Monday, 27 February 2012

once in a while nightingales sang

Just back from our weekly dancing class and can't get two lovely old tunes out of my head - both danced to the slow foxtrot.

Sit back and relax . . . .

and . . .

and Mum can remember dancing to these as a teenager - how romantic!!

Maybe they even danced to one of these on their wedding day . . . .

Noel and Laura, December 1942

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Sunny skies and more bright fields

At last, blue skies and a bit of warm sun on our backs, Greno woods at their best,

with men who see no ships,


the city's seven hills spread at our feet,



at the top of the world, or of St Helena at least

and the bliss of that final pint of Farmers' Blonde at the Top Red with the best of friends - and look at that blue sky!

Monday, 13 February 2012

London snow and soup

Sit down with a nice hot cuppa - this is going to be a long one!  
As usual we crammed in loads of brilliant stuff on our 2 day trip to, as our 'train manager' on the 09:27 from Sheffield declared as we rolled into St Pancras, "one of the greatest cities of the world".


I totally agree with this lone reviewer on Albertini's in Chalton Street - the best welcome into the capital you would wish to have and our frequent first port of call after landing in St Pancras.   Never fail to be greeted with a warm welcome, amazing fresh food and brill Italian coffee.

This time though, my main diet had to be soup - avid readers of this blog will remember I have a tooth about to drop out and am trying to hang on in there til my appointment next week.  Thankfully Albertini's carrot soup was amazing and, fortified, we ventured back towards the tube to get over to the Hoxton to check in (Click here for my Hox review).

Freezing temperatures (daytime barely got above zero) but bright winter sunshine and a great walk back to King Cross - marvelling at the snow still outside the British Library!

Loved this quote outside the British Libray so, nice tune for you below . . . . .

Probably need a bit of an explantion here - I always loved this song and I always thought it was about London.  It's so cheerful and uplifting and conjures up bright city mornings.  I since learned that it was about her time in the Chelsea Hotel, New York.  But never mind!!! It will always be one of my joyful London anthems!!!  And I was walking round humming this under my double wrapped scarf.

Back on the streets after dumping out cases, we headed to Angel and the streets around City University

amazing old butchers

interesting housing in Rawstorne Street, turns out to be old brewers' buildings

The famous theatre pub

It being the 200th anniversary of Dicken's birth we just had to hunt down the recently discovered house where Dickens lived between the ages of 17 and 20, so we headed over to Fitzrovia.

Armed with a curled up copy of this article (click here to read) cut from last week's paper - we located Cleveland Street - sheltering right below the Post Office Tower.

No - this wasn't where Charlie resided, but loved the idea of sunning on this roof garden with that amazing garden sculpture!!

but this was!  No 22 Cleveland Street, formally known as 10 Norfolk Street, where Dickens had his modest lodgings, just a few doors away from .......

The workhouse that inspired the writing of Oliver Twist

The Cleveland Street workhouse, most recently the Middlesex Hospital, is now under threat of demolition.  This is most certainly the workhouse that inspired Dickens to write Oliver Twist, if you read the article above.   There's also more of our anniversary homage to Dickens in Kent last June - read here

Dicken's lodgings again, 2nd in the row

Leaving here, we availed ourselves of some delicious Portugese custard tarts - just THE most delicious things to have with a coffee and yet we don't get them up in Sheffield.  This was the first little deli we first tasted them at several years ago, and we managed to snaffle the last two on Friday!!  So get yourselves down to Salumeria Dino in Charlotte Place, a little gennel just off Goodge Street.

outside Dino's

further down Charlotte Place, Dino's up on the right and another lovely looking cafe too, closer to this photo on the right.

onwards to Soho and a saunter down Mearde Street, after reading about it in a great little London blog I've been following.  Some pics taken around Soho:

and this place looked even more amazing inside, like an Aladdin's cave
then, it being so very cold, we didn't need an excuse for a coffee and another Portugese tart in Bar Italia - imortalised by Jarvis Cocker, listen to Bar Italia on the Different Class album

Bar Italia

Next we got on the number 24 bus at Cambridge Circus:

This has got to be one of the best cheap rides in London.  It was just getting dark by this time and we came round the corner of the National Galleries to a floodlit Trafalgar Square, the Strand to the left and Admiralty Arch to the right (glimpse up the Mall in this the Queen's diamond jubilee year). Then onwards up Whitehall past Horseguards's Parade, the Cenotaph, Downing Street, Big Ben, Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament then rounded the corner and alighted at Westminster Abbey for a cold brisk walk through the Georgian terraces to our Mozart concert at St John's Smith Square by the Morley Chamber Orchestra.


I have been reading this book below, written in 1917, and chapter one is about William Blake.  Brilliantly written and just fastinating to realise Blake wandered London on foot studiously and barely left the city.  I think I'll have an 'in Blake's footsteps' trip one day and check out all the addresses he lived at mentioned in the book:

and (wow!) I've found the book to read free online here - try Chapter One on Blake - it's brilliant.

