Friday, 26 February 2010

Inspired to boldly go

"I recall asking my father, 'Daddy, what do people on others planets do? 
What are they like?' 
My father would always answer, 'Well, they're like themselves. 
They are whatever they are. They just might be different.' 
As a child, I thought that was fascinating."
- Nichelle Nichols

The cassette tape capturing the above quote prompts vivid memories of a beautiful Californian summer's day in 1992 when I interviewed Nichelle Nichols, the singer and actress best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura (above) in Gene Roddenberry's phenomenally popular Star Trek. 

Graciously, Nichols had invited our five-strong film crew to invade her without-airs home outside Los Angeles. Actually, our crew wasn't so strong; cameraman hobblin' Bob filmed the interview with his broken ankle encased in plaster, Only Diamond, Uhura's, sorry(!), Nichols' house cat threatened to upstage her owner, meowing as Nichols (below) sublimely crafted Hollywoodesque replies to my questions about Uhura, Captain Kirk, the starship Enterprise and the latest gossip from the 23rd Century. (I'm reflected in the mirror; the 'tash and long hair have long since beamed up. Just ask Scotty).

Sadly, many of Nichols' pearls offered during an intriguing and intoxicating 60-minute interview ended up on the cutting room floor depriving British TV audiences who caught  our documentary, Black Sci-Fi (1992 dir.Terrence Francis), on BBC-2 later that year. So, in a roundabout way, what follows might qualify as an 'exclusive', albeit clipped 18 years later from my own archive. 

In the interview, Nichols explains how in the mid-1960s she nearly lost the Uhura role. Enjoying a trip to Paris, Nichols dashed into the trash two telegrams from Harry, her agent, begging her to return to California for the Star Trek audition. Only Harry's offer to pay for a first class round trip ticket persuaded a wearily sceptical Nichols to show up. Harry, described by Nichols as "a serious Southern gentlemen", told her: "I totally intend for you to get this role. And when you do I'll want my cotton-picking money back!"

Unaware of creator Roddenberry's grand ambitions for his Star Trek project, Nichols wasn't impressed to learn her character's role hadn't yet been written. Luckily, her audition involved reading the part of Spock, an accident sparking Roddenberry and Nichols to stumble upon the idea of Spock and Uhura's mentor-student relationship. 

Depressingly, despite her creative input, Nichols decided to leave Star Trek after the show's first season on TV. She'd expected that being cast as a commander in Captain Kirk's crew entailed her playing a starring role - but that expectation wasn't being met. Nichols nurtured strong Broadway ambitions and dreams. She'd helped to develop Star Trek scripts with marvellous roles for Uhura but saw them consistently cut back in rewrites."You have to remember this was 1966," explains Nichols. "The industry wasn't ready for a black woman in that kind of power role."

Disenchanted with Uhura's reduced role and intent on leaving, Nichols then experienced a life-changing encounter at a civil rights fund-raising event. Nichols was told someone, "a fan", would like to meet her. 
As she recalls: "And I turned around and there was Dr. Martin Luther King. I think I lost my voice."

"I am very much a fan of yours," said Dr. King, the civil rights leader. "My entire family watch your show. 
We love the way you've created this role, and you're so very important."
Nichelle said she thanked Dr. King (1929-1968) but told him she intended to quit the show.
- "You cannot," said Dr. King (below) firmly.
"What do you mean?" replied Nichelle, shaken.
- "You don't realise the importance of this role, of your being cast in this show," said Dr. King, who fully understood the power of film and TV to combat racism as much as any civil rights laws. "You represent the future," Dr. King told a stunned Nichols. "And we are there. The manner in which you have created this role, with dignity and character, sets a tone."

"I understand that black children..."
- "'s not just that black children and black people will see us as we are supposed to be. We know what we're supposed to be. But all other people, for the first time, will see us as we're supposed to be. 
Don't you understand, you have the first non-stereotypical role in television, in a major TV series of importance. 
And you establish us as equals. 
You embody all of that. 
That's very important. 
You must stay and continue to grow. 
Because when you're on the screen you're ten feet tall...don't worry about what they do or don't give you. 
You'll go down in history." 

