Whittington Park is one of the most unsung and under appreciated green spaces in north London. It's alongside the (still rather unfashionable) Holloway Road in Upper Holloway. And it's been spruced up a bit - including this really magical mural.
It's on the gable wall of an Irish pub - the sort with mock Celtic lettering. And it's in the unmistakable style of Moustache Bleue - this photo of him at work is lifted from his Facebook page.
The theme is of course Dick Whittington and his cat - there's a lot of Whittington around, but when the park takes his name, then I don't suppose you can really object. And just to rub home the association, there's a huge topiary cat just by the park's Holloway Road entrance.
Slightly hidden away within the park is a war memorial - but with a difference. This commemorates the fallen from one particular street, Cromwell Road - a street which has been entirely obliterated by the park. It's work looking out for.
Just back from a very pleasant couple of days at Ironbridge in Shropshire, a crucible of the industrial revolution and the site of the world's first - yes - iron bridge. It's still there, spanning the gorge across the Severn.
Still more remarkable, to my mind, are the winding steps up from the centre of town that lead in to the grounds of the solid 1830s St Luke's church. Ironbridge is on a steep slope - are there are lots of steps and paths, pedestrian shortcuts to avoid the weaving roads.
But this path takes you under - under! - the churchyard. You can see in the photo the steps leading up, and the light coming through from the far end of the foot tunnel.
And the iron bridge? Well, it dates from 1779 and is distinctly impressive. Take a look - (this is not my photo, I have to confess, but from the Geograph site, taken by Christine Mattthews and posted here as Creative Commons)
Supporting an unfancied football team can feel a little like purgatory - great hopes clouded by the perpetual expectation of disappointment. But when, every few decades, they really do breakthrough, the exhilaration - the emotion - is just something else.
Yesterday my son and I went to Wembley to see my childhood team Huddersfield Town play Reading in the Championship play-off final. And they won! Dear reader, they won!! On penalties after 120 minutes of goalless football. Nerve wracking. Gut wrenching. But they did it.
So next season, Huddersfield will be in the Premier League - playing Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U. No one will give us much of a chance; but we're sort of used to that.
The last time Town reached the top flight of football was back in 1970, when Jimmy Nicholson's team won the old Second Division championship. I saw them that year - a really good team. But wow, how the years have changed Town, and English football. Here's that team with the cup -
- I can still name just about all of them. And since you are wondering, they stayed up back then for just two seasons. So yes, it's 45 years - that's almost a lifetime - since Huddersfield last played in the top division.
The detained Spaniards weren't all anarchists - quite a few owed loyalty to the socialist UGT, and some were Falangists. They were eventually moved to a camp near Odessa. Several who accepted Soviet citizenship were released. Most remained in the Gulag system until they eventually secured freedom in the mid-1950s. It seems that more than 150 Spaniards were at some stage detained at Karaganda - about fourteen died in detention in the Soviet Union.
A few years ago, Spanish television reported on the tragedy of the Spanish nationals who had been imprisoned in Kazakhstan - an English language version is available on YouTube:
Two years ago, a small group of Spaniards - one of them a survivor - visited Karaganda to remember the trauma and tragedy. It is one of the more hidden aspects of the Spanish Civil War. It deserves remembrance.
A new acquisition - a marvellous pamphlet from the heyday of the socialist revival of the 1880s, made more special because of its association.
John Burns was a leading figure in the Social Democratic Federation. He was one of four SDF leaders tried and acquitted of sedition after the 'West End Riots' of 1886. The following year he was involved in the 'Bloody Sunday' clashes in Trafalgar Square in November 1887. He was again prosecuted - for riot and unlawful assembly - and on this occasion convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment (though he only served part of that).
This is the text of John Burn's speech in his defence at the Old Bailey, in which he famously declared in response to such counts as "being armed, did make a riot", that 'the only arms I had upon me were a handkerchief and a tram ticket.'
The key issues were the right of public meeting in Tafalagrar square and the arbitrary nature of police action to prevent outdoor socialist gatherings. Burns declared:
'When labourers earn so little when at work and starve when out of work, when the incentive to honest labour is less than that which crime secures, society is face to face with a problem that a policeman's truncheon will not solve, or the suppression of public meetings remove. if the police had shown greater tact and consideration all trouble could have been avoided.'
In 1889, John Burns was a leading figure in the London dock strike - he was later a Liberal cabinet minister.
