Last night saw a trip to the airport to see a friend off to Australia. To be fair, we knew he’d be transported sooner or later. I arrived by the skin of my teeth (if I brushed them more often, a skin wouldn’t form on them) thanks to signal failures on the Piccadilly Line. Once we’d seen the Friend in Question off and done that whole choking-back-manful-tears thing, we went into town to get something to eat.
The place we found was Arancina on Westbourne Grove. A delightful little Sicilian caff, very worth a visit. The food is good, cheap and plentiful, the service is quick and the decor is fantastically quirky (it includes half a Fiat 500). I would absolutely recommend it to most people. See also http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/arancina-london for the views of others and http://www.arancina.co.uk/ for the official website. I see they have another branch, which explains what happened to the other half of the Fiat.
I took the Tube back, as the airship is in for a respray. The Tube in the summer has a tendency to get uncomfortably stuffy, so I decided to get out at London Bridge and stretch my legs. Investigating some vague directions I read a long time ago, I went down Talbot Yard, a little alley off Borough High Street. Now, there are those who will tell you that going down unknown dark alleyways at 11pm is a bad idea. To those people, I say “shut up.”
Down this alleyway, I found one of the most significant sites in the history of English literature. Here it is.
Let’s take a closer look at that plaque, shall us?
Yep. this unassuming copy shop behind an unassuming travel agent is the site of the Tabard, where Chaucer meets his fellow backpackers in the General Prologue, which it has to be said is not the catchiest title. I suspect that if Chaucer had had an agent, he’d have been made to change it to something more exciting. The relevant passage goes thus:
“In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde;”
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Canterbury, but those guys down there will not shut up about the Canterbury Tales. Compared to that, this little back-alley plaque seems almost too modest. I’m not sure if it’s classy not to draw much attention to it, but when you look at the fuss they make over Shakespeare…