Thursday, 15 November 2018

Blake's House in the Realm of Blue Posts and Burning Sheep.

I found myself in Old Bond Street, and decided to drift back to the station via Soho/Fitzrovia.

Looking up nearby was a giant decorative structure. Some sort of giant alien Christmas decoration resembling a chandelier made of peacock feathers. Things were alien in a sense around here, on the fringes of Mayfair. Several of the shops, jewelers or art galleries particularly, had men that looked like slightly better dressed and more civilised nightclub doormen guarding their entrances. All pristine charcoal overcoats and dark suits. It was difficult to fathom what some of the shops were selling or what some of the buildings were for. A concentrated epicentre of wealth within London, itself a concentrated epicentre of wealth within the rest of the UK and the world.

In a side street I noticed two scultpted sheep heads above embedded in a stone framed doorway. Long stone faces, serious and baphomet-like with added braided locks, one each side. No charcoal grey coated suit was needed to guard these doors. The sinister and slightly hypnotic gaze of the sheep provided sufficient warning to the unwanted to stay away.

I left the vicinity and soon crossed the threshold of Regent Street into Soho, where the atmosphere immediately changed. Another epicentre of wealth but maybe a rung down from Mayfair.  More garish, chaotic and less sterile or obviously 'exclusive'.

At one end of Carnaby Street, almost opposite the Blue Posts pub another sheep stood on a plinth halfway up the wall, this time a black one. The premises it was attached to had another black sheep embossed into the glass above the it's entrance.

This particular black sheep is the logo of advertising agency, Battle Bogle Hegarty. The agency was responsible for an ad campaign for black jeans, featuring a crowd of white sheep going one way and one black one going the opposite. Black jeans were a new thing at the time, the inference being the wearer was daring to be different or a bit dangerous. The black sheep. The opposite. Although the sheep attached to the building looked quite jolly, there seemed to be occult connotations. The black sheep, the rebel, the criminal, Satan! Advertising itself is the dark art of our times, Magick being ' the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity and will'. The advertisers have been doing exactly that on a grand scale for years to get people to buy more 'stuff'. I have worn black jeans myself and I've never even seen the advert. The subliminal messages must have got to me by more subtle means...

The Blue Posts pub opposite the black sheep was the first of three I passed on my meander. There are five Blue Posts within the vicinity of Soho, Fitzrovia and St James's. A sixth has disappeared from Tottenham Court Road. One theory is that the name derived from blue posts used to demarcate the boundary of hunting ground. The name Soho is said to derive from a hunting call. The other theory is the name comes from the azure bollards where in a past age sedan chairs could be hired, a precursor to taxi ranks.

That there are now five Blue Posts could be interpreted by the more imaginitive to represent of the five points of a pentagram. But since their pattern on the map looks more of a shakey rhomboid this seems a bit of a stretch. It's more reminisent of a circular taxi ride taken by a bewildered tourist trying to find the right Blue Posts for a rendezvous with a long lost friend, stuck in a perpetual loop while the meter keeps ticking. I'm going with the taxi rank theory for this reason.

Round the corner was Willaim Blake House. A brutalist residential tower in brown with mirrored windows. In the one at the bottom the similarly brutalist building opposite was visible as if it was an image on a giant flat screen television.

William Blake was born in a building on the corner next door, demolished in the 60s and now a 'Patisserie Valerie' housed in a similar brutalist brown to the tower that rises above it. He lived most of his life in Soho and died not far away in The Strand, a trajectory barely escaping the rhomboid of the five still existing Blue Posts.  Blake is retrospectively labelled a psychogeographer by many and is of course a key figure of both London and the occult. The Blake's House tower felt like a centre of gravity within both Soho and The Blue Posts Rhomboid.  The only sheep connection though, appears to be his poem 'The Lamb' which  doesn't seem to connect much with the strange sheep of Mayfair and Soho I had encountered. Although I suppose Blake himself was a black sheep, regarded as a heritic by the establishment.

I passed a second Blue Posts, this one in Berwick Street. The obligatory gander in Sister Ray  and Reckless Records nearby resulted in the purchase of a CD copy of 'Holy Magick' by The Graham Bond Initiation. In the accompanying sleeve notes a journalist recalls meeting Bond in a boozer in Fleet Street for an interview. The musician, possibly under the influence of various potions, ranted of Crowley and Magick, just up the road from where Blake died. His own fate was further out in zone 2 at Finsbury Park station, where he tragically flung himself in front of a tube train not many years after said interview.

Crossing into Fitzrovia I availed myself of a third Blue Posts. The last one I would encounter and the first I would enter. And the only one I omitted to photograph. While I sat in the familiar cocoon of Sam Smith's dark wood and impressive glassworks, the world stopped for the length of time it took me to imbibe a pint of nourishing Oatmeal Stout, which I didn't hurry.

Before the train back I took lunch in one of the famous Indian eateries in Drummond Street, under the spectre of the ongoing HS2 development of Euston Station. The restaurant was busy. Mixed into the snippets of other people's conversations I overheard above the hubbub a man talking of having observed a 'sacrificial ritual' involving a 'burning sheep'. As soon as I tried to tune in to the rest of his conversation it merged back into the hubbub, becoming as incomprehensible as the teacher's voice in Charlie Brown cartoons. One or two snippets gave me hope that he may have been talking of a theatrical production, rather than something connected to the sheep of Soho or the Blue Posts. The People's Theatre is just round the corner after all. But it felt like an unnerving 'coincidence' nontheless.

I drew a line under proceedings at this point and headed back to East Anglia.