Wednesday 28 July 2021

Coronavirus streets in London - XXXVIII

We are not there yet

The pleasure of the walk is always fun. The discovery of London by foot and the surprise of finding strange and new places you have only heard of or driven past. It is the condemnation of the Tube to a loneliness it could never have thought could befall it. We are in the age of the pandemic, the Coronavirus has left us seeking the natural away from the superficial and we are the healthier for it.

English placenames are Shibboleths of possible embarrassment for I do remember playing the Monopoly board game thinking Angel Islington had the sound of the first syllable of island when in fact it began with the sound of is, for I began in Islington. Yet, I saw Angel, the London Underground station that is, danced by Sadler’s Wells and could have been a phantom of operatic earache in Shaftsbury Theatre.

The West End is alive

In the court of Palace Theatre were crowds gathered to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, queued up in a press without spacing, their expectations of entertainment probably delivering them from the plague of COVID-19 or so they think. I pulled on my mask without a second thought.

Into Old Compton Street, I strutted, a haunt from the 90s, now fully pedestrianised and barely passable because of al fresco dining, raucous and gay like a summer camp of queens or drag that would make you blush. There is no pandemic here, and you are not invited to the masked ball, as we have come to live life, to die would be unfortunate, and those who passed on will be remembered after we have enjoyed ourselves, is the message on the streets of London.

Nay, be not one of the Les Misérables that is doing time with the butler in Arthur, and I really did like Sir John Gielgud, he died at 96 and a theatre is named for him. Les Mis as we know it, once did 19 years at the Palace, it is the West End, the world of theatre and spectacle. That was after Oxford Street and Carnaby Street much changed from what I remember, memory is not just a lane but a bustling city of dreams.

History and pageantry

Eros did try to smile on me and Haymarket I ignored at Piccadilly Circus and turned onto Regent Street St James’s and do not be bewildered, the possessive James peculiarly carries a full apostrophe S and The Court of St James’s is the royal court of the sovereign monarch where the Queen receives ambassadors to the Court of St James’s never to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Now in peak Establishment territory, I was at Waterloo Place with statues of famous Field Marshalls, kings and politicians making an avenue of the revered, Florence Nightingale even lights her lamp here in the day and the night, if you have the vision for such. Down the steps by the Duke of York Monument whose fame is recalled in the risible The Grand Old Duke of York nursery rhyme.

To the river and over

I cross The Mall to Horse Guards Road with Horse Guards Parade where the monarch’s official birthday is celebrated in June at the Trooping the Colour, to my left and St James’s Park to my right, I could have ventured a walk to Buckingham Palace to see it for the first time, but that would be another time, for I was pressed and the toilets closed.

The Palace of Westminster, the British Parliament with all the surrounding famous buildings including Westminster Hall, came into view, but I could barely see Big Ben, it was bedecked in scaffolding and I crossed the River Thames on Westminster Bridge onto the South Bank with the London Eye on its last rotation for the day, my sister called from America as I was lapping a soft ice cream on a black waffle cone after which the Tube took me back to Angel from Waterloo Station.

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