More Of My London Memories In Photos

I managed to find an interesting selection of photos covering the period from 1957-1966. At the time, I was aged 5-14, but not much changed during those nine years.

Small boys collecting Train Numbers at a mainline station, late 1950s. Hard to believe now, but that was a ‘big thing’ up until the late 1960s. I did it a few times with friends in the school holidays.

People queuing to buy groceries from an open air shop, 1957.

‘Glamour girls’ being used to promote cycling as healthy, early 1960s.

The Supremes (with Diana Ross) taking a photo opportunity with some rag and bone men, mid 1960s.

A respectable young couple on an underground train, early 1960s.

A gang of ‘Teddy Boys’, late 1950s. These fans of Rock and Roll music were known for their violence and street fighting.

Mods on their Italian scooters, mid 1960s.

Soho, 1966. A ‘Sex Shop’and Striptease show combined.

Soho, 1966. A ‘Sex Cinema’.

Soho, 1966. A Strip Club.

The famous ‘2 i’s’ coffee bar, Soho. Many pop stars of the day were discovered there, including the young Cliff Richard. (Photographed in 1966)

My London Social Life

Despite being happy to be away from the noise and pollution in London, I have often lamented the lack of being close to restaurants and venues within walking distance of where we live now in Beetley. This is a selection of some of the places I miss since moving away from the Capital.

The Marrakesh Cafe, Camden Market, London NW1. A short stroll from where I used to live, at the edge of the bustling Camden Market, this cafe was an ideal spot to enjoy mint tea, whilst watching the world go by late at night.

The Jazz Cafe, Parkway, NW1. Even closer, this wonderful venue where you could eat and drink as you watched some great bands or solo artists. Although called The Jazz Cafe, it featured a wide variety of music, and ticket prices were always affordable. We had some great nights in there.

The Feng Shang floating Chinese restaurant, Cumberland Basin, Regent’s Park, NW1. Accessed from Prince Albert Road, literally at the end of the street where I used to live, this upmarket Chinese restaurant serves some of the best Chinese food in London, in a refined atmosphere. Pricey, but worth it, this was also my mum’s favourite restauarant.

Bar Italia Cafe, Frith Street, Soho, W1. A London institution, tables on the pavement allow you to watch the nightlife in Soho as you sip your overpriced double espresso or cappuccino. Nothing better after a night out.

Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, Soho, W1. Not far from Bar Italia, you will find this branch of the well-known pizza chain, with live Jazz performed since 1976. Enjoy your favourite pizza and drinks as you listen to some famous names of the Jazz world.

The Gourmet Pizza Company, Gabriel’s Wharf, SE1. Next to the River Thames on a converted wharf, this pizza place specialises in unusual toppings and little-known beers from around the world. You can eat inside or outside, so it’s a good spot even in the winter. A longer walk from where I lived, but combined with a stroll along the riverside, it’s worth it. And I always ordered the Englsh Breakfast Pizza, a full breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding) served on a thin and crispy pizza base. Yum!

Some More London Nostalgia In Photos

Alma School, Bermondsey. This photo was taken near the end of WW2. A bomb-damaged area is being cleared. On the left you can see some new prefabricated asbestos-sheet houses. We called them ‘Prefabs’, and they were supposed to be temporary. But the people loved them, and over 100 still exist in London today.
I went to that school from 1957 until 1963.

Children playing in a bombed-out building in Bermondsey, 1953. By the time I was old enough to be out playing in 1958, I was playing in the same building.

A young couple sheltering from the Blitz in an underground station, 1940. My mum was doing the same thing at the time.

Choosing an engagement ring, 1953.

Taking tea in a Lyons Corner House, late 1950s. Despite the elegant surroundings, anyone could afford to have tea there.

Making the most of a hot summer in London. Sunbathing in a basement ‘area’, 1954.

A Skiffle Club in Soho, 1960.

Cards advertising the services of prostitutes in Soho, 1960.

