Tuesday, 28 July 2015

St Pancras to Pimlico Gardens. Part 1


I exit St Pancras station from its western flank and pass through the courtyard of the British Library. There is a statue by Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi based on a print by William Blake. The figure is of Isaac Newton sitting hunched forward over a compass in the act of either tracing or measuring. There are several images of Newton by Blake – this statue is a study of a 1795 print and was installed in 1995 – a perfect 200 years later. 

exploited or deep in concentration? The sky holds the key

This statue may not be a simple homage to Blake, though. William Blake admired Isaac Newton but was sceptical about science unravelling the mysteries of life. He was a mystic and didn’t care for science casting light into the corners of his world. In the 1795 print, the background heavens are rich but the colours darken towards the subject’s compass - representative of the science. Newton’s body is rendered peachy and soft. Was Blake trying to point out that the pursuit of science can never live up to or fathom the beauty of god’s design? Possibly. Blake was a very spiritual man and forever seeing visions of Biblical characters behind the window panes of London’s streets. The face in the print also resembles Blake’s own youthful portrait more than any extant portrait of Newton himself. This could be interpreted as scientific reverence just being a youthful misadventure but maybe that’s reading too much into it.

The soft peachy flesh has been altered in Paolozzi’s creation. Newton has virtually become a cyborg reminiscent of the Maria robot in Metropolis. The joints and intersections of the body have become perfectly geometric. The possible gall stone that Newton is perched on in the original print has transformed into a flawless rectilinear trunk that seems to have strapped the sitter’s hips to it. Has Paolozzi dealt a side swipe to Blake that Blake in turn had dealt to Newton? Is the new statue saying that the study and application of science has illuminated and improved mankind? I believe so. Another effect of looking up at this statue on its high broad plinth is that the London sky fills in for the cosmos behind the subject on the original and can affect the sculpture’s mood accordingly: Under a grey sky the figure seems trapped and exploited. Under a summer sky the focus is on the subject’s face and the concentration thereon.

I go down Euston Road towards central London for a few hundred metres. Despite being a pathway for thousands of pedestrians, little thought has gone into their welfare with regards to road planning especially when crossing Churchway. Subconsciously, I always let a few people with a higher BMI than me get between me and the oncoming traffic. I reach Euston Square. There are two porches standing either side of the bus lanes.

The Euston Tap

Apart from the drinkers spilling out of the front being a clue, you’d never think the Euston Tap was a pub as you approach it. The building the Tap is in is an ex-lodge. It and the identical building directly opposite (that’s The Cider Tap if you love cider & perry) used to be a part of a huge foundation that linked them both – the Euston Arch. It was an imposing 21 meter high structure acting as the proverbial gateway to another land - a landmark that stood for Euston train station. 

The lodges policed the luggage, trade and packages entering and exiting the station. Rather than an arch, the proper architectural term is actually a propylaeum. It’s an ancient Greek gatehouse that would stand at the entrance to a holy enclosure. The Acropolis in Athens boasts the most famous one. The Brandenberg Gate in Berlin is another example. They became popular as monumental buildings at the mouths of secular or trade enclosures during the industrial revolution.

The Euston Arch was built in 1837 and might yet be built again. Amazingly, most of the chunks of the original have been located on the floor of the Prescott Channel  in the river Lee to the north of London. A campaign to reassemble them and reinstate the propylaeum has been launched by The Euston Arch Trust (www.eustonarch.org/). This campaign group counts Michael Palin as a patron and historian Dan Cruickshank (who actually rediscovered the fragments on a TV show in 1994) as a trustee. Were the rebuild to go ahead, I don’t know how it would affect the business of either Tap. It looks like they’d both get a mammoth pillar blocking daylight and hindering access to their main entrances.

Inside, the space is a cramped crescent around the bar which virtually fills the ground floor. Under a handsome wall plate, the beers are dispensed from the brickwork. Two boards number the beers that are on - the kegged ones to the left and the cask options to the right. There is also a narrow helical staircase that goes up to a seating area and the Neanderthal toilets upstairs. With beer(s) in hand, the ascent/descent is a task worthy of the Krypton Factor and a good measure of how much alcohol you’ve had. If the building continues to spin once you’ve alighted, make that glass your last. I love this place. There are No other venues like the Euston & Cider Tap.

don't lean too far over the bannister!

On this occasion I have four beers: 

Kernel Brewery Table Beer (keg 2.9)

Any pub that takes its beer seriously stocks Kernel either on tap or in bottle. This beer changes in recipe each time ranging around the 3% ABV mark. Table Beer is light custard in colour - looks like over-syruped lemon barley. Milky top. Aroma of grapefruit peel. On the palate the beer had a melon rind edge with a dry finish not far behind. Like most Kernel beers, it has a tingling carbonation. It's like tonic water.

Buxton Brewery Jacob's Ladder (cask 2.8)

It’s a good choice to go for to compare how such a light ale comes across compared to Kernel’s. It’s a glowing clear marmalade with a patchy head. The first sip reveals a peachy softness. It's sweet and has a much gentler carbonation. The bittering does ensue but it takes a moment. It's on a delay. The lemony sweetness touches the tongue. The beer is swallowed and the bittering hop comes along about 5 seconds later. The body does come over as very light - something that didn't register with the table beer.

Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout (cask 4.5)

Dark brown/black and opaque. Micron thick light grey hop oil head. The taste is of sweet meat joint juices like Chinese spare ribs. This matures and becomes more like charcoal. The sweetened milk background endures though. The burp is of demerera sugar & sweet coffee dregs.

Orbit Beers Duke (keg 5.2)

It's a cloudy dark orange in hue. White patchy head. Punchy citrus fruit on first taste like tangerines & the skins. I don't know what kind of beer this is. It makes it more approachable. Sumptuous is a word that fits this ale. The only bitterness is from the initial citrussy taste. There's a pithiness but that's as close as it gets to becoming dry.


I leave The Euston Tap and continue along Euston Road until I get to Euston Square Underground Station. I use it as a Subway to come out on Gower Street to the south.