Sunday, 26 April 2009

How many royals lived to 71 and didn't marry?

The scale of this treasure is so big that it's not hidden at all - it's right in front of us!

Yep, it's a graveyard and regular readers will know my penchant

But this is one of the finest London has to offer. It's Kensal Green cemetery and it contains some of the finest names of society.

More details can be found here

I have uploaded a full rack of these pictures into my Facebook profile Ed Fordham - so join in there is you can. Otherwise I can recommend this as perfect bank holiday walking material...

This particular grave is of HRH Princess Sophia (1777-1848), fifth daughter of George III

Saturday, 25 April 2009

When is a church like a ship?

Loads of people walk past this building and don't really pay attention to it...

It's the Willesden and St Marylebone Sea Cadet Corps...

More on the Sea Cadets here:

The amazing thing about this building is that it's designed like a church, is corrogated iron and concrete blocks, it's listed, and the interior defies all imagination.

The interior of the building is laid out like the exterior of a ship! TS Bicester!

It's true - if you are passing and there's a fete or anything on do do do take the chance to pop in - it's Cambridge Road, just up from Kilburn Park Tube station...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bergen-Belsen blog report 2

One of the slightly unlikely elements of the camp at Bergen-Belsen was the number of Russian prisoners held there. And so these pictures record the Russian cemetery and the Belarus Ambassador to Germany (?) leading the tributes (below - suited).

This was essentially due to it's being used as a prisoner of war camp initially. It's only later that it was used for Jewish and civillian prisoners and then subsequently as a concentration camp.

So it is that over 50,000 Russians lie buried here... a truly awful number of people. And of course being so far removed from Russia, in western Germany, it's one of the more over-looked elements.

The burial mounds are all laid out and marked with a brown stone witha slavic cross - the number of them is the most daunting feature of the graveyard.

The other element that is so stark is just how far away from the document centre and the Jewish memorial the Russian monument is...

It adds to the sense of a forgotten sacrifice and reveals a small element of the tensions that existed.

Further, it also illustrates the size of the camp when in operation and the extent to which the forest has since encroached back. The other factor is that actually the prisoners in the camp were themselves segregated and kept very very much apart...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Bergen-Belsen blog report 1

I'd been putting off the visit for a while so wasn't quite sure what to expect. For those not familiar Bergen-Belsen was a concentration camp in Lower Saxony from the second world war - my grandfather had been in the liberation relief forces and I had been planning to for ages.

Because of the typhus outbreak before, at liberation the camp was totally destroyed and burnt down and so it has the effect of being essentially a wooded park land with memorials and graves.

But four kilometeres up the road, close to the village of Bergen itself are the rail track where the prisoners were unloaded and forced to walk to the camp.

It is a truly awful and poignant reminded of the reality if what was involved.

I walked from Bergen to the tracks and then onto the camp and it gave a real sense of perspective on the alienation of being uprooted from your home and transported to this place - unfamiliar, aggressive, unpleasant - a genocidal holocaust...

Now there is a sculpted memorial (above left) and also a service where local residents and school-children have written out the names of many of those transported to the camp and then candles are lit - some speakers, a few songs and a time to reflect. very moving, very emotional...

Monday, 20 April 2009

My stance on MPs expenses

I've had so many questions on this I thought I'd lay out the basis for how I'd like to operate if I am fortunate enough to be elected as your local MP when the General Election is called...

1. I live in the constituency – it’s the least residents can expect from their local MP. I will never claim for a second home. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for second homes of London MPs.

2. I will never employ members of my family. My staff will be appointed on merit, not on connections and they will have to work hard to justify their salary.

3. I will voluntarily publish my accounts so that constituents can see where their money is going.

4. I will vote to abolish the infamous "John Lewis List" and for independent spot checks on MPs accounts.

5. I believe that staff employed by MPs should in fact be House of Commons staff and their pay and conditions should be determined under Civil Service terms. It is not fair that office staff are used as a political football.

6. I do not believe that MPs pay and expenses should be set by MPs.

Here's the 5 Live programme I was on today discussing this topic from the London home of John Mann MP (Labour, Bassetlaw): (from 1.05 minutes in)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Now it's West Hampstead that's moving...

Well, if you thought the pace of change was fast in Kilburn or South End Green, then here is the evidence that it's a pacey old world out there.

Here in West hampstead you really do need to watching and keeping a close eye on things.

It's goodbye The Vault, goodbye The Wash House and hello to The Alice House...

All three are on West End Lane but the point is a rather graphic illustration of how fast the business community moves.

