So, this evening I walked from work (the corner of Webber Street and Blackfriars Road), to Henry’s, a bar of some repute (though not greatly deserved as it turns out) just off the apple market in Covent Garden. I was there in order to join with some chums in the pursuit of levity in the face of the impending departure of one of our number. That is to say that “Young Tom” as I have decided to dub him, is scant days away from quitting the capital and heading for the walled fastness and medieval splendour of York. Clearly we are all sad to see him go, and if it were not so laudable goal as the pursuit of not mere erudition, but the furthering of thought and the store of human knowledge then I think we would all be rather perplexed as to why.
And so we dined and wished him well, but then once dinner was done and the party scattered to their various hearths (or at least in the direction of them), I was left with the unavoidable truth that I had not yet filled my quota of daily walking.
For the benefit of the reader who may be unfamiliar with dear old London in the early twenty-first century, allow me to explain why I was initially unenthusiastic about walking for my health through her streets at a little before ten of the clock. Gone are the days of a London that dutifully sleeps. At any time of the year one can reliably expect the West End to be teeming with a strange mélange of tourists, drunken youths and raucous office workers, and to make matters worse I am always unsure of how safe it may or may not be to avoid the West End by using the Royal Parks at night. The upshot is that in order to do my quota of walking, I would have to negotiate the wide-mouthed tourists and the revellers, not to mention the n’er do wells of the night-time city, by walking through Covent Garden, across Leicester Square, over the corner of Soho and then down Oxford Street to Marble Arch and Hyde Park and then along the Bayswater Road until I recognised my surroundings well enough to cut back north(ish) to Paddington and my train home.
As it was, the walk was not so bad. I did have to swerve around the aforementioned, disparate groups quite a lot – it seems that very few people walk through the late evening in London with anything approaching a purpose, and I suppose it is only my new-found desire to do so that leads me to notice. After all, I have no antipathy towards these jolly folk out enjoying our glorious and historic capital… I just wish they would not clog the place up so.
Having arrived on Praed Street an hour later, and secured an insanely over-priced bottle of mineral water from the Budgens opposite Paddington Station, I wandered down the slip and was lucky enough to be in time for the last high speed train that stops at Reading. As I walked through the open barriers I noticed that the lights were dimmer than usual, or at least I had not noticed this gloomier look to late-night Paddington before, and as I looked up at the reds and whites of the ironwork under the roof I realised that under this subdued lighting the ceiling did put me in mind of the gullet of the whale in Pinocchio. So out of the sea of people and into the belly of the whale I went and the rest is a tale for another time.
Night all, sleep well…