasting with the narrowness of the passage. St Paul’s always impresses me no matter what angle I view it from.

Paternoster
Paternoster
Elizabeth Frink, 1975

We entered Paternoster Square where stands this sculpture by Elizabeth Frink. It was unveiled in 1975 by Yehudi Menhuin but moved to Bastion High Walk between 1997 and 2003 while development work took place and replaced here in the latter year.

Paternoster (detail)
Paternoster (detail)

As I noted previously, you can tell which features of a sculpture interest people most because these become polished by the touch of their hands. By this indicator, it seems that people like the sheep and stroke their noses.

Paternoster Square Column Paternoster Square Column
Paternoster Square Column
Disguising a ventilation pipe

A rather noticeable feature of Paternoster Square is a 23-and-a-bit metre tall column. The brief given the architects (Whitfield Partners) was to disguise a ventilation outlet for an underground car park with something that looked as if it was supposed to be there on its own merits, bearing in mind the close proximity of St Paul’s Cathedral and other buildings of note. The solution adopted was something that looks like a budget copy of Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire of London (see The telescope that never was). The urn at the top, supposedly representing the flames of both the Great Fire and war-time bombing, is illuminated at night.

Temple Bar
Temple Bar
A ceremonial gate with sinister connotations

One entrance point of Paternoster Square is through a decorative gate of Portland Stone called Temple Bar. The gate has been here (though in a different position) since no later than 1293 when it was merely a chain strung between two posts. It’s obviously come a long way since then and been rebuilt a few times. A 14th-century version had a prison above it and its 16th-century successor saw Queen Elizabeth pass through on her way to St Paul’s to give thanks for the defeat of the Armada. Though the gate of the time survived the Great Fire, Wren rebuilt it in the 1670s. There was a pillory here at one time and, worse still, heads of executed persons were displayed on it on spikes during the 17th and 18th centuries – you could view them through a telescope for a ha’penny (½ penny) a go. In 1878 it was removed because it caused traffic congestion. The pieces were re-erected on the estate of Sir Henry Bruce Meux at Theobalds Park, where they began to decay. The gate was finally rescued by the Temple Bar Trust and brought back to the square in 2004. Happily, any heads visible on it today are part of the sculpture.

Angel's Wings
Angel’s Wings
Thomas Heathwick 2002 (?)
Click for slideshow

In Bishops Court, off Paternoster Square, we came upon this massy structure. What is it? Viewing it from several angles (see slideshow) didn’t help me elucidate the conundrum. I have entitled it Angel’s Wings because that seems to be the name most commonly given to it. A work of art it undoubtedly is but it also serves another purpose: to disguise the ventilation vents of an electricity substation beneath it. By Thomas Heatherwick, it was made in 2002, I think.

Amen Court
Amen Court
Deanery of St Paul’s, 1879

This picturesque gateway in Warwick Lane provides an entrance to a complex of buildings called Amen Court, belonging to the Deanery of St Paul’s. Built in 1879, it included a choir school, and who knows what else. The view beyond the arch was tantalising but the gates were closed, preventing further exploration. To the right of the gateway, above a side door, a panel carries an extensive quotation in Latin. I reproduce it below (you know you want me to):

SCIMUS ENIM QUONIAM SI TERRESTRIS DOMUS NOSTRA HUIUS HABITATIONIS DISSOLVATUR QUOD AEDIFICATIONEM EX DEO HABEAMUS DOMUM NON MANUFACTAM AETERNAM IN CAELIS.

” For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5, 1)

Untitled sculpture
Untitled sculpture
Artist unknown (to me)
Click for slideshow

Whether by design or intention, I am not sure, but we were now heading towards Fleet Street and found ourselves in a lane or walkway called Fleet Passage. Here we discovered a sculpture or installation comprising two figures facing one another. There was no indication as to the name of the artist or the title of the work. For other views, click on the above image.

