It’s been a while since I posted a blog. This is because of all the traveling we have done as we wended our diplomatic, expat way eastwards across the globe. Never fear, a glut of tawdry and scintillating information was gathered about some of the places Joshua and Isla were hauled through and shall eventually be faithfully reprinted here once I can sort out the hazy pictures, fascinating plaques, scribbled tour guides, and faithless memories.
In the meantime, as I am ensconced for the foreseeable in the oddly strange lifestyle of an expat in my own country, I’ve discovered that London offers a wealth of 30 minute trips to explore the nooks and crannies of one of Europe’s most curious of historical cities. Nuggets of cultural gold glitter everywhere as I join the throng sailing at grim pace along the grey, brushed pavements of this Square Mile. These are in the form of little blue square plaques that boast a person so famous I’ve no idea who they are, or a street name that clearly is descriptive of trade or circumstance than an accolade to a forgotten parson. Stone gargoyles and grotesques vie for niches with Christian saints, Palliadian frontage scrambles to jut more proudly outwards than Tudor oak beams. Columns of Ionic, Doric, Corinthian pleasure sit with the cataryids disdainfully glancing down at the seething mass of twenty-first century London. Weaving among all this is a glittering cascade of modern glass, of more funky buildings risen from an abused earth and sobriqueted with names like ‘Shard’, or ‘Gherkin’.
I’ve never lived in the capital city of my birth, so let’s go exploring.
Talking of chirpy, I trill my way down Lombard Street and stumble through the entrance of St Edmund, King and Martyr, an Anglican church in Lombard Street, that sprang into life in 1292. It beckons me for quiet reflection so I step in, away from the crowds. Is it me or is everyone in London dressing in black and rushing full tilt like they’re late for a cortege?
Anyway, I find myself in this place, with its glittering crazy stained-glass mosaic and wooden adulation of the Ten Commandments in the sanctuary. As I stand in the chancel I glance left, then right, reading (as is my wont) various inscriptions of people dead these past three centuries when my eye alights on one specifically…
It is in memory of one Charles Melville Hays who neatly links our new city with our Canadian Heritage. He is noted for his formation of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, something designed to furnish a second trans-Canadian railway and a dream he never realised as he perished along with Leo Di Caprio on that fateful April 14 1912 voyage on the Titanic. His body is interred in Montreal. I am afraid I couldn’t quite fathom why he had a funeral service and memorial plaque in this precise spot (nor is Google helping me).
A couple more items catch my eye: a Charless II silver flagon and this memorial to a Mr Englebach, who never returned from the Second Boer War, Battle of Nooitgedacht in 1900. Only one of about 100 men lost, the poignancy of this Rector-turned-medic-turned war casualty was something that gives me pause over a century later…
More to come…
Is this what diplomacy is all about?