Wine and Pop

Its been a while since my last post but not my last visit. Things had got a bit stressful and my visits were quick. The writing stopped flowing. Suffice it to say, I visited Shoe Lane several times and borrowed three Cd sets of Gervaise Phinn’s Little Village School series.

Now I’m back. I blagged myself a lift to Enfield Town station and caught the train with minutes to spare. This line is already improved with promise of more to come.

I’m on the Hammersmith and City to Farringdon as I wanted to visit Shoe Lane. I walk along Hatton Gardens. There are few people around. Mainly security guards. I arrive at Shoe Lane and descend down to the depths of the Earth. The Library is packed with children and their carers. A tea urn fills plastic cups and a lady jovially points out that all the biscuits have gone. The usual crowd of adults seem to be hiding out at far edges of the Library to get away from the noise. I’m still reminded of some strange subterranean world where people have been chosen to keep the species going like a Human Ark. I’m not sure what my duties would be if I stay.I leave bookless and I head for the Barbican. Smithfield is an assault course with the Crossrail work blocking roads and pavements. It’s a glorious spring day. There are red tulips standing out in the beds on the Barbican estate.

I’m in the Library and it seems I’ve gate crashed a party. There is a strong smell of wine and pop music on a CD player. It quite a mix of music. I like Ghost Town by the Specials. A group of adults are playing pin the name on the London Borough. I’ve walked through twice before I see the sign for the launch event for City Reads 2016.

I’m in the Music Library. Both Pianos are clacking away like Joseph Coopers dummy ones in Face the Music. I’m looking for Sleepy Shores by Jonny Pearson. This music was used in the early 70’s for a television series called Owen MD. As a child, I listened to it on an LP of television theme songs. This also featured Match of the Day, Bless this house and Crossroads. I search through the albums of TV hits and eventually find it. I’m always amazed by the range of music here at the Barbican. I tell the Librarian how pleased I am in finding it. She seems pleased too. I did look for a biography of Russ Conway or Mrs Mills. Now they could knock out a tune on the piano. No luck. I’m not sure if anyone wrote one.

Back at the party, things are getting going. There are welcomes and an introduction and people are being invited to read the set book.  “Ten Days”, by Gillian Slovo. A thriller. I’m watching from a distance. People are looking enthusiastic.

I check my books out myself. I didn’t like to disturb the revelry. I pick up my copy of the Barbican Library Magazine for April with Betty Boop on the cover. I’m always amazed by the depth of articles in this free magazine. Something else which stands the Barbican Library out from others. There is an exhibition of Art at the door and I am drawn to the black and white Lino-cut prints. It reminds me of the time when, on teaching practise at a Jewish school, the Rabbi’s daughter cut herself with a craft Knife while potato printing and ended up in A and E. Not the effect we were after.

As I exit, I sit a while outside on the Terrace watching the fountains, enjoying the warmth. I’m not in a rush today. The Launderette is still doing bag washes. The Greengrocer is still selling plants. I notice for the first time that the Gym has a running track around the outside of the equipment. Lone joggers run the circuit. I’m whisting Side Saddle and realising no-one knows who Russ Conway is now. I’m heading out for a fix at the Golden Arches. But thats for another time.


Skateboards and the flying chips

I’m early today. Well earlier than normal. It’s the first day of my holidays when I could lie in. In stead, I woke early and was up and out. I’m in the Foyer at the Barbican centre. There’s a group of girls filming themselves whizzing up and down on a Skateboard. Right by the Coffee stall. No one’s batting an eye lid so I’m thinking they are part of some art installation. Theres the usual toddler race track and there screams seem to be for pleasure rather than pain from a Skateboard collision. There’s a huge screen in front of me the size of my kitchen and its showing coming events and the facilities here. I’ve decided to give the mother and baby screenings in the cinema a miss. The Martini Bar is more my style. There’s two of them tangoing in the skateboard now. Time to sup up and go.

