“It’s smaller than I remember it,” said the young woman walking into the Globe Theatre where I was sitting on one of the benches in the covered galleries waiting for the performance to start.
I’m in London for a short break, mostly to use up some of my Hostelworld vouchers which I accepted in lieu of actual money when my year’s travelling was rudely interrupted. They’re good for two years so I have only another six months to get them used up. With the continuing uncertainty, regarding the Pandemic and policy when I received a reminder alert in early August, I decided an October break to the capital would be the best idea.
So, I travelled down by train this morning and arrived in time to have lunch at one of my favourite spots – the Cafe Tropea in Russell Square… but not before I’d wandered past this guy as I left Euston:
Fingers crossed that social media is the only way in which he goes viral. Attention seeking, much?
Questions arising so far… how did his girlfriend find out and how was she able to implement this punishment so quickly? Is the second gentleman in the picture his friend or the girlfriend’s enforcer? Does he really still have a girlfriend and… did he ever have a girlfriend?
After lunch, and more importantly cappuccino and cannoli, I set off on foot for my hostel. It was around a three mile down towards St Katherine’s Dock and a love walking through London especially when it’s sunny. Of course I could have caught the Tube, but you miss so much above ground when you’re riding the rails.
After checking in, I headed out for some more aimless wandering and being easily led… oooh, that looks interesting, let’s go and have a look at that… which also means being taken by entertaining street names, I ended up wandering down ‘Savage Gardens’ which led me into Samuel Pepys territory. At the corner of Pepys Street and the brilliantly named ‘Seething Lane’, not far from the Tower of London, is St Olave’s Church.
It’s one of the smallest in the City and is one of only a handful of medieval City churches that escaped the Great Fire of London in 1666. Whether the gruesome entry gate came before or after the Great Plague of London in 1665 is unclear – the tiny Church was a key burial ground. Sir Samuel Pepys worshipped here, his house being nearby and he along with his wife, were buried here. It was apparently a favourite church of Charles Dickens.
Not far from the church are the Gherkin, which once dominated the London skyline but in turn it’s now being subsumed by newer, towering structures. I felt a little sad seeing it being hemmed in by behemoths and I remember when it was viewed as an eyesore. I always thought it was rather lovely, unlike the Lloyds of London building.
From here I headed for the movable London Mithraeum.
In 1954 archaeologists, sifting through a bombsite just before construction on a new building began on Walbrook, uncovered what was initially thought to be a Christian temple. On the last day of the dig, they uncovered a marble head… of the god Mithras which confirmed that this was not a Christian temple after all. Mithraism was a Roman mystery religion centered on the god Mithras and his worship (only ever by men) was popular among the Roman army from the 1st until the 4th century.
Mithras-worship in the Roman Empire was characterized by images of the young god slaughtering a bull and it is thought to be linked to a creation myth. One of these images was found at the Walbrook excavation.
The Walbrook Mithraeum did not stay in its original location. When it was originally built, would have stood on the east bank of the now covered-over River Walbrook, a key freshwater source in the city. Its rediscovery in September 1954 was during excavation work for the construction of Bucklersbury House, a 14-storey modernist office block to house Legal & General. As a compromise between redesigning the new building and abandoning the archaeological site, the ruin was dismantled and moved 100 metres to Temple Court, Queen Victoria Street, where in 1962 the foundations were reassembled at street level for an open-air public display. The reconstruction was not accurate and drew criticism for the materials used. Plans to move it back to its original site in 2007 stall but were resumed again in 2010 and, while not exactly where it started, the Mithraeum is closer to its original home and certainly at a close enough depth being seven metres below modern street level.
A light and sound show gives visitors an idea of what the Mithraeum would have originally been like. It’s an interesting experience though probably only take about 15 minutes and is free. (I had read that you should spend 45 minutes here though I’m not sure how).
From here I spent the hour until sunset wandering the South Bank before heading for a night at the theatre.
The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613. A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed on 6 September 1642. The current incarnation was reconstructed in 1997 and is 230m off the original site. It’s a beautiful building – you can easily imagine that you’ve travelled through time… and the authenticity of the wooden benches make your bum feel like you actually have.
And tonight’s show? ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’… sshhh, it’s starting.