Sunday, February 3rd 2013
On Wednesday, I began to feel the telltale symptoms of a cold. At first I thought it was my imagination, especially as I couldn’t imagine how I had actually managed to catch a cold and no one else around me has one. When I awoke on Thursday, however, my worst fears were confirmed: my sinuses were stuffed, my nose was running like a tap and I felt… well, even though it was just a cold, I was was surprised how ill I felt. In fact, I vaguely began to wonder whether it wasn’t just a cold but something nastier that I was incubating.
Friday was much the same and I spent part of it in bed trying to doze – the poor man’s anaesthetic. I worked my way through a small fortune in paper handkerchiefs. On Saturday, there was the shopping to do and a friend had called us to suggest meeting. I did feel a little better but Tigger and I decided it would be better if I stayed at home and concentrated on getting well. Tigger did the shopping and then went off to meet the friend and visit an art exhibition.
What was preoccupying me the most (apart from feeling sorry for myself, of course!) was that we needed to do the laundry. There was rather a lot of it – and I didn’t want to leave Tigger to tackle it all on her own. When I awoke this morning, then, I cautiously did a review of my state of health. The cold had almost dried up and I did feel brighter, of not quite my usual self. No more excuses then: get up and get the laundry done!
Our launderette is in Marchmont Street, in Bloomsbury. This is quite a pleasant area and on a Sunday, the streets around the launderette are busy and the shops are open. The atmosphere is relaxed.
This time, we needed two of the largest washing machines, one for coloureds and one for whites. Usually, we get away with a large one and a small or medium. Not today. We set the machines going and noted the time. The wash cycle takes about 45 minutes – time enough to go and get breakfast or brunch – but I like to be back before the machines stop because I think it is very selfish when people leave their washing for hours in the washers or the dryers, depriving others of their use.
We adjourned to Costa where we had breakfast and watched the world go by until it was time to return to the launderette. Like most coffee houses and many pubs theses days, Costa provides free WiFi, so you can surf the Web while sipping your skinny latte.
Despite the fact that we arrived at the launderette in the middle of the morning, it wasn’t at all busy and we had no trouble finding washers and then dryers. Because you spend so much time waiting for the dryers to do their stuff, then folding and putting the laundry away, the job seems to take hours. It suddenly occurred to me to check how long it actually took. I was surprised: we started the washing machines at 10:55 and left the launderette at 12:25. Allowing, say, 10 minutes to fill the washers, that’s still less than two hours even if it feels like half the day. Of course, on those occasions when the place is busy and you have to wait for dryers, it does take longer.
Later, we went to Old Street where there is a branch of Peacock’s, because Tigger needed some long-sleeved tee shirts. In the distance you can see the thin spire of St Luke’s Church.
We carried our purchases across the road to a pub on the corner, where we took refreshment. (Cranberry juice, if you really want to know ). The pub has a slightly strange name, The Masque Haunt. This is explained on their Web site thus:
In Elizabethan times, the nearby gatehouse of the former Priory of St John served as the office of the Master of the Revels. He was responsible for licensing plays, masques and other entertainments for the queen. A masque was a lavish drama with music and dancing, written by the leading poets and playwrights of the day. It was performed by masked figures and had an unusual name, like the masked haunt.
The pub is quite pleasant inside but it was noticeable that most of the customers were men. In fact, there were very few women. The men were on their own or in small groups, usually pairs. It was noticeable, too, that many sat there keeping their coats on as though waiting for a bus. The reason is probably that they need to go outside periodically to smoke a cigarette now that smoking is banned indoors. I don’t know whether these male denizens of the pub are single men with nowhere else to go or married men seeking refuge from too much domesticity. Perhaps each has a different tale to tell.
We continued walking along Old Street and spied this piece of street art. The colours are bright and the whole thing quite striking. I suspect that the colours may have faded slightly and that when freshly painted it had a mesmerising, almost psychedelic effect. The lettering spells the phrase “WORTH MORE” and a metal panel (you can just see it on the far left) tells us that
This street art was commissioned by the Flavasum Trust to commemorate the life of 22-year-old Tom Easton, who was stabbed to death nearby in September 2006, and to the many others who have died as a result of knife attacks. It was painted at no cost by Ben Eine, whose images will be familiar to anyone who lives or works in this part of London.
More information is available on the Flavasum Trust’s street art page. The purpose of the Flavasum Trust and a description of the sad circumstances in which it was founded may be found on their Website in the section entitled About Us.
Further along the road on the other side is another kind of street painting, a ghost sign. Many of these old remnants of the sign-writers’ art are advertisements but this one was originally set up to declare the nature of the establishment upon which it was painted and, perhaps, to act as a beacon of hope to homeless working men.
Today, the building is the home of Shelter, appropriately enough, but it was originally a hostel for working men set up by the Salvation Army. The background and history of the hostel is set out in a useful article entitled The Salvation Army, St Luke’s on the Painted Signs and Mosaics blog.
The sign is old and has suffered with the passing of time. It will no doubt continue to fade and will eventually disappear, when another vestige of London’s history will have been lost. Not that it is reasonable to expect anything else: ghost signs are sometimes restored and repainted but, arguably, this simply puts an artificial imitation in place of the original which is then still lost. It is thus quite important to record by photography and other means such ephemera which are details in the tapestry of our city’s history.
We turned into St Luke’s Place and passed that famous old church that was rescued from ruin to become in modern times the home of the London Symphony Orchestra. I have already written about St Luke’s so do not need to repeat myself here – see Two saints and a city farm (near the end).
We had come to take a look at the Ironmonger Row baths. They are pictured above from St Luke’s Garden. They were built in the 1930s and comprised bath house, laundry and swimming pool. Islington Council has refurbished them and I think Tigger is hoping to get me into the swimming pool one of these days in the hope that, once wet, I will begin to enjoy it. Hm. Well, we shall see. Or maybe not… The building is listed (Grade II) and, according to English Heritage, the style is “Roman Renaissance palazzo”.
Old pubs always fascinate me. This one is in Norman Street and I believe it goes back to the 1850s. I don’t know when it ceased being a pub but today it has been incorporated into a block of flats and its address has changed from 1 Norman Street to 22 Norman Buildings. The sign still hangs on the wall outside but is showing signs of weather damage and will eventually fall to pieces if not restored.
Langton is of course the name of a noble family with a coat of arms but I have not yet found a Langton coat of arms resembling the one on the pub sign, so I suspect that this is a made up one.
We walked around a square that had some big old trees growing in it, just the sort that the squirrels like. And indeed, we spotted a squirrel up among the branches. He had spotted us, too, and was observing us closely, perhaps hoping we had some food for him.
As we continued on our way, the squirrel followed us, springing from tree to tree and keeping pace with us.
When I approached, however, he seemed to become a little shy and make as though to hide his face behind some twigs. He was still curious, though.
Eventually, the squirrel found food for himself and retired to a high branch to eat it. I couldn’t see what it was – perhaps an apple core – but he was obviously enjoying it.
We found King’s Square virtually deserted, although there was one shop still open. Behind the square is King’s Square Garden and a church that I have described before.
This is the Church of St Clement, Finsbury, or, to give it its full name, St Clement with St Barnabas and St Matthew. One gets the impression that as churches close for want of patronage, the saints are cast out and have to bunk with one another in the churches that are left. St Clement is an Anglo-Catholic church (no, I don’t know what that means, either) and I have already written about it on a day when we were invited inside to take a look – see From Dissenters to High Church. We didn’t go in this time as there were activities going on within.
St Clement’s was our last port of call for today. The light was going by now and it was beginning to feel like a good idea to return home for the evening. So we did just that.