An all-around good day today, in spite of the heat.
It may have reached a high of 85 today, and it is never supposed to be that hot in London, especially in September. According to Accuweather.com, the average daily high temperature for this time of year is 66.
Yesterday was hot too. I have had to leave tie, vest, and hat behind when I go out. I am wearing cotton khaki trousers instead of wool flannels.
It’s supposed to get back to normal in a few days. At least, Accuweather says so.
This morning began late on purpose. I got up, had some corn flakes and coffee, looked at the Times online, checked e-mail, and went back to bed. It was going to be a late night.
It was about one when I hit the pavement. Having been reminded of St. Giles Cripplegate, I looked it up. It’s near London Wall in the general neighborhood of St. Paul’s.
I took the Underground to Paul’s, but decided to skip the cathedral today. I’ve been there a few times, and didn’t feel like dropping $25 to spend an hour inside.
I walked up Cheapside, which is still a thriving commercial street. “Cheap,” I have read, originally meant “trade.”
I got as far as Wood Street and remembered that was supposed to take me to St. Giles Cripplegate. And it did. (I lost my nerve and stopped to ask directions about 50 yards from the goal.)
For me, St. Giles is a spooky place, both for its age and for its connections.
It is believed to stand on the site of a Saxon church that disappeared entirely. Maybe like the first pig’s house, it was made of mud and straw.
The first stone church on the site was built in 1090. That, I think, burned down, and a Gothic style church rose on the site late in the 14th century. Chaucer and Gower were both still alive then.
Fire destroyed that church in the 1500s, along with a lot of parish records. A new St. Giles went up after that.
I’m not sure, considering all the fires, but the Great Fire of London may not have reached St. Giles.
The Germans, on the other hand, did get there. There was one bomb explosion right outside the building that did some damage. But something like hell broke loose one night in 1940 when the whole area was drenched by a rain of fire bombs.
The plans for the 14th century reconstruction were discovered in a library somewhere and used by an architect to restore St. Giles sometime in the 1960s.
A little guide book at the church says the tower may contain some stones from the original 11th century stone church. It didn’t say, though, which stones.
But the spookiest, most entertaining thing about St. Giles Cripplegate is the roster of people associated with it. Famous Roundheads, for instance.
The most famous is probably John Milton, who is buried next to his father under the floor in front of the chancel.
Oliver Cromwell was married at St. Giles to a parishioner.
Martin Frobisher, the explorer of the Arctic seas and the Northwest Passage, is also there. I don’t know if he’s under the floor or set in the wall, where his plaque is.
I looked it up in the guide book. Wow. He was Henslowe’s partner (and an actor who married Henslowe’s step-daughter) in the Rose Theater.
He is honored for his contributions to the parish. The window shows him holding an almshouse.
In one panel is a rendering of an Elizabethan Age theater, which is identified as the Fortune. It was another partnership with Henslowe and was built in London, north of the Thames. Maybe in St. Giles parish.
He also ran bear baiting pits and brothels. So he had plenty of money to support pious works. He funded a couple of schools, too.
Hey, I know about Henslowe, and the Rose. Small world, right?
It gets smaller yet. Among my favorite books, after the plays of Shakespeare, and right up there with “Canterbury Tales,” is the 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible.
Authorized by King James I, it is largely a politically corrected edition of earlier, illegal translations by William Tyndale (New Testament) and Myles Coverdale (Old Testament). It also contains some of the most exquisite turns of phrase ever turned in English lierature.
One of the rectors of St. Giles Cripplegate, Lancelot Andrewes, became the bishop of somewhere and was one of the editors of the King James Bible.
London Wall today is a street that runs roughly next to where the original city wall stood. Most of the wall is gone now, but a section of it and the remains of a medieval tower stand outside St. Giles church.
I was returning to St. Giles after 20 years, my first trip to London. Hell, my first trip to Europe.
I had read about the church and the neighborhood in a book called “The Victorian Underworld.” The parish was known as the St. Giles Rookery. It’s where thieves on the run would go for safe haven.
According to the book, the cellars contained passages with traps and deadfalls, so only the initiated could travel them safely.
Outside St. Paul’s I had noticed signs pointing to different sights nearby. One was Temple Bar.
That’s not a saloon, but a gate of sorts. It marks the border between the cities of London and Westminster. Traditionally, the sovereign had to stop at Temple Bar and ask permission to enter the City of London.