The nicest aspect of the pamphlet is its inscription:
This is almost certainly the signature of Archibald Gorrie, a prominent socialist activist in Leicester. Some of his papers are held in the Gorrie Collection at the University of Leicester. Among the handbills and posters is this item promoting John Burns's visit to Leicester to address the local branch of the Socialist League -
- and look at the date: 24th March 1889. Exactly the date which Gorrie set down alongside his signature on the cover of the pamphlet.
So it would seem that Burns brought copies of his defence speech with him from London, and Gorrie got a copy from him. A pity he didn't ask Burns to sign the pamphlet - but wonderful to have such clear provenance of a really lustrous pamphlet.
On a sadder note, my search to find out more about Archibald Gorrie revealed that what I take to be his eldest son - a graduate of Pembroke College, Oxford - was killed in the closing weeks of the First World War. Gorrie himself seems to have lived until 1941.
The lamentable clearing away of a row of buildings on the north side of Swain's Lane in Highgate - including the site of the near legendary Cavour's hardware store, a fixture for forty years until it closed a decade back - has delivered an unexpected dividend. Peeping over the hoardings, looking out on Swain's Lane for the first time in close on a century, is a stylish early Victorian villa which had been concealed behind the later, less distinguished, commercial buildings.
This is Brookfield House and Brookfield Lodge (it's now divided into two properties), with its frontage facing out on Swain's Lane as the architect intended, and the spire of St Anne's, Highgate, looming behind. The rear of the property - the only part publicly visible until now - is about as ordinary as can be. The villa was built to face south, and I imagine the premises just demolished were constructed in what was once its front garden.
This was originally the site of the Cow and Hare inn - yet another cattle-linked pub name along the route livestock would have taken towards Smithfield market. A brewery director. Richard Barnett, bought the land and built this imposing house shortly before his death in 1851. His sister Anne inherited the property, and in memory of her brother, built St Anne's next door (nice to name a church after yourself!).
The church was completed in 1853. It's the one whose peal is memorialised in the title of John Betjeman's verse memoir, Summoned by Bells. When Anne died a few years later, she bequeathed Brookfield Lodge as the vicarage.
I fear that when the new flats come up on this site, Brookfield Lodge and House will again be hidden from view, and by far the finest aspect of this impressive villa will once more be lost to us.
Every time I come to Srinagar, this stump of a building in the central square seems to have crumbled still further. It's the Palladium cinema in Lal Chowk (Red Square). Or rather, it was. No movies have been screened here for almost thirty years.
Indian security forces use the ruins of the building as a bunker. It is, after all, very strategically positioned. But what a come down for one of the most historic buildings in the city centre.
Historic because of its political importance. In the turbulent autumn of 1947, the Palladium became the headquarters of the main Kashmiri nationalist party led by Sheikh Abdullah. It was a radical and secular movement, with closer links to India's Congress party than to Pakistan's Muslim League.
As an invading forces of Pakistani tribesmen approached, a men's militia and a women's self-defence corps were set up. And as part of this general mobilisation of Srinagar's population, a children's militia - the Bal Sena - drilled with wooden rifles in the shadow of the cinema building.
When in November 1947 India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru came to Srinagar and addressed a huge crowd alongside Sheikh Abdullah, the Palladium provided the backdrop.
After the excitement of the Maharaja's eclipse, and Kashmir's accession to India, the Palladium went back to doing what it was built to do - show films. This was the cinema in about 1980 -
With the start of the separatist insurgency in 1989, a small militant group bullied and threatened Srinagar's cinemas into closing their doors. The Palladium's key location and iconic political history also made it a target. There was an attempt to reopen some cinemas and indeed establish new ones - it didn't work. There are now no public cinemas in the city. Srinagar has lots of film enthusiasts, but they have to watch at home.
Local traders have appealed for the Palladium to be restored. However wonderful that would be, it doesn't seem likely.
When Kashmir has featured so often in Indian moves - the acclaimed 2014 film Haider being a prime example - it's a rich irony that this is the one corner of India without a cinema.
There's a good piece about the Palladium and its history here and more generally on Srinagar's cinemas here; and for a look at the reasons for the absence of cinemas in Kashmir, give this a read.
This is the last of my 'week in Kashmir' blogposts - if you want to catch up on all of them then click here.
It's humbling to realise that these ruins are thirteen-hundred years old. This is the 'surya' or 'sun' temple at Martand in south Kashmir, a Hindu temple built in the eighth century - and demolished on the orders of a Muslim ruler eight-hundred years later.