"I was breathless," Nichols recalls during the interview.
"And I said to Dr. King, 'thank you, and yes, I will stay.' 
"And I've never regretted it.

"From that moment, I never treated my life in a frivolous manner again. I realised that what I do has an impact on other people's lives. Yes, I can, I can make a difference.

"And that's something we all must understand. 
We may not see it immediately. 
But every drop in an ocean has a ripple effect."

In the next posting I recall how Nichols explained how her decision to carry on as Uhura in 'Star Trek' inspired many to pursue their ambitions and dreams. This led to some soaring achievements...but tragedy also rippled.

Black Sci-Fi (1992), directed by Terrence Francis for Moonlight Films, was commissioned and transmitted by the BBC. The documentary also featured interviews with authors Samuel R. Delany, Steven Barnes and the now sadly missed, Octavia Butler.

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A portion of Piccadilly and a slice of Soho

The New Piccadilly café established itself as a popular melody in the songbook of London life for over fifty years. Located just around the corner from the discrete red lights of Soho and blazing neon of Piccadilly, London's most famous café offered its regular patrons cosy warmth on dark wintry days and calm shade away from summer's shimmering heat and dust. 

I count myself lucky. True, I miss the place, being one of a legion of former New Piccadilly regulars who relished those days when the café's friendly waiters, clad in their colonial-style tunics, served us wholesome and satisfying grub. The familiar and friendly atmosphere would wrap itself around us as we sat on our wooden pews at formica tables, illuminated by Festival of Britain lights straight from 1951.

We miss owner Lorenzo Marioni (above), who came to Britain from Italy in 1949 and later took over the business from his father, Pietro. Lorenzo would orchestrate the lunch and tea-time rushes, accompanied by classical music on the wireless. Beside him hissed the New Piccadilly's huge espresso and cappucino-making machine, encased in enamel so pink that it would've brought a blush to Lady Penelope's cheeks.

In its 1950s heyday, the New Piccadilly welcomed Hungarian dissidents, Italians, Greeks, Jews, Maltese and Irish, all tough guys who occasionally threw tea cups and then their fists. In those austere post-war days, the café operated next door to the Casino de Paris strip club. Outside on Denman Street, 'women of the night' plied their trade night and day, often in 'pea soup' fogs. 

Smack bang in the heart of the West End, London's 'Theatreland' luvvies also flocked to the New Piccadilly. When the post-war fog and gloom began to lift in the 1960s, the New Piccadilly attracted a glamorous clientele, including British actress Diana Dors (below), who regularly sipped frothy coffee whilst enjoying the relative anonymity that the café offered.

When I first found refuge in the New Piccadilly in 2004, it seemed to have captured the nostalgic feel and flavour of 1950s and 60s London. Nowadays, the café is a part of my own personal nostalgia*. If only that atmosphere could've been somehow bottled and preserved. Sadly, Lorenzo was forced to close the business in September 2007, forced out by a yearly rent of £51,000 with the business rate and insurance on top. "It's £70,000 before I open the door - and I'm selling cups of tea at 50p," Lorenzo once remarked. 

The New Piccadilly, as London as egg and chips, has since been ripped out of Denman Street. That entire block is now due for a shops and office development, one of those pre-derelict glass and steel plazas boarded up with Starpizza and Express Bucks, devoid of character and tradition. Y'know the kind of place, a consumer void with no soul and no balls where it's hard to believe anything really interesting is thought, spoken or conceived.

Happily, Lorenzo escaped these corporate sorcerors, a cheery postcript to the tale of the New Piccadilly. Some of Lorenzo's former neighbours, shopkeepers on Denman Street, told me recently that Lorenzo is enjoying his well-deserved retirement.  "I'll be off on a yacht to the Caribbean with a blonde on each arm," Lorenzo joked with me days before he flipped the sign on the door to 'Closed' for the final time. 

Even if Lorenzo hasn't sailed off fully laden into a Caribbean sunset, it's good to hear he's finding some peace and joy. It's well deserved. After all, Lorenzo and the lads dished up good food and drink for Londoners over decades - served always with a slice of Soho and a portion of Piccadilly.

