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London: Something Else


Tourists usually come to London to see the big sights. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard, The Tower and all of the other great attractions this city has to offer.

But if you step out from behind the throngs of day-trippers, you might find a million more interesting stories about life in this city and see the delicate proof to be found above your head, below your feet or under your butt.

At the underside of the Marylebone Flyover, at the intersection of Edgware and the Harrow Road, is the Joe Strummer Subway. Apparently, Strummer, singer and guitarist with the Clash, used to busk in this subway, which is just outside of the Paddington Green Police station. This is ironic as ‘I Fought the Law’, ‘Police on My Back’, ‘Police and Thieves’ and ‘Bank Robber’ are among their biggest hits.

Strummer died in 2002 of an undiagnosed heart condition.

One of Blur’s biggest hits is "Parklife", which is rumoured to have been written while the band was hanging around on a bench in Hyde Park, not too far from Lancaster Gate tube station. The chorus of the song chimes about the people who go hand-in-hand through their park life, but my favourite line is ‘and it’s not about you joggers who go round and round and round’, which is exactly how I feel about joggers in Hyde Park.

"Parklife", and the place where it was written have been commemorated on a park bench, a common way to remember someone or an event in London. Unfortunately, as you can see, the bench has been stolen.

Speaking of benches…

Ossie Clark was one of the most famous fashion British fashion designers of the 1960’s. At the height of his fame, he and his wife posed for the now most visited painting in the Tate Modern, ‘Mr and Mrs Clark Percy.’ by David Hockney. His hedonistic lifestyle led him to divorce, depression and financial ruin.

Clark was murdered in his council flat by a former lover in 1996.

Considering his one-time status, a lonely park in Holland Park Gardens seems a sad and lonely recognition of this once famous man.

You wouldn’t think that visiting a cemetery on your holiday would be much fun. But at Highgate cemetery, you find the final resting place of some of history’s most interesting people. Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, Malcolm McClaren, Patrick Caufield all mingle with the local Highgate residents in this over-grown de facto nature reserve in North London.

When I brought my sisters to Highgate Cemetery, there was quite a paparazzi curfuffle. A simple Google search determined that George Michael’s final service was being held there that day.

Wandering around Southwark, you may happen upon Clink Street, which is the location of the aptly named Clink Prison. It is this 12th Century prison that lends its name to the common prison moniker, and also to the hapless colonel from Hogan’s Heroes.

Leake Street, or Banksy Tunnel Road, is an underground pedestrian tunnel that runs under Waterloo Station in Lambeth. The tunnel was designated ‘Graffiti Legal’ in 2008 and remains a popular and safe place for artists to display their work.

The tunnel was christened by 2 of Banksy’s “Can Festivals” in 2008 when he and other graffiti artists earned the ability to celebrate their art form without worry of arrest.

Leake Street’s more famous cousin, the South Bank Skate Park, has recently been given a 700,000 grant to expand its size to accommodate the growing numbers of artists, skaters, bmx’ers and performers who originally appropriated this space nearly 40 years ago.

Leake Street is also the home of The Vaults, which is a multi-disciplinary and immersive theatre located in the unused railway arches of Waterloo Station. They also have a restaurant on Lower Marsh Street called Faulty Towers.

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