Lockdown London

Photos from lockdown London

As we begin to emerge from lockdown in London, it seemed a good time to reflect on what it was like over the last 3 months, while really hoping lockdown does not have to return.   During lockdown I’ve been volunteering at the Unity Kitchen in Victoria preparing meal to go out to those in real need. As well as being a good thing to do, this has meant I’ve been travelling to the heart of Westminster and experienced a very different London from the normal hustle and bustle.

Here are my photos showing the strangeness of these times when central London had no visitors and no office workers, when hotels and restaurants were shut, when theatres and cinemas went dark and the streets were empty.  Plenty of signs were erected to remind us of the rules.

Lockdown London rules

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3 top London markets!

My 3 favourite markets in London are Camden, Portobello and Spitalfields. They have a different feel and are in different parts of London but beware, don’t ever try to do more than one in a day or you will have a severe case of market overload!
Let’s go to Camden first. It’s in north London and is made up of several markets that cover a huge area around the Grand Union Canal’s lock which is why you’ll see many references to the lock and this can be another name for the markets. Camden market grows every time I visit and has mushroomed from being some stalls around the canal area to the massive redeveloped Stables area which is full of huge bronze horse statues as it was once a stable and horse hospital. There is always something new and one area which burnt down a couple years ago has been rebuilt and incorporates a fun cafe of Vespas (see photo)
One thing hasn’t changed in all the years I’ve been coming, is Camden fashion’s love of black and leather and outrageous visuals. There are tons of food stalls, clothes stalls, jewellery stalls but most of all clothes stalls. My last visit was rather sad as the news of Amy Winehouse’s death spread through the crowd while we were there and as fellow local, the stall holders felt a great affinity with her.

Camden is full-on over the weekend when they reckon 100,000 people visit, especially on a Sunday, but you can visit during the week tho’ don’t try going in the morning as no one is up! The streets leading to the market are amazing too, trading on the image of Camden of black leather and tattoos – see photo
Photos are: the lock and the market; Vespa cafe; classic shop entry!; Camden fashion; and, the street leading to the market.


Next we are off to east London to Spitalfields market where Sunday is the big day, tho’ again there are some markets during the week but unlike Camden, they are much smaller. On Sunday the square is humming with stalls manned by new designers just starting off with their creations – mostly clothes but other items too. They are always keen to tell you about their work and tell you about the creative process. Of course there are the food stalls and stalls with stuff you’ll see elsewhere but there is still a good selection of one offs. This market has grown recently and is now surrounded by large shops and well known restaurant chains but it has kept its buzz and is a great Sunday out.

There has been a market on this site since 1638 when fish, fowl and roots were sold here. The original market, specialising in wholesale fruit and vegetables was moved to new premises out of central London in 1991 and now it is at the centre of a busy market area. Close by is Brick Lane, Petticoat Lane and Truman Brewery so on a Sunday you can wander from one to the other and experience the amazing range of cultures and styles in London.

A key landmark in the area is the beautiful  Christ church built in the early 1700s which is the first photo. The others show the busy market trading .


Our final stop today is my favourite market because it is round the corner from where I live – Portobello Market. In fashionable west London this market is best visited on Saturday, as the other days of the week are a shadow of the bustle of the main day. The market lines both sides of Portobello Road and it changes character as you move down from antiques at the beginning, to fruit and veg, to general items, to a new designers section, a major second hand clothing section, a farmers market (with a seasonal pop up cinema!) and finally to the north African/Portuguese/Spanish section as you get to Golborne Road. The area where the antiques are is where you see the classic views of the brightly coloured houses that typify the road.

Portobello Road was the setting for Notting Hill the film and we still get lots of visitors trying to find the famous blue door and the travel bookshop. The market is also famous as a favourite Saturday activity for Paddington Bear who lived locally! Trading however dates back to the early 1900 when it was mainly fresh food with the antique traders arriving in the late 1940s and 1950s. 

