A Knight’s Tale (75: Trips Around The Neighbourhood)

Brass-rubbing was a feature of St James’s Church, Piccadilly in the 1970s. 

 This image was taken from https://www.ebth.com/items/8199847-1976-brass-rubbing-from-st-james-church-london.

I once took Matthew and Becky there for the afternoon.  At £5, which was still quite a lot of money in those days, I thought this quite a reasonable outlay for an afternoon’s activity.  The two excited children rampaged around the crypt, gathering reams of large paper with a rub rub here, a rub rub there, everywhere a rub rub.  Eventually I got the bill.  It was £5 for each rubbing.  After a lengthy debate with the staff we came to a compromise.

Trafalgar Square was another local attraction. In September 1976, Matthew attempted to scale one of the lions around the base of Nelson’s Column.

In December 1979 it was still permitted to feed the feral pigeons in the square. This is no longer possible. Matthew and Becky brought their own bread, although seed was sold in the square in those days.

We would often walk to the Jubilee Sports Hall in Covent Garden for them to have fun on the trampoline.  Seeking an activity for myself, I chose once more to pick up weights, with which I had trained in The Wimbledon YMCA gym during my twenties.  The hall’s availabilty as a sporting venue was under threat, and, as part of the campaign to preserve it, a Chinese photographer produced a superb set of large illustrations which lined the entrance staircase.  I featured in one, pushing up a bench press.  Michael’s friend Eddie, was playing football in another.  It was in this hall that I played my first game of Badminton.  An ungainly pit-a-pat performance.  I happened, rashly, to mention this to Carol Elstub, my deputy at the time.  She informed Ken Coleman, one of the Assistant Directors of Social Services.  Ken, she said, played Badminton.  She told Ken I played Badminton.  She flattered me.  A game was arranged.  Ken turned out to be a Middlesex County Coach.  Never mind, he taught me the game.  We played regularly for some years.  I would never beat him, but I did often manage to make him angry with himself.  Our games took place in Queen’s Park Jubilee Hall, a short walk from my office.  This particular venue is bound to be mentioned again.

When we lived in Soho, the old Covent Garden was ripe for speculators who moved in steadily to change what had become a daily craft market, where people sold their own work, into an outlet for more manufactured goods; and to convert some of the old buildings into classy shops and restaurants. It remains a thriving area, if lacking the old world charm of the ’70s and ’80s. Bustling cafes have open-air seating, and buskers,

like my guitarist, still perform to

enthralled crowds, such as those I pictured in September 1982. 

Three years earlier Matthew and Becky would scour the stalls for presents to take home with them.

Pandering to my penchant for visual puns my image of these home crafted slips was framed and hung on the wall of the dining room in Newark.


  1. I recall feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square in 1973 … brass rubbings came on a later trip – alas the results disappeared in one of our many moves. Your photographs of people are always intriguing. Actually, you and Mr Keeping have a lot in common when it comes to people watching!

  2. behind St James, off Jermyn Street, there was a cafe in the noughties where I would meet our negotiating team for our twice weekly meet up before we went into bat in an office on St James Square. This went on for about nine months. The meet up and pre-briefing took place between 7.30 and 8 am. One morning, a bit dopey from some late night, I got on the tube at Victoria and swung on the bar above the doors. Moments later said doors closed on my head, and bounced back open while I tumbled to my knees more than a little dazed. Needless to say no one said anything, just gave me space to pull myself upright as the doors now closed. Somehow I managed to get off one stop later at Green Park and wander to the cafe where my colleagues waited. Only then did anyone react. I had a diagonal red (scratch) and Black (dirt) flash across my forehead and cheek and looked like a poor man’s superhero. Needless to say this merely generated laughter rather than sympathy. I suppose I should be grateful that phone cameras didn’t exist back then. Sorry, you triggered a memory… nice post, as per…

  3. So fun to travel through the city and time with you, Derrick. I’ve never really lived in a city, especially one as large and old as London. I particularly like your header photo.

  4. What great memories, fun photos, sweet faces, perfect people-watching places, and joy abounding!
    Especially love the boy on shoulders in the happy crowd, and the slips stall! 😀 Way to go, on framing the slips photo and hanging it on the wall! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  5. I had to look up brass-rubbing, Derrick, and it is fascinating. I can imagine kids having fun with it! I enjoyed the old black and white photos; they have so much character.

  6. I’m not usually a big fan of black and white photos, but these are captivating. I’d enjoy seeing a photo of you playing badminton.

  7. A fascinating journey down the lanes of past, it offers vivid details complete with the prevailing moods of the moments. Your kids look cute, your photo offering visual pun has rightly been honoured —it’s a marvel.

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