23 January 2022
My plan is to walk part way into London and then get an Uber to the site.
It’s a lovely day and I love walking along the outskirts of London - there’s so much layering of place. I’m in a good mood and I’ve got plenty of time - so I start to record some of the bits and bobs - an analogue BASF sign and some ghost type on the facade of a building.
Then it happens in the blink of a shutter. I’m walking through the suburbs, surrounded by the school crowd hustle: mostly mums and kids on scooters. As I walk along the paving, I can hear their bikes whining. Then there’s a shout behind me, but before I get a chance to turn around, I’m subject to an act of simultaneous aggression. Just like wolves stalking their prey - two darkened forms on over-clocked e-bikes, hoods screwed tightly around their pale faces - arc onto the paving. The first hood angles the bike across my path and screams at me, whilst the second hood moves in from behind, at pace, and knocks me to one side. His prey is my tripod. Never stopping, and in one motion, he grabs the head of the tripod and pulls it away with his momentum. In shock I watch the legs unravel from under my arm as he propels up the street, until - in an act of incredulous stupidity - I grip the stubby feet at the bottom of the tripod. The two opposing forces yank him off the bike and he tumbles to the floor. People are gasping and shouting around me. The dislodged rider weighs up his response and looks me in the eye. His compatriot shouts as he flickers into movement. Thankfully, he picks up the bike and makes his escape.
“Are you OK?” asks a mum holding tightly on to her child. “Yes, I say - they came out of nowhere.” “They’ll be back.” she says. “I’ll get an Uber.’ I say.
After the photo shoot I head over to Downing Street. I'm looking at a place that, in my humble opinion, has seen one of the most decisive and impactful scenes in history. No, it's not the party popping celebrations at No 10. The place I'm talking about is The Banqueting House, a little further north, across the road - a real gem, hidden in plain sight.
Behind me, I can hear the hustle and bustle of tourists intermixed with long lensed photographers - the heat is on in Downing Street, but, beyond the noise and hullabaloo of No 10, the Banqueting House looks still and serene. It was built that way by Inigo Jones in 1622 - even though it was re-faced later, it still holds the lines and intention of the original building. The facade looks so familiar to us today, but must have looked striking amidst the fire-frought, timber-framed heart of post-medieval London. The crowning glory is the interior ceiling by Rubens (completed in 1636) - an exposition on the divine right of kings.
Ironically, it was beneath this ceiling that Charles I walked his last and lost his divinity. He stepped through the window onto a waiting scaffold on Whitehall. The coming down of the axe upon this scene created ripples that I can still hear now, behind me, in the click of a shutter, on the paving outside Downing Street.
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The Banqueting House is currently closed, but is usually open to the public.
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