Hanging A Right…

I am lucky enough to work right near Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament and my morning walk to work from Charing Cross Station takes me along the bottom corner of Trafalgar Square and straight down Whitehall, past 10 Downing Street and through Parliament Square. With so many beautiful buildings and breathtakingly famous views, I am constantly whipping out my phone to capture a moment that makes me catch my breath and say ‘Wow!’. But this morning I turned right out of the station exit and discovered an entirely different source of snap-happy inspiration, Whitehall Garden

The Garden forms part of Christopher Wren‘s original vision of a continuous series of public gardens along the river bank back in 1666 – Whitehall Garden is one of four gardens and stretches along Victoria Embankment from the Golden Jubilee Bridge towards Westminster Bridge. It was laid out in 1875 along the river side of Whitehall Palace (which to this day still contains the Banqueting House with its exquisite Rubenesque ceiling). 

Compared with the hustle and bustle of Whitehall, the lush green landscape before me offered a more serene and contemplative space than usual for the last leg of my commute. With today being ANZAC Day, it also seemed appropriate that my decision to beat a different path to the office took me past the RAF Memorial. And I loved the opportunity to finish off my commute with a different perspective of Big Ben…

I didn’t expect to find so much that was interesting along the way, expecting a spot of vague strolling but upon crossing Northumberland Avenue, having a Monopoly moment and entering the garden, I stumbled across a fabulous little piece of history.

These are Queen Mary’s Steps and were discovered in 1939. They were built by Wren in 1691 as part of a riverside terrace for Queen Mary II in front of the original Whitehall Palace (one of Henry VIII pads) and the curving steps provided access from her Royal Apartments to the State Barge. *snap snap*

But the serenity of the gardens (and more ‘peaceful picture’ opportunities) beckoned…

And soon I was turning right and crossing into Parliament Square beneath the gothic gilded clock tower.

I do love this city…what a great way to start a Friday…and all because I had a whim to hang a right.

My backyard…B is for Brixton

Having returned from playing away in Abu Dhabi for a week, it was time to play a little closer to home again so this morning I was up and on the way to Brixton for another ‘backyard’ walking tour. 

Brixton is in South London and being most notable for the Brixton Riots in 1981, it’s an area of London that it’s fair to say has been somewhat tainted by its turbulent past. But the area is also one of those ‘up-and-coming’ parts of London as home buyers seeking lower property prices move outwards from the city while still remaining in commuting range. In fact it’s one of the things that surprised me today – how near Brixton is to central London. (I thought it was much further out!) 

Anyway our small group met at the Ritzy Cinema at 11am and headed down Coldharbour Lane to the frontline of the 1981 Riots at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue.

After a bit of background on the Riots from our guide Angela, we continued down Coldharbour Lane a little further to see Nuclear DawnThis extraordinary mural was painted by Brian Barnes and finished in 1981. It features a large skeleton swathed in the flags of nations who had nuclear weapons at the time and paints a grimly powerful portrait of politics and the Cold War during the late 70s/early 80s. 

Turning away from the mural, we faced Southwyck House – also known as Brixton’s Barrier Block – an unusual building featuring the Brutalist architectural style common of the period in which it was built. 

The Barrier Block has played a controversial role in Brixton’s history. The other side of the building features large windows and balconies and has been home to one of the world’s most famous artists, Damien Hirst. Ex Prime Minister John Major lived briefly in Brixton and his support for the demolition of the block later in his career was more than a little undermined by the fact his Planning Committee had approved its construction. Oops!

Our next stop was Brixton Village, a series of markets accessed through an entrance across Coldharbour Lane from the Nuclear Dawn mural. Fascinatingly enough, our short dash across the road was peppered with more art from the locals…

French street artist Space Invader leaves his mark at the corner of Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Avenue.
Bee (top left) can be found at the intersection of Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Avenue as can the image bottom right. The image top right was right near Nuclear Dawn and ‘B Our Guest’ adorns the railway bridge over Brixton Hill.
Lucy’ Casson’s Foxes and Cherries sculpture (top left) adorns the roof on the corner of Electric Lane and Electric Avenue; bottom left – collaborative mural near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Coldharbour Lane; right – an homage to Brixton-born David Bowie (or David Robert Jones as he was christened) painted by Australian street artist James Cochrane.

