St Anne’s churchyard is a small patch of open ground at the Shaftesbury Avenue end of Wardour Street, Soho.
Once the hang out of druggies and al-fresco drinkers, it’s now a pleasant enough quiet spot in a crowded part of the city, and even on the grey, chilly March day I wandered in there, there were plenty of people sat eating their lunches.
The essayist William Hazlitt is buried in the churchyard (he died in Frith Street – his old home now a very expensive hotel) as is Theodore I of Corsica, who has an epitaph on a plaque on the tower wall, written by Horace Walpole:
I’ve been lax at blog posts this year (there are ones coming on the Tudor Pull, Marlborough St Magistrates Court and Michael Fagan, honest), but as I’m out and about on the Blue Badge Guide stuff I occasionally manage to take some pictures and load them up to instagram.
You can follow what I shoot if you look for ‘donbrowndotlondon’, but here’s a selection of recent images from across the capital.
I’m having a coffee in the last of the Soho coffee bars.
An absurd statement on the face of it; there are probably more places to get a coffee in Soho now than at any time in the past.
But I’m talking about the Bar Italia, a place that justifies the label ‘Soho Institution’ and a world away from your chai lattes and skinny decaffs.
Here you’ll still find the waistcoated waiters (all Italian), a gleaming Gaggia machine and polished brass till. The picture of Rocky Marciano is still behind the bar, the Italian flags, football trophies and the last of the Christmas pannetone hang from the ceiling. It’s the closest you’ll get to a true Italian bar this side of Palermo.
One of the shocks of middle age is realising just how old some of the music is that one listens to. Like all right-thinking people, one of my favourite tracks is the Clash’s ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais‘ – which is now nearly 40 years old. It’s chastening to think that track is as distant from the present as punk was from Ambrose and his Orchestra and Al Bowlly.
The other shock is that the places associated with this music have become sites for visitors. In just the same way as one would go and see parts of the city where Shakespeare or Dickens lived and worked, so one can now go and pay one’s respects to the venues where the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones or David Bowie once performed. Continue reading “Rock ‘n’ Roll London”
[Update: the good news, if you read the comments below, is that Bradley’s is safe until at least 2018. So even I might get around to visiting it again.]
[update 2: the not good news. the lockdown threatens the survival of the Bar. Jan de Vries has a fundraiser here to try and keep it going] Hanway Street, a narrow little cut-through (that hardly anyone actually uses to cut through) between Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, has just been bought by developers, and that means another of London’s institutions will be swept away.
That is Bradley’s Spanish Bar, a place that I haven’t been in for nearly 20 years, but which has huge, fond memories of when I worked in Covent Garden and Soho in the late ’80s and early ’90s.