Saturday, December 17th 2016
We got off the bus in Bloomsbury Way near St George’s Church.
This photo, taken looking towards the main, western, part of New Oxford Street, shows how a layer of fog was obscuring the tops of taller buildings as well casting a light haze over the lower regions.
We made our way on to Tottenham Court Road because Tigger, who likes photographing shop window Christmas displays, thought that there might be some interesting ones here. In fact, we were disappointed in this and the whole road looked little different from its appearance at any other time of year.
Tottenham Court Road used to be the Mecca for shoppers wanting to buy computers, cameras and every kind of electronic equipment, both for consumers and for hobbyists. (I remember having a special cable for a modem made up in one of the shops.) Over the last few years, however, it has seemed to be losing its pre-eminence in this field and the gadget and equipment shops are gradually giving way to a miscellany of ordinary high-street stores.
Near the beginning of the road we found this gem left over from a past age. Despite the fact that the ground floor has been trashed to form a vulgar modern shop premises, its class and character are still evident. This building in ‘eclectic Flemish Renaissance style’ (Historic England description) was designed by Wigg, Oliver and Hudson and built in 1893. It has survived thus far and achieved a Grade II listing.
The Rising Sun stands on the corner of Windmill Street with Tottenham Court Road. I have photographed it before (for example, see Brunch in Fitzrovia) but it’s always worth a look. Records suggest that there has been a pub here since the middle of the 18th century but this delightfully OTT version dates from 1897 (designed by Treadwell and Martin) and is Grade II listed.
We went into Paperchase, which has a large branch in Tottenham Court Road, and to cheer ourselves up over a hot cup of tea, we went up to their cafe and found a seat near the big window. I don’t usually take photos through windows because of the dirt sand reflections but this seemed an interesting view. It shows a mix of buildings of different ages, typical of modern London. The ‘free Renaisance style’ (Historic England description) building to the right was designed by Alfred Whitburn and built in 1903. Not easy to see at this distance is the curly sea-serpent wind vane on the roof. The building was originally Catesby’s carpet and linoleum store but now houses a branch of Le Pain Quotidien on the ground floor and presumably apartments on the upper floors.
Talking of carpets, this is the carpet department of the store we visited next, Heal’s. Not so famous, perhaps, as some other London stores we could mention, Heal’s nonetheless has a charm of its own.
We have visited and photographed Heal’s before – see Baker Street, Marylebone and Fitzrovia – when the magnificent stairwell (enhanced by a mirror at the bottom) naturally attracted my attention.
We explored their room settings and avoided sitting on the armchairs and settees (or we would risk staying there till closing time!) and…
…we roamed the galleries of luxury goods we could never afford but enjoyed looking at and…
…allowed ourselves to be pleasantly dazzled by the bright lights in the lighting department.
Reluctantly, we left the shop and went out again into a cold Tottenham Court Road. Looking down the thoroughfare, it seemed that the fog had thickened somewhat, veiling the upper parts of taller buildings (in some cases doing a favour to the environment).
We crossed the road and found a big Christmas Tree protected by a white fence. Christmas trees are of course traditional and we more or less take them for granted but I cannot help feeling a little sad for them. Quantities of healthy living trees are killed so that we can hang lights and baubles on them for a couple of weeks. Then we cast them out and forget about them, leaving them to rot. Such profligacy and carelessness of living things is one of the less pleasant features of human nature.
Before catching the bus home, we thought of having a late lunch. We explored the nearby streets and happened upon a suitable venue.
We had lunch in the Spaghetti House on the corner of Goodge Street and Whitfield Street. If the name is a little banal, the restaurant itself, a ‘proper’ Italian one, was good, as was the spaghetti. A pleasant end to our outing.