Pitfield Street Public Library and Baths, Hoxton


This is clip taken in 1992 shows the Pitfield Street Library and the remains of the Pitfield Street Baths, Hoxton.

We used to use this library and swim in the pool in the 50s and 60s.

The tiled walls where the old baths had been was a bonus but also a poignant moment for me.

Our Dad used to take us to the Pitfield Baths to swim in the 50s. It was in the days of woollen knitted swimming trunks.

We used to walk from Whitmore School once a week to the Library.

Later on we would stop off at the Pitfield Street Library on the way home from Central Foundation School to do our homework and lines.

This clip is taken from a longer film made while taking a stroll from Liverpool Street Station to the Arsenal ground at Highbury with my daughter.

I hope to release some more clips and add a spoken sound track.



Barba Toni by Boz

Barba Toni by Boz

Little Italy

Little Italy

I had the opportunity, recently, to walk along the Clerkenwell Road again, and explore the area we used to live and play when I was a kid. Then it was called “Little Italy”. It seemed grey and dirty compared with the bright colours of my memories. I turned right into Eyre Street and it all came flooding back to me. The pub was still there and the little café, now closed, where Barba Toni was king. Across the road, the house where Mum, Dad, Nonna and we three kids used to shared 2 rooms is gone, but I could still see it in my mind’s eye and remember waking early, every morning to Barba Toni’s singing. I’d go to the window and there he was.

At half past 5 every morning Barba Toni was to be found with his broom outside his pride and joy the Sun Café. To us kids, he was always ‘Barba’, it means ‘Uncle’ in Piedmont; to his customers he was always Toni. Some of them had been taking their breakfast at his cosy little café for twenty years and had watched him grow from a skinny young man to the rotund, rosy-faced man we knew as kids. Barba wore a large black moustache and his thick black hair was well-oiled and combed back, curling over his collar. He wore a black waistcoat and trousers in all weathers.

Everyone knew Barba around London’s ‘Little Italy’. His singing and whistling could be heard all over. It spent a lot of time on his doorstep talking to friends in the street. The smell of freshly ground coffee drew people to his place like a magic spell. First thing in the morning he was out greeting the postman and the milkman with an enlivening espresso and, in the cold winters, a small grappa. They’d stay to chat and didn’t want to leave his warm hospitality.

Every so often he’d pop inside the café and check his beautiful shiny espresso coffee machine. He gave it a little polish with the pure white tea-towel that he always carried over his shoulder. He checked the level of the beans in the mill and inspected the cups and saucers.

As the morning progressed the street would get busier and the delivery vans would arrive to deliver to the local dairy and Newsagents. The greengrocer came back from Covent Garden with boxes full of fresh vegetables.

‘Hey! Toni! What’s that song you’re singing?” the newsagent called across the road.

‘Non piangere, Lui,’ he stopped momentarily, ‘please don’t cry’.

‘Can’t you whistle?’ always the same teasing response.

‘Dio Santo! I’ll whistle, when your coffee is ready! Puccini is too good for you! Testa di legno!’, he grumbled as he put his head through the Café door.

‘Maria, has that cretino across the road paid off his bill this week?”

When I went down to breakfast, I could hear my Dad, il cretino, laughing loudly in the shop, ‘that Toni, he’ll be the death of me!’

Fragments by Boz

Little Italy Procession

Little Italy Procession


Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974)

40 Years ago today I went to the York Hall with my mate Brooksie. Repton Amateur Boxing Club were holding a boxing tournament. Brooksie boxed for Repton at the time. There are a couple of his relatives on the card.

Also on the card:

Dave ‘Boy’ Green – he went professional the same year. Dave “Boy” Green was British welterweight boxing champion from 1976.

Ray Winstone (Beowulf, Sexy Beast, etc…) is also on the card.

Of Ray Winstone, WIKI says: At the age of 12, Winstone joined the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club and, over the next 10 years, won 80 out of 88 bouts. At welterweight, he was London schoolboy champion on three occasions, fighting twice for England. The experience gave him a perspective on his later career: “If you can get in a ring with 2,000 people watching and be smacked around by another guy, then walking onstage isn’t hard.”

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) - page 1

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) – page 1

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) - page 2

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) – page 2

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) - page 3

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) – page 3

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) - page 4

Repton Amateur Boxing Club (1974) – page 4

I-Spy – The Sights of London

I-Spy: The Sights of London

I-Spy: The Sights of London

Does anyone remember these?

I used to buy these from the W.H. Smith’s stand in Liverpool Street Station.

Then I used to walk and cycle around London answering the questions.

The books were edited by a journalist who called himself “Big Chief I-Spy”.

John and I went to visit “Big Chief I-Spy” who at the time lived at Wigwam-by-the-Water, 4 Upper Thames Street.

