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.


A little bit of stress and the right time to eat.

Its been a stressful start to the day. I thought for a change I would use the line from Enfield Town to Liverpool street to get to the Barbican today. If you don’t know it, and there is no reason why you should, it’s an end end of the line type station with very few trains. Half hourly service for most of the day. I couldn’t find my jumper, I late leaving and the station is far enough away to make walking sound too much of an effort in the morning. The car was no help. It is impossible to find anywhere to park thanks to Enfield Town’s Residents Parking Only Scheme. So yes, I missed the train and not wanting to sit there for half an hour I drove to Woodford where my parents live and a train pulled in within a minute. Not to worry if it didn’t. They are usually every few minutes anyway.

I’ve zipped along the central line and now I’m waiting at Mile End. An announcement tells us that the board and announcements are not accurate and that we should check the front of the train. I’m in a dilemma now, not sure whether I should belive this announcement but sure enough, the Richmond Train on the board turns out to be my Hammersmith and City. How exciting.

I’m at Barbican station and the sun is out. Always the same on the first week I start back at school. I’ve been going to school for over 40 years now. I’ve got  a new bag to accompany me on this days out. My blue bag faded to nothing and was returned to John Lewis who provided me with a refund. I pull a zip that I’ve not found before and open up a new compartment with holders for pens and cards. Magic.

The Barbican is different today. There is a conference on and the door I usually go in to reach the Foyer is shut off. There are lots of very bored looking people with tags with their names on them popping out for a fag. The door I’m allowed in through take me right to the lifts and I ascend to the second floor with the air of someone who visits regularly; not someone who’s been sent on a course.

Even in the Library, things are different. Chairs are out in a corner and someone adjusts a projector screen to accommodate the image from their laptop. Maybe a talk? I’m siting right next to a sign saying that The use of mobile phones is strictly prohibited. We are all using them. But not to make a call. This sign is from the days when that’s all you could do, judging by the sign. Its taken me a while to realise but a new disabled lift has been put in to take customers from the Main Library down to the Music Library. For some reason it is reminding me of a Magicians Wardrobe where the assistant enters only to disappear.

I’m leaving the Barbican Centre and there is a change of mood. It’s lunch time for the conference and the delegates are coming outside into the sunshine clutching a boxed salad which looks quite nice. I walk out along the road checking everything is ok. The Launderette has a sign saying I can see the assistant to make arrangements! The greengrocer has different plants and a Bay Tree for £2.90 appeals but I don’t have any cash so it will have to wait for another time. When I pas the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, I peer through the window and see another Lunch set out on a table. Another conference and the delegates will be well feed. The leaders in Child Health know how to get up a good spread. I walk dow Leather Lane Market. The name has such promise but most of the stalls today are Street Food. There are long queues at each stall. I feel sorry for anyone local that wants to buy a nylon overall or a pair of fluffy slippers. Still, I guess you go with the public and street food is the in thing.

I’ve diverted off of my route and the Pleasant Lambs Passage takes me to Lion Square and I see the front of Conway Hall owned by the Conway Hall Ethical Society and opened in 1929. The cafe in Red Lion Square is doing good business. Everyone is eating and I do too.

Bloomsbury is overshadowed by the British Museum and as always there are plenty of tourists posing for selfies outside. There is a copy of the A and C Black Music Express book I teach with in school, in the Oxfam Book shop. This isn’t even a year old yet and the CD’s and DVD inside are unopened. They are selling it for £8. It costs £29 new. Some one will get a bargain if they see it. I should have bought it for a spare. I look in the window of Souvenir publishing which seems to be part book shop and part publishing house. It’s closed for lunch. A new Tea shop has opened called Tea and Tattle and it looks nice. A pot of Loose Tea was over £3 with cakes a similar price. Expensive but hopefully it will taste a little better than my Costa pot I’m drinking now. Boiling water is so important and it clearly was made with water off the boil.

I’m near the Brunswick centre. Two old ladies, one black, one white, both wrapped up for snow with headscarves are heading towards each other. The acknowledge each other with a slight nod of the head and walk on past. The troubles of the world on both their shoulders.

One girl is talking loudly about her eating habits.

“I only eat when I’m hungry. No Breakfast, Dinner, Tea. You know. When your Hungry?”

“Are you Hungry?” Said her friend with the desperate look of someone who would like a meal.

“I don’t know” said the girl. “My boyfriend goes mad. He likes his dinner at a set time.

Are you Hungry? We could get something.” Said her friend.

“I don’t know”

Sloe, Sloe, Quick Quick Sloe.

Its been a while readers and I have no excuse. Well i’ll make a few. Train strikes and poor weather and a week in the Lakes all seem to have made my visits less this summer rather than more. I’m starting out at the Elmhurst Gardens in Woodford looking for Sloes. Right at the Side of the North Circular near Charlie Browns you will find a large Blackthorn bush and the Sloes are excellent for flavouring Gin. I have company today. These trips ar usually solitary affairs. We notice that the Sloes are ripe and falling off so an evening picking session is on te card s when we return.

