Thursday 11th February.

A frost cold morning. I catch the train to Waterloo, then walk over to the South Bank and cross the river via the Golden Jubilee Bridges to Embankment. The view towards St Paul’s is stunning and never fails to move me. From Wordsworth, Dickens and Whistler to Wendy Cope and Ray Davies, poets, painters, novelists and songwriters have celebrated the river. Today, Ewan MacColl’s beautiful ‘Sweet Thames Flow Softly’ comes to mind:

Swift the Thames runs to the sea

Flow, sweet river, flow

Bearing ships and part of me

Sweet Thames, flow softly

From Embankment it’s a short stroll up Villiers Street, across the Strand into Garrick Street and on into Covent Garden. Cafes and coffee houses, premium brand clothes shops, designer boutiques, quirky craft stalls, theatres, bars and restaurants, delivery trucks and taxis, street sweepers, tourists, business men and women, clowns, jugglers and fire-eaters. All of life is here.

Crossing the Piazza, I follow James Street up to Long Acre, take a right towards Bow Street and a left into Endell Street. It’s almost 11am and I’m meeting Simon for a coffee at Earl’s Cafe Bar. It’s cold but we sit outside, hands wrapped around coffee cups while the weak winter sun tries its best to warm our chill bones.

At 11.30. Elizabeth, Ian and Kirsty arrive and we head off into the bustling streets around Seven Dials for the shoot.

First stop is Thomas Neal’s Centre, an unusually lit shopping arcade, previously a banana, cucumber and book warehouse, named after Thomas Neale, MP. In the early 1690’s Neale had the area laid out in a series of triangles in order to make the most of the available space. His intention was to establish Seven Dials as the most fashionable address in London but the area gradually deteriorated, became renowned for its pubs and gin shops and, by the nineteenth century had become one of the most notorious slums in London. All very rock ’n roll, though today this cool, old part of London town, a no-go area in Jack the Ripper’s day, is full of trendy shops and expensive restaurants.

After striking a few poses in the arcade we head over to the hidden gem that is Neal’s Yard. Also named after Thomas Neale, this quirky, brightly painted alley and courtyard is home to the Neal’s Yard Apothecary and a variety of health food shops and cafes. Dressed in black, with a hint of red, and sporting a variety of sunglasses, we pose and pout, to the delight of passers-by, some of whom loiter in the background, phones at the ready to grab a quick snapshot of Sadie and her ‘minders’.

Thank you Kirsty for doing a brilliant job, as always. Looking forward to the results!

Steve

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