A parakeet infestation that started when Humphrey Bogart left the door to the set of The African Queen open, pigeons taking the Tube, foxes learning to sit pretty for sausages, a colony of pigeon eating pelicans gifted by a Russian ambassador in 1664 and underwater warfare between rival gangs of invasive crayfish species are just some of the miracles found in the unnatural history of London's wildlife.
"This year of grace, 2013, sees the 150th anniversary of the London Underground Railway (tube). In honour of this occasion, we thought we would give you a little church crawl around the circle line...Over the coming weeks we will take you around each station on the Circular line and show you not only the station, but also a church and a place of interest, so that those of you who are impeded by distance or other reasons from seeing the delights that central London has to offer in the flesh may not be bereft of some of the experience." The Watts Church Crawl. [more inside]
Tim Derbyshire, owner of London's On the Beat Records, has put his entire store up for bid on eBay. Says the NYT: "[Derbyshire] has decided to retire but would prefer not to just pack up and go. Nor is he keen on having an everything-must-go sale. His preference is to leave the shop as it is, with its stock of singles, albums, posters and 1960s through 1980s memorabilia intact, and turn over the keys to a record fanatic who will run it more or less as he has, since the late 1970s." The buy-it-now price is £300,000.
Bob Dylan is a welder and he makes big iron gates out of scrap metal. You can see for yourself at Castle Gallery in London for the next couple of months. Says Bob: "Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference."
Meet the Somalis is a series of short comics depicting the various experiences of fourteen Somali immigrants in cities across northern Europe.
"Perhaps, in some way, the suburbs encapsulate the British identity in a way that the cities don't any more – small dramas playing out beyond the stations without barriers, rather than the heavily policed, heavily funded bourgeois ghettos of the inner cities."
A website by Luke Taylor has all you ever needed to know about the London pigeon.
Yesterday, Tatyana McFadden, a ten-time Paralympic track medalist, became the first athlete in history to win the "Grand Slam" of marathon racing, having won the 2013 women's wheelchair athlete divisions in Boston, London, Chicago and now New York. [more inside]
Numerous "Stranger's Guides" written for 19th Century tourists can be found on the Internet Archive. A sample: New York (1828). Boston (1857). Washington DC (1884). Montreal (1872). London (1828). Paris (1822). United States and Canada (1838).
Ayn Rand: More Relevant Now than Ever
The speaker was the CEO of Saxo Bank, Lars Seier Christensen. As the head of an investment bank based in socialist Denmark, Christensen is particularly enraged by high taxation, social welfare and banking regulation. "The world is on the wrong track," he told us. "A malady that has long beset Europe is currently spreading to the US". Apparently we are experiencing a "socialist revival" to which "Ayn Rand is the only answer".
Take a fly-through tour of 17th century London! Six students from De Montfort University have created a 3D representation of London before the Great of Fire of 1666. The digital model is based on the area surrounding Thomas Farriner's bakery in Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire began. The project is the winning entry in the Off The Map competition, in which students were invited to build 3D models based on maps at the British Library.
Now it is beginning to feel that the next phase of London’s history will be one of transience, with no allegiance to the city. (slNYT)
"It's about coming together as a local community and sharing the fruits of your labour, your creation." In what has been described as a peer-to-peer community marketplace, people are connecting online with local cooks, who provide them with a meal for less than they would be likely to pay anywhere else. In Athens, the price is usually between three and four euros (£2.50 to £3.40). [more inside]
Zero Hours - For a workshop on future London, Arup, Social Life, Re.Work, Commonplace, Tim Maughan and Nesta created 10 Future Londoners for the year 2023. This one describes the working day of 19 year old Nicki, a zero hours retail contractor.
