My job gives me the privilege of being out and about every day in London.

Whether leading a walk, visiting a museum or gallery, or just enjoying the city's bustle or its quiet spaces, there's always something new to see, something interesting going on.

In this blog, I seek to reflect the ever-changing patterns of life in the greatest City on Earth!

Review of new book: Over the Border: the Other East End

The staging of the 2012 Olympics at Stratford was designed to help regenerate a blighted area, an area of high unemployment.  An area which has suffered centuries of industrialisation and pollution where, regularly, investment in improvements had been redirected to other causes.

A new book Over the Border: The Other East End by Neil Fraser investigates the reality of this image and the reactions of those who live in the area to the decision not only to hold the Olympic Games on their patch but ‘improve’ their lives in legacy.  It is salutary to realise that plans were already in place to regenerate Stratford  – now incorporated into LOCOG’s plans – and to consider the impact that a new shopping mall like Westfield will have on the local people.  Has it been staffed by locals, is it shopped in by locals?  How much is hype and how much reality?  One is left with a confused feeling that whilst exciting and dramatic changes are happening, real values remain with the older communities.  That the plans have not been universally welcomed but imposed upon people.

In this thoughtful book, we also explore surrounding areas such as West Ham, Plaistow, Silvertown Town and the River Lea.  It is not a polemic but engages the views and everyday activities of acquaintances and friends to build a fascinating slant on this spectacular initiative in the East End.

While we are all enjoying the Olympic Games, I recommend reading this book which will add many layers of understanding about the history of the area and the proposed legacy.

Spitalfields Roundels


Some of the most delightful discoveries in Spitalfields are found sunk into the pavements – the decorative iron roundels, visual markers of Spitalfields’ rich history. Here are a couple of them – the fiddle in Princelet Street, a reminder of the Yiddish theatre that once was here; and in Fournier Street, near the Rectory, a roundel depicting a stylised fruit – taken from a patterned silk designed by Anna Maria Garthwaite. See if you can find more……

Quirky facts about Kew Gardens

Once, Kew Gardens was first and foremost a scientific, botanical garden, and the public knew it…lovely to walk through – lots of nice trees, shrubs and flowers as well as the Palm houses -but information was sparse. Ok, it was only a penny to enter, but you remained not a whit wiser Not any more – Kew has embraced ‘user-friendliness’ with gusto! Everything is labelled with riveting information

DID YOU KNOW?

Kew has the oldest pot plant in the world: a cycad brought to Kew from South Africa in 1775 by Francis Masson.
It also has the tree that ‘grants all wishes’ – the Coconut Palm – its leaves, fruit, nuts meeting all your needs in life. In Hawaii one is planted whenever a child is born.
And don’t be fooled by the delicate and brilliant water lilies – like ethereal ballet dancers they are supported on immensely tough ‘pegs’, and their seeds are spread by beetles who use the flowers to provide bed and breakfast…

Spitalfields houses

Look closely at these early 17C houses in Spitalfields – they look so solid, don’t they? But some were built only one brick deep, some only one room deep. They went up fast before the builder’s first ground was due, the lease sold on as fast as possible, and the first occupant left to kit the house out to suit himself. And add a back room!