Archive for the ‘londoner’ Tag

Self-Listed Londoner

I started this post on 14th March 2014 – I’m finally in the mood to finish it (1st January 2020).

london aerial view river thames

Robert Elms seems to have mislaid my number so I’m having to list myself as a Londoner with the usual questions… (Was listening to ‘Arry Redknapp’s one yesterday – fuckin’ charmin’)

1) What’s your favourite neighbourhood?

I still get an Absolute Beginners kick from Soho, love the surprising London postcode (NW7) tranquility of Mill Hill’s Ridgeway and the adjacent green belt, but I think I’ll go for the long, thin neighbourhood of all along the Regent’s Canal all the way from Golborne Road to Limehouse Basin plus off-shoots.

2) What’s your favourite building?

At first I was contemplating The British Library (especially the Humanities Reading Rooms) – I feel most comfortable among books. But on further reflection it is Senate House (University of London) where I go twice a month on Friday evening for James Joyce seminars (what a wild life). It is beautiful inside, lavished in marble and wood. And outside it is truly monumental. Different lighting at different times of day keeps it endlessly impressive. It sits on perhaps my favourite street in the city – Malet Street with its avenue of delicate trees has a very special vibe. Plus Store Street opposite has a distinctive Bloomsbury feel, especially after dark. My dad went to Birkbeck on Malet St to do his Chemistry degree. And two of my distant forebears set up UCL which is also in the hood so the whole area has taken on an increasing personal significance for me over the years.

3) What’s your most hated building?

Elephant & Castle shopping centre – they really need to just start again from a blank space.

4) What’s the best view in London?

Flying into the city along the Thames estuary.

5) What’s your favourite open space?

St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, N2 – my jogging place,  a tranquil momento mori with wildlife (including woodpeckers and magpies in pairs) and no traffic

6) What’s the most interesting shop?

I’m going to cheat a bit and take two bookshop windows – one local, one central. The local is Black Gull in East Finchley high road – I regularly stop to check out the latest display which is usually determined by a topical theme (an obscure history of Ukraine had shown up when I looked in last night on the way home from work) or a collection recently bought (e.g. a collection of Beat-related books appeared a few weeks ago of which I bought some gems like a 60s paperback of The Horn (John Clellon Jones) and a very pink hardback of Terry Southern’s Candy). The central one is Sotheran’s on Sackville Street, Piccadilly, opposite BAFTA, which is a high-end fine books and prints shop. established in York in 1761 it is ‘the longest established antiquarian booksellers in the world’. The window display is always fascinating with mouth-watering first editions and off-beat treasures. From there I might trot over to the young upstart Hatchard’s, established 1797.

7) What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?

I tend to incline towards the Middle Eastern so Yalla Yalla – Soho branch is high up the list but top is the cafe in Sunny Hill Park, Hendon which pretty much introduced shakshuka to London and is the only place I know to get jachnun.

8) What’s been your most memorable night out in London?

E-fuelled night starting out at James Taylor Quartet in Forum, Kentish Town and ending after dawn dancing in the car park at Hampstead Heath (South End Green) concluded by some cops pulling up and asking something along the lines of ” ‘Allo, ‘allo,’allo, what’s goin’ on ‘ere then?”

9) How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London?

Early morning swim (summer – water temperature around 25 degrees) at Men’s Pond, Hampstead Heath. Breakfast at Banners in Crouch End (with Jon & Stu reminiscing about the Select Latin, Blvd St Michel). Pop up to The Ridgeway, NW7 for an open-air read. Walk along the canal to Trellick. A coffee and nata on Golborne Road. A themed walk of my own making across the city e.g. Profumo Promenade with my sons. Lunch at The Wolseley including chicken soup. Boat trip down the river towards the estuary, at least as far as North Greenwich. G&T at an old pub by the river eg The Angel, Rotherhithe. Walk along the river East of Tower Bridge. Cocktails at Bar Américain with Peter Curran. Dinner outdoors at Sunny Hill Park. Watch the sunset at Waterloo Bridge. Go to a gig at Ronnie’s. Night walk with Adam Zuabi.

This is of course logistically totally impossible.

And I could easily write it again right now with an entirely different itinerary.

10) Where would you take someone visiting from out of town?

The Arab Hall at Leighton House.

The Rose Garden at Regent’s Park.

11) What’s the worst journey you’ve had to make in London?

Any morning rush hour tube – in the words of Ian Dury, who could have been the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station, wot a waste.

12) What’s your personal London landmark?

Whitestone Pond – my birthplace with one of the best views of the city.

Ford_Madox_Brown_-_An_English_Autumn_Afternoon,_1852-1853

Ford Madox Brown ‘An English Autumn Afternoon’ (1852-1853) painted from up by Whitestone Pond – he is buried in the St Pancras & Islington cemetery by my house as referenced above

The red-brick building beside the Pond was a maternity hospital when I was born but has now become an old-age home – I’m aiming to get back there to complete the circle. The only person I have met who was also born there was David Aaronovitch 9this came out on a coach journey back from Aldeburgh).

13) Who’s your favourite fictional Londoner?

Sherlock Holmes’ street urchins crossed my mind first but it has to be Charlie Chaplin’s tramp. (I know he operated mainly in America but he is essentially a creation of Kennington and Chaplin’s native London).

chaplin-charlie-city-lights

My favourite movie of all time – City Lights

14) What’s your favourite London film, book or documentary?

Blow Up – I must go down visit that park (with the dead body – or not…) sometime, been meaning to for years

15) If you could travel to any time period in London, past or future, where would you go?

Swinging 60s including seeing The Doors at the Roundhouse

Jim Morrison at London's Roundhouse 1968 the doors

back to 1968

***

So that took just 6 years to complete – and I still need to refine most of the answers.

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