Tag Archives: London

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me?” Helene Hanff

I’ve just read this delightful non fiction book and I absolutely loved it! It consists of the two-decade long correspondence and friendship between the reserved Frank Doel, an employee at Marks & Co. Booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Rd in London and the New York based writer and bibliophile Helene Hanff. She is an avid and enthusiastic reader looking for rare second hand books who doesn’t like the dirty, broken editions she can find on NY stalls so she prefers buying them overseas. From the start we can appreciate the contrast between her American informality and Frank’s British professionalism, but as long as the story goes she establish a friendship with him, his family and all the employees of the library and the correspondence becomes informal and heartfelt. We gradually see Helene becoming intimately involved in the lives of the shop’s staff, sending them food parcels during England’s post-war shortages and sharing with them details of her life and career.

I’m grateful that this book had been published in the 70s and that it’s a true story, a modern fictional writer would have inserted a love affair between Helene and Frank who was married and had two daughters, ruining the spirit of the book. Because the magic of this book it’s in its innocence. The rare and pure friendship established between people who live so many miles away thanks to letters.

That’s so relatable to me: I feel so unloved and underappreciated by everyone I live with, while I feel like I’m another person when I’m virtually or in person, with my overseas friends.

I recommend this read to all the book lovers, those who like to browse little bookshops or used book stalls and, like Helene, love “inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins”, like “the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned” and are fond of “second hand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest”.

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The Marks & Co book shop located at 84 Charing Cross road has closed, but the street, located in the Charing Cross district at the west end of the Strand in London, is still renowned for the variety of the second hand books shops and independent book stores. The biggest and most known one is for sure Foyles opened more than 100 years ago, but the main road and also the side streets are full of little gems.

The road is named after the homonym district, where, in front of the railway was placed one of the twelve crosses that marked the route of Queen Eleanor funeral procession. It is in central London, very close both to Oxford street and Leicester Square, so with countless of shops, theatres and places to eat.

A little curiosity: in the Harry Potter books, The Leaky Cauldron pub is in Charing Cross Road.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Friends will be Friends – Queen

 

“The best traveller is one without a camera” Kamand Kojouri

<We were walking and you exclaimed:

-You’re pretty when you smile: you get dimples,

-They’re wrinkles.

You laughed, then you looked into my eyes and sweetly said:

-I love you because you never take yourself seriously!

So I grabbed your arm and screamed in my head: “Please, say that you love me again!”>

As I told many times, I love exploring London. One area that is barely mentioned despite of being surrounded by posh neighbourhoods like Maida Vale, West Hampstead, Queens Park and Kensal Rise, is Kilburn. I hope that the fact author Zadie Smith decided to set her new novel “NW” here, will give to Kilburn more visibility.

It is very easy to get there since the transport link is fantastic, I came here from the Bakerloo line, hopping off at Kilburn Park.

This area has been traditionally Irish for a long time, but now it has a huge and diverse mix of nationalities and races (I saw a large presence of Italians, for example). It is claimed to be dodgy at night, but the main street is always full of people. This one is a very long road called Kilburn High Road and it has chain stores (Primark, M&S), pound shops, a beautiful library, a famous cinema (The Tricycle Theatre), independent stores and a few pubs. Fun fact: Ian Dury formed his first band in 1970 and called it “Kilburn & the High Roads”.

Despite of being originated as an ancient trackway, a part of a Celtic route between Canterbury and St.Albans, High Road it’s not very attractive. Just a long serie of two storey buildings that make it look cheap.

In Kilburn Square there’s a very lively market where you can find mainly fabric, candles, hand made stuff and flowers.There are plans to redevelop it and revalue the whole area, but until now nothing has changed.

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I didn’t eat there, so I can’t suggest any gluten free option.

Last year I visited the S.Augustine Church, an Anglo-Catholic Parish Church consecrated in 1880 and affectionately known as the ‘Cathedral of North London’, one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. It is beautiful! I don’t like taking pics inside churches, so if you want to visit it, the church is generally open half an hour prior to the advertised service times and for up to 20 minutes afterwards. Additionally there is normally access on Tuesdays and on Saturdays in the morning.

I will surely come back: there’s one thing left to see, The Good Ship, a well known music bar actively committed to bring the best bands to Kilburn; it is also a place where you can see performing a large variety of artist, since every kind of entertainment is welcomed. Moreover there’s a 100 CD juke box and until the coin mechanism is fixed (probably never, they say) it is free.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Periscope – Papa Roach feat. Skylar Grey

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart” Haruki Murakami

<Do you remember when I bought that watermelon chap stick without realizing that it was a tinted lip balm, so I applied it totally random on my mouth? And that when we crossed Stamford Bridge it was a very windy day, so you looked at my messy hair and my smeared red mouth and told me:

-You look like that fat dude with lipstick you love. That singer from that band of grave diggers.

