God is great


Sir Christopher Wren certainly thought so, although I suspect he thought he ran God a pretty close second. In fact, when it came to rebuilding St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire, he probably thought it was even stevens. The man had a point, I thought, as I walked around St Paul’s this cloudless morning, on my way from Camden to Tate Modern. It’s a jaw-dropper, a magnificat in stone, a marvellous, floating impossibility of grace and proportion. And yet – undercutting any pomposity – there’s a gleeful delight that revels in its naughtiness, the turrets and twiddles and dome hidden behind wraps until it was too late for the city authorities to do a damn thing to change it. Bravo.

The reason I was walking past it – an unaccustomed journey for me – was because I had volunteered to flatsit for a friend who has gone to a wedding in the Caribbean. My role is to water the garden and see that the place is neither flooded nor torched while he is away. These simple yet nerve-wracking instructions were dished out on Tuesday evening while I feigned interest and craned around him to satisfy myself on more pressing concerns, like how the telly worked and where the tea lives.

I’ll spoil the ending now by saying that nothing has been broken, burned or stained – yet – though he is away for ages, leaving plenty of time for me to announce his absence with telltale heaps of unbinned pizza fliers sticking out of the letterbox, or lure in a horde of vermin with uncovered food. On the subject of which, forgive me, but there’s something ineradicably Camden about a Camden flat. You can call it a garden flat, build it a snazzy glass extension and install a water cannon for a shower. You can do anything you want to it, but it’s always going to carry a whiff of Withnail.

Incidentally, way before St Paul’s, still back up in Clerkenwell, on this gold and sapphire morning, I overheard a snatch of conversation between two women. ‘He was just the right level of funny, d’you know what I mean?’ Yes, love. I know absolutely exactly what you mean. And thank you for putting it into words.


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