(All photos Tim Robson May 2019)
I was stood on The Haymarket a few weeks ago, slightly confused. It was busy and buses and tourists passed in front of me as I tried to recollect where exactly American Express’ old offices used to be. I mean I should know this. I used to go there all the time. Damn it! I’d even closed the bloody office down and moved all the staff kicking and screaming to Blackfriars.
And yet I wasn’t sure.
Back in the day (the ‘day’ being mid 90’s) I used to come to the Haymarket all the time. Unlike my lazier colleagues, I walked between Victoria Station and The Haymarket. They took the taxi. I still do this walk now when possible. On your own two feet you get to know a city better than stuck in a traffic jam. It’s healthier and better for the environment. And they call me a Climate Change denier! I’m green but not red children.
Heading down the Haymarket from Piccadilly Circus take the first right onto Jermyn Street. Now Jermyn Street is probably my favourite street in London. For those that don’t know, it’s packed full of high end men’s shops - shirts, suits, shoes, barbers, colognes; cheeses even. There’s even a couple of pubs for you to stop and review your purchases.
And Fortnums. Never been in, to be honest. Well… There was that one time.
Jermyn Street is primarily known for its shirt shops. Nothing demonstrates more the casualisation of work clothing over the last twenty years than the decline in my purchases of posh shirts. I used to have a wardrobe stuffed full of them - Pinks, Charles Thywhitt and the branded suits and heavy silk ties that completed the banker-wanker look. No more. Now I’m all polo necks and polo shirts. So whereas once I would walk along Jermyn Street looking for bargains, now I pleasantly uninvolved.
Never miss The Three Crowns pub though.
I do occasionally pop into Church’s shoes. To look around obviously. No spare half a grand lying around in chez Robson for footwear these days. I’ve bought some of their shoes in the past and, in a velvet bag in the garage, I still have a sleek pair of black Oxfords I wheel out for formal occasions. Seems so 2000’s.
One shop I always pop into and frequent online is Taylors of Old Bond Street. Yes, on Jermyn Street. Don’t ask. I’ve used their Sandalwood aftershave for about 20 years. Yes, ladies, that is the manly and yet fragrant smell you can’t place and yet can’t get enough of! If you like male scents and potions, soaps and shampoos, razors and creams, this is a great shop to spend some time. Tell them Tim sent you and ask - no insist! - for a ten percent discount.
At the end of Jermyn Street, turn left and walk down St James’s Street past wine merchants, cigar shops, high end restaurants and private members clubs. “What club are you a member of, Tim” I hear you ask. I stare at you for a second or two, shake my head and move on.
Under the St James’s Palace’s arch, across the Mall (look up, look down) and then into St James’s Park. It’s small but perfectly formed. Follow the path down to the bridge on the lake. Get your phone out for one of those iconic shots looking towards Whitehall / Horse Guards Parade.
People; I’ve had my times in St James’s Park. I remember there was this French girl I was keen on, years and years ago. Unprompted, she invited me for a walk one lunchtime. “Wow - she likes me!” I thought. As we walked around this beautiful park - it was summer and the skies were blue and all was well with the world as I tried to pluck up the courage to ask her out - she proceeded to tell me how she’d secretly got engaged to some other bloke. FFS. But I also remember another night with another lady - also in St James’s Park - but that, dear readers, shall be a story that remains untold in a public forum. Well, I may have weaved it into one of my best selling books with a thinly disguised character who resembles me reenacting what happened that night near the kids’ playground. In St. James’s Park. Always classy.
Out of the park, along Birdcage Walk and for the tourists amongst you, past Buckingham Palace. I usually cross over at this point and walk on the right hand side of Buckingham Palace Road. Queen’s Gallery, side entrances, back doors.
A little diversion I’ve started taking on my way back to Victoria Station is via Victoria Square, a quiet oasis of pretty houses and a quiet green space hidden just yards away from the bustling A3214. A shimmer and a twist and you get to The Goring Hotel. Maybe some refreshment in plush surroundings? Yeah, why not; I’m worth it. Its expensive but pretty cool. Freebie posh nuts with your Gin and Tonic. A place for a secret rendezvous perhaps. Fortified you’re ready for the push to Victoria Station and, invariably, home to the South Coast.
Give it go. Either way. It’s the best of London, you know.
And thence to Victoria Station via Buckingham Palace Road. I worked in this area for years. It was my manor (guv?). It’s been a building site for years and only now is it finally taking shape. So it’s all changed from my days of suits and ties and - probably - thinning hair. There’s new buildings, new shops, a whole new workforce grabbing sandwiches to eat al desko and fresh batches of tourists always changing, always the same. Always in the way.
Haymarket to Victoria. Or Victoria to Haymarket. Try this walk. You get to see lots of London sights, experience much, stop for a bite or drink, or both or neither. Whatever. Great in summer, bracing in winter, charming in Spring but best in Autumn. It’s Tim’s Haymarket to Victoria nostalgia trip. Roll up. Roll up.
To see other London Walks - click here.