Monday, 2 May 2022

REGENTS CANAL WALK CONTINUED. Part 2 (Kings Cross to Kingsland Road.) Part 3 (Kingsland Road to Limehouse.)


Tony and John with the statue of Sir John Betjamin in St Pancras Station.


 On Thursday 24th February John and myself joined by Tony Brown, continued the Regents Canal Walk.

John and I had finished the first part of the walk at The British Library and Kings Cross Station, so it was from there we continued walking the canal path.

We had a wander around St Pancras Station, opened in October 1868 and designed by William Henry Barlow looking at the immense iron and glass arched roofs and the wonderful Victorian brickwork all around, archways and pillars, brickwork, windows and doors. A masterpiece of Victorian Gothic. A ,"cathedral," in its own right. St Pancras is now the Eurostar station and the gateway to Europe from London. Two long sleek Euro Star trains were in the station while we were there.. The tall giant bronze statue of a couple embracing, the plinth of which is surrounded by bronze plaques depicting events connected with the station.

We found the statue to Sir John Betjamin and posed for photographs with him. Betjamin, star of TV documentaries and accessible poetry, his poetry always striking me with the depth of its meaning within the simple imagery and rhythms he created.  In many ways he is the poet of  the mid 20th century landscape  and buildings of Britain. Apart from his poems he is known as the saviour of many a Victorian building that might have been demolished,including St Pancras Station itself. That is why his statue is here.However he was too late to save the amazing façade of Euston Station  a mile down the road from St Pancras.

Revival ran along the hedge

and made my spirit whole

When steam was on the window panes

And Glory in my soul"

 By Sir John Betjamin

The age of steam, the Industrial Revolution, the glories of the Victorian age, the rural landscape and practices of the past were what inspired John Betjamin. I don’t remember, when watching his documentaries as a youth, whether he ever delved into the detrimental aspects of all that, and may well have condoned them as necessary; the class system underpinned by poverty, the coal polluting practices of the Victorian era and so forth. So, in many ways, the popular poet maybe is not so popular now. 

Inside The Betjamin Arms set within The Midlands Hotel.

Britain is , on the whole, quite good at keeping the best examples of our past buildings. We have The National Trust and also English Heritage which are devoted to keeping many examples of  the great country houses of the Georgian period,  Medieval Castles,Roman Forts, including more modern examples of architecture and in some cases buildings kept just because of who lived there. I am thinking here of John Lennon's Aunty Mamies house in Menlove Avenue Liverpool,an ordinary 1930s semi. The National Trust has also preserved   the council house in Forthlin Road Liverpool where Paul McCartney lived as a child and as a teenager wrote, along with John Lennon some of their early hit songs. Houses like those are justly kept. However, our city and town council planning departments have not been so good at retaining unique examples of architecture within their city and town boroughs. “Concrete Brutalist,” buildings , housing estates from the 60s and 70s , often well designed and unique examples of our built heritage in their own right have been the target of demolition. Renovation and repurposing are not in many town planning departments vocabulary, which is a great shame. It begs the important questions, what is valuable? what should be kept? what can be repurposed or renovated? The canal walk provides examples of a whole range of architecture, old and new , some has been repurposed and some developed in new ways, and also places where buildings have been demolished and new masterpieces erected. 

The three of us had a coffee and a chat about this and that, as you do,  in the Betjamin Arms bar and tea room set within the structure of the magnificent Midland Hotel which fronts St Pancras  and overlooks the Euston Road. We could also look back into the station concourse with those Eurostar trains waiting. The interior of the bar displays all the Victorian Gothic features Betjamin was so proud of.

From here we walked out of the front of the station passing the front of The Midland Hotel marvelling at its magnificence.

We reached the canal again just north of St Pancras and Kings Cross.

 We  turned right beside the British Library next door  and headed north towards the canal. We passed

under the vast concrete underpass over which the railway lines from the station pass and then took a turn left up to the canal at Granary Square where indeed the old Victorian buildings that were used as granaries are located. There was also a coal depot here, an old  fading sign on the side of a brick building informs us so. Our walk continued along the north side of the canal going east.

There is a whole mixture of things the canal is about. It has its history of horse drawn boats moving goods about the country and helping in boosting the Industrial Revolution. Iron, sugar, tea, tin, explosives, oil, wool, items from the West Indies , the coal and the granaries at Granary Wharf all part of the diverse trade that the canal enabled.There is much left to show us about its origins. The tow paths are stone edged. Brick sides drop vertically into the water and there is the  complexity of lock gates, at intervals, moving boats from one level to another. Often the lock keeper’s cottages still remain. Wide basins that extend off the canal to the north and south of the canal include City Road Basin, Battlebridge Basin where the London Canal Museum is now located, St Pancras Basin where we began the second part of our canal walk and  others. These must have been locations for industries that required their own quays and piers for loading and offloading goods produced locally making items for trade with other parts of the country via the canal system. Some of the old warehouses still remain converted into flats , offices and workshops. Along the route of the canal there is also a  cross section of society, social housing, small businesses, elegant architectural builds, modern executive flats, businesses secreted under old brick archways beside the canal, boating clubs and of course a multitude of canal boats. Sometimes you can smell the wood burners on some of these canal boats from a distance as you approach. Often the spaces on the roofs of the canal boats are a collection of flower pots, washing lines, stove chimneys, bicycles lying on their sides and the clutter of canal living.


Untidy canal life.

As we walked, often  joggers went past. Cyclists, sometimes, but not often, warned us of their approach by ringing their bell but sometimes provided no warning at all. Mums with buggies and as the day proceeded, teenagers making their way home from school. Once in a while we see the owners and inhabitants of the canal boats, through the open entrance to their boat or perhaps as they emerge on to the pathway. We have spoken to some, passing the time of day. I remember seeing one lady ensconced in the cabin of her boast brewing tea in a cramped area. I looked down at her and she looked up. I felt a little guilty, perhaps impinging on her privacy. But I am sure she is used to this with her lifestyle.

As we approached Islington the canal enters a tunnel and goes underground for 960 meters just short of a kilometre. It was opened in 1818 and designed by the engineer James Morgan. There is no towpath here so we had to walk above the tunnel following the signs to where the tunnel once again emerged further along.. We walked along Chapel Street where Chapel Street market is located . It is a  multicultural area, Italian coffee shops, Indian restaurants and fruit and veg stalls, and clothing stalls. A little reminiscent of Albert Square in Eastenders.. At the end of Chapel market, near The Angel Islington we went into The Islington Town House public house for a beer and something to eat. We later rejoined the canal towpath at Duncan Street and Colebrook Row.

