Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Back in the saddle

One good thing about cycling (as I'm rediscovering, the weather having turned a little more conducive recently) is that you don't (well, I don't) go so fast as to miss all sorts of quirks and curiosities, and (with due care and attention to other road users, of course) you can stop and investigate.

That's how, instead of sailing past All Hallows by the Tower, I came to put my head inside. The church may have been empty of visitors, but it's certainly full of memorabilia of its associations - mariners (a poignant memorial book listing people lost at sea, as recently as the last few years), famous Americans (Penn, and one of the Adamses married here) and Toc H, a community foundation growing out of a solder's rest and recuperation centre in World War I, founded by a former vicar) - and in the crypt, a room-size expanse of tesselated floor from a house that stood here in Roman times. It's that sense of sudden connection to generations past that is so beguiling: like uncovering old newspapers and photographs forgotten at the bottom of a cupboard, but on a millennial scale.

The City of London is fertile ground for checking out curiosities, since it's still full of by-ways and semi-hidden alleys, and on a Saturday afternoon, it's possible to do a U-turn across Cannon Street or Ludgate Hill with barely a vehicle in sight. Items like this, tucked away by the Stationer's Hall, will make another contribution to a Facebook group I belong to, "The London You Don't Know".

The sun having decided at last to make a comeback, St Paul's (recently cleaned once again) was looking particularly imposing; but more striking still was the way the low late afternoon sun can make stained glass shine from the inside of a building out - here at St Mary's in the middle of the traffic in the Strand:

And the final quirk of the afternoon was that, as I passed All Hallows on the way home, the bells began to ring, not a peal, but a carillon, and, of all unlikely things, this tune I remember from childhood:

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