Our Saturday was very much an East London day.  And lo and behind I just found this on Youtube, by Paul Howard and Jo Clack.  It follows some of our route later in the day round the back of Whitechapel:

The day dawned sunny and again freezing, but the blue skies were fantastic against the London skyline.  First stop was a stroll down Bethnal Green Road and past this little gem of a Szechuan restuarant which we must visit next time - review here.

amazing Szechuan restaurant

blue skies at Bethnal Green
aim of the walk to reach the legendery Pellici's for brunch - just read this web page on Classic Cafes and you'll end up with a lifetime quest to eat in brilliant old joints like this.

Happy after the brunch and a half!
passed the famous pie and mash shop

and onwards up to the wonderful Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood for a nostalgic dabble with Fisher Price and Dinky.  I even found an Emergency Ward 10 nurses outfit - oh happy days!!!

we've run out of cakes!!!!

Next we walked over to Whitechapel through Tower Hamlets and found the tiny hidden Jewish Cemetry on Brady Street - just tucked behind the high rise flats.  Unfortunately we could only peep through the railings as it's only open to the public by prior request.

Turns out Nathan Mayer Rothschild is buried here.  Interesting article about the history of the cemetery to read here.  To save the cemetery from compulsory development, an heir of Rothschild was buried here in 1990, thus securing the cemetery in tact until at least 2090.

New and Old - the old London Hospital with the clock and the new mega building at the back - and what is this Dallas???

perfect for renovation!

beautiful fruit on Whitechapel Road

and on to the wonderful Whitechapel Gallery for culture, cuppas and cakes.

And finally, before our 9 o'clock train back to Sheffield, we went in search of Little Venice.  It was so very very cold as night fell but we ventured behind Paddington Station and down wooden boardwalks towards the canal.  Sadly we'd walked along the wrong side of the station so didn't get to Little Venice but were thrilled to find this lovely area of the Regent's Canal and, guess what, the canal was FROZEN!!  Just as impressive as the pics in the paper this weekend from Amsterdam!!  The tunnel of modern buildings in the second pic reminded me of our architecture boat tour in Chicago.  Also below is the Rolling Bridge I've just heard about which we didn't see but will try to return to.

looking to the left

and to the right

Back to Old Street to pick up the cases and a final delicious (butternut squash) soup at the Hoxton Grill  before heading over to St Pancras.

And we can't wait to return for, as the great Dr Samuel Johnson famously said to Boswell, "Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford".  Blake's sentiments entirely!!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Saturday snow

This is in praise of all intrepid taxi drivers!!

We returned late last night from a brilliant day trip to London by train: the Student Work-in-Progress show at the RCA and a happy time with friends and family, esp afternoon tea at the quirky Le Bistrot in the Institute Francais greeted so charmingly with a Bonjour and getting very confused over whether we should be saying merci or thank you!  Great tea and cakes.  Very much agree with the Guardian's review the other week.

But to return to the point!  As the snow started to fall in Central London we boarded the already late and snow covered Sheffield train at the mighty St Pancras station.

Rumours quickly spread down the train like Chinese Whispers, of deep snow in Leicester, delays along the track.

Passing snow laden fields and stations in the dark we finally pulled into Sheffield Midland Station's snowy platforms. Asking information staff and policemen if the buses were still running got a variety of conflicting answers so we plodded out into the glorious new snow in a muffled silent city, over to the bus station:

BUT - on arriving at the deserted bus station we discovered all the buses had been taken off some time earlier but the good old trams were running, so we trudged through the silent streets to the non-hole-in-the-road (you have to have known Sheffield in the 70s - or have studied the start of The Full Monty with studious detail!  Or you might like to take a look at our Jarvis's take on it here):

A packed-to-the-gunnels and lively tram took us up to Hillsborough but couldn't get as far as Leppings Lane - we watched at the drivers heroically hacked the ice out of the tram tracks with a crow bar for the onward journey! 

In our hiking jackets, big boots, scarfs and 'ats (fond reference here to Dad's explanation of C&A clothing stores standing for "Coats and 'ats" which I believed for years when I was little!), we looked a bit over cautious with all the Saturday night clubbers on the tram with stilletos and bare shoulders and big smiles!!

No black cabs in the taxi rank at Hillsborough and no joy when I rang a few local cab firms, so off we set for the 3 mile uphill trudge home, when out of the darkness came a black cab with it's hire light shining like a beacon.  What's more he happily took us up the main road through the black slush leaving us only the last few yards to home - and everywhere looked so pretty in the streetlights.

As you can see, it felt a bit like 'in his master's steps he trod' for me:

and finally, my homage to Hopper - courtesy of the derelict garage on the main road:

over and out