This week it’s an anonymous London blogging legend – the mysterious Greenwich Phantom reveals all… well, more than usual!
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
An intimate guide to Greenwich for Greenwichians (dunno if that’s a word).
Why did you start blogging?
I fancied writing a guidebook, but knew it would take ages. I figured the best way to do it would be to force myself to write one bit per day. I kept it online as an aide-memoire. It never occurred to me that people might actually read it. I was utterly stunned when I got my first reply
What about London inspires your blog?
Greenwich, of course. But, to be less facetious, it’s the little corners and funny little sights that most people don’t notice that really excite me. I love to point out things folk might have missed – the tiny quirks that make a perhaps average walk to work that little bit more interesting.
What’s your favourite post you’ve ever written – your favourite Greenwich event/find to date?
Oh heavens. Um, I don’t know really. There are so many that I had a hoot writing. I like taking different slants on stories – especially really obscure ones. So perhaps Five go Adventuring in Westcombe Park, or this ridiculous argument I found in some old notes for a lecture given in 1913.
But then I also enjoy writing arrant nonsense. I’m particulary happy with this piece of derivative rubbish because a local paper – no names to protect the guilty – actually asked if I had more information about this amazing event. Be worried. Be very worried…
Interestingly my fave posts always turn out to be the ones that get virtually no replies
What’s the best and worst things about Greenwich?
I’d say the best thing about Greenwich is that although it’s completely choc-full of stories, very few of them are very well known. All most people seem to know about Greenwich is the park, the Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Naval College (oh – and the Cutty Sark, when it’s not on fire.) Which all means that there’s loads of stuff to discover, if you’re prepared to dig for it (sometimes literally). Greenwich is both quirky and very special.
The worst thing is that the people that have power don’t recognise this (or refuse to do so for their own reasons) and are determined to destroy anything bohemian/quirky/unusual about the town and turn it into any other high street in the land.
So they close the village market despite there being no firm plans to develop anything there, they hound-out individual traders, they give permission for the destruction of interesting buildings and the construction of terrible ones – and they grant late licences to drinking establishments mere yards from where someone lost their life recently.
Tell us about the Trusted Tradesman and Weddings, how did you become an expert on them?
I’m not an expert. I’m sooooo not an expert. But both were responses to questions that were so frequently asked it became a bore to answer them.
It annoys me that these sites that promise to ‘recommend’ local services are all subscription – as a local business, you give them money, and they ‘recommend’ you. You get a sticker for your window and everything – but it’s all just paid-for-puff.
The Trusted Tradespeople section is a non-exhaustive list of services that either I – or one of my regular commenters – have found to do an exceptional job. It is a short list – I don’t promise to give all the answers – but you can’t pay to get in it and no one who recommends anyone on it has anything to gain from it.
The Weddings and Events section is just a piece of lateral thinking that I did, as possible venue suggestions for people getting married, which was my biggest FAQ. Again – there’s no charge (loads of venues like to appoint their own “wedding advisor” to some poor sod who’s just enquiring about the price, which can really heap on the pressure) – just a bunch of ideas, some of which are better than others. I’ve tried to do them in sections according to budget – every conventional wedding site seems to assume that the only people who get married have pots of cash. It’s nothing more than a start – the legwork is still there to be done by the happy couple – but maybe better than nothing.
Would you feel more or less connected to London, or missed out on things without your blog?
Not really – I used to do all this stuff before I started blogging – but I like the opportunity to share my discoveries with other people.
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London? The world?
To be absolutely honest, it hasn’t, really. I’m a shy sort of person and although I like to read other people’s stuff and we occasionally swap stories on email I don’t do the meeting-up thing.
Tell us about another up-and coming London blogger you like
I’m always staggered by the attention to detail that Ian Visits pays to events listings in his blog. My Parish News section lists stuff that goes on, but it’s very bitty and intermittent as I don’t find listing events as interesting as actually going to them. Ian saves me from that, and I KNOW how much hard work that is…
What’s the most underrated thing about London?
The amount of free stuff available. People always say it’s expensive (and of course it is) but there are some fantastic free things to do if you look.
And for some general London chat…Bit academic, but why do you love where you live?
I love Greenwich because it doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. It’s quirky and fun, but never actually manages to be ‘trendy.’ It’s itself and I admire it for that.
What’s your favourite place in London?
I’m assuming you mean OTHER than Greenwich? The Gardeners’ Church, St Dunstan’s. It was bombed in the war and lost its roof, so now it’s maintained as a tranquil, shady garden by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, just around the corner from all the touristy nonsense of the Tower.
What do you know about London that no one else does?
In the piss-soaked Victorian stairwell between Rosebery Avenue and, if memory serves, Yardley Street, high above any casual glancer’s view, there is a small colony of teaspoons, carefully flattened and nailed to the tiled wall. I first came across them over ten years ago, and they were already old then. I can’t tell if they’ve been added to since. I have no idea who put them there, or why. I’ve never found any reference anywhere to them. I’d love to know if anyone else has clues about what this little bit of Outsider Art is doing there.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
No – but I once had the bizarre experience of sitting on a crowded tube at about 12.30am on New Year’s Day. As the train went over a small bump the people either side of me threw up simultaneously. I’ve never moved my feet so fast. It had a sort of symmetrical beauty to it. Maybe we should introduce it as an Olympic Sport. Synchronised Vomiting. One for Britain to excel at…
Anything else we should know?
Yes. I’m making all this up as I go along. As is every other writer in the blogosphere. And that’s what makes it so great. There will come a time when blogging – and, I fear, the entire internet – has rules – codes – established practices. But for now, it’s the Wild West. It’s up to us what we make of this new arena. There’s room for everyone.