The Punch Tavern
The Punch Tavern
From Victorian boozer to gastropub

In Fleet Street itself we stopped for a cup of tea at the fine old Victorian pub called the Punch Tavern. Stained glass and carved woodwork combine in a beautiful interior.

The Punch Tavern
The Punch Tavern
Detail

The Punch Tavern has joined the ranks of those schizophrenic establishments that apply to themselves the ugly epithet “gastropub”, a word which sounds like the name of an illness. Is it a pub or is it an upmarket restaurant? It tries to be both. The tables are laid with serviettes, cutlery and menus but if you do not let this intimidate you, you can ask for just a drink. If you want a meal, you order at the table and are served by a waitress but if you just want a drink, you fetch it yourself from the bar.

Fame as an angel
Fame as an angel
William Reid Dick, 1938

Number 85 Fleet Street used to be the home of the Press Association and Reuters but I don’t know who lives there now. Dating from the 1930s, the building was designed by Edwin Landseer Lutyens and over the door is a bronze sculpture by William Reid Dick that was unveiled in 1938. It is an allegorical figure representing Fame, presented as an angel blowing a long trumpet. The style is naturalistic and the detail, such as the folds of the robe, are nicely done.

A view along Fleet Street
A view along Fleet Street

Fleet Street, named after one of London’s rivers, became known for the presence of numerous newspaper offices, so much so that “Fleet Street” is to this day a synonym for the press. The big names have now all moved out to other venues but traces remain of Fleet Street’s long association with the newspaper and magazine trade. For example, in the above photo, to the right of the Church of St Dunstan-in-the-West, you can see a building emblazoned with the names of no less than four publications, the Sunday Post, the People’s Friend, the People’s Journal and the Dundee Courier. Of these, the name People’s Journal has been taken over by a publication in the Philippines but the other three still operate, though from other premises.

Incidentally, this building is number 186 Fleet Street, the supposed address of the infamous Sweeney Todd’s barber shop.

Hen & Chicken Court Sheffield Daily Telegraph plaque
Plaque to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Hen & Chicken Court

At the entrance to the picturesquely named Hen & Chicken Court is a plaque to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. A central inscription tells us that this journal was founded in 1855 and “was the first British paper to have a dedicated telegraph line.” 159 years later, the newspaper is still running but with its name shortened to the Sheffield Telegraph.

Mary Queen of Scots House and the Kings and Keys
Mary Queen of Scots House and the Kings and Keys
Buildings with character

It is inevitable that buildings of many different epochs should rub shoulders along Fleet Street. Some are typically tasteless modern constructions but quite a few have beauty and character. The pair shown above comprise, on the right, an early Victorian pub called the Kings and Keys with, on the left an even more elaborate building called Mary Queen of Scots House. The latter dates from 1905 and was made for a Scottish Insurance Company. Apart from the name, it has nothing to do with the infamous queen. When it closed in 2008, the pub was called the King and Keys (note the singular ‘King’). Engraved in the masonry, however, the name is clearly the Kings and Keys (plural ‘Kings’). The reason for the name, apparently, is that the licence was inherited from two former pubs, the Three Kings and the Cross Keys.

29 Fleet Street
29 Fleet Street
Today a private clinic

As for this pretty little gem of a building, I have no idea what purpose prompted its creation. Between the ground and first-floor windows the number 29 is clearly displayed and that is its only identification. On the lintel of the second-floor windows we can read the date 1860, which is no doubt correct. This fine building has been given a Grade II listing.

A pair of telamones
A pair of telamones
29 Fleet Street

One of the decorative motifs on this building consists of a pair of telamones supporting a pediment on the second floor. As I started this post with a group of caryatids, it is fitting to end it with their masculine equivalents, the telemones. So here is another pair, from another building:

Telamones

Caryatids often appear in groups of four or six but can be present in any number as we see, for example, in Cheltenham’s Montpellier Parade (photos here). The caryatid stands upright, supporting the weight of the building on the crown of her head and the whole of her body is displayed, down to her feet. In contrast, telamons or telamones usually appear in pairs and only the head and shoulders – or at most the chest – is shown. They take the weight of the building on their shoulders and neck with the result that they stare fixedly down at you in a very dramatic – and perhaps slightly menacing – way.