It has been a month since my last visit. The combination of a week of very hot weather and being exhausted at the end of term put me off from visiting and I renewed my books online. The Library seems quiet today. I’m browsing the London Collection and have found an old book with curious things to find in different parts of London. I’m thinking I could visit the areas and see how many still survive. My holiday homework. I pick up other books about Curious London. I feel that I should be learning more to share with you readers. My Last book is about Acting Technique. I often get out a book to develop my skills for teaching Drama after the last performance of the year. It’s as I pick it ut that I remember that I have another show next Tuesday and that I haven’t quite broken up yet.

I’m out and walking a different way today. I’m heading for Liverpool Street following the signs for the Museum of London across the high walkways. It’s a good job there are signs. Theres a man walking close behind me so I stop to look at a basketball court that is tucked away below me. He walks past. The Museum of London is not too busy but there is a school group in the Lunch room, obviously filling the last days till the end of term. I follow the London wall and see remains down below me. It always amazes me how this part of London successfully takes pedestrians up and away from the London traffic. All around are reminds of the guild companies that had their headquarters around here. The Brewers hall has particular appeal. As I pass further down the road, a glass elevator rockets skywards packed with men in suits and I’m reminded of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

At Liverpool street station I see a sign pointing out the site of the first Bethlehem hospital. It is certainly “Bedlam” when I reach Mc Donalds. I enter the scrum and finally get a burger. There is no seating inside and outside is fairly full but I negotiate with a young couple and join them at their table. I don’t like to invade their space so I pull the chair back and eat the burger at arm’s length. I’ve hidden the chips in the bag away from the pigeons. A sudden gust of wind has lifted my lunch heaven wards and the chips are over the young couple. They laugh. That happened to us. They might have warned me.

From Liverpool Street, I’m heading over the road passed Petticoat Lane to Spitalfields. This has lost much of its charm since its rebuilding so I skirt through noticing an abundance of Vinyl Lp Stalls. I’m not sure if this a regular Friday thing. Fournier Street seems like a Film Set. I peer through a window and I’m surprised to see a modern kitchen. What did I expect? A Range? At the end of the road, The Mosque is in full swing and the doors are wide open. It is packed with loads of shoes at each entrance. I wonder how thy get the right pair back at the end. Perhaps they don’t.

Brick Lane is very different today. Quiet. There are tourists wondering why the markets aren’t open but they don’t on a weekday. Truman’s looks very sad. This huge London Brewery is now closed and used mainly for market stalls. Today, one part is being used as an indoor car park. I’ve read how the Truman’s name is being used by a smaller London Brewery now making quality ales. Nice as that is, It doesn’t make jobs for the people in the Spitalfields area. Someone pokes a large lens in my direction and I leave.

Doubling back to Spitalfields Market, I enter the Costa for a cup of tea and a tart. The couple next to me are arguing in a foreign language. I’m nosey but I don’t understand a word. Sitting here with my iPad to write this, I’m always amazed how easy it is to connect to the net now and upload things. I remember going to the Lake District and paying to use a computer in an Internet cafe to look for an important email. Now they pop in to my phone, signal permitting.

Commercial Street is always interesting. The large building that was the telephone exchange now houses a branch of Urban outfitter and another Costa Coffee, as well a very expensive flats. When I pass Garderners Paper bag shop, there are a couple of guys looking at a history book. I think he’s a minor celebrity since the Gentle Author visited and he’s probably showing his photo in the Spitalfields book. I’m heading for Shoreditch high street station. Recently opened on the London Overground, the line connects the  East London Line Track to the line that used to run from Broad street up to Dalston junction. The stations are new, replacing ones that closed years ago. The trains are proudly proclaiming on the front that they are made of five carriages. A change at Canonbury gets me to Startford. The trains are packed. Loads of people get off at Homerton and I wonder what I’m missing. Two young boys are arguing about food allergies.

“I haven’t got any” the first boy says.

” You must have. You have to have one” says the other.

Any Umbrellas?

imageIts raining. This is a first for my Barbican visits but not wishing to be a fair weather blogger, I’ve braved it. I’m wearing shoes for once rather than trainers and they are making a satisfying clunk as I walk from the station to the Barbican Centre across the High Walk Way. There is an exhibition on in the foyer detailing the City Of London’s development plans for the area and I’m left hoping that they will leave the feel of the place alone. So much of London is being smartened up which somehow seems to sweep away some of the charm.

