I went out this morning to take a few photographs for a specific purpose that is too dull to bore you with. It was an overcast day with rain threatening and I expected to take my pictures without more ado and return home. It is in the nature of things, however, that even on such occasions as these, you may happen to notice things of more than passing interest. And so it was today. I present some here for your interest and amusement.
Colebrooke Row leads off City Road near the Angel Clock (for a map see here). Some months ago, a power failure caused the clock to show the wrong time and this state of affairs continued for so long that I feared it would never be put right. Then, one day, they reset it at last and it now shows the correct time.
Colebrooke Row and Duncan Terrace together constitute a quiet and pleasant area but as I have already written about them (see Duncan Terrace and Regent’s Canal), I will not go into details again here. The above street leads off Colebrooke Row and I am surprised I didn’t notice it before. “Elia” is a reference to a famous writer, as we shall see shortly.
Before we come to that, here is Colebrooke Row Gardens. If this isn’t the smallest public garden in the Borough of Islington it must be one of the smallest. You could just about sit under a tree and read a book, I suppose. Every green space in the city is valuable, of course, including this one.
Then we come to the famous writer, the essayist Charles Lamb, or rather, to his house, where he resided for 3 or 4 years. Writing under the penname of Elia, Lamb established a reputation as an essayist, though he wrote in other genres as well. He is also the author of Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, which he wrote in collaboration with his sister Mary.
Lamb lived in many places, often for short periods of time. Early in 1800, he was briefly at another Islington address, 45 Chapel Street, now Chapel Market. (There is no plaque there as far as I know.) Part of the reason for his frequent moves may have been his own mental problems and the need to look after his sister Mary, whose care became a lifelong occupation. The sad story is well known: Mary, under the impulse of mental illness, stabbed their invalid mother to death. She was spared prison on condition that her brother Charles took care of her. He did so, though she sometimes needed to be incarcerated in an asylum. That he succeeded, despite these anxieties in becoming a writer of such attractive temper, is of great credit to him.
Shortly after photographing Lamb’s house, I met this little fellow. Down the centre of Colebrooke Row runs a park where once there was open water, part of the New River Project. The squirrel is one of the denizens of that park. People feed the squirrels and although he was uncertain of me and worked his way higher and higher up the tree, as I followed with my camera lens, he still hoped for a hand-out.
Grey squirrels receive bad press – much of it exaggerated and undeserved – but if you can look at this lovely creature (see the slide show for larger versions of the pictures) without being enchanted by his beauty, then I have no sympathy for you.
I have walked through these gardens often but had never seen these strange excrescences in the trees. At first I wondered whether a swarm of tropical insects had landed here and built an extravagant nest but closer inspection showed that the artifact was definitely of human manufacture.
Wrapped around the two trunks of a forked tree, these structures consist of boxes, some normal sized bird boxes but others so small that they can only be for insects. By way of explanation, I think I can do no better than to reproduce the notice board that stands nearby.
I have said some scathing things about modern artists so it is good to be able to congratulate artists using their skills to produce a work that, while being seen as art (if you wish to see it in that way), has a practical purpose and one that we can all approve of.
My final discovery of the morning – or, rather, re-discovery, because I had already seen and photographed the plaque – was the house in which Eduard Suess was born and which bears a nicely decorated plaque erected by the Geological Society of London.
I would like to be able to claim that I already knew all about Eduard Suess but in fact had to look him up. Rather than simply parrot the words of others I will refer you to a suitable reference (Eduard Suess, Wikipedia) and content myself with saying that Suess was a brilliant geologist and scientist whom we can and should admire today because his discoveries are still relevant and formed the basis for much modern science.