Photos are: busy market day ; a quieter day with the food stalls and the Electric cinema; the beautiful coloured houses; and, the famous travel bookshop.



I hope you’ve enjoyed my favourite London markets – there are loads more, but that’s for another day.

Bye for now,

Scary Jack the Ripper…

I had some visitors from Texas who wanted to do a Jack the Ripper tour so much they even booked it before they came to London. We had an afternoon tour and the Jack the Ripper and it was properly scary. We met up for our tour just outside Whitechapel Gallery in the East End and set off in the dark with our wonderful guide. She was from the East End and was a real expert on the topic who researches ‘Jack’ every day so she knows everything there is to know it seems and has her own theory as to who he was. She led us around the sites of the murders for an engrossing two and a half hour tour full of stories about the era, giving us lots of context. It was a very tough area at the time with people living incredibly hard lives and especially the women who were driven to drink and life on the streets. She warned us and then came the grisly details of the murders and even photos of the victims, but these were optional! It was not the sort of thing I would usually do as I’m not keen on the horror stuff but our guide was so knowledgeable that the time just flew by. No photos of this tour as it was a very dark night!

The afternoon before Jack saw a great Indian lunch of very tasty curries at Tayyabs near Whitechapel, a wander up Brick Lane dropping into a wonderful bright cloth shop with such cheery staff, a quick shopping trip in Spitalfields and a nip to the Tate Modern to show them the wonderful Sunflower Seeds by Ai Wei Wei (see blog from 22nd October). We spent time admiring the night lights over the Thames and it was a great photo opportunity. What an afternoon and evening – we all enjoyed it and loved packing so much in.


The run up to Christmas has started and you’ll be seeing the lights and the shops in future blogs but the big Spirit of Christmas Fair took place in Olympia this week. I was helping out a friend who had a stall and we spent a day selling lovely Xmas decorations and high quality candles. It was a busy day and we did well – I thought so anyway! You can see the Olympia room which is great and our very special stall before the customers emptied it…. I treated myself to a proper visit the following day to start my own present shopping as there was no time when we were working to leave the stall even for a minute!


Then there was one wonderful autumn day out which started in my garden where the Japanese maple was brighter than ever (the close up photo), then we set off for a great Portobello market day. The sun was catching the buildings beautifully with more flaming trees. Lunch was taken at the Electric Brasserie as it’s so hard not too and we had to dodge the cameras filming the Channel 4 programme Seven Days so watch out for me passing quickly by! The leaves have nearly gone but it was a bright and vibrant autumn to remember.
Bye for now,

Visiting the home of the enemy!

As we know football is a very important game and in London we have several major rival teams. Mine is Tottenham, known as the Spurs and their rivals are Arsenal, known as the Gunners (when we are being polite). The grounds are close together but I’ve never been to Arsenal’s, neither their old ground nor their new one called the Emirates thanks to the power of sponsorship. So, when Visit London said they were holding a business seminar there I jumped at the chance and must admit that it’s a very impressive stadium. It did feel odd being in the home of the enemy and luckily the photo is too small to see that they have all of their achievements inscribed on the second tier hoarding and they do have rather a lot of cups and championships.

