When we left off, St Paul’s had been espied, and the size of the thing was sufficient to knock one for six (a phrase I’ve never looked into the derivation of, but no doubt someone will provide the information now that the question’s been put). After going into the British Museum and coming out of a single gallery with a brain fully saturated with information, it seemed a wise move to not go on the tour of the Cathedral (plus one saves £8 in the bargain). The Golden Gallery and The Whispering Gallery would have been cool to check out, but that’s next time and someone will have to accompany me so that the latter’s acoustics can be confirmed as functioning in the famous manner.
So… to sit upon the steps, look at the statue of Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria (HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!), and see if the laptop can connect to a Wi-Fi network, so that an e-mail can be sent to Jennifer saying ‘guess where I’m typing this?’ Sadly, there’s no signal that I can access. Damn.
However, there is — just across the square from the historical building and equally historical monument to the longest-reigning Monarch in English History [image, above left] — a Pizza Express declaring its lengthy existence in the location, a mighty history of some several full years numbering almost two digits!
It’s enough to make one shake one’s head.
The imposing sight of the place [image, right] really can’t be over-stated. This is a cathedral with one stated goal: to impart to all who approach it that, while they may be in the city which is considered the cradle of modern civilisation, they are but human and Mighty is The Lord whose house stands before them. They are to feel humble and know their mortal limitations before Him. This edifice succeeds fully at its task. The inscription on Sir Christopher Wren’s tomb in the Cathedral’s crypt is quite right to state Lector, si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice, for it is a mighty monument to the power of a belief in God, no matter what your own religious outlook may be.
Onwards, then, and into the area most commonly thought of when someone speaks of having an office in ‘The City’: the Financial District. Here is where the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and numerous investment and financial companies have their headquarters. Oddly, some people are so well off from the business they do, they can even use the sides of their buildings for the purpose of shopping lists [see photo, below left].
Arriving in the area around Bank Station — located at the conflagration of Prince’s, Lombard, Queen Victoria, Cornhill, and Threadneedle Streets — we see the historical heart of English Commerce: The Royal Exchange! Now used as an luxury shopping centre, it consists of a number of floors and office spaces surrounding a central courtyard which was once where merchants and tradesmen could do business and the place to go and buy and sell stocks. During the mid-1950s, stock trading having all but entirely stopped during the Second World War, the central courtyard was transformed into The Mermaid Theatre and productions of As You Like it and Macbeth were staged in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 (although one wonders about the propriety of the second title as something to honour a coronation) as it was Queen Elizabeth I who gave the decree that the original Exchange be henceforth termed “Royal”.
As I took a number of photographs of it [right], I was impressed with the architectural grandness of this monument of National Finance… because I thought it was the Bank of England. Days later came realisation that the Bank of England was, in fact, building which was provided such a handy thing to jump up on the ledges of so as to find a better angle to take pictures of what was now a shopping mall for those people still possessing enough money to buy and sell me thrice over. This is the problem with exploring a city without a native to guide you about and explain what’s what, what? Domine Dirige Nos indeed!
Onwards again, further into ‘The Square Mile’ to the immediate East and North of this spot, which not only houses the two buildings mentioned, but also the headquarters for Lloyd’s of London, the residence of the Lord Mayor, the Swiss Re Tower (aka: “30 St. Mary Axe”, its address; “The Gherkin”; “The Towering Innuendo”; The Crystal Phallus”, which is also a pun on ‘The Crystal Palace’; “The Glass Dildo”), and Tower 42 (formerly “the NatWest Tower”, due to it being the headquarters for the National Westminster Bank).
The last of those buildings listed wasn’t on the “List of Things to See” for the day, but upon crossing Gracechurch Street, a quick glance to the left brought me almost to a complete halt as the sight of a chunk of New York City seemed to have been plonked down in the middle of London. After a quick shot or two of that monstrosity (and the tallest building in the UK until 1 Canada Place was built on Canary Warf), the headquarters for Lloyd’s was sought.
Other than the fact that its design was ‘modern’ and ‘futuristic’, I hadn’t the faintest idea what I was looking for. When, after wending one’s way through some fairly traditional Victorian-era constructions lining a number of winding streets, the location was confirmed by looking at the map and checking intersecting streets about half-a-dozen times, the only reaction to coalesce was “you’re kidding; that’s Lloyd’s?” As I looked at it [image, left], the thought “well, it’ll look great once it’s done” came to mind, along with the possibility that it would have fit perfectly as part of the landscape of Blade Runner (although it’s said the inspiration for that story’s city was a number of weeks in Vancouver, along with the author taking a large amount of acid). Looking at the photos now, I still am at a loss to decide whether or not I like it. Apparently the real time to see it is at night, for the architects have been able to provide the drama and colour to make it truly become what matches their original idea for the building. As one didn’t see that, nor can one easily locate any photos of it at night, I shall have to return to this in the evening during the next visit to this city.
Turning North, I beheld 30 St. Mary Axe: the building named for a pickle [image below, taken from opposing direction than indicated by the narrative]. And, Lord, it certainly does look like one. When viewed from the correct direction, there’s even a green tint to sections of it. This building, one can take to easily, as the lines are much more welcoming than the ‘kitchen implement’ features of the Lloyd’s building. Around the base of it is a plaza, which must be filled on a summer’s day with people meeting and lunching. Around the edge of the plaza is a raised wall, and into each section of it, on the top surface, is a number of large plaques, each containing a line of a poem, principally speaking of an opposition to war and violence in general. At the mid-point of the wall there is a most curious — and entirely appropriate — tomb to an un-known Roman child, whose remains were found during construction, carefully removed to safety, and then re-buried in the same spot so that they continue their briefly interrupted internment. How apt, then, for a poem to be placed around them, speaking of violence to all people whether known and honoured by those who did so, or those who no longer are remembered yet whose deaths were just as needless.
Oddly, I can’t find anything about the poem or the child’s tomb anywhere, so I may be entirely wrong in all of the above political /pacifist connection-making.
Tomorrow, part iii: Leaving the Financial Centre before I’m nicked by the Security boys.
Table of contents for the series “UK-tober-Fest”
- What I’m Doing in a Fortnight’s Time
- One Final Sleep in Our Bed
- Friday, October 10th, 20:15 ~ YVR… still…
- Friday, October 10th, 23:50 ~ somewhere over the NWT probably…
- Saturday, October 11th ~ Arrival & Warwick (Day I)
- Sunday, October 12th ~ Warwick (Day II, part i)
- Sunday, October 12th ~ Warwick (Day II, part ii)
- Monday, October 13th ~ Warwick (Day III)
- Tuesday, October 14th ~ Warwick (Day IV) to London (Day I)
- Wednesday, October 15th ~ Canadian Election Results [an Aside to London (Day II)]
- Wednesday, October 15th ~ London (Day II)
- Thursday, October 16th ~ London (Day III)
- Friday October 17th ~ London (Day IV)
- Saturday October 18th — London (Day V)
- Sunday October 19th — London (Day VI)
- Monday October 20th — London (Day VII, part i)
- Monday October 20th — London (Day VII, part ii)
- Monday October 20th — London (Day VII, part iii)
- Tuesday October 21st — London (Day VIII)
- Wednesday October 22nd — London (Day IX)
- Thursday October 23rd — London (Day X)
- Friday October 24th — London to Vancouver (Day XI-XII)