Sunday, 31 March 2013

The snail

The clue was on the railing:

A well known restaurant which I have yet to visit. The restaurant has an interesting history being the first to serve fresh snails in Britain. It opened in 1927 by George Gaudin who had the idea of raising his own snails in the basement kitchen. Above the restaurant you can see a plaster bust of Gaudin riding a snail. Apparently he used to enjoy sitting by the window inviting guests to join him for a drink before giving them a tour of his snail farm.

It has had many other owners since then and had a complete refurbishment in 1998 now displaying a number of 20th cent works of art by Picasso. Matisse, Chagall, Miro, Hockney and others.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dr John Snow

During the years 1831 and 1860 London suffered many cholera outbreaks with tens of thousands of people dying from the disease. It was Dr John Snow who made the connection between the polluted drinking water and the epidemic. During one outbreak in 1854 Snow realised the victims all had one thing in common - they had all used water pump in Broad Street. He had the handle to the water pump removed and within no time the spread of the disease halted.
The original site of the water pump is just outside the pub bearing his name John Snow but a few yards away is a replica with this plaque underneath:

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


As many of you probably know I am trying to tick off as many things on my bucket list as I can. One of the more difficult challenges I set myself was swimming 1km.This equates to 50 lengths of the pool at my local gym. The first time I tried was about 18months ago and I completed it quite easily so that wasn't much of a challenge, but I had poodled along doing breast stroke so I decided that couldn't count and that if I wanted to complete this challenge I would have to swim the km doing front crawl. Now this was a challenge as I couldn't manage 1 length (20m).

Swimmer : Swimmer breathing performing the crawl stroke
(Not me!)
From then on every time I went swimming I tried to increase the number of lengths but it was slow going. After a while I was doing 2 lengths quite regularly but then I would have to stop as I was out of breath. I just couldn't get it right. The breathing and the leg kick were all wrong. I knew I was trying to swim far too fast rather than a more relaxed style. I have to admit I gave up the idea but then at the beginning of 2013 I tried again. This time I watched You Tube videos, read about breathing techniques and slowly but surely I managed to increase the distance so that I was alternating 4 lengths of front crawl with 4 lengths of breast stroke. Then at the beginning of Feb I was doing 6 lengths of front crawl to 2 lengths of breast stroke. The big breakthrough came at the end of last month when I decided to try and do 200m (10 lengths). It was hard going but after 100m I finally settled into a rhythm and finished up swimming 17 lengths. I thought I'd cracked it. Each time I go to the gym I always finish with a swim but I never repeated that distance until today.

As I was going for a walk later today I had a shorter work out in the gym and decided on a short swim. After about 10 lengths of various strokes I noticed  I had the lane to myself so I thought I ought to do a few lengths of front crawl just until someone else came into the lane. But after 10 lengths the pool was still fairly quiet. I then settled into a more rhythmic style. Not the most co-ordinated or technically correct style but nevertheless it was front crawl. After 20 lengths I was ecstatic. It was the most I had ever done. Still no-one got into my lane. 25 lengths, then 30 lengths. Could this be the day? With 15 lengths to go one of my ear plugs came out. Should I stop to retrieve it? my brain was telling me. Yes,yes my ear was shouting at me but I carried on, fearful that someone would jump into my lane and put me off my stroke. Then after 40mins of continuous swimming I had finally completed my challenge. What a great feeling as I dragged myself out of the pool. I never thought I would manage to complete this task but as they say 'if at first you don't succeed then try,try again'.


Gay Hussar

The Gay Hussar, an Hungarian restaurant, has been open since 1953 and is located on Greek Street, Soho. It has more of a club atmosphere than restaurant being over 3 floors with 2 private rooms said to have held many private meetings.
  It is believed that its founder, Victor Sassie, once worked for M16 (secret service) as a spy when he was a chef in Budapest. Not sure how true this is but since opening, this eating place has attracted politicians, writers and journalists and has bookshelves crammed with political books and autobiographies.


Monday, 25 March 2013

Soho Square

 Soho Square dates back to the reign of  Charles II (1630-85) and there in the middle of the square is his statue. The statue dates from 1681 but was only returned to the Square in 1938 as it had been in private ownership for many years. There are few of the original buildings around the Square left, as many have been replaced by more modern ones including Sir Paul McCartney's company who moved it here  in the 70s when he was in the group Wings. Underneath the square there are said to be many secret underground tunnels and shelters  which were last used during WW2. to protect people from the bombing.
This small building is in the centre of the Square but there was no information on the outside relating to its purpose. I thought it might have been public toilets but apparently not.

But there were other things in the square which took my eye such as a number of more modern sculptures by Bruce Denny.



Anyone for table tennis? A recent addition to the square I would think.

Buildings surrounding the square include the House of St Barnabas in Soho which was built in the 1740s. During the 1840s it was taken over by a charity to help homeless women which it still does today. Visitors are allowed to look at the architecture within the building prticularly the crinoline staircase which was built to accommodate the ladies in their large crinoline skirts of the day. Sadly it was closed to visitors when I was there.

This is the penny chute around the corner. It is attached to the railings and coins put in the slot go down the chute into the building. I have never seen this form of a collection box before.

