Covent Garden & Gerrard Street


Last night I finished reading Christopher Harvie’s ‘Revolution and the Rule of Law’ in The Oxford History, and began H.G.C. Matthew’s ‘The Liberal Age’.

Soon after midday I walked through the farm underpass, into the forest alongside the wire fence that surrounds the pasturage, and, crossing the sandbagged ford followed the stream for a while, traversed it, and walked back along the other side.  Regular readers will know that this demonstrates a certain, almost well-placed, confidence somewhat lacking in the past.

Castle Malwood Farm

Castle Malwood Farm has always been visible from quite some distance, but I didn’t previously know what I was looking at, and one wire fence was the same as any other.  Now it and the sandbags are an infallible guide.

In my less than wholly successful attempts to avoid the boggy bits, and the necessary detours around fallen trees, I had a few diversions, but I always knew where I was.  Almost.  I have to confess one nasty moment when I realised the buildings I was headed for were not the aforesaid familiar farm.  I had unwittingly begun to follow a tributary and realised that what I was looking at were the also, sadly, familiar dwellings of Brook.  A quick turn around and I headed through the trees to the line of the stream which I will call Malwood.

Dappled stream

When I took my driving test in 1966 I felt the jolt of the kerb as I demonstrated my skill in reversing around a corner.  My calmness in stopping at the touch, straightening up, and doing it again got me through.  So it was today.  No panic, just go back and pick up where I left off.  I sometimes wish I could always remember that.

Dappled Forest

When walking beneath the trees on a day blessed with dappled sunlight, one is treated to little circles of light that have penetrated the boughs, projecting the images of leaves they have passed on their way down.  This particular camera obscura has not been provided with a focussing ring.  Dappled log

In the olden days of the 1970s and ’80s, when one had to use chemicals and an enlarger to make photographic prints, I would place the negatives in the device, sharpen the focus, expose the image on the paper for the requisite amount of time, take it out, stick it in various baths of stuff, and hang it up to dry, like David Hemmings in the superb 1966 cinematographic film ‘Blow-Up’.

Matthew and Becky c1979One such piece of work was a favourite photo of Matthew and Becky taken around 1979.  I could be more precise if I were prepared to search for the negative, but my print slipped down in its frame some years ago, and I thought if I photographed that today I could kill two birds with one stone and also centre the picture with an application of fresh adhesive.  That’s my excuse anyway.  Our children loved to spend their pocket money during their visits in the Soho years in the Chinese bookshops in Gerrard Street and the craft markets of Covent Garden.  In this particular photograph they are deliberating their purchases from a craftperson’s stall.

Matthew's Dads Day cardThe Gerrard Street shops in those days were Aladdin’s Caves for children.  Very good hand-made cards were on sale for a matter of pennies.  They would spend hours simply enjoying the ambience.  I still have a Dads Day card Matthew sent me.

The favourite outlet had a fascinating window with, usually pastoral, scenes featuring such as running streams framed with a glass front.  I don’t know how it was done, but the water actually seemed to flow, and movement was also imparted to other elements in the tableaux.  I was standing watching one of these one evening when an Oriental gentleman stood alongside me, equally fascinated.  ‘Devilish clever, these Chinese’, I uttered.  Fortunately he saw the joke.

I spent a very enjoyable evening with Maureen and John who live at number 5.  We talked about many things, and found we had much in common career-wise.  The plan had been that I would give them the benefit of my experience of France, but we moved beyond that.  Maureen provided a smoked salmon starter, followed by succulent steak in pepper sauce and crunchy apricot crumble with ice cream.  Bergerac and Bordeaux wines were an excellent accompaniment.


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