Without getting involved in some sort of self flagellation about my blogging break, I am slightly annoyed at how easily I slipped into a “it doesn’t matter if I don’t update” and “I haven’t got anything of interest to say” because, as I’m sure many of you would be eager to point out, that didn’t stop me in the past. And I as proved to myself on Thursday, even when hung over & not wishing to engage the brain too hard, you can wander outside your front door and find something to talk about. So having started on such a local level, let’s go to the other extreme and tell you about my favourite London building. THE London building, one that whenever I drive past or go near says something to me about my city that is very difficult to put into words. But with the help of a few photos (some taken by The Cabbette) and some muddled together text, I’m at least going to have a stab at summing up this magnificent building. Having visited St Paul’s during the summer with The Cabbette and having the specific intention of dragging her to the top, as I had done when she was about 3, it took until last week when I was parked on the rank outside St Paul’s looking at the view you see in the photo at the start of this post, that I finally decided to revisit that, er, visit.
And the only way to travel up to town for a visit like this is the train. The overground from Tooting goes a slightly long way round (you head off east for a while before finally heading north after Herne Hill) but the upside of that roundthehousesness and the train line’s predilection for being at first floor level, is that you get some interesting views into people’s gardens along the way. Unfortunately the tools that the Cabbette & I had at our disposal seemed incapable of recording these interesting views and I’m left showing you a dull photo of some houses and an out of focus view of St Paul’s itself. But both these images have something about them, they aren’t good photos that’s for sure, but they hint at how that journey is for me. Little glimpses into other people’s lives as you speed/crawl (delete as appropriate) past suburban London until after Elephant & Castle you get into the city properly and then, just around a corner, is St Paul’s. It might be viewed through a grimy train window but it’s still unmistakable and still magnificent. I’ve spoken about this area before, in what was one of my first ever blog posts, so won’t dwell on it too much. But if you do get off the train at Blackfriars, there is much to admire between there & St Paul’s itself. I suggest walking east along the river path and taking in the delights of White Lion Hill and the concrete jungle that lies on the north side of it.
Through the walkways & alleys you can then come across what must be the only totem pole in the City of London. Apparently it represents the seven ages of man, but that is about all I’ve been able to find out about it. From there you cross Queen Victoria Street (QVS) with the Piccolo Snack Bar almost opposite you, Mellon Bank building to your left and what is now the HQ for Scientology on the right. Further up QVS you’ll also find the Samaritans HQ and you’ll often see Samaritans from all over the world hanging around the building waiting to be indoctrinated waiting to learn the latest Samaritan good news. Perhaps it’s St Paul’s itself that is pulling in these religious nutters and they feel somehow more validated by being in the shadow of the place. Really, why would they want to be based there? Anyhow, I’ll park my anti-religious bias for a few moments so that we can take a left opposite the Millenium (aka Wibbly-Wobbly) Bridge and take the short walk up Peter’s Hill (please, can I have a hill named after me? Richard’s Hill has a nice ring to it I think) to St Paul’s. If the queue to get in is a bit long, listen to the nice wardens who will do their best to direct you round to the entrance to the crypt where you can also pay your slightly expensive entrance fee (UK residents can opt to Gift Aid & turn their ticket into a yearly pass) without dealing with the tourist hoards. Then try not to get caught taking a sneaky photo of Nelson’s tomb, which didn’t come out properly anyway, and you can get upstairs to the main event. As we were there for one reason only, we headed straight for the stairs to start the ascent.
As you’d expect there are a lot of stairs, and not all of them are easy to navigate. Those, like Mrs Cabbie, that are of a nervous disposition need to think twice about making the trip to the top. Others, like me & the Cabbette, take these things in our stride, often quite literally sprinting up the stairs only being held up by slow moving Americans the size of a bus or Scandinavians who seemed to insist on taking rucksacks containing their life possessions with them to the top. But if you do get slightly out of breath on the way up there are plenty of places to stop & have a breather. There is the whispering gallery of course, but my favourite place is the bit where you can look through a glass porthole in the floor at the cathedral beneath and completely shit yourself up. I mean, the view looks pretty but do you really want to see how high you actually are and how far you’d drop if the 300 year old floor beneath you gave way? Where’s health & safety when you need them? But at least the rush of adrenaline helps you make the final push to the top where you are confronted by sight of London spread out around you in all it’s glory. Well we would have if the gallery at the top wasn’t so full that we had to queue to get outside and despite lot’s of “move alongs” and “Avanti you planks” it took some time to get out and enjoy the view. But enjoy it we did. I include one picture of that view, the rest you can see in my Flickr stream. Sorry BEM & others offended by my Facebook account deletion, but you’ll have to interact with me a different way. Like opening another tab in your browser, or ringing me. Difficult as this time might be for you all, I hope our friendships will survive FBgate and still prosper. Bugger, wasn’t going to get drawn in to all that, perhaps I should leave that for another day and blog post, “How Facebook is evil” or something along those lines…….
But before I go whisper to all my Twitterites about how silly all that lot over on FB are, here’s that view from the top;