Destinations Magazine

Streets Ahead

By Lwblog @londonwalks

Streets AheadStreets Ahead is the occasional column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker…
Less than a century ago somebody observed (the mot juste), "a great many days of the year it is impossible to see the City church spires from Waterloo Bridge."
Merits May mulling methinks.
So let's mull. Let's lodge some logic.
The other side of the coigne (so to speak) of that sentence is that there unquestionably were days when it was possible "to see the City church spires from Waterloo Bridge."
First thing is, how many can we see today? I don't know but I'm going to find out. Going to go stand on Waterloo Bridge, peer, and count. And report back.
Second thing is, if they were visible on some days but not on other days clearly the culprit on the "can't see 'em today" days was the weather.
The weather god - that tireless and, let it be said, faintly sadistic prankster - is of course still around, having (his idea of) fun with us, cutting up rough, showing us who's boss. In short, pissing on us. And - neat trick this - simultaneously droughting us.
But as wearying as his antics are, he's no longer the main culprit in the matter of not being able to see City church spires from Waterloo Bridge.
Third thing is, go back to that first sentence and reread it. Let its import sink in. Got it? It's that phrase "see the City church spires". Clear implication is that on a clear day you could see all of them. All. Of. Them.
This was 1925.
And maybe that was the case. In 1925 you had to peer into the seeds of time (1931 to be exact) to "see" the Empire State Building. And that was upthrusting New York not human scale London.
If my hunch about the acceleration of the rate of change is correct, it surely was the case that the London of 1925 more closely resembled the London that Wren knew in 1710 than it does our London in 2012.
"What a city it [Wren's London] was, with every view inflected, the steeples bigger than the houses and St. Paul's much bigger than either, Wren ringing the changes infallibly."
Jump cut here to that lovliest of Texan lasses, Cheryl, from Austin. She was on my Shakespeare's & Dickens' Old City walk a few days ago. Joyed my ears by saying she loves this Blog - "I read it every day". She mentioned in particular that piece I did about the Shard and St. Paul's - how height-wise the Shard is in another league altogether, whereas Centrepoint, the building that finally, after 250 years, broke the St. Paul's"height barrier", is only 19 ft. taller than Wren's masterpiece.
I thought of those beautiful parish churches, thought of them then: bigger than their surrounding houses. Ewes to their lambs. And thought of them now - dwarfed, hidden even.
And then the shadow of fear. What if...
What if a hundred years from now - or even mid-century - St. Paul's, which is just about holding its own now, is dwarfed, hidden even?
Lost in a forest of buildings that runt the Shard.
Ay me - ay us - the universal process of transience...

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