The central line is hot and the trains now look shabby. Ive eaten a Finger of Fudge and i’m now on some Hoola Hoops. That’s breakfast sorted. The weather is hot and sunny which is unusual for a London August of late. Stepping on to a Hammersmith and City train at mile end is like going from Hell to Heaven. The air conditioning is on and the trains are spacious. Admittedly they are not deep level tubes, but their modern open design is welcome.

imageComing to the Barbican is familiar now. I’m like a tour guide pointing out the sites to my companion for the day. We look at the residents allotments like the Seattle Pea patches and wonder at the cabbage growing there.Who’d have thought it.

The Barbican is really a town on its own and each time you turn a corner you discover a new part,

imageThe Library is quiet for a Saturday. I’ve never been in the morning as I’m usually at work. There seem to be more resident here and there is a familiarity between them and the staff. My companion discovers the Audio books that I’ve never seen. I enquire about the wall of books that you can borrow and I’m polietly told that they are free to borrow for the three weeks the same as books.

Free?” I ask again, as I can’t quite belive it.

“Yes” and you an renew them too.

She then shows me how I can also download audiobooks to my iPhone. The staff here are always helpful. I skirt round the section where someone is having a detailed discussion with themselves and reach the gardening section. An excellent book on Community Orchards that I’ve not seen before. So now I’ve chosen my books and I have the audio book of “Cabin Pressure” Series 3.

My Companion has vanish in the periodicals. Now that takes some doing.

A quick checkout and I’m leaving the centre via a different door. The church of St Giles opposite the terrace has always been like some magic island that some are allowed on and I’m not. Today I intend to get there. My companion finds a bridge which as it si named St Giles, I’m confident will take us there. We cross the Barbican’s answer to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and our only disappointment is tat the lovely Island Pods are for residents only to sit in. I live in hope a resident will see this blog and invite me over.

And then I’m there. The church of St Giles Cripplegate. And they’ve got a book sale. The Church, Tardis like, is large on the inside than it looks out. The display shows just how derelict this area was after the bombing of World War Two. The church, one of the few old remains of the area was nearly demolished by the bombing but the extensive damage was restored.

We leave the Barbican and head towards Clerkenwell. A man comes out of the Launderette. I’m glad its being useful. Past the Shakespear and my heart is in my mouth. I can’t find the Greengrocers. Surely it’s not gone. Then to my relief I see it is still there but closed. I don’t think it opens Saturdays. In the window is an apologetic sign from the owner telling us he his having a day’s holiday next friday. A long Bank holiday weekend. I want to send him off on a fortnights cruise somewhere but feel he might not come back.

We are walking along Clerkenwell Road and it is quiet. There are no queues out of the coffee shops and some haven’t opened. This is a weekday place. At the Italian church, a car with ribbons sits outside. The Bride has chosen a good day, and a lovey location. The villiage feel gives way to the large building of Holborn and we eventually end up in Waterstones at Gower Street. Even here, the usual bustle of students is missing, it being the holidays. A pot of tea and a Raspberry fancy and we are fit for anything.

The sun stays hot. Its a barbecue day and we head towards the Bruswick centre. Another of London’s secrets. And we’ve still got the Sloes to go back for.

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.

Withdrawal Symptoms

I’m having withdrawal symptoms. I couldn’t go!

Last Friday would have been a trip to the Barbican day but I had to wait in for a Washing Machine and so that was that. You’ll be pleased to know its all installed and that I’ll be clean on my trips from now on. I know what you are thinking. Why not drop in a Bag Wash to the Barbican Laundrette? (or Laundry- ette as my East End family would say) After all, its soft water would ensure a lovely finish, even if drying times have been reduced due to climate change. It could have saved the price of the new Bosch, but its too much to carry on the tube. I’ll have to remain a spectator as I pass by.

So it will be this Friday that I visit. It’s the first time its gone three weeks before taking my books back. And for the first time, I had a music score that I’d borrowed before. I’ve been busy in the weeks so far. I’ve played through the Smike Score with the record. Its funny how the keys change depending on the singer I suppose. Fortunately, the Clavinova has a transpose button and a quick press means I can follow the music (which I do from time to time) and still be in tune with the record. The more I play the music, the more the memories come back from the St Edwards School performance. I’d love to be putting it on now.

I’ve also been doing some research and thinking of some other things to look out for on my travels so there will be plenty to look at in days to come. I’ve had some nice comments from several friends who have read the blog for the first time. And I’ve watched a view videos about WordPress that have made things clearer and hopefully will improve the look and layout of the site.

You can always help me further by commenting on what you read, asking questions and giving me suggestions for things to research and look out for. And of course, you can help by sharing the link to the site.

I’m reading up about Packing case Makers now. Maybe a change of career?

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?

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: