Category Archives: London

“Always there have been six ravens at the Tower. If the ravens fly away, the kingdom will fall” -John Owen Theobald,

I read a smart book by Julia Stuart that has been published as “Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo” in the UK and as “The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise” everywhere else. I don’t like to sum up plots, because mine are only honest personal opinions and not reviews, I can only anticipate that it describes the life of the little close community living within the gates of the Tower of London: the Beefeaters (particular Mr. Jones and his wife Hebe), the mean Raven master, the Rev. Septimus Drew who writes erotica under a pen name and has a secret passion for the barmaid of the Tower’s Rack & Ruin pub. The novel is also set in the “Underground Lost Property Office” where Hebe works and That is a continuous parade of odd, unusual objects and weird people. All the characters are well rounded and sometimes absurd, but here it lays the best feature of the novel that is a hallmark of British humour: despite of the tragic event in the background (the death of the Beefeater’s son), the novel is enjoyable and interesting. Here and there you can read facts about the Tower or about its prisoners.

The part describing the animals are really enjoyable, but my favourite parts were the ones at the Underground lost property office, not only because Stuart makes the history behind each lost object interesting and endearing, but mainly because I figured in my head the amount of the bizarre things that people may forget on the Tube trains. How cool is imagining the history behind them and how hard must be rejoining them to their owner, I think it’s job more interesting that it looks.

And at last, a thing that I really loved about this book is the hate that the people working in the Tower, have towards dumb tourists. I used to shake my head while reading, approving every single nasty comments and laughing.

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You know how much I hate tourist traps, so I can’t write any useful guide for Tower Hill, I only hopped off at the homonym tube station and had a quick look around the Tower of London before heading to Shoreditch that is a place where I’m more at my ease.

It’s worth a visit, anyway. I like to take unusual pictures, so I tried to capture the contrast between the ancient Tower and the shiny Shard. And, to be frank, the Tower Bridge is always a good model.

TRACK OF THE DAY: You’ve got time- Regina Spektor

 

 

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou

London. Once again. No terrorism involved this time, probably the wrong materials to insulate the Grenfell Tower, according to the speed of how quickly the fire took hold, probably a bad escape plan or out of date safety equipment. But the reasons why the blaze was originated are secondary in front of the people who have lost their lives and the mourn of their families. Unfortunately at least 12 people have died and authorities added that the number is expected to rise and police do not anticipate finding any more survivors.

In such a tragedy there was a positive aspect: first of all the generosity of people who immediately brought not only food, water, clothes, but also prams and toys. This adds up to the solidarity of hotels and restaurants who offered rooms and free meals for those people who have lost everything. And the second amazing thing was the rapidity of the London fire brigade to be there.

Each time there are fires, explosions and disasters, my thoughts go to these people who risk their lives to save others. When most people will flee and run away from the danger Firefighters, however, run towards them. They are heroes, they do that for a sense of duty and not for money, they don’t earn so much and many times they’re volunteers. These are the people we should look up to.

Heroes are not stupid famous people as I often read below celebs posts’, heroes are firemen, policemen who risk their lives for our safety, but also doctors and nurses who solve emergencies. Hero is also your Dad who breaks his back to grant you a solid future. And you should call Queen, not an useless Kardashian, but your Mom who keeps on smiling after a tiring day at work, who, for example, stays awake until late to sew your party dress or cook your favourite meal.

You don’t need a tragic situation to become a hero, defending a person from bullies, helping an old person to cross the street, helping someone at work or at school may be little acts, but in their smallness, they’re big for their recipient. Everyone can be a hero, try to be one in everyday life and don’t waste this word for people who don’t deserve it: fame, money, fashion, parties, expensive clothes are just smoke and mirrors.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Angel by the Wings – Sia

 

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring”- David Bowie

collage-2017-06-08If you go to London, Brixton is a must see place. It’s the last station of the Victoria Line and it’s a pleasure for the eyes as soon as you go out of the Tube, for, just opposite the street, in Tunstall Road, there’s a mural painting of David Bowie made by the Australian artist James Cochran. It’s a personal version of Aladdin Sane’s album cover and I first saw it last year in January, when the place was full of flowers and grieving messages. On January this year it was the same, save for a glass put to protect the artwork.