Whereas caryatids means “maidens of Karyai”, there are two possible  derivations for telamon. Firstly, according to Greek mythology, one of the Argonauts was called Telamon. Secondly, and more plausibly, the word telamon in Greek means “one who bears [a weight]” and the mythological figure, Atlas, who, as you no doubt recall, had the task of supporting the heavens on his shoulders, was also know as Atlas telamon. The connection between Atlas supporting the heavens and the telamones supporting buildings is visually clear.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Another damp Saturday

Saturday, November 22nd 2014

We awoke to another dull, damp Saturday. This will probably be the trend now until the season changes. The Angel Crossroads presented a gloomy aspect.

The Angel Crossroad
The Angel Crossroad
Gloomy under dull skies

The air was charged with rain and the sky was dull and leaden – not good conditions in which to take photos!

We caught a bus to Islington Green. or Islington Memorial Green, as it has now been named, and found Gallipoli open, where we cheered ourselves up with a Turkish breakfast with grilled Halloumi and Turkish tea.

The War Memorial
The War Memorial
Replaced the War Shrine in 2006

The triangular open space, usually simply known as the Green or Islington Green, is now called Islington Memorial Green, presumably because part of it is occupied by the war memorial. Though commemorating the fallen in both World Wars, this structure dates only from 2006 when it replaced a previous monument called the War Shrine. This was erected in 1918 as a temporary memorial but survived 87 years or so until it was thought to be in sufficiently bad condition to need replacing. I did not manage to photograph the old memorial but found a short piece of film made at the time of its dedication and you can see it here.

This new monument by John Main, was controversial and some people referred to it (and still do) as “the doughnut”. I am not sure what it is intended to represent unless it is a slightly abstract wreath. Last year, repairs had to be made as the monument was sinking, a circumstance blamed on inadequate foundations. For a while it was supported by a steel frame that, ironically, took the form of the CND logo. You will find the Islington Tribune’s report on the matter, together with a photo, here. For now at least, the memorial seems to have recovered its aplomb.

Margaret Street in Fitzrovia
Margaret Street in Fitzrovia

Later we found ourselves in Fitzrovia where I took the above photo of Margaret Street. The street’s skyline is dominated by a church spire though, from this angle, the church itself is hard to spot.

All Saints Margaret Street
All Saints Margaret Street
Entrance and courtyard

The church is slotted in among other buildings in such a way that it presents a fairly modest entrance to the street. The gate leads to a small courtyard and thence to the church door. As well as the church, the complex includes a vicarage and a choir school. The church’s information board says the church is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm but we were unable to gain access.

The tower and spire
The tower and spire
Seen from the courtyard

Completed in 1859 and designed by William Butterfield, this church is regarded by Simon Thurley as one of the ten most important buildings in England (see here). Another admirer, poet laureate John Betjemen, credited All Saints with starting the revolution in church building that gave us so many Gothic Revival masterpieces.

Courtyard relief
Courtyard relief

Not being able to see the interior, which I hear is splendid, we made do with a few photos of exterior details such as this relief of an angelic visitation, which I imagine is a representation of the Annunciation.

The BT Tower
The BT Tower
A brooding presence in Fitzrovia

The 627 ft (191 m) tall BT Tower is a brooding presence in Fitzrovia, appearing again and again in street views. In the above photo we are viewing it along Berners Street. Completed in 1964 as the Post Office Tower, it later became known as the London Telecom Tower and, more recently, as the British Telecom or BT Tower. In 2003, it became a Grade II listed building.

Door and brass bell plate
Door and brass bell plate
York House, Berners Street

On a dull day, the bright red door and gleaming brasses of the entrance to York House added a welcome splash of colour and vivacity.