Nice Times (5)

Ollie was born in the bungalow next door, and since lives with us in a bungalow on one level. When he was less than one year old, we asked our next door neighbours the other side to look after him overnight, so we could go to a wedding in Hertfordshire. We took him into their two-storey house to make sure he would settle there, and he spotted the stairs. Although he had no idea what they were, he ran straight up them immediately, then stood on the landing looking down at us. Then he rushed back down, repeating the process numerous times until he was out of breath. He thought they were a game, like a child on a slide in the park. It was so delightful to see him discovering stairs.

A long weekend in Rome, a present for my 50th birthday and my first time in Italy. On the first morning, we walked from the hotel to see The Colosseum. It was so much better than I had expected, and just took my breath away with its grandeur and history. Standing inside, I pictured the gladiators fighting on the sand of the large arena, and the crowds watching. Some things are more wonderful than you can ever imagine they might be, and that was one of them.

After the break up of my first marriage, I had to basically learn from scratch how to fend for myself. Determined not to fall into bad eating habits like microwave meals and shop-bought pizzas, I bought a copy of Delia Smith’s book, ‘How To Cook’. Following her instructions to the letter, I cooked myself a small joint of pork with roast potatoes, accompanied by red cabbage cooked with apples and spices. I sat and ate it on my own, in the small house I had bought in London’s Docklands development. It was delicious!

In 2000, I had moved from Hertfordshire into my flat near Regent’s Park, in Camden. My (second) ex-wife contacted me and said she was going to be shopping in the west end that Saturday with a friend I knew well, and asked if I would like to meet up. I met them in Soho, at a coffee bar in Old Compton Street that was known for selling delicious cakes. (Amato, sadly since closed down) The late Spring weather was lovely, and I was feeling good. We had a nice chat over coffee and cakes, and when they left, I wandered over to Charing Cross Road to look in some of the second-hand bookshops that the area is famous for. I bought three hardback books, and strolled home to the flat, stopping at a pub in Tottenham Court Road. I sat outside drinking a glass of wine, and flicking through the books I had bought. Happy to be back in the heart of the city.

A year later, in 2001, I made the unexpected decision at the age of 49 to leave the Ambulance Service and go to work for the Metropolitan Police. I had to attend the Police Training Centre in Hendon, and complete an intensive 14-week course. It was a pass or fail course, and I knew that if I didn’t get through I would be out of a job for the first time since my youth. I found it hard, as I was the oldest one in the class, and had very little experience of using computers. But when we had the final crucial examination, I passed in the top half of the group. As I drove home that evening, I felt I had really achieved something.

Film nostalgia (2)

In 1963, I was eleven years old. I had heard about a new concept in cinema, called ‘Cinerama’. I was keen to see this innovation, and read in the London papers that ‘How The West Was Won’ was due to be shown in this format, at the Casino Cinema in Soho, in the heart of London’s West End. The prospect of this had me dizzy with expectation. This was a huge film, with every known Hollywood star of the day, and the new idea of Cinerama also had me frantic with anticipation.

Even though I was only eleven, I had already had extensive experience of cinema going, as I wrote about in this post. I was used to the occasional special trip to cinemas in the West End, as we didn’t live too far away, just south of the River Thames. As soon as I heard that this film was to be premiered, I began to pester my parents to take me to see it.

This film was a western with a difference. It explored the founding of modern America, using a series of unconnected vignettes, spanning the period from the early wagon trains, through the Civil War, to the cattle wars and land grabs that followed. It covered a period of sixty years, in five different episodes, all coming together to make one complete film. I won’t list the whole cast, but this will give you a taste of the talent on show. Gregory Peck, John Wayne, George Peppard, James Stewart, Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach, Lee J. Cobb, Richard Widmark, to name but a few. Who would not have wanted to see a film starring all these luminaries? Let alone in a new concept of projection and filming that even the idea of took my breath away.

My Mum agreed, and got tickets to the film, which ran in this single cinema for no less than 123 weeks, until 1965. The evening was set, and I could hardly contain my excitement. The edited cut was due to run for two hours and forty-five minutes, and would include two intermissions. That was my idea of a night out! We arrived in good time, and I was bought a souvenir brochure on arrival. This included stills from the film, biographies of the stars and directors, (there were three!) as well as a detailed explanation of the Cinerama process. The cinema was comfortable and sophisticated, and everyone was dressed as if for an occasion, including the three of us.

