30 October, 2012


'He should be in a hospital for the criminally insane' young male speaking to friend on train. Friends reply unintelligible.

This was my introduction to Worktown, the typical industrial town studied by the mass observers Tom Harrison, Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings just 75 years ago. Some of the observers had previously been studying african cannibals and decided that they wanted to study the cannibals of Britain. I didn't see any cannibals, although I did see a questionable black pudding. Worktown seemed to have a bit going for it including an olympic gold medalist. The Salvation Army charity shop even had two utility sideboards at £30 each - now how to get them on the train...

 It was raining in Worktown today. 80% of people wearing coats, 20% of people wearing hats. Some men and women in summer clothing even though the temperature was low. Called in at the town library, museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium. The Aquarium was built after the Worktown study and attended by about 10 people most with children in tow. Strong obediennce to the notices in three languages not to tap on the glass fish tanks. Some big fish were present and the atmosphere was silent observation. Worktowners seem to like their aquarium. After that I called into the library with the Bowyer illustrated bible. This bible was given to Worktown in 1948 by the Heywood family. All 44 volumes of it sit in an ornate wooden bookcase in the library. Lavishly illustrated it is a true work of art. But I bet not many worktowners look at it.
From Travels around London
In the Worktown study the attendant came out of the Art Gallery office to see who was coming into the gallery. Well today there were a few more people in the museum and gallery. Most of them were looking at the Humphrey Spender pictures from the Mass Observation archive. 50% female, mostly elderley. The pictures were taken in the 1930s and 1960 when the observers returned to worktown. A fascinating account of the recent past. An interesting building was the Turkish Bath right next door to the Inland Revenue offices. . What would the mass observers make of that?

Co-ops 2012 and Manchester

Come gather round O my droogs and devotchkas and come to baddiwad old Personchester where we can see an old biblio with a statue of a babooshka and two horrorshow expos! The Co-ops 2012 expo was held in Manchester. I turned up on the wrong day and nobody could blag me in as it wasn't open to the public. You can go now though. Instead I went into the John Rylands Library to see an exhibition about a clockwork orange although more to get out of the rain. The John Rylands Library was founded on textile fortunes and the company existed until 1971 when it was absorbed by Great Universal Stores. Ryland also won fame through the important tort of Ryland v Fletcher - the case of the flooded mine! The library that bears his name is a gothic monument to commerce and industry presided over by his octoroon wife no 3 who built and endowed the library. There are several exhibitions on a changing programme in the library and it was well worth a visit. I saw the exhibition about the Anthony Burgess book - a Clockwork Orange.

21 October, 2012

St John's Deptford

Martin Rowson writes 'What could be more pleasing than a stroll through Deptford? Almost anything but hold up there.' Well I think that displays remarkable candour. I was using the Time Out Book of London Walks and Mr Rowson had written, or rather drawn, one fairly near to me, begining at St John's Station. Well the trains don't run on Sunday so I had to take the 47 bus to Brookmill Road and walk up to the station from there. I saw the church (Victorian) but not the house with the enormous cats. Perhaps they were in hiding from the rain. I had a look at the blue plaque to Edgar Wallace, once a very popular thriller writer but you'd be hard pressed to find many books by him now. Some nice autumn colours in Tresillian Road. The real purpose of the walk is to take you to Hilly Fields, one of the tiny local parks around the Deptford/New Cross/Brockley area. Again my guide and mentor advises me to look out for the man with one leg, and indeed I did see him, sitting on a mobility scooter, although he did not have a dog with him. There was a dog though, and that had only three legs, so perhaps there is a hilly fields leg snatcher. It would not surprise me. There was also a rather nice man in army gear jogging in the park, but he ran away... After passing the Francis Drake Bowling Green (yeah right) I turned into White Post Lane, marked, of course, by..... ...a black post! This little alley running at a height (the whole area was once a quarry and a hill and vale so the roads run at all kinds of heights and gradients) was remarkably clean, and may well be the last surviving cobbled street in London. The last major sight before going back was the painted house on Loampit Hill (another clue to what they did there). Needing some renewal this is quite a sight to see.

14 October, 2012

Brookwood Woking and Weybridge Diggers

The law locks up the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the common 
But leaves the greater villain loose 
Who steals the common off the goose.

