Find your feet
It’s ground to a halt. If you’re above ground and in a car, London—quite apart from the saga of Uber and black cabs—isn’t moving. there’s the congestion of polluting traffic of which you, dear driver, are a part. Roadworks make it worse. the greatest bugbear is Boris Johnson’s cycle super highways, still under construction. Given how tight road space is, they do seem to be extravagant— they’re permanently dedicated to cyclists, not only during rush hour (as in other cycle-friendly cities).
At weekends, you may find yourself stranded on the wrong side of the river by the increasing number of sporting events for which roads are closed. Once you’ve reached your destination, you’re unlikely to find a parking space. the internal-combustion engine has had its day as far as cities are concerned.
Fortunately, we have an alternative: our feet. With traffic at a standstill, more people are discovering what a pleasant city London is to walk in. It’s not as compact as Paris, but there are more green spaces. However, put aside the health benefits for a moment: walking enables us to use our eyes. the skyline might increasingly comprise high-rise towers, but the capital is rich in commemorative statues. they’re of all kinds and dates—statesmen, soldiers, monarchs, Peter Pan, the Camel Corps and Achilles— and the London society’s app (statuefindr) can help you to learn more.
However, London isn’t only William III in st James’s square or Monty outside the Ministry of Defence. It’s a city that, in its own quiet way, delights in decoration, from temple Bar (re-erected in Paternoster square) to the York Watergate. Queen Anne never built the column that would have borne her figure outside st Mary-le-strand; it would have marked the boundary between Westminster and the City of London, yet the Victorian dragon, bearing the City’s coat of arms, is a splendid creature and some of its close relations can be seen in our quiz (page 120).
Look up! A caravel weathervane is turning over 2, temple Place, once the Astor Estate office. Justice weighs her golden scales above the Old Bailey—she was one of the imperial flourishes brought to us by the Edwardian age. these were also the terracotta years, made glorious by C. Fitzroy Doll’s Hotel Russell in Russell square. the New sculpture gave us Alfred Gilbert’s shaftesbury Memorial Fountain on Piccadilly Circus and the Arts-andCrafts movement the jolly Blackfriar pub —which reminds us of another boon of not driving. Cheers!
‘More people are discovering what a pleasant city London is to walk in