Wow! Just over six months since my last visit, and how things have changed. But those of you who follow me regularly will know I’ve not been idle as I have just launched a crowdfunding site to publish my book – Memories from The End Of The Line. Go here and take a look, and if you like what you see, I tempt you to pre-order your copy.
Six months to write, edit, re-edit, proofread, design and find a printer, and now it’s all ready to go. Have a sneak preview of my book on my YouTube channel and see what you think.
As well as a return to travelling, today’s the day I get to try out a new lens that has been collecting dust since Christmas. A Canon 10-18 mm wide-angle zoom. It complements my 18-200 Sigma zoom nicely, and I’m eager to try out its ability to capture cityscapes…more to follow, no doubt.
In my early London days wandering London, I’d often get lost looking for this station. I thought my sense of direction was quite good, but the streets of London don’t follow convention as they meander, twist and turn so that the unexpected visitor can find themselves somewhere surprising. And that’s despite trying to follow the signs to the station.
But after some time, in my case almost 30 years, I’ve got wise to where it is, and I can almost make my way there uninterrupted. Of course, the cheats way is to jump on a train going to the station, and hey presto, there you are.
It’s the main rail route for commuters travelling to The City from East London and the shores of Essex, travelling through Barking to Grays, Tilbury, Southend and Shoeburyness in its colourful pinky-purple livery. I’m sure there’s an official name for the colour, though.
The station is on a raised platform that cuts a swathe through The Minories in Aldgate, so the platform view is mixed. Close to the terminus, there are views of carefully architectured high rise City buildings. Further along the platform, you get a glimpse of The Tower of London. Further still, there’s the stretch of railway lines that spews into the City.
It has no direct connection with the London underground network, but it is only a five-minute walk (of course, you need to know where you’re going) from Tower Gateway on the DLR and the Circle Line at Tower Hill. A visit here is worth the five-minute walk to admire the Sundial sculpture by Tanya Russell.
The 81/2 metre sculpture is on the viewing platform overlooking The Tower, outside the underground station. There’s an inscription saying that the sundial is correct to within 16 minutes depending on the time of year, and as I was reading it, I heard a nearby clock tower bells chime at 2pm, and lo and behold, it was almost spot-on.
A quiet city
Despite some easements of the Covid pandemic lockdown restrictions, the area immediately surrounding the station was empty. Even at lunchtime, I counted only three people sitting in the small piazza outside the station. A seated area, I would imagine on a ‘normal day’, would have been crowded with office workers stretching their legs from the towering office buildings around.
Walking through and under the station’s arches was somewhat surreal. Those with an active imagination, or possibly having played too many zombie games, could imagine this to be a post-apocalyptic London.
The beauty of exploring such a historical city is that you just don’t know what you’re going to find. Let alone the history that sits behind it. For example, three place names sit side by side: French Ordinary Court, St Katherine’s Row and Crutched Friars. Read this excellent blog by IanVisits, which explains some of the meanings and purpose behind these names.
There’s a well-known pub, the Cheshire Cheese, under the arches in Crutched Friars, which you would expect to see full of city workers enjoying themselves at any time of day. But today, it’s all shut up as part of the restrictions. Even though they could be serving outside, the fact there are very few city workers would not make it financially viable to trade. However, their doors did promote a re-opening on the 17th of May, which is the next scheduled day for easements to begin. I wish them well.
Even the area surrounding the old Stock Exchange building in Bank is devoid of traffic and people. The roads are cordoned off to create wider cycle lanes, but still there are few cyclists about. In fact, there were few buses too, and no road traffic and minimal office workers. It’s an unnatural scene and one that I suspect may stay for a while, despite the forthcoming easements.
However, I took advantage of the quiet roads and explored the parade of shops surrounding the old Stock Exchange building. High-end fashionable brands entice the bankers and traders, and although open, there is no passing custom. I can’t begin to imagine how traders have existed over the last year. Nevertheless, the shops presented a visual delight as I admired the awning symmetry; I did have to stand in the middle of the road to get the best shot.
Picture of the Day – the City of London
This picture, in some way for me, epitomises London’s colours and beauty. And the fact that it’s almost devoid of people symbolises the moment in time when an invisible terror emptied London.
The City is (was?) the financial heart of London and the UK. Colloquially known as ‘the square mile’ and is by right a city, a ceremonial county and a local government district. And those familiar with London will know the City demarks its boundary with its symbolic heraldry. And this is what I’ve captured here, interlaced with Royal Mail postal boxes.
There was a humorous moment when I took this shot as an unmarked police mini was travelling up the road, with its siren blaring and blue lights flashing. It was, I suspect, blindly following a sat nav, or an old map, as it suddenly turned as if trying to go down the path now blocked. A few seconds later, blue lights and siren off, it limps back down the road.
- Location: Outside Fenchurch Street Station, where London Street meets New London Street
- Date/Time: Monday 26th April 2021 12:45 pm
- Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 16mm; Film Speed – ISO100
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