We are still beset by rain but it is not constant and I went to the South Bank to meet a colleague in the wonderful British Film Institute (BFI) cafe. I love film and walking around there you just want to spend the rest of your life in the cinema catching up on old films. It was a beautiful day and the river Thames was at its best so here’s a photo showing the river, the boats, St Pauls, Tower 42 and the ‘Gherkin’ and the classic double decker red bus on the bridge.
While on the South Bank, I popped into the Royal Festival Hall to get a sneak preview of the Press Photographers exhibition which was showing wonderful, haunting photographs of some of this year’s dreadful events. Faces stare back in suffering and again many from Afghanistan but also from the Chinese earthquakes and Kenya. I think I’ll go back as they had not finished displaying them all and these images deserve my full attention.
London is great for shopping and a visiting friend had 2 requests – ballet tights for men and a tartan beret with a built in ginger wig – well of course! He’s in a play is his excuse and he’s sticking to it. No problem in London, so we found a ballet shop near Baker Street who had a good selection of manly tights and then we headed off to Portobello Market. The Scottish hat was more of a challenge but a party shop delivered and I was very tempted by the full length blonde Abba wig but just held out. Portobello was buzzing as always and although I live very nearby, I never tire of it as it’s so full of life.
It was the last Bookslam event of the year at the Tabernacle with Lionel Shriver, author of ‘We need to talk about Kevin fame’, Paul Lyalls a performance poet, Robin Ince was comparing, and music came from the Great West Singers and Andreya Triana. Paul was the star for us – funny, entertaining and great poetry.
Restaurant and bar update: I went back to the Oak which houses my new favourite local bar and this time managed to get into the restaurant. They don’t take bookings so we chanced it on a Monday as it’s a bit hit and miss later in the week but the food was wonderful and I’ll be back. I think I missed out mentioning a neighbour of the Oak, a Mexican restaurant called Crazy Homies which serves proper Mexican food surrounded by Mexican artifacts, so skeletons and pinatas everywhere, in a lively fun atmosphere. It’s run by Tom Conran who has a few places in the area, all of good quality. A return visit to Albertines wine bar in Shepherds Bush was as cosy as ever on a rainy evening.
The next blog will be in December so watch out for tales and photos of Christmas lights as there are some good ones around already!
Bye for now,
Sue Hillman

Educational times…

I started the week off with a great talk at the Royal Society, just off The Mall. Tracey Chevalier, the best selling author, was being interviewed along with Dr Richard Fortey, by Dr Alice Roberts. To decode that – Tracey’s best know book is The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Richard is an eminent scientist from the Natural History Museum and Alice is often on the TV usually in Coast! This unlikely trio was brought together by the launch of Tracey’s new book called Remarkable Creatures about an early 19th century woman fossil collector.

It was a fascinating session about fact, fiction and fossils, as was the title of the talk, and the life of a working class woman with little education at a time when women’s potential was so wasted. And the invite-only after talk drinks were great too- I managed to get into as I have a personal connection. There were some interesting discussions going on about science v arts and how to bridge the divide. Fascinating and not your average Monday evening.

Later in the week it was time for a trip to the theatre and we went to see The Power of Yes, a new play by David Hare about the financial crisis, at the National Theatre on the South Bank (I mention location as an excuse to add a photo of the area!) The play was unusually constructed – we had the author at the centre of the stage at all times, asking a range of expert witnesses to explain to him what had happened and why so he could write a play. Large numbers of men in suits came on and off the stage with varying theories and fingers to point. We learned a lot and got angry all over again, tho’ the emotional involvement with the characters in the play was low.

Friday was also educational – isn’t strange how weeks go like that? It was TEDx in Notting Hill which is an event of inspirational speakers, this time on the topic of The Future of Enterprise. Back at the Tabernacle which is a great venue, we heard amazing stories of young entrepreneurship, new forms of energy and people making a real difference to the world through their own lives. It was great if a little daunting! One great fun story to mention about recycling – a project to pair up single lost gloves to make a new groovy unmatching pair and sell them. Watch the Glove Love video on http://www.dothegreenthing.com/

The rain stopped and Saturday was a perfect Portobello Market day and we wandered up and down and then found the best outdoor seat in the area – just in front of the Ground Floor bar. We watched the world go past, caught up with friends and even worried whether the sun would burn! Early October can be so wonderful with its stolen extra days of summer.

What about the restaurants I hear you ask? More bars than restaurants this week, so one to mention for an evening get together is The Sun in Splendour at the start of Portobello Road. Drinks, food and a great bit of eaves dropping! We wanted to say ” No, he’s not interested in you and you getting even more drunk isn’t going to change that ” but didn’t of course…..

Bye for now,