Brixton Village was traditionally a food market where the local Caribbean community would buy fresh produce, particularly specialities like ackee, plantain, yams and salt fish.

On our little tour, I got a bit of an education about Caribbean cuisine, also finding flying fish (top left) – which I saw flying several years ago on a trip to Tobago – and breadfruit (bottom left). The biggest surprise came when I was introduced to chow chow, which I knew as choko growing up in Australia! We also laughed at the ubiquity of Milo (a malted chocolate powder that we add to big glasses of milk) in both the Caribbean and Australia – how strange that such similarities exist between islands so far away from each other.

The produce stalls are far fewer and the markets have been taken over by restaurants and cafes. It was fairly quiet as we walked through but you could just imagine the little lanes buzzing with the energy and chatter of lunchtime or after work crowds.

Clockwise from top left: Traditional Caribbean fare from Fish, Wings and Tings; enjoy a tipple and nibble at Champagne and Fromage; tuck in to morsels from the sea at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen; beat the crowds for a cuppa at Federation Cafe, graced in the past by none other than Hollywood star, Will Smith.

Emerging from the markets it was a short walk down to Electric Avenue – yes the one made famous by the Eddy Grant song.

Electric Avenue, so named as it was the first market street to receive electric lighting. Bottom left: Healthy Eaters’ delivery vehicles feature the names of prominent locals.

Further down Electric Avenue, we found Brixton Speaks an installation on the wall of the Iceland store. Created by author Will Self, Brixton Speaks pays homage to the unique Caribbean patois of the area. Click here for a much better photo! This was also the site where a nail-bomb exploded in 1999 injuring 39 people.

Turning right onto Brixton Hill we walked under the railway bridges to visit our next point of interest, the Ricky Bishop Memorial TreeRicky Bishop was taken into police custody in 2001 and was later admitted to hospital with unexplained injuries. The tree serves as a poignant reminder of the still-fractious relationship between the community and the local police.

We crossed over Brixton Hill and spent about 20 minutes away from the cacophony of the high street.

Left: emergiing from Stockwell Avenue between the twin buildings of Bon Marche, London’s first purpose built department store; top right: the Grade II listed Brixton Academy which started life as the Astoria Theatre in 1929; bottom right: Trinity House on Acre Lane, Georgian architecture preserved since 1822.
Life in a leafy Brixton Square: a two bedroom (top right) will set you back at least £750,000 but you can always drown your sorrows at the Trinity Arms (bottom right).

With that we headed out onto Acre Lane and wandered back to the Ritzy Cinema. 

Nursing my hot chocolate on the tube ride home, I felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of this colourful neighbourhood, so different from my own yet discovering so many unexpected similarities in our cultures. And I mused once again at how utterly fascinating this big backyard of mine called London truly is.

In Shardlake’s Shoes…

It’s Sunday again (where does the time go?) and I’ve been out and about today enjoying the lovely Autumn weather and indulging my passion for history and books in one fell swoop.

The City of London proved itself an excellent stage for Shardlake’s City, a walking tour based on the novels of C.J. Sansom and his protagonist, Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer living in Tudor London. Blue Badge guide Paula met us this morning at the glorious Royal Courts of Justice and took us on a 2 hour odyssey back into 16th century London…

The Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street London

We visited Shardlake’s ‘home’ at 124 Chancery Lane, the Inns of Courts where he plied his trade, the public houses frequented by his able assistant Barak and a whole range of locations pertinent to the five novels in the Shardlake series so far. Here are just a few pics…

Shardlake’s offices were located at Lincoln’s Inn in Chancery Lane, just a short walk from his front door….

…but he also petitioned at Gray’s Inn and Clifford’s Inn. The Prudential building actually housed one of the ‘feeder’ inns for London’s legal profession.

The Old Mitre is representative of the back alley pubs where Barak, Shardlake’s assistant, would have visited.

