Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Yum Yum, Carrying On Regardless

 Our latest lockdown is coming to an end today, and our shops, offices and businesses will open again, although still with some restrictions.  T and I go out for exercise every day that we can, and mostly spend our time cycling up the steep hill to Hampstead Heath then roaming around for ages because (a) there isn't much open in London, and (b) it's so rewarding being around nature. Yesterday, for instance, was wonderful. The sky was bright blue, and the silver birch trees glittered ethereally in the sunshine as if their leaves had been dipped in gold. 


Of course we have made a few trips into the centre, mostly driving through in the car, but it has seemed so quiet that we hadn't really thought of cycling or walking around it much right now.   

But then, about two weeks ago,  our daughter K went to Borough Market, formerly a fruit and veg wholesale market, now a centre for the sale of gourmet foods. She reported it had been lively and fun. So, the next sunny day we had, we got on the bikes and off we went to Borough Market. It's about a 12 or 15 mile round trip from where we live, almost on the banks of the Thames, near Southwark Cathedral.  Here is the cathedral, very calm in the low midday winter sunlight....


And K was right - it was fun being there!  Of course it wasn't nearly as busy as usual, but it still had a good vibe, and nearly all the stalls were trading. It was so relaxing to ... well, to just have things seeming a bit how they always used to be.  


Most restaurants were closed, but there were plenty of takeaways to to be eaten in the open air, and lots of food to buy to take home.  We got some cheese...


...and were tempted by paella, but since I'm somewhat allergic to mussels, I decided not to risk it. 


  We got a takeaway lunch from a BBQ beneath the arches of the Victorian railway bridge.    
 

 T. had wild mushroom croquettes with black garlic and pickles, I had venison skewers with kimchi and sour cream.  Excellent! And this is my venison, cooking. 


It was so good to see people relaxed and having a good time, and most of them were being responsible, too. The market hall is partly open-sided, so it's not strictly speaking enclosed, but the stallholders and nearly all the customers wore masks anyhow, at least until they got out and started to eat their food.  

Last week, hoping for a similarly good experience, we met our other daughter V. for a little walk around Covent Garden, in central London.  In case you haven't been there at Christmas, this is what it is usually like, so if you have time, go on this virtual walk and enjoy!


After looking at the movie, take a look at how the same place looked the other day at 3 PM, a month before Christmas.   All lit up, beautifully decorated, but....   


See that big shiny reflecting globe on the right, up in the roof? I've enlarged it below, and if you look look closely you'll see a teeny pink jacketed figure by the far Christmas tree, near the guy in the fluorescent yellow jacket.  That's T and me, and the third figure is V. 


Instead of the buzz of people, live music and the yelling of buskers, there was canned muzak to break the silence.    I felt sorry for the staff in the few cafes and shops that were open, and the security guards and the guy in the information booth, all of them brightening up like puppies in an animal shelter when you glanced at them.  Seeing those big eyes, you felt you really had to buy something....  

In fact, Covent Garden in recent years has been too busy for me to enjoy.  I used to love roaming around what was once a forgotten corner of London, full of actors and dancers, but now I get disheartened battling through crowds and tour groups and their innumerable bags of shopping.  V., who loved hanging out there in her early teens, was struck by nostalgia at the memory of her street entertainer heroes of those days spending hours perfecting their often amazing acts before tiny audiences in an easy, laid-back atmosphere.  

It was the sheer sleepiness of it that reminded me of my teens, when  the place was a working wholesale market.  The traders began at 3 AM, jamming the surrounding streets with their lorries and clattering great big barrows over the cobblestones.   By 3 PM everyone had gone home, the shutters were fastened and the ground was littered with old carrots and squashed oranges, waiting for the cleaners.  

Covent Garden is no stranger to change, though, so even if it never gets back to its old bustle, it will adapt in time.  Old pictures of Covent Garden over the centuries portray it variously as a busy vegetable market, a fashionable strolling place, a disreputable hangout or a kaleidoscope of theatrical and lowbrow entertainment - and occasionally all of them at once.   Here it is as it was sometime in the 1600s, a couple of hundred years before the market hall was  built. Its church, St. Pauls Covent Garden, already stands looking the same as it does today and there are fruit and veg stalls, people in fashionable clothes and what look like entertainment booths.   I'm glad to say that the brutal bare-knuckle fighting shown in the picture below (on the right) has now fallen out of favour. 


