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Carolyn Cheese

There is an alley of Fleet Street, in London, that leads you back in time. You pass through it from the bustle of 21st century London, swiftly to the 17th Century.

On your right is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub, or as Dr Johnson would have put it, an ale house.

Johnson lived just a little further on. You can visit it, it's a museum. But I love imagining him striding in a tricorn hat, tall stick in hand along the short distance to the Cheese.

The original burned to the ground in the Great Fire of London, the one now standing is the ‘new’ one a mere 400 hundred years old. It's a wonky building, ceilings too low, stairs all over the place, but the atmosphere is perfect.

Dark wood downstairs, cramped and crowded. Murky light comes in through old windows and if you are lucky, on the left hand side you can sit in ‘Dr Johnson’s Seat,.
You have to say allegedly, there is no proof, but I like to think he deliberated over mutton and porter with friends in here.

Apparently, when they were refurbishing the upper floor, they found ancient erotic tiles from when the building was presumably a brothel. You can see these at the Museum of London.

Carolyn Cheese

Having fed royally on steak pie, you should it's wonderful, if you leave the Cheese and turn right into Fleet Street, you can saunter up to another famous watering hole, El Vinos.
This was the home of journalists and high court judges until the newspapers moved to the East End. Now it is lawyers and people like me on a memory trip.

My father, a journalist, held court here most Thursdays. He and his friend the music critic, Philip Hope Wallace , sorted out the world, helped with a bottle or two. Philip has a bronze plaque behind his chair.

But when I met my pa there, I had to run the gamut of the bar. This might bring bells for you, as up until the 90s women were not served at the bar. Female journalists tried to storm the place claiming it was discriminatory. El Vinos shrugged its Georgian shoulders, and replied it was merely chivalrous. It allowed the women to sit at the back while their make companion fought at the bar for their drink.

Like the cheese, it oozes history, but brighter. You can watch lawyers, barristers et al discussing cases in a hushed and furtive manner.

Now where ?

If you turn left out of El Vinos you are walking towards the Courts, and the Inns of Court. You could pop into the Wig and Pen. Another ancient pub, dark, vertical stairs and Law Watch again, before going back under the arch into Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

If you are after history under cover, go back to Chancery Lane, passed Ede and Ravenscroft, the legal and regal gown makers, then turn right. In a very unprepossessing building, is The Silver Vaults.

Go down the stairs through huge safe doors, feet thick and into a sparkling world of silversmiths ready to sell you amazing things. It's a real hidden gem. Up at Holborn Circus you can go down Leather Lane and towards Ye Olde Mitre where Queen Elizabeth First is said to have danced around the Cherry Tree.

Had enough history ? Never, but if you have, then time to head for the tube home !

Meet The Author...
Carolyn Soutar
Who Am I?

A born and bred Londoner happily settled in the beautiful Scarborough. I love music. Since I was 6 , when I started to learn the piano, this love has stayed with me.

At 3.a.m. when you just have to write, then music is the key. Along with the inevitable writer's cats, 2, who allow me to use my computer, the desk, the flat. You know.

My background is in theatre. I started in opera at the ENO, as a lowly Assistant Stage Manager. What a dream. Serenaded at 10.30 each morning by world class singers 8 years later I diverted to straight theatre, and worked with Peter O'Toole, Alan Bates, Janet Suzman, and a long list of amazing people. In 1981, I was given the chance to Stage Manage the Rudolf Nureyev seasons. It was a roller coaster of 5 years of ballet with Rudi. Dave Allen was a completely unexpected opportunity. This followed two tours with Peter O'Toole. I am and was star struck. I don't believe that any of us old theatre folk lose the ability to feel very nervous in front of a dressing room door containing one of our heroes.

I am very proud to have an event for the National Trust on my resume. It was for their centenary at West Wycombe, and it was, "The Battle of Trafalgar". I wrote and directed this, and felt very privileged that I was the first person to be commissioned to create an event for them. This was 1995. More events followed, then in 2004 either I had had enough of events or they of me, and writing called. I have been lucky enough to attend the Edinburgh International Literature Festival and a book signing in Cannes, France, and many others.

I have written two biographies. My motivation Mr de Mille? I knew them, worked with them, and though not by any means an academic Biographer, I knew I had a lot of insight to offer. Maybe the next one will be backstage tales, and there are a few of them. Hollywood starlets who cannot cope with 150 year old London dressing rooms, to wannabees who can't go on because their nail polish wasn't dry. I wonder how many volumes?

But my work in progress has to come next. It is my biography on Peter O'Toole, 'Hell Raiser', maybe. So many ideas, so many dreams.,/p>

So love of reading has to come next, or equally. How can you write without reading?

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