What is prevalent everywhere is the graffiti and tags. Tags are signature names. Graffitti is more complex and often makes a political or social commentary.Much of the tags look untidy because the artists have created their signs and pictures, one on top of another. You can make out most of their tags though. TAGS are primarily a set of initials sometimes just scrawled swiftly with a can of spray paint, sometimes intricately formed giving the initials a three dimensional effect and carefully painted in two or more colours. D.E.X, MUNS, CHUP, PUAN, MOEX and the tags multiplied as we walked along. The ZERZ tag was done on a number of locations along the canal, meticulously formed in silver and sometimes green but always  in a three dimensional form. Why would somebody want to leave a mark like that? This form of street art has been carried out for thousands of years. I remember visiting Pompeii in the Bay of Naples a few years ago and seeing Ancient Roman tags in the streets of the ancient city. A particular gladiator had his fan following in one street in Pompeii. It makes me and other onlookers notice. We read it. We wonder at the nerve of somebody to do that. A connection is made with the tag artist. They have made their mark and we have been  affected by it.  A message saying, I exist, is conveyed. I find graffiti really interesting. Some people think its an act of vandalism but surely vandalism is about making  a comment, sending a message from the heart and mind and not always destructively. Graffitti and TAGS are often positive things..  Banksy is one of the most famous and sophisticated of the graffiti artist known all over the world. There is a famous Banksy in Shoreditch just south of the canal. Shoreditch has its famous stick people logos by an artist called Stix. Many advertising companies use his graffiti  art work. Often the graffiti  around Shoreditch carries importance to the local community and all of us who see it. Sitting on the top of the 243 bus from Hoxton to Waterloo the other day I passed a  fence, fencing off a building site that has a recent mural depicting urban bombing in the Ukraine. A child with a teddy bear melts into a skeletal form half flesh and half skull. I saw the mural for a passing moment but feel its emotional impact even now when I think about it. Walls, roofs, a collection of disused underground trains stacked on top of a building, bridges and shop fronts are all a canvas for the graffiti artist.

Graffiti along the canal side.

Just before we reached the bridge over the canal at Kingsland Road in Shoreditch we saw some elegant modern flats with balconies overlooking the canal labelled the ,"Gainsborough Studio Flats." This modern block is the northern canal side of the complex. On the south side overlooking Shoreditch Park in Poole Street is an old Victorian industrial building. It was originally a coal fired power station for the Great Northern and City Railway. A small white surround art nouveau doorway is located at the right this façade and a blue plaque on the wall near this entrance provides further information about this buildings later use. After its first life as a power station it was repurposed as the famous Gainsborough Film Studios.

Gainsborough Studios was active between 1924 and 1951. Other films were made at Lime Grove and Pinewood Studios. This former film studios was converted into flats in 2004.The studio is best remembered for the Gainsborough melodramas it produced in the1940s.

Gainsborough Studios, apartments.

Gainsborough Studios, produced some of Britain’s best-known early films, such as The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Man in Grey (1943) and Fanny by Gaslight (1944), as well as launching the careers of the many of the country’s cinema stars. Above all, one of the world’s greatest film directors learned his trade at the studios, east London-born Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980).  

We climbed the stone steps from the canal side at Kingsland Road and finished our second leg of the walk near the mosque on Kingsland Road and got the bus back to Waterloo Station.


We continued our walk on the final stretch from the Kingsland Road bridge over the canal  on the 16th March.  After passing more graffiti on walls, a set of lock gates  and the expected cyclists and joggers eventually we arrived at Victoria Park, with its Chinese Pagoda and boating lakes. Victoria Park opened in 1845 and was created to beautify the East End, provide recreational space and improve public health. The consultant planner was Sir James Pennethorne. The park is located in Tower Hamlets. It is bordered by Hackney, Bethnal Green and Stratford, where the 2012 Olympic Park is located. We didn’t venture over to the Olympic stadiums because we kept to the canal footpaths.

The Chinese pagoda in Victoria Park.

While we were in the park, John had a word with a couple of police officers patrolling the park. We had had a few near misses with cyclists speeding past us along the canal towpath. None of them had rung their bells as they approached us. Tony and I  walked on and only observed from a distance. The police officers looked suitably concerned and noted John’s complaint it appeared.

 Victoria Park must have witnessed the recreation of so many ,”East Enders.” It is a beautiful park. All of us from whatever section of society, deserve to experience the beauty of nature. London is blessed with not only the famous parks, Hyde Park and Regents Park which our canal walk has taken us past, set in central London but a multitude of local parks in every London borough , often each borough has a number of wonderful parks not just one, across London. Londoners are very lucky to have this legacy from as early as  Victorian times and from the early twentieth century to enjoy , to be able to exercise, taking part in football, cricket, bowling, tennis, paddling pools and children’s playgrounds. The parks are a resource that improves the populations health and well being. Local people love their parks and defend their existence vehemently at times. My own local park created in the1930s by a local politician Sir Joseph Hood,is the beating communal heart of my neighbourhood. Childrens’ sports teams, adult sports teams, a playschool open everyday of the week for toddlers and a place to just stroll, relax, listen to bird song    and in one case, I have witnessed, to practice your skills at tai chi.

The entrance to Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets.

As we approached the Limehouse Basin, where the Regents Canal actually begins,  at the heart of docklands, we were passing some blocks of flats on the opposite side of the canal. We heard an angry voice shouting abuse at a neighbour. We could not work out what the gentleman’s anger was about. He was very upset and very angry. And he didn’t stop his tirade. It continued certainly after we had moved on into the distance. We could hear the other person trying to reply but not getting a word in edgeways.

Flats beside the canal.

Limehouse Basin is a large area of water surrounded by quays where luxury yachts amd motor launches are moored. It is worth taking a moment to recall what was here before. In the 19th century this basin would have been surrounded by multi-storey brick built warehouses. Doorways high in the structures would have had cranes with rope winches to haul bales and crates of products to the upper levels. Steam ships puffing out coal dust, the splash and rumble of paddle steamers. Thames barges that traded all along the Kent coast with large brown and red sails would have proliferated . The shouts and calls of stevedores, the clip clopping of horses pulling canal barges alongside some of the quays and ships at anchor ready to take on-board produce from all over the Empire and transport it up the canal system to Birmingham , the Midlands and the north. It was all here;a hive of activity.