West Hampstead has in recent years undergone a major rennaisance (depending on your likes and dislikes of course) but has developed a real cafe culture and a sense of evening bars into which you can easily drop in.

No doubt there are those who don't like the specifics, but I'm sure we can all join in being pleased that there is at least this level of vibrancy in the local economy.

So once again it's keep up at the back there... the world is a changing...

Thursday, 16 April 2009

A plaque, a small street and a hot political issue

It's a small street in Hampstead, but given events, events dear boy, events, it's highly significant...

The street is Rowland Hill Street and this plaque notes the former house of Sir Rowland Hill

Hill's reputation was formidable and established during his lifetime and he was a key political figure in non-Conservative Government's as a passionate advocate of public service, social reform and institutional reform that sought to break vested interest and development based solely on profit.

The plaque erected by the Society of Arts has under it a small brass plaque that reads:


Just writing this post I'm recalling the march we did to try and save the local Post Offices from closure in 2005 when Councillor Margaret Little (pictured right in the picture we took then)supported the Belsize Residents Association and the Heath & Hampstead Society... sadly those Post Offices have closed across Belsize by this Labour Government.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Hang on at the back - another new one

The speed of commercial change isn't just the market - some of it is also the consequence of something directly highly political and so we're back in South End Green seeing the emergence of a new salon and hairdressers.

Nothing against the company or the trade (genuinely) but it is in the site of ye olde South End Road Post Office

The flicker of commercial life in that the store isn't laying empty for month after month means that this development is welcome and indeed a warm welcome to ENZ.

[And with that warm welcome goes a small plea that you join in with the community activity, the fairs, the christmas lights and other local stuff - South End Green has a strong sense of community - let's keep it and make it even better!]

But my sense of justice for the elderly, those on low income and traders who needed the post office means I'm still slightly riled each time I recollect (pic left).

And I for one certainly won't be forgetting that our Labour MP failed to vote to save Post Offices when there was a close parliamentary vote in the House of Commons.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Don't pause for breath, you might miss the next change!

Yesterday I put up the changes with the entry of a new enlarged Poundland storesin Kilburn, here's the next one.

It's the other consequence of commercial change - when one iconic store closes - another opens - but without the same level of historic affection and iconography.

The fall of Woolworths was pretty widely commented upon as the illustration of how severe the recession is and was covered on this blog

Iceland of course has a certain irony as the Icelandic Banks have been pretty newsworthy and Iceland stores is a part of that family.

But here on ye olde Kilburn High Road time waits for no-one and in have come Iceland stores... don;t get in the way.

It's a very simple and clever marketing operation and has a branding strategy that most companies would die for. Simple, clear and memorable.

There is something fascinatingly effective and ruthless with the low-income targetted stores and boy do they know how to milk it...

Many people almost literally grew up on Woolworth's through the 20's, 30's and 50's and since. Are Poundland and Iceland going to exercise the same level of grip on the shopping affections of the current generations' memories?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Kilburn keeps-a-changin...

Without a doubt the best thing about the Kilburn High Road is the way it moves and shifts almost daily.

It reminds me of the phrase a old friend taught me "Everything has changed, yet nothing is different." It's that whatever the shops, the vibrancy, the verve and the pulse of Kilburn remains lives and pumping.

Now it's often said that much has changed in Kilburn - that it really isn't the same anymore. I understand these claims but in fact the country has changed - produce and clothes and goods have rarely been cheaper and more accessible for all.

The old department stores of the 20's and 50's have long gone across across Britain and the supermarket is now dominant.

One of the objectives of this blog that has emerged and now is developed is that it captures Kilburn and Hampstead today - and by doing that preserves snap shots of change.

This set of pictures was one such change.

No sooner had a store emptied then ye olde Poundland pounced. These pictures were taken on the sunday as the store rushed to get ready for the monday opening...

On of course the crucial thing with the open trading market that is places such as the Kilburn High Road is that the shops themselves live and die by the trade they can generate.

Now don't get me wrong, I do believe that much can be done to enhance and improve an area through direct action and economic measures that make an area better - but right now, new stores in Kilburn point to a live and an economy that is not dying, in fact it's growing and developing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

It's a personal fad/interest but thought I would share it

Just some pictures to give you a flavour for my interest in shapes and pictures and lines and space.

There is something slightly catchy, hypnotic even mesmeric in the effect of the design of a building. All very unlikely but true...

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The finest illustrator of his day...

We're still here in Belsize - in Chalcot Gardens just off of England's Lane.

