The Mall is still closed, but you can walk a few yards into it and look out at Trafalgar Square through Admiralty Arch.
Nelson no longer has a Union flag on his hat, but I think they must have taken the opportunity to give him a quick wash when they removed it.
Trafalgar Square was only laid out in the 1820s. It used to be the site of the Royal Mews. There’s an equestrian statue of Charles I to the south of the square that I didn’t photograph because it was draped with tourists. Every 30th January, the anniversary of his execution, members of the Royal Stuart Society hold a service at the statue and lay wreaths. Meanwhile, the King Charles I Society have a service at Banqueting House down the road.
But somehow, most visitors ignore the king and concentrate on Horatio Nelson, despite the fact that you have to cross the road to get a good look at him, perched as he is on top of his column. The lions at the columns base are almost equally famous, maybe because so many people clamber over them and have their pictures taken. I’ve heard stories about Landseer starting work with a stuffed lion as a model, which smelled, so he switched, using his pet cat for some of the detail. But lions and pussy cats do not share the same anatomy. So his lions have retractable claws, as domestic cats do, whereas lions do not.
I must admit this sounds highly improbable to me, and I’ve never seen a reliable source for the story. Yet truth is often stranger than fiction.
Strangely, although the fountains at Trafalgar Square are famous, few people seem to notice how beautiful the sculptures are in the middle. The mermaids, mermen, dolphins and merchildren tumble about.
They are by Charles Wheeler. If you are ever near Tower Hill, visit the Mercantile Marine Memorial in Trinity Gardens. The part that remembers seamen who were lost at sea in the Second World War is particularly moving, and has wonderful panels depicting the Seven Seas, also by Wheeler. He sculpted The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street on the Bank of England too, but to my eye, she’s not so exciting.
Trafalgar Square is where many people assembled several years ago to hear that London had won the Olympic bid for 2012, so it’s no surprise that there’s a big screen there and a huge Olympic presence. The Paralympics begin in just one day and two hours time!