Arriving at Limehouse Basin.

Now nearly all the buildings are modern, apartments, offices and small businesses. Very few examples of the 19th century infrastructure remain. The brick chimney of a pump house can be glimpsed behind the Docklands Light Railway Railway viaduct. The bridge archways that support the viaduct that arch over the final part of the canal as it joins the basin  are part of the old canal and basin infrastructure. It is apt to remember that most of the old docklands were destroyed during the Blitz, the docklands in the east end being a prime target. We walked around the pathways that lead over pedestrian bridges across narrow inlets that lead to smaller basins off Limehouse  and around the quay side. A sign post indicated the direction of The Grapes public house. At the end of our walk we were looking forward to a pint and some grub.

A Victorian pump house chimney protruding above the Docklands Light Railway viaduct at Limehouse.

The Grapes pub is situated in, Narrow Street, backing on to the Thames with Docklands stretching east of it. The back of the pub has a balcony over the Thames itself.  Narrow Street appears to be a misnomer. It is not narrow. What there is today is a wide thoroughfare with  wide green verges and a small park. Referring to the history of Limehouse however, Narrow Street was indeed narrow with originally, the row of houses where The Grapes is situated almost within touching distance of the  houses and buildings opposite it.

Other streets in the area, Ropemakers Fields, East India Dock Road, Basin Approach, Shoulder of Mutton Alley all give indications about the local history.

Entering The Grapes in Limehouse. (The Six Jolly Fellowship- Porters)

We walked through the door of the Grapes into a narrow passage to the right with dark brown varnished  wood panelled walls giving a gloomy feeling to the place. Old black and white photographs hung on the walls showing dockworkers from , I presume, the 1930s  sitting in a row each supping a pint of beer. There was a small bar to the left with a smiling welcoming barmaid and landlady standing behind the counter. We walked on through to the back of the pub which had three or four beer barrels turned on end as tables and wooden benches. Another bar opened on to this part of the pub. The windows at the back looked out onto the Thames. It was obvious the back of the pub was lapped by the river. Some steps inside the back of the pub lead to a balcony outside overlooking the Thames. We sat down and perused the menu on the table in front of us. I noticed the walls were covered in pictures of Charles Dickens and  some his characters. I didn’t at first give these pictures much attention. The thought that always occurs when you walk into an old pub anywhere in London and see Dickens on the walls is that once Dickens came in here. Dickens walked all over London, finding inspiration. I was certainly not wrong about, The Grapes.

However the first thing I asked the genial smiling landlady was , jokingly ,”that’s a big shillelagh you have behind the bar.”A large brown varnished knobbly stick with a gnarled end was on display.  “Oh no, that’s not a shillelagh ,” she said. “What do you think it might be?”  I don’t know why but I immediately said, tongue in cheek, “It’s Gandalphs staff.” “ Yes it is. Sir Ian McKellen is a part owner of The Grapes.” I was gobsmacked. I then noticed, near us at the back of the pub, was a miniature statue of Gandalf the Wizard wielding his staff. 

Gandalph is behind me.

Then of course I asked about The Dickens connection. Both the landlady and the barmaid came together , all smiles and enthusiasm and related to us about the Dicken’s link. The Grapes is ,”The Six Jolly Fellowship- Porters,” that features especially in the first book of Our Mutual Friend. Here Gaffer Hexam fell out of favour  with Miss Abby Potterson, the landlady in the novel. Here too the soaked and presumed drowned body of Rogue Riderhood was dragged from the Thames and laid out on a table in the pub and eventually revived to live on. Here Lizzie Hexam pleaded with Abby Potterson for clemency for her ,as it turns out, falsly accused father over being too successful at finding and recovering dead bodies from the Thames. Suspicions had been set going by Rogue Riderhood.  Miss Abby Potterson was a wise and intelligent warm hearted woman who everybody respected in the area and who laid down the law and looked after her customers wellbeing, knowing their wives and families intimately. The present day landlady, I never got to know her name, is just like Dicken’s description of Miss Abby Potterson, it occurred to me, warm, personable, in charge. So much happens around this pub in Dicken’s novel and we were sitting there in the bar where a lot of the early action takes place. Locations like this in London are exciting  to be in and a real privilege. The three of us had a couple of pints of the local brew and ate a plate of fish and chips, with  napkins and all the condiments provided. We went out on to the balcony at the back of The Grapes to look over the Thames and Docklands to the east. There, standing out of the water facing docklands is an Anthony Gormley iron cast figure, calm, implacable, gazing straight at the international banking area of Docklands. Perhaps, like Miss Abby Potterson, holding her customers  to account, this Gormley figure, above the lapping waves, is holding docklands and its financial commerce to account.

Antony Gormley's figure contemplating Docklands. (From the balcony at the back of The Grapes.)

Chapter VI Book One Our Mutual Friend

“ The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters already mentioned as a tavern of dropsical appearance, had long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. In its whole constitution it had not a straight floor , and hardly a straight line; but it had outlasted, and clearly would yet outlast, many a better a trimmed building, many a sprucer public house. Externally it was a narrow lopsided wooden jumble of corpulent windows heaped one upon another as you might heap as many toppling oranges, with a crazy wooden verandah impending over the water; indeed the whole house, inclusive of the complaining flagstaff on the roof , impended over the water, but seemed to have got into the condition of a fainthearted diver who has paused so longon the brink  that he will nevre go in.”

Yes, that is definitely The Grapes. After leaving The Grapes we walked along the Thames Path  to the Thames Clipper pier nearby. We got a ferry back to Westminster where we embarked walking a short distance to Waterloo Station and got our trains home.

As an afterthought, if John, Tony and myself created our own graffiti tags what might they be?

Here you are. Have a guess whose TAG is whose.




Stik graffitti artists:

Gainsborough Studios:


Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens Penguin Classics  (first published 1865) 1997

Victoria Park:,_London

 The Regents Canal:


John Betjamin:

Canal Boat art:

Antony Gormley:

The London Canal Museum:





Thursday, 17 March 2022

PERSUASION (an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel by Jeff James and James Yeatman) at The Rose Theatre Kingston upon Thames.


