Well THAT’s more like it!
After an abundance of Lackington Streets on Day 8, I’ll admit I was pretty nervous I’d have another “meh” kind of walk. That was certainly NOT the case today! Day 9 was fantastic. Perhaps even the best day of walking so far. A big statement, I know.
I love having days that are so unique they’ll never happen again. Today was one of those days: walking into shops and having a laugh with the owners, enjoying street art that will be gone when the sun rises tomorrow and basking in the warmth of a gorgeous, unpredicted Autumn day. Heaven.
So Where was this spectacular walk?
Now that I’ve told you that the day was amazing, I’m sure you’ll want to know where it was so you can go there yourself (and please, for the love of God, go there!). Well, the answer is, I don’t really know. That is to say, the area suffers from multiple personalities. Is it Old Street, Shoreditch, Hoxton or Hackney?
Let me give you an example of my confusion. Within a stone’s throw of Old Street roundabout is this place:
with this on the rubbish bin outside
It seems no one really knows what they want to be called. The safest bet to be officially correct is the all-encompassing “Hackney” but that doesn’t feel quite right for this area. My London sense wants to call it Shoreditch, so we’ll go with that.
A BIT ABOUT SHOREDITCH
It’s a long post today (mostly filled with pictures though!) so I’ll just give you a rough background.
The name Shoreditch most likely comes from the name “Sewer Ditch” because of a drain or river in the area. Here’s a description of the neighbourhood from 1596:
“… base tenements and houses of unlawful and disorderly resort’ and the ‘great number of dissolute, loose, and insolent people harboured in such and the like noisome and disorderly houses, as namely poor cottages, and habitations of beggars and people without trade, stables, inns, alehouses, taverns, garden-houses converted to dwellings, ordinaries, dicing houses, bowling alleys, and brothel houses.” (Middlesex Justices in 1596 cited in: Schoenbaum 1987: 126).
The area was not always rough and ramshackle. It did play host to the thriving textile and furniture industries for a while. But after they died off or moved away, the neighbourhood became poor again and was infamous for its crime, prostitution, and poverty.
I don’t know about you, but this all sounds like the makings of a great art scene to me…
THE OLD WAVE
When I saw this “plaque” (if you’re not sure what I mean by plaque, you’re distracted by the man pooping. Yes, poop is always funny. But there’s more to this photo, people!) I thought the author was having a laugh but it turns out it’s actually true! Well, mostly at least. I can’t vouch that the theatre was at this exact location (but it was right near here on Curtain Road. Sadly, I somehow missed the real plaque) and I can’t find anything that says Shakespeare himself acted on stage in these plays but perhaps this historian knows more than a quick internet search can reveal.
The Curtain Theatre was, in fact, the debut location for Romeo & Juliet and Henry V and is referred to in the later play as “this wooden O”. This was the second theatre built by James Burbage after The Theatre (the first successful theatre in England) just 200 yards away from The Curtain. In 1599, The Theatre was dismantled and its timbers were taken to the south bank to build the famous Globe Theatre. It’s all so very interesting, isn’t it!
Fun fact of the day: Is Curtain Road named after The Curtain Theatre that lived there or vice versa? As I did, you may think the theatre came first (naming itself after this typical theatre fixture). Noperino. The street name indicated it ran along the curtain wall of the city. Whip that one out at your next party.
THE NEW WAVE
One of the best parts of today was the street art. It’s everywhere and it’s fabulous. I know essentially nothing about this world but that doesn’t stop me from loving it immensely. There’s something about stumbling across a great big, happy piece like this in an otherwise uninteresting street…
…or fighting a dinosaur in a back alley that just makes my day.
Below is a sampling of some artwork I saw on my stroll.
Here’s another one of his just because they’re fun.
If you’re interested in street art like this, you might like Alternative Tours’ daily walk around this very area. Though it seems the artists don’t all approve of the concept:
NEED AN ABANDONED LETTER OR A DEPRESSED LION?
Two shops made me very happy today: Glyphics and Westland London. Conveniently, they are right across the street from each other.
Glyphics specialises in signs of every variety. What caught my eye though was their storefront full of recycled letters. Here are a few I particularly liked.
The very friendly and helpful guy there told me they first got the idea when they had a pile of letters sitting around from their own signs they had altered or removed. Over time, people found out about the shop and have donated or sold letters they’ve had to get rid of. I know we’ve all run into that problem at some point in our lives.
So next time you have an extra curly Q or, heaven forbid, a GIANT ampersand taking up space in your living room, you’ll know where to go.
The second shop, Westland London, is equally as eclectic but in a totally different way. Firstly, it’s run out of a big, old, English Heritage church. So there’s that. Secondly, it’s filled with all kinds of crazy antique bits and bobs recycled from renovated buildings and, I would imagine, estate sales. Thirdly, they had a very special brand of American oldies playing (aka Perry Como) which created the perfect atmosphere as it wiggled it’s way around the place. Here’s the very song, so you can get the full experience as you check out the photos. Hot diggity!
Shedloads of Salad
I took today’s lunch break at a very cute cafe, in a shed, in a back courtyard. As you do.
The Taylor Street Shed is very charming and makes a mean veg salad (for only £4!!). I say mean because I cruelly took the last one of the day. Worker after hungry worker came in longing for it and were dismayed to hear there weren’t any left. They turned to leave, broken hearted, only to catch my eye, butternut squash a mere millimetre from my lips as I smiled in that apologetic yet guarding-the-salad kind of way. You know the look.
NEXT UP, A CASTLE
Well, folks. That’s about it for today. It was pretty spectacular. I hope you make your way to Shoreditch to see it for yourself soon.
Not sure what Day 10 will look like but I it may involve something suspiciously castle shaped.