Well, here we go again down the rabbit hole of the London I only thought I knew so well! This time we headed down to Trafalgar Square for the upcoming St George’s Day celebrations – the square has been turned into – well, a garden would be stretching it, but there were plenty of plants and plenty of historical figures, including, it seemed, the knights who say ‘Ni!’.
Even the lions had been given some foliage, with a village green band playing and intermittent bursts of sun/ rain (of course). Landseer’s lions are in danger of having their pelts worn away, so it’s now forbidden to sit on them, sadly.
On the walk through Covent Garden – where I found Ann Widdicombe coming out of the Opera House – she’s controversially been cast in La Fille Du Regiment – I stumbled across something called the London Film Museum.
I think I’m right in saying this is on the site of the wonderful, ill-fated theatre museum, something that London, as the theatre-capital of the world, really should have supported better. Okay, it was the new museum’s first day, and we’ll cut them some slack but this is a sparse, poorly organised arrangement of random clips, stills and potted histories that at £8.50 a ticket felt inconsequential and incomplete. One nice touch was the barscans for phones that gave you the background of each film on your mobile. Let’s hope they get more material together to make the enterprise worthwhile. Meanwhile, here’s Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Some Like It Hot’ script – and more morbidly, her pill boxes.
On the way out I got lost again. How is that possible? These empty streets are off Drury Lane immediately behind the London Theatre, a mix of warehouses and low-income housing.
Onto High Holborn I was surprised to find Holborn Town Hall emptied out and up for rent. Where have the gold-chained councillors decamped to? The property developers’ desperate rebrand of this odd bit of the city as ‘Midtown’ doesn’t seem to be sticking, thank God. The road was built as a link between two more commercial neighbourhoods and remains so.
Finally, heading into Bloomsbury Square going towards Dickens’ house in Doughty Street, you’re immediately struck by the falling away of sound, passing from the permanent-rush-hour pavements crammed with tourists to empty parks. Bloomsbury has a denser concentration of elegant garden squares than any other area, so pedestrians are spoiled for choice. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find yourself alone in a park even though the nearby streets are teeming.
Finally, the heavens opened and we were driven home, missing the relighting – with the kind permission of HRH – of Buckingham Palace with many changing portraits of Brenda made from hundreds of children’s drawings.