Note the price 6d (a tanner) which is the equivalent to 2½p, today.

The News Chronicle folded in October 1960 and I-Spy was taken up by the Daily Mail.


Boz 1959-1962


London Fields by Boz

As I sat watching the ducks on the water, there was a grunt from behind the wall. Eight fingers with black broken nails, appeared at the top of the wall. Then a dirty gymshoe attached to a skinny leg: grazed and scabby with a darned grey sock rolled down round the ankle. Then a mop of black hair and a grimy face, reddened with exertion, appeared between the fingers. With one more effort he cleared the wall and was standing beside me.

“Watcha!”, he said.

“Watcha!”, I replied.

He stood for a while, looking round, taking it all in, taking possession. This five-stone Napoleon scanned the debris of the bombed-out row of houses with his eyes only, not moving his head. Satisfied, he stuck his hand deep into the bulging pocket of his patched grey flannel shorts and pulled out a crumpled packet of 5 Woodbines, took one out and lit it, striking a loose match on the wall. He took a long, complacent drag of the cigarette, wiped his nose on his sleeve again, spat noisily, looked me up and down with a sneer and said,

“Got away from your Mum, then?”.

I shrugged, sneered like him and said nothing. My Mum worked and she would leave the house before me. I never had any problems, but it suited Tommy to think I was a bit of a Mummy’s boy.

“Got any money?”.

“Got me bob dinner money. You?”.


Some of us had a shilling for our dinner money so when we got hungry we duck into Hoxton street and get some pie ‘n’ mash at Fortunes or some chips across the road. Tommy never had a lot of money on him so he tucked into whatever was going.

He stood, saying nothing. Holding the soggy end of the cigarette between his thumb and first finger. The burning end pointing into the palm of his hand. Watching the ducks, malevolently. I could see he was itching to throw stones at the ducks.

“Is Jimmy coming out?”

“Probably still in bed. ‘Is mum goes out early. Wait for the bell and we’ll go and find ‘im”.

I could see he was itching to get going, but we couldn’t move or make too much noise until the school bell had rung and the last stragglers had left the streets. This piece of waste land had a large tank of water sunk in it to help put out fires during the bombings. Its attraction to us was the wall that hid it from the street. Once we were sure, we’d be off like monkeys over the wall and across the extensive bomb-sites. Passing past prefabs we would pick up another couple of mates.

Fragments by Boz

Richard III – Antony Sher – Barbican Centre – 1985

In 1985, I was lucky to see Antony Sher’s Richard III at the Barbican Theatre. The brilliant reviews for Bill Alexander’s direction and Sher’s interpretation were frustated by the fact that every seat was taken and it looked like I would never get to see it.

Then they decided to to do one special performance for “Live Aid” and I was lucky enough to get 4 tickets.

It was worth the wait: Sher’s performance was ‘electric’.

The cast included: Antony Sher, Roger Allam, Pete Postlethwaite, Penny Downie, Sarah Woodward, Malcolm Storry, Patricia Routledge, John Carlisle, Jim Hooper, Christopher Ravenscroft.




John William Polidori (1795-1821)

John William Polidori (1795-1821)

John William Polidori was born in London, England, the oldest son of Gaetano Polidori, an Italian political émigré scholar, and Anna Maria Pierce.

He received his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh, writing a thesis on sleepwalking.

He was a writer and physician. His most successful work was the 1819 short story, “The Vampyre”, one of the first vampire stories in English. He is credited with being the creator of the vampire genre of fantasy fiction.

He is known for his associations with the Romantic movement. He became Lord Byron’s personal physician and accompanied Byron on his European travels.

His sister Frances Polidori married exiled Italian scholar Gabriele Rossetti. His nephews and nieces: Maria Francesca Rossetti,Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti and Christina Rossetti were born after he died.

At the Villa Diodati, a house Byron rented by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, the pair met with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and her husband-to-be, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and their companion (Mary’s stepsister) Claire Clairmont.

Polidori travelled in Italy and then returned to England. His story, “The Vampyre”, which featured the main character Lord Ruthven, was published in the April 1819 issue of New Monthly Magazine without his permission as a new work by Byron. Byron even released his own “Fragment of a Novel” in an attempt to clear up the mess, but, for better or worse, “The Vampyre” continued to be attributed to him.

Polidori’s long, Byron-influenced theological poem The Fall of the Angels, was published anonymously in 1821.

He died in London on 24 August 1821, weighed down by depression and gambling debts. Despite strong evidence that he committed suicide by means of prussic acid (cyanide), the coroner gave a verdict of death by natural causes.

A memorial plaque on Polidori’s home at 38 Great Pulteney Street was unveiled on 15 July 1998 by the Italian Ambassador, Paolo Galli