Sunday, January 7, 2007

Carey Street to Ludgate


How London is Lost on me...

I have to preface this thread by saying that there is just too much to see in London, and we only had two and a half days. That is my initial justification, and I am sticking to it. However, as I sort through my photos, deciding what to upload and what to leave out, I am learning about some of the places that I saw - things that I did not know at the time. As I learn more, I realize that much of London was lost on me. Had I known that you can go inside the Royal Courts of Justice or Old Bailey and see a trial, I would have. I was in Lincoln's Inn without even knowing what that was. I tried, honest, to read guidebooks before I left, but my eyes kind of glazed over and I got hopelessly confused. I hoped to figure it out when I got there, and I did - sort of. My initial thought was that I wished that I knew more about what I was seeing, but I also know that there was way too much to see. Upon reflection, I am glad that we just wandered around London. Next time I go, maybe I will be a bit more learned. Rowan is very helpful, because she knows more about London than I do - even though she has never been there. She has read a lot about it and jogs my memory about different places.

This is the route we take ...

So we were walking from the Royal Courts of Justice up Chancery Lane to Carey Street in search of the used law bookstore.

We see the marker, No. 1 Fleet Street and stop to take a picture.

Er ...

Ignore the monkey. It is a long story, but it is for a friend. She is a writer and we think that she will like the reference. I just like the fact that we are at Fleet Street. I feel as if I am somewhere that I have read about a million times. It is the first time that I feel a sense of history looming over me, familiar and new at the same time.As we walk up Fleet Street to Chancery Lane, we see some old publishing houses and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It is a famous old pub in London and had patrons including Charles Dickens, Dr Samuel Johnson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

This is a picture of London during Dickens' time.

We don't go into the pub, but we do see this ....

... a bit up the street.

This is for my daughter, who used to work at Starbucks. Once again, I am struck by the juxtaposition of the very old and the very new.

The walk up Chancery Street is beautiful. There are a lot of law offices,

... and I liked the lions.

We go too far and have to backtrack a little to get to the bookstore. I notice this sign. I wonder if the sign means what I think it means.

We turn onto Carey Street and see this jaw-dropping building.

I took a picture of it, just because I liked it. I thought it might be a church or something. I did not know what it was called and forgot to ask at the bookstore. I googled it and found that (I think) that it is Lincoln's Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London. The bookstore is behind us, under Lincoln's Archway. There are buildings around here that date back to the 12th century. The area is sometimes referred to as Temple, and is named after the actual Knights Templar. You can go into the Temple Church and see the marble effigies of medieval knights. That is something else that I would have done, had I known about it. Sigh. I told you that London was kinda lost on me. I think we needed a personal guide.

A better picture. We both liked the scooters and motorcycles near the building.

Rowan wonders:
Who rides the bikes? The law students? The lawyers and advocates? It conjures up a fine picture of flying black robes against the slate grey sky, the cliffs of red brick, the gothic curlicues and the sturdy ironic bulk of the Old Bailey.

We went into Wildy and Sons, which is a law bookstore under Lincoln's Inn Archway (that is a much more interesting address than we have in the US). It was like walking into a Dickensian scene. There were towering bookshelves and dark wood. It was quiet and smelled wonderfully of old books.

Rowan writes:

The second-hand bookshop in Carey street lurks under a pretty arch with a wrought iron lamp tucked underneath, and a bollard to prevent any audacious driver from the temerity of coming close. It is a neat and tidy close (close = alley in scots, ed.), the whole area filled with a sense of muted affluence and cheerful sobriety. The Inns of Court. Chancery. Lawyers and barristers at work. We go into the shop. It is wonderful. Compact but uncluttered - filled to the gunnels, but orderly, with a sense of system and poise. This is no ordinary second-hand bookshop, normally a riot of musty leaves and disorganised volumes. Each shelf has its topic clearly marked. "Criminal Law", "Company Law". There are small touches of legal humor - trinkets on the little sill under a huge painting of a judge, cloaked in red velvet. A knitted owl in black gown and white curly wig. We search amongst the titles. I spot a delightful reading room through the back, where three barristers in wigs and gown sit discussing some meaty issue, surrounded by dark polished wood panels and walls of neatly-bound books. It is a tableau out of a comic etching - they are tinted pen and inks come to life. I try not to stare, as one of the men has caught my eye, and I don't want him seeing that I think he looks like a caricature! Anyways, it is not polite to stare.

