Tuesday, January 22nd 2013
I had arranged to see my doctor this morning to let her know how I was getting on and perhaps obtain some advice on how to speed my recovery. She told me that my present condition, though uncomfortable, was typical at this stage and that things would eventually improve. She also prescribed some pills which she reckons will help. She also asked me to supply a sample (guess what of) and as I was unable to furnish it there and then, I decided to go home and return with the goods later.
Heartened by the doctor’s words, I decided to take a few photos on the way home, despite it being a dull and cold day with poor light. In these backstreets, the pavements are covered with compacted snow, ice and water, and one must tread carefully for fear of slipping and falling. Drivers have to take care because many pedestrians prefer to walk on the road.
The above picture shows part of the site of the New River Head, the termination point of Hugh Myddelton’s New River, that brought much needed water to an expanding London. The circular structure in the middle of the photo is the top of a deep shaft that goes down to the London Ring Main that carries water around the city. Note the building on the left with four doors, as this will reappear later in the story.
Snow may look pretty on Christmas cards but in the city it soon becomes dirty and ugly. Looking for some relatively unsullied snow, I walked to the nearby Lloyd Square. This was built in Georgian times, like many other squares in this area, and, following the same pattern, has a central garden. When the squares were first built, the central gardens would have been private to the inhabitants of the houses but these days, most of them have been taken over by the Council and converted into little public parks. Just a few remain private and Lloyd Square garden is one of these. The gate is firmly locked against would-be intruders such as SilverTiger. I took this photo in the time-honoured camera-poked-through-the-railings manner. Thus I captured the first of today’s snowmen, standing blank-faced and abandoned in a corner of the garden.
I don’t know why, but I always feel there is something sinister about snowmen, a reaction that Raymond Briggs is powerless to conjure. Perhaps it is the way they just stand there, silent and apparently waiting. For what?
Cumberland Gardens is an example of a narrow stepped street between squares and other Georgian housing developments. They remain open as pedestrian thoroughfares and because some of the houses have their front doors on them. The state of the snow shows that they are much used.
Snows covers or reveals familiar features, changing the aspect of areas you know, and transforming them into strange new landscapes. In summer, this is a leafy road but in winter the trees turn into skeletons and snow piles up on their branches, as though and artist has painted them to stand out against the dull background of the houses.
This picture shows how hazy the air was. The sky was overcast and the light had a leaden shade to it.
Filthy McNasty’s pub in Amwell Street is quite well known as a venue for live music and some famous artistes and bands have performed here. In fine weather, the tables, with attached benches, attract customers who prefer to sit outside or who want to smoke but today they were stacked against the walls of the pub and the accumulated snow shows that they have not been used recently.
This photo shows how the roads soon become clear of snow, swept by the tyres of passing vehicles, while the pavements remain snow-bound and treacherous. Claremont Square perhaps once also had a central garden but in 1855 it acquired a reservoir (part of which you can see on the right). At first open to the air, this was eventually covered over when it became clear that many epidemics occurred as a result of the water supply becoming contaminated.
This is Claremont Close, not a Georgian square but a modern development vaguely reminiscent in form of its senior neighbours. Today, it had two extra inhabitants, a pair of tall snowmen. The one of the left is slightly unusual in having two legs.
Today’s last snowman was a miniature. Not modelled in any detail it is still obviously a snowman. It is perched on top of a car. Does this qualify to be called a mobile snowman?
I returned home and had a cup of “tea”. I put that word between quotation marks because it was not real tea but “herbal tea”. When I left hospital, I was advised to “go easy on the caffeine”, and I thought I should heed the advice. I still drink tea – my Russian Caravan blend, as you no doubt guessed – but intercalate these cups of “proper tea” with herbal tea. It is quite pleasant (though it requires two bags per mug to make it tasty enough for me) but, of course, it lacks the kick of real tea. The interesting thing is that rationing my tea in this way has made me appreciate it more than ever. Whenever I permit myself a mug of it, I sip it like a rare wine!
At about 11:45am I went off to the doctor’s again. I delivered the goods and started back for home. As I walked along Margery Street, I saw an elderly gent walking down Amwell Street. He stopped at the New River Head and spent some time peering through the railings. Another passer-by stopped and also looked, conferring with the first. Curious as to what had attracted their attention I hurried to join them but by the time I reached the railings, they had gone and so I had to resolve the mystery for myself.
I peered through the railings in the direction I thought the passers-by had been looking. Above is the scene. At first, all I could see was the yard and the building with four doors. Then a movement caught my eye, immediately to the right of the building. Can you see it in the above photo?
Above is an enlargement of the previous photo and you can perhaps see that what had moved was a fox. As I watched, it ambled round the corner and I barely had time to get out my camera (fumbling with my gloved hands) and take just one photo.
I often see urban foxes in this part of town but during the daylight hours they are usually on the move, trotting or loping along, as if in a hurry. This fox, however, was in no hurry and seemed preoccupied. I walked a few yards down the road, looking for a position from which I could see around the building. The road slopes down, making it impossible to see into the yard, and so I had to climb onto a low wall and cling with one hand to the railings while poking the camera between the bars.
Unexpectedly, I found myself looking, not at one fox but at two. In broad daylight and in the open, in the midst of human habitation, the foxes were actually mating! Amazing. I never thought to see such a sight.
I was surprised but also delighted to have got such a shot. I would not have imagined that foxes would have chosen to mate in such a place and in such conditions with snow on the ground. Then again, I imagine they know that people rarely go there and the place was quiet. The two magpies look as if they are watching but that is just a trick of the perspective. They were busy throughout, searching for food and hopping about here and there. They just happened to be in these positions when I clicked the shutter, giving a nice balance to the picture.
I hurried home, smiling to myself, patting my camera and looking forward to seeing the photos. It’ll be a long time before I get another chance like this.