A is for The Aldwych #atozchallenge

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This is the start of my A to Z blog tour challenge. I have chosen the theme ‘London’ but have tried to mix things up a bit. I’ve included two guest bloggers later on in the process too.

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This is an ancient bus – a Routemaster – still in service. It fails all health & Safety rules by letting you jump on and off while moving (no doors) and formed my main mode of transport when I started working here in 1979

Today to ease us in gently I’ve chosen

The Aldwych

If you google ‘Aldwych’ on google Maps you will see a short curved road linking the Strand to Fleet Street. Nothing special about it then.

Well, not if length is your criterion.

But this is a classic example of a modern London Street in the sense that is it anything but modern but is also anything but a museum piece. Nothing is not in use and fully functioning yet it reeks with the history of the place. And the uses? Well they are eclectic to say the least. London, you might say, in microcosm.

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The Novello Theatre

The sign above says ‘Theatreland’ and it is in part. There are two theatres actually on the Aldwych, one just before its start and several off it as the side roads lead up a  slight slope towards Covent Garden (of which more later in this tour).

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And the Aldwych

The theatres appear on the first part of the north side of the crescent before Kingsway heads due north. Kingsway is unique as the exit for a one way tunnel off Waterloo Bridge which was built when London had trams and trolley buses (before my time).

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The Waldorf

Between the theatres sits the squat fronted Waldorf Hotel, famous for its salad and afternoon teas. Once, a colleague booked a room there. He had a client dinner in Covent Garden and then an important pitch for new work early the next morning and knew it was pointless commuting home and back. Sadly he over imbibed and on his way back to the Waldorf was mugged. Being feisty, Welsh and drunk he fought rather than gave up his wallet and was tossed, unceremoniously into a skip. Unaware of any injuries he crawled out and headed for the hotel where he collapsed fully clothed onto his bed. The next day he awoke to find the pillow had stuck to his head wound overnight – he hadn’t appreciated he was cut – his jacket was ripped and one shoe was missing. Nothing daunted he showered until his head was clearer and the pillow came free and headed for the pitch. Even without a jacket, sporting a wound that would do justice to a prize fight and with one shoe missing he secured the work. The client was heard to say ‘we want him on our side’.

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The one new building hereabouts – meah

On the south side of the Aldwych, there are two monumental buildings (after a rather bland modern hotel, the newest construction hereabouts).

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Indian Embassy

The Indian Embassy and Bush House. Bush House is both part of the Inland Revenue and, more importantly home to the BBC’s World Service.

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Bush House from the end of Kingsway

When I began as a law trainee one of the jobs was to go to Bush House to pay the stamp duty on any documents requiring it. The machines for affixing the red seals were enormous things with many levers and a hissing sound like some small mammal was being sacrificed in the process.

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Dickensian is probably too modern a term for the process of having something stamped. The rules on paying stamp duty were out of date by this time and ripe for smart-alec lawyers and accountants to find loop holes.

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Which we did. Sadly the duty became a tax a few years ago and no more did you need to affix a seal to a document. They will be much missed.

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If you need to find out where someone was born…

After the interruption of Kingsway the Aldwych curves south again. On the north west corner stands St Catherine’s House home of the registrar of Births Marriages and Deaths. Searching now is of course mostly online but this was yet another place I visited regularly as a trainee, to collect a death certificate or similar.

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Next up and only a small frontage to the Aldwych is the London School of Economics, whose buildings spread north and west from here.

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Boris Bikes, which anyone carrying plastic can hire, rather incongruously outside the main entrance to the LSE

The LSE has always been a hotbed of protest, from the 30s onwards, being anti white rule in Rhodesia, anti Vietnam, anti apartheid in the 60s, through to this day. Recently it has been associated with Qaddafi’s son Saif and the current criticism around safe spaces. It always leads though not necessarily in the right direction.

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Yup, typical Aussi grandioseness!

Opposite stands the rather magnificent Australian Embassy and a more modest building, amongst these giants that representing the State of Victoria.

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The man to the left of shot on the plinth is ‘Bomber’ Harris, in charge of Bomber Command during WW2 and responsible, it is always argued (as if politicians and the Americans didnt have a say too) for the Dresden fire bombings. The erection of a statue to Harris caused a lot of controversy.

