"Did you know that there’s an Ely, Cambridge in London?"
An innocuous question asked by Teresa over coffee yesterday. We’d been talking about Marina, who lives in Ely, when I was asked this strange question.
"No?" I said, the latter part of the word was spoken in an inclination to suggest I wanted more information.
"Yep," she replied, "there’s an Ely, Cambridge in London."
Most people respond to any remark that contains the word Ely in one way, which is generally a grunt and a request to repeat yourself.
"Ely. It’s just North of Cambridge. It’s a city, even though it’s very small. Lovely cathedral."
It’s strange that I have a standard response about a place I’ve barely ever been to. I’ve thought of just not mentioning it to avoid having to trot out that line, or perhaps to just keep printed copies of Ely’s Wikipedia page to hand to dish out to those who grunt at me.
Which is why Teresa’s response surprised me.
"How is there an Ely in London?" I felt my brain scan the words for an obvious joke or pun, without success.
"There’s a pub in London that is officially classed as Ely, Cambridge. It’s in the address. It was only recently that the Metropolitan Police were allowed juristiction over it."
Ahhh, this sounded familiar. I’d seen a program on tv about it. "How London Was Built", with Adam Hart-Davis, or some similar crap I like to immerse myself in on Discovery or History channels.
"I saw it on tv!" confirmed Teresa.
And that is what I re-learnt yesterday. Subsequent use of Google tells me that it’s in Ely Court (where else?!), Hatton Garden in London, as is called Olde Mitre Tavern. The original tavern was built in 1547 for the servants of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely (Cambridgeshire). The palace was their London base, and tchnically this tavern and the lands around Ely Place are in the control of the Diocese of Ely, Cambridgeshire and until the last century the pub license was issued there. Even the City police had no jurisdiction there.
The other thing I learnt yesterday was the fact that Chelmsford’s Cathedral is the second smallest in England, behind Derby’s, which must be tiny given that ours resembles a small church.
It’s the one think in Ely that I’d like to see in my own town. Ely Cathedral dominates the skyline as you approach the city, banishing the memories of news reports of Holly and Jessica that will forever be associated with neighbouring town Soham that you pass a few minutes beforehand.
Other than the cathedral, and the pleasant walks that can be had along the river, Ely doesn’t offer much, save for a few words pronounced with a peculiar twang by the locals and seemingly no shoe shops any more, so I’m led to believe.
Sometimes it’s nice to take stock of other places. Edinburgh was nice, and Ely is appealing in it’s own toffee apple way, but it drives home how taken I am with Chelmsford, something I never thought I’d say when I moved here nine years ago.
Speaking of which, my soon-to-be 7 year old daughter asked me in the car the other day: "Daddy, when did you and mummy fall in love?"
I gave an ambiguous response and was soon chased down for something more concrete.
"In 2000, as soon as I met her. Right at the start of the year."
Her eyes darted to one side and I could see her thinking through my answer.
"Oh." there was a pause. "And your eldest sister was born later that year." she said confidently and sounding like she didn’t need to ask any more questions.
I give it another year before she starts asking how quickly we conceived!