As the sun sinks slowly into Mayfair and the stars come out over Centre Point, the funster’s thoughts turn inexorably towards the bright lights and rundown neon of that square half-mile known as Soho, sin city nestling like a soiled Kleenex in the bosom of our great metropolis Soho 1983: A Girl's Guide To Peep Shows, Topless Bars & Nude Encounters
London’s coffee craze began in 1652 when Pasqua Rosée, the Greek servant of a coffee-loving British Levant merchant, opened London’s first coffeehouse (or rather, coffee shack) against the stone wall of St Michael’s churchyard in a labyrinth of alleys off Cornhill. Coffee was a smash hit; within a couple of years, Pasqua was selling over 600 dishes of coffee a day to the horror of the local tavern keepers. For anyone who’s ever tried seventeenth-century style coffee, this can come as something of a shock — unless, that is, you like your brew “black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love”, as an old Turkish proverb recommends, and shot through with grit.
British market-research firm Ipsos Mori has released the results of "The largest ever global study of the best city to do business in, live in, and visit." Interactive data here, more info here.
"The owners of the 37-story tower known as the Walkie Talkie in the City of London financial district are investigating a light beam cast by the building that’s so intense it melted parked cars." Jaguar owner Martin Lindsay was none too pleased by this evidence of the laws of physics. And architect Rafael Vinolyapparently hasn't learned from his previous hair-scorching design error in Las Vegas.
For £20 million you can buy your very own London
tube station underground military headquarters. [more inside]
London to Brighton, side by side. "In 1953 the BBC made a point-of-view film from a London to Brighton train. 30 years later it did the same again. And after another 30 years it did so once more." [more inside]
49 Years in the making, a map of how London Tube stops 'taste' to lexical-gustatory synaesthesia sufferer James Wannerton. [more inside]
"My first taste of Europe. My first realisation that a border is just a line – you cross it and nothing changes. No, everything changes. You are in another world, which is both exactly the same and entirely different." When you leave a country to live somewhere else, where is home?
The street photographer I share with you this week was a man born in Great Britain an entire century before Winogrand and Friedlander. His name was John Thomson (1837-1921) and it is known that he traveled the Far East taking photographs during much of the period between 1860-1879. When he returned to London, he began taking documentary photographs of everyday people on the streets of London. Via madamjujujive
Londoners have bad drain habits: the removal of a 15 tonne 'fatberg' from the sewers beneath the suburb of Kingston has brought this double decker bus-sized issue back into the headlines. [more inside]
Boris Johnson unveils a giant blue cock in Trafalgar Square, causing an outbreak of terrible puns. Hahn/Cock is the work of Katharina Fritsch, better known for her Rat-King sculpture. The colour is (probably) an homage to (NSFW) Yves Klein's favourite colour.
Pink Floyd's The Division Bell tour in 1994 was the highest-grossing tour in rock music history to that date, and featured spectacular special effects. For the first time since 1975, the band played the entirety of The Dark Side of the Moon in many of the tour's shows. On October 20, 1994 the concert at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London was filmed, and the subsequent documentary P•U•L•S•E: Live at Earls Court was released in 1995. Fullscreen. Widescreen. [more inside]
A survey by a high-end estate agent has revealed that there are more domestic servants in the exclusive London district of Mayfair now than 200 years ago, and indeed, in the élite London neighbourhoods which have been bought up by absentee oligarchs, often only the lights in the servants' quarters are on at night. For those who fancy a life of serving the super-rich, there are courses to prepare them for catering to their masters' exacting whims. But it's not all rosy at the top; the prices of luxury goods (including foie gras, Patek Philippe watches, paintings by artists such as Cézanne and Rothko) in the basket used to calculate the Affluent Luxury Living Index have been rising at a rate exceeding inflation.
