Day 4

Scandal in the City: Frog Rape, Illegal Dildo Towers and Felonious Deliveries

On today’s walk, the sun was shining the entire time and, with the fresh chill in the air, I thoroughly enjoyed the day out. It was a very relaxing, 4.20-mile walk on one of our first crisp, Autumn days and that, my friends, just can’t be beat.

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The City

If you have been in the City on Saturday or Sunday, you know that it’s desolate. Empty empty empty. Only 7,375 people actually live in the City of London (though over 380,000 work there during the day!), a density of about 6,585 people per square mile (it’s actually a titch bigger than its “square mile” nickname suggests). London’s average density is more than double that at 13,410 per square mile. It’s a difference you can instantly see and feel. Streets are barren and shops are closed.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having the streets to myself sometimes. There’s something quite comforting about spending an afternoon entirely on my own. But is London London without a bit of hustle and bustle? Isn’t that the heart of this great city? Its people and their comings and goings? Today, however, I came to terms with the fact that 29% of the City’s life is represented by these slow days and, as such, they deserve a place in the exploration process. Plus, let’s not forget how much easier it is to find a seat for lunch! And so, the City weekends will remain on the walking schedule.

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Wide Open Spaces

Fred Cleary clearly must have spent ample time in this area during the frantic, crowded working week as his passion was for creating open space within the City. How do I know that? From this sign, of course!

Ok, ok, I did some googling after my walk as well but, for someone with a garden named after him (more about that below), it’s remarkably hard to find much more information outside of “he was famous for his philanthropy and love of gardens”.  Nonetheless, Mr. Cleary, those of us who have enjoyed a lunchtime break surrounded by greenery outside our office would like to thank you for your contribution.

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Cleary Gardens

When walking into Clearly Gardens, the most outstanding thing was the smell. Not only did the air not smell like a dirty, pissy City alley, it actually emitted the most delicate, floral aroma I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in a while. According their site, this is an intentional tribute to the wine tradition of the area “evoked by sensory flowers, shrubs and climbers, suggesting bouquets of wine”. If that’s not direct enough, there’s also a miniature vineyard thrown into the mix.

The garden flows down a series of three terraces, each revealing a bit of London history: the first was damaged by bombings in WWII, the second is accessed through a medieval stairway and the third covers the remains of a Roman bath. It’s also got some great little secrets (up to and including an insect hotel) scattered throughout.

Odd Place of the Day

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Today’s bizarre street message: “Satan’s illegal dildo tower”. In case that description isn’t devily enough, the authors have also been sure to put a giant 666 and 13 above the moniker. I don’t know if it’s because the offended see the tower itself as phallic (it isn’t – either that or it’s the most terrifying erection I’ve ever seen) or if it is in reference to the giant, dildo-shaped stain they wrote the title over. The mystery remains. I am also still curious as to the need for the yellow shoes. Wicked Witch of the West? We may never know.

My Commitment to the Cause

I have vowed to walk down every street in central London and I am sticking to it. As I mentioned before, it’s not always pretty, it’s not always a pleasant aroma and, well, it’s maybe not even always safe. But a challenge is a challenge!

Such is my commitment to the cause that today I had to enter a 15-foot square makeshift urinal off Garlick Hill – it had a street sign so it counted (at least there wasn’t actually someone peeing there at the moment). The things I do for London. Sigh.

I often neglect to take photos of these unattractive places, opting instead to capture the beauty of our great city. I mean, ugly places are ugly, right? It can seem like there’s nothing to be gained by sharing them. However, I thought maybe its time to give you a few snapshots of another face of London. (As an aside, if you’re the type who likes dereliction, check out this great photographer!)

Despite their gorgeous entrances, many of your favourite places are not remotely appealing behind the scenes. In fact, some of them are complete shit holes. You may never set foot back there but the loading docks, rubbish bins and industrial access are where many Londoners spend the majority of their working week. These people increase our enjoyment of the city just as much as Fred Cleary did, the difference being they’ll never get a plaque to show it.

I’d also like to give a shout out to all the security guards sitting at the front desks of big, empty, locked office blocks every single weekend. They must get through a LOT of books.

Here are some shots of London’s rear end:


The good part about the less-than-appealing places is that they are often right behind some really lovely spots. Turn around from the shot above and you get the scene below: St. Benets Hill with St Paul’s peeking at you from a distance.

River Scenes

A fair bit of today’s walk followed the Thames. I love that river. I just can’t get enough of it. I’ve seen the view over and over but it calms my soul every time. High tide, low tide, busy, empty, choppy or still, it centres me. With the changing season, it had even more personality today.

The sundial below is not technically “of” the river but it is on the Thames path. I liked that it has markings for both standard time and British Summer Time so those too lazy to add 1 can still tell the time.

Silly Signs

As always, a couple of signs that made me giggle.

The Black Friar 

I enjoyed lunch today at The Blackfriar. A GORGEOUS Art Nouveau masterpiece of a pub on the north end of Blackfriars bridge. This tiny wedge of a building, built on the site of a former Blackfriar monastery, tucks neatly in the corner just north of Blackfriars Bridge and is covered inside with depictions of monks taking part in simple tasks such as singing carols, collecting eels and boiling an egg. It’s one of those pubs you walk into and immediately feel grateful for having done so.

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Among all these jolly friars is a depiction I found mildly disturbing. Next to the fireplace, this goblin seems to be having his way with a not-so-grateful-or-willing frog.

Lovers of London

During my wanders, I’ve delighted in the fact that a fine group of fellow walkers are constantly crossing my path. Dickens, Johnson, Boswell and Pepys are among the most well-walked (or at least well-documented) Londoners in its history. They all enjoyed wandering through the streets with no aim in mind, letting the city reveal itself to them as it saw fit. When I read Dickens, I love that he describes the paths his characters walk from place to place. He peppers London landmarks and street names throughout his work, allowing well-walked readers the joy of envisioning streets they know well in entirely different times. Boswell takes long strolls between his lascivious romps, making his tales doubly rich with intrigue. I love finding markers pointing out these gentlemen’s whereabouts. I feel as if we are exploring the city together across time.

A similar feeling of comradery arises when I see the Knowledge Boys and Girls zipping through London every day. I immensely admire the dedication to London these people have. I hope one day to be among their ranks. To know London as intimately as they do is a pretty wonderful life experience. I don’t have any pictures to share of these lovely folk but I’ll add them as soon as I do!

I Need Your Help! 

Last but not least, meet ______, my new walking companion! I need help choosing a name for this lovely new assistant. Share your ideas in the comments below 🙂

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See You Next Time

I saw this street from across the way today and I am looking forward to finding out what lies around the corner. See you there!!!

For today’s walking map, visit http://www.mapmywalk.com/workout/384067909

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