The church is known as the Actor's Church because of its long  involvement with entertainment. (You can read about it if you click the link.)  Its 17th century churchyard is reached via some rather grand entrances (you can spot one above) and it has long been a haven for anyone who just wants to sit quietly, eat lunch, take a nap or look at the church, (whose rear is made of humble brick rather than the expensive stone of the front facade.)    

In busy recent years, St Pauls has been a valuable secret haven for people working in the area who just want a bit of peace and quiet.  But not this peaceful, surely?   The lonely looking pair below didn't even glance up from their phones as we passed. 
   

  The weather grew darker and gloomier - in fact, I've had to lighten some of the pictures otherwise you wouldn't see much at all.   I began to get a slightly strange feeling as we walked on, through streets incredibly familiar to me for decades, but now so changed. Don't think me over-imaginative, but it began to seem as if an older London was starting to emerge now that the people had gone.  

This old gas-lamp, for instance, (below) was burning steadily away in the silence on an empty house in a dark corner.  So who lights this lamp and replaces its mantles when they wear out?   Covent Garden kept its gas street-lamps into the 1970s, and the old gas-lighter used to come round with a ladder and a bike and light them with a flame on a long pole, but he's long gone.  


We walked on for five or ten minutes and arrived in Lisle Street, in the heart of Chinatown. Usually it's full of the smell of Chinese food and the sound of Chinese voices. But the only Chinese voices were a few passing snatches from two young tourists, and apart from them we had Chinatown almost to ourselves. I noticed the strings of big lanterns which normally make the place so bright and cheerful have begun to fade a bit, though the magnificence of the beautifully painted Chinese gate is still undimmed. 
 


T. remarked that as a boy, he'd liked pottering around the area because it was full of little shops selling cheap electrical components. And, in a startling flash of memory, I found myself again a teenager standing there with a very young T, agreeing that it was hardly worth coming for the electro-junk, because it was full of  Chinese restaurants now.... I had to smile. 

The gate steals all the attention from the old, terraced houses which surround it, so I took the chance to look carefully at a few of them. My eye was caught by  a circular blue plaque (see the bottom left of the picture below) on the pale blue house on the left of the gate.


 It is a reminder that once this area hadn't been Chinese at all, but the Little Italy of London, and it announced that "The Magic Circle was founded on this site at Pinoli's Restaurant by twenty three Magicians on July 1st 1905."   
  


So it was 115 years ago since the magical twenty-three had tucked into their spaghetti, and in those days, Pinoli's was a magnet for professional entertainers and other theatricals. The restaurant lasted for half a century, and although the magicians had no idea that their little club would turn into a world wide organisation, Mr Pinoli must have hoped that his name would live on. And it did. It's still there in large letters right at the top of the building, although not so easy to see as it's painted in white on pale blue. 


The site has been occupied by various Asian restaurants for decades now, although I noted with interest that the new restaurant currently occupying the site is called "Fogo de Chão"  and is Brazilian.  And, unlike the darkened Chinese eating places surrounding it, it was brightly lit and open.  In fact, so many of the Chinese restaurants were closed and dark that it did occur to me that the Chinese, (who are normally famous in Britain for being open when everyone else is shut),  might be losing interest in the area. What if the sad mass closure of South American businesses in Elephant and Castle provoked an influx of Latinos keen to turn this place into Little Latin America?  

Fanciful maybe - but I do think that in a hundred years or so people may well be wondering what that fabulous Chinese gateway is all about!

A bit further down, an oddly tall archway leads into an alleyway called Rupert Court. Why did it need to be so high? The obvious answer around here is that the court had once contained some business involved with theatre scenery. There are still places with extra-tall gateways in the area designed to accommodate just this problem of getting the towering "flats" in and out.   No sign of scenery now, but Rupert Court has a Dickensian air, despite the (closed) takeaway and various darkened little shops    


 If you stand in the middle and look up, (above) you see an assortment of quaint old lamps, a CCTV camera and.....  
  


...a sign saying ANCIENT LIGHTS.  This refers to a law of 1663, which says that a window that has had natural light for over 20 years can claim "ancient lights" - or the right to stop any development which will obstruct its natural light.   It was a useful law in the days when London was full of narrow courts with poky houses jammed up against one another with no regard for hygiene or fresh air. My guess is that at some point about 150 years ago the garret at the top of the building became a cheap office, and so it was worth applying for the Ancient Lights so the clerks could slave away all day without the need to waste the boss's candles.   

