Saturday, 19 April 2014

A Tale of Two Local Girls

Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker

The Guardian recently led with – well, their above-the-fold front page photo anyway – the Queen meeting the Pope.

Headlined – touché – And what do you do? Queen meets pope

And, yes, HMQ really does say that. I know from personal experience.

And you know something, it’s fun – let alone instructive – to parse that line.

For, er, starters, notice the “And” at the start of it. You and I – meeting someone for the first time – might say, “What do you do?” (Or in my case, Waddaya do?) The “And” because the Queen meets and greets – annually – thousands of strangers. And on any given “occasion” it’s going to run to scores (if not more) of them. (The which was certainly the case My Night in BP. Mine was anything but “a private audience!”)

Ergo the “And”.

But the other thing is even more of a savoury. Gracious as the good lady is, I doubt very much if occupational particulars stretching out to the crack of doom are of much interest to her.

But the general point – that people “do”, that pretty much the rest of the world works, “does” this, that or the other, has an occupation, have their lives occupied by work of one sort or another – well, how foreign, how exotic that must look from HM’s perspective.

Yes, I know – she “works” and “works very hard”. They all do. As the pols and papers are forever telling us.

But it’s not work as we know it. HMQ could say to Prince Charles or a few other members of the Firm, “do as I do” (or “do as one does”) but uttered to anyone else it would be completely meaningless. We couldn’t “do” it. Not the way things are presently constituted at any rate.

In short, the Queen doesn’t “do”. Not in the sense that we “do”. The Queen is. Big difference.

And that brings me to Hannah Glossop. Introduced – ever so fleetingly – in my last “post”.

As I said, we know almost nothing about Hannah. It wasn’t that she dwelt among untrodden ways. She lived and worked in Soho, for heaven’s sakes.

It’s that she was one of the multitude. The faceless multitude. And now of course – and doubtless for God knows how many decades – a part of the great majority. In eternity.

The only bit of Hannah we’ve got is the merest scrap of information. A tiny piece of documentation. To wit: she had a policy – dated 20 July 1836 – with Sun Fire Office, the London insurers.

From that policy we know her name: Hannah Glossop. We know she was a spinster. We know she lived at 43 Old Compton Street in Soho. (Hannah might be about to get a London Walks Bluey!) We know that she would have answered the question “what do you do?” as follows: “dealer in baskets turnery and fancy goods in the Pantheon Bazaar Oxford Street.”

It’s easy to picture that moment. There almost certainly will have been a bowed head and a rough-hewn curtsy in the way of a preliminary (the female equivalent of a tugged forelock). And then soft-voiced answer. Almost whispered. Eyes down of course.

And that’s all we know about Hannah Glossop. Or is it?

Yes, that’s right, hold on, standby. Which is by way of saying, we know something – quite a bit of something – about Hannah’s world. Which is to know quite a bit about Hannah. In a sideways glancing, passing sort of way.

But that’s for the next post in this little mini-series.

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