Today was grey with a chilly little wind, quite disappointing after the warm weather we had enjoyed a few days before. But then, it is a bank holiday, so what do you expect?
This pretty marigold (I am no gardener but I think it’s a marigold – correct me if I am wrong) was on our table later but I’ll come to that in due course.
We did have vague ideas of going out somewhere interesting – the seaside, perhaps – but in view of the weather, we decided to spend the time locally.
After brunch at the Daisy Cafe (the Alpino was closed, presumably taking a well-earned rest), we took the 153 bus to Clerkenwell.
There I discovered this new clock – new to me, that is. I don’t know how old it is but the company that owns it is still extant. The clock isn’t working unfortunately, but Lawson, Ward & Gammage do claim to make “jewellery of timeless quality”, so perhaps it’s intended.
This is an area of many warehouses and many pubs. Sometimes the old warehouses are now pubs, an interesting recycling of grand old buildings. And some of them really are grand, though they tend to be lost among the tasteless modern structures.
The erstwhile warehouses sometimes still have their hoists attached to the front. The Gate pub boasts a particularly well preserved example which, unusually, still has a length of cable attached to it (see close-up on the right).
Our steps were taking us to a place that a vegetarian would rather avoid but which is nonetheless historically and architecturally interesting. Smithfield Market (whose name derives from the “smooth field” in which it was built) has long been London’s main meat market.
The main thoroughfare of the market has its own street name. It is Grand Avenue, EC1. On either side of the arch, a fierce dragon snarls down at you as you pass beneath.
The tunnel-like avenue is impressive by any standards, despite its (to me) dire connotations.
Gates in the tall colourful railings give entry to side roads where individual meat merchants have their stalls.
I was intrigued by these pairs of phone boxes. I jokingly suggested that they are “his and hers” but perhaps the smaller ones are later models. Someone must know.
This was where I found my second clock of the day, the Smithfield Market clock, hanging precariously as Tigger pointed out, from rather flimsy-looking supports. This one seemed to be keeping good time.
Close by Smithfield Market is the ancient priory church of St Bartholomew the Great. It was founded in 1123 and has been repaired and refurbished from time to time since then. You can find out its history from its Web site. You enter by a narrow gate which has an Elizabethan dwelling above it. The photo shows the gate from inside.
The church is a handsome building with traditional chequerboard patterning on the outside. It is now hemmed in by narrow streets, allowing only partial views.
You have to pay to visit the church and I am sure it is worth a visit but we decided to have a cup of coffee in the cafe. As church attendance continues to plummet, funding is increasingly an issue and many churches today turn to merchandising as a way to make a little money.
As you can see from the photo, this was where I came across the third clock. The cafe is sited in a long gallery with a magnificent ceiling.
From here, we went down the road to the Barbican and the Museum of London. The museum is, of course, a wonderful and exciting place, worth many visits. You can also take photographs. Today, however, because of the bank holiday (and perhaps the dull weather), the place was packed out. Despite the fascinating exhibits, I did not feel happy in this dense crowd and didn’t take any photos.
We decided to round off the day by going out to dinner. We chose PizzaExpress in Euston Road, opposite the British Library. This provided the fourth clock of the day and the marigold on the table.
It was a dull day for the bank holiday but we made the most of it. In a city like London, there is always plenty to see and even exploring your own neighbourhood with a watchful eye can be rewarding.