(Above): Infuriatingly, on some days, the New Piccadilly closed due to the café's appeal as a ready made film set. For instance, in the The Girl in the Cafe (2005), Bill Nighy plays Lawrence, a lonely civil servant who falls for the enigmatic Gina (Kelly Macdonald). Oi! Bill, Kelly, you're sat at my table! 

* nostalgia = past pain

Dors image: Image Shack

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Belgian rail tragedy: untangling fact from assumption

Very few clear facts have so far emerged from news reports about the fatal collision between two trains near Brussels on Monday (15 February)

Caution is needed. Rail crash investigations often take a long time before unearthing any clear information let alone causes. As so often happens with such tragedies, the media report half-truths, assumptions and rumours as if they were confirmed facts.

For instance, TV bulletins and newspapers reported yesterday that the crash was 'head-on'. The day after the crash The Times was still running online reports of a 'head-on collision' (16 February). However, the Belgian train company SNCB (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges) and track operator Infrabel had stated the trains had collided 'laterally', and not 'head on' as reported. 

It's known that at least 18 people have so far died. Some people are still missing. Dozens were injured, some very seriously. 

One train was a Leuven-Braine-le-Comte service and the other was travelling from Quievrain to Liege. It's being reported that the Leuven train driver survived whilst the driver of the other train was killed.

Unconfirmed news reports referred to two 'black box' data recorders that could shed light on possible causes. An SNCB official is also reported as saying one of the trains did not have a safety mechanism designed to slow or halt trains automatically at a red signal.

Photo: AFP for BBC News

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010

Monday, 15 February 2010

Death toll mounts after trains crash

train crash Halle

Belgian authorities are saying that at least ten people are confirmed as dead after two commuter trains crashed into each other at Buizingen, near Halle, ten miles south of Brussels. Horrific images of mangled train bodywork, pantographs and overhead line equipment dominated TV news bulletins this morning.

Emergency services are still believed to be removing people from the wreckage (15.30 GMT). Eurostar services between Brussels and London's St Pancras International and high speed Paris-Brussels connections have been cancelled. 

Delays are likely to occur for several days as accident investigators examine and recover evidence. Only then can the trains and wreckage be cleared and work begun to repair and replace the damaged track and overhead lines. 

It's worth noting that the Rail Safety and Standards Board’s Overview of safety performance for 2009, published on 2 February, contained evidence of “further improvements in safety on Britain’s railways during last year”, highlighting that the risk of passengers or rail staff dying in train accidents had dropped by over 80% during the last decade. In 2009, there were no passengers or rail staff killed in train accidents in Britain - the fourth year in the last five with no such fatalities. Rail is regarded across Europe as far safer than road travel.

The accident occurs at a time when the British government is putting the final touches to its plans to effectively extend the European high speed rail network to the Midlands, North and to Scotland with High Speed 2. A White Paper is expected next month. High Speed 1 already connects St. Pancras International with Paris and Brussels. 

Top photo: Thierry Roge, Reuters
Left: Map of European high speed rail network displayed at Ebbsfleet International station in north Kent.

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Coleman under fire

Angry protestors outside the fire station on Thursday

Harold Hill welcomed Brian Coleman with open arms and clenched fists on Thursday (11 February). 

Brandishing 'Coleman Must Go' placards, firefighters chose the opening of a new 'state-of-the-art' fire station at Harold Hill in east London to vent their anger at Coleman's plans to introduce new 12-hour shift patterns. 

Councillor Coleman (no relation, I stress), chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, wants firefighters to work 11,12 and 13-hour shifts including shorter nights and longer days. Other plans include cutting fire engine crews from five to four and removing beds from fire stations. Apparently, in the interests of modernisation, Harold Hill station replaces beds with reclining chairs. "I'm entirely relaxed that we are making London a safer place for all Londoners," said Coleman.

"No change is not an option," said Coleman afterwards. Industrial action could follow, said the Fire Brigades Union. Photos of an entirely relaxed Coleman (absolutely no relation), nabbing forty winks in his office, circulated after the firefighters' protest (above). Posters featuring Coleman were removed from London fire stations on the orders of Fire Brigade chiefs (below). 

