A London Tourette

On Sunday 29th December I joined The Fridays‘ annual Xmas/New Year Day Ride.  This year’s ride was christened the London Tourette by Simon, the Fridays’ leader, and was a ride around the city’s best architecture.  We started, as usual, at Hyde Park Corner and finished, as usual, at All Bar One, Shad Thames.  On the way we made eight stops and Simon, himself an architect, gave a personal account of his choices.

Getting there

Getting to Hyde Park Corner by 10.30 a.m. by public transport from Northampton was not easy on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year.  No trains were running south of Watford Junction but a bus replacement service was promised for the final part of the journey.  I left home on my Brompton folding bike in the dark on the frostiest morning of the winter so far.  From Kingsthorpe onwards the roads were clearer but became frosty again on approaching the station.  No mishaps and I caught the 0753 service.  The ticket collector announced that the promised bus replacement was cancelled but that passengers could use the London Overground from Watford Junction instead.  The train arrived late and missed the Overground connection but a replacement coach was offered. This turned out to be an “express” service in that it didn’t stop at Harrow & Wealdstone!  It reached Euston just before 10.00 a.m.

Three miles of quick pedalling along a direct route (quiet on this Sunday morning) meant that I was one of the earliest to arrive at Hyde Park Corner.  By 10.30 a.m. we were ready to go – and the Tourette proved to be well worth the effort.

The Household Cavalry see us at the beginning of our ride

The Household Cavalry see us at the beginning of our ride

1 Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists, Piers Gough, 1993

Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists, Piers Gough, CZWG, 1993

Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists

Our first stop was at these remarkable public lavatories (unfortunately closed on Sundays).  Local residents took the initiative of commissioning this design as an alternative to Kensington & Chelsea Council’s own mediocre proposal. An area of triangular paving was reclaimed from the centre of two diverging roads and furnished with benches and trees. The plan of the building echoes the triangular site with the lavatories at the wide end.  The plinth at the sharp end is partially enclosed by glass to form the florist’s kiosk.  Gough is an architect in the CZWG practice.

2 The Royal College of Organists, Kensington Grove, Henry Cole Jr, 1875

Royal College of Organists, Kensington Grove, Henry Cole Jr, 1875, with charming sgaffito decoration

Royal College of Organists with charming sgaffito decoration

This building – which looks to me as if it really belongs in a medieval town centre in Germany or Austria – is opposite the Royal Albert Hall on the west.  It was the original home of the Royal National Training School for Music, now the Royal College of Music.

3 Natural History Museum (Alfred Waterhouse, 1873-80) and shared space of Exhibition Road

Exhibition Road shared surface with Natural History Museum

Shared road surface outside the Natural History Museum

Waterhouse’s museum was a very modern building in the 1870s: an iron frame on which rest terracotta tiles, so much more interesting than the stodgy V & A next door.  The shared space controversy seems to have died down a bit.  Taxi drivers make life interesting.

4 The Michelin Building, 81 Fulham Road, François Espinasse, 1911

The Michelin Building, François Espinasse, 1911

The Michelin Building

To quote Simon, “Zut alors! You want decoration?  You got decoration!  The Age of Motoring has arrived.  To be followed by the Age of Eating Out.  Both involving Spare Tyres.”

Stained glass window featuring the original Bibendum

Stained glass window featuring the original Bibendum

Notice how the original Bibendum (or Michelin Man) was made of cycle tyres and had a pince-nez for eyes.

5 The Royal Danish Embassy, 55 Sloan Street, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Royal Danish Embassy, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Royal Danish Embassy, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Designed by the late great Arne Jacobsen this modern embassy is shared by Iceland too.

6 Lambeth North Underground Station, Westminster Bridge Road, Leslie Green, 1906

Lambeth North Underground Station, Leslie Green, 1906 - ox-blood-red tiled façade, arches

Lambeth North Underground Station

Leslie Green designed over thirty London Underground stations in five or six years after 1900.  They have iron frames covered in ox-blood-red tiled façade and the semi-circular windows of the first storey – arches in all but name – indicated straightforwardly to the Victorians and Edwardians that these were railway stations!  The arch serves no purpose at this level – but railways meant arches!  The tiles were resistant to London soot.

Opposite this station is a church – a Congregationalist chapel – with an interesting historical connection.

Lincoln Tower above Christ Church Chapel, (1) E C Robins (2) Paull & Bickerdike, 1876

Lincoln Tower above Christ Church Chapel, (1) E C Robins (2) Paull & Bickerdike, 1876

Erected on the centenary of the United States Declaration of Independence, the driving force behind it was Christopher Newman Hall.  He had lectured extensively in support of the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War and afterwards he raised funds for the tower as a London memorial to President Lincoln.

Lincoln Tower - Stars & Stripes detail

Lincoln Tower – Stars & Stripes detail

7 Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1714-29

Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1714-29, west front

Christ Church Spitalfields –  west front

The highlight of the tour!  Christ Church Spitalfields makes it into Jenkins’ hundred best churches in his 1999 book “England’s Thousand Best Churches”.  Then – fourteen years ago – he noted that the restoration was far from complete: “the ceiling seems to rest … on gloom and dust”.  In 1970 the church was near to collapse but Jenkins was able to describe it as “London Baroque at its most self-confident” although he does quote Pevsner’s view that it “could not be called anything but ugly”.