Bowie was born in Stansfield road in Brixton and there are several places to see if you’re a fan of him or just a music lover, like the Arts Lab, the hair salon where the Ziggy Stardust hair style was created or the park where he performed in 1969. When I was in London there were two different walking tours that offer people an all-encompassing journey from birth to death of one of London’s biggest icons, with passionate guides able to enrich the visit with stories and anecdotes. There’s a 2 hour tour and a 4 hour one that includes a trip to Beckenham, browse the web and look for the most suitable for you.

Brixton of course, it’s not only Bowie, its market is the Europe’s biggest Afro-Caribbean food market. You can get there with just a two minute walk from Brixton tube station: Brixton Village and Market Row (just across the road) are basically a collection of narrow streets called ‘Avenues’ where you can find everything, tasting a large variety of street food and have a good meal for £10. As I’m gluten intolerant, I looked for something for me and it was a pleasure to see there was a wide choice. Beside of the always trustable Honest Burger, I personally tried Sansla creperie and I wasn’t disappointed. Remember to order a galette and not a crepe if you need to avoid gluten. The Banoffee tasted heavenly and the vanilla shake was delicious. Since I want to go back there to visit the windmill, I will surely hit Sansla for a different option. Here’s the link: http://www.senzalacreperie.co.uk/

In addition to all the open market stalls, the area is full of shops (included my beloved Poundland) and many interesting things to see (as I stated before, I need to go back to visit all the art galleries and the music shops) like the O2 Academy (or Brixton Academy), that was once a cinema and now it’s an important  centre for live music. The Academy was built in 1929 and still have its wonderful art decò style.

So, if you’re in London, don’t miss this incredible borough.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Guns of Brixton – The Clash

 

 

 

 

“I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill”- William Blake

One of the London spots I love the most because it’s the set of some romantic memories of mine, is Primrose Hill, the highest point of the eponymous district. You can get there after a 10 minute walk from Chalk Farm tube station, there’s a well kept green area whose summit is almost 63 metres above sea level and where the trees are kept low so as not to obscure the view. It formerly belonged to Eton College, but became Crown property about the middle of last century and it’s a stunning sightseeing spot above all on clear sky days.

The summit features an inscription on York featuring the quote from William Blake I used for this post. The poet believed that Zoroastrian rites were performed on Primrose Hill and affirmed that this place was sacred to the sun without without giving any explanation as to why that particular site was appropriate.

Another literary reference is an oak known as “Shakespeare’s Tree” that stands on the slope of the hill, it was first planted in 1864 to mark the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

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If you feel hungry after climbing the hill, there’s a lots of nice places to eat around there. We settled for Manna in Erskine Road because it offered a large selection of gluten free options. Here’s how to get there.

We didn’t eat in the end, but we had a lovely glass of wine (mine was a lovely, rich, Argentinian, red wine). They serve organic wines, free of synthetic chemicals and often hand harvested that are also vegan. They also have a large variety of delicious food, so I planned to go back there for a pleasant lunch or dinner as soon as I go back to London.

Primrose Hill is worth a visit if you want to have a stunning view, a romantic stroll or if you’re a simple bench warmer who needs quiet. Oh, if you go there, give my regards to “my” bench: if you listen carefully you can still hear my sighs.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Running up that Hill – Placebo (cover)

 

 

 

“I say I am stronger than fear”-Malala Yousafzai

I’ve thought a lot about the necessity of this post since I never talk about what happens around me or in the world. Honestly I hate those who feel the urge to comment on every single fact, just to show they are concerned in society, politics and so on. To be frank I never post anything about this issues, not for a lack of interest, but because I don’t feel the need to add my voice to the amount of opinions we can find online, I think we should talk when we really have something to say, if not, silence is way better.

What happened in London yesterday overwhelmed me, when a friend reported to a totally unaware me the sad  news, I stopped breathing. I thought about my friends, about the special person who lives there and I hadn’t been ok until I checked that they all were fine.

And please, if you’re up to comment that I’m one of those people to whom European deceased people count more than those in Siria, stop. It’s not a matter of distance or importance, it’s about worrying first about family and friends. I know it’s selfish, but it’s something we all do and don’t try to deny it. It’s human to think of our relatives affected by cancer before of the other people fighting this beast, it’s human to worry because we are unemployed before thinking of those who don’t have a work.

I don’t want to comment what happened in London, I just want to spread how most of the people living there, feel.

