Tag Archives: london

London’s City architecture: a triumph of vanity and capitalism

I went up to London on June 4th to photograph London’s City architecture. Two things of note about this. It was the morning after some terrorists drove a van at people on London bridge and then attacked them with knives. I went up with the Hampshire Social Snappers, a Meet Up Group.

We agreed to to meet at Monument Station and said we’d find each other because we we’d be the people with the cameras. Sadly the world’s press were there all filming down London Bridge but we eventually met up and fought our way through the associated bloggers, vloggers and mainstream press and started our walk using a map provided by the Corporation of London.

We walked across the City to iconic buildings like the Walkie-Talkie, the Gherkin and the Lloyds Building. We were lucky with the weather with blue skies and nice white clouds.

I last worked in the City nearly forty years ago and so expected the cityscape to have changed beyond recognition. And it has. It feels more like Manhattan than London but tucked between the glass and chrome of new London were the gorgeous Wren churches I remember from my time there. However the thing that struck me most was the sheer quality of the architecture.

I’ve always felt that good corporate architecture is a mix of sheer vanity and flamboyance. Most companies who build a mega-structure are basically waving their dangly bits in the face of their rivals and saying ‘mine is bigger than yours’ in a 60 story,thrusting,glass and steel sort of a way.

The architecture is also a triumph of capitalism. You cannot imagine a government funding the Gherkin or the Willis Building. It simply requires too much money and imagination and governments aren’t very good at that sort of thing.

So this was an exciting trip that started with the aftermath or terrorism, moved through world class architecture and ended with a tango demonstration in Spitalfields.

I decided to try and find unusual angles so I asked an Italian tourist if I could photograph her and her glasses with the Gherkin in the reflection.  She was a bit stunned initially but readily agreed.

Not the greatest shot but she was a good sport and I took a picture of her and her friend on their phone to say thank you.

A wonderful day out. Lunch at Wagawama and then the train home to the New Forest.




Is the best thing about Lymington the lack of pepperoni in your letterbox?

Having made the decision to split our lives between London and Lymington, I was wondering what I would miss most about the 24 hour-a-day life in London.  In short the answer isn’t much.  Yes, I like living in a place that has cinemas, black cabs and airports but I don’t miss the following.

  1. My letter box being stuffed with offers of hungryman gargantua pepperoni pizzas (2 for 1 on Thursdays) or free local newspapers full of mugging stories
  2. I shed no tears for the smell of McDonalds in a lift
  3. I don’t miss being stopped by tourists and asked if I speak English
  4. or pubs near football grounds selling drinks in plastic glasses
  5. I have no nostalgia for litter nor the half-wit school kids who drop their takeaways on the pavement
  6. I enjoy the lack of perpetual road works and being cut up by Lebanese plumbers in eleven year old untaxed vans
  7. I appreciate cyclists who ride for fun rather than some sort of political statement
  8. I like it when the local issues that matter are the scout troop and the seawater baths rather than rehousing violent sex offenders near schools.
  9. I love waking up to the sound of bird song not burgler alarms.

So if nostalgia hits me and I need a reassuring connection with the past there always the Bosphorous Kebab shop next time I’m in London. With extra chilli.



Kitchen W8 – terrible name, fantastic restaurant

Despite the review by AA Gill which I slated on an earlier blog Kitchen W8 (Abbingdon Road, London) is a gem, a jewel and a star.  On a Saturday lunch, it was filled with wealthy locals, not wannabe hair dressers, or fashion victims but rather ordinary people who live near enough to walk there. In my world, if you walk to a restaurant you are a local not a visitor.

The food is French/European and a sensible mix.  Things you’d want to eat rather than an incomprehensible list of ingredients you can’t recognise. The words salsify, enrobed and carpaccio were happily not on the menu.

The eel was stunning as was the mouseline of foie gras.  On to the next course, the venison and coq au vin were wonderful.  Every piece was honest, perfect and delicious.

For pudding we had a chocolate cake and the cheese board which were perfect. A glass of champagne and it’s all done.

Beyond the food the atmosphere and service were first class. After so many pretentious restaurants meals in London this was a joy.  At £50 a head it was great value.

It’s almost time to take London back

The days are ticking down now.  The schools have almost broken up. The Mums in their ridiculous Chelsea tractors have almost retreated to Tuscany and London is about to enjoy 6 weeks of heaven.  If you live in Hartford, Havering or Hull – you think that London is a perpetual traffic nightmare. You imagine gridlock and satanic traffic wardens, congestion charging and hooligans in white vans who want to eat your babies. Most of this is true, apart from a small window in July and August when London become a paradise for locals.

