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Looking For Devils.

There's a rationale in creative fiction to 'write what you know.' But, as that may be, you can't expect to know everything about everything. And certainly - from the point of writing a good story - you may at some point need to write something you don't know.


I get a message a couple of weeks back from fellow scribe Tracy Fahey, she of the soft-spoken eloquence, well-crafted work and bone jewellery. She tells me of something I never heard before: the London Society. And how they're doing a whole Love Letters To London thing (which might be my thing, given my love of the capital):

I take it as a point of pride that my audience cite my representation of London as engaging, authentic, vivid, etc. That's no accident. As much as I love London and what I might know about it firsthand, I'm aware that I don't know everything about it. So, in order to do a faithful representation of it in fiction, I need to do my homework. On hearing about this whole love-letter-to-London thing, I had an idea for a gargoyle tale. After all, they watch from on high and outlive the mortal. What better spectator on the evolution of a city? Never mind that by the time I remembered this whole love-letter thing, it's apparently about two days to go before deadline. Sure, it's 'only' 500 words to be written, but it still needs to be crafted.

I'm aware of such, but not sure exactly where in London I'd find them. So. The first place I look is at St Paul's Cathedral. If you look at the current picture on my Twitter/X wallpaper where the sun is setting behind me, the cathedral is to my left (and off camera). From subsequent investigation, these appear to be angels rather than gargoyles. I say appear to be, because not only do I search for images but articles as well. And while there are stories I can weave based on the cathedral itself - look and see how ghostly it is at night, for example - I'm more about the monsters we can see. The gargoyles, the imps, the demons, the devils. You get the idea.

Luckily, I didn't have to search long before I found a good fit: the Cornhill Devils.

For those that don't know, Cornhill is based in East Central London, not from Bank Underground station. This is important, because not only is Bank station big enough to have several exits that open onto various streets, but it's also big enough to have two stations, if you will. One side is Bank, the other side is Monument. Put this to the test: you can walk from Bank to Monument without going to street level ...but it'll take you several minutes. And it's not like I've never passed through the area before, whether it was work or events or dating or whatever. This was the first time I went there looking for the devil. Despite the fact that I was out and about yesterday and saw a black Lamborghini with a doctor's 666 cherished plate, it wasn't one of the devils I was looking for. More like a speed demon. Anyhow. Only when I got back to my neighbourhood and I'm looking up at wall fixtures to avoid birdshit from pigeons do I think 'oh, shit' - what I was looking up for was left across town. Luckily, I redeemed myself today.

Having got to Bank and taken the wrong exit despite reasonable endeavours, the brother in London Underground uniform is good enough to give me directions to Cornhill. During which, one uppity woman interrupts and chides that she's running late. But not before the brother kisses his teeth and helps her if only to be rid of her. Of course, I laughed. And wished him no more foolishness.

Finally finding Cornhill was worth it. Although the day has been bitterly cold, even with me rocking Timberland's best. What struck me about these devils is how inconspicuous they are. To be fair, they're several stories up. Plus the area has banks - not your regular high-street banks, though - bespoke tailors, high-end jewellers, etc. Asking at Benjys (no apostrophe) deli on the ground floor (54-55 Cornhill) about the building or the upper floors got me an 'I don't know' or two. Which is fair play. At least it was warm in there, and the food looked and smelled great. Fresh eggs, salad, barbecue chicken. Yellow fluorescence and white-chalk menus on black chalkboards. All the good stuff.

From an author point of view, it's important to do such reconnaissance. Especially since I live in London, so it's easier to do. So I'll not only take pictures, but video as well. I want to capture the sights, the sounds, the smells. The atmosphere. Like I say: all the vivid in bringing the city to life isn't an accident. You're welcome.

Watch this space, and I may just bring one of those devils to life, too.



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