This week’s blogger is Jane of Jane’s London, a North London devotee, who documents London treasures and quirks of design. Not the well traversed attractions and architectural legends, but the details in doorways, signs, bootscrapers and doorknobs.
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
Photographic patchworks of observations found on, around and above London’s streets.
Why did you start blogging?
I saw an article in Time Out a while back that listed some good London sites and blogs. I was intrigued, especially as I’d originally thought blogs were just the online diaries of the self-obsessed. I hadn’t realised they could be used as a scrapbook or a forum for ideas. And so I was hooked. Seeing as I already had lots of images taken along the Holloway Road and Upper Street, as well as those I’d taken for London The Way We See It, I thought this would be a great way to share my observations with like-minded souls. And so my little monster was created.
Nine months later, my baby screams for attention at all hours of the day. I only wish there were more hours in the day and more days in the week – taking the photos is the easy bit, but collating them when I get home, editing them, posting them to Flickr and making collections for my blog, means I spend an inordinate amount of time at my Mac. But, I have to say, it’s ultimately worthwhile, especially when I get favourable responses and emails.
What about London inspires your blog?
I am always spotting new things, even on those streets that I thought knew quite well, and these lead me to conjure up new categories; one broken boot scraper will lead to a collection, as will an old shop sign uncovered during a re-fit, or imprints left in wet cement, an old doorbell, a letterbox painted shut. I am also drawn to the textures and patterns made by peeling paint and rusting metal.
But it’s not all about old things; I also like to take shots of some of the great street art and graffiti that’s out there, as well as mis-spelled signs and stuff that amuses me such as an arrangement of windows that resembles a monkey’s face or a chair dumped in the middle of a roundabout.
And I get some great ideas from the wonderful Smoke magazine which is a valuable source of inspiration; always brimming with interesting and amusing London-based articles.
Of all the posts you’ve ever written, which one has been your favourite, and what has been your best find in London to date?
It’s corny, but my favourite post is always the latest one. Or perhaps it’s the next one that is still formulating in my head. I have no absolute favourite find, but I particularly like some of the old enamel signs that are still around. One in Willesden reads, “You can telephone from here” which in this day and age is wonderfully superfluous. And another one in a Camden back street reads, “Covered Vans from 1/6 hour”. That’s less than 8p in today’s money.
What’s the most underrated thing about London?
London is really easy to navigate on foot and most people who live and work here are unaware of this and change tube lines to go one more stop. Leicester Square to Covent Garden is a prime example. I suppose the – wonderful – tube map is to blame. People are often amazed if I tell them that I walked the relatively short distance from Euston to Waterloo. They are missing out on so much.
What ‘treasure’ do you dream that you might discover?
I have no specific goals; no Holy Grail. It’s more about discovering things; walking along streets that I have never been to before and finding little alleyways and squares that I never knew existed.
If you could time travel in London what era would you visit?
England was once known as a nation of shopkeepers. Nowadays all across London, from Wood Green to Wimbledon, and Willesden to Walthamstow, cloned high streets are lined with shops that have nasty back-lit perpex signage. It’s so sad. Small businesses have being priced out due to hikes in rent prices. I often look at a modern high street and try to imagine how grand it must have looked in its Edwardian heyday.
Would you feel more or less connected to London; would you have missed out on things without your blog?
I have always looked around me as I wandered about. I am not someone who just stares ahead or buries his or her head in a street map or guidebook. The only difference these days is that I never leave the house without a camera. Having my blog has therefore made me even more observant.
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London? The world?
I love the way my blog, and my Flickr photostream, have enabled me to swap ideas and observations with people in countries such as New Zealand, Germany and Nicaragua. It’s all strangely addictive. And, of course it’s connected me with the lovely people at Londonist – can I have my money now please?
Tell us about other London bloggers you like
I am always impressed by the research and extra information that can be found on Yelfy’s Faded London, which has to be my ultimate favourite. And, through his sterling work on ghost signs, Sam Roberts is rapidly becoming the guru on the subject! There are plenty of others that I dip into but two that come to mind now are the London Destruction with its lurid layout, and Ian Visits which is full of information and ideas about places to see.
And for some general London chat…Where do you live and why?
I’ve lived in Holloway, N7, for over 20 years. I am sure there are lots of other areas of London I’d be equally happy in, but why fix it if it ain’t broke? Holloway Road is more than just an A road leading to a motorway and the north of England; it’s a fascinating road with great history. It’s a mix of all sorts, where you will find a diverse range of shops, architecture, pubs, cultures and cuisines. It’s great because it’s not full of slummy mummies and social climbers. Everything is averagely average and dependable. If I want to be seen wearing furry slipper-boots outside a poncey café sipping a skinny latte, or in a designer cocktail bar fondling an expensive cocktail, then that world is only a short bus ride away. I say if you can’t buy it in Holloway then you really don’t need it.
What’s your favourite place in London?
Do you think I am stupid?! If I were to tell you then you’ll all go there to be nosey and my favourite places wouldn’t be special any more…
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
Not on the tube, but on a Routemaster bus. I’d been quaffing red and white wine all evening but hadn’t eaten anything except a few dry crackers. I got on a No.6 in the Strand – they used to go to Hackney in those days, see – and managed to get my favourite seat downstairs to the left where I liked to look back across the platform at the view behind the bus. As it went around the Aldwych the movement caused me to evacuate the contents of my stomach all down myself and, for all I know, the people sitting opposite too. But I didn’t wait to find out. I immediately flew off the back of the bus in embarrassment. – Incidentally, this is yet another good reason why the Routemasters should be returned to London streets… they make for a fast exit! – Later that week the dry cleaner quoted me a ridiculous price to remove the ‘food’ stains from my lovely 1960s suede jacket so I took it back home and washed it by hand with shower gel and left it to drip dry over the bath. Lo and behold it came up looking better than ever. So everything turned out fine in the end; I’d got a ‘new’ jacket and I’d learned a valuable lesson that mixing red and white grapes is really not a good idea.