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Open Features: Stoned!

... As we head for home on Saturday morning via Marble Arch tube station and the Central Line, the up escalator is awash with aged fans wearing garish T-shirts and vest tops emblazoned with vivid tongues, huge pouting lips or silhouettes...

Mary Pilfold-Allan says the Rolling Stones will always be number one in her book - though her admiration of aging Stones fans is distinctly lacking.

Just returned from a few days in London. After years of commuting on a regular basis, going to the capital now is for pleasure, leisure and the galleries…only this is July and London is besieged by parties of school children and tourists from every corner of the earth. Marvellous for the economy, not too good if you are used to the quieter realms of East Anglia.
To top it all, summer suddenly arrived with temperatures in the 80s. Phew…

Nevertheless, London is wonderful, a great heart beating away with life and energy. I can quite see why it’s on most tourists’ list of places to visit. It is also slightly scary, not because it’s threatening; simply because it’s exhausting. The very lure of so many things to see provides a complexity of choice that is frankly overwhelming. If you set out to go somewhere, a definite destination in mind, the outcome is often another place altogether.

I took a bus to the Bank area. It took an hour from Marble Arch – there were diversions and traffic jams - and arrived just as the financial institutions were releasing their staff for lunch. Clad in black or navy, these doyens of our monetary system grabbed their coffees and take-away and like a flock of crows, descended on any vaguely green or open space, to settle and offer their pale limbs to the sun. I hope they had a wonderful weekend somewhere in the country to make up for their weekday deprivation.

My aim had been to visit the church of St. Mary Woolnoth and, having accomplished this I walked on to St. Stephen Walbrook, next door to the Mansion House. The present church dates from around 1672 and is one of the many rebuilt after the Great Fire of London. Inside its great Wren designed dome soars majestically above a controversial alter by Henry Moore. The original, much older church destroyed by the fire was built some yards away on the site of a Roman temple to Mithras. Here Roman soldiers of around 240 AD ‘sought valour and virility in shower-baths of hot blood from slaughtered bulls.’ Not a particularly enticing thought. Construction work and archaeology over recent decades have revealed interesting artefacts and ultimately what is left of the temple and the finds may go on public display.

Peering through the close boarding of the site was tantalising, like looking through a crack into the past. If only the old stones could talk or, share their secrets in video clips. It is strange to think that this now conservative part of London once echoed to the bellow of bulls and rowdy Romans seeking courage in a tub of congealing blood.

So it’s Friday night and my husband and I are strolling back to our hotel near Marble Arch after a very sociable meal in a quiet restaurant on the fringes of Mayfair. The balmy night air is a delight; for the first time this year it has gone ten and I am still without a coat! We turn the corner into Oxford Street and a tide of human youth sweeps past us. Most are clad in very little and what there is can only be described as unisex. The extremely high heels worn by about fifty percent give a clue, but believe me that is not necessarily accurate. So many nationalities, all apparently getting on well together. The tide is heading towards Hyde Park and the Party in the Park; a jamboree of live entertainment that rips through the night air and even penetrates our hotel room despite double-glazing. I have no idea who was playing but let’s just say, the earth moved.

There is however, no doubt about who was playing the next night. As we head for home on Saturday morning via Marble Arch tube station and the Central Line, the up escalator is awash with aged fans wearing garish T-shirts and vest tops emblazoned with vivid tongues, huge pouting lips or silhouettes – of course, it’s the Rolling Stones. They are ‘the’ group of my youth – and the ‘Stones’ will always be number one in my book – however my admiration is distinctly lacking for the acres of wrinkled flesh clad in short shorts or mini skirts, hair tied up in bandanas or a magical mystery tour of hairpins and pony tails that passed me as the vanguard of the Stones fan base.

As we made our way on the dragon’s breath of a tube towards the green, green grass of home, I speculated as to how many of those ardent followers who were determined to be at the front of the audience and had at least twelve hours to spend in the scorching sun, would have heat stroke or worse by the end of the day? I hope St John’s ambulance had plenty of volunteers on duty.


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