A group of some thirty GOC ramblers assembled outside Hampstead Station. Originally to be called Heath Street, sentiment had changed on opening and the name changed to Hampstead. ‘Heath Street’ sill endures on the tiled platform walls. Having admired the deepest Shafts on London underground, we crossed the road and made our way to The William IV, London’s oldest gay pub. It had turned discreetly gay in the 1930s and provided refreshment for those returning, exhausted, from the Heath. Known as a haunt for Clones and Drones in the seventies. It has now settled for a democratic ‘all welcome policy’. We set off along Downshire Road and then forked off right to Keats House. Here the poet wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. Although Keats reputedly pursued a widow for many years, he later nursed his unrequited sorrows in an all male establishment at this address.
A quick look at Burgh House and then we started our northward curving arc across the Heath. At this point, your guide made the foolish mistake of telling the group. ‘Oh just ask anyone you see, the way to Kenwood House’ Rapidly realising his mistake, he raced the length of the gently rolling phalanx and was just able to execute a sharp left turn up to the mansion, before those engaged in animated discourse, rambled into Kentish Town. We had a pleasant unstressed lunch at Kenwood, overlooking the lake, before making our way downhill towards the lower reaches of Highgate.
On our way we passed behind the men's bathing pond where the sight of all that carefully honed Aegean body culture on the grass made me wish I'd stuck to that Flat Abs and a Perfect Six Pack in Three Minutes Course, from the mag. But Alas no!' (here I was carrying all before me, as usual'.)
Up Merton Road, we went towards the centre of Highgate. We passed Witanhurst house, the second largest private residence in London. Its ownership has passes through a succession of Oligarchs. Currently it is receiving a modest titivation estimated at £300,000,000.
Round down Swains’ Lane (no swains visible, possibly bathing at the time) and then into the grounds of Lauderdale House, once the summer retreat of Charles Second’s mistress, Nell Gwynne. On his death bed, King Charles entreated James, his brother ‘Let not poor Nelly starve’ Whereupon ‘Poor Nell’ received a Greek type bailout, clearing numerous debts and setting herself up in some style. Other members of our group. then peeled off towards the Highgate Cemetery, whilst the rest made our way across Waterlow Park to Archway Tube, our final destination.
Joint Suit and Tie / GOC dinner in The West End
In the evening, the joint Suit and Tie / GOC dinner at The Washington Mayfair, Curzon Street, was a palpable success. Twelve diners helped Norman and Andrew celebrate their twelfth anniversary, while we played host to GOC ers David White (chair) and Michael Daniels. The conversation never flagged, the wine flowed, whilst we all enjoyed an elegant evening, where the boots finally got in step with the suits!