Marilyn and I went to see Persuasion performed at The Rose on Tuesday 8th March. It maybe strange but  for somebody who professes to know a little bit about Jane Austen it is a long time since I had actually read the novel. I have delved deep into Austen’s novels over the years for quotes and to reference her possible thoughts  and ideas about life and love,  but I have failed to read the whole of the novels since I first read them all  years ago.  I have lost sight. I think, of what Jane actually wrote. So I read Persuasion again and it wowed me. It is a novel that explores the shifting of society  in the early 19th century when much was changing, not just relationships, but class and the industrial world was taking off. It seems apposite that at the moment when the world order is actually changing that The Rose Theatre chose Persuasion to dramatize.  

The cast.

I know that novels, good novels that is, as you read them again over time and  as your own experience of life develops,  reveal  different levels of understanding. So what did I get from reading Austen’s Persuasion this time round before seeing the performance?  The word ,persuasion, is used at times during the novel, but not often. The actual consequences of being persuaded however are felt throughout and drive the novel itself. Anne Elliot was persuaded by not just her father to refuse a  marriage proposal to somebody she really loved  but Lady Russell the family friend and Anne’s particular friend was always the deciding factor in the process of persuading  Anne in her youth. Ann seems to have been persuaded into a lot of things in her early life up to the moment of the novels action including turning down that offer of marriage from Captain Wentworth eight years previously.   Ann is  annoyingly hyper neurotic. Is that because she has always been pressured by others? Does she feel  she has no control over her life?.   Things happen to Anne. She doesn’t make things happen for herself. She analyses every situation, almost every word and look to an intense degree. She  always comes out worst. In this novel and in the play she eventually learns to decide for herself. So a major theme has to be how we use people’s advice and how much we should be persuaded when making life decisions for ourselves.

Anne played by Sasha Frost.

Another issue  also, in  terms of Jane Austen’s own experience  are the  relationships she describes. How a woman who never married and who as far as we can tell from the little evidence remaining in her letters, never had a long term and deep relationship, write about relationships that are so real.  Trust, understanding, empathy, a deep love,  passion, lust and sex, how can she possible know? How can she create and explore characters that have deep emotional relationships, that develop over time? How  did she know all this?  Reading Persuasion again and seeing this stage production makes me wonder even more. I suppose we all learn more from failure than success. Maybe it was Jane’s failures in love that informed her at such a deep level.

Captain Wentworth played by Fred Fergus and Louisa played by Matilda Bailes

A novel written in the early 19th century  translated into  a play set in the 21st century, surely, it can’t be done. They are two worlds so far apart. How can they possibly come together and meet? There are the wise among us that say Austen is universal in her treatment of relationships. This is true when you drill down to what happens in a  relationship  but all those 18th century rules get in the way to a  translation across centuries, surely? Class status, wealth,  attitudes to money and  the patriarchy  and what seems to us blatant misogyny but wasn’t understood as such in the 18th century, how does it all get transferred to the 21st century? When I read Persuasion again finishing the day before we saw the stage adaptation I couldn’t see anyway that it was possible to achieve that transfer from the 18th century to the 21st century.

Charles played by Dorian Simpson and Mary played by Caroline Moroney.

Think about science fiction, worlds which are created and can’t exist in reality. This play creates a hybrid world  that is half 18th century and half 21st century. Of course there has to be Sir Walter Elliot  class riven thinking about his baronetcy and getting into debt. Elizabeth too is the,” perfect,” 18th century catch, schooled in all the propriety of 18th century family and filial traditions. Which self respecting 18th century country gentleman or member of the aristocracy couldn’t fail to want her as his accomplished bride? She awaits in agonising suspension both in Persuasion the novel and Persuasion this staged version. I almost feel sorry for her . She is totally unfulfilled.  We have the predatory Mrs Clay, named  Penelope in this play and the equally  predatory, nephew and cousin Mr William Elliot. Kellynch Hall is rented to Admiral and Mrs Croft. Admiral and Mrs Croft are as loveable as they are in the novel and as clueless about who will marry whom. What transfers easily are the many misunderstandings of who is going to marry whom. Its almost like A Midsummers Night’s Dream in its mistaken who loves who scenarios. The Musgroves, Charles and Mary, Louisa and Henrietta are the upwardly mobile types and perhaps represent a 21st century married couple in embryo.  Mr and Mrs Musgrove, their older parents represent the past. The Musgroves as a whole family represent a changing society. Lady Russel, a family friend and near neighbour to Sir Walter is as likeable as she is in the novel. She is Annes true friend. She makes mistakes and get things wrong in her advice to Anne  but you always feel her heart is in the right place and she is willing to adapt her views.

The first scene is when Sir Walter decides to rent Kellynch Hall and go to live in Bath. Anne ,who really doesn’t like Bath delays the inevitable by going to stay with her sister Mary at Marys home three miles away at Uppercross. Things like dates and distances are highlighted in this production in a comical way,making fun of what was significant in the 18th century and really is not now.Mary can’t cope with anything, her unruly children, her disaffected husband Charles and she generally sinks into a sort of hypochondria always feeling ill and suffering stress.  Only one of Marys children features in the production  . He is named Samuel although her children in the novel are merely called, “the  children.” He has an accident and damages his collar bone. Anne is the only one able  to cope of course. Mary tries to escape the action whenever she can. So, all true to the novel so far. Certain things work in both centuries.

 We are informed that Captain Wentworth is of course the younger brother of Mrs Croft and is coming to live with them at Kellynch. The news makes Anne even more neurotic her emotions and thoughts  going into hyperdrive. I have always thought Captain Wentworth disappoints in the novel. He takes so long to realise he still loves Anne.  Anne for her part has never been able to get Captain Wentworth out of her head. Although statements by Captain Wentworth such as ,”true love lasts forever,” in both the play and the novel suggest otherwise. He simply appears to not be self aware, while Anne agonises and interprets her thoughts and feelings and observations in both the novel and in the play ad finitum.

Anne observing Charles and Mary dancing at Uppercross. Charles compliments Anne on her playing the harpsichord. (I don't think so!)

There is plenty of music and suggestions of balls and dancing in the book. At Uppercross,Louisa and Harriet have impromptu balls at the drop of  hat, so to speak. Anne of course does not like to dance in the novel and in this production too. She plays the harpsichord. During one music session at Uppercross the Musgroves home, Mr Musgrove  says. “Well played Anne,” after a piece of electronica drum and base played through speakers set around the stage. Of course Anne hasn’t played anything she has  merely been standing,  a spectator. The audience have a little giggle. Mr Musgrove rather disturbingly performs a robotic dance.Think Ricky Gervais’s David Brent in the English version of The Office

The stage set is interesting. It consists of two enormous white oblong blocks laid one on top of the other like chunks of iceberg. The back drop is a shiny vertically corrugated vinyl blue curtain , representing the sea I suppose, an ever present reference in the play and the book.The great ice berg blocks shift and turn and slide over each other to represent changes of  location and mood. For the visit to Lyme the stage blocks shift and the top most block of ice berg sticks out like a cantilever bridge towards the audience.

