Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Dream of England - Day Five

St. Helens Bishopsgate and the Gherkin

     We go to church on Sunday morning at St. Helens Bishopsgate. It was the parish church of William Shakespeare when he lived in the area in the 1590's. Our friends in Pimlico attend. They are concerned that we will have difficulty on the way because of the tube closures at the weekend. We have not checked for the closures beforehand and are compelled to follow a circuitous route, but I have left plenty of time for surprises and we arrive at the church well before time.

     St. Helens is an Anglican church that sits in the shadow of the Gherkin. Parts of the building are 800 years old, but parts of it were rebuilt after IRA bombs damaged it in the 1990's. We already feel an affinity for this church because we often listen to their Sunday morning talks online.

St. Helens in the 1870's

     After a proper Sunday roast dinner with Yorkshire pudding at The Folly we explore the surrounding area on our way to the tube station. I am looking for the smallest sculpture in London and I find it close by on Philpot Lane.

     We stumble onto the hanging signs of Lombard Street. Among them is the sign of the cricket. The cricket, seen in various places around London, is the crest above the Gresham coat of arms. Sir Thomas Gresham, a Tudor financier and one of the richest men in Elizabethan England, is buried in a tomb in the central meeting hall of St. Helens Bishopsgate. We sat with him this morning in church unaware. Small world.

     The hanging sign which distracts me the most, however, is on Gracechurch Street. I often shop this chain at home though none of the stores in Chicago are located in buildings like this one. It is like catnip to me and I do not even try to resist. TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the States) is a discount store, but Prince Harry and Kate Middleton have been seen shopping the store on Kensington High Street.


     I wonder if the Duchess of Cambridge found a pair of kicks as sweet as the ones I did. Are they still called plimsolls in Britain?

     It is on our itinerary to see the Tate Museum today, but we are footsore and tired of walking. There has been a great deal of walking this week. More than I am used to. The museum is near our hotel, but we walk past it. I fall asleep in our room reading Wolf Hall. Just a short nap and then I am ready to go again.

     We walk down to the river in the evening, and I discover that MI5, the Security Service, is behind our hotel. I wave discreetly to one of the many cameras mounted outside Thames House. Just across the river in Vauxhall is MI6. Every morning as I wait for the hotel lift, I have been looking out the window into James Bond's backyard. How could I have missed it? I have enjoyed watching spy shows since I was a child. Man From U.N.C.L.E, Get Smart, The Saint, Spooks, the Bourne trilogy--I've seen them all. I decide that we have been staying in either the safest or most dangerous spot in Britain. Cool.

M watching MI6 explode in Skyfall


  1. Two mice eating cheese, how adorable!

    You listen to St. Helen's services online? Would I google that to find them? I admit to being a closet Anglican since I first began reading English novels decades ago. Raised a Baptist, I am drawn to the beautiful liturgy and liturgical calendar of the Anglican church. I keep Ronald Blythe's book in my stack of bedside reading.

    Was the Yorkshire pudding as good as I dream it would be if done properly? I never have enough drippings to give mine the flavor it needs.

    Your Bucket Feet shoes are cute as can be. I love all the old spy movies too and Bourne shows are one of the few action movies I love. Is it true that Matt Damon is coming back? Yay!

  2. I love it, waving discreetly to the cameras of MI5 ! I am enjoying all of your posts.