City Secrets: London
is the third book in the intriguing City Secrets series, published by the Little Bookroom, an American sister company of Granta. The idea behind the books was to develop an anecdotal guide by London's writers, artists, historians and designers and to reveal favourite hidden corners as well as giving new insights on well-known places.
As in the much-acclaimed City Secrets: Rome and City Secrets: Florence, Venice and the Towns of Italy, the quirkiness and individuality of the approach pays dividends here. The biographer and critic Fiona McCarthy gives a cogent and evocative essay about the Freud Museum in Finchley where Freud lived after his last-ditch flight from the Nazis, while interior decorator David Mlinaric is equally intriguing discussing London Underground design, which he conjures in an essay that will send readers out to discover the work of Eric Gill and Eduardo Paolozzi (whose mosaic murals may be found at Tottenham Court Road station). And journalist Ruth Pavey will have many of us up at 4am visiting Hampstead Heath to enjoy the dawn chorus and the bat walks: hers is one of the most fascinating essays in this invaluable little book. Part of the appeal of this series is its steadfast refusal to visit well-trodden paths; where it intersects with the more familiar guidebooks, there is always an idiosyncratic approach that marks it out as something much more interesting. --Barry Forshaw
From the Back Cover
Tour London in the company of its most thoughtful observers.
Beyond the public London of pomp and circumstance exists a private London that endlessly inspires its artists and writers. Infused with the spirit of history and literature--yet undeniably of-the-moment--the city's loveliest old corners and hippest new addresses are now revealed: the lopsided 17th-century premises of the wine merchant who supplies claret to the Queen; Oscar Wilde's favourite restaurant; a barge trip by canal to Camden Market; a connoisseur's afternoon.
Church Row, Hampstead NW3 tube: Hampstead
The best walk in London is down Church Row in NW3. After his exile and disgrace as the boyfriend of Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas lived here, though I don't know at which number. You could ring all the bells and ask. At the end of the road there is a ravishing little graveyard to the right which contains the remains of Hugh Gaitskell, Kay Kendall, Anton Walbrook (the ringmaster from La Ronde) and Joan Collins's mother. Our Lady guards Beerbohm Tree. To the left, in the grounds of the church itself, you will find the grave of John Harrison--immortalised by Michael Gambon in the TV film of Longtitude. You will also get an extraordinary view south towards the river. Then you should head on to Frognal, turn right, and at 99 you will find the house where General de Gaulle lived as leader of the Free French throughout the Second World War. I find it heartstopping to think of him here, directing the French war effort from a house in Hampstead. Of course if you want to follow the theme of the Resistance, you then have to go to the French House in Soho (49 Dean Street W1) to see where de Gaulle's juniors all ate and drank. But, for me, the pub will never be as evocative as the big, leafy house in North London. David Hare, Playwright