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A splash of Cologne

Enjoyable though the High Society exhibition was, it wasn’t exactly a full day out. Having opened the doors of perception and the like, Izzi and I felt the urge to do something to fill out those awkward late-afternoon-early-evening hours. That period that’s too late for afternoon stuff, but too early for evening stuff. Izzi suggested that a trip to the Cologne Christmas Market on the South Bank would be just the ticket, and I agreed.

Sign's out of date, mate.

While there is no shortage of German Christmas markets, particularly around Christmas (which I believe to be no coincidence), the one on the South Bank is worth a look by virtue of its size and location. It lies roughly between the London Eye and Waterloo Bridge, stopping a little short of both.

I find the South Bank a little awkward to get to from Waterloo Station. You have to duck down alleys, climb stairs, cross busy roads, traverse via subways or some combination thereof, none of which are particularly inviting. I blame the architects. Anyway, having finally got there, we scouted things out.

The Magic Roundabout is easily explained by modern science.

A stall that instantly attracted our attention was one selling gingerbread. Izzi took the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping, in the process acquiring rather more gingerbread than is considered sensible for one person to possess. I was rather taken by the gingerbread houses they had – I didn’t dare to believe that such things existed in this world. We consciously resisted the chocolate fountains, which as you may know are a device of Satan to lead immortal souls to hell. Izzi did reason that strawberries and apples are both fruit, and therefore the benefits of the fountain could be made to outweigh the costs. We did not pursue this line of reasoning any further.

I was rather impressed by a stand that sold nothing but watches, and found myself making a mental shopping list. You know what I rather like? Those ladies’ watches you get that come on chains. I think those look rather nifty. Personally, I favour something fairly plain in the watch line – those pocket watches with the Union Jack cast into the case are unspeakably naff.

I impressed no one with my inability to do a simple wooden puzzle on one of the stalls. I did briefly consider the purchase of a wooden tie. It’s hard to explain one of these things if you’ve never seen one before. It’s a piece of wood, carved into the shape of a tie and segmented for flexibility, the whole being attached to the neck by means of elastic.

I was also very tempted by a Venetian-style ceramic mask, and may yet return. It was one of those commedia del’arte jobbies, you know the sort of thing. This one was particularly grotesque – I believe the character it portrays is “Il Dottore,” which takes its visual inspiration from the seventeenth century plague doctors’ protective mask. Izzi, too, was this close to buying a lacy number. But while she thought it was nice, she didn’t think it was £30-nice, if you catch my drift.

There was also a stall selling liquorice, making much of its apparent health virtues – reducing stress, weight loss and the like. Quite apart from the fact that this is pseudoscientific bollocks with absolutely no basis in reality, this was just a sweet shop. The fellow wasn’t selling liquorice pills or even liquorice root. We’re talking liquorice allsorts here, people. I suppose in a sense he deserves something for sheer balls-out audacity, but I take my liquorice very seriously and so cannot support his enterprise.

"Rink." Now there's a funny word.

To go into everything we saw and did would take a long time and wouldn’t be very interesting anyway, so let it suffice that it’s a great place for getting those quirky stocking filler-type gifts as well as being a pleasant couple of hours in its own right. Combine it with a visit to the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall or any of the myriad other leisure facilities on the South Bank and you got yourself a day out. If that doesn’t float your boat, there’s an ice skating rink just in front of the London Eye, which is an unrivalled opportunity to test the resilience of your coccyx.

It runs until 23rd December, so you’ve got plenty of time. Tell them I sent ya. They won’t know who I am, but you know.

Further Reading

http://www.xmas-markets.com/en/ – The official site.


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Filed under Current events, Food, London, Markets, Rambling on and on, tourism, Waterloo and Southwark, Weird shops


Prior to tomorrow’s actual entry, I’ve been surfing YouTube for documentary footage. I love old public information films and I can’t explain why. Here are some items that may be of interest to London-liking folk.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fABILtla_lE&feature=channel – Blackfriars Bridge, 1896

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJi7x2QIO-8&feature=channel – London Bridge, thirty years later, in colour. Gives you a brief snapshot of just how busy the Pool of London was in those pre-war days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9_gjh_YTJ0&feature=channel – The Houses of Parliament, 1926, again in colour. Surprisingly little has changed since this was filmed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipAYUpqDVNI&NR=1 – Some Bright Young Things in Hyde Park. This colour footage was all shot by Claude Friese-Green for a film called ‘The Open Road’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzeBDcmrjjY&feature=channel – Petticoat Lane, London. Some fine footage of what the gentleman-about-town was wearing in the Roaring Twenties. Hats, mostly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwvX8P0ZRKE&NR=1 – Taking in the sights at St James’s Palace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LGavykBbxM&feature=channel – ‘Colour on the Thames’ from 1935. Highlights include Richmond and construction of the ugly Hungerford Bridge. The heavily industrialised Pool of London is unrecognisable but for the few landmarks that survive. As for the Docklands, you wouldn’t know it was the same place today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Slk1KCQPolE&feature=related – The London Underground in 1963, including Upminster Depot, Loughton Station and signalling at Camden Town.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B92MnoPVtGs&feature=related – Coffee shops in London in the 1960s. Some fine footage of Soho. I particularly like the square narrator trying to be “down with the kids” and the supremely wooden proprietor complaining about overheads.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvFeZqv7WuQ&feature=related – King’s Road, Chelsea, 1967.

That’s all for now, chums, but stay tuned tomorrow for another exciting installment of London Particulars! G’bye now!

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Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Arts, Buildings and architecture, Camden, chelsea, East End and Docklands, Film and TV, Food, Geography, History, Kingston, London, london bridge, London Underground, Psychogeography, Richmond and Twickenham, Shopping, Soho, Suburbia, Thames, The City, Transport, Waterloo and Southwark, Weird shops, West End, Westminster