Shardlake’s investigations took him all over the City of London, from Cromwell’s corridors to the seedier parts of the city…

Clockwise from top left: Smithfields Market, site of public executions in the 16th century; getting our bearings coming out of St Bartholomew’s; peering over the ‘back fence’ at St Bartholomew’s Monastery and Chapel

Clockwise from top left: St Bartholomew’s Hospital (with Henry VIII over the door), the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, the site of the infamous Newgate Prison (demolished in 1777) opposite the Old Bailey (right)

Near the end of the two hours, we approached one of our final stops on the tour, the Guildhall, to find that rather than a quiet square, the Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival was in full swing…

As the tour drew to a close in Poultry (which ended at the site of…ahem…Grope C*nt Lane – did what it says on the tin really) it was time for a well-earned coffee and chinwag. The conversation started with giving our guide Paula a bit of a grilling about the whys and wherefores of being a guide before weaving through subjects like architecture, book clubs and history just to name a few. It was a very pleasant way to cap off our shared walk through Shardlake’s City together.

Finally, I headed for home, foot-sore and mind buzzing with all of the interesting tidbits that I’d learned about London over the course of the tour. As I sat on the tube going back to Finchley, I flicked through all of the photos I’d taken, reliving a fantastic three hours (including the post-tour coffee). And I marvelled at how a little girl from the other side of the world grew up to live in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

If you like the sound of this tour, check out crossingthecity.co.uk and find out when the next Shardlake City tour – or any of the other tours in Paula’s repertoire for that matter – is scheduled. You might just fall a little bit more in love with London yourself.

Kindred Spirits…

Each evening as the 82 bus trundles north up Finchley Road and navigates the lights at Henly’s Corner I find myself cheered by the thought of just a few more stops before I’m off for the short walk home. Henly’s Corner can be a nightmare for the traffic if things go wrong but most nights, it’s a fairly seamless crossing to deliver passengers to the bus stop on the other side so my optimism is usually well-placed.

As you reach the other side of the North Circular and start up Regents Park Road, there’s a big green ‘space’ to the left. It seems an odd place to position a patch of nature, right next to the heaving flow of traffic. Even odder is the statue – a naked woman raising her arms to the sky, her sword in one uplifted hand. As the bus merges back into the traffic from the stop, her brazen profile stands stark against the urban ‘wallpaper’ behind her. A silent silhouette, triumphant and still, while I sit, usually oblivious, immersed in my post-workday literary feast. 

Image source: Wikipedia

But a few weeks ago, too tired to read, I spent the entire journey from West Hampstead gazing out of the window and as I saw her, arms uplifted, I wondered how she came to be there. What’s the story here, I wondered?

So out came my trusty HTC One and before long I had the answer.

The Naked Lady (real name La Délivrance) was purchased by Lord Rothermere (the family of The Daily Mail fame) in 1920 and gifted to the district of Finchley. Initially local officials, in need of a war memorial, planned to place the statue – created to celebrate the first battle of Marne which prevented the Germans from capturing Paris in 1914 – at the entrance to Victoria Park. But our well-heeled aristocrat put his foot down – the current location or not at all – and so the statue was unveiled in its current location by Prime Minister David Lloyd-George in 1927.

The Naked Lady is the creation of French sculptor Émile Oscar Guillaume and stands, a bronzed 16 feet tall, at the southern edge of Finchley.

A bronzed goddess hey?

I always knew I’d find kindred spirits in Fab Finchley.

ps…speaking of kindred spirits, there are only 19 sleeps to go until my very own sibling kindred spirit arrives…la deliverance indeed!

L Is For…

Here I am four days into year 45 on the planet. Birthday number 44 seemed to whizz by in a blur despite having a day-off-morphing-into-a-long-weekend, albeit 24 hours after my big day. For a Leo birthday, I have to admit that it has been little less lush and a little more laid-back than usual.

But I’ve managed to capture myself a few luscious moments along the way.

