London In Their Words 1
Today, as heavy grey veils of rain drape London, sinking us into a semi-darkness that acts as a reminder that we are a Northern and virtually Nordic capital, here are some views of the metropolis from residents in their own words…
I am the city whose fog will fall like a finger gently
Erasing the anger of angles, the strident indecorous gesture,
Whose dusk will come like tact, like a change in the conversation,
Violet and indigo, with strings of lemon streetlamp
Casting their pools into the pools of rain
As the notes of the piano are cast from the top-floor window
Into the square that is always Sunday afternoon.
– ASJ Tessimond
‘I went to Love’s and drank tea.I had now been some time in town without female sport. I picked up a girl in the Strand; went into a court with intention to enjoy her in armour. But she had none. I toyed with her. She wondered at my size, and said if I ever took a girl’s maidenhead I would make her squeak. I gave her a shilling and had command enough of myself to go without touching her. I afterwards trembled at the danger I had escaped. I resolved to wait cheerfully until some safe girl or was liked by some woman of fashion.’ – James Boswell, aged 23 in 1763
From the geyser ventilators
Autumn winds are blowing down
On a thousand business women
Having baths in Camden Town.
… Rest you there, poor unbeloved ones,
Lap your loneliness in heat.
All too soon the tiny breakfast,
Trolley-bus and windy street.
– John Betjeman
‘The King’s Players had a new play called All Is True, representing principal pieces of the reign of Henry VIII, which is set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage…King Henry making a masque at Cardinal Wolsey’s house, and certain chambers being shot off at his entry, some of the paper did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very grounds. This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw and a few forsaken cloaks. Only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle ale.’
– Sir Henry Wooton witnessing the burning of the Globe Theatre in 1613.
On Waterloo Bridge, where we said our goodbyes,
The weather conditions bring tears to my eyes.
I wipe them away with a black woolly glove
And try not to notice I’ve fallen in love.
On Waterloo Bridge with the wind in my hair
I am tempted to skip. You’re a fool. I don’t care.
The head does its best but the heart is the boss –
I admit it before I am halfway across.
– Wendy Cope
‘The Wild West End was truly horrific tonight. I went to St Martin-in-the-Fields underground restaurant for a catch-up. The crowds were too much and there became a stampede into the station. The guards stopped people from going in and there was a sense of chaos as so many people desperately tried to get inside. I could not bear all these people jabbing and pushing and broke out of it and caught a bus to Warren Street.’
– Maggie Armitage, yesterday, text message.