 Beneath the archway is another strange relic, a group of long thin mirrors of a type that were put up in the 19th century in dark places in the hopes of reflecting back what light there was.  They were found all over London, and were perhaps necessary because of the smoke and soot and fog which turned all the buildings black and filled little courts like this with a stinking, foggy miasma.    I have to admit they are not very effective in daylight, but imagine they made some a difference at night when the gas lights lit them up. 

Rupert Court emerges into Rupert Street, once a thriving red light district full of sex shops and strip clubs. It's now a slightly less ostentatious gay quarter and has a few well regarded pubs and restaurants.  A few steps away is an old neon sign advertising Raymond Revuebar, which was the most famous strip club in England in the 1950s.    It closed about twenty years ago, but its advertising sign,  designed to flash different messages in sequence, now goes on and off in an entertainingly random way.  I don't know who pays its electricity bill but I enjoyed watching its deranged displays.  I also liked the warning triangle displayed on the ground floor - do you?  


Another five minutes took us to the Algerian Coffee Stores in Old Compton Street. If you're ever in London this shop is well worth a visit, and you can also buy its coffees and teas online. After 113 years it is good to see it is as cheery-looking as ever. It was open, and busy, and its bright red facade was a beacon in the increasingly dark afternoon.  


I remembered that I'd once written an article about this shop, during the course of which I spent ages talking to the owner and trying out various sorts of their excellent coffee. If they still sell the same coffees (and I bet they do) I can tell you they are very good. I seem to recall he said the business had been in those premises since the 1920s, when it must have been a nearly-unique curiosity in a London where almost nobody even drank coffee.   

The Algerian Coffee Stores' window display is always idiosyncratic.  I am sorry the photos are blurred (it was so dark) but I wondered if these are whirling dervishes in the coffee cups. What do you think?


Some of the other old established food stores around here have very imaginative window displays.  The one below was perhaps a shade over-imaginative, and appeared to be decorated for Halloween, or at least I think it was.  (There were also what seemed to be Easter bunnies elsewhere in the window and I would say those are glass Christmas angels on the left, wouldn't you?)   It did give me a bit of a fright to see this character peering out at me, anyway. 


We also passed Maison Bertaux, which has been a feature of the area for as long as the Algerian Coffee. I remember staring longingly at it when I was a sweet toothed teenager, as its pastries were always perfectly fantastic, if expensive.  


During the first lockdown in March,  Maison Bertaux opened an appeal to help it survive the pandemic,  here.  Its loyal customers did their bit, and they have obviously survived so far. Their website indicates that they're taking orders for home delivery and so I hope they will reopen after the lockdown.  A peep through the window suggested they were waiting to reopen, but perhaps not in the immediate future.  They do need a bit more passing trade. 

I'll return and see and I hope they survive.  


So, as from today,  things are reopening, we plan to take a look around in a few days and see if life is looking up again. I hope so.  Although it reassuring to see how Nature continues calmly about its work, paying not the slightest attention to the pandemic, I want these old established businesses to survive.   With a vaccine on the way, I'm hoping it might be possible to return to Maison Bertaux for a post-pandemic celebration tea before too long.  I'll let you know!
 

58 comments:

  1. Thank you for reviving memories of Covent Garden ans Soho....I only went once to Borough Market and was put off by the crowds, unfortunately.
    I remember Covent Garden as a working market - and the pubs with distinct opening hours for the market workers and then saw the transformation into a rather precious sort of place which then went downmarket rather.
    I used to shop in Soho...the big italian deli in Old Compton Street, the Algerian Stores, the butcher round in Berwick Street, the fishmonger opposite the Lina stores and, of course, Gerry's Wines and Spirits.
    Thank you again, quite cheered uo a dull day!

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    1. I am never quite sure if Covent Garden is up or downmarket, it's one of those places. I suspect at the moment it is going through an up phase since there is almost nothing you actually need but a lot of things to spend lots of cash on. Somehow Soho hangs on, or at least it has till now. I imagine these old shops must own their freeholds. I don't know the butcher in Berwick St. but then I almost never eat meat and buy it even less. The market seems a shadow of what it was when I worked near there years ago. I am hoping that one upside of the Covid devastation might be that rents come down again in central London to give normal human trade and commerce has a chance to thrive again. It would be lovely if the trend changed from increasing corporateness.

