A thing that I like about WordPress is that it allows you to check where people who read this here blog have come from, and what they were looking for when they came here. John Snow is popular, as is 28 Days Later. One that’s come up in various different forms today is the question of things to do on a Sunday in London, which suggests that everyone else is as bored as me. If you’ve got kids, I suggest the Natural History Museum or London Zoo. If not, I suggest one of the markets or getting drunk.
I myself am currently at my ‘rents’ house, having been to Beaulieu in Hampshire yesterday with the da and the bro. Managed to pick up a rather nifty cane, which will join the others in my collection after I’ve done some restoration work. Unfortunately, this means that I am some distance from my computer at home, which includes my library of photos. Therefore, the entry I was going to write today is going to be deferred to Wednesday. Except I’m out to dinner with some former colleagues on Wednesday, so it’ll be put up on Tuesday. I wouldn’t want to disappoint my loyal readers, however, and I hope you’ll both enjoy this slightly-cobbled-together entry about a couple of shops I like. Pics to follow later.
I have to admit to being a sucker for retro. That’s why I have a collection of antique canes. That’s why I own a 1920s tailcoat, despite having literally no reason for wearing such a thing. Some guys like wearing rubber. Some like wearing women’s clothes. I like parading around dressed in clothes that were first fashionable no less than forty-five years ago.
Radio Days, therefore, is right up my street. Actually, that’s not quite correct – it’s right up Lower Marsh in Waterloo. This, like Marchmont Street in Bloomsbury, is just off the tourist routes, making it a rare example of a Central (ish) London street that’s quirky, but still serves the people who actually live there. It’s cool and arty without being self-consciously so. Radio Days, at the Southwark end, is the kind of shop that perfectly exemplifies this.
Part vintage fashion boutique and part antique shop, Radio Days is a treat for the enthusiast of the retro. The term “Aladdin’s cave” is massively overused, but nevertheless that’s the feeling you get from rummaging through the organised chaos of this place. Here’s a stack of 1960s magazines. There’s a rack of scarves and gloves. Yonder a display of 1940s nylons. Mid-century sunglasses rub metaphorical shoulders with stylish movie posters. There’s even a tin of old-fashioned sweets on the counter, which is a lovely touch. That’s just as you come in.
Then you get to the real meat of the shop – the clothing section. They carry a wide and eclectic selection of merchandise, much of which is helpfully labelled with the decade of origin. Everything is easy to find – much as I like the Stables Market in Camden, you really have to hunt for what you’re looking for. In Radio Days, if you want shoes they’ll be here. If you want underwear, it’ll be here. If I were a costume designer, or just looking for a fancy dress costume a cut above, Radio Days would be my first stop. Indeed, with the Old and Young Vics just down the road and the West End a short walk away, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do a lot of their business there.
Overall, it seems to be a shop run by people who know what they’re doing, for people who know what they’re looking for. This is reflected in the prices. While they aren’t the lowest in London, they’re very reasonable. You won’t get ripped off, a risk with vintage places. And there are bargains to be found – I once bought a 1940s evening cane there for £25, which is a fantastic price by any standards. If you’re into retro, for your home or your wardrobe, I would unhesitatingly suggest a visit here.
I’ve heard Gosh! Comics in Bloomsbury described as “the best comic shop in London,” and you know what? I agree. It’s easy to find, being practically opposite the British Museum on Russell Street. It’s not as large as the more-famous Forbidden Planet, but the selection of titles can’t be faulted.
Yr. Humble Chronicler is a fan of comics and, when I’m not writing blog entries, I’m a cartoonist of sorts. But the trouble with too many comic shops is that they tend to concentrate on the big boys – Marvel and DC in particular. Marvel are the owners of the Hulk, Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron man and many others, DC have Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman et al. It’s not that I dislike the work of these companies (although now the Marvel universe is ridiculously tangled in continuity and crossovers to the point at which no single title is remotely accessible to the newcomer), but their dominance of the market does nothing to help the stereotype that all comics are juvenile, macho rubbish full of spandex-clad berks beating each other up.
Gosh! Comics does stock the big boys, but the emphasis is on the more eclectic stuff – underground comix, indie graphic novels and collections of artwork. It’s a graphic art student’s wet dream with its selection of classic children’s picture books and offbeat work by lesser-known creators. It is, therefore, the perfect place to make new discoveries. There are a number of creators whose work I’ve only been introduced to because I saw them prominently displayed here (as opposed to stashed away on a shelf to one side, as is often the case).
The place also seems to be highly regarded among the professionals, given the calibre of people they have performing signings there. I was fortunate enough to attend a signing by the legendary Alan Moore. Nice bloke, as it happens. He even promised not to set fire to my office, which was good of him. I was at another by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, purveyors of quality Victoriana such as Leviathan and Scarlet Traces. They’ve also had signings by Kevin O’Neill (distinguished for being banned under the Comics Code Authority for being too mental), Gilbert Shelton (creator of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) and Joe Sacco (of the acclaimed Palestine and other documentary graphic novels).
If you’re a comics fan, and you’re considering visiting Forbidden Planet, I suggest a brief detour to Gosh!. I guarantee pleasant surprises.