Still finding London’s war memorials whenever I go. This one’s in Baker Street. If you want a literary record of the Second World War, then VS Pritchett’s London Perceived, written in 1962 but republished with a new foreword in 1985, reflected how the post war building boom saw London lose its “almost Venetian” low skyline. Funny to read as a Londoner who’s grown up with a much more diverse city and rather likes the skyline from Waterloo Bridge.
Liberty’s isn’t known for its low prices, but these ceramic baskets, riffing on a popular 18th century lattice-work style, come in at only £20 each. Well worth it, I’d say.
Always a sucker for an old map. This one is in an office in Hatton Gardens. Back in London today.
An unexpected find on a walk recently, I love the mix of beautiful and elegant scripts here that have been put together with as much love and care as colours in a painting.
Haggerston, October 2017.
In some years it’s September that’s a mix of seasons, but this year October seems to be hovering between the seasons. This pin sharp view was last week as I went out to walk across Blackfriars Bridge at lunch.
Fleet Street, October 2017.
Like most cities, London sees September shift from pop-up restaurants and pop concerts to a parade of plays, operas, history exhibitions and weighty films to get you thinking after the summer break. Here’s my list of things I’ve seen and would recommend:
1. Aida at ENO: superb singing, including from the chorus, and most definitely a star in the form of this new Aida herself. Great sets – hats, masks and leopard skin a go-go – of the Hollywood musical kind and none the worse for that.
2. The girl from the north country – at the Old Vic and now sold out, but the cast recording is available online and well worth the price for some gutsy, gritty, beautiful performances.
3. Oslo, which is now transferring to the West End. I liked the political negotiation parts best rather than the drawing room marriage comedy, though despite the good cast in London, I wonder how I’d have felt if I’d seen Jennifer Ehle in New York.
4. The Scythians at the British Museum – wonderful gold pieces discovered in the 18th century frozen in the Siberian tundra, along with the remains of silk, cheese, pottery and wooden coffins. All the wrong postcards, but it doesn’t matter if you’ve been to actually see the show. Quite big, but can be done in an hour. The BM is on fire still after their American Dream show earlier this year.
The House of Illustration is very good at making me see artists I hadn’t heard of before (e.g. Linda Kitson), but who are very accomplished and had fascinating lives.
Jacqueline Ayer’s parents had moved from Jamaica to New York in the 1920s and Jacqueline grew up helping her father’s ad agency, the first aimed at African Americans.
Her observation for fabric and costume fed into her children’s’ illustrations when she moved to Bangkok in 1959, and after coming back to America in 1963 she founded a Thai textile line. I wish there’d been more room for her work with the Indisn government, her autobiography, and what was clearly a fascinating life, but I’d still recommend this to anybody.
Quentin Blake’s delightful series of extremely human birds. This could be creepy, but it’s absolutely not, mainly because underneath the wicked humour is a fundamental kindness and interest in people. On display at the House of Illustration in London.
Granary Square, September 2017. Saxophone playing, people chatting, a relaxed moment in the middle of a busy city.