Discover more from Shenanigans and Stuff
Getting Lost in Aldgate
My walks this week have been punctuated by the need to get to grips with my new medication. At times I have felt rather like the televisions of my childhood. Those giant, boxy behemoths that whined as they warmed up and were prone to fuzzing out. The cure for the fuzz was to smack it sharply on the top of the set until the picture returned. I have not tried that on myself yet, but I haven’t discounted it.
I have stayed close to home, sticking to tried and tested routes with only the odd foray off the beaten path, just in case I needed rescuing, or hitting with a plimsoll to restore the snooker championships to technicolour glory.
Yesterday’s walk took me up into Shadwell and a pitstop at my favourite charity shop where I picked up a Paul and Joe t-shirt with an orange cockerel on the front for £4 and a Persephone edition of Dorothy Whipple’s They Knew Mr. Knight for £3. Pleased with my treasure, I loped on up the Commercial Road into Aldgate.
It’s a strange place. I couldn’t quite get my bearings and it didn’t help that for quite some time I was confusing Aldgate and Aldgate East tube stations and kept thinking I was walking round in circles.
The top of the Commercial Road seems to be the place where fast fashion comes to die. There are lots of shops for retail customers only. This was not disappointing to me. I am not into magenta faux silk with pops of animal print overlaid with florals so bright you need to turn your eyes down to look at them. The shops were all very busy, despite eschewing customers with a firm hand.
I was interested to see that there was a singular lack of women involved in the businesses, which might explain the challenging fashion choices inside. The men who ran the shops and the men who were buying racks of clothes from the shops were all wearing much washed jeans and t-shirts in varying shades of grey. Dowdy as a clutch of peahens they were. Except for a rather jolly man who proudly sported a t-shirt that said: ‘Cupid Ain’t Stupid.’ I pondered this for some time and am still none the wiser. A few weeks ago I saw a man who looked a bit like Napoleon Dynamite wearing a t-shirt that said: ‘Hot Mulligan.’ I don’t know what that is, but it sounded fantastic and I want one, probably.
Leaving Commercial Road I cut down onto a very German road, where there were lots of buildings that had all been endowed by various philanthropists to support the German inhabitants of London. I passed St. George’s German Lutheran Church, which according to the website is the oldest German church in England. It was built in 1762 by a man who made his money as a ‘sugar boiler’. Not something that came up on either of my careers’ days at school, but clearly not to be sniffed at if you can afford to build a church in central London from your riches.
It’s not really used for services any more but they do have social and cultural events there. It was closed or I would have nipped in to see what a German Lutheran church looks like on the inside.
I got lost at this point in the valleys and canyons of modern, London office blocks. People clustered together, smoking and bitching to each other while their lanyards streamed in the breeze. One woman, shouted: ‘When have I ever stopped you seeing the kids? When? Just tell me.’ from behind a pillar and I was sorely tempted to lurk on the other side of the pillar to find out. I moved on and was nearly mown down by a group of teenagers on skateboards, trousers so baggy they looked like sails when the wind blew.
I rounded the corner by another exciting church which is either going to be turned into flats or renovated, but which was not available to worshippers due to the six foot hoardings bellying out onto the pavement. It had a tempting looking spire. I was sad that Aldgate was proving to be so godless. Shimmying down the side of the church I found an abandoned pub called The Still and Star. Well, the sign said The ST L and ST R. The previous owner, in a fit of optimism had painted it a jaunty, raspberry colour which made it look all the sadder in its boarded up state. An ageing bruise in a sea of whirling rubbish and roads that went nowhere.
Coming back towards Whitechapel I passed the site of the Boar’s Head Playhouse. Once a tavern offering rooms, it became a thriving theatre in 1557 and put on plays until 1603 when plague got the better of it. The site was the subject of an archaeological dig and you can see some of the finds in the window of the shiny, glass block that stands where it was.
I headed down Whitechapel High Street to the tube, stopping in at Superdrug to grab some supplies. In the queue I overheard two women behind me. ‘Are you still working at X?’ ‘Nah, I’m working at Lemon Zest now.’ ‘Oh yeah?’ ‘Yeah, it’s so much better than Top Banana.’ I have never eavesdropped on a woman who only seems to get jobs in businesses named after fruit before. Perhaps as her career progresses she will go on to work in more sophisticated businesses like Acerbic Quince, or as she gets older, The Moveable Prune. As long as she doesn’t fall on hard times and get all Clockwork Orange, she should be fine.