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Travelogue G18

January 18, 2016

From there, I could only return to the old parishes to draw what conclusions I might. My unforeseen tour brought me next to Postmans Park. A short set of stone steps led to the garden’s elevated lawn, and I backed away a short moment to allow a couple with pram to make their way up first. Steps mounted, they disappeared into the park’s green depths, at which time I felt again sufficiently alone to return to my reading. I learned from the sign, as I had from others posted before city gardens, that the one then before and slightly above me had opened in 1880 from a new plot of land, created from the churchyards of St Leonards, Foster Lane, St Botolph, Aldersgate and the graveyard of Christchurch, Newgate Street.

Unable to learn more besides, I decided to follow the couple to see whether a brief circle of the garden grounds might allow me to learn more. My circle left me unsatisfied, finding neither pram nor panels, and I made for a bench, still as unsure as to the reason for the garden’s name as I had been before entering. At that time, I entertained a few possible explanations, to which others now join themselves. Perhaps the association with the postmen owed to the postman or postmen who once lunched or rested here, much as I did then, beneath the summer boughs. Though I might yet need to make sense of the peculiar genitive “Postmans”, rather than “Postman’s”. Or, instead, it could prove so simple as the city’s decision to affiliate an open space with each of the city’s guilds, this one honoring that of the City Post. Regardless, I was not to know.

After Postmans Parks, I continued to St. Selpulchre-without-Newgate, about the garden of which I had little enough to say. As per the information panel on site, the garden bore strong ties to a company of Royal Fusiliers, but, were it not for the explicit mention, I might never have given any more mind than that to the iron railings, painted in the company colors. Otherwise, little enough marked it out from any other: a few stone steps leading to the elevated garden grounds, a few benches beneath the August canopy.

The information panel hinted as well at a route opposed to my own, but on which I had likewise embarked at a different point in my life, albeit in quite different fashion. For the church had, like others, found its place in collective memory in the London nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” where its bells rang out as those of Old Bailey, asking when the passerby would “pay me”. Had I turned around on that spot, I might have glimpsed the remains of the former debtor’s prison to which the line alluded. Then again, even had I done so, there was little to glimpse in the way of a prison.

Regardless, I tried to picture, as best I could, the route which I had only ever traced in my mind’s eye with the rhyme as guide and from the snippets which I had first encountered in 1984. Part of its charm for me then owed at least in part to the lack of bells in the newer churches crowding the American heartland. Reading the rhyme over again, I realize that I had passed before at least another of the churches so memorialized, St. Mary-le-Bow, the bell of which tolls only that it does not know. Therein, I thought to find confirmation, denial or both of the puzzle which the city seemingly invited me to contemplate.

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