Lunchtimes in Bloomsbury: Waterstones Gower Street

 

I’ve already eaten my lunch at my desk as it’s been raining all morning. I’m still keen to leave the office for some cold fresh air. I cross Tavistock Square under my umbrella. Looking down at the weathered stone pavements, they look worn, shaped like a relief map of a landscape in Geography, bumpy and collecting little lakes and river deltas.

I walk on past the grand Church on the corner of Gordon Square, sandy yellow old stone stained and wearing away in the rain. I walk past the coffee guy with his little van he parks up each day, by the wooden benches that usually have students lounging about on. Waterstones is on the corner.

The building is a huge piece of gothic revival architecture. Ornate turrets with green copper roofs, stone relief work everywhere you look. It’s a huge statement of a building. Inside it is a large, multi-roomed sort of place. Most sections have their own little antechambers, military history leads on to world history, leads on to travel. I walk to my usual section, up the central stairs and to the right, into the poetry section, where they have a little armchair. I read across the rows and rows of poetry book spines, nodding when I see something unusual or especially good. I pick up a few books to read the first poem the book opens on. In this Waterstones, they mix in secondhand and antique books with the rest of their sections. It’s nice to see a few of the vinatge penguin poetry collections, with their vibrantly pattened front covers.

In the furthest corners of the buildings, the turrets provide reading nooks. The turret in the children’s section is a cosy nook festooned with toys and picture books, with a gorgeous view (even on a rainy day) from the casement windows out to the Georgian terraces on Gower Street. At a little table and chairs a dad goes through timestables with his daughter, waiting for the rain to slow or stop.

I don’t buy anything this time. I do another circuit of the building to avoid the rain, move down through the various categories towards biographies in the basement, next to the Ryman’s in house franchise.

I ready myself with my umbrella and swoop out onto the street, the rain steadily singing away above my head.

 

 

Advertisements

Lunchtimes in Bloomsbury: Gordon Square

I20160509_122052 cross the very busy road at the zebra crossing at the top of Tavistock Square and as I walk the streets get quieter. Crossing onto a quieter corner, I’m in Gordon Square. The gardens here are like a wild meadow, overrun with long grass and flowers. Parts are roped off from the public and allowed to grow tall.

Today is a lovely warm day, with a breeze and I eat my lunch watching the people wandering about. The gardens are full of students sprawled on the grass, stressed out academics (who bring their mugs from their offices into the park) and men who for whatever reason need to sleep in the shade of the trees here. It’s the quietest square in Bloomsbury I know.

Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group met in a town house in the square, now a part of the Birkbeck’s School of Arts. These days the basement of the building is the university creche.

 

There are two statues in the gardens, one to the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and another to the incredible Noor Inayat Khan, who was posthumously awarded the George’s Cross and the Croix de Guerre for her work with the French resistence in the Second World War.

After finishing my sandwich, I follow the meandering path around the square. By the cute kiosk which sells hot drinks, I notice a bench with a plaque which reads:

 

“Here beats the happy heart of

our emotional geography

Jack & Rachel

20150807_121232.jpg

Lunchtimes in Bloomsbury: St George’s Gardens

 

8932265e-38bf-45a5-8173-a8a972b211a7

St George’s Gardens is tucked away, down a side street across the road from the Brunswick Centre. When you enter the gates and walk down a small slope, you walk into what initially looks like a normal, sort of narrow park. It’s only as you walk further into the space it becomes obvious that this isn’t a normal park but a burial ground. The space opens out either side and the path splits and snakes about following a route that, I assume, avoids the graves that were once there. The further into the gardens you walk, the more it feels like a graveyard. There are large tombs scattered about, one totally surrounded by iron railings. Another raised up on a red brick plinth. One of the more ornate tombs belongs to Oliver Cromwell’s Granddaughter. Most of the names and dates on the gravestones have worn away now. On the right hand corner surrounded by trees is a grand obelisk that pierces into the lower canopy of the nearby tree.

Running down either side of the boundary walls are planted borders and small trees. On lunchtimes I’ve seen the same man from the council digging and tidying it all up. Gravestones are pressed against the boundary walls, grown up the walls like ivy. The man from the council digs away at the ground right by them.

I sit on a bench opposite a cluster of tombs, eating my lunch as others do. I wonder how much they think about our surroundings. It must have been a long time since someone was buried here. Mourners won’t turn up to question how appropriate it is to eat my cheese sandwich near to their Grandmother’s final resting place. The grass is generally undisturbed but I do wonder about the graves down there.

I decide to walk to the other side of the gardens and exit a way I’ve never been before, just out of curiosity. I walk down a quiet back street towards Mecklenburgh Square. When I walk round the corner, one of the houses has a blue plaque to the poet HD who lived there.