The night of said big day, after a frantically busy day at work, I logged off and headed into town. It was a hot and humid tube trip in and after picking up my theatre ticket, I decided to pop in to Cote for a quick bite to eat and, in a moment of too-bloody-hot-for-wine, a refreshing glass of cloudy lemonade

Replete with a delicious vichyssoise and ratatouille vegetables in puff pastry, I was soon ensconced in my seat at the Duchess Theatre. Courtesy of lastminute.com, I had scored a cheap ticket to see the play Fences starring Lenny Henry. In short, the play was fantastic and Henry was awesome.

It was late by the time I got home but fave flick Top Gun had just started (who could ever lose their Lovin’ Feelin’ with that volleyball scene on the box *sigh*) and there was still an hour left of the birthday Day to open some presents. 

I got some lambswool

…and something with which to further my baking exploits (I’ve always loved licking the bowl).

As with all birthdays, it is a requirement that one brings cakes into the office for others to scoff and I decided that my new mixer would best be christened by whipping up a batch of great Aussie favourite, lamingtons. These are squares of light fluffy sponge cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut. So after a lie-in and a morning frappe at local café La Barista yesterday, I embarked on step one – baking the sponge . 

They turned out less light and fluffy…

…and more like sponges of the dish-washing kind. Clearly I need to master the new mixer.

So instead I’ve made Lemon Drizzle Cake

…and some white chocolate brownies for the Great Office Scoff.

There’s been some lazing about in the sun in between times – reading the paper and excellent magazine, Intelligent Life which always deserves some time to peruse at a leisurely pace. And finally I’ll be topping off my big birthday bonanza tonight with my regular Sunday night dip into the lives of the Lancastrians and Yorkists with the BBC’s The White Queen.

So that peeps was my lusciously long and lazy-ish birthday weekend…only 361 sleeps until the next one.

Tis The Season…Party Feet

With the big day fast approaching (only 17 sleeps to go peeps), attention has suddenly turned to collaborations of the festive kind. And this week has seen me celebrating with considerable commitment to the Christmas cause, the result being that I am ensconsed on the comfy couch at Gidday HQ today after last night’s work Christmas party. Amongst today’s priorities is resting my aching feet, having kicked off my dancing shoes *slash* drinking boots in the early hours of this morning before pouring myself into bed.

It was a fabulous night, starting with a drinks-style mingle (with a spot of champers, of course) and delicious dinner table conversation under the majestic Rubenesque ceiling of the Banqueting House in Westminster. Commissioned by King Charles I and installed by Inigo Jones, the ceiling comprises the only canvasses from the old Whitehall Palace to remain in situ. Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens painted them in his studio in Antwerp, shipped them across for installation in March 1636 and was paid the princely sum of £3,000 for his efforts.

Eyes up at dinner – what a spectacular view!

After dinner it was down to the Undercroft for a spot of drinking dancing. Designed as a drinking den (how appropriate!) for James I, the area went on to host lotteries after his death, which sounds kind of akin to some (alright, most) of the moves on show under the temporary disco lights last night. And a big shout out to DJ Jeff who kept the floor packed with swinging, singing partygoers – and at whose feet I lay the blame entirely for my scratchy throat and tender tootsies.

But this was not the only celebratory collaboration as earlier this week, we turned to team-building of a whole different kind. On Tuesday night we found ourselves in the south London suburb of Wandsworth for a night of culinary negotiation at Venturi’s Table. Split into three teams, we kneaded, chopped, stirred, dipped, chatted and laughed under the careful supervision of Anna Venturi’s team of patient chefs before sitting down to a fabulous three course meal – fresh pasta, chicken ballotine and a super-scrummy pannetone pudding. Oh and a few drinks. (There may also have been a bit of singing. Yes it’s true.) This is not the first time I’ve done something like this (see my post on Hot Chicks & Hens) and let me just say right here and now, it won’t be my last. It is such fantastic fun.

And last but by no means least, I managed to squeeze in a catch up with three colleagues from workdays past and over a bottle of wine (or two) and a cheap and cheerful meal at my local Italian, we shared the news, reflected on 2012 and speculated on what changes 2013 might bring.

