Ian of Ian Visits is a friend of Londonist and we often feature his photos and adventures, as he has a knack of getting into places others don't. His blog is well worth a browse - not just as a document of London experiences, but Ian also keeps a calendar of upcoming London events and happenings so that others don't miss out either.
Ian and the reflected roof of the Gherkin.
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
A personal ramble through the history of London, places to visit and things to do.
Why did you start blogging?
It actually started as a replacement place to post silly news stories after I stopped using another social website where I had done the same. Over time though, it morphed into a very different beast and now apart from random personal musings, mainly concentrates on writing about things to do in the London region. As I love going to the free lectures that so many places offer, I often end up writing about them, or letting people know about upcoming events which interests me, and hopefully will interest the reader. It was writing about those which then lead to the creation of the events diary which makes it easier to share the information.
What about London inspires your blog?
Variety I think - there is just such a wide choice of things to do all within a short tube ride away from each other. If time - and money - wasn't a limiting factor, I could be out every day and evening doing something new and I doubt I'd ever run out of options.
Where in London ’s left for you to go?
Crickey - loads of places! I am motivated to try and get into places which are not generally open to the public, partly because I find them fascinating in their own right and partly for good old fashioned bragging rights.
I think that if I had to choose just one place which could be offered to me on a plate - it would be the basement underneath the BT Tower - everyone else wants to go to the top, and I want the other end! The tower is built as a tube, which rests on a concrete pyramid which in turn rests on a concrete rectangle - and I think there is something simple, but quite alluring in that geometry. Parts of the structure are apparently visible in the basement and it would be wonderful to have a peek.
What’s the coolest place you’ve been to?
That is genuinely difficult as I have an eclectic taste for visiting places. I'll offer three London based venues for three very different reasons.
Tower Bridge - The two main piers that Tower Bridge sits on are in fact hollow to allow the bridge counter-weights to swing into when it is lifted. The experience of going deep down old staircases and then along a narrow corridor to then step into this vast cathedral like space is a memory I will keep for a very long time.
10 Downing Street - It took quite a while to arrange, but was able to join a tour of the state rooms of the building - which apart from being quite impressive, the ability to go on such a tour was a heck of a privilege and very exciting. I also got to stand outside the infamous door for a photo!
The Albert Memorial - tThe memorial by the Albert Hall is itself very famous, but little known is that underneath it is a vast complex of brick foundations laid out as an undercroft. I was very lucky to be able to go in once for a look and take some photos. It's an astonishing place and completely hidden from view.
Anywhere been a disappointment?
Not really. Some places I might casually wander to could leave me thinking that it wasn't really all that exciting, but if I have worked hard to get somewhere, even if what I hoped was huge actually turned out to be just a box-cupboard I would still be happy as the opportunity of being permitted to have a look at something which is not open to the public would be a reward in itself.
Have you ever had any funny reactions trying to visit places, when you’re taking pictures etc?
I wouldn't say funny is the appropriate term for the many problems I have had in the past with being stopped for taking photos. Indeed, it is becoming a very sore point with an awful lot of people that we seem to be stopped so often from carrying out a harmless hobby. If I really was a terrorist taking photos for nefarious reasons, would I be standing there in the open with a big camera and a tripod? Probably not, so a message to the security guards and police out there - lighten up a bit!
What do you know about London no one else does?
I doubt here is anything about London that someone, somewhere hasn't written a book about already! However, I am slowly researching a little known bit of London underground railway history and that is the Waterloo and Whitehall Pneumatic Railway. This very weird railway would have been powered by a huge wind-bellows outside Waterloo Station which would have literally blown a carriage down a cast iron tunnel under the Thames to Whitehall, and then sucked it back again. Very little is known about the railway unfortunately, and it has become a bit of a hobby to learn as much as possible about it.
Would you feel more or less connected to London , would you have missed out on things without your blog?
I am contacted more now to do or see things simply because I am a writing about the city we live in. For example the Bloggers Briefing with TfL was something which could only have been possible if there were bloggers to brief in the first place. Writing about the city does open a few doors at times to places and helps when begging to be let in somewhere to have a sniff around.
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London ? The world?
I think in two ways - firstly as a writer, I also read a lot of other blogs and can end up in a correspondence with them. Also, as I now run an events guide on the blog, people tend to contact me with tips for events which would suit the calendar, and that is opening up new opportunities to get to know people who share my range of interests.
Tell us about another up-and coming London blogger you like
I am quite keen on the mysterious Greenwich Phantom as I live only a short walk from the town. I also particularly like The Magistrate's Blog which gives an anonymous insiders view of how the courts and legal systems work. Currybetdotnet seems to share a lot of techy interests which I click with as well.
And for some general London chat
Where do you live and why do you love it?
I live in Docklands and despite the recession hurting the wallet, I am desperately trying to cling onto a riverside flat with views right across towards Central London. Whilst I love the tiny alleys and streets in the City, Docklands is such a contrast with wide pavements and the way that the docks open up the environment so you don't feel hemmed in by tall buildings. The local city farm is a short walk away, which is a very relaxing place to wander round.
What's your favourite place in London ?
I really don't have a favourite as my mood changes all the time. Sometimes I am enjoying the bustle of the West-End and the next day I'll want the peace and quiet of the parks. Sometimes I like shopping in the local shopping center and the next day I'll be off hunting wandering round small corner shops or markets. The variety is what I like.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
Umm, yes - as I recently admitted on Annie Mole's Going Underground blog.
I am - very - allergic to the veggie meat substitute, Quorn - and one day the office canteen where I worked replaced the sausages with Quorn based ones without warning me. About an hour later I am head down the loo and very ill - and sent home, which would involve a tube journey on the Jubilee line from Kilburn to Bond St.
As the tube entered the long run down to Baker St., I started to get that awful sensation in the stomach that you get when about to be ill, the mouth watered - in a bad way - and I concentrated hard in that way you can only do when desperately trying not to vomit. I had already decided to get off at Baker St and find a loo, and just as the tube train pulled into the station - the body gave up the fight, leaving me at the door to the train covered in gunk.
I am SO sorry to anyone who used that carriage afterwards.
Anything else we should know?
A simple, but famous motto is "if you don't ask, you wont get" - I have a habit of sending off letters to people to ask if I can have a look at something. Most don't reply - so even getting a letter back saying "no" is itself quite a pleasure. But just occasionally, people say "yes" and then all sorts of wonderful things happen - all for the negligible effort of a few letters or emails.