Saturday, October 08, 2005

So in an effort to actually use my already paid for travelcard, and to stop me reading blogs all day, and as an excuse for not working, and to improve my local knowledge, and otherwise generally waste time, I went for an exploring session.

Alighting for the tube at Old Street (because I've never been there, and, um, I thought it was going to be the Barbican next because I miss-read the Tube map). So Old Street. There's a great picture in waiting from one of the western exits, but I didn't get it as I was travelling sans camera, so I was really wasting my time, rather than spending time taking photographs when it could be more productively spent doing many other things.

But otherwise, Old Street doesn't look that old, and yet has a general feeling of being too old. I imagine a bomb hit it, and then the planners did. There's probably a reason I don't have a mental image of it unlike most other places round London. Heading westwards to find out what the monument is (odd spire on a church), I break off to the south to find out what's there, and to avoid the traffic fumes.

A bit of an odd area. Poor people harassing each other as they walk past expensive parked cars and solid black gates. I found a market, but which occupied about a quarter of the stalls allotted to it.

Then I came across the back of the Barbican centre. I must take a camera back there, as there are so many unexpected views and generally interesting oddities. It's also slightly novel recognising buildings from exhibits at the nla (guess where I whiled away part of the rush hour on Friday evening (trying not to snigger at the Formica stand), before wandering southwards finishing off a film until Charing Cross, with several instances of "Oh, that's there").

Foolishly I walk round the Barbican, not through it. Skateboards clatter and teenagers call overhead. Did I say I've now realised that I hate split level streets? Inaccessible warrens aren't fun, especially not when things land out of the sky thrown by unseen hands. I'm not even sure it was intentional, I think the people above just chuck rubbish over the edge where it no longer features in their minds. And the whole time the sound of a gang laughing and swearing echoes above. A Clockwork Orange comes to mind, but I'm sure there must other more apt modernism-induced apocalypse films. Sinister, uncontrollable power mixed with self-doubt over whether it's just paranoia. All this because someone decided street uses should be separated and I found myself in the wrong world.

Eventually I get up onto the plane above the lesser mortals. I find the Museum of London, but don't bother going in. Back done yet another step of steps dripping with piss (why isn't that ever shown in architect's drawings? Is there an anti-urinal module architect students can take, so they can learn how to stop people using public spaces as public conveniences?). And I'm still unconvinced the notion of paths using bits of private buildings, or at least things masquerading as private buildings. Usually within a few feet one can tell as the lighting fades and the smell begins; not really somewhere a company would pay a security guard to protect.

From there I take Little Britain because the name's too much to resist. I discover, after many years, the location of Postman's Park, with its memorials and four worlds (think Escher, then add netting to protect the fish and upon which moss and algae is growing). Next to it is St Botolph without Aldersgate (and doorhandles. It's very common on churches in London).

Taking Little Britain round I discover St Bart's Hospital, and St Bartholomew the Great (ex-priory church therefore. Look over the gateway as you leave. If the roofs don't age it, the inscription will. Yes, that's right, it was started at twenty to one).

Then a thorough navigation of the block north of Smithfield (oh, so that's where it is), partly because I wanted to see what the other Charterhouse looks like (£10 entrance fee and signs saying "Private property". It's the only the entrance fee that differs then). I also discover Farringdon station, and the fact it has daylight.

Wandering north I find some unexpected art deco apartment blocks (just west of Farringdon Road. Another source tell me that Fagin's den was supposedly here. Obviously a very avant-garde man), as will as some important building complete with dome, and yet which doesn't merit a special colour in the A-Z. The plaque next to the door says it was a Sessions House. The smell of roast potatoes suggests it isn't still. The cluster of men in half discarded suits makes me think it is a club. Googling brings up Masonry, Masons and Freemasons. So private members club with rich men and roast potatoes probably fits with that.

I carry on walking until I decide that the Guardian is one step too far. I'd never thought where the Guardian have their offices, but now I know. Brown pebbledashed modernism. It's even less impressive from the back. But it is the first place on this expedition where I noticed the hill (it's not a very big hill, but there's a heck of a lot of nearly flat streets). Then back through Hatton Garden because I've heard of it, but never known where it was.

Suddenly I'm at that roundabout outside the glassy Sainsbury's office. I take the next road round from the one I took last time, and find I'm still looking at the same buildings (still haven't got that film developed). And out onto the end of Fleet Street. This whole navigation thing really isn't that complicated.

I, of course, then pick the wrong side of Blackfriars Bridge to cross, and have to walk upstream a long way before I can get over the dual carriageway. Crossing the bridge I notice various potential pictures to take when high pressure hasn't been sitting over the city for days, as I ponder just how much of the sun's halo is moisture.

Then south a bit, and right to cut along The Cut (completely missing the thing I intended to see). Oddly my wanderlust had not abated, so I went left past the Old Vic (currently starring American and Guy from Coupling), ignoring the cold looking African dancers in the park opposite.

I end up at St George's Circus, and a quick check of a bus stop tells me that the buses don't go anywhere I want to, and that the Elephant and Castle is just 3 minutes down the road. Oh. That'll be that big building over then. Maybe I ought to stop.

A dodgy bit of navigation leads me to the Imperial War Museum and from there I just follow the traffic signs to Waterloo (mostly, apart from getting bored and wandering down side streets, and discovering that there is a North Lambeth Station, and it's on the Bakerloo line, and it's a bit pointless really when it's so close to Waterloo).

Stupidly I walk round Waterloo to get to the main entrance forgetting that I'm not getting on a train, and that the main escalators are shut until November. So back down the concourse (er, I could have used York Road, couldn't I? Oh well), then into the Jubilee line end of the underground station. It's at this point I decide that I can't be bothered to walk (ok, travellator) anymore, and there are now printed signs proclaiming the Northern Line to be perennially buggered, so I cheat and take the Jubilee line north to change onto the Victoria line. Only in London can heading in the wrong direction make sense.

A wobbly trip on the Howler later, and I'm out into a world of sirens and ten-year-old boys trying to sell me drugs. Hints for ten-year-old drug dealers: Don't call the customer "Whitey". Don't say whitey in such a way that it sounds like "why" - this saves a lot of confusion later. Improve your sales patter so it is less reliant on insults. Don't run away when your aunt appears.

Now I'm back in the flat, past the burnt out shopping trolley, listening to the rain on the skylight, faint car alarms and a helicopter or two circling overhead.

And I'm wishing my brother would hurry up and get back from sailing, so I can start cooking, and he can do the washing up which has been sitting there since the last post (he told me not to do as I've been doing it all week. He'll probably complain I haven't done it).

To think that this time (well, several hours earlier) last week I was scrambling round a crumbling hill, grabbing trees for support (and pretending the weren't really moving. Creep is fun).

Ah, drat. I can't plug photographs from last weekend because Flickr is having a massage. Go to my account, then about the third set down on the left should be labelled wood. Click on it. Be distracted by the same twig that annoys me.


Song playing when I started writing this post: London Calling - The Clash. Because I'm without all my music, and my brother has no Radiohead. Freak. But he has got Beautiful Freak by the Eels.

Sounds like you had a nice long walk around yesterday. I didn't realise there was a Little Britain in London as well! The one I spotted in Dublin made me chuckle.
i so looove London. i never got lost though, the tube is so easy to use :))
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