January 23, 2008

LEG Soho with Andy Duncan

One of the first stops was St Anne's Churchyard. The original Soho parish church was built 1677-1685 and has been rebuilt several times. There are over 100,000 people buried in the small area around the church. In 1853, the Burials Acts forbade further internments but the ashes of author Dorothy L Sayers (she was the 1952-57 churchwarden) are buried beneath SP Cockerell's 1803 tower, the only part of the church to survive the Blitz.

Andy explained that the Soho leases were for 49 years (vs the more typical 99 years) and so much of Soho was rebuilt by the 1720-1730s.

The House of St. Barnabas, a women's shelter charity, is a Grade I listed building with fabulous interiors. Soho has many, many blue plaques. Karl Marx and his family lived in 2 rooms in what is now a Grade I listed building with a "Quo Vadis" sign out front.

In 1854, the physician John Snow proved that cholera came from water (not the air as most thought). He plotted the location of cholera cases he was treating and thought that a great many of his patients drank water from a pump on Broad(wick) Street. He broke off the handle of that pump and the number of cholera cases diminished. A replica of that pump, without handle, commemorates this discovery.

By the mid-1800s, all of the respectable familes had moved out and the French Huguenots, artisans, and other groups that make up the character of Soho moved in. When the clock strikes 1, Karl Marx takes a swig of cola on this colorful Carnaby Street mural.

January 13, 2008

Chris Rock at the Apollo Hamersmith

As an ardent fan of "Everbody Hates Chris", I just had to see Chris Rock (photo courtesy of The Guardian) when he performed at the Apollo Hammersmith in London. Although Chris's stand-up routine was much more "adult" than his sit-com, we still enjoyed most of it. We liked his warm-up comic too but did not catch his name.

This was our first visit to the Apollo Hammersmith. It was very accessible to Kew e.g., the show ended at 11 pm and we were home by 11:30. Drinks are priced reasonably and you can buy a hot dog for dinner if you are really hungry. Theatre Monkey implied my seats would be horrible but we could see and hear well enough (although we were WAY too far back to see any detailed expressions). The theatre was too warm and quite cramped.

We were sandwiched between 2 couples - all of us naively made sure we were seated 10 minutes before the reported show time of 8pm. The warm up act did not start until 8:15 pm and ended about 8:45 pm. Chris Rock came on about 9:10 pm and talked without stopping until about 11:00 pm.

The couple on the left was black, and Kris said the woman chuckled but did not find anything overly hilarious. The couple to my right was white and had flown in from Glasgow to see the show. The man laughed uproariously at just about everything Chris said - the effort of getting from Glasgow to Hammersmith was obviously worthwhile for him. Kris and I were in the middle (literally and figuratively).

LEG North Kensington with Andy Duncan

Most London Explorer Group (LEG) walks are led by Dr. Andy Duncan, author of Walking London, Secret London and other London walking guides. There are similarities to London Original Walks except Andy's audiences and locales are more local / less touristy - think Brits vs. tourists and North Kensington vs. Jack The Ripper. Andy also e-mails you directions to the first stopping point in case you are late.

We met at Ladbroke grove and walked to Powis Square Gardens, at one time one of the Peter (born Perec) Rachman slums. Peter Rachman was a slumlord who, by a variety of nefarious means, evicted existing tenants and replaced them with Afro-Caribe immigrants who were forced to live in smaller spaces at much higher rents. The living conditions were deplorable but other landlords in London refused to rent to "people of colour".

On the same square is the Tabernacle, owned by the city and site of a series of unsuccessful council enterprises. Also located here is a church whose builders ran out of money before they could finish the tower. The area is now gentrified, expensive and near to Portobello Market and the famous Notting Hill Carnival.

This photo includes Trellick Tower, the Muslim Cultural Centre and Westway Association Greenspace. The Westbourne Studios, skateboard park, and low-rise housing are just out of view. Andy spent much of the tour explaining the fascinating history of the Grade II listed Trellick tower and the Westway Association - a story of the mistakes and successes of trying to provide suitable housing and green-space for the economically disadvantaged.

The Emslie Horniman Pleasance is an acre of land containing a listed garden and a Voysey cottage. Unfortunately, the garden was vandalised so many times that it had to be put behind bars for its protection.

We walked along the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal to admire Elvis. Longboats are tied up along the Kensal Green Cemetary where dignitaries such as the Brunels, Fanny Kemble and Trollope are buried.

We were also shown the Paddington Train Crash memorial and site of the Rillington murders.

January 11, 2008

Raji and Cross-Stitch Swan

Finally, the "Swan" has been completed and placed safely in Raji's hands. She plans to bring it to India for framing and swears she loves it (she knows how challenging crafts projects are for me). This has been my biggest project by far - my next project will be a Kew Pagoda bookmark.