Researching Fleet Street for my novel I was reminded about the advice to look above shop window level to see what the buildings really looked like. I was doing just that when I noticed the number of different type of signs that shops displayed. The American interlopers MacDonalds and Starbucks had bland fascia boards on their shop fronts – so did Sainsburys so we can’t just blame trans-Atlantic invaders. Not surprisingly the pubs and wine bars had more distinctive signs.
So I wrote the following in my second Cassie Hardman novel,
‘She noticed the sign above the Punch public house, a gold painted profile of the character holding his truncheon aloft.
Then she saw the three gold balls of a pawn brokers, next to a sign proclaiming they were pawnbrokers of distinction. She wondered how long there had been a need for them so close to the Temple and what the phrase ‘a pawnbrokers of distinction’ meant; did they only deal with people of distinction or only lend money against objects of distinction. Whichever it would rule her out.
In an optician’s window she was amused by a poster for spectacle frames by Lanvin; a hundred or so sketches of faces with little bits of colour, a green bow tie or purple earrings, but hardly any glasses.
They walked past what had once been the entrance to Sergeants Inn. Cassie glanced into the courtyard where there was a large green elephant. She pondered on what the animal was meant to represent or indeed why it was there at all.
Soon they were under the oval sign of El Vino’s wine bar. The painted glass, in addition to the name, had the words Spain, Portugal, France, Germany Wines. What no Australian, New Zealand or Chilean, she thought. She remembered her pupil mistress telling her that at one time women were not allowed into the wine bar unless accompanied by a man and then they had to sit in the rear of the premises.
As they drew level with the faded sign of the three squirrels outside Gosling’s Bank, she heard James’s voice as if it was coming through water, asking her something about accounts. She shook her head as if to shake out fluid from her ear. ‘Sorry, I was miles away. You were saying?’