Understandably, people in London are worried about possible fires to come. Argument between the three main political parties is confined to the level of cuts most politicians seem to agree must be made to public services to re-balance the city's economy. Accident and emergency, maternity units and rail maintenance jobs are all in the firing line. Redundancies, the fear of redundancy and new working conditions, imposed in the name of 'efficiency' and 'modernisation', cramp peoples' lives and shrinks ambitions across the city.

As the election nears, many voters are reflecting that Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government bailed out the bankers in the City of London with billions of pounds of taxpayers' money. Yet, by all accounts (please excuse the pun), the banks are still not lending that money to help new and existing businesses whilst the bankers pay themselves massive bonuses once again. 

Meanwhile, as the announcement of a date for the next general election looms, Gordon Brown appears on a national TV, interviewed by Piers Morgan, to apparently convince working people that he's a regular good guy who deserves their votes.

Postscript: London Mayor Boris Johnson officially opened the Harold Hill fire station, a project that was initiated during the reign of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone. Faced by the protesting firefighters, our beloved Mayor left by a back entrance. 

Top photo: Romford Recorder

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Owen Coles way ahead of Wayne Rooney

It's the FA Cup 5th Round this weekend (13-14 February) so attention happily switches away from the Premiership soap opera. Yet it's worth reflecting that Owen Coles, Manchester United's ace striker, strengthened his position as the Premiership's top scorer for this season by notching four goals in United's last two matches, three against Portsmouth and one at Aston Villa. 

Owen Coles is way ahead of United's Wayne Rooney and Chelsea's Didier Drogba, as the table shows.

Premiership Top Scorers

Player                                                   Club                       Goals 

Own Goals                                           Various FC                        29
Wayne Rooney                                 Manchester America               21
Didier Drogba                                         Chelski                           17
Darren Bent                                          Sunderland                       15
Jermaine Defoe                                    Tottenham                       15
Louis Saha                                              Everton                          13

Manchester United paid £30.75 million for striker Dimitar Berbatov. In his second season, Berbatov has scored only eight goals for United, two less than Own Goals who cost United nothing.

Own Goals can also win FA Cup Finals. As the above photo shows, Owen Coles (red shirt, third from right, and looking remarkably like former England defender Des Walker), nods home the winning own goal that sent his Nottingham Forest team crashing to a 2-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur in the 1991 final at Wembley Stadium. Gary Mabbutt is the challenging Spurs player and, if you can see behind Gary Lineker's ears (they're rather big, as he's often said himself), there's Steve Hodge and Stuart Peace. 

Photo: Daily Mail

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sleeping beauty

The beautiful Peacock butterfly that has adopted my office as its place of hibernation woke up and enjoyed a brief flit.
    I last saw the butterfly sat next to my phone. It was probably making a long distance call to one of its cousins, as the photo shows. My next phone bill will be sky high, I expect.
   For a couple of days, the cute little creature had seemed content to hang out in the shoe box butterfly hut I'd built for it. I'd filled the box with grass, earth and leaves to provide the new tenant with more familiar furniture.
It shuffled and then settled.
Wings closed. 
   Yesterday morning, out of the blue, it flew out of the box and fluttered eagerly onto the window, displaying its glorious upper wings. 
Outside snow flurried in the freezing air. 
Surely, it'd soon be 'Hovis' * if I let it out?
Panicked, I rang the London Butterfly Centre 
at Syon Park in west London. 

"Nah, mate,  that place closed down two years ago," said some geez. 
"It's flown to Lincolnshire. Syonara. Let me see, if I can find the new number?"
Meanwhile, the butterfly settled down by the phone keypad as if it knew what number to dial.

"Hello, Butterfly and Wildlife Park, one moment please...Can I help you?"
- "I've got a Peacock butterfly and it looks stressed out."
"No, don't worry, they do that, stretch their wings and then find somewhere to rest again," said Ann of the Butterflies.
- "Do I need to feed it?"
"No, it will feed on the skin mites in the air in your house."
- "How can I tell if it's male or female?"
"You can't. Butterflies are androgynous."
- So I could call it Bobbie or Billie then?"
"If you want." 
- "Like Billie Jean King, the tennis player." 
"No, call it Chris."
- "Why Chris?"
" Chrysalis. Look, must fly. Good luck. Bye."

