I did the City Trail last Saturday with my literary friend Lucinda. We met at St Paul’s tube station and set off to find the first bench on the trail, which was Bridget Jones’s Diary in Paternoster Square. We were pretty underwhelmed by the bench and couldn’t work out why Ms Jones should be in this particular spot, but it was good to see Temple Bar back in a place of prominence, all sparkling white stone.
Lucinda, in charge of the map, lead the way to the next bench, painted with Jacqueline Wilson characters. It was in front of St Paul’s cathedral – a building that never fails to astonish me, especially now it looks so clean and fresh. Lucinda and I both remember when all the old buildings in London were filthy.
Next, we found the bench for Charles Dickens in a small hedged area on the corner of Cheapside. There were some young men sitting on it, so Lucinda turfed them off. ‘It’s a piece of art,’ she said, ‘not for sitting on!’ At first sight, the bench was decorated with what looked to us like terrible daubs. But after reading the info panel, we discovered the painting had been done by school kids, so we did a complete U-turn and decided it was lovely.
We walked towards the river, found the meerkat and the panda, and then went back to St Paul’s, to the gardens by the churchyard, and saw the benches for Peter Pan, Mary Poppins and Fever Pitch. Lucinda did her ‘it’s a piece of art not for sitting on’ again to a couple on Peter Pan – the bloke didn’t quite believe her so I backed her up by quoting part of the label where it said ‘do not climb on the artwork’. That got rid of him.
Our tour took us to the Guildhall, Postman’s Park, Cornhill and Fenchurch Street, and the big finale was at the Tower of London. We found the Katie’s London bench, decorated with a lion, and then discovered some more lions – wire sculptures made as part of a show about the Tower menagerie. We then fought our way through the zillions of tourists to view Paul Cummins’ ceramic poppies in the moat, and enjoyed the sight while the bells of All Hallows by the Tower rang out for a wedding.
It was about 4 o’clock and my feet were aching, so we decided to head home. We made our weary way to Tower Hill tube station but it was closed (annoying but not surprising). We had to go all the way back to Bank.