Corpses & Suicides: Strolling London

Christopher Fowler
It had stopped raining for half an hour so I walked into the West End the other day, and ended up taking a rather circuitous route. I'd started at a friend's place by Columbia Flower Market, and was on the lookout for unusual things. I knew that London's smallest statue was in Eastcheap, on the corner of a building, and consisted of two mice fighting over a piece of cheese... But I didn't expect to find an even tinier one near the Nelson pub, of a man preparing to commit suicide. There are other tiny statues in the area, placed there I suspect by the artist who fills in road potholes with teensy football pitches and lawns. (Click on the shot to enlarge it) There's a reason why tourists get lost so easily in London, and it's this; they think of the Thames as a slightly wavy line running through the city. It's not. By following it, you walk many extra miles, and it keeps turning you around. For an idea of its bendiness, there's a gigantic 3D map at the Building Centre in Store Street. The blue's a bit optimistic. Cutting through the South Quad of University College London, I was thinking about the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who - greatest honour of all - has a pub named after him around the corner. But the weirdest thing is that his body was preserved, fully dressed and sitting up, with a wax death mask on top, in a giant wooden casket that's permanently on public display. My walk finished at an art deco garage that had been working until a few months ago (it was always used for Poirot films) but is now (I think) an office. All in all, a pleasant stroll, taking in just the right amount of peculiarity.
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Brian (not verified) Mon, 16/07/2012 - 09:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I do enjoy a good virtual stroll. Silver Tiger of North London has been strolling across London for several years now and also strolls in other cities if his partner's document delivery services has an out of town delivery. Of course, he always has his camera at the ready to catch interesting items.

Dan Terrell (not verified) Mon, 16/07/2012 - 11:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Another good one.

Evelyn Sawyer (not verified) Mon, 16/07/2012 - 14:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The mice fighting over a piece of cheese is supposed to represent the death of one of the workmen on the building site - he fought with a friend over a stolen lunch and fell to his death, turned out mice had eaten it, hence the statue.

The former petrol is near where I work, I believe it's going to be a restaurant? Could be wrong though. Along with most of Store Street the developers got their hands on it and while it now looks very pretty (and we gained Treadwell's books), it did rather rip the heart out of it (the newsagents went, as did Garners, the rather excellent sandwich shop).

Vickie (not verified) Mon, 16/07/2012 - 17:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What great creepy little statues...good eye. One must rarely be bored in London. But wait! Where's the rain everyone's been sniveling about (particularly in the last picture)?

Scott (not verified) Mon, 16/07/2012 - 18:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was told, while being shown around the University, that until quite recently Mr Benthams head, and not a wax death mask, was on display. Unfortunately it was regularly stolen and so was taken away and placed in a safe for safe keeping. Apparently it is taken out from time to time to take pride of place at Council meetings (a condition of his bequest).

jan (not verified) Fri, 20/07/2012 - 15:11

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

i loved that little garage it saved my bacon a couple of times when i worked at Holborn and was running short of petroleum the mini needed filling ALL THE TIME> theres a lovely little garage or was round the back of the Albert Hall in one of the little mews round there. ALso theres a smashing little pub nearby where all the orchestra blokes and girls belt over to for last orders when they are playing at the Hall or if they can manage it in the interval. its weird one moment you are in a nearly empty pub then theres a stampede of smart suited musicians then the place is empty again. Mind u i am talking about 15 years ago now its probably a ghastropub or similar !!