It’s not often that I’m in the City in the morning. Yesterday I made the mistake of running up the Monument, all 311 steps of it. Almost nothing to see at the top, just office blocks. Hard to reconstruct the symbolism of the Fire of London, the sense of achievement in the reconstruction of the City, Christopher Wren as Surveyor General, helped by Robert Hooke, submitting various alternative designs to the City authorities and then using it subsequently as a telescope. Caius Gabriel Cibber was responsible for the carving of the emblematic plaque in which Charles II directs operations, assisted by liberty, architecture and science. There used to be a model of it which was owned by William Chambers and by descent to Isambard Kingdom Brunel:-
Every year I get invited to Anya Hindmarch’s runway show in London Fashion week. Every year I decline. But this year I thought I should at least experience the full glories of the London fashion industry, late starting, a lot of hanging about having cups of strong coffee, then lots of stick thin models marching up and down, holding handbags as traffic signs, ending up with full Wagnerian pomp as motorway workers joined them in full orange fluorescence. A form of performance art:-
I have just been to Sandy Nairne’s leaving party after twelve years at the helm of the NPG. It was a wonderful event, saluting his many achievements: the establishment of the Portrait Fund, the acquisition of the Van Dyck Self-Portrait, keeping the institution going in an era of cuts, extending the range of sitters, and doing some wonderful exhibitions, including, most recently, William Morris and Virginia Woolf. Engagement not inspiration was how he described it. It’s not bad to have a paean in free verse from the former poet laureate.
It’s years since I’ve been to the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, even though it’s so close. It was reasonably deserted on a Sunday morning with grand echoing cloisters no longer housing retired mariners, but with musicians practising in the Trinity Laban Conservatoire and a few Japanese tourists exploring:-
I was told that the Greenwich Foot Tunnel had closed. This was completely untrue. If anything, it’s been done up with a new automated lift. We used to regard it as the means of escape to middle class Greenwich where there were teashops and the Park. Construction began in 1899 and was completed in 1902. There’s a grand list of prohibitions, but no-one, particularly cyclists, takes much notice of them:-
I have often wondered where Ratcliff is, apart from Ratcliff Highway, and this morning spotted a sign set into the wall on Salmon Lane (once Sermon Lane) by the junction to Barnes Street, which demarcates the parish boundary;-
This is some of the nearby housing in Aston Street:-
I walk through the churchyard of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney most weekends, but seldom when it is so crisp in the early morning frost, long shadows lighting up the pathways and croci and remaining tombs:-