You have to thank your irresistible smile and the way you helped me to wear the lip balm off if I didn’t kill you.>

Reading Proust taught us that the taste of something can evoke lost or hidden memories; those can be triggered by a music, a smell or an object, like a stupid lip balm found in the bathroom drawer. So, before memories start tearing me apart, better move to another part of Fullham and start illustrating something nice you can visit in London if you love football as I do.

My best friend is a huge supporter of Chelsea, so I promised him to take many pics of the Stamford Bridge stadium. To get there you have to hop off at Fullham Broadway station and go ahead on Fullham Road. After a few minutes walking, on the left, within the Moore Park Estate also known as “The Brigde”, you will see the home ground of Chelsea FC.

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It was opened in 1877 and has been the venue of many football matches and has also hosted a variety of other sporting events including greyhounds races.

The North stand is named after former Chelsea director Matthew Harding, while the West stand is the first thing you see entering by the gate in Fullham Road since it’s the main external face of the stadium.

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There’s a Hall of fame and the statue of Peter Osgood sculpted by Philip Jackson and unveiled in 2010 by his widow Lynn in the presence of his friends and colleagues. He was a very important player and scored more than 150 goals. The inscription says:

Ossie King of Stamford Bridge
Stamford Bridge has many heroes but only one king. Graceful technician nerveless striker. Icon of the swinging sixties. Adored by fans, scorer of immortal cup final goals.
A big man for a golden age.

If you want to have an incredible experience you can book the one hour long tour that will take you behind the scenes of the Blues, giving you access to areas normally reserved for players and officials, like the press room, the home and away dressing rooms, the tunnel and the dug-out areas.

The tour include the entry to the Museum (that can be visited also without taking the tour), giving you the chance to see how Chelsea has evolved on and off the pitch over the years and to see memorabilia and get to know the most representative players.

Don’t forget to visit the shop!

TRACK OF THE DAY: Blue is the colour – Chelsea FC Anthem

 

“Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down”- Simon & Garfunkel

I always say that music is my personal lifesaver, there even are scientific studies according to which, adding musical stimuli focus the mind away from pain perception and shifts its attention to the music itself.

But music can be also used for raising donations and awareness for a charity intent; for sure everybody remembers big Charity projects as Band Aid and Usa for Africa: the songs are extremely popular as the artist taking part of the act are (or were) at the time they were released. But there is plenty of songs made by single singers or group of artist that are made to raise awareness about a hot topic (like Warwick-Wonder-Knight-John’s “That’s what Friends are for” against AIDS) or to raise money for the survivors of a disaster (as Haiti’s or Italian earthquakes) or for a memory fund (for example “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John).

Many charity songs were successful, many weren’t; some are well known, some aren’t. Here’s a short list of the ones that come up to my mind.

-“Let it be” cover by the Brit-American ensemble Ferry Aid, released following a ferry capsizing which killed 193 passengers and crew in 1987.

-“Everybody wants to rule the world” by Tears for Fears, the cause was Sport Aid (famine relief in Africa).

-“Man in the Mirror” performed by Michael Jackson who was raising funds for his own fund called “Burn Center, Childhelp, United Negro College Fund”

-“Mama” by Spice Girls and “One way or another” cover by One Direction; different songs from different years to raise money for Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty.

I’m sure there are many more; the latest is:

Simon Cowell produced a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in honour of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and to raise money for the survivors of the 14th June blaze. Over fifty artists participated in the project and the song has jumped to the top of the singles chart just two days after its release and has been declared the second fastest-selling single of the year, after Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of you”.

Donate here to support those affected by the Grenfell Tower Fire: http://artistsforgrenfell.com

There also was a young couple of Italian architects and instead of staying silent and respect the pain of their families, this death has been instrumentalized by those who say that our youth has to emigrate in order to find a decent job. That’s true, but it has nothing to do with their decease, because, honestly, if nothing had happened they would have only been just a happy couple building its future in the wonderful London.

TRACK OF THE DAY: “Bridge over troubled Water”- Artists for Grenfell

“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 parts 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 this job it’s 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 laugh and shake my head while reading, approving every single nasty comment.

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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 does 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 to 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