Just take a look at the ruins - and you get a sense of the majesty that this temple complex must once have radiated.
If you've not heard of the Martand temple, you can be forgiven - while it deserves to be well known, it isn't. What is less forgivable is the neglect it's been allowed to slide into.
The site is fenced - but there's basically open access, no ticket required. There's no sign of maintenance or care. There are no guides. This corroding notice board is the only information available at the site about what exactly the visitor is seeing. And whether cause or effect, they don't get that many visitors - when I went, I suspect I was the only non-local there.
I was fortunate that a local youngster, Azhar, showed me some key aspects of the ruins. He says the ancient script he pointed out has not been deciphered. I'm not entirely convinced about that but it was another interesting aspect to a completely absorbing location.
And another delight at Martand, my favourite bird was there: the hoopoe, or 'breg' in Kashmiri. It comes to Kashmir with the spring sunshine - not that the sun was much in evidence today. But I did manage to photograph a hoopoe on top of a temple pillar, no doubt praying for a bit of sun..
After more than twenty years of coming to Kashmir from time-to-time, I thought I knew Srinagar tolerably well. But today I discovered an aspect of the city that's completely new to me.
Srinagar is home to the biggest community of Tibetan Muslims anywhere. More than 200 families - that's about 2,ooo people - have made their home here since the early 1960s, They live mainly in an area known as the Tibetan colony, near the wondrous almond gardens (Badamwari) and within the shadow of Hari Parbat fort. There are smaller Tibetan communities, I was told, in Darjeeling and Kalimpong in north-east India and in the Nepalese capital, Katmandu, There's also about a hundred families still living in Lhasa.
The story of this tiny community reflects the ancient trade routes across this part of the world - and the way in which modern nation states have disrupted these patterns of commerce and migration.
If you go back far enough - a few centuries, that is - Tibetan Muslims are of Kashmiri (and Ladakhi Muslim) origin. Kashmiri traders travelling to Lhasa sometimes settled there, married Tibetan women and brought their children up as Muslims. They became a distinct community - known in Tibetan as 'Kachee', which means simply Kashmiri. And although there was no overt discrimiation, they were always regarded in Tibet as outsiders, even though they spoke Tibetan and ate Tibetan cuisine.
In 1959, when many Tibetans escaped from Chinese rule, the Muslim community was given a choice by Beijing: stay if you want to, go if you want to. Unlike the many Buddhists who made their way amid great hardships across the Himalayas, the Muslims who left - the greater part of the community - were allowed to take their possessions.
Once in India, they were regarded not as refugees, but as returning Indians. Unlike Tibetan Buddhist refugees, Tibetan Muslims are Indian passport holders and have full voting and other rights. They arrived in Kalimpong, but resisted efforts by the Indian authorities to resettle them alongside other Tibetans in south India. They argued that as Tibetans of Kashmiri origin they should be allowed to return to Kashmir - and they also preferred to go to an area in which Islam is the majority faith.
"We belong to this soil", Nasir Qazi told me. He's a Srinagar-based businessman who heads the Tibetan Muslim Youth Federation. He was born in Kashmir and has never been able to travel to Lhasa and meet his few remaining relatives inside Tibet.
Many Tibetan Muslims in Srinagar work in embroidery - decorating burqas and women's garments in traditional Kashmiri style, or embroidering the top-end T-shirts sold to tourists visiting the remote Ladakh region (sometimes called Indian Tibet).
The Tibetan Muslim community does not regard the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader but reveres him as Tibet's onetime king. "We honour and respect him", Qazi says, "and he loves us a lot". With the help of the Tibetan government-in-exile, the community has established its own well regarded school in Srinagar, the Tibetan Public School.
Of the 700 pupils, boys and girls up to the age of about fifteen, under a third are Tibetans, the rest being local Kashmiris. The principal and most of the teaching staff are Kashmiri. But the school is run by the Tibetan Muslim community.
"I feel proud that this is something we have offered to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters", says Qazi. He's also pleased that the school has managed to keep fees down to an affordable 600 rupees (£7.50) a month. The Dalai Lama visited five years ago, and photos of that occasion or on display.
So is the pledge which the students made in the presence of the Dalai Lama: 'I shall uphold all human values through my words and deeds and shall not be a cause of suffering of any other being.'
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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