We take our time, looking at the books. I am not finding what I am looking for, and I ask the gentleman behind the desk where a section on mental health law might be. He is busy cataloging books and looks up, clearly surprised at the interruption. I wonder how we look to him, two women, casually dressed, disheveled from our walk. Me with my army/navy surplus bag (the same one that Jack Bauer uses in this season of 24!) and Rowan pink-cheeked from the wind. I wonder how many tourists come into the shop. Probably not many. He is not certain where the mental health section is, and gets up to look when he has to take a phone call. I wander around a little and spy a section with old books. I find a wonderful set of "Forensic Fables", but there is no price on the flyleaf. The clerk comes over and I explain that I am looking for a gift for a friend and ask the price of the book. He says, in a polite, but ever-so-slightly patronizing tone, that the price is on the inside cover. Before he can finish speaking, I open the book to reveal the empty space. He continues, without missing a beat and a gleam of humor, "Or not, as the case may be."

Rowan and I are charmed, and cannot help smiling. He quotes me a good price and I ask him if he will give me a smokin' hot deal for all four, and he gives me a discount. I sneak a glance at Rowan to see if I have mortified her by the bargaining. She appears to have survived. The clerk tries to charge us ten pounds more than the agreed-up price. As we are leaving, Rowan casts a gimlet eye back at the store and says in a thoroughly affronted Scots tone, "Cheeky mare!"

We walk on down back to Fleet Street.

Rowan writes:

There are memories of home here, a DC Thomson building, with the names of local papers written into the brickwork, "The Dundee Courier"..."The Evening Telegraph", "The People's Journal." The red brick wall with its white legends soars into space, the surrounding building cleared away, the wall itself clearly an anachronism from a forgotten time, loud with returning typewriter carriages and smutty with inky fingerprints.

Rowan takes a picture (above) and a few steps later we find this hidden gem tucked in between the two buildings ...

We are walking down what was once Fleet Street and is now Ludgate Circus and becomes Ludgate Hill.

This is our first glimpse of the Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.

We are walking down the street and spy a church. We saw the spire of this church when we took our first picture of St. Paul's. We have not gone into a church yet, but this one calls to us. All over London, there are churches with signs out front advertising Christmas cards for charity. There are red and white Santa wooden cut -outs outside many churches. There seem to be people inside of this church, and we go in. Maybe we will find Christmas cards.

We walk inside and it is quiet and dim. The foyer is filled with people browsing through the cards, each in a box describing the charity that will benefit. Shoshana and I walk through the doors and into the cool serene space.

(please forgive the blurry pictures -- I was experimenting with a low light setting)

The Church was built by Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral. After the Great Fire of London, many churches were redesigned and re-built by Wren. Compared to many, it is small, but it was lovely.

There are a few people inside the church, walking quietly and admiring the beauty. A man sits praying near the front of the church. Services will start in an hour or so, and it would have been nice to stay.

I look down and see the flagstones. I am not sure if people are really buried here, but I tread softly.

Here is the organ -- I think.

The Church was built by Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral. After the Great Fire of London, many churches were redesigned and re-built by Wren. Compared to many, it is small, but it was lovely.

The church was built in 1666 and opened in 1684.

The stained glass is beautiful.

Rowan and I wander around, not speaking, in companionable silence. There is a sense of peace here, and reverence. It is not solemn, but there is a sense of ease and calm.

I spend some time, looking at the floor, thinking about the people who have worshiped here and who have died, hoping in the Resurrection. The letters are worn smooth by the passage of time and many feet.

Rowan writes:

We come upon St Martin-within-Ludgate as if by chance, a dark, sooty church with a soaring spire and an ancient spirit. It is a place of contrasts - the dark subdued furnishings, the dim interior, and the vaulted glory of the ceiling and walls, glowing golden and warm, the angel painted in the roof space, delicate, simple, achingly sublime. There is such beauty here. I put money in the little tin box, and offer up a silent prayer. I think of a child who is gone. We wander, softly, under the eye of a watchful churchwarden, wondering, taking pictures, thinking quiet thoughts. The church feels very old, of another time, a sense of suffering past, darkness lived through and conquered. I walk out of the dim solace of St. Martin into the narrow bustling street.

We go and look over the cards, quietly comparing favorites. Refreshed and restored, we leave the church and head toward St. Paul's Cathedral.


Melissa said...

Lovely description of the church. I felt refreshed just reading it...ahh.

Dr. Bob said...

Hi!! Thanks for commenting. The church was really lovely. Did you see All Hallows yet?