Wednesday, 11 March 2015


Beauty, some say, is in the eye of the beholder and that 'Beauty comes from within' or, one more and my particular favourite when consoling ugly people 'its not important what you look like on the outside but (both hands clasped to heart) 'what is on the inside that counts'. 

These condescending ramblings are perfect for Twitter 'Bio's' and also all pertinent to the buildings that make up the Southbank area of South London. Festival Hall has the audacity to have Royal ahead of its name and the Haywood Gallery is possibly the ugliest use of concrete outside of a Bulgarian social housing estate. Their own website calls it 'brutal architecture' and 'last of few remaining' but that's because, thankfully, they managed to demolish all the others before the idiots that handed this eyesore a Grade 1 listed status could cause any more trouble.

Squeezed between the bridges of Westminster and Waterloo the Southbank, as it is now known, does however have beauty on the inside.

The area has reinvented itself as the trendy, arty part of town. With the Royal Festival Hall playing diversity from Gershwin through to Gary Nyman and the Cappella Choral Composition to Comedy in the Dark (April 2015 listings) there is something for everyone.

Being honest there isn't much I'd personally want to go and see but that says more about me than anyone else. The dozens of acts that perform here are, perhaps, away from the mainstream so it is fantastic that London has a centre to showcase such talent and give people a chance to go and see them.

Thursday 9th April sees the Opening Gala of the very popular Underbelly Festival where Violet the Upside Down Cow returns to form the main stage for a range of different acts allowing, among many others, acrobats, comedians and the Amazing Bubble Man to perform throughout the month (

With a range of excellent restaurants and cafes dotted around the halls including Wagamama, Le Pain Quotidian and Giraffe you can now spend a whole day at the Southbank Centre. If you go, as most will, between Friday and Sunday there is the awesome (and I don't use that word lightly) Real Food Market giving up to 40 different stalls cooking food from around the world.

Festival Hall cost £2 million to build (admittedly in 1951 when £2 million meant something) and £111 million to renovate (2007). To me, it is as evident as to why it was so cheap to build as it is impossible to see where the £111 million improvements are but this doesn't really matter because this ugly set of sisters has all its real joy from within.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Savoy, London

Visitors to London who are fortunate enough to stay at the Savoy Hotel are probably already aware that the small road leading to it is the only street in the UK where you legally drive on the right (wrong) side of the road.

There are a few reasons as to how this came about and I'll give you them now without the pompous declarations and claims of other posts as to which is correct.

When the Lords and Ladies of bygone years were being dropped off at the hotel it was (is) tradition that the Lady sat behind her chauffeur. So in approaching from the right meant that the hotel doorman could open the ladies door first and her ladyship didn't then have to climb over her portly husband in an unseeming fashion.

The London Black Cab has been the most powerful force on the capital streets, up until the surge (pricing) of the Uber app, and by entering Savoy Court American style, with clients attending the Savoy Theatre situated alongside the hotel, they did not block the hotel entrance as they dropped off (if luck was on their side they could drop one punter at the theatre and collect another from the hotel. Double bubble as the Cockneys would say. 

The Savoy can justifiably claim to be the grandest hotel in London, indeed the world, with one of its main rivals being the Ritz Hotel situated out along Piccadilly. A hotel founded by a former manager of the Savoy, Cesar Ritz, who left to 'do it better' and be his own boss. How he succeeded in such magnitude is all the more impressive as Mr Ritz was a hopeless alcoholic and, in a former employ, would run through the guest corridors at 5am ringing a bell as he chased his wife with a gun.

Businessman Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, or the artist formally known as Prince (to his friends), spent countless millions renovating the Savoy a few years ago with many traditionalists never returning due to the fact that they hated the new decor or they'd died during the 2 years it was closed. 

Since King Henry gifted the land to Peter, Count of Savoy, in 1246, (why he didn't wait until 1 o'clock is a mystery and very old joke) the place has stunk of the rich, famous and privileged. Vivien Leigh met her future husband Laurence Olivier here and even our future Queen Elizabeth chose the Savoy as the venue to officially be seen 'out' with Philip Mountbatten.

Take a look, take a photo and, if you are actually staying there, as many of the toiletries as you can.