Keep warm in the Barbican’s secret conservatory

Bird of Paradise Flower, Barbican ConservatoryThe weather has finally turned against us with temperatures in single figures. Suddenly staying in begins to seem like a good idea. But not staying home – what you need is somewhere in central London that’s warm where you can wander round looking at the flowers just as though it was still summer. You need the Barbican conservatory. Continue reading

Riceyman Steps – a Clerkenwell Tour in the footsteps of Arnold Bennett

Riceyman Steps - Hanslip Fletcher

I doubt that Riceyman Steps would be the first title you thought of if I challenged you to name something by Arnold Bennett, even though it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1923. You’d be more likely to come up with one of his stories set in the Five Towns, and to think of him as a Northern writer. Riceyman Steps, though, is a London novel, set in a specific and still recognisable part of Clerkenwell. But how much of it still stands? Join Arnold and me on a little tour and we’ll find out. Continue reading

Gold and glass and Hello Kitty – the refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art at the V&A

Kimono design V&AThe V&A have just reopened their refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art so, as you would expect, Yannick and I rushed down to have a look. And guess what? We really liked it. It’s a lovely mixture of of over five hundred objects, both old favourites and new acquisitions, all displayed in a layout reminiscent of a traditional Japanese house. Continue reading

Dazzle your eyes with gold at the Royal Mews

Gold State Coach TritonNow that summer’s over and the rugby world cup’s finished, we Londoners can look forward to (briefly) getting our city back before the Christmas tourist influx starts. And with the fine weather holding, it’s a good time to go and visit the places that you never normally go to because they’re just for tourists. Like the Royal Mews, for instance. Continue reading

Hornsey Town Hall – Rescue or Ruin?

Hornsey Town HallHornsey Town Hall is a Grade II listed Art Deco building in the centre of Crouch End, an urban village in North London popular with actors and artists. It was built in 1935 as the Town Hall for the Municipal Borough of Hornsey and has been looking for a new function ever since Hornsey became part of the London Borough of Haringey in 1965.  Continue reading

Osterley Park – A Robert Adam masterpiece on the Piccadilly Line

Osterley ParkWith the end of September a distant memory, it might feel like the historic house season is over for another year. The great houses wrap themselves in mothballs for the winter and close their doors to visitors. But you can still catch one of them open this month – the conveniently-situated Robert Adam gem, Osterley Park. Continue reading

Ruth Dupré – Art of Glass

Ruth Dupré The Day Lady DiedI’ve been a fan of glassblower and filmmaker (among other things) Ruth Dupré’s work for quite a while now, so I was looking forward to being surprised and entertained by her latest show, Tangles of Uncertainty at the Arthouse1 Gallery in Bermondsey. And I wasn’t disappointed – there was plenty to admire and plenty to enjoy. Continue reading

Famous for flamingoes – Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof GardensEver since they were first opened in 1938 the Kensington Roof Gardens, on the roof of what used to be Derry and Toms, has been a haven of calm above busy Kensington High St. Built at a cost of £25,000 and boasting more than five hundred species of plants and shrubs, they’re now Grade II listed as a place of specific historical interest by English Heritage. Continue reading

Celts -the new blockbuster at the British Museum


Who were the Celts? Well, actually, we’re not quite sure. The new blockbuster exhibition at the British Museum tells us the people who lived in Britain and Ireland two thousand years ago never thought of themselves as Celts, and nor did the Romans when they were part of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that the term started to be used to describe the pre-Romans of Western Europe and then the languages of Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man. Continue reading

Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel at the V&A

Barnaby Barford Tower of Babel

This year’s London Design Festival has just kicked off, so Yannick and I rushed down to the V&A to take a look. Rushed a bit early, as it turned out, but it meant we got an excellent sneak preview of Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel, a conical pile of china shops which has been sited in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, making for an interesting contrast with the sculptures on display. Continue reading