A busy weekend. On Saturday morning I signed 250 copies of the new edition of Subterranean City at the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe and met a few of the people who decided to buy a copy; the number of people that turned up wanting to go on the train tours through the tunnel was phenomenal - I have been told that by someone who went on Sunday that the tours had been cancelled, presumably by an exasperated London Overground.
The energy I once had for Open House has dissipated considerably over the years and these days I indulge in a small number of hit and run visits (1st rule: no queuing) so I managed, in the afternoon, the picture library and mortuary in Rotherhithe and the Kirkcaldy testing Works and Blue Fin Building in Southwark Street. I had no intention of crossing north of the river, as everyone in London seemed to be out on the streets - plus the Pope was in town. The views from the 11th floor of the Blue Fin Building were impressive - see my picture - The Shard is rising with frightening rapidity. Evening to The Globe (first time for a play) for Henry IV Pt1 - I've loved it ever since we read it at school - I chose to stand in the second half and actually enjoyed it a lot more than when I was sitting on a hard bench during the first.
On Sunday on our way back to the seaside we fitted in a visit to Dulwich Picture Gallery (£4 instead of £9 thanks to Open House) for the Salvator Rosa exhibition. He is an artist who has intrigued me for many years - every major gallery you go to has one or two paintings by him - and this was a useful overview of his work. My favourites are his witchcraft paintings of which I had hoped there would be more here rather than the one I already knew from the National and a couple of others. He was a very early precursor of Romanticism with his rugged overpowering rocky landscapes - what was most interesting for me were his portraits, especially those representing Philosophy and Poetry and his late works on Fortune - one amusingly shows Fortune emptying the glittering contents of her cornucopia amongst farm animals and swine, his criticism of the Chigi Pope apparently.
Then on to Charlton House, somewhere I've wanted to visit for years, a large Jacobean house on the edge of a park in deepest South London. Some lovely plasterwork inside on ceilings and fireplaces and not nearly as shabby as I had feared; it's used as a community centre and for weddings these days. Photo above of a fireplace with scenes from Perseus and Medusa (or 'Modusa' as the Open House leaflet put it, a 'bore's' head was also mentioned). Didn't have time to visit the nearby Maryon Wilson Park, where much of one of my favourite films Blow Up was filmed.
Author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London, London's Coffee Houses, Decadent London, The Folklore of London, Subterranean City (Revised and Expanded Edition), Netherwood, Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, Lord of Strange Deaths, the Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer; Secret Tunnels in England, Folklore and Fact