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  2. Dear Jenny, as always, your post contained so much - I can't possibly comment on everything that made me think, or smile, or ponder!
    My favourite part of this post is where you write about the feeling of an older London emerging. That could be the start of a great novel!

    Yes, change is everlasting...
    I remember Covent Garden fondly from every time I visited London, I was frequently there in the 1990s. Once I just stopped briefly to listen to a string quartet playing Vivaldi when a pigeon dropped its business on me! I had only just arrived and was on my way to my friend where I was staying, I arrived at her house with that big white stain on my coat.

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    1. Thanks Meike. Oh, dear, what a memory of Covent Garden :) I hope it will not be too long before you can return to England, and spend a bit of time in London again. I hadn't thought of the idea of an older city emerging as resembling the start of a novel, but it immediately makes me think of how it could develop....

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  3. Oh my gosh! I feel as if I've just traveled across the pond and actually seen and experienced a place I've only ever heard of before. You have the most amazing eye for detail and the perfect curiosity for being a travel writer. I could spend days and days wandering about these places.

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    1. So can I. It used to be very old fashioned and neglected, which made it even more interesting IMO but it is packed with history and little fragments of different periods of time.

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  4. I so enjoyed your photo tour. The emptiness of Covent Garden was such a sharp contrast to what things were like a year ago. Scenes like these are the norm now and it is all so sad. Tonight, in New York City, they are lighting the tree at Rockefeller Center, a celebration that brings in tens of thousands of people and fills up stores and restaurants. Many of those are closed now, too many will never reopen. The tree will be lit, and some people, lucky enough to secure tickets, will watch along with the millions of those at home viewing it from their TV or computer screens. Life goes on and there is still light and hope. The vaccines are hopefully the answer to the virus, and just maybe, the world will have learned more about gratefulness and appreciation.

    I hope you have a peaceful and healthy Christmas holiday, Jenny.

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    1. Thank you, Arleen. There is something rather touching in the idea of all those people attending a virtual ceremony, but I hope that next year we will all be able to attend such things in person. Do you think that people will decide to go out much more after the pandemic, to make up for all the time they were indoors? I find to my surprise that many people are really quite happy doing their own thing, including people who I would have considered rather extravert but there could be quite a reaction afterwards. .

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  5. Well your right lockdown has finished but we are still in tier two which is not a lot better. I have not been to London in Years even though it is an hour away on the train. Neither of us are keen on the crowds you get there, bad enough when we went to Reading or Oxford. The smaller traders look like they can survive which is more that I can say for the large companies. We have the vaccine now but what they keep harping about will not go far. I would have though the key workers would be the top of the lists but the numpties who run the country seem to have their own ideas. Stay Safe

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    1. I agree with you about the key workers. I get fed up that everything the numpties do seems to be for political reasons to benefit themselves. Wouldnt be surprised if it is massive care home companies paying them to do it this way, but maybe I shouldn't be so cynical. Blogs like yours are a good escape from all this, that is one reason I like it .... those churches have withstood far worse than this in their centuries of existence.

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  6. Thank you so much Jenny. I feel as if I've had a fascinating outing, full of history. Such a rich time away from my desk at home. Just what I really needed!

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    1. I'm glad to hear it Judith! We all need a bit of an escape from four walls now and then. I'm going out and about so much less than usual that I treasure it when I can have an outing and am more than glad to have you along too.

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  7. I will need to re-read this over and over and share it with Rick, too. Can you believe we were in London more than two weeks and we didn't visit one of these spots? I'd hoped for Covent Garden and Borough Market but as you recall, the feet weren't working well and there is so much there. But this is fabulous -- and especially seeing it through the eyes of a local who has memories of the past as well. Rick would love the coffee shop. (I'd like the smell but give the coffee a pass!) And I'd love the street entertainers, I'm sorry they weren't out. Will you be doing the seasonal lights walk? I've seen some photos and oh, I'd love to see those in person! Thanks for this wonderful walk!

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    1. Next time you come to London you'll have fun visiting some of these places. I thought you were amazing the amount you packed in to do - despite the feet. Next time you can have a wander around Hampstead too, it's a pretty little place with many quaint corners and unusual shops. Most of them have survived COvid so far, I'm glad to say.

