Monday, 19 August 2013
Wandering through London
One of the wonderful things about London is that it's such a hodge-podge! We were walking from the general area of the British Museum, where we saw the penny farthing and visited the Atlantis Bookshop which specialises in occult books - and suddenly we were in Seven Dials, which I knew as a notorious slum in Victorian times. Anthony Valentine, as AJ Raffles, claimed to be living there once, when he was caught burgling an old flame, to make it seem that he was down on his luck, until she discovered that he actually had rooms at the Albany club and played cricket for England!
Just round the corner from the Seven Dials is a wonderful warren of Victorian buildings, including Neal's Yard, and a little further on we saw a blue plaque saying that Charles Dickens had worked in a building. When we finally got to the Porterhouse pub (which is all old wood and copper piping inside, with a tiled front to the bar and a huge clock with all the workings showing over the main bar - and also some very good beer, and delicious omelettes), we found that Turner the artist had been born in a building on that site.
Later, I noticed on a map we were consulting that the Temple of Mithras was fairly close to where we were - or at least, it had been. There's an area of redevelopment just outside Cannon St station where it used to be, but there seems to have been a thorough archaeological dig before it became a huge hole in the ground, so I presume they saved what they could. I'd wanted to see that since I discovered it existed, after reading Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff (where Marcus belongs to the Raven grade of Mithraism) and The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, where young Merlin sees a re-enactment of the central myth of Mithraism, when the god sacrifices a bull.
While walking along the riverbank not far from St Paul's, I kept turning round to look at the dome, to remind myself that this really was THE St Paul's - and there were the steps the Cybermen had walked down, and there was the spot where the Daleks had stood on the bridge near the Houses of Parliament, and towering over it all was the London Eye, which was also the radio receiver for the Nestene Consciousness.
Not far away, a small church was tucked in amongst the more modern buildings, and turned out to be the place where Chad Varah started the Samaritans. It's over a thousand years old, and when it was built, the Walbrook flowed down to the Thames just in front of it - one of the lost rivers of London now.