To the Barbican

The day was cloudy with a threat of rain, which did not encourage us to venture far afield. We thought it best to stay local.

Cloudy with a threat of rain

As usual, we crossed through the square to Amwell Street and the deli.

At the deli

We sat for a while outside the deli with our coffee, watching the world go by. Though Amwell Street has little to attract outsiders, it is often busy with vehicles and pedestrians using it as a cut-through between main roads.

Hand feeding

After our coffee break, we retired to Myddelton Square Gardens where I kept the pigeons busy for Tigger to concentrate on the squirrels. I know two foot-damaged pigeons living in the square and tend to give them extra attention as they find it harder to compete in scrambles for food. They recognise me now and it wasn’t long before this one perched on my knee to take food from my hand.

Squirrel feeding
Photo by Tigger

Tigger also managed to attract some squirrels by wedging nuts in the bark of their trees. Notice the interloper trying to creep up on the feeding squirrel!

Eating from my hand
Photo by Tigger

Pigeons are understandably nervous of humans and any sudden movement on our part – even the gesture of throwing food – causes them to fly up in alarm. On the other hand, once they have dared to taken food from your hand, they gain confidence and will go on taking it. It takes them longer to dare to perch on your knee or your hand but, again, once they have done so, they will continue.

“Are you sure there’s no more?”

The hardest part is convincing your pigeon friend that there’s no more food once they’ve eaten it all. Verbally asserting this cuts no ice with a pigeon! You just have to walk away.

Queueing for the butcher’s

Leaving the square and the ever-hungry pigeons, we walked through to St John Street. I remember showing you the long queues at the butcher’s shop during the first lockdown. Lockdown has ended but still there are queues here. This is one thing I don’t have to worry about, happily.

The sun shines at last

The sun now put in an appearance, making everything look more cheerful. Unfortunately, it was not to last because the sky was thick with cloudsh so that the sun could be seen only occasionally between the gaps.

Waiting at the bus stop

We went to the bus stop and waited for the 153 to appear. For some reason, this service is rarely on time and you learn to wait, patiently or otherwise.

Aboard the 153

We travelled on this bus to the Barbican, though we did not enter the Barbican estate itself this time.

A tunnel under the Barbican

The stop where we left the bus is in a tunnel which carries the road, Beech Street, under the Barbican estate. It looks more dramatic than it is in reality.

Barbican Cinemas 2.& 3

The Barbican has several cinemas and this building houses Cinemas 2 & 3 but we had not come to see a film. The building also includes a rather nice bar-cafe. We came in search of coffee and cake!

The cafe was empty

The cafe was empty of customers. Not everybody likes to be in an empty venue, apparently, but that suits me just fine. Tigger is all the crowd I need. We settled in comfy armchairs and enjoyed our coffee and cake in peace.

Another tunnel

Afterwards, we continued our walk, starting with another road through a tunnel. It no doubt has a name but I don’t know what it is.

A Barbican Tower block

We came out in Whitecross Street where we had a view of one of the tower blocks of the Barbican estate. The Barbican is an early example of post-war Brutalist architecture. (So called because the structures are made of raw, or “brute”, concrete.) I find such buildings ugly and inhuman but, despite not liking the Barbican’s architecture, I have become quite fond of the place and fascinated by it.

Fortune Street

Then we followed the leafy Fortune Street.

Hire scooters

This led out into Golden Lane, though I cannot say I found anything “golden” about this very ordinary street. The one point of interest was a stand of electric scooters for hire.

I wonder how many deaths and serious injuries there have to be before it is realised that allowing these dangerous contraptions on public roads is a very bad idea. They are currently allowed in use as an experiment but I doubt whether the government will change its mind at the end of the trial period, especially as they have been allowed in other countries of Europe. We wouldn’t want to be seen to be less stupid than our cousins in Europe, would we?

Golden Lane Estate

We passed through a housing development called the Golden Lane Estate. I often wonder what it is like to live in one of these. I imagine it depends critically on what your neighbours are like. As Sartre put it, “Hell is other people”, a proposition I carry close to my heart.

A cat in the window
Photo by Tigger

At a window high up, we spotted a cat. The reflection of the sky on the glass made it hard to see. He gave us that noncommittal stare that cats are so good at.

Goswell Road

We eventually debouched in Goswell Road. I hadn’t had any idea where we were heading though Tigger knew all along. My motto is “Just follow Tigger and all will be well”. It usually works.

