Traffic and pedestrians. Red London buses and black London cabs.
Sometimes she doesn't cut it properly. She just hacks at it.
How much did she charge you for that?
This is a Wren church, but the steeple was added later, by James Gibbs. You can see the difference in styles, can't you? It doesn't quite look as if it belongs.
If you say so. I never would have noticed, if you hadn't pointed it out.
It's much less restrained. Or more exuberant, depending on your point of view.
It's less square.
All right, it's less square. The other end of the church is worth looking at, because it's got an interesting double curve shape. A small semicircle emerging from a larger semicircle. It's quite... I always think it's quite a Byzantine effect.
A bum effect, more like. It makes it look as if the church has got a bum. Because the rest of it's square, and then there's this round protruberance sticking out. Like a bum. A double-bum.
The church as a whole is quite plain, isn't it? Very unfussy. Not much much ornamentation. Would you say that was typical of Wren's style?
In a way, yes. But those double swags above the windows are typical Wren, and you'd have to call those ornamentation.
So how would you characterise his style?
Well, he's got a particular vocabulary of shapes.
Would you say geometric?
Well, all architecture's geometric...
I nearly didn't come back. I really nearly didn't come back. Because the thing is, living here, you don't like to knock poor old England, do you? But there's loads of things you could say once you got started. The whole place is falling to bits, really, if we're honest. Over there, everything's recycled. Everything's neat and tidy. There's no pressure. Living here, everything looks like crap, and you're under pressure all the time, aren't you? It's like a constant thing. Everybody looks worn out. And my brother's in this house, right, this bungalow, five bedrooms, five hundred yards from the sea, a bloody great television room, cost him about a hundred and eighty thousand. And the government gave him thirty thousand towards that. They just gave it him, it's not a loan, he never has to pay it back: they just gave it him.
It's the RAF church.
Is it? Why's it the RAF church?
I don't know. It just is.
Look - it says it there by the door.
Oh yes. "RAF St Clement Danes". I'll just take a picture before we go in.
How much did that new camera cost you?
About four hundred quid.
It looks like a very good one.
Yeah, it is, but look at all the buttons on it. I don't even know what half of them do. This is a real sign of getting older. When I was young, the more buttons something had, the better I liked it. A gadget wasn't a gadget unless it had lots of buttons. You've probably still got that, Owen. If I show you all these buttons, I bet your heart starts to thump with excitement, doesn't it?
Well, not exactly.
Not even a little bit?
I do quite like buttons, actually.
There you are. I knew you would. But you won't do by the time you're my age, believe me. All the fun goes out of it. You think to yourself "Oh no, don't tell me I'm going to have to read the manual!"
Everybody hates reading the manual.
This thing's got a manual about a hundred and fifty pages thick. It took me an hour and a half to work out how to switch off the automatic flash.
Oh, I like this. It's quite dark - but what a fantastic ceiling!
Wren's interiors are always very interesting. He's quite keen on a barrel-vaulted ceiling with transverse vaults framing the windows to either side. And the fact that the church has got that round end to it -
- makes for an even more striking feature on the inside. He uses it to frame the altar, with that nice domed shape above.
That plasterwork is extraordinary.
I can't make up my mind if I like it or not. It's a bit super-busy, isn't it?
But look how crisp it is.
Yes, but look how nice it is when it stops. Those lovely plain curves around the windows. It's an odd mix of styles, isn't it? One minute it's really rich and ornate - and then these columns are quite imperial looking, aren't they? - and then it goes very severe and simple all of a sudden, almost low church.
There may be historical reasons for that. After all, there had just been a civil war, which was basically fought between people who liked a lot of decoration in their churches, and people who liked them very plain.
So you think Wren's kind of sitting on the fence in between?
Well, I suppose Wren's churches can be seen as attempts to satisfy both of those audiences, or to create a new language using elements from both of those traditions.
But in any case we're assuming that this plasterwork is original, aren't we? Do we know that to be the case?
I'm afraid I couldn't say. It looks right for the period.
Anyhow, I like the plain bits best. These side-aisles are really nice. Look, he's got those semi-circular bays underneath the gallery again. I love those.
This church is earlier than St Martin-in-the-Fields, so Gibbs must have borrowed that feature from Wren. It's quite a clever way of giving the ground-floor windows extra height, and letting in some more brightness, without running up against the underfloor of the gallery.
I wonder if we can get up into the gallery? Shall we try the stair?
It's bound to be closed.
The door at the top's shut. Nice stair, though.
Beautiful stair. I'll just take a photograph from the top, to get the curl of it. What's that on the floor? A map or something?
Something to do with the RAF. There's an inscription. A commemorative tablet of marble from Georgia.
Oh - I thought it looked like a map.
Outside the stair window a London bus stops, hissing and chuntering, suffusing the square panes with red.