It is that time of year when the media is crammed full of trivia, so in the Christmas tradition, here is CabbieBlog’s London favourites:
Neighbourhood: Clerkenwell; I had my first job in London in this small district populated at the time by Italians giving us great delicatessens, a catholic church and an introduction to their beautiful language. The principle industries there were watchmaking and typesetting.
Building: St. Paul’s is obscured by other buildings, so the best place to see it is from Bankside on the other side of the Thames, then cross by Millennium Bridge and climb to the top, and don’t forget to visit the crypt.
Open Space: Hampstead Heath, the highest point in London, with its varied landscape and nutcases swimming in its famous ponds.
View: No problem choosing this one, Waterloo Bridge in the evening. Wordsworth got it wrong, when he wrote Upon Westminster Bridge:
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
Nice sentiment, wrong bridge. But to be fair to Will, Waterloo Bridge wasn’t built then, Ray Davis was right though.
Bar/Pub/Restaurant: Bar Italia on Frith Street, Soho, for the best cappuccino north of the Alps, their espresso machine is over 50 years old and still going strong. Open 24 hours a day, they just kick you out into the street when they want to clean the place. Or for a slightly upmarket tea try Claridges, good value, superb service and no tourists.
London book/film/documentary: London Sight Unseen by Snowdon. I was bought this book a few years ago. Snowdon travelled all over the capital photographing anything unusual or fascinating that caught his photographer’s eye. Or watch the play ‘The Knowledge’ by the late Jack Rosenthal, a brilliant comedy about becoming a cabbie.
Interesting Shop: Pollock’s Toy Museum and shop in Scala Street near Goodge Street. A fascinating collection of toys from a bygone era.
London street/road/square: Queen Anne’s Gate. Unlike her statute outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, this exquisite little turning which takes its name from the aforementioned queen, encapsulates Georgian London, go there and be amazed that there are still places left in London like this, just don’t tell those modern architects, they’ll want to develop it.
Londoner: Thomas Coram although born in Lyme Regis and spent much of his early life at sea he’s an adopted Londoner. He later became a successful London merchant, as a great philanthropist Coram was appalled by the many abandoned, homeless children living in the streets of London. In 1739 he obtained a Royal Charter granted by George II establishing a “hospital for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children.” Visit the Foundling Museum near the children’s playing fields which take his name, just don’t go into the playground next door, you must be accompanied by a minor.
Period: 1650-1720 This is the time when London was brought to its knees after the Great Fire of London, yet within decades London was reborn as the greatest city in the world, in addition surviving civil war, plague, drought and bankruptcy. It’s a time when London gave rise to a generation of extraordinary men: Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, John Locke, John Evelyn and Nicholas Barbon.