Bishopsgate, Borough Market, London, Shakespeare's Globe, Shoreditch, Southwark, St. Mary Overie, Threadneedle Street, Time travel
The first thing was the bus from Stansted, entering London through Shoreditch and Bishopsgate – passing by St. Botolph – and then Threadneedle Street, and seeing it all through memories of the Agas Map, and touring companies coming back to London after traipsing through the provinces, and people coming and going between Norton Folgate and the City, and the Pye Inn, and everything else…
Then there was entering St. Mary Overie on a grey and drizzling morning, to find an orchestra and choir at rehearsal, and sitting down to listen blissfully as the music filled the nave, up, up to the ribbed vault – while sparing some brain to imagine Elizabethan weddings, and wonder what exactly was here in 1592 and what wasn’t.
Borough Market deserves a mention, because it was so easy to get lost among the stalls, and imagine that the people rubbing shoulders and jostling one about wore doublets, and jerkins, and kirtles… It was just a matter of half-closing one’s eyes, and one could almost hear the old, old calls offering jellied eels, and oranges and lemons, and codlings…
But the best thing was to walk along Park Street (I think) a little before two in the afternoon. To walk upstream, as people flocked in the general direction of the Globe and the Rose… And it was the best thing, because just then a little window opened on some long-gone Southwark afternoon, and yes, there were far too many houses, and the ground wasn’t packed dirt, and the people wore digital cameras around their necks – and yet… And yet there was a definite feel that many things hadn’t changed too much across four centuries.
And it was glorious. I love it very much when these windows open on another time. It is the stuff of which dreams are made to a historical novelist. I think quite a few of us chose to write historical fiction because of some moment of this kind. And this London weekend was so very generous… Well, of course it helps to be in the place where one’s novel is set – and to be ther between drafts. But really, it was a wonderful day or two of time-travel.
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