I placed a magnifying glass in front of the Peacock's face. 
Magnified, a butterfly looks fierce. Scary even, especially as I now know it's some kind of hibernating, gender bending cannibal wielding a tennis racket. (Click on the image to enlarge, if you dare!)

I gazed at the still falling snow outside.
Perhaps I should try to get out more too, I thought.
I looked down at the phone but the butterfly had vanished.

* 'Hovis' = Hovis, the manufacturers of 'brown bread', that rhymes with 'dead' in Cockney rhyming slang. 

The Butterfly & Wildlife Park is open over half-term. It's based at Long Sutton, near Spalding in Lincolnshire in eastern England. 
Tel: + 44 (0)1406 363833

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

Seismic economics

Three massive calculations caught my attention in the past few days. First up, Jean-Max Bellerive, Prime Minister of Haiti, who says more than 200,000 people died in the catastrophic earthquake that devastated the Caribbean island on 12 January. Bellerive also says 300,000 were injured and 4,000 lost one or more limbs. Over 250,000 houses and 30,000 businesses were destroyed. 

Worse still, the earthquake devastated a country with a population three times larger than Jamaica but with less than half of Jamaica's economic output. Bellerive didn't put a cash figure on the destruction. "In terms of figures, it is disaster on a planetary scale," said Bellerive.

The second calculation comes from Los Angeles' money men who have calculated that California earns $100 billion every year from agriculture, oil and tourism that are the by-products of its earthquake prone geology. "California gets struck by a hugely destructive seismic shake every 100 to 150 years," says geologist Iain Stewart. The number crunchers in Los Angeles, Stewart adds, have calculated that "a major earthquake would cause up to $250 billion worth of damage, a huge sum. But averaged out over a century, they're still in profit, with $100 billion coming in every year versus a one-off hit of $250 billlion. That's a gain of forty to one. Any economist will tell you, that's a pretty decent return."

A smaller but similarly mammoth calculation has been attempted to analyse the cost benefits of Crossrail, the east-west rail link that will tunnel under London with a budget ceiling of £15.9 billion and which is scheduled to start operating trains in 2017.  Joe Weiss, transport projects director for the Corporation of London, (that's the local authority for the area known as the City of London, not the wider city of London), has calculated that Crossrail's costs could be outweighed by profit for the Treasury accrued from tax revenues generated by the new railway.

Weiss assumes Crossrail's enhancement of London's transport links will enable businesses to create 150,000 new jobs across London and south-eastern England. "That produces an extra two billion per year in tax revenues for the Treasury," says Weiss. Each of Crossrail's estimated 200m passenger journeys per year will generate a £1 per profit once operating costs are taken out. After ten years, Weiss goes on, Crossrail will have generated £2 billion in taxable fare revenue profits. 

Income from the sale and leasing of new offices being built in Canary Wharf, largely as result of Crossrail radically improving transport links to the area, will also be be taxed. "It's not unreasonable to expect over ten years an annual £0.6 billion from taxes on rentals alone and another £0.4 billion from the non-domestic business rate," Weiss continues. 

Hey Joe! Just give us the bottom line? "So in ten years, in real money, the government might see £23 billion back from the maximum of £15.9 billion committed to Crossrail," concludes Weiss.

Top photo: Haiti street scene (Courtesy of New York Times).
Middle: Designer's section impression of Crossrail station at Canary Wharf, east London (Courtesy of Crossrail).
Below: Blue line shows Crossrail route through central London on model of city.

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Beauty that can't wait for Spring

I gained a new friend today, although he or she isn't saying much, being that he or she is a stunning Peacock butterfly whom I found shivering outside my window this afternoon.

According to Ian, a very helpful and informative chap on the other end of the phone at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the slight increase in temperatures across London has confused quite a few insects and prompted them prematurely to come out of hibernation. 

"If you leave it outside, it will die of cold," said Ian. 
- "That's if next door's cat doesn't get hold of it first," I replied. 

Ian advised me to dissolve some sugar in warm water and try to get the Peacock to feed and gain energy. Then put the butterfly in a shoe box. Cut a hole in the box for air, big enough for the butterfly to get out if it wants to stretch its wings.

