It’s been a strange mix of lunches this week. I’ve tried to fit in quite a lot and, consequently, there’s been no common theme I can hang this post on. I’ve had errands to run, cheap bananas to buy from Leather Lane Market, not to mention some snaffling of offcuts from Pie Minster, Yogi Bear style, and I’ve gone for a bit of a run. All of this has allowed me to cast my eyes over the city though.
Every time I go out, I try to see something new or interesting. If there is any common theme, it seems to have been stained glass windows and worshipful companies. Where I work, by St. Paul’s, there seem to be very many halls dedicated to these livery companies (most can be privately booked, it seems). And the ones I’ve passed don’t half love a stained glass window.
Turns out that stationer’s is one of a long list of words whose meaning has subtly changed over the years. Far from being mere purveyors of staples, the stationers used to be book and manuscript sellers and this proud livery company then accepted printers too, eventually. Well now you know.
I went to St. Andrew’s Holborn on Wednesday. It’s just opposite the Sainsbury’s offices and as well as there being a nice stained glass window…
…they also have a dedicated listener who’s sits from 1 till 3 every day in case you want to talk. I did consider it but the silence in a large church brimming with 3 church staff and a sleeping homeless man is absolutely deafening. I stood and looked around for a good 10 minutes. No sound. I shuffled my feet just to check I hadn’t gone deaf.
Shoe Lane Library also got a visit. And why not, with such an array of titles?
Whilst browsing through the mass of books on refrigeration techniques, I stumbled upon a pamphlet advertising the free exhibition at the Maughan Library, Weston Room entitled “Ploughing the Sea: Latin American Observed”. The title is taken from a Simón Bolivar quote, “He who serves a revolution ploughs the sea”. Which I think means it’s a bit tricksy. I’ve seen every one of Michael Palin’s round the world programmes, so I consider myself quite the expert on the latin continent and thought it would be a good lunch trip. I set a date with P for Friday.
The Maughan Library is a huge, imposing neo-gothic building off Chancery Lane. The instructions on the library pamphlet said that I would need ID and a printed ticket filled out with my name, address and where I heard about the exhibition. Unfortunately, I’d left my wallet at home so all I had was my liylh membership card and 80 pence. I tried to appear foreign and flustered, P cheerily mouthed something about the exhibition. The well-dressed security man took one look at us, and with a generous wave of his hand, gestured us through and gave us directions.
As an exhibition, it looks a bit underwhelming. Five raised glass cases sit forlornly in a room big enough for thirty. But the visit is worth it to see the room itself. The entire floor is mosaic, the 30-40 foot ceilings are lined with intricate stained glass,
and the walls have a number of monuments complete with black skulls and cannon shot.
What is in the glass cases is worth a look. Eyewitness accounts of initial trips to the Americas, including the first Englishman’s, Thomas Gage; a sketch of the intended layout of Buenos Aires; a spotter’s guide to indigenous peoples, a 1982 full colour English book on the Falklands War (flanked with a similar sized pamphlet entitled “Las Malvinas son Argentinas”; and a copy of Graham Greene’s Mexico account (The Lawless Roads) that would inform his later work, ‘The Power and the Glory’. I’m obviously just whistle-stopping through the things that stuck out for me but there is some other interesting stuff there.
We then left, making sure we got a snap of the statue of Confucius bafflingly displayed in the gardens opposite.
And strolling through Lincoln’s Inn Fields, ostensibly to try and find somewhere for P to buy me a coffee that he owed me*, we ended up having a look in the Lincoln’s Inn Chapel. The stone steps that lead from the cloister to the raised chapel seem forbidding, but seeing as nobody was stopping us, we went on…and what do you know…more stained windows. Who would have thought?
The Chapel seems amazingly tall, but quite tiny. It was allegedly designed by Inigo Jones. The windows are lovely, especially one at the back. It shows the crests of the treasurer’s of the chapel with the years they served. Now in times gone by, many of these distinguished men would have had ancient family crests handed down to them throughout the generations. But in this modern world, that’s not always the case. Social mobility and immigration must mean that not everyone can be counted on to offer up their shield when required. So what do you do? Well, you make it up. Preferably by getting a mate to mock up an image of a labrador as a windsurfer.
*I didn’t get the coffee.