Today the temperature in Britain soared to over 20°C. The entire population of London dug out their summer clothes and flipflops and burst forth into the streets to enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately, I was not one of them, because I had to work today. The one day in the year when I had to work on a Saturday would just be the hottest day of the year so far, wouldn’t it?! Instead of lying on a patch of grass somewhere, eating strawberries and watching the clouds go by, I was stuck in a dingy church hall counting copper coins and drinking lukewarm tea with – shudder – UHT milk (tea lovers – you know what I’m talking about!). However, all was not lost! I busted out for a brief lunchtime stroll around Bloomsbury, and what a glorious array of sights did I see!
As I wandered down Euston Road towards Bloomsbury, I walked past the parish church of St Pancras. Built in Egyptian Revival style, this colossal pillared beauty has some absolutely stunning, huge sculptures of Greco-Roman figures running down each side. I stood in awe beneath them and couldn’t believe I hadn’t spotted this amazing piece of architecture before. Next to the church was a beautiful, quaint little alley of Victorian shops called Woburn Way; another place I hadn’t noticed before. One of the shops was called Wot the Dickens?! but sadly it was a takeaway rather than an undiscovered bookshop – probably for the best, otherwise I might never have made it back to work!
I knew Dickens had lived in this area, but I hadn’t spotted the plaque to him on the wall of the huge colonial revival style British Medical Association building that runs along one side of Tavistock Square, former home of Virginia Woolf, before. Tavistock Square is quite interesting in that it only has one side of the typical Bloomsbury Georgian dark brick and white stucco terraces left. However, the replacement buildings on the other sides are all lovely in their own way, and the centre gardens, dedicated to Gandhi, are especially beautiful. Today they were a riot of colour, a carpet of daffodils and crocuses having erupted just in time to soak up the glorious sunshine.
I wandered into the streets behind Tavistock Square, enjoying the strange stillness and silence of this part of central London. As most of the buildings in Bloomsbury are now owned by the University of London colleges, the majestic squares of tall, dark terraces with their central gated gardens tend to be extremely quiet on the weekends, and this unexpected peace is wonderful. I spotted some fantastic art deco architecture and enjoyed peeping in through locked gates into gardens I wished I could have cavorted around in – maybe one day!
With a heavy heart I left the stillness of Bloomsbury behind for the frenetic rush of Euston Road as I meandered my way through the dingy streets behind Euston station back to the church hall. Though there are plenty of seedy shops and questionable fast food joints in these streets, there are also plenty of beautifully, thoughtfully constructed early 20th century social housing estates and some stunning Victorian architecture, that has become sadly rather mired in grime. I hope that as the gentrification of this area gathers steam, more will be done to bring a little of Bloomsbury’s elegance to the streets of Euston and St Pancras. All the raw material is there, after all.