Wednesday, September 08, 2004. Arthur’s 75th Birthday.

The Birthday Treat.

On my birthday I arranged to meet my daughter Tansy in London at Liverpool Street station at 1.0pm but I went early by train from Wickford and was there by 11.20am. Although I have been through this station many times over the past few years, I have never had the time to stop and explore it and the adjacent Broad Street (once-a-station!) since I worked at these places as an MP (redcap variety!) way back in 1948/49. After that, I worked in an office just across the road off Bishopsgate (New Street). So before Tansy arrived, I had some time to explore Liverpool Street Station and the Broad station area. I found the latter to be completely different from when I knew it. There was now a circular area with a perimeter of eating and drinking establishments. I went to New Street and found there was a Tesco shop nearby and that Teetgen’s coffee and teashop on the corner of New Street had gone. I used to work as a clerk and general dogsbody for a small import/export firm (the boss and three staff). But there is another story there. The door in New Street was chock-a-block with rubbish. I still remember Thursdays when Teetgen’s had a grand coffee roasting day and the aroma came up the goods lift-shaft into our little workshop-cum-office above. New Street has a City of London Police barracks and the street was usually packed with police vans – it still is after all these years although the vans are very different, of course. At the corner down New Street there used to be a dingy alley leading to a dingy courtyard with some tall warehouses set around it. This is Devonshire Square. Now there is a respectable archway leading into some splendid courtyard gardens with fountains. I went through another arch into more gardens and a really splendid sculpture in metal – a knight in armour on a horse. The horse has blue glass “eyes” in the sides – perhaps they are lit at night? An interesting story on a plaque about King Edgar? in 9xx? giving some land to 12 knights on certain conditions or tasks being completed. The warehouses are still there although some look fairly modern and are now probably expensive apartments or offices. Thence into Houndsditch – and back across Bishopsgate and through my old lunch-eating/resting area in the churchyard of St Botolph’s Without – a much improved place now. Back through another much improved arcade of shops to the railway station for coffee at Macdonalds and some leisurely people watching. So much has changed – my old police office (and temporary bedroom if it was too late to get back to my bed in The Tower of London) all gone.

The grand staff dining-room (in a disused Central Line tunnel) and a gymnasium had all disappeared. I switched back to the old police duties and helped a young girl (Italian?) with the trains. She, with hands waving over her head, wanted the “Overhead Railway” – after some confusion with the Dock Light Railway, I eventually realised she meant “overhead” as opposed to “underground” and got her to the correct train for Chingford.

 Tansy arrived on time and we walked back ito Devonshire Square. Tansy was surprised that this place was so close and thought it a good place for her to wait if trains to Romford were delayed. From there we walked along Cutler Street and St Mary Axe to look at some churches (with Saxon saint’s names) and through Leadenhall Market – I intended getting lunch at a place called Wrap Bar in Bull’s Head Passage where I had lunched with Isobel in January 2003. But ’twas the wrong time of day and everywhere was packed with city workers. We found a little Italian café and lunched on tomatoes, cheese, bread soaked in olive oil and delicious caf. . – that was a slip – I intended writing coffee!

Thence to Cornhill to see a church (St Peter’s – next to St Michael’s). St Peter’s church is hidden behind buildings and now has to be reached through Peters Alley and is no longer a church but a youth place and was shut. The reason for this visit was that years ago, on my way to take a Civil Service exam, I wandered in there and was delighted with the decorations – white, Wedgewood blue and gold. I went home and decided to redecorate our little cramped bathroom (at Runwell – Wickford). I built false brackets of plaster and arches and a mosaic decor in the blue, white and gold. Just a reminder for Tansy of when the girls were young and their Dad had a mad artistic streak.

Next we went down to Fish Sreet where we climbed The Monument. I had my doubts about this climb (I was just 75!) but took it slowly and was fine – I had taken Tansy there when she was a young girl (about 6 years old) and Sylvia had taken Isobel to Guy’s for a heart operation. A good bright day today so we got some very good views. Then down again to collect our climbing certificates and along past the old fish market to The Tower of London (another former residence of mine, as you know – yet another story).

Tansy and Arthur at the Tower of London – 8th September 2004 (054001)

We went along the quay and explored St Katharine’s Dock – now a marina area with six sailing barges (one of which I have seen at Maldon) and lots of expensive boats and apartments. Tansy had never been here before. Thence back along a footpath above The Tower moat to point out “my window” and to get a boat to Westminster. A very good trip with a commentary from the boatman (it was not a cruise boat but one of the real London Guild Watermen). We heard very witty and humorous comments about the buildings seen and full of political comments. He took us just beyond Westminster bridge and explained a lot about the buildings. We disembarked there and walked over the bridge and all along the south bank to London Bridge stopping for a drink and a long chat and rest. From there we walked over to the north bank and so back to Charing Cross. Up to The Strand where at the Vaudeville Theatre Tansy collected tickets for the evening show of The Stomp. We had an hour to wait for that so we went to Covent Garden for a snack of really good hot Cornish pasties.

The Stomp

I enjoyed the show – very noisy but very rhythmic which suited me. Eight performers making music from various articles – yard-brooms, plastic tubes, matchboxes, sand, newspaper and plastic bags, old water tub drums, sink plungers, etc. It was very comic and interactive with the audience. Isobel and Andrew had been with Verity and some friends but Verity’s reaction was that it was “Boring!” She thought it was to be a play and didn’t understand what was happening. Not very high class but quite entertaining.

And so back to Liverpool Street and to our respective homes. A good day out – with time to talk with Tansy – I had not had that chance for a long time – but very tiring (I got up at 5.0am that morning and was to bed well after midnight) – but oh joy! no need to get up early the next day. Many memories revived of my very early morning walks during breaks from switchboard duties in Faraday Building (Queen Victoria Street). And all those newspaper offices that were then in Fleet St where I used to watch the papers being rushed off in trucks – all gone! And that is yet another story! Perhaps one day I will get to write of this telephone work – the booking of all trunk telephone calls – the Irish Service – the Royal Board, the first time of being able to dial to other towns and cities, etc. etc.

Enough is sufficient. As Verity said “Boring!”


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