This rather impressionistic piece of art is made from chewing gum. The used stuff. It's also tiny. The circle is perhaps eight centimeters in diameter.
I came across it in Muswell Hill, on the Parkland Walk - it's on a bridge with a rather dramatic view, and depicts that same view (you can see the gum towards the bottom of the photo below). Clever!
The artist himself had passed by minutes earlier - I didn't initially realise who he was. His name is Ben Wilson; he lives in Muswell Hill; and he has done upwards of 10,000 pieces of chewing gum art, with a technique he has devised himself.
It turn out that Wilson and his miniature art featured in the New York Times almost a decade back. The image below is from Kickstarter which has been seeking pledges towards a book on 'the Chewing Gum Man'.
This is just wonderful. A reconstruction of one of NW5's most splendid - and faded - ghost signs. It's a digital restoration of the sign - the original is as below (my photo from this morning).
My view is that these old signs should be allowed to gently drift away rather than restored with paint and brush. But this is a marvelous evocation of what the sign must once have looked like and a retrieval of most of its wording.
Roy says on Twitter - @RoyReed13: 'I'm not sure if 'Improved' is correct and I can't make out the line below that at all. I've used Adsans and Penshurst typefaces which have a similar look to the original.'
What the ghost sign doesn't reveal is where John Hirst was based. The Dartmouth Park Conservation Area appraisal of 2009 suggests that he was responsible in the 1870s for the construction of quite a bit of the housing in the area around this ghost sign.
Perhaps this sign on a gable wall was placed on a house that Hirst had built as an example of the quality of his work?
In spite of my many collecting vices and obsessions, I have been resistant to vinyl. But there are always exceptions.
So I came away from an Oxfam shop yesterday with Traffic's 'John Barleycorn Must Die' - released an astonishing half-a-century ago in 1970. If you don't know the title track, here it is:
Of the six tracks on the album, four have become rock classics - not a bad hit rate!
And the freshness of much of the music of that era - it is more than just nostalgia! In 1970, did anyone listen to music from 1920? There is something exceptional about the music of the late 60s and early 70s, and it's more than simply the time that I first started buying albums.
By the way, in case you are wondering, I do still have a turntable - and I have give my new album a spin. Cool!
Holly Village is a wonderful piece of 'full-blown' Victorian gothic, hidden away in Highgate New Town just three minutes' walk from Hampstead Heath and even closer to Highgate Cemetery.
It's private so you can't venture past the entrance arch - which explains why some of the photos that follow are taken over walls and through hedges.
The village dates from 1865. It consists of eight buildings - four detached houses and four adjoining pairs of cottages - round a small green. The community of buildings was designed by Henry Darbishire for the extravagantly wealthy heiress and philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts.
Coutts lived nearby on Holly Lodge - a grand house with large grounds which, several decades after her death, was demolished and is now the sought after Holly Lodge Estate.
The elegant iron gates in the entrance arch of the gate house have prompted the description of Holly Village as London's first gated development.
Pevsner describes Holly Village as a 'picturesque eyecatcher' and comments on one of the really stand-out features of the development: 'All immaculately kept, down to the rustic lattice fencing and thick holly hodges.'
It's just a pity it's so difficult for the rest of the world to see and appreciate it.
This is a wonderful piece of political memorabilia - ephemera feels too insubstantial a term - from the London radicalism of 160 years ago. It's a membership card of the Land and Labour League, an organisation which is not well known and only survived a few years, but was of real importance in the development of a determinedly radical tradition within the movements for political reform and social justice.
Many thanks to Richard Gold for recognising its importance and steering it in the direction of one of small band of political anoraks who collect this sort of thing (viz the author).
The Land and Labour League consisted largely of supporters of the Chartist radical Bronterre O'Brien (died 1864), who is sometimes regarded as a proto-socialist. They had mustered in force in some of the central London branches of the Reform League.
O'Brien's followers - many of them self-educated artisans - were strong advocates of currency reform, land nationalisation, rights for women and - though it's not on the League's list of founding principles - republicanism. The paper associated with the LLL was called the Republican. It was published for two years from 1870, and so through the period of the Paris Commune, which many LLL members supported. The O'Brienites were also instinctively opposed to class collaboration and to working with Liberals.
The story of the Land and Labour League has been told by the historian Royden Harrison in Before the Socialists. As well as establishing the League, many O'Brienites were also active in the International Working Men's Association (the First International) where they worked with Karl Marx and other emigre socialists living in London.
Marx had a mixed opinion of his O'Brienite allies, writing of the followers of 'the sect of the late Bronterre O'Brien, [who] are full of follies and crotchets such as currency quackery, false emancipation of women, and the like. In spite of these follies, they constitute an often necessary counterweight to trades unionists on the Council [of the IWMA]. They are more revolutionary, firmer on the land question, less nationalistic and not susceptible to bourgeois bribery. Otherwise they would have been kicked out long ago.' Given how irascible Marx often was, this is almost an endorsement!
Later the O'Brienites devoted much of their energies to an ultimately unsuccessful venture to establish a cooperative colony in Kansas - the sort of 'crotchet' of which Marx would have disapproved. They also established the Manhood Suffrage League. And a few of O'Brien's followers were still around in the 1880s to enlist in the ranks of the Social Democratic Federation.
The early 1870s were a high water mark in what was sometimes called social republicanism - the movement demanding the abolition of the monarchy not as an end in itself but as a step towards a truly representative system of governance which would work towards achieving social justice.
A century-and-a-half later, we haven't progressed very far down that path!
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