I went into Central London to write in a cafe this morning and got off the tube at Tottenham Court Road. The area beneath Centre Point is currently a building site. Yet again they're trying to make that curiously troubled part of town look nice. I was very saddened to see the seven story Victorian terrace which runs to the south of the tower block in a state of semi-dereliction. I am hoping they'll keep the building's grand facade. That was the site of First Out, which was one of London's most beloved gay cafes. I remember it in the 1990s. It was always rather popular with lesbians as I recall. There were two floors linked by a dark, thin staircase, and they did great veggie food. Gone dear. They're all gone.
The zone underneath Centre Point has always looked somewhat grottier than everything around it. I read somewhere that the ground had been cursed, probably by gypsies, although I'm sure most places have been cursed by gypsies at some point - our wedding venue included. It used to be a rabbit warren of lawless slums where the police feared to visit.
When prisoners were being transported from Newgate Prison to the hangman's noose at Tyburn (modern day Marble Arch), I'm told that they were always given the chance to stop for a final pint of ale en route. There was a pub at the place were Centre Point is these days, and, if the carts stopped there, more notorious prisoners were often bundled by the crowd into the safety of the slums. Or so the story goes... I may, of course, have made it up. That's history for you! And the Bible...
I worked through the morning in Starbucks where I was horrified to discover a single mug of tea costed over £2. When you consider what tea actually is, a tea bag and some hot water, you suddenly realise what a ludicrous mark-up there is on this particular resource. After all, how much does a single tea bag actually cost? 5p? Probably less if you buy in bulk. Daylight robbery!
I suddenly realised that I'd entirely timed out went back to Tottenham Court Road to start a journey to the osteopath. I walked past a busker whom I instantly recognised as having featured in The Busker Symphony. His name is Ben, and he's in two of the four films. He only has half an arm, so has found an ingenious way of strumming the guitar with what little of an arm he has. It's quite extraordinary. I wanted to wait around to say hello, but I was in a rush, and he was playing Cold Play, so I figured I could have been there for some time! He looked a little older. Of course he did. We made the film ten years ago! I realise I've been talking about that particular set of films rather a lot recently. If you're not familiar with them and would like a watch, how about starting with the Finale.
It's been a real pleasure simply walking around London in the sunshine today. I met Nathan for lunch after the osteopath. We didn't know where to eat. It's not just First Out which has vanished. Every cafe I ever knew now seems to have closed. Stock Pot. West End Kitch. Amalfi. Di's Diner. Number One Cafe. I wanted a baked potato. That's all I wanted. Not a fancy panino, some sort of chi-chi sushi with edamame or a slice of wheat and gluten free cake. We couldn't think where to go. It was horrifying...
We ended up finding a little cafe, away from the shiny shell that is now Soho, where they were playing Dixieland jazz. I realised after listening to a horrible shrieking noise for the best part of five minutes that there is now nothing a clarinet can do to please my ears. What a ghastly racket that instrument makes. I'm still up for being proven wrong, however, so if any clarinetists or clarinet junkies reading this want to point me in the direction of something sublime, I am open and willing.
A veil of sadness of course descended on the day when I belatedly heard the news from Brussels. Yet again I found myself sending a round robin of texts out to people I thought might have been affected. It makes me sure of one thing: I am a European. I identify with the European spirit and stand proud next to my brothers and sisters. I will never never vote to leave Europe.
I was heartened this evening to discover a wonderful version of Sing A Song of Yorkshire on YouTube. It's rather thrilling to think that people up in Yorkshire are still singing the anthem and embracing it as, "expressing the soul and essence of God's Own County." That is probably the highest and most moving compliment which has ever been paid to my music.
If you'd like to hear this lovely version, follow this link