Despite being tired when we returned home yesterday evening, we went out again to do the weekly shopping so as to leave today clear. We hoped for another successful expedition today, perhaps taking the train a little further afield. Unfortunately, the weather gods were against us. The day started grey and then the rain began to fall. Hoping it would clear up, though, we bravely started out.
The first task was to find breakfast and we headed towards Exmouth Market, hoping to find a cafe open. Along the way, the spotted this house. You can see that it is designated an “Historic House” by the plaque affixed to the wall.
This tells us that Fenner Brockway lived here between 1908 1nd 1910. Do you notice anything odd about the plaque? The close-up on the left may help (click to enlarge). The plaque gives Fenner Brockway’s dates as “1888- “. I can only assume that this plaque was put in place before 1988 when the great man died.
Passing along Inglebert Street, we found what must be a tea-lover’s house because it has this array of pretty tea pots along the window sill. Aren’t they afraid someone with steal them? Or are they super-glued to the sill?
As we went into Amwell Street, I crossed to look in the window of the antiques shop. What I am looking for in particular are the paintings on display there. The shop seems to be an outlet for pictures by Chris Burns. To be honest, these paintings don’t do a lot for me but they do intrigue me, much as a sudoku might: in this case, the game is to try to guess what the object in the painting actually is, and then to work out how the title fits it. This one (click for larger version) is called The Boy with the Cadmium Blues, and I will leave you to decide how that all fits together.
Just as we were about to move on, these joggers jostled their way past. Do they like doing things the hard way? Or are they late for breakfast?
We hadn’t had breakfast yet, either, so on we went, past Wilmington Square (where the pigeons were squabbling over their breakfast),
past the Olde China Hand (closed, so not serving breakfast),
and past the old Finsbury Town Hall (which never has served breakfast, as far as I know),
to Exmouth Market, which looked decidedly closed, except for Starbuck’s.
In common with those in many shopping areas, Exmouth Market’s shops have become less and less varied and many have closed entirely, to be taken over by restaurants, cafes, wine bars and sandwich bars. Today, though, these were all closed, locked up tight. All we could do was salute the memory of Joseph Grimaldi and continue on.
Across the road from the other end of Exmouth Market was Cafe Maya. I had passed it many times before but never been in. Now was the moment to do so because it was open and serving breakfast!
We had the Vegetarian House Breakfast, which includes fried haloumi cheese. It was very good and reasonably priced with friendly service. We shall return!
We had hoped that the rain would stop while we were having breakfast but it didn’t. If anything, it was raining harder. We went across the road to wait for a bus near these phone boxes where people have replaced the word “TELEPHONE” with messages of their own. One reads “WRAP UP WARM” and the other, “CALL YOUR MUM”.
We got off the bus at the bottom end of Charing Cross Road and I was surprised to see these official notices warning us to “Love Trees”. What a good idea, I thought, but then realized that these were notices warning bus drivers of overhanging branches – “Low Trees” – which some nature-loving person has altered. Naughty but nice.
In Earlham Street we made a sad discovery. In a Covent Garden now given over to entertainment, drinking and dining, most of the old everyday shops have long given up and departed. A rare exception was F W Collins, the hardware store, a beautifully kept, well stocked – not to say historic – shop. I used to look in the window with fascination every time I came by. Seven generations, all named Fred Collins, have run the store but now the line has come to an end. I know that all things are subject to change but I find this sad.
The shop is a listed building and this enamelled sign (and the iron sign board on the lamp post) will remain to remind us of its illustrious past but, even so, the demise of the family name and business is a cause for regret.
I see that the famous Elastic Glue is said to have been invented in 1857, though whether its author was the first or the second Fred Collins is uncertain. Likewise I am unsure of its properties and purpose though I think it had something to do with shoeing horses. It would be interesting to know how it was made and whether it, or a derivative, would still be useful today.
It was raining ever harder and the light was becoming duller and duller. I don’t like taking photos in the rain but I struggled on for a bit, feeling more and more miserable. More in defiance than anything, I photographed this fine old pub or, at least, its façade.
This was my last photo of the day, the 1847 shop of B Flegg, saddler. I vaguely wondered whether “Horse Clothing” is something horses wear or the people who ride them. I imagined horses done up in natty tweed coats.
We took temporary refuge from the weather in a handy Caffè Nero. We couldn’t stay there all day, however, and after coffee and cake, set out again under the insistent rain. Getting home was complicated by the fact that many buses were diverted because of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square. (Yes, I know St Patrick’s Day is on March 17th, but some people like to take a bit of a run at it.) We made it at last, and could dry off, make tea and relax. It’s a pity the weather didn’t play along but, all being well, there will be fine days to come.
Update March 17th 2011
Following up my interest in “elastic glue”, I got in touch with Lee Jackson who runs the useful and interesting Web site on London Victoriana, The Victorian Dictionary, and the equally fascinating blog, The Cat’s Meat Shop. Lee was kind enough to send the following reply and to allow its publication.
Looking in the press/journals, I can find the term ‘elastic glue’ used in an article mentioning mending hatpins; or ‘elastic glue such as is sold in penny sticks by many leather merchants’ (for mending bellows).
Collins’ glue itself is being advertised to ‘leather, grindery, and gutta percha dealers’ by a trade supplier in 1857; and in 1858 specifies “(for repairing American overshoes and putting on gutta-percha soles”.
I note also that “elastic glue” still exists in various modern forms. It is used wherever a flexible bond is required and also for attaching shoes to horses’ hooves where the use of nails has caused difficulties.