Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Saturday List #157 - Ten things which make London unique

I love living in London. I wouldn't live anywhere else. Clare asked me where I would live if I couldn't live in Mill Hill. My answer somewhat surprised her. I said I'd like to live in Soho. The reasons I love Mill Hill are because I can jump on a Thameslink Train and be in Central London in 20 minutes. I can also put the lead on the mutt and be walking over country fields in five minutes, without having to jump in a car. I believe I've put a little bit back into the amazing cultural life of our city by running Mill Hill Music Complex studios and nothing thrills me more than to see a band or artist who started at our studios progress to National/International fame. This has happened a few times, most notable with Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash, both Brit Awards wiinners, but there are too many other artists to list here (and that is not what this list is about). For this list, I thought I'd list ten things which make London special and unique and always send a tingle down my spine, for all manner of different reasons. They are in no particular order, and I've tried to pick ten different themes.

1.  The Roundhouse. London's most iconic and best music venue. I have my name on the wall

and an article on their anniversary website, but even if I didn't it would still be number one for me. The venue changed my life the night I saw the Ramones there in 1977. I was honoured to be interviewed by Absolute Radio about this earlier in the year. This year we saw the Beat and The Selecter there and it was an awesome gig, with much merriment in the bar after. Only in London could an old clapped out train shed be transformed into the worlds greatest venue. That is what we do in London.

2. Blackfriars Station. There are many great railway stations in the world. If you'd asked me five years ago I'd have said that my fave was St Pancras, which is a truly awesome building and a fantastic place, becoming a venue and destination in it's own right and part of the greater regeneration of the Kings Cross area. However, it has been supplanted as my favourite station by Blackfriars. It doesn't have the shops, the piano's, the champagne bar or the grand Gothic Facade. It is a functional station with a Costa Coffee on Platform two. How could it possible surpass St Pancras. Well show me another City with a station with this view.

3. Sadly, the next stop on my list is not long of this world. HS2 will destroy it. I am not anti change, but I really think that when large schemes are conceived they should put more effort into preserving the things that matter in our city. The Bree Louise is an amazing Real ale pub, with dozens of Ales available and a unique atmosphere. The beer is good and CAMRA members get a discount. What is not to love? It will be going in January. To quote Aritha Franklin in Save Me "These tears of mine, they are justified".
4. Lambeth Bridge. London has many fantastic Bridges. Perhaps Tower Bridge is the obvious one for inclusion, or even Waterloo Bridge, with it's view immortalised by The Kinks in Waterloo Sunset, but I prefer Lambeth Bridge. The reason? This may sound a bit weird, but I love the way you sort of come around the corner and on a sunny day at lowish tide, you see a scene in the middle of the worlds finest metropolis that sort of looks like a funfair at the seaside. As you cross the bridge, the view completely changes. I thoroughly recommend a crossing from North to South on the Eastern side of the Bridge followed by a Promenade down the South Bank. I really don't think there is anything like that anywhere and you end up at....

5. Borough Market.

I love Borough Market. London has a few food courts, but I think Borough is the best. It ain't cheap but it is amazing. A place I always take friends to. I love the little free samples, the Rake pub, the hog roast, the fishmongers and the beer stall. A liver, bacon and onions bagette at Maria's cafe is a real treat.

6. St Pauls Cathedral

This is such an immense and dominating feature of London. The NAZI's tried to destroy it and failed. Sir Christopher Wren designed it as a Church and did not want statues of generals in it. It was the centre of the Occupy protests. A Temple of Worship in the centre of Mammon (The City). I wrote a song about this conflicted building. To me it makes London. This week we had the Grenfell Tower memorial service there. I can think of nowhere in the world that really could have done that justice in the way St Pauls did. It is unique. I am not really sure whether I love St Pauls or hate it, architecturally, I don't think I'll ever really know, but I would want nothing else on the site.

7. The British Library. This is a real gem, the books of antiquity are simply amazing. Last year they had the punk exhibition, which was fantastic. It is free and if you have a free half an hour on the way home, have a look in. You may find you miss your train though.

8. The Victoria and Albert Museum. London has more than it's fair share of amazing museums, but the V&A is unique. It could only be in London. I used to hate it when I was a kid, preferring the science museum, a far more "boy" place. However the Bowie exhibition blew me away. It is a museum for grown ups.

9. The Houses of Parliament.
If ever you get the chance to visit, grasp it with both hands. The mother of all parliaments, with all manner of quirky stories, such as the plaque to the suffragets who spent the night in a cupboard, so they could give the houses of parliament as their address in the census. I had a film shown there, which is one of the prouder moments of my life. It is steeped in history of our nation.

10. BBC Radio London. A truly unique station. Presenters such as Robert Elms and Garry Crowley present shows which give a flavour or our city and its culture and residents that are unlike anything, anywhere else I've experienced. Robert Elms has all manner of quirky features, from architecture to listed Londoners to notes and queries, with a whole range of music of note. Garry Crowley gives a different perspective on music and the characters who have made London the cultural hub of planet Earth. I was discussing the station with a friend recently and I was trying to explain why it is my station of choice. I think it can be summed up as the most interesting thing that you can listen to on the radio.

We live in a unique City. I feel blessed to live here. There are many great cities, but London is unique and we really should appreciate how lucky we are to live here.

No comments: