Waterloo Station is full of goodies: beautiful carvings, the memorial to workers who died in the Great War, and a new import from NYC - Kiehl’s Apothecary, with a guest-worker drumming up business outside! There’s always a new high-rise star ascending on the river horizon, but I love the way there are still, as in New York, old buildings to be found nestling at their feet, like the Almshouses in Hopton Street, originally founded 260 years ago by fishmonger Charles Hopton for "poor decayed men of the parish”.
Walking over the Millennium Bridge on a Tuesday in February is a rare opportunity to find it relatively empty. There were smiling Jehovah’s Witnesses at each end handing out Bible-reading material, and in the middle a man begging , hunched in the biting wind in an old anorak, with a few coins in a cap. I stopped to sit and speak with him, and he told me he had been living in a multi-storey garage for 5 years. I try not to take my warm, safe, quiet home for granted, but after shaking his hand and wishing him well, I went on my way doubly grateful.
Just over the bridge, on the right is Salvation Army International HQ. I’ve written before about my affection for the Army, but I was aiming on this occasion to have lunch in their cafe, about which I’d heard good things. It was bright, airy, WIFI provided, and the fresh wholesome food was very reasonably priced. Recommended, if you’re visiting the Tate, St Paul’s or the Globe Theatre, and want to meet someone for a coffee or light meal in relaxed surroundings.
Back across the Bridge to meet my group for their transfer to Trafalgar Square, and en route saw the house, two doors down from the Globe Theatre, still a private residence, which is the subject of Gillian Tindall’s excellent non-fiction micro-history book The House by the Thames.
I also nipped off to look at eminent 18th and 19th century portraits (mostly men) - including Josiah Wedgewood (one of the Lunar Men - for their story, read Jenny Uglow), and an early transvestite, the Chevalier D’Eon, plus a lovely painting of Kitty Fisher. The National Portrait Gallery is one of my favourites - a manageable visit and a definite must-see whenever the BP Portrait award is on.
It’s my birthday soon, so rather than a present I’ve asked for a day in the Smoke, looking at something new. Can’t wait!