Still with the Times Literary Supplement, Malcolm recognised many locations in J . Mordaunt Crook’s review:
London: Hidden Interiors — sponsored by English Heritage, in all the glory of digital polychrome … With 1,700 images of some 180 buildings, it guides the reader from Central London to the suburbs; spiralling out from Westminster, the West End and Mayfair to Soho, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Clerkenwell; then on to the City and its eastern fringes, winding clockwise around the capital’s southern suburbs, before moving westwards and terminating in the north. The text by Philip Davies is crisp and informative; the photographs by Derek Kendall are a revelation.
In short, a glossy coffee-table book, but none the worse for that. £40 on the label, but Amazon are knocking it out for £28. Malcolm is severely tempted.
Industrial majesty and might
What got to Malcolm wasn’t necessarily those grandiose palaces (which he has, in many cases, passed through) but the lesser, more unapproachable, even more domestic places. There is, for example, the alternative splendour of Battersea Power Station (which Christopher Fowler featured when he reviewed, briefly, this book):
Of this Crook says:
Battersea Power Station is only too well known. Outside, it is the biggest brick building in Europe. Inside, its mighty Control Room — all switches, buttons and flickering dials — seems like an Art Deco vision from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Yet, in a way, its electronic marvels are eclipsed in memory by engineering of quite a different sort. Crossness Engine House SE2 — the greatest achievement of the Metropolitan Board of Works — survives today as a cathedral or iron. It was opened in1865, and its throbbing machinery is guarded by sinuous polychrome grills and powered by the largest rotative beam engine in the world. It was designed to pump thousands of gallons of sewage into the ebbing tide of the Thames. This is function carried to the level of sublimity.
One thing is sure: millions of tourists visit London. How many will see such temples of industry? Indeed, how many Londoners have ventured to Crossness? They should. They really should:
A sense of déjà vu all over again?
When we see these images, even those who have never, ever, been in London, feel there is something familiar. There’s the Midland Bank vault on Poultry, just opposite the Bank of England:
Now, err … where do we see that? Ah! Goldfinger!
That’s the Masonic Temple, hidden in the depths of what used to be the Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street (now the Andaz). Cit gents could nip in for a quick roll-up of the trouser leg before heading back to the sticks of East Anglia. You are told, when you penetrate this holy-of-holies that it was rediscovered by accident by the renovation works in 1997. Now it hired for weddings, hoolies, fashion shows and film shoots.
The 134 bus route to Redfellow Hovel
There’s a couple of these interiors, far less grand but worth the visit, on Malcolm’s road home:
In Muswell Hill Broadway [Davies] drops in on Martyn’s family grocers: its barrels of biscuits, its sacks of coffee, all marshalled with military precision.
If Martyn’s don’t have it, it’s not worth the tasting. When coffee is being roasted, the whole neighbourhood knows about it.
In Kentish Town Road, he even marvels at the droopy garments in Bluston’s window: “frocks and gowns for the older woman” (also listed Grade II).
That’s the shop-front, one trusts. Not the “older woman”. The star “frock”, laid out now for some long time, has been a red-spotted outfit, which always reminds Malcolm of Minnie Mouse.
By a strange symbiosis, there’s another attraction on the 134 bus route in this week’s TLS. It’s the very last item on the back page, from that NB Londoners page noted previously:
We know that people say weird things to people who work in bookshops, which is the premiss of More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops …
All are related by Jen Campbell, who works at Ripping Yarns, a secondhand bookshop in London …
Now, let’s be precise here. Ripping Yarns is on the corner where Southwood Lane becomes Muswell Hill Road, and intersects with the fag end of the Archway Road. Right opposite Highgate tube station and the Woodman pub.
Malcolm knows it well. Once there, pubs not intervening, he’s nearly home.