Tag Archives: waterloo

What’s for dinner, Tom?

I have a special little end-of-the-week ritual that I’d like to tell you about. You know how it is on a Friday – you’re running out of food in the house, you’re tired, you can’t really be arsed to cook. In my case, as I don’t even do a weekly shop to speak of, and am a terrible cook, these issues are particularly troublesome.

Fortunately, if you’re in the Waterloo area, help is at hand. I like to make a detour on my way home to the South Bank, where every weekend,  just in front of the Royal Festival Hall (or behind, if you’re approaching from the West End) is the Real Food Market. This varies from week to week, but it’s basically a place where independent food producers can sell their wares. Many of them will do you a nice takeaway, and there’s a seating area where you can munch on your purchases. I’ve been introduced here to Malaysian, Ghanaian and Polish food. Some of my favourite food people, including Outsider Tart and Jaz & Jul’s, are often there and so tend to be favoured ports of call. Sometimes it’ll be themed (e.g. “Free From,” chocolate) but you are always guaranteed to find something utterly delicious.

Unlike Becky B and the Hungry Sparrow, whose blogs may be found to the right, I’m not much of a foodie, but I know a good thing when I find it. What’s more, it’s a great place whether I’m on my way home or heading into town for a Friday night shindig – why line my stomach with toast when I could line it with bigos or chilli? And it beats the pants off a greasy kebab for a Friday night takeaway.

This week, I found myself enjoying a bit of a nostalgia trip. One of the retailers there this week was What the Dickens? Their thing is not, as you might have thought, unidentifiable and frightening food that causes one to utter their company name (those £5 buffets around Chinatown are far better for that sort of thing). Rather, they specialise in old-fashioned dishes that have been unjustly neglected. On their stand, these delightfully vintage-clothed gentlemen were serving bacon and scallop rolls (had one yesterday, a delicious variation on the bacon sandwich) and kedgeree.

Oh man, kedgeree. This is a slightly unfashionable dish that has never quite disappeared, but which I absolutely love. It’s a lightly-spiced rice dish containing smoked haddock, onion and hard-boiled egg, often served for breakfast but equally splendid at any time of the day. It’s one of my ma’s specialities and also one of the few dishes I can cook myself and happily serve to others. It can be eaten hot or cold, is very filling and is an excellent hangover cure, not being too heavy. There are various recipes – it’s very hard to mess up, so experimentation is fine.

Its origins are uncertain, as is the case with so many foods. But the most common explanation is that it came along during the days of the British empire in India and started out as an Anglicised form of khichri. The chaps on the stall said it originated with the Scottish regiments – certainly the addition of smoked fish is quite a Caledonian thing, and the name of the dish does have a Scotch ring to it. Some versions of the origin even go so far as to say that the dish originated in Scotland and was merely popularised in India. I suspect, given the flexible nature of the recipe, every explanation has some truth to it.

So anyway, sampling What the Dickens?’ version was a must for me. Particularly as we’d had doughnuts and chocolate in the office and I badly needed something savoury to prevent a sugar coma. The stall was shortly due to close up as I arrived. The fellow serving gave it to me for half price, as they were soon closing and the rice had started to go a bit crispy in the pan (which didn’t bother me, I’m not a remotely fussy eater). They also complimented me on my raincoat, which was praise indeed given the nature of their own vintage outfits.

In conclusion, kedgeree is great.

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Filed under 19th century, Food, History, London, Markets, Waterloo and Southwark

Seen in Waterloo

The current semi-hiatus continues (although if you can’t stand a week without me, why not come and see the play I’m in?). In the meantime, here is Tron’s cement mixer.

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Filed under Current events, Film and TV, London, Photos, Theatre, Waterloo and Southwark

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

Underground cinema

The Underground is a great place to use in a film. It’s an icon of the city, much like the Houses of Parliament or Tower Bridge. It’s something that thousands use daily. It has that slightly spooky air about it. And it’s instantly recognisable. All you need is an Underground sign and people know where you are.

Filming on the Tube, though, is not so easy. It runs from early in the morning to late at night, and the rest of the time is needed for maintenance work. Although there are plenty of abandoned Underground stations, most of them are wholly unsuitable for filming – they’ve been allowed to grow derelict and they’re on lines that are still in use (i.e. even if you find one in good condition, filming will be interrupted every couple of minutes by a train).

