Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Square Mile

I know the Square Mile MUCH better now – after that night I made sure one day a week was set aside to wander the streets without a map and with no direction. I went to the Alternative Fashion Week in the Spitalfields markets - shows put on by students with the most fabulous designs and ideas - after which I followed the crowds to Petticoat Lane markets and the beautiful arcades of Bishopsgate. I walked a substantial part of the ruins of the Roman Walls - a wonderful trek that has you darting down dark alleys to find oasis' of Roman ruins in landscaped gardens. I strolled down the dark valleys of the roads radiating off the Bank junction, vast stone walls looming above the pavement and hiding an amazing array of churches, pubs and Roman temples beneath its corporate facade.

My favourite part of the immediate neighbourhood however is the Barbican Center, which is a huge complex of apartments, conference centers, cinemas and theatres that is like a small 1960's space station set down in the middle of the City. It has no roads and is crisscrossed with vast long walkways that take you through rooftop gardens, across the feet of huge residential towers and over waterways and cafes. Fi and I went for an early morning stroll a few nights ago after a crawl of the Old Street bars. It was 3am on Easter Sunday and the City was pretty dead anyway, but once in the Barbican, with the noise of the light traffic gone, the scene was very post-apocalyptic. We were the only moving creatures in a wilderness of concrete and perfect gardens. You could almost imagine a Mad Max-like scenario of rival gangs holding the three towers with dangerous urban wastelands between. My, those sultry late nights do excite the brain.