SOUTHWARK: A borough in London (Part 2)

It was now early afternoon & as I stood suitably sustained outside The Founders Arms on the banks of the River Thames, I was ready to stride forth once again into the throng along London’s Southbank.

From boozer I sallied my way westwards once again along The Queens Walk passing the iconic Blackfriars bridge & the pillared remnants of the not-so-iconic Blackfriars Railway Bridge. On a slightly macabre note, it was under this bridge that in June 1982 that a chap by the name of Roberto Calvi was found hanging from one of the span arches, with $14’000 of different denominations in his pockets, complete with 5 bricks. Apparently Mr Calvi had somehow managed to upset his former employers….

Just a stone’s throw beyond Blackfriars, I spied the infamous (or possibly famous) former site of the OXO company, famous (or possibly infamous) for their foiled beef stock cubes (“Ah Mr Beef-Stock-Cube, you have been foiled once again….”). Apparently the O-X-O design on the tower is actually cleverly designed windows, purposely incorporated to bypass the skyline advertising laws of the 1920’s. These days the building & surrounding area has been transformed by the Coin Street Community Builders to make it a jolly nice place to visit (& live I would imagine).

My next POI was the Royal National Theatre, abbreviated as the National Theatre, which is further abbreviated as the NT. Quoted as being “one of the seminal works of British Modernism” the NT, National Theatre, or even the Royal National Theatre is a masterpiece made of concrete, although not to my own personal taste. A little further on, around the lower aspects of Waterloo Bridge, I walked past the Southbank Skatepark, whereby local youths practiced their prowess on four-tiny wheels, amidst a subtle & delicate backdrop of illuminating street-art, complete with the not-so-subtle & delicate aroma of marijuana. I carried on, passing a comment to a spliff-smoking teenager that it was ‘totally rad man’. He ignored me in a totally awesome kind of way.

By this time, I must say that I had developed a bladder the size of airship (due to lunchtime rehydration activities), so I made a bee-line for a coffee shop in the arcade below Festival Hall. I always think that if one has to use the facilities of an establishment, then it is only good manners to purchase something as a way of showing gratitude, so with the tiniest pack of almonds in my clutches, I paid my dues & wandered out on the seated concourse once again.

Suddenly, out of nowhere my brain started to talk to me: “I say old chap look over there, it is one of those places that sells BOOKS. Why not have a look? You always need another book. What about a map? You really need a map.” And so I gave in to my inner voices & spent the next half an hour looking through the travel book section & then the next half an hour sat outside the coffee shop, drinking tea & reading the intro to my newly purchased book & also admiring the topography of South Wales.

By this time, I was getting bored with the constant zig-zagging about the tourists (yes, I know theoretically I was also a tourist, but as with most British, we never consider ourselves to be tourists, merely locals who have extended beyond the perimeters of their own habitats), & so I made for the nearest tube station. For those who have never experienced the London underground after 4pm on a week-day, I would say it is like the Pamplona bull-run just without the bulls – it is fecking bedlam. Thankfully, I only had two erratic stops on the Jubilee Line until I was at London Bridge Station.

After riding the massive escalators up to ground level, I bore right & followed signs to the main London Bridge Station, passing through a corridor of impressive brick-built railway arches which have been turned into small shops. Out in the expanse of the modern, highly polished concourse, I exited & found myself suddenly at the base of The Shard – a monumental great erection that will look lovely when it is finally finished.

It was at this precise moment, that I would like to of told you about how to I wandered to & around Borough Market, sampling all manner of edible & potable delicacies, but after spending so long in the Southbank bookshop/coffeeshop it was now closed. So instead of heading west past Guy’s Hospital, I turned south-east & wandered along Saint Thomas Street past the ‘eclectic mix of drinks, food, flea market & art’ that is the Vinegar Yard (so named after the famous vinegar manufacturer located in the area) finally heading south-ish onto Bermondey Street. This hidden gem is full of small eateries & pubs & arty shops – it is also home to the Fashion & Textile Museum if you are interested in that kind of thing. And it is here, as I sit outside The Garrison public house in the evening London sunshine that I bade my Southwark dawdle au-revoir.

Until next time chums, pip-pip.

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