Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A capital bucket!

Monday – 25th

As I suspected, yesterday’s culinary indulgences had a price-tag to come. But first, I had to say farewell to my Croydon hosts. Anita escorted me via the mercifully short duration (6 minutes) sardine-crammed electric tram journey from Addiscombe to Croydon East train station. There, I bought my one-way ticket for the 30 minute train ride to Waterloo (change trains at Clapham Junction) Station in London.

My brother and I had arranged to meet (as millions do) ‘under the clock’ at Waterloo Station at 10:30 am. He had a planned walking tour of London’s sights and sites. I had one other place wanted to capture on camera, but as it was not on his itinerary, I set off earlier so that I could ‘do it’ and get back to the clock for the prescribed meeting.

My ‘solo’ trek was to the place where my wife had worked when she first left Ireland, to work in London, more than 45 years ago. That place, still survives – it is the Law Courts Branch of Lloyds Bank on the Strand. I thought she would like to see a photo of it, so the round trip walk of more than 2 miles was worth it – though the hastiness of the walk made my legs ache - but I needed to be back at Waterloo by 10:30 am.

I was only five minutes late for the ‘meeting under at the clock’. We took the Underground (the ‘Tube’) under the Thames River emerging at Embankment where a cup of coffee and a slice of minced pie was most welcomed. I probably had not had minced pie in more 43 years!

Then the walking my brother’s part of the scheduled trip began. We passed St Martin-in-the-Field church (known as ‘The ‘actor’s church’) adjacent to the National Portrait Gallery in front of which a ‘film-shoot’ was taking place. I have no idea who the ‘punk-haired’ actor was, but he emerged from adjacent Trafalgar Square. I think Lord Nelson would have toppled off his lofty perch at the sight of the apparent reprobate being filmed. Photos of Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square abound on the internet, so I decided to offer a different one – a mermaid in the semi-frozen fountain in the Square. 

We walked past Admiralty Arch and down Whitehall to Horse Guards Parade, which is adjacent to the back side of Number 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister was nowhere to be seen, but you could see him on the ‘tele’ any day, but this is a rare sight: - me and one of Her Majesty’s defenders, a member of the Blues & Royals of the Household Cavalry (no longer called the Horse Guards.

Next, I marched toward the corner of Westminster Bridge to see the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I stood to look at Big Ben just before noon was sounded out by the bell known as Great Tom. As proof, I present this image:

Turning westward, we walked into St James’ Park – past dozens of species of waterfowl on the cold lake. The coffee I had drank earlier was telling me to head to the toilet, but my brother urged me to run past the loo, across The Mall in time to see the band of the Grenadiers Guards in their red dress-tunics marching into St James’ Palace. Once they were dismissed and disappeared, I made an equally hasty retreat to the loo, stopping only to look at two modes of London transport:

Relieved, I resumed my walk back across the park towards Wellington Barracks, from where most of the marching parades start. From the bridge over the lake, I was able to see, to the east, two of London’s more modern structures – the London Eye (a huge ferris wheel) and in the distance behind it, The Shard – a tall structure looking like pointed piece (a shard!) of glass.  

At the west end of Wellington Barracks is Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty was not at home, so I had to pass up on the tea and crumpets. Photos of it are all over the internet too, so I’ll not bore you with mine. Instead, I’ll bore you with one of the Queen Victoria Memorial which stands opposite the Place, at the west end of The Mall. You may agree with her famous words, ‘We are not amused!’  On such a blustery and cold day, I’d have to agree with her.

We headed eastwards now again passing St James’ Palace where took the liberty of photographing myself in front of two Grenadier Guards, one Black (note, they are not called ‘African-British), one ‘White’ – in their heavy grey coats. BTW, their headdress is a ‘bearskin’ – not a busby!

Turning onto Piccadilly, we walked east passing the Royal Academy of Arts and on to the statue of Eros (Cupid, if you like) in Piccadilly Circus. There are no clowns, acrobats or elephants here; ‘Circus’ was a Roman word for a circular road junction. Just beyond there, I spied a pub at the end of a narrow street. The place had an intriguing, though unappealing name – the Slug and Lettuce!  It reminded me of a lunch I once had with my wife and mother-in-law in Dublin many years ago. The renowned restaurant on O’Connell Street had served our salads – one with a tiny slug on one of the lettuce leaves.

Nearby, is Leicester Square – not a square at all; more like a rhombus, but who cares, eh? This is where the actors and theaters abound, and is adjacent to where we had begun my brother’s part of the tour - at St Martin-in-the-Field. Remember?

Just up the road is China Town, adjacent to Soho – London’s theater and ‘red-light’ district. One establishment on the edge of China Town boldly proclaims itself to be an ‘Award Winning Gay Bar’. The other entrances are marked by more traditional Chinese ‘arches’ or ‘gates’ – such as this one, through which the British TeleCom Tower may be seen. Cheer now, if you have internet or ‘mobile’ phone service in the UK.  

While almost everybody in London has a ‘mobile’ (‘cell’ phone to those in the US) London has a thousands of the old style red phone-booths – which nobody uses, except to be photographed alongside!  For whatever reason though, there are a handful of old-style phone-booths that are not red, but black:

Walking eastwards, we arrived at Covent Garden - an area that in addition to an opera house, used to be home to dozens of stalls filled with flowers and vegetables. The glass-covered buildings now house what is best described as a flea-market array of merchandise. The ‘flower and veg’ stalls are now located elsewhere in London. One interesting remnant in the Covent Garden complex is the Punch and Judy mural. Now that is something you should revert to the JFGI action. I must make a note to myself to search YouTube for videos of that ‘Victorian display of violence for the entertainment of children’.

I was beginning, by this time, to feel a little ‘punched’ myself, as we had now walked almost 4 miles on my brother’s ‘leg’ (no pun intended) of this tour. Don’t forget, I had done 2 miles before he arrived!

So, a welcomed trip on the ‘Tube’ was in store. Well, if it had not been for that sardine feeling again, it would have been OK. Nevertheless, after a change from the Red Line to the Central Line (or some such thing) at Holborn, we arrived near St Paul’s Cathedral. It was too late to enter and see Sir Christopher Wren’s handiwork on the ceiling of the dome and instead of the usual ‘post-card’ image of the whole place, here is a simple one of St Paul himself.

We then walked down Ludgate Hill, looking toward Fleet Street, but turned on to New Bridge Street to Blackfriar’s Bridge where we turned west to walk along the Embankment and across Waterloo Bridge (for the 3rd time today!) back to Waterloo Station. This last ‘leg’, from St Paul’s, added a little more than 2 more miles to my day’s marathon.

The train ride back to Woking, and the car trip back to Guildford was not over soon enough. I needed a bath, a beer and bed!  I had walked more than 8 mile today!

To be continued . . .

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