Now this is where the true Janeite might think things get really silly or even worse, wrong, in a very bad way.


Captain Wentworth doing some great dance moves with Louisa and Henrietta.

So  we get to Lyme. Bubbles pour down in a great bubble waterfall from the,” gods,” and party time begins. Captain Wentworth boogies in a rather disturbing energetic fashion to  Dua Lupa in nothing but a pair of tiny ,”budgy smugglers,” (see the end of this review for a definition). Louisa, scantily dressed in a shiny gold bikini  writhes to the music  getting up very close to Captain Wentworth. Captain Benwick is there looking disconsolate and trying to enjoy himself mooning over his dead finance Fanny Harville, Captain Harvilles sister.  I should mention, some characters from the novel do not appear in this stage adaptation. Captain and Mrs Harville do not. They are alluded to by mention of the dead Fanny Harville..   Mary Musgrove is still moaning about her children and her husband. She seems more stressed out mother than a hypochondriac. In many ways, although she is an annoying character, she is the most modern of Austen’s creations in this novel. She is a mother, not a very good one , but she also wants to have a social life and is interested in things outside the confines of her home. Mary and her husband Charles  try to enjoy themselves, with difficulty and dance rather disturbingly. Charles becomes a sweating gyrating mess.  This whole scene set in  Lyme is reminiscent of the present day twenty four hour partying on Ibiza. Suddenly from nowhere strides a tall Adonis, again in nothing but a pair of brief swimming trunks and magisterially and  manfully strides through the middle of the party from one side of the stage to the other and disappears. He gives a hard meaningful glare at Anne, who is to one side. Anne is dressed in jeans and striped shirt which she has been wearing. throughout the play and takes no part in the hedonism. She merely   observes the mayhem, looking somewhat stunned as indeed do most of the audience. This stranger is  Mr Elliot their cousin unknown to them at this moment, who is to inherit Kellynch Hall and the baronetcy. He is almost naked as he strides across the stage, causing a few embarrassed giggles  in the audience.. An  Adonis more like Fred Flintstone than Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Songs by  Frank Ocean, Dua Lupa and Cardi B tracks provide the music. Some of the lyrics are ripe to say the least. I am tempted to quote some Cardi B lyrics here so you can imagine the scene but I will get banned forever from posting my reviews if I did. (Please see the link at the end of this review ).  Not for childrens ears or eyes. The tracks relate to modern relationships and describe the good and the bad and the very bad and so relate to Jane Austen’s Persuasion in a surprising way. Who would have thought Cardi B and Jane Austen had anything in common? And as for the dancing, Louisa and Henrietta go crazy with some energetic robotic moves and exaggerated disco dancing throwing arms and legs around  in some sort of coordinated wild frenzy.

Louisa and Captain Wentworth get close.

Louisa has her accident sliding between Captain Wentworth’s legs attempting an energetic dance move set in this mass of bubbles. As she lays there unconscious, not seen by most of the audience, the bubbles totally cover her, Anne  stands over Louisa and squeezes tomato ketchup on to her prostrate body. Blood and gore, in case you were  wondering. The Lyme scene is hedonistic and rather silly to be honest. There is no way Captain Wentworth can possibly recoup any respectability from this scene,  surely? He looks like an idiot , behaves like an idiot and to be honest, he is. They all, apart from Anne behave embarrassingly to put it mildly. Louisa is removed from the scene to a local hotel.

There is a break in the proceedings at this point. The audience can go to the loo or maybe have a drink at the bar in the foyer. Marilyn and I sat there mesmerised at the sight of stage assistants frantically hoovering up the soap suds and wiping down the huge stage blocks. It took them forever and we both thought the final part of the play would never happen. The volume of soap suds to be cleared up was prodigious. I don’t know whether the shock value of what the audience had witnessed so far had disgruntled some but  two ladies sitting in front of us turned to Marilyn and myself and forcefully  complained that we had been playing music on our phones throughout and they were very accusatory. Marilyn calmly and firmly explained that the speakers surrounding the stage had been playing quiet background music  and it wasn’t us. They turned around again in a huff.Perhaps their hearing aids were not adjusted correctly. Unfortunately, soon after, my phone. which I thought I had switched off, rang loudly. Alice our eldest daughter tried to get me. I had to turn it off swiftly and I must have been red with embarrassment but hidden, thank goodness, by the dim lighting of the auditorium.  The two ladies in front didn’t turn a hair.

Throughout the performance there is a running gag about the year 1806 and said as “18 -  0 – 6.”  In a somewhat Monty Pythonish way.  A reference to events eight years earlier of course. The other running gag is Sir walter Elliots catch phrase ,”you must be using Gowlands on your face.” Those who have read the novel will know. However I have done a google  search. Gowlands has other connotations which I won’t divulge now.

Biographies of the cast. You will see some actors have more than one part.

The stages tectonic plates shift once more and the stage now becomes Bath.

Lady Russel arrives with Anne. Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Penelope (Mrs Clay), are already settled in Bath. There is a scene where Penelope appears to be in charge organising where everybody is to stay. It is suggested Mary and Charles Musgrove are to stay too. Elizabeth wonders where everybody will sleep. Penelope has  been waiting for the moment. She suggests, surreptitiously to Elizabeth, that to provide room she can sleep in Elizabeth’s bed with her and  kisses her suggestively. Elizabeth is confused but rejects the idea. In the novel I had wondered about Mrs Clays seemingly clinging relationship with Elizabeth. One interpretation is made evident here. Mr Elliot is in Bath and makes his presence known to the Elliots often visiting them. When he realises the girl he noticed at Lyme is his cousin Anne his interest is peaked even more. Elizabeth of course thinks his interest is in her.There is something cold and calculated about Mr Elliot. He has plans.

