London Cafe Culture

After the post about Geoffrey Fletcher, I thought Id follow up with some stuff about cafes in London. Mentioning it to Rob Annable after he picked up on The London Nobody Knows post reminded me that I had first seen classiccafes.co.uk on his blog, so cool points to him.
Ive been a fan for many years, having regularly visited the Edgware Road Caf, the New Piccadilly, and even the Egg Timer in Oxford Street in the eighties. The Odd Spot was also a favourite - though Ive not been there for some time now.
This photo is of the infamous Ace Cafe, on Hanger Lane - haunt of Rocker Bikers and Vintage Car people. [Mods are to be seen there, furtively hanging round in the background....] The flyers for coming events advertise 'Ride to Brighton with the Rockers' and so forth. The stuff of dreams.


The London Nobody Knows

I've been reading an excellent book recently. I found it in the gutter, thrown out as part of a full house clearance [presumably after a death], and along with copies of a few Neville Shute paperbacks, I picked it up, intrigued by the title: The London Nobody Knows, by Geoffrey Fletcher.

First published in 1962, my copy is the Penguin [first?] edition, from 1965. It's remit is the seedy downtrodden side of the capital, and includes anything from old market halls to public conveniences and victorian gas lamps. Camden Town is covered extensively, as is the East End Commercial Road, and the old Dock areas of Rotherhythe and Greenwich. Illustrations, by Fletcher, feature throughout, of churches, pubs, music halls and old cafeterias.

On further research I discovered that the book was developed into a BBC documentary, first screened in 1967, [titled 'The London Nobody Knows'], and fronted by none other than James Mason, the actor.

The author, Geoffrey Fletcher, was an artist journalist, making his name with regular columns in newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and The Times Literary Supplement. He loved the passing visions of London, perhaps more apparent to the outsider who comes to settle there: he was from Bolton, Lancashire.

Apparently, the group St Etienne are fans, Bob Stanley waxes lyrical for this Guardian piece from 2003. The group screened the documentary, along with their own film, at a show in the Barbican that year.

Some other books by Geoffrey Fletcher include:
Town's Eye View
City Sights
London Overlooked [illustration example]
London's River
Pearly Kingdom
a comprehensive list of his books, and another, not all available.


Motor Racing - A Brief History of Brooklands Race Track

As my interest in music slowly wanes, I am more and more drawn to motor racing, in all its forms.
Last weekend we motored over in the Lotus Elite [1978] to the famous Brooklands racing circuit, or what's left of it, on the outskirts of London. As far as I know, Brooklands was one of the first purpose built racing circuits in the world, and it's steep banking is legendary.

Although most of the track is now gone, sold off to developers, the main stretch is preserved, along with the sheds that the teams used - people like Malcolm Cambell, father of Donald, both land and water speed record holders in their time, amongst others. Great names are painted meticulously on the shed doors, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, MG and so on.

The museum holds a fantastic collection of vintage cars, but we went when it was closed, so missed that.
Thing was, as it was closed, it afforded us a peak into a lost silent world of memories and imagination, as noone was about.

You could easily conjour up the beasts that hurtled their way over the stone pebbled concrete track, up the banking and pounding round the corners with their huge engines roaring. There was even a 'test hill' built, in order to test brakes and speed. It was all stunning. They even used the main track as an airfield in both wars.

The eeriest part came when we discovered the field filled with all the 'lost aircraft' parked up. 'British Sea Ferries', BOAC, RAF test planes and others I didn't recognize. And the surprise treat was seeing the nose of Concorde poking out of an enormous marquee, being completely rebuilt and restored, ready to go on show as part of the museum.
The conversation on the way home went along the lines of 'Where have all the great British Engineers gone?'.


Bombs and Death Suck

They screened an atomic bomb special on TV a couple of nights ago. I watched as the events of Hiroshima unfolded, told in documentary style, in the hours leading up to the blast.

I dreamt about what I saw.

This photo is part of the yahoo collection showing the 60th anniversary memorials in Japan, to mark the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

I'm not saying the war being fought at the time by the Japanese wasn't horrendously cruel and barbaric, but the innocent people targeted - can that ever be justified?


Helpline Vlog Post

A new video post for The Nerd Helpline, a short of Meanwhile Gardens Skate Park. And very nice it is too.


Digital Music Sucks

Bruce Sterling's moaning on about how digital music has eroded the concept of Hi Fi, so now we all have sucky quality tracks by sucky quality artists [allegedly]....no wonder no one's complaining. [Eh? As in, crappy artists make crappy music anyway....]

The article he quotes appears in wired, and should be read by any music type person, just so's we know what we're all getting for our money.


The Dying Music Press

Hahaha, one good thing to come out of the recent 'troubles' has been my discovery of the fuckthenme site. [Ref found here] Check it out while it's still there. A complete copy, down to all the right logos and layout. Very funny, it also appears to use a picture of Pete Voss in place of Liam Gallagher, which if you were familiar with the man, is very funny indeed.

I don't know if it's the same in other supermarkets, but my cathedral size Tesco has started to stock about 3 copies of the NME, max, as if they stock more, 'they just sit there'. Well, it is sh*t these days, but then again, I'm a grown up. I can't remember the time when I was young though, when I wanted the NME to be like Smash Hits.....odd times indeed eh.

I read the Fly [free, monthly], and have also sampled Artrocker [£1.40, bi-weekly], two fine publications, although both, especially Artrocker, far too absorbed by their own self importance to make any real inroads in the marketplace. When most of what's featured is only of passing interest, it's just a matter of time before they both give up the ghost. I don't count glossy mags, as they are usually over £4, so out of reach to alot of 'young people'.

Nobody cares though, and that's the biggest reason to stop buying any of 'em.