I haven’t written much about the books I borrowed last time. I’m in the throes of writing reports and thinking of comments for music and computer studies for over two hundred children has left me weary. I’ve renewed one of my books which I will write about in the future.

The Library is quite busy but most of the noise is from half term visitors in the spaces below. One older man in the Music Library is tapping his foot loudly to the music he is listening to on headphones. Every so often he shouts out as if something is wrong. No one bats an eyelid. In the London Collection a man suddenly takes off his boots and his socks as if they have suddenly become too much for him. I become intent on looking at the books on the shelf. I notice him put his jacket over his lap. I’m wondering if he might strip further. I pick up a book called London Stories from 1926 and make a hasty retreat.

Outside is still grey but it has stopped raining. The Laundrette is empty as I pass today. A sign on the wall points out that due to the climate change tax, drying times have been made shorter. I pass the Greengrocers and look at his plants. A Geranium for £1.90 is good value but I don’t want to carry it. Clerkenwell is busy and I notice queues at all the sandwich shops. There is a queue out of the butchers door too. I’d buy something but I never know what to ask for. The shops are displaying signs for the Clerkenwell Road design weeks and there are many shops taking part. I notice a Watch Shop that repairs, and sells old watches. I look through the window and wonder who will run these shops when the craftsmen retire.

I notice a building I haven’t seen before. The writing says The Printworks No. 84 and I make a note to find out more about it. I pass a girl smoking imageoutside a door and when she moves I notice a sign saying Met Office. I scowl at them as if they have something to do with the weather we are getting rather than being messengers reporting the inevitable. I’m tired today and when I buy the paper from a Sainsbury’s Local I find the question “Have you a Nectar Card” too hard to answer. It’s not going to be a long trip today.


And then I see it. The Umbrella shop. I love the sign. Jas. short for James. Like texting. Nothings new. I find it amazing that these old businesses survive. Lets hope that the changes at Tottenham Court Road don’t spread down New Oxford Street and sweep it away. Nothing is safe when the planners get going. Denmark Street is tottering on the edge of destruction.

I buy some Pure Fruit Seville Orange spread and some Caraway Seeds in Planet Organic and call it a day. I descend in the Lift at Goodge Street and concentrate more this week as I headed in the wrong direct last time. Goodge Street…..the mind is off again as I have more questions to investigate, but that’s for another day.Of course their is a song in my head as I rattle down the track

Tooma looma looma Tooma looma lomma Toodle eye aye.
Any Umbrellas Any Umbrellas to fix today?

An Imposter and Little Tich

250px-Little_Tich_in_ParisSometimes you get a book out and you can’t put it down. You can honestly say you have learnt something different to what you expected. This is the case with the life story of Lttle Titch by Mary Titch and Richard Findlater

Now with a father with a love of Music Hall and Variety theatre, I know who Little Tich was. He’s the guy with the big boots. But as the book points out, there was much more to him than that. Born Harry Relph in 1867, he grew up in the Blacksmiths Arms, Cudham in Kent. He was special right from the start. He was born with an extra finger on each hand . Surgery was not an option and actually the deformity of these fingers made it difficult for him to do things. However, it did not stop him learning to play the Picco and the Cello. The Picco, I hear you ask. Well I had to look it up.

catphotoThe Picco Pipe was made popular in London’s Covent Garden by a 25-year-old blind Sardinian. It is like a head of a recorder that only has two holes. You could see how this might be easier for a young Harry to master. It was soon clear that people wanted to see this young performer, probably for the wrong reasons. They wanted to see this child with five fingers and a thumb on each hand and they wanted to see the Seventy Two year old who had fathered this boy. People like gossip and scandal.

Harry soon showed he had a talent to make people laugh. He could pass as a child when he was in his late teens and there are stories about him being caught travelling half fare on public transport long after he should. But rather than be embarrassed about his height he used it to his advantage in his developing stage act. He started to use the name Little Titchborne and the reason is perhaps the most unusual in the book.

