A group of us walked round Tavistock Square and standing in the cold opened our eyes as to what is on the doorstep here in the middle of Bloomsbury.
There is always new stuff going on. There is a continuous change of restaurants and cafés. Some disappear, new ones open. I have no idea how many cups of coffee are now purchased in WC1 and the other postal districts around London but I bet it is a lot.
That got me thinking on two other things. Coffee often has milk in it and I notice with a bit of sadness that the old dairy building which is squeezed into a cul-de-sac at the back of St George’s Fields is being demolished. This old dairy building was clearly not going to stand the test of time. It has skylight roofs, was probably built in 1920s and the structure itself was unexceptional.
What it used to house, however, were these pop up exhibitions and I have been to some very curious stuff there over the years. I remember a whole selection of Japanese artists who exhibited some weird and wonderful sculptures in using materials that are often not used in the UK. Contemporary artists would show their sculptures and their paintings, most of which I am afraid were well over my head and not appreciated. Still it was a nice place to go and not many people knew about it. In part that may have been the venue’s problem.
More exciting, however, is on the very eastern outskirts of Bloomsbury – at least WC1 – is the Postal Museum in Phoenix Street. Many of you will know the Mount Pleasant sorting office which is due to be developed as some stage into some giant housing complex. The museum is situated in one of the streets framing the Mount Pleasant site and I would thoroughly recommend it.
It is such an interesting place. It has more than 60,000 objects in spanking new premises (it only opened in July last year) and it not only contains the expected Post Office history but a great deal of social history about the war/strikes/social progress etc. as well as an impressive stamp collection and lots of playful things including the attached stamp which I engineered for myself. I could have put a crown on or some horns but that would have been going over the top!
Under the Mount Pleasant site itself and about 100 yards from the main museum, is The Mail Train which you can now ride on at about £16 a pop. The Mail Train now is a tourist attraction and fully booked to the end of March. It takes you on a circular tour on the original track under Mount Pleasant for a 20-minute interactive ride.
The original Post Office mail train used to operate from Whitechapel to Paddington at the end of the 19th Century, to avoid the congestive roads in London, as it took so much time for post to get from East London to West London by horse-drawn vehicles. The Mail Train proved to be the solution. In short, a surprisingly good museum to visit with plenty to excite an interest. In addition, it has a bright, modern café and all the other facilities you would expect. It is a great place for young children to have a party as there is a very child-friendly interactive space where those under 8 (and I enjoyed it too!) can play at being postmen and take part in all sorts of post-related activities.
London remains wide open and forever changing. On Friday after work, some colleagues from the firm went off to visit the Lumiere light show Kings Cross. We joined tens of thousands of others who had the same idea. We are living and working in one of the planet’s greatest cities – make sure that you make the most of it!
Stan Harris OBE