Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Thursday, 7 August 2014
One picture, loads of words
This is what happens when there are no planning laws in force - the right-hand side of this haphazard conglomeration of architecture is 17th century. This is also what happens when businesses fail and the landlord does not maintain the structure - look at that luxurious bush of Buddleia growing from the parapet of the tower.
This random collection of buildings is right opposite the Theatre Royal, and one of the finest early 18th century interiors in Bath. The current occupant of this interior is the Strada chain of deeply mediocre restaurants - only chains like these can afford central Bath rates and rents.
Up until recently, a bingo hall occupied the space beneath the tower, and the players trooping in were in stark social contrast to the theatre-goers on the other side of the road.
Just to the left of this photo is 'Bluecoat House', which used to be Bath's central clinic for treating sexually transmitted venereal disease. Many participants in one-night stands would meet a week or two later in its waiting-room, but these days the arrangement is a little more discreet.
To the right of this photo is Bath's first Irish theme pub. Guinness still flows freely there every night of the week, and it has seen off a few imitators which set up only a stone's throw away - in a de-consecrated Methodist chapel.
The two green doors seen to the left of the tower used to house a couple of young mechanic brothers, who specialised in servicing Citroens. It is still unusual to find any mechanic who is willing to maintain the hideously complicated, hydraulic systems of 1970s and 1980s Citroens, but to find one right in the middle of town was almost incredible.
H.I. used to use these brothers when she owned an extremely quick, Citroen Pallas 2.5, and to give you an idea of how much these cars relied on hydraulic pressure, I can tell you that even the speedometer employed the green fluid to operate.
When the brothers moved away from this location, I would take the car to a specialist in Temple Cloud - a village about 15 miles away and very difficult to get to, let alone get back from without a car. It is called Temple Cloud because it was an ancient centre for Knights Templar, whose activities were almost as arcane as the average Citroen mechanic's.
The engine of this Citroen had only done about 40,000 miles, and was in very good condition - unlike the bodywork and hydraulics systems. For some reason, the feminine, shark-like curves of its body attracted a lot of attention from very bad drivers, and the sides were covered in dents from failed attempts to park next to it.
Toward the end of its life, I was putting in about one gallon of green oil a month, and one night after I had just bought a fresh gallon drum, I got a call from H.I. who had gone to Bristol in it and had broken down because the suspension had failed to raise itself as it famously - and startlingly - had to.
I told her to top-up the system using the new oil, and she said she had done, and used it all up in the process. I said that was impossible. She said it wasn't.
I borrowed a friend's car and went out to pick her up in the dark. All the fresh oil which she had poured into the little reservoir at the top, had gone straight down and was lying in a pool on the road.
I scrapped the old thing the next day, and was glad H.I. didn't have to witness the final insult of the lorry's crane going through its windscreen to pin it to the flatbed.