crap pubs on the Isle of Dogs





A mnemonic for remembering the gates of the city of London in order, from West to East

I cycled round what would have been the medieval (and before that, Roman) city wall, early the other Sunday morning and made up this rhyme for remembering the original seven gates by:

London Note: Angry Cities Might Burn Again


How many can you name? Answers below…


















Plot in Holborn Library

José Damasceno’s Plot has been commissioned by Artangel for Holborn Library. It uses the public spaces of the main library, the Camden Archives and the corridors, and takes you up into the roof of the building and through a fire exit. I went at lunchtime.


From the first floor mezzanine the perspective changes and cut-outs stop being tiny ceiling people but become the same size, more or less, as the people browsing the books on the ground floor.


Sensitive bulk.


These windows are stuffed with cut-out magazine grommets. They are rounded and uneven, papery portents of these wooden tables upstairs:


The walls up here are mirrored. It’s a disused cinema and horror film exerpts flicker dimly. This scene happens through a door (note the white line):


A fire exit takes you onto a long balcony running along the side of the building. There’s another white line and it leads you, angled, towards the street – road marking paint diverting from its usual parallel pavement line.


supermoon over London

view from the top floor at night


To quote Wikipedia, “A supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth”

Here’s the September 9th one from the top floor of my flats. Don’t know about largest but it’s definitely largish.

Vikings at the British Museum

After the Vikingskipshuset in Oslo, which houses incredibly preserved and restored Viking ships, this exhibition’s sleek metal frame of a longboat (the show’s centrepiece) felt a bit blingy. My highlights were more low-key:viking exhibitionThe horse on the left would probably have been screwed to a weather vane like the one in the middle.

There were ‘killed’ swords on display, like this one, ritually bent out of shape as a sacrifice:


bent sword

Walking over Hungerford Bridge later this week, I was reminded of these Viking swords when I noticed all these broken skateboards stranded (bizarrely) on the bridge piers. A sacrifice to Tamesis perhaps.


Elves in Iceland

I went on holiday to Iceland a couple of weeks ago.

Apparently, 40 per cent of people in Iceland believe in elves. It’s not that surprising. The countryside looks like something out of a fairy tale and they only have one native vegetable. It’s a kind of lichen. If you lived somewhere so barren, you’d probably invent something to populate your land with too.

Elves typically live in lava fields. They’ve been around since the Vikings first settled in Iceland, bringing their literature and mythology with them. Unlike trolls (another hazard of rural areas), they are usually pretty benevolent – and sometimes even offer protection.

The mayor of Rejkjavik (a smartly dressed, cosmopolitan looking woman) explained something of their cultural significance in an interview in this national geographic programme on the subject (28 seconds in).


I like how cagey she is about the question of whether or not Icelanders “believe” in elves: “Just something we’re brought up with”. And maybe a belief in elves is a good counter to the fairly colourless Lutheran church of Iceland. An enormous number of Icelanders say they believe in God (more proportionally, than Italians) and yet they have the lowest church attendance in Europe.

Looking at Iceland’s church buildings (stark, bare and boring) and looking at its countryside (volcanic, snow-covered and sublime) it doesn’t seem so surprising that the mystical should survive better in  lush green lava plains than in the odd steeple.

Maybe if the churches of Rome were a bit less pretty, there’d be a few more elf-sightings in the Vatican.

Roots and rivers

At this lecture at UCL, one of the subjects was the early representations of genealogies not as family trees but as ‘family rivers’ with many branches flowing into one central stream. We were encouraged to draw our own rivers – rivers that had figured in our lives – so I did the Thames. There are no families in it (thank goodness) but lots of ships from different periods sailing in one stream, instead.

Here’s the talk: