brick lane

Brick Lane Food

Brick Lane in London is one of my favourite areas. Hear of the Bengali community in London, the street boasts multi-lingual street names, a plethora of great Indian/Bengali curry houses, the famous 24-hour Beigel House at the top of the street, and (strangely) the HQ of the right-wing BNP at the other end (guess they were trying to make some sort of statement).

Truman Brewery

The Old Truman Brewery is also on Brick Lane. A huge building, it has been turned into an arts centre and has seen its share of controversy, especially with Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds exhibition a couple of years ago – the anatomical exhibition of real human bodies.

Part of the building is given over to an exciting new exhibition space called the Hype Gallery. right beside the Vibe Bar, right now this gallery is host to an exhibition sponsored by Hewlett Packard. Artists are invited to submit electronic version of their art, whether it be a photo of an artwork or sculpture, a scanned painting, or an electronically-produced piece of art or a movie. The only catch is that the piece of art must have a title with includes the letters “H” and “P” in that order. The gallery prints out each piece of art on state-of-the-art printers and they are displayed in the exhibition space on a rolling basis until later this month.

london’s markets

Old Spitalfields Market

Nestled in the heart of the city, in the shadow of Christ Church, Old Spitalfields Market offers the perfect antidote to out-of-town shopping malls. The stalls in the old covered market are the place to look for something original, of excellent quality and value for money. Sundays are busiest, with over 200 stalls operating, including a specialist organic market. On weekdays between 11:00 and 16:00 the markets’ varied stalls are quieter, except at lunchtime, when the choice of eating places attracts the young City crowd. On Thursdays, over 50 young designers show their work at the Fashion Market.
Tube: Liverpool Street.

Petticoat Lane

Petticoat Lane is London’s world famous Sunday market and sells mainly clothes – for men, women and children, from street-cred clubwear to over-orders of designer goods and last year’s must-haves. One of its specialities is leather wear and there’s bric-a-brac and household goods too. The market is held in and around Middlesex Street (there is no Petticoat Lane any more) and is open from 09:00-14:00 on Sundays, with a smaller market open from Monday-Friday.
Tube: Liverpool Street.

Portobello Road

The famous Portobello Road antiques and flea market in Notting Hill takes place every Saturday from 08:00-18:00 although there are stalls from Monday-Friday, too. On Saturday, it’s huge, with over 2,000 stalls, selling everything from books to bric-a-brac and lace to Limoges – even fashion and exotic cooking ingredients are on sale. (This is the place to shop-and-eat and then shop some more.) The market runs from Chepstow Villas to just under the Westway.
Tubes: Notting Hill Gate or Ladbroke Grove.

Camden Markets

Camden Market is actually several markets wrapped into one fun, funky canalside shopping experience. On sale are crafts, bric-a-brac, clothes, health foods and antiques. It is a place to pick up outrageous retro clothing, creative clubwear and even silly souvenirs. There’s Camden Lock Market, The Stables Market and Camden Canal Market, where you can find a wide variety of goods including clothes, crafts, antiques and jewellery. The best days to go are Saturday and Sunday from 08:00-18:00 – as long as you don’t mind crowds; there is a smaller number of shops and stalls open on weekdays.
Tube: Camden Town or Chalk Farm.

Greenwich Market

Greenwich Market sells a variety of traditional, hand-crafted goods. The craft market is held at College Approach and the antiques market is off Greenwich High Road. All the markets are open at the weekend from around 09:00-17:00.
Tube: Cutty Sark
Rail station: Greenwich 

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market is a restored Victorian covered market that sells traditional game, poultry, fish and meat. It’s open Monday-Friday from 07:00-16:00 and the best time to visit is early lunchtime. It is found in Whittington Avenue, off Gracechurch Street, close to the Lloyds of London building and the Bank of England.
Tube: Bank/Monument

Borough Market

Otherwise known as London’s Larder, Borough Market boasts a mouth-watering range of fresh food stalls under its Dickensian wrought-iron roof. Italian cheeses, Morecambe Bay shrimps, Spanish foods and much more. Atmospheric, lively and mouth-watering it’s a definite must on a Saturday morning. It’s a foodie’s paradise! Open 12:00-18:00 Fridays, 09:00-16:00 Saturdays.
Tube: London Bridge

Berwick Street Market

Berwick Street Market sells fruit, vegetables, fabrics and some clothes and household items. It’s open Monday-Saturday 09:00-18:00 and the best time to visit is lunchtime. Berwick Street is in the heart of Soho, the centre of London’s media industry and a prime eating and entertainment area.
Tube: Oxford Circus/Tottenham Court Road

Columbia Road Market

Chic little boutiques line this historic street, which every Sunday is filled with flower stalls. As well as cut flowers, there are topiary trees, pot plants, bulbs and bouquets on sale, and everything to cater for that English obsession, gardening. The market is open from 08:00-14:00 and there are plenty of chic cafes and authentic sea-food stalls to refresh you.
Tube: Liverpool Street/Aldgate East

Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane Market is pure East End London, which means Jewish bagel shops, Bangladeshi curry houses, Indian sari silks – and Cockneys crying out their wares. This chaotic, bustling market is half way between jewel and junk heap. It attracts lots of young Londoners, in search of second-hand furniture, unusual clothes and bits of this-and-that. They’ll finish with an inexpensive Sunday lunch (probably curry) in a local restaurant. The market is open Sunday early morning to around 14:00.
Tube: Liverpool Street/Whitechapel/Aldgate East

Summer Solstice 2004

In true British style, Midsummer’s Day has started out quite chilly thank you very much. At least one person I know had the central heating on last night, and I certainly had the car heater on full this morning.

