Friday, 20 March 2015

Secret London Part One

In a short story I wrote called ‘The Assertiveness Group,’ my heroine and her lover visit many Secret London locations. The descriptions in my story are mostly imaginary, but I have a small ambition to visit these places in real life, this is an account of four of the sites I visited on 16th March 2015.

Dennis Severs House is near Liverpool Street and Spitalfields Market, past the gherkin, it is open regularly Monday lunch time and not much outside of this time. Before we were allowed inside we were given a short introduction and told the rules of our visit; to be quiet, no phones and no photographs. The house was best appreciated in silent contemplation. The tour began in the basement, in the kitchen. The rooms were cluttered, but it was carefully, thoughtfully arranged clutter. The atmosphere was enhanced by smells, musty and aromatic and noises, bells ringing, old conversations, a death knoll. Each room showed a different aspect of the imagined life of the Jervis family. The boudoir of Mrs Jervis was filled with delicate ladylike things, a fine dress, ornate mirrors, jewellery and toiletries. In one of the bed rooms we were greeted by a very handsome black green-eyed cat, a lovely live addition to the antiques of the house. At the top of the house was the shabby rented room of an imaginary family of poor silk weavers. There were old clothes strewn around the place and part of the ceiling had collapsed. Back on the ground floor our visit ended with a look at the Jervis family parlour. This room was elegant and well-kept, a contrast to the messy, decaying aspects of the rest of the house. I’m so glad I made it to Dennis Severs house. It is quite a special treasure.

The Candid Café is at the back of the Angel, Islington, It is part of the Candid Arts Centre. The café is on the second floor, up many stairs. I wasn’t disappointed when we reached the top, the café was bohemian and decadent, it had proper red velvet armchairs. There was a large modern painting of a large breasted nude woman on the far wall. Elsewhere there was an intriguing overflowing bookcase, framed art work and fairy lights. Mum and I sat near a window that overlooked the courtyard. I had an avocado baguette that was very appetising.

I visited Somerset House, along the Strand, primarily to see the Dead House, which is mentioned in my short story. However the dead house is only open on certain occasions, so this special visit will have to wait. While at Somerset House I enjoyed a recycling exhibition and a look at all the different and elaborate stairwells that dwell there.

Our visits ended with Gordon’s wine bar next door to the embankment. Ignoring the boarded up front, we ventured into the side entrance, down some stairs and into the old fading but lively interior. Past the old framed newspaper front pages that decorated the walls I ordered two glasses of Madeira wine from the friendly bar staff. Mum had found a nice spot for us to sit, at the back of the curved ceilinged candle lit cellar. It felt a little like we were sitting under the Thames itself. We talked of the past and the future while really enjoying our present, the wine and our very atmospheric surroundings.

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