Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Well we had a fascinating weekend in London, we saw lots of interesting parts of the city, which were totally new to me. Thanks to Orynthia’s auntie we also discovered the joys of the bus service in London. Normally we tend to get around town using the underground, however on this occasion we were staying in West Norward, a part of south London which has no underground station anywhere near it. The good news was that for just £2.50 a day you can get unlimited bus travel anywhere in London, and the great thing about buses is they go almost everywhere, so we had great fun hoping on and off virtually any bus we saw, consequently we saved our legs from an awful lot of walking.

You can see pictures from our visit here.As we were staying in South London, we decided to start our Saturday morning with a trip to Tooting Bec Lido. The sun was shining and the simple Art Deco beauty of the huge pool was easy to appreciate. The pool itself is twice the length of a standard Olympic pool, the men and women swimming did confuse me somewhat. I have to admit that I am a non swimmer, so just about the only time I see swimming taking place is during events like the Olympics, consequently I was amazed at the slow (but elegant) pace of the simmers as they eased their way up down the considerable length of the pool. I mentioned this to Orynthia (who goes swimming every week) and of course she laughed at my naivety, all these years I’d thought of swimming as being a full throttle attempt to get to the end of the pool as soon as possible, when in fact the exact opposite appears to be the case.

Our next stop was the rather more modern Peckham Library. As we approached the library we had a great view of the energetically buzzing streets of Peckham from the top floor of a double-decker bus. A vast array of colourful food shops, selling produce from all corners of the world caught our eye, so after spending some time in the spectacular Will Alsop designed Library, we spent some time walking the streets of this exciting and chaotic neighbourhood. We stopped off in one of the many Caribbean food shops to purchase the odd sounding (and looking) “Bun & Cheese”, which consisted on two huge slice of a sort of moist fruit loaf, with a slice of cheese in the middle. Unorthodox and tasty, caught the mood of the area perfectly.

Our next location was at the very heart of orthodox and traditional London, 120 Fleet Street the former home of both the Daily and Sunday Express. I’ve always love the cool black simplicity of the exterior of this classic Art Deco building and now following a whopping £5 000, 000 restoration, we had a chance to see the stunning lobby area. Understandably this visit meant our first period of queuing, luckily we only had to wait around 30 minutes, the time passed quickly as we chatted with the person in front of us, who knew Bristol as she had gone to University here. So we spent quite a while telling her about places we had visited on previous open doors days in Bristol, as well as the “what have you seen”, “where are going next” time conversion which is an integral part of these sort of events. Once we got inside the lobby was well worth the wait, amazing detailing and design couple with opulent grandeur made it a very special place.

After missing out on a tour of BBC Bush House, we stopped for a coffee in Somerset House before heading up to Bloomsbury for a visit to The Horse Hospital. My former colleague RLF played a gig there recently and his description made we want to check out this very intriguing art’s space. It’s an independently funded centre for experimental art of various types on the upper floor, combined with a costume storage unit in the basement, which is accessed via a very steep winding path, complete with chunky wooden breaks. Very odd and very old it was a good place to end our exertions for the first day as the rain fell heavily.

Sunday morning dawned clear and bright and we jumped on a bus heading towards Streatham. Our destination here was the classic collection of 1930’s flats called Pullman Court. We fell in love with this place, probably helped by the lovely guides who took their time to explain about the architectural history and the practicalities of living in a place like this, we really felt at home. It was great to hear that after decades of neglect people have started to really value the building and restoration and repairs and being made in order to ensure that this place lasts for many more years.

After a bit of bus confusion in the Brixton area, it was back to Peckham to look at another 1930’s gem “The Pioneer Centre”. Before the guided tour began, we managed to sneak in a quick visit to Quay House a converted milk depot, which had lots of interesting features. Then it was back to “The Pioneer Centre” home of the so called Peckham experiment of the 1930’s, it was built as a place was doctors could monitor the affect of exercise and socialising would have on the health of the local residents who used the place. It’s worth reading further on the history of that idea, but I’m not going to bog you down with loads of text on that here. What I will say though is that the original architect for the property was Owen Williams, the same man who did the external work at 120 Fleet Street. We were taken on a tour of the property by the of the guys who now own flats in the building, once again their enthusiasm for the place was infectious. It featured as incredible internal swimming pool and a huge roof terrace, giving spectacular views over London.

Time then for our final destination. This time in the very heart of the London establishment, a private members club – The Lansdowne Club just off Berkeley square. A strange mixture of styles here, the place was originally built in 1763 by Robert Adam for the Marquess of Bute, before becoming transformed into a club with loads of glorious Art Deco rooms in the 1930’s. it was a fitting end to a fantastic weekend.


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