Sunday, 18 March 2007

A Day Out (I'd have said 'Grand' but the title has been used)

It was a gorgeous day on Wednesday. London looked so pretty. The traffic, as we approached the City, was awful and the driver took us over Tower Bridge, down Tooley Street and back across London Bridge as that was the quickest way to St Paul's. When we got off the coach, several people asked me the way to go. I pointed, vaguely, away from the river and latched on to friends who actually had some idea where we were going.

We went to the Guildhall first. This is open to the public, except when it isn't. They don't publish in advance whether it is open or not, for security reasons if a Foreign Dignitary (or possibly even a Brit) is coming to call.

It was to be open in the morning. We read the sign. £2.50 entrance, or £1 for concessions. My friends, a little older than I, grinned smugly. I fumbled in my bag for coins. Straight-faced, the woman at the desk said "That'll be a pound each." I was mortified. Only a couple of weeks earlier, when we'd got a block booking for over-60s to Windsor Castle and I was the only one of 49 who has not reached this august age, I felt the need to wrinkle my face and let my chins down. Evidently I had not yet regained my normal smoothly unblemished youthfulness.

We went through the art galleries, which have pre-Raphaelite paintings, official portraits and some 20th Century art. Then we went down into the Roman amphitheatre which was brilliant. It was only discovered about 20 years ago and the restoration has continued until recently. It was really a pleasure to wander in the empty galleries, unobserved by attendants (although, of course, less visibly seen by the CTTV) and to see meetings carrying on in adjoining rooms. How enjoyable, to go to work and take for granted surroundings like those.

By this time my friend Sue and I were getting giggly and we exclaimed joyfully over the food on offer at the sandwich bar. Not a drop did we have all day, I assure you. We were high on springtime, perhaps? It was sunny and fresh and everyone in the streets looked smart and cheerful. And very prosperous. The City of London gives an impression, at present, of streets paved with gold. There's a lot of it about. Positively glistering, it is (are you going to quote Gray at me?).

Goldsmiths' Hall was great. There is a small exhibition on in the foyer, and we'd booked for a private tour. A most engaging chap whose name, sad to say, I didn't catch, showed us round and told us of the history of the Goldsmiths', one of the twelve Great Livery Companies. They are fifth in order of precedence, immediately after the Fishmongers, which rather appeals to me.

Gorgeous marbled halls, gilded and painted columns and ceilings, splendid candelabra - if you go to an evening reception in the Livery Hall, the 493 candles are lit in the 5 candelabra - all by one nimble chap, apparently - but they are wired too and we had lightbulbs. At dinner, silver-gilt rosewater bowls are passed around for the guests to rinse their fingers. Messy eaters, these City people, it seems.

Each year, in October, the Goldsmiths' Fair is held and most of us keenly put our names down on the mailing list - one friend who has been says that it's wonderful. Like the Guildhall, it is a working building and it's where silver, gold and platinum items go to be hallmarked (as well as to the other assay offices in the country, Sheffield, Birmingham and Edinburgh).

8 comments:

Dandelion said...

All that glisters is not gold, apparently.

And what are the Goldsmiths doing washing their hands in silver bowls? What is that about?

I went to a dinner at "one of the 12 great livery companies", and it was fabulous, because when they brought round the port, suddenly someone banged a thing, and told us to stand for the queen. I knew it was just a toast, but quite a few people started looking around for her...

Glad you had a lovely day. And a lovely mothers day.

Z said...

I fed you that line!

Silver-gilt, so it did look like gold...and it glistered.

I went to a couple of the Lord Mayor's dinners at the Mansion House. Reet posh they were, apparently. Unfortunately they were a few months before I was born and I didn't see a thing...

A wildlife gardener said...

Never been to those places, but I'm impressed. Fancy all that happening in such close proximity to the Roman stuff...lucky things working there, as you say.

martin said...

Imagine the cheek of that ticket person. I once went to the theatre with someone and they mistook him for the harmonica player Larry Adler, this bought me to me knees in the foyer of the Comedy Theatre as he had been dead six months and was about 88 when he died. Needless to say the person in question did not quite see it from the same angle as me !. I did go to Denmark Street and get him a Hohner as a joke, that came flying back past me ear...some people.
I have started my research 500 blogs, lots of coffee.

Z said...

My elder son used to start his school day with assembly in Norwich Cathedral. It had no effect whatsoever on his appreciation of the finer things, but I was jealous (though I expect it was damn cold most of the year)

Martin, at least the story raised a laugh when I gave the vote of thanks for the organiser on the return journey.

Crumbs, you are dedicated. I really am not worthy.

How do we know said...

i come to your blog most days and thoroughly love reading.. you can be entertaining, witty and original, all at the same time! :-)

Since i had nothing to say (as usual!), will just say Hi! and leave..

Z said...

Oh, you are sweet to me. And far too kind.

badgerdaddy said...

Post reminded me of that fabulous Norwich Union building on Surrey Street in Norwich. Oh, and that old Barclays Bank which isn't used as a bank any more - that's a stunner, would love to have a wander round the upstairs there.
Although they're probably a bit less sexy than your Goldsmith's whatsits.