I should explain the Cinerama experience. There were no green screens back then; no computer animation, CGI, or anything remotely resembling the special effects we take for granted now, even on TV. Using a dramatically curved screen, three different 35 MM film images were projected simultaneously, on a series of strips, rather than one screen. The images were expanded to 70 MM, giving an experience very similar to being inside the screen. Though not 3-D, it was almost as close as you could get, without the need for special glasses and dedicated projectors. The curved screen stretched almost 150 degrees, so three times the normal field of human vision. To make the most of this effect, special scenes were filmed. These included a buffalo stampede, logs falling from a derailed train, and horses running directly at the audience. Much of the rest of the film was shot in 70 MM Super Panavision, which did not replicate this effect, but suited the exaggerated widescreen projection.

For early 1960s cinema-goers, the impact of this had to be seen to be believed. Many of the audience members (including me) held their hands to their faces during some scenes, and when the buffalo stampede was shown, we almost ran from the cinema in panic. The whole film was an episodic delight, and the new style of special effects made it all the more memorable. The main drawback was that a cinema had to have a specially adapted screen to show these films, and they were expensive to make. Without a dedicated screen, they didn’t appear the same. In fact, if you see the film on TV today, it appears disjointed, almost un-watchable. But on that night, in that venue, it was a cinematic feast.

In that early spring evening, in 1963, I was enthralled, and held in the rapture of the magic of cinema. Is it any wonder that I love films as much as I do?

The former cinema is now the Prince Edward Theatre, its original name. It is in Old Compton Street.

Here’s the trailer. Unfortunately, you can see the lines!

Selling Yourself: Part One

From the time I left school, until I joined the London Ambulance Service, was a period of less than twelve years. During that time, I had an unusually high number of jobs, all but one of which involved selling, in one form, or another. I have written about some of those jobs before, but I have recently reflected on just how easy it was to get work, to come and go as you pleased, sometimes starting and leaving three jobs in the same year. In today’s world, of high unemployment, no-hours contracts, reduced Trade Union rights, and a return to the Victorian era. with no paid holidays, or sick leave, it makes me realise just how easy it was, to live in the 1960’s and 1970’s, compared to the present day. My own employment history, before settling down in the Ambulance Service, may seem like a poor CV. In those days, it was very much a way of life for many of us.

I will probably write in more detail about some of these job choices at a later date. For now, this is something of a list, and a story about Selling. My Dad was a salesman, from 1959, until the late 1970’s. He passed on his advice to me in one phrase, something I later discovered was not his own pearl of wisdom at all, just another old salesman’s maxim. He told me; ‘Don’t try to sell the product. Sell yourself, your personality, and the rest will follow naturally.’ I took him at his word, and spent many years of my life trying to do just that. Sell myself.

After a brief non-selling job, taken as I waited to pass my driving test, I was soon off the mark. Selling cheap records in various locations around the South Coast. Or rather, not really selling them at all, as all I actually did was to ‘merchandise’ them, by checking the previous sales, and filling up the rack to the requisite number, then invoice the outlet accordingly. This was done from a transit van, inside which I also kept all the stock, occasionally making the long trip to the West London depot, to fill it up again. Luckily for me, the company decided to go ‘up market’ shortly after I joined. They replaced the vans with new Vauxhall Vivas, and we did the ordering in the same way, with the goods delivered later, by bulk drops. I loved having my new company car, which in those days carried no tax burden, and with careful accounting, could also provide me with sufficient fuel to use the car privately. I also got to see a lot of the South Coast of England, albeit mostly in bad weather. I wanted more contact with modern records though, and soon tired of selling rehashes of chart hits, and back-catalogue cheapies. So, I moved on.

