Tolstoy was inspired to write Anna Karenina by hanging around railway stations. He believed that the new railways would more plausibly allow coincidences to take place, not that plausibility ever stopped a nineteenth century author from using astonishing coincidences five or six times in the space of a single novel. More on this later.
I had plans today – vague ones. But for some reason I’ve been feeling really sleepy today, so most of the really energetic stuff was just too much effort. I took the good old Northern Line up to Waterloo, did a bit of walking around Lambeth and Southwark and then, on an impulse, took a train from Waterloo East to Grove Park. No reason, I just had no idea what was at Grove Park. Turns out not much.
Then I figured I’d take the train back to Lewisham, get on the Docklands Light Railway and explore the Docklands. But whaddya know, engineering works. Engineering works are the landmines of the deriviste’s world. You could smugly observe that I should have checked the TfL website before embarking on a crazy random expedition, but you would deserve a slap, I’m afraid. In any case, I don’t have access to the Internet.
Undaunted, I took another train into Cannon Street, a station I’ve never travelled into before. I’ve been through it on the Tube many times, and I’ve walked past on several occasions, but I’ve never used it for its intended purpose. So again, a little stroll was in order. At No. 111 Cannon Street I found a somewhat important piece of London’s psychogeographical history.
The London Stone supposedly originates with Brutus of Troy who, according to certain medieval historians (I’m looking at you, Geoffrey of Monmouth), founded the city. It was, so the story goes, the altar-stone of a temple to the goddess Diana built by Brutus after she had guided him to this fair island. The temple was on Ludgate Hill, making it a direct ancestor of that eternal symbol of the city, St Paul’s Cathedral. Another suggestion for its origin is that it was part of a stone circle on the same site. A third is that it was the stone from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur, but if we’re honest, pretty much any pre-Tudor relic is going to have Arthur attached to it at some point.
The stone was originally kept in St Swithin’s Church before that building was destroyed during the Blitz in 1941. This was part of a series of attacks orchestrated by the Thule Society in Nazi Germany with the aim of winning the Second World War by occult means, destabilising the ley lines and points of power developed in the city over centuries. Other such buildings targeted included St Paul’s Cathedral, the Great Synagogue of London and Hawksmoor’s St George in the East. I would like to point out that all of this paragraph between the end of the first sentence and the beginning of this sentence is a lie. But it’s a pretty cool conspiracy theory and I’d like to lay claim to it. Screw you, Peter Ackroyd, this one’s mine.
Anyway, legend has it that “so long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish.” So that’s cool.
I took the Tube towards Wimbledon. I considered getting the Circle to Kings Cross and Northern Line back, but decided I couldn’t be bothered to cross to the other platform. I planned to get on the front carriage, the best alighting point for Wimbledon, but couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way to the front of the train and so got on the second-to-last carriage. And found myself sitting three seats down from someone I was chummy with at uni. Which just goes to show that sites of occult significance have their uses.