Blog

High Beach, Epping Forest, Royalty, Poets and Highwaymen

On Sunday I am doing a short live zoom tour at High Beach in Epping Forest for a company I often work with. The trees here are mainly oak, beech, hornbeam and silver birch. I love walking here especially at this time of year when the rough ground is covered with autumn leaves. We...

White Harts, Old Oaks and Lady Jane Grey

I spent my school years in Leicester and my family live there still. I was surprised on a recent visit to see Tim Hortons has an outlet there. It opened last year in a building that started life in 1885 as the East Gate Coffee House and it was popular with members of the...

St Ermin’s Hotel – Spy Central

The statues at the entrance are wearing masks because of Covid 19, not as a disguise although this is the place where all the secret service bureaux crossed paths during WWII. My interest in spies began during my guide training course in Bordeaux. I conduct a walk there based on the 1940s Nazi Occupation....

The Cenotaph Centenary

On 11th November 1920 the world’s first tomb to an unknown soldier was inaugurated at Westminster Abbey and at the same time a memorial called The Cenotaph, which means empty tomb, was unveiled near the Abbey. Part of the celebrations commemorating the end of WWI and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in...

What’s on the roof in Whitechapel?

I like weathervanes and I noticed this one day. Canadian artist, Rodney Graham depicts himself dressed as Erasmus, engrossed on a book while riding backwards on a horse. Erasmus was said to have written his In Praise of Folly, a satirical attack on superstition while riding on horseback from Rome to London. The image...

Tagore

This bust of the Indian poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore is in my favourite London square. It is Dorset Square, Bloomsbury and I love it because it looks a little wilder than most, the plants here are not quite under control. In the spring it is full of bluebells. Discrete notices around the square...

Art, Socialism and Spies

This week I went with some friends to visit the George Frederick Watts Galley in Compton, Surrey. It was sunny and the countryside around Compton is lovely. The museum staff were all very pleasant. You don’t have to book and there is a small but very good café so you can spend the day...

Cattle in London?

These are English Longhorn cattle and they are grazing in a park in the suburb of London where I live. I am very lucky that during the Covid 19 I have been able to walk or cycle in the park. The cattle were recently introduced to eat some of the grasses that are not...

Mascarons

Walking along Queen Anne’s Gate the mascarons reminded me of Bordeaux. They have monster faces and in ancient times they would have been placed over doors and windows to scare away evil spirits.  In Bordeaux virtually every building in the city centre has them, only Paris has more. They became fashionable in France during...

Stanley Spencer, Cookham

Cookham, Berkshire was the birthplace of the twice married artist, Stanley Spencer. He loved it there and many of his paintings feature the small town. An exhibition about his wives, Hilda Carline and Patricia Preece opened recently at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham and I was really keen to see it as he...

Do you wear a face mask?

I am very serious about wearing a face mask on public transport, in shops and all designated places but it’s good to keep your sense of humour. This life-size statue caught my eye the other day. It is called Taxi and its by John Seward Johnson (1930-2020) whose grandfather co-founded the Johnson & Johnson...

Prison rags to art riches

The Tate Britain art gallery has reopened and entrance is free but you have to book tickets on line. On Sunday I visited the gallery for the first time since March and it was great to be there again.  Outside the front entrance is this sculpture by Henry C Fehr. I like its sinuous,...

Stars in Leicester Square

Some new bronze statues were unveiled in Leicester Square this year to celebrate its connection with the cinema. The idea was to have temporary statues but perhaps because of covid 19, no-one has thought to move them. I hope they stay. They bring a smile to my face when I walk across the square....

Pugilists

First, I must tell you about my live Virtual Tour, A Walk Around the Gherkin, looking at buildings and sculpture to tell stories. To book on your mobile, highlight the link, click “Look Up” then click “Search Web” to get to the ticket page. Now for the story about this picture, its a pub...

On Mile End

This is a small plaque but you can feel the energy of the boxer depicted. He is Daniel Mendoza (1764-1836), born in Whitechapel, to a Sephardic Jewish family about a century after Jews were allowed to live officially in England. (Judaism was banned from 1290-1657). Many Jews moved here from Holland, including Mendoza’s father....

St Pauls Cathedral

This is a photo of St Pauls that I treasure because it was such a privilege to be able to go up to this triforium, a gallery that runs around the inside of the cathedral to take it, and a privilege to be allowed to take a picture. At the time, photography was not...

Trinity Green Almshouses

This mural on a wall near the almshouses on Mile End Road was painted in 2011 by Mychael Barratt, James Glover and Nicholas Middleton. It depicts monuments and people who frequented the area and I love working out who they all are. Answers at the bottom of this blog if you want to try...

Three Graces

This week my blog is about Bordeaux. I should be there now but with so few tourists this year, another guide looking for work is not what my colleagues there need. This photo is part of a fountain in the Place de la Bourse. The Place is the backdrop reflected by the Mirroir d’Eau,...

Canada in London

If you look up when you walk around the City of London, you will notice a lot of weathervanes. This one is quite surprising, with a gold beaver on it. It is on one of London’s busiest streets, near Liverpool Street station. The office block which it decorates was built in 1926 for the...

Berlage in London

This sculpture is on the corner of a building in the City of London designed by the Dutch architect, Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856-1934). It is by Joseph Mendes da Costa (1863-1939). Born in Amsterdam, his father sculpted tomb monuments and Joseph worked in clay and stone. He specialised in figurines and sculptures like this...

Steelyard

Every year I try to learn something new, this year because of Covid 19 I’ve been forced into embracing virtual reality. I am now on Instagram and this is my profile photo. I was in Bryggen, Bergen in Norway in February. I loved Bergen; the fantastic Kode art galleries, the architecture, the wooden buildings...

Wine and beauty

Continuing on from last week’s blog, my favourite example of contrapposto is a little alabaster statue in St André Cathedral, Bordeaux. She is called Notre Dame de la Nef. She dates from 1500s and is made of alabaster. This stone came from Nottinghamshire in England and was used as ballast for the ships travelling...

My Blog

At Hyde Park Corner This is the view of a statue in London that, before lockdown, I used to drive past on my coach tours. There is so much else to talk about where this memorial stands that he rarely gets a mention on the tours. His beautiful bottom peeps out above the stone...

My blog

Embarquement de la Duchesse d’Angoulême à Pauillac by Antoine-Jean Gros 1818 This is a blog about the politics at the time this picture was painted.  The painting is huge (around 5m x 2.5m). People in it strike heroic poses, and the duchess is in the centre dressed in shining white. It was made to...