When Chris Waywell switched up his journey to work, it changed his perspective on the city
It’s great to explore London, but sometimes exploration can be forced upon you. I used to catch a train to Charing Cross, then walk ten minutes to work. One day they closed that line, so I had to go to Cannon Street. It felt miles away, stuck in the City. I started getting the tube and hated it.
So, I tried walking again. This time, though, I didn’t look for the most direct route, along the smoggy arterial roads that feed into the West End. I went a different way every day. I refined it. I created a masterpiece of pedestrianism. I’d walk down to the river and follow the Thames Path past Blackfriars Bridge. I’d cut up through Lower Temple (when I was a kid, my dad let me into the secret that the public is allowed to walk through it), past all the shiny lawyer-cars with their stupid number plates – BR13F.
At the top, a beautiful glass arcade spits you out on to Fleet Street, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. I’d sneak round the back of the courts, picturing the defendants counting the seconds till their case was called. Down a Dickensian alley lined with legal bookshops and you come out into New Square, which was new in about 1500. The grass there looks like someone trims it with nail scissors.
There’s a gate at the top with a sentry box that lets you out into Lincoln’s Inn Fields. I’d walk round the right side of the square where at night there’s a soup kitchen, then past Sir John Soane’s house, across Kingsway to Shaftesbury Avenue. It took 40 minutes, but it was mine: by the time I got to work, I felt like I’d achieved something.
Okay, I was often late but I was much happier. Then the office moved to King’s Cross. I can get a direct train there from home. Most days, though, I don’t. I still walk up from Cannon Street, past St Paul’s, across Holborn Viaduct, up Leather Lane and through the canyons of Clerkenwell, or among the tombs and dope smokers of St George’s Gardens.
One day, I’ll have to change this route too. Or maybe I’ll die. In which case I want my ashes scattered by night in New Square, making the fancy barristers’ lawns lusher than ever.
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