It's debatable whether the troubled World War Z signals the end of the ongoing zombie craze, but the film that started it all is much more clear: Danny Boyle's bleak, artful cult horror-drama 28 Days Later, which saw its US premiere ten years ago this weekend. From its iconic opening shots of an eerily abandoned London (set to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's brooding post-rock epic "East Hastings") to the frenzied chaos of its climax, Boyle's film -- a dark yet humanist tale of a world eviscerated by a frighteningly contagious epidemic of murderous rage -- reinvented and reinvigorated the genre that Romero built (though many insist its rabid, sprinting berserkers don't really count). And while sequel 28 Weeks Later with its heavyhanded Iraq War allusions failed to live up to the original (despite boasting one of the most viscerally terrifying opening sequences in modern horror), and 28 Months looks increasingly unlikely, there remains a small universe of side content from the film, including music, short films, comics, and inspired-by games. [more inside]
At just after 2:20pm this afternoon, two men exited a crashed vehicle in Woolwich, South East London, close to the Royal Artillery Barracks near the corner of John Wilson St and Artillery Place. Armed with a knives, they proceeded to attack young male pedestrian. [more inside]
For your listening pleasure: Unearthing, an audio project by Alan Moore, with musical accompaniment from a "rock supergroup," to tell a vivid story of Shooter's Hill and one of its residents, Steve Moore (not related to Alan, but a long-time friend). [more inside]
South Bank, home to skateboarding in central London for 40 years, is to be turned into retail units. Part of South Bank, namely The Undercroft, has been hallowed ground to 3 generations of skateboarders. In response to plans to redevelop the site users have responded with a campaign to save the existing space, along with an attempt to have it classified as a village green. One skateboarding magazine ex-editor suggested the alternatives should be explored, but the skateboarders did not agree.
British capitalism already has many of the hallmarks of Brezhnev-era socialist decline: macroeconomic stagnation, a population as much too bored as scared to protest about very much, a state that performs tongue-in-cheek legitimacy, politicians playing with statistics to try and delay the moment of economic reckoning. Will Davies on the stagnation and repetition of neoliberal economic culture.
June 1874, and a peculiar sight could be spied over Chelsea. A hot-air balloon hovered a kilometre above the ground with the most curious of payloads dangling beneath: a gigantic bat with a human at its controls. (1 2)
"This video has been dramatically enhanced in quality, using modern video editing tools. The film has been motion stabilized and the speed has been slowed down to correct speed (from 18 fps to 24 fps) using special frame interpolation software that re-creates missing frames." Watch corrected and cleaned footage of circa 1900s London and Cork (5 min 35 sec). (via)
An archaeological excavation led by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has been quietly uncovering a site on the now-lost Walbrook River which they have dubbed the Pompeii of the north. [more inside]
The Free Help Guy found that he had nothing to do for six months. So decided to spend that time helping others with their "morally deserved, fun, interesting and different" projects. Today he's helping tourist Gillian Chin (@Geeliann) explore London with an Oyster Card, a warm hat and a series of clues to be solved by Twitter Followers.
Spitalfields Life is a blog about an East London neighbourhood. Sometimes it's about the dogs of Spitalfields. Sometimes it's about the wallpapers of Spitalfields. Or the leather shops of Spitalfields. Or people in Spitalfields who collect pictures of dogs. [more inside]
In this virtual exhibition you can find out more about the people, buildings and plays that made Yiddish theatre in London so special, as well as explore the unique collection of Yiddish theatre photographs, documents and objects held at the Jewish Museum London.
Jungle Fever, a 1994 Documentary from Canal+ on the origins of Drum & Bass with some live footage, and interviews with MC's, DJs and producers. It's en Français, but most of the interviews are in English.
The first District line train out of Upminster in the morning is the first train anywhere on the underground network. It leaves the depot at 4.53, the only train anywhere in the system to set out from its base before 5am ... if you catch that train, you might be tempted to say ta-dah!—except you probably wouldn't, because nobody is thinking ta-dah! at seven minutes to five in the morning; certainly nobody on this train. People look barely awake, barely even alive. They feel the same way they look; I know because, this morning, I'm one of them.John Lanchester on the experience, at once aversive and hypnotic, of catching the London Underground. Lanchester's article is an extract from his forthcoming entry in the new Penguin Lines series of tube-reading-friendly books released to commemorate the Underground's 150th anniversary. Meanwhile, the Guardian have compiled a collaborative Spotify playlist of songs that mention Tube stations, for those so inclined.