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  8. Thanks, Jenny. I have to say I was surprised at how stressful it became watching the video with all the maskless people from the before times--LOL! Circumstances have changed so much this past year. :)

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    1. It's been life changing for so many folks. Not always in a bad way though I don't think anyone's volunteering for another year like it LOL!

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  9. Thank you for the wonderful tour. Learning about places keeps the mind refreshed.

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  10. This is a terrific post-I love being able to see the colorful places you love in London. I'm glad you are well.

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    1. You stay well too. I am going to be checking blogs today and will find out what you have been up to.

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  11. I'm enjoying a late night cuppa reading your post, which I've thoroughly enjoyed.
    Thank you.

    Wishing you happy December days.

    All the best Jan

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  12. A lovely tour of the current offerings post lock down.

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    1. We're now in more severe lock down ... this goes on and on eh. !

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  13. So many amazing places to explore! You are an excellent tour guide.

    My hope is that these places do survive, and that the pandemic is soon brought to a halt with vaccines.

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    1. It's a relief to know that at least they have some workable vaccines now, and are working on an immunization program.

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  14. There can be no doubt that your next book has to be a London Guide. If that is, you ever finish the present one.
    Great photos, great info.
    I never saw the mirrors in those back streets, never heard of them before.
    I used to deliver in Southwark in 80's, never sure if the driver and the van would still be there when I got out of the confusing 50's/60's flats!
    The market was still operated by the descendents of those who filled the Clink in days gone by when I last past through.
    I could spend a lot in that cheese stall mind, and some of the food on offer is tempting.
    No pies mind...
    Covent Garden I never liked, full of tourists and expensive tat. There again I lived near Portobello Road and passing through the rich end brings you to Goldbourne, that is a real market still I believe, full of cheap tat.
    The gas lamps surprised me, thatw as new to me also.
    There is no doubt you write so well, know so much, that this means you and him must write a London guide.
    I realise there are millions of them but you have so many stories to tell.
    I emclose £20 for my advance copy.




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    1. Ah you didn't see Covent Garden in ye olden days when the costermongers were also, (according to a book I am reading) part time footpads and thugs. I expect the writer was biased but in 1820 any expensive tat would have been quickly appropriated, from the sounds of it, so you would have been able to feast your eyes on cabbages and cauliflowers!!!!

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    2. Thank you for your £20 but I am sorry to say it was not attached to your comment, maybe you'd like to give it to me in person next time you are in London.....

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  15. What an absolutely lovely post, Jenny. What a lovely tour! I shall now savour these photos again. Wonderful.

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    1. Thanks Val. I hope you are getting along well, time I checked out blogs. Funny thing abuot lockdown many people have said it - but with all this enforced solitariness, there seems to be even LESS time than before!

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  16. I enjoyed exploring with you!

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  17. Hello Jenny, London is so full of little secrets! I love the historic plaques that are everywhere. I saw Jane Austen's house in London, and Charlie Chaplin's birthplace in Elephant and Castle, among numerous others. I never knew about the tall gates or the mirrors or the ancient windows--just more to keep an eye out for on my next visit!
    --Jim

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    1. Yes indeed, and I will keep an eye out for Jane Austen's house and Charlie Chaplin's birthplace, neither of which I have seen. Visiting Gough Square where Dr Johnsons house is, I realised I'd never been there either. I think I'd be a pretty rubbish professional tour guide, come to think of it :) Glad you appreciate knowing about the little corners though.

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  18. I went to the Alpaca Farm store the other day...they had moved into a big open barn and we also bought local cheese, etc. It was wonderful to get out.

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    1. Local cheese is so cool. At the start of lockdown I bought a great big box from a farm in Lincolnshire. It was expensive but lovely to receive it, all beautifully packaged too.

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  19. When I lived in London, I often wandered happily round Covent Garden. It's a shame it's now become too crowded to be enjoyable. A victim of its own success and all that.

    Re the Algerian Coffee Stores, which surprisingly I was never aware of, there's a wonderful tea and coffee emporium in East Belfast called S D Bell (you may have encountered it on your visits to Belfast). It has a fantastic range of teas and coffees.

    That's an amazing range of cheeses in the market!

    The one place I especially remember in Soho is the original Patisserie Valerie shop. Jenny and I used to go there a lot in our early days of dating. Their pastries are still wonderful.

