This one will, eventually, take us to a place of delight and sustenance. Bare with Malcolm as he tracks towards his goal.
Malcolm reckoned he hit on the phrase at the very end, the punch-line of Chaucer’s Physicians Tale:
Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte,
In no degree, ne in which manere wyse
The worm of conscience may agryse
Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
That no man woot therof but God and he.
For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
He noot how soone that he shal been afered.
Or, as Malcolm might have rendered that for the benefit of the algae-d end of the gene pool:
Be aware, for no man knows whom God will strike,
Despite social status, nor in what ways
The worm of conscience grieves
The wicked soul, though secret be the deeds
Which no one knows of but God and he.
For be he ignorant or learned, yet
He cannot know when fear will make him squirm.
For Chaucer’s age, and much later, the greatest social divide was between those who could relate to written text (the “lered”), and those incapable (“the lewed”).
Today that discriminator might lay between the readers of the tabloids and of the “broadsheets” (only a couple of which retain that format). But, pause for a Neil Gaiman moment:
Richard Mayhew walked down the underground platform. It was a District Line station: the sign said BLACKFRIARS. The platform was empty. Somewhere in the distance an Underground train roared and rattled, driving a ghost-wind along the platform, which scattered a copy of the tabloid Sun into its component pages, four-color breasts and black-and-white invective scurrying and tumbling off the platform and down onto the rails.
Richard walked the length of the platform. Then he sat down on a bench and waited for something to happen.
Well, at the moment, that’s quite explicable. Blackfriars underground station remains closed.
However, this is also a moment of social inclusion. Crossrail (a-hah! you see at last the significance of the headline image!) and the Thameslink projects mean there are certain points across London where supercilious Savile-Row suits meet subterranean jerkins and overalls.
One such interface is Blackfriars, which — one way or another — will shortly become the crossroads of London’s mass transport. It sits neatly between the City and the River, between Farringdon to the north (where Crossrail and City link will interface) and London Bridge to the south (gateway to all points across the stockbroker suburbs)
Happy he he who has shares in hotels nearby.
As Neil Gaiman would have it:
He had crossed Blackfriars Bridge, in the City of London, many times, and he had often passed through Blackfriars station, but he had learned by now not to assume anything. “People.”
So, this lunchtime the Lady in his Life and Malcolm were seeking sustenance. A quest had taken them to the legal quarter, thence out of the Middle Temple into Fleet Street. This opened a whole number of possibilities:
On Fleet Street:
In Carey Street, behind the Royal Courts of Justice:
- The Knights Templar (now to be treated with suspicion, having received a recommendation from the EDL;
- The Seven Stars (beware of Tom Paine!).
Make a hike up to Holborn and return to:
- The Cittie of York (a Sam Smith’s house, probably some of the cheapest, best ale in central London).
Choices, choices. All palatable, all attractive.
And thou beside me in the wilderness
Instead, having book-shopped, it was the Black Friar that won the cut.
What is truly astonishing is that this place ever needed rescuing (it’s now Grade II listed) from the vandals. It ought to be obligatory on every London visitor’s schedule — and not just for the astounding interior. Nice selection of pics here.
Being a Nicholson’s house, it come with added choice. On draught, the pumps that forced on him decisions, decisons were:
- Doom Bar (becoming something of a staple);
- London Pride (already so);
- Adnam’s Southwold Ale (a light summer rendering);
- St Austell Tribute (good stuff) …
All of those seemed to be doing excellent trade, and with good reason.
So, to mark it being a Friday, foddering involved fish-and-chips (neatly, nicely done — especially as Malcolm traditionally gets the Lady in his Life’s mushy peas) and a bottle of the house Chenin Blanc (South African, but acceptable). Then back to the nut-brown stuff.
Home again, home again, jiggedy jig
The quick way to Norf Lunnun from Blackfriars is currently by First Capital Connect, and all on the travel card. The “fast” trains from Brighton to Bedford are Farringdon, St Pancras and St Alban’s only; but the “stoppers” have a useful stage at Kentish Town, convenient for the 134 bus to the top of the hill adjacent to Redfellow Hovel.