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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday September 23 2016

I collect footbridges.  (Well, photos of.) Footbridges famous.  Footbridges not so famous.  Footbridges not even built.

Recently I came upon another for the collection:

image

This is a footbridge at the back of the Strand Palace Hotel.  I could find nothing about this footbridge on the www, but luckily I had already taken the precaution of asking someone local, just after I had taken my photos.  This local was entering an office in the same street with the air of doing this regularly, and who therefore seemed like someone who might know.  And he did.  What about that bridge? - I asked him.

Yes, he said.  That used to be the bridge that conveyed the servants from the Strand Palace Hotel, on the left in the above photo, to the servants quarters, which is what the dwellings on the right in my photo, behind the scaffolding, used to be.  These servants quarters had, quite a while back, been turned into mere quarters, for regular people to live in.  So, the bridge then got blocked off at the right hand end as we here look at it.  But, the bridge continued to be used by the Strand Palace Hotel as an elongated cupboard.  These old servants quarters are now being turned into luxury flats, which is why the scaffolding.  But the bridge stays.

That the original purpose of the bridge was to convey servants, as opposed to people, is presumably why the bridge has no windows.  Wouldn’t want to see servants going to and fro, would we.  Fair dos, actually.  A hotel of this sort – this one being just across the Strand from the Savoy - is a lot like a theatre, and the point of a theatre is not to see all the backstage staff wandering hither and thither.  So, I do get it.  And I doubt the servants minded that there were no windows.  I bet they minded lots of other things, but not that.

imageI will now expand on the matter of the exact location of this obscure footbridge.  As you can see from the square to the right, it is in Exeter Street, London WC2.  I took other photos of this Exeter Street street sign, because I have a rule about photoing information about interesting things that I photo, as well as photoing the interesting thing itself, which is that I do.  Sometimes, as on the day I took this photo, I even follow this rule.  But I thought I’d try extricating a detail from the above photo, and see how I did.  I blew the original up to maximum size, and sliced out a rectangle, tall and thin, with the street name in it.  I then expanded (see the first sentence of this paragraph) what I had, sideways, lightened it, contrasted it, sharpened it, blah blah blah, and I think you will agree that the result is unambiguous.  My point here is (a): Exeter Street, WC2, and (b): that such photomanipulation is not merely now possible.  My point (b) is that it is now very easy.  Even I can do all of this photomanipulation, really quickly and confidently.

I can remember when the only people who could work this sort of magic were spooks in movies, and then a bit later, detectives on the television.

Talking of spookiness, I included the surveillance camera in that little detail.  In London, these things are now everywhere.  Because of my sideways expanding of the photo, this camera looks like it sticks out more than it really does.

Hello!
I was one of those ‘servants’ (a waiter at the hotel) in the late 1980s who lived in the (what was known then as) staff annexe, to the right of the picture. There were at least 100 of us, each with our own rooms over 5 or 6 floors. The ground floor was also home to HR, housekeeping for the staff annexe and lots of other mysterious rooms! The bridge was still used then and I believe went to the offices of the GM and other important sorts. I can’t remember how much I paid per week to live there, but I do remember a lot of parties, lots of fun and loving living in the centre of London, only 2 minutes from work. I had a room on the 5th floor which was almost semi circular due to the shape of the building. The amenities were basic, but adequate.
Seems like a lifetime ago now!
Thank you for the picture and the memories it evoked :)

Andrew

Posted by Andrew on 17 November 2016

Andrew:

And thank you for your fascinating recollections.  Definitely one of the best comments here recently.

It’s good to know that you have such happy memories of working in this hotel.

It must be a slightly strange experience to be using a bridge so frequently, but only knowing it’s a bridge because you already know, and because this is the bit with no doors on either side, rather than because of any confirming observations through windows.  I imagine it feeling a bit like being on board a ship.

I am delighted that you remember this unusual bridge so fondly, even though I bet the work was pretty hard too.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 17 November 2016
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