If you want to film on a regular station, you just need to find a preserved railway. Alas, the only preserved sections of Underground are the Epping-Ongar branch (formerly the outermost extremity of the Central Line) and Quainton Road (one time part of the Metropolitan Railway). Neither of these are exactly what you think of when you think “London Underground.” What you really need is an abandoned station, in good condition, not on a running like. Oh, hey, Aldwych, didn’t see you there.

Aldwych, pictured left, was a perfect filming location even when it was still in use. It was built at the end of a stubby little branch off the Piccadilly Line, served by a shuttle service from Holborn. It was never hugely patronised, and one of the two platforms was disused by the First World War. During the Second, the whole branch was closed and used as a safe house for part of the British Museum’s collection. In 1994, the whole branch was shut down for good. The building, carrying the original “Strand” name, is still visible on the Strand.

However, it’s kept maintained and makes an excellent filming location – the fact that London Underground tend not to modernise stations unless it’s necessary (a policy Yr. Humble Chronicler applauds) means that it can be dressed up to represent more-or-less any time period from 1907 to the present day. As I say, even before it closed, the branch was little used enough that the station could be used by film crews. These days, London Underground can even provide you with a 1972 Northern Line train kept on the line especially.

It’s appeared in The Krays (as Bethnal Green), Death Line (as Russell Square), Superman IV (as the Metropolis Subway), Patriot Games, V for Vendetta, Atonement, Creep and The Bank Job, among others.

If that’s not quite to your tastes, say you need something more modern, you could always take a short stroll down to Charing Cross. While (obviously) the Bakerloo and Northern platforms are still very much in use, the Jubilee Line used to terminate here. When the Jubilee Line extension was completed in 1999, it took a jag south to Waterloo from Westminster. Charing Cross was left as the only abandoned station on the whole Jubilee Line and, of course, it had its own stretch of line. It’s not quite as popular as a filming location (perhaps because the rest of the station is very busy), but it was used in Creep (again) and 28 Weeks Later.

Failing that, of course, supposing you want something bang up to date, you might try the Waterloo and City Line. This line is closed on Sundays, giving you a whole day to play with. The trouble is that the Waterloo and City Line looks rather different from the rest of the Tube, due to the fact that it was built as an extension of the London and South Western Railway and only became part of London Underground in 1994. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop the crew of Sliding Doors from filming there or, in 1940, the crew of On the Beat.

This sort of thing is not for everyone. Some aren’t so fussy about where they film. Some don’t mind dereliction and passing trains. So it was for the crew of Neverwhere, the cult fantasy series set below London. They managed to get the use of the long-closed Down Street station for a banqueting scene. During the Second World War this station, abandoned even then, was used by Winston Churchill before the Cabinet War Rooms were completed. Apparently, due to the lifts being out of use, government officials were dropped off by passing trains from Green Park or Hyde Park Corner. Thus was it for Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman (the writer) talks about flagging down trains when filming was over. Unfortunately, Down Street is no longer allowed to be used for filming, and is strictly for emergency access only.

Kudos to An American Werewolf in London for actually filming at Tottenham Court Road, by the way.

So, what about Die Another Day? That was a pretty prominent appearance by an abandoned Tube station, right? Wrong. But that will have to wait for another time…

Further Reading

http://underground-history.co.uk/creep/ – An analysis of the locations used in Creep. The home page has a lot of interesting info about closed stations and bits of stations, as well as a photo of the train kept on the Aldwych branch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYD44UMtNh8 – Footage of Aldwych shortly before closure.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q4uMNTEgDs – Footage of a preserved Tube train on the Jubilee Line, including a shot of the Jubilee Line platforms.

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Filed under 20th Century, Buildings and architecture, Film and TV, History, London, London Underground, London's Termini, The City, Transport, Waterloo and Southwark, West End

Shop-o-Rama

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.

Radio Days

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.

Gosh!

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.

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Filed under 20th Century, Bloomsbury, London, Randomness, Shopping, Waterloo and Southwark, Weird shops