From mid-July to the end of August it feels like 60% of the cars go away.  The weekends are like London over New Year.  You can drive where you want, park where you want and enjoy the world’s most fabulous city in any way you want. It is a paradise for us locals, the tubes and buses are full of tourists holding maps upside down but above-ground real Londoners are having post prandial brunches with lovers, catching cheeky mid-afternoon Mimosas, shopping at Jo Malone’s without a 40 minutes walk to their car, having a pint at the Dove without a scrum at the bar.

So let’s raise a glass, order an Eggs Benedict and revel in the small still time of calm when we reclaim our City.  To the rest of you. London is closed. Please go away and we’ll see you September.


The best elephant leg in London

This blog is only for the true connoisseur, the world traveller who knows that a donner kebab isn’t a one way ticket to A&E but rather a subtle and delicious blend of lamb, ‘bindings’ and spices delicately rolled into a vast shank resembling an elephant’s leg. Normally eaten only when preposterously drunk, the donner kebab is in fact a healthy mix of all the major food groups, protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and of course chilli sauce.

Most are vile, detestable and guaranteed to give it’s consumer at least 4-5 hours of uninterrupted fun in the smallest room.  In fact, almost as many days have been claimed sick due to the humble donner kebab as to that stalwart of the office sicky, the Prawn Madras.

But this is unfair, if treated correctly (and the carved meat isn’t kept warm for 6 hours) the donner kebab is as comforting as a mother’s embrace and as satisfying as a weekend with a super model. 

If you’re a fan and want to move up to the Lamborghini of kebabs head to Bosphorous Kebabs, 59 Old Brompton Road, London SW7.  


Bosphorus Kebabs on Urbanspoon

Mad Middle Aged Mullet – Part III

Once again it was time for the bi-annual shearing, so off I went to Charlie’s.  Those of who who have stuck with the Mad Middle Aged Mullet posts Parts I & Part II will know my deep love for the quintessential old fashioned barbers shop on Fulham Palace Road. 

However, all has changed because Charlie himself is no more.  Tired of clearing the plug holes of hair every night and having said his final “See the game last night?”, Charlie has retired.  No more fag and a Page 3 girl, it was time to handover to a younger generation. I’d always assumed Charlie was Greek but he turns out to have been Turkish and his sons/cousins/mates have taken over.  Thankfully, Charlie’s hasn’t gone all Scissors or Hair Raisers, if anything it’s become more basic.

Naturally, the Chelsea and Fulham team posters are still there but they have been supplemented by some vaguely homo-erotic drawings of boxers and that staple of all barbers, the sun-bleached photograph of a model with the dodgy 1970’s hair cut has been replaced with very 21st century pretty boys with what can only be described as hair styles. Goodbye mullets, hello hair gel.  The good news is that the new owners are assiduously avoiding the trappings of poncery.  The hand towels read Fosters and Carlsberg and have clearly walked out the side door of the Distillers Arms up the road.  The shampoo still comes in a pump dispenser that I swear had Brown Sauce on the side or maybe I’m dreaming. 

Best of all, you’re still greeted as if you are a long lost friend and the haircut is still £9.50.  Charlie is no more, long live Charlie’s.


La Brasserie – a disaster zone

La Brasserie on Old Brompton Rd was probably the best Sunday breakfast spot in London.  Salty,smoked bacon,sliced white toast,hot eggs,Tiptree jam and the Sunday Times. Perfection.

With that kind of fond memory I thought an evening visit would be about as flame proof as a pair of asbestos underpants. I was very wrong. The other diners were a mix of astute looking locals and savvy tourists who knew one end of a fork from another, so I was without fear.

Cold and rubbery

But Dr Jekyll became Mr Hyde. It was like finding out that Thora Hird was a swinger or Father Christmas is a paedophile. The menu was full all the old bistro standbys, so what could go wrong?

Quite simply everything.

Cold,salty,bland,incorrect dishes and waiters who couldn’t care less. The manager was a buffoon whose idea of an apology was to remove the service charge (penalising the waiters) when he should be sorting out the kitchen.

600 yards to the west is the Bosphorus kebab shop. Seriously better value, seriously better food. You want chilli sauce with that?