Through another of my Dad’s contacts, I got a job in a Central London record shop, a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus. This was not my first foray into retail, as I had previously had a Saturday job, in the record department of a large store in Croydon. This was hardly comparable to my experiences in the West End though. I arrived at the shop, to find that I was to be the third man, to the existing pair that ran it. One was a likeable, smartly-dressed Jazz musician, who was only working there between gigs, to pay his bills. The other was a bearded hippy-type, overweight, and a heavy smoker. On paper, he ran the shop, in as much as he did the ordering, and banked the takings. In reality, he did little else, as he had numerous sidelines, that he used the shop as a base to pursue. The shop stayed open late, and traded at weekends, including Sundays, decades before Sunday trading was usual. The opening times were ‘flexible’, and dependent on when they turned up, not closing until they were fed up. Late starts, and later closing suited me well enough, even though I had no formal hours in my agreement, I was assured that I would get ‘extras’ to make up for the longer working week.  We played music of our choice all day, and took breaks whenever we wanted. I decided that I would like it there.

The life of the shops around this part of London; Leicester Square, Coventry Street, and Piccadilly Circus, was not your typical shopkeeping. Souvenir shops were plentiful, and kiosks selling drinks and cigarettes overcharged alarmingly, though not to fellow shop staff. When customers asked to pay in foreign currency, we would take it at a rate derisory for them, change it up later, and pocket the difference. I was allowed, within reason, to keep any records that I liked, and if any of our friends came in, they would be substantially undercharged for goods. If we wanted something from a nearby shop, like food, cigarettes, or cold drinks, we would tell those assistants to come and see us later, and give them records, or sell them some at laughably cheap prices. It felt good, it felt like a family. We were not unduly concerned about the profits of the chain of shops we worked for. Regular sales were through the roof, and our weekly take was phenomenal. This was the heyday of record-buying, and we sold everything we could get. New releases were in such demand, that customers queued outside before we opened, much as they do now, for the latest Harry Potter book. We offered no discounts at all, in fact we often acted as if we were doing them a favour, by actually taking their money, at full retail price.

It was soon obvious to me, that some creaming off was going on. The manager could often be seen stuffing wads of cash into his pockets, just before leaving for the day. I was told that I could drive in by car, and that it was alright to take the change from petty cash to feed the parking meter, as I could then give him a lift home to North London. It says something of the differences then, that I felt confident in driving to Leicester Square, easily finding a space on a meter, then feeding it until the cut off period, in those days 6.30pm, on a daily basis. I wouldn’t want to try that now. Once taken into trust, I was made aware of much more goings-on. Our musician was an alcoholic, and I could always smell drink on him. I soon noticed his regular runs to the booze shop,  a carrier bag full of records in hand, no doubt to exchange for drink. I was also allowed to go down to the cellar more often. This was supposed to be where we kept the extra supplies of top-selling discs, but was much more besides. At weekends, a steady stream of ‘special’ customers would arrive, and ask for the manager by name. I was told to allow them access to the cellar, where he kept a notional ‘office’. They were usually respectable-looking, well-dressed men, who were around middle age, rarely younger than 50. I had always presumed that they were involved in some kind of fiddle, involving currency, or rare records, something the manager also traded in, through his contacts in the shop. One Sunday morning, I found out the real reason for the visitors.

With just two of us in, our musician having played a late gig, and crying off sick, the manager told me not to open straight away. He took me down to the cellar, where I was startled to find a projector set up, and four or five assorted chairs placed in front of it. He told me that we would have some early arrivals, and that once they were all there, I was not to go down to get anything. He started the projector, and showed me a snippet of what they were calling on us to see. It was a reel-to-reel film, involving pornography, but not of a kind I had ever seen, or even heard about. Without going into offensive detail, it included scenes of young (apparently German) women, going about their most intimate toilet functions, as men lay underneath them. The second film, I was told, was to involve the participation of a Doberman dog, a farmyard pig, and assorted horses. I took him on his word, and looked upon our ‘visitors’ in a very different light, as each arrived, and sheepishly made his way downstairs, to the necessarily silent film show. As I later found out, the film mornings were free of charge. It was selling copies for them to take away, that made the big money. In the heart of London, yards from the notorious Soho strip joints and clubs, I saw first hand the real seediness, that lay behind the bright lights, and gaudy neon signs. It did occur to me that it was blatantly illegal, but for some reason, it didn’t really bother me in the least.