Christ Church Spitalfields,  interior facing east

Christ Church Spitalfields, interior facing east

8 The Blue House, Hackney, FAT (Shaun Griffiths), 2002

The Blue House, FAT (Shaun Griffiths), 2002

The Blue House

A delightful final stop.  Domestic house and offices by FAT, the practice that has just announced that it is calling it quits.  We see the cut-out form of a diminutive pitched-roof house, stuck on to a cartoon office block.  “Adolf Loos on the inside, South Park on the outside,” as Griffiths put it.

And so to the bar

Ten minutes riding from Hackney, across Tower Bridge, and we were at Shad Thames where Simon had reserved tables for the group.  Much beer was drunk, food was eaten, conversations had, and plans made.  Old friends who had not made the ride were welcomed on arrival.  Like the whole day, a good time was had by all!

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Getting home

So much easier than getting from home!  A straightforward bit of pedalling from Tower Bridge to Euston station, a train to Northampton, and a final pedal saw me home by mid-evening.

My route for the day in London (starting and finishing at Euston station) is here on Ride with GPS.  My friend Els had an interesting account of the day here on her blog with additional pictures, often lovely little asides, here on Picasa.

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The Fridays in Normandy – Monday ride report

To Carteret (elevenses), Briquebec (lunch) and Brix (aperatif)

We left the gîte nice and early to meet the main group in the Place Robert Bruce in Brix.  It turns out that an ancestor of Robert the Bruce was from Brix and had crossed with the Conqueror; Robert de Brix had become Robert the Bruce.IMGP6175

Martin’s CycleChat account of the day is a classic:

“Another absolutely stonking day.  Thanks to the Weather God that overlooks and protects all outings by The Fridays there was no need to don waterproofs at all.  A tailwind blew us to the coast and we turned left, across the traffic, with no real problem apart from a nice lady in a campervan needing to be told to stop, and whizzed southwards.

The coast cannot be far!

The coast cannot be far!

An excellent coffee stop saw lots of hot blooded chaps queuing in the boulangerie in the hope that all such places are staffed by beauties such as we see in the Brix version. Alas we just had to buy cakes and walk away disappointed, albeit only slightly.

For some, the boulangerie is not enough!

For some, the boulangerie is not enough!

A quick 12k saw us in Briquebec for lunch, where someone riding a Brompton was seen at a trailer that was selling chips. Someone else cast a covetous eye on a kebab house and some of us made sure Gordon was supervised as he took his ladylove out for her birthday lunch.  As he had already celebrated her birthday with a Calvados at the coffee stop we worried he might become slightly overcelebratory and we’re not here for that malarky.

The birthday girl outside the chosen restaurant

The birthday girl outside the chosen restaurant

At lunch I learned that an unnamed Friday peep not only knows all about Lenin’s Linoleum but has also spoken to John Lennon and Mick Jagger.  However I managed to recover a small bit of self-confidence by working out a route back to the château that avoids a bit of the Brix hill. I shall name this the Enigmatic Variation because while it removes some climbing it also removes a chance to stop in the bar in Brix.  And I am ashamed and shocked – SHOCKED – I tell you to reveal that the entire membership of this trip seems to have stopped there and is probably drinking Calvados as we speak.  If Greg was here this would not have happened I can tell you.  However it is not all bad news as it allowed me to raid the secret store of cider without anyone knowing. An ver’ niysch it ish, too.”

Sahar, Simon and Giorgos are among those sampling calvados, beer and cider

Sahar, Simon and Giorgos are among those sampling calvados, beer and cider

And the menu at lunch?  Assiette viandes, andouillettes, cheese, cider and coffee!

The route is here.  Today’s mileage = 43.  Cumulative mileage = 152.

Windows & Death – a Fridays Ride

As my resolution – to keep this blog more regularly – started on 1st January, I wasn’t going to make an entry for the “Windows & Death” Ride on 29th December.

But my friend SwarmCatcher has written up her account and published it today.  So I think I can at least offer a link to her blog at “Bikes & Bees”. You’ll also find a link to her rather good photographs at the bottom of her article.  She caught me on my Leninist soapbox at Clerkenwell Green:

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My photographs are here.

My route, from Euston to the start at Hyde Park Corner, on to All Bar One at Shad Thames, and back to Euston, is here.

Many thanks to Simon and all my Fridays friends (aka Friday Night Ride to the Coast aka FNRttC) although, like the Holy Roman Empire, this was neither on a Friday nor at night-time nor to the coast.

The Fridays’ Tour – London to John O’Groats (LonJoG)

Well, I’m making a fresh start.  Tomorrow at midnight, at Hyde Park Corner, I join a large group of friends for a ride to John O’Groats.

I’m only going to ride as far as Wellingborough, the stop for the first breakfast, and then I’ve offered my services as a driver of the support van.

The purpose of this Blog now will be to record daily, I hope, our adventures.

Don’t expect anything too literary or imaginative from me.  I’m a rather factual writer.  On previous tours, I’ve just kept a small notebook or diary and written an entry each evening.  That’s what I’ll try to do over the next week albeit in electronic format.

Very excited!