Sculpted horses Sculpted horses
Sculpted horses
Mr Brainwash

Just opposite in Berners Street is the Sanderson Hotel. This 1950s building takes it name from the original commissioning owners, Arthur Sanderson & Sons, manufacturers of wallpaper, fabrics and paint. The building itself is listed Grade II*, no doubt as much for its historic importance as for its aesthetic appeal which I failed to notice. The hotel is currently hosting a four-day event called the Frieze Festival with exhibits of modern art. Items include this pair of horses placed outside the hotel. They are by Mr Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, an artist said to have been born in Paris and to be now resident in Los Angeles. Others claim that he is in fact street artist Banksy engaging in an extended parody of himself. The horses, made of crockery shards, are quite lively and attractive.

Now for our “Last Chance to See” spot: three buildings that are about to disappear never to be seen again. Should we be sad about this? You be the judge.

Buildings to be demolished
Buildings to be demolished
Berners Street

The three buildings in question are shown in the photo above. The two on the right perhaps have their merits but the one that is attracting most attention is the one occupying the greater part of the photo and boasting a curvy roof canopy. It is known as Copyright House.

Copyright House
Copyright House
Impressively Nondescript

This office block was built in the 1950s by controversial architect Richard Seifert. Widely criticised for what were considered  ugly buildings, Seifert has more recently gained something of a following and increasing interest is being shown in his works. For example, I hear that the Twentieth Century Society has made a bid to have Copyright House listed and thus to save it from demolition. Why anyone would wish to have this impressively nondescript heap saved for future generations is not clear to me (unless it is the fear of something even worse being put in its place) but I will just quote the Latin maxim, De gustibus non est disputandum, and pass on.

Berners Mansion
Berners Mansion
A Victorian apartment block

I much preferred this pretty apartment block with shops on the ground floor. It is called Berners Mansion and was built in 1897 to a design by George Dennis Martin, who seems relatively little known. This building is not listed but as it resides within a conservation area, its immediate future seems assured. It replaced a previous 18th century building whose demolition possibly stirred up the same sort of resentment that we see today in the case of Copyright House. Plus ça change…

Sculpture of a bull
Sculpture of a bull
Engage with caution

Opposite Berners Mansion, on the terrace of a restaurant, is a fine life-size sculpture of a bull. I am sure it is a favourite with customers which perhaps goes some way to explaining the curious notice affixed to the wall beside it.

CUSTOMERS
ENGAGING WITH
THE BULL DO SO
ENTIRELY AT THEIR
OWN RISK.
FOR DISPLAY
PURPOSES ONLY.

I am not sure how one typically “engages” with a sculpted bull but to do so is obviously a risky business, especially (one might conjecture) if one has sampled the no doubt excellent wines served by the restaurant.

Post box with post office sign
Post box with post office sign

On the corner of Newman Street and Eastcastle Street is a pub called the Blue Posts. In front of it, this post box caught my eye. Some decades ago – in the 1950s, possibly – there was a concerted plan to place on top of every pillar box a sign pointing the direction to the nearest post office. These signs did not last very long and by now have virtually disappeared. Modern pillar boxes show no trace of them but older ones often display the remains of the bracket that once held the sign. The sign on this post box still survives, perhaps because it is of a robust design in metal whereas most were boards with metal brackets. So many post offices have closed down in recent years that even where such signs still exist, it is a matter of chance whether they actually do point to one.

Yumchaa
Yumchaa
A nice cup of tea on a dull day

Before turning for home, we decided that a warming beverage would be welcome. Tigger remembered that nearby was a branch of Yumchaa, the no-tea-bag tea house. Perhaps because of the weather, the place was packed and we were about to leave unrefreshed when a table became free. They had run out of Russian Caravan but I choose a fragrant Oolong instead. Just what you want to fortify you for the bus ride home!

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A quiet ramble

Saturday, November 15th 2014

We haven’t been out much lately. Both of use have had bad colds and, at the risk of you accusing me of being a “man flu” sufferer, I was quite unwell for a few days, spending most of my time in bed. Today we decided to make the effort to go out though we had no particular goal in view.

Gallipoli
Gallipoli
A good Turkish breakfast

We started by looking for breakfast. We strolled along Upper Street to see if Gallipoli was open. There are three Turkish cafe-bistros here with Gallipoli in the name (the other two are Gallipoli Again and Gallipoli Bazaar) but two don’t open until later in the day. Fortunately, this one was open and is the one we like most. It has a very pretty interior (see Anniversary and birthday) though I have to be careful not to bump the low hanging lamps with my head! They serve a very nice Turkish breakfast and happily swap the sausage for some slices of grilled Halloumi.

A bird among glass towers
A bird among glass towers
Warren Street

We next found ourselves, after a bus ride, at Warren Street tube station. Here, where Tottenham Court Road, Euston Road and Hampstead Road meet at a busy crossroads, there is a large painting of a bird posted on the side of one of the office blocks. I have no idea whether this is an attempt at public art or whether the bird has some other significance. It makes a colourful, and slightly bizarre, splash among the concrete and grey glass.

Yumchaa
Yumchaa
Proper tea (strictly no tea bags)

One of the things I like about the Turkish breakfast is that it is served with Turkish tea. The way the Turks make tea is to brew it very strong and serve it topped up with hot water. A special pair a kettles is used for this (see here for more details). The tea is drunk without milk (as it should be) and is very tasty. The only problem with that is that it is served in tiny glasses so you hardly feel you have had a good drink. Thus, by the time we came to Yumchaa in Tottenham Street, we were ready for a top-up.

No frills interior
No frills interior
Tea samples to sniff

Yumchaa has several branches. This one has a no frills interior and looks as though it was once a warehouse or a workshop. This is the place to come for a proper cup of tea. As the notice declaims, there are “NO TEA BAGS”! There is a whole range of teas to choose from, either to drink on the premises or to buy to take home. At one end of the counter is a set of small cups, each containing a sample of one of the teas on offer with a notice inviting you to sniff them. Along with the pure teas, such as Oolong and Lapsang, are blends, including my favourite, Russian Caravan. I noted with approval that the ingredients of the blend were stated (Oolong, Kemun and Lapsang Souchong), something that is rare in the tea trade these days1.

Pollock's Toy Museum
Pollock’s Toy Museum
And Theatre Printers

We were now in Fitzrovia, one of whose famous inhabitants is the local branch of Pollock’s Toy Museum and Theatre Printers. Of this establishment, its Website disarmingly says “Not a physical shop, not a museum.” Whatever it is, it is named after Benjamin Pollock, a Victorian theatre printer, which title I think designates a maker of toy theatres. Examples of these are to be seen in the Theatre Printers section of the premises. In Victorian times these model were considered not merely as toys but as a form of entertainment and Charles Dickens, actor manqué that he was, liked to play out scenes from his novels in one.

Pigeons
Pigeons
A proper diet for once

I stopped to photograph these pigeons because (apart from the fact that I like pigeons) I saw they were eating something closer to their proper food than they usually eat in the city. Whether by design or accident, someone had scattered a lot of seeds in the road and the pigeons were gobbling them up. I am glad to see that their usual diet of bread, chips and fast food hasn’t spoiled their appetite from more natural food.

18th century house
18th century house
with 1900 façade

I always admire this house in Percy Street because it stands out prettily among its neighbours. According to English Heritage, the house was built in the 1760s though what you see from the street is the façade, which is much later. It was probably done around 1900 and is decorated with beautiful patterning in faience. The ground floor has unfortunately been converted into a shop and one can only guess what it looked like when freshly restyled.