Eventually, the bubble burst, but not as I had anticipated it would. My all-too short venture into the exciting world of Central London retail, came to an abrupt end, when I was called over to Covent Garden one day, to see the Area Manager. It is so long ago now, but I think that I expected something good, perhaps promotion to another shop, or maybe a bonus. At the very least, I pondered, it will be a pat on the back, for a job well-done, and hours worked beyond the call of duty. When I was put in front of the Area Manager, he immediately bombarded me with questions about till shortages, sales of ‘unofficial’ items, and frequent staff absences. I shrugged to all of this, and launched into a form of defence; after all, I am only the new boy, what would I know? He offered to spare me further investigations, if I would just tell all about my colleagues, and confirm his fears of various scams. I kept quiet. Where I was from, you didn’t grass. If I thought silence would spare me, I was sadly wrong. I was dismissed there and then, wages up to date, cards in hand, even my personal stuff, already collected from the shop. Indignantly, I departed, fuming inside. I was only a small part of a well-organised machine in this tiny shop, yet I was the one being expected to fall on my sword. I tried to contact my former colleagues, but they would not let me into the premises, and refused to talk to me on the ‘phone. I had been offered up, in a carefully arranged set-up, designed to save their jobs. Lesson learned.

As was usual then, I soon bounced back. Through another contact, I quickly got another job, this time as manager of a small record shop in East London.  You might think that this would have been difficult, given the hasty departure from one of the few jobs that I was ever sacked from, and the absence of any positive reference. Not so. They knew ‘the game’, and they expected me to learn from my mistakes. As manager, I would be poacher turned gamekeeper, and expected to be on top of any strokes pulled by my two female staff. The contact recommended me to the owner, who was a then famous TV personality, and a leading radio DJ. Although he is long dead, I will not name him, as identification might lead others to conclusions that would be in error. This owner took me on face value, and I started the next week. This next episode in record retail was to be markedly different from the one that preceded it. The new shop was on one of the main roads of East London, and not too far from a well-used street market. Like many shops in the area, it took the biggest percentage of its takings on a Friday and Saturday, and weekdays were famously quiet. My brief was to try to change this, and to hopefully generate a steadier sales pattern, that could justify the employment of three staff all week.

Easier said than done. Shopping trends in those areas were firmly entrenched, and I had my work cut out. I tried what I knew, and hoped that West End methods could make the short journey across London to the East. Window displays were my first brainwave. The ones that I inherited were lame, at best, consisting of little more than piles of record covers draped around some material in the windows. I went all-out, with new display materials, and dedicated one window to a specific new release each week. arranging the covers of that record as imaginatively as I could. My staff consisted of two girls, one slightly older that me, the other the same age. They were fairly disinterested, but happy that I was of a similar age, as the previous manager had been in his 60’s. They spent a lot of time chatting to their friends, who would just hang around, and never buy records. I approached local venues, and offered to promote new bands, and to display posters at the back of the shop. I also introduced headphones, so that prospective customers could listen to records, without everyone else having to hear them. I even arranged for the famous DJ owner to make a personal appearance, and to play some records, in his inimitable style. It was all useless. We were taking 75% of our weekly takings on a  Friday and Saturday, even after my efforts. It was hardly worth opening the rest of the week, let alone staying open for the half-day closing, when all the surrounding shops were closed after lunch.  The travelling was also getting me down, as I had to drive through the Blackwall Tunnel, morning and evening, to get to and from Kent. This is a notorious traffic black-spot, and it was taking me well over an hour each way, sometimes two, to make the journey. Then there were the customers. Nobody was interested in unusual Soul records, as I was, or even the big progressive rock bands of the day. They liked traditional stuff, or rock and roll, and even the stomach-churning Country and Western. Save for a few big number one singles, even the stock was boring me to tears. I resigned, and recommended the older assistant for my job.

