Today’s courier run is to a little town called Horley in Surrey. You may not have heard of it. We hadn’t heard of it either, until we were asked to deliver a package there. If you are curious enough to click on this link, you will see Horley and its region displayed on a Bing map, and this will enable you to situate it as accurately as you wish.
The grey diagrammatic shape at the bottom of the picture on the left is a schematic map of Gatwick Airport which is quite nearby.
I had set my alarm for 5:30 but awoke at 5:23 and thought I might as well get started. I am not a get-up-and-go person, preferring to have time to prepare and make sure everything is as it should be.
We left home a little before 7 am and caught the 214 to Liverpool Street. We could have gone straight to London Bridge but there is a Camden Food Co at Liverpool Street where we could have breakfast. We had honey porridge and coffee and then went to find a bus to London Bridge.
We had originally asked for a train around 8:30 but had somehow ended up with tickets for the 8:02. This a rather early as the office may not be open by the time we arrive, the journey being quite short.
On the other hand, it’s always a good idea to leave plenty of time where deadlines are concerned – today’s deadline is noon – because there can be unexpected delays on even the best run rail services. One of Tigger’s trains halted prematurely when thieves stole trackside copper cable, disabling the signalling system.
Today the weather is dry and the temperature mild. Our train is only lightly occupied as it is a slow train stopping at a number of small towns. In any case, at this time of day the main flow is commuter traffic into London, not out of it.
The sky is gradually lightening though the sun has yet to declare its intentions.
The day has remained cloudy and grey. We reached Horley at about 8:45 and set out for the delivery address. As this wasn’t far and we were not sure the office would be open at this time, we went on foot.
We found the office open and completed the drop by 9:07. We took a little tour around Horley and then went for coffee at Katie’s Cafe in the old fire station.
Horley seems to be like so many villages and small towns in the proximity of London. Enough traces remain of old buildings to suggest it was once a pleasant market town. Most of the buildings of that past have been destroyed by the vandals who pass for modern town planners and their place has been taken by characterless modern blocks, turning Horley into one more anonymous agglomeration. If you were brought here blindfolded, you would find it hard to work out exactly which town it is.
We were rather taken with this mosaic map of the area around Horley. We could pick out the roads and the railway line that had brought us here. Of course, the map also showed the nearby Gatwick Airport, together with little aeroplanes, as you can see in the detail below.
We looked to see whether there were more interesting places we could reach by bus. Redhill, Gatwick, Crawley: hardly an inspiring menu…
Though the weather had shown some early promise, this had not materialized. In addition, we felt there was little to be gained by staying or exploring the region further. We therefore returned to the station and within a few minutes boarded a London train, this time for Victoria.
We didn’t go all the way to Victoria but disembarked at Clapham Junction. The Shard was visible even here (look in the centre of the above photo).
We set out to explore this part of London which was relatively unknown to us.
Near the station we found the Clapham Grand, opened in 1900 as a theatre and music hall. Looking more like a Moorish fortress than a theatre, today it is used mainly as a nightclub.
Another substantial building, meant to last, this is the department store of Arding & Hobbs, opened in 1885, and still attracting crowds of shoppers.
In contrast to the massive store, these stalls trade from the roadside all along Northcote Road.
We reached the Kings Road, Chelsea, where we stopped for lunch at Stockpot, an Italian-style restaurant that serves good food at moderate prices, and after that agreeable interval continued our tour.
After lunch, our intended destination was 81 Fulham Road. That is the address of the remarkable and unique Michelin House, opened in 1911 as the UK headquarters of the famous French tyre company.
The building was designed by one of Michelin’s employees, François Espinasse. The result was highly competent in meeting its purpose and very beautiful. An account of its history will be found in Michelin House (Wikipedia).
Today, the building is occupied by the restaurant Bibendum, named after the familiar Michelin logo of the fat man made of motor tyres.
This was a rather unusual courier run in that it ended with us exploring London, rather than the town where we had gone to perform our delivery. What is important, however, is that it was a day that was successful and well spent. We did the job and enjoyed one of our favourite pastimes, exploring urban landscapes. Michelin House made a fitting climax to our day.