I try not to write too much that's negative here. So I haven't felt like describing how I've been unwillingly dragged into a frustrating and bizarre legal case that reminds me somehow of the trial scene in "Alice in Wonderland."and in fact found a corner devoted to T.S. Eliot... who turned out to have been a churchwarden here.
Can't say any more about it, but really it's nothing compared with the general madness that seems to be swirling around all of us in the world at the moment. So instead of tearing my hair out (which I confess I often feel like doing) I'm concentrating on how lucky I am in the big scheme of things, and I've been supporting charities like UnitedRescues and War Child,
which help the millions who have it very rough indeed.
And I've shaken off the flu, so I've been taking the chance to look around lots of old London churches lately - all of them havens of peace and hope. I'm not particularly religious, but I appreciate sitting within these old walls where for centuries people have taken refuge from the sad stupidity and evil conflicts of the world, said goodbye to hate and frustration and lifted their minds to higher things.
The picture above shows the inside of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, overlooking Trafalgar Square. This very famous church is only the latest building on this ancient church site, and it dates from the elegant 1720s. When I dropped in, the organist happened to be practising, which added an inspiring soundtrack to that glittering interior. St Martin's also does a lot of work with homeless people and runs all kinds of events and concerts, and has a very good cafe in its crypt, all in the cause of raising money for its work.
A few days later, I went into St Leonard's Shoreditch. Although it's about the same age as St Martins, it's a frankly shabby old church, but it is full of interesting local curiosities and I found it had a laid back, comfortable atmosphere, like going into some rather messy friend's cosy house. The cat below certainly felt at home there, even though, like T.S. Eliot's Rum Tum Tugger, it was "always on the wrong side of every door." I let him in, I let him out, I let him in again... and then....
One of the first things visitors see in St Leonard's is a large sign high up on the wall in the porch, recording how the church ringers did a complete peal of "Treble Bob Royal" in nine hours and five minutes.
I've never quite got my head around change ringing but I gather it's about sounding lots of bells in slightly different sequences, according to mathematical rules. If I listen hard to church-bells ringing I do notice the sound seems to change over time. Perhaps you can detect this by listening to this part of Oxford Treble Bob Royal (and no, the video is not nine hours long.....).
St Leonards Shoreditch features in the old English nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons." Most people know this song, but if you don't, then my favourite version is this 1930s one, which was on a CD compilation that we used to sing along with in the car with S and Young A. Like so many old English rhymes, the tune is so jolly that you don't always notice the slightly sinister words!
Anyway, to get back to animals.... St. Stephens, Kensington, has a dog, but not as far as I know a cat. The dog didn't tell me its name, but it's a charmer, very gentle and very friendly as you can see from the wagging tail. The church is a brightly coloured example of High Victoriana, and T and I spent ages looking around.....
My most recent little pilgrimage was to London's financial district, the City. First I dropped in at St Margaret Pattens in Eastcheap, where the kindly blessing below is offered to the stressed city workers whose warren-like offices tower all around.
The church is supported by two livery guilds - the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers and the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers. Pattens are overshoes which were used for walking in the muddy, dung-littered streets of old, but now the guild has moved into making orthopaedic and medical footwear.
I got chatting to the vicar there, who said that in the olden days, foundling children of the parish were always given the surname "Patten" when they were christened in the church. So if that is your name, you might be able to guess where at least one of your ancestors came from.
King Charles I's coat of arms hangs on the wall, and every year, the vicar said, there's a Choral Eucharist to commemorate the death, in 1649, of the "King and Martyr." (This year, the service is on 26 January at 1 PM.) As it happens, King Charles was beheaded, but I don't think it's anything to do with "Oranges and Lemons"
And almost opposite St. Margaret Pattens, here are the doors of St. Mary-at-Hill, which stands in one of the ancient lanes which still survive in the City. It dates from the 12th century but was mostly rebuilt after being burned in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Then it got through the Blitz unscathed - only to have another serious fire in the 1980s. Luckily, it survived again.
After visiting these two churches, I returned home across London Bridge and saw a striking sunset, a great bank of purple and red clouds rising into a pale blue sky. I realised how much I love living in London, because it always seems to offer something that matches my mood.