A visit into the depth of Surrey to look at Brookwood Cemetery. Brookwood cemetery was developed from the former common and was intended to secure burials from London for 500 years. It never really lived up to expectations of the buriel numbers and most of the land was sold. It once had a railway line running through it and you could get a special funeral train there, including first, second and third class hearse cars! No difference in the appearance just different fares for the coffin.  The train ran from Waterloo.

 The cemetery now seems to specialise in ethnic minority burials with plots for muslims, zoroastrians and Italian and other roman catholics. They are also arsey about pictures having stern notices up about no photography. And judging by the flickr group I wouldn't want to defy the notice.  Still there is nothing much there to interest me.  No station remains but there was a very neat and tidy war graves cemetery including Czechoslovakians, Belgians and Americans with a very pleasant reception room, presided over by Barack Obama, where I sheltered from the pouring rain.  The American part also had a chapel with stained glass of the states in pleasant tiffany like colours.  No religious imagery of course as befits a godless country but calm and dignified nevertheless.

The cemetery did not occupy me long so I went into Woking, which is really not that exciting. They do have a new art gallery and museum called The Lightbox which was completed in 2007.  The museum part tells the

story of Woking and its demenses which was a little more interesting than I thought. There actually IS an old Woking rather than the railway town. I also didn't know that Kenwood mixers were made in Woking. The Art Gallery bit houses the Ingram Collection of art accumulated by a local business man. Some good pieces by CRW Nevinson, Eric Ravilious and John Bratby.

After Woking I went to Weybridge where I quite by accident saw a memorial to the pamphleteer of the Diggers, Gerrard Winstanley on Cobbett's hill. Not sure if this is named after the great radical in the tradition of the Diggers, William Cobbett, but it would be nice if it was. The diggers, together with the levellers, were the great radicals of the English Commonwealth to prove that the 'Earth was the Lords and the fullness thereof' a 'common treasury for all'. There is a Digger's Trail which ironically takes in some of the wealthiest enclaves in the wealthy county of Surrey. Levellers were keen that 'servants might adventure their wages' and although we do not have servants these days (or wages), we do have employees, and we do not adventure money but we invest it, which employees sometimes do. Diggers were more practical, and up waste and common (belonging of course - then and now - to the Lord of the Manor. I didn't do the full diggers trail as it leads through a lot of places including Cobham, Walton on Thames and Little Heath but it is worth storing away for another day. I think we may need to look back at the diggers and take up our spades 'thereby declaring freedome to the creation and that the earth must be set free from intanglements of Lords and Landlords'.

13 October, 2012

Dick Whittington elected Lord Mayor of London today

In 1397.  Here is a picture of his cat on Highgate Hill

11 October, 2012


A visit to the Old Vic Tunnels where the only thing inducing madness was the technology. 

My visit to the tunnels was provoked by Twitter when somebody posted something about bookings opening for an exhibition in some old railway warehouses under Waterloo Station.  The title of the exhibition was 'Bedlam' after the Bethlehem Hospital now in Bromley but formerly in Lambeth.  The initial website www.lazaridesbedlam.com was efficient at booking but inefficient at sending an email confirming it.  Nevertheless my name was on the list so I was going in.  Nobody asked me to fill in a form disclaiming responsibility for any medical diagnosis that I might get so I presume there was no psychiatrist on duty that evening.  I was issued with an HTC mobile phone that was supposed to guide me round the exhibition.  I had been thinking about a smart phone but decided that if I do get one it will not be made by HTC.  Firstly it did not work as there was no volume, then I couldn't get the display to light.  Eventually somebody fiddled around with it so it played, but eventually I just gave up and let the thing play out without associating it with the exhibits.

I should state that the Old Vic Tunnels were used for the Middle Classes Graffiti artist of choice, Banksy, to run his money making scheme (sorry Ironic take on exhibitions) Exit through the gift shop.  I think that Mind were also trying to make money out of this with a suggested donation of £5. 

So after a failure of technology what were the exhibits like?  Well there were some good sculptures and installations including the two depicted here as well as some good canvases.  There was also a cafe but really, £2.50 for a cup of tea?  I'm glad I didn't book food.

On the whole I've had better experiences in the dark.

From Travels around London