Wednesday, January 12, 2005

This morning I was late for work. This happens about twice a week, usually because I hear my alarm, pretend it’s my mobile phone ringing, and sleep through it. Same happened today, but in addition I got lost. How long have I lived in this city? A total of 28 years. But today I got on a bendy bus (or a ‘free bus’ as they’re known to everyone, including the goons at City Hall who bought them), thinking it would take me across Waterloo Bridge and drop me off outside my building. I gasped audibly as instead it veered across two lanes of traffic and ducked into the Strand Underpass, emerging a minute later by Holborn station. Crap. Well, at least it was a lovely sunny morning.

I’m reading Do Not Pass Go at the moment. It’s a history of London masquerading as a history of Monopoly, and it’s bloody fantastic. There are lots of bizarre facts in there, few more bizarre than the information that a London wine bar, El Vino, refused to serve women until legally forced to do so in 1982. (And until more recently, they couldn’t be wearing trousers.) I really can’t get my head around that. Would any establishment get away with refusing to serve black people, or Asians, for so long? They’d be shut down, and rightly so. I have always viewed all-male institutions with suspicion: what reason can men have for wanting to ‘get away’ from half the population? Doesn’t it just smack of misogyny? I think the men who want to have a private, all-male enclave to retreat to are the same guys who kick up a stink when a report shows that women now make up 3% of company directors, claiming this proves women are now ‘running the world’. Get a grip, lads. We all have to rub along together. When women have all-female places to meet, it’s usually for a good reason: after attending the Capitalwoman conference earlier this year, where a lone nutter disrupted a talk, I think there should be more.

Today is one of those rare, lovely London days when the sky is cornflower blue and the sun is shining. So at lunchtime I went for a long walk around the Inns of Court. Took a left off the Strand down Bell Court, and suddenly I was in an Elizabethan/Georgian (I really need to research different periods in architecture…) maze of streets, and squares with odd names like Old Square, New Buildings etc… I was dazzled. The area looks like someone has picked up Cambridge University and dropped it behind one of London’s busiest streets. There was even a chapel, empty but for a peevish keeper, who looked pained when I spoke to him. If you’re in central London and fancy a trip back in time, I highly recommend it.

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