It's a truly lovely house and I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that interesting and famous people by definition live in interesting and lovely houses.

Arthur Rackham is pretty unknown by name and yet widely and extensively recognised by his art and art-genre.

He is most famous for his work of book illustrating and his works of Alice in Wonderland and various Grimm borthers works are now considered to be style-setting in their significance.

He is a classic illustrator of the post Victorian, late gothic style and is very much of the turn of the 20th century edwardian era. Some have used his work as a fantasy illustration of the dark clouds before the first world war...

In addition there is an Arthur Rackham Society

and a great range of information on his pre-eminence in that pre-war era

This plaque went up in 1981 as part of the English Heritage blue plaque scheme

Arthur was the third surviving child of Alfred and Annie Rackham (nee Stevenson). On 16th July 1903 he married painter Edyth Starkie in Hampstead and they one daughter, Barbara, in 1908. Barbara married to become Barbara Edwards.

During their marriage, Arthur and Edyth maintained separate studios in their home in Chalcot Gardens. In Barbara's memorial article about her father, she commented that her father often used her as a model for form or shape, asking her to "'bend down and imagine you're picking an apple off the ground' or 'try to look like a witch!'"

Monday, 6 April 2009

A good cut on request

I gave the retirement of Steele's the Butcher's in Hampstead quite a lot of coverage and was pulled up sharp in sunday by a resident who said I hadn't givent he same coverage to her local butcher...

So here putting the record straight is Barretts Traditional Butchers - they are in England's Lane, Belsize Park, and they do a roaring trade

They do food to order and to season and so are able to cater for all tastes and needs.

It's not unusual to see a long queue so get there early.

It's quite interesting to note the extent to which there were butchers in each local shopping parade and the extent to which these have no closed down in favour of the in house supermarket butchery provision.

Of course I will be giving coverage to the butcher on the Kilburn High Road have no fear... more to follow.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Amazing by-election win for Liberal Democrats

Well, here we go...

The Liberal Democrats have pulled off a stunning by-election win in the Belsize Ward.

The Tories were just 35 votes short of winning and have been so thoroughly trashed in all of the other Camden elections that this was the election for them.

In fact they lost dramatically and the Liberal Democrats won convincingly.

Tom Simon (Lib Dem) 1136
Conservative 952
Labour 270
Green 109

Majority 184

So where now for the Tories, seems like they are totally in the doldrums and in trouble...

Well done Tom - best of luck as councillor for the Belsize Ward - you'll be great.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Come on TfL, you know you want to talk to us...

Is this discreet little building on Finchley Road the answer?

For months, indeed years now, a group of local users of the North London Line (Overground) have been trying to get a Users Group together.

We've made the offer to TfL, to Silverlink historically, now to LOROL and a range of associated officers.

The response is a warm enthusiasm and then silence. Put simply there is no sustained commitment or support for such a venture from those who appears to be responsible for the line.

The result is a culture that is distant and hand-to-mouth. The whole operation works on a 'surprises only' basis.

For example, we have the signs being re-done at all the stations without a conversation on improvements, the benches at Kensal Rise being moved, the clock at West Hampstead being moved, a bike rack at Hampstead Heath in the daftest of locations, a coffee bar in Hampstead Heath, a cash point at Brondesbury - all unannounced and all could have been done better.

None of these need be problematic but the fact is all of them could have been done better, smarter, cheaper, to greater effect, if there had been the most cursory conversation with users.

So the challenges to Tfl, LOROL and the asociated arms of transport agencies are very simple:
  1. Decide if you really (really) want a Users Group and if you don't then be honest and say so.
  2. Provide a written commitment to working with that Users Group on a no-surprises principle (ie. we won't arrive at the station one morning to find closures, changes and additions that have not ben consulted on or notified in advance).
  3. Make a geneuine effort to be far more joined up - it's no longer credible to be consulting on access arrangements for Brondesbury, at the same time as making the installation of a ash point, at the same time as consulting on Phase Three - all of which should be joined up.
  4. Provide an up-to-date real contact sheet for the stations from Hampstead Heath to Kensal Rise and the associated staff responsibilities in order to remove the excuse culture of 'sorry not my department/scheme/section'.
  5. Include the British Transport Police and the local residents and amenity groups and stop playing one off against the other but committing to public meetings and regular information briefings (that can also be issued at stations).

So there it is a pretty simple five point challenge to TfL, LOROL and the associated agencies. I won't hold my breath... (but hope to be proved wrong)...