19 July 2012

LIKE 37: Another walk through the grey soul of London

The London Information and Knowledge Exchange (LIKE) takes a Summer break from the monthly business meetings and has a bit of fun instead.

We had done a couple of walks previously, around the City and Kings Cross, and these had been very popular so it seemed sensible to do another one.

I suggested that we do a walk through the grey soul of London as I had done it before and had enjoyed it immensely. As it happens the guide, Robert Kingham, works for the same company and in the same building as a couple of LIKE stalwarts and they were able to sort out the details with him.

Sadly these details included aiming for a 8pm finish to allow reasonable time for a meal. When I did the walk the first time it went on until 10pm so Robert had to cut a lot out of the tour. More sad news is that the cuts included the two pub stops.

Our starting point was The Harlequin pub in the shadow of Sadler's Wells where the theme for the evening was set.

There was light but steady rain so we all cowered under our umbrellas while Robert (who proved to be water-proof) started the evening of many fascinating and unusual stories.

Here we learnt that at one time Sadler's Wells had a large water tank and featured an act where a baby was thrown in to the water and was rescued by a dog.

We also learnt why words like "wells" and "bath" are common in the area and that this used to be a main route for driving cattle in to London.

Our confusing route then took us through the side streets of Finsbury, now relegated to history in preference for the less descriptive Islington, where we kept coming across water, things underground and Finsbury's place in literature.

Robert regaled us with many stories along the way, the whole point of the walk being to hear stories about London in situ. These were stories of people who lived there and how it was gradually colonised by an eclectic mix of buildings some of which have already become redundant.

We ended up at The Union Tavern not that late where food and wine was waiting for us.

Then it was time for Robert to take a well earned rest and for the rest of us to tell our own stories, and LIKE people need to encouragement to talk.

Only the presence of a few rolled-up umbrellas gave any indication that it had rained at all. It certainly had no impact on our enjoyment of the walk or on our mood in general. People who are used to moaning about the English weather had hardly noticed it.

The buzz from the walk was intense and infectious and time fizzed past in unseemly haste. We moved around a little and shuffled a long a little as the early-birds left to catch trains to distant parts. Each move nudged the conversations in new directions and strengthen the already strong connections in the community. And LIKE is a proper community.

Eventually even those of us who live not that far away had to drift off to be sure of getting home and I am sure that I am not the only one who was still buzzing three hours after the walk ended.

I knew that a walk through the grey soul of London could be good and I was worried a little about the rain but it proved to be even better than I expected. It was simply a fantastic evening.

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