The stupendous hand-painted signs of Carter's travelling Steam Fair


The Better Letters tumblr has posted a massive gallery of the hand-lettered signs from Carter's Steam Fair, a touring vintage fair that stopped last weekend in Clissold Park in Stoke-Newington, London. Carter's is a family business, and it's a magnificent affair, even down to the gleaming, streamlined family trailers parked around the perimeter. Joby Carter, the fair's signpainter, is the son of the founder, John Carter, and he is part of a five-generation tradition of handpainted signs. My wife and I took our daughter and a friend to the fair yesterday and were amazed, thrilled and delighted by every single detail, from Voltini's Electrocution sideshow to the penny arcade where we gambled recklessly with enormous, Georgian pennies to the many rides and funhouses (and don't forget the steampunk QR code!). As my daughter's six-year-old friend said while we left, "This was the best day of my life!"

I took some pictures, but Better Letters had the run of the place at a pre-opening tour and is in any event a much better photographer than I'll ever be, so look at those pics, too.

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50,000 march against austerity in London, BBC doesn't notice

Joly writes, "It seems the BBC are capable of tracking down a single Scot in Brazil who cheered a goal against England but fail to notice 50,000 demonstrating on their doorstep." The Guardian noticed. There's much bigger stuff -- likely too big for the Beeb to ignore -- coming in October.

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London police's secret "domestic extremist" list includes people who sketch protests


Baroness Jenny Jones, a Green Party councillor, writes in the Guardian about the bizarre smears and tittle-tattle she found about herself in the Metropolitan London Police's secret database of "domestic extremists," such as her tweets from a protest in Trafalgar Square.

Jones is just one of many people who have found themselves placed on the "domestic extremist" watchlist by the Met on the flimsiest of excuses. For example, John Catt, an 89 year old peace and human rights campaigner, is in the database along with a notation about the fact that he sketches demonstrations. The police cast a wide net indeed -- noting, for example, that Green politician Ian Driver organised a meeting in support of marriage equality.

The Met's definition of "domestic extremism" didn't occur in a vacuum. It's part of a wider, more militarised view of dissent and protest in general, reflected around the world in the use of illegal "kettling" tactics against protesters, the deployment of "stingray" surveillance devices used to capture the identities of all attendees at peaceful protests, and other examples of officialdom's pants-wetting terror at the thought of people protesting the decisions made by plutocrats and their tame technocrats.

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London property bubble entombs a thousand digger-machines


London's property bubble has got people energetically expanding their property, digging out sub-basements -- and the insane bubblenomics of London housebuilding are such that it's cheaper to just bury the digger and abandon it than to retrieve it. London's accumulating a substrate of entombed earthmoving machinery.

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South London hackspace urgently seeks home


Tom writes, "We're a fledgling makerspace in London (60 members and growing), born from the notion that 'London Hackspace is fantastic but it's a pain to get to from South of the River.' We bootstrapped ourselves in a disused shop earlier this year, have grown quickly and had a second home lined up in a University space for the summer. That deal fell through at the last minute and now we've got just 1 month to find somewhere else. We've got the cash and the income, we just can't find the space! Please help us get the word out. We plan to be London's 2nd biggest community workshop and can't face having our momentum dashed on the cliffs of London's property market."

London property bubble examined


Tim Harford, my favourite skeptical and eminently readable economist, asks the question: Is London experiencing a housing bubble? He is hesitant to be definitive on this, but makes a very good case for the idea that London housing prices are inflated and heading for a crash.

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Stage adaptation of Tim Powers' Anubis Gates at this summer's Worldcon

Tim Powers' outstanding fantasy novel The Anubis Gates has been adapted for the stage and it will premiere at Loncon 3, this summer's World Science Fiction Convention. I've been excited as hell about having a Worldcon in town, but this is some awfully nice icing on the cake!

The Anubis Gates (via IO9)

London street art

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China Mieville on The Borribles

Tor.com has reprinted China Mieville's inspired introduction to The Borribles, the classic, 1980s urban fantasy young adult trilogy by Michael de Larrabeiti, recently relaunched in the UK. As Mieville points out, The Borribles are fundamentally a fractured love-poem to London, and its love-hate relationship to children:

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Guardian Cities: how Hackney council let developers demolish the startups of "Silicon Roundabout"

I've written a guest editorial for the new Guardian Cities site about the way that the offices that house the startups of London's famed "Silicon Roundabout" are being systematically demolished by developers who are put up cheap, high-rise private student housing to take advantage of a foreign-student bubble.

(Note: this went up briefly last week by accident and came down again, apologies if you see this twice)

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Guy who "fixed" women's computers spied through their webcams


A London court has found a man named Andrew Meldrum guilty of "unauthorised access to computer material" and "voyeurism." Meldrum "helped" young women fix their computers and covertly installed snoopware on them, and subsequently spied on them via their webcams. He is to be sentenced in April. A forensics expert claims that this sort of thing is "very common."

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Victorian mansion for sale with spaceship attic


There are lots of £3,250,000 mansions around London's Crystal Palace, but there aren't many whose attics have been converted to spaceship control rooms. The estate-agent-ese in the posting is enough to melt your eyeballs, but I gather that this place is has 8 bedrooms, is about 7,000sqft, and is both Gothic Grade II and Victorian Grade II listed (or possibly these are interchangeable).

11 bedroom detached house for sale (via Geekologie)

Cryptofloricon: send bouquet-encoded messages

London's Cryptofloricon encode one of several useful messages into floral code and send the resulting bouquet to your sweetheart. (Thanks, Ed!) Cory 6

Cockney ATM


Long have I heard tell of the Cockney Rhyming Slang ATM of Hackney Road, but na'er had I chanced upon it...until today! As soon as I stuck my debit card in the machine in front of the Co-Op Grocers in Hackney Road and was asked to make a language-selection between "English" and "Cockney," I knew I'd found it at last.

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More Victorian portraits of "London types"


Spitalfields Life has posted more Victorian portraits of London characters and tradesmen a (here's the last batch). The new set has some absolute gems, including the Muffin Man (above). Also not to be missed (below): "itinerant," "lounge lizard," and "portcullis raiser at the bloody tower."

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