Summoned for 6.30 pm., we arrived half an hour early (London traffic is temperamental at 5.30pm and I had over-compensated). So we headed (already feeling sticky and somewhat stressed from a disrupted train journey) for one of the City pubs, to see if we could find a cold drink.
One look inside the broiling interior of the 'Red Herring', with shoals of slick City workers overflowing onto the street and we decided that a stroll would be a more pleasurable thing to do. So we wandered off into some of the little lanes and alleyways that still reticulate this area - mostly amongst modern buildings now, but still with their old, evocative names…'Oat Lane' - 'Gutter Alley' - 'Staining Lane' - 'Milk Street'.
Amongst the steel, glass and concrete of these modern buildings are others - perhaps only remnants - of those buildings that were here before; before the Great Fire of 1666, or before the visits of the Luftwaffe, sent by Mr. Hitler.
All that is left after WW2 of St Alban - the lonely Wren tower on the site of a medieval church
But thanks to foresight and good intentions, many of these places and spaces have been turned into small, sometimes tiny gardens, providing oases of greenery, a breath of fresh air and the opportunity for working people to touch the natural world for a few moments in their otherwise sterile days. I have heard these sorts of spaces referred to as 'the lungs of a city' and experienced just how true that was last night.
Here are some images of just a couple of these hidden gems so you may see just what I mean. The grand dinner was lovely; the surroundings, the food, wine and good company could not but capture my attention - but it was the tiny gardens of the City of London that really captured my heart.
The garden at St Mary Aldermanbury
A shady oasis
Topiary Knot Garden (ready for clipping now!) - resplendant Magnolia grandiflora (?) in the background
A monument to the publishers of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays
The entrance to the garden at St John Zachary - the Goldsmiths Garden
The gilded gateway, depicting the Leopard's Head - assay mark for London.
The Goldsmiths Garden - Wax-Chandlers Hall in the background
Beautiful Georgian fanlight over the doorway
'Let Evening Come'
The sumptuous interior of Goldsmiths Hall - including the glittering chandeliers, which last night were lit by real candlelight - can be viewed interactively on their website