Category: observations

Prison Cells at The Viaduct Tavern: the power of storytelling

This week I had the chance to go on a walking tour in surrounding areas near where I work. This, despite my love for London’s history, was something I expected to be rather lame.

Yet the evening was fantastic. History behind pubs that I frequent, interesting tales about Smithfield market, gory anecdotes and many, many stories about ghosts were all fascinating.

Now, I’m a believer in logic, science, and a natural sceptic, so ghosts are something that I do not believe in. This was not changed throughout the course of the evening.

The final stop of the tour was opposite the Viaduct Tavern in the City. As our tourguide told the stories about the Old Bailey and where people were once hanged, he then drew our attention to the pub we’d been stood next to: a gin palace, with jail cells beneath it.

“If you are lucky, talk nice to the bar staff,” he said “and the pub is empty enough, you will be able to go downstairs and take a look around.”

Two of our group stayed for a number of drinks in hope of the tour, which we received. And the cells were tiny. “Up there,” the barman said pointing towards a tiny hole in the ceiling, “is where food was dropped from.

“Down here,” he continued, pointing at the floor, beneath that hole “was the toilet.”

I asked about the ghost, which is said to haunt the area. “I never used to believe in ghosts, before working here.”

As a non-believer, I was not fearful of seeing a ghost, yet I will freely admit that if I had been left alone in there, without the hum of the barrel-cooling machines or light, the eeriness would have made for quite a frightening experience.

The truth about the prison cells at the Viaduct Tavern

This morning, I learnt the truth – that they are not cells at all, just a simple pub cellar.

Of course now I’ve read that blog, it all makes sense. The tiny cells, which I described in detail to colleagues at work the next day, were for beer barrels.

This had all been an elaborate ruse, and I – the sceptic and contrarian – had played the part of the fool.

The power of storytelling

If I was to visit that cellar now, I would not have the same sense of eeriness that I felt that evening. I could stand there with the lights out, no noise other than the natural noises of a cellar and think nothing of it. It would just be a cellar.

I’ve realised that there was a concession that I made subconsciously.

I did not believe every word the tour guide told, because I do not believe in ghosts. Which meant that with every part of his tour there was a significant segment that I thought ‘that’s nice, but obviously not true.’

What this meant was that I did believe all of the other parts. So while the stories of the poltergeist in those cells was false, the fact there were cells was clearly true. That I then managed to play the part of the story he’d predetermined – having a drink, waiting around, nicely asking the bar staff and then getting to see the cells- it was a given that I was going to believe it. Those spaces I saw could have only been prison cells.

Does it matter?

On the one hand, probably not. The ghost stories were entertaining and it created a wonderful atmosphere amongst the group. But on the other, it means I now doubt the other truths which he told.

Still, it’s a nice story. And I imagine should I ever be amongst some strangers near to the Viaduct Tavern, with a taste for storytelling and tomfoolery, I may just let the truth slide, because frankly, it’s far more entertaining.

Photo credit.

An update on my life

The silence on the blog has been noted. Not by many of course; blog silences are increasingly common. Often without any explanation I’ve seen my favourite blogs disappear. So I wanted to write a quick note on mine.

For the past few month’s I have been job searching for many reasons, not least of all because one of my main sources of income dried up late last year.

Two weeks ago, I started a new job at Hotwire, a PR agency in their marketing department. Amongst other activities, I will be writing on the company’s blog, and will be tweeting out the most interesting blogs from my personal Twitter account.

Now that the majority of my day isn’t spent in my bedroom, it means I have less time to blog personally. Not that I have been blogging regularly for the past two or three months anyway.

Blogging about politics has been a fantastic experience. It’s help mature my political opinions, work out where I stand on various things, rant about issues that bother me, and ultimately help get me noticed as an employable writer.

Blogging about politics takes a lot of special care. Writers’ egos are extraordinary; larger than most people’s, and yet mixed with a definite masochism. There’s a longing to know that you’re relevant. So blog statistics or analytics become second nature.

You recognise, therefore, that frequent blogging drives the number of regular readers up as your site gets bookmarked or added to RSS feeds. Blogging that frequently about politics is simply something I no longer have the time for.

So this blog is now going to take on a different role.

I will still blog about politics, but I will also be blogging about other things that interest me. Music, technology, film, drink, and cooking. Any of these subjects could be full blogs in their own right, but I will just be updating as and when I feel like it. There will be far less attention paid to WordPress statistics.

I will still be contributing a monthly political column for The Kernel and you can view my profile just here. I have, however, stopped my commitments to other sites – including The Freedom Association, whom I still greatly admire and support.

That’s it then from me for the time being, expect topics soon about whatever takes my fancy.

Edit: You will also notice that there is a new theme on the blog, I was bored of the old one.