Friday, March 28, 2014

Discovering Housmans

Walking around King's Cross is quite a treat. As the days are getting warmer, it's nice to wander aimlessly around the neighbourhood, and on one of those occasions we happened to walk into Housmans. It is in fact London's premier radical bookshop. 

I could see why from their unusual collection of books. They have a wide range of radical literature, pamphlets and magazines dealing with political issues. Newsletters and old journals other such curious books which you would never find in regular bookstores.

I went through their website and was quite surprised to read that they had in the past faced direct physical and legal attack. In 1974 an IRA bomb blew up the pillar box directly outside the shop (which was there because the building once housed the local Kings Cross Post Office, from the late 19th Century until some time in the 1930s). The explosion in the pillar box destroyed the first issue of the Campaign Against Arms Trade's newsletter which had just been posted in it, and damaged some of the building's windows, but caused no personal injury. Four years later, a letter bomb - one of a series sent to radical and left-wing addresses - caused burns to a staff member's hands. 

In the 1990s a group of people brought long-drawn-out libel actions against the shop over anti-fascist literature that was stocked. For over sixty years, through successive waves of the peace movement, Housmans has continued to promote peace, human rights, and environmental and other radical causes, providing literature and other material over the counter, as well as at stalls and by mail-order. Despite some years of planning blight in its immediate environs, Housmans remains one of the few "alternative" bookshops in Britain, and recently, with the refurbishment of the local area, Housmans itself has had a "facelift" and looks forward to many more years of radical campaigning.

And you will not want to miss the basement, where they have an entire room of books for just a pound. From fiction novels, books on business and strategy to coffee table books and even LPs, if you spend some time browsing through the collection, you never know what you might find. They also have cool knick knacks like t shirts and campaign badges. Curios and coffee!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Discovering Candid Cafe

London is a coffee lovers paradise. Every other shop is a cafe or a patisserie, every street has a Starbucks (or two) And almost all of them are quite packed in the evenings. I guess the weather has everything to do with it. Sitting warm and snug, by the window watching the world go by. It's nice. Except when you're desperately looking for a place to sit, and no one seems to be in a hurry to getup and leave.

Ram is always on the lookout for a quiet place to write. Starbucks is still his favourite (apparently no one can beat their venti-coffee- frappuccino), but it does get quite busy on weekends. And by no means quiet. So the other day he told me about a new discovery. A tiny place called Candid Cafe. As the name suggests, it's tucked away in an alley behind the Angel tube station. It's in an old building, without the flashy name boards. You have climb two floors through a narrow stairway. So no surprise, it's never too crowded.

It's super cosy, informal, they have all kinds of stuff thrown around, books, candles, fairy lights, guitar. And what they call these days- 'shabby chic'. When messy becomes cool. An artist's haven. Another pre requisite, that also adds to the 'cool quotient'- wifi! Yes they have free wifi.

Ram has found his perfect spot, a quiet and cozy nook where he can write in peace, while I get touristy clicking pictures.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Discovering Brick Lane

Far more exquisite than the well protected crown jewels are London's free treasures. Free for those , who want to discover. Walking through the alleys of Brick Lane, is your treasure hunt for the day. 

The most unpromising pathways lead you to a defunct parking garage or an empty lot, and there you stand, unprepared for what you're confronted with! No wall is forgotten, no walls are wasted. Brick Lane is an artist's canvas. 

Somehow they don't look like paintings on a wall. They look like people who belong, living, breathing, thriving. Citizens of a dystopian world? 

So in my excitement I uploaded a bunch of pictures on my Instagram. Just when I was wondering about the unknown artists behind these paintings, (and here's the thing I just love about social media) I had another Instagram user tag all the artists on the pictures I had posted.

Do check out the Instagram links, some of them even have the work in progress shots. I was pretty blown away.

By Otto Scade, a Chilean artist & architect from London

By churchofbestever

By Alexis Diaz, an artist from Puerto Rico

By Martin Ron-  Murales,

On my bus ride to work, I saw a lot of street art at Shoreditch. I also googled London wall tours. That would be an interesting trip. Looking to spot a few Banksy as well. Will plan it for another day!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Discovering pho!

I'm thrilled about moving to central London. From where we stay, Kings Cross and the Angel are about 10 minutes away. And so are the dozens and dozens of wonderful eating joints and pubs.

This Thursday we went to Pho. This little Vietnamese joint on Upper street is one of  Ram's favorite joints. Although I'm not into the south East Asian kind of cuisine (and being vegetarian none the less), but this bowl of pure flavour is to die for.

Mildly spiced but robust in flavours, four different kind of mushroom in a vegetable broth with vietnamese noodles, seasoned with coriander, red chilli and caramelised onions. The portions are huge, easily more than enough for two people, or in my case, parceling the leftover for the next day.

Vietnamese coffee reminds me of our good old South Indian filter coffee. The layer of luscious condensed milk at the bottom of the glass is pure heaven.

Needless to say, this is a joint I'm going be frequenting on a regular basis.