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.
"All the Years of Trying" by Patrik Fitzgerald, taken from the documentary of the same name, is a modernized version of one of his old songs. The original Folk Punk (and Backstreet Boy) is still making music. [more inside]
An amazing image of London taken from the top of the BT Tower has set a new record for the world’s largest panoramic photo. The image shows a full 360 degree view of London in incredible detail. [more inside]
"With a time-lapse camera, it would appear that London is pulsing as generations and ethnic groups move up and move out." The BBC reports that something quite remarkable happened in London in the first decade of the new millennium. The number of white British people in the capital fell by 620,000 - equivalent to the entire population of Glasgow moving out. [more inside]
The Framers Gallery in London is currently hosting Teh Exhibishun, an exhibition of lolcat art. Special guest is Kate Miltner, author of SRSLY PHENOMENAL: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE APPEAL OF LOLCATS [MA dissertation, pdf available on her website]. Admission is free, but 50% of all proceeds collected will go to Battersea Home for Dogs and Cats. The BBC is there (with video) to speak with curator Jenny Theolin, some of the artists, and Miltner.
The journey with no destination.
"We board in northwest London on a regular bus, with the intention of heading into the heart of the capital, where there is a much greater choice of night buses when it gets later and colder. By now the group seem to have fully accepted my presence and are keen to tell me about their lives. The most pressing question I have is: why? Why would you eschew safety and warmth and comfort for this? It turns out that while a couple of kids might be along for the ride, for most this is their only option.
A boy with huge brown eyes, who is so small he barely looks older than 12, tells me: “I’m allowed home in early mornings to have some food and change my clothes, but I have to be gone by the time my mum wakes up.” When I ask him why, he shrugs, as if the answer is forgotten or irrelevant."
A London resident named Steven Whyley has just finished running the courses of all of London's Underground routes to raise money for brain cancer research. But because this is MetaFilter, it's interesting to note that he did so in honor of another, younger person who was also raising money for brain cancer -- until he succumbed to the same disease. [more inside]
Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
ShortList has been reviewing British high-end (gourmet) burgers for the last few months. [more inside]
Bomb Sight is an interactive map of every bomb dropped on London during the Blitz.
The winners and runners-up in the second annual Shit London photography awards, celebrating the city's ugliest buildings, worst shop names and most depressing views (Guardian.co.uk)
Lets Swim To Work! "Centuries of boat traffic, heavy industry, sewage runoff and toxic dumping have ingrained in us the idea that urban waterways are not places for people. Even as cities have rushed to the water’s edge over the past couple of decades, building elaborate waterfront parks and esplanades, few have taken the next logical step: encouraging residents to dive in." [more inside]
Every few minutes of the day, all over the capital, people gather into small groups to share the same space and fleeting moment in time... simply to wait for something routine and forgettable as a London bus. In transient, with time to kill, and often among strangers, each collection of these individuals proves completely unique from the next. Each collection provides a little insight into London's incredible diversity, how they relate to their surroundings, and each other. The very deliberate intention with By the Bus Stop, was to capture those little moments which happen spontaneously, when the meeting of individuals is completely left to chance. [more inside]
Shakespeare: Globe to Globe was a series of 37 Shakespeare plays performed in 37 different languages presented at the reconstructed Shakespeare Globe theatre in London this summer. [more inside]
Heathrow Approach Planes lining up on approach to London Heathrow at 17x speed. Strangely hypnotic slyt.
The Eat Your Heart Out Cake Shop (NSFW), with cakes graphically illustrating medical conditions and symptoms of disease, will be open from October 26th-28th at London's Pathology Museum at St Bart's Hospital. [more inside]
London's River Fleet may be the best-known buried river, but there are examples around the world, including the Bievre in Paris, the Wein in Vienna (as featured in The Third Man), the Neglinnaya in Moscow, the Tank Stream in Sydney, the Minetta Brook in New York and the lost streams of Los Angeles. Some buried rivers are now being restored to the urban landscape. Why bury a river? Well, Ben Jonson's On the Famous Voyage gives an idea of what the Fleet was like in the 17th Century. [more inside]