All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


Last week marked the 70th anniversary of the night the Luftwaffe began to firebomb London into the dust.  Clerkenwell remained generally unscathed but St Pauls was left like an ocean liner sailing a sea of ruin. Despite the preposterousness of the War on Terror, for this reason if no other it's difficult to be a complete pacifist. So on Sunday we went to the tiny but magnificent St Clement Danes, the Christopher Wren Royal Air Force church on Fleet Street, itself a restored victim of the Blitz.

In fact the church is actually probably most famous for having the bells mentioned at the beginning of the children's nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons".  Like Cock Robin, this poem always struck me as a rather haunted thing with those two sinister closing lines - a feeling only re-inforced by its presence throughout Orwell's 1984.  That book was of course written in the aftermath of the London's near destruction and with St Clements just a little way from the BBC's Bush House where Orwell was once a radio announcer.

The Blitz was  one of the times when the battle for the London Stone was nearly lost.  Which event provoked which I wonder? Anyway, here is the rhyme  and the bells ringing at midday on Sunday for the fallen fighters of the air who saved the day and what remains to us of the lost city.


spillyjane said...

That rendition of Oranges and Lemons is delightfully haunting -- a perfect start to a lovely grey autumnal day.

I must get back to London soon.

Oh, and soon I'll have Clerkenwell socks to show you.

ArtSparker said...

The Airmen's song from WWI is pretty spooky too.

clerkenwell kid said...

what's that then?

clerkenwell kid said...


Winter has come to Clerkenwell

spillyjane said...

Then clearly, it's Time for Socks.

I've also been toying with the idea of Valentine Rose socks -- classic gentlemen's ribbed stockings with a discreet heart motif. All this, and plum-coloured silk/wool, too.

Daria said...

Hmmm. Is that where XTC got the title to their "Oranges and Lemons" album?

Never had heard of that rhyme.

Sorry about the cold. I'm still putting on sunscreen...

clerkenwell kid said...

I think so. It's a actually part of a much longer poem and speculated to be about all sorts of things from Henry VIII to child murder.

No need to sympathise with s for the cold. WE LIKE IT. Who wants to live in endless summer anyway?!

ArtSparker said...

Airmen's song -

The bells of hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me

It's on you tube, a scene from "Oh! What a Lovely War!

clerkenwell kid said...

Ah! Genius