The Tichbourne case would have been well-known to people when Harry Relph was young. Rodger Tichbourne, heir to the Tichbourne family forne went missing, belived dead, in a shipwreck in 1854 .On the death of his father in 1862, he would have become the 11th Baronet, Lord Tichbourne. Presumed dead, the title passed to his younger reckless brother Alfred. His mother, Lady Tichbourne, refused to belive Rodger was dead and after hearing rumors he has survived and gone to Australia, she placed advertisements there to try to find his whereabouts. This lead to a butcher called Thomas Castro coming to England and claiming he was in fact Rodger Tichbourne. Lady Tichbourne was delighted and took him in to the family, but not everyone was convinced. Although some said there was some resemblance, The man who returned was a very large build unlike the slim handsome man who had left England on the ship. Of course, time can be cruel, but so can the public. In the 1860’s, people might comment on someone who was over weight as being a bit Tichbourne. And this leads us back to Harry Relph or Little Tich. As well as being short, he was also quite round! This is why he used the name Little Tichbourne: The Small Fat man. It became shortened to Little Tich. Over time, people forgot about the connection with Tichbourne and being fat. Today we talk of a small person being a Tich or something small as Tichy. And that’s all thanks to Little Tich.

So what of Thomas Castro. It was later thought that he was in fact an English butcher called Arthur Orton who had gone to Australia. There was always doubt and  DNA testing that might unlock the secret was not available then. A legal case had a jury reject the claim and give a verdict that he was Arthur Orton and not Lord Tichbourne. Orton was to die in poverty. In an Unusual twist, the family allowed a card to be placed on the coffin at his funeral with the name “Sir Rodger Charles Doughty Tichbourne” Perhaps they were hedging their bets.

Little Tich had a long and glorious career in show business. He performed his Boots routine long after it was painful for him to do so. A 1911 biography about him was ghost written by Sax Rohmer of Fu Man Chu fame. He also wrote a song called ” The Gas Inspector” A recording by Little Tich survives on a 78 and can be heard on YouTube.

Here is a short film showing the extraordinary performance of Little Tich.

May Day and the Magic Porridge Pot

image It’s the First of May and I’m off up to the Barbican Library to change my books. Something is definitely in the air. I’m sure I can hear the music from Carousel as I pass Charlie Brown’s Roundabout. It seems to know about my last post. The journey is made better by meeting someone I know to talk to. Barbican station has sprouted planters to make the disused platform more presentable. Only for a few months before Crossrail work starts, but welcome all the same. I stop to take a photo with my new Telephoto Instlens. This little lens fits on to my iPhone and gets me closer to the action without stepping on the rails.

imageOn leaving the station, the High Walk, which has had building work disruptions on all my visits so far, has been planted up. Spring has arrived. But its cold. Not like last time I came. I’ve got a song about a Magic Porridge Pot stuck in my head. When you teach Primary School music, these things happen. Anyone using the new Music Express by A and C Black will know what I mean. “Cook, Little Pot, Cook”

The Library is quite busy today. Staff are dealing with others so I return my books in the machine. There’s a touch of Sci-fi about its purple glow. I’m intrigued to see that there are people listening to music on impressive looking CD players in the Carrel study area’s. There’s something to try another time. My choice of book today includes the score for “No No Nanette” by Vincent Youmans and a Biography of “Little Titch” And I couldn’t resist “Tavern Anecdotes”

My wanderings have taken me to The Strand where I come across a May Day Demo which appears to be against capitalism. Most of the groups passing by me have banners in a foreign language but the Russians have nice Red Flags. I was surprised to see a Narrow Boat association. It seems to have been organised by the T.U.C. I move swiftly on to Covent Garden where the Capitalists are going about their business oblivious.

And now I’m in the bowels of the Earth. Waterstones in Gower Street is my favourite Branch at the moment. It has more atmosphere than the Piccadilly branch even if it’s building is not as grand as the Simpsons building. I’m deep underground in the Costa having a Flat White and a Raspberry Fancy amid the bright young things of academia. The Barista didn’t ask me if I was a student so as I could have a discount. She can tell.

If you want to find out more about the Instalens range, you can see them here:

From the Waterloo Tatooist to Charlie Brown’s Roundabout.

My trip up to Barbican Library often starts at South Woodford where my parents live, near to Charlie Browns roundabout on the A406. This is not particularly exciting but its relevance will be seen as we go along.