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The glories do not end here. Curve round to the line of the Stand that joins each end of the Aldwych and we have two churches, one the RAF’s church, then King’s College, the second of the major London Universities hereabouts, and

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Somerset House now home to art galleries, restaurants and an open space used for water features in the summer and ice skating in the winter.

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And finally this little gem from the 1930s – the Strand station, now closed. Oddly perhaps it is my favourite building of them all. No idea why!

Tomorrow it is

B is for Bridges

 

This is part of the 2016 A to Z Blogging challenge. Please click here to find your way to other participants.

A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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37 Responses to A is for The Aldwych #atozchallenge

  1. A very interesting start to a guided tour of London. I’m looking forward to the rest, Geoff.

    Keith Channing at http://keithkreates.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. noelleg44 says:

    Oh those old buses! My son still remembers riding on one when he was three years old! Looking forward to more touring.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Al Lane says:

    Written with a local’s love… looking forward to the rest of this month from you, fellow A-to-Z-er!

    Al @ https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. trifflepudling says:

    Used to get the no. 15 to work in the dim and distant 70s. It was 10p, single. Got a lot of reading done! Once I mis-timed my leap aboard and was clinging on by my finger nails whilst the conductor looked on impassively, wearily applauding when I managed to claw my way into a safe position!
    I’ve been in the RAF Church quite recently and I left a little tribute for my father’s cousin, a bomber pilot who ‘went for a Burton’ over France in 1942. The church itself has seen battle, having been gutted by fire caused by bombing during WWII. It is a lovely tranquil and light place. Nice to have been reminded of it, and I look forward to further London-themed posts, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      You always add some depth to my ramblings Gilly. And I once had someone leap off the back of a bus that I was tailing on my bike and end up straddling my handlebar. He wasn’t in a good place after. I think I may have scratched his bearings if you take my meaning.

      Like

  5. Sacha Black says:

    Will endeavour to read as many as I can, but I’m pulling back on all blogging for a bit to get my books done

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Annecdotist says:

    Fab pics, Geoff, pardon my cliché but this challenge is right up your street.

    Like

  7. esthernewton says:

    Wow! Great pics and a highly interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JD says:

    This is what I enjoy about seeing your tour of London, the eccentricities of new and old. We tear everything down and re-build and currently the facings of the buildings are some really awful colors of the ’70’s – orange, yellow, blue, green. You’ve got the history and it all sparks a conversation whether you love it or try to ignore it. I work in Seattle.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. jan says:

    We got terribly lost in that part of London! You’re right – Eclectic streets is the least!

    Like

  10. M. L. Kappa says:

    What a lovely idea to have London as your theme! ❤️

    Like

  11. I’m going to be honest with you here. This every day of April thing… I’m not going to be able to keep up. That said, I love your theme (I think you know how much I love London 😍) so will you please link to all previous ones so I can read them all?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ali Isaac says:

    Very interesting tour, Geoff. You must know London so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. racheln92 says:

    interesting and very informative entry. I enjoyed reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Gulara says:

    Wow, Geoff, you put a lot of work into this post! Great photos too – I feel like I was on excursion to London 🙂 thank you for being such a generous and entertaining guide!

    Like

  15. AJ.Dixon says:

    This is really interesting! As you said, it’s London in microcosm 😊
    Loved the story about your friend and his misadventure in Aldwych, and I am slightly replused to hear that there is actually a statue of “Bomber” Harris at all! Looking forward to the rest of your posts ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Helen Jones says:

    A great start to the month, Geoff! Looking forward to discovering more about London 🙂

    Like

  17. I walked to work along The Aldwych every day, Geoff. In fact even when the office moved to the top of Kingsway, I was delighted that I had the same route from Kennington to Bloomsbury. I loved the whole area.
    Strand Underground station (known as Aldwych on the Underground maps) features in my very first short story published on my blog. In fact, I’ll be reading the story at an upcoming book fair at the end of the month.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Solveig says:

    Wow, that story of your colleague is something for a book!
    Telling your own past intertwined with that of London makes things so much more interesting, it does make working as a lawyer sound very passionating too!
    My daughter is very much enjoying the photos, especially when there are busses or bikes to be seen 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This is wonderful! I get a close up tour of London from thousands of kilometers away!
    Great theme and super images.
    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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