On the other side of the square is the house where Mary Seacole lived. Despite being of mixed race she defied the prejudice of the time and helped to nurse wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Everyone hears about Florence Nightingale but not so much about Mary who actually braved the battle field to help the injured.

I am sharing this post with 'Our World Tuesday'

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Golden Arm

Just off Charing Cross Road is the area known as Soho. The first buildings were developed in the 1670s. when it was an area favoured by the aristocracy until newer squares were built in Mayfair and gradually the wealthy upper classes moved out and newly arrived immigrants moved in. In the early 18th century there was a high French population and it became known as Petty France. It is no wonder that Dickens imagined the character Dr Manette, from A tale of Two Cities, lived here during the French revolution. This street is named Manette Street in honour of the Dicken's character. It was changed from its original name of Rose street in 1895. Dicken's wrote: '... in a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane tree rustled its green leaves, church organs claimed to be made, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the if he had beaten himself precious.'

High up on the wall can be seen a replica of the golden arm, the original being on display in the Dickens museum.

 I am sure many people walk past every day and never look up at the golden arm orwonder what it means.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Mud, glorious mud

This week's walk with U3A was a 5 mile trek through woodland and farmland in the beautiful Kent countryside. However, the amount of rain and melted snow had left the ground like a quagmire.

 The soil is made up of  clay which does not allow for easy drainage.

Squelching through the mud was exhausting as each step required extra energy, as the ground wanted to keep hold of your boot for a moment longer than necessary.

 Where possible we left the path we were following and wandered into the woods where it wasn't so muddy. Many of the tree stumps were covered in shades of green moss and lichen.

 Half way round we came across this very inviting pub but didn't have the nerve to go in as we were covered in mud. Have to save that visit for another time.
Across the road from the pub was this 750 yr old church
After a short stop we were on our way again.

 It wasn't long before one member of the group slipped and had to be hauled up out of the mud as every time she tried to get up on her own she slipped again. Fortunately it was a soft landing and she was unhurt.

Being the sharp eyed person that I am I spotted this very woolly sheep. A bit large for a sheep I thought. That neck looks a bit elongated for a sheep and then I noticed there were others in a field. Well not exactly sheep but llamas - an easy mistake to make!
This time I did get it right. The first of the Spring lambs were in the next field.

 Yet another slippy style to climb over

The first flowering wild daffodils I've seen this year.

Loved the exposed roots of this tree.

 The hole in the rock framed the woodland beyond.

Then back to where we had started. Will I ever get my boots clean?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Pillars of Hercules

The Pillars of Hercules pub first opened on this site in 1733 and is mentioned in Dicken's book A tale of two cities. The present building dates form 1935 and became the meeting place of authors such as Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. It is in Greek Street Soho.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Ship and Shovell

One of London's most unusual pubs, The Ship & Shovell is on two sides of the street with the cellar linking the two sides below.

The pub is named after Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell who died, along with 900 crew, in 1707 when their ship was wrecked due to a navigation error. The loss of his ship and three other ships and their crew was such a disaster that it spurred on the search to find ways of calculating longitude. It is not known whether the Admiral's ship ' Association' broke in two or not which would explain why the pub is in two halves.  

The largest half of the pub has a central bar and is smartly decorated. The smaller half has wooden floors and little alcoves. Much cosier alhough quite small. Upstairs there is the 'Crow's nest' consisting of panelled rooms with open fireplaces


Sunday, 17 March 2013


It was my last day in the Lake District and I couldn't leave without going out onto Windermere. So on a bright but cold afternoon I went out onto the Lake for the first of my boat trips.
I put on another layer of clothing as well as my hat,scarf and gloves, knowing there would be a chill wind off the Lake. I also wanted to sit on the open upper deck of the boat to get the best views. Winter may not be the ideal time for cruising on the Lake but the lack of foliage enables you to see much more of the land. No-one else seemed to share my view though!
The Lake is the longest in England at over 10 miles and reachest a depth of 250 ft in places. As we sailed along we passed all manner of boats from small rowing boats and sailing yachts to the ferry boat.

There are islands in the middle of the Lake only one of which is big enough to be inhabited. The others are home to many seabirds especially the cormorants whose acidic droppings have stripped the bark from the trees and its branches.

Here was the hill I had climbed that morning with the Victorian viewing station.

The second boat I got on took me to the Northern end of the Lake which is the mountainous end. There are 4 mountains in the Lake District over 3000ft (900m). Tiny by other countries standards but large for England. There is still snow on the high ground at the moment which made the views that much more picturesque.

Ambleside is a small town at the northernmost tip of the Lake. Its grey stone buildings standing out on the shore line.

As we returned to Bowness the clouds came down the mountainside making a dramatic sight.

The sun was now going behind the clouds and the cold was seeping into my bones. I went down into the lower covered deck to warm up.

I enjoyed my trips out onto the Lake and I feel I have got to know it a little over the past couple of days. I have walked many miles along its shoreline. I have climbed up to the view points to see it from further afield and it has never failed to impress.

 As I got off the boat the clouds cleared and the sun shone down on the Lake for my last view.