On a Street Corner in London…..

I always find it hard to think of a place to meet a friend in the West End unless we have already fixed a venue for the evening’s entertainment.  I have those spots to go to for a quick bite to eat before the theatre, or the coffee shop for a chat in the morning, but if we want to make a joint spur of the moment selection of a place to eat, my mind goes a complete blank.

We could go through the pantomime of ‘it’s that pub near the theatre where that thing is on, you know’, as I can never remember the name of a pub to save my life, and the things that I regard as landmarks are often entirely unnoticed by most other people.

The one thing to absolutely avoid is to arrange to meet outside a Tube station.  Have you noticed how many people loiter outside the exit from Leicester Square station by Wyndhams Theatre, or beside the Eros exit at Piccadilly Circus?  It’s an utterly miserable experience.

The trick is to find a sufficiently specific spot which is unlikely to be mobbed, where there are things to keep you entertained while you wait.

A couple of days ago, when the agreed destination was China Town, the meeting point was designated at the east end of Gerrard St.  A random spot plucked from the air when my mind was otherwise blank.

I was early, as usual.

It’s a part of London that I often pass by in a hurry somewhere else, and know that it is China Town, the gates in the street are there to prove it, but in truth I very rarely look at it properly, or look at it as closely as I would if I were in China Town in New York or any other city.

But it is a part of central London on which a different aesthetic has been imposed.

I took all of these photos standing in approximately the same spot, looking in each direction.

About 20 years ago I served on a jury on a case in which the key question we had to decide was whether or not a drugs transaction had taken place at the public telephone boxes beside the Fire Station just up from Gerrard St.  The phone boxes, at the time, were standard red, but had little pagoda type roofs to ‘co-ordinate’ with the newly installed gates.

The phone boxes are long gone, victims of the general withering of the public telephone, but when I use the street as a cut through from Shaftesbury Avenue to Leicester Square I frequently think back to the case, and wonder.

It seemed to me at the time that the defendant had definitely been up to no good, but that the prosecution had failed to make their case sufficiently clearly.  Clinging to my belief in the principal of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ of the thing of which one is accused, I remember listening with incredulity to a fellow jury member voicing the opinion that for the defendant to be in court was all the proof he needed to convict.  I think we would all get a bit of the spirit of Henry Fonda in ‘Twelve Angry Men’ in us at that point, wouldn’t we?

Spend enough time anywhere and a story will emerge…..

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