Last week I met up in London with my cousin and her daughter from Australia. We ended up having a sort of WW2 and post-war themed day, starting with a visit to the Churchill War Rooms. We walked through the dazzling light of Whitehall, down Clive Steps, into the subterranean world of Churchill’s wartime government. It is an extensive and well constructed display of social and strategic history. We spent two hours there and could have spent more. Media displays evoked the claustrophobic, cigar smoke laden atmosphere. Everything is there, from the map rooms to the offices, complete with iron bedsteads and silk eiderdowns. If you visit, remember to stop off for the best ever chocolate brownie at the NAAFI, but don’t, for a minute, think we had anything like that in the 1940s!
In the evening we went to Foyle’s bookshop, where I worked briefly in the 1950s. The dust and chaos have gone, but it is still an Aladdin’s cave of book lined treasure. I wondered if the fire escape to the roof where I heard Humphrey Lyttleton serenade Soho with his trumpet is still functioning. We went down Manette Street and through the arch into Soho, where we stopped off at the French Pub in Dean Street. We literally drank in the atmosphere of the French Resistance movement who used to meet there.
This all sounds a bit like an advertisement for London and, in a way, it is. The Paralympics were still on and there was a real energy in the air. What a great day.