I hadn’t lasted long, but I already had my eye on something new.

Things I miss about London

Whenever I talk to friends and family, they eventually ask me what, if anything, I miss about no longer living in London. When I first moved here, it was such a relief to get away from it all, that I used to reply that there was nothing that I missed at all. This is not true of course. You cannot spend sixty years in the city of your birth, without regretting a few things left behind. I have been given to reflection lately, and thought of a few things that I really do miss, so here they are.

The view from Waterloo Bridge

This is possibly the best aspect of the river in London. All the ‘best bits’ are visible from this bridge, though in itself, it is an unattractive, concrete monstrosity. It does nonetheless provide the perfect viewing platform for anyone interested in the sights of London. They are not all there. There is no view of Buckingham Palace, or the parks, and some may argue that the real London, of markets, housing estates, and busy arterial roads, is not represented. It doesn’t matter. Standing on this bridge, day or night, can only ever leave you feeling uplifted, and glad, at least for a short while, to be a Londoner.

Bar Italia, Soho

This coffee bar, at the heart of one of London’s busiest, and buzziest districts, is an institution that has endured the invasion of Starbucks and Costa. After a late night out in the capital, or a visit to Ronnie Scott’s jazz club opposite, there is nothing better than to grab a table outside, in any weather, and watch the busy life of Soho unfold before your eyes. Free entertainment, at least for the greatly inflated price of a double espresso. Worth every penny at 3am.

24 Hour Buses

You will always hear a lot of negative stuff written and voiced about London Transport. The reality is, that they provide an excellent bus service, that in most of London, certainly in the central area that is ‘open late’, runs for 24 hours a day. You can go for a long night out, and get home again, for less than £4 (at the last price I paid). There are issues around this, of course, though they are the fault of your fellow passengers, not the bus companies. There may be drunks on the bus, and there may also be vagrants, travelling in the warm, for the price of a ticket (or not!). Despite this, the vast majority of journies are safe, reliable, and a real reason to be glad you live in such a huge city.


I have written about this before, in other posts, so will not go on too long. There are almost endless restaurants in London, the choice of cuisine vast, and you know that you can always easily walk to somewhere for a good meal, often with no need to make a reservation. I don’t know many other places like that in the UK.


Elaborating on part of the above, I miss walking too. Not the kind of walking that involves donning wellington boots, and grabbing the dog’s lead though. Walking around the city, in busy periods, and quiet ones too. Despite my familiarity with London, I never failed to discover something new, when walking. An alley never seen before, or a quirky shop, that I never realised existed. You can still walk in the countryside here, but the irony is that you have to drive somewhere to do it. In the most open environment I have ever lived in, there seem to be less areas that are actually accessible, due to fences, farms, and land ownership. You can try walking about down the peaceful country lanes, though I would not recommend it, as the traffic gives little thought to pedestrians. The best option here is to head to the coast, though that involves driving, finding a car park space, and making sure that you are not going to need a toilet!


Living in a city like London, choice is something that you take for granted. Choice of restaurant, choice of bar, choice of shop. You can choose which museum, attraction, or concert to go to, and even choose how you will travel there. As a Londoner, not having these options never occurs to you. They will not be taken away, if anything, just added to. The old saying, ‘spoilt for choice’, must surely have originated in London. Living in semi-rural Norfolk, choice becomes a luxury. It is something that you have to travel for, at least as far as Norwich. Even there, it only exists on a very small level, compared to the metropolis. If anyone ever considers life away from a big city, they should contemplate the removal of choice, and how much that may affect them.

So, just six things missed, though some of them are pretty big. There are at least as many things that I don’t miss, so the balance is in there somewhere.

London Life (3)

My previous two posts on this subject painted a less than attractive picture of living in London. They need to be balanced, to some degree, by this post about the positive side of London Life. After all, if it was that terrible, nobody would stay there, would they?

