Sunny for shopping

Yes, it’s Sunday again, the day we do the shopping. Not that I mind; in fact, I quite enjoy it in a strange sort of way.

Baron Street - a fine sunny day
Baron Street – a fine sunny day

Chapel Market lies between us and Sainsbury’s and so we pass through it both going and coming back. This market has always been vigorous and busy with stalls selling good quality products. How well it is attended, especially on Sundays, is a good indicator of the state if the economy.

Chapel Market
Chapel Market
Photo by Tigger

Though there are still not as many stalls in Chapel Market as we would expect on a “normal” Sunday, there seem to be more than in recent weeks. There are a few that were previously missing, such as the stall selling mobile phone accessories. Are these retailers of “non-essential” goods creeping back in as they feel the pinch from the loss of income?

As usual, we arrived early at Sainsbury’s and found a queue stretching from the entrance and round the corner all the way to the bus stop and beyond. During the first lockdown, the store had marked out the pavement at two-metre intervals with yellow and black adhesive tape. These marks are still in place, even if a little worn. We found our mark and waited patiently The pandemic has been a good time to learn patience!

When the queue starts to move, it picks up a surprising turn of speed. I need to take time out, however, to collect a trolley. Tigger hangs our own shopping trolley on it and we enter the store, obediently stopping to squirt sanitiser gel on our hands before proceeding.

Some empty shelves
Some empty shelves
Photo by Tigger

While we managed to find everything we wanted, we couldn’t help noticing that some of the shelves were sparsely stacked or even entirely empty. Does this indicate supply problems (which would be somewhat worrying, especially as we lurch towards Brexit) or that they simply hadn’t managed to finish replenishing the shelves before opening (a not uncommon problem in this branch), I don’t know. Time will tell.

Having completed our purchases and negotiated the checkout, we were free to go home. Once again, we passed through the market.

Traditional market cart
Traditional market cart
Photo by Tigger

Motor vehicles are prohibited from the market and so goods have to be brought to the stalls from lock-up stores or vans parked in nearby streets. Modern wire trolleys of the sort used in supermarkets are used but also a small number of traditional 4-wheeled carts. I would guess that some are over a hundred years old but are still going strong. Often there is the original owner’s name engraved in the sides of the cart.

Interestingly, such carts of still being made to traditional designs – see a number of online sites, including this one.

Stall selling plants and flowers
Stall selling plants and flowers
Photo by Tigger

This large stall in White Conduit Street sells plants and flowers and was very busy with a queue of customers. Has the lockdown induced people to spend more on beautifying their homes where they are forced to spend more time than before? Are plants considered “essential” products, I wonder?

Just out of shot on the right is the shop where I went for our equivalent of “essential products”.

Inside Mercer's
Inside Mercer’s

I refer to Mercer’s, where I went for our takeaway coffees. With these in hand, we made for home.

Why didn’t we go to Jusaka, our usual place for coffee? Because these days they remain closed at the weekend, the amount of trade that they do then not being sufficient to justify staying open – another indicator of the downturn in the economy. It’s going to take hard work and probably some tightening of our belts to set things to rights, if and when we manage to beat the pandemic. Brexit can only make a bad situation worse.

Cycle lane restored

When we ventured out today, it was cold. How cold? Well, when I looked at Tigger, all I could see were her eyes: the rest of her was enwrapped like an Egyptian mummy. If Tigger feels cold then you’d better watch out because that means it’s really cold! It’s the kind of weather when you wear your Covid face mask less for hygienic reasons than to keep your face warm!

Mobile phone masts
Mobile phone masts

As we passed the Doubletree Hotel in Pentonville Road, I noticed the mobile phone masts on the roof. I’ve seen them scores of times before, of course, but for some reason they caught my attention today. Some of us remember a world in which mobile phones had not even been imagined and when strip cartoon detective Dick Tracy with his radio watch was the merest fantasy. Today, though, we take our mobiles for granted and feel aggrieved if ever they fail to work. The phone masts without which they cannot function have become such a familiar feature of the skyline that we barely notice them now.

