Archive for fitzrovia

Ghosts of the past – Walk This Way!

Posted in LONDON (JAUNTS) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2008 by echostains
St Pauls the indominable Dome

St Pauls the indominable Dome

No trip to London is complete without going on an organised walk (or two).  What better way is there to inbibe the history as well as getting good exercise?  According to the Walking guides, it is ‘The Jack The Ripper’ walks that are the most popular.  They can get up to 300 people at any one time: they need 3 guides for that!    We went on one a long time ago and have never forgotten it.  Those locations are still there and that’s part of the fascination I suppose; that ‘On this Spot’ etc.  Armed with the fact, theories and the tourist’s imagination, a vivid picture soon emerges.

Gaslit London

Gaslit London

Another walk we went on a while ago was ‘Bohemians and Bluestockings’.  This walk explored the lives of artists and writer that lived in Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia in the 1920s and beyond.  It was a very windy day and some building work was going on.  We staggered round with our hair on end and sand in our eyes.  You could spot the Boho’s in our group….  It was very interesting though.  Walk your own way….

Tower is now a private residence




This  trip  though we went on 2 walks; ‘The  Blitz’ and ‘Apparitions’ Alleyways and Ale’  .  Both were with Londonwalks: both were excellent.

The Blitz walk was with Helena.  This walk is centred around St Pauls and surrounding area.  The empathy and respect she has for her subject, not to mention the painstaking knowledge and research she has put into her presentation is admirable.  I’m not going to give a running commentary of where we walked , that would defeat the object.  Suffice to say that Helena’s facts and anecdotes bring the scenes of the London Blitz alive.  Her cut glass accent sometimes breaks into broad cockney to retell a particular anecdote, the contrast shows a keen sense of humour and also a bit of acting ability, trying to bring the scene alive for the walkers.

St Pauls War wounds

St Pauls War wounds

It was hard to believe that this area was a sea of fire  and that hundreds died, but the way that Helena relates it, makes it all so vibrant and real.  The pock marked shrapnel ridden fabric of St Pauls bear witness to the battering of London.  The fact that it is still standing acts as a metaphor to the courage of the British people: from the young soldier to the tin hatted old man.  It was ‘business as usual’ for London.  (St Pauls Tube exit 2 )

 ‘Apparitions, Alleyway’s and Ale’ is a walk led by Russell Richardson.  And what a great walk it is!  Alleyways aplenty there are and you even get to sample some ale halfway though the walk – and you will need it.  Not for the squeamish.  Russell is an excellent guide, who truely loves his work.  He keeps an open mind on the subject., though has had some very odd encounters whilst on this walk.  Again, I can’t give away all the stuff we learned or the route we took: suffice to say that if you go, you won’t be sorry.  One allyway we went down, which is reputably haunted, we took photos.  Imagine our surprise when we saw ORBS!  The figure in the black coat and boots is me by the way.



A Bohemian at heart? or an Ass in Bohemia?

Posted in LONDON (JAUNTS) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2008 by echostains

French House pub and restaurant

Boho’s that we are (at heart) we were Pottering round Soho and popped into the French Bar, Dean Street. Packed out of course. The smokey atmosphere may be gone, thanks to the ban, but the pub still a kind of ‘aura’ lingering over it. This bar has a great history and some very interesting photo’s and art on the wall of bygone customers: all characters, nearly all dead.

The pub itself is lively enough though, full of all different ‘types’. Lol! Wonder what ‘type’ people would call us? (hence the title). Not keen on stereotyping myself: do not wish to join. However, one of the barmen was NOT very pleased about us taking pictures at all, he told us so in no uncertain terms-

‘Do you know, there are actors in here who don’t want to be recognised or photographed’ he said (in a very loud stage whisper lol!)

Actors who don’t want to be photographed or recognised! A novel concept eh …… The beggers should take their chances the same as everyone else! After all it’s a pub, not an exclusive club (like the Colony Rooms, which we tried to gatecrash once… and failed). You’d have to be EXTREMELY ‘recognised’ by the owner to get in there: disguises must NOT be worn



The offended man himself was sporting a large handle bar ginger moustache, glasses and curly hair: a cross between Mr Pastry and Billy Childish (and yes, we have got a pic of him, it would be rude of me to put it on this blog though.. … oh OK then, if you insist: it’s not like anyone is going to see it..)


We did ask him if he WAS Billy, he said he wished he was. So did we. We like Billy, both as an artist (Stuckist) and a songwriter. In fact I must write about Childish later. But I digress as usual.



Earlier on we had gone to Fitzrovia. Now we ADORE Fitzrovia! I prefer it to Soho. All the interesting characters that used to hang round there. So many to write about, so many talented and interesting lives. Favorites include Bacon of course (got to write about the exhibition yet), John Deakin, FANTASTIC photographer and a well, not a nice character, but a character. John Minton, tragic artist. Nina Hamnett: artist in her own right and Queen of Bohemia, Jeffrey Bernard, the journalist.


We went in the Wheatchief which was one of Dylan Thomas’s haunts, though you wouldn’t know it as they don’t exactly draw attention to the fact. I’m sure there used to be a plaque or something over the seats called ‘Poets Corner’ , but that’s gone now. Him and Caitlin had many a Ding Dong in this pub. But then they had rows any time, anywhere.

Back at the French House, before we were interupted by the barman, this is what we were trying to taking photos of.

past customers

Amongst all the memorabilia on the walls, I was rather quite taken with these. Now I don’t know if they are actual little watercolour sketches, pen and ink drawings or just pieces of wall paper, but I just LOVE them and had to snap em! I can recognise a few of the artists in the drawings/paintings.  And I am sure that a lot of them would be really pleased to be remembered…….. and recognised.

gone but not forgotten