Immagine

(Credits for this edit to: Rishi Metha)

TRACK OF THE DAY: Human-Rag’n’Bone Man

“I wonder how much of the day I spend just callin’ after you”- Harper Lee

Now I know: my worst enemy is memory. I’ve read three books in four days and they all were set in London, because I simply needed to go back there through the only mean I can afford: reading. But despite of the fact that the novels took place in the City, they were so different from the story I was trying to find in them. Maybe I should write it, my story, my London, my English love affair, but each time I try, thoughts and feelings want to come out all at once, leaving me speachless. And I’m sure there aren’t words able to describe what I feel and if they were, I’m sure they would contaminate what I’m trying to say. So, until I’m able to be totally sincere towards me at first, I will keep looking for my story in other people’s.

One of the books I read was “The ballad of Peckham Rye” by Muriel Sparks. The story revolves around the great influence the Scot charachter Douglas Dougall has on the people living in Peckham. He’s a sort of consciences shooker, we could say that he plays the role of the devil himself and acting this way he earns friends and opponents. He gets to convince a young electrician to refuse his wife to be at the altar, the words “No, to be quite frank, I won’t” and the whole situation becomes a ballad in the local pubs and gives the book its name.

It was a pleasant read, but it didn’t thrill me that much, expect from reminding me when I visited Peckham all alone, in a late evening, without my guardian angels.

The first thing that stroke me after going out from the Overground station, was the big variety of odours: Peckham Rye is a sort of huge open air market whose most of the businesses are run or frequented by members of the UK’s largest overseas Nigerian community. There were no tourists in sight, so I didn’t dare taking pictures, I simply enjoyed my stroll, having the impression to be in Lagos, rather than in London. It was pleasant, but also a bit uncomfortable, since it was dark, I was in an unknown borough with no reassuring Underground sign. Then I took a train at Peckham station, but until I landed safely at Victoria’s station, I wasn’t sure I was in the right direction.

So, when my friends want to pull my leg, they talk about my Peckham experience, but they also promised they will take me there again so I could see the street arts, the parks, the art galleries and, if in Summer, we will enjoy a film at the rooftop film club and have a drink at Frank’s Cafe.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Lost on you- LP

“And the city itself was just a glow on the dark earth”- Monica Ali

As I said before, I’ve just read “Brick Lane” by Monica Ali and I totally fell in love with it. I borrowed it from the library only because I liked the title (lately I’m only looking for novels set in London) and it was a positive surprise. It’s a choral novel even if the main point of view is Nazneen’s, a Bangladeshi woman relocated to London through an arranged marriage to a man nearly twice her age. The books tells her story, but also many other of the people of Bangladeshi origin she meets, with a look on what happens in her country of origin through what’s happening to her sister Hasina. The book is not properly set in Brick Lane, maybe “Mile End” would have been a better title, but if you’re familiar to that part of East London, there are many places that can be easily recognised. The plot is pleasant and interesting, characters are well depicted, the descriptions are vivid and the reader’s interest is always kept alive. I loved seeing the main character growth: at first she’s submitted to her husband, unhappy and prefer taking refuge into her past and happy childhood rather than taking pleasure in daily life. Then she learns English, she starts earning her own money, she gets a lover who helps her to see over the four walls of her apartment. In the end she realizes who she is and what she wants to be, so she gets rid both of her husband and lover and opens a sewing workshop with some friends of her and finally fullfill her desire to ice-skating even in a sari.

If you want to visit Brick Lane you have to hop off at Aldgate and walk for a 5 minutes. Besides of the street art, the first thing that strikes the attention is the Old Truman brewery once home to London’s largest brewery and now location to a hive of creative businesses like independent shops, galleries, markets (only at the weekends), bars and restaurants.

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If you keep walking along this long lane, you will find The cereal killer cafe that sells over 100 different types of cereal from around the world. You can eat there and they have vegan and gluten free options.

Another well known place is the Beigel shop, open 24/7 whose menu is focused on beigels (not bagels, it keeps the yddish pronunciation) baked in the traditional Jewish style (it’s being boiled in water before baking, a step that produces its crisp crust and moist, chewy interior) with  a lot of tasty fillings. It also serves pastries, cakes and sweets as well as white, rye and black bread. It’s not expensive, but it has no gluten free option.

If you raise your eyes, once you pass under the railway bridge, you will see the 123 building that is a four-storey mini department store packed with recycled clothing.

And on the less known part of Brick lane, just crossed Bethnal Green Road, there’s Tatty Devine my favourite handmade jewellery shop, where you can find some original, playful, colourful, laser cut acrylic things. There’s another shop in Covent Garden, but I use to go there.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Brimful of Asha- Cornershop