Pudding Lane review
It's not often that lowly nobodies like me get the opportunity to change history, but if I was strolling down the river 350 years ago I could have smelt the burning buns, nipped into the bakers and said, "oy, mate... your cakes are on fire!", and saved London from destruction. Because Thomas Faryner burnt more than a cake that day -- he burnt the entire town down to the ground.
The most amazing (and amusing) thing to me is not that he did it, but that he somehow managed to get away with it. He swept up all the cinders and kept his head down. He kept his mouth shut. He knew that sooner or later somebody would blame a foreigner, so imagine his relief when they started pointing their fingers at that French man. And then imagine his guilt when they killed him. The city... gone. People... dead. Mobs rampaging through the streets beating up the Catholics, attacking foreign nationals… thousands of Londoners destitute and desperate... Old St. Paul's reduced to a pile of rubble. And all because he forgot to take his buns out of the oven. Nice one, Tom.
If you had to name the two men who made the biggest impact on London's architecture, then the scholars will tell you it's the classically-trained Christopher Wren's of this world, but deep down they know it's dopey old Tom and Adolf Hitler. Tom managed to wipe out five hundred years of history on his own. Hitler knocked down London with a bomb — Tom did it with a bun.
There's nothing much to see in Pudding Lane nowadays (other Christopher Wren's Monument nextdoor). It might even be the ugliest street in London: the architecture is brutal. It's post-war depresso -- the kind of architecture that you really would want to burn down. But I'm guessing that these buildings won't burn -- they're all concrete, stone and steel. If the Great Fire of London broke out again today then this street will still be standing, like the weevils at the end of a nuclear war.
It's decorated with heavy metal shutters and air vents. Every five feet you'll find a courier bike, concrete bollard or CCTV camera. It's the kind of place you pass through on the way to somewhere else. And it's a sloping street so people have their heads bowed down as they amble down it, totally oblivious to the incredible history that once occurred here.
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