Spoiler Alert: if unfamiliar with central London, you’re going to have to take our word for it.
You know the block that spans Shoe Lane to Kingsway between Fleet Street and Holborn, pretty much all in EC4 and still totally Dickensian?
Within it lie Royal Courts of Justice, Lincoln’s Inn, London School of Economics & Political Science, Soane Museum and … the Old Curiosity Shop. Yes, there was such a place inspiring Dickens’ novel that he published in weekly installments through 1840/41.
Rarely do we actually do something next door which others travel around the world to see – Lord knows why but it appears in our DNA not to bother – yet th’other day, while having the treat of wriggling through from the City to West End, the time opened up in front of me to slide roundly through the portals of the Shop.
I’m not sure what I was expecting other than Little Nell valiantly dusting a corner and Grandfather wearily bustling in an ante-room.
An inscrutable Oriental figure unlocked the door a while after knocking and drew back to reveal something entirely magical. Dainty, hand-made shoes & occasional threads – shirts mostly – draped with careless cool through the crescent shaped Shop which is barely the size of a slice of the type of cake from which a person leaps in rosey surprise.
It is a most curious shop. It is creakingly old. It was a Dickensian experience. I am still floating from knowing that in these dismal days of our global disgrace, there continue such places, immune to faddish post-modernism and which hold themselves together by virtue of mysterious self-possession.
Twenty Twenty is almost upon us. Here at The Materials, we hope your Christmas is a-flowing with humanity, that kindness abounds and swelling all opportunities to be meaningfully useful is embraced.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.