Bright sky in Myddelton Square
Bright sky in Myddelton Square

As we walked round Myddelton Square, we both noticed a strikingly bright sky above the houses and stopped to photograph it. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rendered well in a photo. A few seconds later, the clouds had shifted and the brightness disappeared.

Church and garden
Church and garden

As we passed the church, we noticed that today the door was closed. No private prayer today, then! It was lucky that we had visited the church when it was open.

Still a pretty sight
Still a pretty sight

We turned into Chadwell Street where I have photographed this garden hedge before. It continues to present a cheerful sight with colourful berries and some white roses still in flower. Later, we even spotted a bee flying around, surely testimony to the strangeness of the weather owing to climate change.

Chadwell Street
Chadwell Street

Chadwell Street is quiet mainly because there is no access for motor vehicles from the main road. The only traffic allowed, except for access from Myddelton Square, is bicycles and pedestrians. It was here that in a previous post I photographed road works where a big hole was being dug. That work is finished and men, machines and barriers have departed.

The repair site
The repair site

The hole had been filled in but there is a detail that amused me. The work had temporarily blocked the official cycle path and cut off part of this cycle symbol. Someone has tried to restore it.

Restoration work
Restoration work

I somehow think this was done by someone other than the official sign painters. The rear wheel is rather lumpy and doesn’t share the same perspective as the front wheel. Still, it’s a reasonable attempt and I don’t think I could do any better!

Man at arms
Man at arms

When we pass the undertaker’s, I always look up at the balcony to see whether the armoured warrior is still there.

Closer view
Closer view

And he always is, standing guard with his lance and pennant in all weathers. Who does he represent and why is he there? I have no idea.

The milliner’s shop
The milliner’s shop

In Arlington Way is a milliner’s shop. There are still such shops to be found but I think their numbers are dwindling. Having to close during lockdown can’t be helping them to survive. What occurred to me, however, was to wonder where the word “milliner” comes from. How is it to related to the making of hats?

The word appears English in the 16th century. It originally designated a merchant from the Italian city of Milan, a city known for the manufacture of fancy goods for women. The word gradually came to be applied more generally to retailers of women’s clothes and latterly hats. For more details, see here.

A casualty in Myddelton Passage
A casualty in Myddelton Passage

In Myddelton Passage, we noticed a casualty. See it on the pavement on the right.

The casualty
The casualty

One of the trees has been cut down, leaving just a stump. The rest of the tree has been removed and even the sawdust has been cleared away, so this is not criminal arboricide but an official action. Perhaps you can see that there are a lot of fungi on the stump, so perhaps the tree was diseased and had to be removed in order not to infect the others. Even so, I feel sorry for the poor thing. Perhaps I’m becoming soft in my old age but I like trees and appreciate those growing in our neighbourhood and hate to see them diseased or damaged. I hope this one will be replaced and that its successor will thrive.

Black cabs are feeling the strain
Black cabs are feeling the strain

There had been a London black cab in Myddelton Passage and it drove off as we left. This reminded me of something I read recently, namely that because of the pandemic, the taxi trade has fallen off badly, so much so that taxi companies have had to take many cabs out of service and find places to park them, even in fields. Some cabbies who own their own cabs have felt obliged to sell them in order to make some money to tide themselves over the crisis.

I rarely travel by taxi but I certainly sympathise with the predicament that cabbies find themselves in, along with practically the whole of the business sector. Let’s hope that with sensible behaviour and the long-hoped-for vaccine, we can turn the situation round and restore some sort of normality for everybody.

If you want to know something about the cab driver’s view of the world, you might like to take a look at Cabbieblog.

To River Place

I had a clinic appointment today in River Place, Islington. It had been a long time coming because the appointments system had been interrupted by the first lockdown and as a result a backlog had built up. I was therefore keen to attend.

Whether or not this was caused by the unusual conditions under which we are currently living, I received not one but several text messages confirming the appointment as well as two letters on paper and, finally, a telephone call yesterday afternoon. They were making sure I didn’t forget to turn up!

