This site covers weird and wonderful London, right? It doesn’t get any weirder or more wonderful than this…
For my 28th birthday, I booked the day off work with very little insight into what Tom had planned, besides being fed a fruitful hint along the lines of ‘…we’re doing something in London’. Being honest, I was a little apprehensive, only because I felt sorry for the poor guy. Where do you take the person who spends their time investigating and writing about cool, quirky places? Where do you take the person who’s seen everything, to try and take them by surprise? To try and shock them? Bangkok wasn’t the answer.
The day started with us boarding a bus to head into Central London. As usual, we had a bag of foodie bits for the journey – a tradition which has come to be known as a Busnic. Like a picnic. On a bus. You’d already got that, ok, sorry. So I’m on the bus, eating a Peach Frube* (I know, right?) and I suddenly realise that Tom’s pinging the bell to stop the bus …and we’re in Bank. As in, the City. Bank. For my birthday.
*For those not in the know, Frubes are tubes of yoghurt which were popular amongst children, circa 1997. Much to our delight, they’re still available in most good supermarkets. The peach ones are the bomb.
I hate to be ‘that guy’ but my brow was furrowed somewhat. Out loud, I softly said to Tom “Oh, you’ve brought me to Bank! How funny! I wonder what this could be…” whereas in my head I was saying “What the hell are we doing in Bank, about to dive away from our sunny busnic and into a hectic deluge of pinstriped misery? Birthday ruined. We might as well just go to Nando’s.”
I hate Nando’s. So that should illustrate to you how I felt about being in Bank on my birthday.
We fought our way through the relentless current of suited depression in our colourful clothes with our smiling faces and our hands held. Bank hated us. Tom ducked into a little cafe to grab two take-away morning coffees before we continued like two happy salmon swimming up Death Creek. Then we turned down a little side street and suddenly all the bleak, polluted pandemonium dissolved and we were stood facing the most amazing, beautiful site I’ve ever seen …near Bank.
St. Dunstan in the East is a church in the City which was badly bombed by the Germans in 1944. The roofless, damaged outer walls of the church still stand, but they’ve been allowed to be overrun and overgrown with colourful wild flowers, rich plumes of foliage and tangling laces of ivy which climb and encase the church carcass like a beautiful green onesie. The plant life is maintained by The City of London Architects and Parks Department who won an accolade for how freakin’ awesome it is. Or something like that. I don’t think that was the official title of the award. Mature, towering trees imposingly dominate the middle of what would have been the nave. The ornate stone window frames remain in place but are vacant of their stained-glass panes and are beautifully damaged in places. The intact arched doorway welcomes Londoners into this tranquil, green space for their lunch, to escape their hectic mid-week headspace. On the day we visited, this hidden little haven was dappled with fresh, October sunlight and breathed bubbling murmurs of chatter from gathered groups nearby.
We sat on the low wall of what would have once been the alter area and sipped on our coffees, taking it all in. My head was peacefully clear of chaos, I felt relaxed and I no longer thought of Nando’s chicken. Whilst St. Dunstan is quietly bustling during weekday lunchtimes, the best time to visit is at weekends when the City falls silently desolate and the church reclines into an eerie mode of decease, making it all the more beautiful.
Of course Tom had absolutely smashed it – and the rest of the day continued along that same standard. However, credit for finding this gem goes to Tom’s mother, Diane Ford, who seems to possess more London knowledge than myself and Tom put together. So if you go and discover this hidden little pocket of tranquillity in amongst the sludge of London’s finance district, it’s her you’ve got to thank, really.
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