It starts again this week so right now, I’m feeling rather grateful for today’s respite. But not for too long. After all, it is the season to be jolly…

…and my drinking boots still have plenty of tread.

Inspired By…Local Colour

This afternoon I have been cosied up on the couch with the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on telly in the background. The banks of the Thames are alive with cheering folk and British-themed bunting, adding a whole lot of local colour to an otherwise grey and drizzly London day.

But this is not a Jubilee post – having already given a nod to Her Majesty just last week – but rather a celebration of local colour right here in Fab Finchley…at our local railway station.

Finchley Central station is on the Northern Line (High Barnet branch) of the London Underground. It was originally opened in 1867 as Finchley & Hendon on a line that ran between Finsbury and Edgware. In 1872 a branch line to High Barnet was constructed and in 1894, the station was renamed Finchley (Church End). It was incorporated into the London Underground network during the 1930s and took its current name – Finchley Central – on April 1st, 1940.

Last night I went into London to see The Duchess of Malfi at The Old Vic so I set off to catch the tube from Finchley Central as usual. The early evening sky was traditional bank holiday grey and I whizzed through the ticket barrier, down the stairs and on to the open air platform hoping that the skies would not see fit to open upon my arrival there. (Contrary to popular belief, parts of the London Underground are not, in fact, under ground.) And not for the first time, I gasped softly in delight.

You see, Platform 3 (for trains travelling south to London) had been transformed into a riot of glorious Spring colour. I’ve seen this testament to green thumbed locals before but the last few weeks of rain – sun – rain has brought forth vibrant purples, bashful pinks, delicate whites and golden yellows in abundance. And as a picture paints a thousand words, here’s a little photo tour for you that I prepared earlier (I love my HTC Desire):

This was my first glimpse – look at all that glorious colour!
Here’s a little nod to the Olympics – but keep this under your hat. We wouldn’t want the organisers to know!
There was some Union Jack-ery in evidence too…
…and a sweet attempt at prettying up ‘Bill Steamshovel’.
There were also a few quirky critters dotted around.
There were a few of these piggy planters…

…a bee who’d come to see a man about a dog…
..and some sheep (a big ‘un and a lil ‘un).
And what’s this hiding in the grass? More quirk-ery perhaps?
It looks to me like a bunny with ears made of carrots!

Isn’t it pretty? There’s real sense of pride – not to mention fun – evident as you walk along the length of the garden and I caught myself smiling as I discovered each of its quirky inhabitants.

So it’s a big (green) thumbs up to the folk at Finchley Central Tube station for making my damp, grey evening just a little less grey. Well done old chaps!

Afternoon Delight…

Today, I was all set to post about other things. Not Mother’s Day mind, as ‘mine’ happens in May (but am wishing all Mums celebrating today a fab day just the same). But I had a few ideas from the week and following on from my two part ‘danger mouse’ thriller, I was keen to change the rhythm and tone again to keep things fresh and interesting for all of you lovely Gidday-ers.

But I’ve had the most delicious couple of hours and I just HAD to tell you about it.

I’ve been to the cinema.

So what? I hear you say.

No I’ve been to THE cinema, the delightful Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley.

It’s what I call a proper cinema with old fashioned, theatre style seats, lots of leg room  and a shiny, swishy gold curtain at the front.

Purpose built in 1910, it’s a single screen cinema, and was actually saved from the wrecking ball in 1985 by the formation of The Phoenix Cinema Trust, a charitable organisation that runs the theatre for the community, reinvesting its profits both in education and maintaining this wonderful tribute to cinematic history. 

I used to live close by a similar independent cinema in Melbourne (The Classic in Elsternwick for any Melburnites reading this). My old home-town has quite a few thriving independent cinemas and it’s something I had missed a little while living in South West London. On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I used to love wandering down and submitting myself to a screening of something I’d choose simply by standing at the Box Office and seeing what was about to start.

