Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Clouds of Witness Ch 7 cont

“I can't understand how it could have made any difference to Mary,” persisted Miss Tarrant mournfully. “She liked being a worker. We once tried living in a workman's cottage for eight weeks, five of us, on eighteen shillings a week. It was a marvellous experience—on the very edge of the New Forest.”

The New Forest is an area of southern England which includes the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in the heavily-populated south east of England. It covers south-west Hampshire and extends into south-east Wiltshire and towards east Dorset.

The name also refers to the New Forest National Park which has similar boundaries. Additionally the New Forest local government district is a subdivision of Hampshire which covers most of the Forest, and some nearby areas although it is no longer the planning authority for the National Park itself. There are many villages dotted around the area, and several small towns in the Forest and around its edges.

Like much of England, the site of the New Forest was originally deciduous woodland, recolonised by birch and eventually beech and oak following the withdrawal of the ice sheets starting around 12,000 years ago. Some areas were cleared for cultivation from the Bronze Age onwards; the poor quality of the soil in the New Forest meant that the cleared areas turned into heathland "waste", which may have been used even then as grazing-land for horses.[1] There was still a significant amount of woodland in this part of Britain, but this was gradually reduced, particularly towards the end of the Middle Iron Age around 250–100 BC, and most importantly the 12th and 13th centuries, and of this essentially all that remains today is the New Forest.

There are around two hundred and fifty round barrows within its boundaries, and scattered boiling mounds, and it also includes about 150 scheduled ancient monuments. One such barrow in particular may represent the only known inhumation burial of the Early Iron Age and the only known Hallstatt burial in Britain; unfortunately, the acidity of the soil means that bone very rarely survives.

The New Forest was created as a royal forest by William I in about 1079 for the royal hunt, mainly of deer. It was created at the expense of more than 20 small hamlets and isolated farmsteads; hence it was 'new' in his time as a single compact area

                “In the winter?”
                “Well—no, we thought we'd better not begin with winter. But we had nine wet days, and the kitchen chimney smoked all the time. You see, the wood came out of the forest, so it was all damp.”
                “I see. It must have been uncommonly interestin'.”
                “It was an experience I shall never forget,” said Miss Tarrant. “One felt so close to the earth and the primitive things. If only we could abolish industrialism. I'm afraid, though, we shall never get it put right without a 'bloody revolution,' you know. It's very terrible, of course, but salutary and inevitable. Shall we have coffee? We shall have to carry it upstairs ourselves, if you don't mind. The maids don't bring it up after dinner.”
                Miss Tarrant settled her bill and returned, thrusting a cup of coffee into his hand. It had already overflowed into the saucer, and as he groped his way round a screen and up a steep and twisted staircase it overflowed quite an amount more.
                Emerging from the basement, they almost ran into a young man with fair hair who was hunting for letters in a dark little row of pigeon-holes. Finding nothing, he retreated into the lounge. Miss Tarrant uttered an exclamation of pleasure.
                “Why, there is Mr. Goyles,” she cried.
                Wimsey glanced across, and at the sight of the tall, slightly stooping figure with the untidy fair hair and the gloved right hand he gave an irrepressible little gasp.
                “Won't you introduce me?” he said.
                “I'll fetch him,” said Miss Tarrant. She made off across the lounge and addressed the young agitator, who started, looked across at Wimsey, shook his head, appeared to apologize, gave a hurried glance at his watch, and darted out by the entrance. Wimsey sprang forward in pursuit.
                “Extraordinary,” cried Miss Tarrant, with a blank face. “He says he has an appointment—but he can't surely be missing the——”
                “Excuse me,” said Peter. He dashed out, in time to perceive a dark figure retreating across the street. He gave chase. The man took to his heels, and seemed to plunge into the dark little alley which leads into the Charing Cross Road.

Charing Cross Road is a street in central London running immediately north of St Martin-in-the-Fields to St Giles Circus (the intersection with Oxford Street) and then becomes Tottenham Court Road. It is so called because it serves Charing Cross railway station (named for the nearby Charing Cross).

Charing Cross Road was developed, in conjunction with Shaftesbury Avenue, by the Metropolitan Board of Works under an 1877 Act of Parliament at a cost of £778,238. The two streets and others such as the Thames Embankment, Northumberland Avenue, Kingsway and Aldwych were built to improve traffic flow through central London. It incorporated the routes of several older streets.

Charing Cross Road is renowned for its specialist and second-hand bookshops. The section from Leicester Square tube station to Cambridge Circus is home to specialist bookshops, and more general second-hand and antiquarian shops such as Quinto Bookshop, Henry Pordes and Any Amount of Books. Most of these shops are located on the ground floor of a block owned by a housing association, which decided in 2001 to raise the rents sharply to bring them closer to the market level. This was opposed by the book dealers, who felt that they were providing a valuable service and contributing to the unique character of the area, and should not be treated in this way by a not-for-profit body. The association's counter-argument was that if the booksellers did not pay a market rent they were being subsidized by its low-income tenants. The booksellers attracted considerable public support and a reduced rent increase was imposed. Several of the bookshops closed nonetheless, including Silver Moon, apparently Europe’s largest women’s interest bookshop, which became part of Foyles. Other shops closed more recently, Zwemmers art bookshop, Shipley the art bookshop in December 2008 and Murder One in 2009. Smaller second-hand and specialist antiquarian bookshops can be found on the adjoining Cecil Court.

The northern section between Cambridge Circus and Oxford Street includes more generalist bookshops such as the venerable Foyles and Blackwell's. A long-standing correspondence between New York based author Helene Hanff and the staff of a bookstore on the street, Marks & Co., was the inspiration for the book 84 Charing Cross Road (1970). The book was made into a 1986 film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins and also into a play and a BBC radio drama. 84 Charing Cross Road, located just north of Cambridge Circus, has not been a bookstore for many years; at street level it is now a restaurant (entered round the corner in Cambridge Circus), but the upper levels of the building remain as originally constructed. A small brass plaque, noted by Hanff in her book "Q's Lecacy", remains on the stone pilaster facing Charing Cross Road.

The music venue the Astoria was located here, as is one of the sites of St Martin's Arts College, as well as the music shops on Denmark Street (known as Britain's Tin Pan Alley). A number of theatres are nearby, such as the Phoenix Theatre which has its entrance on the adjoining Phoenix Street.

An interesting local feature can be found in the middle of Charing Cross Road at its junction with Old Compton Street. Beneath the grille in the traffic island in the middle of the road, the old road signs for the now-vanished Little Compton Street can be seen. This road once joined Old Compton Street with New Compton Street.

Beside the road's southern end is a statue of Edith Cavell. Towards the north end is the Phoenix Garden - an environmental garden run by local residents.

                Hurrying in pursuit, Wimsey was almost blinded by a sudden flash and smoke nearly in his face. A crashing blow on the left shoulder and a deafening report whirled his surroundings away. He staggered violently, and collapsed on to a second-hand brass bedstead.

1 comment:

  1. It might interest readers to be told the origin of the term "Charing Cross." It refers to one of the crosses put up by Edward I to mark points where the body of his beloved Queen Eleanor rested on it's journey to London to be buried.