Friday, August 31, 2007
Ye Olde Fleet Street Tour
Today it is 10 years since the death of the ‘people’s princess’ – a fact which will have escaped no-one who watches tv, listens to the radio, reads a paper or gets their daily fix of news and gossip online.
On the day Diana married her prince I was a young hack working in Fleet Street and by leaning out of one of the windows it was possible to see, far down below, the guests and the main players as they passed by on their way to St Paul’s. At the time I was pregnant with the daughter who has just had her own wedding, so hanging out of windows was rather uncomfortable. But last night I found myself pointing out the building to a mother from South Africa, here to visit her son.
The son’s partner is a journalist and we were all there because of an invitation we’d had from our boss: We are proud to announce that Ye Olde Fleet St Tour has been modernised, updated and refurbished at VAST expense and is to be relaunched next Thursday 30 August as the Incredible Fleet St Holistic Experience 2008 and Beyond, sponsored by Sol, the touchy-feely Mexican Lager.
In other words, the annual Fleet Street pub crawl (with a bit of history thrown in for newbie journos who have no idea what life used to be like on the Street of Shame).
Last night, we started the Fleet Street experience at the Blackfriars pub (terrible service, stunning interior, named after the monks who lived there in medieval times); moved on to the Old Bell (which backs on to St Bride’s church - burnt down when the Great Fire crossed the River Fleet, rebuilt by Wren, bombed in the Blitz); and from there to Gough Square (Dr Johnson and his dictionary) to the Cheshire Cheese (full of tourists – including a couple with a child in a buggy).
It was as we crossed Fleet Street on the way to the Cheese that I found myself pointing out that window. The South African lady looked suitably impressed. But not half as impressed as I was when she told me later that her daughter got married in the summer – and she had made all the dresses for the bride and the bridesmaids herself!
PS: St Bride’s is the journalists’ church. It’s where some of us get married or go to sing carols at Christmas and it’s where we hold memorials for friends and colleagues, before decamping to El Vino’s to swap memories. If you’ve ever wondered why Fleet Street became the centre for printing and newspapers, their website has a good explanation