Anyhow, The Phoenix is not far from the new Gidday HQ and this afternoon there was a ‘From the Archives’ screening of Imitation of Life, a ‘legendary Hollywood melodrama’ (which I’d never heard of) about racial identity. I thought it seemed a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The story centres firstly on Lora, a young widow chasing her dreams to be an actress who is supported by her black housekeeper, Annie in the raising of her daughter Susie  alongside Annie’s own  ‘light-skinned’ daughter Sarah Jane. Lana Turner plays the ambitious and glamorous Lora and, along with the marvellously good-looking John Gavin as her love interest and a perky Sandra Dee as Susie, provides much of the froth and bubble as well as a little wry humour throughout the film. But as things unfold, it is the relationship between Annie and Sarah Jane which gives this story its real potency.

This film was made in 1959. It would have been quite a daring affront to the ‘seen and not heard’ issue of black and white America but more importantly, the film shows that there’s more to the world than merely a black versus white view and Susan Kohner’s rebellious and then bittersweet performance of Sarah Jane captures this better than any words I could write here. And the industry obviously thought so too with Kohner winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress as well as an Oscar nomination (along with Juanita Moore for her portrayal of Annie).

Two and a half hours flew by and before I knew it, I was sitting contentedly on the bus coming home filled with absolute delight at my new discovery. 

At the venue or the film? I hear you ask.

I can’t decide.

Visit The Phoenix. See Imitation of Life.

I’d recommend both.

Destination…Museum of London

So yesterday I told you all about the journey, leaving you with the adage that the getting there is often just as fabulous as the destination.

This is the post about the Destination.

I arrived at the Museum of London, eagerly anticipating a couple of free hours of strolling through time. The Museum is laid out in chronological order and is quite interactive with fewer than usual items of the ‘do not touch’ variety. Prior to entering the permanent exhibition there’s also a display called London and the Olympics which celebrates the Games already held in London (1908 and 1948) as well as the 2012 preparations.

The journey starts with an exploration of the region from 450,000 BC before London was…well London. The locations of significant archaeological finds are also showcased – places like the site of the current Heathrow Airport – as well the work along the shores of the Thames where FROG volunteers from Thames Discovery continue to catalogue new finds to assist in preserving London’s rich history.

From 50 to 410 AD, the Romans built, defended and rebuilt Londonium – there are some great displays of homes, shops, food and the opportunity to peek at the defensive City wall from another perspective.

Traditional Roman dining room
Roman Wall from the Roman Gallery of the museum

We then move to Medieval London and the galleries which showcase the period from 410 through to 1558 AD covering Viking raids and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon power right up to the early Tudor years. This gallery also shows much of the religious development of London and features a model of the original St Paul’s Cathedral.

The original St Paul’s Cathedral

The next gallery take us on the path of London’s devastation through civil war, the plague and fire. I was fascinated by the survival of London at the end of this period in spite of the loss of between one third and one half of the population to the Black Death, followed by the loss of some 13,000 homes (but only 9 lives) in the Great Fire of 1666 the following year. It took London 50 years to rebuild including Christopher Wren’s reconstruction of St Paul’s Cathedral as we know it today.

I followed the arrows downstairs to the next set of exhibitions entitled Modern London: Expanding City.

A main feature of this gallery is the recreated Pleasure Gardens which allow you to wander, sit and watch the cinematic story of the time unfold on the screens around you. The hats on display were…interesting. It must have taken incredible posture to manage these with any grace and dignity.

Pleasure Garden fashion – can you see the ship hat on the left of the picture?
Pleasure Garden – a (t)horny affair!

Just down the ramp from the Pleasure Gardens there was an arcade walk to celebrate the Victorian era.

The Victorian Walk celebrates the era of expansion 
Trinkets for sale – The Victorian Walk

Next we move into the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Modern London: People’s City. The class divide is brought to life by an interactive version of Charles Booth’s map of poverty in London which sits opposite a vintage motor display, a recreation of the entrance to the Savoy Hotel and panelling from the Selfridges lift which was installed in 1928.

Vintage ‘white walls’ representing People’s City
Japanese panelling in the Savoy Hotel recreation

The Selfridges Lift
But did you know that Harrods installed the first escalator in 1898?
Smelling salts were on hand to revive passengers from the ride.

