Today my time machine has landed in an office on the first floor of a building in Regent Street.
Two young women with piled up hair, who are wearing white blouses, are busy at their typewriters while a man in a glass-fronted cubicle is speaking on his electric telephone.
A calendar on the wall tells us that it’s Friday, July 26, 1914.
The three of them can’t see me on my machine because I haven’t been born yet.
Looking out of the window we see a busy scene on that summer afternoon. Ladies in long skirts and gentlemen wearing suits and ties. Everyone is wearing a hat. It was considered out of order to go out hat less.
Working class chaps wore soft peaked caps while middle class fellows favoured straw boaters or bowlers.
The toffs sported shiny top hats which they are not wearing at the moment because they’re having an afternoon nap after a heavy lunch in their clubs in nearby Pall Mall.
Those men strolling round the pavement don’t know that in a few days’ time the First World War will break out with the result that a large number of them will be wounded, gassed or killed sometime in the next four years of conflict in France.
It’s quite possible that the ‘B’ type omnibus with the open air deck will be going there as well.
This was a popular bus. Two thousand five hundred of them were built in the three years before the war and they proved very useful ferrying 40 or 50 soldiers up to the front line.
However with their solid rubber tyres they were liable to get bogged down in the cloying mud which had been churned up by constant shell fire.
I see that the conductor is standing on top collecting fares and the driver is wearing his white summer coat.
It was heavy work steering that great beast about in all weathers for about three pounds a week.
The number six is bound for Kensal Rise which sounds a pleasant place though I’ve never been there myself. North-west London is another country to me.
Do you see the man carrying the sandwich boards?
He is advertising Nurse Dora’s establishment at 85, Regent Street, which offers baths, massages and manicures.
Surprisingly he’s wearing a bowler hat.
He must be desperate to take a job like that, all day carrying those heavy boards along the kerb. Dora’s sounds like my kind of place. I could do with a bit of pampering.
Along the middle of John Nash’s wide road is a long line of motor cabs with smart white walled tyres.
On this warm afternoon it would have been pleasant to hire that launderette with the back end folded down and wave at pretty girls as you passed by them.
Quite possibly there was a large green cabmen’s shelter at the head of the queue of motors with an old guy employed making tea and sandwiches for the drivers as they wait for customers.
I’m quite puzzled by the fact that I can’t see any horse-drawn vehicles in the vicinity.
I remember a horse and carriage still plying for hire at Blackheath Station in the 1940s.
No yellow lines and traffic signals yet and actually the road looks quite muddy.
Round the bend in the distance lies Piccadilly Circus, the hub of the Empire with the flower-girls and their baskets sitting round the statue of Eros.
This was claimed to be the world’s busiest roundabout. People said that if you stood there long enough you were bound to meet someone you know. It’s the same in Lewisham Market today.
Time to switch on the time machine’s controls and come back to 2020. I wonder if anyone’s still around who was alive when that photograph was taken?
They’d be 104 or more. Just possible I suppose. I knew a man in Lee Green who was a 109 when he died a couple of years ago.
He’d have been five when that camera clicked that afternoon.
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