It’s about the time of year…

When I realise just how much I love living in London.   If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might remember one or two little odes to the place I live and love… London, beautiful city, for instance, and today was another of those sparkling autumn days when the grey bricks and mortar of sprawling London town come alive.

Let’s face it, I’d been expecting to write about the new website, which is launching, as some of you may already know, on Monday, or might it be Tuesday now?… be sure to watch this space,… and be even more sure to let us know what you think.

However, I can’t write about that at all, not even a whisper. Colin forbad it. “Are you crazy person?” he told me. “We cannot possibly cope with the entire traffic of your blog hitting the website on the first hour of the first day. It will totally melt“.  That was the conclusion of a conversation where I had walked into the shop office and Colin had asked me if I wanted to lunch on Monday or Tuesday.

I was a bit mystified but settled on Tuesday. I was just thinking that I don’t really do lunch at all when I realised that Colin, who is French, was talking about something entirely different: the launch of the website. (In other words, let us know gently if you find any spelling mistakes…).

Well, luckily, there are other things to write about.  It was just another day, really.  Yesterday, in the grim rain and the first really cold day of winter, had been a bit of a wipe out. I ventured to have my hair cut on Lambs Conduit Street, near-deserted in the dreadful freezing gloom. I scuttled home as quickly as I could, and lit a fire, and had the quietest evening in imaginable.  Ben Pentreath’s exciting life, hey?

This morning by contrast dawned bright and cold and clear. I had made a plan with Maggie, our neighbouring shopkeeper, to head down to the V&A to have a little glimpse at ‘TOMORROW”… the installation by Elmgreen & Dragsett that I had been reading a bit about recently. First, I wanted to get my car deep cleaned, to get rid of months of filth. My usual plan at that moment is to drop it off and have breakfast next door at the Zetter.  The car cleaning company was closed for another hour. Well, how would you fill an hour early on a Sunday morning when the sun is shining in East London? Yes, a trip to Columbia Road.

I hadn’t been to Columbia Flower Market for I can’t remember how long. Which is strange, because it used to be a very regular occurrence for Mags and me.  I guess one day we  woke up and cynically realised that cut flowers from Waitrose do tend to last about 3 times as long as those luscious bunches of Columbia Road tulips… and then the Old Parsonage began to happen… which dragged my Sunday mornings in a very different direction… and with one thing and another… habits changed. So it was with a lot of happiness that we sped along through the deserted streets of Shoreditch to the market.

“they’re not artificial, honest” said the trader with a twinkle in his eye as I stared at these.

“I guess it’s really not the time of year for tulips, is it” said Maggie… as we turned around to find these:

Although I was quite taken by these:

The whole street, for those who have not visited, is lined with fantastic little shops with interesting people doing interesting things. I think that most of the shops are only open on a Sunday, maybe Wednesday’s too.  My sort of shop.

It’s a very good vibe. I realised how much I’d missed Columbia Road.

I popped around the corner to enjoy the beautiful little streets of Barnet Grove.  Bridie’s old stomping ground, from the days when I first met her – we were introduced by our friends Maisie Rowe and Thomas Heatherwick, who this week catapulted to new heights with the launch of the Garden Bridge Trust to build his beautiful bridge across the Thames. Drop a comment to the consultation if you are able.

I have a feeling this was Bridie’s old flat somewhere along here:

which is where I first saw her corals on black plinths, and wax models of dead sparrows… twisted bliss.

Of course you may be wondering about Sivill House – the tower block behind. You can read a bit more about it in one of the more intriguing blogs I’ve read in a little while, here.   I know I shouldn’t, but I like Sivill House.

I know I shouldn’t, but I also rather like the fact that no-one has taken this shop in hand. Columbia Market beyond.

I’m not normally in favour of motivational mottos, but I admit I am very in favour of Dolly Parton, courtesy of ‘J&B’ shop on the south side of Coumbia Road.

I’m also in favour of a coffee shop that is 2′-0″ wide. Delicious coffee from Start.

To be fair, every corner presents what I sometimes have been known to call a ‘bloggortunity’.

I was very in favour of the aesthetic at H. H. Jones, at Number 114.

And I was very happy to buy masses of sedums for my new roof terrace from this happy Kiwi, who it has to be said seemed a bit more interested in his bacon buttie than in driving home sales.  His stall was exactly what I was looking for.

We were on our way out when Maggie bumped into Liz de Havilland, wife of Terry de Havilland, the self-styled ‘Rock & Roll Cobbler’ and king of 70s London. We found Terry peacefully doing the crosswords in the car around the corner, while Liz bought her flowers. My sort of rock and roll.

Thank god for that yellow car parked outside the zany Victorian flats at the top end of Columbia Road.


Next stop, South Kensington, collecting Will on the way, and meeting Luke who’s just joined the decoration.

Talk about a tale of two cities.  (Frenchmen walking their spaniel in South Ken. Bliss.).

The V&A is, I regret to say, another place which I haven’t visited (properly) for years.

‘Tomorrow’ presents the fictional apartment of aging architect Norman Swann. We sort of liked it, but sort of thought could be better.

I LOVED, however, this little glimpse to the now hidden ceiling of some long-lost ancient gallery.

Back downstairs, the entrance glowed in the brilliant sunshine.

After lunch we decided to blast up to the ceramic gallery for a two minute crazy moment.

It’s rooms like this that makes Will a minimalist architect.

It’s not really my thing, but I do kindof dig the marble columns back downstairs.

Back home, there was a beautiful glow in the afternoon sunlight.

Yay! At last!! (not for one minute my own work: thanks to my friend Mike of Burton Landscapes down in Dorset for the trellis and installation, and my friend Robin for the beautifully done planting). I’m so happy.

I potted up a few more bulbs, and at that point should have really got on with a bit more work. The afternoon was still too beautiful.  I went for a final walk.

A good day to blow bubbles in Queen Square.

The superb newly painted facade of the Post Office Sorting Office, at Mount Pleasant. I’ve tried a quick search on the internet to see if I could find out who is responsible for this completely brilliant scheme. Does anyone know? I’d love to find out.

I loved the rows of post vans looking back to the Post Office tower.

And I loved this road sign to help everyone around. One of these days it would be nice to write a little blog about Post Office style. I was fascinated to note the Post Office Archive around the corner. A visit is probably due.

I carried on up the hill towards Islington, and took a few final shots as the sun went down:

And then Val called from New York, with lots of exciting news, and it was time to put the camera away.

London, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love you.

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