The major scene in Bath for this adaptation is Lady Dalrymples party. The denouement is set. Now I must prepare you for this. There is no Mrs Smith in this adaptation. So we wonder how Anne is to know the full extent of Mr Elliot’s machinations, but be patient gentle readers. We shall see. All comes to light. If the Ibizan party time at Lyme might shock, Lady Dalrymple’s party will stun you completely. Lights, music, loud electronica and hard driving drum and base ensues. Wild dancing. Louisa and Henrietta  strut their stuff. Mr Elliot has totally commandeered Anne by now. He has designs on marrying her. Lady Russel, Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Penelope, everybody think so. Sir Walter, Elizabeth and  Lady Russel are  convinced a wedding is imminent. Just when we are settling into to a wild party and getting used to that, Ibizan, Lyme style, the whole thing moves up a few notches. Lady Dalrymple, a double take and yes it must be Lady Dalrymple, strides onto the stage. An enormous hunky figure at least 6 foot 6 inches tall, dressed head to foot,  in a glistening sequined  black rubber ,”gimp,” costume and wearing skyscraper tall  high heels . She/ he, moves provocatively in a lewd way. The audience gasped then some giggles. I don’t think anybody knew where to look.  Oh my God Lady Dalrymple is a dominatrix. Perhaps she is too in the novel? I hadn’t thought of that, but now come to think about it. Captain Wentworth appears at the party and Anne and he talk. Mr Elliot comes over and forcefully, and with a dominant and even an abusive controlling manner  demands she comes away from Wentworth. Anne stands her ground and refuses him. If she didn’t know his true character before she does now.She turns him away and  refuses his marriage proposal.  Mr Elliot , always cold and calculated, we see it now so obviously, immediately turns to Elizabeth and proposes to her instead. Elizabeth aware of all that has gone before,  accepts his proposal. She is shameless and has no dignity. Two people of course not destined to love but to eternally torment each other. A  damning statement   in respect of marriage based on a desire for  wealth and position only. Elizabeth has never had the self-awareness and self-analysis of Anne. She only lives for societies rules. As she spurned Penelope’s advances she once more  denies her true self. A moment of sadness that the audience is very aware of.

Anne and Captain Wentworth at last....maybe.

Of course it wouldn’t be Jane Austen’s Persuasion without the letter. We don’t see Captain Wentworth write the letter in this production. It is delivered to Anne during the ball / bacchanalia at Lady Dalrymples by the young boy who was Samuel Musgrove and  now plays the part of a pageboy.

The letter is as it should be.

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…”

 The play ends with Captain Wentworth and Anne professing their love face to face too, that of course has never faded since finding love eight years previously. At long last Anne Elliot finally makes a decision for herself. Lady Russel is persuaded. Sir Walter Elliot is persuaded. So we think, this is the happy ending of the novel. But,  this is a hybrid of two differing centuries. A weird and wonderful world.  


( I suppose this is the happy ending people talk about)

WENTWORTH. I’m happy now

ANNE. So am I

WENTWORTH And is It a beginning not an ending

ANNE I hope so. We haven’t even lived half our lives.

WENTWORTH How do you know there could be another war.

ANNE You could be dead by the end of the Summer.

WENTWORTH Or I could die in bed fifty years from now, holding your hand.

ANNE Holding my hand? Am I dead or alive at this point?

WENTWORTH It’s impossible to know what will happen.

ANNE To either of us.

WENTWORTH That’s the fun of it.

ANNE Whatever’s going to happen to me. I’d like to be with you while it happens.

WENTWORTH So we just take the risk?

ANNE Life has some risks.

WENTWORTH Love is one.

ANNE You’ve been lucky before.

WENTWORTH I hope I’ll be lucky again.

ANNE Good luck Captain Wentworth

WENTWORTH Good luck Anne Elliot.



So do you think they get married or not?




Persuasion By Jane Austen (Adapted by Jeff Daniels with James Yeatman) Published by Samuel French at Concord Theatricals 2017 revised edition 2022


The Rose Theatre Kingston upon Thames:

Gimp suit: a bondage costume.

Cardi B song lyric:  ( an example)


Definition of “Budgie smugglers.”:

a man’s small skin tight swimming trunks that reveal the outline of his penis and testicles. Usually not a pleasant sight. A budgie, being a small compact bird, is the shape of what is seen through the bathing trunks. Hence the phrase.


Thursday, 17 February 2022

REGENTS CANAL WALK (Little Venice to Kings Cross)

 A sketch map of The Regents Canal showing where it joins The Grand Union Canal at Little Venice and its start at Limehouse on the Thames.

Wednesday 9th February, John Lodge and myself met at Waterloo Station at just a little after 10am. We planned to walk along The Regents Canal, that wends its way from its junction with the Grand Union Canal near the canal basin at ,”Little Venice,” and curves round past Regents Park to Limehouse Basin where the canal meets the River Thames. The walk  takes in the Georgian architecture of the Regency, a terrifying Victorian disaster, grand converted industrial buildings, modernist steal industrial units, the shops, pubs and cafes of vibrant Camden, the homes of twentieth century writers and actors, the centre for British folk music, the home of a great war time hero, the grand homes of diplomats and oligarchs, institutes at the forefront of medical research, canal boats clustered together creating cosy communities and on the final part of this first stretch of our walk the grand architecture of St Pancras Station and the new modernist British Library.

The canal was first proposed by Thomas Homer in 1802 as a link from the Paddington arm of the then Grand Junction Canal (opened in 1801) with the River Thames at Limehouse. The Regent's Canal was built during the early 19th century after an Act of Parliament was passed in 1812. John Nash was a director of the company; in 1811. He produced a masterplan for The Prince Regent to redevelop a large area of central north London. As a result, the Regent's Canal was included in the scheme, running for part of its distance along the northern edge of Regents Park. The intention was to create a canal that joined The Grand Union Canal leading up to Birmingham, the Midlands and the north with the Thames and the port of London and the trade that came to London from the rest of the world

John at Warwick Avenue tube entrance.

John and I emerged from Warwick Road tube entrance and walked on to the road bridge that crosses the canal at the point where the Little Venice basin is located and Regents Canal begins.On one side of the road we looked down onto the canal basin where it expands into a large area of water with canal boats moored to its quays at various points. We started our walk on the south side of the road bridge and aimed east towards Regents Park and Camden, along Maida Road. It is edged by large Georgian and early Victorian houses. A blue plaque on one house informed us the John Masefield ( 1878-1967) the poet laureate, lived in this house from 1907 to 1912. He is remembered as the author of the classic children's novels The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, and poems, including The Everlasting Mercy and Sea-Fever.

John Masefield's house.

