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ITS FALLING DOWN IT'S FALLING DOWN
Borough & London Bridge (London)
Member Name: spacelamb
Borough & London Bridge (London)
Date: 20/11/01, updated on 20/11/01 (981 review reads)
Advantages: Tate Modern, historic, central
Disadvantages: it's a bit near 'Elephant' for some
Yes, I’m back, and I’ve resisted the temptation to review Harry Potter. Y’all know by now that Ron was crap and Draco Malfoy was ace and Hedwig wasn’t named and Dumbledore wasn’t wacky enough. So yeah, I’m NOT going to talk about HP. Welcome to yet another neighbourhood op! Okay fine, so I’m becoming a neighbourhood bore, but look on the bright side. At least I don’t collect ornamental shoes.
I don’t know what I’d do without London Bridge. My train from home would have nowhere to terminate for a start, and I would be forced to alight on a grassy knoll or similar, which is not a practical interchange for Westminster by anybody’s standards. Instead each day I am greeted by a beaming Connex ticket inspector and the smell of fresh-baked Whistlestop croissants. Aaah, what could be nicer? So London Bridge: this one’s for you.
Actually, there will be comparatively little mention of London Bridge the station in this op, ditto London Bridge the song (yeah, all eight words of it). This is about the bridge (duh) and the district of ‘Borogh [sic] and London Bridge’ (c’mon dooyoo, sort it out). What’s this Borough nonsense? Blank looks all round? Well basically it’s the bit that stops London Bridge being too closely associated with Elephant and Castle, but more on that later.
Gosh, I typed ‘London Bridge’ a lot in that paragraph. I’m not bothered, I’m just saying.
One last thing about the station: for no discernable reason it is topped with opaque plastic pyramids. Late one Friday night and rather worse for wear, we decided that their only possible use could be to house pyrami
d-shaped monsters, thus keeping them off the streets, thus avoiding terrifying the locals, thus avoiding hysterical screaming outside the Southwark Borough Council offices at all hours of the day and night. If anybody knows the true reason for their existence, or wishes to offer an alternative and equally improbable theory, I’m all ears. Er, apart from my limbs, torso and all the other bits of my body which aren’t ears. Clearly.
Okay, the bridge. As obvious as it may sound, London Bridge is not Tower Bridge. It’s a common misconception. London Bridge, in its present form, is a rather unremarkable stretch of concrete that has linked the banks of the Thames since 1973. It has a fairly interesting history – from medieval times to 1750 it was the only way to cross the river without a boat or saddled dolphin – but these days, exciting it ain’t. (The original, by the way, is now in Arizona. Why? I don’t know. I only know it’s in Arizona because it was a question on The Weakest Link yesterday.)
Tower Bridge is the one that can be raised to let tall boats (?) through, and has two columns at either side that look like they’re wearing crowns. The one that appears in ‘The World is not Enough’ and on the front cover of any guida turistica a Londra which doesn’t feature beefeaters or red buses. It was opened in 1894 to relieve the traffic congestion on London Bridge and these days you can also take part in the ‘Tower Bridge Experience’ which lets you see its internal construction (stickle bricks, if the rumours are to be believed) and stroll across the beams, which are 140ft above the Thames.
The ‘London Bridge Experience’ consists largely of walking, jumping or hopscotching (dastardly spellchecker says that’s not a verb, pah) across the bridge. But at least it’s free.
One more thing to say about bridges before I start this op in earnest
(and no, Ernest doesn’t mind, we have an arrangement): the Millennium Bridge on Bankside is the new one for pedestrians only, which links St Paul’s and the Tate Modern. It’s closed at the moment due to ‘synchronous lateral excitation’ – basically when people walk on it, it rocks. As in sways, not like, yeah man, this rocks. Thing is, it was designed and built as a shallow suspension bridge, and then everyone was surprised when it moved about. I mean honestly. Still, you’re not allowed a go until the Wobblemaster’s fixed it, and that’s that.
Right, finally...what can you do in London Bridge and the Borough?
The Tate Modern is the place most people head for first and I’m not going to argue with that. I’m not going to reel off its various merits to you either, because I’m sure every man and his tortoise has already done so. Whatever you think of modern art (feel free to say your piece in the comments page but be warned I’ve had week-long arguments on this subject), you have to come here just for the building, a massive former power station which has retained its industrial features. There’s an absolutely superb site-specific Juan Munoz piece in the turbine gallery at the moment too which is worth a visit in its own right. And this excursion will cost you zip, zilcho, diddly-squat, so don’t even think about saying you’re washing your hair or bathing the hamster. I’m not interested in your lies.
Nearby, and with a rather different vibe, is the London Dungeon. I’ve never been, despite having had 2-for-1 tickets at the bottom of my satchel for a month. My first prejudice against the place is that last summer as I walked past the back door, one of the employees was having a fag in costume and I was caught off-guard and screamed and made a tit of myself. The second is that my brother went when he was twelve – a gore-loving age, I think
– and was completely underwhelmed by the whole experience. Without wanting to be snotty, I don’t see what appeal it’s going to have for me if it don’t float the boat of a first-year kid. And third, all the attractions relate to things that really happened, from the Jack the Ripper murders to the Great Fire of London, and I couldn’t in good conscience pay to be ‘entertained’ by stuff like that. But if you are without conscience it’s on Tooley Street, costs £11.95 to get in and the website address is www.thedungeons.com. Let’s say no more about it.
