- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Sunday, 2 March 2014
When I was a little kid, my mum told me that I was born right in the spot from which they measure all the distances from.
Being small and impressionable (and slightly confused), I ponder what this actually meant for some time.
What she actually meant, was that I was born in the central point in London, which is located in Charing Cross in Westminster.
Now, being bit of a boffin and an information blood hound, I looked into the historical reason behind this and have discovered yet another marvellous fact about this incredible full of hidden gems of city.
In 1290, King Edward's wife Queen Eleanor became ill on her way to Scotland to join him whilst he attended an important meeting there.
Unfortunately she died in Lincoln before she could join him. The King decided that in honour of her memory, he would erect twelve crosses at each of the sites that her funeral procession passed through on its way back to London, until it reach its final destination at Westminster Abbey.
The latter of the twelve crosses was was sited at Charing Cross on the south side of Trafalgar Square where the statue of King Charles I now stands. Today a brass plaque can be seen behind the statue that states that mileage is still measured from this spot, and I was born just over the road from that spot at the old Charing Cross Hospital.
The reason I was born there was because my parents (the original hipsters), lived in Soho. This seems pretty damn cool to me now. Imagine that, living in such a vibrant part of the city. When asked, my mum says that it was just where they lived. Still.
They then proceeded to move around the capital, and we lived in a variety of locations (sixteen in total) that included Islington and Fulham, before finally settling in Chiswick when I was eight.
That is more crosses than Edward erected for Eleanor as she made her way home.
As I grew up, I began to realise that being born at the point from which all destinations are measured was quite apt.
Life is after all a journey and London is certainly a city that holds many secrets where wondrous discoveries can be made. And what a fantastic resource it is.
If you take the time to look and listen, you'll see and hear the most amazing things and find out something new about its history.
You may even catch yourself saying out loud “Well, I never knew that.”
I must admit, I have fallen in love with it more in recent years. Prior to that, it was just somewhere that I lived. But it is a really special place. And even though I tire of the hustle and bustle from time to time, I take a step back from it, take a deep mental breath, and realise all over again, it is just an incredible treasure trove.
There is nowhere else like it, from the silence of a crowd gathered at the foot of Big Ben in Parliament Square on Remembrance Sunday as the clock heralds the eleventh hour, to the twelve it rings in on New Year's Eve, that welcome in the new year.
From all of the hidden rivers that run under its busy roads, to the one diverted by way of an iron bridge structure that runs above the Circle and District line trains that carry unsuspecting tube passengers through Sloane Square train station.
From the instantly iconic London Transport sign, to Harry Beck's 1931 simplistic, but beautifully worked out underground map.
The walk over Westminster Bridge towards the statue of the white lion adopted as mine when I was a child ( “ Look there's Holly's lion.” ), and then along the South Bank, on toward the Tate, pausing momentarily to glance across the river Thames to see the majestic dome of Sir Christopher Wern's St. Paul’s Cathedral. The tallest structure in London for over two hundred and fifty years until 1962, when that young upstart The Post Office Tower arrived on the scene and claimed the mantel as its own.
Pass The Tate, go a little further, and you'll see The Globe Theatre. Feel like you're in a spy movie as you cross The Millennium Bridge as you enter what I like to think of a the proper historical heart of the city. Turn left at St' Paul's and you can walk through the judicial heart as you pass by The Royal Courts of Justice, carry on and you'll eventually find yourself back in Trafalgar Square. On through Whitehall, past Banqueting House (with its amazing ceiling murals). Outside of which Charles I was executed.
Further on towards the beginning of your journey to Parliament Square, there is always the option to pay a visit to the subterranean simplistically meagre Cabinet Office War Rooms that Churchill worked out of during WW2.
That is probably my favourite city walk.
But there are so many other delights. The house where Bram Stoker lived, in a hidden street in Chelsea, adorned with a blue plaque.
The series of Blue Plaques in and around the capital. A fabulous source of entertainment and trivia.
The red buses, letter and telephone boxes.
Or the site of the first Punch and Judy show in London caved in the stone of the actor's church in Covent Garden.
The sublime abundant array of art in all of its galleries. The museums, the parks, the statues and the scars of the Blitz that can be still be seen on the side of the V&A, and let's not forget all of those bridges.
The view of the city from the top of Canary Wharf, or the trip along the Thames by boat from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge.
The beauty of patchwork of the idiosyncratic styles of architecture, that somehow seems to work.
It is all here, warts and all, and I love it it.
I haven't seen it all yet, it's a work in progress.
But just like the river that runs through it, it runs through my blood. I was born in its heart, and it will always, eternally, have mine.