Friday 20 June 2008

The Occasional Tourist - Part One, St James's

I decided at spend my lunchtime today taking a wander around my local environs. My ultimate aim was St James's Square.

In the morning paper I'd read about a sculpture which was going on display in the square. The sculpture by Jeff Koon titled 'Balloon Flower (Magenta)' is purported to be worth £12m. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see what £12m looks like!

Very shiny and rather peculiar was my final conclusion. I was more amused by the security staff and staff from Christies guarding it. I suppose you have to look after £12m.

St James's Square is a pleasant green oasis in the heart of a rather upmarket business/shopping district. I was particularly taken of the statue of William III on a horse dressed as a Roman general. A long time ago I was told that the position of the horse's feet in a statue indicate the manner of the death of the rider. Four feet on the ground indicate a natural death, one foot in the air indicates that the rider died of wounds sustained in battle and two feet off the ground indicate that the rider died in battle. I tested this with the statue of William III, and indeed (although not in battle) he died of injuries sustained falling from his horse (after it stumbled on a mole hill!).

Facing Piccadilly is the church of St James's. Designed by Christopher Wren the church was badly damaged by bombs in World War II although many of the original features survived. As London churches go it is a rather plain brick edifice, but it is well know for staging concerts and the markets held out front.

Walking back from St James's Square to my office took me along Jermyn Street, well famed for its shirts (much as Savill row is famed for its tailors!).

There are the back ends (as it were) of two delightful shopping Arcades (which connect you to Piccadilly). Both are full of delightful boutique type shops, and indeed Piccadilly Arcade has it's own website.

At the end of Piccadilly Arcade stands a statue of George 'Beau' Brummell, famous Regency dandy.

My travels ended at St James's Street (which pretty much marks the west border of St James's (the east being Haymarket, and bordered north and south by Piccadilly and Pall Mall respectively).

On the corner of Piccadilly and St James's Street is this building with some interesting statues at roof level (you miss so much if you don't look up!). After some research I discovered that this is Justice by a sculptor Herbert Binney.

Next time I think I'll take a wander up Piccadilly towards Piccadilly Circus and see what there is to see!