Kentish Town with Ruth

6 December 2015
Ben Pentreath

Sorry for no blog last week. We still had no internet in Dorset. I can’t tell you what a joy that is. And we had no car, for various reasons, a long story. If we had had a power cut too it would have felt positively Amish. As it was, we felt very very cut off and isolated, more so that I’ve ever felt in Dorset, and it was total bliss.

This weekend, at the end of a busy old week, we’ve been in London. We had friends staying on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday evening we found ourselves wandering down to Somerset House. There is nothing as enticing as a freshly polished skating rink.P1050664 P1050667 P1050669

You didn’t think for one second that I’d be getting on the ice did you? But I adore watching.P1050670

The cool easy perfection of the ice marshalls contrasted with the timid, barrier-clutching public making their way onto the rink. I would have been last.P1050671

Some people instantly got into the swing.P1050676

Others did not…
P1050677 P1050680

Mental, and beautiful.P1050685

Now THIS would have been me:P1050689

Some people waited their turn with anticipation….P1050690 P1050692

Completely brilliant. I cannot say how much I love the fact that the courtyard of Somerset House is no longer a car park for tax inspectors… although the nonchalance of that former use is almost magnificent. (I searched for an image online but could find nothing).

This morning, everyone left after breakfast. Charlie and I pottered up Rugby Street. I think on a previous blog I may have promised a photo or two of Charlie’s beautiful shop window for our Christmas display on the street.  He has made a remarkable winter woodland, complete with ivy climbing up the walls. Do pop in if you can – but I know that many readers are abroad… so here is a little hint:P1050700

The shop is looking rather lovely at the moment. The Lambs Conduit Street party was a triumphant success for all the traders. It’s been a great Christmas for us all so far. While none of us forget what Christmas is really about, it is still rather heartening, in the days of AMAZON delivery drones and Black Friday internet madness, that a tiny street in a hidden backwater in the middle of London filled with small independent retailers should be catching people’s imagination. For that, I suppose, is what it’s all really about for Bridie and me, and for many of our neighbouring traders. Making people imagine.P1050703 P1050710

Our friends over at Thornback & Peel seemed particularly well-guarded.  Fluorescent.P1050713

Here comes Charlie bringing the coffee:P1050716

McGonigles is back in the pop-up, and their beautiful collection of old books is flying off the shelves…


And then we made our way to Kentish Town for a pub crawl with our friend Ruth.

We started at the Pineapple.P1050726 P1050727 P1050729 P1050730 P1050731

The Pineapple is a perfect sort of Victorian Pub. Nearly threatened with closure, some years ago the locals rallied around, fought off the developers, and left it exactly as it is. Ideal.

Kentish Town is a good place.  Nothing too much feels like it’s changed.P1050733 P1050740 P1050743 P1050748 P1050749 P1050750 P1050751 P1050758 P1050760

Ruth drives like a mad woman but luckily her car is protected by every god going:
P1050763 P1050765 P1050766 P1050767 P1050771

Next stop was the Southampton Arms.  Even more perfect. I had lunch number two, having enjoyed a delicous thai green curry at the Pineapple (the Pineapple must be the last pub in London which has a thai menu, a combination of Thai food and Pub which is now only found in lonely north of England towns).  The Southampton Arms serves a small but delicious selection of pies and rolls, and a changing roster of small brewery beer. Cash only. It is a dream.P1050774 P1050775 P1050777 P1050783

We put away more pints than you may imagine, and put the world to rights.  Is there anything, anything better to do on a Sunday afternoon when it starts getting dark at 3.30pm? P1050784 P1050788

No. There is not.  P1050790 P1050791

As we left, I wondered if things were getting a little blurry, but it was thankfully the camera, not me.P1050792

Great streets are to be found off the beaten track here.P1050796

And outside the oriental rug shops, an ageing camel that reminded us all of the wedding.P1050801



What is the name of this blossom tree? which normally flowers in January or February? Something is seriously strange just now (note also, if you will, the white roses still flowering).

