The great thing about London is that it’s full of gems, hidden away places that are as much a surprise as a delight when you come across them. The Cafe in the Crypt underneath the church of St Martin in the Fields (next to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery) is one such. I’d never been before, but when I went there yesterday I was fascinated and my imagination started working overtime.
It would definitely make a great setting for a story. The low vaulted ceiling alone is amazing (quite apart from the craftsmanship that must have gone into building it!) and it immediately makes you think of dungeons and dark deeds. The echoing of people’s voices off the thick stone walls has you wondering what they’ve witnessed over the years – grief and despair mostly, I guess, but I didn’t get a feeling of sadness the way you do in some buildings. Rather, it was comforting, as if the souls that had passed through were at peace there.
It was a bit surreal to be eating lunch while sitting on top of someone’s grave though. The floor was almost entirely made up of slabs with names of the deceased carved into them. One stood out and really intrigued me – it was for a Mr Andries Baron and had a skull and cross-bones motif at the top. A buried pirate? Or was that just the latest fashion in gravestones in 1777?
I kind of believe in fate and I’m beginning to think it’s trying to tell me I should be writing a Gothic tale of some sort. Not long ago, I was at Rochdale Town Hall, which has the most amazing interior complete with indoor gargoyles. In my imagination, that turned easily into a Gothic mansion. And there are more gargoyles watching me from the roof of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which I pass quite frequently. It’s as if they’re ready to jump down as soon as it gets dark. Then recently, I stumbled across a narrow alleyway, the kind you feel is closing in on you ...
I’m giving myself the shivers here, so maybe I should go back to writing the lovely, sunny historical romance I’m working on. Because I don’t write Gothic stuff, not really, but maybe one day soon I will be going back to the crypt ... (and how’s that for a spooky ending?)
Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!