SEA FEVER by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Just opposite his front door there were only the sight of narrow boats to sooth his sea yearning spirit. None of your,” flung spray and the blown spume.”

The canal opposite John Masefield's house.

A shiny Maserati sports car was parked at the side of the road in front of John Masefield’s previous residence. The driver’s side door was wide open and the driver sat making a call on his mobile. Red leather upholstered car seats and it had a dashboard reminiscent of a fighter jet control display. The car, the driver and the area exuded wealth.

Nearby John Masefield’s house stands a vast cavernous brick built church in the Victorian Gothic style. The Church notice board informed us it was the ,”Catholic Apostolic Church, Maida Avenue W2.”The gates and doors had hefty padlocks on them. We saw that the plants and shrubs surrounding the church were well kept, so the church was not abandoned. Catholic churches are not usually described as Apostolic and they also usually are named after a saint. Both John and I felt it wasn’t a usual catholic church. I researched it and discovered a reference in the Britannica. The Catholic Apostolic Church, was formed in 1832 largely by the Scotsman Edward Irving. He and his followers prepared for the second coming. Apocalyptic groups also formed in the United States. The apocalyptic prophecies of William Miller (1782–1849) in the 1840s led to the formation of the church The Roman Catholic Church calls itself the one apostolic church but this form of Catholicism is different in many ways. Much is similar to and could be mistaken for Roman Catholicism but there are doctrinal differences for instance there is a great stress on symbolism, and in the Eucharist, it rejects both transubstantiation and consubstantiation but holds strongly to a presence. In some ways these philosophical positions appear to have subtle differences but in theological terms they are very different.

The Catholic Apostolic Church on Maida Avenue.

Most of the canal boats we saw on our walk were privately owned. Many of the narrow boats were personalised and adapted to the owner’s needs. Plant pots, washing lines and smoke stacks protruding from roofs. All were painted in bright reds and greens with intricate folk art flower designs adorning them. One boat had the title, THE ARTIST painted in large letters along the side of its hull. John and I surmised that an artist lived here. Narrow boat life is definitely for the free spirited and the adventurous. The living space is small and clearly narrow. One stretch of the canal, before we reached Camden, had a cluster of boats. Tall wrought iron gates blocked a stretch of the canal footpath on the north side of the canal where these boats were moored.. Wooden sheds and planted areas of the embankment, flowers, shrubs and vegetable patches with bicycles chained to railings depicted what appeared to be a permanent community of boats. A water born village.

A community of canal boats.

We wandered from the canal when places we saw on the map took our interest. We saw that the Cecil Sharp House is located a couple of roads from the side of the canal. It is the centre for ,”The English Folk Dance and Song Society. "We went inside and a young lady at the reception desk said we could look around. It has a vast hall for folk music and dance performances. It has a mural along the length of one wall by Ivon Hitchins and is a modernist depiction of key English folk dances and traditions. It hangs above performance that takes place in the hall. The centre also has a small library packed with many books and manuscripts. The genial librarian told us that they had books that even the British Library didn’t have. The library is named The Vaughn Williams Memorial Library. It holds many of Vaughn Williams’s manuscripts. He was a classical composer who collected folk songs and he included folk music into many of his compositions.

Cecil Sharp House.

It always a surprise to come across the houses where people, who are part of British history and culture, once lived. Does where somebody lives tell us about the person? I wonder. We were walking on the south side of the canal and I noticed a blue plaque on a house on the opposite side. We came to a small bridge and crossed to have a look. The blue plaque read, Guy Gibson VC 1918-1944. Piolet. Leader of The Dambusters Raid lived here. You can work it out. He was 26years old when he died. The raid on the German dams occurred in May 1943. My dad would have been excited to see this house. He was in the RAF during the war and served as an armourer on one of the Battle of Britain airfields at Bicester. Guy Gibson lead one of the most daring raids of WWII destroying the Ruhr Dams which flooded and damaged a large proportion of the German industrial capability. The factories were back running within months but the raids hampered the Nazi war effort for a period of time. This white Victorian house in a row of white Victorian houses was the home of a real national hero.

Guy Gibson's home next to the canal.

Further along the canal on the south side we came across another blue plaque, that of the actor Arthur Lowe. Captain Mainwaring of the Home Guard no less who was one of the stars of Dads Army. A fictional war hero who indeed represented the heroes of the Home Guard.

The home of Arthur Lowe in Maida Vale.

As we walked along the canal we  saw the Regents Park Mosque ahead so we took another detour to visit it. A school party from a local school were being taken in when we arrived. John and I walked around the precinct and stood at the entrance to the great prayer hall. We could have gone inside the hall but we wanted to continue our walk. Preparations such as removing our shoes and mentally getting ready to pray would have been fine for the two of us but we had to move on. Nobody challenged us within the Mosque precincts to ask what we wanted. We sensed a lot of trust. The few people we came across were at prayer.

Regents Park Mosque.

The canal passes to the south of Primrose Hill which is located north of the canal on the opposite side to London Zoo. The area around Primrose Hill is a famous area for writers, actors and musicians who live in the old Georgian and Victorian houses lining the local streets. I have been reading some of Alan Bennett’s diaries, 2005 to 2015. He is a prolific diarist, playwright, screen writer, actor and novelist. He is also famous for his early satirical stage shows with Peter Cook and Dudley More appearing at the Edinburgh fringe festival. Alan Bennett’s talents are prodigious. Some of his plays include the ,”History Boys,” that launched the careers of some very famous actors and was made into a film. He wrote ,”The Lady in the Van,” about a Miss Shepherd who lived in a van for a number of years in the small driveway in front of his house. It too has been filmed with with Maggie Smith playing the part of Miss Shepherd. I had looked up Alan Bennet’s house on the internet which he has now moved from and discovered its address, 23 Gloucester Crescent. The internet even provides pictures of it. Looking at Google maps on my phone John and I could see that Gloucester Crescent was nearby. We found it and halfway round the crescent we discovered Alan Bennetts famous house with large gates in front of the short driveway. It was behind these gates where Miss Shepherd must have lived in her van.

Alan Bennett used to live at 23 Gloucester Crescent. "The Lady in the Van, "was parked just behind the gates.

