DSC03814A day out in Greenwich is always a good bet if you want to get out of the immediate City and Westminster area, and it’s much easier now that the river Clippers take Oyster cards and you don’t have to join the long queues for tickets. Even as the creeping tide of steel and glass wipes away the last vestiges of good old grubby Thameside buildings, there’s still so much to look at from the river and little traces of old London to pick out amongst the late 20th and 21st Century blandness.

Anway, this isn’t a blog about river trips – that’s been done incredibly well with the detailed ‘then and now’ riverscapes available on line and in book form. It would originally have been about some of the attractions on offer in Greenwich, as we had ideas about properly doing the Maritime Museum, Old Naval College and Observatory. However, no sooner had we disembarked and set off in search of some lunch, than we were immediately distracted by some very interesting vintage and record shops, and that’s about as far as we got!

Greenwich Record Shop

Serious Crate Digging at the Music & Video Exchange – more downstairs…

Before we get into shopping, I’ve got to include a plug for the cafe at the Greenwich Picturehouse – very tasty and excellent value. From there we descended on the open air vintage market, quite bijou (though that may be because it was a weekday), but where we stumbled on a list of services and tariffs at the now defunct Regent Palace Hotel, just off Piccadilly. Though the above ground hotel is now long gone, the basement areas survive and now house the Zedel brasserie, Bar Americain and Crazy Coqs cabaret, all in the original deco surroundings. I’ll be writing a full article about Zedel when Mrs M and I can find an excuse to go back there, but it was lovely to find a souvenir of its past, so that’s going in the spare bedroom.

DSC03816On to the Music and Video Exchange at 23 Church Street, a ‘proper’ second hand record shop with everything from genuine high value collectables to quirky odds and sods (the sort of thing that always tempts me), and all realistically priced. Upstairs are the choice items, while downstairs houses rack after rack of bargains, and walls filled with DVDs. It took us two visits to work our way through all the 50s, 60s and ‘weird miscellaneous’ stock as we were afraid of running out of time, but it was well worth the effort. Amongst the finds were Kenny Everett’s LP collection of the World’s Worst Record Show, on original turquoise vinyl; quite apart from its nostalgia value, the tracks include Nervous Norvus’ ‘Transfusion’ and the Trashmen’s ‘Surfin’ Bird’ – both 50s weirdo classics. For the first time, too, I spotted some of the Chappell Recorded Music Library LPs, containing tracks of the kind of light music designed to act as background to all kinds of radio shows and composed and conducted by doyens of the British light music scene such as Sidney Torch and Robert Farnon. I’d already got some of this ‘British 50s lounge’ in the collection thanks to a couple of Test Card Classics CDs, but had never spotted it on record. Maybe reading Simon Reynolds’ ‘Retromania’ heightened my awareness of library music, but they went in the bag, too. That left a couple of ‘safety copies’ of the iconic Tom Lehrer albums, some rare 1963 British satire from Peter Sellers, Joan Collins and Anthony Newley on ‘Fool Britannia’ and a lovely Cha Cha Cha album, complete with gatefold sleeve containing detailed instructions on ‘how to’ and a lecture on Stereophonic Sound. Fortunately for Mrs M, I’ve no intention of taking up Latin American dancing – I just fell in love with the cover! There was a clutch of 45s, too – a couple of repros and a handful of British releases; nothing that will get Messrs Smoker and Greenaway excited, but fun for a spin up.

DSC03817There’s a growing number of other vintage outlets in Greenwich, too – some rather on the pricey side, but then it’s not going to be cheap to maintain premises near the centre there, and they’re still worth a wander as we found a couple of items that we’d have snapped up if we’d been able to use them. A bit of me still rues leaving that cocktail-themed tablecloth behind, but it was just so perfect that I couldn’t bear to put dirty glasses on them, or even put it in the wash, so it would only have lived in a drawer. We didn’t have as much resistance to some fantastic brass stamps, though, and now have the perfect way to mark our record sleeves to show us what came out of our respective collections.

Home on a combination of the DLR and Jubilee line (after a slice of cake and cup of tea back at the Picturehouse of course) – quicker and cheaper than the river and with some interesting views as the DLR wends its way through the glass towers of Canary Wharf. Next time we’ll actually do some proper culture, so long as I get to do a bit of crate-digging as well…