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    1. I really want to return to Belfast, you know I now have Irish citizenship. I lived in Belfast for 3 years as a teenager and was amazed to return after all those years in 2017. Wasn't interested in coffee in those days so I didn't encounter S.D. Bell. But wow, those magnificent stained glass windows in City Hall. They really are something. I was amazed to find there was no booklet describing them.

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  20. I really enjoyed this fascinating tour. It's so relaxing to go out cycling and enjoy the fresh air (cycling presently isn't an option here in Tennessee - we had snow on December 1st) The lovely photo of the silver birch trees reminded me of spring!

    All of the food that you encountered looks so good. Since I'm a devout lover of cheese, I was impressed by that table filled with cheese. I was also fascinated by the Algerian Coffee Shop and visited their online store. The variety of coffee and tea is amazing. And who could resist the Maison Bertaux pastries?

    I like the "Caution: Slippery Politicians" sign.

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    1. Thanks Jon. I don't think I'd enjoy cycling in Tennessee from what you've said about it. Glad you liked the Slippery POliticians sign, most of the comments haven't mentioned it, but it's one I might like to see more widely!

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  21. How nice it is to be able to go out and about again, Jenny. I always enjoy your adventures in London, one of my favourite cities. It would take a lifetime to see everything! The silver birch trees are so pretty - we saw some in Canada last year and wondered what they were. They really are stunning. I wish London and the whole UK safe times ahead, and a very happy Christmas.

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    1. Thank you Patricia. Silver birches are such beautiful trees, they come in a weeping variety and in the autumn it's like being surrounded by gold sparkles as the branches swing to and fro with the bright gold leaves twinkling in the sun.

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  22. Dear Jenny - I like solitary walk into nature, but when it comes to shopping mall or festival, crowds is part of fun. The photo of the empty Covent Garden looks eerie. Anyway you could monopolize the place for photographing, but I think I know how you felt. Bustling with people is much better for sure. I feel nostalgic for gas-light which I was familiar with in my home city Kobe, part of which was designed by English engineer.

    I wonder how things are going one week later the end of lockdown in UK. Strong regulation like “hammer” looks effective but how people spend life with corona is more important. I watched TV news that medical care workers and those over 80 will start taking vaccine soon. I’m not sure when vaccine will be available in my country. I believe wearing mask is the safest and the most affordable substitute for vaccine. And besides, it is reported that inhaling a little of virus by wearing mask will build up antibody, like vaccine. I understand. My late father was a doctor and I didn’t see him having a cold like many other doctors. He was wearing mask when he was with patients. I’d like to finish this year by fulfilling my share of duty in this unique, strange year of pandemic. Have a nice time with all the preventive measures, Jenny.

    Yoko

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    1. Thank you Yoko. Yes, one of the reasons I like to live in London normally is that I enjoy being in the crowd, with all those people rushing around, each on their own different errand. It makes me marvel at the complexity of life continuing in every city in the world. We are now in stricter lockdown than before due to an increase in the number of cases caused by a mutation of the virus :( but I am so grateful that an effective vaccine is now available (even against the mutation, apparently). A vaccination programme is being rolled out and I hope that we will be able to get vaccinated before Spring. Winter is not a nice time to have to stay at home, but we are allowed out in order to take exercise and go shopping, although I now get nearly everything via home delivery. What about you?

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  23. A lovely depiction of a city, and not just any city of course. My other half lived in Portobello for twenty years and pines for the atmosphere and vibrancy of London. I suppose, even given the the times we are in, I can see from your post here a little of what she means. There is a magic to the gathering together of people into a metropolis for enterprise, for community and just to feel that amorphous but tangible thing we call culture. So, for all her pining, I bring her to the middle of nowhere in Gloucestershire. But at least I understand what she is talking about now. And Bristol, (of which I am probably unjustifiably proud since I had very little hand in being born here) does have its small equivalents, of which you have reminded me with some poignancy, that I miss greatly. Hopefully soon enough such places will be open to us in their previously unrestricted way. I do hope so. In the meantime, thank you for my vicarious visit to Covent garden (in particular). I saw a performer on a unicycle there when last I visited. I thought it was cool so I bought one when I got home. Can I ride it? Of course not. Bloody cussed thing! If I see him again, I will give him an extra quid now I know how difficult it is.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Your other half can rest happy in Gloucestershire for the moment, at any rate, but I like to live in London just because it cheers me up to see all those people all busily living their lives. and no, I don't know why it does. I have to say your life sounds really pleasant now and I'm envious about the gardening. I'd love to have some space to create a wildlife garden. Ah, unicycling! One of our children wanted a unicycle. She loved gymnastics and had a good sense of balance, but she too found that it just wasn't as much fun as she hoped. In fact, she kept falling off! She did manage to jolt along the road in the end, but in the end she gave it to her cousin who couldn't ride it either! Perhaps you can sell yours on ebay to some other optimistic person :)