Nearby is Camden High Street. We decided to stop and have a pub lunch. There are a few venues to choose from in Camden High Street. We went into The Bucks Head. We sat and ate some delicious fish and chips and drank two pints of Camden Pale ale each. It is brewed locally in Camden . It has a hoppy taste and has a great flavour. I recommend the Camden brew. Many of the shops in Camden are small businesses that sell local clothes designers clothing, shoe makers and artists display and sell their wares too.. It is a young area and innovative crafts are evident in the high street. As we walked along,we noticed people dressed and adorned in avant garde ways. Many appear to not only be experimenting with what they wear but also what they do with their bodies. Some of the pubs are live music venues like the Bucks Head where John and I had our pub lunch and young musicians thrive in the area. Camden High Street leads up to the iconic railway bridge and the canal locks where we re-joined the canal footpath.

Camden Lock.

One old bridge we walked under beside the canal had three archways constructed from massive black ionic columns made of cast iron. The bridge itself had some intricate iron work topping the walls across its width. Homeless sleepers had left some of their belongings on the banks on both sides under the bridge arches. Two gentlemen lay in their sleeping bags as we passed talking and discussing things. They ignored us. A plaque placed on the embankment related the history of this bridge.

“Blow Up Bridge,” At 3am on the 2nd October 1874 the boat Tilbury carrying gunpowder to a quarry in the Midlands exploded demolishing the bridge and killing three people. Locals sprang from their beds feeling an earthquake.When the bridge was rebuilt the pillars were turned around so that they offered a smooth surface for the boats towing ropes. Look out for the rope grooves on either sides of the pillars.”

It is mind blowing, no pun intended. Further reading reveals that the boat was carrying petroleum and nuts as well as the gunpowder. A combustable combination. The consequences  of this accident brought about, by way of an act of Parliament, a change in the laws concerning transporting gunpowder and petroleum.

"Blow Up Bridge."

While walking past Regents Park, along the side of the canal, we came across a row of six , what appeared to be, large Georgian mansions. I discovered they were designed by Quinlan Terry who was commissioned by the government to design buildings to complete Nash’s vision for Regents Park. They were actually, unbelievably, completed in 2002. The American Ambassador lives in one of them. They each have a name. They are called, Veneto Villa, Doric Villa, Corinthian Villa, Ionic Villa, Gothick Villa and the Regency Villa.

"Regency Villa," on Regents Park outer circle designed by Quinlan Terry, completed in 2002.

As we walked towards St Pancras Station we saw a small park to one side with a stone church in the centre and few gravestones dotted about. I was for continuing on towards St Pancras but John suggested we go and have a look at the church. We soon discovered what we had come across. The first grave stone we stopped to look at had carved into it, “Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Author of The Vindication of the rights of Women.”

Mary Wollstonecraft's tomb in St Pancras Old Church cemetery.

Where were we? It was St Pancras Old Church. When the railways came in the 1860’s when St Pancras Station was being constructed, the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church was in the way. Architects were employed to remove and reposition many of the gravestones. The church was not affected and neither was the tomb of Mary Wollstonecraft. We came to a tree that had many gravestones piled against it. Over the years the roots of the tree have entangled the grave stones and included them into its root system. A plaque near the tree read , “ The Hardy Tree.” So we read on. As a young man Thomas Hardy was an architect working for Arthur Bromfield. He was employed to work on the graveyard here. He spent many hours in St Pancras churchyard removing and repositioning gravestones. It was Hardy who created this cluster of gravestones around the tree. A day of amazing discoveries.

The Hardy Tree in the cemetery of St Pancras Old Church. Thomas Hardy created this pile of gravestones.

We walked on towards St Pancras and Kings Cross. We came across the Crick Institute for research into cancers. It is a vast modernist building with a massive glass roof that is reminiscent of an armadillo shell. John and I went inside to see a free exhibition they have in the entrance. Video interviews with scientists and surgeons are part of the exhibition. Its good to know about cancers, if somewhat sobering and thought provoking. As we get old all of us are susceptible to some sort of cancer. But what the Crick institute is doing is absolutely amazing. Their research is saving the world. They give us all hope.

After this the British Library was our next call. We went upstairs to the café and had a coffee. We visited the free exhibition they have there. The exhibition displays many documents and books that are so important to British people and the United Kingdom. There is a copy of the Magna Carta, a first folio edition of Shakespeare's collected works published by two of Shakespeare's friends , John Heminge and Henry Condell, who edited it and supervised the printing. They appear in a list of the 'Principall Actors' who performed in Shakespeare's plays, alongside Richard Burbage, Thomas Kemp and Shakespeare himself.

Shakespeare's Complete Works a first folio.

There are illuminated manuscripts of the Bible . We came across a poem written in perfect cursive style by Jane Austen to her brother Frank. It lies on the wooden writing slope her father bought her.

Jane Austen's handwritten poem to her brother Frank lying on the writing slope her father gave her.

Because it is the 100 th anniversary of Ullysses, by James Joyce published by ,”Shakespeare and Company,” in 1922 there was a first edition on display and a letter from Virginia Wolf and another from Sylvia Beach of Shakepeare and Co. Virginia Wolf politely turned down the offer of publishing the book at her Hogarth press in Richmond. In the display there was a large A1 sized piece of paper where Joyce had planned out one part of his book. It consisted of lists, phrases and words written in blue and red colouring pencil much of which is crossed out showing Joyce included that particular crossed out thought or idea in the novel. A large series of concentric almond shaped ovals nested inside each other, were drawn on part of the paper. Each oval had ideas written within it. A design that can be interpreted in a number of ways. The whole display was fascinating. There was analysis of the structure and themes in the book. I have read Ulysses in its entirety. It was similar to the effort needed to running a marathon. Exhaustion and tiredness could set in. I loved the language and the rhythms of the text, the lilting Irish cadences, phraseology and words.The language entices and seduces you. Much of the dialogue and description is enigmatic. Punctuation isn’t of great concern. Words and phrases tumble together. A great, attractive modernist piece of writing. It still confuses me but It’s good to know, as shown in this exhibition, that Joyce had a structural and thematic concept for it. Near the Ulysses exhibition there was also an extensive display about Angela Carter that I didn’t spend enough time with.

So John and I left the British Library, its massive iron statue of Isaac Newton hunched forward focussed on using a pair of compasses based on William Blake’s drawing of Newton. After having explored so many things along the way John and I walked past the front of St Pancras Station’s immense Victorian gothic masterpiece and got the tube from Kings Cross back to Waterloo. From Waterloo, platform one, we got our train back home. The next stage from Kings Cross to Lime House is an adventure for next time.

Arthur Lowe :

Guy Gibson :

https://www.poetry foundations .org/poets/john-masefield