If you visited with us over a weekend while we lived in London, it’s likely that you joined us for breakfast in Colbert. It’s a restaurant that we often visited for breakfast but never went at any other meal times.
If you came with us, I probably showed you where the culverted River Westbourne crosses the underground rail tracks in a green pipe. It’s hung there, river and pipe, since December 1868.
I may (or may not) have explained to you the wonderful geological specimens that you can see within a stone’s throw of your eggs Florentine.
The gneiss on the pavement outside the tube station is 390 million years old. It was brought from Switzerland by whim.
The water fountain in the square is made of granite quarried and transported from Scotland.
The Chelsea war memorial in the square is made of Portland limestones.
There are a lot more examples. And lots more to see within other stones’ throws.
One of my favourites is just up the road at Hyde Park Corner where the Portland Stone makes the Wellington Arch. If you have the time to stop, you can see the shells and fragments of other lifeforms preserved in the vuggy rock that’s been hewn and squared, shaped and stacked to commemorate Dubliner Arthur Wellesley, later the 1st Duke of Wellington.
Twice prime minister, he famously said ‘We always have been, we are, and I hope that we always shall be detested in France.’
I like the geology and the sculpture that adorns it by Adrian Jones. The sentiment preserved in the commemoration of Wellington might not appeal to many folk raised in Dublin.
But if ever you you might find yourself walking around London, have a look at this website before you take to the streets.
I still have their London Pavement Geology app on my phone. It was a fascinating thing to have in my pocket as I wandered the streets, among edifices adorned with geological expressions of hubris before the inevitable mini-nemeses. The architecture tends to outlast the people who use their fortunes to secure their legacy, an intention we rarely recognise. It’s like headstones in a graveyard, important to family and friends yet mostly forgotten a generation later. Forgotten but not unappreciated.
Of course, funding arts from addictive drug sales is a different thing entirely. But that’s a topic for another day.