The heartbeat of London is singing
5 October 2014
We set off incredibly bright and early to Columbia Road this morning. We’d had a happy boozy night with Bridie and Andy and it felt a little too much of an effort to drag ourselves out of bed. But it was worthwhile. And this evening, I’ve just had a funny look back at blogs past. Never was it truer to say that life takes on patterns. It does seem that about this time of year, every year, I write a little blog all about London sparkling in the autumn sunshine.
But there’s something breathtaking about this moment, the first day you feel like wearing a coat or a scarf, and the sun takes on a slow clarity quite unlike spring or summer sunshine. I remember in all the years I lived in New York, that magical moment in the brick and brownstone streets of Greenwich Village, when the first cold day of autumn arrived in the city… and the smell of woodsmoke could just be perceived in the air. It didn’t matter how many times I saw that moment. I loved it.
Year after year, the quiet repetitions and patterns of life take on new meaning. And so it is with the moment, in autumn, when London looks so beautiful you could cry with happiness.
Even the tower blocks take on a serene quality on days like this.
With their lush gardens glowing in the morning sunshine, great palms and olive trees no doubt bought for a song at the market.
Those are the railings around Sivill House, which regular readers will remember I’ve written about before. There’s a really nice blog about Sivill House and the other council estates which I’ve pointed you to before here. (nice redesign, by the way, lovelondoncouncilhousing). There’s a moment going on in London right now where people hate towers. Generally, I am afraid that they are right to – although the media campaign that’s been running puts in mind locking the stable door too late. But what are we missing today, everywhere and anywhere? The sense of optimism, the sense that we could change the world. That, I suppose, is what I miss about the Heroic age of tower building in the 50s and 60s. (It took the Heroic age of Conservation a decade later to make us realise what had been lost).
Columbia Road doesn’t change either. I could have taken this photo at any time in the last ten years. Rows of winter pansies and cyclamen just now.
Of course new trends creep in. Last year, I’d noted a horrific stand of dyed flowers (“they’re not artificial, honest” said the trader with a twinkle in his eye as I stared, I wrote then). This year, things have gone a little crazier.
I’m really anxious to buy someone a cactus with a sombrero as a present right now. I just can’t think who. Look out.
But the best parts of Columbia Road don’t change.
We loved this tiny mini crammed with flowers:
As we were admiring, the owner, who was extremely stylish, arrived to fill up another load. I was pleased to see her dog is mini too.
We called in at my favourite antique shop, H. Jones, and bought a beautiful chair that will be making its way to the new office boardroom, which Lucy and I have rather sneakily and a trifle pretentiously have started calling the library. Photos to follow soon of this and the whole office renovation. We’re getting settled, and it’s beginning to look amazing.
Captured by is a new store on Columbia Road with a purpose in life and a spring in its step. It’s brilliant.
I am sure regular visitors to Columbia Road will be familiar with a giant white cat that loves sitting in the sun just outside the spanish cafe having its photograph taken.
That cat has total star quality.
The atmosphere in Columbia Road was magical this morning. Charlie had never been. A good day for a first visit.
I love the cheeky flower sellers, of course:
And their typographic gymnastics:
These two little fellows were very smartly dressed for a visit to the market with their granny:
But above all there is nothing like that feeling of walking home in brilliant sunshine with an enormous bunch of sunflowers.
Back home, the sun still sparkled. A new tray of orange winter pansies waits in the roof garden.
I’ll post a few more photos of the flat properly one of these days. The light was beautiful this afternoon.
(Oh…if you haven’t seen the Horst P Horst at the V&A, it’s definitely worth a visit. FT article coming soon).
Outside the sunshine turned everything to gold.
Even the pipework on the corner of one of the hospital blocks had a poetry of its own. Eat your heart out Richard Rogers.
The great brick arches of Kings Cross station glowed.
David Chipperfield’s new building with its stunning cast iron columns glowed.
The fountains outside the Granary glowed. They were mesmeric, as always.
I just love what’s going on in Kings Cross. To have taken these great old buildings and injected life and energy without ever descending to kitsch or pastiche… I’m full of admiration. We had a bite to eat at Caravan. It was rammed. Insane.
I love the style of Kings Cross which puts bright yellow chairs and tables everywhere, trusting people not to take them for a walk.
I love the patterns of buildings emerging.
We walked to meet some friends of Charlie’s over on Exmouth Market. Everywhere you looked today were glimpses of a city singing. Yellow leaves and yellow doors.
Keystone Crescent gleamed (which has to be one of my favourite streets in the whole of London).
I loved the fact that Bridie and I aren’t the only shop to have installed a beautiful reverse gilded three dimensional shop sign this year:
Yum yum Kings Cross Eyes. (I can’t find a website but I love your Facebook page).
We walked together up to Islington.
Funny, isn’t it, how even a terrace of dusty old town houses, on a busy street, with their bins, and a bike under wraps, has a poetic quality on a day like this? London – I’ve said it before, I’ll surely say it again. I love you. And it’s a stronger feeling now than ever.