Mentioned in posting 364...the statue of Edith Cavell
In this blogposting…
* London and Me


...will take place at 1100 tomorrow morning (Wednesday 19 September) at Pret a Manger, by Grey’s Monument in Newcastle.

Interestingly, the Met Office predicts that, although the temperature in Newcastle tomorrow will be 14C, it will ‘feel like 12C or even less’.  So I reckon I’ll be wearing my longjohns, my woolly vest, my Doctor Who scarf and a knitted dut.

And nothing else.

See you tomorrow….



I lived in London for 15 years and have visited it often ever since.  And that’s because I like it so much.  I’ve always thought that it’s a great place to be.  It’s exciting, smart and friendly.  There’s always a lot to see and always a lot going on, as you would expect in one of the greatest cities on Earth.  And didn’t the Olympic Games make it look stupendous!

I reckon we’re very lucky indeed to have a capital city that we can be genuinely proud of and take pleasure in.

But my recent travels - my Grand Tour and my German Journey - have taught me to look at great cities in a new way.  I’ve found that there’s even more to places like Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Barcelona and Lyon then meets the eye.  (Wow - what a list!  I’m such a lucky man!)

I’ve developed a taste for ambling, wandering and exploring places; for turning uncharted corners just to see what I can find.  Yes, I visit the great museums and galleries and walk along famous streets and see celebrated sights.  But I also love to dig up the unexpected, the surprising and the wayward - in typical truckshunter style.

(You can do this anywhere, of course.  Newcastle throws up some splendid little nuggets of curiosity.  One of the first I came across was the Vampire Rabbit, of which I knew nothing until a listener to Paul’s Saturday show called us about it almost 13 years ago.  Another is my wonderful Lit and Phil - the first place in the world to see an electric light.  Nearby Mosley Street was the first street on Earth to be lit by electric lamps.  And there’s more - much more - in our beautiful city.)

Anyway...I spent a few days with my friend Brian in London last week and decided to apply my new approach to tourism while I was there.  I would ferret around a small area of the West End to see what I could find…

Within minutes I’d found the Church of Notre Dame de France, London’s gift to its French inhabitants.  It’s just yards from the sometimes overwhelming tourist bustle of Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Soho.  And it’s a perfect little gem of tranquillity and repose amidst the throngs.
The original church was bombed out in 1940; the present building dates from 1955.  Its lovely - and, for England, very rare - circular nave is breathtaking but its the building’s embellishments which catch the eye.
Above the doorway outside is a grand, angular sculpture of the Virgin of Mercy by the same man who designed the statues on the Palais de Trocadéro in Paris.

And inside there are some really striking murals and mosaics by French film-maker and artist Jean Cocteau.  It’s amongst some of the most exciting and unusual religious art I’ve ever seen.

When we visited the church, there were a few tramps and ‘down-and-outs‘ resting inside.  Nobody moved them on.  Christianity in action, for a change.

If you walk across Leicester Square you come to the National Gallery, the front of which faces Trafalgar Square.  If you walk down the front steps, you’ll find - studded into the bottom step - the official British Imperial Measures spaced out on brass plaques below your feet.  One foot, then two then three - and one link.
 Tourists trying to ignore yours truly

I’ve had to do some research to find out what a 'link' is - or was.  Here goes…

A link is precisely 7.92 inches.  There are 25 links in a rod, 100 in a chain, 1,000 in a furlong and 8,000 in an Imperial Statute Mile.  So now you know.
And trying to find out how many links long I am

The measures were installed in the step in 1876 but I don’t know why.  And no-one seems to know they’re there.  The tourists sitting in the sunshine were naturally curious when we took these photographs.  I’m sure our activities confirmed in many of their minds the stereotypical English tendency for eccentricity and oddness…

On the other side of Trafalgar Square there’s a statue of Charles I on a traffic island.  Behind it, there’s a plaque in the pavement marking the exact centre of London.  All distances to and from the capital are measured precisely to this spot, unnoticed by ‘the foot that passeth by’.  Until someone stands and points at it…..

A few yards away, at 42 Craven Street - an otherwise ordinarily pretty Georgian house - we discovered the private museum of the British Optical Association.  A museum of eyes and eye-stuff!

The two glass cases in the lobby - all you are allowed to see without an appointment - were enough to whet the truckshunter appetite.  On show were some of the world’s most famous spectacles.  From Dr Johnson, Harold Lloyd, C P Snow, Dr Crippen, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ronnie Corbett and Deirdre Barlow to Harry Potter.

It was great fun - the only museum, it boasts, where the exhibits look back at you.  I’ve already made my appointment to be shown around properly…

We ended our tour of London’s special, secret places just a few doors down the street, at number 36.  Incredible though it may seem, this is the house where Benjamin Franklin, no less, invented bifocal glasses in 1790.
How I love London!


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com        

1 comment:

mim said...

Hi Ian,

We were there last week and went to Spitalfields to the market , amazing and the Brick Lane market, also excellent.

I had the best falafel I have ever eaten!

Also went down Fournier street where the historian Dan Cruikshank has a Georgian house!!

We visited the War Rooms which we both enjoyed but it's the bits off the beaten track we both like too.

It's been exciting here in Blyth this past two weeks as they are filming Vera here and Brenda Blethyn has been out and about!

Fame at last!

Margaret x