This road, incidentally, was known in Elizabethan times and takes its name from a spring, now apparently lost, that was called Godewell, meaning “good well/spring”.

City of London griffin

In Goswell Road we waited for a bus to take us back to the Angel. While waiting, I crossed the road to take a photo of a griffin on a pillar. I have mentioned these before. The City of London, also known euphemistically as the Square Mile, is the banking and financial centre of London, famous throughout the world as its tentacles reach to every corner of the globe. On every road entering the City there stands a griffin holding a shield with the City’s coat of arms. When you pass such a griffin, you know you are now in the City of London.

Chapel Market

The bus dropped us outside Sainsbury’s and we crossed the car park into Chapel Market as I had a couple of items to buy in Superdrug there. The market was as busy as you would expect on a Saturday though some stallholders were already closing down. I did my shopping and we walked back through the market, heading for home. Tigger, however, spotted a curious sight and took a photo of it.

Taking his ease on a mattress
Photo by Tigger

On the pavement was a mattress, presumably dumped, and on the mattress lay a man, smoking a cigarette and apparently taking his ease. Serendipity in action.

Posted in SilverTiger | Leave a comment

Cash only

In yesterday’s post (see Appointment in Holloway), I mentioned that we had had lunch in Hope Cafe in Holloway Road. While eating, I happened to glance towards the counter and see a notice above the till. It read

CASH
ONLY

This surprised me enough to draw Tigger’s attention to it.

“Do you have any cash?” she enquired.

Fortunately, yes, I do still carry some cash with me for just such occcasions, increasingly rare though they may be. I duly paid our bill, handing over a couple of banknotes and receiving coins in change. Doing this, gave me a slightly strange feeling, as though I were participating in an arcane ceremony or acting a role on stage.

Electrronic payments have so far become the norm that when someone does choose to pay in cash, you remark on it. A customer ahead of us at the supermarket the other day paid cash and I found myself becoming impatient at the time it was taking for the assistant to check the notes and then count out the change.

Many shops and businesses no longer even accept cash and display a notice of contrary meaning to the one cited above:

CASH NOT
ACCEPTED

Electronic payments were already becoming increasingly popular before the pandemic but this gave “e-money” a boost because of fears (exaggerated, as current research seems to suggest) that Covid-19 infection could be spread on objects that change hands such as mail and banknotes.

I write this without any smugness because it took me a while to convert to electronic payments. Not that I had any moral or philosophical objections to it but rather that I just kept on paying in cash as I always had. Eventually, it occurred to me that if I used my credit card, it would save me those frequent visits to the shrinking numbers of ATMs to replenish my purse. For several months, then, I used my credit card, dutifully typiing in the PIN for larger amounts.

Then, one day, there came that “What if?” moment when I looked at my mobile and wondered whether I should be using Apple Pay. I went on thinking about it until at last I decided I had better try it out for myself.

To be honest, I made a mess of things the first few times I tried to use it and managed to make myself feel foolish as I struggled to make it work with an impatient queue of customers waiting behind me. In the end, hard though it is to admit it now, I gave up on Apple Pay and reverted to my trusty credit card.

As is often the case with new things, it was Tigger who showed me the way. I watched her using Apple pay in a shop one day and thought “Oh, so that’s how you do it.” The next time I needed to pay for something I tried Apple Pay again. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

As well as using Apple Pay in shops and on public transport, when buying things online I now tend to do so on my mobile in the hope that the vendor accepts Apple Pay, as this saves the tedious business of typing in your credit card details and your name and address. One click and it’s done.

Paying cash in the cafe yesterdaay was a strange return to a world I thought we had left behind, that of the past where, to misquote J.P. Hartley, they do things differently. Cash is not yet dead, of course, and will going on being used for a while but I have little doubt that for day-to-day transactions, its days are numbered.

Posted in SilverTiger | Leave a comment

Appointment in Holloway

This afternoon I had another clinic appointment (yes, another one), this time in Holloway. We started in traditional fashion with a stroll to Amwell Street and our friends at Myddelton’s deli

The kitten in the window
The kitten in the window

In Claremont Square we enjoyed a rare sighting of the “kitten in the window”. We hadn’t seen him for quite a while and he rewarded our attention with an eye-blink.

