|A walk by the Thames
||[Jan. 15th, 2015|09:58 pm]
When I wrote about our day out in London, I said that our afternoon's walk needed a post of its own, with pictures. And now that I have sorted through the 108 photographs that I took in the course of that walk, I'm ready to write that post. Ready, too, after a dew days of snow and wind and rain, for a sunny afternoon's walk.
We lunched in a little café in St. Martin's Lane, which was very pleasant and then spoiled it by refusing to serve us glasses of tapwater. Despite this, we were sufficiently revived from our gallery fatigue to agree that it was a pleasant sunny afternoon, and that a walk along the river would be a good way to spend it. So we turned back the way we had come, past the memorial to Edith Cavell. I must have walked past this many times, I used to visit the Portrait Gallery and St. Martin's frequently, but I have no recollection of it. I'd like to illustrate it with a solemn and atmospheric picture, I have nothing but respect for Edith Cavell, but this is all I have:
Past Charing Cross itself, and along the side of Charing Cross Station, down Villiers Street, which leads to the Embankment. durham_rambler and I used to come here long ago, when he worked for the GLC at County Hall: there was an Italian restaurant called The Olive Tree which could serve you an omelette in the time berween finishing work at going to a concert at the Festival Hall. As we were reminiscing about this, and telling each other that it must have been - oh, just about - there - we realised we were looking at an Italian restaurant called L'Ulivo (I don't think there's any connection: they say they have been in business for "over 15 years" which is nowhere near long enough). We reminded each other, too, why Villiers Street is so named. The story is that this land previously belonged to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and when he sold it to the developers, he made it a condition of the sale that his name be permanently commemorated on the site: and so we have (or had, because of course they had to go anf mess about with it) George Street, Villiers Street, Duke Street, Buckingham Street - and Of Alley.
Which brought us out to the Embankment bang in front of another memorial by the same sculptor, Sir George Frampton, this one to W.S. Gilbert:
Figures of Tragedy and Comedy sit below a bust of Gilbert, Tragedy extending a dignified laurel branch, Comedy clutching a character from The Mikado like a rag doll.
We hadn't planned our route beyond 'along the river', and now we dithered: north bank or south? We turned along the Embankment as far as Cleaopatra's Needle:
but we kept being distracted by London's strange new skyline: all those buildings with curious names, that hadn't been there in our day - the Shard, the Cheese-grater, the Walkie-Talkie... durham_rambler thought that we'd get a better view of these from the south bank, so we turned back, and crossed the Thames on the new Golden Jubilee footbridge. There was some sort of Christmas market going on on the far side, but we resisted all the foodie smells, and carried on past the National Theatre. This has sprouted a new extension in a startling shade of red (it's temporary, apparently, and called The Shed), and outside it there's a statue, but I couldn't line them up together:
Overheard while I was taking this photo:
Small child: Mummy, who's he?
Mother (not missing a beat):Laurence Olivier. He was good at pretending.
There were bookstalls under the bridge, there was golden sunlight on the far bank of the river, there were seagulls and strange new buildings, but we refused to be distracted until we came to Gabriel's Wharf and a square of arty little shops, using gentrification as a shield against redevelopment. I looked in all the windows, but the only one we went inside was the Printmakers Gallery. durham_rambler was very patient while I looked at all the prints, and the racks of cards, and eventually bought two cards, both by Jane Lydbury (more about her here, this gives a better idea of the peints I liked so much, and there is more, much more, and many other good things besides, at the Society of Wood Engravers, though the site is designed in such a way that I can't link to any particular favourite - go and look round).
By now we had reached the OXO Tower. Among all these dramatic new buildings, it was good to greet an old familiar landmark, looking its best with the sun bringing out all the warmth of its brickwork.
Round the back of the building, dashes of coloured light were swarming up the facade in what might have been some minimalist Christmas decoration, but I was drawn back to the river, because here at last was a clear view - and an explanation - of the elaborately painted ship moored over by the Embankment:
It's an artwork, of course, one of the WWI Centenary Art Commissions - the website explains: "The dazzle style in which the ships were painted took as its inspiration the famous glaring colours and jagged lines of the 'dazzle' camouflage, designed to confuse enemy U-boat captains..."
The walkway took us through Blackfriars Station and under Blackfriars Bridge, which provided an elegant frame for some of the new buildings:
I think I can identify the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie (that's the one whose elegantly curved sides were reflecting the sun and acting as a burning glass in the summer). And cranes, lots and lots of cranes, they're not finished yet. But we walked on, to where there was music coming up from below the railings, on the tidal mudbanks that border the river itself, where four men in red Santa bonnets were belting out jazzed up versions of Christmas carols.
A little further on we were greeted by an old friend:
He's part of the Paddington Bear Trail, which was a charitable endeavour and nothing at all to do with promoting the current movie, how could you be so cynical as to think such a thing? (To be fair, there doesn't seem to be anything about the movie in the promotional material, but it was plastered all over the buses; if it was a coincidence, it was a very lucky one).
Now we were nearing St Paul's. One last look back at the Shard, veiled by trees, and across the Millennium footbridge:
"Very nice," said durham_rambler, "but ours worked first time." There were fine views from the middle of the bridge, the sunset on the river, Tower Bridge in the distance, all very Monet. But as the sun went down, we began to notice the cold of the air, so we didn't linger, but walked on up to St Paul's, past another Paddington Bear and a Christmas tree. There's a bus stop right next to the cathedral where we caught a number 4 bus which took us all the way home.