London has many parks, and most are well-known, even to outsiders. Perhaps the best two parks are the ones most used by locals, and less known to visitors to the centre. Primrose Hill, between Camden Town, and St. John’s Wood, offers one of the best views over London available from anywhere in the Capital. A short climb up the hill, which is surrounded by a small park, rewards the visitor with a marvellous vista, stretching across Central London to the river, and beyond. When it has been snowing, toboggans and sleds appear suddenly, and local children and adults alike, take advantage of the steep incline, to enjoy the closest you can get to winter sport in the City. On Firework Night, or New Year’s Eve, locals make the climb, in any weather, to enjoy the free show of fireworks from every area of London, visible as from no other location. On hot summer days, lovers, friends, and families take picnics to the hill and the park, to enjoy the open space, and get some relief from the heat inside the area’s small homes. There are occasional tourists, wandering there from Camden Market, or after a visit to nearby Regent’s Park Zoo, but most are local people, making full use of this amenity.

On the other side of London, south of the Thames, lies the area of Greenwich and Blackheath. This is also on high ground, and the park houses the famous Royal Observatory, with the whole area being a must-see for travellers on riverboat trips along the Thames. The view from this high point offers the splendour of The Queens House, The National Maritime Museum, and the Old Naval College and Hospital. You can also see the Millennium Dome, now called The O2 Arena.

You will also see tourists inside the grounds of The Observatory, straddling the line of the Prime Meridian, thus being photographed in both halves of the World at once. South of the park, and across the busy main road, is the large public grassland called Blackheath. This is popular with kite-fliers, and home to football grounds for minor league players, as well as vast areas where any outdoor activity can be enjoyed. In the small town of Greenwich, there is a popular weekend market, and two famous vessels moored in dry dock, as visitor attractions; these are The Cutty Sark, a tea clipper that is the symbol of Greenwich to many, and the Gipsy Moth lV, the first ship to be sailed single-handed around the World. The area is best visited outside the summer tourist boom, with the leaves turning brown on the trees in the park, and stronger winds, ideal for kites.

The other great joy of living in London, and the one that I miss the most, is the ability to eat out, with a selection of restaurants and cafes unsurpassed anywhere in Europe. This applies especially to the central area, north of Oxford Street, and stretching up to Camden Town, and beyond. I do not believe that there is any cuisine that is not catered for. I know of Mongolian, Armenian, and Eritrean restaurants, alongside the more familiar Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, and Greek eateries. Arabian tea bars, with customers sitting outside on large cushions, sipping mint tea, or enjoying shisha pipes, Italian espresso bars, popular since the 1950’s, and traditional English cafes, serving a full breakfast, all sit side by side.

When I was young, eating out was restricted to Pie and Mash, Jellied Eels, Fish and Chips, or the occasional foray to Limehouse, to enjoy a basic Chinese meal. By the late 1970’s, this had all changed, and anything imaginable was available.

During the last 12 years, I have had to travel no further than the area from Charlotte Street to Camden Town, to find delightful restaurants, at all price levels. In Camden alone, the choice is so great, I did not manage to visit them all, during the time I lived there. From the recent addition of the mighty Gilgamesh, which is worth a visit to marvel at the interior, even if you do not wish to eat there, to the older establishments on Parkway, and every street in between, there is something to cater for every taste. Inverness Street, a pedestrianised street market, is home to no less than six restaurants, including Hache, where they serve the best burgers in London, and Bar Solo, where you can enjoy a three course meal, or just have a coffee outside, and watch the life on Camden’s streets. Further along, there is Bar Gansa, a Tapas Bar, with live flamenco on Mondays, and Made in Brasil, a place with a great atmosphere, especially when Brazil are playing football! I have enjoyed many happy evenings, and some great food, in all of these, and more.

So, not all of London Life is to be demonised, or reviled. Wandering around Soho, or Chinatown, can be relaxing and enjoyable too. The unusual bookshops of Charing Cross Road, or the antique shops of Camden Passage in Islington, provide a nice diversion when you have time to spare. When the tourist season is at a low ebb, and the workers commuting in and out have gone home, London can offer much to those who actually live there. I am glad that I did live there, and equally glad that I no longer do.