London Stories, a Rich and Complex Tapestry

I’ve just spent a week in London, near the Tower, and my mind is full of London stories… stories of many different aspects of life in the city. First of all, I think of the tales we were told on the walk from Whitechapel tube station, the Hidden East End walk, led by one of London Walks’ brilliant raconteurs.

Stories that encompassed Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the Salvation Army, the Tower Hamlets Mission, the almshouses, the White Hart pub and Richard II, Henry de Montfort and his daughter, and his alias as the Blind Beggar, stories of the Elephant Man and Whitechapel Hospital, of the French Huguenots’ houses near Brick Lane, Spitalfields, and the building that has housed four major faiths…

French Huguenots' houses Spitalfields
French Huguenots’ houses Spitalfields

I have in my mind stories of the vulnerable and oppressed: enslaved Africans, whose story is told at the Museum of London, Docklands;  foundlings abandoned on the streets during the height of the gin craze, whose story is told at the Foundling Museum, Bloomsbury;

The grand room that the governors met in, Foundling Hospital, London
The grand room that the governors met in, Foundling Hospital, London

and stories of the disabled ex-sailors, some as young as 12, who were looked after according to a strict regime in the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich.

Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich
Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich

I have in mind the magnificent and privileged, those in Anglo Saxon times who were important and wealthy enough to leave precious time capsules for the British Library to display centuries later in their Anglo Saxon Kingdoms exhibition:  the magnificent, the scholarly and the gifted: kings, monks and abbots.

anglo saxon kingdoms, art, word, war
anglo saxon kingdoms, art, word, war

So, throughout my week in London and all the places I visited, I have in mind the peasants, the gangsters, the deformed, the desperately poor, along with the brickmakers, the law-makers,  the ministers, the politicians,  and civil servants and officials of Westminster whose alter-egos were created in the Ministry of Magic by JK Rowling… for we learned, too, about the locations in Westminster where the film-makers brought her imagined scenes to life, in Harry Potter on Location in London town

In my next few blog posts I’ll have more to say about these and other individual strands of London life, but for now let it remain a brief survey of a rich and complex tapestry.

Cutty Sark Uplifted and Renewed – Fantastic Transformation

It’s been twelve years since I last visited the Cutty Sark at Greenwich – and what a fantastic transformation.

The Cutty Sark 14 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)
The Cutty Sark 14 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

Greenwich and its neighbouring Woolwich in south London are part of my family background, and so this area has been familiar to me from childhood.

This made my return to view the Cutty Sark even more inspiring.

I found the whole visit very uplifting – appropriately so, as the Cutty Sark herself has been uplifted in the most amazing way!

The exhibition area beneath the ship is excellent, with its collection of ships’ figureheads.

Collection of ships' figureheads at the Cutty Sark (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)
Collection of ships’ figureheads at the Cutty Sark (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

And we were later delighted to find ourselves sitting at cafe tables with the ship apparently hovering just above us.

Everything about this attraction is first class, and it is a credit to London and to our British heritage.

The Cutty Sark uplifted (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)
The Cutty Sark uplifted (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

The high standard is maintained in the shop, too, which is full of stylish souvenirs for sale. How could I, as a writer, resist buying myself an attractive cream and gold spiralbound notebook with the motto on the front: Where there’s a will, is a way.

This motto, carved into the ship’s elaborate decoration, is a play on the surname of Jock Willis who commissioned the Cutty Sark (launched in 1869).

For the twenty-first century transformation of the Cutty Sark can certainly be seen as a perfect illustration of this motto in action.