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.
Its 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 outside 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?
I’m out on another Barbican Library ramble and I’m feeling guilty. I have so much I should be doing for work but ive decided these days out to observe and learn things are as important. I’m also feeling a little guilty over something that happened on my last ramble and I failed to report. It started on the Hammersmith and City Line Train just after Mile End. A young man came along the carriage and put something on the seats next to me. He didn’t look, I looked away. I noticed that it was a small packet of Kleenex tissues with a note. I glanced down and the handwritten note said that his friend was starving and he was trying to get some money together to help him. I watched him carry along the carriage, placing tissues, not looking, just staring. I saw a lady open her purse and give him some change. He took his note off of the tissues and gave her the packet. He then doubled back, picking up the tissues and moving on. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to be the only one who gave him some money. I ignored him. Over the next weeks I thought more about it. I actually applauded the way he was trying to do something without begging. Offering something in return for some money. The tissues were not important. The gesture was. Today as I get on the train I’m hoping he will come along again so I can carry out my well practised routine. But of course, it doesn’t happen.
The Library is noisy today. There is some experimental workshop somewhere in the building with chanting, wailing and percussion. The man next to me in the Music Library study area is playing his laptop as if he is giving a piano recital. I glare but he is engrossed. I’m pleased to see there is a new issue of What’s New: The magazine published by Barbican Library and given away free. I love a library taking the time and effort to produce something like this. It reminds me why I travel up to town to visit. I get out several books including one on Victorian Parlour Songs and another on Trades for London Boys 1912. Maybe a change of job is on the cards!
I come out of a different exit from the High Walk way and find myself passing the Barbican Laundrette which is proclaiming that they use Soft water. There is one young man in there and it all looks very familiar. More My Beautiful Laundrette than EastEnders. I carry on past the Shakespeare Pub with its sign saying 1964 and come across the Barbican Greengrocers and Fruiterers which still has its CLE code for the telephone number. A quick look up on google confirms it was the code for Clerkenwell just around the corner. I pass The Italia Conti Drama School in what looks like a modern office block and turn the corner. Clerkenwell feels like a village and should be applauded for its independent shops.
Eventually I come to University Land and cross paths with a Professor, swaying slightly, who’s leather bag has come undone to reveal a bottle of Gin and a bottle Tonic amongst the papers. What. No Ice and a Lemon?
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.
On 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: http://uk.instalens.co/
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.
The 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.
I told you in my last post that I had a half remembered story about a Harmonium and here it is. You couldn’t make it up. I had to ask my Dad for the details and here they are such as we can remember. It concerns Ivor Cutler, Scottish poet, songwriter and humourist. My Dad had always told me that the Harmonium that Ivor Cutler accompanied himself with on several recordings was his.A bold claim and one worth investigating.
Me: Dad, how is it that Ivor Cutler ended up with your Harmonium?
Dad: Well, I had a tubular bell, but I swapped it with the lady with the performing seagull for the harmonium.
Me: Why did the lady with the seagull want the tubular bell?
Dad: Well the seagull couldn’t play the harmonium.
You couldn’t make it up. It seems that in Leytonstone in the 1950’s, there lived a theatrical family. The trained seagull, called Peter after their son who died, had star roles in films. My Dad did mention Kes, but I can’t see a seagull having the acting skills to play a Kestrel with any conviction. She also had a crocodile, or so we are told.The husband was a ventriloquist who never got other the death of his son, replacing him with the dummy but I know no more than that. My Dad swapped his tubular bells (origin unknown) for this family’s harmonium. Had he kept his Tubular Bells, he might have been on Mike Oldfield’s Records. I’m guessing that the harmonium proved too much for Beachcroft Road. A friend of Dad’s, also in the film business heard that Ivor Cutler was on the hunt for a Harmonium and the deal was done.
All of this sounds rather fantastic, in the true sense of the word, but there are several things that make this sound plausible. Firstly, my mum had Ivor Cutler records in her box of singles. Secondly, as children, we were all brought up at bath time singing “I am the boo boo bird” which features on Ivor Cutler of Y’Hup released in January 1959. This was usually accompanied by drying our parts that the bird mentions in the song, with a towel while standing on the toilet lid. When singing “I’m Invisible”, we covered ourselves completely in the towel, and for some reason added the line “They all dropped off”
If you want to listen to the Boo Boo bird and hear the Harmonium, the clip is below. I’ve emailed my aunt for more details. Did the crocodile have any parts in films or was the Seagull the bread-winner?
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.
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.