Sunday, July 5th 2015
This week we have been enjoying – or enduring – a heat wave. Heat waves are not all that rare in the UK but they never seem to be expected and so, when they burst upon us, life goes a little haywire. Public transport suffers delays and breakdowns and people go a little mad, exposing themselves unprotected to the sun and suffering the painful consequences.
Yesterday, Saturday, Tigger and I went out for breakfast at Gallipoli while the temperature was still relatively cool, then spent the rest of the day at home, under the cooling breeze of our electric fans. Today, however, we needed to do the shopping and so emerged tentatively into the open, hoping to complete the task before the temperature reached its maximum. We breakfasted at Pret and then dragged the shopping trolley around Sainsbury’s, collecting the week’s necessities, before hurrying home again.
After a siesta, we decided to make the effort to go out. First, we needed to pick up a cable for Tigger’s desk fan from Maplin and then we would find a pleasant place for a late lunch.
We visited the branch of Maplin at St Paul’s and then strolled along Cheapside, the site of London’s great market in medieval times. (Ceap or chepe was the old word for ‘market’.) In passing, I took the above photo of St Mary-le-Bow. The medieval church on this site was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and a new church was built by Sir Christopher Wren (1671-3). This, unfortunately, was destroyed by bombing in 1941 and rebuilt by Laurence King, being consecrated in 1964. By tradition, a true Cockney is a person born within the sound of Bow Bells, that is, the bells of this church.
We had for some time wanted to have a meal at Comptoir Libanais at Liverpool Street Station. We had made several attempts and found them closed. The last time, they were open but there was live music in the square outside, so loud that we literally couldn’t hear ourselves speak, so we had left without ordering.
Today, happily, the environment was calmer and we were able, at last, to enjoy the meal we had been looking forward to. The face on the wall, on the menu and on their publicity material is that of actress Sirine Jamal al Dine, whom they have adopted as ‘the glamorous beacon of the brand’.
After lunch we walked through the Liverpool Street Station complex. Tall blocks crammed together give the impression of a nightmare world of the future where people crawl like ants along gullies between metal towers.
The fact that London is being transformed into a Disney version of Dallas seems not to worry anyone. In fact, many are pleased, especially the architects who perpetrate the crime and the developers who grow wealthy from exploiting these inhuman constructs.
There are a few open spaces between the looming towers and I suppose we must be grateful for small mercies.
We took a turn around the back streets where the more interesting sights are to be found. Above is Elder Street, a street of fine 18th-century houses (building began in 1722), handsome and well preserved.
Many different types of building stand side by side and, to the experienced eye, tell the history of the area. Fleur de Lis Street was one of the streets that lay within the old Liberty of Norton Folgate. A liberty in this sense was a defined area of land that was under the authority of an ecclesiastical establishment – in this case, the Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital – and not of the local secular powers. This privilege generally ended with the Reformation and the land reverted to the Crown.
This area falls within the district of Shoreditch which is rich in street art. On the corner of Fleur de Lis Street and Blossom Street is a door bearing the number 10 in red numerals. It is much graffitied but carries a paste-up of a young boy wearing an American Indian headdress. This picture by Donk is far from unique, as appears again and again throughout the neighbourhood, but is personal to the artist. From an interview, we learn that the picture derives from one of a set of photos taken by the artist of his son, in pyjamas, wearing the headdress.
Silhouettes against sunset coloured backgrounds within a circular frame are a hallmark of Otto Schade. Otto trained as an architect in Chile but preferred art and became a travelling artist until he settled (for how long?) in the UK. In this painting in Fashion Street, a woman with two young children appears against to dramatic tones of the sunset in the sights of a sniper’s rifle. The contrast between the vulnerability of the people and the implication of an efficient killing machine is stark.
Beside Otto’s painting in Fashion Street is one of a cloud vomiting a rainbow. It is by Ronzo (his own page at ronzo.co.uk seems not to be working), who is known as much for his sculptures and works in relief as for his paintings.
At first sight, this painting by Paul Don Smith looks like a post for the film Lawrence of Arabia, but it seems instead to be a commemorative work, though of the two people commemorated, one is dead (Peter O’Toole) and the other still alive (model Benthe de Vries). The portrait of Benthe is acknowledged to be based on a photo by photographer Rennio Maifredi.
Still in Fashion Street, a projecting section of wall carries various works of various kinds by different artists. Among these is a paste-up by Endless. It shows an expensive-looking perfume bottle bearing an invented logo with the brand name ‘Chapel’ and the product name ‘Eau de Pardun’, obviously a reference to Chanel and its Eau de Parfum. This idea (avoiding copyright problems, no doubt) has been used with variation in other works of the artist, whose name is inscribed on the neck of the bottle.
At 67 Commercial Street is what appears to be an abandoned property, once a shop. The façade has been extensively over-painted with various paintings and graffiti.
This interesting portrait appears on the shutter of a kebab shop at 65 Commercial Street. It is an example of something I have mentioned before, commissioned paintings on shutters and other surfaces belonging to commercial properties that are not merely decorative but are also original works of art. This one is signed by Furia 139, an artist also known as Furia ACK.
To round off our outing (and to cool off a little) we stopped for refreshments at Java U in Wentworth Street. This was a new one on me but we might well pop in again if in the area. Soon, though, we caught a bus for the ride home and a restful end to the day.