Sunshine in Amwell Street
Sunshine in Amwell Street

It is a pleasant sunny day today, not too warm, although there were large clouds that hid the sun from time to time. We sat outside the deli with our coffee, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

Waiting for the bus in St John Street
Waiting for the bus in St John Street

After this pleasant interlude, we made our way to the bus stop in St John Street. As I had never been to this particular clinic before, I used Apple Maps to provide a route. This proposed taking the 153 to Holloway and reaching the clinic via a short walk through the back streets. We left with plenty of time to spare in case of errors or hold-ups.

Aboard the 153
Aboard the 153

The 153 arrived and carried us along its complicated route to the stop where we changed to Shanks’ Pony.

Is this really the way?
Is this really the way?

Apple Maps is often excellent at finding the route and plotting it on the map, indicating the buses to take and naming the streets to walk along. Occasionally, however, it fails badly. I think this is because it hasn’t caught up with such things as recent changes to bus routes or changes in the built topography. Today was a case in point: the pedestrian part of the route was not as shown and I ended up asking people the way. It turned out that we had almost reached our destination and would have found it if we had walked a few more yards. Score 8/10 to Apple Maps, perhaps.

Pret A Manger
Pret A Manger

As we were still quite early, we needed somewhere where we could sit and wait as long as necessary. A branch of Pret A Manger filled the bill perfectly. We bought coffee and settled at a table. I set my phone’s alarm for 15 minutes before appointment time and we could relax till it rang.

In the waiting room
In the waiting room

I presented my letter at the reception and was instructed to take a seat until I was called. It’s fortunate that Tigger was with me because when I was eventually called, it was from the other end of a large waiting room and, with my attenuated hearing, I didn’t hear my name called.

“That’s you,” said Tigger and off I went.

Tower Block, Metropolitan University
Tower Block, Metropolitan University

Afterwards, we walked to Holloway Road, where, for old times’ sake, I photographed the tower of what is now the Metropolitan University. In times past, it was the Polytechnic of North London where I lectured on Computer Science for a number of years, quite happy years, as it happens.

The old building
The old building

This is the old building, dating, I think, from the beginning of last century when it was created as a technical college. My office and the lecture rooms I frequented were in a nearby side street and I came to the main building infrequently. “My” building has since fallen victim to redevelopment and is unrecognisable.

Holloway Road
Holloway Road

We walked along the busy, rather unlovely Holloway Road. We had agreed to have lunch in a cafe after my appointment and were looking for a suitable place.

The Central Library
The Central Library

Along the way, we passed the handsome building that houses Islington’s Central Public Library. We didn’t visit it today as our thoughts were on lunch. We’ll come back another time.

Inside Hope Cafe
Inside Hope Cafe

We found the Hope Cafe and went in. It is a simple straightforward no-frills cafe in the English tradition, serving a range of basic dishes at moderate prices. Perfect for our purposes.

The art shop
The art shop

Afterwards, we crossed the road to visit the art shop thoughTigger did not find what she was looking for.

St Mary Magdalen Gardens
St Mary Magdalen Gardens

We crossed back across the road and entered St Mary Magdalen Gardens, a pleasant park that was originally the burial ground of the church, landscaped as a public amenity after the London burial grounds were closed in the mid-19th century.

The old coroner’s court
The old coroner’s court

This time, we spotted something we had not noticed on our previous visit: the old coroner’s court, dated, according to the lettering in the arch, to 1852. Apparently, coroner’s courts were often situated in, or close to, burial grounds. I suppose there were practical reasons for this, not least that the body was close to where it would be buried after the court hearing.

A glimpse of the church
A glimpse of the church

The church was almost hidden from sight by the abundant foliage of the trees but every now and then a glimpse of it appeared.

One of the fine old trees
One of the fine old trees

There were a number of fine very old trees in the park, such as the one in the photo. How old are they, I wonder?


Westbourne Road

We passed through some back streets (none interesting enough to be worth photographing). Tigger was following her Inner Pigeon and I was following Tigger. That way, we reached a stop in Westbourne Road where we could catch a 153 back to the Angel.

Aboard the 153
Aboard the 153

We did not have long to wait but all seats were occupied except right at the back which provides an uncomfortably bumpy ride along the minor roads where this bus passes. Finally, though, we were delivered back to the Angel and home.

Tomorrow, Tigger returns to work but then comes the weekend and four days when we can do as we please, always assuming no sudden changes to her work schedule.

Posted in SilverTiger | Leave a comment