New York City to the Golden Gate.
Sadly not. But it’s enough excuse:
And that, most certainly, is not a James Taylor original. Walt Robertson recorded it for Folkways in the mid-1950s.
Eddie Arnold promptly appropriated it.
Somewhere in there, it entered the Folk Revival and Skiffle song-books.
Malcolm’s Saturday peregrination
The Lady in his Life and Malcolm betook themselves on a circular tour. The weather was — to be frank — somewhat mixed. So pubs were going to play a large part in the day.
For starters, once through Waterloo and onto the Jubilee Line, heading east, Malcolm was pleased to note an Olympics “volunteer” deep into S.J.Parris’s Prophecy, the middle of her three Giordano Bruno frolics (and, in Malcolm’s recollection, arguably, the best). Those three have now completed their voyage from Malcolm’s guilt pile to being shelved in smug satisfaction. In the end, he delighted in a head-long rush to complete the sequence, as far as it goes. There is a glint in Malcolm’s eye whence Stephanie Merritt is heading.
Giordano Bruno was in England for only a short space: April 1583 to October 1585. Merritt/Parris has already mined that for three novels, so time is a-wasting. With Sacrilege we have reached the summer of 1584, which approaches the mid-term of Bruno’s span in England. Either the locale has to be widened, or the sequence self-terminates. At the end of Sacrilege, the femme fatale (and she so nearly was) has debunked to France, taking with her the book of hermetic magic that Bruno craves — and which is now established as the MacGuffin of the sequence. Another thought: to what extent is Merritt/Parris referencing Frances A Yates on this?
By DLR to the Royal Arsenal
Changing from the Jubilee to the Docklands Light Railway was a bit confusing: you have to go down and under to reach Platform 1, and so to the DLR spur past London City Airport, and then under the river to Woolwich.
That brings you to the entrance to Woolwich market. As of now, this is somewhat decayed and downtrodden: we are promised — and there are already signs of — a major regeneration. Whether the pledged £6.6 million is enough seed-money remains to be seen. What would make the difference is the arrival of Crossrail towards the end of the decade. Yet all we have for certain is ambiguous:
Agreement has been reached to build a new ‘station box’ on the Crossrail line through Woolwich, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has announced …
The station box, which could be converted into a complete station in the future, will be privately funded by developer Berkeley Homes under an agreement with the Department for Transport, Transport for London, Crossrail Ltd and Greenwich Council.
Philip Hammond said: “A Crossrail station in Woolwich would make travel to the centre of London quicker and easier and would help bring new investment to the area. I am pleased that we have secured this site for a future station and have reached an agreement to build the ‘box’ for the station at no extra cost to the taxpayer, bringing the benefits of a station in Woolwich a step closer.
We are already one Transport Secretary on from Hammond. A further successor is at least a possibility in the autumn re-shuffle — Justine Greening’s staunch adherence to the ConDem position on the Heathrow third runway could be her coup de grace. There is no honour among Tories in their ambitions and repositionings. We have no firm proposals for Woolwich Crossrail going beyond could be developed and would make travel and would help bring new investment. And Greenwich and Woolwich (Labour majority: 10,153) is not a Tory marginal.
Not to mention that London City Airport (two stops back up the DLR) is coming on nicely for feeder services, that Southend (half an hour in the other direction) has potential for medium-hop and charter services, both — with Crosslink — on direct routes to Heathrow. But who expects an integrated transport policy from this shower?
This may be a mistake
Through Woolwich Market and across the A206 Plumstead Road, into the Royal Arsenal development, and you have crossed a social and cultural divide.
Suddenly there is open space. You have entered mortgaged, aspirant middle-class England. There are enough old structures — some dating back three centuries — to prove antiquity. Vanburgh left his mark here:
So did Hawksmoor:
The development of the Royal Arsenal site has been going since the early last decade. Its completion will be another ten years ahead. At the end it will comprise some 5,000 new homes. The likelihood has to be that this will move the political complexion of the locality — as it is already changing the cultural tilt.
And so to the first of Saturday’s pubs: a Young’s house in the Royal Arsenal compound. For once the brewery blurb does’t entirely deceive:
From neglect and ruin (though full of history), an old disused warehouse has been transformed into the wonder and glory that is now the reputed Dial Arch.
Situated in the natural heart of Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich, the original Dial Square building dates from 1720, although an excavation of the site uncovered relics from the time of the Roman occupation! The building itself acted as the gate house for the historic home of British defence and munitions production. Inside, we have a plush and unique style, with exposed brickwork, chandeliers, wooden and stone flooring with fantastically original artwork on the walls.
Oozing charm and rustic character, our picturesque surroundings provide the perfect setting for savouring the hearty, seasonal gastro-pub food on our Menu and the carefully nurtured cask ales and fine hand picked wines gracing our bar.
OK: you’re not convinced, and shouldn’t be.
The Dial Arch is something of a Warren (that, in fact, is its address). There are several “rooms’, all different in style and furnishing. The bar is, for Malcolm’s antediluvian taste, somewhat too glitzy. Service seems (on two experiences) to be excellent. There is a good choice of liquids, including half-a-dozen working beer-engines. Those with exotic tastes seem to be well provided with the fizzy yellow stuff. There is a useful food menu (though whether it is truly “gastro-pub”, Malcolm has no opinion).
Put it like this: the Dial Arch ticks most of Malcolm’s boxes. The Lady in his Life wasn’t displeased, either.
The day that the rains came
Around this time the sky turned inky. There was thunder. There was lightning. There were downpours. Just what a man and his Lady need to extend a stop in a pub.
Eventually, though, it was the stopping train back to London Bridge. Since the storm had taken out the signalling at Cannon Street station, more stopping than usual was involved.
The Old Thameside Inn
We have been here before, and hope to be again.
Ignore the carping critics. You can, and will get decent real ale here. The food is at least adequate — though, if you’ve worked through one Nicholson’s menu, you’ve seen them all. The wines list doesn’t flatter, but provides for all except the loftiest palate (to which Malcolm — quantity over quality — has no pretension). It’s the dressed-up basement of an office block. The loos and facilities have been overworked, especially now, towards the end of the tourist season. The service and prices are reasonable, especially so for one of the finest views of the river.
The winter of our discontent
The Lady in his Life and Malcolm were here to meet the Pert Young Piece, who had been to the afternoon matinee of Richard III at the Globe, just along the river-front.
PYP had revelled in the torrential rain: the Globe hasn’t got its drainage right (that’s something of a period feature). Flip-flops are what is needed in a summer cascade, so Pert Young Piece among the groundlings felt she was definitely scoring ankle-deep points against tourists in Manolos.
For the record, Pert Young Piece is becoming an insufferable Bardista, as she happily contrasts Rylance and Kevin Spacey as Dick the Turd. What got her was the Kingdom for a horse! As always, the problem here, as elsewhere in the canon, is getting out from under Olivier: Rylance makes it the regretful lament of a rueful defeated man. In effect: Strewth! I lost life, kingdom … and all because of a horse. Different, but a fair reading.
Home again, home again, jiggedy-jig
Foddered and drenched (internally as externally) we return to base in bourgeois Muswell Hill (No Hawksmoor. No Vanburgh) by the number 43 bus. Humming gently:
My daddy was an engineer,
My brother drives a hack,
My sister takes in laundry ,
While the baby balls the jack ;
And it don’t look like
I’ll ever stop my wandering.