We began walking from the new Blackfriars Station, high up there above the River. It’s now possible to sit at a table and look down on the Thames and the passing road and river trafiic in a rare example of a station cafe in central London that is ‘train-side’ of the barriers. I have fond memories of the two other examples I can think of, namely the bars that once graced Baker Street and Sloane Square stations, but there are also one or two refreshment rooms on platforms , notably at Waterloo East. I doubt if the London Bridge ones will be back, sadly.
Outside, The Blackfriars survives as a relic of the golden age of pubs. It is a gem of a place, a triangular pub squeezed up against a viaduct which has now shrunk away, making it look like a solitary tooth. Not far to the west is Whitefriars Street, crossing Tudor Lane – a whole set of images conjured up in these names. A little further lies Bouverie Street, once at the heart of the newspaper industry and still nominally home to The Sun. It wasn’t possible to walk through The Temple so we ducked up the cobbled lane on its eastern edge to emerge into The Strand. Though heading north, we couldn’t resist seeing what church that was just to the left, and inside the porch we were amazed to find it impossibly packed with congregation, all the more strange because the singing emerging from St Dunstan-in-the-West sounded very much eastern in flavour. It proved to be the spritual home of the Romainian Orthodox Church, and it’s dedicated itself to promoting Christian unity and is known as the Church for Europe.
We strolled up Fetter Lane, the origins of the name being a matter of dispute. I rather like the idea that a Fetter or Feutor was a worthless fellow. We passed the site of Clifford’s Inn, one of London’s slightly mysterious Inns of Court, dissolved in 1903. New Fetter Lane brought us onto High Holborn, somewhere west of the old Fleet River, and we continued north up Leather Lane, which runs parallel to the more famous Hatton Garden. Somewhere north we pass Dickens House and the little museum there. Now there was someone who could write!
A further few twists and turns and I am confonted by my past life, or to be more precise the life of nearly 50 years ago, still vivid today in my internalities. Judd Street, just south of St Pancras, where right next to the lovely jolly cafe where we stopped to eat outside in the sun is a basement window, behind which I spent many formative teenage hours which led in a year or two to marriage and the first of my two lives. That confrontation was not anything I’d expected on this pleasant Sunday morning walk. London is like that now…full of memories and some unexpected connections. That’s all good then.