20 October - Covent Garden

Jet lag a little better today, but low on energy. Today I learned about CFM boots and the geography of London. Not really too many piccies today.

The morning was spent finishing my journal for the day before, phoning home, and gathering energies for a trip to Covent Garden, Westend, and Soho. Those locations all sounded quite up-market I thought so I fished out a nice boucle skirt, my boots, and a black 3/4 stretch fit shirt.

My orange ski jacket did not really go, but I had decided that my one big splash out purchase while over here would be a jacket or coat. If I could avoid the papazzi until after Covent Garden and a new jacket purchase all would be well.

Waiting for the bus I discovered that there is a sub-genus of men who have developed a bizarre neanderthal behaviour pattern which they exhibit on sight of a woman wearing boots like mine.

The bus driver for example of the 77 to town (I was awaiting the 77a) gestured "are you coming on board?", after the other woman who had been waiting at the stop with me had got on. I mimed back "No thanks".

He replied with a display something like the mating ritual of the frill necked lizard, with "come on" hand waving, kissing gestures, and a lascivious grin. He might have hoped was it charming or mischeivous, but was more on the drooling end of the spectrum.

It made me quite nervous. There were a few more toots and something like a primal howl from one or two male motorists, before I finally got the 77a. It was then I realised the importance of raising to the male consciousness that there was such a thing as the ImAGibberingNeanderthalShirt and determined to report it for the good of all.

Strangely I saw no more evidence of the sub-genus "Gibberous Neanderthalus" and decided their feeding grounds of sleazy magazine shops and topless bars must localize their grazing habits. I gazed determinedly out the window of the double-decker the rest of the way in.


There's a remarkable building just at the Lambeth bridge crossing into town. The ground level is shored up with massive concrete construction, its ringed with malevolent iron fencing and festooned with cameras. It stands like a verdegris coloured colossus stalwartly looking out over the river.


Word has it that it is the premises of MI6. But there's no signage - it remains resolutely anonymous.

I alighted at Aldwych, which is the name of a crescent shaped road near Covent Garden, only to find I'd left my map behind. A laconic sign says "Aldwych" and you're supposed to know that that is the street you're on. Very confusing.

I rang our man in London for further instructions. Between lots of sirens in the background on the other end of the phone call, and some jitteriness at the possibility of genetic throwbacks placing some new frightening interpretation on the cut of my hem, instructions were muffed and I set out in the wrong direction touring past Somerset House and the Law Courts before eventually finding Covent Garden.

The markets there are interesting. Set in old refurbished fruit stalls, the exterior creates sort of natural amphitheatres where buskers can entertain a gallery and stalls full of passers-by. There was a woman doing opera singing, to the accompaniment of a boom box, entreating donations or CD purchases with an operatically outstretched hand.

I found a black jacket in a stall there, leather, with a zip front but nicely cut for £75. I probably will be told I paid too much but I've been to a lot of cheap leathergoods shops and had a lot of trouble finding anything with a decent fit. This seemed a good buy, despite it adding up to something over $200 in Australian coin.

Then I wandered down a lane and found myself in this unexpectedly quiet spot, a churchyard. It was Saint Paul's of Covent Garden. A sort of actors salvation, tucked away in the interstitial spaces between the theatres, shops and markets. A group of what looked like homeless people were sitting on a bench out the front, one singing a theatrical tune in a commanding baritone.

The striking feature of the church was the several hundred years of plaques on the walls, initially commemorating ordinary parishioners but with time giving over to those who'd trod the boards nearby. Many famous names were there on relatively humble plaques: Ivor Novello, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth More. Dancers, singers, actors and others. And Mary Ffenn:

  Here under lieth ey body of Mary
Ffenn, Late wife of John Ffenn
who departed this life ey 14 of
September 1648

Reader look Heere a wonder
amongft men, Thou treadf upon
and Qderiferouwf Ffenn,
A pious, vertvowf Chaft
Religeowf wife, Expecting
Refurrection, left thif life.

I looked down to my feet and hoped I wasnt standing on the dear soul. I wondered if she had indeed received the treatment she'd sternly requested.

I met up with my native guide at a bar called "All Bar One", which in typical british fashion was signed all over with "where people meet people", such that you'd think that was what it was called. No wonder the London Taxi drivers "knowledge" is so hard to attain, when the London signwriters guild and namers of locations seem bent at confusing all comers.

Then we walked toward Soho. There's a huge illuminated billboard we passed in I think Piccadilly Circus. Nearby is an entrance to a tube station. These you so often see togeether in photos or film of London that I felt I probably wouldnt bother adding yet another. We ate in Soho at a fantastically good Thai place right opposite a brothel.

Soho is very interesting place to walk through, apparently where Britain's stiff upper lip trembles and a blind eye is turned. I didnt see any police to ask directions of, but the sort of directions you might need there would probably be better sought from the sex shop proprietors or other red-light authorities.

Next: 21 October - Lambeth Walk