The Globe Theatre. Now there’s something nice to talk about.
As with London Bridge, the original structure is long gone. The first Globe was built in 1599 and then closed by a herd of joyless Puritans 43 years later (okay, so what *is* the collective noun for a group of Puritans, smartass?). Thankfully in the seventies, the American actor Sam Wanamaker (you think of the ‘want-to-make-her’ pun, I can’t be bothered) led the campaign for its reconstruction. It was reopened 200 yards down the road by her Madge (the queen, not Madonna) in 1997, and is now one of the highlights of a South Bank walk. They still perform plays in the Shakespearian style there – ie. in the round and outdoors, so make sure you take mittens. Prices range from a fiver (to stand in the yard) to about £30 (for nice comfy seats which have champagne taps in the arms and pleasantly vibrating fingers beneath the fabric – sorry, just kidding).
But what if you’re one half of the whitening/protection couple who can’t agree on anything? What if you want to do the tourist circuit and your better half wants to find the nearest boozer? Well, here is a perfect compromise: Vinopolis (City of Wine). Yes, in the urban sprawls of SE1. Go figure. This slightly bizarre attraction has wine tasting halls (the admission price of £11.50 includes fre
e tastes of five different vins), history of wine exhibits (“some of the artefacts date back 4000 years!” – the mind boggles) and four restaurants which promise to serve more wine by the glass than any other eaterie in London. Interestingly, they also have a kids’ admission fee of £5. I wonder if they do school parties too…?
So, what about this Borough business then?
‘The Borough’ is one of the oldest bits of the capital, although in Roman times it was not even considered to be a part of London (which is hard to get your head round these days when most of Surrey, Essex, Kent and Hertfordshire seem to come under the ‘Greater London’ umbrella). It’s basically just a long high street which links London Bridge (quite nice) and Elephant and Castle (quite grim, possible op pending), but there’s a surprising amount of stuff there.
In days gone by its location just outside the jurisdiction of London seemed to attract criminals on the run, and quickly became renowned for its bawdy taverns. Several such places still exist, although for the most part they’ve lost their ‘bawdy’ reputations – The George Inn is the finest of these. It’s the oldest galleried pub in London (built 1676) and has a huge suntrap of a courtyard which positively encourages you to get heatstroke and alcohol poisoning in the summer months. And not a felon in sight.
Southwark Cathedral is the oldest Gothic church in London (completed in C13 after the original church burnt down in 1212). Since then, parts of the cathedral have been variously used as a prison, bakery and pigsty – in fact it won the Cathedral Versatility Prize in the seventies. No of course it didn’t. I just made that up. It’s more of a visitor attraction than a house of prayer these days, as Borough has more commercial than residential buildings, and the accommodation it does provide is in the R
ather Expensive Loft Conversation category. Sigh. I’ll just have to wait until I’m Mayor of London and earning a proper salary. It’d be handy for the GLA offices too.
More old stuff: Borough Market is the great-great-great grandad of markets, having been there since 1276. In its heyday (yes, long before Tesco) it was referred to as London’s Larder and was relied upon for essential provisions – these days it’s more of a specialist foodie market. Most of the produce is organic and people come from miles to trade there, most notably a couple from France who bring their cheeses over early every Sunday morning. Bless. It’s also been the set for scenes in Bridget Jones’ Diary and Lock Stock, but guess what? Somebody high up in railways (a man on the station ceiling?) thought it’d be a good idea to knock down the market area and lay an extra railway bridge over the site, to ‘ease congestion at London Bridge’. I have to suffer this congestion on a daily basis and I would still stand in front of bulldozers to stop them destroying the market. I mean come on, it’s been there nearly a thousand years. AND there are a billion places in south-east London that need railways bridges far more than Borough, if they’re just keen to throw another bridge up. Why don’t they put a new station at Camberwell? Or spend the money making sure that the services from Brockley run on time?? Gggrrrrr.
If you agree that this is folly and nonsense, pop along to www.save-borough-market-area.org.uk and sign their petition. Go on, please.
If I’ve won you over (sucker) and you’ve decided to stay here, there’s a hostel (St Christopher’s Inn) on the high street which charges a very reasonable £70 per week (in a room with 10-12 beds – it goes up slightly for smaller dorms). It’s attached to a Belushi’s bar, which is decked out in bright blue (surprise surp
rise) and is full of 50s American memorabilia. It does bargain sandwiches at lunchtime too. Opposite there’s a Slug and Lettuce, and while I hate chain pubs as a rule, this one does cracking nachos; further down the road there are some really nice cafes too. I used to work here by the way, I haven’t spent several weeks researching the local grub in the name of dooyoo review writing. Honest...
Well, the sun is sinking and I’m sure you’ve long since finished your Bovril, so let’s call this the end. I’m afraid I can’t think of a witty parting shot – I used up all my falling down gags at the start of the op – so this is just an announcement. FIN.
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