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  24. It's nice to remember London as it used to be and compare it with what you see now, Jenny. I did not see gas lamps there, you surprised me. Who turns them on and off now?
    I loved walking around a Chinese town, but I never knew there was an Italian area there before. I remember the smells there when I entered the main street.
    Thanks for sharing, take care of yourself.

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    1. I wish i knew who turned the gas lamps on and and off. I saw some more the other day and so definitely somebody must do it. I find the smells of Chinese cooking difficult because I have an allergy to some commmon ingredient in Chinese good and it smells very strange to me, maybe it is my body making sure that I don't eat it and get allergic!

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    2. Dear Jenny,
      I always love reading your blog.
      A Merry Christmas, happy holidays with your family and loved ones.
      Good health and take care!

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  25. I didn't miss dining out as I don't eat out, anyway. I don't go out for coffee, either! I'm a creature of habit...my habits...I'm a boring old fart! :)

    That sure is some cheese platter! I bought a variety of cheeses yesterday...for a cheese/antipasto platter I'll be putting together for my landlords' annual Christmas party next week. I will be attending it...but then, I won't be travelling far....my little rented cabin is on the same block of land (about 3 acres) as their home.

    Keep taking good care, Jenny. :)

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    1. Well that is a cosy arrangement, and very nice to get on with your landlord in that way. I hope you enjoyed the party. I guess some parts of Australia make cheese but come to think of it I cannot remember seeing any type of Australian cheese. We used to get New Zealand cheddar here when I was young but of course the climate's very different there to most of Oz. Wow, thinking of that cheddar is a blast from the past. I can suddenly remember the taste!

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  26. Hello Jenny, it was lovely to read your balanced post about how it is in London at the moment. I get increasingly annoyed how the media only seek the gloom on which to report (I don't, for one minute, make light of the toll covid has and continues to take).
    Its good news your lockdown is ending and my very best wishes that it can stay that way.
    Oh those pastries in the Maison Bertaux are gorgeous and so I add my hopes that it can re-open... along with the many other businesses that are closed.
    Beautiful colours in your header.
    All the very best Jenny xxx

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    1. Thanks Sue. I am afraid our respite from lockdown didn't last long and it's now worse than before. It's a wierd old Christmas this year to be sure. I'm glad things seem to be quite a bit better in your part of the world, and so pleased that a vaccine is on the way. Take care and have a lovely Christmas!

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  27. You got good dishes. Do you like to eat buckwheat noodles?
    Merry Christmas to you.

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  28. Hope you had a nice Christmas despite all the things going on, Jenny. I get most of commodities by delivery, too, and buy something when I go out. The severe lockdown in Britain sounds unavoidable due to the highly contagious mutated virus, So far, stay-home is not strictly regulated but on request basis as the government doesn’t have legal authorities in Japan. In the first wave, majority of people were co-operative but now so many people are not co-operative, which is worrisome. As to the New Year, I’ll spend with my husband only except kite-flying with Y and M living nearby. We need further patience and persistence for prevention, but things are not all that bad. Stay healthy and have fun.

    Yoko

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  29. As so often after reading one of your tours of interesting places and people, I find myself marveling at the sheer density of culture in your immediate vicinity. Here, mostly it's just fields (though Bovis Homes did uncover a Roman bath house as they built a nearby housing estate and would have covered it up quickly with a new house had not an astute dog walker noticed and called that bloke from Time Team). To wander around the area of a graveyard and find so many indicators of important aspects of our past must make you feel immersed in the fabric of our civilisation, (certainly more so than being gathered round by a herd of bullocks on a walk to Tesco across the fields). Cities are such fertile places for ideas and innovation. It must be very stimulating to be in one, especially one as vibrant and rich in important heritage as London. That said, Stroud was where Budding invented the lawnmower, so we are not completely devoid of history here. Thanks for the tour, as always. I must see more of our capital when restrictions allow.

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