A January Miscelleny
Why do all my posts need a single subject? Here are some random moments from the past month that slipped through my fingers. First, I took a walk along Regent Street on Christmas Eve – there was hardly anyone around, and little movement except the flapping of electronic angel wings.
One of the nicest (and oldest) bars I know survives under the road in Villiers Street, Charing Cross. Most Londoners know about it, but we sort of forget to visit and look at its collection of newspapers advertising products for the Crimean War. Gordon’s Wine Bar. It’s been there since about 1890, but there was a drinking establishment on the site long before that.
Off to Estonia on my annual jaunt to find the most ridiculously Christmassy place within a short flying time. I’ve been there before and was pleased to find nothing changed. Freezing in winter, glorious in summer, the people are friendly, the food spectacular. The main square hosts the perfect Christmas market. According to the notoriously inaccurate Daily Mail the town is full of drunk English tourists, not one of whom was to be found.
Bookbinding is a matter of great pride in Tallinn, and there are shops everywhere selling elegant one-off leather volumes of all sizes. Here’s a tiny sample of the ones I saw.
Meanwhile, the junk shops are unheated and filled to the rafters with alarming statues of dictators, Russian naval memorabilia, dolls, prewar phones and periodicals, toys and millions of very odd clocks. Prices are high, but European prices are all high to the British now. Cheers for that, Brexiters.
Outside, there’s a city wall running around Tallinn designed to keep out medieval invaders. Work on the town’s defences began in 1265, but the current outline of the wall dates to the 14th century. By its heyday in the 16th century, the wall was 2.4 km long, 14 to 16 metres high, up to three metres thick, and included 46 towers.
A few days later, I’m in another junk shop (albeit a superior sort) in Barcelona and find this, an ornate gothic copper chunk of steeple (for sale as what? A coffee table?) and I read the inscription on the top; ‘The copper work to this steeple done by P. Breneman Castle Street Leicester Square Nov 5th 1823’. The idea of there being a steeple-maker in Leicester Square, where now there’s only a TKTS and two cinemas, is amazing to me.
Finally I’m back in London, freezing but otherwise looking like midsummer, and walk through Blackfriars Station where there’s a busker playing ‘The Teddy Bears Picnic’ on a combusting tuba. Each time he hits a bass-note flames roar out of the top. And they say there are no eccentrics left in London!