Ruth dropped us home, and suddenly it was dark. The lights of Lambs Conduit Street glowed.P1050807Our neighbour Maggie Owen is I think responsible single handed for getting the lights up. She somehow managed to wangle the bureaucracy of Camden Council to achieve a fully and beautifully lit street with every tree shining away.  A first. Incredible.

But then again, Maggie has a thing for christmas lights and shiny things:

P1050811We had a sudden sugar low and dashed to Soho to buy doughnuts, passing what is possibly my favourite building in the whole of London (save, perhaps for the Post Office tower). The British Museum was disgorging late afternoon visitors.  It too, glowed.

On our return, we wandered back up Lambs Conduit Street. The crib is up again in France’s the funeral directors, one of the oldest and most historic funeral parlours in the whole of London.P1050815

And it felt like Christmas was not too far around the corner at all.  If only it would get cold.

13 comments on this post


Many thanks for latest perambulations. Drunk in charge of a camel? Definitely Prunus subhirtella autumnalis rosea. Best, Nicola


Ice, houseplants, camelsLove the gothic window display, the dried poppy heads are a nice touch. Making me think of a 1970s floral display in pink silk sun bleached window in a village somewhere, or the Bag puss shop. Ferns a wonderful indoor air purifier, houseplants and how to display them has recently been a passion of mine. Pub crawl looked interesting, loved the double diamond and Southhampton sign with equal appeal. Though after reading this months vogue it has renewed my interest in cocktails as there is an interesting piece called cocktail hour by Richard Godwin, I rather liked the idea of a gentler cocktail called a shim also mentioned were the words ‘I freeze water in large containers then hack it into rugged pieces’ though Im thinking I may need a tool. Camel ride is hilarious! made me remember my first camel ride in the Sahara dessert.

once again… a delicious walk through your own enchanted world.
thanks ben!
and charlie’s greenery touch maybe should be permanent.
it’s spectacular! a distinctive touch for a distinctive shoppe.
i wish i weren’t across the huge pond.
christmas hugs to you two.


How familiar are you with ‘lonely Northern towns’?


Great blog entry BP! A great Christmas to you, Charlie and all.


Only pub in London still doing Thai food? This suggests you don’t know or have forgotten The Windsor Castle in Crawford Place, Marylebone, W1. It’s a patriot’s delight, every inch of its walls and ceiling covered with Windsor royal family memorabilia, together with cabinets displaying all kinds of other royal-related stuff. There’s even a full-sized Guardsman mannequin to welcome you at the door. It’s the meeting place of the Handlebar Club and serves Thai food. The whole thing is done with a singlemindedness and panache that lifts it altogether out of your standard theme pub category and turns it into something closer to a niche museum. Do go!

Lovely pink flowering tree is Prunus subhiretlla Autumnalis Rosea. Try to say it after your next pub crawl. It also comes in white and is, in my opinion, the perfect winter tree.


Another great London walk and pint or two on a Sunday afternoon the only way to go.Love the camel shot.
Now Ben and Charlie I have a suggestion you mentioned in your last blog that you are coming to New Zealand again so if you have time and are in Chrstchurh please visit the Art Gallery.We are about to reopen after being closed for five years as a result of the earthquakes.Make sure you ask for Alison or Michael we are both avid fans and would love to meet you.

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben…what a blissful weekend, thanks for a great tour…
favourite picture is you and Charlie on the camel… tipsy joy!
xo deby

Pierre B.says:

Thank you Ben for this other nice walk in London. I can,t agree more with you about the British Museum.
Charlie’s window is more than inviting!


I think the blossom is on a Prunus subhirtella autumnalis. I have one in my garden in Oxfordshire currently in flower. I rather like your website and your posts. Thank you


The shrub with the pink blossom is Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – surprised that you didn’t picked armfuls of it to take home.

thanks for the lovely pub crawl. and no, nothing at all better to do on a sunday afternoon in any weather. i think the packe horse in chiswick also still serves thai food. it’s looking very festive round your way!

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