Victorian pub
Victorian pub
A shadow of its former glory

In a prime position on the corner of Rathbone Place with Rathbone Street stands what I take to be a Victorian pub. It has survived and looks to be in robust condition but has been anonymized  and stripped of its former no doubt fine decor. It presents – to my eyes, at least – a rather sad sight, like that of someone who has come down in the world, having known better times. This, of course, is the fate of many old, once popular pubs, and just to survive amid changing economic conditions is already a feat.

Strange structure
Strange structure
What will it be?

We worked our way down to Oxford Street where, on a corner, building work is proceeding on an edifice that is probably destined to be an office black or a store. On the roof appears a peculiar skeletal structure. What is it going to be? I have no idea but someone knows.

1900 building 1900 building
1900 building
Belonging to a vanished business

We waited for a bus and on the other side of the road I saw this neat little building with its birth date of 1900 proclaimed proudly on its façade. It was obviously once the premises of a business and probably a flourishing one able and willing to include a large clock in the design. A jeweller-clockmaker, perhaps? Dwarfed though it is by the larger buildings on either side, it stands out because of its unusual design and its character.

Centre Point
Centre Point
A controversial design by a controversial architect

Along the road, visible peering over smaller structures, Centre Point appears currently wearing a green apron, no doubt to protect it from the building work going on around it. This 33-storey block caused controversy when it was built in the 1960s by Richard Seifert, no stranger to controversy. An aggressive promoter of his buildings who liked to get his own way, Seifert was widely reviled in his own time but today opinions have shifted somewhat. It is recognized that though he did indeed design some dreadful buildings he also built others that are now coming to be appreciated, some even receiving the accolade of being listed. What does the future hold for Centre Point? I suspect they will still be asking that question several generations in the future.

Girdlers' Hall
Girdlers’ Hall
HQ of the Livery Company

In London Wall, we stopped to look at the Girdlers’ Hall. The Girdlers, makers of belts and suchlike accoutrements, are one of London’s livery companies that have existed since ancient times to protect the professions they represent and to ensure high standards of work. Today, the livery companies have largely invested their energies and funds into charitable works and foundations. Each has a hall which serves as the company’s headquarters.

The Girdlers received letters patent in 1327 and their royal charter in 1449. Their first hall, built 1431, burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Disaster struck again in 1940 when its replacement was destroyed by bombing. The foundation stone of the present building was laid in May 1960.

Girdlers' Coat of Arms
Girdlers’ Coat of Arms
ST Lawrence and grid irons

The Girdlers were granted their coat of arms in 1454 and a fine exemplar of it appears over the door of the hall. The arms are topped by a representation of the Company’s patron saint, St Lawrence, and includes three gilded objects. What are these? The figure in fact represents a visual, and slightly gruesome, pun. The metal objects are grid irons, which are also known as griddle irons and girdle irons – hence the punning connection with the name of the Girdlers’ Company. According to legend, St Lawrence was martyred in AD 258 by being burnt to death on a grid iron. This, however, is disputed by some historians according to whom he was beheaded, as was the custom of the day2.

The Garden
The Garden
Girdlers’ Hall

Peering over the railings at the back of the hall, I was able to get a glimpse of the garden though this is, of course, not open to the public.

The Gardener The Gardener
The Gardener
Karin Jonzen, 1971

Near the Girdlers’ Hall is another hall, that of the Brewers’ Company. Beside this is a garden which I take to be a public as it is unenclosed. In it stands a sculpture by Kirin Jonzen entitled The Gardener. It shows a young lad crouching in a somewhat awkward posture, one knee to the ground and one hand on the soil as though he has just covered a seed or a bulb that he has planted.

Crow working a paper bag
Crow working a paper bag
Click for slideshow

We passed through the back streets on the way to Finsbury Square. In the City at weekends the streets are very quiet because most of the banks and offices are closed, as are the shops and pubs. This means that various species of birds are out in force scavenging. I photographed this crow who had found a paper bag containing something interesting and was busy pulling it open. Crows are clever enough to put one foot on an object to steady it while tearing it with their beak. Neither pigeons nor gulls seem to have learned this trick. (Click to see the slideshow.) The pictures have been cropped from distance shots so the images lack sharpness.

