I really enjoyed today’s 5.41 mile walk through this part of Old Street/Clerkenwell. I think what I liked best was that it’s a neighbourhood I’ve never really had much reason to wander through. I’ve been in the neighbourhood it many many times but have never had a purpose for visiting this chunk of London specifically. It’s definitely worth the exploration though if you’re looking for somewhere to wander. Follow the link at the bottom of the post for the map!
Green Space of the Day
The photo below appears to be of a large house impeding the view of a giant obelisk in the distance. Don’t be fooled. What you’re actually looking at is St. Luke’s Church, a bizarre architectural blend of the two. The mismatched tower rises to what seems like a top-heavy height from the building below, and thanks to the green spaces, playgrounds and parking lots scattered around the neighbourhood, it is visible all over the place.
This old Anglican church (1733 for the historians out there) is now home to the London Symphony Orchestra. The LSO’s schedule includes open rehearsals, workshops, youth programmes, musical story times, and professional performances. Check out the calendar next time you’re in the area to get in on this lively music scene.
Because the church was built on swampy land, it has settled over the centuries, leaving it with wonky windows like the ones below. Not too bad for 280 years though.
If music isn’t your thing, surely the back gardens will entice you into visiting. I’d personally like to believe every day is a good day for a picnic, but considering the recent drop in temps this might be better for a nice afternoon stroll. With mittens. And hot chocolate.
The theme of the day definitely had to be houses, specifically council estates. Annoyingly, I didn’t really notice this trend until most of the way through the walk. Because of that fact, I also didn’t take enough photos to give you the real feel of the contrasts either. For shame. Lesson learned for next time.
So while housing was a big part of today’s walk, it will be a fairly limited part of this post. Suffice to say, there is a remarkable range of options in the very small part of town I covered today. From run down, concrete estates bearing the scars of house fires (the unburned bits still actively lived in) to old stables recycled into gorgeous mews-style flats with crisp white windows and black, iron fittings, this neighbourhood really has it all. Even palm trees.
Near Old Street, I came across a cluster of eye-related buildings (Moorfields Eye Hospital with Richard Desmond’s Children’s Eye Centre, City University Eye Clinic and the Institute of Ophthalmology, to name a few) and it got me thinking about emergence. A few years ago, Radiolab did a great podcast about the theory of emergence and its role in cities. If you’ve ever wondered why Brick Lane is famous for Indian food, why Chancery Lane is lawyer central or why Covent Garden is full of street performers, this is the topic for you.
Isn’t it interesting that certain parts of town develop particular specialties and interests? I find that immensely fascinating. Surely, in terms of competition and access to resources, it’s in the best interest of all involved for similar businesses and trades to spread themselves osmotically out of their relatively small bubble and more evenly across the city. That’s never how it works though, is it? Everything happens in clusters.
In terms of the Congestion Zone project, every walk so far has revealed some distinctive characteristic of the neighbourhood I’m exploring. Themes develop during the day and those are what guide what I share with you. And, across the 12 days so far, certain trends are emerging that could lead to quite interesting discussions of London as a whole at the end of this project. I don’t know about you but I really love that.
As for this neighbourhood specifically, certain themes have certainly emerged over the last few walks.
Here are the ones that continue to stand out.
Day 10 was famous for its colourful cable boxes. These fabulous bursts of happy continued throughout today’s walk. They tend to refer to buildings they are close to like schools, sports clubs and community centres.
I particularly liked the one below, which, if you’ve wandered the streets enough to figure it out, will reveal itself as a very cute and clever little map of the area. Isn’t that lovely?
You know how I feel about street art, particularly space invaders!
And I love this guy. I especially enjoy how the artist used the windows as frames for the gardener’s glasses.
Back on Day 10, we met the English Hedonists and life hasn’t been the same since. Ok, their makers seem to only be on Whitecross Street but I am fully in favour of them spreading like VD throughout the city. If you or anyone you know knows them, please thank them for making my day. Twice.
This one is slightly tough to read because my camera seems to be struggling with zoom these days. Here’s the transcription:
Priss Fotheringham – Lived here and was ranked the second best whore in the city, “The Wand’ring Whore” 1660.
She may have had other traits she’d rather be remembered for but, considering the level of competition in this industry at that time, second best isn’t too shabby.
A second hedonistic plaque came my way today when I happened across this Stussy office.
Boy, did this logo bring back memories. I am sure the brand has moved on but, in my day, it was the very definition of scrawny teenagers drowning in heavy, black trousers that could house a small family. Yes it was ridiculous but, in it’s defence at least they were able to keep their trousers on their waists, not hanging off their asses!
Ahem. I digress.
Back to the hedonism.
I remember two things about Stussy.
1) My neighbour had a big fat yellow lab named Stussy and I adored her.
2) I grew up in a painfully conservative state associated with a ridiculously uptight religion so the main thing I remember about Stussy is that, according to these folk, if you wore this brand you were supporting the devil.
As with all conspiracy theories it requires an open mind (and maybe even poor eyesight) but apparently if you turn the logo at an angle and squint a little the signature spells “Satanism” (the letters are basically stacked on top of each other) and it also hides a pentagram. If you are looking for proof, here’s a thread which might even help you find the “I am gay” message also lurking in this evil scribble.
THE LOCAL’s LOCAL
Well folks, that’s about all for today. If you happen to be in the area, my last suggestion would be to visit the Britannia pub. Imagine your most local of country pubs around which an international metropolis sprouted. They’re trying the best they can to keep themselves to themselves and it seems to kind of be working. It’s the kind of place where everyone will look at you when you walk in to see if you belong. You don’t. Just remember to avoid the fatal mistake of chewing gum on premises.
See you next time!
190 days until the Congestion Zone Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.