There were also instructions: I must not be late or I might not be seen; I must arrive no sooner than 5 minutes before appointment time; and I must wear a face covering while on the premises.

River Place is not far from where we live but, as the old proverb says, “There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip” and, in “normal” times, I would aim to leave in plenty of time in case of unforeseen delays. The problem with that is that it’s a cold, rainy day today and all the places where one could normally spend time waiting – cafes, shops, libraries – are all closed.

Tigger was kind enough to accompany me even though she would not be allowed to come inside with me.

Essex Road
Essex Road

We took a 73 bus, intending to leave it at the stop for Essex Road Station, which is a few yards from my destination. The automatic announcements on the bus were out of sync so we exited the bus a stop too early. Not that it mattered, as we were in plenty of time. Despite the unpleasant weather, we would have to use up the time exploring the area.

Expansive street art
Expansive street art

By the time we arrived at the clinic, there was still half an hour to go before they would let me in, so we set out to wander the streets. Just round the corner from the clinic are two seats. Someone has had the idea of brightening up the neighbourhood by not only painting the seats but painting the wall and the pavement as well.

Miniature art - squirrel
Miniature art – squirrel

Street art usually consists of large to huge paintings in prominent positions high up on walls. Just occasionally, one comes across tiny paintings at ground level. Tigger pointed out this squirrel to me, sited right at the bottom of a wall.

The Ivories
The Ivories

We turned into Northampton Street and spied this striking Art Deco building. It is too big to be able to photograph it from the front in this narrow street.

Entrance, the Ivories
Entrance, the Ivories

It looks as though it is really two buildings joined together. It advertises office accommodation for hire. I haven’t been able to find out any date or history for it. Perhaps something will turn up.

River Walk
River Walk

Northampton Street runs into Canonbury Grove wherein we find a park or garden called River Walk.

River Place… River Walk… Do you see a pattern forming here? 🙂

These names derive from the fact that our old friend the New River runs along here. I have mentioned Hugh Myddelton’s noteworthy creation many times before and don’t need to explain it again here. Much of its length is now, sadly, covered over but ever and anon it breaks the surface and runs in the open air for a while as a proper river should. As it does here.

The New River
The New River

Here is another view of it in this small park. Looks idyllic, doesn’t it? And so it is, if you ignore the built-up area pressing in close by.

Roundhouse
Roundhouse

Also in the park is this mysterious circular building. Its windows and door are shuttered and there is no indication of its use or history. It looks quite old snd must have been built to fulfil some purpose but what that was is no longer obvious.

Astley Row
Astley Row

We left River Walk and entered this road or lane which I think is called Astley Row. It made me a little nervous as, from here, I could see no end to it and was worried that it might be a detour and make me late for my appointment. It was still quite early, however, so I calmed myself and continued.

Essex Road and South Library
Essex Road and South Library

Not too long afterwards, however, Astley Row ran into Essex Row right beside the local public library known as South Library, We walked back along the main road until we came to River Place and the clinic once more.

There were still 9 minutes to go before I could present myself at the clinic…

We arranged that Tigger would take a bus ride while I was in the clinic and I would send her a text message when I emerged. With exactly 5 minutes to go, I walked manfully up to the clinic entrance.

I had to ring the doorbell to be admitted. My identity was carefully checked and I was allowed to enter.

Afterwards, Tigger told me she was aboard a 56 bus. I duly caught the 56 bus… but it turned out to be the wrong one! Never mind, we were finally reunited at the stop at Angel Station.

From there, it is but a few steps to Jusaka where we bought coffee and hurried home with it, thus ending our desultory wanderings for today.

Inside St Mark’s

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Tigger was required to go in to work. I could have gone out on my own but without Tigger to jolly me along, it was just too easy to stay at home in the warm.

Today, “normal service” was resumed, by which I mean that we braved the cold to go on our usual coffee run.

Winter sunshine
Winter sunshine

By the time we made it out of doors, the sun was already low in the sky but any sunshine is welcome at this time of year and I was enchanted by the sunlit trees and bushes.

St Mark’s Church
St Mark’s Church

Meanwhile, Tigger had crossed the road in order to photograph the sunlit façade of St Mark’s Church, so I followed suit.

