The London I Don’t Know So Well
My friend Jennifer uses a running gag about me, lifting a quote from a review that said ‘Christopher Fowler and the London he knows so well’ – well, I was reading this morning that there’s a row about how the gardens set up as a memorial for the thousands of merchant seamen who died in two world wars and the Falklands conflict are to become the venue for City bankers’ Christmas parties, and realised I had absolutely mo memory of ever walking through this park.
(Cash-strapped councils are increasingly ‘borrowing’ public spaces for events – the worst is Soho Square, a miserable park at best, and its endless parade of advertising industry bashes.)
There are still pockets of London you stumble across in complete amazement that they exist. Last night a friend was telling me about ‘an old French restaurant down that alleyway at the side of Charterhouse Square’, and when I looked up the street it was as if Harry Potter had magicked it into existence.
In the new book ‘Hidden City’ there’s a guide to these sorts of places, and there are tons of them – and the book only covers one square mile. Sometimes I swear I don’t know this city at all. The thing is, it’s not contained like New York or even Paris, and just sort of meanders horizontally (the North and South have more definite boundaries). For example, the area beyond Whitechapel chucks up the most extraordinary streets in among the council estates. Am I going to venture there? Not without a reason – and that’s how they stay hidden.