An ‘Off-beat’ New Year’s Day Walk
NYE went according to plan. Team Come Out 2Nite drank two bottles of champagne before it even left the house, then continued drinking at a decent pace until 1:50am, when our set started. Then we kept pressing the wrong buttons, the alcohol having impared our judgement somehow. Still, people were dancing to the end, we met some lovely people, and no-one got killed, so I’m putting it down as another glorious success.
On New Year’s Day I’d arranged to meet up with Sara to go for a London Walk. This was a good idea as it meant I had to force myself out of bed while it was still light. Groggy and a bit baffled, I made my way to Angel tube and noted the conspiracy of shut burrito emporiums. No-one likes making burritos with a hangover.
We headed down towards St Paul’s Cathedral, following the route I followed just after Christmas. In a semi-renovated shop we were lucky to witness an art instillation beautifully arranged by stereotypical builders, and as we passed through Spitalfields market and its photowall of market traders past and present we were reminded that sometimes puerile graffiti is just as satisfying as the vintage port and fine cheeses that now define our lives.
The plan was to do a walk out of Sara’s book: ‘Discovering Dffbeat Walks in London’. We picked walk 1, and after some confusion over starting points and scale and such like we Got Down To It. The book was like an eccentric schoolmaster, telling us fascinating but easily forgottable facts, demanding we retrace our steps to look at things from slightly different angles when all we wanted to do was run around and make paper planes out of our worksheets.
That said, I did get very excited when we got to our first bit of the old London city wall. You turn a corner and it’s just there, hanging about, busy outlasting things as it has been doing for centuries. The latest thing it’s outlasted is the modern sign telling passers by what it is, which is kind of embarrassing if you’re the sort of person to get embarrassed about such things.
The highlights for me were the usual feelings of melancholy at what a terrible fucking mess the post-war planners made of the city (oh, and the Germans had a hand in that, I suppose). The Museum Of London, for example, is located on a roundabout, with a viewing platform looking down on the roman ruins below. You can clamber down to the remains of a fort, and stare up, and curse the vagaries of modern architecture, while feeling a strange sense of doom, if you so wish. We did.
After much faffery, and to-ing and fro-ing, we found our way to St Giles-without-Cripplegate*, where Oliver Cromwell was married. We gave it a good gawp. It’s a strange sight, this ancient church marooned next to an artificial lake and the retro-futurist but oddly reassuring maze of the Barbican Centre.
Another section of the ancient city wall is overlooked by Buck Rogers-style raised concrete walkways and examples of relentlessly dreary architecture. I always feel, though, that at least those 50s and 60s planners were TRYING to do something good, and kind, and egalitarian – concrete walkways for all, above the smell and danger of the traffic. The idea of any kind of unified transport / city planning now just seems like a distant dream. It’s hotchpotch all the way.
In any case, we had a lovely time wandering the deserted back streets of the old city, never more than a few hundred yards away from the swarms of tourists gathering around the St Pauls Cathedral mothership. Just occasionally, when standing in an old churchyard or staring up at the remains of a Roman keep, I felt like a medieval peasant waiting for my love, to slip out of the city walls to give her a thorough rogering in a nearby hedge. And that’s all you can ask for, really.
* Pleasingly, according to Wikipedia Cripplegate was an actual gate, and “gave access to a substantial medieval suburb and to the village of Islington”
** Ta to Sara, who took all the pics