After a hasty photo-shoot, I duly followed these instructions. My new tenant has stopped shivering and seems OK. Fingers crossed.

As you know, Peacock butterflies (Inachis're impressed, eh !) are common to Britain and Ireland. The adults fly from July to September and again in Spring after hibernation. They feed on flower nectar and rest by folding up their wings. As you can see from the photo of my little friend below, the Peacock is blessed with superbly camouflaged charcoal underwings (click on image to enlarge).

Apparently, females lay batches of up to 500 eggs after mating in May. Now, does anyone know if it's a boy or a girl? 

Thanks to Ian at the RSPB and to Amrit for their helpful butterfly care suggestions. 

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Why are there no monkeys on London Underground?

Why aren't monkeys seen on the Tube? 

Until now, this was one of life's great mysteries but Underground News has revealed an answer.

Traffic Notice. 2, Conveyance of Monkeys by Passengers, issued way back in 1938, stated: "A case has occurred where a passenger brought onto the Railway a monkey, which broke loose in the course of the journey. Under the Board's byelaws such animals are not to be allowed upon the Railway.

"Ticket Collectors and other staff should therefore keep a look-out and not allow any passenger to enter or ride upon the Railway if conveying such an animal."

Mystery solved!

Extract from Underground News, Number 577, January 2010, published by the London Underground Railway Society. Copies also available from the bookshop at the London Transport Museum.

Photo shows invisible monkeys emerging from the street level portal of new Northern Ticket Hall at King' Cross St.Pancras tube station.

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Say hello to the Yes men

Apparently, the first step to breathing new life into the entire economic, social and environmental fabric of a big chunk of London is to spend thousands of pounds hoisting up banners on lampposts that simply proclaim the word 'Yes'. 

The logic of this idea seems to be that thousands of people flocking to Holborn, Bloomsbury and St.Giles everyday will inhale this simple, catchy 'positive thought', be inspired to work thrice as hard and somehow conjure new businesses into being from scratch that will exhale millions of pounds of fresh turnover into London's asthmatic economy.

This appears to be the strategy of inholborn, a 'business improvement district' agency, supported by our beloved Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that aims to invigorate the fortunes of Bloomsbury, Holborn and St.Giles, three neighbouring yet historically distinctive parts of central London. inholborn's orange 'Yes' banners flap over passing pedestrians around the junction of Kingsway and High Holborn. 'Yes' also covers one side  of an information booth that greets passengers as they come out of Holborn tube station (above). Few people will notice it, as it's on the booth's back side.

To be fair, the strategy boasts a bit more than just an Orwellian 'Yes'. Peer at the small print on each banner. It says, 'Bloomsbury. Holborn. St.Giles. Midtown.' You'd be forgiven for asking, what and where is 'Midtown'? 

inholborn work with another body calling themselves the Midtown Business Club. Their light bulb moment is to re-brand Bloomsbury, Holborn and St.Giles with the bland Americanism, Midtown, because these three London neighbourhoods sits in the middle between London's financial centre, the City of London, and the capital's nightlife hub, the West End. I wonder how long they took to come up with that gem.

Will Boris support this re-branding elsewhere in London? Will Trafalgar Square become Central City? Could Elephant & Castle be re-branded as South Central? What about Regent's Park becoming Mega Park West? It seems strange that marketing people want bits of London to sound more like slices of New York when many New Yorkers enjoy living in Big Apple neighbourhoods named after bits of London - for instance, Greenwich Village and Soho.

Bloomsbury includes the British Museum, the University of London and the cafés and galleries of Museum Street (above). The Bloomsbury title itself originates from the 13th Century when the area's fields, woods and vineyards became known as 'Blemondisberi', the 'bury' or manor of William Blemond.

I haven't heard anyone on Museum Street shouting excitedly about becoming 'Midtowners'. So will the people who live and work in St.Giles, Holborn and in Blemond's Land take 'Midtown' to their hearts and allow WC1 to become MT1? Or will they utter a resounding 'no' and urge Boris, our beloved Mayor, to shove the orange Yes men down the Pipe?*

* Slang for the Blackwall Tunnel that allows the A102 road to run beneath the River Thames.

Bloomsbury's nooks and crannies will be the subject of future postings.

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.