London's weather continues dark, and nights are drawing in more, but there are rewards. Jon, who writes a wonderful quirky blog from Tennessee, has sometimes posted about the Victorian night-painter Atkinson Grimshaw but I don't recollect that Grimshaw ever applied his gothic skills to St. Pancras, above. It is one of the Borough of Camden's architectural gems, which we passed on the way back from the Old Queens Head in Islington. He should have painted it, I thought, as I snapped this photo though the windscreen.
We'd met N. at the Old Queens Head to see the folk guitarist Martin Simpson. It is a very popular pub with lots of atmosphere, but if I said the decor of the Bell was weird in my last post, it was nothing on the Old Queen's Head. It is like a stage set, and represents a decaying Victorian hostelry, I suppose, though parts of this fireplace look hundreds of years older. Note the antler chandelier.
The gig was up a flight of battered narrow stairs, apparently papered with the remains of old and hideous wallpaper, plastered over and peeling off. Then N. pointed out that the design included the Gherkin office building (top left) and someone being mugged. The paper is new.
Martin Simpson is a phenomenal folk guitarist and wonderful raconteur. Although I am not a particular fan of the type of music he sings, I enjoyed the evening a lot, and the gig was packed. The Green Note (in the picture) which presented him, is actually a small music venue in Camden Town, which features many original and interesting singers.
It is in Parkway, and coincidentally that area is right by the locations of two movies I also saw. Parkway adjoins Gloucester Crescent, the setting for "The Lady with The Van" (an amazing Oscar-worthy performance from Maggie Smith). It's based on a true story of how a homeless woman parked her derelict van in Alan Bennett (the playwright)'s front garden in 1974 and stayed for 15 years. It is a touching, clever film with stunning sets and costumes.
I have a friend who used to live in Gloucester Crescent and she said that they all tried to be sympathetic to her, but the smell and fuss was sometimes hard to deal with - and when the film company moved their old van into the same driveway, there was initially a frisson of panic amongst the residents who remembered her!
The other movie, "Amy," was a documentary partly filmed in Inverness St, which runs into Gloucester Crescent. It chillingly conveys how destructive fame can be. Tony Bennett said in the film that she should have been cherished, to help her blossom as one of the world's great jazz singers - but as we know, that didn't happen, and she was exploited instead.
I thought my daughter, who watched the movie with me, had seemed a bit emotional during the film. After, she told me that when she was a teenager she'd hung out with Amy and several other people who appeared in the film, including Amy's boyfriend/husband, at the Good Mixer pub. If she mentioned them then, I hadn't known, probably because Amy was just another singer in those days.
She said Amy was unpretentious and fun, but she mixed with some screwed up people. She said she once asked Amy's boyfriend if he thought he was a psychopath. Not because of what ultimately happened with Amy, (that was still in the future.) He said "Yes, I think I'm probably a psychopath." Hm.
Anyway, seeing these faces from her youth in such a harrowing film had shaken her up.
It got me thinking. I had quite an interesting youth but somehow never managed to mix with anyone who became well known - not even the lady in the van, in the days when she was there and I used to live just 10 minutes walk from Gloucester Crescent myself!
What about you?