I think we both noticed the open door in the same instant. The last time we had seen the church door open, it had been for a private event and we had not been able to go in. We therefore approached cautiously and read the notice. This told us that the church, though closed for services, was open for individual prayer. Well, we weren’t going to pray but maybe it would be allowable to go in and took a few photos? I doffed my hat and we went in…

I should perhaps mention that even though I have lived in this neighbourhood for just over 15 years, this is the first time I have set foot inside the church.

Entrance passage
Entrance passage
Photo by Tigger

First, there is the usual extended doorway and then a passageway – a slightly unusual arrangement.


Where do these doors lead?
Photo by Tigger

Inside the body of the church were tables with pamphlets and various items such as a large bottle of hand gel of which we availed ourselves. What intrigued me, however, were the doors that you can see beyond the table. Note the chairs, as though for people awaiting their turn.. What lies beyond the doors – rooms for counselling and interviews? I have no idea.

Looking towards the high altar
Looking towards the high altar

The layout of the church is the usual with two rows of pews at the sides and a central aisle giving a view of the high altar with its large stained glass window behind it.

The altar
The altar
Photo by Tigger

Here is a closer view by Tigger of the altar area.

An organ
An organ

I was intrigued by this organ. It is the smallest pipe organ that I have ever seen, whether in a church or anywhere else. I don’t doubt that it performs perfectly adequately, though.

The church banner
The church banner
Photo by Tigger

To one side stands this banner bearing the name of the church and its parish (Clerkenwell), no doubt used in processions.

The font
The font
Photo by Tigger

An essential piece of furniture in a church is the font. I don’t know the date of this one but it looks fairly old.

Stained glass window
Stained glass window

I don’t know the history of this church and what it might have suffered during the Second World War, but the fact that most of the windows are of plain glass suggests that that damage has occurred. I counted less than half a dozen windows with stained glass, including this one. It’s a typical example of its kind.

Winter sunlight, Myddelton Square garden
Winter sunlight, Myddelton Square garden

I was once more admiring the winter sunlight brightening Myddelton Square garden and taking this photo when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.

Squirrel watching from the tree
Squirrel watching from the tree

I just had time to see that the movement was a squirrel, running towards me! He then ran a couple of feet up the trunk of a tree and hung there watching me. You might just be able to see him in the photo. My best guess is that, seeing me lean over the railings, he hoped I had food to offer. Unfortunately, I did not. Having met several hopeful squirrels lately, I’m beginning to think that I should buy a bag of nuts to take with me on walks in case I meet a squirrel! I’ll try to remember when we next go to Sainsbury’s.

Unofficial Toilet Day poster
Unofficial Toilet Day poster

When we reached the main road, we found that someone had posted this unofficial advertisement for World Toilet Day on the wall of a closed shop. I had no idea that World Toilet Day even existed but can say quite sincerely that I support it. It is meant particularly for regions where poverty and other causes such as climate change mean that there is no proper sanitation. It is truly shameful that such inequalities continue to occur in today’s world. Then again, this country doesn’t seem to even be capable of caring for its own sufferers of poverty, let alone caring them those of other lands.

Poem

Victor Hugo 1802–85

  • French
  •  
  • Demain, dès l’aube
  •  
  • Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
  • Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
  • J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
  • Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
  •  
  • Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
  • Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
  • Seul inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
  • Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
  •  
  • Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
  • Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
  • Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
  • Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.


  • English
  •  
  • Tomorrow, at dawn
  •  
  • Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside grows white,
  • I shall leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
  • I shall go through the forest, I shall go through the mountain.
  • I cannot stay far away from you any longer.
  •  
  • I shall walk with my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
  • Seeing nothing outside them, hearing not a single sound,
  • Alone and unknown, my back hunched, my hands crossed,
  • Melancholy, and the day for me shall be as the night.
  •  
  • I will not look upon the gold of the falling evening,
  • Nor the distant sails descending towards Harfleur,
  • And when I arrive, I will place upon your grave
  • A bouquet of green holly and of flowering heather.