Me birthday! “so-and-so and 42 other people posted on your wall!” yes, ladeez and gents, today is a busy day on the ol’ Facebook wall.
Went to Brick Lane, just didn’t find anything, the seller I was looking for, the lady with the sweaters and jackets for 2 and 3 pounds was not there. Got my salmon and cream cheese fix at Brick Lane Beigel Bakery though. So goooooooodddd.
Then to Camden for the charity shops, didn’t find what I wanted there either. Good day for the pocketbook. Then to Fleet Street, in search of an ancient old pub called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Frequented by Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Teddy Roosevelt, and others. Re-built in 1667. Not built, mind you. Re-built.
Since I was fool enough not to have my camera with me, here’s your verbal description.
Get off the bus at Charing Cross Station. That area has the sense of being an artery of London: right next to Trafalgar, the buses and the cabs and the cyclists in an endless stream towards Westminster, the Abbey, the houses of Parliament, Whitehall, and the rest. Turn onto the Strand, past the toweringly gothic Royal Courts of Justice, daring you to break the law and get away with it. Past the crescent shape of Aldwych, full of weathered stone. The road narrows. Now you’re on Fleet Street.
Walk. Walk. Walk. Stay on the left side, this place is easy to miss. Kind of. The sign is a simple white thing with black trim, looking like the top of a lamppost, with the name written on all four sides. There is no entry in the front.
Step into the tiny dark alleyway on the left side. The onion layers of time fall off, a sensation of timewarp, especially at dusk. The cobbles are old, and the only light is the one above the pub’s door. It is closed, naturally, it’s nighttime on a Sunday. The building’s dark wood walls bow out, leaning over you. Forbidding. Black. Silent. A posting near the windowless door lists the monarchs the pub has survived,the paper yellowed, probably been there since Elizabeth II came in. There’s no one with you. At least, no one you can see.
You know all those tales about London? Sweeney Todd? Jack the Ripper and the rest? All the gruesome, horror-laced ghosty yarns? They don’t hold much water in broad daylight, in front of the lions guarding Lord Nelson, with a million people flooding around you, safe as can be.
All you have to do is step into certain alleyways, wander a bit after nightfall and something whispers out the walls and paving stones and makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up with all the ancient stories it could tell. London is a different creature at night. Keeping secrets, warning you lest you become just a secret like all the rest.
No place like it.
P.S. Stella Artois makes excellent cider.