But Stonehenge didn’t let us down. Despite a heavy dew and clouds obscuring the sun, dawn rose majestically over the ancient rocks. More than 21,000 people assembled to see the sun rise on summer solstice morning.





A Night at the Opera

This week I had my very first – and then second – trip to the Opera. We booked to see the Barber of Seville followed by the Marriage of Figaro, both in the old Savoy Theatre. The theatre itself is beautiful, and it was the very first public building in the world to be completely lit by electric light more than 100 years ago.

We had great seats and I really enjoyed both performances. The first was done in a modern setting whilst the second was performed in full period costume. It was remarkable how similar both operas are given that they were written by two different composers, and as they were both sung in English (sorry purists!) it meant I had half a chance of figuring out what was going on! A wonderful experience, though, and I will definitely go again.

places to visit without necessarily eating

You can check these places out either online or in real life – here are some links to some of my favourite places in London. – vote for the next work of art to be installed on the empty plinth on Trfalgar Square. – an amazing stretch of the river from Westminster to London Bridge, taking in the London Eye, the Dali Museum, the National Theatre, The National Film Theatre, the Tate Modern and the Royal Festival Hall, not to mention great places to eat like the Oxo Tower and the People’s Palace. – the excellent website for the Tate Galleries in St. Ives, Liverpool and London. My favourite at the moment is the Tate Modern on the South Bank, right beside where I work. – the world famous Royal Institution has its home just off Piccadilly. Our generation will know it best for the much-loved Faraday Christmas Lectures, started many years ago by Faraday himself to bring a love of science to young people. The RI have lots of events including weekly lectures. Admission is £12 (it’s best to book) and the topics are varied. Go on – educate yourself! – I don’t care if you are not interested in musty Egyptian artefacts – just go to the British Museum to marvel at the beautiful covered square in the middle called the Great Court. The huge round Reading Room is also spectacular. – the world-famous Kew gardens are a fantastic place to visit any time of year. The huge glasshouses are amazing to wander around, but our favourite corner is the big pagoda and tranquil Japanese garden. Visit now to see the 10th annual orchid festival.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Not sure what my compatriots will be doing on Wednesday… well, that’s not strictly true. They will get up, go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in whatever Irish city they live in, have a few pints and enjoy the day off work.

We in London have to satisfy ourselves with a parade the Sunday before (missed it myself) and a full day’s work.

With the size of the Irish diaspora, it should be a national holiday in all the nations of the world!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Beannachtaí na Féile Phádraig oraibh go léir!!!

Barry Lategan

Walking back to my office from a meeting today, I stopped at my car to pick up my laptop. A middle-aged man was standing outside our car park with a camera in his hand, considering the wall of the parking lot with some interest. As I walked past, he smiled and said he was glad I had come out, as he needed a bit of elegance for his shot.

We got talking and he explained that he was a photographer, and that whilst travelling in Egypt recently had stumbled on the idea of advertising boards and other hoardings being the artistic backdrop of city life. The wall of our car park had been pasted with a light blue paper, which had been painted with graffiti images of people – an artistic effort rather than an act of vandalism, we assumed.

We waited a moment until a good-looking young girl walked past with some coffees in her hand, and the gentleman took his shot. He showed me the image in his digital camera, shielding the view screen for me with his scarf. The composite image of the girl striding past this unusual backdrop was indeed striking. This man was indeed a photographer and a good one at that.

He asked me if I was Irish (the accent is always a giveaway) and said that Seamus Heaney had just inspired him to notice place names, as he had been listening to him on a radio programme earlier talking about Irish place names. We chatted about this, and I said that Irish names mean nothing to others but to the Irish they are really significant and often beautifully descriptive.

The gentleman pointed out the name of the street we were standing on – Valentine Place – and how the name conjured up such a different image in one’s mind to the one he had just captured.

As I made to leave, he tipped his hat to me in an old-fashioned but genuinely natural manner. He extended his had to shake mine as he introduced himself as Barry Lategan, a photographer who took the very first pictures of a young model called Twiggy. I walked back to my office thinking how amazing this part of London is with all its theatres and art houses so close by. Just by wandering about at lunchtime I have bumped into Sir Ian McKellan and now a famous London photographer.


Don’t you just love this city?