St Paul’s Cathedral

The schools have broken for the summer and so has the weather it seems. The sun has decided to take a breather and the days and nights have decidedly turned colder. It is a pleasant break from the stifling heat we’ve been experiencing lately. The intermittent showers are much needed but sometimes the downpours occur at the most unfortunate of moments. I think it should rain all night and we should have sunshine all day. That would be the perfect combination.

I was meeting my friends from my registrar/ senior registrar days from Kings college hospital. The plan was to meet outside St Paul’s Cathedral at about 5. Knowing how bad my sense of direction is, my friends had to find a landmark which I couldn’t possibly miss. Well, this time I made it in time. As I wait for Nirmala, I walk around the churchyard and marvel at the size of the building. Although I’ve been here before I have never done it in a leisurely pace. It’s always been just a quick stopping point as I take relatives on a tour around the major sights of London and that too only twice I think in the last 30 odd years.

The evensong starts at five and you can get into the Cathedral for free at this time. Nieves is already there waiting for us. We sit and listen to the choir singing. It is a place of worship and quite rightly no one is allowed to take photos. I marvel at the sight of the beautiful altar, the dome and the intricate paintwork, none of which I will be able to do justice by describing. As I listen to the choir and look up to the ceiling, I get goosebumps and feel blessed for just being alive and being able to enjoy this experience. Once the choir finishes singing and the church organ stops playing we are all asked to leave.

We walk past the Courts of the Old Bailey where Nieves has gone to do jury service. I haven’t done any jury service yet, but if I get asked, it will be at our local courts, which is nowhere as glamorous as the Old Bailey. Next stop is Fleet Street, which used to be from where most of the British newspapers operated.

As we walk down the street, Nieves points to the steeple of a nearby church (St Bride’s) and explains that it was from here that a local pastry chef got the inspiration to make tiered wedding cakes, a tradition that continues to this day. The great fire of 1666 destroyed a large number of churches in the City and Sir Christopher Wren was given the job of designing and rebuilding a major proportion of these churches including St Paul’s and St Brides.

On the 29 Dec 1940, the Germans dropped well over 100,000 bombs over London on the worst day of the Blitz. Fires raged all over London and this was described as the second great fire of London. A number of buildings including churches were destroyed, but Churchill wanted St Paul’s cathedral saved at all costs. Even though a number of bombs were dropped on the Cathedral, the firefighters managed to save it from severe damage. St Brides was not so lucky and apart from the steeple, the church was destroyed and was later rebuilt.

We walk through lovely little courtyards, one of which takes us to Dr Samuel Johnson’s House. Intrigued by the signpost we went to find out who he was. One of the greatest English writers of the 18th century who is well known for his Dictionary of English Language used to live in one of the houses here.

By now it was coming up to 630 and we walk to the restaurant to enjoy our dinner and reminisce about our junior doctor days.

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