Reflections
Reflections

We passed through a sort of business campus of office blocks and passageways. Lights showed here and there in the windows but most of the offices were dark. Daylight penetrated through the glass roof high above and the windows, transparent here and opaque there acted like mirrors, reflecting one another until it was hard to tell what was real and what was reflection.

The colour is blue
The colour is blue
Weekend in the City

At weekends in the City, the doors are locked but the office blocks are manned by security guards. Every so often they patrol the building in their care and the rest of the time sit at the front desk. What do they do to pass the long hours of the weekend? Read? Listen to the radio? Dose with one eye open?

This entrance was lit in blue light and the people inside the atrium looked as though they were floating in an aquarium.

________

1Most tea merchants don’t say what they put in their Russian Caravan and this is why I buy the ingredients separately and mix them myself – to be sure I am getting what I think I am getting.

2One source, Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri, suggests that the legend of the burning came about as a result of a mis-spelling in the announcement of the martyr’s death. In such announcements, the phrase passus est (“he suffered”, i.e. was martyred) was used and it is proposed (I don’t know on what evidence) that the scribe missed out the ‘p’, writing assus est, which would mean “he was roasted”.

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Posted in Out and About | 6 Comments

A wet Saturday

Saturday, November 1st 2014

We awoke to rain. We looked at the forecast and it said rain all day. Well, we had some errands to run so we would do that and save our energies for a more propitious time.

Tigger had heard of a vegetarian restaurant in Eastcastle Street in Fitzrovia and proposed that we go there for breakfast.

Ethos
Ethos
Any good? We’ll never know…

The restaurant is called Ethos and we believed it opened at 9 am. The notice on the door said it opened at 9 am. When we went inside, however, they told us they opened only at 10 am. As it was now 9:05, we were not going to wait around.

Pret A Manger
Pret A Manger
Open and serving

Happily, there was a branch of Pret A Manger on the corner and they were open and serving. They are not vegetarian but there’s plenty of choice. This chain has spread rapidly in the last few years, despite the supposed recession, and is deservedly popular.

Street market
Street market
Portobello Road

Afterwards we took a bus to Portobello Road. On Saturdays there is a street market and it is a very lively area. There is a Spanish supermarket here where Tigger wanted to buy a particular item. (You have to give her credit for knowing what she wants and where to find it!)

As you can see from the photo, the sun had now come out, in defiance of the weather forecast, but we had done what we intended and so called it a day and went home.

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Posted in Out and About | 4 Comments

A little update on Freya

Fr1day, October 31st 2014

I last reported on Freya‘s progress on October 20th (see 200 Grams better off), saying that she had gained a little weight. This was important because prior to her operation she had been steadily losing weight, despite eating well.

In the days that followed my post, Freya continued eating well, coming to find me unerringly at meal times as though she had an alarm clock in her tummy. Apart from that, though, she was rather quiet, spending most of her time curled up asleep. Though she responded to being stroked, she showed relatively little enthusiasm for anything outside meal times.

Gradually that has changed. Before the operation, I had got used to a “slimline” Freya, trying to convince myself that this was a sign of age rather than ill health. I also noticed that her coat seemed rather dry and wiry, more so than I remembered from times past. Since my last report, however, Freya has put on weight and now looks more like the cat she used to be. When I stroke her, I notice how soft and silky her fur now is. She is beginning to take an interest in things again. Sometimes, even when a meal isn’t due, she comes to find me at my desk and if I don’t notice her, she gives me a tap on my arm to announce her presence.

If you need further proof of her return to normal, here it is: Freya has started watching cat videos on Tigger’s iPad again. It’s nice to have her back :)

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Posted in Freya | Tagged | 4 Comments