I have no clue what was expected to happen if somebody said no.
Temple Bar, though, meant Fleet Street and the Cheshire Cheese, a pub that has operated in one form or another for about 500 years on the same site. It burned down, like most buildings in the neighborhood, in the Great Fire of 1666, but it was rebuilt the next year.
Dickens, Dr. Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith and a lot of other literary hacks used to hang out there in their times.
The place has a great feel—black (possibly false) beams, white-washed stone walls, lots of stone stairs, small bar rooms. It may be authentic, but what do I know.
Seeing that I was at the Cheshire Cheese, I had a cheese sandwich and a Samuel Smith bitter. Like the Crown over in St. Giles, this seemed to be a Samuel Smith pub. The brewers do that here, buy up pubs and run them.
It was a cheese sandwich, but they still don’t serve cheese from Cheshire. I actually tried something years ago that purported to be from Cheshire (bought it in New York) and it was very good.
I walked down Fleet Street, which after the Temple Bar becomes the Strand in Westminster. I passed the actual Temple, and went down Inner Temple Lane to the church.
I got there about five minutes before closing and got a quick look at the effigy tombs of the knights on the floor.
Not a whole lot is known about the Knights Templar.
They were powerful and rich, like most religious orders. They were fierce, especially in defending their prerogatives, and they were independent as hell.
Some of the effigies have crossed legs. There is a suggestion (not confirmed) that crossed legs signify that the knight served in a crusade.
Outside the church is an obelisk. At the top is a statue of two Templars on one horse. I read years go that it’s an allegory of brotherhood and personal poverty.
Back at the hotel, the Internet connection failed, but it came back in time for me to get a Skype call through to Joanna. Such a sweet lady, it’s a joy to talk to her.
I made it to the Globe in plenty of time to have a half pint at one of the many pubs called the Swan. If you take your drink in a plastic cup, you can carry it to the theater. How civilized is that?
I didn’t take mine to my seat, but did take it to the theater courtyard. You can stand there and look over a wall onto the Thames and the Bankside walk.
I’ve already talked about how much I love that place.
This was my third visit to the New Globe. The play was “Macbeth.” The production, like the others I have seen here, was both unusual and intriguing.
Years ago, I got to see a fantastic production of “As You Like It,” in which the main piece of scenery was a cargo container that served as house, hiding place, palace, and whatnot.
The actors were dressed in an early 20th century fashion. One character wore a vest, jacket, trousers, and shoes that were identical to pieces that I owned. I have worn them together like a suit ever since.
My second visit to the Globe was with Joanna in 2012 to see a production of “Henry VI, Part 2.”
This is the play in which the Duke of York starts plotting to take the crown and Jack Cade leads his rebellion. In one scene, Cade sits on London Stone (which is on present-day Cannon Street) to talk to his followers.
London Stone was represented by a piece of polished log that was rolled across the stage. Very traditional staging, I think.
London was in Olympics fever at the time, so the Globe was showing international productions of Shakespeare. The most unusual feature of the performance was that it was in Albanian.
“Macbeth” was equally creative. It had a small band that included percussion, viola, and cello, and several voices.
The Weird Sisters did not speak. Their lines were delivered by singers in the band.
There were times when the percussionist sang, apparently through an electronic voice-altering device that created a very basso drone.
Many of the lyrics were in (I believe) Gaelic. Others were in Latin. The theater runs captions on the wall, for the deaf and the half-deaf, like me.
There were black and white players playing Scots. One of the players was missing a forearm. She was one of the Weird Sisters (a trio that somehow had expanded to four) and did a fantastic job improvising the porter during the knocking scene.
At one point, she is swearing by Beelzebub that the knocker should wait, and then swears by the “other devil,” casts about for the name, and then comes up with Trump.
She lets MacDuff in, finds him attractive, and then starts making lewd gestures and suggestions.
One of the attractions of live performances is the interaction with the audience. After the intermission, MacDuff came out and spoke a soliloquy which became a conversation with the audience. At one point he asked for an “Amen” and got it. At another point, it was “Hell, yeah.”
I was out of the theater by 10:40 and back to Russell Square by quarter after 11.
They are about to close the Night and Day, so I have to go.
Life is good, everybody.
And to all a good night.