The final step in time is Modern London: World City which takes us from pre WWII London, through the fab 50s and swinging 60s right up to today.  This was a busy gallery so I was frustrated in my attempts to take pictures and despite cases filled with fashion, music and even a real life Vesper, I managed this one only.

My one and only tribute to Modern London: World City

There’s a room off to the side of this exhibition called the City Gallery which contains the Lord Mayor of London’s official coach which leaves the gallery each November (since 1757) for the Lord Mayor’s Show.

The Lord Mayor’s Coach, first commissioned in 1757
Amazingly preserved after more than 250 years

So after two and a half hours I emerged into the dark evening thinking ‘well that was that’ – only to find a special installation in the windows outside.

The London Cityscape by Simon Crostin was commissioned by the Museum of London to commemorate the 2012 bicentennary celebrations of Charles Dickens in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibition, Dickens and London, running until June 10, 2012.

I wandered slowly back to Moorgate along the raised walkways around St Alphages, still snapping away (as my previous post will attest to). And as I finally sat, homeward-bound, on the top deck of the bus, I marvelled at the fascinating snippets I’d learnt about London’s chequered past and felt a quiet contentment at my big day out and the historic city that I’ve chosen as my home.

Your Armchair Tour Of…London Wall

First things first – you might be wondering about the title of the post. It’s not meant to suggest that I have been an armchair traveller – as you know I like to get out and about and see what there is to see. But I’ve had a few people leave comments or send messages that, in reading some of my wanderlust-themed posts (Nuremberg and Prague to cite a couple), it’s like they get to visit without leaving their armchair. This is another one of those posts. If you are not in the mood for a meander, you should read something else.

This week’s small lull between the festivities of Christmas and the euphoria of New Year’s Eve means that Londoners aplenty have availed themselves of the opportunity for rest and relaxation (or a little sale shopping but I digress). Which means that the actual City of London is pretty deserted at this time of year – a  golden opportunity to mosey around free from the usual tyranny of the booted and suited.

My ultimate destination was the Museum of London, a museum I have not visited since I first ‘got off the boat’ in 2004, and one of my favourites. But the empty streets tempted me and I spent a little time meandering, fascinated, along London Wall.

London Wall is a street that runs through the City of London (also known as the Square Mile) that is located along the course of the first defensive wall that the Romans built around the beginning of the 3rd century AD.

On a quiet, traffic free day, it is easy to take photos and absorb a little of the atmosphere of London’s Roman past:

Restored Roman arches along London Wall

All that is left of the church of St Alban in Wood Street.
Remember my visit to St Albans early in December?

A blast of modernity right amongst the history
Walkway along the remains of the preserved wall
The old and the new – why I love London
Deserted City streets on December 27th – no festive cheer here!
Ruins on the other side of London Wall (the street) – they’re everywhere!
So I took this and then turned around…
…to see this. Looks a bit like a gigantic Meccano set to me.

Grace and elegance as I passed a random window

London’s Square Mile

At this point I had wandered right along to the Museum and so disappeared indoors for at least a couple of hours… 

…and when I emerged at about 4.30pm, the day had dipped its lights in deference to the night. As it does here in London during December..and November…and January.

So this is what happened walking back to Moorgate:

Remember the Meccano building? Looks quite cool at night.
And those Roman arches? Them and my shadow
Finally, a touch of Christmas on the corner of London Wall and Moorgate
No significance other than it seemed like a good idea to take a pic.
Some rather fetching glasswork across the road – missed this during the daylight hours
The Dragon and St George’s Cross, guarding the City of London

And so with London’s guardian of the realm at my back it was time to board the bus and take my weary legs and aching feet back up north to my cosy flat and a hot bath. But not before a final snap from the bus stop…

 …of largest licorice allsort I’ve ever seen!

We are so busy rushing to the destination sometimes we often forget that the getting there can be just as fabulous. In case you’re wondering, this is where I went:

So much to see in such a short walk.

And here endeth the tour.