Here’s a confession you don’t hear every day.
I love the march of the drones in suits across London Bridge every morning. There are people in my office who will go out of their way to cross Southwark Bridge, just so they don’t have to engage in that mass migration from the station to The City every morning. It makes them feel like individuals. I can respect that. But to me, there’s something wonderfully Orwellian about being in my little bubble, right in the middle of it all – the dank smell of Thames water, the glazed eyes of the commuters, the tapping of steel toes onthe men’s shoes on the pavement, keeping in time with the rhythmic clicking of the spiked heels of their female counterparts. It makes me want to keep the aspidistra flying and then take a bus to Cricklewood. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then obviously literary London isn’t your thing.
Do you know what I found yesterday on the way home from work? The London Stone. How many times have I walked down Cannon Street, but only yesterday did I finally spy the bit of dirty grating and the grimy plaque which I’ve been searching for in this City for so many years. They say that the stone was the point from where the Romans measured all distances in Britannia. Its where deals were forged, proclamations made and oaths sworn. The existence of the stone is even linked to the safety of The City itself, much like the legend attached to the ravens in the Tower of London. “So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish”
And so each Friday afternoon, after a week of back and forth, back and forth, across the bridge, disguised as a commuter (albeit with a slight irrational fear that I’ll be found out as an imposter, attacked by the mob and thrown into the Thames… which is ridiculous, as I do actually work in The City, with a more or less proper job and also I’m pretty sure that non-City workers are allowed to cross the bridge during peak hours anyway) yes, so disguised as a commuter, I make my way down the well worn steps by Southwark Cathedral into Borough Market. Its usually on the verge of closing by the time I get there, but there are still a range of wonderful local and organic breads, vegetables, treaties, sweeties and edible goodies of all sorts to be had. A loaf of heavy rye bread, a chunk of comté to nibble on with my glass of wine later that night (yes, there is actually a stall which just specialises in comté – massive great wheels of the stuff, pervading a nutty aroma throughout their immediate surroundings), an artichoke (which I will steam, and slowly pick away at, dipping the base of each leaf in lemony melted butter and scraping the soft flesh off between my teeth, while my boyfriend scoffs at the pointlessness and fiddliness of such a stupid vegetable) and finally some fresh home counties-grown berries, almost melting from ripeness and exposure to the afternoon sun, which I will slap with a whomping scoop of crème fraiche later that night.
I make my way home, through the winds and wends of Bermondsey Street, happy with my market finds, and still in love with London.