One of the books from my last visit to Barbican Library has again proved fascinating. A Camera on Unknown London by E O Hoppe was published in 1936 but this edition proudly displays Reissued at a cheaper price 1937. Its a collection of photographs of unusual London curiosities. The book has a feeling that I should know all these places but they all seem to need further exploration to see if they are still there. Mr Burchett the Tattooist at 72 Waterloo road. The Smugglers jugs in the cellars of the Hoop and Grapes in Aldgate. The shop selling imported skeletons for artists drawings and medical students at 18 Fitzroy street. I can seem me referring back to this book again for some further jaunts to explore the stories.

However, one entry caught my eye. A Tavern Museum. This Public House at the time of the book was known as Charlie Brown’s but had started out as The Railway Tavern  which stood on the corner of Garford Street and 114-116 West India Dock Road. The original Charlie Brown, who had been a boxer, was a successful landlord of The Railway Tavern from 1892 until his death in 1932. His funeral was a grand affair with his burial at Bow cemetery said to be attended by 16,000 people. During his time as Landlord, he’d built up a collection of curios which he displayed. People say he’d collected them from sailors and dockworkers who’d frequented the pub but actually, he was a shrewd collector who had sourced the items from dealers and built up his collection with pieces he liked. On his death, the collection was split between his son, Charlie Brown Junior and daughter, Ethel Chandler. It was Ethel who kept on The Railway Tavern with her husband Tom, displaying her half of the curios and  the name Charlie Browns. Charlie Brown Junior took his half of the curios over the road to the Blue Posts pub and opened his Charlie Browns. Confusing I know.

charliebrownsThe book gives directions to The Railways Tavern and shows this picture. I’m thinking it might be Ethel among the curios rather than over the road at the Blue Posts where Charlie was host. It gives an idea of what the place might have looked like.

In 1938, Just after the book was written, Charlie Brown Junior moved to The Roundabout Public House at Woodford. Those who know the area or Travel the A406 will see the link. On the Corner, near Raven Road, this large pub quickly became Charlie Browns and was distinctive for the Model Roundabout outside on a pole. In 1972, the Pub was demolished along with much of the area, to widen the roundabout and Southend Road as well as the flyovers for the M11.

The Railway Tavern survived a little longer but was demolished in 1989 to make way for  Westferry station on the Docklands Light Railway and the construction of the Limehouse Link Tunnel. They say that the funeral in 1932 of Charlie Brown senior has never been exceeded except for Ronnie Kray.And that gets me thinking about the rumours of a body, disposed of in the concrete pillars of the M11. Maybe I’ll walk a little faster as I walk under the subway to cross Charlie Browns.

Below is a film clip showing the area at the time. Fascinating.

Musical Opinion

Its April 15th and today, I’ve found Volume 42 of the Magazine Musical Opinion covering October 1918 to September 1919. The advertisements are good to look at. After the war, there is a sense of optimism and a feeling that, a piano at home and a book of good tunes, will see everything back to normal. I am surprised how many Piano tuners are advertising in the small ads section.image

I am also impressed to see the many different piano makers. The ads show a very different time to the present where making music was still very important to most people lives rather than listening to recorded music. wireless and the gramophone are still not for everyone.

I am also very surprised to see an advert from a company R. Spurden Rutt and Co. Organ builder in Leyton, E.10. bet there aren’t too many around in London now.

My mind is drawn to the adverts for harmoniums as it is reminding me of a story told to me by my Dad. I can’t recall the details so we’ll return back to it at a later date.

So what did I get out today? We’ve gone highbrow. I have the Hawkes Pocket Score for Berlioz Roman Carnival. This was a piece we studied for my O Level Music and I don’t think I ever got to the end at the same time as the music. Somehow, I always seemed to finish first. I want to try to see if I can still do it, and if I’m actually any better.

My book from the London Collection seemed to Jump out at me. Written in 1967, the year f my Birth by a man then living in Enfield. Maskelyne and Cooke, Egyptian Hall London 1873-1904 by George A. Jenness. The entertainment in Piccadilly seems exotic to say the least and I’ll report back when I find out more.

As I write this, there is a concert on in the hall below us and the Orchestral music is coming up through the floor. Beautiful.